Ahhhhhhh. The penny has dropped. Thanks, I’ll fix that.
The Thaumatarch picks them, at his sole discretion. That said, usually there will be successors being groomed by each Ennearch. Cerlota was one of those, as you’ll discover.
Human minds and emotions are complex beyond the power of Theurgy to shape (or at least beyond what any Theurge can make sense of in trance, which amounts to the same thing).
A former roommate of mine, now a philosophy professor, told me he approved of XoR simply because he hoped it would add telos to more people’s vocabulary. I’ll let him know we have confirmation.
Agreed – but here again we need to make sure we’re not jumping around between broad and narrow definitions of religion. Plenty of religion is non-theistic, i.e. not resting on “the gods.” As for heaven, it’s not even part of all theisms (early Judaism, for famous example).
All kinds of ideas about ultimate reality end up filling the social space loosely called “religion.” What they have in common is the power to generate a set of practices, rituals, and beliefs that create a strong sense of shared meaning, shared reality – and thus of shared identity. With the ever present possibility of that turning toward exclusion of non-practicers, as Mara vividly illustrated from her own experience.
Another thing they generate is a shared rationality – a set of axioms and rules within which our thoughts and actions can be justified to our neighbors. Within every rationality, there are reasons to work in concert for the common good and a better future… but as we’re seeing reconfirmed these days, it’s also possible within any framework to rationalize selfishness, in-group benevolence, exclusion of outsiders, despair, passivity.
“Hard truth > easy lies” is a tremendously appealing part of just about any mature belief system. Ask any Calvinist about original sin or reprobation of the damned, or any Hindu about karma and samsara. Every system has its hard “truths.” Nobody wants to think they only believe something because it’s easy or comforting… even if consoling illusions creep into all our minds in the end, including perhaps the dream of a single universal rationality and shared vision of the good.
In XoR, you will absolutely have the choice to be the candidate of “non-religious non-religion,” and/or “I don’t care what you believe about the Angels as long as you don’t believe in the Thaumatarchy.” This will have ample advantages in a religiously divided context.
However, you will be passing up on a key opportunity to create that strong sense of shared reality that binds large populations together – abandoning a fundamental tool of the social engineer. “Religion” in the broad sense can be much more effective than enlightened self-interest in overcoming collective-action dilemmas.
You might of course turn to nationalism instead – or just see how far you can get without resort to those big but dangerous sources of social glue!
All that said, if you take too cynical a perspective on religion – too much the social engineer – you’ll also risk losing your followers to a genuine prophet. Religion is never just an opiate. A religious tradition always makes possible the critique as well as the validation of any social order.
One reason compassion and justice are close to the heart of virtually every religion is the human tendency to spend (much) more than 5 seconds thinking about other people. Dismiss that tendency at your peril, if you’re truly looking for religious legitimacy.
And Slow-Harrowing uses WAY more blood than it yields.