War in the Heavens: Dark Energy
Sects of the Universal Church of the Celestial Sun
Initiates of any of the sects of the Universal Church enjoy a certain degree of priviledge above and beyond commoners. They usually don’t enjoy the wealth and worldly powers of the Nobles or Guildsmen, but they have the same degree of social leeway, and speak with a certain ethical authority, and indeed sometimes with supernatural authority, when their faith is strong.
Long the most powerful, rigorous, and conservative party in the Universal Church, though its members are hardly composed of two-dimensional stereotypes. Hold the majority of seats on Church councils, and control most World’s planetary Cathedral. Dominant Church presence on such key worlds as Holy Terra (Urth) and Byzantium Secundus. Is the Patriarch Orthodox? Does a vorox poop in the jungle?
- Sanctuary Aeon
The major alternate voice in the Universal Church; regarded as orthodox with their own additional scriptures and rites derived particularly from the teachings of St. Amalthea. Once the most powerful faction in the church, still the most popular, and by far the most dedicated to the welfare of commoners. Focused on the healing arts. Maintains a particularly strong presence on Grail and Artemis.
- Avestan Order
As an Order, the Avestans are Pennitents. After the fall of the Second Republic and before the Emperor Wars, while the Church was Ascendant, these were the Zealots of the planet Pyre, and they persued the punishment of the sinful with such zeal that the Patriarch was forced to side with the Noble Houses against them. They still maintain military discipline combined with austere living conditions, and are inspired by the Holy Flame, including in a very literal fashion, through the use of incendiary weapons in pursuit of Heresy. Hold the majority of the seats on the Inquisitorial synod, but are closely watched and controlled by Orthodoxy.
- Eskatonic Order
A recently acknowledged order, a century ago they were widely regarded as heretics. Focused on occult knowledge and the “eskaton,” or end of the universe, their abilities have proven so useful in waging war on the Symbionts that they have gained recognition and their own homeworld, Pentateuch, and popularity on the worlds most threatened by the Symbiont incursion.
- Brother Battle Order
At one time a tradition of Orthodox priests trained in all forms of combat, with questionable supplemental beliefs, they have repeatedly proven indispensible to both the Church and to Emperors, and not long ago secured for themselves Ordanation as a distinct order.
Other major factions within the Church include the Mahayana (progressive) and Hinayana (traditionalist) split— needless to say most Orthodox priests are Hinayana, and many Eskatonic and Sanctuary Aeon priests are Mahayana, though there are exceptions. At the extreme are the heretical Incarnatists, who believe in individual will, occult powers, and in an alternate theory regarding the human soul.
All factions tend to teach basic ethics and obedience, and tend to stress the dangers of excessive use of technology.
While spontaneous miracles do happen, the practice of Theurgy— rites that achieve miraculous results, is neither fully accepted, nor condemned, by the church. Some of Sanctuary Aeon’s best healing techniques are Theurgical in nature, as are many of the Symbiont-fighting methods of the Eskatonics. And who hasn’t heard the Blessing of the Crops liturgy?