Notes on Achura

(Aria Jenneth) #1


Hello, pilots. So, obviously enough I’m not doing a lot of travel writing lately. I thought maybe I’d do a little discussion of something a little closer to home, at least for me. That is, well, home.

Achura: a planet, AKA Saisio III. “Achura,” a nation and religion, collectively. “Achur” can be a singular or collective noun for people (one Achur, a crowd of Achur), or an adjective; really if you’re talking about Achur you’re not likely to use the word “Achura” all that often, though translators seem to struggle a little with the grammar (including mine sometimes).

The Achura are a client nation of the Caldari; we’re not from Caldari Prime. Our world was in its iron age when the Caldari found us. It’s only been a couple hundred years, since. Only our cities got fully uplifted, and our aristocracy along with them; the rural areas wound up led by our monasteries. So, we’re basically the strangest theocracy ever.

An important thing to understand just sort of from the start is that the Achura are a really diverse nation in terms of what we believe. We’re theocratic-- technically-- but don’t really have any concept of heresy. There aren’t a huge number of us, especially compared to the overall populations of the various worlds out there; we’re basically just the rural residents of just one planet. A couple centuries of having access to better medical care’s maybe helped that a little, but, the fact is, we don’t get out much. Like, literally, we’re mostly just at the bottom of that one gravity well.

(Note I didn’t say “entirely.” There are monasteries scattered in a few other places, too.)

Anyway … even though there aren’t a lot of us, our religion’s collectively sometimes called “the thousand sects,” and, globally, that’s probably a conservative estimate. Our beliefs range from animism to polytheism to pantheism to a kinda-sorta monist atheism, with every gradation in between and probably some points I haven’t mentioned. The kind of wonderful thing about it all is that while all of these sects exist in tension, with only very rare exceptions, they’re not exclusionist. Achur sects might bicker over whose insight runs deeper, but it’s hard (not impossible, but hard) to find one claiming that other sects don’t have a point, and it’s easy to find monasteries being shared by monks and lay practitioners of multiple different sects.

A few common threads:

Most Achur believe in some form of a universal being and/or consciousness (what we Shuijing practitioners call the “Totality”). Just how conscious it’s taken to be is a lot of what determines where on the overall spectrum of beliefs a given sect lies; a sect viewing the universe itself as a true collective consciousness often tends towards animism, seeing eyes in every rock and every clump of grass (maybe even every subatomic particle, depending). It makes for a pretty lively view of things. On the other extreme, a sect seeing the universe as a seamless whole, but lacking a meaningful consciousness we could recognize, will often tend towards spiritual skepticism.

Most sects teach some version of a pantheon of deities and spirit beings (they go by various names, depending on where you are. The Creator is a particularly widespread example). Some sects regard these as literal, actual personages (one or more of whom believers tend to expect to meet after departing this living world). Others approach them as “teaching tools,” stories to help guide people on the paths they’ll walk over the course of their lives. Particularly at the more spiritually-skeptical end of the practitioner scale, what monks study and what lay-practitioners practice (sometimes called “folk religion”) can be pretty different.

Most Achur are interested in concepts such as stargazing (“fortune telling”), without actually quite believing in it. Stargazers are broadly admired-- but it’s for their ability to read people, more than stars.

Most Achur sects teach intellectual curiosity as a virtue, and knowledge or insight as more valuable than material wealth. Seen in materially-concerned Caldari terms, the Achura are pretty poor. Seen in spiritually-concerned Achur terms, the same’s true of the Caldari. (We usually find each other to be closer kin than other peoples, on the whole, though.)

Being sensitive to the differing demands of different roles, most Achur will speak more in terms of appropriateness, than of right and wrong. Different sects have different teachings, but, usually, it’s understood that it’s unreasonable to expect the same behavior from a soldier and a farmer. What is proper for one will only get the other killed. (We haven’t had a lot of soldiers these last two centuries, though.) Anyway, this understanding extends broadly to a lot of aspects of society; a place in this world comes with its own set of expectations and standards, which are often in tension with those from other roles an individual might be called to play. An amazing chef might make a poor father. Being a poor father does not make him less-admirable as a chef, but neither does being an amazing chef make being a poor father “okay.”

The trickiness of maintaining this balance, and a general sense that it’s broadly improper to meddle in others’ affairs, results in a tendency not to question others’ choices without good reason. Of course, being subject to one of those choices obviously provides standing to question…

There’s probably more to say (I’m kind of going to make this an extended thing, so I certainly hope so), but I’m getting pretty tired, so I’ll leave it there for the moment. I’d like to specifically invite other Achur to speak up with their thoughts and perceptions. Achura’s a small nation in terms of the whole star cluster, but it’s still an entire not-that-tiny planet; it’ll be hard for me to cover it all on my own.

Seeking Spiritual and Religious Advocates (UPDATE: YC120.01.12)
(Aria Jenneth) #2


So, probably this is better laid out sooner than later.

“Achura Shuijing,” or the “Crystal” (lit. “crystal of size and clarity suitable for jewelry”) sect is dedicated first and foremost to “seeing the world with clear eyes.” That is, we seek clarity, to see the world clearly and without illusion, as symbolized by the crystal that names our sect. All Achur monks seek, by one means or another, to perfect their souls; this method is ours.

Core to Shuijing practice is the idea of the Totality, the universe (or multiverse, quantum or otherwise, if such a thing exists) as a single, unbroken whole. Understanding this as an abstract, intellectual concept is relatively easy; the goal, however, is to perceive this single whole as our experienced reality.

It’s a little easier said than done.

The truth of the universe is an intericate web of interaction without clear borders and divisions, but people have these troublesome navigation systems that keep going around wanting to give stuff names and boundaries and assign purpose to what’s on this side of the boundary and a different purpose to what’s on the other. This is understandable. Actually it’s pretty important for staying alive; the boundaries we set are functional, necessary-- it’s important to be able to designate this as “food” and that as “poison” or to differentiate between a cup and its contents. So the boundaries we create are functional, and important; they’re just not real.

For the most part, as long as we’re conscious and aware, we spend our lives in a world of symbols. They’re important; they keep us alive. “Vehicle.” “Street.” “Imminent high-speed collision.”

“Word.” (A deep well to dive down, maybe.)

They’re not “real,” though. There’s only one real “thing”: all that is-- the Totality.

So, no, I’m not real. Neither are you. We have an existence, just, not like we think, not apart, as separate beings.

As separate beings, we’re shadows of our own minds, illusions-- illusions that can suffer terribly, through our own blunders and the blunders of those around us. If we don’t want to blunder, and harm ourselves and each other, perhaps we should try to see things for what they are.

That’s not easily done, though, so Shuijing practice focuses on revealing those borders as illusions through mind exercises (meditation being an obvious one) and martial practice. The idea of the martial practice is to learn to act and move without thought; pure awareness and response, without thought-- that is, interaction without intermediation by the illusory, symbolic world in which we typically operate. To break barriers down further, a Shuijing monk learns a weapon, and trains with it until the difference between self and tool erodes and fades. Thus, the fictitious nature of the border between “self” and “other” is revealed.

It’s still a bit of a trick to make the jump from that to really perceiving the Totality in other contexts-- to be able to handle a dispute between neighbors, for instance, as easily and gracefully as a sparring match. That’s the idea, though, pretty much, and the goal: to truly perceive the world, and so be able to discern “right action.”

In short, the goal is wisdom.

(You can find wise people in any culture, of course. A Shuijing monk would argue that such people have come to clarity by their own methods. That same monk is pretty likely to argue that those methods are less reliable, though-- that such people have sort of stumbled onto insight, and Shuijing methods, carefully calibrated over hundreds or thousands of years, are obviously more reliable. If someone had a better way, why would we use our own?)

(Monks, just by being monks, are not made immune to pride. Sometimes it seems to be the opposite.)

(For me, too.)

Because of this focus on the Totality, and perceiving it clearly, we’re one of the more spiritually skeptical sects out there. It’s not quite like we don’t believe in the spirits or gods, and definitely our temples and monasteries have shrines for the lay practitioners, but, well … if the spirits, or even the gods, exist, they’re just like us: parts of that same undivided, indivisible All. The same’s true of other people’s gods, as well. Similarly, if dreams really are window into a spirit world where the dead live on in a community ruled by greater celestial beings, then that place, too, is part of the Totality.

That’s not what I expect to happen to me, when I really die, though. More likely a mind is like a candle flame. Where does it go, when it’s snuffed? The same place a storm goes when it’s blown its last gust and scattered on the air, maybe. … That’s what I expect, anyway.

But that’s not a very good thing to tell a grieving grandmother who’s sure her dead son visits her in her dreams. And, maybe he does. It’s not like I know, really. So, yeah, lay practice (AKA “folk religion”) and monk practice differ a bit. As usual.

(As an aside, “talking like a monk” is a lay Achur phrase for someone who’s getting eye-rollingly abstract, “riddling,” or metaphorical. The fact that a lot of the stuff we deal with can’t be approached head-on with symbolic forms of communication is responsible for a lot of this.)

Anyway … more later.

(Aria Jenneth) #3

“Right Action”

Determining what’s right in Shuijing practice isn’t a straightforward kind of thing.

Well-- it is, sort of.

I mean, if I go and start removing your nails with flaming hot pincers, the Totality as a whole probably isn’t going to notice or care. You probably would, though. (If you don’t care at the start, it’s pretty likely that you will after the third or fourth nail.) It’s not that hurting someone else offends the stars, but, stuff like that tends to cast ripples that can rebound in unpredictable and often increasingly nasty ways. People drown in such ripples.

We call them “consequences.”

Avoiding bad consequence is pretty much a matter of existential courtesy-- to yourself, also, if you care about others being careful of you and those you care for. Complying with this kind of existential courtesy is contextual, though, right down to its foundations. A slaver hound that chooses not to eat meat even though she’s an obligate carnivore might be praised for her restraint by various other creatures (some of them humans, maybe), but her pups might understandably have a different opinion. A state-sponsored assassin (us, often, for instance) might cause the greatest harm by deciding not to kill-- but there are also cases where it might be important not to.

This isn’t a world of laws and rules. It’s a world of consequences. Laws and rules exist to try to provide additional consequences for stuff we don’t want to see done, and to keep those things’ more natural consequences from getting out of control.

They’re a human thing. In other words, they’re something we make for each other, not something that grows out of the cosmos itself.

(Unless, you know, you think of us all as being little walking bits of the Totality, which, we are. But it’s not like every human thought probably reflects some galactic consciousness in any very close way.)

There are a few duties that seem to be pretty common to the state of being “human,” though. To be clear, these are derived duties, not inherent ones, but, what they’re derived from is something we mostly all share.

“Humility,” because in the Totality, we’re none of us great, and arrogance foreseeably leads to harm.

“Compassion,” because we’re all of us figments here together; if you want to find help or mercy when you need it (and most of us will, at some time, and probably have many times before), you should be compassionate to others as well.

“Curiosity,” because the Totality is a wonder to explore. Not much carbon gets to see what you’re seeing, now. It is a rare privilege for a clump of star dust to be alive, to be sapient-- and how will you ever understand, ever really see what you’re doing or where you’re going, if you don’t seek to know?

“Moderation,” because extremity brings disruption; even if you believe you are in the right, and yours is the best course available to you, you should be careful not to do more harm than you must.

These virtues exist in tension with one another. Being extremely, callously, and arrogantly curious isn’t likely to be recognized as a praiseworthy virtue very often. Being humble to the point of helping no one and serving no purpose could be seen as a kind of arrogance, itself.

We live in a complex universe where purity is almost invariably a lie, while ambiguity and compromise are the stuff lives are necessarily built around. That’s not something bad or wrong, and there’s no sin in acknowledging truth. It might be a little rude to say, though. Either way, the truth you acknowledge is likely to be, at most, a part of the story.

Be aware, and navigate this world as best you can. Really that’s the most that can be fairly asked of a figment, anyway.

(Aria Jenneth) #4

Uh. To be clear, comments, questions, and “I don’t gets” are totally welcome.

This isn’t supposed to be just me, or even just a bunch of Achur. I’m not doing much if I’m just sort of saying stuff, regardless of whether it’s understood even a little bit.

(… even if it could be fun to intentionally make up meaningless stuff. Though that would probably get old fast.)

(Veikitamo Gesakaarin) #5

Well if I’m not real, then I can’t be fake, so I’m not sure why you keep on accusing me of such.

(Halcyon Ember) #6

Being fake has nothing to do with being real. It has to do with being genuine. And she’s not specifically saying that you’re not real, she’s saying that you are a part of the sum of what is real.
I’m not an expert at interpreting such beliefs, however.

(Veikitamo Gesakaarin) #7

I’m referring to the fact that real and fake can be defined purely as a binary operation without any further meaning attached:

If real, then it cannot be fake.
If fake, then it cannot be real.

So a statement like:

Means that Aria is not real, nor anyone is real, so everyone must be fake.

If everyone is a fake according to one’s own view including themselves, then why does it matter if I am fake? No one was real to begin with.

If the Achuran faith has some kind of fetish for creating linguistic paradoxes, well that is their business and their belief but I am unsure as to its utility in actually conveying meaning through internal contradiction.

(Halcyon Ember) #8

I believe you’re deliberately missing the point in order to call into question her assertions.
I don’t know that I understand ms Jenneth any better than she understands me, but her assertions seem to be as follows:

  1. What is real is a totality of everything that exists. We’re only real as defined by our part in that totality. We’re not real in the sense of discrete independent entities. Each of us is a part of what is real in the same sense that each individual cell makes a person, but a cell is not a person.
  2. She finds that you approach towards others and the “face” that you present to them is not genuine, that, to use your terminology, the “Real” Gesakaarin is other than you present. These would be different definitions of real, however. One pertaining to existence, the other pertaining to being genuine. The fact that you’re deliberately confusing the two is no doubt a part of why she considers you “fake”.

(Elmund Egivand) #9

I believe that in this case, it’s better to use the term ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’ than ‘real’, since it’s very easy to misunderstand ‘real’ with ‘exist’.

(Mizhir) #10

What happened to my post?

(Halcyon Ember) #11

Yes. Ms Gesakaarin’s choice of the term real was, I believe, I deliberate attempt to conflate the two.

(Aria Jenneth) #12

Uh … it got kind of archived, Mizhir. It’s over here. I’m sorry. There were some issues. I didn’t want to just copy it over with all of my stuff; I was afraid it would seem presumptuous.

If you want to repost it…?

(Pieter Tuulinen) #13

I’m listening, Aria - believe me, the lack of comment up until this point isn’t indicative of a lack of interest on my part.

(Diana Kim) #14

Ms. Jenneth, I see that our people are really very close. I’ve read what you was writing about “Achura Shuijing”, and I find it very similar to our new philosophy of Kutuoto Miru with its ideas to perceive the impassionate reality behind subjective interpretations, it looks just like Shuijing ideal of seeing the world clearly without illusion.

I myself lately try to follow these practices when I am forming my opinions. It still needs some work, but I am on it!

For myself, I have thought about the idea of Totality as well, probably our whole Universe has its own soul, or it is a one giant supercomputer, with atoms, us, planets, suns or even whole galaxies being its gears.

(kul Shaishi) #15

Kim Shuijing is one of many practices also have you read the histories of the ancestors They have a lot more interesting philosophies

(Diana Kim) #16

Commander Kim

(Veikitamo Gesakaarin) #17

I’m pointing out that the Achuran faith cannot be defined axiomatically – and that’s the whole point.

Language is based on informal logic and axioms to convey meaning through definition and operations (grammar). How this is used fundamentally affects perception and is a philosophical question.

You could say, “That is Green.”

What is Green?

You could say, I define green as LIKE the colour of a leaf. This leads to other logical operations – are ALL leafs green?

Our success as species is that we’re really good at doing logical operations without really even thinking about it. We love set theory, putting things into categories until we’ve got giant interlocked Venn diagram of how we see the world around us. That is reflected in our use of language, grammar, and use of words, and that language informs how we think and how we define the world.

Yet fundamentally it also touches upon a philosophical question in the sciences:

Mathematics is an elegantly axiomatic logic system we can also use to describe the world around us, and make remarkably accurate predictions about it. However does that mean the universe is inherently mathematical or does it only appear so because we use mathematics to describe it?

That to me is also a central question of the Achuran faith/s. The nature of perception and definition of a universe and whether or not that universe is independent of those perceptions and definitions used to describe it.

(Pieter Tuulinen) #18

I’m confused… Are you asking “What is Green?” or are you asking what Green is?

(Mizhara Del'thul) #19

Is the bit you should focus on. Logic and science can define ‘green’ quite effectively and without individual perception getting in the way, but it still observes. It still defines based on observation, even if the observer is entirely inhuman.

On the one hand, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to witness it, it still of course makes sound. Without the perceptions and definitions used to describe ‘green’ or the universe, it’d still be there and it’d still be what green would be if we were around to perceive and define it. But on the other hand there are certainly arguments for the position that without the perception and subsequent definition, it’s merely a certain wavelength of light entirely devoid of the meaning it would have with definition and perception. A soundwave no one hears… well, it’s merely another wave and does it really have anything to do with sound?

And so on and so forth. I’ll have to admit right now I am not a philosopher. I certainly don’t subscribe to the nonsense of Achuran faith exactly because it wishy-washes its way around everything we use to understand and define reality, and thus it becomes entirely meaningless much like any other fantasy or imagination that has nothing to support itself.

It’s still thought-provoking and interesting as thought experiments and debates go, but only up to a certain point where I lose interest entirely since it ceases to have any kind of relation to exactly human perception, reason and logic.

I stick with what we know is real, or at the very least have a real measurable effect. In that regard, Achuran beliefs do register, but on a list of priorities it doesn’t make the cut until there’s quite a few more hours in the day where more important matters aren’t taking up time.

(Veikitamo Gesakaarin) #20

All I’m saying is that a lot of the Achuran faith/s seem obsessed with variations of that old question about, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to witness it, did it fall?

At least, that’s what they usually read like to me.