The Ultimate Goal - Religion in the Continent
The following is an attempt to answer some frequent questions about religion and spirituality in the Continent North of the New Sea, which at first glance appears to play a much smaller role in people's lives in the Continent. Enjoy!
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Why is there only one religion in the Continent, and why is this religion not by any means a "world religion"?
For clarification, the term "world religion" here means a religion that can penetrate ethnic and political boundaries, appeal to those who do not currently participate in a world religion, and at the same time provide a unifying order (both social and spiritual) across the peoples who believe in it. This does not mean that all people in the world are necessarily attracted to the religion, however (example: Christianity, a world religion, ultimately failed in India because of the preexisting caste system, in which people from higher castes certainly did not want to worship with those from lower castes).
There may only be one religion in the Continent, but religions are just one way of satisfying a certain set of needs that people have. Religion is simply a far too narrow term to describe spirituality in itself. A more appropriate term might be belief system, ideology, or worldview. In our own society, we have seen science displace the "practical application" of religion. Atheists seem to be increasing their ranks daily, and most of these people are still quite spiritual. Other things that are not religions can take the place of religion in a society and fit the niche perfectly. One such example might be the miasma of political and economical strategies that governments can choose from which includes, capitalism, communism, and fascism. It is necessary to realize that these strategies do not always fill every spiritual need that people have (example: in the USA, capitalism and applied science displace much of religion's roles, but religion still remains in a somewhat reduced form).
So even though there is only one religion in the Continent, the people there are not spiritually devoid by any means. In the western countries, ideologies seem to dominate spiritually even from ancient times. The empress of the West Empire in 1461YDY noted that she served as the Spiritual Leader of her subjects and inferred that the emporers and empresses of the truly ancient Central Empire (-171YDY to 1431YDY) also felt the same way. The ideologies and views that prevail today in society are the forms of government in the Continent that fill the same needs that religion fills in our society (to a certain extent). Tradatarianism serves Trada, Commercialism serves Darfordsmoth and Forsythia as well as Forsythe and Leony. However, the eastern countries (Forsythe, Leony, and the Islands of Maacern) have strong tendencies to ancestor-worship and filial piety. Commercialism plays a lesser part in these societies with almost no role in the Islands.
The Ultimate Goal, the closest thing to a religion that these societies have available is not taken advantage of by any of these countries. No followers can be found anywhere but Trada (where the religion sprung from) and the SPOL Union where most of the adherents are found. "So if it isn't a world religion, why is it found in two different countries with different ethnic compositions?" some may ask. The answer to this is that the number of believers in Trada is only declining while the number is stable in SPOL Union. The spiritual needs in Trada are all filled by Tradatarianism, and the religion is receding to the SPOL Union. The SPOL Union does not have a strong political/ economical ideology like its neighbors, and it does not have strong filial piety, so the Ultimate Goal provides fulfillment for the spiritual needs of the people found there. However, not all SPOL people follow the Ultimate Goal.
This does not mean that the SPOL Union is a spiritual wasteland. The SPOL seem to have many residents who might be compared to our agnostics. They are able to recieve spiritual fulfillment with their own rationale, and this may in fact be why SPOL Union has produced much of the last century's top theological, philosophical, and spiritual literature.
So what exactly is the Ultimate Goal?
For this, it must be realized that the Ultimate Goal may only be almost a religion in our sense of religion. It has no god; the higher power is the Ultimate Goal itself. The answer to this question is broken down into various topics that are the spiritual needs that the Ultimate Goal fulfills:
-Idea of Life, Body, and the Soul/ Spirit:
One's life is described as a path that has various aspects of such on it. The Reluctant Beckoning is described as the motivation to keep going through one's life journey despite hardships. The Perpetual Confusion is the feeling of not knowing where one is along the path of life and justifies the reason why no one knows what the Ultimate Goal is. The Exhilerating Patience is the wait for one's part in the formation of the Ultimate Goal. The Segmented Path is the idea that everone's life path plays a small part in the path of the world. The path of the world supposedly leads everything to its rightful place and that rightful place is the Ultimate Goal. The soul is the entity that travels along the life path. The body, then, is the representation of one's spirit in the world, being in essence a carrying case for it.
-Sense of Wonder
Since one's life is living out one's contribution to the Segmented Path and the Ultimate Goal, doing everyday things can give a "spiritual high" to those who follow the Ultimate goal. More realistically, this is not one of the strong points of the Ultimate Goal, and the "sense of wonder" need is filled by things such as science or Tradatarianism if in Trada. Despite this, the sensation of being on the path is enough for most (the Exhilerating Patience is truly exhilerating). Other forms of wonder, or more loosely practice, are the fabled conversation of the Ultimate Goal in which the followers seem to speak in proverbs and analogies.
Another possible weak point in the Ultimate Goal is morality. It is shown that doing good acts versus bad ones does not put one closer to the path or better in the sense of the Ultimate Goal itself. The idea remains that what feels right is a step in the right direction, so positive ideas and good acts are encouraged in that sense.
Laws in the Ultimate Goal involve the meanings of the various aspects of the life path. For instance, one may not know what the Ultimate Goal is according to the Perpetual Confusion. A certain degree of restraint in thought and action is necessary with the Exhilerating Patience.
This is the second strongest point in this religion. People seem to enjoy talking the Ultimate Goal in depth and at length. Followers have even developed large amounts of sayings and proverbs. The use of analogies to describe one's life path is an important part of conversation between adherents. Conversation and meetings take place usually in a small group setting, perhaps over dinner at another follower's house. No leaders of the followers are appointed but those who produce theological literature on the Ultimate Goal and those who are known for being masters of Ultimate Goal conversation are well-respected in the community. Some of the said theological experts of the Ultimate Goal are also known for general philosophical thought outside the community.
Where did the Ultimate Goal come from?
The religion is known to be founded around Yardsvillage during the Hundred Years of Confusion (56YDY to 142YDY) probably to fill spiritual needs that the weakness of the government during this time caused. It is not known who founded the religion; indeed it was most likely formed from many ideas that many people had. The first mention that is in writing is an account of a young apprentice in the Architecturing-Guild hearing of the religion from his teacher. It is not known if this is even a true account, whether the teacher had anything to do with the founding of the religion, or why such a text was written. Some think that the Architecturing-Guild was the source of the religion, but the Guild either denies this or appears to not know if this is true. Nevertheless, the text, from ~100YDY, tells us that the religion was in a formal guise by that time.
Once the Central Empire had reestablished itself, this time for over a 1000 years more, the Ultimate Goal seems to be recieved with suspicion and some open hostility. It survived, though, and was adopted by the Sekuuns and their feudalist state to the north when they were pushed there by the Central Empire. The "nobility" of the Sekuuns seemed to despise it, however, and it did not spread much. The Small Plots of Land Trade Confederation of the Sekuuns wanted to create a spiritually dominant framework like the Central Empire, so the Ultimate Goal was not accepted by this Sekuun society either. When the last of the nobility steadily joined the rapidly expanding SPOL Union in the 1400s YDY, while the Central Empire fell and small states rose up, the Ultimate Goal was more accepted in the SPOL society and began to swell in numbers once again. Today, with the widespread dominance of political/ economical ideologies, the Ultimate Goal has become without growth or decline in the SPOL Union and has rapidly declined in Trada since, of course, 142YDY.
How is being an adherent of the Ultimate Goal seen in society?
This differs from region to region. About one-third of SPOL Union are part of the community. This is evenly dispersed throughout the state except in Corobâire, where it is approximatly one-twentieth of the population. In Trada, followers are found in the rural areas north of Yardsville and are a very small part of the population. Followers are looked upon as kind of strange but are respected as Traditarians and included in society all the same though it is seen as a tradition of the SPOL Union. Open hostility towards adherents is rare and not a very serious possibility. The religion is not present in countries other than these two and is probably seen as a foreign thing to other states.
Further Reading:The Ultimate Goal - DWPCo.
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