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The Chosen

The "Chosen" is merely the most recent designation of an amorphous fellowship or ideology of mages, usually technomancers, that has appeared and disappeared again several times across the ages since roughly A.D. 400. Through the centuries, followers of this Craft, if it is in fact a single group, have called themselves by various such names: Disciples, the Elect, Followers of the Way, Brethren, the Timeless, and many others. Most frequently, they simply refer to themselves as Christians, as indeed the vast majority of them have been, if usually heretical according to the standards of the times they have appeared in. To the Cabal of Pure Thought, that was precisely what they were: Heretics, though many of them were referred to by the sect they associated themselves with, such as the Anabaptists or Hussites. The Celestial Chorus, on the other hand, sometimes speaks of them as the Sundered and treats them as lost brothers and sisters; the Chosen in turn refer to both the Chorus and the Cabal, when they know of the latter's existence, as Apostates or some such term. Hermetic mages have been heard to call them the Nameless, implicitly classing them with Marauders, while modern soul-tracers among the Euthanatos occasionally refer cryptically to "the reincarnation of the Low Realists." Technomancers who have encountered them refer to them doubtfully as Primitivists or Restorationists. According to those who believe in their existence, they may be the most diligent seekers of global Ascension, outstripping even the Technocracy; yet they seem not even to comprehend the notion of personal Ascension.

Just who are they, anyway?

The Philosophy of Restoration

The Chosen are puzzled by the confusion about their beliefs and identity. According to them, the truth is simple: they believe in Restoration. In its most specific form, Restoration refers to the recovery of the forms, practices, and doctrine of the early church before an event they refer to as the Apostasy. Contrary to certain factions among the Chorus, the Chosen insist that these forms, practices, and doctrines can be found accurately recorded in the Bible, primarily the New Testament, and that all subsequent revelations are illegitimate. Moreover, they believe that miraculous occurrences served the specific purpose of confirming that a revelation was truly from God, and with this primary purpose gone, miracles ceased to occur with the end of the first century A.D. Nonetheless, a few details of the Chosen's doctrine and practices do resemble these Chorister groups' ideas about the early church: decentralization, leadership by charismatic individuals rather than a hierarchy, simplicity of worship, baptism as immersion, and certain other more specific items. The great distance between the modern era and the first century, the dynamic temporal disruptions of that era, and various later wardings make it difficult if not impossible to accurately study the Chosen's claims; modern accounts of history tend to disconfirm them--but then, history is written by the winners. Ignoring the disapproval of others, the various groups of Chosen have consistently proclaimed that after the first or second centuries, Christianity became increasingly corrupt, and that the modern churches in its direct line of descent are hopelessly re-created in the images of human Apostates. This exclusivism, coupled with the Chosen's disbelief in modern miracles, makes reconciliation with the Chorus virtually impossible.

Beyond this public doctrine, to which a small but significant number of Sleeper Christians give ready assent, the Chosen also maintain that Restoration must be carried beyond the restitution of the church alone. The entire Creation Order has fallen from what it was designed to be. Initially marred by Satan's rebellion (which the Chosen couple with humanity's fall rather than setting the latter at a much later date), the universe has since been further damaged by the schemes of Apostates, later devil-worshippers, and other careless willworkers. The church is the latest outworking of God's plan to reconstruct and then finish the Cosmos, and it is because of its position that it has itself been attacked and/or corrupted by agents of destruction and death. In its ideal state, individual sentients are deathless and participate in the continual construction/growth of the Cosmos as it attains perfection after infinite changing perfection. Although destruction and increasing entropy is possible, the decrease of entropy is equally possible without an extra expenditure of energy, and is indeed the norm because life-oriented, unfallen sentient beings can be expected to seek it.

The enemy, according to the Chosen, can be identified essentially as History. That is, in the course of normal, fallen time, individuals and groups acquire larger and larger masses of tradional excrescences which obscure the plain truth from their senses. Among individuals, these are usually referred to as habits and preconceptions; among groups, as traditions, conventions, or customs; and for humanity as a whole, as History. Therefore the Chosen consistently attack these static beliefs, challenging people to take their ideas from their own experience rather than from what someone else tells them. Ironically, many outsiders see only the Chosen's own static set of core beliefs, which leads them to deny--perhaps justifiably--that the Chosen are anything but hypocrites with their own traditional history. The Chosen typically retort that when their ideas do not change, it is because they reflect unchanging core aspects of the Creation Order. Certain Chosen, trying to disprove the notion of their stasis, are led into greater and greater feats of dynamic vulgar magick or nonconformity to society, usually to no effect but their own downfall.

The Chosen see the Cosmos as functioning mechanistically, like a device which, once set up, continues to function smoothly without intervention. (Unlike Deists, the Chosen tend to compare the Cosmos to machines like cars or computers, which are guided by built-in mechanisms without tampering with their internal workings, rather than to a clock which is completely independent except to be observed until it runs down.) Therefore, the most obvious aspect of Chosen "magic" is a form of technomancy. Chosen technomagic typically works with simple tools and compounds, using them to disrupt the static state of various patterns and structures so that they can be molded into another form. The most recent incarnation of the Chosen has begun to make use of higher technology; however, they tend to use it in much the same fashion, to make more use of multiply-connected simple devices rather than more complex machinery, and to gather and rework castoff junk instead of creating their tools from scratch. Outsiders are often puzzled by the Chosen's reliance on technology, given their devotion to primitivism; they fail to realize that to the Chosen, the use of tools is _real_ primitivism, making use of the structures of nature as they appear rather than constructing elaborate traditional or theoretical concepts. Tradition, after all, is the product of many generations and a long history; the Chosen are beholden to neither. The Chosen see their tools merely as extensions of their bodies, not as something truly outside them.

Not all Chosen magic is technomagic, though virtually all of it is referred to simply as "technology". The Chosen also believe in certain basic elements of existence that others would refer to as "mystical", though the Chosen themselves lack the central notion of mystical experience. The vast majority of these concepts instead center around the idea of responsibility--a person responsible for an action or the creation of an object is connected to it. The various groups of Chosen have disagreed on exactly which connections one ought to sever and which ought to be encouraged as taking up the physical world into one's own body, which they see as a greatly valuable tool rather than a hindrance. Sin is viewed, however, as one segment of the former class, an aspect of history from which one can be severed only by unification with the death of Christ. It is into this area that a relative handful of religious practices enter the Chosen's magic; the Chosen barely see these as connected to their "technology" at all, certainly not as part of it, as they are dependent on divine intervention, something that for the most part vanished from the world ages ago--as was meant to happen. Therefore they are only in an obscure sense a part of the basis of the Cosmos, and not a part over which humanity has much control.

History

Given their views on history, it is perhaps appropriate that their own is a murky obscurity. During the last two millennia, many movements have served as a vehicle for the same views taught by the Chosen, but each has either slipped away from their ideals or simply faded away, leaving them without a pool of new recruits. Nonetheless, they continue to appear and reappear. Some frustrated mages, trying to trace their nonexistent continuity, have even suggested half-seriously that the Chosen have attempted to alter history every time they devised a means and destroyed themselves with Temporal Paradox over and over again.

As noted, the Chosen claim to be ideologically descended from the early church of the first century, yet other groups competing for the same origin deny their presence. Perhaps this is to be expected, yet these other factions have a more easily traceable history in which no mention of a movement or organization corresponding to the Chosen appears. Recently, soul-tracers among the Euthanatos have attempted to settle the question with the claim that they have detected the Avatars of three distinct factions struggling for control of early Christianity. The Gnostics represent a relatively pure strain of Chorister thought, while two different factions of Realists appear from conversion activities among formerly pagan peoples. The Gnostics, arguing that the physical world was entrapping or even corrupt, found themselves in conflict with the High Realists, primarily converts from a Greek or Middle Eastern philosophical ground, who believed that the physical world served as a useful projection of the path to reunion with divinity. The High Realists eventually overcame the Gnostics by joining with the Low Realists, who tended to be either Romans or "barbarians" from the Empire's borders, and who maintained that the physical world was right and good in itself. However, having driven the Gnostics from power, the High Realists proceeded to turn on the Low Realists and overwhelm them. The remaining Gnostics have continued within the Chorus proper, joined by later mystical groups, while the High Realists formed the basis for the eventual formation of the Cabal of Pure Thought. The Low Realists were apparently wiped out, but time and again, so these Euthanatos say, their Avatars have returned to contest the question. Whether this is true, who can say?

Holdouts

Throughout the first millennium, the history of the Low Realists' descendants (if they existed at all) is especially unclear, in part because High and Low Realism took a considerable time to diverge. The teaching of the early church fathers who opposed the Gnostics apparently reflects both forms of Realism equally well, though all seem to have come from the educated Greek background from which the High form originated. Over time, however, the High Realists began to promote an increasing amount of hierarchy to better oppose both heresy and persecution. The less acculturated Low Realists continued to spread toward and then outside the borders of the Roman Empire, but the central regions came increasingly under the control of High Realists who supported first local and then regional bishops.

Eventually the Low Realists were separated beyond their ability to maintain contact with one another, and in most regions were unable to prevent the Sleepers from sliding back into paganism. The last holdouts of which there is any record were centered in the British Isles. Hoping to regain some measure of support in the heartland, the Lows sent Pelagius (who, from his teachings, was probably Awakened) to support free will against the belief in predestination, which the Lows were convinced was a serious cause of apathy. But the High-controlled clergy attacked Pelagius as a heretic, while Pelagius took his ideas to increasing extremes in trying to motivate his supporters. Pelagius' followers were eventually defeated, and although by that time the Lows had lost most of their influence on the British churches, the Highs made sure no more trouble would arise by promoting the fallback of Roman armies from Britain. In 410, Anglo-Saxon armies overran Britain, and the Low Realists vanished from history under their onslaught.

Although some Restorationists have claimed the Paulicians as an early precursor, their doctrine during the period when the most is known of them seems to be much closer to that of the Gnostics. If, in fact, the Paulicians were ever proponents of Low Realist ideas, they must have fallen away from them rather early. In any case, it is important to realize that this period predates the idea of Restoration for the obvious reason that the Apostasy it posits had only just begun. Low Realist philosophy differed from Chorister teachings only in its emphasis on the goodness of the physical and on human freedom, while their magic, more than likely, was much the same as that of the period's other Choristers, with perhaps some bits and pieces of the earliest Ars Praeclarus.

Heretics

It was not until after the beginning of the next millennium that the ideas of the Low Realists began to reappear, changed. Sometime in the mid-twelfth century, an un-named faction of the Choir Celeste began promoting translation of the Bible into local tongues. Their intent remained unclear until, in the middle of the 1170s, a merchant named Peter Waldo abruptly gave away his property on reading one such translation and formed a group called the "Poor Men" who decided to become lay preachers. This being opposed to the clerical establishment, they were forbidden to do so; but the ban merely turned them against the clergy. For roughly fifty years, the so-called Waldenses preached the concept of a restoration based on the Scriptures, but when the priesthood banned vernacular translations and began the Inquisition, the movement apparently collapsed. Today only a small group of Waldenses survives in Europe.

The nameless translators either vanished with the Waldenses or went into hiding for roughly a century. There is some evidence that they or a later faction may have been involved with the Scholastic faction called the Nominalists, who promoted the concept that universal forms were not real, existing only as a mental synthesis of individual objects. This group opposed the Realists, who espoused the old High Realist idea that forms preceded individuals. There is no clear evidence for magical involvement with either faction, but it is definitely known that Nominalist ideas were an important precursor of the later development of science.

Hussites

Then, in the 1370s, John Wycliffe emerged as an opponent of the clergy. At first, Wycliffe simply intended to promote the removal of ecclesiastical property, which he saw as corrupting. But, as he became increasingly disgusted with the hierarchial system, in 1379 he abruptly began to attack papal authority and various other doctrines whose primary promoters were what had now become the Cabal of Pure Thought. This development does not seem to have been the result of Awakening, though one cannot be entirely certain. But like Waldo, Wycliffe spawned a lay preaching movement, this one called the Lollards. Only a few years later, a man by the name of Jan Hus, influenced by Wycliffe, began his own movement. Hus died at the stake as a heretic, but by this time his "Hussite" followers had grown too numerous to allow this to dissuade them.

Unlike the prior Waldenses, it seems fairly clear that the Hussites contained a number of Awakened mages. This time the doctrine of Restoration appeared in fuller form than ever before, moreover, eventually leading to contact with a faction of early technomages that had fallen on hard times--the Craftmasons. Once deeply involved in ancient Rome, the Craftmasons desired a return to their former power, which had over the long years had led them toward their own, more cosmic, notion of Restoration. Given this and the groups' shared sympathy with the common man, the two factions swiftly merged together. For perhaps the first time, the followers of the Chosen's ideology began developing their magic beyond simple arts centered primarily on enhancing mind and freeing spirit through speech and a few simple religious rituals. The Craftmasons, for their part, had joined themselves to religionists who had devoted themselves to freeing the masses from spiritual darkness whatever the cost.

No one was prepared for what would happen next.

Craftmasons

The Craftmasons had already brought about the creation of the Order of Reason, though with misgivings. With even deeper misgivings, they had counted among their allies the Cabal of Pure Thought. Now that they had joined themselves to some of the Cabal's most devoted opponents, it was inevitable that something would give. The Craftmasons began having second thoughts about the Order, which had begun to show signs of being more concerned with power than with liberation. As recorded in Mage: The Sorceror's Crusade, the Craftmasons turned on the Order of Reason and sought to dismantle it, and were themselves destroyed.

The majority of the Hussite movement faltered before the Craftmasons had even begun their attempt. Seeking to prevent the loss of their allies, the secular Craftmasons became involved in the new religious movement known as Anabaptism. The result was ambiguous; many Anabaptists disagreed with Hussite priorities and diverged, producing more chaos than the Convention could absorb. By the time the Craftmasons were gone, this incarnation of the Chosen's ideas had dissipated.

Campbell

Over the following centuries, only a number of small movements are known to have emerged to carry the Chosen's banner, and only one Awakened mage is known to have emerged from among them, though that one was certainly remarkable. Whether Michael Faraday, a member of the Haldanes, had any connection to a hidden faction is doubtful; certainly he never seems to have expressed any allegiance to any mages save the Order of Reason. The Haldanes, in their turn, gave rise to the Glasites, and the Glasites to the Sandemanians, each a small sect confined to the British isles and with a reputation for being unduly contentious.

No renaissance appears to have occurred until 1800, when a peculiar series of events raised Restorationist ideas to their peak to date. A father and son, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, immigrated from Scotland, where they had been exposed to Sandemanian ideas and Baconian "Common Sense Rationalism". In Virginia, they began expressing a combination of Restorationist and ecumenical ideas, producing a movement known as the "Disciples". Simultaneously, several similar movements were going on among Elias Smith's "Reforming Baptists" and other groups in New England. Not one shred of magical activity can be positively detected among any of these factions. One might posit some common hidden backing for these movements, yet another group had emerged from the Chorister-controlled Second Great Awakening in Kentucky under the leadership of known Singer Barton Stone. Short of assuming treason on Stone's part, the only plausible explanation seems to be that the confusing series of mergers, defections, and separations that followed was not under the guidance of any single party. The best interpretation of these events seems to be that Stone was unaware of the affiliations of the preachers with whom he met and their intentions to eradicate some of his views from the combined movements produced by their association. If so, Stone appears to have remained confident that he could regain control up until his death, at which point the Disciple/"Christian" movement was apparently all but devoid of mages of any stripe. All the confusion of events seems to be the cause of many theories involving changes to the timeline and the resulting Paradox; such is certainly possible, but apparently beyond proof at present. Though numerically strong, the movement fragmented following the Civil War and appears to have contributed virtually nothing to the struggle for Ascension. Each of the groups seems to have undergone a slow decline in one manner or another until very recent times, suggesting that any magical involvement has been either small or incompetent or both.

Chosen

By the close of the twentieth century, Campbell's movement had first absorbed the others and then fractured into four separate churches: the ecumenically liberal Disciples of Christ, the Christian Church and the Churches of Christ, which were similar but too fractious to merge, and the recently-emerged cult called the International Church of Christ, the only one of the four to be growing significantly. The Disciples of Christ, by then controlled by the Chorus, was a vigorous supporter of the ecumenical movement but continued to shrink in numbers. The other two were growing in a ragged, uneven fashion, but poorly-kept statistics instead indicated that they had begun to shrink as well.

Onto this stage stepped an individual using the Internet alias of "Maccabeus". Breathing out demagoguery and blending it with practical advice, Maccabeus startled many observers of religion when his movement, the so-called "Revolt", quickly gained momentum as 1990 came to a close. This "Maccabean Revolt" was merely one of many such movements that had intermittently roused the Churches of Christ during the last couple of decades; unlike them, however, it managed to hold onto the majority of its gains.