Other Concords

As outreach counselor for our Flock, I have had the pleasure {though at times, with some individuals, it is more of a burden} to speak with other Concords of our Necropolis on the subject of Transcendence. And while it would not be fair for me to say that all members of a Concord, everywhere, are just as the people I have spoken to, here or elsewhere, I have to go with what I have heard, and have seen.

I find that some of the people I speak with are at least open to talking about the notion of Transcendence, whether they agree with it or not. However, most others are closed against even speaking of it, and would rather talk about anything else. I have even had people threaten to destroy me just for saying "the t-word," though I'm happy to say that I was able to defuse the argument by walking, and sometimes running, away.

I suspect that some of the reluctance to talk is because they think I'm trying to "convert" them. {It is not really my aim, but the perception is hard to shake, especially amongst The Order and the Freewraiths.} But I also sense that there is a sense of psychological danger involved, as though they fear to think of it, as pondering a release, but getting no closer to it for the pondering, may make the Adversary's taunts and tricks all the worse.

Going from worst to best is probably the most expedient way of handling this part of the discourse, which means that we must speak of the Haunters.



The Haunters that I have met seem unanimous on the point that Transcendence is a lie. In fact, their disdain and denial of its existence seems almost monomaniacal, and I have had to end many conversations with swiftness, and sometimes even direct flight, when I gently insisted that I had seen it happen. Those who did not try to kill me for the seeming insult insisted that I was mistaken, and had been fooled by the Angels {"Demons," to them}. They would not elaborate on that point, either.

Why the hostility? I can only suspect that, as most of them came to a tragic end, and fell in with a group who use that tragedy as a reason to behave like monsters, they have turned their backs on God. The fact that God's hands are often against them may add to that, for when have you ever seen a Haunter and an Angel in good company?

But I find that to be a simplistic explanation. And nothing in life, or death, is ever simple.


The Order

A step up from the Haunters' utter disbelief, The Order also disbelieves in Transcendence, but only officially, and only self-willed Transcendence. Their superiors prefer not to use the word, for fear of angering the Angels.

They believe that, when their Day of Dominion comes, all will "Transcend": the Angels {"Ferrymen," to them} will come to take them off to Paradise, and their Charun, on that Day. They need only wait for the Day, and the fact that some of them have been waiting for a very long time {and many more await in the Ossuaries, under the city} does not dissuade them.

The Order does, however, recognize that the Ferrymen sometimes take one of their own through the Barrier, and do not bring them back. When this happens, they say that the person has been "blessed by Charun" for some great deed. I find this confusing, because their own history says that the Ferrymen aren't supposed to be doing things like that.

{I have to say that it puzzles me that the Angels would support such blatant Paganism. Perhaps they are only waiting for someone to Resolve his Anchors and rededicate himself to Christ, and then whisking that one away to Paradise. But this is strict conjecture on my part.}

But in the end, maybe, to invoke Michael MacDonald, Transcendence by another name is just alright with The Order. This is most likely why so many of our Concord has joined us, or at least one of our other Groups, after spending time in The Order. Some seek a return to their old spiritual beliefs, after wallowing in the paganism of the The Order for so long, while others seek a more pro-active route to Transcendence. Either way, we are happy to have them.


The Freewraiths

What can I say about the Freewraiths, except to say that they are, indeed, truly free about the subject. While they have as much reluctance to talk about it with me as any other Wraith, the reluctance does not seem to stem from outright hatred of the concept, or fear of what their superiors might think.

That said, I have gotten at best only a partial understanding of their views on the subject, which seem wild and contradictory. One Freewraith spoke of finding immense favor with their patron deity, who may "set us free, even in death." Such persons simply vanish at the apex of their glory, sometimes with witnesses and sometimes without.

Another spoke of strengthening the will to its utmost, so that victory over the Shadow could be had. This approach is akin to the Pardoners' views, and some of our own, and may have some merit. On the other hand, the same person was so self-assured of the righteousness of his many vices and sins that he even tried to tempt me into an unnatural act.

Yet another very intriguing, and less spiritually-dangerous, conversation I had involved discovering the means to leave the Deadlands by reaching an absolute understanding of Shaping. This Freewraith even claimed to have known Wraiths who Shaped themselves into Transcendence, which she said was like watching someone "fall into themselves so far" that they simply winked out of existence.

{She was still following the clues they left behind, and hoping to join them. Sadly, the next time I returned to the camp, years later, she was gone, having "died" fighting a pack of the Damned. And she left no clues at all.}

That said, the Freewraiths I have known tend to disdain the Angels almost as much as the Haunters do. They also often seek our help in strengthening the ties to their Anchors. So for all their freedom, they are still lost sheep.


The Messengers

The Messengers are very open to the notion of Transcendence, given that it's right at the heart of their own Concord's liturgies. However, they believe, much like The Order, that it cannot be achieved by the individual's own effort {with God's help, of course}. They believe that they have to earn it by doing good works, even in their condition, without heed for self-preservation, selfishness or self-advancement.

And they do, indeed, try to earn it! I applaud their attempts to keep our city safe and healthy, insomuch as they can without breaking the Injunction. Indeed, the fact that they have to weigh any intervention, and the favor of the Angels, against being too visible or obvious, thus incurring their censure, is worthy of high praise.

I only question only their ultimate sense of what "selfishness" is. One doesn't do good things in search of heavenly reward, but does them because they are right, and trusts in God to know His own.

{They agree with me in principle, but then go right back to seeking their "reward." But then, in all honesty, how can you not have the thought of God's approval in the back of your mind?}

I also find it sad that some of them are willing to bow in fealty to the Gods of The Order, and Charun's fellow Lords of the Underworld. But, as with The Order, the Angels seem to favor the Pagans with their presence. So I must withhold judgment until I have all the facts.

Those who are either led through the Barrier by the Angels, or are seen to disappear in a bright flash of holy light, are said to Ascend. Not many do, but those who are thusly glorified are indeed paragons of virtue, if the stories told of them are to be believed.


The Pardoners

I have saved the Pardoners for the last for one reason: while they may not always be the "best" about Transcendence, as some of them are very close-minded about how to get there, and they tend to distrust the Angels almost as badly as the Haunters, I know a great deal about their ideas. This is thanks to a wonderful friend, and fierce debating partner, that I once had in their Concord. His name was Brother Warmth, and we were "set up" by our respective superiors in the hopes of enjoying closer cooperation in our city.

Brother Warmth was named that because his smile was enough to melt your heart, even when you were angry with him. I am told that the Pardoners all take some name, either to underscore a shortcoming, name an aspiration or promote something that brought hope and love to others. In that sense, I suppose he could have been Brother Pride, because he was very stubborn about his views, or Brother Sacrifice, because he felt he owed his long-gone mentor a debt for saving him from the Damned. But he was well-known for the warmth of his smile, and that is why he chose the name he did.

What did we talk about? Everything.We did stay away from certain matters that we were told not to discuss, but past that we had no barriers, and often confided in one another well past professional matters. And so did I learn a number of encouraging, and disquieting, things about the other Concord.

Much like some Groups of Believers, the Pardoners feel that the darkness of the Adversary is inside of us. Some of them believe that this is an outcropping of the Devil, taken root in our hearts and minds. Others believe that the Shadow is just a strange reflection of our worst excesses, given strange life and power in this place.

Either way, this darkness can only grow in this place, and the Pardoners see their role as checking the growth. He made the allusion to a gardener, who might prune leaves and branches, kill weeds and deal with potato bugs. If the garden is neglected, nature will run riot; Sometimes one must be cruel and firm to be kind.

{I asked him if others might advocate burning the bush to the ground, and he had to admit that, yes, a few of his brethren were that "dedicated." Needless to say, that touched off an argument, which boils my blood to this day as we never resolved it. I can understand their views on why they are so blunt and brutal in their methods, but I find their casual attitude towards "breaking" people to be... well, I could go on at length. I will stop.}

Transcendence, then, can only come when the Shadow is completely outwitted, effectively neutered or utterly eradicated. There are many paths to these ideal states of being, which they call "being Purified," but they seem to revolve around improving the Eidolon {his word}, approaching the zenith of their Numen, or else completely excising the aspect of one's personality that the Shadow devolves from. Failing that, Pardoners can seek a second death in battle against the Damned, or perform some act of martyrdom so great that they are seen to explode into Purity, and then disappear.

I asked if any of them believed in merging with the Shadow, as some Believers do. Warmth almost screamed in horror at the thought, but in a later conversation he admitted that he had, indeed, heard of it. Such Pardoners were part of a rare "heresy" that tended to crop up in Asia, every so often, and he didn't want to go into any details.

But one thing we often argued about was the nature of the Shadow, itself, and the role it played in Transcendence. I refused to budge in my insistence that Anchors have to be let go, and he refused to acknowledge their total importance, saying that they were just one tool in a Shadow's arsenal.

The real secret, he insisted, was self knowledge: understanding your other side so well that you could, in yet another metaphor, wrestle it down to the ground and keep it from bothering you. If you put it into a really good headlock you could make it do what you wanted, rather than the other way around. And if you fought it "to the death," and won, then you could achieve Purity right then and there.

I was incredulous, but he winked and told me that he'd seen it happen. And he would be happy to let me watch it in action, too, if the opportunity ever arose. He wouldn't go into more detail than that, though, and we had to end the conversation there.

As for Brother Warmth, he never got to show me that "little secret," for he was destroyed at the hands of the Damned not too long thereafter. I am told that he put up a fight that you wouldn't have thought him capable of, but in the end he was just one Pardoner against entire swarms of the Adversary's legions. He died saving others, which was how he would have wanted to go out.

{That does not assuage the sense of loss I feel, though. I would give almost anything just for one more argument with him, even if I had to lose it. I loved losing religious debates to him more than I love winning them with other people.}


As for the so-called "Solitaries," I find them to be as individualistic as some of the Freewraiths I have met. Some are open to the idea, and may join with us in time, if they feel they can stand the company. And some are not open to the idea, and tend to kick dust upon our shoes.

I can only pray for them, and hope that they find the truth they need to hear.