Thursday, December 1, 2016

In the work of generating theology (Looking for Input)


 
Lo! The Gods. Art By: Sidney Sime

Random Theology Generator
This is a rough draft/work in progress of a theology generator I am working on. I truly love religion, it is the ultimate expression of humanity's need to understand the universe on its most intrinsic level. I will occasionally reference real world religions, both active and deceased, in terms of mythology. I am using the term 'mythology' not as a way of discrediting the truth of the religion or the truth it sought to explain, rather the term is used refer to set of religious explanations and beliefs. To further underscore my intention behind my use of 'mythology', I will leave you with this quote:

After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of 'truth', and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode... - J.R.R. Tolkien

Origins of Deity
Depending on the philosophical outlook of the society that the religion resides in, the question of a deity's origin may or may not arise. If it does arise, different cultures may place differing levels of emphasis on such origins. In the realm of eastern versus western philosophy, it is the west that has examined the concepts of divine origins in the closest manner. This is not to say that the east has neglected such examinations, however, it has different priorities, in general, than the west in the field of Ontology.

  1. Eternal Existence
  2. Apotheosis
  3. Child of Another Deity
  4. Causa Sui

Eternal Existence: The deity has always existed, and will always exist, without regard to causality. This differs from Causa Sui (self-creation/cause), in that it places the deity above cause, even causes that originate from itself. Having an eternal existence also places the deity outside of the flow/effects of time. While eternal/eternity have the common connotation of meaning a very long time, the classic meaning is a state of being outside of time so that all points are equal in “distance” from the “point” that the deity occupies. This type of origin best fits a supreme and unknowable type deity.

Apotheosis: The deity was mortal, or in some way less than they are now, and ascended into a higher form of being. (One of my own characters have ascended in such a manner at the end of one campaign. It was awesome...). This type of origin best fits a deity that can be easily understood and related to by mortals.

Child/Creation of Another Deity: The deity is progeny of another god or gods. These divine beings can spring from a single parent in the case of Athena from Zeus, or come from a coupling such a Ganesha from Shiva and Parvati (this being the most common, but not the only explanation of Ganesha's parentage). This origin best fits just about any type of intermediate deity or a deity with a limited purview but still powerful and mysterious.

Causa Sui: The deity created themselves, having no other cause outside of that. This differs from an eternal existence in two ways: firstly, the deity is still subject to time and that they are still subject to causality, even if it is only their own actions that they are subject to. This type of origin best fits a creator deity that can be effected by the actions of other agents while still being the most powerful being in the universe.

In the Beginning...
The origins of the universe can be as important to religions as it is to the fields of physics and quantum mechanics. Often, creation narratives have other meanings couched within them that reinforce the values of the religion. To a religion, the 'why' of creation is just as important, and perhaps more important, as the 'how'.

  1. Ex Nihilo
  2. From Chaos
  3. Emergence
  4. Pantheism
  5. Divine Birth
  6. From Death or Dismemberment
  7. Dependent Origination
  8. Earth Diver

Ex Nihilo: Latin, meaning: from nothing. In this, the universe was created from nothing at all, having no secondary causes provided by 'raw materials'. This form of creation is the pinnacle of 'power', since it springs purely from a will with literally nothing else being needed outside of the creator. This form of creation best fits a supreme-being type deity.

From Chaos: In this form of creation, the creator is a force of order or an artist. Before the creator there was only chaos, meaning that the 'universe' was in a state that nothing could truly arise from it. Plato referred to this being as the Demiurge, gnostic Christianity also uses this term for the being that came and ordered the universe after the unknowable Creator made it. This form of creation best fits an craftsman or artist type deity.

Emergence: This is not necessarily a form of creation, but a means of explanation that entirely inhabits the point of view of a people or religion. In this explanation, the people of the religion emerged from a secure world/area into the current, and more harsh, world they inhabit now. While the Emergence narrative is common in Native American mythology, it also is present in the creation myths of the Abrahamic religions with Adam/Adem and Eve/Hawwah/Hawa being cast out of Eden into the current world. This type of narrative best fits a religion/culture that is not overly concerned with subjects that are beyond their control.

Pantheism: This is not necessarily a form of creation, but rather a state of being for the universe. In Pantheism, the universe is the physical form of an ultimate deity with everything and everyone within the universe being a part of that being. In this, the self/individuality is an illusion, with everyone and everything being unified completely on the metaphysical level. There can be other gods, but even they are just parts of the greater whole. This type of universe can be used to explain phenomena like magic, by stating that the caster has truly realized they are part of the universe and use that realization to control it. It is recommended that the prime/universal deity to have a Causa Sui or Eternal Existence origins. This type of universe works best for narratives that involve an ultimate form of Enlightenment.

Divine Birth: In this form of creation, the universe is the child of a supreme parent(s) deity(s). Depending on the religion, the universe is the result of a coupling or the birthed creation (in this case it is usually a mother type deity). This form of creation works best for narratives that involve either a highly involved supreme being or a universe that has two evenly matched opposing forces/deities (e.g. light/dark, good/evil, life/death, creation/destruction, etc...).

From Death or Dismemberment: This form of creation can bear similarities to Pantheism and Divine Birth, though the differences lie within the intention of creation or the consequences of creation. In From Death the universe is the dead body of a deity, which bears a similarity to Pantheism, however, in Pantheism the supreme deity is imminent and constantly involved in the actions of the universe. By being a dead body, the universe's creation was either an act of self-sacrifice (hope) or creation is the result of divine decomposition (pessimism). In Dismemberment, creation resulted from the reduction of a deity, either self-inflicted or an act of violence. Once again we are presented with either an act of hope (self-sacrifice) or pessimism (violence). This form of creation works best with narratives that focus perseverance through adversity, or narratives that focus on deriving meaning from dark/hopeless situations.

Dependent Origination: This is more of an origin, rather than a form of creation. In Dependent Origination the universe is result of natural/mundane/non-divine, though still powerful, events. Here, the universe came about through a mechanistic set of events, without intention. The 'how' of the creation can be anything, but in the end it didn't involve the actions of beings. This form of universal origin works best for games where there are no deities or deities that are limited in power.

Earth Diver: In this form of world creation, the creator deity or their agent dives into an abyss (be it an endless ocean or a void) and brings back dry land for beings to live on. This type of creation works best for narratives that underscore the limits of beings, both deities and mortals, while maintaining a level of mystery. Earth Diver creation/origin still leaves open the possibility of other more powerful beings without having to reference such beings in the narrative.

Thus, You Were Not, But Now Are...
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Devolution From Greater Form
  2. Divinely Formed
  3. Natural Origination
  4. Have Always Existed

Oh Master, What Am I?
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Beloved Children
  2. Beloved Subjects/Citizens
  3. Beloved Servants/Slaves
  4. Servants
  5. Amusement
  6. Nothing / Inconsequential

How Hath I Offended Thee?
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Acts against the will/law of a deity
  2. Acts driven by undesirable/evil urges/intentions
  3. Acts that bring about undesirable consequences
  4. Acts against natural laws

Forgive Us Our Trespasses...
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Economy
  2. Atoning to Victim
  3. Atoning to Divine Authority
  4. Atonement is Impossible

A Good Life Lived
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Perpetual Paradise
  2. Temporary Paradise
  3. Advantageous Rebirth
  4. Rewards in this life
  5. Rejoining Deity
  6. Oblivion

After a Wicked Life
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Perpetual Punishment
  2. Temporary Punishment
  3. Disadvantaged Rebirth
  4. Punishment in this Life
  5. Oblivion
  6. Continued Existence

Form of Worship
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Religious Institution Required
  2. Personal Worship Sufficient
  3. Both Personal and Institutional Worship Required
  4. No Worship is Required/Wanted

Time of Worship
  1. Yearly
  2. Monthly
  3. Weekly
  4. Daily
  5. Hourly
  6. No Set Time

Holy Days
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Somber / Contemplation
  2. Giving of Gifts
  3. Fasting / Abstaining
  4. Festivals / Feasting
  5. Sacrifices to Deity
  6. Special Religious Ceremonies / Rituals

Form of Clergy
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Priesthood
  2. Monasticism
  3. Priesthood and Monasticism
  4. No Formal Clergy

Clergy Membership
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Limited to a Single Sex
  2. Open to Any Sex
  3. Relinquishment of Sexual Identity

Clergy Hierarchy
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. Strict Hierarchy w/ Single Head
  2. Strict Hierarchy w/ Ruling Council
  3. Loose Hierarchy w/ Single Advising Authority
  4. Loose Hierarchy w/ Advising Council

Membership
<Insert Explanatory Text>

  1. No Membership / Universal Membership
  2. Open
  3. Closed (Hereditary)
  4. Closed (Invitation)