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Tastanism (Literary Vitrian: Ⱅⱑⱋⰻⱀⱑ těštinja) is a monotheist and panentheist religion originating from West Borea, revolving around the recognition of the Creator as the source of the universe and all existence, who is in a state of deteriorating health known as Razoreny. In accordance with Zakon, an emanation of principles of the Monad, it is the duty of Man to with its endowed wisdom and divinity repair and heal the Creator through a process of reunion known as Viezeny. Tastanism's tenets are characterized by a demand of obedience that is compliant with Zakon and allows one to approach the Creator and more generally the Absolute, along with a sense of selflessness not only in pursuit of the Creator's rejuvenation but also recognition of one as a mere emanation of a totality.
Tastanism was developed in the 2nd century BCE by its prophet Bozhidar and his followers in West Borea; Bozhidar himself, held in Tastanic theology to be a special avatar of the Creator, delivered enlightenment upon a group of followers who then dispersed and disseminated his doctrines. It was visibly influenced by Sepcan religion, Vitrian religion, the pantheistic cults of the Mesian and Kalian cultures, as well as Argilian philosophies, but evolved to become sufficiently distinct from all of these antecedents.
Initially spreading slowly, Tastanism was suddenly enthusiastically adopted by the Neo-Sepcan Empire as a state religion in the 2nd century CE, and then rapidly spread in West Borea displacing practically all prior local creeds. With imperial patronage, Tastanic ecclesiastical institutions grew into a high social position that eventually overpowered most political authorities of the day, and church control reached a height in the Bibliocracy period from the late Empire to the 11th century. However, the Cositene expansion of the late 11th and 12th centuries drove Tastanism out of mainstream society as its institutions collapsed or were demolished and replaced it with Costeny, and the remaining region of majority-Tastanists in southern West Borea would be conquered and converted in the 14th century, fully marginalizing the once-dominant religion.
Owing to a policy of merciless persecution by Cositene states since the 12th century, Tastanic worship has been nearly exterminated in West Borea. Smaller communities are still extant in Aucuria, Luziyca, and Kheratia, while underground sects exist across the region. The main Tastanic communities today are very isolated from each other, resulting in significant doctrinal variety among extant traditions. Generally, state persecution (by either Cositene or state atheist forces), as well as more subtle pressures, have endangered the status of Tastanism. Despite its currently moribund position, Tastanism has left behind strong cultural legacies in West Borea through its philosophical traditions and general customs, not to mention the influence it had on the Costeny that replaced it. Other religions have also incorporated influences from Tastanism.
'Tastanism' is an adaption of Literary Vitrian Těštinja, a well-accepted term for the religion in West Borea itself. Scholars usually agree that this is derived from Literary Vitrian tešti, 'to flow', appended with the -nja suffix used to create deverbative abstract nouns. The meaning of 'to flow' in this context is linked to the process of Proximation and ultimately Viezeny, where through close contact energy and substance is allowed to 'flow' freely between the Tastanist worshipper and the Creator.
Cosmologically, Tastanism is monist; it attributes the source of all existence to the Monad, the Absolute, and correspondingly the nature of all existence is singular. This is comparable to Balahāri in Khaturvism. Spiritual and material aspects of an object are held to be only different attributes that are fundamentally inseparable from each other. Tastanism espouses emanationism, holding that things, as derivations of the Monad, are 'outflows' of divinity, and thus always pervaded with an element of such transcendent characteristics. Perhaps due to this monism, concepts in Tastanism often carry different definitions, though these 'aspects' of its tenets are to be interpreted with each other and in full, and are fundamentally considered synonymous.
Another major cosmological element of Tastanism is its belief in Zakon (Literary Vitrian: ⰸⰰⰽⱁⱀⱏ zakonŭ, literally 'law'), a principle of natural order governing the functioning of the universe. Zakon also describes the process of aligning oneself with it to approach a righteous and ordered existence; these two definitions are considered synonymous in Tastanism itself. This element has been compared with Alari of Sepcan religion, another idea of transcendent order. Zakon is held to govern and underly the major cosmological events described by Tastanism, such as creation, and is used to explain such occurrences as well.
Tastanism posits many realms and planes exist beyond the universe currently being inhabited by humans and supports the idea that a multiverse exists, as well as planes entirely incomprehensible by humans. These however all remain under jurisdiction of the Creator.
The Creator (Literary Vitrian: ⰕⰂⰑⰓⰅⰐⰋⰉⰍⰀ tvorenijka), also the Broken God, is the primary deity of Tastanism, who engendered the creation of All, and is Himself an extension of the Monad. In an event known only as the Creation, existence was brought about by the Creator. Although formal Tastanic theology holds that Creation is not comprehended in terms of time and existence has been eternal from this metric (rather, as a state), folk practice of Tastanism advances a linear narrative of this event as an ultimate origin of the universe before which none existed. The Creator is an interactive and dynamic emanation of the Monad and of Zakon, immanent through both His characteristics as an 'actor' and His pervading presence as all that exists is an outflow of Him. Thus, Tastanism also holds a panentheistic view of the world, considering it to be a direct part of the Creator's body in some form.
The Creator is actively involved in fashioning and shaping the world, designing it on a sense of transcendent beauty in a sense connected by Zakon. Tastanism uses the teleological argument to support the existence of the Creator, who is the only one capable of tuning and modelling the world to the level of intricacy, complexity and perfection it exhibits. He also bears a special affection and attention towards the 'most-endowed' of His creations, humanity, which is exhibited in frequent benevolent interventions that form 'divine love', and a general preference towards creating suitable environments for humans.
Aspects and servants of the creator
All in existence are by strict definition emanations of the Creator, and the Creator has direct unchallenged power over that is Created. More regularly however, the Creator intervenes in the world via aspects, also known as servants or avatars, to perfect and maintain it; this is in part due to razoreny weakening the Creator's 'direct powers'. The Creator may create such avatars and intervene with them in whatever fashion most pleasing. In regular life, appeals are made to these aspects to gain favor in particular fields and circumstances, and for this reason these are the most involved of divinities with humans; they may even be (and often are) regarded as the 'interface' between the Absolute and Man. The use of aspects is generally considered to be an adaption of the deities of polytheistic early Vitrian religion (indeed, most of the primary avatars nearly directly correspond to a Vitrian deity), as well as the concept of spirits in Sepcan religion.
The creator has 18 primary aspects/servants, referred to by their numbers in their order, each serving a particular purpose:
- 1, overseeing life itself;
- 2, overseeing the passive opposing elements (air and earth);
- 3, overseeing the active opposing elements (fire and water)
- 4, overseeing the sky;
- 5, overseeing violent weather (thunder) and war;
- 6, overseeing beneficial/passive weather (rain) and peace;
- 7, overseeing the Sun;
- 8, overseeing the Moon;
- 9, overseeing nature;
- 10, overseeing death and conclusion;
- 11, overseeing gains and prosperity;
- 12, overseeing hospitality ;
- 13, overseeing the seas;
- 14, overseeing the continents;
- 15, overseeing trickery and trade;
- 16, overseeing wisdom;
- 17, overseeing beauty;
- 18, overseeing probability and fate.
These primary aspects, besides their exoteric associations as listed, are also in esoteric interpretation (podkrovny) linked with 'elements' that form the Great Schema through which Creation and the Creator manifests and expresses; depending on time period the values and attributes each such aspect is associated with has changed. The nature of/character associated with each aspect is also not singular, usually being rather varied. The 18 aspects can manifest into even more avatars to conveniently continue their activities throughout the world.
Besides these primary aspects, lesser avatars may manifest directly independent of a primary aspect, usually for specific purposes; the prophet Bozhidar is one such direct emanation of the Creator used to enlighten humanity on the true nature of the universe, and protective avatars may be present at various 'holy sites' as well.
Svet, or 'light', is a 'cosmic currency' of sorts, a substance that is emanated from the Creator, and is the agent that creates Man's wisdom. It is thanks to possession of Svet that humans are not only able to achieve cognitive and logical facilities superior to all other animals (as such capabilities are a direct result of divine guidance that Svet represents), but also be the ones endowed with the Creator's everlasting care and love, as well as being entrusted with the great task of healing the Creator and the world. Svet thus also implies a duty, a relationship stipulated by Zakon, theologically argued to be rooted in the possession of the same nature by two subjects possessing Svet and thus the need to essentially 'self-regenerate' through repairing God.
The concept of Svet entails no true agency separate from or independent of the Absolute, and again reflects a pervasive presence of the Creator and of Zakon. It also renders the desire to reunite with divinity an innate and natural state of sapient life. It also implies that humans are microcosmic reflections of the Absolute, made in the Image of God.
Razoreny (Literary Vitrian: ⱃⰰⰸⱁⱃⰵⱀⰻⰹⰵ razorenije, "destruction, exhaustion, broken") is the state of 'exhaustion' that the Creator is positioned in due to the immense expense of energy on the maintenance of the universe. The process of Creation and of maintaining the world is extremely exhaustive, expending large amounts of the Creator's energy, which leads Him into a suboptimal and vulnerable state no longer as capable as before. This is exacerbated by (or perhaps causes) the work of Nezakony, chaotic non-Zakonic forces that assault and undermine the sublime, transcendental order of Zakon. Due to Razoreny, chaos prevails as the Creator is unable to fully secure Creation against disorder, and the world descends into a dark age.
Although the narrative of Razoreny seems to imply that the event is a temporary state and a fall from a optimal previous age, more developed theology holds Razoreny being in fact a 'natural, eternal state' that may even be simultaneous with an opposite, more vigorous state of active creation, i.e. merely an aspect of existence. The term itself has thus become sometimes synonymous with Nezakony. However, such a state remains imperfect and suboptimal, and must be corrected; razorenic chaos renders order and beauty vulnerable.
The present state of the Creator as a weakened or even 'broken' divinity is a motif of Tastanic symbolism; this is made most evident by one of the most common epithets for the Creator, the "Broken God", used at a frequency sometimes even surpassing that of referring to Him as "the Creator".
Viezeny (Literary Vitrian: ⰲⰻⱔⰸⰵⱀⰹⰵ vięzenje, from vięzati 'to bind') is the primary pursuit of Tastanism, the process of re-approaching the Creator and establishing a bond that would allow the Creator to regenerate and recover from the status of Razoreny. Viezeny is viewed as a duty for humans as creations of the Creator, sanctioned by Zakon, and roughly analogous with a divine filial piety. Viezeny is the goal of every Tastanist, with religious aspects of life intending to approach this end. Viezeny would ultimately result in an reinvigorated Creator reunited with humanity as a whole, and engender a new age of further transcendence, as Creation of even greater beauty proceeds with vigor. Some sort of apotheosis of man is implied with this desired outcome.
Proximation, a form of mental cultivation part of Viezeny, is practiced to make Man conducive towards bonding with the Creator through optimizing consciousness and wisdom to a most righteous and clear state. Generally, conditioning and approach to Viezeny demands the acceptance of an obedience to the Creator and an appreciation of the principles of divine beauty that underly creation; man is mandated to abandon the self as union with the Creator is achieved, and that becomes the human's only identity and state.
Viezeny is also interpreted in various terms as a 'healing of the world', and thus linked to a respect of nature; comprehension and admiration of Creation is a valid vehicle of Proximation.
Tastanism encouraged undertaking pilgrimages as ways to accomplish Viezeny, emphasizing the journey and the process in general as a spiritual encounter that creates bonds with the Creator through experiencing Creation. Tastanism had a plethora of holy places, which may be roughly categorized into the following:
- Sites that held relevance during Bozhidar's time on earth, especially residences and teaching grounds
- Theophany sites, where divinity and transcendent beauty is exposed directly to visitors, with supernatural effects and powers ascribed to such locations
- Natural wonders, which directly showcase beauty of Creation (sometimes overlapping with theophany sites)
- The creations (typically architecture) of figures directly inspired by the Creator's instruction, which also reflect the order represented by natural Zakon
Pilgrimages to particular sites were not mandatory, although some were very popular and visits were encouraged as social norms, such as the Jasena House, a former residence of Bozhidar, and Mount Miruš. Pilgrims were encouraged to interact closely with each other, sharing food and other supplies, as well as exchanging understandings.
Scholarship and science
Tastanism espoused an enthusiastic embrace and advancement of science as a way to understand the Creator via His creations, and ultimately as a key to greater universal wisdom. This practice of studying nature for religious ends is known formally as Scholarship (Literary Vitrian: izučitnost). The pursuit of science under Tastanism was heavily motivated by such religious starting points, and such guidance would manifest in methodology as well, with philosophical and abstract cosmological conclusions expected to be drawn from observation, and considered the main goals of science. Scholarship, while common as an individual pursuit, was most significant when collaborative efforts were undertaken with ecclesiastical support.
Podkrovny (Literary Vitrian: podkrovnja, roughly 'that which is under a cover') is an esoteric and mystical approach to Tastanic theology, and one of the oldest recorded esoteric traditions in the world. Summarized, podkrovny comprises explanations of the precise process by which the Absolute engenders Creation and the Creator brings about it, and also aims to chart out a precise relationship between all things in existence. It is somewhat linked to the process of Proximation. Among other ideas, podkrovny advances an esoteric interpretation of the Creator's 18 primary avatars, who each represent individual 'elements' functioning together to bring about Creation; 2 avatars are bundled into an 'organ' which expresses the traits of both avatars but as with other such symbolisms in Tastanism are fundamentally identical, and the relationship between these organs are mapped out in a diagram known as the Great Schema describing in full the nature and process of Creation as well as theophany. In operation, podkrovny encompasses Tastanic occult practices, particularly its divination methods which use cleromancy in a way similar to other Monic traditions.
Although extremely sophisticated to the point that podkrovny experts formed a class in the Tastanic clergy themselves, the tradition is nevertheless regularly applied in Tastanic life across purposes from determing the fortunes of certain actions to attempts at large-scale prophecies. The study of podkrovny was an independent, respected and widely pursued discipline in academics in the Tastanic period. Podkrovny is a direct antecedent of the Cositene divination system of podesy, which in many areas directly uses podkrovnic devices and concepts.