More Than You Ever Wanted to Know about the Church of the Prime Coordinate
The faith is that of the Church of the Prime Coordinate, referring to the Search for that perfected point in space where it all came from, and where God remains. The origin point of the Big Bang, the site of Eden, the location of Paradise or Heaven, is all up to some debate or discussion (sometimes heated) within the Church, but all agree that finding that locus will put one in contact with God, and begin the transcendence of humanity, its return into God’s light.
They call themselves Seekers. Most folk call them Primes or Primies. Theirs is not the weirdest faith out there, but, as a religious minority they are made some fun of (“Hey, Primie, you found … your vehicle fob yet?”), but given that the intersect between their faith and society is generally benign, they are treated more as oddballs than threats.
Aside from the core tenet of the Church already discussed, there’s not a lot of dogma or doctrine. Members believe they are in service to humanity, and encouraged to take that to the personal level as well, with variations on the Golden Rule as a core behavior tenet. Where there are spiritual elements, they tend to be a watered-down Christianity or Islam (Creator monotheism, transcendence/salvation, a sense of the afterlife), but Primes often carry along the moral and/or religious sentiments and personal codes they had before their calling. One can find echoes of other spiritual traditions among Prime, both old faiths (Shintoism and other pantheisms are not uncommon) and new ones (the Nine Tears, Vennerism, Reformed Cryptic) – muted by the new focus on the Search.
While not all Seekers are saints by any means, few of them would be considered great sinners (except by legalistic faiths that demand certain professions and acts of faith). Most of the great vices of humanity – thirst for power, for wealth, for satisfaction of personal appetites – distract from the core goal of the Church; those who pursue those sins rarely have the discipline or interest to become members, or, if they do, tend to give up a lot of those distractions, transferring the intensity with which they held them to the Search.
The church’s philosophy tends more toward Apollonian than Dionysian. While believers vary in personality and temperament, in general the exploration of space (esp. in any sort of systematic way) does not lend itself to wild hunches and emotional frenzies and iconoclasm. Instead, the behavioral and intellectual rigors of space travel, the grounding in science and engineering, and the goal of perfection tend toward a somewhat cool and rational belief system.
True, one can find fanatical Primes, just as one can find fanatical collectors of a certain brand of ceramic figurines, or fanatical delvers into particular fictional universes. The fanaticism of Primes is not of the “fire and brimstone” or “holy war” variety, but of too blind a focus and desire to find the Perfection. If that fanaticism not carefully managed, it usually leads to an over-enthusiastic mistake, and in space that frequently means death (for oneself and/or others). Similarly, Primes whose fanaticism is too socially off-putting can find themselves on the beach, discarded by their crew and unable to find a spacefaring assignment. Both are cruel fates, but indicate the problem is self-correcting.
Numbers and Organization
By its very nature, the Church is a scattered group of individuals, held together by common belief and ritual, but rarely meeting as a group. There is no hierarchy, only a largely virtual community.
In overall numbers, they are few, of course. Perhaps ten percent of spacecraft have a Prime on board, usually in Navigation, Helm, Science or Command roles. It’s extraordinarily rare for more than one to be posted on the same ship, since that reduces the number of paths being searched.
[The total ramps up or down depending on how many worlds are stuck out here in this cluster beyond the Gates and how populous they are.]
Primes don’t proselytize, per se. They will share their beliefs and goal with any who ask, and sometimes those who don’t. They do advertise their presence through the Noon Prayer, and sometimes that resonates with an individual, as it did with Bleys.
For all their separation from others of their faith, the Seekers share data when and where they can, helping fill in the map, hoping to provide (or receive). These are usually encrypted transmissions in-system between Primes on different ships, using unutilized backchannel bandwidth (nothing that will harm the function of their ships).
Occasionally Primes meet in person, sometimes by accident at stations and ports, sometimes by intent; such meetings usually resemble those of business colleagues who usually converse by email or vid – a background of shared experience and perhaps some personal knowledge, with the social difficulty of still largely being strangers.
Once every decade there is a gathering of as many of the Church as can break away from their duties, to share information and to personally renew their faith in the company of others. The last such Conference was three years ago (Bleys was unable to attend).
Eventually Primes do retire, those who live long enough. They’ll settle on an orbiting habitat, or an actual world near a spaceport, searching the news, talking to those (Prime or not) who have come back from the black. Some have families in those later years, and sometimes one of their kids takes up the mantle from their parent.
Scripture and Ritual
Much of what passes for Scripture is found in the Notebooks of Sela Zaidi, who was first inspired to the faith as humanity was just starting to go to the stars. Her writings echo, even today, the longing, the loneliness, the passion to seek and to find, and to bring all of humanity back into communion with God.
Other authors since have added to writings that members of the Church might read and consider. Poetry. Songs written (or rewritten) as hymns. Lecture series. Little that is considered essential canon or scripture of the sort that other religions have relied upon to define orthodoxy. For all that it is Apollonian in practice, it is founded on an emotional sense of loss and separation that is difficult to analyze, and resistant to claims of inauthenticity.
That said, a body of rites/prayers has developed over the centuries that are considered traditional, if not divinely mandated.
One other writer, after Sela Zaidi, is of note. Brix Carroll wrote to the humanity trapped in the sector we concern ourselves two decades or so after the Gates stopped working (20-23 Post Closure). Carroll extended the themes of the Prime faith to address what had happened, how the closure of the Gate created a new challenge to the Seekers in cutting them off from so much of the galaxy, the reasons God might have let this happen. The mission to learn how to open the Gates again, as part of what drives some Primes in the sector, stems largely from Carroll’s writings.
As a distributed faith, ritual and prayers and hymns are largely for personal use, generally done in private in a believer’s quarters.
The exception to this is Noon Prayer, a short rite broadcast by each Seeker from their ship at Noon (as synchronized against observations of a particular pulsar in the galactic neighborhood, a process that allows humanity to maintain a common universal time structure). The Noon Prayer serves the purposes of communion with God, to stand in solidarity with fellow Seekers, and to reach out to the rest of humanity.
(As with all else, the Primes are pragmatic in this; if there is a danger in making such a broadcast, there is no “sin” in not doing so. But it is a ritual that is encouraged of members whenever possible.)
Lacking much doctrine, it’s difficult to have much in the way of heresy. It is more likely that folk will be guilty of apostasy – falling away from the faith through weariness, or from turning to some new pursuit – than heresy.
The closest to a heresy is for those who look upon the Search as something to benefit themselves, or a group of believers, not humanity as a whole, either because reunion with God will only give something (insight, transcendence, knowledge) to those on the spot, spiritually or materially, or that the knowledge of the Prime Coordinate must be kept a secret from non-believers once it is ascertained in order to avoid non-believers from somehow upsetting things. (Some over the centuries have indeed claimed to have found it but that they are keeping the knowledge hidden from those not of their true faith; they have been denounced as frauds.)
This sort of neo-gnosticism sits very poorly with most Seekers – not in a holy war sort of way, but with disgust and disdain.
Less of a heresy, more of a “sin” in the Church, are those for whom the Search is the only service they give to humanity or their own spirituality, whose monomania is only on the final goal, the Perfection, the Prime Coordinate. It is the greatest temptation for Seekers (aside from abandoning the faith), and is treated by those in the Church as anything from a nasty anti-social shortcoming (the investor who buys a failing company to strip its assets and boot its employees into the cold), to an out-and-out corruption of why the Search is held.
Humanity is of many faiths and ideologies. Some demand obedience in action and thought, orthodox uniformity in profession of how the universe works. Primes are not immune to oppression under such circumstances, though their form of practice is less an obvious target than a clear priesthood and fixed temples.
There is some history of Primes’ navigational knowledge/information being used for unsavory purposes. They tend to spread the information they garner pretty widely, even outside of members, to the betterment of humanity (it would be a fine joke if someone not a member of the Church were to find the Prime Coordinate, but since it will benefit all humankind, they don’t worry much about it). There have been cases, though, where pirates, or hostile governments, have wanted to suppress certain navigation information (locations of bases or equipment or resources), or else exploit it. That’s led to some persecution of church members, usually localized.
And, of course, there are inevitably some who believe that the Primes have all sorts of secret stuff they’ve found – platinum asteroids, space dragons, othertech – that they are keeping for themselves. That’s largely untrue, which does nothing to stop such rumors. In areas where those rumors are more common, Primes may face some threat of shakedown, or worse if some would-be tyrant thinks the Primes can net them some exotic weaponry to make them invincible.