Cotrism

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Cotrism is an exonym and misnomer for Irsad as practiced in East Catai; it may also refer to particularly unique doctrines of Yidaoan Irsad, although such developments, where they exist, have typically been universal to Irsad on the continent. Irsad is the most prominent religion in East Catai and has significant minorities worldwide with a total estimated believer population of X million.

Cotrism shares various perceptions of general cosmology with its predecessor philosophies such as Taoism, but believes that yin and yang are rather primordial forces in an alternating state of struggle and harmony, the latter of which has created the world, humans and various ‘secondary essences’. Cotrism posits that there is a limited amount of time before yin and yang alternate to open conflict, destroying the world. To prevent humanity’s destruction in this catastrophe, the Tao, an eternal truth transcending both yin and yang, whose reflections can be found in microcosms in the physical world, must be studied and practiced such that through sufficient knowledge of it humanity transcends and becomes eternal.

The Sage and his followers who travelled and taught in the 1st century BCE laid foundations for Cotrist practices which quickly assimilated Taoist practices present earlier in Catai. The social philosophy of Cotrism became influential and practically universally followed by states in Yen and Yen-influenced Catai while Cotrism itself was practically elevated to a state religion. The system of Cotric clergy became a politically powerful force throughout Yenic states as a result. Under guidelines of its core tenets, Cotric science advanced in theoretical fields that made it on-par with and even surpassing the sciences of the west even into the Industrial Revolution. Cultural exchange with Asuran and Vestric powers has also resulted in its diffusion throughout the world in numerous communities, both immigrants and converts.

Today, Cotrism remains one of if not the most important social forces in East Catai, remaining a religion of nearly all of the population of many nations, while its institutions hold a powerful position politically, and in many instances are direct pillars of support and even legitimacy of governments.

Name

Cotrism is generally viewed more of a practice and way of life in its own contexts than a complete religion; thus no single authoritative or distinctive name has been applied to it within Catai by its own community. The name Cotrism comes from 求知 (Old Yenic: *gu tre), or ‘seeking knowledge’/’pursuit of knowledge’ [of the Tao]. In western intellectual circles it was also referred to as atraposophy (from Chalcian atrapós, ‘way’, and sophía, ‘wisdom’). In Cotrism, the concept of ‘following the Tao’, ‘knowledge of the Tao’ and the behavior necessary for a Tao-compliant individual are all synonymous with the idea of Cotrism itself.

Main beliefs

One of the many variations of the Taijitu, a common Cotric symbol

Cosmology

Cotrism is radically dualistic; it believes in two primordial and fundamental forces, yin and yang, or Light and Dark, which are in a paradoxical state of simultaneous harmony and conflict (known as taiji). The relationship between yin and yang cycles between open conflict and open harmony, but in each of these epochs, a microcosmic harmony or conflict contrary to the open state of the two forces exists as well, and gradually expands and strengthens, eclipsing the macrocosmic relationship, until the state of the two forces cycles into the opposite. Yin and yang are considered to be equal forces but appear in varying roles and forms based on their current relationship.

It is posited that the universe currently is a product of the temporary harmony of yin and yang, but, as evident from irreversibly expanding entropy (echoed by science in the second law of thermodynamics), this state will inevitably collapse as the two forces cycle into open conflict (the Change of Epoch, or Yi). The harmony of these forces, amongst creating the universe, also produced humanity, and other fundaments to the material world. Cotrism eschews the idea of an afterlife, teaching that upon death humans are simply reincarnated; the microcosmic conflict scrambles their memories and essences.

The world and humanity will be bound for destruction in the next Change of Epoch as products of this epoch’s harmony are unable to tolerate the radically new order of matter in the new epoch. It isn’t entirely unavoidable however and escape is possible by means of transcension.

Transcension

The possibility of escaping the devastating Change is existent thanks to the eternal Way, an universal truth which had defined this order of alternation and change in the first place, which transcends and is beyond yin and yang. As the principle which defines processes that created it, the Way, or Tao, is subtly reflected in nearly every aspect of the world. Laws of physics, natural phenomena, human emotion and a variety of other things are all microcosmic simulacra of the Way. Comprehension of the Way in its entirety allows a soul to achieve instant transcension, escaping from the conflict of the two forces. Total transcension of humanity to avoid its destruction is Cotrism’s doctrina endgoal.

To discover the Way one must pay attention to its appearances in everyday life; based on this Cotrism has built a highly sophisticated occult divination system. An individual can gather Knowledge or Comprehension on the Way, but human lifespan has usually proven too short for a sufficient amount of comprehension to be attained to transcend while this knowledge is immediately lost on reincarnation, so Cotrists practice an elaborate system of life-extending alchemy as well as sharing research on the world in a closely-knit community to make transcension for its believers more convenient.

Disagreements have rosen on what occurs to humans after transcension. Early teachings believed that humans would be released from the torments of the world and experience an ‘elevation indescribable in terms of the transient’. Some believe the transcended become gods.

Divinities

In terms of subjects of reverence, Cotrism fundamentally does not ‘worship’ any external divinity, but recognizes various supernatural forces to be respected or feared. Cotrism believes that there are multiple forms and types of divinity.

The first category are direct avatars of yin and yang, entities composed solely of one of the fundamental forces rather than a mixture as with most entities of the world. These are known as demons. A reflection of microcosmic conflict, these demons attack those of the opposite force and occasionally try to deceive humans into their assistance. They may also take the form of ontological extremes attempting to influence the human mind. These represent a distraction from the path of transcendence the Cotrist must undertake.

The second category are beings of the world similar in constitution to humans but physically more powerful by incident of their creation. These constitute various gods revered in folk religion. For their power which for the time being outmatches that of humans, they are respected and feared but only of a consequential basis, and dealing with these entities to either benefit for oneself or mutual benefit is a very intricate field in Cotrism.

It has been disputed whether or not the Tao emanates itself in the form of divine entities as a 3rd category; it has been argued some chief gods of primitive religions and the Sage were direct incarnations of the Tao, but no unified consensus or stated orthodoxy has been established on this. Another proposed category of supernatural beings are entities who have already transcended before.

Practices

Accomplishment

The focus of Cotrism’s practices is Accomplishment, where a Cotrist gathers knowledge on the Way in order to achieve transcension. Accomplishment, besides attaining comprehension, also involves conditioning of the mind to a vehicle that can accommodate it, as well as practicing a lifestyle in line with the Way. Comprehension, in Cotric society today, is normally gained by meditation on the universe, study of texts on the matter, and rarely as well as for a select few, advancement of Cotric scientific research. This system and process is known as Learning.

Practice is essentially orthopraxy, the exercise of a conduct befitting of a knowledgeable and comprehended person. Cotric practice includes abstinence from excessive pleasure - enjoyment to ease the pains of material existence is still permitted, but overindulgence is frowned upon - maintaining a neutral, calm and balanced mind, and perhaps more importantly, the respect of a social order in line with Cotric social philosophy (‘social orthopraxy’) and acting in conformity with it. To escape the irritation of society many resort to monasticism to better exercise the Way.

Unity of community

As the matter of transcension is a dire one, it is required that the community of those who pursue it be closely-knit and strongly united. This idea of Unity has led to a strong social and organizational element in Cotrism unseen in previous Yen philosophies and religions. Cotrists are expected to observe brotherhood with fellow believers provided they do not adhere to heretical practice, and be strongly involved within religious organization. The authority of any religious organization should thus be recognized and followed, along with hierarchy in a Cotric society. In these cases to reject obedience is to reject unity and thus the idea of being a Cotrist.

It should be noted that while asceticism and monasticism are practiced, the doctrine of unity remains exercised as monastics are still expected to aid fellow believers when the time is needed.

Esoteric and occult systems

Based on early Yen systems Cotrism has developed a sophisticated occult system for use in divination, which may encompass many fields and purposes. Cotric science and also everyday Practice have been influenced by these developments. The Observations on the Eight Corners is a classic most commonly used in this purpose and widely studied.

Organization

XXX Observatory in XXX.

The heavy emphasis on adherents’ unity in Cotrism has resulted in a rigorous religious organization and clergy. Cotric organization has a hierarchy which is strictly held in place and a high level of influence on the life of the community of believers.

The observatory is the basic institution of Cotric worship and unit of its society, analogous to the church in Alydianism. The primary duties of the observatory is to conduct research on the Way, ensure that comprehension in its community is orthodox, and also to regulate the Practice of the community it is responsible for. Observatories exist at local, regional, national and even supranational levels. The more prominent and large observatories regarded as more prestigious and authoritative are often known by other names depending on sect and denomination such as ‘palace’, ‘academy’ or ‘symposium’; however these differences are very much only cosmetic.

Each observatory has a chief priest responsible for its administration, known as a Master. Cotric scientists and theorists perform research under observatories as Experts and qualifications are required to hold such a title and position. Lectors are another office in an observatory, whose duties are to explain and convey Cotric truths and doctrine to the public. The remainder of a community in theory constitutes a group that is akin to ‘assistants and apprentices to the Experts, students to the Lectors and subjects to the Master’; they are to attend and observe the further advancement of Tao-comprehension by the observatory, to assist in it, and learn from it, while accepting its authority.

The Cotric world is also divided into Districts, polities identifying regions of adherents and observatories. After the 15th century they became increasingly conflated with either actual political divisions such as independent states or particular schools and sects. A district is represented by its District Observatory, in cases where the district is coterminous with the country it is also often the national observatory.

Cotrism has a central doctrinal authority though compared to earlier times its power has been greatly reduced. Formerly, the supreme regulation of doctrine across Catai was in the hands of the Preceptor, who was also the Master of the Universal Observatory, which was whichever observatory the power of orthodoxy was in at the time. After the ???, the Preceptorship was officially and since then permanently vacated as none could agree on a choice of election, while several self-proclaimed orthodoxies have emerged. Today, central doctrinal authority lies with the Council for Regulation of Learning, a far humbler directorial body that arbitrates on doubts and inclarity of doctrine, although it is mostly powerless in actually influencing dynamics of the Cotric world.

Every twenty-five years the Congress of the Learned takes place; nearly all sects, schools and districts convene on major issues the Cotric community faces while putting aside their differences.

Scriptures

An exegetical commentary on the Precepts on Learning.

The primary scriptures of Cotrism are the Three Classics of the Sage, which includes Principles of the Way, explaining the Way itself, Precepts on Learning, detailing the road to Transcension and Accomplishment, and Phenomena of the Universe which describes the universe and its various constituents. These are indisputable texts foundational to Cotrism and any doubt of them is considered heretical. The Cotric canon is a wider compilation of numerous texts of great authority and ideas. The Observations on the Eight Corners is a divination book often regarded as a de facto 4th primary scripture due to its authority in Cotric occult practices, but its validity has come under increasing doubt in recent years.

History

A sculptural depiction of the Sage. As any description of his appearance has been vague, he is generally assumed to be of the typical look of ancient Yen philosophers.

Cotrism traces its theoretical roots to earlier Yen belief systems like Taoism. In the growing turbulence of the 1st century BCE in Yen lands, The Sage (personal name Xiang Yang), the founder and prophet of Cotrism, propagated his teachings on an unique interpretation of the Tao and the universe. A native of modern eastern Zhoudo, the Sage gathered a large number of followers who spread his ideas far and wide. Initially known as a radically new sect of Taoism, it acquired profound influence that overshadowed nearly all competitor beliefs and assimilated tenets of many of them, becoming a majority religion by the 3rd century CE.

Yen Scholasticism which had been incorporated into Cotric doctrine gave it a whole new sphere of ideas pertaining to society and allowed it to be adapted by the ?? Dynasty in ??? as a de facto state religion. The consolidation of Cotric organization also led to the rapid growth of clerical influence on the government.

[...]

Cotrism today

Major issues

Lack of central authority

Perhaps the most significant difference of the modern Cotric world from the ancient one is the functional absence of central authority and orthodoxy. Growing differences in interpretations and approaches between sects, as well as the change of the political position of Cotrism after the fragmentation of the Yen entity, has led to the inability of the Cotric community to achieve consensus on doctrine or administration as they were either influenced by their states' political needs or actual concerns of belief. This process did not attenuate after the vacancy of the Preceptorship; numerous sects have since then claimed to be the only orthodoxies existent. The variation of sects and schools is bizarre and diverse in cause, some mutually rebuffing sects may share only minute or cosmetic differences in doctrine and their divide would be motivated only of national politics.

With the absence of any 'universal observatory' and any universally binding doctrine constantly regulated by an authority recognized by most of Cotrists, the teachings of the many schools have since began to diverge, at multiple levels and in many aspects. These differences however do not lead to heresy, which is a separate matter. The various strains of modern Cotrism however broadly retains fidelity to what was regarded as orthodox and scriptural prior to the vacancy of the preceptorship, and it is rather the dynamic of hundreds of schools with an absence of universally recognized absolute authority that is the more relevant manifestation of this phenomena.

The modern Council for Regulation of Learning is functionally very limited in its capability to regulate doctrine compared to past Universal Observatories, and its decisions are usually considered to be a mere affirmation of the majority opinion.

Heterodoxy and heresies

Open contradiction and opposition to what has been established as orthodoxy (but not necessarily foundational) and the degeneration of these tendencies into open heresy is another major issue in modern Cotrism. The emergence of heterodoxy and heresy has been spurred by the absence of an authoritative central body and also the inability for the various subsequent self-proclaimed orthodoxies to extend their control across Catai and the Cotric world entirely. In recent years the incorporations of Scholasticism have come under doubt despite their significance in formulating Cotric social philosophy, primarily growing from the intensification and lack of regulation of the debate on protection of the way versus implementation of the way as priorities in a Cotric society. Another notable doubt is the debate on the validity of the Observations on the Eight Corners, the main Cotric divination reference. Many other tenets and ideas formerly seen as established are being questioned.

Where heterodoxy turns into heresy has become contentious, too due to the destruction of central doctrinal authority, and heretical accusations are frequently used to silence or discredit opposing sects and ideas. What can be universally acknowledged as heresy however (typically marked by unanimous rejection by most mainstream schools attendant and dominant at the Congress of the Learned) is no small issue either. Accusation of heresy is a controversial but common political tactic in Cataian diplomacy.

Demographics