E is for Eastern Doctrine


EASTERN DOCTRINE: name given by Argosians to the religion practiced by Nurians, as opposed to ‘proper Tree worship’. Argosians consider the Eastern Doctrine a heresy, particularly in its modern form. Though the two schools of thought actually originate in the same belief system, there have been radical departures in dogma on both sides. Nurians do not believe in the divinity of the World Tree. Instead, they maintain there is a divine and invisible Tree of Being, a source of the mystic Sap that gives life to all things. Nurians also believe that the art of Grafting, or prophecy, is still practiced in the world today, while Argosians claim that prophecy came to an end with Saint Loa (after which the Tree stopped speaking directly to Her disciples.) The ‘Treatise on False Belief’ in the seminary archives describes the Eastern Doctrine in the following terms:

The heretics do not worship God Herself, but venerate an imaginary construct they call ‘the Sap.’ This they say is the ineffable force that gives rise to all life. Of course no one has seen this ‘Sap’ except the converts themselves, who are known to take hallucinogens during their rites. The perversity of these cultists extends to a stubborn belief in their own divinity, for they all claim to be at least minor prophets and make pronouncements as to future events.

This vision of the Eastern Doctrine is of course wildly exaggerated. Though it is true that Nurians do not accept the divinity of the World Tree, they do acknowledge a link with the Western tradition of saints and prophets and maintain that worship of the World Tree is a distortion of belief in their own ‘Tree of Being’. Only the ‘Grafters’, shamanistic leaders, are said to have the gift of divination, and to communicate with the Sap itself. Even then these soothsayers are in no way venerated to the level of the Argosian Saints. In fact, the Grafters often fail to persuade their own skeptical compatriots to heed their predictions.

The element of the Eastern Doctrine guaranteed to annoy the Argosian Fathers is that there is no established priesthood. In fact there are no dedicated religious personnel at all apart from the shanti, literally “singers” or wise ones who call the faithful to prayer. There is a long oral tradition of philosophy in the East, and as many divergent schools of thought as there have been Grafters and shantis down the ages. 

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Under the hood…

I’ve always been fascinated by the process of growth and decay in systems of belief, and how a religion can develop (much like a tree) from its earliest, seed-like form into something quite unrecognisable centuries later. I doubt the founders of many of our religions would recognise their creations, were they to turn up in a time machine at a modern day church or temple service… Fantasy is a lovely way of exploring those themes using made-up religions no one takes seriously. The aim is to explore ideas, rather than offend.

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2 Responses to E is for Eastern Doctrine

  1. Helen Lowe says:

    I love the depth and texture of the world you’ve created, Mary, and the way this “A-Z” of the Tree series is giving us further inisght into that. And isn’t that one of the purposes of “speculative” fiction, i.e. to speculate on both ides of the world and explore beyond “reality” as we know it (‘JIm!” 😉 )

    • MaryV says:

      Thanks Helen. Creating the world of the Tree and exploring the mindset and preoccupations of its people were one of the great joys of writing this series for me. Only spec fic can offer that geeky joy of creating a secondary culture… 🙂

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