Originally, the world of Dionysos was called Jerusalem. Colonized by the United Christian Association, an alliance of several American Christian fundamentalist churches in the immediate aftermath of the Nanotech War (this included elements of Conclave Christianity that was the foundation of the Lord's Believers). The disruptions of war, combined with the backlash after the failed Second Coming forced them to proclaim that the Earth corrupt and doomed to have Satan run the place freely, but the faithful could be saved by traveling to a new Jerusalem. The UCA organized the mission, and launched their colonizing expedition. They paid extra to the wormhole agency for privacy and to hide themselves.
Once established on Jerusalem, the colony quickly ran into trouble as different churches began to quarrel over matters ranging from doctrine to access to equipment and prime land. Before long, these arguments resulted in violence. The UCA divided the main colony into different communities to separate them, but it was not enough and the violence escalated into terrorist acts and ultimately a civil war. The Ecumenical Council, originally a body to resolve religious disputes, seized power with sympathetic members of the government and security forces. They reinforced that power by persuading, cajoling or forcing everybody to accept their authority. The Council then instituted an armed force called the Proctors to guard the colony and keep the faithful safe, including each other. Especially each other. Gradually, the Council ironed out doctrinal differences between the churches, becoming a theocratic society. Strict punishments and group pressure were used to keep everybody in line, and most people not just accepted this but found it necessary.
Over the next several generations, individuals and small groups rebelled, others fled into the wilderness to escape the reach of the Council and its Proctors. Among those that fled into the undeveloped lands, a discovery was made that planted the seeds of revolution.
More than a century of repressive rule with government enforced virtue and piety created a world of repressed desires and wants, all of which eventually found an outlet. Various psychoactive substances could be found in the crown ecologies of the Jacob trees, and illicit use had been spreading from the outlaws in the wilderness to citizens, despite strict punishments for mood altering substances. A few of the users began to celebrate what they thought of as Dionysian rites culled from fragmentary legends and overlooked portions of the archives and theological histories. Originally practiced in secret among the outlaw communities, the rites spread like wildfire through the younger generations of the Jerusalem colony.
The Dionysian movement worshiped life, the enjoyment of the world and throwing off all restrictions of Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Council. As the Proctors discovered the Dionysian rites, they cracked down on the pagans with imprisonment, torture and executions. But resistance grew, and more people joined the movement (including many Christians that embraced the view that this was Eden and intended to be enjoyed, who eventually became the Edenists).
The situation quickly devolved and the Dionysians made common cause with the outlaws, armed themselves, began to sabotage Council operations, free imprisoned members and generally act as a guerrilla force. Push came to shove, and after a violent attack against a demonstration for religious freedom the Dionysians attacked the Proctors and Council. After a relatively bloodless coup they assumed power, although the situation in the colony was chaotic. Old scores were settled, blood was spilled and the Dionysians had to use the hated surveillance apparatus and their weapons to restore order. Within a year they proclaimed religious and political freedom, and began to dismantle the technological control apparatus of the Council. Many of the hardcore fundamentalists retreated to the Sinai valley, where they formed communities that persist to this day. The central colony, now renamed Dionysos became a stronghold for the Dionysian movement. After over a century of repressive rule, the Dionysians established a semi-presidential democratic government with a light hand and little bureaucracy, but with strong adhocratic elements.
The decades after the coup were a renaissance. Art, pleasure, technology and society advanced by leaps and bounds, optimism and creativity flourished. The colony grew and changed, despite occasional conflicts with the Sinai communities.
Eventually the Dionysian movement began to loose its luster. It became bogged down in routine, a growing bureaucracy, addiction problems and forced enthusiasm. The young began to strive for greater authenticity, and many took inspiration from the religious communities of the Sinai and the limited historical information available on Earth. Interest in mysticism and psychology spread, which when coupled with the cultural experience and use of drugs, the redevelopment of neuropsychology from hints in the archives, they came up with something unique. Psychodesign: mental techniques combined with drugs, therapy and neural stimulation allowing people to modify their personalities, values and views at will.
This discovery disrupted the colony. When values and personalities can be changed, what is certain? What to base society on? The Sinai communities ignored the situation. Among the younger Dionysians doubt crept in. Some Dionysians reveled in it, regarding this as complete freedom. Others wanted to keep psychodesign within reasonable limits - a society cannot work if people change personality too freely.
This was a time of confusion, conflicts and warring ambitions, often called the "Big Mess". During the “Big Mess,” several citizens using personalities altered for analysis and creativity, began to analyze the records of the original colony leaders. From those and the ‘shapes’ of gaps in the archives, they determined that there were unrestricted technical archives and even a rough idea of what they might cover – but they were encrypted. Brute force calculation would take years, but they again used psychodesign and created sub-personalities equivalent to the originals, plus other team members using heightened pattern recognition and analysis went at it. Before long, they had reopened the very Pandora’s box that the UCA had fled.
In the end, things settled down. The "tixotrophs", radicals who espoused free personality and value modification remained, but as a small minority. The rest, regarded psychodesign as useful and healthy, but only when rationally considered. Social norms of how to handle self-transformation evolved, and it became a natural part of life for most.
The technical archives became the foundation for a second renaissance on Dionysos. They expanded across the world, and through their solar system. They even built their own wormhole generators and re-established contact with Earth and humanity in general.
When contact with other civilizations was re-established, Dionysos was revolutionized even further. New technology and ideas flooded in. The fundamentalist-censored archives had forced researchers to make plausible deductions, but now they could finally be checked against the real thing. In a flash millennia of human culture, history and science became available. The Dionysians have overall become enamored with outsider cultures.
One thing in particular the Dionysians have become especially fond of is the mesh. With it, they can carry out many of their alterations to the mind with ease, allowing users to ‘try before they buy’ in terms of new personalities. The only disturbing thing they find about the mesh is its ability to cast doubt on a user’s own memories.
Since values, personality and even the body can be changed, the only truly unique thing about a person is experience and memory. Hence experiencing new things is the key to true personal growth, the rest is just tools for this experience. If somebody intrudes on somebody else’s experiences, he limits or forces the other person – each person must be allowed freedom to change his consciousness, but not to change other’s without their permission. However, it is possible to trap oneself in a static state (e.g. by becoming rigidly religious, trapped in bliss or psychosis) and for this there is an exception, the Psych Police.
The Psych Police
A very unusual insititution of Dionysian society is the Psych Police. It is an agency directly overseen by the legislature, with input from the Ministry for Public Health, and independent from the ordinary police. It is the only legitimate entity on Dionysos allowed to modify other’s mental states without their consent, in order to bring a trapped person to a state where he can think about his situation in a flexible, rational way. The Psych Police mainly help addictions, cases of erroneous psychodesign or self-reinforcing memes.
The Psych Police is not concerned with crimes but with mental states (though they can be involved in rehabilitation). Their purpose is to prevent people getting stuck in bad mental states, insanity and addiction. For this reason they regularly audit all Dionysians, checking their state and often placing them in a rational, objective mode of thinking where they can evaluate their lives. The Psych Police consists of psychodesigners and counselors, but is strictly independent of the Orphic society (a professional and academic association of psychodesigners).
While the Psych Police work well in practice, it has some problems when dealing with those outside Dionysian society, particularly the fundamentalists of the Sinai Valley: are they to be modified so that they can come to understand the full image of their religious views and lives? Or should they be left alone? There have been many debates over this, but the general consensus is that the Psych Police should only deal with the citizens of Dionysos proper, trying to convert everybody would become a never-ending crusade.
Similarly, the Dionysians have a horror of tampering with memory. To them, this is most essential part of a person. They will not erase memories, or alter them. They may buffer them, but that is all.
Modern Dionysian society is dominated by a mainstream with strong Dionysian-Edenist leanings; they are not actual believers but have a semi-religious appreciation of life. Most people undergo gradual psychodesign to become "fully themselves", generally rational, pleasant, social, stable people, with quick temporary changes to suit the situation. Mental techniques are common, ranging from self-hypnotic modifications to building daimons, semi-independent subpersonalities that can act in parallel with the main person. People often change names to better suit their present selves, and have nicknames others use when referring to them. There are minorities of fundamentalist Christians and orthodox naturalist Dionysians who dislike psychodesign and the tixotrophs, most of which live in isolated communities.
Edenist Christianity developed on Dionysos as a reaction to the austerity of the original colony and due to the influence of the pagan movement. The Edenists did not renounce their Christianity, but regarded the material world and pleasure as something good and God-given. "Life is only as happy as we make it, and Eden is within all of us" as one of the founders, Rev. Samantha Kaplan, put it. The Edenists combine Christian ideas with nature worship (it is an expression of the boundless love of the Creator), different forms of the eucharist (psychotropic and not) and overall strive to avoid unnecessary strictures and bans. The Bible is seen as outdated, a historical document that was reasonable under the conditions back on Earth but not on Dionysos.
The Edenist Church is the largest Christian group on Dionysos. They have combined the hedonistic/neopagan ideas of the early revolutionaries with Christianity. The church is fairly informal, with congregations led by local preachers and a bishop representing the church elected by the preachers at an annual meeting.
Some of the Edenists prefer total nudity, but most Dionysians are clothed. Light, practical but ideally extravagant or personal in some way, be it an expensive cut, feathers or producing some fragrance. While drugged clothing was popular some years ago (and still given to visitors for the fun effects) it is rather uncommon these days.
The dominant factors of Dionysian society are hedonism and psychodesign. Dionysians tend to love life, new experiences (not just pleasurable ones) and try to get as much out of a situation as possible. Mediocre, boring things are not the Dionysian way. In general Dionysians enjoy life to the fullest, and invent new ways of doing it.
Because of their use of psychodesign, Dionysians tend to take convictions a bit lightly, because they can be easily changed. They are also extremely tolerant, if a bit self centered.
Dionysos civilization is well known for its advanced drug design, psychodesign and psychiatric techniques. They are also very much in demand as neural mesh and lens designers. As far as relationships go, they are able to get along with individual members of all civilizations. However, others are not as amiable. The Logicians are repulsed by the Dionysian ecstatic rituals and free indulgence in emotions. The Independents are very wary of them, with their decadent ways and technologies that may be as dangerous as anything the Transcendentals ever handed out. The Union is similarly wary, but curious about using psychodesign as a means independent of the mesh. Spacers consider them frivolous in the extreme and ban most of their drugs (and all their biologicals) from their ships. The Stardwellers, Masquerade, Mechanicans and Tao like them and consider Dionysos a vacation spot.
Common Name: Dionysians
Emblem: Stylized grapes and chalice.
Benefit: Dionysians receive an extra Twist at the beginning of each session, which they may only spend through Comprehension, Empathy or Magnetism.
Inspector Status: Local police, but with significant advisory powers to the government.
Core Values: Hedonism and Spirituality. Life, Individuality, Sensation, Spirituality, Worship and Reverence for Life are also commonly found core values.
Hedonism means that the Dionysians hold that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically beneficial. Thus, they try to advance that for themselves and others. This means they work towards good government, pleasant conditions, human rights, as well as the ability to have a really good time. This means the CV can be used to help Dionysians advance a good cause, as well as a party or other pleasant experience.
Freedom does not refer to physical freedom, but rather to ideological freedom. It helps Dionysians resist any attempt to remove what they see as basic rights, and lets them argue more effectively against restrictions that might be put on their actions or selves. Arguing with a Dionysian over the merits of restricted research, caste-style societies, indentured servitude, or similar ideological restrictions is an exercise in futility.
Dionysian Old Worlder
The Jesurun of Sinai
The Jesurun (their formal name for themselves) are the remaining Christians in the Sinai Valley. They are conservative, clannish and generally want to be left alone. The valley consists mostly of farming communities and one large city; most of the time nothing ever happens. Despite (or maybe due to) this, occasionally zealous young men commit acts of sabotage or terrorism against the devil-worshiping sinners outside their valley. In the community the preachers and Elders are the power; preachers spread the holy word and act as supervisors, while the Elders oversee the health of the entire community.
For a typical Jesurun, the preachers guard the frail soul. They consider themselves under siege by Satan. Christ demands vigilance on their part – any slip, and the flames of Hell await. The Devil follows mankind everywhere as ancestral sin. The ones more likely to seek the outside world are a bit reserved, observant and friendly. Even so, they eschew "diabolical" technologies, drugs and methods such as Psychodesign.
The Desert Dancers
The Desert Dancers is a movement of nature-mystics who have moved into the remote northern deserts to commune with "God-nature". They employ many traditional means of altering consciousness such as fasting, meditation, prayer, drugs, physical ordeals and exhaustive dancing, eschewing all forms of psychodesign except an "initiation" into the movement. They also avoid most modern technologies using low tech devices and skills to thrive and prosper in the desert and scrub lands.
The Desert Dancers have no large communities, just small farm towns and holy gathering places. A large minority of them are fully nomadic leading the lives of hunter gatherers.