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30 August 2011 @ 07:22 pm
Fictional Facts of the Phoenix Empire Part four - Psionics, Miracles and Magic  

And here it comes, the next part of the Fictional Facts, this time detailing (almost) all things supernatural in the Phoenix Empire.

Fictional Facts of the Phoenix Empire Part four - Psionics, Miracles and Magic

Anecdotal evidence of supernatural activities by humans exist all over recorded history.

Only after the first contact with the Youh’Kai and the emergence of the Imperial Church, those abilities have been scientifically researched and properly recorded.

While miracle workers have always enjoyed a cautiously admired status, psychics for most of human history have been met with superstition and fear. Before the Second Succession War (SW II), the possession of psychic powers was considered a mortal sin by the Imperial Church and psions were hunted down and killed. Only with the parallel emergence of the Aroona and the Psions’ Guild during SW II, this stigma has been lifted.

Yet even today, many of the old superstitions are still wide-spread and most psions prefer to have little contact with the ‘normal’ population. But the Psions’ Guild and the ParaMag faculty of the University of Malicorne lately have made great progress in understanding and thus de-mystifying supernatural abilities and are working hard on gathering further knowledge.

As the names and expressions for anything concerning the supernatural are deeply coloured by history and culture all over the Empire, I will define a handful of ‘neutral’ terms for use in this paper.
Depending on cultural background and education, almost every citizen of the empire will use different names even if they denote the same general concepts.

caster - the person with supernatural abilities (the priest, psychic, sorcerer, shaman, ...)
effect - one supernatural thing he does (the fireball, the spell, his power, …)
energy - what the caster uses to create the effect (mana, chi, grace, concentration, …)
expression - how the caster works his effects - both in terms of theme (fire manipulation, ice manipulation, healing, etc.) and style (hurling flames from his fingertips, raining fire from heaven, turning non-flammable substances flammable)
paradigm - what the caster believes to be right and possible, having a great impact on his expression (what he can do) and especially his weaknesses (what he can’t do)

Basic distinctions
The most important distinction of supernatural abilities is the one between Miracles (or more correctly Theurgy) and Psionics. Despite the ancient debate about the philosophical differences between them (ie god-given vs self-empowerment), the measurable, scientific distinction is in the way these two schools use energy for their effects. While psionics tap and deplete a reservoir of energy within the caster, the energy for theurgic effects comes from an outside source with the caster only acting as a conduit.

Magic, on the other hand, has long been dismissed as either some expression of pagan theurgy or some oddly complicated personal expression of psionics. But with the recent increase of paranormal research, magic has emerged as a rare but fully viable third way of bending the rules. Once again apart from the philosophical discussions, magic is defined as the use of passive ambient energy, shaped into effects by the actions of the caster.

Psionics is a very personal kind of supernatural ability, and even though the known expressions can be grouped roughly into sets, the individual expressions are basically unique and thus as varied as humanity.
For the overwhelming part, psionic powers are relatively small in scope, and most practitioners will never reach the superhuman abilities shown in the movies. But the power curve increases logarithmically, and each generation a handful of individuals reaches power levels that can no longer be described scientifically, dubbed ‘demi-god’ status.

The exact nature of the energy used by psychics to create their effects is still unclear, though evidence strongly supports the theory that it is at least partially an organic component involved. A notable peculiarity of psionic powers is the distinctively different energy use of casters, depending of whether they see their craft as a cerebral skill (hermetic / hermeneutic approach) or as a physical activity (shamanistic approach). Hermetic psions will feel mental exhaustion and lack of concentration if depleted and will need sleep to regenerate, whereas shamanistic psions will experience classic physical exhaustion and will need food to regain their strength. The hermetic approach is by far the most common and in many places considered the only 'proper' way of working psionics.

Being a psychic or not is a genetic trait, and can be tested for if the necessary tech level is availabe. Interestingly enough, so far no way has been found to read the actual psionic abilities out of a genetic code, leading to the theory that psions are totipotent - that is, theoretically able to learn anything, but settling on a specific expression once they awaken.

Psionic powers awaken on their own, either gradually or instantly under extreme duress, and usually around the age of sexual maturity for any given race. Powers exhibited during the chrysalis, the awakening, can differ from the later expression and are often much more powerful.

Very much like a physical property, psionics can be trained. But any amount of training will only increase the magnitude of the effects, not their expression. Very rare cases of multiple talents are known, but those are arguably no ‘new’ skills, only weaker expressions and thus later to show up than the initial one.

Some of the best known groups of psionic expressions are: telepathy, empathy, telekinesis, teleportation, pyrokinesis, CAF (citius, altius, fortius), etc.

Theurgy (Miracles)
Expressions of theurgic powers differ from psionics mostly in the fact that they are much more uniform. Priests of the same order are known to consistently being able to created identical effects, even though the magnitude can differ for each caster.
Theurgic powers are, in a way, both more and less restricted and psionic expression. While a practitioner of theurgy can learn a whole array of superficially inconsistent effects, they will always be an integral part of his set of beliefs and will form parts of a thematically coherent set of skills, with the skillset as a whole being the same among all practitioners of one religion / order / school.
Also in distinction to psionics, theurgic powers rarely come in trivial sizes. Even the smallest effects have some significant impact on the caster or his target. On the other hand, there seem to be no ‘demi-god’ level practitioners of theurgy, with the powercurve running relatively flat. Unlike psionics, though, theurgic practitioners can combine their effects relatively easily in rituals, enabling them to work way above their individual scale.

Where exactly the energy for theurgic effects originates from is still widely debated. Theories range from the shared energy of all faithful to the actual intervention of benevolent super-powerful entities, and are a tricky topic to discuss without tripping into the realm of heresy. Unsurprisingly, the finer workings of theurgy are far less understood than those of psionics.

Theurgic powers are learned during clerical training at any age. Common trait of all theurgic practitioners is that they are all deeply devout believers of their chosen religion, even though their individual beliefs in one and the same deity can contain diametrically opposed views. In other words, theurgic powers seem to be tied to the caster’s personal faith more than his adherence to any formal religion. So far, no genetic markers for theurgic capabilities have been found.

Some of the best known expressions of theurgic powers are: healing and communication (Aroona), shielding and smiting (Belligra), divination and anti-’magic’ (Verata), with completely different sets for other deities / religions.

Only recently having been identified as a supernatural path of its own, there is understandably little scientific research on the subject yet. Unifying characteristic of magical expressions so far seems to be a general emphasis on subtlety and quasi-mundane tools, making magic hard to distinguish from high technology at times. Also, magic effects only manifest in deliberate, conscious actions of the caster, and never appear spontaneously or instinctively. Magic is also the only supernatural path reliably reproducing its effects under scientific observation.

Compared to the at times flamboyant effects of psionics or theurgy, magic on first glance appears to be the weakest path of the three. But the slow and almost mundane way magic effects are woven (rather than cast) allows for an intricacy and longevity hardly matched by other techniques.
As magic uses the ambient natural energy of a place to create an effect, those effects can run on their own without further attention of the caster, indefinitely so if the effect has been woven carefully enough, making a well-prepared practitioner of magic a formidable foe indeed.

So far, there is no data on the way magic abilities are acquired, but what little there is seems to suggest that it is a learned skill that seems to come to those with superior knowledge in the given field. Magic also seems to be independent from genetics and some rare forms appear to be reproducible by anyone following the proper instructions, initiating the widely disputed theory that magic is in fact a hard-to-learn but basically mundane skill inherent to anyone.

Some of the best known expressions of magic are: Geomancy (including Feng-Shui), Golemancy, Blood Magic (a mortal sin punishable by death of the tainted soul), ...

Theurgy and psionics have been recorded from all sentient races, with occasional cultural biases towards one or the other. The Youh’Kai are the only known race where supernatural abilities are the norm rather than the exception, with almost every member of the race exhibiting at least some form of psionic abilities, mostly sensory or physical improvements.

Humans show theurgy about as often as any other race.
The percentage of psychics among humanity was unremarkable historically, but lately an above average number of psychics have been born.
Magic in humans is extremely rare, but still significantly more numerous than in any other known race except demons. Many demons seem to be practitioners of magic, but until the church investigations are over, there is no reliable information on the subject yet.

Current estimates assume that one human in 5 million will have the potential to be a psychic or theurge, while about one in 100 million will potentially be a mage. If that potential is realized depends on many factors, presumably most talented humans never awaken their supernatural potential.

Known practitioners

Prince Leesha Dracon - theurge
Trained at an Aroona monastery on Earth, Leesha is a weak theurge with the classical Aroona ability to see the auras of other living creatures. So far, he has not displayed any other supernatural abilities, but in combination with his mundane empathy and agile mind, this is a priceless asset to a young Dracon noble already.

Ciel Dracon, P2 Prime - psychic
Adopted brother of Prince Leesha, Ciel Dracon is one of the strongest telempaths of humanity and one of the most indispensable members of the psions’ guild. As Prime of the empire’s capital world, he oversees most of the telepathic communication of the empire, and is considered both the best long-range telepath as well as the best broad-band telepath alive.
Rarely seen in public, he prefers to live away from major settlements and is rumored to leave P2 on days of widely broadcast sports events.

T’lark - psychic
Like most Youh’Kai, Duke Thomar’s bodyguard is a low level psychic. His telempathic abilities are moderately developed, and he can pick up thoughts and emotions of people close by unless they are trained against such an intrusion.
Also, he is able to subtly influence the emotions of unsuspecting and undecided targets or those who were trained to follow orders.

Ivan and Anita Dracon - psychics
The niece and nephew of the Duke of Yaiciz are outstanding pyrokinetics, having been bred and raised especially to further those talents. Like most exceptional talents, their general aptitude showed in early childhood already.
Lady Anita especially is a highly talented hermetic psychic and even despite her age is able to control fire and heat to a degree that puts her in the most powerful percentile of living psychics, and her career will be most interesting to follow, albeit from a safe distance only.

Added on 2011-10-30
Sir Yaden Dracon, Phoenix Knight of the Empire - psychic
One of the most prominent shamanistic psions, Sir Yaden is the strongest petra- and aeolokinetic (stone and air manipulating psychic) known.
Growing up on a planet with volatile tectonic movements, he exhibited his abilities to calm earthquakes and re-route lava already as a small child. Growing up with the clear knowledge that he wasn't strong enough to always save all inhabitants of his home planet has left clear marks on him - Sir Yaden is renowned for ruthlessly training his abilities and pushing himself beyond the limits of what was formerly thought possible.
Apparently, those efforts bear fruit, for late there have been rumours of Sir Yaden exhibiting empathic abilities in addition to his mastery over two very different psionic skills.

Added on 2012-07-30
His Excellency, Ambassador Lord Kendrik - psychic
Husband to Sir Yaden, he is a cerebral prime-level empath and respectable telepath. Not publicly known, though, is the fact that these are only his secondary expressions - primarily, he is one of the strongest blockers known. 
Lord Kendrik grew up as a soldier in a human settled realm neighboring the Phoenix Empire, the Scilla Republic, where psions are persecuted and kept as gladiators to fight duels on behalf of their ruling elite, and his constant need to hide his abilities shaped his skills up to this day. Sir Yaden saved his life while working in the Felid Confederation, and they fell in love during the ensuing adventures. Since then, Lord Kendrik has joined his husband in the Phoenix Empire as an ambassador of his people, and has become a constant feature on the social circuit of Imperial City. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful men of this generation, Lord Kendrik's handsome face and famous red-golden locks grace magazine covers all over the Empire. 

His Holiness and Terra Prime, Archbishop Stephanus of Terra - psychic and theurge
Born as Steven Dracon of Pandora, Father Stephanus is one of the exceedingly rare cases of a human exhibiting both psychic and theurgic talents. His psychic talents were discovered in early childhood already, but much to the dismay of his ambitious family were hardly exploitable. A sensitive, mid-level empath and weak telepath, his skills were more of a hindrance to him than anything else. But when his childhood friend Rasputin Dracon of Serin founded the Aroona, Steven found his true calling - famously as the first Aroona priest after Father Rasputin himself. 
To learn more about Father Stephanus, read: Crayfish and Auras

Added on 2012-11-23
T'sule - psychic
T'sule is a young Youh'Kai and a psion like most of his people. His abilities manifest as boosted physical attributes, a classic case of CAF. Having grown up in the Youh'Kai ghetto of Bellingham on Espen, though, he hasn't trained to become one of the feared Ga'Un dagger fighters. Instead, he is famous for his faster-than-possible drum solos and currently dreams of making it big in the Empire's lively entertainment industry.

Mother G'dina - theurge
One of the rare Youh'Kai theurges, Mother G'dina follows Khastai, the Goddess of pain and truth. The old priestess travels the Empire and rarely remains in one place for longer than a few months, carving ba'ata and making tattoos for those who dare to ask her to. Easy to amuse and easy to anger, she is well known for her uncanny and often uncomfortable insights and speaking only the truth. Like all Khastai priests, she does not show off her miracles, and the full extend of her powers remains unknown.

Jay, pet of Prince Leesha - psychic
A young human from U'ulema, Jay is an extraordinarily strong blocker and empath. Due to the fact that Prince Leesha has kept Jay's abilities secret from the psions' guild, the extend of his abilities is largely unknown, but it seems safe to assume that he is at least a double Prime psion.

Master Ulysses, Serin Prime and assumed head of the Psions' Guild - psychic
Master Ulysses is one of the best known psions of the Empire and has almost lived his whole life in the public limelight. He first appeared at the side of his noble Godmother, Lady Elayne Windsor, in the years before SWII, when he was barely into his teens. Even then, he already was a fearsomely skilled teleporter, and his abilities have only grown since. He is widely considered to be a teleport / telepathy double Prime, though his teleportation skills outrank this description by far. It is publicly know that he is able to facilitate multi-part teleportations on sub-atomic levels as well as bulk mass teleports of whole fleets over interstellar distances.
His appearance in public is always smooth and utterly non-chalant, sometimes to the point of appearing inhuman. There is a long-standing public debate over his perceived lack of humor, which started after he stared down the whole Guildsraat while threatening to steal the sun of Guild Central when they were hesitant to acknowledge the Psions' Guild as one of their own. On the other hand, he publicly outed himself as a fan of 'Ivory Tower', a daily sitcom about the troubles of a demigod-like Prime dealing with his lesser-skilled and mundane employees, in which said Prime wore significantly more than just a passing resemblance to Master Ulysses.

Father Jools of Temple Aroona - theurge
coming soon

Current Mood: amused
BerthaBlueberthablue on August 31st, 2011 02:02 am (UTC)
Nothing productive to say. I just enjoy this world so much, and love hearing more about it!
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on August 31st, 2011 06:57 am (UTC)
No need to say anything productive. I'm so happy anyone is reading this at all, you taking the time to comment means a lot to me.

littlenilittleni on August 31st, 2011 01:17 pm (UTC)
Wow, ok this has given me much more to think about when I read about these characters, T'lark in particular. I think back to his last conversation with Robert and I can't help but wonder if he was doing more than merely 'talking outside of class'. Leesha has an adopted brother, this could be intresting if they ever share the same room with Leesha's new butler/secretary/courtesan. As for bitchface, um I mean Anita, I often wonder what happened to her and her dear 'null' brother.
I find these posts really good reading but must admit to having to read them several times to really get the full extent of some of the detail.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on August 31st, 2011 04:04 pm (UTC)
First of all, thanks so much for reading - and really, this is just 'facts' piled upon each other, even I have to read them repeatedly to check if everything I wanted to say is in there and everything I ought to have left out is out.

And about T'lark, Ciel, Ivan and Anita - they'll all come up again in future stories, and you'll get at least a little more of each. Ivan especially will be one of the two main protagonists of the story I am writing next - so look forward to 'The Wind Mines of Bora Bora'. (How do I always end up with such cringe-worthy titles?)
aneiaikoukaaneiaikouka on September 1st, 2011 01:07 am (UTC)
Very interesting. I'm curious as to where "ambient magic" comes from. Is magic a type of energy produced by living things that is released when they die? Is it related to the world's magnetic or electrical field? And can any of these practitioners merge their abilities to create stronger effects?

I'm also interested in Leesha's magical ability - the fact that it's classified (even partially) as theurgical surprises me since he didn't seem particularly devout to me, but perhaps we simply haven't seen it yet - or he views his devotion differently.

I think that this is a very clear and concise depiction of how magic is known to work - and I love the hints that there is a lot that even the people within the world don't know. Are the mages, especially, still learning how to best use their magic? And is it a matter of will, a matter of words and rituals, or a matter of careful mathematics that forms and shapes magic? Do non-mages know? How available is this information? You have said that internet access to information is easy for commoners to get, so I'm curious as to when, if ever, that's restricted, or if it's easily available, or, again, if it's like our technical scientific information which is available but buried in so much jargon that it's difficult to make out.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 1st, 2011 08:37 am (UTC)
Ambient energy
There is very little consensus on what this ambient energy actually is, but there are a handful of facts that the various schools agree upon:
There is always some of it present, there is no place that has none nor could one be created so far.
It is not homogeneous, there are places with more and places with less energy.
It is not constant, the energy level waxes and wanes over time on any given place.
Ambient energy is not chaotic, but seems to be dispersed in a pattern that is shaped by many overlapping influences.
Some of these influences have already been firmly identified. For example, ambient energy is always stronger at the border or in the middle of things / places / seasons. A high density of lifeforms comes with a high level of ambient energy.

Apart from this, very little is known so far, mostly due to the fact that practitioners of magic are so few, and of those only a minute fraction is willing to work with scientists to further explore the basics of their craft.

Group effects
Psions cannot, per se, create group effects. They can, though, stack individual effects on each other, thus greatly increasing their versatility. Also, most psions find it relatively easy to learn how to support others with their internal energy. So while it will always be one single psion casting any given effect, he could draw on the combined energy of any given number of psions. This kind of support structure also enables the psions’ guild to tackle a significant part of the empire’s transport sector.
Theurgists can easily combine their efforts, and often will. Though usually one priest is the designated focus of the effect, the result will be one effect with the combined strength of all participants. Also, the strength of the effect seems to grow slightly over-proportional to the number of participants in a ritual.
Mages are not know to work any effects together, but those few who have given interviews on the subject suppose it should be possible as long as the paradigms of the co-working mages match. Given the highly individualized and specialized nature of mages, this propably has just never happened before. Notable in this context, though, is the fact that mages will occasionally employ mundane aides, whose inherently mundane actions through planning and instruction by the mage will become part of the actual ritual.

Yes, Leesha on first glance does not seem like a devout person. And maybe devout isn’t the right word here. He deeply, and on a very personal level, believes in God and in the maxims of the Temple Aroona. He doesn’t care for the outward trappings of the church, or any religion for that matter, but once more Aroona priests will have appeared in our stories, the similarities will become more obvious.
Also, his faith doesn’t show so obviously because he doesn’t think of himself as especially faithful, nor does he think of his aura-reading as a miracle, but rather as a neat and very useful trick his uncle taught him. Yet in many ways, he acts like an Aroona priest and uses his special skills exactly like an Aroona priest would.
But I think it is something that will come out much more clearly in the stories than in these Fictional Facts.

Magic as emerging craft
Mages only now begin to realize that they are a consistent group and not just some freaks whose contraptions work despite everything. Each one of them, usually, has a lot of knowledge, but it is all very personal and we are just now beginning to see the first efforts of understanding the common aspects of their craft.

osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 1st, 2011 08:37 am (UTC)
components of magic rituals
Basically, every item and every action influences the flow of ambient energy. Those influences are minuscule, but measurable. Mages, for whatever reason, seem to understand which actions will produce which changes, and how to combine actions that in themselves are totally mundane to create ‘disturbances’ in the ambient energy that become proper, functional effects.
So depending on the paradigm and expression of the mage, he might set gemstones in a certain pattern onto a pentacle, or dance naked in a glade under the light of the first moon of spring, or spray a gibberish graffiti poem onto a concrete wall. Often, many different kinds of ‘quasi-mundane’ actions are combined to reap greater effects, and rituals can extend over long periods of time and large distances, even encompassing different planets.
But whatever the details, it will always be a combination of knowledge, planning, concentration and precision.

availability of magical texts
Texts describing magical rituals, be it in hardcopy or online, are theoretically available. But it takes a mage to distinguish a working ritual from the rantings of a lunatic, and there is much, much more written crap out there than actually useful instructions. So the chance of a curious kid stumbling over a true ritual and simultaneously being sufficiently skilled to put it into action are very close to zero, and in consequence the church doesn’t make much of an effort to take ‘magical tomes’ off the market.
The only notable exception to this rule is anything containing even the hint of a description of blood magic. All three Temples will go to great length to destroy such texts, though it is usually the Verata who are tasked with the search for and destruction of theses tomes.
aneiaikoukaaneiaikouka on September 1st, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
Very interesting. The difference between "group effects" and a group power pool is very neatly laid out, and I appreciate the differentiation between groups.

How much do these groups overlap? If Leesha has both theurgic and psychic abilities, do the two types of ability both affect his working at the same time? Can he use both to shape and power a specific spell, or do you have to use one or the other? I can see the ability to - still using Leesha as an example, because I know something about his abilities now - draw power from a theurgic source to read someone's aura and use psychic abilities to feel emotion or thought being a very useful synergy if they can be so combined.

I'm interested in the idea of "blood magic" because that's such a variable term. Do you mean literally magic that involves blood in a ritual, in which case the mage could shed his own (or that of a willing participant) but which could easily be misused? Is "blood magic" a generic term for magic which causes harm? Is it even a type of spell which effects anyone of a particular genetic lineage or "blood relationship"? Or is there a larger meaning which I have not completely understood? And while the church despises it, you have said nothing about the mages' notions of blood magic, or the general relationship of magic to the church.

Are many mages part of the church in any way? Do they consider themselves 'parishioners' as average? Do either magery or psionics contain any sort of religious component?

And - I know this is the wrong section for it, but it just occurred to me - is there a large segment of atheists in the population of the Empire as there is here?
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 1st, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
Theoretically, there is no reason for psionics, theurgy or magic being exclusive to each other. So far, there have been no combined practitioners identified, though.
Leesha is only a theurge, and if I gave any other impression somewhere in the text please let me know, I'll correct it.

Blood magic
Blood magic describes the group of rituals that centre around the sacrifice of life energy. Usually, this starts with the practitioner sacrificing some of his own blood for more energy, hence the name. But it is a very slippery slope from there, attracting the attention of very unwanted beings and very swiftly leading to actions that ruin the practitioner's karmic balance forever. There is a good reason why unrepentant blood mages are punished not only with the death of their mortal coil but the destruction of their souls as well.
But blood magic and demons will be the subject of another Fictional Facts once certain stories have been posted, so until further notice, I can't say more.

Church and magic / psionics
Officially, the church sees psionics and magic just as any other human talent, with the potential for good and evil in equal measures. While the Verata try for a perfectly neutral stance, the Aroona actually welcome any expression of supernatural abilities, whereas the Belligra eye them with muted suspicion.
Neither mages nor psions see their powers as having a religious component, although that doesn't keep some of them from being deeply religious people on top of all else.
Psions usually are too independent to join anything like the church, but there is a good chance that a mage might end up with the Verata.

As the church and their miracles is an every-day presence in the empire, there are only very few actual atheists. There are a lot of people on high-tech worlds and among the commoners who don't care for the church or their teachings, and most aliens adhere to other beliefs, but hardly anybody is actually convinced that there is / are no God / Gods.
aneiaikoukaaneiaikouka on September 1st, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
Ah - my apologies on the misreading. I read "mundane empathy" as rather less mundane than I ought to have. Thank you for correcting me. It does seem likely that - at least - magical and psionic practitioners would have gravitated to the church during some periods, to avoid persecution and to hide behind the screen of miracles, so it seemed at least to indicate the possibility of the types crossing.

Interesting that you say "Psions usually are too independent . . ." Is there a temperamental affinity with the different 'magical' powers? Can you assume that a mage will be painstaking, a theurge kind - or cold - or fanatical, and a psion independent and slightly wild, for instance. (Not that I expect to be right in my light guesses about type - more asking is there a "type" and if so, how much and how often do practitioners fit within their given type?)

Interesting religious structure. When you say that aliens "adhere to other beliefs" is it more a Grecian acceptance that there are other gods out there, but we worship ours, or a more antagonistic view that your gods are false and demonic and we will at least look upon you with suspicion for being affiliated with them? (And how many alien races are there, as I suspect this varies from god to god and race to race?)
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on September 2nd, 2011 07:26 am (UTC)
Psions and mages and the church
Historically, the church as been the driving force of the hatred against any supernaturally gifted human other than theurges, so hiding there would have been a risky idea indeed. Today, though, the stigma has been lifted, and at least the Aroona and Verata are welcoming other paths into their fold.

Paths and characters
If talking in very broad strokes, there are indeed unifying and dividing character traits among the three paths. This is only noticeable among the more powerful members of each group, and cliché in many ways, but a workable simplification none the less.
Psions and Mages tend to be very self-aware and self-reliant. Psions especially tend to be rather self-confident, as well. None of these traits is easily combined with the necessary 'selflessness' and belief and trust in the power and assistance from another, metaphysical being that is apparently prerequisite for becoming a theurge.
Also, Psions tend to be more passionate and impulsive, whereas mages tend to be more analytical and patient.

Other gods
Before the Second Succession War, the church adhered neatly to that you described as an antagonistic view, and tried to convert as many aliens as possible.
Since then, two things have happened.
For one, the change of attitude of the Imperial Church as a whole now prefers 'do good deeds and talk about it' as 'marketing approach' to the old 'follow me or you'll die'.
Also, several incidents have been reported that seem to confirm the existence of some alien gods not only as a spiritual, but also physical, active and very tangible... personalities. But that is another can of worms entirely and will be talked of at a later point.

Alien races
Within the empire, only the Youh'Kai have survived the contact with humanity in any mentionable number. Most other encountered races have been eradicated or at least reduced to insignificance both by open genocide and deliberate, long-term oppression.
Since the time of the first Emperor, though, the empire has become much more inclusive, and at least on the highest levels has stopped thinking of the Phoenix Empire as a human realm.
So there are countless alien races on the worlds bordering the Phoenix Empire, and they only now begin to slowly mix with and migrate through the human settlements.
hab318princess on September 13th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
thank you for making the fascinating world even richer
osirisbrackhaus: Lecturingosirisbrackhaus on September 14th, 2011 06:37 am (UTC)
You are so welcome!
I'm really happy to have a reason to write this all down and think about the detail, and you're just making it more fun by reading and taking the time to comment. Thanks so much.