The Lucent Templars
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue.
This article is associated with the author’s Earth Colonies campaign.
The following essay is excerpted from a longer essay which appeared in the November 3001 AD issue of Interstellar Sociology, a journal published by the University of Adelaide on Earth. Interstellar Sociology is read widely across the Earth Colonies Sphere but has at times been criticized by some academics for its willingness to publish research commentary — such as this piece — alongside more formal academic work.
Shortly after this piece was published, Professor Van de Rijn issued a statement saying that her essay had been a hoax. Interstellar Sociology subsequently published her statement but declined, without comment, to remove her original essay from its publication library.
“Lucent Templars: An elite military order of the Abrahamic Synod whose members are found throughout the Synod's integrated military service. Appointment to the order is made personally by the Supreme Aspirant and entails extensive, and highly secret, religious and military training. Claims that this includes training in psionic disciplines have been vehemently denied by the order and have never been substantiated by reliable sources.”
– Knowledgesource, Prometheus Foundation
The above entry from a widely-used source of encyclopedic data poses more questions than it answers. We are told that the Lucent Templars — those shadowy warriors with their vision-distorting armor and searing plasma-blades — are a cross-service, specially-trained cadre whose members are selected at the highest levels of the Synodic government. Then we are reassured that there is no basis to the rumors which are as familiar to every schoolchild as are the popular entertainment portrayals of grav-assisted, stealth-disguised, sword-flashing, warrior-monks appearing and disappearing amongst their foes on a battlefield, leaving behind cleaved corpses and exploding vehicles before seeming to wink out of existence.
Synodic officials typically welcome opportunities to discuss the most intricate details of their institutional faith practices and the mechanisms of civic governance. Guardian Service officers, often veterans of intercolonial peace-keeping operations across the Colonies Sphere, are seldom reluctant to discuss matters of Synodic strategy, doctrine or tactics — unless doing so would undercut an ongoing military operation. Nevertheless, despite a flourishing independent media throughout the Abrahamic Synod, including participation by a wide-range of intercolonial media organizations, never has there been an interview with a serving (or former) Lucent Templar or a documentary feature — or a Synodic public affairs piece — depicting any aspect of Templar operations or training.
More intriguingly, never has there been a record of a Lucent Templar captured — much less killed — in combat despite their confirmed participation in military operations over a period of nearly 150 years. Reports from a variety of opposing military forces across the Colonies Sphere which have faced the Lucent Templars in combat are incomplete, inconsistent and often contradictory though these reports do serve as the inspiration for the fantastical depictions of Lucent Templars in popular entertainment.
How then to account for this apparent mystery? Who — or what — are the Lucent Templars? Do they, in fact, practice psionic disciplines and might these account for the mysterious and inscrutable aspects of their behavior? There are no straightforward answers but an examination of the origins of the Lucent Templars, along with a brief survey of the state of knowledge of psionics in the Colonies Sphere, permits some informed suppositions.
Origins of the Lucent Templars
The Templars have their origins in the 26th century, in the decades after colonization by a generation ship from Earth of the world which was then known as Gaea. The early Templars were originally a contemplative order but seem to have also practiced various martial arts as spiritual disciplines from their earliest days. As the Abrahamists of Gaea themselves ventured into interstellar space in sub-light starships in the 27th Century, Lucent Templars were reported among the earliest settlers on uninhabited worlds and often played a leading role when Abrahamist missionaries contacted nearby worlds which had been settled from Earth during the Runaway period less successfully than had Gaea.
When the interstellar Abramic Synod was established in the late 28th Century, the Lucent Templars were recognized as a Synodic order. During the Sarai Transformation (called the Abrahamic Scission by Gaians) following contact with the Commonwealth of Earth in 2841 AD — Gaea was renamed New Canaan in the Transformation period — the Lucent Templars played a central role in the exodus of Gaians from Abrahamic Synod worlds. It is in this era that the first reports of the Templars as a combat force appear, on a handful of worlds aligned with the Commonwealth and the Empire of Aztlán where Gaian émigrés were resettled. (Gaians from the Synod resettled on other, independent worlds in this period too but there are no reports of Templar involvement in these efforts.)
With the advent of faster-than-light travel the reach of Synod expansion increased through the end of the 29th Century. Abrahamic missionaries were sometimes met with force and here again there are reports of Lucent Templars — usually small groups and occasionally even single individuals — acting to protect the missionaries. As the scope of interstellar conflict became wider in the 30th Century the Synod often played a meliorating role, mediating conflicts between other Colonial States and leading intercolonial peace-keeping efforts in smaller conflicts. This is the era in which the contemporary portrayals of the Lucent Templars in popular entertainment find their inspiration. This is also the era when the first rumors of psionic abilities among the Templars emerged, in no small part because practice of the psionic disciplines had been taken up at that time by specialized institutions in other Colonial States.
Psionics in the Colonies Sphere
Tales of “psychic powers” — telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, corporal awareness and even teleportation — go back as far as the early 20th Century on Earth but the first recognized use of “psionic” abilities did not occur until after Human recognition of Dolphin sentience in the mid-21st Century. As Humans and Dolphins learned to communicate effectively and the decades-long integration of Human and Dolphin society unfolded, a rudimentary understanding of the psionic disciplines also emerged as a serendipitous off-shoot of the shared efforts of Humans and Dolphins to fully encounter another sentient species.
Both Humans and Dolphins showed aptitudes for psionic abilities, indeed a basic potential seems to exists in all sentient Terrans though this talent is latent and rudimentary in the vast majority of individuals. Skilled abilities must be honed through extensive training by those exceptionally rare individuals with strong aptitudes, while the effectiveness of such training seems to diminish the later in life it is undertaken. In some circumstances some psionic abilities have been enhanced with specialized pharmaceuticals, at least on a temporary basis. Practice of the psionic disciplines seems much more art than science with efforts to understand them in an analytical rather than experiential manner generally showing little promise.
With useful psionic aptitudes so rare a robust training program is only feasible in a large population with the wherewithal to identify talented individuals. Practically speaking this means large institutions and, indeed, in most Colonial States this means some element of a governmental authority. The Commonwealth of Earth, the Empire of Aztlán and the Federation of Nyanza are all known to have psionic training institutes managed by their respective intelligence services which, presumably, supply covert operatives trained in the psionic disciplines. House Carnerio, the commercial conglomerate which provides military services to the Ouroran Community, is also known to operate a psionic training institute. The Prometheus Foundation, the ubiquitous-yet-enigmatic consortium which provides a variety of quasi-public services across the Colonies Sphere, operates the only known psionic training facility not specifically associated with a Colonial State — on Admah in Gaea District, the second-most populous and technologically-advanced Abrahamic Synod world.
Intriguingly, the Abrahamic Synod is the only major Colonial State not known to operate or to be formally associated with a psionic training institute.
Psionic Knights or Pop Culture Fiction?
The Lucent Templars are among the oldest and most enduring institutions in Synodic society, predating the formation of the Synod itself. Many Templars have served in important roles in the Abrahamic religious hierarchy — three Templars have even served as Supreme Aspirant. Templars have long been at the forefront of Abrahamic missionary efforts and Templars have served in every military conflict involving the Synod. None of this, of course, suggests anything about their potential practice of psionic disciplines.
On the other hand, while both the Synod’s regular military — the Guardian Service — and the Synod’s Discovery Service — a missionary service somewhat similar to the scout services of other Colonial States — have their own intelligence branches there is no other known clandestine service in the Synod. (The Synod’s Justice Prefecturate has an internal intelligence gathering capability but does not operate a covert service.) Tellingly, perhaps, there is no indication that the intelligence branches of the Guardian Service or the Discovery Service train or practice psionic disciplines. Given the prevalence of psionic practice among the covert services of other Colonial States, the Abrahamic Synod would seem to be at a particular disadvantage if it does not have its own psionic-capable operatives.
Of course, given the fact that there is no clear evidence of the practice of psionic disciplines by the Lucent Templars — and their consistent denials that they do not — it’s certainly possible that there is some other secret service in the Abrahamic Synod which practices psionic disciplines. Perhaps so, but it would seem to be a greater supposition to assume some completely unknown clandestine service than to presume merely that, if the Abrahamic Synod has a psionic service, it is likely the Lucent Templars.
Another intriguing possibility is that the Lucent Templars engage in an active campaign to disguise their efforts, at least with respect to the practice of any psionic disciplines. This, of course, is something that any clandestine group equipped with psionic abilities could do with relative ease. Perhaps the Lucent Templars are especially committed to such efforts: surreptitiously removing killed or wounded Templars from the battlefield, altering the memories of opponents who have encountered Templars in combat and perhaps even manipulating the efforts of non-combatants who merely seek to understand their activities.
That course leads, ultimately, to madness. It would be folly to imagine psionicists who are committed to altering one’s own imagination.
— Josefína van de Rijn
Weckesser Professor of Sociology
University of Montevideo, Earth