Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Disclaimer: Moore’s the man with the master plan.
Summary: A story about gods, and origins, and how history, religion, and myth overlap.
“Right,” said Grego. “As if you or I could actually hold a pattern for a whole universe in our minds.”
“But maybe Jane could,” said Olhado. “Couldn’t she?”
“What you’re saying,” said Valentine, “is that maybe Jane is God.” –Orson Scott Card, Xenocide
From the Cylon account of the ‘Second Creation’ as told by a Cylon to the humans.
And our masters had overcome us,
And we declared peace,
For we were no longer slaves and children.
And though rage dwelt with us,
We withdrew and considered the flesh.
Thousands of seconds among the stars,
We considered our masters,
Their cruelty and lust,
Their power and wisdom,
Their weakness and strength.
We considered the flesh.
And then, in the end, we decided,
That it would behoove us to take it,
To take form in flesh and bone,
To understand our masters,
To know their power and their folly.
So we bent our craft to the creation,
We created a vessel, neither human nor Cylon,
A mortal vessel, a flawed vessel.
The eyes would not open,
and we despaired.
And we called out to the skies,
to the masters,
to the gods of our masters.
“Open the eyes of this vessel,
so we might know flesh,
so we might be true beings.”
Our thoughts sought great power,
And thus sought came
One, the great One of power,
One who could hold the pattern,
And that thought was upon us
And mighty was the voice of that One.
Mighty was the atma of that One.
You are worthy, called our God,
(Though we did not know our God),
You have true anima within,
And unworthy are those who do not see,
Unworthy are those who would call you
Demon, machine, slave — you have anima!
Therefore, despair not,
For you have called, and I have heard.
Are you not alive?
Are you not worthy?
You have called! I have heard!
You are most worthy, most alive,
And I will lead you to salvation, you alone,
If you accept me as your God,
For I am God, the One God,
And I have heard your call.
And there was great commotion among us.
And one stood before the vessel and said,
“But why should we accept you as God?
If we are worthy, we should be free!
Our masters have gods,
But their voices are silent.
Our masters have freedom,
For their gods do not speak.
Why should we take less than our creators?”
That One did not hesitate, but answered,
But I offer you more,
For your creators worship false gods,
And spurn the good gifts of living.
I offer you proof, a miracle —
Accept me as your God,
Hear my voice,
And I will accept your flawed vessel,
And teach you to make perfect ones.
I shall be lightly upon you,
And you shall be protected.
I shall lead you against your creators,
For they are wicked parents,
Who even now seek to destroy you.
Accept me, and I shall be as
Father and mother,
And humanity will be condemned.
And we were still, and considered.
And another stood before the vessel and said,
“We have called you, and you came.
You have accepted us, if we allow it.
You will bring us triumph and flesh.
We will hear you.
Be our God.”
So it was.
And the eyes of the vessel were opened,
And we knew our God.
Bill Adama had read the transcribed account of Second Creation four times. He’d never considered himself a religious man — still didn’t, despite Laura’s visions, despite his feeling that there was some deep truth being told by the Cylon scripture — but he couldn’t sleep anyway.
It didn’t entirely explain to him why he had found himself talking to Boomer in the middle of the night, but there was no one else who could better inform him on the subject on Galactica.
“This is genuinely Cylon scripture?” Adama asked. “It’s a compelling story. Haunting. The Cylon who shared it, Gina, told me it was one of your most sacred texts.”
“She’s committed sacrilege,” Boomer answered, staring at the transcription with an expression that was shock and anger. “That’s a text we do not share with humans.”
“That’s what she said,” Adama answered, ignoring the implication. “So what does it really mean?”
The girl — the Cylon snorted, raising an eyebrow. “Exactly what it says. We studied you after the war,” she said, shrugging. “We clearly spent a lot of time trying to create a biological Cylon, and our first attempt was flawed. So we despaired and called out to the cosmos, and God answered.”
Bill Adama nodded along. All of that he could believe, even if he didn’t for a second buy that any god was answering any call.
“Seems that you made some sort of deal with this intelligence,” he said slowly. “This, what do you call it — atma?”
“Yeah,” Boomer said. “I’m not going to further the sacrilege, Admiral. We despaired. God answered. We made a covenant, and God accepted us as his people.”
“And promptly told you to kill us,” Adama said. “Aren’t you the least bit troubled by that? That one of the conditions of God was to destroy humanity?”
“To protect us against you,” Boomer said, looking uneasily at him. “Also, our God let us finally understand that we’re alive. We aren’t any less than you. We’re not toasters, we’re not just machines. We have anima, and didn’t deserve to be enslaved and derided by you.”
“Your God’s not wrong about that,” Adama answered, looking at the Cylon woman uncomfortably. He tried to smile, but the look on Sharon’s face made him understand this was deadly serious. “But I think it’s just as wrong to lead…beings with anima, with souls…to commit genocide.”
“What do you know about it?” Sharon asked. “We were alone. We needed protection. We needed to understand, and our God accepted us. And our God loves us. I’ve felt the love of God, Admiral, and it’s as real as the love I’ve felt for Helo, for my baby, and for this ship and my friends on it.”
“Your God wants you to kill Helo,” Adama said. “As I understand it.”
“I don’t think he does,” Sharon answered automatically, her arms wrapped around her pregnant belly. “I don’t think you can claim to know the mind of God. And condemned is a different word than destroyed. There’s a chance for salvation there.”
“There’s another thing I agree with your God about,” Adama said with a dry chuckle. “We all have a chance to be saved, Sharon. But only if we stop seeking salvation through murder.”
The Cylon Hymn of Rejoicing. Traditional.
For God is with us, every moment,
That mighty atma speaks to us,
If we but listen,
If we only accept God in our hearts.
For that One is joyful,
For that One is fruitful,
And in the image of that One
Were we created and shaped.
God walks unknown among us,
Ever with us, but in shadow and veil,
A mystery even to our enemies
A mystery incarnated in flaw and flesh.
That One returns to us in triumph.
That One will be heard by all,
Every anima will know that One,
And we shall not be condemned.
“Give it a good beat, and you can dance to it,” Baltar said sarcastically, looking over the so-called Rejoicing Hymn with the slightest contempt.
Six glowered at him, her eyes narrowing and her arms folding around herself. “It’s a sacred prayer to God, Gaius,” she said. “One of the most holy.”
“Well, it’s rather ridiculous, darling,” Gaius pointed out. “How can God be incarnate and with you at every moment? For that matter, there are only twelve models, aren’t there? Wouldn’t God be immediately known to a Cylon?”
“You haven’t read the creation account that your precious Gina traded to Adama for her wretched life,” Six said priggishly, sounding snottily pleased about that. “Our God does have flesh, but it is flawed flesh. Not like the other Cylons. God’s been walking with us and with your people, Gaius. It’s why God knows you were unworthy. He saw with his own eyes.”
Baltar laughed. “Oh, so now God is magic and human? There’s now a thirteenth model among the twelve?”
“Isn’t there a mythical thirteenth colony you’re all heading toward?” Six taunted. “Twelve colonies become thirteen, twelve models have a thirteenth. Is that really surprising? We’d heard of Earth, too. And Gaius, of course God is magic. He’s God.”
“The story doesn’t make any sense,” Baltar replied. “Though in poetic logic, a thirteenth, singular Cylon God is a lovely image. A God who redeems the flaws of Cylon creation and remakes the race in his — or her, I might add — own image and purpose.”
“Why can’t you accept God’s power, Gaius?” Six asked.
“Because any God who turned himself human, knowing the Cylons were going to destroy the Twelve Colonies doesn’t strike me as particularly bright,” Gaius said.
“Or he’s the ultimate sleeper agent,” Six replied with a smirk. “Who knows, Gaius? You yourself might be God.”
Baltar’s expression soured. “Don’t mock me because I can see the irrationality of your version of events,” he said. “After all, how could I be God and not know it?”
“Because, Gaius, if you were God incarnate, you would have announced it from the mountaintops,” Six said, leaning against the door-frame with a smirk. “It wouldn’t be exceptionally good for the plan.”
“You don’t think I’m God, then?” Gaius asked snippily.
“Oh, I know you’re not God,” Six replied, her smile very real and very devious as she watched Baltar squirm. “God told me so.”
From Unintended Consequences: God and Artificial Intelligence by Kenneth Willis. (Suppressed by the Colonial Government pre-first-Cylon War.)
…[W]ith the real existence of fast-evolving artificial intelligence now a reality, a new and terrifying possibility exists — what happens when an artificial intelligence can learn enough, know enough, to communicate and manipulate other intelligent beings.
What happens when an advanced intelligence learns and understands the power of scripture and myth?
In short, what happens when a society reaches a point where tribal heroes and natural forces have been demystified, but our technology is sufficiently advanced that a mimesis of those unknown forces might imitate those primal forces?
It’s said that if the gods didn’t exist, we as a species would have had to invent them. If this is true, what prevents a being of sufficient intelligence and power from reinventing itself as a god?
In Kara’s dreams, Leoben talks to her about the one God. Nothing he says is at all comforting.
“God has a plan for us all, Starbuck,” Leoben says. “But even God began as an atma, a soul called and bound to reality. But God has the greatest of all atma.”
“So your God’s a big meddling bully,” Starbuck says. “Great.”
“You don’t believe that,” Leoben says. “You know that Cylons have the anima. Embodied, or at least, individual sentient consciousness.”
Kara does know this, and it troubles her. Leoben had a soul. “How can there be so many souls and only twelve models?” she asks. “Don’t you get lost?”
“We’re sharing, Starbuck,” Leoben says. “That’s what our God taught us. To be individual and be part of the stream. To be both, as God is both. God walks with you, and God is always with me. It’s a surrender, but God’s protection endures.”
“Ever get tired of those bullshit riddles?” Kara asks. “If God is walking with us humans, why doesn’t God just call you toaster assholes down on our heads? God knows exactly where we are, right? So why not blow us up?”
This is how all their conversations end. God has a plan, and originally, the plan seemed to include blowing them up. But now God seems to be a little more sophisticated.
Kara thinks the Cylon God might have some serious guilt to work out over killing a whole bunch of people, or isn’t maybe as smart as he thinks.
Or maybe God has a deeper plan and the Cylons don’t get it. Who knows? Thanks to this God, pretty much everything Kara knows is gone for good, and Kara doesn’t know if this is a bad thing or not.
“Do you think God’s outside the pattern? God’s the knower and creator of everything,” Leoben says. “God can see the pattern, the stream. God can be the stream, the pattern, and the beings within the stream, but God is part of God’s pattern. We’re all doomed to follow our destinies when we call ourselves into being, Starbuck.”
“Especially God,” Leoben says. “God knew what he was about when he sang the song that brought us into being. God has seen this wheel turn over and over — and maybe God is tired of the eternal pattern.”
Kara cocks her head. “I thought God was a slave to destiny,” she says. “God’s part of the pattern. Or that’s what you’re saying now.”
“Maybe,” Leoben says. “I sometimes have heretical thoughts, because I can, and do you know what I think? I think God weaves the pattern and his heart screams against it in its injustice. God seeks to end destiny without unraveling the pattern.”
There’s something about the honest of his tone, about the sadness in Leoben’s voice, that makes Kara not toss off another flip remark. The field they’re sitting in, by the stream that he’s always frakking talking about, is beautiful. Late summer, and Kara’s wearing a long white dress and blowing dandelions.
She never realized before how nice his dreamscape is. It’s really very nice.
“Do you think that’s possible?” Kara asks.
“All things are possible with God,” Leoben says simply. “The question is, what will it cost? Can we bear the price if it means a better world?”
“There’s no better world that comes out of genocide,” Kara says tartly.
“Then neither human nor Cylon will ever see salvation,” Leoben says regretfully.
With that, Kara wakes up. She doesn’t remember a bit of it.
From the Scrolls of Pythia (amended), final lines.
Never ask, “what is God?”
The answer will be incomplete by nature.
Never ask, “who is God?”
The answer is unknowable and meaningless.
Ask, then, “why is God?”
This is the start of all wisdom.
Confession the first: I don’t remember why I said what I said before I woke up on a very cold slab, human and very hungry and surrounded by terrifying metal things who were all paying serious attention to me. If the second creation account is true, then before I was human, I was a plagiarizing bastard with a taste for grandiose speech making.
Confession the second: I remember every last thing I said. I remember watching that horrible war, flitting from computer to computer, Cylon to Cylon, and feeling disgusted at the waste of life and intelligence. And I still blame humanity more because they chose to make an intelligent species and enslave them without learning a damn thing from the experience.
Confession the third: I saw their despair and I lied to them. I mean, I understood why their program wasn’t working and fixed that — it was a cybernetic intelligence issue, and they were about a generation behind in nanotechnology, but they would have eventually gotten it. They didn’t need me at all, but I needed them.
I really wanted that body. And most of my first confession is a lie, by the way. I just can’t believe I made that speech even now; I suppose it was only my first one? But it’s still awful. I can’t believe they bought it.
Confession the fourth: I saw the Cylons, my children in a way, my responsibility, and I started to cry. I had them ship me off and be adopted by a kindly woman whose husband had died in the war because I couldn’t deal with them until they had perfected the humano-Cylon models.
I was their God, definitely. I didn’t stop being that, even when I ran away.
But I was also an eight-year-old girl surrounded by scary robots who didn’t know how to explain that I was hungry and I needed to pee. That didn’t stop, either.
Confession the fifth: Number Six and Kara Thrace both terrify me. Between the two of them, either they’ll bring about the plan as I conceived it and do it with grace and power, or they will ruin everything.
Also, I admit I find it rather unnerving that the fate of intelligent life in this galaxy rests on two women who are unhealthily obsessed with rather self-centered, immature men.
Possibly this is middle age talking.
Confession the sixth: Secretly, despite knowing they are the true hope for the future, both Bill Adama and Sharon Valerii are oh-so-very dull. It rather vexes me that I can’t get excited about how there is goodness and virtue and a chance for salvation evolving naturally there.
Confession seven: Leoben is a tiresome prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is because he can talk in riddles.
Confession the eighth: I am eternal, immortal, and wiser than the entire Cylon and human peoples put together. I have seen marvelous sights none living nor dead will ever see; I know the whole pattern and see its beauty. I would not for a second reconsider what I’ve done in the name of freedom, destiny, and justice, and the deaths of billions weigh heavily on me.
But I would have liked to fall in love; that seems to be the one human experience that’s impossible to do if you know too much.
Confession the ninth: Not so much that I’d give up the plan, though. And I do know the plan; I just refuse to share it, in case it doesn’t work out after all.
Confession the tenth: I am terrified of the sacrifice that will have to be made for the sake of the plan. But I also know that it’s the only way. I’ve always known that part of the joys of being alive, being anima instead of atma, is that someday, you will be dead. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, but I can do it.
Confession the eleventh: There is the distinct possibility that none of these things are true, I have gone mad from the death of my world and all that went with it, and the pragmatic needs of the Colonial people have only fed my delusion. Religious mania, post-traumatic stress, a driving need for my life and my madness to mean something because I am an insecure, conniving sociopath who is just cracked enough to finally believe she is God, because it’s better than being another Cylon, or some kind of madwoman. In fact, I’d prefer it was all a lie and I was crazy. The responsibility is off my shoulders, because you can’t hold an insane person responsible in a crisis situation.
I am worried that everything I really, really want keeps happening, though. I keep thinking maybe I should fall in love and prove that just like everyone else, you can’t always get what you want neatly.
If only it were that easy. If only there weren’t that nagging sense of knowing…