His sermon was just more of that stunted gobbledygook. There was a weird rhythmic structure to it, almost hypnotic. As I didn’t know any of the songs, I instead sat down, took one of the white leather bound books from the back of the pew in front of me and began thumbing through it.
I didn’t get through much of it in the four hours that the service lasted, but it was enough to paint at least a rudimentary picture for me of how things turned out this way.
Evidently some centuries ago there’d been a man named Gene Ray. He’d taken drugs, or had a mental breakdown of some sort and claimed to have received the ultimate truth of the universe, that time is cubic.
Which in the context of the Earth means that four independent twenty four hour days transpire in the course of a single rotation of the planet. It must’ve resonated with some, because he’d evidently amassed quite a following. His teachings became the foundation for something the book called Temporal Cubism.
There looked to be a lot of generally useful common sense self help advice in the book. Various stories with time honored moral lessons. But as I read, a pattern emerged.
In various places, Gene was quoted as saying the Earth would soon come to an end. That time was in fact very short. Going so far as to insist that some of the people standing there listening to him deliver the speech would still be around to witness it, not having died of old age. That generation, he assured the crowd gathered to hear him speak, would not perish before everything he predicted had come to pass.
There was more. He said that he’d predicted anti-Cubists would appear as the end approached, and indeed they’d begun to appear. At the time of writing. By this, he assured his followers they could be certain that they were living in the final hour.
So, shouldn’t the world have already exploded or whatever? Why didn’t these people seem bothered by that? The book clearly specified that some kind of cataclysm should have destroyed the Earth centuries ago. Yet here they were carrying on in spite of the fact that the Earth remained very much intact.
It did say that nobody could know the exact day or hour. As in, with any precision. But it also very plainly said that he believed they were already in the final hour back when it was written, and that people alive then wouldn’t have died of old age before the cataclysm occurred. I couldn’t wrap my head around how anybody could read that stuff and still buy into the rest of it.
Then I spotted stuff that raised some serious red flags. “Anyone who does not give up everything they own cannot be my disciple”. That seemed transparently calculated to separate new recruits from their belongings so they’d be dependent on the group and unable to easily leave it if they began to experience doubts.
“Anyone who loves their mother or father more than me cannot be my disciple, they are not worthy of me. Blessed will be those who leave their household and job to come and follow me, they will ascend to the eternal cubic paradise.”
In other words, if your family doesn’t approve of this Gene Ray guy or his organization you recently joined, cut them off. They’re the ones most likely to try to get you out of it.
The eternal cubic paradise was said to be a reward for those who convert to Temporal Cubism and continue to believe in it until they die. There was also something called Pit of Oneness to which people who refused to convert or stopped believing and died in their unbelief would be sent for everlasting torment. One of them to give you incentive to believe, the other to make you afraid to doubt it.
The Spirit of Oneness, bitter enemy of Gene Ray and Temporal Cubism, apparently was responsible for fabricating any apparent evidence contrary to the Book of Cubic Wisdom. Which I figured was a way to pre-emptively bias these poor fools against anybody trying to convince them they’d been taken.
Then, the cherry on top. “Lean not on your own understanding. There’s purported alternative answers which might look credible to a man, but they only lead to death. Walk by faith, not by sight, for the wisdom of men is educated stupidity before Gene Ray, wisest human ever to live.” Calculated to sabotage critical thought. The toolset you might otherwise use to figure out all of this was bunk.
I could see the method to the madness. There was a sort of mechanism here, for compelling conversion, motivating people to go out and try to recruit others as well as their own kids, to make them fearful of their own doubts and intensely skeptical of any arguments against this racket and so on.
It struck me as functionally similar to those chain letters about how if you spread it to five of your buddies something good will happen and if you don’t, a headless ghost will visit you tonight.
I stared at the people around me with renewed confusion. They all appeared to be competent adults. How had anybody fallen for this? How had it survived for so long and spread so widely?
For that matter, how much of the world now believed this Temporal Cubism stuff? Leslie was quiet on the drive home. I had an inkling of why, which was confirmed when she exploded at me for not singing in cubic church.
“What is all of this, Leslie? Temporal Cubism? What the fuck?” She seemed more confused than I was. “It was a concussion, wasn’t it? How can you seriously not know? I met you in Cubic Wisdom study group. How can you not know?”
Nonetheless, I didn’t. It was a more serious faux pas than I’d counted on. She wasn’t willing to leave it alone and followed me into my apartment, white leather bound book under one arm.
On the way, we’d passed a number of buildings with signs that hadn’t escaped my notice. “Saint Bart’s Cubic Hospital”. “Wisdom Cube: Cubic Movies, Games, Gifts And More!” as well as decorations for an upcoming holiday that a banner proclaimed was called “Ray Day”.
In the windows of an art gallery I’d seen various archaic paintings depicting a guy in a white outfit and baseball cap I surmised to be Gene Ray in various heroic scenes, light radiating from around his head. What in the ever loving fuck had I signed on for? Could I really bear to live here? I felt more and more tempted to risk another jump in search of someplace less fucked up.
In the course of badgering me to explain how I could have somehow forgotten a faith that was supposed to be as central to my life as everyone elses, I picked up from the details that over half the world practiced Temporal Cubism.
The remainder practiced something called “Stevenism”. Somebody else who had pulled the same ruse as this Gene Ray guy, presumably. Just not with the same degree of success. I told her how I thought Temporal Cubism began. As a cult centering around this Gene Ray fellow. She recoiled as if I’d struck her.
“How fucking dare you? Gene Ray sacrificed himself to make up for your educated stupid one-day bullshit! Who the fuck do you think you are to dismiss out of hand almost two thousand years worth of apologetics, the work of theologians that are among the brightest people ever to live? You really think so many people would devote their whole lives to this, even suffer persecution and die, if it weren’t true?”
I didn’t really know what to say to that. It would be heartless of me to answer that they’d died for nothing because their parents indoctrinated them into a cult, as their parents did to them. I guess that was the intent of asking that question.
I couldn’t answer honestly without looking like a fool, and a bastard. I was rapidly picking up on the fact that they’d all been exhaustively coached in how to most effectively defend Temporal Cubism, as well as being conditioned to react with sudden severe hostility to the slightest sign of dissent from it.
It was almost impressive. If you really wanted to be worshiped as the greatest person ever to live by all of humanity, or as close as possible, for thousands of years after you died, this was a damned effective way to accomplish that.
Aspects of it also reminded me of pyramid schemes I’d seen being shilled on campus by douchebags in t-shirts bearing the company logo, who would argue bitterly that you simply didn’t understand their business model if you tried to persuade them that it was a scam. “You’ll be sorry when I’m making three times your salary by next year!” Sure you will, buddy.
Stay Tuned for Part 9!