Historical Sequence

"Deserts of vast eternity" — Marvell

The following is a list of events in the setting history, in sequence but without dates:

  1. Gene scrubbing developed.
  2. Q-physics developed.
  3. FTL signaling & time-travel signaling developed.
  4. Major biotechnical developments: rejuvenation, neohumans, & uplift
  5. Starflight developed (Q drive).
  6. Period of interstellar exploration.
  7. First ETI contact (with primitive tliggoes).
  8. First timeflights.
  9. Period of interstellar colonization begins.
  10. First archeological evidence of earlier cycles of civilization discovered.
         (Long interval.)
  11. Development of General Transcendence Theory & subsequent religious revival.
  12. Institute of Time founded (but not revealed).
  13. Period of terraforming fleets begins.
  14. Psionic physics developed.
  15. Contact with Elder races, discovery of eschatology.
          (Long interval.)
  16. Period of terraforming fleets ends.
  17. Institute of Wisdom founded.
  18. Core unified.
  19. Institute of Life founded.
  20. Institute of Time revealed.
  21. Minor Institutes proliferate (Luck, Psi, Souls).

 


 

The Cycle of History

here in the shining city, here in the endless summer,
here in the cave of wonders, number ninety-two,
the gods will lounge around until the show is through.
if it's all right, it's all right with me if it's all right with you.
— "Happytown," Dave Carter

Axe-age, sword-age – sundered are shields
Wind-age, wolf-age, ere the world crumbles
— Voluspa

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
— Matthew 24:31

Ours is not the first galactic civilization, by any means. Every few million years, an intelligent species develops starflight. This usually sparks the creation of an interstellar civilization, as the starfarers explore, colonize, and contact other intelligent species, who learn starfaring in their turn.

This civilization typically spans at least one major galaxy in our Local Group, may span the whole Group, and sometimes extends beyond.

After a few tens of millenia of increasing technical development, the civilization transcends, disappearing from the apparent cosmos, leaving the galaxies fallow again.

Overview

There have been about 1200 galactic civilizations, over the last 10 billion years. The existence of civilizations further back than that is controversial; everyone agrees it is possible, but the evidence is disputed.

In the past billion years, new civilizations have arisen every 5 million years, on the average, though this period has a standard deviation of nearly 2 million years. The all-time average is once every 8.3 million years, but the frequency has been steadily increasing as the cosmic abundance of heavy elements builds up and small, rocky worlds rich in water and carbon become commoner. (The current rate of star formation is about 20 stars per year.)

The average lifespan of a civilization, from first starflight to transcendence, is about twenty thousand years, but this is even more variable than the time between civilizations.

Transcendence

The nature of transcendence is not well-understood. Nor do we understand why transcendent civilizations leave the apparent universe, never to return. Despite occasiona Kaliyugas (see below), records from peri-transcendent cultures generally give no indication of imminent destruction. Rather, they are concerned with issues we do not understand, and seem to be in a state of rising expectation.

Proposed explanations for their absence are usually in the form of parables: "Why do civilized people no longer live in caves? Why do grown birds not live in eggshells?" Or, more disconcertingly, "What makes you think the transcedents never come back?"

Civilization Types

The typical galactic civilization grows to occupy its native galaxy and a bit beyond, lasting a few tens of thousands of years, then transcends and disappears, with an annoying habit (from the point of view of archeology) of leaving very few traces behind, apparently working on an ethic of "leave the galaxy as you would wish to find it." Exceptions to this pattern get their own designations:

Isolates

Sometimes, an interstellar civilization will transcend without first expanding to fill its galaxy, usually because it is relatively aloof or reaches transcendence quickly. Such societies are called "Isolates."

Extensives

Some interstellar civilizations fill not only their whole galaxy but the whole Local Group. Such a civilization is called an "Extensive." There have been at least four Extensives, and possibly six. The four undisputed Extensives are the Milky Way Extensive, the First and Second Andromeda Extensives, and the Virginis Extensive. The Great Triangulum Civilization may have been the Triangulum Extensive, and the Great Milky Way Hegemony is sometimes called the Old Extensive, the First Extensive, or the First Milky Way Extensive.

Akashics

i'll send this message down the wire
and hope that someone wise is listening
when i go
— "When I Go," Dave Carter

Galactic archeology also features "Akashics." Sometimes, a civilization decides to leave a total library of all they know, as legacy to the far future. These are termed "Akashic Libraries" or "Akashics" for short, both because of their comprehensive nature and because of their highly ethereal format. (The "akashic records" are the theosophical medium of retrocognition, a term apparently invented by Mme. Blavatsky.)

An Akashic includes:

Given this, it is theoretically possible to reconstistute vanished races of earlier cycles. This has been done, over the billions of years. Some particularly nifty races have been done several times...

It would seem that, once the first Akashic was found, the current civilization would reach transcendent technology in no more than a couple of centuries. But transcendent technology builds on psionic, and psionic technology often depends on inducing specific psychic experiences, more a matter of initiation than of instruction. As a result, it is extremely difficult or impossible to understand Akashic descriptions of psionic technology, let alone transcendent.

Phenography

All Akashics and some other ancient records include phenography, content specifically designed to make the data intelligible to people outside the civilization. Compare with the "cosmograms" sent by radio telescope, early in Earth's seach for alien intelligence. Phenography is presented sequentially and usually starts with mathematics and builds up through physical and biological sciences, then goes on to historical and cultural terms.

Kaliyugas

Oh, sinner man, where you gonna run to,
All on that Day?
— "Sinner Man," trad.

When great violence attends the transcendence of a civilization, that act of transcendence is called a "Kaliyuga." The Kaliyuga civilizations also become known as "Kaliyugas," for short.

There is good evidence for at least four Kaliyugas, maybe as many as six. According to the Doomsdaily Hypothesis, widespread violence at transcendence is much commoner than that, perhaps typical or even universal. Material in the Seventh Akashic and some other ancient datastrates appears (to some) to support the Doomsdaily Hypothesis.

The Precursors

All previous civilizations are often termed "precursors" or "predecessors" or "ancients," but The Precursors is the popular term for the civilization immediately preceding our own, gc1207, which transcended about seven million years ago. Since they are the most recent predecessors, their remains are commonest.

The Precursors were a typical civilization. They originated in the quadrant west of Earth and came occupy the Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds, and other Milky Way satellites, but not other parts of the Local Group. So they are neither an Isolate nor an Extensive. They left datastrates but no Akashics; their datastrates have little psychic content and no phenography.

Like any other galactic civilization, the Precursors consisted of thousands of species, with some more prominent than others. The best-known Precursor races are:

We do not yet have contemporary acoustic names for these races. We have identified the home worlds of Types 1, A, B, and C. Low-tech variations of Types 1, C, and E have been encountered, with no knowledge of Precursor civilization beyond the mythical. They may be uplifts or evolutes, as if transcending humans were succeeded by neo-chimps or evolutions from chimps.

Timeline

This timeline lists major events in galactic history, in billions of years ago ("Bya"). Index numbers ("gc####") are from the Third Revised Tipota Chronology.

9.9 Bya The First Galactics. (gc0001)
9.6 Bya The Circuit Galactics, held together by a vigorous and long-lasting "pony express" system of ships. (gc0036)
9.6 Bya The First Akashic. (gc0037)
9.4 Bya Kaliyuga I. (gc0044)
8.7 Bya The Great Milky Way Hegemony (sometimes thought to be the first Extensive, and then called the First Extensive, the Old Extensive, or the First Milky Way Extensive). (gc0146)
8.5 Bya The Second, or Graduated, Akashic (you have to pass tests to work your way up to different levels of access). (gc0171)
8.0 Bya The Halo Civilization, centered in an ecumene in a globular cluster. (gc0230)
8.0 Bya The Third Akashic (or First Missing Akashic, since no copy has actually been found, just references to it in later Akashics and other records). (gc0232)
7.8 Bya Possibly Kaliyuga Ia. (gc0241)
7.5 Bya The Exarchy, centered on a star off the galactic disc, at the edge of the halo. (gc0293)
7.2 Bya The Fourth Akashic (or First Comprehensive Akashic, since it includes copies of the First and Second). (gc0329)
7.1 Bya The Inheritors, founded by an isolate just before it went transcendent. (gc0342)
6.8 Bya The Fifth Akashic (or Second Comprehensive). (gc0378)
6.2 Bya The Milky Way Extensive. (gc0451)
5.5 Bya Kaliyuga II. (gc0536)
5.5 Bya The Renewed Galactics, founded by leftovers soon after the predecessor went transcendent, similar to the Inheritor. (gc0537)
4.5 Bya The Great Isolate, the biggest one ever. (gc0659)
3.5 Bya The Sixth Akashic (or Second Missing). (gc0738)
3.0 Bya The First Andromeda Extensive. (gc0842)
2.9 Bya The Seventh Akashic (or Third Comprehensive, including copies of 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th). (gc0854)
2.5 Bya The Second Andromeda Extensive. (gc0903)
2.1 Bya The Great Triangulum Civilization (sometimes thought to be an Extensive and then called the Triangulum Extensive). (gc0952)
1.9 Bya Kaliyuga III. (gc0988)
1.8 Bya The end of the Dark Interregnum, the longest period between galactic civilizations. (gc0988 to gc0989)
1.7 Bya The Magellanic Civilization, started in the Larger Magellanic Cloud and spreading to the Milky Way and its other satellites. (gc1000)
1.6 Bya The Eighth Akashic (or Fourth Comprehensive, adding the 7th) (gc1013)
1.5 Bya The end of the Great Interregnum, a period between galaxy-spanning civilizations that nevertheless had lots of big isolates. (gc1025 to gc1056)
1.3 Bya Possibly Kaliyuga IIIa. (gc1071)
1.0 Bya The Nuclear Civilization, centered in the galactic nucleus. (gc1086)
0.40 Bya The Nuclear Isolate, a big ecumene in the nucleus. (gc1159)
0.26 Bya Kaliyuga IV. (gc1174)
0.27 Bya The Virginis Extensive, popularly believed to have originated in the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, and to have extended to include the Local Group, though academic opinion is more doubtful. (gc1175)
0.007 Bya The Precursors, the civilization immediately prior to our own. (gc1207)

Note: In 5 billion years, the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy will collide and merge. This should result in a massive burst of star formation.


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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2015