Clewg, Adepts of

A religious sect dedicated to improvement through criticism.

Believed to have originated on the Martian world of Estreham (Q2), although a splinter sect claims it all began on Yendor (Q5) - also a Martian colony - the Adepts trace their origins back via an alleged unbroken chain of 'secret masters' to pre-spaceflight Earth, although they have only been practising 'openly' for two hundred years or less. Nevertheless, Adepts are now present in most major polities, and have found a particular niche among the Xyonists.

Much about the Adepts is mysterious - some say deliberately so - most of all the origin of the word Clewg, or the reason why they have selected the chestnut tree as their symbol. These secrets are allegedly revealed to higher grade Adepts, but must never be spoken of to outsiders. In spite of some well-publicised 'revelations' of 'secrets of the Brotherhood' by sensationalist authors, Clewgites maintain that these secrets remain intact.

Clewgites are exclusively male, often mature, and usually of a reclusive, thoughtful, even introspective nature. Some lodges have accepted women as associate members, but the main strand of Clewgism claims that this is a corruption of Clewgite teaching and bars the path to perfection. The life of a Clewgite is one of denial of exterior reality and of constant striving for spiritual perfection, which is the only way, it is claimed, to be reunited with the secret masters. The highest grade Adepts must renounce the world entirely and live a celibate, contemplative life. At their regular fortnightly meetings Clewgites review their own progress in this regard, which is then subjected to intense communal scrutiny and often painful criticism. It is this critical process which Clewgites believe is the key to attaining mastery of self and hence of the (illusory) world around them. There is a rigid chain of hierarchy through which one ascends, gradually becoming closer to the 'secret masters'.

The mainstream, Estreham Clewgites are also frequently drawn from military backgrounds, attracted by the discipline and challenge of life as a Clewgite (perhaps the reason why Clewgism has flourished in the MAFC and UoX). They practise martial arts and the intense study of military strategy as part of their quest for perfection. The Yendorian sect of Clewg, conversely, is more peaceful, and its publicly expressed beliefs are based around working in harmony with nature - a nature that they nevertheless, in common with their Estreham brethren, insist is false. They have a view that "life is but a garment of illusion", and that reality is the work of an insane prime mover, and therefore knowing or understanding the true nature of anything is virtually impossible.

Yendorian Adepts of Clewg also meet every two weeks, usually in large wooden buildings, frequently on hills, known as Lodges and generally named after a holy tree or shrub (e.g. The Willow Lodge). They claim that this harks back to an original and now mythical 'Chestnut Lodge' on Earth. Estreham Adepts however view the Yendorians as 'hippie beatniks' and have little time for their idiosyncratic interpretation of Clewgism.

Because of their secrecy, a great deal of mystique has come to centre around Clewgites, with various books claiming that the 'secret masters' are psionics, Free AIs, twelvefoot (3.65m) shapechanging lizard men, worshippers of Great Cthulhu, or a cabal of politicians, judges and industrialists who secretly run the universe. However, most people suspect that the truth is probably rather less interesting than that.