From the earliest of times, humans have sought the advice and protection of divine beings known as Gods. At first, the Gods were many, each holding responsibility for one aspect of nature, such as the sky or the water or the changing of the seasons. But as clans united into tribes, and tribes into nations, and nations became empires, trade and communication expanded exponentially. In the new cities, men and women from many tribes, and many distant places, mingled and talked, and often they spoke of their Gods. The more enlightened among them noticed similarities between many of these Gods, and many came to realize that different tribes knew the same Gods by different names. When the pantheons were as similar as those of the Greeks and the Romans, this was easy enough to see, and the minor differences in the stories told of Zeus and Jupiter, Hera and Juno, and Minerva and Athena, were eroded away until they truly were the same beings. But when the Egyptian or Babylonian pantheons were compared, or those of the Hindus and Germans, the similarities were harder to see. But some persevered, until one special mage realized it wasn't just a few Gods known by many different names, but one all-encompassing Divine who was known by many names and many faces. This mage was named Mentu-hetep, an Egyptian priest, who named this one God Aten, and identified him with the disc of the Sun, from whom all light and warmth flows. A new city was founded, called Akenaten, to serve as a center of the worship and study of this profound truth, and mages spread out from there to tell all nations, such as Zarathustra, who brought Zoroastrianism to the Persians.
But even in these early days, even the Gods had enemies. A cult of Mages known as Nephandi, dedicated to the corruption and destruction of the world, saw in this enlightened city everything they hated and feared, and they allied with the Followers of Set to destroy this city and all who dwelled there. A small band of survivors led by a mage named Moses fled to Canaan, but it would be many years before Egypt could again be enlightened. Making their new home in the Temple of Solomon, these survivors formed the Sacred Congregation, and slowly spread their members out through the emerging Hellenistic Greek empires and from there into the new Roman Empire as well. But growing numbers meant growing division between rival groups divided over small and large questions of doctrine. After all, if there was only one true God, there could be only one truth about that God, one truth at the heart of all the many myths and legends that falsely divided the One into many separate Gods. If there were different ideas between members of the Congregation, at least one of them had to be wrong, didn't they? Among these different groups were the Messianic Voices and the Sons of Mithras, who identified the Divine as Jesus Christ and Mithras, respectively, and who quarreled among themselves in fairly peaceful manners, as befitted a purely theological debate. But soon politics came into it, when Constantine the Great declared that Christianity and Christianity alone would be the only acceptable religion in his vast Roman Empire, and set about codifying exactly which Christian beliefs were acceptable, and which were heresies to be squashed. The Messianic Voices became the predominant core of the Sacred Congregation, and from this concern for theological orthodoxy, the Cabal of Pure Thought was formed, a hard core of Christian mages who valued doctrinal conformity over all else. The other branches of the Sacred Congregation were forced to withdraw to Egypt, where their enemies would not look for them out of belief that the Nephandi and Settites would not allow them to return, and hid themselves among the Coptic Church.
The Sacred Congregation frequently tried to make inroads back into Europe through various heretical sects, such as the Bogomils and the Albigensians, but but these tended to be squashed by agents of the Inquisition. The Cabal of Pure Thought was expelled from the order by the remaining factions, and they became the seed from which the New World Order would eventually arise. But eventually, even Christianity itself fragmented into Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant branches, and no one sect could possibly impose its will on all the others any more. It was finally safe to return to Europe, and the Sacred Congregation began infiltrating the many small Christian sects which began to proliferate once more. Although their continued fondness for Christianity brought them into conflict with the Verbena, as well as their old enemies the Nephandi, the Sacred Congregation found new unity when a mage named Valoran reorganized the movement into the Celestial Chorus, and they became one of the founding members of the Council of Nine Mystical Traditions. However, as Christianity fell more and more under the sway of the Order of Reason, and religion itself came to be seen as the enemy of all mages, the Chorus went into slow decline from which it never fully recovered.
Gehenna and Beyond
Gehenna initially rejuvenated the Celestial Chorus, as millions turned to religion to explain the fantastic events going on around them, and millions more turned to religion to reconcile their newly-awakened power as mages with their previous conceptions of the universe. They joined in the general fight against the Technocracy, but their fundamental pacifism made them poor soldiers, and they were slaughtered in massive numbers by the Tech Infantry, or drafted unwillingly into its ranks. In a universe where mages and vampires became simply another fact of life, small cults and upstart prophets proliferated, but they were also heavily watched by a government nervous about magical conspiracies. Those who resisted the Draft fled to join the Resistance, but often found themselves losing their faith in the face of the sort of things they had to do in order to survive on the run. Those who accepted the draft and entered the Tech Infantry mostly lost their faith in the face of endless brutal war against the Bugs and their own kin in the Resistance. What little of their formal organization survived these upheavals could not survive the twin shocks of the Vin Shriak and Caal invasions, and were either wiped out or driven to abandon their former beliefs in favor of joining the Cult of the Emperor.