Monday, 17 December 2012

Many Mansions 4: A Near-Future Temple


This temple is not designed to be physically possible at this point in time; nor, however, is it intended to be a sci-fi fantasy. It essentially requires just one technological advance – the creation of a display which can show perspective and parallax to multiple simultaneous viewpoints, or in other words, that can act like windows, not televisions.

The purpose of this temple experience is to engage the templegoer more fully with their identity as part of a heavenly family – with a Mother, Father, and siblings.

1. The Eternal Round

The first room is a circle of mirrors – or so it appears. The templegoer stands at the centre, with multiple pairs of facing mirrors surrounding her, creating a series of infinite tunnels.

You hear the voices of Heavenly Father and Mother, discussing you, and how you will journey to Earth. As you listen, they appear together, injected into the infinite repetitions of you in the mirror ahead of you. The mirrors are not, in fact, mirrors, but display screens.

As the opening narration (which can serve dual purpose as instructions) come to a close, Heavenly Father addresses you directly: "Go," he tells you. "Follow the light, and you will not be misled."

The infinite tunnels start to disappear: the repeated reflections of you vanish from infinite towards you, until at last there are only single reflections – who now turn as one to face away from you.

The lights go out. The only light is provided by one of the 'mirrors', which opens as a door.

2. The Hall of Whispers

The Hall is a simple, dimly-lit room, with a number of doors around the walls. The one you have just stepped through locks behind you. One of the others is lit by a glowing frame. The Father's voice whispers: "Follow the light."

As you start to cross the room, many more voices start up. They attempt to draw you away from the correct door – some by claiming to be Heavenly Father, some by offering you things, some just by demanding. If you believe them (or give in), you'll find those other doors are locked. There is actually only one path you can take.

3. Amusica

You step through the lit door into a 'glass' tunnel in the middle of empty space – or, more accurately, display screens providing a view of a digital orrery. There is movement everywhere – stars and planets whirling and pulsing in chaotic, seemingly random motion. The room is silent.

Then Heavenly Father speaks. "There is a pattern to all things," he says, "though with your eyes you may not always see it."

The music starts (either with a dramatic chord coinciding with a pulse of all the stars, or fading in as the Father continues to speak), and it becomes clear that the motion and pulsing of the stars is actually led by the music – not random at all.

"This is Our work," Heavenly Mother tells you. "We are the conductors of the symphony."

"And you are Our instrument," the Father says.

4. The Echo Chamber

The Echo Chamber is essentially a small round room, but the walls (and floor and ceiling) are part of an integrated display screen. Once you close the door, they light up with images.

The images – and videos - are of atrocities, of disasters, of people in distress and despair. They avoid the graphic (ie, no blood everywhere), but don't hide the details (for instance, Holocaust mass graves). And they are randomised – it's not a preset sequence, but a fresh bombardment of horror each time you go.

And it gets worse. The programming steps up the intensity as time passes, and watches for you to exhibit genuine distress or despair – pleading with it to stop, or crying, or several other responses.

Then, and only then, does the Mother's voice speak. "Do you want it to stop?" she asks quietly, and, assuming you agree, says, "Then come with me."

5. Broken Mirror

You are led into another mirror chamber, like the Eternal Round, but this time all the mirrors are broken, pieces scattered on the floor. You are instructed to kneel, bow your head, and covenant to change the world – "If you want it to stop, you must go out and stop it", you're told.

"Now rise," the Father says, "and see." You stand, and discover that the mirror directly in front of you is whole again; you can see your reflection. As you walk towards it, the mirror opens to let you through.

6. The World Made Whole

This is the climax of the whole temple experience, but it isn't a sit-down-and-ponder room like our current Celestial Rooms. The d├ęcor is certainly designed to evoke the holy, but the centrepiece is a virtual globe of the Earth, suspended in a glass (display) cylinder.

The globe has markers placed on it in three colours; each marker indicates a 'good cause', something you can do to change the world. The colours indicate whether the cause is: one you need to travel to (eg teaching children in Africa), something you can do from home (eg Operation Christmas Child), or something you can just donate money to (eg most charities). There may also be different sizes/shapes for different difficulty/commitment levels. The markers are constantly updated from a global database of the most important causes.

You pick up a tablet computer that acts as a control unit for a virtual drone over the globe (visible in the display). You are able to fly over the globe, and when you pass over a marker, your tablet displays a summary of the details (name of cause, what's required, approximate location). There is a search/goto function, and discussion is encouraged – you can ask people if they've found anything suitable for you, or offer suggestions.

You are invited (through the covenant you just made, and a very quick tutorial on the tablet) to find a cause you can personally commit to. When you select one, you can print a full description on your tablet's built-in printer.

7. The Porch

As you leave the room, you pass through a small, white porch, and Heavenly Father and Mother speak to you one last time. "Thank you," they say. "Thank you for helping our children."