Vuld Haupt is the popular spiritual leader of the Sebiestor Tribe. A prominent and well-spoken cultural figure, Vuld has also earned respect for his progressive attitude and desire to promote engagement with spirituality. He pioneered a new ceremony for capsuleers that draws upon centuries' old beliefs and is a firm believer in the evolution of rituals. Haupt has attracted media attention for most of his life and has declared a strong desire to utilize this to promote his faith and engage with his people. He actively fulfills his responsibilities as a religious and cultural figurehead.
The only child of a cardiologist and mental health technician, born in YC77 in the arctic regions of Matar, Vuld Haupt rose to prominence for apparently passing on messages from the incumbent spiritual leader, Calo Hayek, at the moment of his death. While Vuld later explained that he always felt the presence of his ancestors around him when he was young, it wasn't until a near-death experience at age seven that he was identified as the new leader of the Sebiestor faith.
Vuld had been playing on a makeshift sled that he and his friends had made themselves from a sheet of rusting fernite when he impacted with the surface of one of Mikramurka's many ice lakes and slipped into the freezing water. Trapped for over thirty minutes, kept alive thanks to an air pocket he managed to find, he eventually lost consciousness due to circulatory arrest and drifted further under the surface of the ice, fortunately right into view of those who had been attempting to find and recover him. Since his cardiologist father was one of those on the scene by this time, he was able to perform a timely resuscitation. Regardless of efforts to keep him alive, by the time an ambulance had arrived he was once again arresting. Even more deathly pale than Sebiestor usually are, and not breathing on his own, those that were rushing Vuld to the nearest hospital later described how he suddenly sat bolt upright in the shuttle. He had then looked at each of those tending to his ice-cold body, which to that point had not responded to defibrillation, with eyes that were almost completely black thanks to the dilation of the pupils. For the next seven minutes, in the voice of an old man, he recited prayers in ancient Matari. One of those tending to him had the presence of mind to start recording what Vuld was saying. The subsequent tape was to serve as a singular piece of evidence in determining whether the Sebiestor had found their new spiritual leader.
Book of Todram
On subsequent review many attest that the recording is actually Calo Hayek himself, and it has been compared with a sample of the previous spiritual leader on many occasions. It is invariably found to be a match despite the circumstances in which it was obtained.
One of the prayers that is repeated more than once on the recording is a mediation that serves as the seminal entry written by Hayek in his Book of Todram. This journal is a collection of personal reflections in which the current spiritual leader is tasked with not only reinterpreting past wisdom but also recording his own contemplations as to the next incarnation of the figurehead. The book serves as the principal tool for seven priests convened to identify the next avatar of the faith to find and question candidates. It also serves to prompt the current leader to reflect on what the Sebiestor need spiritually. Writings are traditionally allegorical and poetic in style, and formally structured in a rhythmic pattern that proffers their use as meditative prayers. A particular task for the writer is the composition and phrasing of a singular meditation, or Todram, that will serve as the most direct means to guide those trying to determine who the replacement will be. Hayek was famed for writing exact lines from his predecessor's Todram in his own contemplations during his trials, and Vuld was similarly lauded when his recording was brought to public attention. While Haupt was the oldest child yet to be chosen, the evidence was considered indisputable.
After news agencies publicized details of what had transpired on the journey from the ice lake, many sought out the child that had himself "died", and then "returned from the waters of Mikramurka with messages for our people". This attention prompted a visit by a prominent though besieged statesman on Matar for guidance despite the perception that it would be a move that would end his stalling career. When the politician's approval ratings instead experienced a resurgence, it became common practice for many other leaders in the Pator system to visit the young Haupt. Vuld was also increasingly sought out by the media for comment on all manner of social issues, a situation that has persisted well into the current day.
A Life of Ritual
After his testing, Vuld left his parents to begin instruction at the Nochgefror Shrine, the traditional home of the current spiritual leader. Apart from some time spent in formal education in his teens Vuld was to reside, primarily, within the imposing structure's walls until his death. Here he was instructed in the traditions, prayers and ceremonies of his faith and tasked with passing on his knowledge and wisdom to those that visited.
The life of the spiritual leader is governed by rituals. One that Vuld Haupt quickly engaged with was a practice based aroud engaging with the community. One week of every month the current figurehead is expected to leave Nochgefror to be among his people, working alongside them in whatever task they engage in. Sebiestor from across Heimatar and Metropolis in particular could petition for the spiritual leader to spend a week with them, as it was always said to bring good fortune to whoever housed them. Haupt, and all before him, need to work in manual labor of some kind during this time, side by side with whoever had successfully requested the leader's presence. Haupt himself has worked in a number of diverse settings; from orphanages caring for those that had lost their parents in the conflicts of Sebiestor rebels; to a station repairing exhumers collecting and refining ice; to time spent amongst maintenance personnel in a high tech production plant producing wetware mainframes. This ritual ensures that the spiritual leader is in contact with his people despite their itinerant ways, as space travel has Sebiestor spreading far and wide from Matar. It also reinforces that the people are themselves practical, and that even the most high-minded among them ensure they are also rooted in reality.
Another week of every month in the life of the leader is spent in adherence to a time of meditation, quiet and veneration of the dead. Every year the Festival of the Dead, where the spirits of the ancestors walk amongst the Matari, occurs during one of these weeks. The spiritual leader is required to wear only black during this week, and accept no visitors. This period has traditionally been a time in which they could rest and contemplate, though Sebiestor can also petition them to conduct a ritual of death as a blessing of the spirit of a deceased loved one. The spiritual leader is under no obligation to conduct any funerals during this time, but Vuld Haupt is well regarded for his willingness to do so. He has also impressed many of his followers with the particular solemnity that he brings to these events, and the regularity with which he has chosen to conduct these services for commoners and the poor.
Both of these weeks correspond with the duality that runs through Sebiestor belief, where one is either in contact with a sense of self, ancestry and spirituality, known as andesh, or disconnected from these essential parts of life, and so entered into ohnesh. It is an adherence to the material that is seen as the path to the latter, and the task of the leader is to guide followers back to a state of connectedness, reverence and self-awareness. The material and spiritual worlds are not mutually exclusive, but intertwined and symbiotic. This belief is seen most predominantly amongst the Sebiestor in their tendency to have talismans or other material objects that are not only blessed but serve as a direct connection with the spiritual world around them. Sebiestor tinkerers, for example, will often have a particular hand-held tool blessed, a tradition that harkens back to an age where the Sebiestor huddled in frigid mountain caves, and the loss of a tool important to their survival meant a cold death. Most Sebiestor that visit the figurehead will have an object with them that they wish a blessing performed on. The spiritual leader can also perform such a blessing on provisions. Even at a young age Vuld Haupt was being asked to bless objects for people, despite their station in life.
The Kyyeki Document
After concern at the number of political figures that were consulting with a child, and the debate that this caused in public forums, it was a young Vuld himself that suggested that those outside Nochgefror put him to the test. While Sebiestor religious authorities at first protested, they eventually agreed with the new leader, who suggested it would be an excellent way to unite the spiritual and material worlds. Gallente researchers were the first to jump at the opportunity to examine Haupt, considering the reluctance of their own reborn Intaki to subject their beliefs to critical scrutiny. The University of Caille petitioned Nochgefror, requesting access to the latest incarnation of the Sebiestor faith, but this request was denied. Despite sending a team of researchers to the shrine to then personally plead their case, those attending the young Haupt turned them down again, explaining that it was best that the inquiry be conducted by Minmatar. Pator Tech School led the eventual study into Haupt, focusing on his general knowledge, awareness of tradition, and then eventually the assertion that he was the vessel for the wisdom of the ancestors. Professor Doam Kyyeki, a prominent researcher of consciousness who had led several of the Republic's inquiries into the transfer of self from clone to clone amongst capsuleers, conducted the inquiry. After twenty-seven days spent with the young Haupt the research team published the 'Kyyeki Document', concluding that he was in possession of knowledge far beyond his years and experience. There were also several documented cases of phenomena that could not be explained despite scrutiny under laboratory conditions. This research has been quoted frequently in the decades that followed, and has had its methodology both questioned and defended many times. The University of Caille in particular has questioned the scientific rigor of the research that was conducted on a number of occasions.
A particularly startling incident from the document details how Haupt had been talking about the Sebiestor belief that spirits and people live in overlapping worlds when one of the researchers demanded some sort of physical proof. Those present in the room on Matar were then supposedly showered with the petals of a flower found on Nakugard III, from a region where the researcher's mother had been born.
Through the Ohnesh
In his late teens Vuld left his quarters at Nochgefror for formal studies at Pator Tech School, most notably taking the classes of Doam Kyyeki. He still observed monthly rituals during these four years, but lived amongst other students when he wasn't- also a tradition for each spiritual figurehead. Haupt went through a "rebellious phase" during this time where he was known to be verbally abusing many of those that went to his campus to get his guidance. This period culminated in an alleged assault of a reporter who had approached him near his temporary campus home. Vuld has never denied this, and has been candid about this time of his life in both interviews and his own writings. He attributes the pressures of being thrust into the public eye throughout his youth for the increasingly dark tone that his interactions and reflections adopted at the time. He refers to the principle of andesh as having "brought him back to the light," though an academic was also known to have mentored him at the time as well and has been credited with being largely responsible for realigning his moral compass. While Vuld protects their identity, and instead credits the strength of his beliefs for his recovery from his personal ohnesh, many suspect that this was the literary professor Maxeene Keel that helped him. Evidence for this is that Haupt started writing his own literary works at this time, which became very popular and broadened his exposure in New Eden, not only among the Sebiestor but the other tribes. The forward of his first largely autobiographical book, Through the Ohnesh, was penned by Keel. She also separated from her husband in the months before this book was published in YC102, and this has always been rumored to be due to an affair with Haupt. While there have been attempts to establish this, particularly by those that wish to discredit Haupt as a moral authority, there has never been any admission from either party, or any others approached about the issue, including Keel's ex-husband.
Regardless of their origins, Vuld Haupt's published reflections are cherished by many of his followers, and have become very important to the Sebiestor, as they also detail many of their beliefs. The texts are also known to have a following amongst the Gallente, particularly the Intaki, though principally as thought-provoking literature rather than religious material.
Criticism and Controversy
One of Vuld Haupt's principal detractors is Severin Montfort, from the University of Caille, who was one of the researchers that had been turned away from Nochgefror when the university tried to conduct the inquiry into the young Sebiestor. An academic who has forged a career out of writing about scientific concepts and ideas in layman's terms, Montfort was one of those that criticized the Kyyeki Document as being methodologically flawed. He suggested that it was also biased and constructed specifically to portray the spiritual leader in a positive light. He also attested that the research that produced the document was motivated not by a desire to scientifically analyze Haupt and the legitimacy of the beliefs he exemplified but instead reinforce and uphold them. Montfort has frequently been sought for comment whenever Haupt has been quoted in the media anywhere in New Eden. It has been noted that Severin's written works, while popular in Gallente space, have consistently sold in fewer numbers when in direct competition with the latest published reflections of Vuld Haupt.
Severin is not the only person that has been critical of Haupt, as there are also Matar political figures that resent the way that the media always goes to the religious leader for final comment. Leaders often point out his unreliability in terms of his availability, his idealistic views, and occasionally romanticized or naive statements and reactions when he has been approached by the media. He has also been accused of sensationalizing his people's beliefs. Despite this attention Vuld has welcomed scrutiny, is always willing to engage in dialogue with his critics and has made several statements in the media that have indicated as much.
If you think that I do not welcome critical examination of what I'm sharing with you, then you have no understanding of who I am, nor the Sebiestor people. I'd encourage you to think. Take none of this at face value. Belief is about being open to possibility, which is all I ask of you. Belief can be the wellspring of intuition and innovation. It is not a lack of awareness or acceptance of another explanation. I think you'll find that's ignorance.
The Blessing of Clones
Vuld's most significant act as spiritual leader of the Sebiestor has been to ritualize the practice of blessing the clones of capsuleers. This began as a desire for ritual cleansing of cloning vats and facilities that would house the bodies of Sebiestor capsuleers, but has evolved under Vuld's guidance to become a ceremony in which a capsuleer is asked to meditate face-to-face with their own clone for a time. The ritual asks the capsuleer to come to an awareness and appreciation of the spiritual world despite their further removal from it, through meditation on what separates them from the body that they do not inhabit. Haupt's rationale was that those that these pilots where especially disposed to the loss of spiritual connection that comes with ohnesh, since they experience death without the subsequent blessing that accompanies it, and are increasingly rooted in the material.
Some Sebiestor capsuleers are known to go to lengths to recover their frozen corpses after pod death, so that they might once again undergo the ritual as a proxy funeral with a body they have lost instead of a body they are to enter. This is particularly true of Sebiestor that have lost talismans in a wreck as well.
Haupt's belief that science and religion are complimentary, both exploring worlds that will one day be united, is not only a central tenet of his culture, but has recently led to his investment in wormhole exploration. He has suggested that it is the prime example of science being the tool by which humanity's progress can lead them to also evolve spiritually. He issued a statement in the wake of the CreoDron expedition spearheaded by Lianda Burreau, which paved the way for the exploration of wormhole space.
We stand at a hopeful crossroad in human history. Stretching out before us for the first time in millennia are the paths of our ancestors. The time has come to cast aside our differences such that we, humanity's wayward brothers and sisters, may once again return home.
Despite a negative response from his foil, Severin Montfort, Haupt then began organizing an expedition into wormhole space. Originally intended to take place within days the expedition was grounded in the wake of Burreau's disappearance. It was several months before Haupt could organize another expedition, which ventured into a hole that opened in the Eystur system in April of YC111 with a group made up largely of capsuleers. He barely survived after those he was with were attacked while approaching one of the structures that lay beyond, and was returned to k-space with injuries that saw him hospitalized. Before he was fully recovered, he vowed to return despite the dangers, saying that he felt "called". Haupt has also been making several requests to both the Republic and to CONCORD to intercede in the unregulated salvage of Sleeper technology.
We must seriously question our motivations when we are stealing from those that have gone before, and the impact that our pillaging of what they have left behind may have on us - and on them.
Vuld Haupt has indicated that he has recorded in his own Book of Todram that the next spiritual leader of the Sebiestor will be found among the capsuleers. This idea has not been well received among religious traditionalists.