Rachel, the lead character of my book Past Lives #1: Rachel, speaks to you in a series of essays. The first:
“What are your thoughts on tradition?”
I’m an art major, so when I think of tradition, I think of the various schools of art: classical, romantic, photorealistic, etc. Some of those disciplines didn’t appeal to me. But my professors said you have to understand the past to go forward. Besides, in art, you’re never straitjacketed; creativity and innovation are paramount. But when you ask me about tradition, I think you really mean, what do I think about the Order? Do I feel bad that it collapsed, taking its rules and its bloodlines and its Great Houses with it, leaving telepaths and other psychics to shift for themselves?
The Order was the guiding hand behind Britain’s age of Empire. Imagine it: three hundred white men, all telepaths, held sway over one-fifth of the world. They did it with new inventions – steam-powered ships, telegraphs, dynamite. They did it by remaining in the shadows, allowing England’s nobility to believe they ruled in truth as well as name. And they did it by telepathically reinforcing societal rules that encouraged everyone to keep to their place. In other words, they taught the populace to emphasize and revere tradition. Not all traditions. Just the ones that kept them in power.
I can’t claim to know the whole history of the Order. Before the car crash that brought back memories of my past life as Cassandra Masters, I didn’t even know I was a telepath. I never dreamed I could read minds, force weaker people to obey me, even gather my psionic energy and throw it like a lightning bolt. And heaven knows uncovering the whole truth about the Order will take time. But I know telepaths first arose in ancient Greece. I know Queen Elizabeth I had telepaths for advisors and a telekinetic assassin. And I know that until about 1750, the Order was matriarchal.
Why matriarchal? Because before DNA testing, no man could ever be sure a child was his. So each Great House was headed by a mother or grandmother. But then the bloodlines started to die off. Gradually there was a shift in power – a generation where more male telepaths survived to adulthood than female. As the Order transitioned to all-male rule, British society tightened like a noose. Especially around the necks of the women. By 1870 they were too tightly corseted to manage even a brisk walk and mentally corseted, too. In a world where a 22-year-old unmarried man had his whole life ahead of him and a 22-year-old unmarried female was a failure (an “old maid”) the Order’s ruling class felt secure. They weren’t afraid the marginalized females in their midst would rise up to challenge them.
Except in 1870, one did. Cassandra Masters. I guess in those days I wasn’t too blinded by tradition. And now that I’ve come back as Rachel MacReady, I feel very much the same.