Church of the Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion
|Church of the Golden Road of Unlimited Devotion|
|Active||15 September 2018 - present|
|Holy See||710 Ashbury, San Francisco, United States|
|Estimated Prophet||Stella Blue I, Estimated Prophet of Shorelinian Deadheads|
|Bishop of the Nordalian Church||Sister Jane, Bishop of the Nordalian Church|
|San Francisco, California|
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
Soldier's Field, Chicago
Shoreline, New Virginia
'The Next One'
|Spiritual Figures||Jerry Garcia|
The Church of the Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion is a religious organisation that was founded in Shoreline, (while a town of the Empire of Austenasia). It bases itself out of the Shoreline from it's central administrative and spiritual center, the Shorelinian Deadhead Church. The Church was established in September 2018 by Elizabeth Lewis, along with a small group of Shorelinian Deadheads. Throughout early and late August 2018, Shoreline (known then as Terentia) had begun a process of creating it's own cultural identity. This identity was largely based on the music and phenomenon of the Grateful Dead, along with other jam bands such as Phish, Twiddle, and other bands in the larger 'hippy' genre, such as the Allman Brothers Band, Jimmi Hendrix, etc. The religion this Church follows is informally known as the 'Golden Road', and the adherents to this Church are typically refereed to as Golden Road Adherents, Deadheads, and Shorelinian Deadheads.
In Austenasia (2018-2020)
The Church of the Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion was founded originally in 2018 in Terentia, a town in the Empire of Austenasia. The early church was a period of theological and cultural exploration, with the Church allowing for flexibility in doctrine and practice. Many of the early practices and ideas have, by the modern day, been largely expanded on or gotten rid of. The Austenasian period saw the emergence of Stella Blue I as Estimated Prophet, a position held to this day, as well as the beginning of compiling the Helping Friendly Book, the Church's scripture. For most of the period between the founding of the Church and the secession of New Virginia, the Church was mostly inactive on an administrative level, allowing for members to carve out individual forms of worship. This period is also known by some within the Church as the Festival Period, referencing the widespread practice of many Shorelinians of festival-going as a form of worship.
In New Virginia (2020-2021)
The period in which the Church was based in New Virginia saw a large amount of development and cultural recognition for the Church, with most New Virginians coming to accept the Church as important to New Virginian culture. The first chapter of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of New Virginia stated,
"The Christian and Shorelinian Deadhead faiths are acknowledged as cornerstones of the cultural life of the New Virginian nation, however the separation of church and state is hereby affirmed as a guiding principle of the state."
The New Virginia period saw the expansion of the writing and compiling of the Helping Friendly Book, the beginnings of Shorelinian arts being largely focused around the Church, as well as international expansion. In 2020, Sister Jane, leader of the Republic of Nordale became a member of the Church, forming a branch in Nordale. The expansion into Nordale laid the foundations for a deeper understanding of Church theology, with the focus of musical attention being shifted from purely jam bands and other music popular in Shoreline. The music of the Velvet Underground and other bands popular within Nordale became accepted as canonical by the Church at large. The expansion into Nordale, in addition, confirmed the decentralized nature of the Church, allowing for individual branches and members to apply the Church's teachings and doctrine to whatever music they enjoyed, pushing much of the focus of the deeper theology of the Church from jam bands to musical expression itself.
The New Virginia period saw the most activity since the foundation, and is consider by many a period of growth, expansion, and eventual settling. For the first half of 2021, the Church remained largely on the same course it had been on since the beginning of the previous year.
In Independent Shoreline (2021-)
When the State of Shoreline declared its independence from New Virginia in August 2021, the Church went with it. The period since has been marked by a deeper development of the Church's place within Shoreline. The Church and its beliefs have become largely synonymous with Shorelinian culture as a whole. This period saw the beginnings of a shift from a more monotheistic pantheism in the direction of a sort of animist polytheism. Much of the Church's canon and deeper doctrine surrounding more mythological elements began to take root in this period.
God is central to the beliefs of the Shorelinian Deadheads. According to writings in the Church, especially those found within the Theological Doctrine and Organization of the Church, God is both a monotheistic and pantheistic being, found within all things, yet defined as a single, united God. As opposed to some pantheistic doctrines, which hold God as a non-personal being, or to some extent a polytheistic being, God is a sentient person who is directly involved in the lives and affairs of mankind. God is found in and can be accessed by all people through all creation, though the Church emphasizes the connection to God through music. God is also viewed to some extent as a biune, with God being separated as Essence, which is God, and Personality, which members of the Church call Icculus.
Icculus is a figure in the lore and music of the popular jam band Phish. Within this Lore, Icculus is a Prophet who was sent to a group of people called The Lizards. Icculus gave a book known as the Helping Friendly Book to this group, which contains "all knowledge inherent in the universe." The Church interpenetrates the book given to the Lizards within the lore of Phish as the music that said band created, and separates Icculus' book from the Church's official scripture, which is known by the same name. To the Church, Icculus is the way in which people connect with God, Icculus is believed to be the energy that inspired Prophets of the past, from Adam to Muhammad, and beyond. Icculus is recognized both as an independent person, which the Church calls 'The Prophet Icculus', and the energy that all people can connect to God through, which the Church calls 'The Lord, Icculus'.
The Church's doctrine holds that every age is given by God it's own spiritual guides. These spiritual guides come with similar, albeit different messages depending on the needs of the people they are sent to. The Church splits these periods into many separate subdivisions, but into two overarching periods, those being the Prophetic and Awakened Periods. The Prophetic Period is recognized as the period of man in which God communicated with man through Prophets and Messengers, people directly contacted or guided by God. Figures such as Abaraham, Jesus, and Muhammad fall into the category of Prophetic spiritual guides. Each of these people brought laws, scriptures, and direct messages from God to the people they were sent to. The Church recognizes most major religious Prophets, as well as a collection of Prophets found within their own scriptures, namely those of the Lizards, a people who are suspected to have lived in the North Eastern United States in ancient times. The Prophetic Period is said to have ended between the 700's AD and sometime in the Late Modern Period.
The Awakened Period is defined by spiritual guides who were not directly contacted with messages from God but were rather inspired by God through life experience, indirect spiritual experiences, or other such types of experience. The Awakened Period is traditionally believed to have started with the birth of Jerry Garcia in 1942 AD. The Church emphasizes the importance of musical spiritual guides, namely those who were members of jam bands. Above all, Jerry Garcia, Trey Anastasio and the members of the Grateful Dead and Phish are held to be the most important of these spiritual guides. The music and lore of these bands, and the spiritual experiences many have had at concerts of said bands, are believed to be divinely inspired by the Church.
It is important to note that members of the Church do not worship any of the members of these bands, or even view them as Prophets. Instead, members of the Church worship the 'Muse', which is believed to be an aspect of Icculus. The Muse is a feeling one gets while listening to the music of these bands, particularly during live performances of them. Despite the special attention given to the members and music of jam bands, the Church believes that any type of music can be touched by The Muse, and as such holds many non-jam bands in high regard, such as Pink Floyd.
Central to the beliefs of the Church is the divine importance of improvisational music. The Church holds music as the most important and easily accessible connection to God and believes that when created improvisationally the connection is stronger and more genuine. According to the Church, improvisation is central to spirituality, musically and not. When one does something outside of the ordinary, it connects them with God, who is completely outside of the ordinary. Musical performance can be done repeatedly, and in the eyes of the Church, that repetition slowly degrades the meaning in the hearts of those that listen. When bands such as the Grateful Dead or Phish play a song, it is never performed the same way twice. Every time these bands play a song they will change certain aspects of it, sometimes chord patterns, melody, rhythm, etc.
Improvisational music is split into two sub groups, which are called 'jams'. There are type one and type two jams. Type one jams are considered improvisational acts that remain within the same chord pattern as the rest of the song. Type two jams are improvisational acts that will, through the course of spontaneous musical conversation, change the chord patterns and rhythm, eventually creating an entirely new song out of thin air. This process is believed to be inspired by Icculus according to the feeling of the performers and band. Jams are considered divine revelation.
Spiritual centers are places the Church holds in high spiritual regard. Major religious holy grounds such as Jerusalem and Mecca are looked at as minor spiritual centers, places that were at one point central to God's communication to man, but are no longer considered necessary pilgrimage sites. Major spiritual centers are places such as 710 Ashbury Street in San Fransisco, US, the former home of all members of the Grateful Dead in the 1960's. Places like the Shoreline Amphitheater, from which Shoreline gets its name, and other venues where jam bands have performed are looked at as important. However, the major spiritual center of Church members is a vague concept referred to as 'The Next One'. When many fans of jam bands in the past were asked what their favorite show was, they would simply refer to 'The Next One'. Given that every show a jam band performs is different, it is impossible to decide whether or not the next show will be better or worse than the last, and given that spontaneity and improvisation are important to the lives of these people, the Church believes that the holiest place a person can be at is wherever these bands are performing. So, according to this idea, Church members believe that going to a performance given by any of the Church's recognized holy bands is considered a pilgrimage.
The Helping Friendly Book
The Helping Friendly Book  is the Church's main scripture, which is consisted of various different books. Several of the books within the scripture are taken from the lyrics of many songs and albums by the Grateful Dead and Phish, whilst others are histories, spiritual documents, and supposed revelations given to ancient Lizard Prophets by God. The Helping Friendly Book is considered to be an ever-changing document, not beholden by it's members to be non-contradictory or consistent.
Organization and Clergy
The Church is organized in a heavily decentralized way, with very little control being de facto held by those higher in the Church hierarchy. The Church is separated into two distinct divisions, those being Local Churches and the Council of Heads. Local Churches are Churches found in separate locations, for example, the Shorelinian Deadhead Church, in Shoreline. These Churches are bound together by a belief in the Helping Friendly Book and the doctrine of the Church but are not held to specific standards of worship. Separate Churches can, within reason, develop their own rituals and practice, so long as it does not deviate from the central theological principals of the Church. This became official practice when, in mid-October, the Estimated Prophet released a Holy Proclamation entering the Nordalian Church into communion with the Shorelinians.
Local churches elect from their membership a single Counselor to serve in the Council of Heads, which is the central legislative body of the Church. The Council decides matters of scripture, doctrine and belief, the canonization of bands and saints, as well as simple day to day affairs of the central Church. The Council also elects from among it's members a figure to serve as 'Estimated Prophet', who serves as the central leader of the Church. The Estimated Prophet is recognized as a spiritual guide, as well as a symbolic leader of the Church, but holds no more power over the direction of the Church than any other Counselor. The Counselors and Estimated Prophet serve until death or resignation.