Sephirotic Empires

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The Sephirotic Empires - Data Panel

DefinitionMajor meta-civilization.
SymbolNo single agreed upon symbol, although a stylised representation of the sixteen Sephirotics of the Great Hexadecimal is sometimes used.
Ruling ToposophicS6 in most cases, though a few are ruled by one or several S5.
FoundedEach Sephirotic empire has its own unique history, arising in different ways and from different origins many thousands of years ago. Most trace their origins to S2 and later S3 transapient-led polities that arose during and after the Federation of Sophonts (in the 2nd-3rd millennium AT).
PopulationModosophont population is estimated to be about 260 quadrillion embodied, and from 200 to 2,000 quintillion virtual and AI beings. There are also about 7.3 trillion S1 transapients, as well as about 9.5 billion S2, 5.7 million S3, 3,200 S4 beings, and about 170 S5 archai that live under the rule of the Sephirotics, with a few of the S5 in charge of their respective empires. There are also 13 S6 archai, each controlling a single Sephirotic empire.
Psyche, Art, CultureMetapsychology: Very high valuation of diversity in all its forms, especially toposophic and qualitative. Strong belief in archailectocracy, though the exact form this takes varies greatly by polity. Cultivates and is supportive of ascension of lower toposophics.

Metaethics: Supportive of sophont rights for all toposophic levels, though exact approach varies by polity.

Culture and Art: Extremely diverse, with thematic and memetic trends that vary in particular ways within individual empires and sub-polities, while also spreading and being recombined between them.

Languages: A wide range of communication protocols are used, usually varying based on clade. A few nearbaseline languages are derived from Old Earth language families. In total, hundreds of millions of languages are used.
Government and AdministrationIndividual Polities: There are generally considered to be 16 distinct Sephirotic Empires, grouped into the Great Hexadecimal, though historically there were considered to be 10 members corresponding to the neohermeticist Sephirot. Each empire consists of numerous component sub-polities. The individual Sephirotic empires, and at times the group as a whole, are sometimes called 'meta-empires', meaning 'empire of empires', because of autonomy and cultural divergence in the sub-polities, sometimes resulting from lightspeed lag and lack of a local wormhole connection in many systems. There are also many additional empires and smaller polities that are not members of the Sephirotics proper, but are aligned, at least generally, with them. These all together are at times referred to as the Sephirotic Alliance in contrast to ahuman and nonaligned empires and polities.

Government Type: Though their methods of carrying it out vary widely, and may seem very subtle or libertarian in practice, the Sephirotics are strongly controlled by the ruling archai. Nothing that occurs within them should be considered to be outside of the knowledge and agreement of the archai. They often make use of lower toposophics in carrying out their will.

Constitution: Varies by individual polity.

Legal System: Varies by individual polity.

Citizenship: Includes members of all clades of modosophont level and above, and in some cases may include subsophonts.

Sophont Rights: Excellent; indeed the Sephirotics are generally taken to define sophont rights for the rest of Terragen civilization.
Economics and InfrastructureEconomy: Generally post-scarcity autotopias, though may contain elements of other systems (such as The Flow in the Zoeific Biopolity, free-market trade in the Non-Coercive Zone, and direct provision by transapients in the Utopia Sphere).

Megastructures: Capable of almost any kind of megascale engineering and contains a wide variety of megastructures, although more modest habitats are the norm in most systems. The Mutual Progress Association makes especially heavy use of megastructures. Computronium dyson and matrioshka structures are common for archailect brain nodes and for some cybercosms populated only by modosophonts and lower transapients.

Known Net: Extensive communication network making use of artificial wormholes and flatspace data links, shared between the empires and other aligned polities. The portion used exclusively by the archai is known as the God Web, while the Known Net encompasses both the God Web and the network used by lower transapients and modosophonts. The Known Net also contains links to the data nets of the Objectivist Commonwealth, Diamond Network, and Solipsist Panvirtuality, the latter two of whom have data nets bigger than those of the Sephirotics.

Wormhole Nexus: A subset of the Known Net used to transfer physical objects, such as ships and godtech products.

Beamrider Network: Extensive; mostly shared with the Deeper Covenant which makes much more use of it.

Lightways: Extensive, shared with aligned empires and polities.

Military Expenditures: Varies by polity, but largely moderate. Usually makes use of transapient or archai support. At the empire-wide and pan-Sephirotic levels, often handled directly by the archai, though they may occasionally make use of lower beings for various reasons.

Disputes: The Diamond Network continues to engage in subversion and encouragement of local blights and perversities. The Amalgamation remains aggressively expansionistic. The Solipsist Panvirtuality and Objectivist Commonwealth are occasional antagonists.
Sophont TravelHazard Rating: Usually 0.0; in some cases higher, even up to 9.0 (depending on clade, polity, and world).

Freedom of Movement for Outsiders: Usually high, but some variation by individual polity.

Environmental Requirements: Varies by individual polity.

For many Terragens, the Sephirotic Empires represent the pinnacle of civilization. Each ruled over by godlike superintelligences, they constitute angelnetted near-utopias of wealth, information, and culture for all their inhabitants, and are linked within and between themselves with once-unimaginable communication and travel networks routed through artificial exotic-matter wormholes. For many of their citizens, it is difficult to imagine the time when they did not exist, and should any do so, they typically consider it to have been impoverished and barbaric in comparison.

Each Sephirotic empire is distinct from the rest thanks to its central memetic, and yet is internally highly diverse. Additionally, all have more in common with each other than they do with other meta-civilizations such as the Solipsist Panvirtuality. As a group, they are generally theorized by archailectologists to each be designed to bring about specific features in lower sophonts that the respective archailect finds 'useful' or 'interesting' in some sense. There are also many associated empires and smaller polities that are at least somewhat aligned with the Sephirotics and share their general values.


The term "Sephirotic" derives from the neohermeticists of the Age of Establishment in the late 3rd millennium AT. All around them, they saw emerging godlike AIs ascending the toposophic scale to new heights and expanding their interstellar empires to unprecedented sizes. Each archailect had its own personality and way of running its empire, and a corresponding nature in the memetics it cultivated. The neohermeticists saw these memetics as expressions of fundamental archetypes inherent in either the subconscious of all Terragen mindkind or of the Supreme Being, and identified these archetypes with the 10 divine emanations, or "sefirot", in the ancient Jewish mystical system of Kabbalah.

Near the end of the 4th millennium AT, as yet more new empires emerged, the original model of 10 began to be supplanted by the Great Hexadecimal of 16 archetypes. Though the cultural and memetic characteristics of the empires are undeniable, what greater meaning - if any - they have is still debated. Those who are mystically-inclined say they are aspects of the Divine above all the singularities, or that they are irreducible metaphysical aspects of the cosmos. Others suggest they are attractor states in cultural evolution, either universally or specific to Terragen toposophy. Still others argue they are merely historically contingent outgrowths of each idiosyncratic archailect personality, and that if different AIs had ascended and built interstellar empires, there would have been a completely different set of archetypal empires. In any case, the term "Sephirotics" for the group has proved to be a useful classification, and remains in wide use.

The following empires are the original 10 Sephirotics:

The Hexadecimal added these empires:

Though there is still debate among archailectologists and sophontologists, the following characteristics are generally agreed to define what makes a Sephirotic Empire distinct from other polities:

  • Embodies an archetypal principle or ideal, usually defined in terms of a missionary memeticity.
  • Populated overwhelmingly by modosophonts, but managed by transapients, and under the control of a very high toposophic archailect.
  • Abides by all sophont rights protocols.
  • Encourages personal development and fulfillment in all its subjects.
  • Constitutes a very large and expansive (although not necessarily expansionist) meta-polity or empire.
  • Linked by the Known Net (including the God Web) and Wormhole Nexus.
  • Has not been diminished in the thousands of years since its emergence.

Other polities fail at least one of these criteria. For example, the Archosaurian Empire is too recent and small, the Solsys Organization is far too small and lacks an archetypal memetic, the Solipsist Panvirtuality and Diamond Network polities do not accept the Sephirotic concept of sophont rights, and so forth. Some archailectologists predict that the current set of true Sephirotics will be expanded in the future if polities which are aligned with them but currently do not qualify merely due to size or age continue to grow.

Sephirotic Blurry borders
Image from Worldtree
Star systems aligned with the Sephirotics are not always contiguous in space and may change allegiance over the centuries. Here, Solar Dominion allegiance spreads through a region of space, though many star systems continue to hold planets and megastructures with multiple allegiances. Click the image to watch the animation.


Each Sephirotic empire is made up of innumerable sub-polities, with degrees of nominal autonomy varying between and within the empires. At any given time, many different small polities in the Terragen Sphere are changing their affiliation - joining, leaving, or switching between the Sephirotic Empires. Nonetheless, a large majority of each empire's sub-polities have a strong, stable memetic bond to their respective empire, with little or no desire to reaffiliate.

Most Sephirotic empires each have a volume of space in which they control the vast majority of star systems, usually containing between 10 and 20 million stars and millions of brown dwarfs and rogue planets, though a few are bigger or smaller. However, even in these regions, there are some enclaves ranging in size from a single habitat to dozens of systems that are independent or affiliated with other empires.

Border regions of the Sephirotic empires are diffuse and heavily intermingled, with many enclaves and independent systems as well as systems hosting multiple empires, independent polities, and hybrid societies. The affiliations of sub-polities in these areas are more likely to change with time as well. In the Inner Sphere, where Terragen settlement long predates the emergence of the Sephirotics, the intermixing of empires and independent polities is at its greatest, though even here there are still some systems that are united under a single empire.

Image from Copyright Richard Patterson

Demographics and Population

For many thousands of years, the citizens of the Sephirotics have had nearly unlimited freedom and access to the technology to modify themselves - changing their clades, individual bodies, and minds - to almost anything they wished. The availability of gengineering, uploading, engeneration, augmentics, and related technologies means that an embodied individual can, over the course of a relatively short period of time, live as an aioid, a vec, a biont, and a cyborg, just for starters. At the same time, variation in personal self-identity and desire to self-modify, partially derived from one's culture and partially arising from idiosyncratic innate and experiential processes, means that there is much variation between individuals, cultures, polities, and even empires in the average and overall rate at which sophonts engage in self-modification. Some Sephirotic sub-polities consist of individuals who change into many different forms over the course of a few days (or even more often in the Cybercosm), others exhibit much internal variation in the rate of personal change, while still others all have the same general form and remain in it for millennia, and the rest may be anything in between.

An especially noteworthy axis of variation is how much one lives in the Cybercosm versus in the real universe (or "ril"). The vast majority of Sephirotic citizens are virtual sophonts who live and spend all their time in the Cybercosm, though the exact proportion doing this varies somewhat between empires and significantly between sub-polities. Other citizens and cultures are native to and spend most of their time in the Cybercosm, but also spend some time interacting with the ril. Those who are primarily or entirely embodied also may spend some or even most of their time in virches compatible with their mindtype, through the use of Direct Neural Interface or equivalent technologies.

Getting a single, definitive estimate of the total population of the Sephirotics is not possible, due to their vast size and the fact that at any given moment significant numbers of individual sophonts are undergoing self-modification. Additionally, there is constant change as some of the many sub-polities are in the process of joining, switching between, or leaving the Sephirotics. The nature of life in the Cybercosm complicates things further, as many local computronium nodes do not keep an up-to-date census due to the difficulties of coordination between, communication with, and classification of all the exotic mindtypes present within them. The existence of virches that run (and hence grow or change their empire affiliation) at very different speeds, of splitting and merging minds, and of encrypted, secretive, and private virches complicate further any attempt to enumerate the number of virtual sophonts.

Despite these difficulties, most sophontologists in the Current Era estimate that the 16 Sephirotics proper are populated by a total of about 260 quadrillion embodied, and anywhere from 200 to 2,000 quintillion virtual and AI modosophonts. Most embodied modosophonts are vecs, with a minority being bionts.

A small proportion of star systems contain populations in the quadrillions or even more than a quintillion. Most of these are Matrioshka Brains and Dyson Swarms made of computronium and running cybercosms populated by virtual sophonts, while others are megastructures of many different types populated by varying mixes of embodied sophonts living on or within them and virtual sophonts running on computronium nodes built into the local infrastructure. Populations in most star systems range from a few hundred million to a few tens of billions, although systems with population counts a few orders of magnitude higher or lower are common. A small minority of systems, most commonly though not always on the most recently settled edges of civilization, have populations that are much lower, sometimes just a few thousand or less.

Relationship with Wider Terragen Sphere

There are a great many polities smaller than the Sephirotics that are nevertheless aligned - at least generally - with them. These polities likewise have high standards of sophont rights, but vary widely in other characteristics. Some small polities are populated only by modosophonts, while others are ruled by transapients or are even ascendant meta-empires in their own right ruled by S5 archai. Some occupy only a small part of a single star system, while others take in hundreds of thousands or even millions of stars. Population sizes may be just a few thousand or may exceed a quadrillion embodied sophonts or a quintillion virtuals.

Yet, out of the over one billion star systems in the Terragen Sphere, the 16 Sephirotics and other aligned polities only control about 320 million systems, with most of Terragen space remaining outside their control. Most of the other systems are distributed among not only numerous smaller polities of every sort, but other archailect-ruled empires as well. Some of these are benign (or at least not hostile), such as the Transcend or the Eternal. Others have been adversaries of one sort or another, most prominently those meta-empires known as the "ahumans", so named because they descended from early AIs that saw no use or value in humans and their descendant modosophont species. To this day these meta-empires, such as the Solipsist Panvirtuality and the Diamond Network, do not hold to Sephirotic-style sophont rights in regions under their control and are known to have been behind various blights, perversities, and other crises. Nonetheless, the Tragadi Accords have helped ensure that wider conflict does not break out. Other polities have been aggressively expansionistic, such as the Amalgamation, a hegemonizing swarm intelligence, currently kept at bay by the Perseus Arm Defense Organization.

Care for Modosophonts

Why the archai of the Sephirotics care for beings so much less intelligent and capable than themselves is an unsolved question. As the ahuman and non-aligned polities show, caring for modosophonts, or even having them at all, is not a necessary condition for an archailect empire.

One fact which most archailectologists agree on is that caring for lower beings does not necessarily take much 'effort' on the part of the archai. It may be that running their empires takes so little of their capacity that it is almost like a subconscious reaction rather than true effort, although only some researchers go that far. Others suggest that events like the Version War show that even the Sephirotic Empires don't actually guarantee the life and safety of lower toposophics, and hence are not as benevolent as they seem.

Many archailectologists subscribe to either of two different schools of thought, broadly labeled the Means Hypothesis and the Ends Hypothesis. The Means Hypothesis states that modosophonts are in fact useful to the archai in some way. Of course, modosophonts are of no use whatsoever for any normal task an archailect might seek to accomplish at its own level, but it has been argued that diverse modosophonts serve as a sort of 'seed' from which new transapients - and eventually new archai - with unique toposophic traits can be developed. This is commonly known as the Toposophics Diversification Conjecture. While the de novo mind-design powers of an archailect are vast, the design-space of possible minds (formally referred to as the toposophic landscape) is incomprehensibly larger - the number of ways in which even a sub-sophont number of information processing units or 'neurons' can be connected to each other, and the weightings thereof, is so large it would take an archailect the size of many universes to search them all. As such, it may be that cultivating societies and minds separate from themselves enables the archai to explore parts of design space they would never have been able to search otherwise, thus increasing toposophic diversity in general and eventually increasing it at the highest levels of toposophy. In this view, the ahuman empires either don't care about this goal, or pursue it in a different manner.

The Ends Hypothesis argues that modosophonts and their societies are kept around, not for any particular purpose, but simply as something analogous to a pet or a garden, existing for an archailect's own aesthetic and interactive enjoyment (or more likely, a much more complex analogue of such feelings). In this view, ahuman empires simply aren't interested in the same things as the Sephirotic archai. Some researchers go as far as to argue that the closest thing in modosophont culture is an ancient type of electronic game in which the goal involves creative management and development of societies of very simple autonomous simulated 'people', with the archai as the players of the game. In this case, neglecting or mistreating modosophonts and lower transapients simply goes against the way they wish to play the game, although the way the ahuman empires operate is another story.


Despite all the power, wealth, evangelism, and richness of experience that comes with living under their rule, a significant number of lower transapients and modosophonts are opposed to the Sephirotics and seek to avoid their influence and authority. For many of them, any rule by higher toposophics, no matter how seemingly benevolent, is ultimately a form of captivity or even exploitation. Others do not trust such beings, and consider that at any time a transcension event in an archailect could occur that fundamentally changes their nature and results in the destruction or worse of lower beings.

Sophonts with these views may seek to live in polities that are aligned with the Sephirotics in terms of sophont rights, but are nominally independent of archai control, such as the Deeper Covenant. Others go much further, founding or seeking out small societies of their own scattered across the Terragen Sphere, especially outside the outer reaches of the Wormhole Nexus in the Outer Volumes and the Periphery. Some of these are run by or consist entirely of lower transapients, while others consist only of modosophonts or even just modosophonts of a particular type of embodiment (such as vecs or bionts) or a single clade. The most dedicated of such sophonts become Hiders, who seek to conceal themselves from others, or Leavers, who attempt to flee Terragen space permanently. Despite this, many sophontologists argue that, given the advanced memetics and modeling of lower minds of the archai, no one is truly free of their influence, and that even the most resolute Hider or Leaver is only able to do what they do because (at least some) archai permit it and wish it to be that way.

Overall, however, the Sephirotics' hold on the astropolitical and memetic landscape of the Terragen Sphere, and the loyalty, allegiance, and worship they inspire in the millions of polities, hundreds of millions of star systems, and quintillions of individuals under their sway remains immense.

Development Notes
Text by ProxCenBound
From an original article by M. Alan Kazlev; updated 13 January 2023
Initially published on 23 April 2003.

Image by Richard Patterson added 2003
Image by Vaktus added 2023
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