Historically speaking, the Empire of the Radiant Throne is a relatively new phenomenon: it is only a few centuries old. In that time, however, it has grown quickly and aggressively, far more quickly than the AFW, and is now the second largest government in known space, consisting of at least 50,000 worlds and still expanding.
The Empire of the Radiant Throne (or simply the “Radiant Throne,” or “The Throne” as it is known among its member worlds) is a theocracy. The state religion appears to be an offshoot of an obscure Christian sect that was originally known as the Cult of the Mind’s Eye, which teaches that telepaths are marked by God with divine power and insight, and as such have the God-given right to rule over non-telepaths. The official state name of the religion is the Church of the Holy Divine, and any citizen of the Empire who exhibits psionic potential is inducted into the church, first as an adept, then ultimately as a priest.
On a political level, the Empire is aggressive, strict, and brutally authoritarian. It does not tolerate dissent and has no qualms about using the psionic talents of its state religion to root out and quell dissent. It interprets the divine right of the telepath to rule as a mandate to expand its borders to encompass the entire galaxy, and is willing to use force to do so. It has no qualms about using brutality to get its way and is not shy about making threats or following through on them.
That said, it is not the most brutal and repressive government in known space, and its state religion, while very unbending in many places, is strangely adaptable and displays levels of tolerance that do not seem to mix with the aggressive ways it manifests itself in the political sphere. Systems within the Radiant Throne are not required to convert to the state religion. There are many citizens within the Radiant Throne who practice other strains of Christianity, other religions entirely, or who practice no religion at all. There are even avowed atheists within the Empire. All deviations from the “True Faith” are tolerated, so long as those who deviate remain loyal to the Empire itself. The official church stance on such deviations is that all are sinners before God and that sin must be tolerated to an extent in order to save the sinner.
Also, while the Church of the Holy Divine teaches that only humans have souls, it recognizes that some alien races are quite gifted psionically, and it allows alien citizens with psionic abilities to rise high in the Empire hierarchy. Again, the strange adaptability of the state religion manifests itself by teaching that God will mark whom He pleases with His gifts, and if God chooses to elevate a soulless creature to power it is His right to do so.
Finally, while telepaths are given the divine right of rule in the government, the church is still very practical when it comes to recognizing and rewarding the capabilities of non-telepaths who serve the Empire. Competence is rewarded, and non-telepaths who display skill are given positions of power and responsibility. While the Radiant Throne possesses a higher concentration of telepaths than any other civilized society in known space, they are still a minority of the population, and so non-telepaths have been given governorships, promoted to high ranks within the military, and given positions of trust even at the highest levels of government. That said, the bias in favor of the telepath is ever present, and while a “lowly” adept of the Church cannot actually countermand a decision made by a non-telepath Governor, he or she would still wield enormous political influence that the Governor would be forced to recognize and adapt to.
The Church is the official ruling power of the Empire, but the Empire is organized under a semi-secular bureaucracy. Planets and systems have governors, and governors lead various political bureaus that oversee the day-to-day operations of the Empire. All governors rule at the sufferance of the Emperor: the Emperor is the head of the church, wields absolute authority and is considered the right hand of God Himself. The Emperor has, on occasion, been a non-human, but at present is believed to be a human of advanced age, kept young by the use of anagathics. The title of “Emperor” is used regardless of gender.
While it is tempting to look at the oddities and flexibilities of the Radiant Throne’s theology as proof that the Empire “isn’t that bad,” this would be a mistake. Certainly the Empire of the Radiant Throne is not the most oppressive regime in existence today, and certainly it is possible to point to many examples of citizens of the Empire who live in comfort, even contentment, it is not, in any definition, a free society. It has no concept of “personal liberty,” and has no tolerance for dissent. A citizen may be free to speak his or her personal belief in the non-existence of God, but if that speech drifts to opposition to the government, or toying with ideas that the religious beliefs of the Empire make its ruling body somehow less valid, that citizen is silenced, often brutally. A personal belief in the non-existence of God is not considered heresy in the Empire, but a belief in the illegitimacy of the government is. The Swords of God, the telepathic enforcers and inquisitors of the Empire, are charged with rooting out heretics by any means necessary, and are given enormous latitude to do so.
The Empire of the Radiant Throne is currently engaged in a campaign to aggressively expand its borders. It claims the entire galaxy by divine right, and has been invading and “converting” non-aligned worlds very rapidly. There is little information concerning these worlds, but reports indicate that resistance is generally short-lived. Some fear the Empire pacifies conquered populations with psionics; at present, there is little proof to support the concern. At present, the Empire leaves the AFW alone, preferring to go after smaller targets. The AFW, noting the Empire’s expansion, is actively trying to recruit new members in return…
Taken from An Informal Guide to Known Space, Edition XVI, McPherson/Sovitt Publications.