That which is not - the Abyss in Ascension NovaEdit
While the origins of the Abyss in Ascension Nova are different than the Abyss in Mage: The Awakening, thematically, it's the same. For as long as Magick has been practiced, the Abyss has always been known of. Whenever a Mage invokes magick, and a sleeper refuses to believe, uncreation is allowed into Creation.
Sleeper disbelief is strangely paradoxical in it's own way. The Sleeper invokes his own power of belief and that of the Consensue to not believe. As the Metaphysick of Magick decrees that what is believed becomes reality, what becomes reality is the negation of reality... namely, the Mage invoking his or her Awakened will to create or to change (which many mystics define as the same thing - they say that birth and beginnings are inherently change, and that endings and ceasings are inherently death.) Unless the Mage sacrifices Free Quintessence to repair that nullness created in the Tapestry, the illogical ceasing creates distortions in the Tapestry which cause things such as backlash and other bizarre Paradox effects.
Study of the Abyss as a concept and entity has existed ever since Paradox was first identified, millenia ago. in ancient songs, the Dreamspeakers claim to have been the first to have witnessed that awful nullness that creates Paradox.
No one knows who the first Nephandi are, nor how the first Nephandi cults started. It is known that Mages since prehistory have experimented with the Abyss, using their own Awakened will to insert Unbeing into their own magical workings. The various methods of using Abyssal magic(k) as described in Tome of Mysteries exist and can be used with their usual, terrible prices.
As an impossibility, the Fallen claim that there are beings who existed before Creation - which is blatantly impossible, since nothing existed before the Prime, and the Prime is infinite, having no beginning nor ends. However, magick demands that if someone is believed in, then something is real. Therefore, Nephandic ideals, no matter how contradictory, exist. The Abyss exists because human minds demand that it exists. If humans, Sleepers or Mages, imagine that there are beings within the Abyss that wish to negate and uncreate everything, then, they will exist. However, several scholars of the Order of Hermes stridently put forth the point that magick and creation is not merely belief, it is belief empowered by will. Anything that exists is therefore the result of a choice, as opposed to being a peice of created knowledge of some dream or fancy. The choice to Fall, then, is a kind of cosmic suicide - instead of the struggle and promise offered by Ascension, those who deal with the Abyss choice anti-belief and anti-will - by believing and choosing these things, these things are made real. The Akashic Brotherhood points out that this is the logical and consistent struggle that all living beings must face, every day.
Thus, if there were never entities inside of the imagined and created Abyss, then humans would perhaps invent them (as the Order of Hermes claims that the Gods which reside in the Tenemos are creations of humanity's sleeping will, performing functions within the collective mind and soul of humanity.) Regardless of this chicken-and-the-egg arguement (since it is taken as a matter of faith by the Cult of Ecstasy and many inidvidual Willworkers that Belief and Will can alter History, one of the foundations for the practice of Destiny magick), there are things within the anti-existence of the Abyss that seek entrance to this world for their own inscrutable purposes, which usually, but not always, includes feeding off our world, destroying it, or damaging it with pain and suffering. These things can offer a Mage much strange and alien wisdom, and offer tangible benefits in terms of worldly power and lore. Not all Mages who deal with such terrible entities are necessarily Nephandi bent on destroying the world - some are ancient and terrible cults that seek to sup with the Devil using a suitably long spoon (such as the famed Demon Binders of House Tytalus), some are heroic servants who seek to ward the world against such things (the Brotherhood of St Francis of the Stigmata, a Catholic legacy in the Celestial Chorus who hunt, bind and erase Abyssal manifestations and who study Paradox intently, as well as Null Code, the New World Order's Abyss study and elimination unit), and some are simply fools who have no idea what they play with. All of the Nine Traditions have absolutely clear laws in regards to Mages who work Abyssal magick without special dispensation - at best, such fools are ejected from their Traditions and forcibly made Orphans, and at worst, such can expect a quick and merciful death or perhaps Gilgul, since a soul tainted by the Abyss so much is in terrible danger of accepting the offer to enter the Cauls and become one with the Abyss.
Even these Mages, however, are not true Nephandi.
Infernalists, Nephandi and Left Handed Legacies in the Ascension Nova settingEdit
Infernalists is a term given to Mages who make pacts and deals with generally unpleasant powers of various realms beyond, including but not limited to the Abyss. The most commonly known Infernalists are Mages and Hedge Magicians who make deals for power with the various demons, devils and evil gods of Astral Space, "evil" being a relative term. Generally, a Mage only has access to one thing that these powers care for - souls, either those of others he can steal, or his own. While Sleeper souls have some value, they do not shine with the power and radiance that an Awakened soul does. The general consensus of the 9 Traditions is that there is nothing an Astral entity can offer that is worth the price of anyone's soul. Dealing in Soul Harvesting of others usually carries a death sentence, but not soul destruction - there are greater crimes than these which calls for the ultimate penalty.
A Mage can bargain away his soul, peicemeal, and gain lore and secrets instantly that would take decades or perhaps lifetimes of study to gain. In exchange for Avatar dots, Mages will be offered Rotes, Sphere training and study, access to merits or strange powers. These things will be offered in exchange for acts as well, but the tasks that strange powers ask for is usually about as dangerous as offering peices of one's soul. Certain Traditions, such as the Dreamspeakers and the Order of Hermes, make regular pacts with various Astral and Hisil entities, but have millenia of tradition and pacts that lay out what entities it is safe to deal with, and a good background of what prices need to be paid, as well as extensive lists of proscribed entities. Summoner Mages that are not careful can easily slide down the slippery slope from traditional summoning practice into Infernalism, if they are not careful. But, as is the case with hubristic Awakened, many Mages think that they are clever enough to come out ahead. They are usually wrong.
True Nephandi, on the other hand, are an entirely different matter. There is a vast difference between a foolish Infernalist who has sold the last peice of his soul to some power from Astral Space and is now a puppet for eternity, even beyond reincarnation, and a true Fallen. A soul that is in the hands of some astral god or demon is still a soul proper, and will eventually be released back into the proper cycle of reincarnation (for Avatars, at any rate - there is considerable debate as to whether or not the Avatar is the soul, the voice of the soul, or something else entirely different.) These souls fufill their proper function within reality once released and are no threat to it. Further, despite the wicked intentions of beings such as the Yama Kings or various iterations of the christian Devil, these beings do not seek an end and utter negation to reality.
Nephandi, Mages who enter the Caul and under the Nephandic rite of Inversion, have their souls changed. Instead of being the natural agents of change and creation that normal souls are, a Nephandic avatar becomes a literal peice of unbeing, a peice of infinity that seeks to make everything not. Such is the terrible tragedy of the Widderslainte - Mages who carry souls that were inverted in a previous life struggle mightily against Avatars who seek to fufill the agendas of the Abyss. Such souls always manifest rotten, nihilistic resonance no matter what Paradigm there Mages undertake. There are tales of Mages who undergo mighty quests in Astral Space, similar to normal Seekings, to invert the resonances of their Widderslainte souls and become whole again. There seems to be some relation between these kinds of struggles, the obscure vampire practice called Golconda, and the process of becoming human and soul creation called The Pilgrimage that nearly all Prometheans seek. But all such information is in the form of cryptic, contradictory clues, stories and hearsay.
All magick used by a Nephandi Mage has a subtle, twisted resonance of unbeing that is plain to such things as the various forms of Mage Sight. Nephandi Mages must use one of the Abyssal enhancement methods when casting spells and rotes - this is a function of their Avatar. This is one of the reasons why Nephandi carefully construct webs of deceit and use of double agents. A favorite practice of Nephandi cults is to offer an impressionable young Mage free rotes and other kinds of technques and lore, gratis, along with instruction in how to use the three methods of Abyssal magick. As the Apprentice builds up his or her Abyssal resonance, he or she is further alienated from his or her Tradition and Cabal once they realise what kind of magick they've been blithely using. By the time the Mage wants out, it's usually too late. The ultimate goal is to have a Mage willingly walk into the Cauls.
Finally, a word concerning Left Handed Legacies.Edit
Left Handed Legacies work exactly as they are described in Mage: The Awakening. While, politically any number of Legacies might be called Left Handed ones due to their particular practices or whatever politics surround them, for Ascension Nova's purposes, a Left Handed Legacy is defined as any Legacy who's practices require regular actions that would result in regular Morality loss and in eventual low morality characters, and thus is injurious to the Soul.
Any Mage can practice a Left Handed Legacy. Most Tradition Mages who practice Left Handed Legacies must hide their practice from their Tradition fellows and only share his or her practice with fellow Legacy members, who are usually members of the same conspiracy within a Tradition. Confirmed practice of a Left Handed Legacy in most Traditions will usually get a Mage expelled from their Tradition, at the very least.
Infernalists, ironically, are not required to join Left Handed Legacies, although there are Left Handed lineages that have developed around the worship of various entities within our Creation.
Finally, The Fallen can only practice Left Handed Legacies, and these Legacy practices become Abyss tainted, if not already. Modern Nephandi practice schools of magick developed in the ancient city of Bhat, during the time of the Devil Kings.