The Structure of Time and RealityEdit
The present exists – every mage accepts this, and assuming this is necessary for all other investigations. However, in a subjective reality, the nature of both the past and the future are far less clear. Ultimately, both are in flux. Not only is the future not determined, but in an ultimate extension of Stephen Hawking's "top-down" cosmology, neither is the past. Any future that can come out the present is possible, as is any past that can lead up to the present. Some pasts and futures are considerably more likely than others – but any of them can exist. Also, the further into the past or future you go, the more divergent the possibilities become. The reality of this theory of time can be seen by the fact that Time magic to look into both the past and the future is somewhat unreliable – all a Mage can ever see is one of the most likely pasts or futures.
The variability of the past can also be seen in another phenomenon, the so-called "fog of eternity" that affects older Vampires who have been in Torpor for decades or centuries. These vampires have trouble remembering details of the past before their Torpor, in large part because all memories of times long enough ago that only a handful of people remember them are by their very nature uncertain and unreliable. As a result, these vampires' memories of the past are different in many small ways from each other's and from various historical records.
Despite being notoriously unreliable, the mass of living memory keeps the recent past mostly stable – details are not fixed, but the general features remain the same. However, once you go far enough back that few people now alive (or undead) remember an era, you enter are region where the past is as little determined as the future. Naturally, the Technocracy finds the fact that the past is mutable to be problematic and their answer is was to promote the use of ubiquitous recording technologies, used by governments, corporations, and most of all by private individuals, to help fix the past in place. Photographs and movies help fix the past in place, and in the modern era of cellphone cameras and ubiquitous video recording, the past is becoming almost as fixed as a present – a fact that worries a number of Tradition Mages.
Depending upon your point of view, one of the most horrifying, or perhaps most hopeful consequences of the variability of reality is the fact that the future can be drastically unlike the past. In a relatively gradual way, technological progress and the many associated social changes are an example of this. However, far swifter and more drastic changes are possible, if also thankfully quite rare. Many Tradition mages recognize that there is a fair amount of evidence that the so-called Mythic Age before the founding of the Order of Reason was not merely an almost unimaginably different world of magic and monsters, it was also a world where the world could be literally re-written in an instant, and these changes can possibly still occur. There are quirks of history – anomalous artifacts and odd records that indicate that there are almost certainly layers of previous realities underneath the current historical realities.
The theory of reality quakes is simple – sometimes, the entire structure of reality will shift in an instant, or perhaps at most over the course of several hours, and the world that is there after the end of this shift will be unrecognizably different from the world before. According to the most widely accepted theory, most people will remain themselves, but they will likely have different backgrounds and professions, and perhaps even different species. Also, no Sleeper will remember the previous reality. According to a few version of this theory, most Mage's also won't, but few Mages accept this idea.
The new world will be complete and self-consistent, with a history that at least all Sleepers remember clearly, and artifacts and records to back up this history – the old reality will be over-written. Virtual Adepts describe this process as reformatting the cosmos.
However, some traces of the old reality will almost certainly remain – the memories of at least a few Mages, as well as the occasional odd relic from the past, a book from no known author or publisher that was misfiled in a library that describes a world no one remembers and that is vastly different from the present day world, an odd device found in a trunk in someone's attic, or even on the rarest occasions, a small archeological site that fits into no known historical period. One universal fact about all of these items is that Time magics will reveal no useful information about them, since they exist outside of the current time stream. Mages theorize that Temenos should also contain Isolated Realms (Astral Realms, pp 68-69) that contain large fragments of the dreams of these lost eras. However, as with any Isolated Realm, discovering them is far from easy.
The clearest evidence for the existence of reality quakes is that existence of the far smaller and more localized reality tremors caused by Twisting Maze abyssal incursions (Intruders: Encounters With the Abyss, pp. 206-211), where entire locations and the people inside of them can fall outside of reality. The entire existence and history of everyone and everything in an affected location vanishes from the minds of all Sleepers and from all records. The existence of the Ractain Strain (Intruders: Encounters With the Abyss, pp. 160-166) is believed by some Mages to be evidence that traces of previous species wiped out by ancient reality quakes can remain in the humanity's genetic code, and the odd properties of the Book of Transformation (Grimoire of Grimoires, pp. 38-44) is also seem as evidence of a previous reality quake.
Most mages believe that reality quakes are exceedingly rare events that can only occur when widespread fears or longings of a large segment of the Sleeper population is in some way amplified by the actions of one or more powerful Mages. Some Mages claim that the belief that mages must be involved is nothing more than wishful thinking and that reality quakes may happen spontaneously, without the intervention of any Mages, and are purely based on transformations with in the hopes, terrors, and desires of Sleepers. The official line of the Technocratic Union is that reality quakes were a phenomena of the mythic age and cannot happen in the modern version of the consensus, but almost all Technocrats understand that there is a strong element of wishful thinking in this declaration. Within the Technocratic Union, research into reality quakes is carefully monitored. Some Tradition Mages believe that reality quakes are far more common than anyone realizes and that only mages who in some way took part in creating a reality quake would remember the previous reality. According to this theory, the Order of Reason was responsible for the most recent reality quake, and that they reformatted reality between one and three centuries ago, replacing a mythic age more wondrous and terrible than any records indicate with the modern consensus.