Three years later, Trench had become a Companion, the secondhighest grade in the Order of The Beacon, a Neo-Pythagorean sect whose activities he had generously helped to fund.
The Order operated in the most secretive fashion, so that practically nothing was known about it outside the close-knit circle of its fifty or so members. These, who called themselves “fellows,” were generally wealthy and influential professionals and businesspeople, some 20 percent of them women. In Pythagoras’ doctrines, which they interpreted with an emphasis on their esoteric aspects, they had found a kind of spiritual fulfillment that mainstream religions had not provided. Such was their veneration for the famous philosopher that they worshipped him as a deity.
The Beacon had been founded in 1979 by a mysterious personage known to the other members only as Mr. S, who was convinced that Pythagoras would be reincarnated around the middle of the twentieth century. And so, not only did the members of the Order adore the spirit of Pythagoras, they also anxiously awaited his return among the living, the way followers of other religions wait for the coming of a messiah.
New members were admitted following a proposition from two fellows, and only after a thorough scrutiny of the candidate’s background, personality, lifestyle, and motivation had established that certain strict criteria were met. On acceptance, the new fellow had to take an oath of loyalty and vow to financially support the Order and its search for Pythagoras reincarnate.