“Go through, my children! The time of miracles is upon us. Let us cast off sin and walk together to the Garden of the Lord. With God’s mercy we shall meet again on the other side.”
— Sister Miriam Godwinson, “Last Testament”
To properly understand this quote, it is necessary to begin with the context. Psi Gates can be constructed in bases after researching the thirteenth-tier Matter Transmission technology. They allow units to instantly teleport between any pair of bases that both have gates without regard to the intervening distance or terrain.
Canonically, it is clear by now that the Believers have been almost completely marginalized. She has been unstinting in her long dissent from the course events have taken. But her and her remaining loyal followers have proven completely unable to stop the march of history.
The technology just before this one enabled Clinical Immortality. In that video, what could have easily been portrayed as a miraculous accomplishment was instead ominously framed as defiance of God’s plan. Even though Miriam didn’t put voice to it, Reynolds’s editorial choices were certainly sympathetic to her viewpoint.
By now, as shown in the video for the Self-Aware Colony, the Believers’ willingness to die for their beliefs isn’t even enough to keep their message emblazoned in spray paint on the walls. The God of the Israelites is dead. If not in the literal sense, then certainly in a social one.
Given Miriam’s close identification with religion and her rival Zakharov’s prominence in the end game quotes, one might expect that Reynolds to conclude the canon with a futuristic secularism. This idea that humanity will naturally evolve away from religious belief has been a common theme in science-fiction for generations. And Reynolds could even be said to have foreshadowed this eventuality. Recall Yang’s early statement that increasing philosophical nihilism was simply the sign of humanity’s increasing sophistication as a sentient species.
But again Reynolds refuses to take the easy, clichéd route. The Temples of Planet prove that the Gaians are as traditionally religious as the Believers ever were. They have a claim to be more traditional, actually, given that their religion hearkens back to an even older-school paganism. And we know that the canonical Gaians are doing quite well.
So there’s quite a bit of pathos in Miriam’s failure. Remember, it was not inevitable. She took her best shot. But in the end, her proud, ancient philosophical tradition will have no sway over the future of mankind. And if the player can figure this out by now, we know for sure that Miriam is perceptive enough to see the writing on the wall.
And so we turn to the quote. This is the conclusion of Sister Miriam’s last testament; these are her last words. Soon after leaving this message, she stepped into a Psi Gate. But this one wasn’t attuned to a particular target destination. So instead of delivering her to a nearby base as would normally be the case, it annihilated her physical form.
This is suicide. A futuristic form of suicide that has a gnostic sort of purity, perhaps, but suicide nonetheless. Judging by her exhortation to her followers, she intends this to be a mass suicide. Historically, such an event tends to take place after the leaders lose hope that they can accomplish their worldly goals. And, given that it usually accompanies a catastrophic or apocalyptic defeat, it’s understandable that it’s also commonly accompanied by a strong belief that the end times are approaching.
But the fascinating thing about this is that Miriam is totally and completely right. The player knows that the game is about to end, which will quite literally end her fictional world. But, even purely in-universe, the end of the tech tree heralds the end of anything the player is likely to be able to concretely identify with.
Sister Miriam was the last pure canonical human. At the end we can see that she was presented with a profound choice. She could have chosen to eat from the tree of life and, thus, join the others in true immortality. But it would not have been on her terms. In her eyes, it would have cost Miriam her very soul. So she opted instead for the final death, trusting in the promise of Heaven to the very last.