From Ignatius’ Private Journal
I, LUKE, DEACON, having found this hidden Journal, provide it to you. I do that with some misgiving.
By Ignatius hand: The sun is rising and once again, as too often at this time, I am unwell in spirit. My body which houses my soul, is in its lower reaches, writhing, pains as if speared. My head is also in pain. The body expresses the spirit, for I have been beset by demons. As Satan tempted Jesus, so I am tested, here within me, within my dwelling. My dwelling’s exterior walls are strong. They withstand earthquakes when others walls fall They withstand Neptune earth-shaker’s wrath. Would that my flesh, my mind when dreaming, was as strong as good walls of timber, brick and cement.
I will myself to be strong but within me is fire, I am Nourani, Fire. Fire is a life force, but it also destroys. It must be controlled less, raging, it decimate. There is no solid structure to it, rather it is energy to be tamed or to suffer. The fire of me is my energy, but my strength and moderation are from the Lord. His dwelling is the better one. I hurry to its protections, to the arms of God.
I write this Journal to myself. I do it only at night. I am astonished,`sometimes horrified by what is here. I am also proud that I have had the courage for the doing of it. I reread it now as punishment and near-ritual. I do reread it for the better acquaintance of its writer whom I do not yet understand. As I write I am excited. I sweat, sometimes tremble, sometimes am moved to awe as if my being revealed here is a stranger to myself, its only reader. I have listened to my Christian subjects when they come to me with their tales of self, of woe, of need. I am bored by their low humanity but I listen dutifully. Only or a while. The measure of my difference is that nothing I write or reread here is boring, although I can imagine souls so dull that were they privileged to read these secrets- and that would be the ultimate breach of me- the reach of their understanding of me, my familiars, is beyond their grasp. I accept that we are bored with one another, or at least I with others. God is my good company, whereas at night before the terrible Visitor arrives, before self-loathing possesses me, I feast on my righteous thoughts, and honor the quill that inscribes them. It is my honest tool, brave, for its ink flows uninhibited by my suffering. It is almost Roman in its indifference to pain.
For all of my dream-born suffering, I am yet also with joy. There is in the coming of the Lord in Jesus and to us, the salvation plan incarnate in Christ. Words such as “gift” and “glory” do not suffice, for inside me is a tingling, a thrill unto trembling, almost transport. In daylight thinking on God I am suffused by Him. I am in transport to the other world yet while in this one. I pray that here I open myself in complete confession, that showing my naked sin, my soul desperate for forgiveness, atonement. That must come from God, I am not the instrument for it. Such honesty and repentence, even when I am the victirm, will be prodromal to my salvation, my becoming in heaven. That prodromal as shame, confession, disgust, intimacy constitute my proof the Parousia is at hand within me.
Let the benighted scoff. This now of the Parousia which displays the desert of myself since the Redeemer has not appeared. Perhaps He will never appear. There, in writing, one of my secrets: distrust. Yet contrary is the forgiveness which leaves me not stricken and so already condemned never to be resurrected. This myself of horrors is yet allowed life and hope, thus are contained within me proofs of God’s realm therein. That is also my secret. I am totally subordinate to Him as must my flock be to me. These are absolutes. As I abide in God so this fellowship finds their salvation. This Assembly in its house contains God through me. We, together, sustain the faithful. Their faith by itself is of little matter but that His light sustaining it is a proof against doube. I require much torchlight, many candles as we celebrate, for I am also Fire. I tell them, “ The light, the glory, we are illuminated. Rejoice”. I reveal this to my flock, but the insidious ones, the invidious ones, the sly false teachers who conspire against our Truth, they spread doubt, false tellings, and take joy in their defiance.
I dare not allow anyone to know that I see the Devil in the dark, there behind the table altar, his eyes glowing yellow, his acrid breath foul upon me. As we celebrate the Eucharist here, followed by our full meal together, as we drink and eat the blood and flesh of Christ, so Satan waits to dine upon us, our souls, any of us unwary who stumbles in his faith and practice, in his convictions, in his deeds. To stumble is dangerous indeed. At dawn when I come in to this large hall to pray I sometimes smell his now faint odor, for he leaves before the sun, his enemy, rises. In here in this sacred place, Satan is yet not afraid to enter, keeping his distance away from our light and the real presence of Jesus God in this room. The battle Jesus fought in the desert is real. As there is Beauty and Goodness, so there is Evil. He can be a dank fog stinking hovering over the Orontes. He can be the sinuous body of an Egyptian whore. He can be the howl high on Mt Silpius, its giant wolf. He is able to mimic the enticing pipes of Pan. I myself have been taken by the distant melody.
That the Devil attends my church in its darkness is not because he aspires to conversion. Membership? Oh yes, on his terms. He is there smiling, waiting for any to falter, and there are many with wrong belief who are in insurrection against Christ who will thereby descend. It is an easy condition into which to fall for those deeply religious, and those who would be Christian are that. For the deeply religious, seeking, finding but examining too much, there are special dangers. The religious mind that is deep, seeking God, is struggling to hear and to comprehend. In doing that it will beset by competing, seductive voices of false prophets. These are a torment. Or that mind come closer to us, can be overwhelmed with the effort toward too much understand of the mystery by mind alone, not allowing surrender to faith and immersion in the glory. When that is done without benefit of the guidance of the bishop, or the solid presence of brothers and sisters pious in this house of God, there will be wrong conclusions. The human mind as deep must move toward faith, but it is the spirit, the soul where the connected heart lies deeply beating, which understands. In the end, the mind counts for nothing but to ponder mysteries.
Fracture and confusion are the risks of the religious search, where that, failing saving inspiration, elects wrong paths. Hecate is at every seeker’s crossroads. Even when on the right path, the religious mind, which, open, obedient and accepting, is a necessary condition for salvation, must be alive in this world and the Other, saved in and by Christ who was Himself Jesus and God, and in this awesome come- to- earth –once- only condition, of several joined parts. The religious mind must likewise comprehend; partake of this world and the Other, One and inseparable, also distinct. This is a deep and mysterious matter, passionate, intricate, and because of its complexity, the religious mind so challenged can fragment with deep clefts, like deep cloven earth after Neptune, cursing us, shakes the earth, burning and tumbling and crushing thousands to death. The religious mind, because deep, before achieving the consolation of Christ, the comfort of God, self realization as one of God’s People, is easily shaken, easily deep cloven, given to splits and crumbling, to fragmentation and avalanches of confusion, disabling doubt, to anger and denunciations, or to madness. I have seen these states. When I preach the need for unity in this church, in being together, in utter subordination in faith, I preach the health of the mind, the body, and the soul and of this church. I preach the necessity of subordination to the bishop.
I myself have fought these battles, am upon awakening near -bleeding as the struggle continues. My Beast is Satan conspiring with Oneiros the god of dreams, my flesh and mind are battlegrounds. Know that the unity I preach is my own anguish become wisdom come out of my own weakness, loneliness, despair out of guilt. The intense seeker, unguided, is always at risk of his mind’s dissolution into madness. What happens to a lunatic’s soul? I do not know. I would pray God’s healing intervention.
The salvation company I preach to, this community of Christian brethren, all well-ruled by bishops, is our communal anchor in their unison of prayer and song. The great prize Jesus offers, full health of mind, body, soul and community on earth, a community closer to heaven through knowledge of salvation and love, and afterward our eternal life visible, specific, the soul and self perfecting, is for the deep mind come to communicate with the soul. There is struggle before tranquility, conflict before reconciliation through faith and prayer The end is assured by grace, the achievement guaranteed by the Jesus crucified risen God. My struggle is my constant test, for it seems that in my sleep the devil enters me, and out of knowledge of myself as Satan’s sometimes victim, I hate him. It is the hatred which is saving. No, Christian love does not embrace Satan. It is that because of my saving hatred that the Devil does not abide in me, is expelled by my tears and anger, ultimately Grace. Hatred for evil sets its seal upon my salvation. Self hatred of the Devil within is a Christian necessity. Other bishops, Polycarp for example, do not comprehend this.
It is toward that salvation I must needs hurry, a destiny set out of God’s fire burning within me, Ignatius the holy Fire, burning melting all it nears into images of God. Ignatius Fire, I am a volcano within, and in this holy Fire knows no peace, only burning. I burn for Christ as I forecast one day martyrs will be burned for him.
As with others before me, I knew no love of man or God. It is within this church that the quenching waters of love cured my separateness, now cools my terrible fires, heals me, and is capable of healing all here. Fire is opposed by Ice, which is without love. Ice is void for it is not alive; there is no Fire in it. Ice is separate, disaffected. On mornings such as this I awaken cold and shivering although there is warmth aplenty outside. I awaken cold and shivering; it is the Prince who has embraced me on such a night, not God. I recognize my jeopardy.
With the sun rising I gather my strength. With the sun rising, there is God’s light. It shines in the hall, this house of God and our assembly, where we are so many souls in need, so very much in need. Weakness and strength our paradox, sense and folly, love and apartness, certainty and doubt, all our paradox, all our nature. These are the divisions of man which dare not divide this church. Dare not but do. As the sun rises I gain strength for the work of it. The work is for unity, which is paradox for unity demands acceptance of division, uniqueness not apartness, differences but not separateness. On spirit and substance we must agree, on the substantial not peripheral we must agree, agree or all will be alone, alone and cursed, as one man walking a road, and brigands set upon his defenselessness, so the Devil seeks such prey. He seeks to set us each apart. Know this as I do, as I know my burning fire.
Here in this house we are subverted from within by false teachers who seduce to disaffection, who do not obey, who in their faithlessness must be made to feel my power and Fire. False Christians these they will know no asylum in the heart of God nor in the pagan temples of Daphne, in Daphne’s licentiousness, in its whores, oracles, and error. Apollo’s Temple in Daphne offers sanctuary for the fleeing felon, however heinous his crime but for one against the emperor. It is not a sanctuary to which to flee from God’s all-seeing eye, nor find eternal consolation for the soul.
I must achieve the success of this house; this church for within it is the only path to salivation, indeed no other faith knows of salvation. Teachings yes, but it is in the human belongingness as our souls together, right daring not be alone. In the Eucharist in imbibing Christ, we join him and are protected from loneliness. In the Eucharist we celebrate the totality of our divinity as best we can achieve that, as a body, in the body, in the wine as the blood, Jesus taken unto us and God with us, thereby we become part of a divine universe. The Eucharist does this. That joining makes the Devil , that Prince of chaos and nothingness, makes him lonely, not ourselves. This symbolic act realizes the universe. The words of the Eucharist are not words idly to be said by a bored priest in the empty room of his spirit. What we do is the ultimate enlightened magic, for in it we bind ourselves to the cosmic God.
There is no faith built on emptiness, In the assemblies, in the churches bound together, none are alone, none separated from one another, all then, their union, part of the community of God we all can know the glory. The Assembly, the soul of it, is divine, offers salvation as a future near-guaranteed, where no individual can do that or receive that in a solitary state, although it is the bishop who, understanding this, calls men and women to the saving community. We are a universal sodality part of God’s management, economy. We are already more than stone or wood, more than mortal as long as we are together and by a bishop well led. That is why disunity is the Devil’s way, that is why he is called “the dividing one” He generates loneliness and therein his hope and our hopelessness. In hopelessness are the Devil’s victory and the Lord’s sadness for children lost to his love. Lost to false gods, to the siege of demons, hopeless of victory over Satan who dines on our lust, vanity, unlove.
I am not well. It is as if I have drunk too much wine and the sunlight does not recover me. I am dryness not moisture, I am parched even though I lay beneath a fountain. Yes, I do drink too much wine. I fortify myself before going to bed. Wine’s confidence is false; its snoring sleep is restless. My mind is troubled, as too often upon awakening. My thoughts besiege me, images inflame my desiccation I confess this obsession, these visions. I see false gods surrounding me. Tyche herself, ordinarily no beast as goddess of this city, yet herself demanding worship and offerings lest she with Neptune tumble her displeasing Antioch into rubble killing a quarter of the city’s people, as a few years ago, so many crushed. “The god that grants no favor, deserves no offerings” so say the Greeks. It is fear of Neptune, Tyche, which keeps the donations coming. The history of gifts to lesser gods, or false ones, proves their weakness and inconstancy.
I see false gods parading, marching as a Roman triumph with men’s souls chained behind them, downcast souls and the noise of chains clanking on cobbles, souls of men doomed instead of saved, a parade, an accusing parade of them! But that cannot be. I am sorry, this morning I am not well, I tremble and I shout out their abominations, some in sacred harlotry, female and male, maiden or matron, harlot hierodouloi, “ servants” are they, serving false gods and the lusts of men, women too, whether lusting for the other or sexed the same they are, whether prostitution day and night or required by the obscenities of their gods to sacrifice their virginity, no matter whether princess or slave just before their weddings. Pagans here, and shamefully I must say some Christians, are wedded to sacred debaucheries, which are everywhere and closely hereabouts. Hierodoulie those fornicating servants, and “heron” a word for “servant” but intended purer, but not always so. Heron, our Heron here named for his service then and now, earlier Hielopolis-Ephesis where he was such a one serving, now here with us and ordained to follow me as Bishop. I am not sure of his strength, no, I am not at all sure of it.
I am sorry; I am not this morning well. My tongue, this pen are wild with thoughts I should not have, but their pressure is of an avalanche, my mind races, crumbles as an avalanche overcoming my dwelling. I must ask, what is this Heron’s serving past? I ask at which temples and orifices did he make offerings and sacrifices. He assures me none but the pure and will be none but the pure, but I have seen evil and know its empire, its magnitude. Heron, this now Christian servant may well have served the Prince, often and delectably, whatever his pious protests. I can taste the sin of others, , smell it, feel it prickle my skin and burn my eyes. I loathe it, work to forgive it. Sometimes its presence excites me.
Oh forgive me God, I am not well this morning. My mind is peopled with obscenities, I am this morning unclean. But that is the other reality of the world! I know the possibilities of men, and of women, more than that, for this morning I can see with eyes such as Satan’s for mine is a special sense. It rules out protestations of purity,\for there is only separateness and being so alone. There is no remedy for that but God, but Jesus embraced in holy fellowship. But are the words enough, the songs, and the sacred meals as sacrifice to Jesus Lord himself remembered, the stories we tell and tell again? Are these enough? I ask you; no I shout the question, what intentions, what devotion, what guarantees the purity of thy heart? For all of the sweetness of my congregation, for all of their prayers and smiles. I smell evil in them and all about. And yes this morning I am unwell, oh Lord forgive me. My sickness entertains doubt. My sickness entertains evil. I must be purified as must be the world.
Most others, even bishops, would suspect me should I be with them when I am unwell, if then should I hint to them of that “other” of me, and my doubts. I am not so unhinged as to speak plainly even when I am being challenged by the Visitor. That occurs only when night has fallen or the dawn of curing sunlight is promised but not arrived. This evil overwhelming is only occasional It moves me to shouting, but I am not unhinged, I shout out privately, When I write it is when calm and judicious, for I commit no darker thought to writing but for this, today, exception, When I write by light I am in a different mood, glad for the communion of other bishops, telling them only the highest thoughts, my conclusions as to liturgy and meanings, and, as with Paul, recommendations. When I am pure, my deep religious mind is active, I am much respected.
And yet, even when my moisture returns, my hands may still shake and my mind, returning to blessed stability, may give a start like a frightened horse, and bolt. I am sorry, I am unwell, I bolt, I am unable to reign those other terrible truths which come to me with the dark overwhelming. Those who criticize me, should I have given them those hints of knowings that come to me at night and pre the dawn, are themselves debased, dirty, otherwise they could not suspect me, for what is in me is in them, these evils. Baptism did not wholly purify them nor do their prayers. They envy and fear one who understands them, the world, understands them as in and of that world, pious and dirty. Two Princes are there for them, one the Devil who rules this world, the other Christ. The Devil is the friendlier, for he always approaches. Christ is not aloof, but one must go to him before there is reciprocity. Some bishops lured, are close to being seized by the Devil. A martyr, no bishop so far is that, by being that sacrifice, assures his purity, however much earlier the Devil has soiled him, or more often, her. I say then, beware of women and their lure.
A bishop who, when I but hint at the so-near possessing evil, and who is silent in response but for his eyes, tells me thereby of himself, his knowledge. As with Adam, his knowledge without purifications, sacrifice, provideds much that is forfeit to Satan. The kingdom he enters is Hell. A few bishops have learned to fear me, for I read their eyes and can foretell their doom. I am ill but I am not without dark as well as enlightened gifts. So they fear me, so then do I fear the Visitor and his host, thus myself.
All about us are other lesser gods and even smaller demons. Their shrines surround the sacred grotto of Peter and Paul, which cave, I have it on the word of those before me, was once the scene of pagan orgies and may yet now be so at night, so I am told, within may yet be found those worshipping wrong gods, or totally descended as part of that, reduce themselves to writing bodies, these squirming, pumping, thrusting, moaning, spurting where man, woman, and demon, whether in adoration or debauchery, are indistinguishable. I say then that so base is become the earth, so great is its need for purity through God, baptism, that self loathing is a necessity, otherwise we are not that that fully examined life, I now add, “soul”, the Greeks so prized. Other religions now lend themselves to debasement. Religion but for ours and Hebrews’, endorses sin where worship becomes bodies joined in unnatural delight, in lubrications, risings and climaxing giving forth fountains of sperm in fornication without regard to vows and right nature. A parade, I say, some in my flock earlier and now secretly, slyly, strange baptisms and anointing of flesh dedicated wantonly to receive and thrust at orgies where demons feast on the altar of lechery, lasciviousness, wantonness. I know you then, as I know myself some nights, know from your hungry eyes, oh fellow bishop, know your forbidden worship, see in you those gushing rivers s and heaving orifices which prostitute your soul, the depths of which soul are the depths of hell. I know you as you are, my fellow, and I shall not succumb but will be made ever more pure and glorified. You will envy me that from you seats in Hell.
It is not flesh itself which is evil. Absolutely not and totally contrary to what Jesus the man taught. It is there and must the substance necessary for response to offerings, to move the embedded soul toward the gift, to be resurrected. But there are false gifts to which the flesh is easily lured, by which it is deceived. And so, two kinds of offerings, those by Satan and those from God manifest in Christ. When the former are taken, then is the flesh also. It becomes the vehicle of the Prince’s own intentions, or of those myriad subordinate beings who he may employ, or lesser immortals in themselves independent. .
In serving other gods, Hieridoulie or Heron before wrong altars, you parade your abominations whether by prayer or offering, and by what it is you offer, thus for and to which orifice, to which stranger, sailor, soldier, no matter their trade, your trade then is in error, and likely in lust and the utmost debasement. Yes you parade them, these false gods, the likes of Adonis, Syrian Maiouma, Mithra, Baal, and Zeus Dolichenos, Zeus-Mabuchi’s, Palmyrene monster Selamanes, Selene the moon herself, Zeus-Bomos, Attar, Ashtar, Tammuz, Atargatis, more, so many more, I myself can no longer count. There are as many gods and demons as tongues to speak them, tongues to caress them, tongues to lick lips their own and others, lick anticipations, organs and orifices. Through false gods or denials sin is generated. Flesh of itself is that and good in itself and nothing more. It is its use that we measure. If the toil of your labor produces gifts for barbarian gods, the muscled flesh of you is wasted. Think on it, barbarian gods are neither lovers nor providers. They promise, they take, they mock, they tempt, they demand, they invite to execrable lusts, slaughters, and excesses. When surrounded by such spirits, such forces, that is when a human is entirely alone. The misguided mind is empty of riches., the soul wastes away. With such demons about we are become a desert. Each grain of sand portends a demon’s bite. We protest ourselves afflicted. We must undertake the purifying final journey to God.
Yes, I shout it, I see a mighty parade of them! Shameless. At night I as I fitfully sleep I see them, gods, demons, dominions, familiars, as they march winking, beckoning, fornicating, laughing, sucking, luring, prickling, snorting, pricking. Do you know where they march, do you? That plunging parade sent by Satan whose roar I cannot shut out? I tell you, tell you to this parchment which I will destroy but I must tell you, these beasts of gods, who else is the Creator?, march into me! Yes my own scourging to repentance is that these beasts are all night entering my- I cannot speak of the orifice from which filth flows out to the cloacae of Antioch, but into it new filth enters For enter it they do and unbearable its itching from their spears and pickings, pointed tongues and ears all piercing, all penetrating me, sent by Satan to besiege and take my soul. Worst, there is some pleasure in it, as a woman raped enjoys the animal she and her ravisher both are. Satan would have my very soul. I shout again, he shall not! It is a paroxysm, my back arches, and there are no seals or bindings for my fluids or my screams. I awaken terrified and spent, yes, spent, defeated, soiled so sullied and ashamed. I have not the power to seal myself off from all thoughts of evil, for these at night possess me. My Will is flawed, not in its reach for God, but it was born with defect that can only be cured by His greater proximity which, while others summon that to their experience in this world, joining the Lord. I must await that Grace which can come to me in the other world where Spirit is befriending. I am impatient, I will rush to Grace through a lion’s mouth.
I am bifurcated, a Syrian once pagan, indeed, for a while I was a magician. Spells, curses, exorcisms, bindings to compel impotency, bindings to compel a woman to infertility or abortions, bindings mostly out of envy or hurt. They worked of course, but there is no greatness in them. I found I had that deep religious mind. I learned to read Greek, made acquaintance with their philosophers, all mind allowing spirit, for Plato clearly knew God. Then I sat with Hebrew rabbis and was converted there. Yahweh terrified me. I became obsessed with purity, following the laws. I memorized the Torah, was taken with the Testaments and prophecy. The Jews are wonderful as brothers, but they do not conceive Romans as also brothers. Hardly. During that time I became sick with my obsessions. I despised my wrong-doing, the warping of my mind, the sins of desire and of deviation from the holy law. I fasted, I prayed, I read the Torah, but I could not be cleansed. I was filth of the sort that only Paul would understand. I verged upon madness. A man named Joseph, himself a Jew of deep mind and deeper discontent gave me Paul to read. Perhaps Joseph was a secret Jesus come to me just as Greek gods in human guise walked among people, so might He have chosen me. There is glory in the possibility that Joseph was Jesus who gave me Paul who led me to baptism, to Christ, to forgiving grace now become in my mind one day free of obsession. except night’s and upon awakening whose terrors beset me but are not of my own doing, for these demons come to me, I do not summon them. I do not seek horror. Happily, my prayer beginning with mine at dawn drive all evil away. I am made tranquil and whole again. I can strive for the holy, although at best I am a soiled and distorted mirror upon which to reflect God. I try, Lord, I try. You Lord must know that of me. I beg you know that of me!
For that I am so grateful that I must offer myself as sacrifice, no longer Jesus’ blood and wine at the Eucharist table, no, my own body in its complete sacrifice to roaring lions before roaring crowds, while within myself I shall be entirely quiet and peaceful. I will stand straight on that Coliseum field with arms outstretched as the beasts circle me. I will be as a crucifix, in my minds eye I am already there crucified. I join Jesus. I myself take on the suffering of Jesus to be like Him, so in that likeness I may enter the company of the God, theOther, be of and with the Lord. I shall be cleansed , in the pain of my sacrifice in the mouth of the beast, I rejoice in that punishment. My sins are washed away in my own blood. My flesh which the Devil loves is destroyed. My act defies the Devil his pleasures. In death I deny him access to me. I will become pure again, as once at the moment baptism, as experienced in forgiving grace. I rejoice in my destruction and the rebirth found in death. In that is a Christian paradox.
I allow that I am a deep religious mind. It is also the case that I was before, in transition to deeper, focused things, a magician. In the minor towns of eastern Syria, the magician is feared and respected, but he is entirely a workman in the service of other people’s wishes and needs, thus a good man. He sees to diseases doctors do not know, so does much healing. He works for safe pregnancies, aroused, human and animal desire, potency and fertility, for good crops and healthy flocks. We did not kill by poison or potions, nor by song sung by sorceresses in the night; those deadly “carmina”. Those are unlawful under Roman law, for the lex Cornelia outlaws deadly “carmina”. Likewise the law prohibits human sacrifice, of the sort the Britains did before Romans came. They sacrificed children, burnt their entrails to please local gods. Priests offered the pleasing meal in exchange for powers, including making miracles. These were not “miracles, for all the elements which were means to them were known. . A “miracle” is when an uncommonly great and wondrous event occurs without the use of magic, when God-power brings it about. Jesus accomplished these.
In my home village, the worst a magician might do was to destroy a neighbor’s crop, transporting the harvest so doubled to the mantic-employing farmer. One witched water for wells, was wizard enough to save a calf, diviner and astrologer enough to choose a wedding day, healer enough to cure headaches, some paralyses, all simply the work needed where villagers have needs not otherwise to be achieved. I once did greater harm. I cast a jealous spell which made a young woman totally infertile. I was inexpert in the spell and in binding the girl’s hair and finger nails, where my client intended only one miscarriage, but no further pregnancies at all ensued. My morality was immature at the time, so were my powers.
Moses was a great magician as the Testament and the elder Pliny make clear. Priests among the Greeks were that, using their special relationship to the gods to procure good things for the city. The itinerant magician, on the other hand, does not work within the fabric of established law. He has no citizen’s duty to achieve a goal good for the city. Plato considered the outsider working for others’ selfish ends to be criminal. I understand this, for it as if a Christian used his knowledge of Satan to make a demonic pact bringing about seductions, madness, memory loss, the burning of churches, the sudden deaths of his enemies. Now that I am in this great city of Antioch where much more is known of magic, what experts can do, I have seen the results, recently a recently a synagogue burned, a lawyer trying a case in court was suddenly struck dumb, a business competitor dying in the night. The other day in the Greek cemetery a sorcerer was caught out trying to raise a man from the dead. His defense for this hybristic work? “They paid me well”. So much for that, the mantic’s fine paid was a big one.
A sorcerer must have talent, must be in touch with lower gods and demons, whereas a diviner, just as the State augurs and High Priests in Rome, must know how to read livers, the flight of owls, the talk of ravens, or as astrologer know consequence in lives for conjunctions of planets. In all of these, it is a capacity to see, to know deeper regularities in the relationship between seemingly unrelated events so that the unseen but existing regularity can be used to forecast. Magic is all quite sensible but requires sensitivity, Gnosis as to deeper truths and how to manipulate powers controlling these events. Magic is not at all good for controlling the whimsy of gods such as the Greek; it is best done, at least in my town, by locals who know the people, the forces including demons, and the nature of deep relationships. It is then, as with the Persians who made it a regular art, close to medicine, close to astrology, close to local gods and dominions, and in these latter, is a form of religion.
The deeper religious mind reaches much beyond magic. It is one that knows awe, unselfishness, the nature and source of Beauty, that appreciates love, that is in personal contact with God and this only within the framework of the church which has a divine, not human and exploitative purpose. It knows the greatest of unseen relationships, thus God and man set in the fabric of time, space, this and the Other world as an immense only now conceivable interacting dimension.
Plato was deep in his insight. His was a deep religious mind unfortunate to live before the Coming, Plato tells us, in the Symposium, that Eros, god of sex, was the major intermediary between the world of gods and the world of men. He credits Eros with more: divinations, the art of priests in sacrifice, initiation, incantation, such magic, always “white” (but for evil priests and false prophets which I know but Plato did not) as priests use. In my own practice, I was employed more to encourage, or spoil, the arts, acts, and capacities of love, genuine or but lust, than any other task. I had not then known from Plato that my power came from Eros. There is a greatness in Plato’s insight. There is immense energy in the flesh’s desire for union, as in my own for God.
I have never married, although have known women intimately before my baptism. I am glad I have known women so that I know something of them now, but even then, young and expecting much, I did not experience that ecstasy when coupling.. Nor have I achieved union with the One, nor will I, nor will most humans. No magician can unbind my curse respecting union with a woman. I am not sure who back in my Syrian village bound me, but it was some enemy, probably a jealous woman, who took away my ability to love in that way. The course of my life was changed.
I can define magic, whatever its form or practitioner, by what it is not. There is no soul involved, no eternal life, no morality, no reciprocity, and little power. There is no “incarnatus” It is not Beautiful. It does not change man for the better. He does not live forever in greater perfection. The magical religion realizes no greatness. It may excite for the moment, but it does not fulfill. Even though useful day-to-day, here-and-now, it is a bore.
The Devil is a master magician but beyond that, he is deeply religious. Regrettably he takes his power by borrowing. A parasite then but for his Will. In the Devil there need be no pragmatism, he is not paid in coin, he is not shallow. His work amuses him. As the actor for Evil he is a force pleasing itself, guilefully pleasing the short-sighted man, but a force intent on perturbing God, insofar as God- I think he must cry- sees how weak and readily spoiled is his mortal creation. I know. I have seen the Devil’s shining eyes, smelled his acrid odor, much worse than a stinking goat. The higher magic of Satan is that when with him we love ourselves in a way that denies our neighbor, and God’s command. In Satan’s war with God we are foils. In Satan’s war on us, we are the spoils.
It was that realization that preceded my conversion and fulfillment It was that path that opened the depths of my religious mind, one leading me to profound experiences, faith over mere confidence, prayer over incantations, love over utility, spirit over practicalities. Even so, in these there are no guarantees but by the grace of God. It was not only that jealous girl who did it, I have since put a curse on myself, come to ambivalently close to the Devil’s embrace, for the Devil is marvelously endowed. I am grateful now, for through martyrdom I will destroy my disobedient mind ugly in its dreaming, its night roaming and romping. In martyrdom I will destroy that self-same flesh that at night, yes this very last night, and me no Bishop during it I tell you, suffers Zotadic pleasures. yes, the amiable slick and moaning pleasures of wanted and willing orifices. I was ,as a Syrian child, paid by older strangers for the use of mine. At the time we knew no sin in it because none of us were Hebrew nor knew any Christian. I was good at these trades, enjoying the money, and yes pleasing the men and the sensation of it. My sin, guilt are sensuality. There is a great heat in another’s lust that even in a village near a desert broils into further sweaty gratification.
I learned of and to become Christian and none too soon. It was a great gift. In daylight there is fellowship, forgiveness, salvation, in all of these an immensity of rejoicing. Christian rejoicing, yes, for I am a good Bishop, I suspect the best, one admittedly a bit given over to what Tacitus holds to be the worst of passions which he says is desiring power. Contradiction here for I need power for my own and Christianity’s protection. Should I support someone to be Bishop, he will appreciate power’s necessity and enjoy its exercise. I am sure Tacitus, close enough to temporal power is not penetrated at night by Satan! Power in this world lends itself to the next. God forgives me power’s pleasure, nor can it be denied the Devil. I employ it to lead the brethren to God, who Himself hardly a stranger to power, understands its uses. The density of it permeating Him assureds His authority and reach. That so, although all the testimony of Jesus is contrary, I could entertain the possibility, no blasphemy intended, that He must also enjoy its pleasures. That was Jesus’ secret, I suspect one of many. On such matters my deep religious mind will think many thoughts.
My mind is split on several matters; some so deep I do not comprehend them at all. They are not, blessing be to God, none of the false teachings that rend into factions in my congregation. It is no wonder I preach unity for I cannot achieve it within my community, or myself. It is as with Apollo at Delphi preaching, “all things in moderation”. In the days of that inscription, Bachae, Atreus, Iphigenea, Medea, Oedipus, Achilles, Ulysses, the far wanderer, as examples, there was no more moderation in Greece than Helvetic Alps in Syria, ice in Egypt, love in the heart of Satan. Such device is toward that which does not exist or, if successfully educational, is not yet achieved.
So it is with this assembly where my sermons are sometimes aimed at myself one man, my Syrian self Nourani, is possessed at night when malicious Oneiros, god of dreams comes in hateful lust The other man, I Ignatius, Bishop, is possessed in daylight of visions of unifying love. In daylight he is the Syrian ascetic as taught. At night I am a Syrian Hebrew suffering the abominations of that race and faith. Daylight and the sun, Apollo, the Light of God, these purify, bleach any shame; allow me that which those completely Hellenized enjoy without shame. I write in daylight. I preach in daylight or it’s following evenings when at the Eucharist I am more than blessed, where I am embers, not flames. Night invites Dream invites Satan whose visits invite me deathward. Yes, the truth of it, I cannot survive my night-self Nourani Satan- caressed.
I am, since childhood, trained, or since forced, father and lusting stranger conspiring, to be obedient victim. My child orifices until I ran away were at the pleasure of strangers My father kept the money. He beat me if I did not please. Do you wonder that I demand Power? That I hate subordination? That I revere my new Father, God of love, not the drunken man, hatful, hated father who sired me? My mother, beaten, herself abused, could not protect me. And as she told me, “the money is good”.
The deep religious mind is composed of all that it is and once was that is knowable. Lights and shadows. Some fractures are made early and show healed in daylight. Night reveals crevices and disgust. No more than my mind can sort out the economy of God in Christ, that architecture of mystery and joy, can I achieve unity of night and day, of flame and embers, between Greek and Hebrew. I cannot heal all fractures.
I have sought to redeem myself in being the best of bishops. I pray it is so. I wrestle yet with the holyits architecture and economy. To this point I conceive best in terms of energies and forms, lights and shadows. I preach that Christ is the redeemer who comes as, is sent by God, ruler of heaven and our souls. The redeemer will overwhelm the Prince of who rules this earth, whose sway is mortal and material, whose passions are base, that Prince who redeems nothing and inspires to nothingness. Because men’s souls are spirit we are joined to the greater Spirit and may there return home. It is that lightness within which is soul, as energy of salvation installed in the house of material form. It is not darkness, nor shadow, nor Night ruled by the Prince of this world, which is resurrected, it is the energy of light that ascends. In this, Paul, Hebrew, understood not. It is the case that not all men are endowed with the same energy and light, some have lighter shadows, thus the far-seeing aspect of them, which includes the soul, is a larger proportion of their being. They are less ridden with what the flesh is and must have, their essence so, is not so deeply imbedded in flesh as material form. A light shadow already partakes of other worlds, it is precursor them, it is itself more energy, less mass. It is light then in two ways, by mass and by the illumination of being far-seeing. It knows then and waits in cheerful impatience. I am too much mass. I do not move to the Other easily, the boundary between us is thick. Understand then that I must will my body to move to God, be carried by the energy of soldiers and ships to martyrdom.
Mine is an heavy spirit, as with most humans. Its vision of the One is veiled. I imagines more, knows less. I must run to him swiftly for his tender caress, his holy kiss, his understanding and forgiveness I must join His energy, his economy. All of us heavy with matter carry it as a burden. Without Jesus to tell us of God lifting our burden, all of us, are lost, so very endlessly lost. Only He can save and that through our obedient understanding. All of us wait to be saved, yes the very all and everyone of us.
I will soon be saved from the other fires inside me of which I do not speak, but here to this parchment in privacy never to be shown, this pen flowing horrors and penetrations and failed understandings, to this parchment, to you my God who’s all-seeing eye reads it, who knows I am a torrent of flowing lava exploding out of a scarlet starred heaven, a flaming hell, mortal then, blessed and cursed, as are all of us out of Adam, out of Satan, out of Jesus Christ, too close in time out of my father’s drunken loins. I shall receive your kiss soon my Lord, in your epiphany as a devouring beast, its roar to me as your thunder is your voice. I shall be blissful under the lion’s kisses, as I my troubled flesh is rent my unbloodied soul escapes to your arms, oh my Father, oh my love and salvation, I long for you.
Failed understandings? Those are of the mind not the soul. I do not know the nature of Christ therefore of God to whose bosom I race and yet whose bosom I do not comprehend, even in the simplest logic of the economy of God . His possibly multiple architecture, the structure of his household, its forms and its energies. I enjoy certainty but I do not know I do not care what a divided mind believes. Belief is the working of mind and the obedience of words demanded in recitation. One might as well be making offering to the State Gods of Rome; meaningless exercise is mere “belief”. To be with God one must know He is there, outside and in. What kind of a bishop am I, eh? I demand words be said, belief affirmed, and everyone hearing them is in conformity, is satisfied they know the essential words, even if they are engraved on air. Most in my assembly do not read. They hear, hear my words engraved on air. Yet if they are hearty enough, air become a driving wind, they permeate all and everywhere, penetrate to where Knowings are bound, there in the heart of hearts, in the soul of souls.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter