CHAPTER LIV

The Appearance


From S. Cornelius journal:   It has shaken me. He appeared, but was it truly so?  I ask again, was it He there?  Crossing all boundaries and domains did He come to me in my world and I not dreaming?  Did he bring me momentarily to his world, that other world? I am confused, even as to capitalizing the who of it. 


Or was I in a dream bringing him to me. Did he enter my dream by his intent?  If a dream, still other questions; did Oneiros god of dreams bring him?  If so who instructed it so? Him, Oneiros, my own lure or devising?  I deny such an Appearance is accident;  I am too shaken and now altered for chance to be playing such awesome games. Is it possible that such a wonder is a thing a man can do without some intervention?   Do I myself make lively inventions visiting my room whom I, somehow, in the unfathomed of me instruct to awaken me from my sleep? Is such as this a nocturnal imagining that any man might make? I believe not, for this was a personal thing seeming to single me out.  If he was there, as my shaken, surprised, now much- changed –from- it being insists, was it still only a dream, lesser then by far in credibility, so that in insisting he was there but that I was indeed awake, do I fool myself in insisting that I was awake? I am unquestionably vastly atered by His visit. May I take that as a proof of it, or is it but signification? I know absolutely what I believe happened, but such a wonder to it and now of me, I must be sure.  I hate liars; if myself one about Him being here, I would, were I the honest judge, loath me. And yet I do not, not at all, so again I argue, a proof. 


Whose intention is at work here? What source?  What modality? Not only my own, certainly,  and my senses only if they can apprehend marvels, not of what words and sentiments already apprehend, but a revealed domain of which I am myself now invited to be aware.  Is it not the apparition but myself who is the visitor? Some visit confirms itself; the simple trust that He was there beside me. 


He was absolutely real,  Him, opening Himself to my senses, this visitor..  He was there, no, better said, here.  I was not asleep.  He was next to me, ever so differentiated from the cavernous space of night, a presence.  Yes, there must be that initial doubt. After the stunning experience of baptism, a busy mind expands itself in the art of strange and exciting, beholds this transformational portraiture in the gallery of another dimension of mind.  Such multi-dimensional art, call it spirit painting, but it is as much sound, light, movement, feeling as it is space, image. And it is time sensed differently, a concentrate of eons centered and yet expanded. Be it not Oneiros or the holy one, it is at least the religious mind flaunting its dimensionality. And in that, in reaching beyond, does that beyond no reveal its reality?


Sometimes mind invents the completion that meaning demands. So again, the mind arrays the strange logic of dreams.  But here was no logical visitor, no, He surmounted any ordinary comprehending. But if not comprehensible, is it then only fantasy? I find myself inviting the mundane interpretation, for that is even my imagination’s empirical origin, but do I prefer that to avoid that fearful surrender to trust that is God is teaching me, that the pool portended, that He visited me here? 


I am awake.  The visitor as vision, memory, presence has disappeared and remains,  even though no ordinary sense now spies him. A trembling once-warrior am I now indeed.  A tremor of excitement plays over me. Yet if the earth can tremble, and greatly as it does in Antioch, for no known cause at all (no, it is not the punishment of tired Greek gods),   why then might a man not also tremble when the event is mighty and the cause revealed in itself? Have I shaken in the past?  Yes, secretly and self loathing, but now, with the prince of forgiveness Himself the visitor- I think- may I not also  forgive myself, being the first such permission I beg be granted? There is some grimy distrust which, like whirling Syrian dust obscuring the sunrise, that is time- layered on me still. Am I cleansed now? Do I deserve a purer understanding?  Hardly. Yet I concede- my self-doubt not entirely hindering me-that such a gift seems  mine. If mine then, others as well are allowed it,  as should be in the exhilarating love of it,  just as God’s news announced.  If one so ungrounded as I,  can receive that visitor simply “being there” , if I make that leap, I am compelled to acknowledge transcendence. That dimension established,  then it is not the quality of me as host and separate,  but as a mind joined to the whole of it.  It is my consciousness that knows itself host, but the apprehending soul knows itself as immersed in the sea that does not differentiate; the self then serves to apprehend to allow appreciation that all selves are temporal, that in eternity the self disappears, known as illusion. All mortals are transient hosts in the timeless sea which hosts them. As baptism’s immersing waters prepare and portend, He, as a form knowable to earthly minds,  is here.  May I claim then, that an earthly form of him allowed me gift and comprehension, that he is my Christ?   It is grandiose.  I will test the usage of it on me.  


Let me instruct you on the origins of that substantial grime which would have blocked that sunrise.  I offer this because the dust of doubt is permeating and will cost many their sunrises and the following light. You will likely have been told by soothsayers, aged aunts, diviners, onirocritcs, and their like, that it is the dream that visits you, that it is a companion to your soul, that together you can travel and see many things, not all of which are easily understood, but do have meanings allowing the conclusion that many things are linked and some, capable as I have earlier said, of foretelling their unfolding, uncoiling of caused events just as Cicero held, or Polybius instructed us we may learn from history the good sense of predicting.  Until last night I would have disallowed any but this rational interpretation 


Recall I was in sacred Eleusis those 20 years back?  There in that deep cavern (where much was also staged outside) us initiates, novitiates, met images and heard voices of Persephone and Pluto, were told of the gods who engineered the cycles of life.   Our senses received the shadow games staged in torchlight played by the priests. Our preparation beforehand allowed the instructed imagination to embark on the mysterious journey.   This was in its own way illustrative of the road humans take toward the gods. This, the irrational, is deemed eminently rational, because playing to the senses, and prior instruction, the predilections of brains and society, it was rational because it was. The definition is empirical, whatever the intangibility of its referent.  Had it been otherwise one would rightly doubted.  I say it is right to disallow the irrational only until one moves into its own domain. More inescapable,  when it incorporates us into its domains which, experienced as now I have,  are entirely real as Other.  Was last night’s Jesus rational?  I say now, absolutely, for it is as foolish to deny that which is present, as it is to invent, and claim as material, that which does not exist. Was last night’s Jesus irrational? Entirely,  for that is his domain which is, “beyond all things”  


Might an educated madman make these same arguments?  I suppose so, were he capable of coherence.  We are somewhat absolved if the rest of our doings are sane, and if most of mankind, a practical bunch on the whole,  whatever their religion, likely have one, and its business is that domain. My ground then is that I trust myself not to be mad, and to rely on the sanity shared with the farmer in his field quite sensibly going about the business of plowing. About yet about that field, we must grant as in the Persephone story, what grows there is the gift of life and wonder, worship, God’s and Gea’s magic in it.


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I, BALTHUS, compiling,  finding myself having to think too hard, intermittently yawning, decree as editor that S. Cornelius’ words be again  tempered to whisper, that he suffers from convoluting intricacies does not mean a reader, well, a lazy one like myself, must do so as well. I also confess the whisper may be punishment, for what he reports troubles me. What if`I were, even “we were, by the very striking strangness of it, to believe?  

 

Those more demanding about nuance may require the qualification; ideas, ideals, forms are present, cause action, may become realized but however real as cause are initially are substantial as cause and conduct, but require transformations to become material. As for the apprehension of God, Jesus, other prophets allowed as well, their apprehension as to which dimension(s) perceived and inhabited, rests upon degrees of work, talent, blessing, gift and Grace.  The variations in these on earth guarantee, at best, differences, from opinion to fulfillments to rapture, and at worst, fraud, that lunacy lurking.  and useless martyrdom.


I grant, if distance makes us that estranged, that you may think me an idiot didactician, (didaskalos, teacher), dismiss me if not in keeping with your known dimensions, now or potential.  We are all, at the end of the day, reliant upon what our brain tells us as to what is, may or should be.  At this moment, I am in an altered state, dynamic, impelled to tell you what I have experienced, time’s arrow of it.  For me, from living, pondering, suffering, then from Helen knowing love, then the moment of the Words read out  in the assembly,  the baptism and the reflections of and on that pool, and now the Visit, all of which I must integrate as part of me that was not before, yet even more substantial. I must acknowledge the “irrational” of which I have been an unforgiving critic.  I grant I was not the worst of such, I think of Balthus who does not trust the map of a charted road, surveyor signed, Rome’s issues,  unless his feet have trod it, and his eyes are still red from its dust.


I must now argue, against my former self, the irrational in existing, simply enjoys a different set of rules and appreciates a different array of domains. We must not deny the invisible its realities and our potential for understanding. We feel its impact, energy and action.  Just as there are dominions seen and unseen in our cosmos, I proposed we are composed of dominions within ourselves, which, defined, by their processes and capabilities, are or can apprehend different aspects of being, some of which are obscure, or, if hypothesized, insistently denied. Think Beauty. Plato or Parmenides, Zeno or the young and curious Aristotle attending them. Proposed is indestructible, ungenerated, unchangeable cause, as “form” which is apperceived as idea, or image say, in a radiant sunset not obscured by dusts either the desert’s or our own. It comes as and in or poetry, or mathematics, of the science of the Greeks, or how one feels about one’s own Helen.  The obscuring dust is earth’s own, including our own doubts, ignorance, and willed or unwilled closure to it.  It is there.  Greek scientists abjured any name or causes of gods as movers,  atoms and energy were their accountings.  I do not protest that premature assumption as to energies and causes.  We are all on that journey of discovery, each finding opening up more of the unknown  One day, given interacting dimensions,  some obviously out of sight, I allow unities may be discovered.


All seekers of Beauty, as again with poetry, mathematics, science, the generous love of humans, the apprehension of God, requires our own work toward clarity and clear discourse. Beware of rhetors and priests in such matters.  We are aided, beyond our talents, by mothers, teachers, the Muses, lesser epiphanies.  The “thereness’ itself beckons to a brain already designed to that work, be ready, thence apprehend, yielding joy. As earthly donor to us is the artist or scientist or poet, or, as guides to the way, holy men, the farseeing prophets.  The irrational of us nevertheless reasonably expands finally to Jesus, God, whatever other names are used, we assume the One. We posit e sacred energies, comes as bearer and the being of revelations here of the other, there now also here.  Such is the gift when other dimensions and our brain’s own are joined by our openness and constructions of which human sharing is an essential part, as mordant is to dyes, for otherwise we may not be made permanent or, given to too much imaginings that are not tempered with a wise community’s wisdom, there may come, yes again, that lurking lunacy.  Or fraud, for keep in mind we can defraud ourselves most easily. Better than I, you have seen the progression of my understanding, which, now with vision as visit of Christ, knows that any one of us may hold God’s hand.


I am much occupied with this Appearance. I repeat, this last night was no game where I played Eleusinian priest staging shadow gods amusing my incredulity.  I do not demean Eleusis articulated reach for mystery’s comprehension nor its literate elaborations in the drama of which all Greece and its admirers bask.   Nor do I criticize its external vulgarity, practical not profane.  It is after all, as our Daphne, a tourist trade of pilgrims. Set before them are stalls of bell ringing, shouting, grinning vendors in rows enough to make a market outside the cavern and its extending canopies. For sale sweets and amulets, beads to tell and pray, souvenir sandals-“Italian leather” swore the merchant, and but next to that stall, the roasted lamb was tasty, not leathery at least.   Johns pool outside Jerusalem is spared the noise of all that

 

I so strive for honesty I must yet doubt my good fortune and quibble, quibble with the nature of my undoubted blessing whatever its modality.    I was and there was His  appearance, epiphany it can be called ,  a manifestation before me without doubt, but I am so undeserving of what I want it to have been, I am compelled and cursed to pettifogging. This not knowing what state I was in, I presume this as a challenge from God to the work of it, for arrived, this Jesus arrived not quite as expected, for one thing, no drums or trumpets, not even a word whispered.  I trust the gods, the One as well, are above conforming to our expectations,  which expectations, or words for them, are our limits, I offer a conclusion that the there is no true religion without surprise. 


Philo wrote that the angels are the eyes and ears of God, but if an angel brought this Jesus of the dream, I say it was further to open my own eyes, again to my emerging center. If the angel were sent by God?  Then Jesus, who is said to fancy angels, himself made the visit, for angels are his servants, not his substitutes. My mind keeps wandering to possible self-error, so then Hermes? My nominee?  Must I entertain that possibility? This thieving imp who leads us to our sleep, and often shows us fleeting pictures on the way, would this mischief-maker intrude on me, the complete imposter, fooling me with some image of Jesus which, of course, he would have stolen?  I reject that possibility, there was an awe of the entirely holy about it. I am not that, nor my room. It was from elsewhere.  No, no angel, no imp, either I sculpted the apparition out of gossamer, a talent quite beyond me, or dream, Jesus as a Praxelites sculpting appearances, housing them in a temple of the holy wonder molded it. I stand on that. Almost.   I am blessed beyond most men. If to think so is a madness, , it is a worthy madness to sustain a man on such a journey as is ours. 


He was there near my bedside, standing, silent, not looking at me at all, indeed it was not as if he were looking particularly at anything, just gazing past the foot of my bed toward my entirely dark room.   There was no torch, no door ajar, nor was he illuminated as a guileful priest might rig the torches at Eleusis.  He stood there entirely calm, busy only with the being there, the presence of it.  Imagine the look of a philosopher; thin, hooked nose a bit, cheekbones high, and a delicate face. I saw him a Jew because I supposed him to be what he was. He wore neither tunic nor toga, rather it was  loose spun cotton several light garments thick.  If a robe or gown, then of the sort the better off farmers of Judea wear. It was no high rabbinical garb. He wore no jewelry of any kind.  I remember his fingers; his arms hung done at his side, I could see them. His fingers were slim, delicate, as might be an artist’s. 


I saw no shawl as such, but his head was loosely covered, the robe, those layers somehow folded, was long; the hem almost touched the ground so no sandals seen, well yes the front straps and I suppose toes but they were not plain.  All this tailor’s talk, I apologize but I was so taken with it, awakening, for I I did awaken, and there he was!!   His silence, His gaze, that aura, so great is my awakening.


I was too shaken to write of this earlier in any readable hand.  In that inn by the pool where I stayed the night, I scribbled themes in the morning.  I put it now in a fairer hand back here in Antioch. Helen is in the garden. I write of this only to you.  Even to tell a Christian believer is not possible, for they will think me braggart, or schemer, or mad. I will not hurry to report my baptism, thus formal conversion. The assure the privacy of it is why I rode so far away to the Baptist’s pool in that small fern-framed Shiloh cave near almost abandoned, Titus-stricken, Jew- hungry, Yahweh-deserted Jerusalem. (I did not go into the city, new Roman temples do not unmake a desolation empty of a genuine god, all absent proper tribute to originating  Yahweh)


I would be embarrassed, no perhaps even ashamed to be myself with a group of slaves, peasants, merchants in what is now Heron’s assembly, even if in its luxurious donated quarters. Am I ashamed of being a Cornelii not of them, or of a Cornelii being with them?  Balthus tells me I am in irremediable snob.  I am not of them in any way, I suspect not even in thoughts about what  I presume we share as faith.  Where we stand in a social order is not God’s business; how genuinely we kneel in prayer is. Perhaps I will one day enjoy the song, s goodness and piety of the assembly, but not yet.  I do admire Luke, have felt how some of the Words transformed me. They do resonate best when in the hall, for the others there, all plebs, are baffles that enrich the thereby reverberating sound.  It is likely we share the Words extraordinary meanings.  In the meantime I hardly contend that God is anyone’s private possession, but I insist that, at least for now, my own God-condition is private.  


I know, for Christianity to spread to give Rome its gifts we must be an highly public institution, Individual converts may bring virtue to themselves, but the faith must be carried wholesale to all Empire. But before that effort, for this moment I am inward turned.   In earlier life I conformed because I lacked invention.  Now, for a while, being in a spiritually generative state, I shall grow quietly what I am to be.


Quiet is important.  The night of the Appearance, there was no sound inside my thick walled room at my overnight inn near the pool.  There was a window, but night sounds were stilled.  I felt His presence, although not through any sensorium of which I was heretofore aware.  I heard no breathing, his or mine.  The silence was part of its momentousness.   I am able to write of this in near-silence. The touch of the pen is light. Writing clarifies me.  It is necessarily done in silence.


I, Balthus, feeling some guilt as a near-censoring redactor, have told our scribes to raise the font so you may better hear S. Cornelius: 


To write to you is an intimate disclosure.  Reading me is no duty, unless you wish yourself to that point. I offer myself writ. Perhaps you will trust my words.  It is no surprise that Logos, the Word, is essence of the mystery.  No wonder the Gnostics hold the route to the God they know. To be secret words.  Their God, even in and as Jesus, is conceived not as ours here, for they allow no complexity in creation, and assign little responsibility to humans.  Our God they hold to be Evil itself, for they separate out of joy and sorrow two beings, each pure but elemental. It is the Greek in them much taken with names taken to be animated. Greeks are quite clever about the power of words, see Parmenides for puzzling proofs, but Greeks can fooled by their own artful verbiage, do assume words are things are gods are knowable are capable of being controlled. Too close to magic, I say, much, much too close.  I abjure incantations. 


Too bad, I have reminded myself of Simon and his crooked nonsense. Simon seducer, Seller of the secret texts. Wrote them himself no doubt.  Well, God knows it was no God made him evil, he was his own craftsman. He claimed he could summon and shape dreams, for a fee of course. That he controlled, dispatched dream-carrying demons, in a sense yes, he refined the mob’s hopes, and he was the demon carrying their dreams. 


It was a pleasure to order him crucified, along with the weasel, Menander. Justice is not ordinarily that elating.  May God’s mercy be so great that he forgives all, even so many Menanders? In Heaven, fine.   On earth that is not this Quaestor’s Roman job.  God forgives, whether here or up there is not clear.  Good Christians do as best they can, but I see no way, before humankind are perfected, to avoid what Roman law must do to educate to good conduct,  some of which is to punish for bad. The torturer, the cross and the executioner’s are efficient teachers.  Christian goodness doesn’t, well shouldn’t need coercion, without threatening Hell, that would be the sincerity of it  


As for myself as Quaestor, back to work tomorrow where I will constrain my inner joy, say nothing of baptisms, pools and reflections, of Appearances, or forgiveness.  It was an urgent business trip at the Praetor level, so I told Balthus.  He is so busy understanding me, he may be have forgotten my honesty can also be expedient. He knows himself cunning, knows I am not, knows he lies glibly, doubts I can do it at all.  We shall see. He is, for the most part a good man, surely a loyal, thoughtful one. I doubt if he thinks me clever enough to have noticed his almost ruthlessly ambitious side..  I shall say nothing further of this religion to Balthus; propose to him no readings of any kind.  An astonishingly well-lettered man, let him keep with the classics. He is deadly serious about life, but plays with ideas. I find arguments for reversing that.


For unlettered folk there is magic in a stylus, chisel or pen that voiceless carries news across time and space, carries it to all others who are initiated to the secrets of that language.  Yet all writing must be deciphered, for what one writes and another reads in it may differ widely.  It is best if there is prior understanding.  That opportunity in our case arises only with the writing, its reading and then your reflection, yours and those with whom you trust to share.   If others see this journal before you, I ask them to hold it still secret and safe.  They will find a way further to dispatch it, for like a dream itself, our dreams joining, these words t travels over time to join two world, yours and mine.  A third world, that Other, is also always joined. It is timeless and holds us as one in the One


To you to whom I write chronicling myself, I trust you understand how much I am moved by what has occurred.  Please understand I do not try to convince you or evangelize others. This is chronicle, not rhetoric.  I do not myself mystify, although I confess to its condition.  I write in a tongue translatable, so well known is Latin, so I am assured it is accessible. I am some of the content of my times and its tongue, the severe limits of language.  I am and partake of this landscape, am  directly preceding  moment in your history.  Should it be that this chronicle of a journey is useful guide or warning for other travelers, I will be glad. Perhaps I am also constructing a tombstone consisting of a ridiculously long epitaph.   To want a monument to oneself is entirely Roman, although not exclusive to us. Think of Alexander or, for that matter, anyone who has children trusting in their parental, then grandparental memories told to descendents. These are, as this, monuments transported over time.   


For Romans not yet Christian, the only immortality which is demonstrably before them is in works visible or sung, what Virgil offers as history of their origins, Homer as immortal beauty, Hesiod in his own time nostalgic for a greater, the golden past..  Empire is our monument. Romans have not yet learned an interest in dimensions unseen,  atomic, cosmic or spiritual.. For a man cannot place his hand on them and say, “There, it is real and part of me. My ancestors, our generals, emperor Augustus or other did that, my comrades and I on the field of battle did that, the we of which I am a part I did that myself. ” If there is no “I” in it, there is no advertisement, a man has no public.  To make a transition from “I” to the “Other” is an enlargement not yet widely popular.  That it is enlargement is not understood.


In chronicling change, I necessarily chronicle more of thoughts, for there is no change they do not engender or must needs support. In chronicling, I offer you my observations, for your eyes can only be on this page, not here in our times. I would be, then, your eyes. I would also, as with the pool at Shiloh, lead you to reflections.  I show you no hero, only this portrait of a man, his appearance and that which appeared to him, momentous to me, perhaps only a curiosity to you reading.  May you be curious enough to pursue us further. 


Here then, this portrait of a man much like myself in Antioch, Roman Syria, as of this year writing, just now the New Year, so A D 128,  Roman year  863.  You, reading, will know this man’s future as your past, thus you will appraise my labor’s outcomes.  Should this man fail, which is likely, although I shall remain an example  others who follow will succeed. I tell you then, and this may be heard as my prophecy to be put to the test of history,  that some man like this Cornelius, some men rather like this Cornelius, will carry all our faith as that broadening, nourishing, inspiring river, carry that faith so that all Rome, then all mankind may know and chose.


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