It has been quite a while since I posted on here. I’ve been busy writing, and the new book, like my others, is available on Amazon and as a Kindle e-book.
The Books of the Sacred Marriage is very strange; it had to be. You will meet some strange people in it, especially people you thought you already knew all about. My poetry-writing mentor at San Francisco State, the late Mark Linenthal, once said, “If you take your writing out to the absolute limits of what you think people could tolerate, then go beyond that, you might have a chance to create something genuinely original.” That is what I have tried to do.
This is a “novel in the form of nonfiction.” Just last night, working my way again through Randolph Hughes’ unique study of Swinburne’s unfinished novel, Lesbia Brandon, I rediscovered his explanation of why that novel does not obey the rules of what he calls the “canonical” novel, rules derived ultimately from Aristotle’s theory in his Poetics of why drama works as an art form. Novels that obey those rules are always, at one level, just more of the same. As Hughes argues, the greatest novels have a fundamentally different structure, being episodic rather than unified around a single concept. I learned those canonical rules for novels at San Francisco State. They have always seemed boring and cowardly to me.
My previous novel, Goddess Murder, is rather more canonical than this one. Its primary narrative, Eddie being the narrator, Andrea being the protagonist, follows a timeline in 1995. However, that story line is intertwined with a secondary narrative that spans from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries and overlaps greatly with the story in this novel. The two can be read separately, but together they make an even larger story.
The Books of the Sacred Marriage is a collage of many literary forms. As an overview, I’ll run down through them, explaining what the raw materials are in each one, as well as a little about how and why I used them. The full explanation will be in my Principia Metanoia, the next volume of the trilogy. I know that sounds like a grandiose title; it’s merely accurate.
The opening section, “Prolegomena in Real Time about Fragments,” explains why I have always been fascinated by the potential of fragments as raw materials, and discusses briefly the half dozen experiments in which I have used fragments to recreate a plausible lost original or to create something new. It is followed by “Notes Toward the Possibility of Founding a New Religion,” a document that wrote itself in 1964, foreshadowing much of what I explore in this novel.
“The Book of Origins” explores creation myths, and includes both new and earlier poems (about a third of “History” in Theodyssies and Paradoxologies) that begin several of the threads developed further in this book.
“The Sacred Marriage of Jesus and Mary” is somewhat like a gospel as told by Mary “called Magdalene,” who I believe, given the information in legends and the Nag Hammadi documents, really was Jesus’ wife and anointed successor. Why write about Jesus at all? Because he is the protagonist in all of European history for the last two millennia; he cannot be simply ignored. C.S. Lewis once wrote that Jesus was either a lunatic or genuinely the son of God. He was not aware of another possibility: that Jesus had Awakened (the term the “Gnostics” used for this experience), was therefore Gnostic, and knew he had been anointed by Heaven as a “prophet like Moses,” with full authority to interpret the Law; that’s what he argued about with the other Rabbis. This is a concept of Jesus that I think might be acceptable to a wide range of people, including Witches, although not, of course, to the rigidly orthodox or to devout skeptics. I think Mary had Awakened also, as Ki Longfellow described in her brilliant novel.
Every discovery made by modern New Testament scholars, as well as each new fact now known from the Nag Hammadi documents, points toward a very different story about who Jesus was and what he said and did. At the GTU, I once had a discussion with the eminent Anitra Kolenkow about why no one had ever written that story. She responded, “But we have!” I realized that she and I had very different concepts of what a story is. She meant that scholars had lined up all the evidence and could imagine what the story could be—but non-experts could not do that. As scholars, neither she nor all the others could take the next step, to create plausible fillers to connect the fragments, like the clear plastic used by the John Paul Getty Museum to rebuild their larger-than-life statue of Demeter. But as a poet, I can create all that connective tissue—and I have.
The next major episode is “The Gospel of Simon and Helen,” put together from the fragments about the “Gnostics” as given by Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Clement of Alexandria. I think Simon was actually a friend and ally of Jesus; the overlap in their actual teachings makes that likely enough. I love Simon’s myth about his beloved Helen, his own lost sheep, and I’m sure the story about him in Acts is just polemical propaganda.
The next episode is a series of stories, dialogues, poems, and letters that creates a lineage connecting the Gnostics and Marianite Christians to the Cathars and the Witches of medieval Italy. It’s quite imaginative, but it is based on known and possible history.
The third major episode is “The Books of Aradia,” which include “The Gospel and Treatise of Diana,” whose internal history stretches between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries, focused on the teachings of Aradia as a Savior figure. They are followed by a series of letters written in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by priestesses of this “Aradianic” tradition, spelling out some philosophical, theological, and practical implications of those teachings. Was Aradia a real person? I’d like to think so. Raven Grimassi insists that she was, and was the founder of his family’s tradition. In any event, if you understand how the canonical gospels were actually written, you can see that this “Gospel of Aradia” has just as much, and just as little, a claim to presenting religious truth as the Gospel According to Mark does.
However, my actual agenda in this book is not to entertain, but to enlighten. I know that, having Awakened myself at age 14 (thanks to the Holy Spirit having booted me out of the Catholic Church in order to save my life), such an Awakening is needed to transform humanity into the type of people and society that we could and should be. The Awakening is not actually rare. It has happened to millions of people (few of whom ever talk about it), especially to the founders of all the world’s viable religions. It has been described in detail in such books as Happold’s Mysticism and William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience. It is what Plato refers to in the Seventh Letter. The problem is that, if one has not Awakened, it is almost impossible to understand what the experience is or how it is even possible.
The practical problem, then, is how to enable more people to Awaken. There is a “technology” for doing that, or at least making an Awakening vastly more probable. It is sex, or, more specifically, the Sacred Marriage, not just having sex for fun. Yet having sex just for fun is essential as part of the path, because believing, as most of mankind does, that there is something wrong about having sex just for fun is a major symptom of the endemic, universal mental illness that Reich called the Emotional Plague and that I have called Aphrodiphobia (meaning “fear of sex”). It is hard to perceive the existence of an illness so widespread that most people think it is normal, but naming it is the first step toward overcoming it.
The “Gnostics” knew all about this technology. Once one grasps what Awakening is, one can understand the many statements about it in their writings, even in the fragments stated negatively by the great heresiologists. For example, in Book III of Clement’s Miscellanies, he quotes Carpocrates as saying that the Sacred Marriage is our pathway to salvation. Of course, Clement, suffering from the heresy which taught that sex is evil, another symptom of Aphrodiphobia, had no clue what Carpocrates meant. (It was that heresy, taught to me in great detail in my catechism classes at age 11, that almost killed me.) Modern Witches, and at least one major church, know about this technology also (although that church holds this knowledge as a Third-Degree Secret).
So what is this secret, this technology? Here is the secret in seven words: working the Great Rite in full aspect. Unless you already know how to do that, or are in training to learn how to do it, I doubt you could have any idea what that means. Actually, I had not myself until recently quite grasped the core of that concept. It was reading Sam Wagar’s brilliant The Uses of Ecstasy that brought on the feeling of “Oh, duh! Shouldn’t that have been obvious?” (I intend to write a rave review of his book soon, since I think it one of the most profound theoretical explanations of Craft practices yet written.) I can explain the concept more: if a committed couple who have no secrets, who are totally open psychically to each other, allow the Gods to come into them (that is, they become the Gods) and all together celebrate the ecstasy of our sexuality, then it is extremely likely (though never certain) that they will be propelled through the last barrier and Awaken. I realize that even such additional detail will still not make any sense to a great many people.
I could list the dozens of types of people who will not understand, will insist on misunderstanding, and/or will simply hate this book. I don’t care. I have written it for the minority of people who will understand it and who might, I hope, put it to good use. Am I perhaps too radical? I hope not, because moderation and prudence will do nothing to combat the epidemics we face.
Every morning I pray that the Awakening, which results from and is the direct experience of being in the presence of the Gods, may someday happen to every human being; that is what “May your Kingdom come” actually means. Such a transformation is, I think, essential to overcome the scourge of Aphrodiphobia. It is also essential for curing the pathology that manifests as evil, since, as Scott Peck argued, evil is always a question of human intent, is thus a mental illness, and thus can potentially be cured. At least, we can hope so. I also pray every morning that I might be an instrument of the Gods in helping to bring this Awakening about for everyone a little bit sooner. That is why I have had the courage to write this book.