It’s done. After 45 years of working on the materials that went into it, it’s done, published, and let go. Off my conscience.
I put out a shorter version of it about 4 years ago; that was Goddess Murder. Recently I put a companion volume, using the rest of the materials, up on Amazon, titled The Books of the Sacred Marriage. As soon as I had, the Muse began whacking me about the head, saying, “No, integrate them into the novel you envisioned 20 years ago.” So that’s what I’ve done. These 300 pages also update the aspects that I have thought further about for the last four years.
I learned the craft of writing a conventional novel in my creative writing program at San Francisco State. As Jung explains, that sort of novel is crafted by the ordinary ego, consciously, carefully, to be hopefully an exquisite aesthetic experience—but ultimately it is just more of the same. Jung also explains that most of the “great” novels have not been written that way. They have resulted instead from materials exploding out from the Other Mind (I hope you know more than that it is what dreams at night). We were also trained at State in how to get into the altered state, the ”visitation of the Muse,” that allows such an explosion to happen, when the words seem to come not from you, but through you, so that all you can do is type fast enough to try to keep up with them. A lot of the materials in this novel came like that.
My most important mentor at State, the late Mark Linenthal, said one day in class, “If you take your writing out to the absolute limits of what you think people could possibly tolerate, then go beyond that, you might have a chance to create something genuinely original.” I have tried to do that. Traditional publishers hate that sort of originality. They cannot figure out whether it will sell or not—so they won’t publish it. But thanks to Print on Demand, their monopoly and censorship are history.
The novel is built around two interwoven timetracks. The contemporary one is set in 1995. In it, Eddie Edwards, a Professor of Catholic Studies at a private graduate school, receives three “apocryphal gospels” smuggled out of the Vatican Library by a colleague who is then murdered. One of these is an autobiography by Mary called Magdalene. A second is a gospel about Simon Magus and his beloved Helen. The third is a gospel by and for Witches. It immediately becomes obvious that powerful forces do not want him to have these documents, but he and a few colleagues persevere in translating them. In the course of this work, Eddie meets Andrea Peregrino, a hereditary Italian Witch; thrown together by circumstances, they fall in love and . . . Yes, this is basically a love story. In the course of it, Andrea tells Eddie much about modern science, psychology, and philosophy that she has learned in trying to understand herself. I think all the greatest stories have been, ultimately, love stories. Mine may not be among them, but that is what I have tried for.
The other timeline, extending from A.D. 30 to the present, is woven out of the “historical” documents that I have, of course, written, but I did so by taking genuinely historical rags and tatters and theological fragments of a very different sort of Christianity and assembling them, as poems, dialogs, entries in a chronicle, and “gospels,” into an at-least plausible narrative. This is, in a sense, an imaginary garden with real toads in it, but it is not a conspiracy theory. We know that the Roman church, when given governmental power at the Council of Nicaea, used its power to try to ferret out and destroy all the documents of the other varieties of Christianity that had existed during the first three centuries. They did not succeed 100 percent. The documents found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1948 were buried by the community that owned them in about A.D. 400, in a climate where paper does not decay, apparently hoping that a future generation might find them and learn what they had truly believed. Ladies and gentlemen, we ARE that future generation.
Let me explain this other timeline in terms of the questions that the surviving fragments seem to answer. Was Jesus’ experience when, at his baptism, the Spirit entered him and drove him out into the wilderness actually the kind of experience that the Gnostics called an Awakening? Was Mary called Magdalene also Awakened? Was Mary his wife and actual successor as leader of the movement he set off? Did she flee to Alexandria, found a community based on the rest of Jesus’ teachings, then flee again to Provence? Were her teachings preserved over the centuries and then taught by the “Cathars”? (They called themselves simply the “Good People” and definitely believed that Jesus and Mary were married.) Were those teachings then transmitted to the families that became the traditional hereditary “Witches” of Tuscany?
The latter Witches are purely my own invention, but the rest of the story is at least possible. Jesus’ original followers, who continued to be observant Jews, believed that he was a True Prophet like Moses, exactly the view proclaimed in the Qu’ran. This is important not least because it is a concept that liberal Catholics, liberal Witches, and a whole lot of other liberal people, like Christo-Pagans, can live with.
I am not presenting such a story as “gospel truth.” I am a poet, not a preacher, not a prophet. It is merely what I have figured out so far. If it rings your bell, then answer it. I had a lot of fun writing it—and beating James Joyce’s record. I hope you enjoy reading it. I hope even more that you might learn something personally very important to you.