Blood of the Angels

I slept more soundly than I had ever before. I dreamed of a peace between Heaven and Earth that can only become reality if I do what goes against all that I have ever known. I have enough influence among my own peers that this single action could cause a serious division in our unity. It may merely mean the end of my association with them.

But it could also eventually mean my death. It will not take long for me to rouse the ire of Caesar himself. Eventually, they will place a price on my head higher than Jacob’s Ladder. Soon after I am turned in, I will be sentenced to a painful death.

And with all this on my shoulders, I dreamed that I was in the presence of both my creator and my enemy. I felt total serenity and yet I feared for my very soul. I saw the face of God. A message burned through me that I must do what I knew would ruin my life in this world. The moment I awoke I was reborn. In honor of such a feeling, I took on a new name — just as Abraham had done so long ago.

Once I was Saul, born in Alexandria, a highly-educated Jew and respected citizen of the empire. And the best assassin, with more kills and live captures than any other Christian-hunter. I have a beautiful wife but no children.

Now I am Paul. I cannot deny that a messiah has already come. I have seen him and he is the same God I have both worshiped and hunted. My sins are many, but they may be redeemed if only I believe.

§ §

I thought that my entire body was on fire, though the knife that had entered my chest felt as cold as ice. Blood covered my hands and was flowing everywhere. The life was draining out of me onto a stone marked with strange symbols. Slowly, I eased the blade out of my body. I turned away from the altar and looked to a well. My vision began to fade into red as I stumbled toward it and put my lips into the cool liquid and forced myself to drink. As I lifted my head up, it was pressed back down. I tried to struggle, but my body was lifeless. I felt a blow to the back of my neck and I knew that I was dead.

As I closed my eyes on this world and entered another, I finally saw the Truth. And as I had known and feared since I was a child I finally knew that there was no God. What I thought I knew was so far from the majesty I witnessed as I opened my mind to the glory that is the universe.

At that moment, my tortured brain sent a last, dying signal to a part of myself I did not know existed. Instantly, my consciousness was aware of itself and discarded the dead vessel that was my body. I opened my eyes as if I had never been born, not even able to process my simple surroundings.

I felt a pull on my soul, guiding me somewhere. My mind, still intact, can merely wait until it is able to absorb what is going on. As of yet, there seems to be no other choice.

After a span of time that may have been moments or years, I recognize that I am standing in a field on a path that leads into a lush green forest. I am wearing a robe and cloak of the same green colors. The heavy oak staff in my right arm is a head taller than me, and it is engraved with symbols that I recognize vaguely. My left hand is tied behind my back, clasping another arm.

Suddenly I am aware of a female presence in this place that is linked to my own. I open my mind to hers and looking through her eyes I see a deep lake that stretches out beyond the horizon. Her clothing matches her view: a robe that is a collage of blues varying from vibrant to almost black. Around her neck is a silver chain at the end of which hangs a clear white crystal that seems to glow.

Again I am shocked into the awareness of others. Behind me are two other left arms tied together, locked into the center as if we four were one entity. I glance into the mind at my left and see the image of a red mountain covered in storm-clouds through the anxious mind of a warrior. To my right I see a field of grain through the eyes of an aged priest.

The others in this strange circle are as bewildered at this experience as I am. I suggest that we wait a few moments before acting. Everyone agrees that we should share our thoughts and speculations.

A part of me instinctively knows why I am here. I have brief memories of different lives in different times and places. Hundreds of these fragments, some of them overlapping in multiple ways, are stored somehow in my memory, though I can’t quite connect them on an intellectual level. But through them all runs a feeling of contained wrath.

I can remember being a Pharaoh of great power, the first in one of too many dynasties that was plagued by violence. I had barely passed my thirteenth birthday when I was assassinated by a jealous relative. I was a Roman slave, a plaything in a palace of the gods. Another boy-king toyed with me before doing away with my head. And then I remember long ago that I was a boy living with strange creatures. I was like them — part animal, part man — slowly reaching for the future. To others I was one of their many virgin sacrifices to a god of blood. I remember the anger as I was pushed to my painful death. Twice I was killed in the womb for a holy cause. Again I remember the distant past, hunting food for the tribe, dying before making my first kill. The trail of blood let by a stray arrow marked my last steps.

Each of my companions is silent, though I know that they are also searching their souls for a clue to this existence. I search through the fragments and suddenly my female companion is exclaiming that we are sharing a memory. I recognize her as a wife of mine from sometime during a life in Greece. Another as a friend in a world I cannot begin to describe.

Each of the others appears again and again, sometimes even all at once, in my own memories and theirs. We have been associated with each other before. At least we know now that we can trust each other. But our moments not shared seem to have clues as to why we four are together here.

I choose to call myself Nightowl because of a moment remembered in a forest long ago. My female companion chooses the name Emer. The warrior to my left says his name is Thorn. The aged priest on my right says he needs no name.

A word suddenly comes out of my mouth, “condemned,” followed by Emer’s, “to live.” Another word from Thorn’s, “training,” and then the priest’s, “not punishment.”

And with that we begin to follow the path into the forest, moving somehow as if one being, neither of us ever changing the cardinal direction which we faced. Our path was guided collectively, each step a conscious decision in our minds. We thought as one, though our minds were separate and our eyes our own.

We come upon a clearing in the forest where a beautiful chestnut horse is lazily chewing on the leaves of the tree it is tied to. On its back is a tanned saddlebag that appears to be full of papers and aged books. Thorn cries out. I reach into his mind and discover that he was blinded by an image of an old man with gray hair and the eyes of a wizard. Emer, the priest, and I examine the memory as if it were a captured moment of time. None of us recognize the wizard, but it is an easy guess that he might be the owner of the horse.

There is a sudden change in the air, a feeling of deja-vu, when Emer notices that he is standing beside us. The wizard is speaking to us in a language that we are forced to understand through the old priest’s, who is the only one of us who knows it. The sensation was something like listening to a song underwater. Since we all used the same language filter, each of us comprehended the message identically. Little interpretation was required, for the bulk of the message was carried in the fine-tuned emotions of the old priest. The message was simple and explained much: that we were to act as the four elements, the eternal faces of fate, and that we were to train as a group; we would meet again in the future in human bodies on earth to re-establish the respect that man once had for the spiritual world.

I blinked. My eyes were only open for a second. I was facing the woman I knew was Emer. My hand was on top of hers. Under hers was that of a tanned young man. To my left was a chair. No fourth; no old man. I closed my eyes again.

Suddenly the four of us were no longer beside the old wizard and his horse. We were now standing in the field of grain on the path that led into the forest. Again. The scenery was almost the same. Almost, save that the clouds around the red mountain had grown darker. Lightning was cutting jagged marks through the sky illuminating it like a giant halo.

Suddenly my vision went dark and I opened my eyes. I closed them again. Dark still. I had broken the connection. I took my hand out of the circle and listened to the banter that came with such an exercise.

“What happened?” Thorn asked in a careful monotone voice.

I apologized quietly, speaking to his subconscious. He then went on to explain to Emer what he had just heard. I had merely broken the link; they could continue.

I stood up and left the room to get something to drink. Was all this really necessary? The truth that I seek can’t be found in rituals and meditations. I know because I was raised in a very religious and conservative Christian family that prayed at least twelve times a day. Though not inherently opposed to Christianity, the Earth Religions have much more to say on the matter of the spiritual world. I accepted the idea of reincarnation and goddess-worship so immediately that it never truly displaced my faith in Jesus Christ. But it was easy to ignore as I intellectually bathed myself in Pagan teachings, adding the teachings of the ancient Celts to my Bible-soaked spirit.

Through diversity, I discovered similarities, and with a few like-minded friends, founded an organization. Within our small circle of intellectuals could be found followers of not less than six religious faiths. Though we abandoned our small project less than a year later, the discourse that emerged from these meetings changed all of us...

Though I remain interested in other religions and esoteric systems, I’ve found that they all pretty much teach the same thing: Do unto others, etc. —all of them wear good-guy badges of some sort. I’ve studied so many different religious traditions looking for answers that I’ve become nauseated with their similarities, despite their differences in dogma.

It is strange to note that the nature of human language requires that we define things by what they are not. These diametrically-opposed relationships can be observed in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Ask yourself to define these ideas and see if you can’t avoid the trap: cold, bad, poor, slow, anarchy. Sometimes it seems that there is a clear-cut definition. Anarchy, for instance, is chaos; but what does chaos mean but lack of order? Even things perceived by our five senses fit this concept; something that smells sweet is not bitter, bright is not dim, rough is not smooth.

Religions and ideologies are very much the same way. Protestant and Catholic. Jew and Gentile. Communist and Capitalist. Fascist and Democratic. East and West. Despite the Church of Satan’s belief that the Christian Church could not exist without the Devil, it is also true that Satanism could not exist without being based on the Christian fear of the Adversary. Just as every other Pagan or Irreligious group in the West has thrived on being unique — as opposed to Christianity.

Why the human race should require such a variety of philosophies and theologies is evidence of our species’ natural inclination toward paradox. Human beings as individuals are rational and caring people; as a mass they are irrational and act in such stupid ways.

In this way of logic, a common thread can be seen linking everything together: to follow a teaching, you must see it as appealing before you will believe it. Some religions offer love, others offer knowledge, still others violence, for each person is pushed and pulled by their own spirits. Some people want to believe that love is better than hate, some see knowledge as a way to advance their spirit, some see violence as a way to counter the falsehoods they see around them. All of them offer a truth to their followers. And for every individual who follows a particular set of dogmas, there are enough minor differences between them and another to found new denominations or even new religions.

And this is what I believe has plagued humanity for thousands of years: the arrogance of the masses to hold their truth above others as if it were the only one. This, in one way or another, has been the root of all suffering in the world since the dawn of time. This behavior has ignored the fact that all truths have sprung from other truths and that all are only small parts of the greater Truth. Judaism separated itself from the pantheisms of the day, Christianity defined itself only by its opposition to Judaism, Islam to Judaic and Christian teachings, Satanism to Christianity, Paganism to Satanism, and so on.

The Truth is far greater than every major faith in the world, for it is all-encompassing. Satan and God and Vishnu and Buddha and Mohammad and Moses and Merlin and Nature and Science are all equal; through each can be seen as an aspect of the Truth. The way the human mind exists requires that Truth be seen only in small parts, just as a television camera can only capture two dimensions; we are expected to imagine that there is more present though the effects are only simulated. It is the same way with religions, for each can only explain a small amount in a straightforward way, explaining a higher dimension of the Truth as a mystery of God or the Cosmos.

And what of the paradoxes that cling to our childlike race? What of God and Satan, Good and Evil, Intelligence and Stupidity? What of it? I suppose it doesn’t matter, except that these opposites fuel the flames of the greater Belief. In a way, this way of thought leads to the ultimate synthesis, to believe in everything and nothing, for everything contains part of the Truth.

Nearly every religion in the world requires that everything be divided, classified, and categorized into systems that can be easily processed by the masses. Early shaman thought did this first by dividing the natural from the supernatural. Later esoteric systems built on this by subdividing things even further, eventually producing complex systems evidenced in the Books of the Dead, Qaballa, Greek, and Celtic mysticism, Daoism, and so many others.

But it must be said that one of the major developments that contributed toward the spiritual mess of Western Civilization was the evolution of monotheism, over which many an argument and war have been fought. This oversimplification has caused more trouble than any of the barbaric ancient religions it replaced with such force.

At the same moment that God commanded light into being, language became the defining force in the universe. All wars, rebellions, and revolutions have been led, not by soldiers, but by intellectuals. To the Hebrew slaves in Egypt was the author of their history, Moses. To America and France were the humanists and the almighty press. To Russia was given Lenin’s interpretation of Marx. To China, Mao’s. India’s freedom would not have come without the sainted politician Gandhi. And in South Africa, credit is due to the journalists who chronicled every event.

It has been known throughout history that the most powerful force in the universe cannot be seen directly. To scientists it is the host of subatomic particles. To economists, it is the never-ending trade routes and the exchange of currency. To the religious it is God. To the humanist it is the Idea. But all of these have one weakness for being the underlying force behind the world: all require a medium to communicate the idea: Language.