Let the Word once more carry the Divine
I stand for the moment, though I will soon fall. Already my knees begin to buckle. The blood has reached my throat, and will likely begin choking me before I hit the ground. Though I felt it enter, I have not yet looked at the dagger, sheathed between the ribs of my left rib cage. I’m close enough to the priestess now that I can see her pale skin from beneath the translucent white veil. She still grips the dagger, though softly; almost as though she were holding a brush instead of a blade.
Though her face is expressionless, her eyes carry something faint: a trace of an empathetic apology nearly hidden by divine conviction. As I begin to stumble, she backs away, the handle of the dagger slipping through her fingers.
I have only moments until my consciousness fades into darkness, but this is time enough for man to hear the voice of the gods. But the gods have no need to speak with me, for their wisdom had entered my body on the blade of the knife that is claiming my life.
I know this dagger. I know it well. This is the dagger of That Which Stays in the Shadows, who has a form in the temple. Each time I’ve come to the temple to participate in the Honoring of the Sacrifice, I’ve seen the dagger being spun on the small alter, almost totally shrouded by the subsuming darkness beyond. The Hand that spins the dagger can never be discerned, but what else is there that might hold and spin the blade? And this dagger is no secret: the scraping sound it produces when spun on the alter can be clearly heard all throughout the temple.
Each time I’ve entered the temple for sake of ritual, I always turn my gaze from the dagger, always spinning, always on the edge of visibility. And though it’s impossible to know for certainty, often it seems that the gaze of the Form in the Shadows falls upon my face, its weight nigh overbearing.
I feel it important to note, for sake of those foreign to our lands, that the Form in the Shadows ought not be identified with evil. Though the darkness might overwhelm your sight, you begin to hear a sound like golden bells ringing in harmony when nearing the altar. The effect is a contradiction of the senses: though the darkness pools like the ink of monsters beneath the sea, the sound one hears from within is like Light woven into song.
But the sound of the divine does nothing to diminish the presence of the dagger, always spinning, always ready for use. And I have seen it used before, though the memory is too gruesome to recount with words.
I had come to the temple this day, not for ritual, but to receive the fruit of the Begreth. The Begreth tree is sacred to the temple, for its fruit carries a juice that strengthens the body to support and awaken the immortal blood that runs in our veins. Oh, the riches in store for me, once I had but eat of this sacred fruit!
The time was finally ripe, for I had reached the Age of Dawning. And thus I travelled to the temple mount, ready to claim my prize. The temple was silent, save for the scrape of the spinning dagger. Sometimes I could catch a glimpse of a priestess, silently flitting about the pillars, looking as much a wraith as an angel.
I strode to the depths of the temple, where I knew I would find the Begreth glade. And there a single priestess stood, a mere ray of light standing guard before the gate to the divine. For a moment, there was only silence, I standing on the threshold of the path to the tree. Then, with all confidence I could muster, I strode forward, an implicit request unto the priestess. The path was long, but as I neared she shifted slightly, almost as if beaconing me come forward.
I stopped two arm’s lengths from where she stood, obstructing my path. Despite my implicit request, she remained silent and utterly motionless. Undeterred, I eventually stepped to pass her, my gaze captured by the fruits I could see in the branches of the Begreth overhead.
Yet as I made to brush by her, she raised her forearm to the level of my ribs, something flashing softly in her hands. It was only when the dagger entered my body that I realized the scraping of metal on stone had gone silent behind me. The dagger was so sharp that I hardly felt it slide between my ribs, splitting my skin like cream.
Upon my first sharp gasp of breath, I knew the dagger must be suffused with the knowledge of the gods. As I felt its blade pierce my heart, my being was transfused with the Principle of Life. And as I stand here now, this Principle takes what life remains in me, and coaxes a vision into being, perhaps the last sight of my life.
Flashing before me, I see an image of myself once again entering the temple. I look to still be of the Age of Dawning, though when my vision-self reaches the threshold to the Begreth glade, he passes by without second glance, confidently striding to the heart of the temple. Eventually he nears the small altar, the dagger spinning, always spinning.
He stops a single arm’s length from the altar, and there he kneels. Immediately a shadow flashes from the darkness beyond, stopping the dagger.
For once the temple is totally silent, and this silence stretches on for an indeterminate span. But eventually, my vision-self speaks, his voice deep with calm:
“As my name is Terekk, then Terekk must die.”
When he speaks these words, the vision begins pulsing with the song that is heard in the Darkness, the song that sounds of Light. And my vision-self rises and grabs the handle of the dagger from the grasp of the darkness.
He closes his eyes, and places the tip of the dagger under his chest. And after the space of a single breath, he slides the dagger between his own ribs, in the same place where the same dagger currently takes my own life. The moment he does so, the song intensifies and the temple is filled with a soft, golden, yet penetrating life. Priestesses come flooding from all around and gather his body, blood gushing from the wound. They take him through the temple to the Begreth glade, laying his body in the soil next to the roots of the great tree.
Four priestesses now approach the tree, though they are covered in golden dress instead of the usual white. The four each take a fruit from the tree, and peel back the outer layer. Juice begins gushing from each fruit, more than one imagined a single fruit ever might contain.
But even as I watch this in my mind’s eye, I feel my life draining away. Even as the light within the glorious vision intensifies, so my mortal vision wanes.
I’m on the ground, though I don’t remember finally falling. In my final moments, I turn my attention back to the vision.
The priestesses have taken the peeled fruits, and are approaching the prone figure of my vision-self, his blood watering the glade. They stand symmetrically above his body, and each let the plentiful juice fall onto his skin, my skin.
I’m drowning in my own blood. I can no longer even draw breadth.
When his body is coated in the juice of the Begreth, it begins to glow and hum. The priestesses all around raise their arms and add their voices to the harmony.
My lungs pulse helplessly, my vision almost entirely black.
The glow fades from his body, then suddenly his shoulders flex and he—
What is this, before my eyes?
Form of beauty, dramatized?
The moment fresh in Autumn air;
Gaia's Daughter met me there.
Though she may be of the divine,
I glimpsed her once and twice ago.
But ne'er before has she so shined;
Immortal fire, yet soft as snow.
Now man of flesh and blood am I,
Enslaved unto the mortal realm;
And thus I've sought from mythic eye
A vision that might overwhelm.
Often Gaia hears my plea,
And renders visions unto me.
But never did I hope to spy
Gaia's Daughter, glorified.
Oh, her eyes! Embodied song!
Oh, her smile! Like break of day!
And how am I to go so long,
Without her light to light the way?
But fully known and fully clear,
This mystery shall never be.
For we are two of different spheres,
Mortal against eternity.
So shade my eyes from blinding light,
But keep my gaze above the ground;
Her servants are in mortal sight,
Gaia's Daughter, all around.
She's with and is her servants now;
This gift to Man the gods allow.
So then I ask to those above:
Which priestess shall I come to love?
I am, the other
For now I find
And here it says
Go and here it says
Watch over me here
While I sleep
And when I wake
That I am
There is a phantom, and its name is Liberty. Poison it brings to the heart of man. Man thought he saw her, an angel gliding through the forest under a starless night. Dark and treacherous was the forest, and man did stumble, living and dying ever in pursuit of that light.
Yet eventually the sun rose, but so blinding it was that Man didn’t know what he saw. He imagined in his ecstatic blindness that the angel of Liberty had finally come upon him, after all the eons of pursuit. He fell to his knees, rejoicing, for he knew he had found Liberty.
Yet knowledge is an idolatrous thing. Knowledge is to deem yourself a god of comparable majesty as Reality itself, blasphemously claiming sight into her very heart.
Man had thousands of thousands of instances during which he might have learned that to know is to sin, yet so great was his hope that he forgot what the darkness had taught him.
But as with all idols, Man’s knowledge of Liberty’s arrival betrayed him. Certainly not immediately; in the first moments of ecstatic joy he was blinded by redemption. However, his worship was interrupted by the mundane, manifested in the form of hunger.
It was then that the palest serpent of doubt slithered across his mind. “Might not Liberty sustain me?” he asked. But to tame his racing heart, he told himself, “No, don’t fear: at least Liberty might at least aid in finding my next meal.”
And so he opened his eyes, which until then had been pasted shut as to avoid being burnt by the fierce sun. At first, the light continued to blind him, but by forcing his eyes to remain open, his vision began adjusting to behold the world around him.
It was then that horror threatened to overwhelm him. For he had believed, no, he had even known that he had found the angel of Liberty! But alas! The light that shone upon his face was, in the end, only light. And into this light the angel had vanished.
In this light of day, he was able to see the thorns, brambles, and boulders that had obscured his journey during the night. But in that moment, his thoughts turned from Liberty, for the light of the sun granted him understanding. And in understanding he believed he found control; in control he believed he found faith; and in faith, he believed he found manna to quench his soul.
“Perhaps I need not Liberty,” he said to himself, “I have this new light, I have the sun, and everything that comes from it.”
Yet after a moment of contemplation, the understanding, control, faith, and manna all turned to dust. For though the light granted sight, all it did was illuminate the endless corruption and death that had long plagued man. What is control, if its subject is corruption? What is manna, if its dough is made from poison?
And finally Man looked to the sun and said “I thought you gave me bread, but I see you are merely an illusionist; what I thought to be manna was only death masquerading as a meal. Oh, how I long to pursue Liberty once more! I want not illusory sustenance, but rather to fall at the feet of an angel that might sanctify my soul.”
But lo! A new despair passed through man; a despair that threatened to consume his soul entirely. For Man realized that is was only in the treacherous darkness that he was able to see Liberty’s soft glow. What could he now do, with the sun’s light illuminating everything? How could he possibly move forward, when vanished was the contrast that had served as his compass?
But as God once passed by Elijah, so God passed by Man, his knees already threatened to collapse. And as with Elijah, God was not in the Maelstrom; Earthquake; or Consuming Fire. As with Elijah, he passed by in the faintest murmur of a whisper.
And God said unto Man: “Ah my beloved! Did I not tell you to worship me above all else? Didn’t I command you to not make for yourself idols? The idols of old were fashioned from wood and stone; the idols of the present are fashioned within the mind; yet idols they remain, and corruption is their only directive. Why do you worship an idol that promises despair? Why do you bow to a knowledge whose only offering is death? Ah! For so long Man imagined that it was a tyrant who command him: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.’ But what Man imagined as Tyranny was instead perhaps the most loving gift Man has ever received. For when Man misnames God, Satan rejoices; another avenue has been paved whose destination is Hell.”
And for a moment, God was quiet. And doubt passed through Man like an ocean breeze in the Sahara; this doubt was not one of fear and confusion, but rather the sort that carries the clear possibility of redemption.
And after the doubt had washed against Man’s eyes, mind, and heart, God spoke once more: “Ah, you’ve met a new Angel; the Angel of doubt. Look around! You see brambles, but how can you know what lies beyond? You fixate on the light, but can you see what’s there in the shadows? It is for God to command, yet it is for Man to obey. To you I command: take heart; pursue Liberty, beyond your fear that she is lost forever. Seek everlasting life, for that is my kingdom. Remember that when I walked among you, I spoke of food that eternally satisfies, and drink that eternally quenches. Once again do I say: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’"
And then the voice of God was gone.