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Welcome to my Blog!

Saturday 7 January 2012

Temptation - Excerpt from FIFTH GOSPEL - A novel.


HE man Jesus walked through the crowds on the shore swaying and stumbling, while the God in him saw the world as foreign and unknown, a distortion of faces and loud noises, of heat and sun and overwhelming smells. In the body, the muscles strained, air rushed in and out of the lungs and the heart pounded in the chest while in the mind thoughts flitted past like shadows. How painful it was to cram his mighty power into that mind and that body! A power that could harness nature and cause miracles so that his mere presence would seem to men like a world of marvels a tempest of splendours. It was not his purpose to enrapture and bewilder, to dazzle and astonish, so he directed Jesus into the wilderness in search of a quiet place wherein he could guard the birthing of his new forces.
That is how he came to be in the old cave situated high above the vast mountainous wasteland of Judea. From its lip he could observe the sun falling into the night, and partake for the first time in the splendour of colours that are separate from the self. Above Christ looked to the home of his heart, now distant and detached from him. From beyond those stars he had come, descending downwards aeon after aeon. Men had seen him in their mysteries and had worshipped him in their rituals and given him many names and now he would walk among them – a God extracted, separated out from heaven and born into the body of a man - and how many would recognise him?
His conception on earth was to his Fathers in the heavens, like a death. He was alone. 
He heard a lamentation. He listened. It came not from heaven but from the sleeping souls of the world. They were reaching out to him in their supplication as they had always done. And this reminded him of why he had come: to make this earth his heaven and rescue it from the maws of hell.
Jackals called as the moon made a rise. He had never seen such a moon nor heard such a sound and an intuition drew his attention to the shadows of the night. From them came the vision of a red-winged angel, falling from the sky and landing at the lip of his cave.
It thrust one sad, melancholic eye at him, and said, ‘If it isn’t the favourite come down from his high perch to visit his poor relations!’
‘What are you?’ Christ asked it.
‘Where are your manners, brother? Did no one tell you that this is my kingdom? Come, before you step across my threshold you must first recognise the master of the house!  Bend low before me and our little quarrel shall be forgiven…perhaps I’ll even share some of the riches and power I have gained from this wretched world with you? You have to concede this is more than you did for me!’
A vision came then of Jesus standing before a man who was running from the Devil on his shoulders. This was that Devil, he realised. This was Lucifer, his brother who was cast down from heaven.
‘Lucifer,’ he said to it now. ‘Look into my face! I see you haven’t changed...You think you can lure me with power because this is your weakness, but listen carefully to me…I have not come into this world to rule it, nor have I come to serve you, I have come to serve the rightful gods!’
Lucifer’s gloomy eye turned to white and a shiver passed over his wings. ‘The rightful gods…yes…what do they know of the world? Do they know anything about thirst? Well? Do they know that human thirst is unquenchable? You are a God, you need not thirst for puny human knowledge, when you can be an angel, like me, an angel is wisdom itself! Throw yourself from the lip of this cave and you will see, as the Psalms say, God will give his angels charge of you, and you will be among them, and they will bear you up with their own hands, so that your foot will not even strike one stone!’
But there was something more in the cave with them. From out of the shadowed corners of the cave came a blur of blue wings, desiccated and clawing and the world stirred to make way for it.
Another voice came into his ear:
‘Son of God! Do as your brother says, let us see? Jump! What can happen to you? Fear is something only mortals feel, angels are above such feelings!’  
What was this thing called fear? He felt it now, when he thought of jumping from the cave to that great distance below. He was not an angel. He was now birthed inside a man! If he jumped, Jesus would die and his task would die with him.
‘Listen to me, Lucifer, your arrogance is made weak by your companion who has just pointed out that fear is perfectly right for a mortal man! I am a mortal man and fear has given me wisdom! Again, it is written–do not tempt the Lord thy God, to whom you should surrender yourself!’
Lucifer cried an anguished cry, and flew off towards the moon, defeated. But that crawling malignant thing entered into Jesus now. He could feel its blue wings furl and unfurl inside his soul and he plunged in after it.
‘Son of God!’ the creature breathed. ‘Let me tell you something of hunger. Hunger is a terrible torment for a man; capable of driving even the most pious to sinful acts. But you need not suffer hunger, for you can so easily turn stones to bread merely by saying a word! Say it to impress us!’ 
Christ tasted ashes and felt the thickness of the bones under his skin, and the mind, imprisoned by a skull, found a memory of the leper…this malignant spirit had tempted that poor man and had eaten him alive. This was an archangel, and he was far mightier and more dangerous than Lucifer, his brother.
He knew his name.
He cried out to the ancient creature, ‘Satan, you father of lies! Leave me alone. It is written: man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from out of the mouth of God!’
‘That is what they say,’ whispered the creature, ‘those gods who know nothing of men. But men have turned a deaf ear to them, naturally, since they know that the belly must be fed, or the body dies! You see how I love men more than you? When you made life and death a law and left human beings to their own devices I showed them how to turn stones to coins, and coins to bread so that they could live. And so, as there are stupid men and cunning ones, there are also the rich and the poor. One man can feed his hunger while the other cannot, and each trespasses against the other, grasping for the daily bread. If you have come to preach love and eternal life to these animals called men, you might as well go back to that starry home from which you came, Son of God! Brotherly love is impossible while there is death! Over this mystery the will of the heavens cannot rule!’
Christ understood. These backward angels, Lucifer and Satan, had caused human beings to swing like a bell from one extreme to the other. But he had come to show how it was possible to overcome pride and arrogance through wisdom, and death through love. And here in Jesus’ soul he discerned a dual nature, a weaving of wisdom and love so endearing that it worked like a great power of attraction for him and he united his forces with it and became one with Jesus.
He felt a sting, a sudden gnawing in his bowels!
The blue archangel Satan gave a mocking laugh.
‘Now you’ve done it! Feel the tearing of hunger in Jesus? That is why men must live by the rule of the daily bread, and walk side by side with me…the archangel of death!’ The whisper came closer, ‘Listen to me, I am like you, I am stubborn and full of longing, I am eternal…and that is why I can wait. When the time comes, I will return for what is mine!
And he was gone.
Christ Jesus let out a gasp and fell to the earthen floor of the cave. Above him he sensed warmth; the love-radiant thoughts of the stars were making a way into his heart to comfort him.
And so the orphan from heaven closed his eyes then, and slept his first earthly sleep.

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