Monday, May 28, 2012

Religions in Fantasy

Our blog tour topic this time:  Religions in Fantasy. My post is first. The posts from other writers. Happy read!

Religions in Fantasy

Fantastical stories were born in Religion. We humans have always wanted to explore who we are, what/who  caused us to be, and what the nature of the world might be. Thus the belief in the supernatural has always been with us. From the days of Homer and Moses, the Hindu myths, the Norse myths, the exploration of nature and the shadings of existence have been turned into oral or printed texts.

But moving past religious texts (but not entirely removing them from our reality) let's deal with fantasy as religious literature.  There are many. Some religious writers write fantasies for fellow believers. To teach, to exhort, to explore, or as in the Arthurian Cycle, as  backdrop. Depending on the skill of the author, the patience of the reader, and the originality of the treatment -- a religious fantasy can lift the soul or fail miserably. Nowadays the topic of religion is so highly -fraught that many fantasy readers fear books with religion for fear they will be preached at. It's also hard for folks to read a text that challenges their political, social, or racial views. Spiritual matters, after all, is involved in all such matters. It's also cultural or trendy to hate certain religions.  Thus a person with a religion or a religious worldview that is considered "favorable" or who has no religion at all already has an edge in writing about spiritual matters because readers will pre- suppose open-mindedness and cultural likemindedness on his/her part.

What's worse is: one of the basic tenets of Christianity is this:  the real truth about the world is unpalatable, illogical, or offensive to the human mind (its sense of justice, reality, science, truth whatnot.) The idea that a religion must be "acceptable" to the reasonings of the human mind or "accepting" of the desires of the human flesh is a major hurdle to the modern western mind. Thus, a lot of religious 20th century writings are wish-fullfillment parables. A world accustomed to the idea that religion must be palatable will find true Christian fantasy quite offensive. Christian writers who fall in line with today's more liberal ideas or who praise some historical peculiar offshoot of Christian thought will be accepted and be able to write freely but those who stick with traditional/Biblical Christianity must learn, like Emily Dickinson, to "tell the truth and tell it slant."

The religious writer, of an unpopular religion therefore, has to decide how far he/she should go...and also how honest they should be with themselves and their readers. They have to have an ambassadorial gift if they are aiming for a wide audience. Fortunately, most people who habitually write spiritual/religious stories actually believe what they write. For instance, it is possible that George Lucas' Star Wars theology isn't too far from Lucas' own spirituality...but is George Herbert's vaguely Islamic vaguely secular take in the Dune series a reflection of his own beliefs? Obviously, whatever his beliefs were, he has placed them neatly in a story that doesn't challenge those who might be inclined to reject be oppressed by religious writing.

Christianity is a combination of moral views, worldview and cosmology therefore writing Christian fantasy is complicated. Moreover, Christian Fantasy is often linked to the European type of Christianity, with European concerns, politics, denominations. So a writer of Christian fiction, which is what I often write, has to separate Christian morality from Christian worldview, Christian history, and Christian cosmology.

Christianity has so many far-out ideas with almost every other verse of the Bible, so there are many opportunities for fantasists to mine and explore.

For instance:
A) How DOES a God rewire the ears and tongues of all peoples of a world to suddennly speak different languages, for instance? By what mechanism did that happen?

B)  That this planet is a theater, a microcosm, created with its own unique strange physical laws? That one day the heavens and the sky will be ripped open like a torn paper, and will roll away like a scroll, and all eyes will see reality as it is?

C) The interplay of Sound and silence being used as a weapon along with human joy and faith could cause a great wall to come down?

D) The first homo sapien being on earth was both male and female, and then something female was taken from him and the DNA and what else from his rib was used to create a body for this female aspect of that first being?

E) All of humanity has a great enemy skilled in deception, thus the world which "cannot receive truth"?

F) A ritual that causes people to identify with the death of one man and --who because of that death-- those people become strange new creatures who have power of death, disease, + devils?

G)  A fruit that is both mutagenic to one's descendants, and brain-altering to such a degree -- not hallucinatory like LSD but more dangerous-- that a different kind of consciousness is achieved?

H) That the world works is utterly different from how humans generally works?

I) A world built when sound created light. God said "Light Be!"

J) That the root cause of human sorrow is knowing "evil."

K) A religion that promises a people its God would be in each person and the person would be in God and each adherent of that religion will be in each other.

L) A religion that declares there is a greater Being within us who is able to live through us and who does all our good works?

And on and on and on...

But often Christian fantasists only barely touch on these many, multitudinous possibilities presented in the Bible. Often, they focus on mimicking C S Lewis's Narnia, the elven world of Tolkein, and apocalyptical stories such as The Left Behind series. Mercifully, some, like Frank Peretti, have written about the spiritual war in the universe. A few have also been influenced by C S Lewis' Perelandra scifi series. Most fantasy in the west follows the notion of the "horribly-gone wrong world." So very often, a Holy or Unique Thing needs to be found, honored, recognized for the world to be set right . . .whether it be Arthur's Sword or a Golden Child.This concept of fantasy as something we innately already deeply know is captured in C S Lewis' work Surprised by Joy, in which he details that all his love of the beauty of fantasy was really his first stirring toward a belief in the God, that when he read the Scriptures and studied Christianity, he realized that he was surprised at the fantastical joy he had found. . But for the most part, most Christian fantasy have left much of the wondrous possibility of the Bible unexplored.

For me, the greatest Christian fantasy book of all time has to be Flatland.It doesn't use the science of evolution as its premise...which is a science that is kinda overdone in most religious and scientific books. And it doesn't use Madeleine L'Engle's Quantum Physics, for instance, to show that the world was made Light which was made from Sound (And God SAID, LIGHT be!)   It is a book that approaches religion from a mathematical perspective. That is, its worldbuilding is based on the science of math. A religion that uses the ideas of higher math (God is three-in-one, 1x1x1=1) versus everyday math such as (1+1+1=3) is rife for a mathematician's mind.  And Edwin Abbott was a mathematician par excellence. Flatland is a tough read for some because it explores in a fantastical (yet scientific) way the idea that different lifeforms can exist in different dimensions. In this way, it's a fantasy that accepts the religious premise that other worlds exist and that certain denizens of higher different worlds can not be understood by those in a lesser world.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

  • by Edwin Abbott
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Unabridged edition (September 21, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 048627263X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486272634

In short... the question this book poses for fantasy writers is this: if you believe in different ways and modes of being, is it not possible that you're blind to a specific kind of Being or Creator or world all around you because your eyes and minds (creations of this reality) are unable to see into the other worlds? True Science is Fantasy, and setting is truly metaphor.

Because religions affect culture and cultures affect religion, I've always liked making a setting (or the many settings) in a novel a metaphor for aspects of spirituality. It's better than spelling it out. Consider the history of the effect of fertility religions: often in religions/cultures that worship the goddess of fertility -- India's Devidasi, for instance-- the end result is that women are abused, impregnated, deserted, and there is often a great deal of infanticide, especially female infanticide.

In Wind Follower I dealt with how religion and setting work together. First the cultural:
A) Religions merged into, colored, affected each other and warred against each other.
B) The subtle difference among believers -- Adherents could be found along the spectrum: from the "traditional" monklike believers in Blade Castle, to those who don't care about religion (those in the Therpa's Blue Fortress), to those who uphold or ignore parts of their religion depending on societal, personal, or class factors, to (those in Taer's Golden House) to those who were the "remnant": who truly loved God and understood the meaning of the religion  (The Called-Out ones.)
C) Those who had a true religion but who allowed racism to affect their peaceful religion.  

In the Constant Tower, I used "setting as metaphor" not to show the differences between religions/cultures/cuts but I used it to show one particular Christian concept. The idea of a pentecost where the out of whack world awaits the jubilee of the 50th day -- the NEW day the creator would make, mixed with a little bit of the Tower of Babel. The Christianity stand-in religion (and culture) are not mentioned in this book, however. In Wind Follower the true religion had gotten tainted by cultural assimilation, deceived theologians, and demonic entities. In Constant Tower, the question is: is there something wrong with the world or not? (On Earth, there are religions which presume the world is quite all right because man is progressing towards an evolutionary spiritual growth.) In Wind Follower I explored the many primal folklore themes of blood sacrifices and a Coming Savior. In Constant Tower, there is a savior but he creates the New Day. Both are Christian but Wind Follower is more obviously so. In my story, A Cry for Hire, published in the anthology Fantastic Stories or the Imagination ( and also published in my own kindle fiction collection Spirit Fruit) I imagined a world in which I simply did not have a deliverer --a constant in Earth folklore-- or a loving God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. So one can write about a certain religious motif in a kind of slanted way and highlight something by its mere absence.

Carole McDonnell is a writer of ethnic fiction, speculative fiction, and Christian fiction. Her works have appeared in many anthologies and at various online sites. Her novel, Wind Follower, was published by Wildeside Books. Her forthcoming novel is called The Constant Tower.  

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Let's see what else our roundtable has to say about this month's topic.

Religion in Fantasy

I first started reading fantasy because it took me back imaginatively to a time when the religion of the goddess was still practiced. It was the high tide of the feminist movement and Marion Zimmer Bradley had just boldly reimagined Morgan le Fey in the monumental best seller The Mists of Avalon. Bradley changed the infamous witch sister of King Arthur, the good king who brought Christianity to England, into the staunch defender of the old faith, worshiper of the goddess and protector of female power. It was thrilling.

This rewriting of Morgan unleashed a flood of goddess literature with women untainted by Eve’s acceptance of Knowledge from the Tree of Life—err, evil from the serpent on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Women who were comfortable in their sexuality, untouched by the teachings that sex was a sin and women the temptress of all men. Women who hadn’t heard that they were less than men, were considered amongst the chattel of a man’s household to be bargained over in marriage, more dominated by the physical, less able to think clearly. Women who spoke up, taught spiritual truths, led religious rituals because they hadn’t been told by Peter, the rock of the church, to keep quiet and obey.

I reveled in the retelling of the Inquisition in many different imaginings, how the earth religion of the Druids had been repressed through trickery, torture and death. In many books, the old ways survived in cultures that successfully fought back or in secret subcultures. Later I discovered the legend that Joseph of Arimathea had brought Christianity to England and planted it with his staff that grew into the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury. The Druids and Christians peacefully co-existed and compared the truths of their spiritual teachings.

Then other spiritual traditions that had been repressed by the one interpretation of Christianity that had politically dominated Europe began to be represented. The story of the Cathars was told. People wrote about the Templars, Freemasons and Rosicrucians as keeping Gnostic Christianity and Jewish Cabbalism alive and hidden from the Inquisitors. Dan Brown made millions. Others had been writing similar books all the while, and I discovered them.

Then one day it all came full circle. I picked up a book entitled William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision—an intriguing title I thought—and discovered that Blake’s mother had belonged to the small Protestant church I’d been raised in, the Unitas Fratrum called the Moravian Church in America. I discovered that during Blake’s childhood, my church had taught sacred sexuality. I stopped dead in my tracks. Why had nobody told my grandfather about this? I read more. It taught the genders were equal. In the 18th century, they arranged their lives so women’s work was shared and women had free time for spiritual development. I discovered that my straight-laced church had taught mysticism and a Gnostic connection with Christ. This wasn’t the Christianity I’d been raised in. It was the spirituality I’d discovered by leaving that church. But here it was, hidden away, tucked away inside my own tradition. The spirituality I’d found had been there all along.

So I wrote a novel about it, which I’m now revising for publication:  The Star Family. Two men from my old church are reading it, a minister and a church historian. I held my breath. I’d be accused of grievous error. They’d send the Christian hit squad after me to put me back in my place. But none of that happened. One enthused, then sent me a six page list of historical corrections and suggestions. Another called it a supernatural thriller, like War in Heaven by the Inkling Charles Williams. “You should read Williams,” he said. You’d like him.”

Life is amazing.

Theresa Crater has published two contemporary fantasies, Beneath the Hallowed Hill & Under the Stone Paw and several short stories, most recently “White Moon” in Riding the Moon and “Bringing the Waters” in The Aether Age:  Helios. She’s also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Colorado with her Egyptologist partner and their two cats. Visit her website at 
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Religion in Fantasy

There is always a theory of creation.  Out of chaos, out of nothing, from an egg, from Creator-parents.  The Big Bang.  These are all explanations.

Explanations are a fundamental tool for intelligent beings negotiating a potentially dangerous world.  Why did lightning strike the walnut tree?  Why did the bear come?  Why do I feel sick?  Why did the crop fail?  What are the rules?

Lightning struck the tree because Nami did not bow his head before Marule. // When electrical energy builds in the atmosphere, it strikes tall objects.

The bear is a punishment brought by Sekkent because you are proud. //  The bear's usual hunting grounds were seared by fire.

You are sick because you ate the nerri-blossom sacred to Aslar.  // Nerri is poisonous.

The crop failed because you have not sacrificed to Denahl. // Continually using the same field for the same crop allows pests and diseases specific to that crop to build up.

Explanations and rules will accumulate over time, growing ever more complex and abstract.

When creating a fantasy world, a writer needs to keep in mind at least two explanations: how the world works, and how the people who live there think it works.  If there are many different people, there may be many different explanations, and some of those explanations will form religion, while others will not.

I have yet to see a fantasy world where all explanations are based on empirical evidence, but I have seen many fantasy worlds where the biggest explanations seem irrelevant to the characters.  The question of creation does not arise, the rules boil down to "might means right", and if the characters happen to name-drop a particular god while swearing, they rarely seem to give them more than a passing thought.

And yet, in many fantasy novels, the gods are more than a matter of faith and speculation, more than an explanation of the unknowable.  In worlds where gods are inclined to show up when you call upon them, where a failure to sacrifice has tangible and obvious consequences, religion is rarely shown to be of such pre-eminent importance to daily life as it was even one hundred years ago.

In preparing this post, I spent some time considering my own treatment of religion when writing fantasy.

In Medair's world, the invaded Palladian Empire and the invading Ibisians have differing explanations.  The Palladians practice land worship, while the Ibisians believe in a Creator-God.  There are glimpses of festival-related practices of these religions – and the story revolves around an artefact believed to carry the land goddess' power – but the characters spend no time in daily worship.  They believe implicitly that their gods exist, and the artefact certainly appears to be of immense power, but there is no appearance by a god.

Stained Glass Monsters mentions several gods, a myth is recounted, and we see a temple, but again none of the characters are depicted in daily practice.  There is no evidence one way or the other as to the actual existence of these gods – and given the existence of many "other beings" of varying levels of power, it's entirely possible that the true explanation of those considered gods in that world is that they were the same order of creature my characters fought as monsters – merely a powerful sub-variety which at some time in the past had gained worshippers.

Champion of the Rose does show one of my characters offering thanks to one of that world's pair of gods, and that faith is world-wide.  Those who make offerings relieve a tangible, if subtle, response.  There is little doubt that the gods are there, in that world, but they do not seem to be a focus of daily life.

I will be tackling more 'present' gods in my upcoming YA Fantasy release, Hunting, where a failure of observance has direct consequences, and the gods have a fundamental impact on governance, daily lives and the plot.  But even in that world, religion is something which is simply part of life, not a core or focus of living.

Could the reason religion is so by-the-way in worlds where gods (or, at the least, higher beings) offer tangible evidence of existence simply because those gods have clearly communicated the amount, or not, of worship they require?  Because the rules are known?

Andrea K Höst was born in Sweden but raised in Australia.  She writes fantasy and science fantasy, and enjoys creating stories which give her female characters something more to do than wait for rescue.  See:
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Religion in Fantasy
How is religion expressed or used or woven into fantastic literature? Pondering this question took me to two of the genre’s masters, Tolkien and Lewis, and what I found to be two differing ways to use religion in fantasy. Tolkien and Lewis developed a “literary philosophy of mythopoeics, of mythmaking, which led them to the writing of popular fiction” as a vehicle not only for storytelling but for expressing their faith. As Jason Boffeti explains in his November 2001 Crisis essay, “If God used narrative to communicate his revelation to man and man is called to bear God’s image on earth, then one of the most noble vocations is create ‘new secondary worlds’ in narrative.”
Tolkien describes Lord of the Rings as a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” This may be, as Boffeti notes, something of a surprise to Tolkien’s fans as no gods or God are mentioned in the trilogy. The Silmarillion does have a creation myth and there is a pantheon of gods, including an all-father divinity—but they are gods, not God, and they are off-stage and only alluded to in The Hobbit and the trilogy. If one looks just a little more closely at the trilogy, the inspiration of his Catholic imagination becomes more apparent. For example, Galadriel parallels the Virgin Mary, the Holy Eucharist is echoed in lembas, the Elfish waybread, and Aragorn, Frodo, and Gandalf are all Christ-figures. Tolkien wanted to create a mythology for England, a mythology that would express the truth of another mythology, that of Christianity, “the perfect myth.” While he had a definite aversion to overt religiosity and evangelism, Tolkien still believed that fantasy, and The Lord of the Rings in particular, could and did teach good morals, and that his flawed heroes and characters who are good, bad, evil, and ambiguous, “were consistent with the moral world we know.” Even so, for Tolkien “it was more important that Middle-earth was successful as subcreation” (Boffeti). He saw Middle-earth as “divine praise.” The more closely his fantasy, his subcreation, could approach God’s own creation, the greater and purer the praise.
C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, is famously evangelistic. Narnia is meant to be a way to learn about Christianity. “Lewis, the evangelical Anglican, hoped his stories would bring the reader closer to the truth of Christian Gospel.” The Pevensies are told explicitly that Aslan brought them to Narnia so that they could know him better in our world. Aslan, the great Lion, is not just an allegorical Christ-figure, he is Christ as he would appear in the Narnian universe where animals are sentient and can talk and are the equal of the human Narnians. Narnia was made them, not us, after all. There is a creation story, a betrayal by a Judas-like traitor who is later redeemed and forgiven, and a slaying of the god and a resurrection, a divine Good, and deep, dark Evil. The Christian symbolism is evident, as are the “moments of overt moral and religious instruction” (Boffeti). As for the pagan gods in Narnia Lewis’s reply is that it is “only in God’s name that the spirits of nature can rule their domains with ‘beauty and security.’ Without God they would disappear or ‘become demons’” (Ford, Companion to Narnia 228-229).
It seems to me that Tolkien and Lewis, two of the masters of 20th century fantasy, represent two perhaps primary ways or addressing the issue of religion and fantasy: the implicit, and the overt, metaphor and allusion, and symbol and allegory, gods or God.  Is one more valid or more useful than another?  Is this question even necessary? Is religion an essential element of a fully realized secondary world?
And why? What is the role of religion and the religious in a fantastic universe—and this seems to me to be the bigger question: what is the author’s intent? The overt evangelical? The implied act of praise?  To make the numinous visible? For what purpose has the story—this other secondary universe—been imagined? What is the story the author is trying to tell through and in this other place?
I am not finding an answer that is definite other than mystery and making the numinous visible. To quote Le Guin in this fantasy roundtable blog again, storytelling is a tool for human understanding and that one of the key questions humans wrestle with is what and where is our place in the universe and what is our relation to this universe. And can we begin to explore such questions through including religion in an imagined world?
How do I answer these questions in my own fantasy? Before answering that it might be worth briefly describing—in the interest of full disclosure—my own personal religious context, the somewhat checkered history of my own religious beliefs as they have evolved over the years. I would describe myself as a believer. I have never doubted God’s existence or Jesus’s identity and purpose, although I would not call myself orthodox either. I am sure those who are truly orthodox, or those of a conservative bent, would probably find my particular beliefs an anathema at the very least, or even heretical.  So be it. I was raised a Presbyterian and have, at various points in my life, been involved with the Baha’is, Roman Catholicism, Unitarian Universalists, and Episcopalians.
And so my answers—well, my musings, actually—are imagined universes of gods and metaphor and allusion and symbol that, I hope, give the reader some hint of the numinous, the Great Mystery and the truth that God is Love. We tell stories to help us better understand what it means to be human in a mysterious universe. Sometimes, as Plato has argued, the only way to even get close to understanding, to get a flicker of the numinous, is through myth and metaphor and allusion and allegory, through fantasy. 

Warren Rochelle has taught English at the University of Mary Washington since 2000. His short story, "The Golden Boy” (published in The Silver Gryphon) was a Finalist for the 2004 Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Story and his novels include The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010. He also published a critical work on Le Guin and has academic articles in various journals and essay collections.
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 I began writing professionally in 1982 as Deborah Wheeler with JAYDIUM and NORTHLIGHT, and short stories in ASIMOV'S, F & SF, REALMS OF FANTASY and STAR WARS: TALES FROM JABBA'S PALACE. Now under my birth name, Ross, I am continuing the" Darkover" series of the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as original work, including the fantasy trilogy THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD. I'm a member of Book View Cafe. I've lived in France, worked for a cardiologist, studied Hebrew, yoga and kung fu, and am active in the local Jewish and Quaker communities.
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Sylvia Kelso lives in North Queensland, Australia. She writes fantasy and SF set in analogue or alternate Australian settings. She has published six fantasy novels, two of which were finalists for best fantasy novel of the year in the Australian Aurealis genre fiction awards, and some short stories in Australian and US anthologies. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dark Parable: Ripping my heart out

I dreamed I was in a school and a teenaged boy with many sports award wanted to leave school without taking the last examination test. I cried and wept and kept telling him he shouldn't do that, thta the test was very necessary. Then there was another kid I was crying for. Quite the weepy tears. Then there was a dance class in the gym or something like that.  Then suddenly a video of Elvis Presley (The King) dancing was seen by some of us and there was this big earthquake inside this vision of the king. And just as this vision of the earthquake happened, there was an earthquake in the real world. Some of us were saying to each other, "Did you see the vision on the wall of Elvis Presley? Did you see how the earthquake in our world happened just when it happened in that vision?" Much amazement. Cause it was a kind of phenomenon and like a vision that only a few of us saw. The school where we were was totally destroyed from the inside although one could still get around and no one seemed to have died. I opened the back door so people could come and go but someone said security didn't want us to do that because straners might get into the school. so i shut the door.

THere was a black goat impaled on the fence around the school and it was living as it bled. I felt it was placed there by someone to curse the school but who knows? it could be Jesus who became a curse for us.

I was walking outside in the town where everything seemed normal, and I saw a Christian writer friend named Grace B. I told her about the earthquake in the school. She said she didn't see any and behaved as if she doubted me. I said it only occurred in the school. I wasn't sure if she believed me after that.

I was then at my house and I had opened my body and was removing various parts and non-vital organs. Then I removed this big organ from my body. It had little fibrous stuff connected to it that I was trying to get rid of by pulling them away with my fingers. They looked like little fiddle vines and beautiful little anemones or octopus tentacles. I was scraping them away and putting them in the garbage so I could clean up the organ and send it to wherever I was sending it. Then i realised the organ  looked like a heart but was kinda like my liver, that it was a vital organ. When I realized that I started waiting to die and I said out loud, "Oh My God??? What have I done?" Then i rushed to call 911.


I don't have all the interpretation on this but I think I have the last part. So quickly: the first part. Vaguely apocalyptic but only in a certain area, in a school...and Elvis dancing might be a christ symbol... The King, after all. Not sure but I'm thinking the impaled goat is about the cursed scapegoat: Jesus who became a curse for us.

The last part is about my tendency to self-destroy whenever I get very sad. I go into reclusive self-destruct mode. Like getting rid of my blog or getting rid of stories or getting rid of people. The liver in the Bible -- the Hebrews of old times thought of it as the center of the emotions-- thus it is the heart and the liver in my dream. Liver purifies and the heart is what causes us to feel (symbolically) but I had not considered them vital to my life and was removing them. I have to be careful then whenever I am hurting or reassessing my life and what I am willing to part not drop something that is vitally important to my the blog or like my friends. I tend to be very honesty...which is maybe what I am considering reconsidering. Honesty in this life is such a detriment. But would I be Carole if I removed that aspect of my personality? Not that I worship my personality but...well...there are certain things one feels convinced is necessary in being one's self.

Not sure what the earthquake bit meant. An earth-shattering event in a place where one learns? Or why I wanted the boy to take the official test and not to trust his life to his awards alone. I must remember A Cry For Hire, the Horace poem.  I dreamed of which reminded me how to take advice. Ooh, yes, the dream...gonna add a link for that as well. The dream that spawned my story A Cry for Hire

Debra's interpretation
I think the old way of things is being transcended. I think the way some / most of the churches who corrupted Jesus' teachings will cease; they will be no longer be teaching those false lessons. People will cast off those corruptions ( if you eye offend thee pluck it out). People will see the truth. The Old Religion has often been symbolized as a goat. Jesus referred to the masses as sheep who are gentle creatures who follow without a lot of critical analysis. Goats on the other hand pick their path very deliberately as they traverse rocky hillsides.
In spite of the corrupt church trying to eliminate the old religion it lives on although impaled and bleeding.
Maybe a new school is in session. Maybe with lessons Jesus actually hoped people would understand and employ for a better life.
We learn more from the tests in life than the times we are not tested. Perhaps you wanted this young man to learn what he needed to learn; to live a more fulfilled life.
At least this is my first blurry thought on reading your dream as I wake up.

he he. heres what i think. I think its an apocalyptic dream about widespread deception  and the antichrist. kind of like a hologram elvis being the leader and you being able to see things about him that others cant or wont. "Grace" Bridges is too full of grace, to see the bad but the bad is t here. You are being infiltrated by the world and are working at extricating the worldliness out
of you but its more complicated t han you think and you  might pull the wrong stuff out if you do it yourself (parable of weeds and tares) .octoupus tentacles are worldy things trying to get ahold
and one world thinking! :)  I'm reading the book FAther ELijah by Michael o'brien and LOVING IT
its like a catholic end of the world series but SO  much better than tim lahaye garbage

 Jessica:  wow, the symbolism on your dreams
just read Tombs of Anak last night and there was a little black goat sacrificed on the perimeter to draw the spirits of death and destruction in on those who dwelt inside
according to the notes on the back, it was pulled from the general Philistine culture
the interesting thing with the fibroids though is that you did not start to die until you realize that you had removed something
 me:  wow, we're so in sync
 Jessica:  and then you started to die
 me:  WOW
 Jessica:  it's almost as if it was unnecessary until you thought that it was necessary and then it became necessary
 me:  i wasn't sure if it was a curse or not
 Jessica:  I don't think it's a curse
I think that maybe it's a matter of your mind
 me:  well i had not realized i'd yanked my liver/heart out
 Jessica:  were you sure that it was the heart or liver?
 me:  yes it was kinda both
 Jessica:  or were you just afraid that it was? because if it was, wouldn't you have felt the effects right away
rather than waiting to feel the symptoms?
 me:  i was amazed i wasnt dying though
who knows?
 Jessica:  it's almost like Wile E. Coyote running on air

 me:  dream worlds
very funny if you think of it
it could make a good cartoon panel
 Jessica:  hmmhmmm
perhaps it connects to what you were saying about doctors
 me:  but i wokeup so terrified
 Jessica:  and not believing what they say for certain
of course
it's playing on your fears
 me:  but really should i have een opening my body and cutting out body organs?
even if there was no blood
 Jessica:  well...let's look at it symbolically
 me:  so it feels like spiritual heartlessness
 Jessica:  you, spiritually heartless?
hard to imagine
 me:  for instance
 Jessica:  now for the liver and processing bile, perhaps
 me:  you are one of the few people i can argue with
and not turn my heaqrt against
that is quite a feat with me
other folks
my besetting sin
is to drop folks
 Jessica:  ahhh!
 me:  and in the dream it was as if i had done somethign so self-destructive and heartless
 Jessica:  just had a thought!

 me:  like getting rid of logan or gabe or you or logan
because i didn't want to commit to heart or maybe because i didn't realize how important that person or thing was to my spirit
 Jessica:  the liver functions to remove bile, and what if its that you cannot process the bile other people give you
arguments, stress, cruelty
 me:  wow
ooooooooooooh, so good
 Jessica:  so you avoid them as if you were missing part of your liver or almost all of it
 me:  wowww
 Jessica:  of course, the reason that you removed it was you were also trying to make sure that you got it clean
anemones and the like need to grow in areas with bile and infection, which is part of how they clean the ocean
 me:  yes, they seemed very floral like lovely little
but they were clogging stuff
 Jessica:  yes
 me:  but why the terror when i shouted, "What have i done?"
and actually
i was prettying it up
to put it on sale
 Jessica:  good
but you also need your liver
interesting too
is that you were only prettying it up to bless someone else

 me:  getting rid of those pesky little fibrers
 Jessica:  you were not doing it for yourself
 me:  oh please, you're being too nice there
 Jessica:  ahh no
 me:  it was orga ntrafficking
 Jessica:  I think it's very true
 me:  and getting rid of the parts of mysself
i felt i could live without
 Jessica:  hm, let me reread it
it would be a loose definition of organ trafficking
because there are lots of folks who donate organs for nothing
but am pondering what it would mean
for organ trafficking, it would mean that you might have been in a somewhat desperate situation or feeling the need
did you have any particular emotions or feelings before the terror?
 Sent at 2:36 PM on Saturday
 me:  no..just the first dream..and i wasn't worried but i was miffed that the christian girl grace didn't believe me about the earthquake
i think my mind used her because
she has had epilepsy all her life
and she thought me making loic have epilepsy whenever he ate grains
was wrong and said so
then a few months ago she suddenly emailed me and said
i am so sorry i was rude to you when you said that earlier

times people treated epilepsy with
grain removal
 Jessica:  wow
 me:  i had to laugh
i hadn't seen the rudeness at all
but it was on her mind all these years
so she appeared
 Jessica:  there's something else that's interesting in the dream
in one sense the they are related
 me:  in my dream as a christian who doesn't believe something i tell her
 Jessica:  you were so distraught and struggling with the boy not listening
and then with her not believing you
 me:  grace is a good name though for symbolism in a dream
 Jessica:  but you did not seem to turn away from them
 me:  christians have this very narrow restricted way of being
and they often will not believe you if they haven't heard others say it
 Jessica:  indeed
 me:  wow you're good
 Jessica:  perhaps the dreams are encouraging you to find that balance
 me:  so the dream is really so much about my sense of helping or trying to tell something to folks who don't value it
 Jessica:  because with the bottom dream, you would not be able to handle any
but in the first segment, you were unable to detach yourself
and it was grieving you deeply
just like it was with that writer you were trying to help and her story
but the other thing that connects is that in the beginning as in the end, you were not tending to yourself to keep the temple in its proper condition so to speak
 Sent at 2:42 PM on Saturday
 Jessica:  and it does bother me a little bit for your sake that you allowed those fibroids (which remind me of the fibromyalgia) to remain in your body until you were thinking about sending them elsewhere for other folks
it's almost a willingness to accept less than optimal condition for yourself
 me: non-rebuking way of looking at the dream
 Jessica:  plus to continue with the organ trafficking image, generally those who give up their organs in the industry give them up because their lives are "worth less"
and that's why the traffickers follow it and promote that concept
either the donor's life is worth less than the person to whom the organ is to be given or the donor's life is worth less than a child or someone who they hope to help provide for
 Sent at 2:46 PM on Saturday
 me:  and really considering all the heartfelt talks with youthful lambs,,,
 Jessica:  yes
 Sent at 2:47 PM on Saturday
 me:  and christians who won't past the tests
 Jessica:  hmmmhmmm
 me:  but who have many awards
the world's recognition but still something else is needed
that's why the earthquake takes place in the school but not in the world at large
it's aimed for those in the school
i guess i'm working on my reasons for the fibro
 was praying for you last night
 me:  and the world's doctors are okay
but we have to heal by strengthening our immune system so we don't attack ourselves
but we are so trained to be spiritual and to belittle our emotions that somehow we attack ourselves
 Jessica:  yes

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sin: A History

Sin: A History 
Gary A. Anderson (Yale University press)

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300149891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300149890

Here's the blurb:

What is sin? Is it simply wrongdoing? Why do its effects linger over time? In this sensitive, imaginative, and original work, Gary Anderson shows how changing conceptions of sin and forgiveness lay at the very heart of the biblical tradition. Spanning nearly two thousand years, the book brilliantly demonstrates how sin, once conceived of as a physical burden, becomes, over time, eclipsed by economic metaphors. Transformed from a weight that an individual carried, sin becomes a debt that must be repaid in order to be redeemed in God’s eyes.

Anderson shows how this ancient Jewish revolution in thought shaped the way the Christian church understood the death and resurrection of Jesus and eventually led to the development of various penitential disciplines, deeds of charity, and even papal indulgences. In so doing it reveals how these changing notions of sin provided a spur for the Protestant Reformation.

Broad in scope while still exceptionally attentive to detail, this ambitious and profound book unveils one of the most seismic shifts that occurred in religious belief and practice, deepening our understanding of one of the most fundamental aspects of human experience.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is the world influenced by the supernatural

Is the world magical?

Okay, i haven't used witch or wizard -- so that's a good thing.

But for this once, let me use magical...rather than spiritual...
and please assume i mean only the best. How about supernatural?
Or fantastical?

One of my big problems with christians is how the simple mention of a word
can turn them off. but the christians have not given the world a replacement for the word "magic"
the nearest one can think is "a fairy tale" but that is too light. Or "fantastical."
but magical is not the right word either. Christians will not give the word "magical" a chance.
It's a bit like how C S Lewis has suffered because of his use of the word myth or Madeliene L'engle has suffered
because she used the word "fantasy." Both describe the ultimate reality. God's reality. Christ's reality.
So what will I do with this word "magical"? Obviously, I can't redeem it because it is used in the Bible to
show man's attempt to connect to the evil dark forces in the universe.

SO let me use the world "supernatural." And I hope I don't get slammed for this word,
although "supernatural" seems to separate the world into (generally) natural .
then suddenly some stuff rarely happens that is a bit off-center a bit supernatural?
Supernatural implies that the godly, the numinous, the weird, happens only rarely. 
Magical implies rules we know nothing about...but which are ever-present because 
the world at its core is following rules created by laws and a force higher than the ones we understand.

So is the world supernatural?
It is, in that there are forces operating that our rational minds
don't know, understand or have forgotten. I understand I'm using a 
word that many Christians are taught to hate. Perhaps i should have used
miraculous or wondrous or odd.

But  think of it: all the world, all the universe, all the mega-verses are in line with God except for this one rebel outpost that does't understand his love or his power or his ways. Because of that loss, that rebellion, that utter lack of knowledge we don't easily fall in line with the power-force-supernatural ways. We christians are called to bring God's light and god's ways into this world -- his power, force, magice, whatever we may call it-- to bring the world closerto being transformed by His power, to call the world out of darkness into God's marvelous light.
But all this loveliness is turned into doctrine theology mode -- instead of delight and simplicity and resting in a trust that the underlying spiritual laws of God are really what rules the world. Sad

There is the issue of non-humans and their effect on the world.
There are curses  in the family line,  ways  in which we curse
ourselves, by actions,  thoughts,  deeds

There is the question of what wecan controland what has power over us
and God's intervention;  there is prayer, working through  evil
spirits,  like Pharoh's magicians; working thru sacrements such as
baptism,  that transforms  us, sacrements that put us in covenants
with God and  others;  sacrements  that give us power, like the laying
on of  hands, there is speaking God's word and decreeing it to come to past...

So  how magical  is  this  world? And how magical is it intended to
be?  Jesus saved us to the uttermost. He gave us a great salvation.
Through him, through the ritual of his blood, through his work of
saving  us, He has restored dominion and power to a new kind of  man.

This new kind of man is battling all the time with the old kind of
man.  So we really don't know, as individuals, or as a church, the
greatness to which we are called in this life.

The world, the human flesh, the devil, fight against this great
salvation.  We don't know how much power we have over death,over
sickness, over things great and small, through the name of Christ.

Because it is through faith in the name of Christ that we are called
to show forth God's glory. But our imagination can't attain to the
knowledge, the height, width, depth, length of God's power working in
us who believe in Christ.  We almost  it. I feel as if it's like
learning to swim  or ride a bike. The place where one reaches that
tipping pointwhereone learning to float on the  everlasting arms.  In
learningtokeep  ones  balance whileriding on God's glory. I feel the
day will come when I and all the church will be swept away, water past
the knees, water past the thighs,waters to swim in, when we will truly
 understand that  the world is based on faith,on irrational,wonderful
things,on true magic.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Coconut Oil Giveaway

So, seeing I have this over-the-top Jamaican worship of coconut oil, when I saw that Tropical Traditions was sending out samples of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil for review ...well, seeing I am a writer....well, yeah, I jumped for it. I didn't have to review it, mind you...but hey, why receive something for free and not review it? Besides, I want all the world to know the greatness of coconut oil, whatever company one buys it from. sample arrived soon after I signed up. I actually squealed. It was like getting a prize. I love free stuff coming in the mail.

First impressions: Wow, this is one classy looking bottle. Second impression: They sent me two pint jars instead of one large quart jar. Good idea. I can use one as the ointment I can dip into and the other I can keep cleaner and use for spooning. Third impression: These bottles have large openings. Unlike those bottles that have narrow openings. Honestly, who would put coconut oil in bottles with narrow openings? It's a major chore to get it out of narrow bottles...and one certainly can't smooth it out. Not naming any names but a certain company should remember that some of its customers live in cooler climates where coconut oil becomes hard as a rock. That's why when I have to get coconut oil I get the Goya brand because it comes in a wide jar. Impressions on opening it: oh my goshhhhhh... I love that smell. It smelled so fresh compared to the Goya. Impressions on touching it: felt totally ..trying to think of a word here. It felt less industrialized. It felt fresh and real. Then finally taste: OOh, it melts in the mouth. 

So then here is the video

Now, they have a giveaway for this oil. I'm generally lazy about the whole giveaway thing but hey, they'll do all the work. They'll provide a free quart of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil as the winner’s prize for this giveaway and they will ship the oil directly to the winner I choose. 

So, if you want the giveaway, 

2) Post on your blog about how you Use Coconut Oil or link to their how-to-use-coconut-oil page:

3) Simply email me at SCIFIWRITIR (AT) GMAIL.COM with your name, telephone number, email address, and shipping address. I'll pick the winner and send them the info. They don't share this information with anyone! Open to U.S. & Canada. I'll pick the winner a week from now. How's that?

4)  Follow them on Twitter @troptraditions and @ttspecialdeals
5)     “Like” Tropical Traditions on Facebook (Please don't add that you were sent by me. That's not necessary and those posts will be removed.
6)  Follow them on Pinterest

Friday, May 18, 2012

See, I get to take credit for that

"See, I get to take credit for that."

That's one of my favorite author quotes.

In order for you to understand it, I guess I should tell you about the circumstances in which Edward Albee came to say it.

He was being interviewed by someone about one of his plays. The interviewer said, "Oh I love the way you brought in this myth and this religious allusion and this societal issue."

Sorry, I don't remember the specifics but you know what I mean. There are times when you write a book or a story and reviewers find such lovely things in it...things you had never consciously put into it. When I wrote Wind Follower I was aware of a few of the myths, social history, historical and political events I was addressing. But when the reviewers and critical text analysts got to it, wow!!!!! They saw such glories in my book.

Well, I suppose when notified of all the wonderful subtexts happening in my novel I remembered Edward Albee's words and said, "Actually, I wasn't even aware that that was in there, and I had no conscious plan to put it in the book. Thanks. I get to take credit for that."

I don't know about other folks but I was a lit major. I like analyzing stories in the larger context and I like being analyzed. Makes me feel valid. Some of my stories are thin, mind you and they have no resonance. But it's so wonderful when a story has all these layers and readers can see such interesting cultural, religious, and social issues in them.

Most writers tend to be pleased to see that their stories are rich enough to carry so many subtexts. When a reader finds stuff in a story that the writer didn't consciously put into the story, it shows the writer is A) listening to the universal unconscious B) allowing true creativity to flow through him and through his own experience of life C) taking part in the great creative communal conversation of his time, D) well-read and E) downright deep.

It is that odd writer who says, "no, my work is not that rich. My work doesn't connect to these primal, or cultural, or social issues. My work only goes to this area and I refuse to see in it what I myself did not put into it."

Who wants to write stories that don't resonate? Who wants to write stories that echo only what one consciously puts into them? What is the glory of a story that is utterly man-made and lacking the true spirit of the universal subconscious?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Interpretations, interpretations

Okay, so there I am continually downloading mp3 and windows media sermons because well I'm trying to abide in the spiritual vine and keep my first and last thoughts on Jesus. Hey, I'll do all this to get my son's healing to manifest. Jesus bought son's healing 2000 years ago on the cross and yeah, I'm stubborn enough to get it...cause I'm pushy and bitchy like that.

So anyway...these sermons. Aside from the fact that one has to be really careful how one hears and that there are all these pastors out there telling you NOT to have faith for miracles because well God is unpredictable. (Okay...they say, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, but it might not be his will to heal you and free you from the oppression of the devil. Okay...they say, God created a world based on biological, physical, chemical, physical law -- but when it comes to spiritual laws they want us to believe that God is just whimsical or not gonna heal you for "your own good.")

So yeah, aside from those....there are also pastors whom I can only call folks who are totally rooted in the rational. St Paul would call them carnal because for Paul anyone who used only human reasoning was carnal and not spiritual. The interesting thing so far is how they interpret certain scriptures.

Example: the parable of the sower. A sower goes to sow. Some of the seed he sowed fell on the wayside and was trodden down. No results there. Some fell on hard land. These sprung up quickly but had no roots so died soon after springing up. Some fell amid thorns. Plants strangled. Some fell on good ground and brought forth good plants. And of those good plants some gave 30 times the fruits, 60 times the fruits, 100 times the fruits.

According to Jesus if you don't understand this parable, you will never understand any of the parables. This parable is THAT important.

In Matthew's gospel, Jesus said the seed is the kingdom. In Luke's or Marks' he says the seed is the word of God. Now, I have no problem with the difference between the interpretations and whether Jesus said the seed is the kingdom or the seed is the word of God. Because taken on a spiritual level the kingdom of God is within us. And Jesus said the word of God is alive and it IS the kingdom and it feeds the kingdom. So, yeah, I'm not gonna sweat the semantics because I get the spiritual idea that both words pretty much carry the same meaning.

But these sermons I download...I am telling you it is ALWAYS some guy who thinks he's an intellectual who berates others for not "seeing" the truth who comes up with Bible exegesis and sermons so lacking in spiritual insight that it really makes you think: Is this guy kidding?????

When I went on my audio search and searched for sermons about the parables to download, did I think I would encounter such diversity of opinion? One could expect that kind of stuff when one downloads miracles (are the age of miracles past or not?) or speaking in tongues (Are the gifts of the holy spirit still present today?) but the parables?????

My friends, the guy I listened to yesterday said the parable of the sower is only about God's future restoration of Israel because the parable is about the kingdom of God. He said the seed that landed on good ground was when Israel -- geographically and at the end of the age-- will be established as God's true kingdom. All the other examples, says he, of the seed's bad planting was about humans trying to establish their own kingdoms of God on the earth. Then he went on and on about how intellectual he was and how we should all use human reason to understand these things. Okay, I'm cool. I can accept his assertions that humans are always trying to create perfect kingdoms on earth. I'm all for Israel. I'm actually very pro-Israel. And I KNOW that many prophecies concern the establishing of Israel and God's kingdom. But I wanted to shout to this guy, "Buddy, your interpretation about the parable misses the spiritual point. It may be valid in the governmental sense but you are too rational to understand or hear the Spirit speaks about how the kingdom of God works."

Now, I'm pretty cool about strange sermons. My grandfather was a methodist minister. My grandaunt was a charismatic former Roman Catholic nun. My mother was episcopalian and I had a very virulent activist gay theologian priest for some time. I can listen to any sermon. But on the other hand, I do kinda roll my eyes when a minister goes so far off the deep end one begins wondering if he actually knows how to swim -- spiritually speaking. So I stand amazed that there are so many people teaching sermonizing prophecizing who simply are so totally earthbound. They always talk about what they learned in seminary as if God's word is etched in a kind of old lecture they heard from a professor. God's word is living and it's how it speaks to you in a given situation. And it ALWAYS speaks of spiritual things. Do they listen to God and hear the spirit? Sorry, very long post. back to listening to sermons. Am hoping I come upon a good one. Wasted my day yesterday listening to this arrogant jerk.

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