So what is this book you’re reading about? asked the Dark Youth.
It’s one of the Red Monk’s notebooks. I’m helping him write a memoir of his journey from Persia to China and this notebook covers his side trip to the city of Alexandria where he met a philosopher named Proclus. He was a follower of Iamblichus who called himself a theurgist. Iamblichus said philosophy was talking about gods but theurgy was working with gods which involved rituals and prayers.
What are these gods? asked the Dark One.
They were a race of beings who lived near the top of the pyramid of predation, higher than angels who were their messengers and delivered their dictates to the warlords and presidents who ran the world. The philosophers developed elaborate schemes to chart who was above whom in the cosmic hierarchy of power and the theurgists devised prayers and rituals that pleased the gods and won their favours which might include wealth, physical or mental powers, love, healthy children and of course an afterlife in heaven or hell.
All the bullshit that religion promised, said the Dark One. And where are those gods now? Now that their worshippers have turned Earth into a wasteland.
Where they have always been, said the Red Monk, who had come as he always does, simply appearing before you have noticed his approach. I smiled and brought him a cup of sake which he drank in one shot then licking his lips he turned to the Dark Youth and said: Regarding gods there are two beliefs held by the simple of mind— that the god’s exist somewhere in the sky and that the god’s do not exist anywhere. The latter belief is based on the fact that gods have no bodies of their own, which is probably true.
No bodies of their own? said the Dark One.
They don’t need them, noble son. All they need to operate on Earth and elsewhere is the body of at least one believer and some of them had millions of eager, believing bodies, before the floods and the great burn.
Which were caused by those gods, said the youth. I’d like to kill them all.
No need, said the Red Monk. Their believers are mostly gone now, drowned or fried, and a god without believers is no god at all.
Their are still some believers around, I said, on Mars, on a starship I hear, carrying the god virus to some other unlucky planet.
But there must have been good gods, said the youth.
There were a few, said the Red Monk, but they were scattered and failed to collaborate in time to withstand the great monotheisms, the followers of powerful primitive gods who hated each other, each claiming to be the one true god who told his troops to have no other gods before him. The big ones were all male gods who ordered their followers to destroy the temples of the earlier goddesses and murder their priestesses the witches. They were celestial warlords, deifications of the territorial male ape and the physical dictators of the world and their obsequious priests were happy to do their bidding.
The historical sequence is graphically charted in the Buddhist Wheel of Life, I said. At the top of the wheel is the realm of the gods, all opulence and splendour. Then territorial conflict drags them down to the realm of warring gods, which drags the whole world in and lays waste to it until it becomes the realm of hungry ghosts. You see a lot of those around now and most of them descend even further, down to the hell realms of fire and ice and finally the survivors crawl away, reduced to the realm of animals, just getting by from day to day. You see a lot of that around here too.
That’s how I live, said the Dark Youth, hand to mouth, abandoned houses.
You’re welcome to camp here, I said. The Clear Light Cafe is slowly rising, into the human realm and I could use some company on the trip. By the way, I’m tired of calling you the Dark One, what is your name?
He pulled back his dark hood, revealing a brilliant smile:
It’s Luci, he (she?) said, Luci with an i,
short for Lucifer.