Julian, 36

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

Julian Augustus

In the autumn of 353, Gallus made a state visit to Pergamon. It was the first time we had met since we were boys at Macellum. I stood with the town prefect and the local dignitaries in front of the senate house and watched Gallus receive the homage of the city.

During the five years since we had seen one another, I had become a man with a full beard. But Gallus had remained exactly as he was, the beautiful youth whom all admired. I confess that I had a return of the old emotion when he embraced me formally and I looked once again into those familiar blue eyes. What was the old emotion? A loss of will, I should say. Whatever he wanted me to do I would do. Gallus, by existing, robbed me of strength.

“We are pleased to see once again our beloved and most noble brother.” Gallus had by now completely assumed the imperial manner. Before I could reply, Gallus had turned to the bishop of Pergamon. “He is, we have heard, a pillar of the true church.”

“Indeed, Caesar, the most noble Julian is a worthy son of holy church.” I was extremely grateful to the bishop. Also, I was rather pleased that my efforts to appear a devout Galilean had been so successful.

Gallus then made a graceful speech to the city fathers, who were so charmed by him that they were obviously puzzled at how this enchanting creature had ever got the reputation of being a cruel and frivolous despot. Gallus could charm anyone, even me.

That night a dinner was given him at the prefect’s palace. He behaved himself quite well, though I noticed that he did not cut his wine with water. As a result, he was drunk by the end of the evening. Yet he maintained his dignity and only a slight slowness of speech betrayed his state. Though I sat beside him during dinner, he did not speak to me once. All his efforts were bent on delighting the city prefect. I was miserable, wondering in what way I had managed to offend him. Oribasius, who sat across the room with the minor functionaries of the court, winked at me encouragingly. But I was not encouraged.

The dinner ended, Gallus suddenly turned to me and said, “You come with me.” And so I followed him as he moved through the bowing courtiers to his bedroom, where two eunuchs were waiting for him.

I had never before seen the etiquette of a Caesar’s bedchamber and I watched, fascinated, as the eunuchs, murmuring ceremonial phrases, undressed Gallus while he lolled in an ivory chair, completely unaware of them. He was without self-consciousness or modesty. When he was completely undressed, he waved them away with the command “Bring us wine!” Then while the wine was served us, he talked to me or rather at me. In the lamplight his face glowed red from drink and the blond hair looked white as it fell across his brow. The body, I noticed, though still beautifully shaped, was beginning to grow thick at the belly.

“Constantia wants to know you. She talks of you often. But of course she couldn’t come here. One of us must always be at Antioch. Spies. Traitors. No one is honest. Do you realize that? No one. You can never trust anyone, not even your own flesh and blood.”

I tried to protest loyalty at this point. But Gallus ignored me. “All men are evil. I found that out early. They are born in sin, live in sin, die in sin. Only God can save us. I pray that he will save me.” Gallus made the sign of a cross on his bare chest.

“But it is a fine thing in an evil world to be Caesar. From here?” he indicated a height, “you can see them all. You can see them at their games. But they can’t see you. Sometimes at night, I walk the streets in disguise. I listen to them. I watch them, knowing I can do anything to them I want and no one can touch me. If I want to rape a woman or kill a man in an alley, I can. Sometimes I do.” He frowned. “But it is evil. I know it. I try not to. Yet I feel that when I do these things there is something higher which acts through me. I am a child of God. Unworthy as I am, he created me and to him I shall return. What I am, he wanted me to be. That is why I am good.”

I must say I was stunned by this particular self-estimate. But my face showed only respectful interest.

“I build churches. I establish religious orders. I stamp out heresy wherever I find it. I am an active agent for the good. I must be. It is what I was born for. I can hardly believe you are my brother.” He shifted his thought without a pause. He looked at me for the first time. The famous blue eyes were bloodshot in the full lamplight.

Half-brother, Gallus.”

“Even so. We are the same blood, which is what matters. That is what binds me to Constantius. And you to me. We are the chosen of God to do the work of his church on earth.”

At this point an extraordinarily pretty girl slipped quietly into the room. Gallus did not acknowledge her presence, so neither did I. He continued to talk and drink, while she made love to him in front of me. I suppose it was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I tried not to watch. I looked at the ceiling. I looked at the floor. But my eyes continually strayed back to my brother as he reclined on the couch, hardly moving, as the girl with infinite skill and delicacy served him.

“Constantius will do anything I ask him. That is what blood means. He will also listen to his sister, my wife. She is the most important woman in the world. A perfect wife, a great queen.” He shifted his position on the couch so that his legs were spread apart.

“I hope you marry well. You could, you know. Constantius has another sister, Helena. She’s much older than you, but that makes no difference when it is a matter of blood. Perhaps he will marry you to her. Perhaps he will even make you a Caesar, like me. Would that please you?”

I almost missed the question, my eyes riveted on what the girl was doing. Oribasius says that I am a prude. I suppose he is right. I know that I was sweating with nervous tension as I watched the ravishing of Gallus. “No,” I stammered. “I have no wish to be Caesar. Only a student. I am perfectly happy.”

“Everyone lies,” said Gallus sadly. “Even you. Even flesh and blood. But there’s very little chance of your being raised up. Very little. I have the East, Constantius the West. You are not needed. Do you have girls in your household?”

“One.” My voice broke nervously.

“One!” He shook his head wonderingly. “And your friend? The one you live with?”

“Oribasius.”

“Is he your lover?”

“No!”

“I wondered. It’s perfectly all right. You’re not Hadrian. What you do doesn’t matter. Though if you like boys, I suggest you keep to slaves. It’s politically dangerous to have anything to do with a man of your own class.”

“I am not interested…” I began, but he continued right through me.

“Slaves are always best. Particularly stableboys and grooms.” The blue eyes flashed suddenly: for an instant his face was transfigured by malice. He wanted me to recall what I had seen that day in the clearing. “But suit yourself. Anyway, my only advice to you, my only warning to you, not only as your brother but as your ruler…” He stopped suddenly and took a deep breath. The girl had finished. She got to her feet and stood in front of him, head bowed. He smiled, charmingly. Then he reached up and with all his strength struck her full in the face. She staggered back, but made no sound. Then at a gesture from him, she withdrew.

Gallus turned to me as though nothing had happened and picked up his sentence where he had left off. “…under no circumstances are you to see this magician Maximus. There are already enough rumours that you may have lost your faith. I know that you haven’t. How could you? We are of the house of Constantine the Great, the equal of the Apostles. We are the chosen of God. But even so…” He yawned. He lay back on the couch. “Even so…” he repeated and shut his eyes. I waited a moment for him to continue. But he was asleep.

The eunuchs reappeared. One placed a silk coverlet over Gallus. The other removed the wine. They acted as though what I had witnessed was a perfectly ordinary evening; perhaps it was. As Gallus began drunkenly to snore, I tiptoed from the room.

Published in: on July 15, 2018 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Julian, 35

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 
Priscus: This is simply not true. From certain things both Julian and Maximus said to me, I know that they were busy plotting to make Julian emperor. Maximus was not about to waste his time on a minor prince, nor was Oribasius—even though his friendship with Julian was genuine, or as genuine as anyone’s relations can ever be with a prince.

I have been told of at least one séance where Maximus was advised by one of his invisible friends that Julian was destined to become emperor. I also know that Sosipatra and a number of other magicians were secret partisans. Of course, after Julian became emperor, every magician in Asia claimed to have had a band in his success. I can’t think why Julian wanted to deny what so many of us know to have been true. Perhaps to discourage others from plotting against him, as he plotted against Constantius.

Libanius: “Plotted” is the wrong word, though of course Julian is disingenuous in his narrative. I agree with Priscus that Maxim and Oribasius were already looking forward to the day when their friend would be, if not Augustus, at least Caesar. I am also perfectly certain that Maximus consulted forbidden oracles, and all the rest. Sosipatra told me as much a few years ago: “The goddess Cybele always favored Julian, and said so. We were all so grateful to her for her aid.”

But I strongly doubt that there was any political plot. How could there be? Julian had very little money. He was guarded by a detachment of household troops whose commander was directly answerable to the Grand Chamberlain. Also, I do not believe that Julian at this point wanted the principate. He was a devoted student. He was terrified of the court. He had never commanded a single soldier in war or peace. How could he then, at the age of twenty, dream of becoming emperor? Or rather he might “dream”—in fact we know that he did—but he could hardly have planned to take the throne.

Published in: on July 8, 2018 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Julian, 34

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 
Julian Augustus

After Aetius’s visit to me, I met Maximus only in secret. I arranged this by seeing to it that the guards who accompanied me were brothers in Mithras. I don’t think I was once betrayed during the three years I lived with Oribasius at Pergamon. I also made a point of becoming a friend of the bishop of the city. With him, I observed every Galilean festival. I hated myself for this deception, but I had no choice.

During these years, I was free to travel wherever I pleased in the East. I could even visit Constantinople, though the Chamberlain’s office suggested tactfully that I not live there since it was, after all, the imperial capital without, at present, an emperor in residence, which meant that any visit I chose to make could be construed as… I understood perfectly and stayed away.

My request for permission to go to Athens was rejected. I don’t know why. Gallus sent me several invitations to come to Antioch, but I was always able to avoid accepting them. I think he was relieved not to have me near him. However, he was most conscientious in his role as older brother and guardian, not to mention ruler. I received weekly bulletins from him asking about my spiritual health. He was eager, he said, for me to be a devout and good man, like himself. I think he was perfectly sincere in his exhortations. His fault was a common one. He simply did not know what he was; he saw no flaw in himself, a not unusual blindness and preferable, on the whole, to being unable to find any virtue in oneself.

My friendship with Oribasius is the only intimate one I have ever had—the result, I suppose, of having never known the ordinary life of a family. Oribasius is both friend and brother, even though we are not much alike in disposition. He is skeptical and experimental, interested only in the material world. I am the opposite. He balances me. Or tries to. And I think at times I give him some inkling of what the metaphysical is like. For nearly four years we lived together, traveled together, studied together. We even shared a mistress for a time, though this caused some disturbance since I found, to my surprise, that I have a jealous nature.

I had never forgiven the Antiochene at Macellum for preferring Gallus to me. Yet I should have. After all, Gallus was older and handsomer than I. Even so, I had been resentful. I did not realize to what extent, until I was again put in exactly the same situation. One afternoon I overheard Oribasius and our mutual mistress—a blue-eyed Gaul—making love. I heard their heavy breathing. I beard the leather thongs of the bed creak. Suddenly I wanted to murder them both. I knew then exactly what it was like to be Gallus, and I almost fainted at the violence of my own response. But the moment quickly passed and I was filled with shame.

During those years, Maximus taught me many things. He showed me mysteries. He made it possible for me to contemplate the One. He was the perfect teacher. Also, contrary to legend, he did not in any way try to excite my ambition. We never spoke of my becoming emperor. It was the one forbidden subject.

Published in: on July 1, 2018 at 8:33 am  Comments (1)  
Tags:

Julian, 33

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 
Libanius: Yes, I do know. At the beginning, we all had great hopes for Gallus. I recall vividly Gallus’s first appearance before the senate of Antioch. How hopeful we were! He was indeed as handsome as men say, though that day he was suffering from a heat rash, as fair people sometimes do in our sultry climate. But despite a mottled face, he carried himself well. He looked as one born to rule. He made us a most graceful speech. Afterwards, I was presented to him by my old friend Bishop Meletius.

“Oh, yes,” Gallus frowned. “You are that teacher-fellow who denies God.”

“I deny God nothing, Caesar. My heart is open to him at all times.”

“Libanius is really most admirable, Caesar.” Meletius always enjoyed making me suffer.

“I am sure he is.” Then Gallus gave me a smile so dazzling that I was quite overwhelmed. “Come see me,” he said, “and I shall personally convert you.”

A few weeks later, to my surprise, I received an invitation to the palace. When I arrived at the appointed hour, I was shown into a large room where, side by side on a couch, lay Gallus and Constantia.

In the center of the room two nude boxers were pummeling one another to death. When I had recovered from my first shock at this indecent display, I tried to make my presence known. I coughed: I mumbled a greeting. But I was ignored. Gallus and Constantia were completely absorbed by the bloody spectacle. As the world knows, I hate gladiatorial demonstrations because they reduce men to the level of beasts—and I do not mean those unfortunates who are forced to perform. I mean those who watch.

I was particularly shocked by Constantia. It was hard to realize that this bright-eyed unwomanly spectator was the daughter of Constantine the Great, sister of the Augustus, wife of the Caesar. She seemed more like an unusually cruel courtesan. Yet she was distinguished-looking in the Flavian way-big jaw, large nose, gray eyes. As we watched the sweating, bloody men, she would occasionally shout to one or the other, “Kill him!” Whenever a particularly effective blow was dealt, she would gasp in a curiously intimate way, like a woman in the sexual act. Constantia was most
alarming.

We watched those boxers until one man finally killed the other. As the loser fell, Gallus leapt from his couch and threw his arms around the bloody victor, as though he had done him some extraordinary service. Then Gallus began to kick the dead man, laughing and shouting gleefully. He looked perfectly deranged. I have never seen a man’s face quite so revealing of the beast within.

“Stop it, Gallus!” Constantia had noticed me at last. She was on her feet.

“What?” He looked at her blankly. Then be saw me. “Oh, yes,” he said. He straightened his tunic. Slaves came forward and removed the dead boxer. Constantia approached me with a radiant smile. “How happy we are to see the famous Libanius here, in our palace.” I saluted her formally, noticing with some surprise that her normal voice was low and musical, and that her Greek was excellent. In an instant she had transformed herself from Fury to queen.

Gallus came forward and gave me his hand to kiss. I got blood on my lips.

“Good, very good,” he said, eyes unfocused like a man drunk. Then without another word, the Caesar of the East and his queen swept past me and that was the end of the only private audience I was ever to have with either of them. I was most unnerved.

During the next few years the misdeeds of the couple were beyond anything since Caligula. (Editor’s interpolated note: Although Vidal was anti-Christian, he did not know that the Christians falsified the biography of Caligula.) To begin with, they were both eager for money. To further her political objectives Constantia needed all the gold she could amass. She tried everything: blackmail, the sale of public offices, confiscation.

One of her fund-raising attempts involved a family I knew. It was a peculiar situation. When the daughter married an extremely handsome youth from Alexandria, her mother, an ordinarily demure matron—or we all thought—promptly fell in love with him. For a year she tried unsuccessfully to seduce her son-in-law. Finally, he told her that if she did not stop importuning him, he would return to Alexandria. Quite out of her mind with rage, the woman went to Constantia and offered that noble queen a small fortune for the arrest and execution of her son-in-law. Constantia took the money; and the unfortunate youth was executed on a trumped-up charge. Then Constantia, who was not without a certain bitter humor, sent the matron her son-in-law’s genitals with a brief note: “At last!” The woman lost her mind. Antioch was scandalized. And the days of terror began.

At times it seemed almost as if Gallus and Constantia had deliberately studied the lives of previous monsters with an eye to recreating old deeds of horror. Nero used to roam the streets at night with a band of rowdies, pretending he was an ordinary young buck on the town. So did Gallus. Caligula used to ask people what they thought of the emperor and if their answer was unflattering, he would butcher them on the spot. So did Gallus. Or tried to.

Unfortunately for him, Antioch—unlike early imperial Rome—has the most elaborate street lighting in the world. Our night is like the noon in most cities, so Gallus was almost always recognized. As a result, the praetorian prefect of the East, Thalassios, was able to persuade him that not only was it unbecoming for a Caesar to rove the streets at night, it was also dangerous. Gallus abandoned his prowling.

During Gallus’s third year as Caesar, there was a famine in Syria. When the food shortages at Antioch began, Gallus tried to fix prices at a level which would make it possible for everyone to buy grain. Even wise rulers from time to time make this mistake. It never works since the result is usually the precise opposite of the one intended. Grain is either held back from the market or bought up by speculators who resell it at a huge profit, increasing the famine. Men are like this and there is nothing to be done about them.

The senate of Antioch has many faults, but its members are sound businessmen with an understanding of the market which is their life. They warned Gallus of the dangers of his policy. He ordered them to obey him. When they continued to resist him, he sent his own guards into the senate chamber, arrested the leading senators and condemned them to death.

Antioch had reason to be grateful to both Thalassios and Nebridius, the Count of the East. These two brave men told Gallus that if he went through with the executions, they would appeal to Augustus and demand the Caesar’s removal. It was a brave thing to do, and to everyone’s surprise they carried the day. Gallus released the senators, and that was the end of the matter.

For some months Antioch was relieved to know that in Thalassios the city had a defender. But then Thalassios died of fever. Of course it was rumored that he had been poisoned, but I happen to know that it was indeed the fever that he died of, as we shared the doctor. But I do not mean to write the history of Gallus, which is so well known.

Published in: on June 24, 2018 at 11:36 am  Comments (1)  
Tags:

The Columbine Pilgrim

This is a postscript to my entry on Wednesday, basically a response to what has been said in the discussion thread of that post.

In the first place, when I said that only vengeance heals the soul, I referred to vengeance on grievances of which one was at the absolute mercy of the environment. A teenager can get out from an abusive school; but not from home, at least not in the third world: where there are no decently paid jobs for minors. It is a huge difference. While the teenager has the option of fleeing from a tormenting school, he cannot run away from the tormenting home.

Also, the bulling one receives in school destroys the victim’s self-esteem. The type of persistent, targeted mistreatment from father to son like what we saw in the movie Shine, destroys the mind of the victim. So we are talking about fundamentally different things.

This said, in 2011 Greg Johnson sent me, by mistake, The Columbine Pilgrim by Andy Nowicki. Then he sent me the book I had requested but did not charge me for Nowicki’s, and I actually read it. It’s not the kind of literature that I like, but I still think I should say some things.

Nowicki’s 2011 book smells like ink. The previous year, Johnson had published Michael O’Meara’s Toward the White Republic: the only one in the Johnson collection that smells like gunpowder, especially the final chapter.

That Nowicki is afraid of gunpowder is shown in the fact that, the same year he published his novella, I criticised what he said about Breivik in Johnson’s webzine. But Nowicki’s book has some good points. For me, it is literature lite, like the one I could read in a boring waiting room at an airport. Non-lite literature is the one that requires my study’s armchair and would move us to the revolution, like O’Meara’s book. In The Columbine Pilgrim we read:

My name is Tony Meander, and I am a Columbine-oholic.

What if you find yourself irresistibly drawn to a mass murder/suicide?

Tell people you’re obsessed with Columbine, and their eyes will cloud over. [page 1]

Set off the H-bomb within you and incinerate all those zombies posing as humans. [page 5]

I was the kind of boy pretty girls loved to tease, because pretty teenage girls are probably the cruelest, most hateful species to walk the earth; being young, pert, and beautiful, they have all the power in the world at their disposal… [page 32]

“You want to fuck me? Listen, you pathetic retard… YOU WILL NEVER FUCK ME. NEVER!” [page 36]

They drove the poor man [Nietzsche] to insanity… Nietzsche provided a spark that Hitler was able to stoke into a flame, a flame that set all of Europe on fire, burning and cleansing the face of the earth. [page 43]

Eric and Dylan are not Christ; they are far greater than Christ! Reb and Vodka would never stop so low as to be crucified—no! Instead, they blasted their would-be crucifiers with bullets and bombs; they turned the tables on their persecutors, brought them low, made them bleed. [page 48]

Hitler, their spiritual forebear, born on April 20th himself, a century and a decade previous… [page 44]

Ask yourself this. What have I done with my life that is worthy of the example set by Eric and Dylan? [page 51]

Why did it happen? I don’t know. Nobody knows. Some things we just can’t explain. Some of course, take issue with Principal Edmund. They charge that, in fact, bullying has been endemic at Dogwood for a long time… [page 67]

Every reaction is produced by some kind of action. Don’t try to tell ME that this guy was just the Devil incarnate… [page 71]

In the climax of his slim book Nowicki wrote the following (Patricia is the same Patti Hart Byron bitch quoted above):

“You remember me, dontcha, Bernie boy?” Meander continued, mercilessly…

The shot nearly tore off the entire top part of Bernard’s head. Patricia began screaming uncontrollably, and Meander walked over and savagely punched her in the face, causing her again to fall in the floor.

“STAND UP!” Meander then ordered. [pages 93-94]

He fired into his fellow alum’s chest, killing him instantly. Patricia screamed again, and began to sob loudly, but this time Meander just ignored her. He fastidiously dusted off his jacket, spat on the corpse… [page 95]

Then he fired seven shots into his face… [page 98]

Patricia had hit particularly hard times once her teen queen days were over…

“A long time ago, you told me something. Do you remember what you told me?”

Meander’s fly was still unzipped, his genitals still hanging out.

Patricia whimpered, covered her eyes, hid her face. Meander stooped over, grabbed her hair and pulled it hard.

“You fuck me,” he told her with emphasis, “or you die…”

“Take off your dress…”

“Take everything else off…”

“You’re not as beautiful as you used to be,” he told her in an even, appraising tone.” [pages 99-101]

Both Nowicki and I were educated in the Catholic religion. But unlike me, Nowicki never broke cleanly with that institution, which Nietzsche wanted to sweep to its foundations. (And he was even more vehement against the Protestants, as his father, a parish priest, had very probably abused him.)

That’s why Nowicki is a fan of ink, not of gunpowder.

Julian, 32

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 
Priscus: I can. And you certainly can! After all, you were living at Antioch while that little beast was Caesar.

Curiously enough, Julian almost never mentioned Gallus to me, or to anyone. I have always had a theory—somewhat borne out by the memoir—that Julian was unnaturally attracted to his brother. He continually refers to his beauty. He also tends to write of him in that hurt tone one uses to describe a lover who has been cold. Julian professes to find mysterious what everyone else found only too obvious: Gallus’s cruelty. Julian was naïve, as I find myself continually observing (if I repeat myself, do forgive me and blame it on our age).

Actually, the member of the family for whom I have the most sympathy is Constantius. He was quite a good ruler, you know. We tend to undervalue him because his intelligence was of the second rank, and his religious mania troubling. But he governed well, considering that he had problems of a sort which might have made any man a monster. He made some of his worst mistakes for the best of reasons, like creating Gallus Caesar.

It is significant that Julian blames Gallus’s wife for the reign of terror in the East. I had always thought that they were equally to blame. But you lived through what must have been a terrible time. You doubtless know who was responsible for what.

Published in: on April 29, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Julian, 31

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 

VI

“Naturally the Caesar is concerned.”

“But without cause.”

“Without cause? You are a pupil of Maximus.”

“I am also a pupil of Ecebolius.”

“But he has not been with you for a year. Your brother feels that you are in need of a spiritual guide, especially now.”

“But Maximus is responsible.”

“Maximus is not a Christian. Are you?” The question came at me like a stone from a sling. I stared a long moment at the blackrobed Deacon Aetius of Antioch. He stared serenely back. I was close to panic. What did they know of me at Gallus’s court?

“How can you doubt that I am a Christian?” I said finally. “I was instructed by two great bishops. I am a church reader. I attend every important church ceremony here at Pergamon.” I looked at him, simulating righteousness doubted. “Where could such a rumour get started? If there is such a rumour.”

“You cannot be seen too often in the company of a man like Maximus without people wondering.”

“What shall I do?”

“Give him up.” The answer was prompt.

“Is that my brother’s order?”

“It is my suggestion. Your brother is concerned. That is all. He sent me here to question you. I have.”

“Are you satisfied?”

Aetius smiled. “Nothing ever satisfies me, most noble Julian. But I shall tell the Caesar that you are a regular communicant of the church. I shall also tell him that you will no longer study with Maximus.”

“If that is the wisest course, then that is the course I shall take.” This ambiguity seemed to satisfy Aetius. My friends often tell me that I might have made a good lawyer. As I escorted Aetius to the street, he looked about him and said, ‘The owner of this house…’

“… is Oribasius.”

“An excellent physician.”

“Is it wise for me to see him?” I could not resist this.

“A highly suitable companion,” said Aetius smoothly. He paused at the door to the street. “Your brother, the Caesar, often wonders why you do not come to visit him at Antioch. He feels that court life might have a… ‘polishing’ effect upon you. The word is his, not mine.”

“I’m afraid I was not made for a court, even one as celebrated as my brother’s. I resist all attempts to polish me, and I detest politicians.”

“A wise aversion.”

“And a true one. I want only to live as I do, as a student.”

“Studying to what end?”

“To know myself. What else?”

“Yes. What else?” Aetius got into his carriage. “Be very careful, most noble Julian. And remember: a prince has no friends. Ever.”

“Thank you, Deacon.”

Aetius departed. I went back into the house. Oribasius was waiting for me.

“You heard every word?” I hardly made a question of it. Oribasius and I have never had any secrets between us. On principle, he eavesdrops.

“We’ve been indiscreet, to say the least.”

I nodded. I was gloomy. “I suppose I shall have to stop seeing Maximus, at least for a while.”

“You might also insist that he not talk to everyone about his famous pupil.”

I sighed. I knew that Maximus tended—tends—to trade on his relationship with me. Princes get very used to that. I don’t resent it. In fact, I am happy if my friends prosper as a result of knowing me. I had learned Oribasius’ lesson, and I do not expect to be loved for myself. After all, I don’t love others for themselves, only for what they can teach me. Since nothing is free, to each his price.

I summoned a secretary and wrote Maximus asking him to remain at Ephesus until further notice. I also wrote a note to the bishop of Pergamon to tell him that I would read the lesson on the following Sunday.

“Hypocrite,” said Oribasius when the secretary had gone.

“A tong-lived hypocrite is preferable to a dead… what?” I often have trouble finishing epigrams. Or rather I start one without having first thought through to the end, a bad habit.

“A dead reader. Aetius has a good deal of influence with Gallus, hasn’t he?”

“So they say. He is his confessor. But who can control my brother?” Without thinking, I had lowered my voice to a whisper. For Gallus had become as suspicious of treason as Constantius. His spies were everywhere.

I blame Gallus’s wife Constantia for the overt change in his character. She was Constantius’ sister and took it for granted that conspiracy is the natural business of the human race. I never met this famous lady but I am told that she was as cruel as Gallus, and far more intelligent. She was also ambitious, which he was not. He was quite content to remain Caesar in the East. But she wanted him to be the Augustus and she plotted the death of her own brother to achieve this end. As for Gallus, even now I cannot bear to write about his reign.

Published in: on April 22, 2018 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Julian, 30

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 
Julian Augustus

In March 351, I was admitted to the mysteries of Mithras. On that day I watched the rising of the sun; and I watched its setting, taking care to be unobserved, for since Constantius had made it illegal to pray to the sun, people had even been arrested for watching a sunset. Spies and informers were everywhere.

I had told Ecebolius that I intended to spend the day hunting on the slopes of Mount Pion. Since he hated hunting, he excused himself as I knew he would. He quoted Homer. I quoted Horace. He quoted Virgil. I quoted Theocritus. Together we used up nearly all of literature’s references to hunting.

The next obstacle was the bodyguard. Twelve soldiers and one officer were assigned to my household. At all times I was attended by at least two men. What to do about them? It was Maximus who decided that since Mithras is the soldier’s religion, at least two of the soldiers should prove sympathetic. Maximus was right. Of the twelve, five were Mithraists. It was then an easy matter to get two of the five assigned to me for the day. As Mithraic brothers, they were under the seal of secrecy.

An hour before dawn, Oribasius, the soldiers and I left the house. At the mountain’s edge we were met by Maximus and nine fathers. In silence we climbed the slope. At a pre-ordained spot, beneath a fig tree, we stopped and waited for the sun to rise.

The sky turned pale. The morning star shone blue. Dark clouds broke. Then just as the sun appeared on the horizon, a single shaft of light struck the rock behind us and I realized that it was not just ordinary rock, but a door into the mountainside. We prayed then to the sun and to his companion Mithras, our saviour.

When the sun was at last above the horizon, Maximus opened the door into the mountain and we entered a small cave with seats carved out of the rock. Here Oribasius and I were told to wait while the fathers of Mithras withdrew into yet another cave, the inner sanctuary. Thus began the most momentous day of my life. The day of the honey and of the bread and the wine; the day of the seven gates and the seven planets; the day of challenges and of passwords; the day of prayer and, at its end (past Raven, Bride, Soldier, Lion, Persian, Courier of the Sun, and Father), the day of Nama Nama Sebesio.

Libanius: Of all the mysteries, excepting those at Eleusis, the Mithraic is the most inspiring, for in the course of it one actually experiences the folly of earthly vanity. At each of the seven stages, the initiate acts out what his soul will one day experience as it rises amongst the seven spheres, losing one by one its human faults. At Ares, the desire for war returns to its source; at Zeus, ambition is lost; at Aphrodite, sex, and so on until the soul is purged. Then… But I can say no more. Nama Nama Sebesio.
 
Julian Augustus

When the day ended, Oribasius and I stumbled from the cave, born again.

It was then that it happened. As I looked at the setting sun, I was possessed by light. What is given to few men was given to me. I saw the One. I was absorbed by Helios and my veins coursed not with blood but light.

I saw it all. I saw the simplicity at the heart of creation. The thing which is impossible to grasp without the help of divinity, for it is beyond language and beyond mind: yet it is so simple that I marvelled at how one could not have known what is always there, a part of us just as we are part of it. What happened inside the cave was a testing and a learning, but what happened to me outside the cave was revelation.

I saw the god himself as I knelt among sage bushes, the red slanting sunlight full in my face. I heard that which cannot be written or told and I saw that which cannot be recorded in words or images. Yet even now, years later, it is as vivid in retrospect as it was at the time. For I was chosen on that steep mountainside to do the great work in which I am now engaged: the restoration of the worship of the One God, in all his beautiful singularity.

I remained kneeling until the sun was gone. Then I knelt in darkness for what I am told was an hour. I knelt until Oribasius became alarmed and awakened me… or put me to sleep, for the “real” world ever since has seemed to me the dream while my vision of Helios is the reality.

“Are you all right?”

I nodded and got to my feet. “I have seen…” But I stopped. I could not say what I had seen. Even now, writing this memoir, I cannot describe what I experienced since there is nothing comparable in ordinary human experience.

But Maximus immediately recognized what had happened to me. “He has been chosen,” he said. “He knows.”

Silently we returned to the city. I did not want to talk to anyone, not even to Maximus, for I was still enfolded by wings of light. Even the back of my hand where I had received the sacred tattoo did not hurt me. But at the city gate my absorption was rudely shattered by a large crowd which surrounded me, shouting, “Great news!”

I was bewildered. All I could think was: has the god remained with me? is what I saw visible to all? I tried to speak to Maximus and Oribasius but we could not make ourselves heard.

At the prefect’s house, I found Ecebolius with the town prefect and what looked to be the whole council. When they saw me, they fell to their knees. For an instant I thought it was indeed the end of the world and that I had been sent as messenger to separate the good from the bad. But Ecebolius quickly dispelled all thought of apocalypse.

“Most noble Julian, your brother…” All about us, men began to repeat Gallus’s names and titles. “… has been raised by the divine Augustus to share with him the purple. Gallus is Caesar in the East. He is also to be married to Constantia, divine sister of the divine Augustus!”

There was loud cheering and eager hands touched my robe, my hands, my arms. Favours were requested, blessings demanded. Finally, I broke through the mob and got inside the house.

“But why are they all behaving like lunatics?” I turned on Ecebolius, as though it were his fault.

“Because you are now the brother of a reigning Caesar.”

“Much good it will do them… or me.” This was unwise, but it relieved me to say it.

“Surely you don’t want them to love you for yourself?” Oribasius teased me. “You quite enjoyed the attention, until you heard the news.”

“Only because I thought it was the sun…” I stopped myself just in time.

“The sun?” Ecebolius looked puzzled.

“Only the son of God should be treated in this fashion,” said Maximus smoothly. “Men should not worship other men, not even princes.”

Ecebolius nodded. “A relic of the bad old days, I’m afraid. The Augustus of Rome is of course ‘divine’ though not truly a god as men used to think. But come in, come in. The baths are ready. And the prefect is giving us a banquet to celebrate the good news.”

So I beheld the One God on the same day that I learned my brother had been made Caesar. The omen was plain enough. Each was now set in his destiny. From that day on I was Hellenist or, as the Galileans like to call me (behind my back, of course!), apostate. And Gallus reigned in the East.

Published in: on April 15, 2018 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Julian, 29

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

Priscus:

Interesting to observe Maximus in action. He was clever. I would have guessed that at their first meeting he would have done tricks. Made the statue of Cybele dance. Something like that. But no. He gives a shrewd attack on Christianity. Then he offers Julian Mithras, a religion bound to appeal to our hero. Mithras was always the favourite deity of Roman emperors, and of many soldiers to this day. Also, Maximus knew that he would be sure of a special relationship to Julian if he were the one who sponsored him during the rites.

There is now no doubt in my mind that at this point in Julian’s life almost any of the mystery cults would have got him free of Christianity. He was eager to make the break. Yet it is hard to say quite why, since his mind tended to magic and superstition in precisely the same way the Christian mind does. Admittedly their worship of corpses did not appeal to him, but he was later to find manifestations of “the One” in even order places. Had Julian been what he thought he was—a philosopher in the tradition of Plato—one might have understood his dislike of the Christian nonsense. He would have been like you and me. But Julian was concerned, finally, with the idea of personal immortality, the one obsession Christians share with those who are drawn to the old mystery cults.

Despite everything Julian wrote on the subject, I have never understood precisely why he turned against the religion of his family. After all, Christianity offered him nearly everything he needed. If he wanted to partake symbolically of the body of a god, why not remain with the Christians and eat their bread and drink their wine instead of reverting to the bread and wine of Mithras? It is not as if there was anything lacking in Christianity. The Christians have slyly incorporated most of the popular elements of Mithras and Demeter and Dionysus into their own rites. Modern Christianity is an encyclopaedia of traditional superstition.

I suspect the origin of Julian’s disaffection is in his family. Constantius was a passionate Christian, absorbed by doctrinal disputes. With good reason, Julian hated Constantius. Therefore, he hated Christianity. This puts the matter far too simply, yet I always tend to the obvious view of things since it is usually the correct one, though of course one can never get to the bottom of anything so mysterious as another man’s character, and there is a mystery here.

Julian was Christian in everything except his tolerance of others. He was what the Christians would call a saint. Yet he swung fiercely away from the one religion which suited him perfectly, preferring its eclectic origins, which he then tried to systematize into a new combination quite as ridiculous as the synthesis he had rejected. It is a strange business and there is no satisfactory explanation for Julian’s behaviour. Of course he claimed that Bishop George’s partisanship disgusted him as a boy, and that Porphyry and Plotinus opened his eyes to the absurdity of Christian claims. Well and good. But then why turn to something equally absurd?

Granted, no educated man can accept the idea of a Jewish rebel as god. But having rejected that myth, how can one then believe that the Persian hero-god Mithras was born of light striking rock, on December 25th, with shepherds watching his birth? (I am told that the Christians have just added those shepherds to the birth of Jesus.) Or that Mithras lived in a fig tree which fed and clothed him, that he fought with the sun’s first creation, the bull, that he was dragged by it (thus symbolizing man’s suffering) until the bull escaped; finally, at the command of the sun god, Mithras stabs the bull with a knife and from the beast’s body come flowers, herbs, wheat; from the blood, wine; from the seed, the first man and woman.

Then Mithras is called up to heaven, after celebrating a sacramental last supper. Time’s end will be a day of judgment when all will rise from their graves and evil will be destroyed while the good will live for ever in the light of the sun.

Between the Mithraic story and its Christian sequel I see no essential difference. Admittedly, the Mithraic code of conduct is more admirable than the Christian. Mithraists believe that right action is better than contemplation. They favour old-fashioned virtues like courage and self-restraint. They were the first to teach that strength is gentleness. All of this is rather better than the Christian hysteria which vacillates between murder of heretics on the one hand and a cringing rejection of this world on the other. Nor can a Mithraist be absolved of sin by a sprinkle of water. Ethically, I find Mithras the best of all the mystery cults. But it is absurd to say it is any more “true” than its competitors. When one becomes absolute about myth and magic, the result can only be madness.

Julian speaks continually of his love of Hellenism. He honestly believed he loved Plato and reasonable discourse. Actually, what he craved was what so many desire in this falling time: assurance of personal immortality. He chose to reject the Christian way for reasons which I find obscure, while settling on an equal absurdity.

Of course I am sympathetic to him. He dealt the Christians some good blows and that delighted me. But I cannot sympathize with his fear of extinction. Why is it so important to continue after death? We never question the demonstrable fact that before birth we did not exist, so why should we fear becoming once more what we were to begin with? I am in no hurry to depart. But I look on nothing as just that: no thing. How can one fear no thing?

As for the various ceremonies and trials the Mithraic initiate must undergo, the less said the better. I understand that one of the twelve tortures is the pulling out one by one of the pubic hairs, a most spiritual discipline. I was also told that part of the ceremonies are conducted while everyone is roaring drunk and trying to jump over ditches blindfolded, a symbol no doubt of the bewildering life of the flesh. But men are impressed by secret rites, the more gruesome and repellent the better. How sad we are, how terrified to be men!

Libanius:

It is not often one finds a philosopher so entirely lacking in the religious sense. It is like being born unable to perceive colours which are plain to everyone else. Priscus does have a logical mind and a precise way of stating things, but he is blind to what truly matters. Like Julian, I was admitted to the Mithraic rites during my student days. The impression the mysteries made on me was profound, though I confess that the effect was not as revealing—for me—as it was for Julian. But I had never been a Christian, so I was not making a dramatic and dangerous break with the world I belonged to. However, for Julian it was a brave thing to do. Had Constantius learned of what he had done, it might have cost him his life. Fortunately, Maximus managed the affair so skilfully that Constantius never knew that at the age of nineteen his cousin ceased to be a Christian, in a cave beneath Mount Pion.

Priscus seems to have missed the point of the Mithraic mysteries, which does not surprise me. Priscus applauds our high ethical standards. We are grateful to him. But he finds the rites “repellent”. Of course he knows about them only by hearsay, since no one who has been initiated may recount what happens in the cave. But though the “trials” are often disagreeable, the revelation is worth all the pain that one has borne. I for one cannot imagine a world without Mithras.

Priscus observes with his usual harsh candour that the Christians are gradually absorbing various aspects of the cult. A thought suddenly occurs to me: might not this be the way in which we finally conquer? Is it not possible that the absorber will become so like the absorbed that in time they will be us?

Published in: on April 1, 2018 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Wirsén on Miller’s fans

That the author is secretly smuggling out and reworking, often lying about and numbing, their abusive emotional childhood is something Alice Miller tends to imply when dealing with works of art: a mode of thinking we as her readers easily slip into, isn’t it? That Kafka’s work is basically explainable as an artistic dramatization of a child’s insecurity about his parents’ true agenda, that the vampiric women of Baudelaire’s poems are in fact his emotionally unavailable and seductive mother… —this is still the only opening to Baudelaire’s work I can stand, the only way in which I can read his work with interest.

In this way, artistic work after Alice Miller demands a new openness and consciousness in the producer. We can’t only chew and chew the unworked-through emotions from our childhood and find creative ways of repackaging them, then call it Art. It’s a new game now. All bets are off… Which brings us to the subject of this post: C.T.’s criticism of Dennis Rodie’s novel The Curse of the Third Rate Artist. Discussing this opens the larger subject of the differences in worldview and even temperament between the two writers.

First I must clarify that I think César is a very promising and interesting writer who in his work is attempting to take on very large themes, which are important to me also. As mentioned briefly above, I believe artists working after Alice Miller have a new responsibility to be conscious. To this, I will add the meta-perspective on history developed by Lloyd deMause, which says that the whole of human history, in particular its destructive aspects, is based on childhood abuse.

“The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken…” begins his most important work. Miller says as much, but not as systematically and not as clearly as to the development that has, despite everything, taken place. Put in this perspective, the emotional abuses and the stressful life situation that Martin Maag, the narrator of Dennis’ novel, was put through was just as destructive as it was, but less destructive and less producing of the kind of howling-at-the-moon stressful psychosis and magical thinking that the childrearing of the European Middle Ages produced.

The criticism of your novel which César wrote in the context of polemics around the subject of Satanic Ritual Abuse elsewhere in this forum must be read in this context. Dennis Rodie’s novel does not have the same meta-perspective as C.T.’s has, something which Mr. Tort from his perspective must see as weaknesses. Since I, myself, am interested in the approach to writing and the expansion of consciousness of which his writing is the physical trace, created for communication that C.T. is developing, I share in part his criticism. Let me, to make writing this post quicker and easier, quote the relevant part from a review-letter I wrote recently to Dennis Rodie after having read his novel The Curse of the Third Rate Artist.

[Wirsén’s review of Dennis’ unpublished novel, a novel that by the way I printed and leather-bounded for my personal library, can be read in Dennis’ own forum. Daniel Mackler✡ on the other hand never shared his huge autobiography with anyone.]

Allow me to get personal for a while. For what I intend, and for the kind of writing I myself aim to produce, a perspective the world needs, I think César is a pioneer developing a new sport. His successes are mine, and even his failures will be valuable lessons. The way he dares to be expressively angry is inspiring to me, though for my own part I am unsure of the outcome. Perhaps by temperament (which can’t be helped), perhaps by lack of courage (which, if true, must be conquered) I cannot be that clear about my anger. On the other hand not anger, but sensitivity, seems to be the guiding star of Dennis Rodie’s novel. For me, the jury is still out and César’s, as well as Dennis’ future developments as a human being and an artist will give me the information I need as to whether this is the road I want to pursue.

César’s five-book work Hojas Susurrantes expands from angry letter to mother, through anti-psychiatric tractate to brutally honest (so I’m told, have not taken it on yet) autobiography, over to family history, to the chronicle of the bloody past of his nation into an assessment of the human race and where we are now, which is an expansion in a new direction of deMausian thought: the quick eradication of those who abuse and hurt children, thus stopping humanity from evolving into the best we can be. How César brings this off in his last book will be very exciting indeed to take part off. That much I know. Whether or not and to what degree I will agree is another of those questions where the jury is still out. On the negative part, he might be steering dangerously close to a new motivation for genocide, a new ideological twist on the old Nazi game.

Daniel Mackler, in his writing, seems to imply that there is a lack of what he calls “enlightenment” in C.T.’s exposing of his emotional life and his family’s. That this is unhealthy exhibitionism, and an unfortunate development of a tortured soul, rather than the pearl the clam produces because a grain of sand is torturing, cutting and carving at, its vulnerable pink flesh. To stop the hurt.

I lean toward César’s side in this conflict. I, myself, have ambitions as a major writer and find that, after assimilating the thinking of Alice Miller, works of art that are not intensely personal and honest to be unrewarding. Is Mackler suggesting that we keep our stories to ourselves and sit around healed in a lonely buddhistic state, when instead we could let our stories go out and make changes in the consciousnesses of the real world? As I said, I lean toward Tort’s interpretation, but as always the jury is still out. And I believe even Mackler can’t avoid looking at Tort’s work, like he has before with the psychological case studies or autobiographies—the motivation for writing which he finds emotionally doubtful—; can’t avoid looking at them as at a beautiful car crash, provided as entertainment for the Buddha from others’ flesh and blood. The Buddha floats around in the suffering of the world with a distanced face.

Everything I have written above must be read in the perspective that I found reading the writings of Daniel Mackler, C.T. and Dennis Rodie as a revelation and breathing with the life of a new integrated consciousness, pulsating with a true emotionality, which I have before found in the work of Alice Miller and Lloyd deMause and to which, once I’d tasted it, nothing else compares. This is the reason I care strongly enough about them to read and reflect on them, as well as writing this text.

Andreas