Is it weird to write another update post so soon after the last one? Whatever! It’s my website, and I can do what I want with it!
But yeah, much like last summer, I’m going to be taking a break from the blog for a while to concentrate on writing Divine Conspiracy material on DeviantArt. I’m not planning to make this a yearly tradition; that’s just how the cookie crumbled both this year and last.
I don’t know how long I’ll be away working on the piece. Much like the “pilot” I released last year, this story focuses on the Banks family getting embroiled in a supernatural mystery, except this one involves them going out into the field alongside their fellow Templar knights. Specifically, they head to Massachusetts and team up with the local Wampanoag tribe to determine what’s behind the recent spike in activity surrounding the so-called “Bridgewater Triangle” and soon discover that it may have something to do with the long-buried mythology of the local indigenous tribes.
Writing this story is likely to take longer than the pilot, mainly because I’m writing this new story from scratch, unlike the pilot where I had an extensive rough draft to work off of. As such, I needed to take some time to do research, especially by reading the book Spirit of the New England Tribes by anthropologist William S. Simmons. Simmons’ book proved especially helpful in informing me of the truth of the folktales the Wampanoag and their neighbors used to tell (or at least as much truth as can be ascertained given how fiercely the Puritans tried to stamp them out).
As for the blog, I’ll still check in regularly to empty the spam filter and update plugins whenever needed. I’m also hoping I might be able to squeeze in time to write another P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist or Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left entry while I’m at it. I’m also pretty eager to start that series on esoteric spirituality that I’ve been promising you guys for a while now. We’ll see how that turns out!
Also, if you’re wondering what’s going on medically, given how much I discussed that in the last update post, things are going just fine. That bad case of the flu is long past, and while it’s clear by this point that I definitely have hemochromatosis, we managed to catch it at the right time where I only needed three phlebotomies to get my iron back down to healthy levels, so no worries there! That’s all for now. Stay healthy, beautiful watchers!
Hello, everyone. You may have noticed that my upload schedule has recently become a lot slower on the blog. There are a few big reasons for this.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve wanted to devote more energy to The Divine Conspiracy on DeviantArt. That is certainly true, as I have been writing a new story centering on the Bridgewater Triangle and how the urban legend intersects with indigenous Wampanoag mythology. Progress has been slow, mostly because I’ve been reading the book Spirit of the New England Tribes to understand their spiritual traditions better.
But that’s far from the only reason progress has been slow. For one thing, I recently decided to have myself tested for hemochromatosis, or iron overload in the bloodstream. My Dad has the disorder, and with all the tests I’ve been subjecting myself to (blood tests, MRIs), it’s increasingly likely that he passed it down to me. Fortunately, the disorder is easy enough to treat. Dad takes care of his by frequently donating blood. A doctor also informed me that eating red meat also contributes to iron buildup, so I’ve been wondering lately if going on a mostly vegetarian diet would help at all (I say “mostly” because, while I don’t have much of an appetite for most meat products these days, I’m not sure I’m ready to give up cheeseburgers of meat lover’s pizza).
On top of that, I also came down with a nasty cold this week that has left me more exhausted than I have ever felt in recent memory. Mom and I believe it is influenza, mostly because it is definitely a lot worse than most colds I’ve had and because a COVID test I took yesterday came out negative. Either way, yesterday morning was an absolute slog. I got up to eat breakfast, only got halfway through because my appetite just wasn’t there, and went back to bed for the next five hours. You can imagine that I didn’t have the energy to stand up, let alone write anything.
The good news is that I’m pretty sure Thursday morning was rock bottom for me, and now there’s no way to go but up. You can likely expect a new post on the blog sometime next week or the week after. There won’t be a big birthday retrospective like the one I did for Watership Down last year, and it won’t be about that TV series I hinted at in previous update posts.
For those who are curious, I was referring to The Shannara Chronicles, based on the Shannara series by Terry Brooks. I remember seeing the first season of the show back when it first aired on MTV and being profoundly disappointed in the choices the series creators made. However, I couldn’t find any streaming services that offered it for free. I especially did not want to pay $17.99 to watch it on Amazon Prime and end lining that vampire Bezos’ pockets.
Instead, this year’s mini-retrospective will be about a very underrated heavy metal band that is almost as near and dear to my heart as Terry Brooks’ books are. I won’t say which one just yet. Just keep a lookout for it in the near future.
And that’s everything I wanted to discuss with you guys today. Remember to wash your hands and keep your masks on because we may be done with COVID, but COVID sure as hell isn’t done with us! Until next time, friends.
It’s a new year, beautiful watchers, and it’s coming upon almost two years since I started this blog. Incidentally, it was actually one of my 2020 New Years’ resolutions to start this blog. Now, in 2022, I’ve three more. In order of the most to least likely I’m am to actually accomplishing it, they are:
Start doing sit-ups everyday. I feel like I should be doing a little more exercise considering that I’m usually spending 70% of my days off sitting down, either in front of a computer or reading a book. Besides, I’m kind of curious to see how far the number I can do in one sitting goes up by the end of the year.
Get a drivers’ license. I flunked the first driving course I took when I was in high school, and another one I took during college ended up getting cut short because of what I assume was a bureaucratic foul-up. This isn’t to say that I’m not totally blameless: I tend to get easily distracted, which certainly isn’t an ideal quality in a potential driver. However, I feel like I would be less of a burden on my parents if I was able to drive myself to wherever I needed to go.
Learn how to play the guitar. It feels kind of weird being as obsessed with music as I am and yet not being able to play an instrument. The problem is that the instruments I have available to play on hand are… less than satisfactory. One is a classical guitar made by Hohner that has a body so big that I can barely get my arms around it. The other is a much smaller children’s beginner guitar made by First Act that is much easier to handle but is missing its lower E string. Of course, assuming that I manage to surmount those obstacles, there’s still the matter of whether or not I have the patience to actually master the riffs. Still, there’s plenty of easy ones to start with. Pantera’s “Walk” might be a good place to start.
But you probably don’t care about all that. You’re probably more interested in what I have planned for writing on the blog (and possibly also DeviantArt). To be honest, however, I’m kind of low on ideas at the moment. True, I still have ongoing series like “P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist” and “The Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left” to keep me occupied. But beyond that, I’m having trouble coming up with new ideas beyond direct follow-ups to subjects I’ve already written about. Indeed, beyond the series I mentioned above, I have two main concrete ideas right now:
The first is a follow-up to the one I wrote about ten common climate change denial myths. I’ve come to believe that the original top ten list didn’t cover enough myths, especially because I’ve since learned about major ones that I missed, like the idea that volcanoes emit more carbon than humans. I’ve also heard new ones from Dad or other relatives (like one involving a 27,000 year solar cycle that’s causing the Earth to start moving away from the Sun, thus causing a period of cooling… maybe. I don’t remember the details). You can probably expect that one sometime later this month.
The next are two more ideas for posts relating to the subject of paranormal triangles, which I think may come out sometime next month (which is fitting, since my first paranormal triangles article came out on February of last year). The first is going to look at ten of the most infamous disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle to determine whether or not more mundane factors might have led to their vanishing. The second is going to look at Ivan T. Sanderson’s concept of “vile vortices”, of which the Bermuda Triangle is a part, to determine whether or not these places really are as dangerous as Sanderson claimed they were.
I’ve also been considering making lists debunking myths relating to the 2020 presidential election and myths relating to the January 6th insurrection. I’ll also definitely be continuing my look into offshoots of Marxist-Leninist philosophy in my “Noob’s Guide” series in my never-ending quest to prove that there is an alternative to the neoliberal capitalist system that made the Capitol insurrection happen in the first place.
But beyond all that, there is something else that has been bugging me. I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge animation buff. But I feel that hasn’t been reflected that well in my work on this site. Aside from the article I wrote on the “animation age ghetto” and the reviews I wrote of Watership Down’sthree animatedadaptations so far, I haven’t done much in that arena. I still need a bit of time to figure out how I might remedy that, although the best idea I have right now is maybe going through each year going backward from 2021 and seeing which films and T.V. series were the best of each year. Maybe. We’ll see.
On top of all that, I want to focus more attention this year on The Divine Conspiracy on DeviantArt. I find it hard to muster up the courage to actually work on my “magnum opus,” though, mainly because I find the amount of ambition that I’ve invested into the concept intimidating. I have so many things that I want this series to be. I want to explore ideas from the esoteric sides of religion and spirituality that I barely even understand. I want to convincingly show the weight of the cosmic horror elements pressing down on the Banks family. I want it to be an accurate portrait of the world as I see it, with the dark supernatural forces battling the Banks’ constantly exacerbating reactionary and regressive forces that are tearing both America and the world apart. I want to be sure I can make my characters actual characters and not just one note stereotypes and stock archetypes. Above all else, though, I want it to be a good fantasy series that makes people laugh, cry, grip their seats in terror, and hits the same emotions as any of the great fantasy epics of our time.
But I’ll deal with those struggles as they come, and my PrestonPosits watchers can expect a further short update regarding my activities on DeviantArt in the near future. For now, though, let’s hope this New Year is better than the last two. I look forward to what I can accomplish in the year to come, and I hope you’ll stick with me for the ride. Until next time, beautiful watchers!
Those who watch my blog may know that I have been talking about joining DeviantArt for a while, partially out of a desire to promote The Divine Conspiracy on it. I have been active on the site for about four months now, and I figured it would be a good idea to promote it on the blog. So let’s not waste any time, shall we? Let me show you what I’ve posted on the page so far:
Pretty much all of them so far have been stories I composed for various writing classes in college. The first is a five-part ekphrastic tale based on a series of paintings by Hudson River School founder Thomas Cole titled The Course of Empire. Each painting shows the progression of a fictionalized human civilization from a tribal hunter-gatherer culture to a pagan agricultural society and then to a Greco-Roman style empire that is ransacked and then left for Mother Nature to swallow back up. Links to each of the five chapters are provided below:
Those five chapters were originally composed for a creative fiction writing class based on an ekphrastic prompt. This next story, “Skookum,” is based on a magical realism prompt, although I don’t think what I came up with falls into the parameters of the genre. Basically, it revolves around a Bigfoot hunter whose obsession with finding the legendary beast nearly gets him killed but is eventually saved through miraculous means.
As I’m sure you can guess by the format in which the following stories were written, these next three were composed for a screenwriting class. The first deals with a Cristian knight serving in the Crusades who has an existential conversation with a Muslim prisoner of war.
The second takes place inside a writer’s head, where his inner critic (personifying his superego) and the Greek muse of epic poetry, Calliope (personifying his id), battle over his artistic freedom, while a beleaguered bureaucrat from the Ego Department tries to mediate between them.
Finally, I posted a piece of dystopian fiction, centering on a female police officer in a version of the United States that has fallen to a theocratic government, as she struggles to figure out what to do with the gay reeducation camp fugitive who she has allowed to shelter in her apartment.
Stay tuned for the near future when I upload another story based on the Melonheads urban legend from Ohio, which should be coming very, very soon. After that, I’ve decided that I will publish a story that I have already written based in the Divine Conspiracy universe (in parts, because the original manuscript is over sixty pages long) and then post profiles on the characters in the story to help me figure out just what makes them tick. I hope you’ll stay tuned for that and, hopefully, I will see you next time for a very special episode of P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist. In the meantime, here’s the link for my DeviantArt page as a whole:
Yes, the ‘rona has struck my household, and now my family and I are quarantined for the next ten days.
It happened when my younger brother caught COVID sometime earlier this week. Usually he’s away at college, but he came home this Thursday, only to discover after he returned to his apartment that he had tested positive. True, he had been feeling fatigued that week, but he thought it was just because he was tired from all the work he’d been doing lately. If only it had been that simple.
So yeah, no work at the hardware store for me for the next ten days. But on the bright side, that means I can focus more on writing, especially on DeviantArt. There’s the revamping of the Melonheads short story that I’ve been procrastinating on. I’d love to at least get started on that sometime during quarantine. I also might post my screenplay about the police officer in the anti-gay fundamentalist dystopia there sometime next week.
There’s also an important announcement regarding The Divine Conspiracy that I wish to inform you about. From now on, every update regarding this and all of my other fiction products will be made on DeviantArt. I figured it would be a good idea to separate my fiction and nonfiction writing between DeviantArt and WordPress, respectively (though your mileage may vary on whether the blog posts I write under the “Supernatural” and “Religion” categories counts as the latter or not. Hell, I’m not even sure myself half the time!).
As for what you can expect in The Divine Conspiracy’s near future, my first plan is to copy my WordPress post talking about the basic ideas behind the series on my DeviantArt blog so that my DeviantArt watchers can have a better idea of what they are supporting. My other plan is to post something of a “pilot episode” for the series on DeviantArt to give my watchers an idea of the character’s personalities, what kind of environment they live in, and what kind of enemies they face. Once I finish that, I plan to post profiles on the story’s central characters to further flesh out their personalities (honestly, as much for my benefit as for my audience because I’m still not sure I fully know what I’m doing with some of them yet).
Be advised, though; the “pilot” might be a long time coming. Part of the reason is that I’m adapting it from a manuscript I wrote for a class I took in my very last semester of college. That semester ended way back in December of 2018, and a lot of the ideas I put down in that manuscript have changed and evolved since then. Plus, the document itself is 62 pages long, so it will definitely have to be uploaded in multiple parts.
So yeah, probably don’t expect that one for a while. But when it finally gets on DeviantArt, I think it will open a floodgate of creativity, and the story I want to tell might finally start going places. Maybe I’m being too optimistic in my predictions, but no one ever accomplished their dreams by being a Debbie Downer about their future prospects.
But that’s all I have to say about that right now. Hopefully I can make the best out of this COVID quarantine, and hopefully our new president can get this virus under control a lot better than the last one so we can finally be rid of this virus once and for all.
Hello, dear readers. Today I want to discuss my religious beliefs, how they evolved as I got older, and, most importantly, how those beliefs have shaped TheDivine Conspiracy.
For those who aren’t aware, I made another blog post outlining The Divine Conspiracy. The long and short of it is that it is a fantasy novel series that I am currently planning out that centers on a family of paranormal investigators employed by the Knights Templar as they try to find a way to stop a war that is threatening to break out between the light and dark forces of magic. The protagonists, Ariel and Ronan Banks, have unique magic abilities that may end up being the catalyst that ends up solving the eons-long conflict, and both the light and dark sides are looking to use that power for their own ends.
“But what do my religious beliefs have to do with this story?” you may ask. Well, a big reason is that I have been doing a lot of pondering over my spiritual beliefs over the last few years, and a lot of those ponderings have seeped into the writings I’ve done on the project. Indeed, the conflict that Ariel and Ronan are caught in the middle of is one that started with Satan’s rebellion against God shortly after the creation of the world, and now the twins have to figure out a way to unite the two sides once again to save their world from complete destruction. But to do so, they must figure out what really started the war in the first place and try to figure out the true nature of Heaven and Hell.
Based on that description, you might be forgiven for thinking that my vision of this universe follows a standard Christian system. However, it’s actually more complicated than that. I drew from several different sources to form this universe’s spiritual makeup, not just nonfictional ones. For example, the eldritch deities of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu play a major role, especially the devilish trickster Nyarlathotep. Perhaps the best way to explain this would be to look at all the religious beliefs that currently play a role in shaping my view of the universe, starting with the one I grew up with.
I’ve mentioned before that I was raised in a conservative Christian family because I’m a white dude born in the U.S., and that’s how it goes. While not fundamentalist, my family was and is very orthodox in their beliefs. They believe in the Ten Commandments, as vague and unspecific as they may be. They are convinced that America was founded on Christian values, despite the Founding Fathers explicitly stating otherwise numerous times. And because Republican Party politicians call themselves supporters of the Constitution those Fathers drafted, they support them wholeheartedly, no matter how divorced from reality their beliefs become.
As of now, though, I find myself in the same position as legendary poet William Blake did two hundred years ago. While I still believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a divine being, I have very little faith in organized religion as a whole. Between the evangelical crusade against climate justice, abortion rights, and the LGBTQ+ community in America and the ongoing sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, I’m beginning to think Leo Tolstoy had a point when he wrote:
The Churches as Churches- as institutions affirming their own infallibility- are anti-Christian institutions. Between the Churches as such and Christianity, not only is there nothing in common except the name, but they are two quite opposite and opposing principles. The one represents pride, violence, self-assertion, immobility, and death; the other humility, penitence, meekness, progress, and life.
Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within You, 1894
Indeed, the more I look into Jesus’ teachings, the more that arguments that he was something of a proto-anarchist/socialist philosopher start to make sense. Indeed, if one was to look deep enough into Christianity’s early history, one might find a certain sect that complements anarchist philosophy very well…
Gnosticism was one of several Christian sects to spring up in the centuries between Christ’s death and the adoption of the Nicene Creed. There is some debate, though, as to whether Gnosticism really counts as a Christian faith, since the only thing that it really has in common with orthodox Christianity is its reverence for Jesus as a divine messenger.
Indeed, the Gnostic creation myth could not be more different from the book of Genesis if it tried. The gist is that there are, in reality, two major deities running the universe. One, the Monad, is the ruler of a Nirvana-type realm of limitless bliss known as Pleroma. The other is the Demiurge, Ialdabaoth, a malicious idiot god with delusions of grandeur. Ialdabaoth created the world we live in, which is nothing but a shoddy mock-up of Pleroma filled with suffering and death. To escape the Demiurge’s creation, we must fill ourselves with love, compassion, and knowledge of the truth about the material world so that we may achieve gnosis and return to our true home in Pleroma after our earthly deaths.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve started to consider myself a Gnostic in recent years. That’s mainly because Gnosticism seems like a much less rigid set of beliefs than orthodox Christianity. Indeed, the Gnostic sects tended to be highly syncretic. The idea of the material world being an inferior shadow of Heaven comes from the Greek idea of forms, popularized by Plato; the snakelike form of Ialdabaoth seems to be inspired by the malignant snake god Apep/Apophis from Egyptian mythology; and the idea that the world we live in is Hell and we must break the cycle of reincarnation to escape it sounds very similar to ideas from Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
This syncretism often meant that Gnostic mythology and beliefs were inconsistent, especially between different sects like the Simonians, the Manicheans, the Marcionites, the Valentinians, the Mandaeans, and the Cathars. Still, to an anarchist like myself, it shows an appealing level of flexibility to include ideas from other faiths, even pagan ones, that mainstream Christianity often looks down upon. Maybe that’s why I decided to base The Divine Conspiracy’s creation myth on it, as well as the next two faiths…
Kabbalah has basically the same relationship with Judaism that Gnosticism has with Christianity (and Sufism to Islam, for that matter). It’s a much more mystical and esoteric offshoot of the mainstream religion that often requires years of research to understand properly. The main difference, it seems to me, is that while Gnosticism, as mentioned above, is often so divorced from the Biblical canon that it often seems like a completely different religion, Kabbalah is often presented as the truth behind the Genesis narrative of creation, God’s blueprints for the known universe, if you catch my drift.
The centerpiece of the Kabbalah mythos is the ten Sephirot (Sefirot? Whatever.) The Sephirot are ten virtues, sometimes personified as quasi-angelic beings, which God uses to manifest in this world. He is normally without any human qualities; to give any to Him is to limit Him. A human must cultivate these qualities so they may reunite their soul with the Godhead and show others how to do the same so that the path to Heaven may be opened to them as well.
Sounds simple, right? Well, not really. The nitty-gritty of Kabbalah is infamous for being extremely complicated, to the point that it is often said that Jewish scholars weren’t allowed even to study it until they were forty (although Rabbi Isaac Luria, often considered the father of modern Kabbalah, was only thirty-nine when he died, so make of that what you will). For example, the branches of the famous “Kabbalah Tree” pictured above represent letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Those letters supposedly represent numbers, which leads to the system of numerology known as Gematria. I think this quote from Darren Aronofsky’s Pi explains it best:
Each letter’s a number. Like the Hebrew letter A, Aleph is 1. B, Beth, is 2. You understand? But look at this. The numbers are inter-related. Like, take the Hebrew word for father, “Ab”- Aleph, Beth. 1+2=3. Alright? Hebrew word for mother, “Em”-Aleph, Mem. 1+40=41. Sum of 3 and 41…44. Alright? Now, Hebrew word for child, alright, mother… father… child, “Yeled”- that’s 10, 30, and 4… 44.
Lenny Meyer, Pi, Artisan Pictures, 7/10/1998
Indeed, some Jews believe that this numeric code can be found all across the Old Testament’s original Hebrew texts, revealing meanings hidden under the main text this whole time. Basically, God hid a boatload of mathematical codes in the ancient texts that may or may not hold the ultimate secrets to accomplishing TikkunOlam, or “the repair of the world” in Hebrew.
But what does all of this have to do with The Divine Conspiracy’s creation myth? If you bear with me for just one second, I’ll explain the last piece of the recipe I used to concoct it…
This ancient Persian religion is similar to the Abrahamic faiths in many respects and is even suspected by religious scholars to have influenced Christianity’s key aspects. However, the biggest difference is that the Zoroastrian Satan figure is not a mere angel that fell from God’s grace. In reality, he is God’s, aka Ahura Mazda’s, evil twin brother, Angra Mainyu. He is in every way God’s uncreated equal, as opposed to Satan, who is a mere creation of his own deity. Indeed, it might not be a stretch to compare such a being to Azathoth, the ultimate evil of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
This where The Divine Conspiracy’s creation myth comes in. The light entity that the Knights Templar variously refers to as God, the Monad, Ahura Mazda, etc., and the dark entity referred to as Azathoth, Ialdabaoth, Angra Mainyu, etc., were once the same creature that swam in the primordial chaos until it split in two for unknown reasons. One of the light entity’s angels, Lucifer, became a terrorist in service of the dark entity and thus created the imbalance between white and black magic that threatens to destroy the material world that the Banks family calls home. The former archangel hopes to gather enough dark energy from the souls he has imprisoned in Hell to one day overwhelm the light energy emanating from Heaven, thus allowing him to knock God off His throne and become ruler of all creation.
And how exactly are Ariel and Ronan supposed to accomplish the type of Tikkun Olam that will repair all the damage that Satan has done? While I don’t want to reveal too much (because of spoilers and all that jazz), I believe that explaining aspects of the following two religions that resonate with me might give you some idea…
We all know what the Abrahamic religions believe happens to sinful souls when they die. They go to Hell/Gehenna/Sheol/Jahannam or whatever they decide to call it, and they never get out. They must wallow in punishment for the rest of eternity, wailing in despair that they destroyed their only chance for eternal paradise after their earthly death.
However, Eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism have developed a different idea of what happens after we die. They believed that our souls (or atman, as they called it) were recycled into other bodies upon our death. Of course, we refer to this idea as reincarnation.
Many people in the West often stereotype reincarnation as a wonderous process that allows an individual to experience numerous lifetimes with a single soul. Followers of the Dharmic religions and other neopagan faiths might tilt their heads at this suggestion, though. They tend to view being reincarnated back onto the material plane the same way an Abrahamic devotee would view being damned to Hell. Like the Gnostics, as mentioned above, Dharmic devotees (especially Buddhists) view the world we live in now as a realm of suffering and pain. To gain true happiness and escape this world of suffering, one must break the cycle of samsara, or “wandering,” by leading a virtuous life so you may become worthy of moksha, or “enlightenment,” and be accepted into Nirvana or Vaikuntha or any of the other Dharmic heavens.
Indeed, as the plot of The Divine Conspiracy moves along and as Ariel researches the world’s various faiths more and more, she begins to suspect that reincarnation, not eternal damnation, was God’s plan all along. By holding sinful souls captive in Hell instead of allowing them to complete their samsara cycles, she argues, Satan is hindering the natural order of the universe, thus straining it to the breaking point so that when it does snap, he can claim the pieces as his own domain. Is she correct in this assumption? You make the call… as soon as I get around to actually writing the books, that is.
Speaking of hindering the natural order, that leads me to the last faith I’ll be discussing here…
This spiritual philosophy, alongside Confucianism, forms the backbone of modern Chinese religious practice. At the most basic level, Taoism argues for a life lived in harmony with nature, one that “goes with the flow,” so to speak. The highest virtue one can achieve in Taoist philosophy is wu wei, or “non-action.” This is often misunderstood as advocating misanthropy, but in reality, it means going through life without desires. Laozi and other ancient Taoist philosophers believed that all of life’s problems stemmed from people in high positions of power ignoring the Dao and trying to bend it in ways it was never meant to go for their own selfish desires.
Indeed, I think Chapter 57 of the Tao Te Ching best summarizes the Taoist idea of governance in accordance with the Tao:
Use fairness in governing the state.
Use surprise tactics in war.
Be unconcerned and you will have the world.
How do I know it is like this?
The more regulations there are,
The poorer people become.
The more people own lethal weapons,
The more darkened are the country and clans.
The more clever the people are,
The more extrordinary actions they take.
The more picky the laws are,
The more theives and gangsters there are.
Therefore the sages say:
I do not force my way and the people transform themselves.
I enjoy my serenity and the people correct themselves.
I do not inferfere and the people enrich themselves.
I have no desires
And the people find their original mind.
I think Chapter 76 is equally useful to this end as well:
When people are born they are gentle and soft.
At death they are hard and stiff.
When plants are alive they are soft and delicate.
When they die they wither and dry up.
Therefore the hard and stiff are followers of death.
The gentle and soft are the followers of life.
Thus if you are aggressive and stiff, you won't win.
When a tree is hard enough it is cut. Therfore
The hard and big are lesser,
The gentle and soft are greater.
It’s probably no wonder, then, that anarchists and Taoists tend to get along quite beautifully. Both groups understand that something is deeply wrong with the way we run the world, and they seek to make the rest of us understand so that we may finally rediscover the proper path that we’ve been led astray from for so long.
In conclusion, I think “gnostic” is the best word I can use to describe my spiritual beliefs. I mean gnostic as an adjective rather than a noun here because I don’t necessarily agree with the traditional Gnostic view that the realm of matter is inherently evil in any way. Rather, I’m gnostic in the sense that I think it’s important for people to develop their spiritual beliefs on their own terms rather than rely on a priest or pope of any church official to shape their beliefs for them. Much like the capitalist oligarchs, the Church seeks blind conformity from its acolytes, under the supposed penalty of eternal damnation in a fiery underworld.
“But Preston, what if the priests are right about you going to Hell if you don’t believe exactly what they say?” Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn! I know that the way they are running the world is hurting people, and I’m not okay with that! Besides, Jesus himself said you should love your neighbors and your enemies in equal measure. It doesn’t matter how well you or the system you work under acts outwardly. If you tell me that it is better not to be a Good Samaritan to other humans in need, you are my enemy, and any system that enforces such inhumanity is my enemy.
Trembling, I sit day and night. My friends are astonished at me, yet they forgive my wanderings. I rest not from my great task! To open the eternal worlds, to open the immortal eyes of man inwards into the worlds of thought; into eternity, ever-expanding in the bosom of God… I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason or compare; my business is to create.
William Blake, Jerusalem, the Emanation of the Great Albion, Ch. I Plates 5 and 10
Stay tuned for more religious ponderings in the near future, as I delve into the various explanations for the existence of evil proposed in Chad Meiser’s book Evil: A Guide for the Perplexed and rank them from my most to least favorite. See you soon!
My relationship with the world of fictional literature has been a rather strange one, to say the least. During my childhood and well into my high school years, I had little to no interest in fiction writing. Most of the fictional literature I encountered during this period was read to me, either by my mother (e.g., Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia) or one of my teachers (e.g., James and the Giant Peach, The Spiderwick Chronicles). I did read some fictional stories of my own accord. Two particular franchises I remember enjoying were the Magic Tree House series and the Bailey School Kids.
Overall, my reading time was mostly taken up reading nonfiction books that covered whatever topic my Aspergian brain was focused on at the time (dinosaurs, the Titanic, cryptozoology, American history, etc.).
But then, as I’ve talked about elsewhere, Watership Down happened, and I decided I wanted to major in creative writing in college. Since then, much of my creative energy has been spent on creating my own fantasy universe. This story I am writing has been the culmination of all my childhood interests in myth, legend, the occult, and my later interests in religion, esoteric spiritualities, and the worldbuilding of speculative fiction titans like J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft. So let’s talk about it.
The Basic Premise
The Divine Conspiracy centers on a pair of fraternal twins, Ariel and Ronan Banks, who were born with unique magical powers. Ariel specializes in healing magic, conventional spell casting, spirit channeling, and practically every psychic ability you can think of (telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, empathic abilities, precognition, even teleportation). Ronan specializes in spirit conjuration, alchemical transmutation, mind control, invisibility, intangibility, and a temporary ability to copy others’ powers. They have also learned the same “bending” abilities practiced by the characters in one of their favorite TV shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender, although Ariel is better at water and air while Ronan is better at earth and fire.
They inherited these abilities from their mother, a succubus sent from Hell to help with a plot to assassinate the twins’ grandparents, Vincent and Frances, who worked for a secret society descended from the Knights Templar that investigates the supernatural and vanquishes malignant threats. Fortunately, she ended up falling in love with their son, Peter, instead. She renounced her ties to the Underworld, took the name Rhiannon, and became an agent with the Knights alongside Peter.
Sadly, Hell’s wrath caught up with her ten years later, and she was killed. The story proper begins two years afterward. As the twins struggle to cope with her loss, they too end up joining the Knights. As they learn more and more about their powers’ true nature, they also learn that they may be the key to redressing the imbalance of dark and light magic that has plagued their universe ever since Satan’s rebellion against God. But they also must avoid the temptations of the hellish forces of the Underworld, who want to turn them into soldiers of darkness and secure their supremacy over Heaven, Earth, and all of their inhabitants.
The conflict that Ariel and Ronan find themselves caught in the middle of is an ancient one spanning the breadth of Creation itself. Numerous godlike entities are in a pitched battle to win the right to do whatever they want with Creation. Some want to preserve the life that already exists there. Others want to enslave the lifeforms for their own ends. Still, others don’t know or don’t care about their existence and would gladly bowl them over to satisfy their own whims. It will become Ariel and Ronan’s job to eventually heal the divide between the factions so that humanity’s future can be a healthy and prosperous one.
In all, four magical factions are vying for control of the Divine Conspiracy universe. I ended up basing their characteristics on the four classical elements, which seemed appropriate considering the story is about ancient gods and demons awakening from their slumber in the present day to continue their destructive conflicts. All four factions have unique characteristics to their form of magic that symbolize their desires and personalities.
Representing the water element are the Lovecraftian Outer Gods and their children and grandchildren, the Archons (aka Great Old Ones).
I copied all of them directly from H.P. Lovecraft’s work (Azathoth, Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, etc.), which I can do since his works have long since entered the public domain. I chose water to represent them for two reasons. The first is that, much like water, Lovecraft’s gods had no definite shape and can endlessly shift between different forms. The second is that water is the element of change and adaptation, slowly sculpting the Earth’s surface over millennia until the landscape is unrecognizable. The eldritch gods behave in the same manner toward the universe, treating it as an artistic canvas to shape as they wish, no matter how many civilizations get wiped out in the process.
Representing the element of air is the other side of the coin; God and His angels.
Air is the element of freedom and imagination, certainly befitting a benevolent supreme deity who created the known universe and gave its inhabitants free will. The God of this universe is forever linked to the eldritch supreme deity Azathoth, His twin brother. This is not necessarily bad, as the tension between the two keeps the universe healthy and functional. Unfortunately, the balance between light and dark has skewed toward darkness almost since the beginning, thanks to a particular angel who became a megalomaniac.
That angel was, indeed, Lucifer, or Satan as he is now more commonly known, and he and the legions of Hell he commands are represented by the element of… well, guess.
Fire is the element of power and desire, fitting for a despotic fallen angel who wants to take over all of Creation and turn all mortal souls into his slaves. But not all demons share this goal. Indeed, as Ariel and Ronan will soon discover, there some demons who would much rather leave Hell’s bounds and return to their Heavenly Father’s side.
Finally, there are the magical races of the Earth, which tend to be divided into two groups. First are the Half-Fallen Angels, made up of several legions who abandoned Satan’s army before they were sent to Hell and ended up settling on Earth instead. God granted them stewardship over the universe, and they would eventually evolve into the Watchers, the pagan gods, and the fay (i.e., fairies, elves, dwarves, household spirits, etc.)
The second is the elemental spirits formed out of the magical energies already present in the Earth when it was created. These include undines (spirits of water, also known as nymphs), gnomes (spirits of the earth), sylphs (spirits of air), and dragons (spirits of fire) (Giants, while also spirits of the Earth, tend to be classified apart from elemental spirits due to their immense magical powers). Together they represent earth, the element of substance and strength. They are steadfast protectors of the Earth and all its inhabitants, human and otherwise, facing the future and their adversaries with ironclad resolve.
The interesting thing about Ariel and Ronan’s magic, though, is that their’s doesn’t neatly match up with any of the other four’s characteristics. Indeed, many of Peter’s fellow Templar Knights theorize that their magic may be a completely new strain analogous to the elusive fifth classical element, aether. Also known as spirit or quintessence, this element was what the alchemists and occultists of old believed made up Heaven itself. In the Divine Conspiracy universe, aether is also what makes up the energy that manifests in the physical universe whenever magic is used. It is the element that all the others came from, the great unifier if you will, which befits Ariel and Ronan’s ultimate goal.
A Brief Summary of Each Character
Before I proceed, let me issue a disclaimer. None of the images in this section that I will be using to represent my characters have been in any way commissioned by me. In fact, some are characters from previously established intellectual properties. I have used them here to represent best how the characters look in my head. I will be giving credit to the artists and links to their pages whenever possible. So with that, let me tell you a little something about the Divine Conspiracy’s main cast.
Ariel Aisling Banks is twelve years old and the youngest of the Banks family (Ronan beat her by about five minutes). She is a timid and reserved girl, with barely any friends outside Ricky Sandoval (more on him later). This is mainly because she falls on the autism spectrum. But what she lacks in social skills, she makes up for in artistic creativity. She thinks she may have mild hypergraphia, certainly not to a pathological extent, but enough that she has had a compulsion to write as much as she can about her day in her diaries since about the age of five. She also is a very adept artist, usually painting images she sees in her often vivid dreams. Unfortunately, these images have taken a much darker, borderline apocalyptic turn ever since her mother’s death.
Ronan Diarmuid Banks is pretty much the opposite of his sister in every way. Whereas Ariel is meek and reserved, Ronan is often brash and impatient. This may be thanks to bullies being a lifelong problem for both of them, making Ronan feel like he needed to become a hard-ass to protect his little sister. This might also be because of his boatload of mental disorders, including dyslexia, AD/HD, and bipolar disorder. He also has artistic urges like his sister, although he is much more into music and is already a whiz at guitar. He’s also been growing his hair out for the last five years to emulate his heavy metal idols, much to his grandfather’s annoyance.
Ricardo “Ricky” Sandoval is Ariel and Ronan’s best friend, having known them since kindergarten. He, like Ronan, is also a warrior against the local school bullies. Unlike his half-demon friend’s brawny intimidation tactics, he’s more of a prankster, using cunning and trickery to get back at his foes. He is also a musician, although he prefers the bass guitar, and has a lovely singing voice. While he seems human at first glance, Ariel and Ronan quickly learn early in the story that he is actually an elf and is the adopted son of the king and queen of the Seelie Court of fairies.
Peter Vincent Banks is a former heavy metal guitarist who joined his parent’s secret society alongside Rhiannon after the twins’ birth. He became something of a renaissance man during the following decade. He and Rhiannon continued touring with the band while simultaneously doing their duty as parents and keeping up their job as secret agents. Peter also wrote several books on paranormal skepticism, doing his part to deprive the demonic forces of their favorite food: human fear. However, after Rhiannon’s death, he left the band and became more focused on his secret agent work. He has had battles with depression and substance abuse in the past, which he has found harder to deal with after losing Rhiannon.
Of course, there are a lot more characters present in the work. There’s Peter’s parents, Vincent (a paraplegic Vietnam vet who runs a horse farm with his wife) and Frances (who daylights as a psychotherapist). There’s Walton Abernathy, the deputy director of the modern-day Knights Templar, who is personal friends with the Banks family. There’s also Cillian and Deirdre Beckett, Ricky’s parents, better known in the fairy world that they rule over as Finvarra and Oonagh (or Oberon and Titania if you’re into Shakespeare). And there’s also Ariel and Ronan’s familiar spirits, respectively, a Maine Coon named Jem and a border collie named Scout. However, I feel that this post has gone on long enough, so I think I’ll move on to the concluding section.
Plans for the Story’s Future
My biggest desire is to make The Divine Conspiracy into an animated TV series, eventually, but that pipe dream is definitely a long way down the line. For now, I plan to post what writings I have finished on the story (as well as my other fiction writing) on DeviantArt. I’ve decided that I want to start my account sometime after I come back from my annual family camping trip at the end of next week (as well as a Twitter account to maybe increase this site’s exposure). I know a vacation may sound like a bad idea given that the coronavirus is still on the loose, but who knows? My corner of the state hasn’t had a lot of cases so far. I’m safe, right? Right?! Either way, my parents wouldn’t listen to me if I tried to convince them otherwise, so fuck it, I guess.
Sorry, tangent. Anyway, I hope to hear your feedback on what I have on this tale of mine so far. I’m really looking forward to this project’s future. Stay safe out there, my friends!