Edition 28: Lo, These Many Gods by Mike Adamson
A Franciscan monk slips among the stars, in communion with other species, spreading his word. Where the journey will take him next, he knows not, nor what awaits at the end of his road. Mike Adamson brings us on a journey of discovery. SY
To step out upon the plane of the universe is a consummately spiritual experience; and deeply terrifying.
The universe is infinite. A human being is finite but connected to infinity through consciousness and the ability to conceive of something greater than self. In this burgeoning age when humans have spread their seed among the stars, a few among us have not forgotten our past. We cherish and safeguard the treasures that made our species who we were—a young race filled with promise and hope for the bright tomorrow which has arrived; but at what cost?
I, Gerome DelCanto, am a Franciscan monk, and my role in life is to bring the Cosmic Christ to the universe.
I did not come to this realisation lightly, but through many years of study and meditation, and the deep intuition that the time has surely come for this awakening. We have learned of so many alien peoples among the stars. We have communed with them; we have tragically fought them, but found our way to peace once more.
Now a wave of deep thinkers from Old Earth has begun to move outward through the stars, from system to system, meeting with the ancient spiritualities of space and presenting them with the Cosmic Christ for their consideration. It is not our intention to force or to provoke—such will never be the Franciscan way—but merely to philosophically challenge and, in time it is hoped, to win over.
But the universe is vast and ancient, and I find I must cling ever more securely to the Word that is God manifest, for in the face of endless mysteries a mere human can easily become lost. A whirlpool for the senses, an abyss over which one hangs suspended: these are not mere allusion. Confronted with the bottomless reaches of space and the infinity of life, which swarms and seethes therein, any spirituality will struggle for context.
Images tumble through my mind as I try to remember where I am, and when. Am I many years into my journey, or has it yet to begin?
I remember the world of the Ghorhan, a planet of deep, ruddy light from a giant sun, and the Ghorhan it/themselves…a gestalt creature filling its world in ecological balance, some parts of it preying on other parts, but all renewing in their own way. Milky tendrils, splotched with fiery colours, writhe and gesticulate to the burning heavens and I am bombarded with sensation—a mental coupling, as this world-spanning organism invites my explanations. I open my mind and heart to pass my understanding of cosmic unity, sense an appreciative echo as all my belief is assimilated—but I feel a sudden inadequacy when this creature, as wide as its world, asks, And then? What else?
“What more is needed?” I respond in serene certainty.
What indeed? is the reply deep in my mind, and I am flooded in return with a vista of cosmic interplay, of unity, cause and effect, so complex, so broad and beautiful, I cry out, unable to comprehend but longing to. Surely these are the dimensions of God that surpass the inadequacies of language! I feel my faith reconfirmed as nothing I sense in this alien view of reality conflicts with my beliefs; and I travel on, overjoyed.
The caverns of the Khooremi are another journey through the exotic as I sit and speak for hours to the dark, intent beings who absorb all knowledge which comes to them. Their understanding of all things physical, mental and ethereal is truly impressive; but when it comes to the spiritual they demonstrate a terrifying complexity, akin to extracting the word of God from the surviving Hebrew and directly intuiting the thousand philosophic variations in one seamless extrapolation.
Their god is Druuruum, and they do not worship It, for It knows every thought in their minds before they do and thus makes the expression of their faith irrelevant. Yet their faith is complex and intimidating, a scriptural labyrinth amassed over a million years.
Deep in their sacred places I witness their interface, where I behold, as if in the infernal light of fires below, the Almanac of Wisdom: endless serried ranks of vast cubes and rhomboids, each rotating ponderously, poised upon a lower apex, half-seen in monstrous shadows, and every face inscribed with the pages of their sacred text. The lettering gleams as if written in gold, and seems less writing than some minutely complex circuitry; abstract meaning made one with its own physical expression. Here, I sense, all my words and faith have been recorded, filed, fitted into this titanic whole to be digested at length—weighed and judged, too.
But the Khooremi are perhaps too like ourselves, and to find true unity one must seek amongst the wildly different. I remember sinking, suited, into the ocean of Moolvide where beings the size of cities drift in their immortality, gelid masses pulsing with the neuronal fires of intelligences huge as planets.
Here, I think, here I will find the Cosmic Christ manifest, for unity is God’s Love in action.
I sink through gold-green auras to commune with the colossi, am taken in through a wide orifice and suspended in my plummet, held within an ocean of transparent tissue where the warmth of intelligence cocoons me.
Come to me, Christ Eternal, I whisper as I open my mind and am subsumed into a tiny annex of this monolithic being, who is itself one among many. How wonderful, that this giant recognises and respects the sentience in me—a mere mote of dust—and communes with me in good grace!
Again I speak of my faith via mind and heart, and the entity listens, resonates with my words; and I sense a oneness again. Through each unutterably exotic perspective upon the cosmos I come back again and again to my own beliefs. I see them overlaid upon echoing gulfs of reality, which speak only of the magnificence of God. Yet when I try to frame this to the giant, so it should see what is clear to me, there is only a great groundswell of amusement, paternal affection, an ethereal caress, which says in a million years you may have evolved far enough to understand what you are trying to say.
After this encounter I am troubled. Is the human being truly too limited to grasp reality on a scale that embraces the universe? How, then, can I know God, who is greater than the universe He created?
Onward, through the known worlds and the unknown, my journey takes me ever outward. I lose track of where I am in this galaxy, and it does not matter. I cadge lifts with alien traders and talk philosophy over alien meals; I work a passage on an ore ship bound for a colonial capital, and then find myself the invited guest of an alien delegation. At each turn my words are my fare, and I am blessed, so very blessed, to live this life of service to the truth.
I encounter a world marked by the hand of some race, long ago extinct, who crashed asteroids into an airless orb in order to scar its surface with seas of dark magma, depicting a hieroglyph in their lost writing. Some say it is their symbol for God, a cry cast across space; but who can know? Next comes a race of beings who live in ecstasy, who know not what unhappiness means, but have only joy in their hearts and for all life they encounter. How long I spend with them I do not know—a year or a decade—for among them I speak of God, and His rapture is omnipresent. I leave only when I answer the call of the deepest need, and move on with a heavy heart.
I learn of the Barrukbirrip, a race of the infinitesimally small: microscopic beings who have survived three billion years and number in the quadrillions, spread across an entire galactic arm by panspermia in the collisions of worlds and fragments of worlds. They worship existence itself, for they have survived every challenge nature can possibly produce. Do they know God?
They do not; but when I explain my faith through a translational matrix they are as unsurprised as they are unimpressed. Not every being is receptive.
Onward, again, past crashing worlds and a red giant star being eaten away by a white dwarf. Here, I am told, are beings who can sense life and sentience in the suns themselves; I marvel at this, and commune with them for a time. The Wherugg are beings of coalesced vapor. They dwell in a crucible of energy, made manifest like a shroud of dark glass, from which they view the dance of the embracing suns and pass endless thousands of years in contemplation.
Their cosmic voyeurism has endured since first they heard the soft voice of the life in the fusion hearts. They have listened to a wisdom enduring down the billions of years and gleaned the truth of existence. They welcome me, relaxing from their eternal vigilance to hear of my faith and introduce me to theirs—their gods are the suns themselves: great Tarimel the Red, and his consort, Urshwiva the White, lovers destined to become one, a fusion of both yet transmuted into something that is neither.
Surely in this I see the Cosmic Christ, the Trinity of God, Word and Love expressed in existence, action and destiny; the consummation of physical matter and energy in the realization of a third state…The Wherugg express a polite interest in my faith, acknowledge the congruity with elements of their own endless fascination, but I sense they are less than captivated, except perhaps by the idea that their faith has echoes elsewhere.
I leave behind the beings of the embracing suns and wander through a purgatory of worlds whose inhabitants eschew religion altogether. Their materialism gnaws like ants upon the cosmos, for they have no other diversion. They know of religion, of course, but nature gave them no faculty of belief with which to appreciate it. I sense antipathy in them and seek further worlds where my Word may be better received.
In a quiet outer stretch of the Orion Arm I happen upon a gaggle of vessels come together for a reunion of scattered clans, and am a guest for a while. I am the first human they have encountered, and I converse with difficulty; my matrix walks our speech through several other languages to reach some consensus. These are the Vlorff, nomads of space, multi-limbed creatures of close family ties, living in a reducing environment which threatens to corrode my suit. I cannot remain with them for long, but am a guest as they worship a panoply of gods and worlds; they have seen them all.
They tell me there are three thousand gods for every world where life arose, and they choose to honor all, for all are surely manifestations of one; and this cheers my tired heart. I tell them of my own cherished faith, as I have told scores, hundreds, of races before them. Though I know I cannot supplant their all-embracing way, I feel sure the Cosmic Christ has joined the army of venerated entities in this lonely backwater of the galaxy.
Before I part from them, the Vlorff tell me of something great and stirring, which they feel will answer my personal quest. They have heard dimly of a being known as the Weaver of Time, who dwells between dimensions but can be found by those anchored in the present. The tales of travellers who have voyaged far whisper of an entity beyond measure, of unspeakable antiquity—indeed, that it predates the formation of the universe itself. This is not a being to preach to, but to learn from, if it will share its wisdom.
The Vlorff send me on with well-wishes. I feel in my soul, perhaps my journey is nearing its end. I must be very old now, though I cannot order my memories into mundane notions of years and decades. Perhaps this is a penalty of wandering the universe.
I have a vessel that serves me well enough, a gift from a merchant who was moved by my words and wished to see me on my way. I travel alone, as ever; I will not gather disciples or apostles. I refuse to usurp the role of the Lord, for I am but His messenger. I bear His word beyond any region of the galaxy where the human race has even been heard of…and now I find before me a long and terrible darkness.
This is the gulf between the galactic arms, where stars roam thin and forlorn, spilling rogue planets and asteroids as a trash of stellar debris; but this is the way the Vlorff sent me, and I would know the universal intelligence they speak of.
I spend long days in meditation as my craft races on into the night, and I conceive of this Weaver of Time, between the dimensions, as everywhere and everything, omnipresent. If this does not equate to God as I know Him, what shall? I do not ask why I must find this being in a particular place but take on faith, there is a reason.
Perhaps the equilibration of gravitic forces across the space between the arms deftly tugs open some window between the continua. It is a comforting theory, but only to the left hemisphere of my brain; the right is content to seek.
All the long years, the wandering, the belief, come smoothly together in the great dark where I see separate rivers of stars to fore and aft; and my deepest intuition brings me to the system of a wandering sun in the act of transiting between the arms. It is a blue giant, powerful—surely an angry god, if Tarimel and Urshwiva are anything to go by. It drags in its gravitational embrace sixteen planets, two hundred moons and a million-billion asteroids. And here, in the ecliptic plane, where matter is concentrated and all the lines of gravity and force collide, is the nexus point.
Here, a voice seems to say. This is the place.
I have met a million beings, carried the Word to a hundred races, and never has my faith faltered. So why am I now so afraid? This time I do not speak to mortals, I do not listen to their faiths in turn. Now I face a power all beings have attempted to understand, and find myself upon the edge of true infinity. Yet I can smile, for no matter how far I have come, I am precisely as far from infinity as I was the day I was born.
Beyond the sacred books, glyphs carved into worlds, gestalt beings and a unity of life across the stars, now I sense something I do not understand. It is vast and deep, but lacks any warmth or compassion. It evaluates, it judges; it is ancient beyond any measure I can conceive of, and it is a towering presence. Is it the star itself? No…it merely inhabits this place, squeezing through the stressed shear plane of the third dimension to peer into this universe with a quizzical, cold eye.
Are you God? I whisper as my craft plunges on, careening across an endless ring plane of tumbling ice and boulders lit blue by the angry sun. There can be no answer in words. I melt deeper into meditative consciousness, let myself flow with the vessel, feel the push and tug of this lifeless system, and the surge of base power that underlies all else.
Perhaps I die in these moments, the end of a long and dedicated life; I do not know, but I feel myself lifted out of my mortal limitations. I leave behind the vessel of flesh and walk free, stride upon the ring plane like my Lord upon the waters, and stretch out my hands to the encompassing entity which I sense here.
I walk, it seems, into the glare of the star, the great blue eye of the system, and at once I fracture into a million parts, moving at a million angles to each other; yet I remain a single cognisance, perceiving from a million directions. Is this dimensionality? It is beyond my comprehension, but in the glow of strangeness I feel the bottomless gulf of infinity open wide. Time and space, and all permutations of them, are revealed to my naked gaze, and I put out a hand to the strange, chill entity who dwells beyond.
Tell me, I whisper, not in words but in thought.
What would you know? comes the answer, deep and smooth, somewhere in my soul.
Everything, I say, less a need than a hope now, humble before all that is. Everything…everything…
All that I am dissolves into the eternal. I lose all memory of my physical self, all interest in it, and glide on with silent grace, into the light.
Mike Adamson holds a PhD in archaeology from Flinders University of South Australia, where he has studied and taught for some twenty-two years. Born in England, his family immigrated to Australia in 1971; after early aspirations in art and writing, Mike returned to study and secured degrees in both marine biology and archaeology. Mike currently teaches with the Colleges of Tertiary and Further Education, is a passionate photographer and master-level hobbyist who writes for international magazines, and has rediscovered a passion for writing speculative fiction. Interests embrace science fiction, fantasy, horror, historical and military fields, as well as model building and airbrush art.