First Appearance

by G.M. Kelly

Darkness shrouds the sleeping city.  The streets are quiet and somehow threatening.  There is an element of danger in the cool early morning air.  The danger seems almost alive--still, silent and waiting to attack.

There is movement.  At first it is as if a shadow were dividing.  The Man steps into the circle of light created by a street lamp--a large globe glowing brilliant white.  The Man is tall, well muscled, but slender, wide of shoulder, graceful as a jungle cat.  His hair and beard are Saturnian black, his eyes a piercing, burning blue.

Responsible for the shaping of many crucial world events, the Man is yet unknown to the general masses.  However, within esoteric circles he is well known, by some feared, by all respected.  He is Adrian Castle.  Castle of the Silver Star.

And this may be his last day on earth.

With a calm, cool manner, Castle looks at his watch and smiles with ironic humour.  3:32 A.M.  Only one more minute to wait.  The seconds tick on endlessly.  Time seems to crawl by and yet move not a bit.

The Man looks to a large clock set within stone walls.

The endless minute ends.

It is time.

Castle braces himself.  He stands in the middle of the empty street with his legs spread apart as if expecting a terrific blow to his body.

There comes to the deathly silence a more deathly sound.  A hum.  A roar.  An engine pushed to the limit.  And it is fast approaching the Man.

Castle holds his ground as the sinister black car roars out of the darkness headed straight for him.  Closer, closer the automobile comes while the look in Castle's eyes hardens--his jaw firmly set.

Before the minute is up the car will be upon him, but just a short distance ahead of Castle it comes to a screeching halt.  They face each other--Man and machine--and like a panther the car seems to stare at Castle with an unflinching gaze, a mechanical growl issuing from its metallic form.

"Wasting time?" Castle says, breaking the spell of silence.  "You are usually in such a hurry.  I'm here.  You are here.  Let us be done with it."

With an electronic whine the car's door slides up and out of the vehicle steps what appears to be another man.  This man too is tall, but his is not a natural and unconscious strength.  His form is carefully manufactured, his blond hair styled just so, every hair in place, and the jewlery he wears glitters in the darkness at the edge of the circle of light.

"You are right, Castle," the manufactured man replies.  "I haven't much time to waste on you--on any man.  I have a world to conquer and a society to dominate--I, the creation of this society."

"Your form is new," Castle distastefully observes, "but the story is as old as humankind itself.  And you, my ancient rival, you too are old.  They call you Technology today, 'servant of mankind', but you serve no man for your truer name is Ego."  Castle, still within the circle of light, moves closer towards the other...'man'.  "In the old age of materialism you took the name Science and proceeded to make a dirty word of it, perverting true science to suit your twisted plans.  Now, in this new age of materialism, you perform your black magic with computers and silicone microchips.  You have taken something once more, technological advancement, something that should serve humankind, and you are using it to dominate men, women and children.  You drain them of their humanity and force them to lose sight of their divinity.  You run them through a maze of circuitry and a labyrinth of memory chips until they lose their Way and forget True Will.

"You are smug, my friend, and certain that you are superior, that you are destined to rule all of humanity, but humanity may fool you yet."

"Castle, humanity hasn't a chance, for it is continually dehumanizing.  Already many of its so-called finer qualities are lost or at least being dispensed with as unimportant trash should be discarded.  Trust, honesty, fraternity," Ego grimaces, "and love--all just so much garbage that is of no use whatsoever.  And the products of humanity!  Why, I can paint pictures with light and create music with electronic pulses!  What need is there for unstable human artistic termperments?  And I am making it all happen, Castle.  Every day more and more of your precious fellow humans feel and think less.  They no longer employ computers to assist them; they rely upon my devices for everything and don't bother to think for themselves.  They programmed the first computers and now my computers are programming them!  And the more computerized they become, the less human they are.

"It will not be long, Castle, before they are all mine--prisoners of the printed circuit--slaves to the silicone chip!

"Yes, Adrian Castle, the mind of man created these electronic devices, but it was me, Ego, that perfected them and convinced everyone that these devices are superior to the human mind and heart."

"Not everyone, devil."  Out of the corner of his eye, Castle checks the time.  7:04...and Ego, lost in his rant, lost all track of time.

"There are some you can't place under your spell.  Those who will have nothing to do with technology, and yet those wiser still who can employ it without becoming enslaved by it."

7:05 A.M.

"I will either have them in time or they will die off and be forgotten.  Humans have such a brief life span."

Almost 7:06 A.M.  The sixth hour plus sixty-six minutes.

"Ego, I have mastered you and others shall also."

"Oh yes, great Master," Ego sneered, "you have thrust me from your temple but homeless I shall never be."

"But soon, demon, your places shall be fewer and your hold upon humanity will be negligible."  Castle steps back and raises his arms.  "Behold the risen sun!"  Behind Castle the sun appears and the brilliant morning light strikes Ego who reels and falls against his machine.  "See the light of day!  You shall be seen clearly, recognized, despised and defeated!  You have lingered too long to gloat and brag and now you've no place to hide--you are out in the open now, Ego, and although you will exist so long as humankind exists, your hold upon humanity will lessen greatly and the course of spiritual evolution on earth will continue."

"Damn you and the Silver Star, Castle!"  Ego tries vainly to shield himself from the day star, but already his false flesh begins to peel away to reveal an alloy framework--a skeleton of metal lacking living substance.

"You have tricked me and I am revealed, but as you say, I cannot be completely destroyed and I will return!"

His flesh falling away from him, Ego slips back into his machine, the vehicle itself rusting rapidly.

"What I fail to accomplish today, my dear Adrian Castle, I can do tomorrow, and your time on earth is limited."

"My time is limited, demon, but when I am gone there will be many more to take my place, and each victory over you will make your plans more and more difficult to carry out and one day, my friend, there will be nothing you can do but to surrender to utter and final annihilation."

Unable to respond, Ego glares at Castle and hisses.  In anger he slams down the car door.  Rotted synthetic flesh and oxidized metal fall to the street.  The machine, with some difficulty, starts up and sounding much less powerful than before, it moves off like a crippled animal.

The circle of light is gone.  The sun sheds light over all the city now.  Activity begins.  It is Sunday.  The computers will be silent this day.  People will take walks through the park, smell the flowers and picnic.

Children will play outside and lovers will walk hand in hand, kiss and embrace one another, and on this day people will remember their humanity, and maybe, just maybe, they may begin the following days with love in their hearts and concern for their fellow beings on their minds.  The sense of their own divinity may come upon them.

Yes, there is hope for humanity, Castle thinks, but there is such a long way yet to go and the New Æon is yet so very young.

The Man steps up to the sidewalk and quietly strolls through the growing crowd.  He hides Himself in the open.  Mistaken by all as just another man, Adrian Castle walks among the people unnoticed and unknown.

The people go on with their day, in better spirits than usual, unaware of the terrific battle that was just fought--the battle to save their humanity.

(TNN.IV.3.3-5, JULY 1985 E.V.)


A Death's Hypocrisy

The gentlemen sat around a cozy fire within the comfortable confines of the distinguished Esoteric Club.  Lord Beaversnatch (infamous for his adventures in the red light district) suddenly sat up straight in his leather-covered armchair.  He raised his eyebrows and puffed a little harder on his pipe as he concentrated intently upon something that he was reading--a publication that went out only to members of the club, as well as anyone willing to pay for it.

"I say!" Lord Beaversnatch finally exclaimed.  "Has anyone read this month's Mystical Chain?"

The others looked at one another with questioning expressions.  Sir Ima Mountbank then removed the large well-chewed cigar from his mouth and replied.  "Apparently not, Beave, old boy."

A rather anemic looking and spindly little fellow perked up and with a wide-eyed expression added, "I did glance through it and noticed that there's a party on at Lady Spreadit's!  It's to celebrate the Solstice I think...or is it the Equinox?...well, never mind that!  Anyone who is interested is supposed to bring their own strange drugs and wine that foams...oh...and a few bob at least to cover the expenses of the drugs and wine that'll be served.  Say, I'm not sure that makes sense...  If we are to bring our own..."

"Please, please, Emet, my good man!  Enough!"  Sir Ima turned with obvious impatience to Lord Beversnatch.  "What is it then?  What is so bloody important?  Important!" Sir Ima grunted.  "That'll be a first for the Mystical Chain."

"Be fair now," Sir William O'Kaye said in his ever-whining voice.  The others winced at the sound of that voice.  "The Chain has carried some pretty interesting stuff in the past."

"Oh yes," Sir Ima grunted, "such as the piece on how cockroaches can't belch or fart.  Very interesting stuff indeed!"  The others chuckled.  "Everything is fine with you, Billy my boy."

Sir William, red faced and miffed, glared at Sir Ima for only a moment then turned to Lord Beaversnatch.  "So what is up anyway?"

Lord Beaversnatch looked to the rather ill-produced publication, took a few puffs on his pipe and then said, "According to this our old friend Lewis MacGrady has just passed on."

"You mean he died," Sir Ima said with an expression of distaste.

"That is what I said."

"In your way..."

" my way.  Anyway," Lord Beaversnatch continued, "good old MacGrady died calmly and without pain on the day that his order received word of their great victory in court."

"What victory is that?" asked Sir William.

"Oh there was a big hubbub over copyrights and that sort of thing.  You must have heard about it.  MacGrady and gang were at it tooth and nail with that South American fellow--what was his name...?"

"Marcus P. Martyr, I think it was," Emet replied.

"Well, that couldn't have been much of a battle in court!" Sir Ima laughed.  "That fellow's such a mad fool that no one can take him seriously, and every time he opens up his damn fool mouth he gets himself into further trouble.  Why, he's just lost another case against a reputable publisher in the colonies.  I think it was over before noon and he was laughed out of the courtroom. Seems his 'worldwide' organization is composed of five people including himself--and he was thinking of quitting it."

"Be that as it may..." Lord Beaversnatch sternly said, "MacGrady and his people won that case and now old MacGrady has passed...has died."  Sir Ima smiled sarcastically at the Lord, "And just before he died he signed some papers of great importance."

"Being of sound mind and clear of head, no doubt."

"Yes, Ima, of course."

"Well, I think it is very nice that he died calmly and without pain," Sir William whined.  "Given that he was a high grade magician and a worldwide leader of a distinguished order that teaches people their purpose in the world it is only fitting that his passing..." Sir William glanced at Sir Ima's scowl, "...that his death should be calm and dignified."

"Yes," Lord Beaversnatch agreed, "it is only fitting."

"And the truth shall win out," Emet proclaimed.

"But not if you read that rag, gentlemen."

Sir Ima and the others turned around towards the direction from which that calm and yet penetrating voice emanated.  From out of the shadows the figure of a man emerged.  He stepped into the circle of light and was at once recognized by his firm jaw line and perfectly upright stance.  His bright blue eyes caught the light of the fire and burned with their own intensity, an intensity set off by the man's dark hair and neatly trimmed beard.

"Castle!  How long have you been there?"

"Long enough, Lord Beaversnatch."  All eyes were turned upon Adrian Castle as he moved across the Oriental carpet and took a seat near the hearth.  Although now sitting, it seemed to all that they still had to look up to the man as if he were yet towering above them.

"I say!" Sir William exclaimed.  "What do you mean by calling the Chain a 'rag'?"

"Rag, Sir William," Castle calmly responded, "as in a worthless piece of rubbish--a tattered and soiled bit of garbage."

"What I think Billy boy means," Sir Ima put in, "is what are you implying?"

"He knows what I mean!" Sir William whined.  "He's just toying with me."  He turned to Castle who wore a faint smile of amusement.  "So what is it, O Master of the Temple?  What do you know that eludes us poor humble wretches?  What do you think?"

With his expression of amusement uneffected, Adrian Castle replied, "As foolish a man as I can sometimes be, I often think just about everything."


"But that is beside the point," Castle said, brushing the joke aside with a gesture.  "What I mean is that you see but you do not understand.  Half of the truth is hidden and yet half is revealed and still you do not even see what is right there before your eyes."

"Go on, man," Sir Ima said, "tell us what you know."

"Gladly."  Castle settled back in his chair, stretched out his long legs and made a pyramid with his fingers just above his chest.  "In the first place, MacGrady did not die calmly and without pain."

"And how would you know that?  Were you present?  We all know what you have written of poor old MacGrady in your publication and it is highly unlikely that his people would have let you near his deathbed."

"Sir Ima, I have eyes and ears everywhere," Castle wistfully gestured with his slender but powerful hands before returning them to their pyramidal position.  "Besides, I was there."

"Impossible!" Lord Beaversnatch ejaculated.

Castle raised his eyebrows with increased amusement.  "Tell me, my good Lord, am I a member of the Esoteric Club?"

"I should say not!  You were banned for life from joining after you refused membership several times, and it was bloody rude and uppity of you too!"

"And what of the doors to the Club?"

"They are locked and guarded after each member enters and leaves, and one must show one's membership card before being admitted."

Castle, surpressing laughter, then asked, "It is then impossible for one who is not a member to gain entrance into the Club--not to mention this your inner sanctum?"


Castle regarded the faces of the gentlemen before him.  "Then explain my presence."

The befuddled members of the Esoteric Club exchanged bewildered looks.

"Preposterous!" Sir Ima almost roared.  "It doesn't matter with what trickery you gained admittance.  You are here and that is enough."

"And I was there, and that is enough."

"Okay, so you were MacGrady's what?"

"Sir William," Castle responded, "the point is that the Mystical Chain hardly tells the truth.  Oh, when MacGrady died for the third time...yes...I think it was the third time..."

"Oh, come now, Castle!" Sir Ima dropped back into his chair and slammed his hands down on the chair's padded arms.  "MacGrady died three times?"

"Three or four.  It got a little confusing towards the end.  Certainly more than twice."

"And how can a man die three...or four...times?"

"Emet, medicine and physicians can do marvelous things these days, but after they are done mucking about, Death always wins the game in the end.  MacGrady died, his heart stopped beating, and then they reactivated it.  Three or four times."

"Not a very graceful death," Lord Beaversnatch observed sadly.

"Not very graceful at all," Castle agreed.  "Upon his first death, before the body could even begin to grow cold, his 'loyal' lieutenants began squabbling over who should take possession of his title and property.  They shed not a tear--that is, not until they had to show the apporpirate grief later on--but could only think of themselves and how best to pamper and gratify their own egos."

"I say, that was bloody rude of them."

"But typical, Sir William.  That was only the beginning," Castle continued, "for while the old fellow was 'dead' he had obviously overheard all that was going on around his 'corpse'..."

"A strong case for life after death!" Emet exclaimed.

"Perhaps," Castle agreed with reservations, "but whatever the case may be, the physicians succeeded in bringing him back to life, in a manner of speaking, whereupon MacGrady immediately began crying out 'Traitors! Traitors!'"

"What horrible people to have at one's deathbed."

"What horrible people to be surrounded by while living, my dear Beaversnatch."

"Yes, of course you are right, Castle."

"Now read on, my Lord.  You did not finish the article."

Lord Beaversnatch picked up the Chain again and read.  "'Our Perfect Master, who has led all of us to discover our individual Paths, said just before passing through the portals of death, "I think my Path is probably the way of the Sufi...maybe."  Whereupon he was asked, "What is the Sufi Way?" and then our Master, Lewis MacGrady, wistfully replied, "I haven't any idea," just before he expired.'"  Lord Beaversnatch put the paper down in his lap and all looked inquisitively at Adrian Castle.

"Still you do not understand?" The Master of the Temple sat forward in his chair and looked at each of the bewildered faces in turn.  "This man was supposed to be a leader and a hierophant, one who shows the way and explains the mysteries, and yet his very last words tell us that he was not even sure about his own Way, his own Path in life, and also that he did not even understand what he himself said and could explain nothing of it.  The Mysteries were a mystery to him."

The others sat back and thought about this for a moment.

"That is bitterly ironic," Lord Beaversnatch observed.

"To say the least," Castle agreed.

"Well," Emet sighed, "at least it is all over now."

"Over?" Castle arched his left eyebrow.  "Why, the fun is just beginning!"

"How so?"

"There are several people who desire what MacGrady had--however meaningless it actually is--and their egos will drive them on to the most disgusting exhibitions of mudslinging and politicking imaginable.  The entire rabble has been growing more and more disgruntled over the past few years and this will really tear it.  Most of the members of this...order...are backsliding, non-paying loafers and wasters; some few are hard workers but lack direction and good supervision.  Their figurehead is gone.  His image, however false, no longer stands before them to inspire them, although many have become something less than inspired over the years, and now they have only their peers to look towards and they have, for the most part, proven themselves unworthy for leadership, petty and tyrannical.  Oh, there might be one fellow who is alright, but he is up against the wall and lacks sufficient support to stand against the on-coming mudslide and backed up sewage that is sure to come his way."  Adrian Castle once more settled back into the chair.  "No, gentlemen, the three-ring circus, the clown act, the freal freak show is about to begin."

"What a mess for a man to leave behind him."

"What a mess indeed," Sir Ima agreed with Lord Beaversnatch.  Turning to the Master of the Temple, he asked, "So what can be done about it?"

Castle of the Silver Star shrugged his wide shoulders.  "It should have never been, but since it was begun it must now run the full course...and may Our Lord help us all."

Sir Ima Mountbank turned to the others who met his gaze.  "This is appalling!  Something must be done!  Mr. Castle..."

All eyes turned towards the Master but found his chair empty.  Their eyes searched the room, but found neither man nor unbarred means of exit.

"Where the devil did he go?"

"Was he ever here?"

"Beav, old boy, I have a feeling that wherever 'here' is, there you will find Adrian Castle."

[1997 E.V. NOTE:  Eventually a virtual outsider took control of the order.  Older members of the group thought to use him as a puppet, but he had plans of his own and used them to gain the position he desired after first failing to make a name for himself and profit from a competing order of Canada and England, then failing to go far in yet a second competing order run by a man who was absolutely mad.  Now he runs this group, satisfying his ego with witless groupies and the illusion of being respected and worshipped, while riding the coattails of a greater man to gain a false sense of immortality, profiting from the prophet.  However, his days too are numbered, and the number of those days are much shorter than he realizes, a biological time bomb ticking away that, when it explodes, will take many others along with him.  Well, as Mark Twain is credited with saying, "Let us be thankful for the fools; but for them the rest of us could not succeed."  - Adrian Castle]



The Conversion of "Saint" Paul

"There was 'a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus.'  This Bar-Jesus, also called 'Elymas the sorcerer', was blinded by our blessed Saint Paul, who used to be called Saul.  'There fell on him', the false prophet, I mean, 'a mist and a darkness.'  So it says in The Acts of the Apostles,Chapter 13, Verse 6 to 11!"

The young men and women, sitting off to one side of the street preacher in the park, some little distance from him, noting that he needed no amplification for his voice but could have certainly used a bath, listened to the evangelistic oration then turned to their teacher.  "What about that miracle?" a lovely young girl said.  The teacher smiled at the girl, not only with his mouth but also with his brilliant blue eyes.  He was a tall, slender but well-built man of perhaps 35 or so, and he had thick black hair and a neatly trimmed beard with some traces of grey showing in both.

"What do I think of that particular 'miracle'?" queried Adrian Castle.

"Yes," the girl replied, brushing ringlets of glossy black hair out of her lovely Filipina-Canadian eyes.  "Was it a miracle?  And did this Elymas deserve to be blinded?"

Castle smiled upon the girl, making her blush.  "Sweet Wilma, I'm not that old!  I wasn't there so I really could not say for sure.  However, one must consider the dubious source.  You know, of course, that I am hardly a big believer in so-called 'miracles'."  Castle was silent for a moment.  "It is possible that Elymas was an initiate.  Whether or not he was a 'false prophet' depends upon your point of view.  I'm sure that to Paul he was, but then there are some who would consider Paul to have been a 'false prophet', and with very good cause.  Elymas' 'truth' obviously did not agree with Paul's 'truth', then again the disagreements and conflicts between Paul and Peter and the other true apostles is well known."  He paused again, briefly.  "And here's something for you to think about in regards to Elymas.  We are told that he is also called 'Bar-Jesus' and although the Bible is translated into English this prefix, Bar, is left untranslated.  Bar is Hebrew for 'son' or 'son of'."

A light shone in Wilma's jewel-like oriental eyes.  "That means that Elymas was also called 'the son of Jesus'!"

"Exactly."  Castle was especially delighted with this student.  "It is quite possible that Elymas was the son of Jesus the Nazarene, the real Jesus, not the gross caricature that today's Christians worship barbarically as a god.  It is very possible that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, who was probably the same as Mary of Bethany, making Lazarus Jesus's brother-in-law."


"Maybe," Castle shrugged.  "The facts of even our most recent and more local history are sometimes so vague or distorted that we may never know for certain where real history and myth can be neatly separated.  However, it is logical.  Jesus was often called 'rabbi', so much so that it is very likely he was indeed a legitimate Jewish rabbi and if so, at that time, he would have had to have been a married man as that was the religious law then."  Castle paused for another thought.  "Did you know that in Matthew twenty-seven sixteen Barabbas is called 'Jesus Barabbas'--in a very ancient and original text that is, you won't find it in the King James Version.  Barabbas," Castle added, "is not a natural Hebrew name and it is probably a corruption of 'bar-rabbi', that is, Jesus 'son-of-the-rabbi'..."

"Do you mean," a young Canadian man sitting next to Wilma ventured, "that Barabbas may have been another son of Jesus?  Jesus son of the rabbi Jesus?"

"It is very likely and it would explain why Jesus would have been willing to die in his place.  Would not any father give his life to save the life of his son?"  There were nods of agreement all around.  "Of course that is assuming that the crucifixion, or crossing, actually happened as an historical event and was not, as may be more likely, merely a myth to explain Jesus's crossing of the Abyss and attainment of the grade of Magister Templi--but that's another discussion altogether!"

"So," Wilma said slowly, "Barabbas, the murderer..."

"Lestes," Castle corrected, "is what he was called by the Romans; a Greek word which means 'pirate' or 'plunderer'.  He was not necessarily a murderer.  The word was a kind of slang term that the Romans used to refer to the Zealots.  Jesus Barabbas was, in fact, a Jewish freedom fighter warring against the occupying army of tyrant Rome."

"Then that makes it all the more logical!"

"It does," Castle agreed with the young Canadian soldier.  He turned back to the girl.  "I'm sorry.  I interrupted you.  Please continue."

"That means that both Jesus Barabbas and Elymas, called Bar-Jesus, were most probably true sons of the Master Jesus?"  Castle nodded.  "And if Elymas was blinded by Paul then what he did was hardly a saintly thing to do since he had accepted Jesus as his master!"

"If indeed he did blind Elymas.  More likely than not, given Paul's background and temperment, he merely punched Elymas in the eye."  Everyone chuckled at the image that conjured up as well as the idea of Paul running around later and telling his version of what had happened between he and Elymas.  "Chances are Elymas was not a 'false prophet'.  It may be that he learned magical and religious matters directly from his father, Jesus, perhaps learning more of the mysteries than were taught even to Peter, the first Pope, and the other true apostles.  Saul, as he was called before the conversion, was a persecutor of the Christians, you must remember, and after being converted and baptized Paul he constantly argued with Peter and the others, yet he could not have had as good an education in these teachings of Jesus's as they had had because they learned directly from the Master while, at best, his education could have only been gotten secondhand."

Castle looked throughtfully at his students.  "And you know, that word 'saint' bothers me.  The Christians seem to think that they can decide who deserves that title and that they can confer sainthood upon someone.  That poses some interesting questions.  Doesn't God recognize someone as a saint until the Pope gives his okay?  Or does God one day tell the Pope and his flock that so-and-so is a saint and should be regarded as such?  What then about those who were once regarded as saints, like Christopher and Patrick, but who are no longer considered saints?  Were they kicked out of heaven after someone dug up some dirt on them?  Didn't God know that they didn't belong there?  Did the Pope make a mistake?  He is supposed to be infallible.  Did God make a mistake?  Perhaps that's it.  God had to have made the mistake because after all the Pope is infallible and incapable of making any errors."  The students chuckled.  "Christianity is wrong in conferring sainthood.  Sainthood cannot be given, it must be earned, and it is earned by successfully passing through the ordeal called the Crossing of the Abyss, during which the adept's ego is annihilated.  That would make Jesus a saint, while at the same time removing many names from the Calendar of Saints!"

"About Paul..." said Wilma.

"Quite right!  I'm sorry, Willie.  Sometimes I do get way off the track."

"What about the conversion of Saul, the persecutor of the early Christians, to Paul, the Christian teacher?"

Fondly regarding the lovely flower in Nemo's garden, Castle said, "In Acts twenty-two as well as twenty-six, we are told that Saul was persecuting the early Jewish Christians, beating them and taking them off to be tried and punished.  This was back in the good old days when the teachings of the Master Jesus were still pretty accurately taught, before they underwent a great deal of change and perversion at the hands of later revisionists, like Paul himself, the worst of the lot.  Saul was on his way to Damascus, 'about noon' it says in Verse 6 of Chapter 22, when 'suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me', as Paul puts it.  In the original texts, by the way, the word translated as 'heaven' in King James is the Greek ouranou which also means, simply, 'sky', and since it is written 'periastrapsai phon', 'a bright light from the sky flashed suddenly around me' might be a better, more accurate translation into English.  At any rate, Saul falls to the ground and, in Verse 7, hears a voice saying 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' and in the next verse Saul answers, 'Who art thou, Lord?' and is answered with 'I am Jesus of Nazareth (more accurately 'Jesus the Nazarene'), whom thou persecutest.'"

"Wasn't Jesus born in Bethlehem and not Nazareth?" the soldier asked.

"That, my young warrior and brother, is another discussion!  The New Testament abounds with such mysterious contradictions, and, of course, it may be that Jesus was never supposed to have been considered as a citizen of Nazareth but rather as a member of a religious sect called the Nazarenes."  Castle was determined not to get side-tracked again, so with a smile he glanced back at Wilma and continued.  "Well...Saul was blinded and those travelling with him through the desert also saw the light and were afraid, however, they did not hear the voice that spoke to Saul.  In Verse 10 Jesus, we are told, commanded Saul to 'Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.'  The next verse tells us that Saul remained blinded for a time and was led to Damascus by his companions, who presumably were not blinded by the light, although it would not have been unusual if the blind had led the blind.

"Saul comes to 'a devout man according to the law' named Ananias who returned sight to the eyes of 'Brother Saul'.  It is interesting to note that Ananias comes to the numeration of 313, which in the Greek Qabalah is also the numeration of daimonizonai, 'to be demon possessed', and paranoia, a familiar Greek word that means 'madness' and/or 'folly'.

"Ananias refers to, presumably, Jesus as the 'Just One', that is dikaion, the numeration of which is 165, which is also the numeration of enedra, 'ambush' or 'plot', and agras, 'a catch of fish'.  Did I mention that Saoul adelphe, Brother Saul, equals 1246, the numeration of alieuo, meaning 'fish', but not being the word commonly used as a symbol of Christianity?  Ton dikaion, 'the Just One', is 585, which is also the numeration of ekruben, 'to hide oneself', as well as oikeiou, 'a member of the family or household.'"

"So doesn't all that seem rather...miraculous?" Wilma asked.

"Willie, do not put faith in miracles.  More often than not the apparently miraculous event turns out to have a rational explanation if indeed it doesn't turn out to be a simple parlor trick."  Castle took the whole group in with his eyes.  "Would you like to know what I think?"  Everyone eagerly replied in the affirmative.  "Assuming Saul did not simply suffer heat prostration out in the hot desert sun, 'white out', fall from his horse, bump his head and hallucinate, which is a rational and logical explanation--deep seated feelings of guilt for persecuting the early Christians could have moulded the hallucination--there is another explanation that I particularly favour.  Saul is being a real pain in the ass to the early Christians.  He was an enthusiastic kind of guy, given to excesses of behaviour, and some of the early Christians got together and formulated a plan that they thought would get Saul off their backs.  Now of course due to morals of the time and place there were some differences between people then and now, yet still, people are people, and amongst people of every place and time you will find the prankster.  Let us assume that he came up with the idea and everyone else agreed to it.  Perhaps he or all of them were members of Ananian's household or family too.  Anyway, these early Christians proceed to put their plan into action, hearing that Saul and his companions were going to Damascus, knew the route that they would be taking, and went ahead to set up.

"Saul and his companions are riding through the desert, it is about noon, the especially hot and bright desert sun is at its strongest, they come near to a large outcropping of rocks and there atop them, hiding, are the early Christians, all except one of them.  Just at the right moment they raise a highly polished piece of metal, or perhaps a polished shield, and reflect the brilliant rays of the sun into Saul's eyes as well as the eyes of his horse.  The horse naturally rears, Saul is thrown to the ground where he probably bumps his head and is dazed on top of temporarily blinded, whereupon someone speaks to him from the rocks saying that he is Jesus...this is probably the prankster himself."

"But what about Saul's companions?"

Castle looked at the soldier and shrugged.  "If indeed they were not in on the joke it is possible that they too were temporarily blinded by the reflected sunlight.  Paul seems to indicate in Chapter 26 that they were just as fooled by the light, which they certainly saw."  The soldier looked as if he had something else to say, but Castle anticipated him.  "I know.  The others didn't hear the voice of 'Jesus'.  Perhaps Saul fell very near the foot of the outcropping of stone and the prankster could get near enough to him, without being seen by the others, who themselves may have been partially blinded at the time anyway, to whisper so that only Saul could hear him.  It may be that the Christians did not even expect him to ride with companions and that his fall so near to the rocks was a bit of luck.  The best pranks are always a combination of careful planning and a dash of luck.  So...after that Saul was baptized and became Paul.

"The irony is that like all practical jokes this one backfired.  Paul, a bit of a fanatic by nature, and as is common with most converts to a new religion, went overboard as a newly converted Christian and thought that he knew the teachings of Jesus better than the apostles who learned those teachings directly from the Master, throught he knew more about those teachings than even Peter!  However, he had not been properly educated by the Master or even the Master's disciples and he proceeded to revise the teachings, and pervert the teachings and even contradict the teachings, sometimes contradicting himself, until the teachings of the Master Jesus were twisted way out of their natural shape.  You will note that most of today's New Testament is composed of the letters of 'Saint' Paul.  To make matters worse, some of those letters may have been written by one or two other men under the name of Paul, men whose views were not quite the same as the Paul's, and of course later translators, sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately, translated and transcribed things somewhat differently than they were originally written.  It's no wonder that today's Christianity is quite different from the original simple teachings of Jesus the Nazarene, called the Christ!"

"So the early Christians thought to solve their problem by making Saul one of them so that he would no longer be against them...or maybe at least just to scare him off?"

"So it may have been," Castle agreed with the soldier.

"And," Wilma said, "trying to remove the threat from without their ranks the early Christians only ended up destroying their religion by giving Saul the opportunity to destroy the teachings from within their ranks by perverting them?"

"Quite possible."  Adrian Castle smiled.

"That's fantastic!" Wilma said.

"Very logical," the Canadian remarked.

"And realistic enough to be true," Adrian Castle added.

The street preacher was still going on.

"Adrian," Wilma said, "you are a magician.  Why don't you strike that loud mouth dumb?"

"Willie!  I'm shocked," Castle said theatrically.  "That man has the right to speak as he will, those rights given to him both by the laws of this country and by our own Thelemic Rights of Man as stated in Liber OZ."  He smiled.  "I can see that you are going to need some private tutoring."  They all looked back towards the street preacher.  "Besides," Adrian said, "it seems that that poor fellow has already been stricken...'dumb'."

(TNN.V.4.1-2, SEPTEMBER 1986 E.V.)