Sunday, March 02, 2008

Atlantean Lit Essay

A lit essay written for the benefit of students. It demonstrates the use of rhetorical devices in analytical essays and conveniently uses my own Atlantean short stories. The formatting was ok for the original Word document...

With reference to the articles in the Foundation Archive, critically analyze the characters in “Indeed Only One”, “Evensong”, and “Ugly Duckling”. How far do they portray the features that are unique to the Atlantean race?

“The Stones vanished as Enoch’s vision soared into the ancient dawns of a young humanity. Salem loomed, and in its Fire, Enoch saw the despair and glory of the dying Atlanteans. He saw their broken spirits uplifting the earth, their unrelenting holiness warring with fatal guilt—and in their final fiery triumph, he saw how they sealed their doom but saved the world. Surveying centuries with the sweep of dreams, Enoch plunged ever deeper into the memories of a forgotten earth.

Enoch saw the descent of the Atlantean Flame onto a pure desert people. He saw the primeval sages of humanity, burning with wisdom and power, inspiring ages of splendor. He saw the Exodus, the voyage of faith through the western seas and the settlement of the Atlantean motherland. He saw the forging of the Stones. He saw a tremendous ten thousand years of civilization, knowledge and power. And in noontime glory, Enoch saw the abrupt darkness that murdered the light.”

--Ugly Duckling

Truth, beauty and power—these qualities concisely sum up the Atlantean race. Portrayed in the various short stories and articles as a glorious ancient race favored by God, a race that once wandered the banks of the Old Nile and the fertile grasslands of a young Sahara, a race that built a homeland of splendor that now sleeps forgotten beneath the waves of the Atlantic (“A History of Atlantis—The Origins”)—the Atlanteans were humans, yet in many ways they transcended or pushed to an extreme degree the qualities of modern humanity. After all, this was a race with a set of achievements no other nation has been able to surpass in its entirety.

For a start, Atlantean civilization was by far the longest lived nation in world history, with peerless roots stretching deep into humanity’s youth. Lasting for ten thousand years, and existing as a cohesive nomadic culture for ten thousand years before that, even India, China or Egypt must pale in comparison (“A History of Atlantis—The Origins”). And in that time, the Atlanteans were a people of peace, producers of a cornucopia of architectural, literary, musical and artistic wonders—master creators of beautiful works incarnating obsessive perfection:

“The citadel had haunted him, entrancing him with its surreal and implacable splendor. Seamlessly crafted from a single mountainous block of multi-colored stone, its lyrical rock arteries raced sinuously upward, softening harshness and lifting one’s sight to an inexorable height, where a second sun blazed fiercely with diamond white flame. But Enoch did not avert his eyes—for the searing fire invited his heart like the cozy hearth of a forgotten home.

Rays of seven hues interweaved with flame, stretching hundreds of meters from the orb. They danced playfully to a hidden tune, capering off the numerous gem-like windows that adorn the building and its walls. Radiated by this symphony of light, the building was a rainbow flame that soared aloft the wave-like walls.

What kind of civilization will endow a mere fortress with such splendor?”

--Ugly Ducking

Indeed, even the fallen Atlanteans did not lose their essential devotion to beauty. The war machines of the dark Atlanteans were “seamlessly wrought with fluid, organic curves and beautifully clothed with something that looked distinctly like flesh”—together, they were an army exhibiting a “spectacular, diverse and obsessive artistry” (Ugly Ducking).

Yet for all their peace-loving qualities and exquisite civilization, the Atlanteans were a mighty people, with vast power derived from vast wisdom. For they were the pioneer explorers of physical knowledge, the field that we today call ‘science’. And they were led in their early days by a group of ancient sages, the Melchis, who voyaged into the unknown seas that lay beneath, within and above man, gaining knowledge that would be described today—derogatorily—as being “magical” or “occult” (“The History of Atlantis—the Origins”). Yet to the Atlanteans, such inner science would be another ‘Art’ (Ugly Duckling), a means of creating beauty and manifesting truth—divine in origin, divine in execution, and divine in consummation.

Such were the Atlanteans, and such are the main characters of the three short stories Indeed Only One, Evensong, and Ugly Duckling.

Atos, the protagonist of Evensong, is the only ‘living’ Atlantean in the 3 Atlantean short stories. All the others are either beings of fire existing in the ‘Atlantean Flame’ after death, or like Enoch in the Ugly Duckling and Indeed Only One, characters with a modern front and internal Atlantean core. This is not surprising, as Evensong is the only short story set in the age of Atlantis—albeit at its closing (8000 BC), while the rest are set in the modern world, long after the extinction of the Atlantean nation.

Atos is described by Dyani, his student and eventual successor, as one who reveals “the marvels of herbs and song”, an ancient one who brings her tribe ‘herbs and beauty”. Quite clearly, he is quintessentially Atlantean in his nature and pursuits: seeking beauty, incarnating it, teaching it and bringing it to others. Atos’s poetic speech is a further expression of his inner devotion to beauty. Notice, for instance, the use of metaphor, poetic diction, rhythm and antithesis in his dialogue:

“Not all riddles, Dyani, are meant to confound. Darkness can be the best friend of truth.”

“ The Spirit in man will ever thirst for the living waters. We must ever ascend, ever soar—this is the fate of humanity. Our discontentment is our greatest gift and our bane.”

Indeed, such poetic diction also characterizes the speech of the mystical Atlanteans in Ugly Duckling. The Old Woman, one of the 11 Elders of the Flame, the Master Melchis of the Atlanteans, thus describes the plight of modern humanity:

Thus will their imagination and power and knowledge turn against them. For
they know, but not truly, their power is but a shadow. Helplessness and terror grow with mastery, and the blessing they seek is their doom.

Thus will fire and darkness, plague, war and mechanized horror blossom, the dark rose born of man’s angel mind, bloodlust and beastly greed. Such is the word of Justice, flame-child, such is the fate of proud and idolatrous man.’

And in the last parts of Indeed Only One, when Enoch has become one
with his Atlantean self, this is his poetic answer to Death’s temptation:

No, tempter. The Atlantean Power is immense; it is Truth, but it cannot conquer you. The ancient Melchis forged the Stones over a thousand years, the summit creations of their Art; but they heralded your legions’ advance and your greater triumph…

No, this is the task of One infinitely greater. Evil, freely committed, is the root of your dominion, and humanity must choose to be free. Even a young humanity, aided by the wonders and grace of the Stones and the hidden help of the Eleven, were too attached to the shadows to be worthy of life eternal. Now, burdened with the deeds of a long night and crucified with a thousand wounds of time—how could the wonders of the Art save humanity?

The poetic rhythm, the juxtaposition of antithetical imagery, the paradoxical
expressions and metaphorical language are again revealing hints of the
characters’ inner pursuit of and identification with beauty—the one essential
Atlantean trait that are found in both Enoch and the Old Woman.

And for the Atlanteans, beauty, truth and power are one in essence and
execution. As Atos admits in Evensong, the songs he teaches are no ordinary

The songs I teach are the seeds of a mighty Fire; my presence here inspires their growth. In distant ages, your seers and civilizations will equal our own. Knowledge and power will be the destiny of your descendants—or at least of those who are worthy of an imperishable Flame.”

And earlier in the story, we find this description:

Softly singing an ancient song, the old man rose and called for Rain.

Indeed, Atlantean spirituality can be described essentially as a Call for the
Spirit and the descent of it in response (“Atlantean Religion”). In this process,
the word and the song activated power, and were power. For a civilization so
knowledgeable about the arts and knowledge of the inner worlds, this
relationship between literature and ‘magic’ is not surprising. Indeed, the
language and poetry of the Atlanteans were meant to invoke and incarnate transcendent beauty and mystical power—and literary prowess was ultimately inseparable from occult and spiritual power. The true Atlantean sage, like Atos, was a seer, a poet and a mage—another essential feature of the mightiest Atlanteans.

The Old Man and the Old Woman, the two mystical Atlanteans in Ugly
Duckling, clearly are sages of the same kind. Notice for instance, the revelation of the true energies hiding in and behind the Atlantean language by the Old Man:

‘Behold the Poetry that built the worlds.’ The voice was that of the old man, but infinitely enhanced in grandeur and beauty.

From the still Light came a small voice, a soft musical ripple--then Words immense arose, lamps of fire pregnant not merely with sound and faint idea, but surging with a universe of meaning and sealed with flaming Truth. Each seemed the very heart of a world, a supreme beat guiding a dance of infinite bodies.

With the Call comes the Vision, with the Word comes the Fire. Again, this is the
characteristic quality of an Atlantean mage-poet. We see the obvious parallel in the climactic confrontation between Enoch and Death in Indeed Only One:

In the silence, a Word sounded, then an anthem of the stars. Music, eternal pure radiances of the Flame, surged ocean-like from one pure Light. It sang of life immortal, of supreme bliss, of the forgotten heights and dreams of men. It sang of original beauty marred by the Fall, of an uplifting Ray smiting darkness, of chants of truth overthrowing error. The ancient songs of the Tarasha, unveiled in their full glory, flooded through Enoch, concentrating Fire.

From here, we can also observe how the power of the Atlanteans has an
essentially redeeming quality—as the “Fall of Atlantis” puts it:

For the deepest dreams of Atlantean literature, magic and religion, were of a
world free from the touch of evil, of a new humanity renewed by the fire of God

Atlantis was glorious not merely because it was powerful and wise, but because she sought to use her strength to bring Light and transformation to all of fallen humanity. The Stones were forged for this reason; but due to the men’s fragility, it ended in horror and tragedy. Still, the driving force behind Atlantean civilization and its greatest representatives, was love:

From the crystal Rose a cloud flaming shone—Enoch saw a distant Infinity that kisses the heart of earth, a dark night that embraces without arms, a Temple fire rising to heights unseen. Enoch reached slowly forward, gazing into the lowered face of the Woman. Calm and serenely majestic, rippling sweet and intimate, she was peace, the all-embracing splendor and bliss of a hidden smile. Royal, she stood, holding the Rose like a crown, with downcast eyes filled with suffering earth and the far supreme love that broods over all pain. And in her, he saw the Word, a human Face of highest divinity, with eyes of homeliness that had given all, offered all, to Truth transcendent.

And Enoch answered:

Let it be done to me according to your will. I seek not to receive, but to give wholly—to the eternal One who loves me, and, like Moshe, to humanity, God’s beloved.

--Indeed Only One

Whether in Atos’ selfless and anonymous service in Bhavani’s remote Indo-European tribe, or in the Old Man’s advice to Enoch to ‘incarnate grace’ (Ugly Duckling), or in Enoch’s decision to choose love and embrace all necessary suffering for others, we can observe this greatest Atlantean quality: a selfless and generous Fire, the “supreme magic” of “Love, the heart of God himself inspiring the fallen light and good of our hearts” (Indeed Only One) that alone can finally annihilate evil and bring the Atlantean dream to pass.

Enoch, the Old Man and Woman and Atos—characters who incarnate love, wisdom, beauty and power—they are the archetypal representatives of a race that once inspired humanity’s dreams by their living, then our myths and yearning by their dying--and perhaps, one day, a new dawn by their rising.