There are Singapore nights when light pollution is oddly absent, when star-fires fill the sky and when clear winds soar, lifting musing thoughts into darkness, into mystery. Perhaps one would look at a star, deceptively youthful, yet an echo of ancient fire before the ages of humanity. Stretching forth with imagination’s yearnings, one could reach across space to touch a star. Drinking in the wine of emptiness, we could imagine vastness exceeding the world. Our quivering spirit can encompass the heart of stars, and we can stretch forth into infinity; yet remain very much, ourselves.
If imagination is the prophet sight of some inner Spirit, then what it could fathom, it could also perceive?
But we doubt. For in our fallen nature, in our cramped darkness, the inner fires are faint mystic oceans that send messenger ships of thought-woven sails into harsh obliterating light—silent heralds into a marketplace crowded with bustle and worthless priceless wares. Only in Silence can we sometimes hear the stirrings of angels’ wings.
And thus the spectacle of life unfolds in high darkness—a cosmic cinema effusive with scenes of brief pains and briefer joys, dramas of prolonged anguish, music of strange lasting content dancing with the rushing of life’s winds. Life—built on death, a splendor-song reaching for joy, an impermanent raft sailing on a white river stretching into eternity.
The wheel spins and ages change. Beauty dies, and rises again in whirling fire, then sinks once more. And we seek the purpose of the dance.
But at some point, by a blue sea, we may hear a Call. And we voyage within, like miners in dark caves hunting for diamond-beams of some mysterious bliss. Materialistic ideology may tell us that man is a limited creature compacted of unknowing mud, wondrously contrived by processes meaningless and blind—limited in power, in knowledge, in existence. Yet when one soar into the darkness of one’s inner self, one may find atomic radiance. From above, a gesture of Grace and a torrent of fire; from within, a diamond sight and abysmal sweetness. From around, Angels’ wings enfolding space, their robes of glory flickering. From beyond, ancient beings of pure spirit, free and glorious, reigning invisible in silence.
If literature is fundamentally about the exploration of man, and of the problem of existence, of his sufferings and his promise, then we cannot neglect the art of the infinite. This ‘mystic’ view is shared by few, yet this does not prevent it from being true. If transfiguration be humanity’s fate, if oceans of light lies hidden behind the horizons of earth, then literature must be a beacon of flame, a faint echo but nonetheless prophetic, and a power that incarnates Flame.
Thus do we craft characters who walk with mortal pace, or characters shining with aureole light, luminous beacons of humanity’s far promise? There are surely already enough exemplars of the former.
Thus in the Atlantean series, I attempted to create characters who are indeed fully human, but who are also like light poured into a little glass, pregnant with the Sun. It seems good to set oneself the challenge of portraying the beauty of God in man, of living Fire in man, of humanity set aflame by spirit-stuff. Atlantis is a civilization of light, yet one of poignant tragedy. Of Eleven and their few followers who soared high into the Temple of God, but who were unable to incarnate the Flame.
The series also considers this question, central to much of ‘fantasy’: what is the price of magic? Limbs, blood, mana? In Atlantean ‘magic’, the Art, the price is the loss of self. To unite with a Will beyond oneself, to gain gifts of authority over Nature, such as enjoyed by the mighty Rulers of the elements and of creation. For where there is authority, there is no need for ‘magic’. To command the elements will be the same as the governance of one’s body and one’s mind. To assert our separateness, to deny love, to rebel, then one needs machinations and formulas and mantras—for the true power is lost.
And the style is one of suggestive symbolism. The word itself must pack in much more, till it becomes mostly opaque to all but the most patient. Surely the form must imitate the substance, the form revealing the riddling substance, the form revealing the dark Fire.
My craft is still poor, and far from equal to the task. And my mind is like the Singapore sky. Awash in light that drowns the Stars.
But one must begin.