John Magee to be Memorialized in Bronze

(Above) Sketch of bronze statue of John Gillespie Magee Jr by Anthony Dufort.

World War II pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr. is a historical figure underlying a major character in A Day in Eternity. He was made famous by his sonnet, titled “High Flight,” about the mystical experiences many pilots have while flying. Now he is being commemorated by a nine-foot bronze statue, memorial park, and visitor’s center in the village of Wellingore, Lincolnshire, UK.

Wellingore might seem an unlikely home for the tribute to John Magee except that he was billetted with the RCAF No. 412 Squadron there in October 1941. On the eleventh of December, he and eleven fellow squadron pilots took off from RAF Wellingore to practice formation flying with a group of Spitfires thirty miles to the north. On the way back to the airfield, the squadron chose to descend single-file through a small hole in a dense cloud bank. John was the third pilot to ‘whipcrack’ through the hole. He did not have time to heed the warning to miss the oncoming Oxford Trainer from RAF Cramwell, nor was there enough altitude to safely parachute to the ground. He was 19.

Magee had written “High Flight” nearly four months prior to his death. At that time, he was stationed at RAF Llandow in Wales training on the Spitfire. The sonnet represents a two-year struggle to fly unfettered over Great Britain. He was an American citizen who had been raised in his mother’s homeland of England, but when he visited the United States in September 1939 at the onset of Britain’s war with Germany, he was prevented from returning to the place where he’d fallen in love. He had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in September in 1940 and spent the next nine months either training as a pilot or waiting to train. On the eighteenth of August 1941, he’d climbed into a Spitfire and flew to 30,000 feet. The feeling of euphoria, coupled with the satisfaction of achieving his goals, inspired the poem. “High flight” captured his spirit of childlike wonder and wisdom beyond his age, which may be why it has resonated with countless pilots for more than seventy-five years.

Magee was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery at Scopwick in Lincolnshire, England, near where he had crashed. The first and last lines of “High Flight” were engraved on his headstone, but there exists no other physical landmark of his brief life and poem. It is for this reason that the memorial project was conceived. The village of Wellingore was chosen for the statue’s home because it is the origin of Maggee’s final flight.

Celebrated artist Anthony Dufort, who has sculpted portraits of royalty, civic leaders, and religious figures, was chosen for the project. The final sculpture of the pilot is expected to open to visitors by the autumn of 2019. The memorial park will be added to the local trail of aviation history that includes a number of RAF sites, such as the site of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby.

Anthony Dufort’s preliminary bust of John G. Magee was recently unveiled. Dufort paid meticulous attention to the equipment and clothing worn at the time.

Dufort’s preliminary bust of John Magee was recently unveiled at the annual Royal International Air Tatoo by generals from the Canadian, United Kingdom, and United States air forces to honor the three countries that can claim him as their own.

The John Gillespie Magee Jr. Foundation was created in Wellingore to manage the project and raise the capital needed—about £350,000. To support the funding, limited edition bronze castings of the maquette model of the statue will be offered, and copies of the bust cast in bronze-effect resin will also be made available.

For more information about the project or to contribute to the foundation, contact:

John Gillespie Magee Jr. Foundation
Wellingore Hall, Hall Street
Wellingore, Lincoln LN5 0HX UK
Tele: 01522 810 988
Email: mageejrfoundation@btinternet.com

Web: mageejrfoundation.uk

A Day in Eternity Runner-Up in Indie Contest

A Day in Eternity by Kathryn Gabriel Loving was recently named by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group as one of the best indie books of 2017.

Loving’s novel is a finalist of the Inspirational Fiction category in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (NGIBA), the world’s largest non-profit book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors. The awards were presented on May 31 in a ceremony at the Harvard Club in New York City.

A Day in Eternity is partially based on the historical life, letters, and poetry of World War II Spitfire fighter pilot, John Gillespie Magee, Jr.. Magee wrote the famous sonnet, “High Flight,” which became an anthem for deceased pilots for more than seventy-five years. In the novel, Magee rescues British crop duster Anson Roe, who is suffering from amnesia and sunstroke during a heatwave in 1981 Oklahoma. During their conversations and adventures, Roe regains his memory and makes a shocking discovery that leads to a life-or-death decision.

Loving’s first novel, The Logos of Soul, was also named a finalist in the contest in 2012, Religious History category. She has also published a number of non-fiction books since 1991 (primarily under Kathryn Gabriel), including her trilogy on Chaco Canyon: Roads to Center Place, Marietta Wetherill: Life with the Navajos of Chaco Canyon, and Gambler Way. Marietta Wetherill is still in print with The University of New Mexico Press.

The Next Generation awards are judged by leaders of the indie book publishing industry, including many with long careers at major publishing houses. Their love of a great read and experience in the publishing arena identify books deserving a wider audience, according to Catherine Goulet, Co-Chair of the 2017 awards. She added, “Our program has become known as the Sundance of the book publishing world. The indies must work harder to get their best books into the hands of readers.”

In an article at CNN.com titled, “If it’s cool, creative, and different, it’s indie,” journalist Catherine Andrews wrote: “The term ‘indie’ traditionally refers to independent art – music, film, literature or anything that fits under the broad banner of culture – created outside of the mainstream and without corporate financing.”

Independent book publishing companies are independent of the major conglomerates that dominate the book publishing industry. The indies include: small presses, larger independent publishers, university presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors.

“Authors and publishers who compete in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards are serious about promoting their books,” added Goulet. “They aim to stand out from the crowd of millions of books in print.” According to statistics from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), more than a million books are published worldwide each year.

The aim of the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group that presents the awards is to promote professional standards in independent book publishing (also known as “indie” book publishing), and provide support and recognition for the independent book publishing profession.

Currently available in all formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and most places where ebooks are sold.

Softcover, 5.5×8.5, 280 pages, Print ISBN: 978-0983983828, Digital ISBN: 978-0-9839838-3-5

Read more about A Day in Eternity.

Marietta Wetherill, Life with the Navajos in Chaco Canyon: Chapter One

Above: Marietta Wetherill photographed at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904.

The following is the first chapter in my book, Marietta Wetherill, Life with the Navajos in Chaco Canyon. First published in 1992 and reprinted by the University of New Mexico Press in 1997, this is a first-hand account of life in the Puebloan Ancestral ruins of Chaco Canyon in what is now northwestern New Mexico. Married to Richard Wetherill, the rancher and novice archaeologist who ran a trading post in Chaco Canyon from 1896 until he was murdered in 1910, Marietta Wetherill got to know her Navajo neighbors as intimately as an Anglo could. While Richard was excavating at Pueblo Bonito, Marietta managed the trading post. She befriended a singer who adopted her into his clan and gave her a close-up view of Navajo medicine and religion. In the 1950s Marietta recorded her oral history, which was later archived and transcribed by volunteers at the University of New Mexico. More than 2,000 typed pages were edited and annotated into this book, Marietta Wetherill. It is still in print and is also available in many libraries across the United States.

Her Head is Round

I was adopted into the Navajo tribe when I was twenty-two and living in Chaco Canyon with Mr. Wetherill. The Chee clan, one of the sixteen original clans to have climbed out of the earth into this world, was chosen for me on account of the white blood in my veins and the fact that I would want to eat fish and eggs and pork and other food denied all the other clans.1 There were many things that the Chee clan were allowed that the others were denied. The Chee clan was more worldly.

Hosteen Byal adopted Marietta Wetherill.

The clan adopted me through blood transfusion and it was the most excellent opportunity to get blood poisoning.2 Yei Tsosi, the medicine man performing the ceremony, scratched me on the top of my arm back of my thumb, just a little scratch about a quarter-inch long, and it showed a little blood. Then he scratched the inside of the arm of the medicine man that was adopting me, old Hosteen Bí’al.3 Our scratches were bound together with a buckskin string. Our hands held little bags of cornmeal and little bags of pollen. Yei Tsosi touched our feet, our knees, our hands, our mouths, and the top of our heads with an ear of corn and then sprinkled those places with corn pollen. It took about a half hour.

And so went that ceremony of the blood transfusion the first day, and the second day another little scratch was made, and the third day another little scratch was made. Our arms were bound together those three days, and then I was a Navajo, and I have those scratches on my arm now. One shows pretty good, on account I kept peeling off the scab, but the others don’t show so well.

Hosteen Bí’al’s family was there, his five wives and their children, who didn’t pay much attention to me. They hummed a little hymn. They hoped that this child would grow up to be a good child, would grow up to be thought of highly by the People, as they called themselves, would help the Diné in any way she could, and that they would help her in any way they could. They would tell her many things that other people didn’t know about the Navajo so that when she was among white people, she could tell them how the Navajo lived. They weren’t bad people, they weren’t thieves, they didn’t go on the warpath and try to hurt the white men.

They hoped that this child would grow up to be a good child, would grow up to be thought of highly by the People, as they called themselves, would help the Diné in any way she could, and that they would help her in any way they could. They would tell her many things that other people didn’t know about the Navajo so that when she was among white people, she could tell them how the Navajo lived. They weren’t bad people, they weren’t thieves, they didn’t go on the warpath and try to hurt the white men.

Mareitta Wetherill’s husband Richard was murdered in Chaco Canyon in 1910.

Actually, the Navajo wanted to adopt Mr. Wetherill because he was giving a sick man a yeibichai at our house. Mr. Wetherill was too busy in the ruins to be adopted, so I volunteered.4 I became the daughter of Hosteen Bí’al; to all intents and purposes I belonged to him. I was his child and he was always good to me and did many things for me and told me many things that I’ve always appreciated.

I think that probably having the blood transfusion was one of the reasons I felt I wanted to do something for the Navajo tribe. And since I’m an old lady now, I find that so much has been written about them that hasn’t been intelligently done. The real Navajo had a reason for everything and no one has ever written about that.

I tried to live up to them. One time I rode up the canyon and an old squaw stopped me and asked me where I was going and what I was carrying on the back of my saddle. “I’m taking a twenty-five pound sack of flour and some coffee and sugar to Old Mother Cats,” I said. “Nobody seems to take care of her and she belongs to my clan.”

She put her arms around me. “You’re a real Navajo.” Of course, they never would have said Navajo. They called themselves Diné, the People.

How many times had I seen Tomacito riding on his horse over the mesa, whip in one hand, singing at the top of his voice. I don’t think in all the things I’ve seen in my life I ever saw anything that impressed me quite the way it did to see a Navajo sing. Tomacito, he could be a half a mile off and I’d still hear him. He’d sing low, then come up high, and then come down low again. “My grandmother is getting old and she’s not very well but the children are all right and the sheep are fat and the grass is growing and the Great Spirit is sending the rain.”5 I’d see Hosteen Hataalii Nez Begay come over the mesa and go down into the canyon, and I’d know then that Mocking Bird Canyon was going to have a little sing.

The hogans, or houses, were scattered throughout the Penestuja country south of the Chaco. Here’s one in the canyon, there’s one up on the rimrock, and another one over here four or five miles away. A runner would spread the news that Hosteen Hataalii Nez Begay or some other medicine man was going to stay all night and have a little bijí, a one-day ceremony. The neighbors would come and have coffee and a bite to eat and a visit, and the medicine man would tell them what was going on in the community.

If I took the notion, I’d go to the ceremonies my clan had. If the babies were asleep and I had a good girl looking after them, why I’d get on my horse and go singing up the canyon, too. I was welcome because I was part of them.

One time thirty or forty children were there and I sat down with them. The squaws came out and sat by me. Then the medicine man came along and asked each child, “What did I sing at your hogan?” The kids were scared to death and they cuddled up to their mothers and cried. The clowns, dressed ridiculously, switched them a little bit and the medicine man said, “Next year you remember what 1 told you. If you ever want to sing in the big yeibichai you’ve got to remember what I teach you.”6 It was like kindergarten.

Then he asked me what he sang at Mocking Bird’s bijí and I hummed it to him and he rewarded me with a silver concha for remembering the song. The squaws laughed and hugged and patted me. “See how the white people remember?” the medicine man would say. “Her head’s round and she remembers and she’s going to tell all these things some day to the white people. As soon as she gets back to the house she’s going to write to it all down.”7 Which I never did.

Father sent me to the Chicago School of Dramatic Art to study elocution when I was a child. The man there said he never saw anything like my memory. He said, “I only gave you that piece yesterday and you have all twenty-odd verses. How do you do that?” I couldn’t solve a simple problem in mental arithmetic if my life depended on it. I never studied much; it was hard work. Anything I could commit to memory was easy for me. I had civil government letter perfect, but arithmetic and deportment kept me back. If we were on a trip in the Southwest or someplace like that, my parents would put us in school for a couple weeks just to see if we were progressing in our studies at the right pace. They told us if we weren’t, they’d send us to school back in Kansas. I’d memorize the textbooks so that wouldn’t happen.

The medicine men wanted me to see and learn everything so that I could tell the white people. One of the things I learned was that the Navajo were superstitious. When we first went to Chaco Canyon there wasn’t a Navajo living there, not a one. They herded their sheep in there but they didn’t live in the canyon. They lived up on the mesa tops and the rimrocks. They did camp at the end of the canyon where it opened out into that great vast country and also in the canyon that went straight south out of Chaco. We always called that the [South] Gap because we could look straight south for miles. But they never lived in the canyon and when I asked them why they said it was crowded with the souls of too many dead people there.

I was riding home one time with Jessie, an Indian girl, very intelligent. We heard an owl hoot up on the cliff and she said, “Stop,” and got off her horse. “What’s the matter?” “Shhh, be quiet.” She took a little stick and drew a little round circle there in the sand, with round circles all around it. Then she took her hand and built up a little mound of dirt in the center and she said, “Now the evil spirit in that owl will come over here to see what we were doing and he’ll stay here until we get home.”8

Can you imagine living in fear like that? If a duck flew over their hogan in a certain direction they’d think it prophesied a death in the family. It seemed to me that they lived in a sort of constant terror of the evil spirit. “Why do you fear the evil spirit?” I’d ask. “I’m not afraid of any evil spirit. I’ve never done anything.”

“I’ve never done anything, either, but the evil spirit will get you,” they’d say. The first time we came to Chaco Canyon the Navajo advised us to leave, because it was such a dangerous place to live. After Mr. Wetherill was killed they said to me, “We told you, but you wouldn’t listen.”

Those ruins were on Mr. Wetherill’s homestead claim and the agreement was that when they made Chaco Canyon a national monument, he would turn over to the government all the land on which the ruins were and they could give him land someplace else around there. At least they made Chaco Canyon a national monument [in 1907], which was exactly what Mr. Wetherill wanted, but he never lived to settle the claim.

Mr. Wetherill was known all over the world for his work. He had his work in every museum in the United States and in foreign countries. He was not only an explorer but an adventurer, too. He had discovered the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. He had developed Chaco Canyon a hundred and fifty miles from Albuquerque and there hadn’t been two people here that had ever seen it. He put it on the map. His name is in all the scientific books written on Chaco Canyon.

When Mr. Wetherill was killed, we put the body on the back porch and the Indians came and sang and danced around him. He was later buried up the canyon from Pueblo Bonito and there are as many as twenty graves there now because so many Indians wanted to be near him. They didn’t want to kill him. They went to their hogans that day and talked all through the night about how they could have done it differently, but the Navajo didn’t kill Mr. Wetherill. Those Indian agents, both white men, killed him. They wanted control of Chaco Canyon. They promised the Navajo they would build a school there and dam up the canyon for enough water for all their cattle and horses if only they made Mr. Wetherill go away.

But I’m not bitter.

I’ve had people question my sanity for loving the Navajo after what they done. I can’t condemn them all for one accident of wrath. I never blamed the Navajo for what happened to my family. I’ve lived among the Indians all my life and I always wanted to know all about them. That was the thing … my life. I always said that was what I was going to do, I was going to study Indians all my life, and I came very near doing it.

Now that I’m old, I’m going to tell you the story of the Navajo, as intelligently as I can.

NOTES

1One version of the Navajo legends is that when Changing Woman, a mythological deity, made human beings, she created six groups who formed the original clans. Marietta mentions the sixteen original clans often and once drew pictures of them. The number four, or multiples of four, carries great significance in Navajo numerology, and a reference to the sixteen original clans hasn’t turned up in published ethnology, nor has reference to the Chee clan and eating restrictions.

2When the story of her adoption was first published in Scribners Magazine in May 1932, Navajos wrote letters denying that they adopted non-Indians in this type of ceremonial, but she insisted it was true.

3Those who perform curing ceremonials are called hataalii, or singers, or chanters. “Medicine man” is a title imposed on the position by whites. A sing is usually done in conjunction with sandpainting and dancing in costume.

4Yeibichai, also ye’i bichei, is a dance in the Night Chant or Night Way in which dancers wear masks of the Yeis, or gods, the male and female figures who represent the forces of nature.

5Marietta refers to the Great Spirit often and translates it to Nataani Soto, in Navajo. But the Navajo do not traditionally have a supreme being. Perhaps the Navajo invented the term in response to the Christian God. The closest to omniscience is Changing Woman, Talking God, and the Twin War Gods, with the Sun possibly being the most powerful although not as important today. Lesser deities include the Yeis. Return

6Some whipping does occur in initiation into certain rites.

7The Navajo had flat heads because they kept their babies strapped to cedar bark cradleboards. Aleš Hrdlika, a physical anthropologist noted in 1908 that questions pertaining to intentional deformation met with laughter. An older woman said the Navajo doesn’t like a head that protrudes behind, illustrating the words with her hands.

8The dead are considered the source of chidee, or malevolent ghosts. The ruins are called kits’iil, and are the Anaasázi Bighan, Home of the Ancient Enemy, who contributed to the destruction of the Fourth World. These sacred places figure prominently by name in their origin legends, or Diné Bahane’, and are considered to be báábázid, literally “for it there is fear and reverence,” because of the supernatural forces still lingering around them. Only specialized persons can approach these ruins. But not all Navajos believed this way, hence the looting of the ruins.

The Spiritual Meaning of John Gillespie Magee’s Poem “High Flight”

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth,” or so begins John Gillespie Magee’s 1941 poem, “High Flight.” The sentiment is fairly straightforward if one knows the poem was written from the perspective of an aircraft in the upper atmosphere. At a deeper level, the sonnet is an exclamation point to a teenager’s struggle with feelings of entrapment. It is the song of a soul’s escape from the heavy burdens of life to soar the heavens with nothing less than joy.

When in 1939 John Magee was restricted by the US State Department from travel at the onset of Great Britain’s war against Germany he was devastated. He had gone to America at the request of his father to reacquaint himself with the paternal half of his heritage, having been raised mostly in England. Even when travel reopened, his passport was canceled. Just seventeen at the time, he was compelled to complete his high school education in Connecticut.

John resented both America and the school he attended, which he felt was intellectually behind his school in England. His parents had to have been happy that circumstances held him in the US out of harm’s way, but they became the recipients of a series of letters bemoaning his fate. Paraphrasing from several letters written in 1939-1940, John wrote (1):

“I have been under a sort of emotional stress ever since the war began…. I am so longing to get back to help out. Don’t you believe a man should live by his convictions? I am convinced my place is in England, and if ever I see the opportunity, I’m coming.”

“…Something in me is dying, irrevocably, irretrievably; I am beginning simply to exist whereas before, at any rate at moments, I lived. …I realize, deep down, that I have had my fill of it, yet there is a sort of futility in trying to escape from the demands of its existence. To get away from it all, to walk again on the beach at Kingsdown, and feel the freshening wind on one’s face, and wonder, perhaps, if there are any chocolate biscuits left for tea! There was an ecstasy there, and I was damned (in every sense of the word) into overlooking it in all my blindness.”

In September, 1940, he was positioned to enter Yale on scholarship, but he instead enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a means of returning to England. Because of the backlog of recruits, it would still be a grueling four months before he would start basic training, and then he would undergo a further five months of flight and aerial combat training. Once he received his wings and commission as a pilot officer, he embarked upon a month-long naval convoy across the Atlantic with a two-week layover in Iceland.

John’s yearning to reunite with England does not mean that he was the proverbial Sad Sack. When he learned to fly, he did so with abandon. On his second solo flight, he put his Fleet Flinch into a spin to experience the thrill of imminent death and recovery. In doing so he triggered an inverted spin and lost consciousness before reawakening and finally pulling out of it. His instructor watched the whole event from the ground and treated him to a couple more spins to allay any phobias he might develop. John engaged fellow students in fake dogfights and even chased after aircraft from other air bases. Prone to mishaps, he cartwheeled a Harvard trainer on the runway after misjudging his proximity to the ground in the dark. Instructors always threatened to wash him out, or at the very least write him up so that he wouldn’t become anything more than a sergeant, but he consistently scored near the top of his class on exams. The RCAF was obligated to advance its brightest pilots, and those who took chances were especially needed at the front.

John finally began his training on the Supermarine Spitfire at RAF Llandow in Wales in August of 1941, nearly two years after being marooned in America. The honor of his new commission as an officer did little to deter his daredevil whims. He often buzzed the homes and gathering places of friends and family from Rugby to Devon. He also commandeered aircraft to visit Elinor Lyon, the love of his life.

John had his serious side. While at Llandow, he learned how to handle the Spitfire in formation flying, learned to excel in combat maneuvers, learned to shoot at the enemy on his tail, learned to shoot his camera guns at a moving target while avoiding getting hit. He pushed the limits of the Spitfire’s capabilities as well as his own, staying airborne as long as he had the fuel. He’d been to 20,000 feet where oxygen was needed for dog-fighting practice, but his mind was so focused on the exercises that he couldn’t fully appreciate the heights. In rare moments he managed to escape the group and fly off on his own. “I felt like Icarus about to singe his wings,” he wrote his parents.

On the eighteenth of August, as a mere eleven-day veteran on the Spitfire, he took his aircraft higher than ever before, “even higher than Mount Everest.” In my novel, A Day in Eternity, I describe his experience:

“… Now he was suddenly caught by the way the sun’s rays shattered on his bubble-top canopy, and how the clouds created cathedral-like vaults across the azure sky. … Looping, rolling, diving, and turning within the lower reaches of earth’s stratosphere at speeds of more than 350 miles per hour made his heart pump adrenalin throughout his body. The pulling of G-forces caused his mind to dislocate, and he felt his own consciousness project outside of himself. At once he sensed a protected closeness to what he could only describe as a benevolent power. The sensation stunned him, and he marveled at the wonder of his expanded universe. He was Icarus who escaped the Labyrinth prison on make-shift wings and flew precariously close to the sun. He knew with certainty that he’d been given the gift of life so that he could discover this secret.”

Sometime in the previous months, John Magee had picked up a book of poetry entitled, Icarus: An Anthology of the Poetry of Flight, compiled by R de la Bere and “three flight cadets of the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell.” In recent years, a few have claimed that lines in John’s poem, “High Flight,” were plagiarized from poetry in the book. The mystical experience must have reminded him of a couple of stanzas from a poem called, “The Blind Man Flies,” by Cubbert Hicks, published in the Icarus anthology. Here is an excerpt from that poem (2):

I learnt from the air to-day
(On a bird’s wings I flew)
That the earth could never contain
All of the God I knew.
I felt the blue mantle of space,
And kissed the cloud’s white hem,
I heard the stars’ majestic choir,
And sang my praise with them.
Now joy is mine through my long night,
I do not feel the rod,
For I have danced the streets of heaven,
And touched the face of God.

The following paragraphs from A Day in Eternity describe how “High Flight” might have emerged:

John figured that only a few hundred men, if that many, had ever experienced the jubilation of flying alone at such an altitude. Fewer still had experienced the truth that God was not limited to church or temple, he thought. God did not belong to any one religion, God could not even be contained on the planet below him. God was a power that was everywhere! John Magee, via the Supermarine Spitfire, was but a citizen of this celestial city where he could indeed explore and dance the streets of heaven.

He felt indebted to Hicks for having shown him this truth, but the poem didn’t go far enough in describing the ecstasy he had experienced. Upon landing he performed his post-flight duties as quickly as he could, then he rushed back to his bunk and searched for any scrap of paper on which he could fill in the lyrics to the iambic-pentameter rhythm beating like a heart within his most inner being.

He began with his favorite line of the Hicks poem— “touched the face of God.” This would be the crowning jewel of his sonnet, but he needed to show how he had rocketed to the pinnacle of his mind and then transcended it to enter the rarefied strata of divinity. Other poets in the Icarus anthology provided further lines of inspiration: “on laughter-silvered wings,” “the lifting mind,” “the shouting of the air,” and “across the unpierced sanctity of space.” His finished creation would not be entirely original, but he didn’t think that mattered. What mattered was preserving the euphoria he’d experienced tens of thousands of feet above the earth so that he could remember it when he descended to the depths of combat hell.

With the encouragement of instructors and fellow students, he copied the complete sonnet on the third of September, 1941. “I am enclosing a verse I composed the other day,” he wrote in a letter to his family the next morning. “It started at 30,000 feet and was finished soon after I landed. Thought it might interest you.” This was the poem he hastily penned on the back of a sheet of thin, blue stationary:

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds,—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air …
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Magee was two people. The first persona was that of a sensitive poet and the second a rabble-rousing adrenaline junkie. John Magee self-published a booklet of his poems in 1939 at Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut. The forward to this booklet hints at the way he used poetry to reconcile his dual personalities:

“…the sole reason for the publication of these immature verses is that they may possibly be acceptable to the more indulgent as representing various emotional conflicts occurring in the life of a boy between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, and that they may, perhaps, bring back to the reader, if readers there be, something of his or her own youth, when Wonder was fighting for life in the teeth of Pride, and Love lay shivering under the howling winds of adolescent Cynicism.”

John Magee was to write one more poem, entitled “Per Ardua,” before his death on December 11, 1941, about three months after sending “High Flight” to his parents. He was 19.

  1. The John Gillespie Magee, Jr.,materials are archived in the John G. Magee Family Papers, Record Group No. 242, Special Collections, Yale Divinity School Library.
  2. Icarus: An Anthology of the Poetry of Flight by R de la Bere (Macmillan, London, 1938), contains the poem, “The Blind Man Flies,” by Cuthbert Hicks.

A Day in Eternity is currently available in all formats on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and most places where ebooks are sold.
Softcover, 5.5×8.5, 280 pages, Print ISBN: 978-0983983828, Digital ISBN: 978-0-9839838-3-5

John Gillespie Magee Loved Elinor Lyon

(Photo: Elinor Bruce Lyon in Women’s Royal Naval Service uniform in 1942. John Gillespie Magee, Jr., in Royal Canadian Air Force Uniform, 1941.)

John Gillespie Magee, Jr., the WWII poet and fighterpilot who wrote “High Flight,” the anthem of aviators for seventy-five years, left the world with an even greater legacy—more than a hundred letters detailing the angst of a teenager in a war-torn world. Sprinkled throughout the letters are his sentiments for a young lady named Elinor Lyon. The relationship between John and Elinor is featured in my novel, A Day in Eternity.

John and Elinor’s Childhood Friendship

Elinor Lyon was the prim daughter of the headmaster at Rugby School in England where John attended. Because John’s own father was a missionary in China, the Lyon family took him on frequent holidays, during which time John and Elinor were free to frolic the hills and lakeshores of England. Given their literary interests we can guess the conversations touched on literature and poetry.

John was expected to become a great literary mind, particularly for his poetry. He learned to compose poetry because Elinor herself wrote it. Now, John was a rebellious as a teenager by Rugby standards. He preferred to climb clock towers or read Goethe rather than concentrate on Demosthenes. “Plenty of time, we say, for Beauty afterward,” he wrote. “Suppose there is no afterward?” He despised the routine of school and pursued his own studies. Even so, he won the coveted Poetry Prize at Rugby for a poem entitled “Brave New World,” a deeply philosophical look at life from the perspective of death.

John Magee’s Brave New World

Who knows what might have blossomed between John and Elinor in time had war not interrupted them? John sailed the Queen Mary to America in August of 1939, mere weeks before England entered war with Germany. Elinor had already been ensconced in a Swiss school for months by then. John, being an American citizen through his father, was barred by the State Department from returning to England, and when travel reopened to US citizens, his passport was inexplicably canceled. He begrudgingly completed his secondary education at a prep school in Connecticut and won a scholarship to Yale to begin in the fall of 1940.

Once he was marooned in America, though, he began to miss the “rushing intellectual streams” of England despite his previous criticism that the school demanded scholastic conformity. Desperate to return, he launched a letter campaign upon his parents that included the rationale of Plato, among many other works.

Was it boredom that made him so anxious, or was it that he missed Elinor? He had dedicated a book of poetry to someone bearing her initials, EBL, which he handcrafted on a real press at the Connecticut prep school. Not that John didn’t pursue other love interests. While sailing on the Queen Mary to America in 1939, he spent sunsets and sunrises with many a member of the girl’s music band on board. He enjoyed the company of a handful of girls who traveled in the circle of his wealthy aunt in Pennsylvania and later while he completed his high school studies in Connecticut. He even became engaged, supposedly, but it was Elinor who held his heart.

Rather than take advantage of his Yale scholarship upon graduation, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Luftwaffe air attack on Britain in September of 1940. Learning to become a fighterpilot seemed to be his only chance to return to England, and in doing so he discovered a talent for flying and a thrill for danger. What Roosevelt had called the “aerodrome of democracy,” the Canadian skies became an arena for his winged escapades.

John’s poetry composition crawled to a halt at this point, but he continued writing letters. So many young men had enlisted in the RCAF that John had to wait two months just to start basic training. This period gave him plenty of time to stew over his decision. Subject matter for his poetry often focused on his death, and this didn’t change for his letters. He wrote: “Eulogies might say of me: ‘A voice raised in joyous song has been silenced.’ Or: ‘A star has fallen out of the literary heavens, leaving a shining peace under the night.’ How utterly hilarious and almost Rabelaisian in its absurdity. How about: ‘The young flier converted by journalists into a sort of worshiping Dante, starry-eyed over his Beatrice, his Holy Grail?'” He added: “That’s why I hoped that if I died, it would be in circumstances violently heroic so that they would never know.” We have to guess that his secret Beatrice was none other than Elinor Lyon.

Elinor Lyon’s Own Imaginative Poetry

Elinor was a shy poet; few of her verses ever reached the light of day and then only in the wake of John’s biographies. She had composed in simple rhymes and copied them into journals beginning in 1934 and ending in 1944. In her early years she wrote about knights and child spies and nature. Poetry for her teenage years became a cathartic release over love lost and the tragedies of war.

Unfortunately, correspondence between Elinor and John was not archived, but there is evidence that they wrote each other. For instance, he thanked his mother in a letter for sending one of Elinor’s letters to him, one that he’d searched for everywhere. What I’d give to read this letter given he’d felt so desperate to find it. Did they exchange drafts of their poetry? Their themes often dovetailed and expressed the same sense of yearning and introspection. In June, 1940, Elinor wrote the following poem, titling it “Imagined Scene”:

You stood on the hill, where the trees were sombre,
Tall and dark overhead,
The cool air flowed down after the thunder,
The sky was calmed of dread.
Still and kind hung the clouds, caressed
By the weary touch of the air;
Silent I waited, until quite suddenly
You turned and saw me there.

Years earlier, in the book dedicated to Elinor, John included this poem, which seems reminiscent of Elinor’s “Imagined Scene”:

Always you come, a precious ghost, to haunt
The days, the nights; —in sudden, waking dreams
I find your face; you smile, you beckon; —flaunt
Your lovely self before my eyes; it seems.

To love is pain! But did you really care?
Have you forgotten? —Is it all in vain
To breathe out sonnets to the midnight air,
To long to touch your hands, your lips again?

I know that some day I shall find you
Alone, and in the evening shade of trees;
Twilight, and hills, and quietness behind you
A scent I shall remember in the breeze …

John and Elinor Reunite

After two years abroad, Elinor and John finally reunited in England in the summer of 1941. He was a commissioned Pilot Officer by then and learning to master the Spitfire. First chance he got, he grabbed an old plane at the air base in Wales and flew himself to meet the Lyon family on a fruit-picking holiday in the Cotswalds. He returned the following day, and for several days thereafter he buzzed their lodging with his Spitfire. When weather turned bad, he took a train and stayed overnight. He also rendezvoused with Elinor in Oxford where she attended college, she feeling bad that she was reading Milton while her friends were at war. He wrote about these encounters in his letters home, testifying that this remarkable woman was the one for him, despite the fact that he still enjoyed chance meetings with other women in the pubs.

Elinor’s journal contained many entries like the above-mentioned “Imagined Scene,” but there is no indication that any of the poems were composed with John in mind prior to the fall of 1941. She did mention the initials of others in her footnotes. Reading between the lines, it is apparent that she’d had a few attractions and disappointments where her own heart is concerned.

However, the following excerpt from a poem she called “Falling Stars” was written the same month John returned to England, and it seems she wrote it for him:

Yet when the winter frosts are fierce,
And shattered stars spin down;
I think, there flies a nobler heart,
Through agonies to a crown.

She added this note at the bottom: “I do mean this.”

So can we say that John was the young flier converted by journalists into a sort of worshiping Dante, starry-eyed over his Beatrice? Can we say that Elinor was his Beatrice? Yes, and here’s why. On August 18th John began composing his sonnet, “High Flight.” “It started at 30,000 feet and was finished soon after I landed,” he wrote in a letter to his parents. In a previous letter written on August 17th, he wrote that it was Elinor’s birthday and that he would call her if he could think of something to say. It is my contention, or at least my imagining, that he did call her on her birthday, and then elated from the call, he experienced an epiphany while flying the Spitfire the next day.

In November of 1941, she wrote “Hymn for an Airman” which seems to be a foreshadowing:

For thee no tears, no vigil,
No tomb, no frozen shroud;
But thou shalt soar far over
The vaulted sky embowed,
To life beyond the morning
In light that knows no cloud.

Her note at the bottom said, “For JGM. The danger is always there. Don’t forget it.”

For her part, Elinor later confessed to John’s biographer an affection for him and said she enjoyed his humor and intellect. Even so, she thought him immature, she being a full ten months older than he. John had to know of Elinor’s lack of enthusiasm for a romance, but that didn’t stop him from thinking that he made headway with her every time they met after their reunion in England.

Elinor married a different RAF pilot, one who was a substitute English teacher at Rugby. While raising her children, she wrote children’s novels. One of her series was about Ian and Sovra, young adventurers who got themselves in and out of scrapes. When they were together, Elinor had called John by the Scottish version of his name, Ian. I wonder … .

  1. The letters of John Gillespie Magee, Jr., are archived in the John G. Magee Family Papers, Record Group No. 242, Special Collections, Yale Divinity School Library.
  2. Elinor Lyon’s unpublished poetry and notes (used with permission by her son, Roger Wright) are archived at the Seven Stories, National Centre for Children’s Books in New Castle, U.K.

A Day in Eternity explores Elinor and John’s relationship.

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My Journeys to Selçuk-Ephesus – A Guest Post by Francine Ney

Above: Roman aqueduct, Selçuk, Turkey. (Photo by F. Ney.)

Note: This past summer, Francine Ney wrote the following note to me regarding Ephesus near Selçuk, Turkey, the setting for my novel The Logos of Soul:

“When visiting my sister in November 2015, her partner Jock gave me The Logos of Soul off his bookshelf explaining that the story takes place exactly in the area that I had been visiting and that maybe it was my destiny to have the book.

The books’ easy storytelling caught my interest right away, but it was not until I was on vacation in Selçuk, Turkey, in May that I had the chance to read it in full. It was fun to be reading about Ephesus and the Artemis temple and then on my daily walks pass the actual places described in the book.

The descriptions of space and time correlated with the real physical location, so I felt like I was reading a true story and part of the secret. Instead of visiting with my friends I kept sneaking away to lose myself in the adventure.

The day before I left I purposely finished the book so that I could leave it. Giving it a kiss, I put it on the airbnb bookshelf and grinned thinking about the next person to stumble onto the book and think, ‘Hey, this place is right here. What a coincidence.’”

In the course of my email exchanges with Francine, I began to see how energized by the Selçuk region she was, and I became intrigued by the possibility of traveling there myself. She allowed me to imagine how easy going there would be, and so I invited her to write the following guest article:

My Journeys to Selçuk-Ephesus

View of the agricultural around Selcuk, taken from the castle,
View of the agricultural around Selcuk, taken from the castle. (Photo by F. Ney.)

In 2014, Turkey ranked as the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world, with residents from Germany, Russia, and Great Britain being the top three nations providing the most tourists. Americans were tenth on the list and made up only four percent of the total tourists.

I made my first visit, traveling solo, in September of 2014 and spent one week on the Mediterranean Coast and one week in Istanbul. On the coast I stayed at small pensions/hotels ranging from $20-$30 a night, which included dinner. The towns I chose were Antalya, Patara Beach, Kabak (Olive Garden), and Dalyan (mud baths), moving every two days by mini bus. In Istanbul I stayed in a “#bunk” hostel, which was $70 a night for a private room.

Everyone was very helpful at the bus stations, and I quickly maneuvered like a pro. At first I had my guard up, but soon it was obvious that people genuinely wanted to help me. I would write the town I wanted to go to on a 4×2 index card and show it to the bus operators, who would assist in getting me on the correct bus. Riding the bus was a great way to view the scenery and was very safe and clean.

Before flying to Istanbul from Izmir, I took a commercial bus to Selçuk for a three-night stay. Selçuk is the home of the ancient Greek city Ephesus, one of Turkey’s major tourist attractions. Little is left of the famed Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that historically drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Ephesus also attracted Christian settlers (Greeks and Jews), including St. Paul who lived in Ephesus for three years. There is a tradition that St. John settled here with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and also wrote his gospel here. One can visit the Virgin Mary’s house, which is located on the mountain above Ephesus.

I liked Selçuk immediately. I discovered La Tulip Art Gallery and purchased many locally made items such as handmade leather shoes, Turkish ceramics, and jewelry. Since rent is less in the small towns, it is best to get the shopping finished before going to Istanbul.

La Tulip Art Gallery Selçuk at night.
La Tulip Art Gallery at night in Selçuk.

For me in Selçuk, there is such a feeling of being at the same crossroads as many seekers before me. Selçuk-Ephesus, the island of Samos (birth place of Pythagoras), and the city of Konya (resting place of Rumi) are lined up close to each other on the 37th parallel north.

I have returned to Selçuk four times since that first visit, and I am now on my way to relocating near there this fall. I am going in on the 90-day visitor visa and hoping for the best. Since 2014 I have learned a lot about the current politics, and tourism has drastically changed due to conflicts within Turkey, but that does not really change the history that has already happened in this location and my attraction to it. Also I plan to stay part of the time in Samos, Greece, at the end of my 90 days, to see if between the two locations I will feel the contentment of being in the right place at the right time.

My current flight ($600 round trip) is from Washington DC to Athens, Greece, and from there I will fly to Izmir. The recent conflicts have been in Istanbul and the capital city of Ankara. Since I have an extended-stay visa (easily obtained online for twenty dollars), I do not want to miss my return flight due to any future political unrest in Istanbul.

I feel safe in Selçuk, however. Most of the travel advisories are for the southern part of Turkey near the Syrian border, and that is far away. Turkey is about the size of Utah, Colorado, and Kansas combined. Figuratively, Selçuk would be on the western edge of Utah and the travel-warning areas would be at the southeastern bottom of Kansas.

The food is fresh, local, and seasonal. When I am there I start with the Saturday market to get fresh vegetables and fruit at about thirty cents a pound. There is a wide variety of local cheese and organic meat. The majority of people make their own olive oil and brine-cure olives, and there is always way too much for their family alone. Often they give jugs full of oil and olives to their neighbors–sort of like zucchini is in the States. If you’ve made acquaintances there, you could be one of these lucky recipients. For some reason even the nuts are fresher and saltier than I can find in the States. My daily meal is a huge salad with lots of olive oil and crumbled cheese and peanuts on top. For cooked food, I would rather go out for a three-dollar pizza or delicious chicken kebabs for five dollars.

Women making gozleme (Turkish flatbread) at a restaurant called Koy Sofrasi in Kirazli Village.
Women making pide (Turkish flatbread) at a restaurant called Koy Sofrasi in Kirazli Village. (Photo by F. Ney.)

Ninety-nine percent of the Turkish population is Muslim, which I have experienced as a culture that is very kind, patient, and welcoming to guests. There are plenty of tourists along the coast and in Istanbul, so western clothes do not stand out, and there is no need to cover shoulders unless in a mosque. As a person travels more inland, I am told that the clothes become more conservative. For Muslims the consumption of any intoxicates is forbidden in the Quran, so at night the men sit around drinking black tea and playing a tile game named Okey. Of course there are bars but alcohol, being expensive and frowned upon, makes a cultural difference.

I am happy that I was one of the four percent of Americans that traveled to Turkey in 2014 and look forward to making it my part-time home.

Interview with Kathryn Gabriel Loving

Q. Kathryn, you’ve written a number of non-fiction books on a range of topics that include archaeology, travel, history, and mythology. What influence did these books have on your novel, The Logos of Soul?

A. I have always been interested in the profound similarities of beliefs that span temporal and geographical boundaries. For instance my book, Gambler Way, revealed parallel gambling mythologies between Navajos and Hindus that stand for spiritual renewal. With The Logos of Soul my intention was to explore and share something more deeply personal, something that has given me much peace and opportunity for inner growth. The reader will find elements of archaeology, history, theology in the novel.

Q. What type of fiction would you say influenced your writing?

A. I grew up in the era of James Michener whose epic historical novels, such as The Source, crossed generations of people. We might also include Leon Uris’ Exodus and Gore Vidal’s Creation in that category. I enjoyed Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novels, such as Time Enough for Love and Stranger in a Strange Land. As I grew older, my reading became more geared toward the mystical, although all these books have that theme in common.

Q. The contemporary heroine in your novel, Alyson Sego, asks if a person can be judged by the books on their shelves?

A. Alyson, a newspaper columnist by trade, asks that question because she is highly self-conscious of her progression from compulsive book junkie to frustrated spiritual seeker. She says her shelves are lined with the “exoskeletons of ideas she has donned and as quickly shed.” Her search begins by trying to ease the pain of losing her family, and to that end she scours the libraries and bookstores, rotating first through fiction of all genre. Once she realizes she is living vicariously through the characters, she decides she is really a seeker of spirituality and begins to read what I call pop metaphysical books. When she acknowledges she is also living a vicarious spiritual life through these books, she decides to launch a search for a spiritual path of her own. Mary Magdalene, the other heroine in the novel, essentially embarks on a similar search of scholarly works that exist during Hellenistic Greek times. She records her findings in a papyrus codex, which Alyson inherits from her aunt two thousand years later. The difference is that Mary Magdalene already has a spiritual path, and is instead discovering the universality of that path. Of course, it is Alyson’s hope that Mary Magdalene’s notebook will somehow ignite her own latent spirituality.

Q. Did the biblical figure Mary Magdalene inspire you to write The Logos of Soul?

A. I was inspired by the mystery. Jesus told his disciples that to them it would be given the Mysteries, and for two thousand years people have been trying to figure out exactly what those Mysteries were, because everything that was included in the New Testament, as well as those texts and gospels that were excluded from it, was written in code. Although Mary Magdalene’s stature as an evolved student of Master Jesus is indeed inspiring, I was even more inspired by the close correlation of Jesus’ teachings to those that are known today as the Light and Sound. Could these ancient teachings lead to the Mysteries?

Q. Are you suggesting that the Mysteries Jesus spoke of are the Light and Sound Teachings, or are they a New Age invention you superimposed on stories of the Bible?

A. Light and Sound is a modern term for what is otherwise as old as humanity and lies at the root of all religions. In India, for instance, the teachings are called Surat Shabda Yoga, which in Sanskrit means the union of the soul with the essence of the Absolute. That essence is the Sound Current or the Audible Life Stream, the creative life energy sent forth from the Absolute that moves through all inhabitants of Creation. The path in India has been ongoing since the mid-19th century, but masters of the Light and Sound teach that Jesus was also a Master of this eternal path, along with Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, and perhaps some of the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament as well.

Q. If the New Testament was written in code, then how do you know that Jesus taught about the Light and Sound?

A. An important clue is the Greek word “logos” and its role in the Gospel of John. The various interpretations behind the logos is what intrigues Mary Magdalene in the novel. Logos, in the Christian vernacular means Word, Message, or Wisdom of God, as seen in the first verse of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word (Logos), the Word was with God, and nothing existed but the Word. This interpretation of the Word is actually a Jewish concept derived from the Aramaic word Memra, meaning the Voice or Utterance. However, the Christian religion that sprung up and evolved in Jesus’ stead was more Greek-oriented than Jewish, and “memra” was translated into the Greek word “logos,” which means reason or rationality. But from the Greek point of view, logos had a different meaning. Greek philosophers had long referred to the Logos as being the overriding rational principle that governs the universe, and not necessarily as the Word of God, for they did not yet have a concept of a single all-powerful God that the Jews had. So the Word in the New Testament is actually a blend of both the Jewish and the Greek concepts, although neither accurately describes what Jesus really meant.

Q. What was Jesus’ interpretation of the Word?

A. Jesus likened the Word to the Living Water. To the Jewish people, the so-called “living water” that ran through the channels of the Second Temple in Jerusalem was used by priests to purify the devoted. Before Jesus became a spiritual master, John the Baptist tried to show that a devotee did not have to be dipped in the temple water to be purified; nature provided ample opportunity for such purification. But Jesus took the water metaphor to new heights. He told the Samaritan woman at the well, “Whoever drinks of this water will never thirst.” Jesus transmuted water into wine during a wedding in Cana, suggesting that this Living Water is not only transformative, it is also intoxicating. Later Christians baptized followers in the “spirit” of the resurrected Christ as best as they could understand the concept. But to Jesus, who said the Kingdom of Heaven lies within the physical being, the Living Water flowed through all beings, not just him. That Living Water is the Light and Sound, and initiates of this path indeed experience the Sound Current as a fountain or a vibration that can be felt, seen, and heard. The Sound is the channel and system by which the soul is returned to its origin.

Q. Does the story in your novel follow the passion play of the death and resurrection of Jesus and subsequent struggles by his apostles?

A. Yes and no. The New Testament was not written by disciples who lived, ate, slept, and meditated with Jesus. They were written by followers second or third hand, many of whom were Greek. Literate Greeks were accustomed to theatre, in which all the characters and plot points were metaphors for something political or religious – even their very names meant something. Outwardly, the crucifixion of the flesh is a call for eternal life after death, but esoterically the crucifixion represents the death of one’s own ego and resurrection of the soul as stages along the spiritual path. Even Mary Magdalene as a metaphor plays into the imagery of the soul subduing the unruly mind. This is not to say that the New Testament has no basis in the historical; most of the epistles of Paul are more or less authentic and part of the historical record. Yet even he distinguished between those who believed in the physicality of the crucifixion of the cross and those who believed in the symbolism, or what he called “the logos of the cross.”

Q. Since the year 2000, there have been dozens of novels and scholarly works written about Mary Magdalene. How is The Logos of Soul different from these other works?

A. This is the only novel to my knowledge that explores the Light and Sound as the root of Christianity. I began researching this novel before the advent of such books as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), and early versions of my novel started off in the same direction where the characters find historical evidence of hidden texts of impact to Christianity as we know it today. These hidden texts included the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and other Gnostic texts from the Nag Hammadi Library, first recovered in 1945 from the desert sands of Egypt, many of which were thought to be excluded from the New Testament. The Da Vinci Code was justifiably a global phenomenon because it offered an alternative ending to the story of Jesus and his disciples, namely his relationship with Mary Magdalene. It also emoted a sense of hope that the story didn’t just end 2,000 years ago. This has since captured the imagination of countless millions of people. So by the end of the novel the reader is left with, okay, Christianity is more than what convention has taught us, but then what are we to do with that information? My intention was to not only explore the original mysticism of Jesus, which is not unlike other Eastern paths, but to also show how we can partake of the mystical teachings in the modern world. In some ways, The Logos of Soul is more like Deepak Chopra’s novel, Jesus, Story of Enlightenment, although again it focuses specifically on the Light and Sound Teachings.

Q. Is The Logos of Soul a love story between Jesus and Mary Magdalene?

A. The romantic love I leave to the reader’s imagination. That is because in both the canonized and the Gnostic gospels Mary Magdalene is a formidable spiritual being in her own rite. This was not a status that was granted her merely because of her intimate relationship to Jesus. As one of the main characters in the novel, Mary Magdalene’s story is one of deep devotion to her chosen master and her own personal inner growth. So, yes, in way this is a love story.

Q. Many stories send Mary Magdalene to Europe or back to her hometown of Magdala after the crucifixion. In your novel, Mary Magdalene and her siblings go into exile in Ephesus on the western coast of modern day Turkey. Why Ephesus?

A. To the early Jesus movement, Ephesus was the most important Christian city after Jerusalem and Antioch thanks to Paul of Tarsus, a self-appointed apostle of the resurrected Christ. Paul spent up to three years in Ephesus where he created quite a foothold for his mission and where he wrote several of his letters. He also burned books and instigated a riot among the silversmiths there. As a beautiful and populous Greco-Roman city, Ephesus was home to the famous temple of Artemis, which locals guarded jealously and did not take kindly to Paul’s interference. John, the beloved disciple, supposedly moved to Ephesus where he or his surrogates wrote his gospel. Ephesus was also the birthplace of the Greek concept of the Logos, first coined by the philosopher Hereclitus some five hundred years earlier. There is a legend that says Mary Magdalene lived in Ephesus, and if it is true that she, and not John, was the beloved disciple, and she may have been the one to author the Gospel of John as some modern scholars claim. This is the perfect setting for Mary Magdalene to explore the concept of the Logos and to also challenge Paul on his interpretation of Jesus’ teachings.

Q. What is the single most important point of the novel?

A. The Logos is more than the channeled word of God on paper. The Logos is both Divine Knowledge (Light) and Divine Love (Sound). The Logos is the means by which the Absolute draws the matured soul back to Itself. Furthermore, Masters of the Light and Sound say the Logos exists in every living being and is only awakened in an initiate by such a Master who is living today.

Q. What is your spiritual path?

A. I was raised a Catholic, and in my twenties I was drawn toward the so-called New Thought churches. Following a desire to deepen my search for personal enlightenment, I became an initiate in 1993 of one Light and Sound path called MasterPath, founded by Sri Gary Olsen. I have walked that Path ever since.

The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife and the Light and Sound Teachings

Update: On June 20, 2016, Harvard scholar Karen King reportedly told the Boston Globe that the papyrus fragment bearing some evidence that Jesus might have been married to a woman named Mary seems to have been a fabrication. This doesn’t change the point of my post, that a woman of Mary Magdalene’s stature did not have to be married to her spiritual teacher in order to pursue consciousness.

Original Post: An ancient papyrus has recently emerged that, for the first time, literally presents Jesus as a married man. The fourth-century fragment refers to a woman named Mary in the context of Jesus’ wife. In a paper to be published in the Harvard Theological Review, Harvard scholar Karen King suggests this Mary could be Mary Magdalene.

English translation of the GosJesWife papyrus fragment put forth by Harvard scholar Karen King.

Until now all surviving texts have been either ambiguous or silent on Jesus’ marital status. The Gospel of John makes several references to an anonymous beloved disciple that some venture to believe is Mary Magdalene. In the Gospel of Mary, the disciples complain that Jesus loved Mary more than other disciples, male or female. According to the Gospel of Phillip, Mary Magdalene was the koinônos of Jesus, but that word is vague and can mean companion, spouse, lover, or partner. At last, the latest fragment spells out Jesus’ wife in no uncertain terms.

Does the newly discovered papyrus mean Jesus and Mary Magdalene were actually married to each other? Sorry, no. King, the expert in Christian history who translated the fragment’s Coptic script, believes it to be a copy of a second-century Greek gospel. Because that gospel would have been written at least a hundred years after the death of Jesus, it doesn’t prove directly that Jesus was married, but it does strongly suggest that some early Christians believed he was.

The find is not without controversy. The grammar and syntax are all wrong for the dialect and period, the penmanship crude, and the edges of the business card-size fragment too tidy, leading some to suspect forgery. Given the context, however, King believes the fragment to be authentic, errors and all.

The script, which King calls the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, is a conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which he is explaining the worthiness of discipleship. The disciples appear to be protesting Mary’s participation, as is the case in other gospels, but Jesus has found her worthy. Supposedly, the script also speaks to early Christian concerns of reconciling marriage and sexuality with spiritual devotion. King takes the translation a step further, suggesting it presents Jesus’ marital status as a metaphor for spiritual union in the vein of the gnostic Gospel of Phillip, but this can only be conjecture on her part.

Assuming that the fragment is authentic and the translation reasonably accurate, what would be the implication of such a document? Pop culture has grown used to the idea of a relationship between Jesus and Mary through novels and movies, and such a find would generate marginal interest. Fundamental Christians would hardly bat an eye, for after all they’ve rejected a pageantry of gnostic texts ever since the first century. Gnostic documents in general tend to look at the esoteric, metaphoric aspect of Jesus’ life, whereas fundamental Christians take the crucifixion literally. If Jesus were married, it would not fit the narrative of a divine being in the flesh.

Esotericists, particularly those following Light and Sound paths, view the ideal of the Son of Man/God differently. All beings are divine, but God realization isn’t bestowed automatically – it’s attained through a living master such as Jesus. Being married is inconsequential for either master or student; it’s all a matter of cultural and personal circumstances and the lessons to be learned from either abstinence or union.

What is consequential, according to the fragment, is that Jesus vetted all of his students, male and female. Despite thousands of centuries of inequality for women, Jesus welcomed them the same as any man. But apparently acceptance into discipleship was strict, and not all who were called were chosen. King says that the context of “worthiness” in the script reminded her of Luke 14:26-27 or Thomas 55: “Whoever does not hate father and mother cannot be my disciple, and whoever does not hate brothers and sisters and carry the cross as I do, will not be worthy of me.” In other words, to be accepted into discipleship, a person has to be in the throes of an existential crisis, no longer drawing identity and support from family and conventional religion. Moreover, a worthy disciple must be willing to take responsibility for one’s own karmic actions, while also being able to accept instruction from the Divine made flesh. These criteria are true of the ultimate spiritual path to God realization.

For the final two sentences of the fragment, King takes a leap in her translation from the mundane to the esoteric. Line 7 states: “As for me, I dwell with her in order to …,” and Line 8 says: “… an image ….” Although essential words are missing from these two lines, King makes some inferences based on the Gospel of Phillip. The word “image” often points to a symbolic paradigm, and therefore this single word signals that a symbolic translation can be given to the word “dwell” in the previous sentence. According to King, “dwell” not only implies that Jesus lived with his wife, but also that his marriage represents an archetypal union. Phillip comments extensively on marriage and sexuality in the context of the proverbial bridal chamber, which symbolizes the masculine/feminine duality of the cosmos as two halves of a continuum. Scholars have taken the sexual symbolism literally as descriptive of a ritual that might have existed when Gnostic Christianity was active. King opts for the metaphor rather than the literal. And so do I.

In the Light and Sound Teachings, the soul is considered to be feminine energy, while one’s master is masculine energy. A true, living master, or Sat Guru in Sanskrit, represents the Sound Current, the Logos, or the Word, the vibratory power that cascades from the Godhead through all inhabitants of Its creation and returns the soul back to It. Since the soul exists within the upper, inward echelons of one’s hierarchical being, so too does the magnetic essence of the Sound Current. God realization is a progression of the soul merging with the Sound Current in ever more refined stages, beginning in the bridal chamber at the third eye. A significant analogy to this process in the mundane, physical world is the union between the male and female forces.

Light and Sound is a modern term for the path of the Sound Current, which is otherwise as old as humanity and lies at the root of all religions. In India, for instance, the teachings are called Surat Shabda Yoga, which in Sanskrit means the union of the soul with the essence of the Absolute. Masters of the Light and Sound teach that Jesus was also a master of this eternal path, along with Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Rumi, among many others. The path has also been called Sant Mat, or Path of the Masters, a loosely associated group of teachers that became prominent in the northern part of India from about the 13th century. A more contemporary path, called MasterPath, exists in America.

My book, The Logos of Soul, A Novel on the Light and Sound, is in part about Mary Magdalene’s standing among the disciples of Jesus. In the novel, Jesus leaves his ministry to Mary Magdalene. Masters typically pass the mantle on to male successors, but the Gnostic texts suggest that Jesus passed the mantle on to Mary. Though it is highly likely that Jesus and Mary were married, I didn’t make it so in the novel. That is because in both the canonized and the Gnostic gospels, Mary Magdalene is a formidable spiritual being in her own rite. As the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife demonstrates, her worthiness for discipleship was not a status that was granted her merely because of her intimate relationship with Jesus. As one of the main characters in the novel, Mary Magdalene’s story is one of deep devotion to her chosen master and her own personal inner growth. The romantic love I leave to the reader’s imagination.

Further Reading:
The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife Updates by the Harvard School of Divinity

The Mystical Image of the Swan

Why is that scene in The Notebook where Noah rows Allie through a lake full of geese and swans so captivating to us? Besides their outward beauty, swans are the archetypal image for romance, for purity, grace, love, and devotion. Because this regal creature also symbolizes spiritual transcendency, we chose the swan for the cover of my book, The Logos of Soul, A Novel on the Light and Sound.

This novel is about the teachings of Jesus in the context of the ancient mystic system known today as the Light and Sound. Now, the swan was not necessarily a symbol embraced by Christianity, and that could be because the Jews viewed them to be unclean. But the Bible does hold some spiritual symbolism for birds. The traditional Jewish bible stories that became the Old Testament liken the release of the human spirit in death to a bird that has escaped the hunter’s snare. When John baptized Jesus, the Word of God descended from heaven like a dove upon his head.

Greek tradition, which also went into the development of Christianity along with the Jewish, was a bit more graphic and specific in seeing the swan as a creature that could freely cross the line between mortality and immortality. In mythology, Helen of Troy was conceived in a union between Leda, the Queen of Sparta, and Zeus, who had taken on the form of a swan. To me, the story shows the human yearning to merge with divinity, and perhaps because swans supposedly mate for life, the myth also conveys an element of devotion.

Plato wrote in 360 BCE that Socrates on death row likened himself to the prophecy of swans. Perceiving that they must die, and having sung all their lives, swans “sing more than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are about to go away to the god whose servants they are … because they are sacred to Apollo and have the gift of prophecy and anticipate the good things of another world … .”

Other cultures also viewed swans as living on the precipice between life and death. In Norse mythology, two swans drink from a sacred well in Asgard, the home of the gods. The water of this well is so pure and holy that all things that touch it turn white. Conversely, in Finnish mythology, a swan swims a river located in the underworld realm of the dead, and whoever kills a swan will perish as well.

The Hindu revere swans on an even deeper spiritual level. The Sanskrit word for swan is hamsa or hansa, and those who have attained great spiritual heights are sometimes called Paramahamsa, the Great Swan, because of their grace and ability to travel the higher planes of consciousness. In the ancient Vedic texts, swans are said to summer on Lake Mansarovar, or the lake of the mind. The lake, mythologically created in the mind of Lord Brahma, is a real-world place of pilgrimage as the desolate mountaintop source for four of Asia’s greatest rivers. A person who drinks from the ripple-less lake is said to have their mind purified and will go to the abode of Lord Shiva after death.

In the Light and Sound Teachings, which predates Hinduism as well as Judaism and Christianity, the Lake of Mansarovar represents the juncture on the spiritual path where the soul, represented by the swan, is purified and merges with the Radiant Form of one’s chosen Master. This august event happens internally within the higher realms of one’s consciousness. Just as the swan’s feathers stay dry in water, the soul at this point is no longer attached to its own lower creations and floats above the mind. Within the teachings, this is known as self-realization.

Although swans do not figure in Christianity, water does. Jesus referred to the Living Water as the sustaining, purifying Word of God, which was translated into Logos in Greek. To the Samarian woman at the well, Jesus said, “Whoever shall drink from the well I give him shall never thirst. The water I give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” To the Greeks, however, the Word, which they translated into Logos, had a different meaning. Rather than be the Word of God, Logos referred to the harmonious, overriding power of the universe. In the Light and Sound Teachings, the Word is considered to be the Audible Life Stream or Sound Current, the Shabda Dhun in Sanskrit. The Shabda not only encompasses both the Hebrew and Greek definitions, but It also provides the means of returning the soul to the Source, which bubbles up within oneself like an everlasting spring.

I love photographing swans, but my view of their earthly spirit is more grounded in reality. The particular swan on the cover of The Logos of Soul was a fellow who swam among ducks in a pond at the Albuquerque zoo. I visited him often. Mate-less, he was a fierce creature, completely attached to his territory. He would speedboat toward the wharf at the very sound of a quarter dropping into a bird food machine, raising his wings heavenward as he pierced the water to scoop up the pellets before the ducks got to them. Swans look serene when they effortlessly flow among the eddies with their mates, wings folded inwardly. However, when we see them in that classic pose, wings outstretched, they are in their least serene state, instinctively defending their territory. But that doesn’t make them any less spiritual. Swans may look like angels, but they are determined and focused, and to me these traits well serve the soul in its journey beyond the lake of the mind.

For more information on The Logos of Soul, A Novel on the Light and Sound Teachings, please go to SoulJourn Books.

The River Soul: An Essay on the Return Journey

The Rio de las Animas, the River of Souls, seeping through my sun-kilned valley is at first glance nearly barren. But it is far from infertile. So much of this river’s body deceptively flows beneath the surface, nourishing the Russian olives, cottonwoods, and salt cedars that grow in its margins. Whatever remains is siphoned off by the farmers and communities congregated along its edge. The great rivers in the East attract throngs of worshipers who bow down in the waters to bathe away all memory of action and suffering, but those few who have been lured by the low hum of these currents have nonetheless found succor along its peaceful banks.

On the mesa above the river live a people who for thousands of years danced by the waters for good hunting. They danced in their oneness with the spirit of the river and their place in the cosmos. When they learned to farm, they danced for rain and for resurrection of their harvested plants. They danced on the sun’s shortest day to ensure its return, and to ensure their own return through the sipapu, the gateway to the otherworld of their emergence. They named the river Grandmother, and their children never left her.

I live just downriver from the angostura, the narrowest part of the valley, where the stair-stepped mesas on one side nearly meet the indigo-stained mountain on the other. Centuries ago natives stood sentry here and ambushed foreign soldiers as they advanced on villages upriver. Only the occasional lone traveler, practiced quiet and still in nature, could pierce this geographical aperture and pass unnoticed to glory. The explorers on their Entrada into this strange land were then in search of the legendary golden grail and enslaved many natives on behalf of their mission. Some were actually religious refugees from their home continent—greed may have been their rudder, but spiritual freedom filled their sails. They named the river Nuestra Señora after the one who gave birth to the Word made flesh, an ascended Master of the River. Today their heirs live along the banks of the Eucharist, and they still worship statues of Our Lady aflame in her radiant form. Church bells still ring in these quiet towns, awakening to attention the prayers of dawn and dusk. They pray for everlasting life and reunion with the Divine through the fisheye of interconnecting worlds.

I have walked many a mile along the river’s edge, sometimes right on the dry sandbars within the river itself. A pageantry of color unfolds before me as the seasons turn and ignite the imagination. Migrating birds, even landfaring seagulls, transport the senses to the rain forest with their exotic song. The sheer physical comfort and beauty of this river would almost be enough—if it were merely sojourn I seek. But I yearn for the distant shore in the mists, the hidden inner worlds of heaven, and this river can never take me there. The river I see with two eyes is but a mere reflection of the unseen spiritual currents coursing beneath the surface.

A Spiritual Entrada

It is said that the voyage to the inner worlds of heaven is indeed possible via the Audible Life Stream that flows latently through every human being. This true River of Souls is the floodwater of divine Consciousness itself, far greater than the sum total of the world’s bodies of water, yet as subtle as the life-supporting currents beneath my own parched riverbed. The world and all that is in it was borne on the cascades of the River’s creation, and all life is faintly aware of the parent Audible Life Stream, the Sound Current that gives it form. Countless votives of light school endlessly downstream on this invisible waterway toward their place on the shore, each practicing one kind of homage or another to the River. One day, one lifetime, it happens that each Soul begins a search for the River’s source, sifting through every grain of sand and overturning every rock, all with frustrating results. This unrequited yearning makes them ready to begin their final journey home.

Just as a river guide reveals hidden trout to the fly fisher, a seeker on the spiritual path needs a nautical expert to reveal the River of Souls, and then to show them the hidden eddies and undercurrents within It. Under the Companion’s tutelage one learns to navigate toward a brilliant star, past orchards of light, past glowing sun and moon worlds, and beyond towering mountains to the spiritual headwaters of the Divine Sound Current. Passage to these inner worlds, though, is perilous and guarded. A devotee could climb the cloud-shrouded mountain of the mind and be no closer to the blue star on the firmament, no closer to the dawning sun. Only the inner spiritual river can carry one there, guided by the oarsman, the Companion, who gently nudges one, gently coaxes one toward their own angostura at the third eye, and through it to glory.

I no longer go down to the river alone, for I have met such a Guide.

Now walking with the Companion along the River, I hear sandal-footed Masters of yore discoursing on the tides, catch fleeting glimpses of dervish dancers twirling to the River’s rhythms, dream of consecration in its pure waters. One can lose oneself in the light playing on the water, in the lulling music lapping on the shore, in the pure harmony in motion. But the Companion says there’s much work to be done, much to clear away from the bridal path of Soul, the real Camino Real.

One cannot force one’s way upriver through the angostura, one must rise in consciousness and vibration and resonate with the river’s own pulses to do so. Simultaneously, the river Sound mercifully draws the sincere one in and up and closer to the goal, not in physical body or in mind, but in consciousness and attention—in Soul. Yet much of one’s own soul energy has been drained onto forgotten fields, inadvertently blocked by debris or diverted by ancient tree roots. I could roll up my sleeves and try to clear it myself, but the task is monumental, impossible, without the help of the Companion. Soul’s energy cannot be regained through knowledge, sheer will power, or by communing with the River alone, but by the spiritual practices the Companion can teach one.

The Chalice of Remembrance in Spiritual Practice

Before I came to the River Soul, I rummaged through the melted-down ruins at water’s edge for broken arrowheads and pottery shards and other clues to my existence. Knowledge, then, was the only means left me to find the true river—I had tried all others. Shortly after meeting the Companion, I walked with Him in a dream through a golden sandstone greathouse that was still standing and vibrant yet claustrophobic and hot. I picked up a pot shard and presented it to Him, proud of how much I knew about how it fit together with other pieces I had found. In them one could see the Pangaea break apart into separate continents and drift away from each other. One could hear the Word fragment into many languages, see the Path splinter into many byways, witness Humanity rainbow and migrate around the globe in search of the grail, some coming to my river. If only I could find the rest of the pieces, I had thought, my life would be complete.

The Companion took the shard from my small hand and turned it into a large ceramic pot, nondescript and unrelated to the residents of the ancient hall but indigenous to Spirit, beautifully crafted, cool, moist, and immediately functional. With this gesture He seemed to be saying: “Dispense with the search, with the need to excavate your life, the past. Your time is now, I am your now. You have everything you need within you. Fill this pot with the elixir of divinity, the intoxicating currents of love, and your Soul shall be free.”

The spiritual practice of sitting in contemplation is like filling the Companion’s dream pot to the brim with water from the formless River at the third eye. The challenge of balancing the weightless chalice on my head all day, while conducting my life, takes constant attention and remembrance. In return one is bathed in the vibration of its cherished contents, and is sometimes graced with sprinkles of its wisdom in negotiating one’s daily affairs. In time one’s own consciousness rises, drop by drop, until it merges with the river Sound. Eventually, nothing will dislodge the pot from my crown, and the floodgates will then open.

Meanwhile, the winds of karma challenge my resolve. Misdemeanors, emotional upheavals, pleasures, attachments, overmentalizations, or just plain lethargy distract my attention from the pot and cause its fall. The contents spill, sometimes just a few drops, sometimes all of it, and sometimes the pot itself appears to have shattered into a thousand pieces. I present a shard to the Companion, proud of how much I know about how it fits together with the other pieces. The Companion returns the pot to me in its pristeen wholeness as if to say that one is more than the composite of its parts. We are not the vessel, but its contents—River Guide, Sound, and Soul.

All I am required to do is to remember the River and return to Its outstretched arms. Genuflecting before It in humility, I am to immerse all tainted imagery in the waves and bathe them upon the glistening rock, then refill the vessel and raise it in surrender, opening to the unconditional love as it washes over one.

With spiritual equipoise reclaimed—by the grace of the Companion—I can now stand on the cliffs, look up and down the river undaunted and clearheaded and review the reason why the pot fell in the first place. I sometime see that I am not in the river consciousness at all, but in the slipstream of the mind and floating rapidly down a dangerous tributary. Only then can the Companion be invited in to dig out the root tendencies that caused the distraction so that I may be set afloat once again. Spiritual headway is inherent in the repetitive act of calming the ripples of the mind.

The Crucible of Divine Yearning

At times, though, I forget the River, or ignore It, despite the distant church bell seducing Soul back to Its shore. Having remained in the desert for long, one lays prostrate before the River, scorched and raped by mirages. Ironically, the mind in one, afraid of dying, will deny itself of water even as it dies of thirst. This is usually only a temportary condition, for once I see soul’s true reflection in the waters, I am reminded that the Sound Current is always here. One is never forsaken, only lethean and forgetful of Its love.

There is a story of two lovers who were separated by a truly mighty river. So strong was the young woman’s desire for her lover, so desperate was she to reach him, she attempted to paddle across the river in a large pitcher. Unbeknownst to her, a jealous relative had switched her makeshift boat for an unbaked ceramic jar. Halfway across the river the pitcher melted, and the young woman drowned.

Heartsick, this young woman had launched across the river without knowing how to swim, for no mere body of water will keep young lovers from returning to each other. Similarly the spiritual lover stops at nothing to return to the River, even if it may mean dying to the lower self. In so doing, one is submerged in universal love—and is taught how to swim. Seeing the student’s still demeanor, the River sees Itself and aches for that Soul’s return. Such two-way desire—Soul for Master and Master for Soul—is so intense, it is likened to a passionate love affair, though the love is not personal, but universal, Divine, the very vibration of the Rio Animas.

Don’t get me wrong; this Master/student relationship is not a romantic concept. A River Master will bring a student to near drowning to make it clear that gasping for truth is just as essential to the spiritual journey as air is to human survival. Such Masters are known for allowing a student’s own life to send shock waves that purposefully dislodge their equilibrium. Not out of punishment or power, but from the Companion’s own love for Soul and Its mission to return it, matured, to its origin.

One never denounces their relationships, possessions, or activities, one simply gives them appropriate and controlled tinctures of their precious Soul energy. One never drowns in the River Soul, one resonates and merges with it. One never loses the self, but discovers a Self that is far greater than its earthly shadow. Through these ordeals by water, the Artisan shapes and fires the crucible within the student in preparation for shooting the rapids Home.

Universal Love causes the drop to become the river, the river to become the ocean, the Soul to merge with the Companion, and thus to realize itself as God. Love tells the guardian of the angostura to cast its net elsewhere, for one’s home is now much higher.

A Soul that does not possess life and energy cannot reach the gate of love. And who is alive? Only those who have been initiated into Love. If the current of love rises into dead hearts, even they will receive life forever, and such a Soul never dies.

It is said there is really only one River Soul, and all are traveling it. If this is true, the waters must indeed wash away all memory of action and suffering between lifetimes so that all may assume a new sojourn, experience a different leg in the journey upon rebirth. A day comes, though, when Soul scents the faintly familiar breeze of its Homeland and yearns for its borders, thus beginning the process of remembrance and awakening.

All Souls have within them the holy grail of Consciousness, though downturned and deplete of its divine energy. It is the rare Soul that is willing and ready for the Companion to aright this chalice so that it will once again reverberate with the Sound Current. “This is your body and your blood,” as one River Master once said. “Take it and drink from it.”

My perspective of the River has changed, now that I go in it.

To learn more about my spiritual perspective, I invite you to visit the MasterPath Web site, at www.masterpath.org.