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.