In 1980 I went to the West in search of love and magic and my own soul. I cavorted with the priestesses of Babylon and danced to the tune of the sorcerers of rock, but knew that I was missing my heart’s desire. Then I met Marcus, who had the key of it all.
He was tall and obviously strong. His hair was blond, but darkly blond. His eyes were blue, but Prussian blue, cobalt rather than transparent. Indeed, he saw through me to my core, but I for my part could not guess his depths. Whenever I thought I had him pegged to a wall, or nailed to a cross, he just peeled another layer off his infinite onion. He told me that his name was R. Marcus Christianson, and I have no doubt that if he had unfurled his baptismal certificate it would state exactly that. He wouldn’t say what the “R” stood for, but eventually I guessed.
In only the first several months of my stay in Berkeley, I had met people claiming to be dragon-kings and Druid priests, witches and pythonesses; the streets, cafes, and flophouses seemed thronged with whole pantheons of olden gods in human guise. So at first I was blase when Marcus began to unfold his story of a grand Imperium whose throne he had lost to crafty usurpers. I thought it must be a mystical or astral realm, but gradually it clarified that he was talking about the very tangible entirety of our civilization itself.
“So,” I asked him, “are you the dethroned Emperor of the World?”
In reply he said, “I try very hard to embody a certain spirit which deserves to rule the Earth and the hearts of the people. The ruling spirit today is thoroughly corrupt and vicious, and shapes the people in its image.”
When I asked Marcus to tell me more about the mysterious Imperium, he said: “The Imperium is like a metamorph, a creature that goes through larval stages till it transcends itself as a winged being. But there is a type of parasite, a protozoan that infects certain species of beetle larvae. The parasite is very clever, in a biological sense: it synthesizes the juvenile hormone of the beetle, preventing it from attaining metamorphosis to the adult stage; instead it becomes a monstrous giant larva, twice the normal size ~ a very cozy home for many generations of the protozoan parasite. Finally it dies as a bloated grub, its natural destiny unfulfilled.”
I asked in my incomprehension if the “parasite” referred to an entity in the real life of human society. “Yes, indeed,” said Marcus, and explained it with what was apparently another metaphor: “The parasites are the Ophidians.”
“The Ophidians. It means they’re a bunch of snakes. All the ancient symbols of serpents and dragons refer to them. But no matter how symbolic the terminology, the collective entity is completely real. We are being vampirized.”
“Then who,” I asked, “are ‘we’?”
“That’s an excellent question,”he said; “you’re asking who are the true people of the Imperium. The answer is that the sacred creative spirit of Western Civilization survives in the Solarians, the last remnant of an ancient race. Many who have the blood have not the spirit, for the Ophidians have infected many. There are millions of treacherous messages hidden in today’s media, but the biggest, most basic agenda is to destroy the identity and self-awareness of Solarians. Through their devious manipulations, the Ophidians have in fact conquered the Imperium. So for all Solarians who still have the blood and the spirit and the knowledge, there is nothing else but war and implacable resistance for the foreseeable future.”
I had heard declarations of war in my time, and was not perturbed. I said, “Tell me, Marcus, how a grouping of people that has no power in itself, but only by parasitism and deception, can conquer a whole empire? It would seem to me that there must at least be some command of military forces.”
Marcus said, “There is a virus that seems to have appeared only recently, which operates in a very insidious manner. It infects the very cells that defend the body from bacterial and viral invasion, and so the body’s own defenses are turned against itself. The ‘T-cells,’ as they’re called ~ the body’s ‘Department of Defense’ ~ instead of sending forth warriors to attack the invader, produce fresh hordes of the enemy virus. In this way the body fights against itself, and dies.”
This, as I said, was in 1980. AIDS had been publicly acknowledged as a discrete disease only in that very year, and the HIV virus had not yet been officially “discovered” or named. But as you’ll see, Marcus had inside information.
Marcus continued: “In the last cycle, a strong and noble grouping of Solarians mounted a military offensive against the Ophidians. The Solarians were defeated, not because the Ophidians sent a single division of their own men against them, but because they manipulated other Solarians whose self-identity had been suppressed to go forth and kill their own brethren. This was the decisive conflict which gave the Ophidians the power they now hold over the entire world.”
I said, “I’m still not clear on exactly who are the Solarians and Ophidians, but it sounds suspiciously like you are planning to overthrow the present clique of international power-holders, and replace it with a new clique… er, grouping… led by yourself.”
“Yes,” he said, “that’s accurate as far as it goes.”
I told him that I had learned some harsh lessons as an idealistic revolutionary in the ’60s era, one of which was that a change of ruling cliques never makes much difference.
“Not between capitalists and communists,” he said, “because both of those ‘cliques’ are Ophidian. If Solarians, however, took over it would be not just a change of personalities and methods, but a change in the collective soul of the entire civilization. This is very literal, and epochal. One group-soul would be exorcised like the blood-sucking demon it is, and a new group-soul would infuse itself from the top and inspirit the entire species.”
Now it really was beginning to make sense to me, oriented as I was to a magical universe of spells, spirits, and demons. “But,” I persisted, “why would the Solarians be better? Are they morally superior?”
He smiled wryly. “Dracula would be morally superior to the Ophidians. But this is not the basic thing. The essence is that as Solarians, it is our civilization. If we can win it back from the parasite, the very nature of our collective soul will restore it to its former health and vigor. We could continue in the spirit of Charlemagne and Leonardo and Sir Francis Drake and Beethoven. Even men like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were expressions of the Solarian spirit, appropriate to their age.”
“I thought you said that capitalists were Ophidians.”
“Today all of them are. Capitalism was a stage of growth appropriate to a certain phase of our civilization. But the Ophidians are eternally capitalistic by their intrinsic nature. Therefore, since winning power, they have artificially extended the capitalistic stage of our civilization, a suicidal course for all of us. If we can take back the power, we can proceed to the next stage before it’s too late, and continue the soul-growth of our people. We can attain the metamorphosis. ”
“What is the metamorphosis?” I asked, but now he only smiled again and said, “That will have to wait for a later time.”
This conversation was one of many that took place at the Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, where I had first met Marcus. An interesting assortment of people often dropped in at the table on the evenings that Marcus was there, which averaged about twice a week, though often long stretches would go by when we wouldn’t see him. Some of those who joined us for talk and coffee were disaffected individualists like myself, surviving by various means on the margins of society, identifying with assorted iconoclastic subcults. Occasionally, however, there would come a person immaculately dressed, refined of speech and mien. Such a one would invariably greet Marcus warmly, and be graciously bidden to join us at table. Sometimes the newcomer would plunge unabashed into the general metaphysical drift of the converse, but at other moments he or she would seem to address Marcus in a secret code which left the rest of us guessing. If ever I asked for an amplification, Marcus would just smile and say, “I’ll tell you later.”
At other times people in more rough-hewn garb would visit the table, smelling often of the Earth and the great outdoors. Some of these souls seemed aware on the same convoluted levels of subtlety as the impeccably-dressed folk, and used the same secret code with Marcus. Often they said that they came from a place in Sonoma County. This a few of them referred to as “the V alley of the Moon”, but when I checked I could not find it on any map.
The most exciting person who graced the table, after Marcus himself, was his girlfriend Helena. Marcus appeared to be in his early thirties, and Helena looked considerably younger. She was beautiful. Sometimes she affected revealing clothes in the style of the times, and radiated such strong auroras of orgone that heads would turn throughout the coffeehouse. T 0gether, she and Marcus generated a field which instantly drew into their sphere anyone they wished to relate to.
There came a night when I was sitting at the table with only Marcus and Helena. Marcus leaned forward toward me, creating a sense of confidentiality. “Victor,” he said, “as you know, I recognize you as a Solarian. Would you like to participate with us more fully in the battle to win the Imperium? Don’t answer lightly, for it will be dangerous.”
“Yes,” I said,” I would. In fact, I’ve been meaning to ask how to do that. . I only hesitated because I was afraid it was all mere theory and table talk.”
He and Helena laughed delightfully together and shared a meaningful glance. “Oh, dear Victor,” she said, touching my hand, “if only you knew how terribly real it is! If you truly join us, you may come up against more reality than you would’ve wished.”
“I‘m not afraid of reality,” I said, “no matter how harsh it is. I’ve crossed the Abyss, and know something of its basic nature.”
“That’s right,” said Marcus, “you have. And now your inner knowledge and true will are going to be put to the test.”
I felt a high excitement rise inside of me, and was about to blurt out, “What do I have to do first?” when Marcus said, “There is only one obstacle.”
My crest was felled. “Obstacle?”
“Yes: that nest of Berkeley sorcerers you’re connected with.”
“But they’re my friends!” I cried, and an instant later realized the defensiveness of my position.
“That’s the problem, Victor,” said Helena, her gentle voice softening the hard message. “They’re not our friends. And if they were important enough for us to notice them, they would be our enemies.”
“But why? What’s so bad about magicians with a rock band and a witch coven?”
Marcus chuckled and said, “Only in this strange little Bay Area would it be possible for that question to be asked with such complete naive sincerity!”
But I persisted. “It’s good magic. When we dance to the band’s music at a gig, it generates a high psy-field. Our bodies are orchestrated by invisible beings, and higher powers are drawn down to the scene. A lot of the band’s songs are invocations of these great entities, and we ask them to make change in the world.”
“I have two questions,” said Marcus: “which entities and what changes?”
I saw the thrust of his thoughts, and tried to answer carefully. “There are new gods and old. The band’s leader is named Sir Pentacle, and when he performs he channels the spirit of one of the great Sixties rock stars, who left the flesh at the end of that era. That’s why the band’s music sounds so much like that of this dead hero, sending down power from the astral.
“There are also the spirit-forms of the founders of the various magical schools whose teachings we use. Some of these are already quite large and powerful, though they have been dead only a few decades.
“Then there are much older and larger beings: the gods of the Greeks and Romans, and the even more ancient nature-deities of the Keltic Druids and Wiccan priestesses. And finally there are the greatest but most amorphous gods of all: the forces of nature itself.”
“A most interesting pantheon,” said Marcus. “And what sort of change do you urge this cast of caricatures to bring about?”
“We call it the New Aeon,” I said, ignoring the jibe. “That’s to distinguish it from the New Age. The New Agers are softcore; we’re hardcore. They’re exoteric, we’re esoteric.”
Marcus and Helena bubbled into laughter again. “Don’t be offended, Victor,” she said. “It’s just that… well, for every self-styled Elect there is an even more secret circle of hidden souls. And of course they never tell the outer circles in advance what lies at the heart of it, the inmost core of all. They lead you to think that it’s something bright and wonderful ~ and such a thing does exist: the Grail, the Philosopher’s Stone, the Star of Life. And there are high adepts who bear custody of this; but your friends, the rock magicians and witches, are not among them. At the hard, cold center of that labyrinth is only a heart of darkness.”
“In a word,” said Marcus, “they’re Ophidians.”
I was astounded, and asked how this could be. Marcus said, “Would you like us to show you?”
“How would you do that?”
“If you could invite us to meet and talk with them, it shouldn’t be too hard. Mind you, we’d be doing it only on your account; otherwise we would have no interest in ever crossing paths with them.”
“Wow!” I said, enthused; ”I’m sure I could do that. And maybe once you get to know them, you’ll decide you were wrong.”
Marcus and Helena only smiled at each other in response.
As it turned out, the rock magicians had heard of Marcus from other sources besides me, and the accounts were sufficiently curious and conflicting that they were interested in meeting him to take his measure. We set a day and time, and they said they would invite a lot of the crowd to their communal house for the occasion.
On the appointed evening I met Marcus and Helena at the Caffe Med, where they introduced me to a very large man named Orion. He was easily 6 feet 8, and from the distribution of his weight I guessed it was mostly muscle. His clothing was somewhat rustic but unremarkable. In the course of initial chit-chat I asked him what he did, and he replied laconically: “I’m a hunter.”
Marcus said, “Orion is a friend of ours from Sonoma. He was good enough to come down here for the event tonight.”
“Are you interested in magic or rock music?” I asked Orion, to which he said, “No.” He was clearly a man of few words.
Marcus looked at me. “You did say that some of these people we’re going to meet are bikers and such?” And suddenly I began to understand.
Marcus’ eyes twinkled at my comprehension. He said, “I expect this event to be a confrontation. There’s always a chance it’ll get physical, though we won’t initiate it. We’re still going to be heavily outnumbered, though I’m sure Orion and I can deal with at least a dozen Ophidians between us, and Helena can take out some witches if they don’t gang up on her too much. I’m sure you could acquit yourself well too, but I fear you may have conflicting loyalties if it actually gets down to a fight. But hopefully it won’t. We’ll see what happens.”
The house of the rock magicians was only a few blocks away, but Marcus elected to take Helena’s car. “We might need to make a fast getaway,” he said. I was beginning to feel some trepidation over this event I had been so looking forward to.
s she drove, Helena asked me, “What did you say the name of this band is?” ” B.L.Z. Bub,” I replied, spelling out the letters.
“Ah, how subtle!” said Marcus facetiously. “They wouldn’t want their less enlightened fans to think they had anything to do with the Devil or demons.”
“Well, sometimes they tell unsophisticated people that they worship the Devil. But it’s just a tongue-in-cheek put-on.”
“I see,” said Marcus. “The highly sophisticated magicians would never indulge in anything as crude as Devil-worship.”
“That’s my impression,” I said. “Their magic is much more high-calibre than that.”
Our party arrived at the house and was politely greeted. There were indeed a lot of people there, including all the members of the band: three male magi, one leather bulldyke (by her own self-description), and the unmagical second guitar, a man who was in it for the unrequited love of the High Priestess of the cult. She, who could also be described as the head witch of the coven, was the lover of the lead singer and keyboardist of the band, Sir Pentacle; her name was Lucid lllusion, or Lucy for short.
Lucy, a stunning young woman with platinum hair, favored diaphanous clothing, but her sister witches were decked out in scanty leather and sheer black hose, reveling in their profession of sexual dominatrixes. One lovely even had her whip at hand.
There were actually only two bona fide bikers in the crowd; the first was a big man, and very intelligent, MacKenzie by name, the leader of his own band, which he called the Robomasters. The second was very short of stature but twice as mean to make up for it, a character who called himself Maverick.
The rest of the assemblage was a diverse lot; suffice it to say that spikes, and leather, and flesh pierced by sundry objects predominated. It was commonplace to me, and I relished it; but as we were ushered to sofa seats, I noticed Marcus and Helena exchange a glance that said, “Who-o-oh!” And then I heard her whisper to him: “Are you sure you want to take on this den of demons?”
“Yep,” he said, “it’s gonna be fun.”
A hashpipe was being passed around, and I inhaled gratefully. Marcus, Helena, and Orion turned it down, so I passed it over to the person on their far side, a pretty young girl named Sabrina, whom I especially liked. Her alabaster skin belied her gypsy-like name; she had probably christened herself with it to sound exotic. She was not in the hard core of the coven, and felt in danger of rejection by it, so she tried hard to fit in; just a couple of weeks earlier, as the crowd had gathered before a gig, she had submitted to a public nipple-piercing.
Things were getting pretty mellow from the dope, when suddenly Sir Pentacle said, “So what’s your trip, Marcus? I’ve heard a lot about you, but nobody seems to know where you’re really coming from.”
Without batting an eyelash at the challenge, Marcus said, “I want to transform this civilization from its present state of decay and decadence into something truly human and noble.”
“Well,” said Sir Pentacle, pausing to take a deep toke of the pipe which was at that moment handed to him, “our little group here is out to transform the world, but we kind of enjoy the decadence. In fact, I think the transformation requires lots more of it.”
There were cries of “Right on!” and “Awright!” Then as if taking his cue, a tall young man named Gregory stood up and said, “Would anyone care for some acid?” He got a lot of positive responses, and cut off hits from a sheet of plastic gel for every person who desired it.
Marcus must’ve noticed a look in my eye, because he said, “Are you going to have some, Victor?”
“Gee,” I hedged, “usually I would, but I know you have … equivocations about it.”
“I’ve been known,” he replied, “to do LSD myself on propitious occasions. This is not such an occasion for me, but if it is for you, I feel that you should not hold back on my account.”
“Do you mean it?” I asked.
“Of course. I never say anything I don’t mean. And in fact, I think it will be beneficial to our cause for you to do it. A lot of what you call magic is going to happen tonight. Helena, Orion, and I don’t need drugs to see the psychic pyrotechnics. Evidently you do, and I don’t want you to miss anything. I want you to witness everything that happens.”
And so it was that I swallowed a couple of hits of Gregory’s acid.
It came on fast. There was music playing ~ it was the sound of Sir Pentacle’s mentor from the Sixties. People were dancing in the parlor where the stereo was; Sir Pentacle was holding forth in the midst of the rest of us in the living room. He was saying: “We have to liberate human sensibility from the tight-asshole Christian morality trip. Right and wrong is what we make it. If everybody gets freed from sexual repression, it’ll bring the Millennium. Our job is to facilitate this.” He went on and on in this vein, and at appropriate moments people would huzzah and shout “Right on!”
Then, as he was making one particularly telling point, Sir Pentacle noticed Marcus giving a big old gaping yawn, and fanning his mouth with his hand. “Am I boring you?” Sir Pentacle asked contemptuously.
“Frankly,” said Marcus, “you are.” And there were gasps of offended outrage from the crowd.
“Don’t take it so personally,” said Marcus. “It’s just that I’ve heard it all before, and from better speakers.” There were boos at this, and Sir Pentacle turned livid. Undaunted, Marcus continued: “Nothing is easier than to appeal to the lowest lusts of human nature, and get a response. Nothing is easier than to indulge freely in the pleasures of the flesh, especially if the means are at hand to avoid the natural consequences of it. But.. .. ”
At this moment a woman in black leather miniskirt and ‘fishnet stockings stepped forth and said, “So who the fuck are you ~ the Pope? You want us to not use birth control?”
“Madame,” said Marcus with grave dignity, “I could not possibly care less what the likes of you may choose to do. My only concern is that you and your friends might mislead people who have it in them to aspire to a better state, and lead a nobler kind of life.”
Now pandemonium broke loose. Men stood up proclaiming that Marcus had insulted the miniskirted woman, whose name was Martha. Others opposed him on ideological grounds. Finally Sir Pentacle waved his arms in the middle of it and said, “Hold everything! Just simmer down!” The hubbub quieted, and he said, “The simple fact of the matter, people, is that we are being challenged. Our whole mission, as incarnate warriors of the Dragon-King, is being called into question by someone who has revealed himself as an emissary of the other side.”
There were shouts then, and cries of “Blood! Blood!” But Sir Pentacle said, “Now, there’s no need to go crazy on this. Our magic is perfectly competent to defeat this interloper on” his own terms. He has challenged us morally and ideologically, and it would be a defeat for us if all we could do in rebuttal was to kick his ass physically ~ though we are certainly capable of doing that.”
Again there were shouts, people yelling: “Yeah! Go for it! Kick his fucking ass! Blood, blood!” But others said, “No! Listen to Sir Pentacle!”
When a modicum of calm had been restored, Sir Pentacle said, “To prove our strength and dignity, I suggest we give our guest” ~ there were boos and hisses at this word ~ “enough rope to hang himself” ~ now there were cheers. “We’ll let him have the floor, and hear what he has to say, and then …. ”
” And then we’ll kill him!” came a shout from the crowd.
Sir Pentacle looked down his nose at the person who said this, invoking a haughty silence. “And then we’ll refute him,” he said. “We’ll demonstrate the foolishness of his position by reasonable argument.”
I was relieved when the shouts of “Here, here!” drowned out the cries of “Kill, kill!” I was definitely feeling trapped in the middle of all this.
Marcus stood up, looking as if he were in the middle of an upper-crust tea party. “Thank you,” he said to Sir Pentacle; “you are indeed a gracious host.” Sir Pentacle bowed slightly in response.
The music still wailed from the next room, creating an ambience that infused every word and action. As the people danced, I could apperceive the images of the rock gods materializing in the air above them. Sir Pentacle’s mighty mentor flew into the living room, a wraith tangible to all the acid-eyes of people who shared the vibe, and stood above him like a guardian angel ~ or devil ~ empowering his every gesture with metaphysical force. Though his actions were veiled in the ways of courtesy and deference, Sir Pentacle was actually channeling rays of destruction and bolts of bedevilment from his darkling gods to afflict the body of Marcus.
I didn’t know how Marcus could stand up to this magical onslaught. Then he said, “I notice that people take turns selecting records to put on the stereo. As your guest, may I take a turn at choosing a selection?”
Sir Pentacle said, “Certainly. That goes without saying. Our frequent guests would take that for granted. We have a large selection of records. Take your pick.”
Marcus reached into the vest pocket of his jacket and pulled out a cassette. He said, “Actually, I brought my own. Does your system have a tape deck?”
“Yes, indeed,” said Sir Pentacle, and at that moment the record finished. “Go right ahead. Let’s hear your music.”
Marcus went into the parlor, inserted the tape, and pushed the buttons. As he returned to the living room, the first strains of his tape filled the air. There were no longer electric guitars and drums, but the sound of violins and cellos, trumpets and clarinets. A young man with a mohawk said in a scandalized voice, “What’s this? Classical?”
“Not exactly,” said Marcus, smiling.
After a few moments, the sounds began doing things that the traditional instruments would be incapable of. They took off and crescendoed and detumesced in astonishing cadences. And I realized that it was synthesizers imitating the old orchestral modalities, and transforming them into new shapes. The girls and boys who had been dancing in the parlor swore and cursed. “You can’t dance to this crap!” they said.
“Oh, yes you can!” said Marcus. “Would you like to see?” Before anyone could answer, Helena and Orion got up, stepped onto the parlor dance floor, embraced, and began to move.
It was incredible. In the first place, I was astounded that a man of such bulk and stolidity as Orion could move so gracefully. Secondly, as an accomplished rock dancer, I gasped in appreciation of a truly new form, on the cutting edge of art, culture, and raw creativity. Orion and Helena now danced arm-in-arm, now separated and danced free-form to the new sound, and now, and now ~ they came together again, hands and bodies joined and flowing in unison, and moving in ways no human being had heretofore witnessed. I could only describe it to myself as a totally original combination of ballroom and rock dancing. I was amazed, amazed!
As they danced, Marcus stood in the wide arched portico between the two rooms, and began to speak. He was replying directly to Sir Pentacle, but his eyes and gestures made it clear that he was addressing the whole gathering.
“We clearly agree on one thing,” he said, “which is that your league of souls and mine are on opposite sides of a deep primal conflict.”
“Yes,” said Sir Pentacle, “it’s been going on for a long time.”
Marcus continued: “I have characterized you as Ophidians, but Victor is unfamiliar with the term. Would anyone care to comment on it?”
A man in a black robe responded; I knew him to be a Thelemite, a member of an order founded by a famous magus who had called himself the Beast 666. He said, “It’s true ~ all of us here are in the Ophidian Current. Victor is a novice in the teachings of Thelema and the other schools, so it’s not surprising that he didn’t know the word; it’s most often used among members of the Inner Order.”
“Thank you,” said Marcus, glancing at me pointedly. “There are orders within orders within orders, and I wonder if even a single one of you here suspects who the ultimate Ophidians really are. Just by looking at you, I can see that most of you were not born Ophidians in a physical sense, though I’m sure that many of you were so born in a spiritual sense. And I have no doubt that most of you who were not born as Ophidians at all have such an affinity for the current that you will die as Ophidians.”
“All that’s cool,” said Maverick the pint-sized biker. “So what’s your gripe?”
“A fair question. As I explained to Victor, I would have no business in your particular circle. . . except for one thing. I included most of you in the categories I mentioned ~ but not all. There is a small remnant who do not belong to you and your covert masters. They are the kindred of my people, not yours, by blood and spirit. With your deceitful spells and magical glamor, you are holding hostage these souls who should be free.”
There was another hubbub at this. A dominatrix pretended to be bound by the chains she wore as raiment, and cried: “Help, help! I’m being held hostage by the wicked Ophidians!” The mohawked young man threw himself at Marcus’ feet and said mockingly, “Oh, please save my soul from these evil Devil-worshippers!” The one and only black person in the group shouted, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God for Marcus ~ I’m free at last!”
Sir Pentacle was obviously highly amused at these histrionics, but after a few moments he intervened and said, “All right, people, cool it! I have a question for Marcus.”
Gradually the noise died down, and Sir Pentacle said, “Marcus, you claim that some of your people have accidentally gotten mixed up with ours, perhaps by some bureaucratic error at karmic central. But what I’d like to know is: just who are your people? You’ve called us Ophidians, and we’ve copped to the label, though I personally prefer to think of us as just a free-willed league of individuals ~ no offense to the Thelemites among us.”
“Oh, I agree,” said the black-robed man. “The whole point of Thelema is free individualism. Nobody is in the Order who doesn’t want to be. We certainly aren’t holding any hostages. ”
Marcus said to him, “I’m aware that in your holy books your master advises the individual to grab all that he can get away with ~ ‘Love is the law of the strong,’ and so forth. But I also seem to recall a line, ‘The slaves shall serve.’ Since I don’t observe Thelemites going out with guns and armies to conquer other peoples militarily and enslave them physically, I wonder just how they get these slaves to serve them, and who the slaves are.
The man in the black robe spluttered, and before he could marshal a retort, Marcus said, “But to answer Sir Pentacle’s question: we are the Solarians.”
He did not continue, and a general silence fell. Finally with a puzzled shrug Sir Pentacle said, “You worship the Sun?”
“Yes, for the Sun embodies the true spirit of our people from time immemorial. If your minds are open enough, perhaps I can show you.”
At this Marcus himself began to dance. He flowed in liquid circles around the parlor to the remarkable synthesized neo-classical sound. At length Orion deferred before him and danced on the sideline as Marcus and Helena embraced and began to dance together. I watched, fascinated, and noticed a repeated stylized circular movement of their bodies, combined with hand gestures gracefully synchronized which drew my attention upward. At length I saw a point of light appear above their whirling bodies in the darkened room. It brightened until the whole dance floor seemed bathed in light, and I looked up, seriously wondering if there might be a hidden floodlight in the ceiling. Of course there was none; the light was strictly metaphysical. At length I recognized it as the Sun, though it was now late in the evening.
Marcus and Helena worshipped the Sun in their dance, and so did Orion. I could see it now: the Sun was the mystic puppeteer of their movements, sending forth lightning-like streamers and beams which animated their bodies and enabled their motion to be as natural as the glitterings of sunlight on morning dew.
Then Marcus suddenly relinquished the arms of Helena, sending her spinning back into the ambience of Orion. He stood his ground now, facing us, his arms still moving to the music. And Marcus sang:
I have reached these lands but newly From an ultimate dim Thule,
A wild, weird clime that lieth, sublime, Out of space, out of time!
He gestured upward again to that ectoplasmic Sun, then brought his hand down in a broadening spiraling motion. And suddenly something opened up.
I gasped. It was another world. The gestures of Marcus were opening the fabric of space like a curtain, or a veil, there in the parlor. The portico became an incredible 3-D movie screen.
The first thing I saw was Vikings. Ironically, their dragon longboats sailed in battle against the serpentine forces arrayed in the living room. But then a thunder of hooves filled the air, and the scene somehow segued into the steppes. The Cossacks. were riding in furious heat against a foe, and the clash was epochal, bloody, and heroic. Then it all dissolved in love, and there were the mothers, wives, and children of these warriors of olden aeons, living out their lives of compassion and nurture in the forests of Saxony and Gaul and Slovakia in the ages before civilization came. And then the time-loop irised open wider, and I saw mighty Cro-Magnons and their mates and children, channelling that great white light from the Sun, their astral bodies as big as gods, their every act a rite of worship. And I knew that all these were my ancestors, for I felt it in my cells, my genes, the marrow of my very essence. My blood was stirred, and I longed to plunge through the mystic screen and enter fully into the life of these, my people.
Marcus waved his hand again, and time ran forward. Medieval knights rode after their foes in combat, scarlet crosses emblazoned on their banners. A conventicle of cowled monks chanted in a chapel, and I detected that they were in direct communion with us across the centuries, and the white-robed nuns across the aisle; I even made eye contact with a number of them. They were as real as Marcus and Helena. “How can this be?” I wondered, but was grateful that it was happening.
Then I saw figures of Grecian gods and goddesses as painted by the masters of the Renaissance, but moving about as if they were alive, and the pinnacle of Olympus was there in the parlor. Then the music was being played by an actual live orchestra, in the costumes of two hundred years agone. And I was a part of it, and there. And then all these shades from the past were there at once, grouped into a circle so vast that I could not see the faces on the far side of it. There were Vikings and Christians and Hindus, and all the gods they worshipped. There was my grandfather on my father’s side who had died just a few months before, and my grandmother on my mother’s side who had died when I was a child. And there were all my forebears before them back to the day when our line was planted in matter by the love of the White Light itself. This great circle of the ancients seemed to be arrayed around the base of an immense cone of power, which pinnacled upward to a peak with the Sun at its apex. Angels and Valkyries flew around the upper reaches, the strains of the music poured forth heavenly but strangely erotic, and the ultimate love of the Sun for his people shone down in a heart-beaten pulse on us all.
I was overwhelmed by the ecstatic spectacle. Marcus stood in the center of the great circle and, gesturing to me and possibly to other persons in the living room, said, “This is Thule, your true home. It’s where you came from at the beginning of your journey as a soul in the Universe. If you wish to return to it, come with me.”
I was flushed with a sense of certainty, and was about to jump to my feet and plunge through the curtain that separated the two rooms, and the two worlds. But suddenly Marcus raised his left hand in a restraining gesture, and with his right pulled out a simple reed pipe from his pocket. I recognized it as a syrinx; he began to pipe on it in accompaniment to the music, and to dance in a different way, prancing up and down, not so much like a winged angel now but like a hoofed satyr. Then he stopped piping and began to sing:
Time is overripe
For the seven-fluted pipe
And the lifting of the rainbow-colored veil!
He gestured with his hand, and a great wave of force rippled across the living room. It was indeed like a veil being lifted, and all the denizens of the chamber suddenly transformed from the feet up into strange and fantastic creatures. There were bat-winged scaley things, horn-headed demon-things, and I was sure Hieronymous Bosch and John Milton were concealed in a comer behind a curtain, pulling switches and flicking levers. The metaphysical menagerie hissed and screeched and exhaled fiery gasses. I scoped the scene, horrified, then looked at my own body and was relieved to see that, at least to my own eyes, I was still human. I looked around again, and saw that there was one other person in the room for whom this was true: Sabrina.
Unlike her witch-friends and magician-mentors, who were squirming in serpentine contortions, Sabrina was still a beautiful young woman. An instant later she made eye-contact with me, and ran across the room into my arms. “Victor!” she said in a fearful whisper, “What’s happening? Everyone but us has turned into monsters!”
“You see it too!” I said. And then I looked at Marcus.
His eyes were filled with compassion as he beckoned to Sabrina and I. “Come, children of the Sun,” he said. “Let’s leave this place of demons, and go home.”
My heart leapt, and, hugging Sabrina to me, I put out my hand to join Marcus in that realm of light. But suddenly a large dragon reared up from behind us, stomped Godzilla-like into the parlor, and chomped the vibrating, heart-shaped, plasmic instrument that was the source of the heavenly music.
The Circle of the Elders and the Angels vanished, along with the gods and the great cone and the mysterious Sun. Now there was only the silent, darkened parlor, and Sir Pentacle with his finger on the “off” button.
“Not so fast, Marcus,” he said. “Sabrina’s one of us. I thought Victor was too, but evidently he’s turned traitor.” As he said this, he gave me a look of exquisitely withering contempt.
His eyes still filled with compassion, Marcus said, “What do you say, Sabrina? Would you like to come with us? Or stay here?”
Sabrina looked around, beholding her old friends in their familiar shapes. She drew away from my embrace, saying, “I… I don’t know. I’m confused.”
Now Lucy, the High Priestess, stepped forth and put her arm around Sabrina. “We love you, dear,” she said. “We want to have you with us. I’m sorry I haven’t elected you for the coven until now, but if you stay with us I will. At the next full moon you’ll go through the Great Rite, and be of one blood with us. I swear it! Don’t be fooled by the spells of this imposter.”
Then, turning to Marcus, Lucy said lividly, “As for you, patriarchal interloper, get out of my house, and take with you the curse of the Goddess!” Marcus made no move to leave, and Lucy beckoned to certain of the other women, who quickly stepped forth and formed a semi-circle facing him. She paused, as if noticing something; then, to one of the girls who had been dancing earlier to the rock music, said: “Go in and put something good on ~ something that honors the Goddess, like Nina Hagen, or Siouxsie and the Banshees, or the Slits.” The girl ran into the parlor and did as Lucy asked. The air became filled with the throbbing beat of rock and caterwauling female voices. The girl said to Marcus, “Here’s your tape.” As he reached to take it, she deliberately dropped it onto the floor, then began to dance.
With supreme dignity Marcus stooped and retrieved his tape. He stood up to face Lucy and the other witches, whom I could tell were all focusing a whammy on him. Lucy moved to the sound of the music and chanted:
You and I and Self and Other,
Man and Woman and Child and Mother; I conjure the spirit of primal times,
let the Great Goddess come and heed my rhymes!
Suddenly a tree began to grow in the middle of the room, right up out of the floorboards. It soon became huge, sprouting limbs and leaves and flowers and fruit A large pink pulsating mass grew from the end of a branch; its protean petals coalesced into labia, and these opened, revealing the thing to be a gigantic vagina dentata. Like a Venus fly trap, the fanged monstrosity lunged at Marcus. It was big enough to bite off the top half of his body.
Marcus danced aside, pulled out his Panpipe and began to play. The plant-creature jerked spasmodically, then started moving to Marcus’ tune. After several contortions, the great maw twisted around and clamped down on the writhing branch that supported it. With a scream like that of a soul being flung into Hell, it fell to the floor. It had bitten off its own neck.
The center of the tree’s thick trunk metamorphosed into a giant Medusa head, and the branches became the snakes that were her hair, which began to attack Marcus. He stepped back and held forth the syrinx. A sword sprouted out of it like a light-sabre, except it appeared to be made of solid gleaming steel. With movements as fluid as when he had danced, Marcus lopped off serpent-heads right and left, high and low. Then he grasped the gold Sun disk that hung from a chain around his neck, and seemed to focus it like a lens in front of him. It grew into a large round mirror. This he held up in front of the Medusa, and at the sight of her own reflection she howled even more demoniacally than had the vaginal plant, and turned to stone. Marcus smote it with his sword, and the hideous image shattered into a million fragments. “Self-knowledge,” he said, “is a dangerous thing.”
More spells followed, in which Marcus was attacked by single-breasted mounted Amazons, diabolic likenesses of Lilith, harpies and furies and viragos. He defeated them all with adept defenses, counterattacks, and incredible presence of mind under pressure. Lucy and her witch-sisters were clearly dismayed. Never had they met a man who could match the full-blown force of their power.
The coven marshaled itself and changed tactic. The women danced in a circle around the tree, chanting along with Nina Hagen’s lyrics on NunSexMonkRock, the album in which she had prefigured Madonna by appearing on the cover as a lewd, scarlet-painted Mary cradling the Baby Jesus in her arms.
One by one the witches broke off from the dance until they stood ringed again in a half- moon ’round the tree opposite Marcus. The atmosphere of the room had changed; it was no longer filled with the clashing vibes of conflict, but with the unconditional love of motherliness. My heart melted as I beheld a beautiful primal woman dressed in skins, nursing a babe in the center of the tree. And now the tree itself was the ultimate mother: a human face was visible in its branches, suffering the eternal birth-pangs of love for her numberless children in all the worlds, standing forth with her leafy arms outstretched like a female Jesus, sweating drops of blood in compassion for the woes of humanity. I had not a shard of doubt that I was looking at the Great Mother herself.
I was overwhelmed by this image from across the Abyss. With difficulty I managed to detach myself from it enough to see that the witches were using it as a weapon. The mother- love was a disarming device, intended to dissolve Marcus’ defenses. Meanwhile, darkling rays were channeling through the image from the Void, focusing on Marcus like a ‘blacklight laser, ready to deal him a deadly blow the instant his shields vanished. I felt a sinking in my chest. How could any man defeat the Mother without destroying himself as well?
Marcus, however, looked unperturbed. He raised one hand in a sort of hiatus-gesture, and pointed with his other at Lucy and the witches. In a loud, ringing voice he said: “You conjure the guise of the Mother of Us All, and the mothers of our race; this is strong magic. Now if only you were truly mothers yourselves, you could defeat me. But then, if you were mothers, the deep mind in your womb and genes would be opened, and you would not oppose me but join me in serving the salvation of our people. But the womb of everyone of you is barren, by your own will. If the lot of you had a single live child to set here in the center of us, I would have no choice but to bow to the power of it and depart in peace. As it is, I easily turn back the force of your own spells upon you, thus!”
A blinding flash of white light burst from Marcus’ hands and flooded the women. The tree and all the Earth-mother imagery melted in its merciless glare, and they were revealed as serpentine witch-creatures once again.
A very Ophidian Lucy stepped toward Marcus, her forked tongue slithering in and out of her mouth. “Marcussss!” she hissed, “you shall pay for thisssss!” Her scales glistened in the white light he radiated.
Marcus did something with his hands, and all the people in the living room resumed their normal forms. Sabrina now stepped forth and said, ” Marcus! I want to come with you!”
“Welcome,” said Marcus, “welcome home.” Sabrina walked into the parlor and was warmly embraced by Helena.
“What about you, Victor?” asked Marcus. “Are you with us?”
“All the way!” I said, and strode vehemently into the parlor.
“Very well,” said Marcus, “we have all the souls allotted to us. Let us depart.”
Just as we turned toward the doorway, the large leather bulk of MacKenzie stepped into it, blocking our way. ” Listen, Marcus,” he said, “Sabrina can go with you if she likes; maybe she’ll come to her senses later and return, after your spell wears off. But meanwhile, I personally have a bone to pick with you.”
Marcus stared at MacKenzie. A silence fell, and lengthened to unendurable stretches. Just when it seemed that scales would flake from their eyeballs, Marcus said, with unfathomable calm, “I’m listening.”
MacKenzie said, “For one thing, I don’t like the way you’ve treated our ladies.”
At this there came shouts from the living room: “Yeah! Blood, blood!”, the crescendo ending with the plaintive male voice that said,“Now we get to kill ‘im! ”
Sir Pentacle stepped again into the fray. He said, “Listen, people, Marcus is challenging the very basis of our magic. We can easily defeat him by physical power alone, but before we kick his ass I still want to know just exactly who and what it is that we’re fighting. I don’t get this ‘Solarian’ stuff. So come off it, Marcus, what forces are you really the instrument of?”
“Very well,” said Marcus to Sir Pentacle. “you asked for it. Now experience the full power of white against black.”
White light poured from Marcus’ hands and body, irradiating the dark magicians and witches, and causing them infinite pain. There was a rustle of angels’ wings in the parlor where we were, the record of the female rock stars having ended. I felt bathed in ecstasy and amazing Godly grace, and felt pangs of compassionfor the hapless snake-like creatures in the living room, writhing in Ophidian torment.
“I knew it!” cried Sir Pentacle, thrusting out an arm to ward off the painful radiance; “he‘s a Christian!”
“You’re wrong,” said Marcus. “You misconstrue the positive force which is your primal antithesis.”
Maverick stood up beside Sir Pentacle, gesticulating wildly at Marcus. He said, “I’ve got your number, man,” and swore at him in foul language: “you’re not just any Christian ~ you’re Jesus Christ!”
A hush fell over the assemblage. There was an audible inrush of air, a gasp or two. Some of Maverick’s friends cast baleful eyes on him, knowing he had committed a tactical error. But it was too late. Marcus looked at him with amused contempt, and said: “You, demon, with your magical eyes have recognized me as Jesus Christ, and you see true. But in my present coming I have a new name and new substance and a new mission, and anyone who says ‘Jesus is Lord’ cannot join with me in fulfilling the mission. The brittle-minded Christians will all reject me, just as the Jews rejected me when I came as Jesus.”
Now MacKenzie spoke up, taking a step toward Marcus: “Listen, mister, I don’t care if you’re Jesus Christ or Lucifer or God Almighty, you insulted my lady-friends, and you’re not gonna get away with it!” So saying, he took a swing full force at Marcus.
The fist was swift, but Marcus was faster. He ducked instantly all the way down to MacKenzie’s kneecaps, stuck his head in between them, and came up with such gusto that the big man was upended, flailing for a moment head over heels through the air. Orion grabbed his arm before he hit the floor and swung him through the picture-window, to land in the shrubbery of the front yard amidst a clattering of shattered glass.
The demonic multitude in the living room responded as one being, a devil’s-yell roaring as from one throat, as the horde poured through the portal and fell upon us. Everyone on both sides knew there was a time limit set upon the battle: the neighbors would call the cops, and the issue had to be resolved in the ten minutes or so that it would take the Berkeley police to respond to the summons. This knowledge just increased the fury.
I saw that Marcus’ claim that he and Orion could handle a dozen Ophidians between them had not been exaggerated. Fists and feet flew faster than the eye could follow, and black-clad magi hit the floor and walls and door, and even the ceiling. Stereo equipment and records were smashed by the force of falling bodies.
For my part, I was not then adept in physical combat, though in the ensuing years I studied martial arts. I was felled several times by blows, but rose again. At one point I found myself facing Sir Pentacle, who was just my height and weight. I had always been in awe of him as leader of the cult, but now, looking into his sneering eyes, I felt a rage rise within me and manifest itself without so much as a conscious thought in the movement of my limbs against this, my enemy. My fist connected with Sir Pentacle’s face, and he went down. In an instant I was upon him, shaking him by his black lapels, demanding to know why he had held my soul in bondage.
“Look out, Victor!” yelled Marcus, and I fell to the side in time to avoid the attack of other foes coming to Sir Pentacle’s aid. As Marcus, Orion, and I dealt with them, I saw that Helena was obviously skilled herself in martial arts, despatching witches and even warlocks with kicks and chops and punches.
The same could not be said of Sabrina, who for the most part cowered helplessly. But when Lucy attacked her with flailing nails, she instinctively responded by grabbing the witch in a headlock and slamming her into the floor.
Then I saw Marcus take Sabrina by the hand. He gestured to me, pointing toward the door. “Let’s get out of here,” he said. There was little opposition now in the parlor, with most of the evening’s guests lying unconscious on the floor. As we ran through the darkness of the yard, MacKenzie leapt from the shadows at us, only to be cut down again by the pounding fists of Orion.
The sound of sirens filled the air as we reached the sidewalk, and at a signal from Marcus we drew up from our guilty run and assumed the stately walk of innocent passersby, casting concerned glances over our shoulders as if wondering at the strange ruckus in the house down the block. In this way we reached Helena’s car, and drove cautiously but quickly away.