Imagination, story telling, tall tales and sharing of ideas, adventures and speculation of every kind must have been among the earliest attributes of human beings. The ability to think like this, to attempt to analyze and explain one’s environment and self, is the difference between sapient and other beings. Spirituality is an essential part of all life, however it is expressed.
Nobody knows just when the first organized religions developed, but I suspect it was about the same time that humans began to record their experiences and ideas, dreams and aspirations. Many of the most ancient cave paintings have spiritual overtones, as well as recording daily living.
So, the stories and dreams and aspirations discussed around the campfire began to find form and more consistency as they were recorded, growing as language and writing evolved, mixed, spread over the land by immigration and trade. When people believed certain stories, they formed a point of community, cohesion and usually cooperation. When people believed different stories, it became a became a focus for friction, distrust and open warfare. Some people got together and figured out how to use the belief or disbelief of people to their own advantage, to gain control over the people themselves. It’s been going on for most of recorded history, and probably before that.
So, it is obviously in the best interest of those controllers not to encourage or allow any competing beliefs among those they control, and new or different stories might just become a threat to their power. Throughout history, the “heretic” and their writings have been the object of extreme prejudice, persecution and murder. People are easy to manipulate if they can be convinced that anyone or anything “different” is threatening, that those who do not believe as they do must be less than human.
“The Testament of James” tells a tale of intrigue about this very subject in a compact, captivating story of people who have possibly discovered a book, supposedly written by someone in a position to know, that pretty much stands most Christianity on its head, contradicting the most basic of the stories written centuries ago about the death of the central character, Jesus. The details are few, but the implications are very serious for all those who wish to control the core Christian narrative, however they may bicker and disagree on minor bits of it.
Vin has written a very provocative story about this book and those who seek to take ownership of it, whether by commerce or force. The characters are unique (and classic Suprynowicz); honestly human, fallible and thereby delightful. The plot is clever, yet not cluttered with false clues or digressions. The settings, the main one in a rare book store, are also very real, with attention to relevant detail that makes them come alive.
The very serious sub-theme, that hallucinatory drugs are somehow a natural and, perhaps, even necessary component of spirituality and religious expression may trouble some folks, but it is certainly a “take it or leave it” proposition and shouldn’t bother anyone who understands individual liberty. It is the prohibition of such, the endless attempts to control and eliminate individual choices, that have fueled the flames of hate, division and oppression all over the world for so long.
Serious food for thought, for all those who do not fear what is different or challenging to their deepest learned beliefs.
This book is just the first of those challenges. I’m looking forward to reading all of them. Here’s how to get your copy of The Testament of James: