Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"The Magician's Honor"
Time Magazine November 24, 1997, Volume 150, #22, "Science And Society: Religion: Pop Goes the Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism makes a high-profile comeback" by David van Biema and Nadya Labi, with reporting by Nadya Labi and Richard N. Ostling/ New York and Jacqueline Saviano/ Los Angeles.
All four of the following Day of Honor novels are based on a concept by John J. Ordover and Paula M. Block:
Other Trek products worth your money (things to look at rather than things to read):
Reader's Digest, October 1997, "What Heroes Teach Us" by Irena Eremia Bragin from Washington Post Magazine.
Predictions for a New Millennium by Noel Tyl, Llewellyn Publications, 1996.
A new year and a new topic for this column has emerged from the pile of books recently read and written.
Yesterday, I finished the final draft of my second book on the Tarot, The Biblical Tarot: The Magic of the Wands -- The Not So Minor Arcana. I use Wands to symbolize the element Fire, and I see the most easily accessible manifestation of "Fire" to be thoughts and ideas. In aggregate, thoughts and ideas, organized and codified become a "philosophy."
In my first book on the Tarot, The Biblical Tarot: Never Cross A Palm With Silver (now available in book stores and on amazon.com), I delineated the philosophical clash underlying our current civilization as a conflict between ancient Hellenistic philosophy and ancient Biblical philosophy. Now I think that must be expanded to include Japanese philosophy.
One quarter of any magickal endeavor consists of philosophy. Unless you get the philosophy right, the magick won't work.
As veteran readers of this column know, my approach to magick, tarot, art, writing, and life is Qabalistic (or Kabbalistic -- I don't differentiate the transliterations and that habit distresses some people). I've been working the Kabbalistic Path for well over thirty years.
That's why this column consists of my "pilpul" -- my grinding up the subjects I tackle into a fine, pepper-like powder and picking at the grains that are off-color. It is a process of analysis -- breaking down into tiny detail -- and then synthesis -- the building of a sensible pattern from the details that have passed the test of fine scrutiny and intense grinding. It's a thinking methodology repeatedly exemplified in the Rabbinic study of Kabbalah.
During 1997, I've been writing the tarot book on the Suit of Wands, watching television as mentioned in the December column, and reading many novels, some of which I have yet to review this month and in the coming months. I've also been studying astrology intensely, on a much deeper level than I've reached before.
And I've been watching the way the world is changing due to computerization with more glee than most folks my age. (Fans of one of my professional sf series now have 17 websites in a webring, a situation guaranteed to bring glee to any writer's heart, and the publisher of The Monthly Aspectarian called just the other day to tell me he is finally ramping up to web-publish the novels in my Lightwave Universe, Molt Brother and City of a Million Legends. I described this project in detail in the July 1996 column which is posted on the http://www.lightworks.com.
TMA will be using the advertising revenue model, so get in there and click on the ads -- the website gets paid every time someone clicks "through" the host website to the advertising website. You don't have to buy anything to pay the provider of free fiction -- just click an ad. Then you can have my novels and I get paid.
I see two sweeping currents far beneath the surface of these changes in our world, currents gathering force and direction.
One of those currents surfaced in an astonishing article in Time magazine's November 24th, 1997 issue, in the Science and Society section, under Religion. It's not a cover story, so unless you were trapped in a dentist's waiting room or, as in my case, had a friend who gave you the magazine open to the article, you probably would never know it was there.
The article is titled "Pop Goes the Kabbalah" and subtitled "Jewish mysticism makes a high-profile comeback." In fairness, the tone of the writing in the article is perfectly uniform with the tone of the other articles in this issue, and in Time recently. And the article does mention both the resurgence in interest in the real, Rabbinic Kabbalah, and the cult-like exploiters of the popular interest in this difficult subject.
The significance of this article is not its content or slant or tone, but its existence in Time magazine. I have been part of the resurgence of interest in Kabbalah for decades, and I've found out recently how the Web is exploding with both genuine and fake websites devoted to this study. If you want entre to the "real" Kabbalah on the web, start at http://www.meru.org, (http://18.104.22.168) and click links out from there. You might also want to try http://www.io.org/~vma/kabbalah.html.
The Time article is not news to me -- but the editorial judgment of a national magazine aimed at the too-busy-to-read public saying that its readers should be apprised of this trend -- that is news. That is actually alarming news.
The other major trend I see gathering beneath the surface is a little more heartening -- or possibly more threatening. I have noticed more and more television shows and novels that are dealing head-on with the issue of honor.
The philosophy of honor is about as complex and abstract as the whole of Kabbalah. It is, perhaps, more complex than the issue of identity that I tackled so fearlessly. And I suspect honor may be more vital to the practical magician than any other issue.
While I view the advent of the World Wide Web with utter glee, and I note with some trepidation the emergence into public view of the long-standing trend of spiritual searching along mystical paths (of which the interest in Kabbalah is just one instance), I think I should be shuddering in fear at the re-discovery of honor by the general public. But I'm not absolutely certain about that because I don't actually understand honor myself. I think.
Consider the cultural differences in what defines honor all around this world. In Europe and the Western traditions (based partly on the Hellenistic view of the universe and partly on the Biblical view of the universe), honor is one thing. In the Orient, particularly Japan and China, honor is something completely different. And I don't know anything about the Hindu views on honor. But I don't know of any culture that lacks the concept.
Which brings us back to one of my most favorite subjects, Star Trek. Always in the vanguard of public opinion, this television show has captured the first harbingers of a trend toward a concern about honor by focusing on the Klingon holiday called The Day of Honor that they just made up recently.
They've done a television episode by the title, that has been novelized, and they've done a very cleverly integrated and designed set of four novels under the banner title "Day of Honor" -- each novel in a different Trek Series, all focusing on this single Klingon holiday. The show and the books all appeared within a few weeks of each other in a coordinated publishing effort.
The Klingon Day of Honor holiday is a commemoration of an alliance between Captain James T. Kirk and his old Klingon nemesis, Commander Kor, to save an agricultural planet. After the Organian Treaty, the Federation and the Empire can't just fight it out over possession of the planet. So they hold a contest to see whether a Federation colony or a Klingon colony can better develop the planet's agricultural resources.
As the novel opens, the Klingons have won possession of the planet fair and square and the Federation colony has been removed. Then crisis strikes, and in honor, the Federation (in the person of Captain Kirk et al.) must fight to uphold the Klingon claim to possession of the planet. That is the story of the fourth novel in the four-novel series called Day of Honor which details the origin of the holiday. The other three novels occur long after this point in history and detail the effects and reinterpretations of that significant historical event.
And just after I read those four novels in rapid succession -- avidly, I might add; they are all very well written and they are serious in-depth studies of this major issue that is forming this undercurrent or undertow of honor in our worldwide society today -- just after reading them, I was trapped in a dentist's office waiting room and chanced upon an article in Reader's Digest. Yes, me, reading Reader's Digest! How improbable -- and therefore, how significant.
The article, "What Heroes Teach Us" was digested from the Washington Post Magazine, and I did not look up the original text of that article. But the digest alone set me thinking hard.
What is the relationship between heroism and honor?
In the Day of Honor series, the first novel has a "sound byte" on the cover that says, "Honor can bear a painful price. " The second in the series has one that says, "What is the true meaning of honor?" The third says, "There is no escape from the bonds of honor...." And the fourth states, "The true story behind the Day of Honor!"
The article in Reader's Digest opens, "Who is your hero and why do you admire him?" And the article is written by the now adult child of a career officer in the Romanian army, Ion Eremia, who was a general, dismissed from his post for criticizing the system and in 1958 tried in secret and condemned to 25 years in prison.
The article details the extreme price that the family of an idealist pays for the idealist's honor -- but somehow the article confuses honor with heroism. The daughter who wrote the article grew up partly in the United States, and now seems convinced the family paid this dire price of estrangement, poverty, and social isolation for their father's stubborn heroism. The article (in the digest form) does not ask the pertinent questions about honor.
Reader's Digest makes judgment calls every time they condense something to make it faster to read. They identify and isolate the salient points, and leave out the "filler." It's like watching CNN Headline News instead of CNN.
But Reader's Digest has been in business a long time because their editors do finger the elements the too-busy-to-read public feels are salient. If this article did ask the questions about honor that seem obvious to me, the Reader's Digest editors didn't think those questions were important to the American reader. That judgment call of Reader's Digest is more revealing than whether or not the author of the article asked the questions about honor. The Reader's Digest editors are more trend-conscious than I am.
I'm not clear myself on the constituents of honor and heroism and where the ingredient lists of these two concepts overlap, and I suspect my own confusion is the result of living in a society that confuses these two very different things. If Reader's Digest thinks there's no difference, that tells me something about how I've been conditioned to think while I wasn't looking.
In a Klingon family, there would be pride in paying a price for a father's honor -- the whole family would be honored by their society for their supporting the father's honor (even if to uphold honor, the father had defied the current government). Our world just doesn't work that way -- yet.
As I noted above, I'm "into" astrology again for the umpteenth time, and it occurs to me to note that recently, transiting Pluto has spent the last couple of years beginning its transit of the sign Sagittarius. Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter and has a lot to do with honesty and integrity. Honor, as we see it in the Western Mystery Tradition, has a lot to do with honesty and integrity.
According to an item I saw this last weekend on a cable news channel that carries news shows taped in foreign countries, a USA citizen who went to Japan thirty years ago as a missionary and stayed to become a naturalized citizen of Japan and run for public office, finds the most disturbing culture-shock aspect of his new home to be the Japanese attitude toward the "white lie." I have always felt the USA plays fast and loose with the white lie, and that this value hampers our public ability to do magick effectively.
This ex-patriot American perceives the segment of Japanese culture he has been living in with his Japanese wife to be even more free with the "white lie" than he felt America to be.
The television news item didn't go into detail on the topic of the white lie, but just mentioned it in passing. I noticed it only because I've been obsessing on the problem of honor lately, and I've been following developments in the Japanese stock market and banking crisis via astrology.
In Predictions for a New Millennium, Noel Tyl -- writing before January 1996, predicted the meltdown of the Japanese financial system in July to September of 1997. He nailed the scenario exactly and went on to project the next five or so years for Japan. In a footnote, he gave us the data for the birthchart for the current Japanese government, and for the prior one, the Empire that bombed Pearl Harbor and dragged the USA into war in the Pacific in the 1940s.
Tyl's analysis of these birth charts with respect to the character and actions/reactions of the Japanese government and the people (not individuals, mind you -- this natal chart pertains to the group mind, not to any specific individual -- the USA has such a natal chart, too, and you wouldn't want to be judged by that!) together with the insight gained by this transplanted missionary, illuminates a part of the definition of honor that can be causing a lot of the trouble between the US and Japan.
I always felt that in the USA's culture, honor depended much too much on other people's opinions -- on "reputation," which is a keyword of the astrological planet Saturn, which rules Capricorn and thus is associated with the 10th House of Honor, Reputation, and Vocation.
Now I see that in Japan, honor depends even more on reputation than it does in the USA. It's only a difference of degree, not of kind, but it may be a significant difference. By regarding it as negligible, we may have created a lot of trouble for ourselves.
Personally, I don't see reputation as an important component of honor. I feel that you can have the same quality of honor to your name regardless of what other people think of you or your deeds. To me, integrity (the internal consistency of your philosophy and its exact reflection in your emotional responses, and in the resulting deeds fueled by emotional responses) is by far and away the defining attribute of honor.
Pluto, in astrology, represents power. Where it transits a chart, you feel a long-range gathering of emphasis, of having your nose rubbed in an issue or problem, of compulsion to deal with the hidden problems in life. With Pluto transiting Sagittarius (which is in my 4th House), I feel that matters of integrity and justice are more pertinent to attaining and maintaining honor. At the same time, we have Saturn working its way through Aries. Aries is the natural first house, and as such delineates our general self-image. So it's not surprising that matters of honor based on reputation have come to the fore of our group consciousness.
In a year or so, Saturn will be entering Taurus, bringing emphasis to possessions, but Pluto will still be in Sagittarius. It will be interesting to see if the public interest in honor continues, and if so whether it changes its emphasis.
To the Klingons, as depicted from Federation sources, anyway, other people's opinions are very important in determining a warrior's honor-- it is dishonor to be publicly expelled from your clan. On the other hand, it is honorable to take that dishonor with fortitude. And Klingons ultimately admire a warrior who accepts public dishonor for the sake of personal integrity.
If the Romanian general's daughter had lived in such a society, her father's dishonor would have been her badge of honor.
Honor is a subject which stirs up internal conflict for us all very easily -- possibly because our public attitudes toward it are fraught with contradictions. Writers will be writing enthusiastically about honor for some time to come because its conflicts strike familiar chords in all of us. As a culture, we certainly have much to work out in this area.
However, this is not news to me just as the Time article on Kabbalah was not news to me. I have been following the development of this stream of thought on honor for some time via the fanzines, both of the Trek 'zines and in other fandoms.
Last July, I picked up a Star Trek: Voyager fanzine at a convention. It is a long novella titled "Assimilation", written and illustrated by Beki. This is the story of Chakotay in the aftermath of his brush with assimilation by the Borg. New aliens arrive and set out to harvest telepathically Chakotay's memories of being assimilated
The aliens have a very plausible motive for this -- to them, memory theft is not a dishonorable act but one of expediency. In previous columns, I've mentioned Suzette Haden Elgin's books on verbal self-defense where she points out that some men don't consider an act "violent" if it is something they couldn't avoid doing. Violence has to do with the use and abuse of power (Pluto), and honor (Saturn) is the code which prevents power abuse by delineating strict rules to govern the use of power. (Such as never hit someone smaller than you are.) Beki has created a marvelous commentary on our hypocrisy as a subplot of this novel. Her aliens present us with questions of honor and situational ethics.
To Chakotay, this violation of personal space is the ultimate dishonor -- equivalent to rape. The Voyager crew becomes split along Maquis/Starfleet lines which brings up loyalty as a constituent of honor. Tuvok attempts to help Chakotay fight the telepathic assaults, and the result is that Chakotay loses contact with his Spirit Guide, and that exacerbates the issues of honor and integrity, though it does help resolve the problem with the alien memory thieves.
This novel (the work is long enough to be called a novel) was written at white heat of inspiration within two months early in 1997, during the time period when the other items mentioned at the top of this column appeared. Beki's previous Voyager fannovel was titled Code of Honor.
At that same convention in July '97, I picked up four other fanzines that focused intensely on constituents of honor (whether they used the word or not).
And at the Darkover Grand Council Meeting over Thanksgiving weekend, 1997, the very same convention where I was given this Time magazine with the article on Kabbalah, I was handed the completed first draft of a new Sime~Gen fan story by one of our more prolific and accomplished writers, Mary Lou Mendum.
Mary Lou Mendum's story is in a series she's been writing for the authorized Sime~Gen fanzines, which are now web-published. (That's why it has the cliché title, "The Dilemma of the Doubtful Document" -- it's a series of stories about one of the first "private eyes" in the Sime~Gen Universe.) I'm not sure at this writing exactly where ...Doubtful Document will be posted -- but you can find it by going to http://www.brisnet.org.au/~jenn/search.html which is our search engine. If you can't get there, go to Rimon's Library, http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Vault/5683/ (1999 addendum - Rimon's Library's new URL is www.simegen.com/sgfandom/rimonslibrary )and if it's not there, surf the webring or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Mary Lou Mendum began this story more than a year ago, so it's a product of 1996. The mystery plot involves an imported grain hybrid (Mary Lou is a geneticist) and forged bank-loan documents. The forgery was perpetrated against a social outcast and also against a member of the upper crust of this society. The detective acts at risk of life and limb and, in the face of a major personal fear, both relying upon and protecting the honor of her family by untangling the web of lies to expose the grain smuggling. Just incidentally, she saves the life and honor of some of the social outcasts, too. They come away feeling that she's a splendidly honorable person.
So I have found that by monitoring "upstream" of the delivery end of the commercial fiction pipeline, I can spot trends before the general public sees them. Fanzines have always provided me with this window on the future of publishing. Now, fanzines are moving into cyberspace, where publishing costs essentially nothing.
If you want to get the jump on me, you can look at some material that I was just told about by phone as I was writing this column. I haven't looked at this yet, but from what I'm told, it's worth the time and effort. On a personal website, some fans of Lois & Clark have, in desperation just like the desperation of abandoned Star Trek fans when the first ST was canceled, written and posted the entire "The Unaired Fifth Season" that Lois & Clark never had.
I haven't seen it yet, and I wasn't told enough to know if my suspicion might be true -- but I suspect that one prominent element in these stories must have something to do with honor in intimate relationships. The URL is http://members.aol.com/thenando/tufstext.htm.
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg,POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952.
Until I get the direct links installed here, you can find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert them in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to. To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below.
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg