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April, 1998

"The Hero and The Ace of Cups"


At this writing, I've seen only three episodes of the ABC TV series, Prey, so I don't know what it will become — but if you have any interest in this column, I must direct your attention to it.

The first three episodes are linked in a tight story-arc, using the spare 46 minute hour of airtime to develop an extremely complex set of story-threads. But it seems that the entire thematic basis of this story is being built to showcase issues of honor of special interest to the student of the occult. If that is the case, you must not miss this show.

The first element of note is the relationship between a woman who is a genetic researcher named Sloan, her co-worker and a man who is a member of a new species of hominid evolved from Homo Sapiens. The new species has brain and nervous system differences that may indicate ESP of some sort, strength and stamina differences, appetite differences and rest/sleep-related differences.

In other words, this new species has power. In any situation, they have more options than Homo Sapiens. That means magickally and with respect to issues of honor, which are core matters for the student of the occult, they have more problems than we do, more dangers, more temptations.

If I'm right about Prey, it is another harbinger of a social trend, or megatrend, which is focusing on issues of honor. The repeated episodes of sexual scandal focused on President Clinton are just another such harbinger. The January issue of that ongoing scandal produced record traffic at CNN's website. People are becoming more and more aware of honor as a factor in effective action in the material world. (Understand what the President of the USA is from a magickal point of view, and you will understand why this is happening — though it helps to have Clinton's natal chart handy while you study it as well as to know where the ley lines run under our nation's capitol.)

The dramatic material to deal with problems of honor and power is inherent in the dramatic "vehicle" of Prey, so if honor is not addressed on the TV screen, you can bet it will be by fan fiction posted to the web or circulated by email.

We will wait and see. Meanwhile, we read books. And I've read some really good ones lately, though I must admit I'm finding it harder and harder to find good books. Many books I pick up get set aside unfinished and that has never happened to me before in my life. The "kind" of story I look for seems to be moving out of the print-media distribution channels and onto electronic media such as television and the web.

I have thought it was me — my mood, or my ever increasing standards, or my overall stress level or whatever. Whenever I get to thinking that, I seem to encounter a book so compelling, rich and exciting I can't put it down.

Such a novel came into my hands on the recommendation of the denizens of the Sime~Gen Listserve (to find that List, check the Sime~Gen Welcommittee website, (1999 addendum: you should find all you need to know at )

This novel is Prisoner of Conscience by Susan R. Matthews. It speaks right to the issue of honor by taking the hero of Exchange of Hostages (the prequel) beyond mere training and into working as a torturer on a space ship — legalized torture is the core of the justice system in this interstellar society. Our hero is Andrej Koscuisko, a scion of a noble family in a faraway sector. He is a natural born physician, probably a healer as well as a body-technician. To honor his father and his ancestors as he was raised to do, he must use his medical skills to torture the truth out of people.

Matthews pulls no punches on this matter of torture, but does not dwell on it lovingly. This novel is artistically in balance, using torment and torture to develop the questions at the core of honor.

Koscuisko, in this second novel, is presented with a situation where he has inadvertently become part of an abuse of the power vested in him as a legal torturer. We see how he enjoys his work when he believes it to be honorable though distasteful. We see how he hates himself for sexually enjoying inflicting pain when his higher instincts are to relieve pain. Then we see him discover what has been going on behind his back.

What he does about that discovery addresses the matter of honor on two levels at once — the public image of an honorable man and the ability to look himself in the mirror in the morning (i.e., the private self-image).

The pivotal point here is that the only self-esteem Koscuisko has left (after the abuse heaped upon him by his father) is based on the fact that he must do these things to honor his ancestors — and that it is legally proper for such things to be done in exactly and precisely this way and no other way.

When he discovers that the exact letter of the law has been violated, that people have been tortured and killed outside the protocols of legal torture, he risks everything to put an end to it. And make no mistake, there must be yet another sequel to this novel — for there will be consequences to Koscuisko's future that result from his actions at the end of this novel.

Matthews does not deal in insanity, warped realities or mental illness. She is not addressing the conflicts centered on sick sexuality or parental fixations — though those elements are ostensibly present in these novels. While Kafka's work suggested, to me, that he was a man who urgently needed medical attention, Matthews' prose convinces me that she herself is firmly centered and grounded, healthy in outlook, and even optimistic in general personality. (This may or may not be the case; I don't know her, only her prose.)

And so is her point-of-view character, Koscuisko. He is a healthy, normal individual who is simply trapped in a situation that is putting major pressure on his self-esteem. And like all of us he has a weak spot that shames him. Matthews, whether she knows it or not, has depicted the type of lifetime that a person on the Path to Adepthood must live - a lifetime of direct confrontation with the darkest of the darkness within.

The real horror in Matthews work is the way she has shown us a society in which the behavior the hero (and we readers) find most repulsive is publicly lauded by the hero's society. Compare this to the headlines about Clinton's private behavior.

Think that through carefully. It isn't the same, or even similar, but understanding the relationship between public and private values and how they shift and change with the generations can explain why Matthews books are striking such a deep note with some readers.

Think about it in terms of your own life — have you any area of your life where what you privately loathe is publicly demanded of you and rewarded? If so, read this book! Our public values are still changing rapidly and it disorients people, causing crazy behavior. Many people are making their living today doing things for corporations whose main profit comes from activities the workers privately find loathsome, yet they really enjoy the high salaries.

Recently, I have been writing the third volume of my Tarot instruction series, The Biblical Tarot, on the Suit of Cups, (the second volume on Wands is due out the end of this year — or early '99) and in pondering the Ace of Cups and all its implications derived from the Tree of Life, I realized that the core of the meaning of the Ace of Cups has to be linked to self esteem, which is a vital component of honor.

Again, the generational megatrend is clear — the Baby Boomer generation devoured self-help books on self esteem for more than a decade before embarking on child-rearing, which they are now doing as systematically as they are pouring money into mutual funds. And these children are being raised with conscious attention to their self esteem.

It seems to me that the essence of honor rests on how you relate to yourself inside yourself. And the essence of happiness and the ability to attain and maintain relationships derives from how you relate to yourself inside yourself — your attitude toward yourself, which is your self esteem.

It really doesn't matter whether you think highly of yourself or not so highly; what matters in generating satisfaction with life is how friendly, kind, helpful, loyal, just and honorable you are in your dealings with yourself. Being honorable and kind in dealing with yourself, with your subconscious, is what gives your magic the power to manifest in reality.

Matthews' character, Koscuisco, was raised in a religion of ancestor worship; in many ways respect for one's ancestors can be the prime metaphor for your internal relationship to your subconscious. Your ancestors are in fact your subconscious — their values are the content of your subconscious regardless of how laudable those values are or are not.

Modern psychology recognizes how childhood experiences with parents engrave values, attitudes and self-esteem upon children in such a way that, whether we know it or not, those parental scripts ("Don't hit your little sister!") actually generate adult behavior. (E.g., the need to hit little girls or the revulsion for such behavior).

For example, if you had a problem relating to your father, who treated you in a manner you perceived as unfair, then very possibly throughout your working life, you would find yourself emotionally involved in relationships with your bosses (Father/Authority/Saturn) in which you strive with neurotic determination to force them to treat you "fairly" . . . "fairly" being whatever way you felt your father should have treated you.

The "neurotic" part of the striving lies in the way that the all-out do-or-die effort you put into forcing your boss to be "fair" will be the same regardless of how fairly your actual boss might be treating you! The battle you fight is with your internalized image of your father — not with the real man himself — and that image is projected onto the nearest authority figure, your boss — and your internal need is to fight and win that battle.

The need doesn't go away even when the battle is won because the battle isn't with the boss at all, it's with someone who isn't even present at the time so they can't be conquered — ever.

In other words, Homo Sapiens (the upgrade to homo something else in Prey may not do this) tends to continue to fight childhood battles throughout middle life and perhaps all the way to the Uranus Return (in the early 80's) when the matter is resolved.

Matthews' character, Koscuisco, is definitely doing that both inside and outside himself — which is what makes this series she's writing significant art.

Another writer who is dealing with this self esteem/honor issue is Amanda Ashley (a pen name for the even more famous romance writer, Madeline Baker). This new novel, Shades of Gray, is a contemporary vampire/romance with telepathy and time travel. Telepathy and time travel are even more my favorite things than vampires, so I really enjoyed this novel.

Here we have a good vampire and a bad vampire (but it's hard to tell which is which) and a vampire hunter who has an alliance with the good vampire to kill the bad vampire and an agreement that they'll fight it out between them after they've rid the world of the bad vampire.

Complication: Our hero is a woman who, out of a sense of honor, figures that it's up to her to rid the world of the bad vampire — but she's fallen in love with the good vampire. She's sure she can tell the good vampire from the bad vampire (because of their telepathic signatures) but she doesn't know what to make of the vampire hunter, especially since he seems bent on killing her lover.

This is my kind of book. This hero falls a little short of my specifications for a fictional hero, but is pretty close to the real-life hero type. How far can honor take a woman like this? In a romance-genre novel of the '90s, farther than you might think — but not far enough for me.

I have a problem with the romance genre formula — and not just because it treats women differently from men in the honor department. My real problem with this genre is the formulaic lack of a clearly delineated reason why this particular man would love this particular woman — and vice versa. That is a necessary formula element in order to allow the broadest possible readership to identify with the characters — and it is part of the formula of heroic fiction to leave out many of the particulars of a character's personality.

Any reader has to be able to fit him/herself into the shoes of the hero of the novel. We all want to be that character who achieves all the grand things we've not achieved in our lives.

One thing we — as a nation at the turn of the millennium — seem to want to achieve is an internal sense of honor. We want our own subconscious minds to regard our conscious minds with respect (Honor, Respect and Authority — The Father Archetype — are Saturn keyword symbols).

Amanda Ashley has tied into that trend in her vampire novels. For no one needs a sense of honor more than a person who lives by victimizing others — which is the plight of the vampire, good or bad.

These three works of fiction together — Prey, Prisoner of Conscience, and Shades of Gray, all deal with heroes who live by and upon victimizing others and who struggle desperately to achieve and maintain an inward sense of honor.

I think it may actually be a megatrend we're looking at here. If you're in the fiction business you might find a way to make some money by getting ahead of that gathering trend.

As I've pointed out several times in recent columns, we have a major demographic trend about to hit the world just as the "Flower Children" and the drop-out generation hit the world in the 1960s with anti-Viet Nam War demonstrations and Star Trek.

This new megatrend will be generated (is being generated) by the Boomer Echo generation — these being the children of the Baby Boomers who seem to have begun having their children around 1990. The leading edge of the Echo is now turning nine years old, with the peak perhaps currently about to enroll in first grade.

I suspect an astute astrologer could glean a lot from studying the 1990-5 positions of the major outer planets that define a generational trend and seeing when that generation gets hit with major challenges.

But for the moment, it is clear that the current crop of pre-adolescents will become a major purchasing power over the next five years; right now they are devouring the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer like candy.

Buffy is a fantasy series that focuses on high school age children (which is what pre-teens watch while high school children want to watch college kids deal with life). The main issues raised so far in this series have to do with the use and abuse of power — the power of knowledge and the power of destruction — and the core of the matter is honor.

Buffy is the only one who can slay vampires (and other nasties) with a reasonable chance of success. Therefore, she must do so even if it means standing up a handsome date or getting bad grades and having her mother ground her. She sneaks out of the house to patrol the night — even when she would rather be partying. She is winning the hearts of the Boomer Echo generation and the approval of their parents, by her visible tussle with the requirements of honor.

What I like best about that series is the relationship between Buffy, the Slayer, and Angel, the vampire. Angel was a nasty vampire for centuries until he was cursed by some gypsies who gave him back his soul so he'd know how dreadful he had been (i.e., they destroyed his self esteem). The curse dissipated when he committed the ultimate act of love with Buffy. The object of the curse was to make him suffer, so when he was no longer suffering the curse, it dissipated. Now he's the nastiest of all vampires again; another character on the show, the resident computer geek, has a werewolf for a boyfriend.

There's hope though. One of the other teachers at the high school is a member of the tribe who cursed Angel to begin with. There are many possibilities here, especially since Giles, the librarian and Buffy's trainer, is turning into a regular Gandalf and is enchanted by the gypsy.

Those of you in the fiction crafts who would like to take advantage of the megatrend I think I've spotted here should get a copy of the nonfiction book, Getting Your Acts Together. It is a manual about how to make a solid living writing and selling original plays for the high school stage.

Yes, you can make money doing that. This manual has about everything in it you need — except the talent to create ultra-short dramas that can be staged and yet appeal to the TV/online generation of the Boomer Echo. Study Buffy, study Prey, study all the Treks and Babylon 5, and above all study commercials, and you can make money in this field of high school plays if you have that quirky talent that lends itself to play writing. (It's one of the many talents I lack!)

But hurry - the Echo generation will be in high school in about three years.

We are truly living in Interesting Times.

Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg,POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952.





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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg