Do You Believe in Magic?

ptc3_thumb1811965 was a big year for me. Some of the more memorable moments were accompanied by the hit song, “Do You Believe in Magic,” by The Lovin’ Spoonful. The strains of that song followed me out the doors of high school, into the Navy and around the world, eventually to Viet Nam. Fortunately, after two deployments, I made it home alive and in one piece.

This year, however, “Magic,” takes on a whole new role for me, as I research the subject for my newest novel in which magic plays a major role. “The Practician,” will be the first novel in a grail mythology series of four books. The title and the theme reference Rick Townsend’s past and the “gift” that will profoundly alter his future, a gift that will, in fact, change his entire world, and ours. So, as I research the subject of magic and its history, I thought I would post the things I’m learning from time to time, here, on my author blog.

Returning to the question, “Do you believe in magic?” I wonder what your answer might be. The question holds great interest for me, as a student of the Bible, because the Bible is a book who’s subject is almost entirely about the supernatural and yet, the church has, more or less, convinced Christianity that “magic” is nothing more than superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Is it? Maybe. Certainly through my childhood and up to more recent times, magic, for me, was illusion and slight of hand, more trickery and ingenious design than supernatural power. In the distant past, however, this was not the case, and lately I have seen things that I cannot explain, things I am forced to attribute to the supernatural. I confess that what I’ve seen was on video, it could have been manipulated, but I don’t think that it was because I know from my studies of scripture and from my research in extra-biblical sources, that real magic, that is, “transcendental magic,” truly did and likely still does exist.

When I say, “transcendental magic,” I’m talking about magic beyond illusion. I’m talking about the kind of magic Pharos’ magicians used to change a rod into a snake when they desperately needed to duplicate Moses’ amazing feat. Of course, the feat was supernatural in both cases. The transmutation of wooden rod to living serpent wasn’t accomplished by Moses, nor was it accomplished by Pharos’s magi, but it was accomplished by powers beyond their hands, powers beyond their world that they called upon, powers beyond time and space, as we know it. That’s the kind of magic I’m talking about. There was a time when it was more common than it is today. Perhaps it was because people were more willing to believe in it then, than they are today. Perhaps what is required is a mind that is open to the possibility, a mind that doesn’t need to stuff everything into the box provided to us by modern science, or by the church, whether either one of them accepts the reality of transmutation, or denies it. Perhaps believing is the key to transcendental power, the requirement for it to be present. I don’t know. I don’t practice magic, even though the New Testament Bible tells me I could, and that I should, but from that source, I understand the practice of calling upon powers beyond our world. I understand that the power of real magic, transcendental power, lies beyond my hands and beyond this world.

Prologue

suffugielYou don’t know me, and I may not appear to you as a sympathetic character in this age of disbelief, but it has not always been so. People today have become too skeptical, a condition based on what passes for science in the information age. Oh, please don’t misunderstand, there is no doubt that knowledge has increased, we, myself and the others of The Five, have seen to that, but only in exchange for the precious commodity of wisdom, an exchange mankind has been more than willing to make in their foolish rush to become their own god. But neither wisdom, or knowledge hold any value when compared to understanding. Now there is a thing to be desired, “understanding”. It is a gem that has been lost to men since before the Dark Ages. You see, before the collapse of Rome, most men understood that other worlds existed, worlds beyond their sight.

In ancient days and for millennia before, magic and sorcery were very real, not merely illusion, or slight-of-hand. In the distant past, men accomplished amazing feats of dark sorcery in concert with Dominions and Powers, entities, like myself, from a world beyond your making, a world beyond your sight, your science, or your ability to imagine; a world I refer to as “reality,” while, for me, your world exists only as a shadow of my own. I speak of a time when Moses’ staff turned into a snake. That was no illusion, it was reality, a reality that goes beyond your comprehension, a reality reproduced by Pharaoh’s magicians. Their feat was not mere illusion, but, like Moses, they actually changed their wooden staffs into living snakes by powers unimagined in your narrow minded world today.

If you are willing to take a little of your time, I will tell you a story from the past, a story of magic and quest, but not at all like the stories of magic that are so popular in this day. This story is real and true, and within the history that it reveals, lies the seed of understanding, an understanding that might allow your eyes to see beyond this present, dark shadow, into the world of reality, for therein lies the entire purpose for your existence.

You see, I was there when it all began, and even before that. I was there before the great flood, before your kind came to be upon the earth, for I am not like you, I am not a temporal being. Over the millennia I have been called many names, but my true name, my given name is Suffugiel. I am a trusted member of The Five, one of the leaders of the Great Rebellion. It is I who have been entrusted with the quest I am about to relate to you. It is my assignment and sole responsibility to recover that power of old, the Quod Magicae that was stolen on the day of the crucifixion, in Jerusalem, where the story began two thousand of your years ago.

I was there on that day. I watched from within the storm as Joseph carried out his secret mission. I was in the lightening, watching, as he violated the temple, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies; I watched him sprinkled the blood. It was I who confused his mind and caused his hesitation when the mission was complete. It was I who used Mary of Magda to convince him to keep a small portion of the blood. I have been manipulating events surrounding the blood ever since, enjoying a great game of pursuit and intrigue, biding my time as I maneuvered many hosts, through many ages in order to arrive at this time and place.

But now the time has come for revelation. It is time for The Man of Lawlessness to take his place on the world stage and bring this shadow to an end; to draw the whole into dark penumbra, blending it there into the invisible singularity of the master’s purpose; to use the power of his blood as the instrument of our final victory over The Light. I continue to manipulate such events in this current age, on this very day, but enough about me, let me introduce you to the latest cast of players to take their place on my puppet’s stage.

Hidden Figures in Black History

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When I was doing the research for my novel, “Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar,” I became aware and concerned about the apparent lack of authentic role models available to black youth in America. I use the term “authentic,” to mean role models beyond the entertainment industry’s view, including sports, and beyond the typical characters created for entertainment by the likes of Spike Lee. I’m talking about real role models, and my concern for such was the premise for my story about the life of Henri Caesar, of whom my POV character says, “there is much more to this man’s story than history has yet told.”

So it is for most of the true heroes of Black history in America. For me, that trail begins with  Olaudah Equiano. Although his place of birth, c. 1746, is disputed, the fact that he was sold in Virginia to a Royal Navy ship’s captain was well documented in 1754. He was given the slave name, Gustavas Vassa and taken to England where he eventually came into the hands of a Quaker merchant named Robert King. King gave Equiano the means to purchase his own freedom, which he did in 1766, becoming a merchant himself, traveling much of the world and learning all that he could about the Triangle Trade and English politics.

Back in London, Equiano, aka, Gustavas Vassa, joined an abolitionist group called The Sons of Africa and began pressing parliament for anti-slavery legislation. In 1789, as an activist in the abolition movement, Gustavas wrote and self-published his memoir entitled, “The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano.”

The book was widely read through nine editions and was instrumental in parliament’s passage of The Slave Trade Act of 1807, which put an end to British involvement in the slave trade. Unfortunately it did not include the ownership, or practice of slavery, the end of that horror would require a brutal and bloody war in America.

That said, there is a long and growing list of heroic, black figures that follow Equiano. I won’t attempt to list them here, but I will write about a select few from time to time. I think the awareness of them is vital to our future as “one” nation.

Getting back on track, if you haven’t seen the movie, “Hidden Figures,” then you have missed a truly great story, the kind of story from which flows the compassion and understanding required to change the world. The viewing of it should be mandatory for all Americans. It should be part of the curriculum in our schools. There needs to be more of this type of encouragement and less of a Black America with the kind of hopeless future Spike Lee and his ilk portray. What is required to change things for the better is more of the personal initiative demonstrated by heroes like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and a chain of others that goes all the way back to Olaudah Equiano.

The trouble is that the voice of truth, the voice of hope and reason, is often drowned out by the shouts of those who promote selfish agendas, but there is nothing new in this. The manipulation of public opinion is as old as human nature itself and the latest suppression of truth in Black America, of hope and reason, began almost immediately following Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. King’s positive message of character, accountability and personal initiative was drowned out by loud, plaintive demands for equality through entitlement. I don’t need to mention their names, these false prophets continue to drown out truth and hope to this day, and we all know who they are as well as the various organizations that front their ideas.

To conclude, a new paradigm is needed among young Blacks in America and along with it, a lot more men with the vision and courage of John Glenn and, in the historical record, Robert King. Men who will step up and intervene where the scales are being intentionally skewed against anyone of good character for reasons of race, creed, color, gender, religion, or national origin. What’s needed is sacrifice, the willingness to set aside self-interest for the greater good. That is the deeper message of “Hidden Figures.” People of all kinds and colors, working together to accomplish what’s better for all of us.

The Pit

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“The Pit”, as it is called, is the focus of the plot and the setting for much of the action, both in book one and in the following books of the series I’ve begun, entitled, “Grey Empire.”

The Pit is a two hundred foot deep shaft, cluttered with the wreckage of two hundred years of failed attempts to reach what lies at the bottom; whether that be treasure, or curse remains a mystery.

Those who seek treasure rely on the misguided translation of sixty one rune-like characters carved on a slab of greenstone granite, found more than a hundred years ago at the ninety foot level, and requiring Monica’s expertise. It has long since been lost from the record of items recovered from The Pit; that, along with every other claimed artifact. The only exception being a gold coin, or the photo of it, for the coin itself has also disappeared, whisked away into the private collection of the latest, mysterious lessee of the claim to Oak Island’s pit.

It is as if the entire quest, lasting for more than two centuries now, has been some sort of cruel, demonic, practical joke. What lies at the bottom of the pit, this tiny plot of earth, ruptured and scarred by the digging of men desperate to find out? Who designed and built the labyrinthine structure that has protected the secret of the pit for centuries? The answers to these questions, and more, remain unknown, but Rick Townsend wisely insists that they be answered before one more dollar is spent digging on Oak Island.

Among the missing artifacts, and besides the slab of greenstone granite, bits of wood, reportedly from an old chest and, with them, a shred of parchment with faded writing on it containing the characters, V I, the language, however, being unknown. This tiny piece of parchment inexplicably convinced the dreamers, even more than the evidence of chests, that there was treasure in the pit below, but this and every other shred of evidence has long since been lost.

The pit itself is a mystery, also lost in the rush for gold. Today, no one is quite certain of its exact location in the scarred earth of Oak Island, but in the nineteenth century, drilling and digging down to the 126′ level, the diabolical design of the pit became clear to those who sought its secrets. It was not so much constructed as a hiding place for treasure, as it was a trap to prevent anyone, including its builders, from recovering what lay below. Considering this reality, along with a curse, known to require the sacrifice of seven lives before the secrets of its depths can be revealed, Rick, Monica and King Arthur, wonder why anyone would try.

King Arthur Jones

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Arthur Jones is something of a celebrity in Green Turtle Cay and also in Marsh Harbor the largest town in the Abaco Islands. He is a native of the Bahamas, fiftyish, but young at heart; no one is sure of his real age and Arthur won’t say. His parents, both great fans of Arthurian tales, gave him the royal sounding name, King Arthur Jones.

Though he seldom uses his full name in public, it has come in handy for him in branding himself among the locals, first as a fishing guide, then as a chef; ultimately as a restaurateur in Marsh Harbor, but Arthur sold that business and retreated to the simpler life in Green Turtle Cay. Now he works for Rick Townsend, hunting and recovering treasure, and acting as captain, first mate, cook and chief bottle washer aboard Rick’s yacht, Mi Tesoro.

Mostly the job is boring, an aspect Arthur appreciates, but the boredom is broken by periods of interesting salvage, diving for treasure and, occasionally fighting off pirates and interlopers who come to challenge their legal claim. Over the years he and Rick have become close friends and partners in the business, an arrangement that works well for both men. Recently, however, following the recovery of a treasure worth more than a hundred million dollars, Arthur’s role has changed, making him more a companion, who’s job it is, to keep Rick on track and in balance. Having gained so much money turned out to be more a curse than a blessing, requiring Rick to become a manager and administrator of investments. He’s not adjusting well to his new role, becoming more reclusive and falling into long periods of heavy drinking from which Arthur had to pry him free.

Lately a new role has been added to Arthur’s task list. He finds himself an occasional body-guard, defending his friend’s life from those who seek to take it. These recent attacks have something to do with the new job Rick has taken on, the identification and recovery of an alleged treasure in Nova Scotia at a place they call ‘The Pit’, a job Arthur insisted Rick take on, just to get him back to work. The job sounded simple when first described, uncomplicated. How could he have known how deep this hole would go, or the labyrinth it would become? How could he have known the danger it would put his best friend in?

Monica Scott

HB-Cvr-1Monica is an attractive, twenty eight year old, dark haired beauty born and raised in Boston, whom, falling into an academic life as a teenager, has remained single in her pursuit of a PhD in archaeology, specializing in paleography and medieval semiotics. It all sounds very high-minded, but in the job market it qualifies her to be a library assistant. However, just as Monica has resigned herself to that fate, she receives an offer from a small law firm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to work for them in her field of expertise. Although it seems odd to have been contracted by a law firm, Monica packs up her life and moves to Halifax without any hesitation, going there to help identify and interpret the strange runes carved into a rock found by a confidential client at a nearby archaeological site.

After spending a brutal winter nearly confined to her small apartment in Halifax, Monica meets Rick Townsend, who has just been contracted to work with her on the same project. In her opinion, Rick is cocky, overbearing and unqualified for the work, but her employer, Marc Blair, makes it perfectly clear that Rick is in charge and she will be reporting to him.

Blair added, “Oh, by the way, Monica, you’ll be traveling with Rick, so you’ll need to get packed.”

Monica expressed both surprise and consternation. “Where? When?”

It was Rick who answered, not Blair. “The Bahamas, tomorrow.”

Blair spoke up then, adding, “All the arrangements have been made. You’ll leave in the morning.”

Imagine Monica’s surprise. She was at first uncomfortable with the idea of traveling at all, she hadn’t the clothes for it, nor was she prepared in any other way. The Bahamas sounded nice, after a long, brutal winter in Halifax, but she wondered why, if the archaeological site was here, in Nova Scotia. What were they looking for in Bahamas?

She was repulsed by the idea of traveling with a man she’d only just met and had nothing but disdain for. Still, maybe it was time for her to expand her horizons, to step outside her ivory tower and learn something of the world out there. Maybe it was time to put some adventure in her life, to go out and do some real field work. Besides, personalities aside, he wasn’t bad looking for someone in his mid thirties, she thought, guessing at his age.

Getting to their destination required a long and arduous journey involving two taxi rides, four flight changes, the final leg, from West Palm to the Bahamas, in a private plane followed by a thirty minute boat ride over crystal clear, aqua blue waters to their final destination. Try again to imagine Monica’s surprise when she learned, at the end of her travel, that “the arrangements” made were for her to stay aboard Rick’s private yacht, “Mi Tesoro”, alone with him, anchored in the small harbor of a remote Island of the Abacos chain, a place called Green Turtle Cay. So the adventure of a lifetime begins for Monica Scot, in the Bahamas, researching a dig in Canada they call, “The Pit.”

Rick Townsend

Rick Townsend is the main character of my current work-in-progress called, “The Practician,” let me tell you a little about him. Without describing his physical characteristics, because I’ve not settled on that yet, I will give you something of his bio.templartreasure

Rick is many things to many people, but on the surface he is an avid and very successful treasure hunter. He is considered to be the world’s leading expert in hunting down lost treasures, though he rejects the title, chalking his many successes up to luck. His main focus is on marine treasures, a field of expertise he stumbled onto as a child and has pursued ever since, though he has been hired on occasion, as in this case, to hunt down land based treasures, for which he has also succeeded spectacularly, living on the residual percentages from these and from his own finds.

Before he was hired to work “The Pit,” he was focused on finding the 1584 wreck of the Spanish galleon, “El Dorado,” aboard which lies a 3800 pound table made of solid gold, along with many other treasures. But Rick had been sidetracked even before accepting the contract from Blair and Matthews, a small law firm in Halifax. Too much income, a laid back lifestyle and an overwhelming need to forget painful times in his past, led him to drinking, a binge he’d been on for nearly a year before his best friend, King Arthur Jones, was able to convince him to give it up and get back to work. The offer from Blair and Matthews came just in time to save him from himself.

Before that, before his successes, before the wealth and income, Rick had been in special forces in Afghanistan, working for the CIA, doing wet work, most of which he would very much like to forget. And before that, before college, as a young man, he’d grown up in a house where his mother held seances and told fortunes for a living. His father had been a moderately successful magician, an entertainer, who thought, like most fathers that his son would follow in his footsteps. He’d tried to teach Rick the art of magic, but Rick was shy of performance and very little interested in a life of illusion. Most of the disappointment his parent’s felt lay in the fact that Rick had the “gift.”

They had spotted it when he was very young, second sight, inherited from his maternal grandmother. Rick’s gift was exceptional, more powerful than his grandmother’s, or his mother’s. Worth a fortune in the family business, but for Rick it was deeply disturbing and he did everything he could to suppress it, in spite of his parent’s desperate encouragements to do otherwise.

When he left home and the strange, small town of spiritualists he’d grown up in, he swore he would never return. He hadn’t kept that promise. He loved his parents, irrespective of their occult way of life and, when they needed his help, he hurried to their aid. He could no more leave them behind than he could the gift that often drove him to drink. Better to work, however, and, since he was stymied at the moment in his pursuit of the el Mayor, working The Pit would suffice nicely.