Book 4. Co-creation (1999)
An extraordinary power
“It transpired in those days that the tribes of people living on the Earth engaged in frequent frays. And every tribe planned to raise as many warriors as it could. And among the warriors any that aspired to the culture of the land or the culture of poetry were looked down upon. And each tribe had its priests, who essayed to make the people afraid. But none of them had any clear goal; they simply found solace in others’ fear. And each one flattered his own pride by telling himself he was receiving from God more of something than his fellows.
“My forefather managed to assemble a group of poets and priests from a number of different tribes. There were nineteen in all: eleven poet-singers, seven priests and my forefather. They got together in a deserted, isolated spot.
“The singers sat with meek faces to one side, while the priests took their places with a show of pride. My forefather addressed them as follows:
‘“The tribes can be made to cease their enmity and war. And all the peoples will then come to live in a single state. They will have a single just ruler, and every family will be saved from the horrors of war. People will start to offer each other help. And the brotherhood of people will find their way to the garden of their pristine origins.’”
‘At first the priests simply laughed at my forefather, telling him he was daft:
“‘Who will voluntarily surrender his power and authority to another? If all tribes are to come together, one of them must become the strongest and overcome the others, and here you conceive of there being no more war. Your words are too naive to ponder. Why have you gathered us together, you slow-witted wanderer?!’ And the priests began to leave. But my forefather stopped them by saying:
“‘You are wise men, and your wisdom is needed to make laws for human society I can give each one of you such power that no weapon made by human hand can withstand it. If you cherish it and use it for a good trust, it will help everyone reach their goal, come to the truth, to a bright sunrise that is blissful and grand. But if its possessor lusts in his soul to fight others with an evil intent, he himself will perish.’
“This reference to extraordinary power arrested those priests in their tracks. Whereupon the high priest proposed to my forefather:
“‘If you know of such an extraordinary power, tell us about it. And if this power actually works, and is capable of creating whole states, you will stay and live with us in that state. Together we shall create laws for human society.’
“‘This was precisely why I came to see you: to tell you about this extraordinary power,’ my forefather replied to all. ‘But first I would ask you to nominate a ruler from among all those known to you. A ruler who is kind, whose mind is free from greed, who lives with his family in love and, as to war, has not a single thought thereof.’
“The high priest mentioned to my forefather in reply that there was indeed a ruler who studiously avoided all contentions. But his tribe was small in terms of numbers, and since there was no tendency to glorify its warriors, this was something few among them aspired to become. And so to avoid conflicts, they were often required to change their base and move on, abandon a place that was more suitable for living and settle in a less favourable space. This ruler’s name was Egypt.
“‘Then Egypt shall this state be called!’ my forefather said. “I shall now sing you three songs. You, my dear poet-singers,
shall sing these songs to people in all the different tribes. And you, my dear priests, shall settle yourselves among the people of Egypt. Families from all over will be drawn to you, and you shall greet them with good laws.’
“Whereupon my forefather sang three songs to those gathered. In the first song he formed the image of a just ruler, calling him Egypt. The second song conveyed the image of a happy people living together in harmony In the third song was the image of a loving family with happy children, fathers and mothers, residing in this extraordinary state.
“The songs were made up of ordinary words already familiar to everyone. But the words were combined in such a way as to cause their listeners to hang on each new combination with bated breath. And then there was the captivating melody in the resonant voice of my forefather. It beckoned and called, fascinated and created living images.
‘At that time there was still no outward Egyptian state, its temples had not yet been built, but my forefather could tell that it would all come about as a result of the calling of Man’s thought and dream, melding into one. And my forefather was enthralling in his song, inspired by the extraordinary power with which our grand Creator has endued us all. He sang as one who possessed this power — a power that distinguishes Man from everything else, that gives Man dominion over all, that allows Man to be recognised not only as the son of God but as a creator too.
“Now fervent with inspiration of their own, the poet-singers sang these three songs amongst the various tribes. The people were fascinated by the splendid images created, and came from all over to dwell with the tribe of Egypt.
“Just five years later, out of this very small tribe, the state of Egypt was born. All the other tribes which had earlier vaunted themselves above their neighbours simply fell apart. And there was nothing the war-inclined rulers could do to stop it.
Their authority weakened, and disappeared completely They were defeated by something, but there was no war.
‘Accustomed to material conflicts, they had no idea of the power the images held over all — images that delighted people’s souls and fascinated their hearts.
“In the face of but a single image, provided it is genuine and untainted by mercenary interests, all the armed troops of the Earth are useless, whether they carry spears or any other deadly weapons. Before this image all warriors fall to the ground, powerless.
“The Egyptian state grew and increased in strength. Its ruler was dubbed pharaoh by the priests. Ensconced in their temples away from the everyday bustle of mankind, they made laws, which even the ruling pharaoh was obliged to follow And every ordinary citizen was only too glad to carry them out. And each one aspired to live his life in conformity with the image.
“My forefather lived among the high priests in the main temple. And for nineteen years the priests paid heed to him. They aspired to study the supreme science of all sciences, to learn how to create grand images. My forefather was inspired with the best of intentions and sincerely endeavoured to explain everything to them. Whether they understood it fully or only in part is no longer clear, and it does not really matter all that much.
“Then one day after nineteen years, the high priest called a meeting of his inner circle of priests. They filed into the main temple with solemn dignity — a temple which even the pharaoh was not allowed to enter.
“The high priest took his place on the throne, while all the rest sat at his feet. My father smiled as he sat there among those priests. He was immersed deeply in thought, composing yet another song, either creating a new image, or perhaps rejuvenating an old one.
“The high priest addressed the gathering as follows:
“‘We have learnt a grand science indeed — one that allows us to rule all the world, but in order to perpetuate our reign, we must ensure that not one grain of it goes beyond these walls. Now we must create our own tongue and communicate exclusively in it amongst ourselves, lest any of us let something slip, even by chance.
“‘Over the ages we shall circulate among the people a multitude of treatises, at which everyone may marvel, and think that it has all been set forth. And we shall set forth a multitude of marvellous sciences and various discoveries in such a way that both the rulers and the common people will move further and further away from what is important. And so that wise men in the centuries to come may amaze others with their sagacious treatises and sciences. Moving further and further away from what is important themselves, they will lead others in the same direction.’
“‘So be it!’ they all agreed with the high priest. With the exception of my forefather, who alone remained silent.
‘And the high priest continued:
“‘There is one question requiring our urgent attention. Over the past nineteen years we have learnt how images are created. Any one of us is now capable of creating an image that can change the world, destroy or strengthen a state — and yet the secret of the power itself has never been revealed. Can any of you tell me why the images each of us creates vary in power? And, in terms of time, why does it take us so long?’
“The priests were silent. None of them knew the answer. The high priest went on, ever so slightly raising his voice, and his sceptre trembled ever so slightly in his hand as he told those assembled:
“‘In the meantime there is in our midst one who is capable of creating images very rapidly, and the power of these images remains unsurpassed. For nineteen years now he has
been teaching us, but there remains much that he has yet to tell. Now we must realise that we are not all equal among ourselves. It matters not who holds what rank among us. But everyone should know that there is one among us who holds the power to control in concealment, unseen, in his sway. With power of the images he is capable of creating, he can elevate or slay One among us is capable of deciding the fate of nation-states. I as high priest am empowered to alter the balance of power. The doors of the temple wherein we sit are closed. A loyal guard stands outside the door and will open it to no one except on my command.’
“The high priest rose from his throne and with heavy steps, striking his sceptre against the stone slabs of the floor, headed toward my forefather. In the middle of the hall he suddenly halted and addressed my forefather:
‘“Now you shall choose one of two paths. Here is the first. You shall now reveal before us all what you have concealed: the secret behind the power of your images. You shall tell us how and by what means they are created, and then you shall be proclaimed a priest second only to me, and upon my departure you shall become first. All living people will bow before you.
“‘But if you do not reveal your secret to us, a second path will be yours. It leads only to that door.’
“Whereupon the high priest pointed to the door leading out of the temple hall into the tower, in which there were no windows nor supplementary exterior doors. This high tower with smooth walls did have an exterior platform up above, from where on an appointed day once a year my forefather or some other priest would sing to an assembled crowd.
“Still pointing to the tower door, the high priest added: “‘You shall go in through that door and never come out of it. I shall command the door to be walled up, leaving only a small opening through which you will receive a daily minimum
of food. When the time comes for people to gather by the tower, you shall go out to greet them from the platform up above. You shall go out, only you shall not sing nor create any images. YDU shall go out so that the crowd will see you and not become concerned or spread rumours surrounding your disappearance. You shall be allowed to greet the people with words only If you should dare sing a song to create images, even a single song, you shall be deprived of food and water three days long. For two songs you shall not receive food or water six days long, which means you will be decreeing your own death. Now decide and tell us clearly which of these two paths you have chosen.’
“My forefather now calmly rose from his place. His face betrayed neither fear nor rebuke, only a sense of sorrow lay gently on his furrowed brow. As he made his way past the priests sitting in his row, he looked each one of them in the eye. And in each pair of eyes he beheld the thirst for knowledge. But not only the thirst for knowledge: greed itself glared at him from each pair of eyes. Then my forefather went up close to the high priest and stared him in the eye. The grey-haired high priest in turn did not take his eyes off my forefather — eyes which likewise burned with greed. Striking his sceptre against the stone floor, he sternly repeated to my forefather’s face, saliva foaming in his mouth:
‘“Hurry up and decide, which of the two paths is your choice.’
“My forefather’s voice betrayed no fear as he calmly replied: “‘Perhaps it is the will of fate, but I choose a path and a half.’
“‘How can you choose a path and a half?’ exclaimed the high priest. ‘Do you aim to make fun of me, and of all those who are currently in the Great Temple?!’
“My forefather went over to the tower door, then turned and replied to all:
“‘Believe me, I would not even think of making fun of you or offending you. At your will I shall enter into the tower for good. But before I go I shall reveal to you the secret as best I can, and I know that it is not my reply that will bring me the second path. That is how it turns out that my choice is a path and a half.’
“‘So tell us! Do not halt or waste time!’ The voices of the priests leaping up from their seats rang even stronger through the vaulted arches of the Great Hall. ‘Where is the answer to the secret? Keep it from us no longer!’ they begged.
‘“It is in an egg,” my father calmly replied.
‘“In an egg?!! What egg? What are you talking about? Out with it!’ The assembled priests kept plying my forefather with questions, and he responded:
“A hen’s egg will bring forth a hen’s chicken. A duck’s egg will give birth to a duckling. An eagle’s egg will bring an eagle into the world. Whatever you feel yourselves to be, that is what you will bring forth.’
“T feel! I am a creator!’ the high priest all at once professed. ‘Tell us how to create the image that is stronger than all the
“‘That is not the truth,’ my forefather replied. ‘You yourself do not believe what you are saying.’
“‘How can you know what power of faith I have?’
“‘One who creates will never bring himself to entreat. One who creates is capable of giving of himself. You, on the other hand, are one who entreats, which means you are already well within the shell of unbelief.’
“My forefather went through the door, which at once shut behind him. Later, following the high priest’s order, the entrance was walled up. Once a day my forefather was handed food through a small opening. The rations were meagre, and he was not always given enough water.
‘As the day approached when the throngs of people were to gather before the tower to hear new tales and songs, for three days my forefather was allowed no food, only water. That was on the order of the high priest — a change from his original decree. He gave this new order so that my forefather would become weak and not be able to sing any new creative songs to the crowd.
“When the multitude of people gathered in front of the tower, my forefather went out to greet them from the platform up above. He gave the waiting throng a cheerful look. As to what had happened to him he breathed not a word. He simply sang. His voice rang forth in a song of rejoicing, and an extraordinary image was born. The people who had gathered to hear him paid close attention. Directly he finished his song he began a new one.
“The singer stood and sang from his high platform the whole day long. As the day drew to a close, he announced to the whole throng: With the new dawn you will hear new songs.’ And on the following day he sang again. The people were unaware that the singer, imprisoned as he was in the tower, was no longer being given even water by the priests.”
Listening to Anastasia’s account of her distant forefather, I wanted to hear at least one of the songs he sang, and I asked:
‘Anastasia, if you can reproduce in such detail like that all the scenes from the life of your forebears, couldn’t you sing a song too? The song your forefather sang to the people from the tower.”
“I can hear all these songs myself, but a full and accurate translation of them is impossible. Many of the words simply do not exist in today’s language. And many of the words used back then have a different meaning now Not only that, but it is difficult to reproduce the poetic rhythms of that time in the word-combinations we have today”
“Pity. I very much wanted to hear those songs.”
“You shall hear them, Vladimir. They will rise again.” “What d’you mean, they’ll rise again? W>u just said a translation is impossible.”
“A full and accurate translation, yes, is impossible. But it is possible to create new songs in the same spirit and with the same meaning. Bards are creating them right now, using words familiar to everyone today The final song my forefather sang back then you have already heard.”
“Heard? Where did I hear it? When?”
“A. bard from Yegorevsk sent it to you.”
“He sent me a lot of songs.”
“Yes, he did, but one of them is very similar to my forefather’s final song.”
“But how could that have happened?”
“Times have their own continuity, Vladimir.”
“So what kind of a song is it, what words does it contain?” “You will understand in just a moment. I shall explain everything in order.”