This was my entry in the contest Sannion held to solicit an introduction to his forthcoming book, Ecstatic; the contest has been canceled, for good and cogent reasons, so I thought I would share it with you here.
I was solicited to write this Introduction by guardians of the Akashic planes, who were concerned lest a work of this cosmic significance (after, of course, having garnered the lion’s share of this year’s literary, religious and political laurels) should fall into the oubliette of public memory and wind up on the remainder tables next to the Ernest Borgnine edition of the Illustrated Kama Sutra and the collected writings of Edward Bulwer-Lytton. By attaching my name to it as a sort of appendage, they reason, it is at least assured that sufficient copies will be acquired by the libraries of record – The New York Public Library, the British Library, the Bibliothèque Nationale, and of course those literary powerhouses, the renowned library systems of Poughkeepsie and Midland, Texas – to ensure the continued availability of this most important contribution to the corpus of human thought.
It has been my distinct privilege to maintain a correspondence with Mr. L—- (or “Sannion”, as he is known to the world at large for reasons of his own – an alias being necessary, as I understand it, due in part to an unfortunate affair involving several of the more nubile members of the harem of a minor but very well-connected potentate… there are, after all, good reasons why one of his most common sobriquets is the “Priapic prophet”, and not all of them are religious) for a number of years now; and while we have only met formally in person a handful of times (his personal security is extremely tight, vide supra regarding the aforementioned harem incident), I do feel that I have gained some small measure of understanding of his essential character; and if I were asked to sum that character up in a single word, the word would be – very long.
His love of animals is well attested; likewise his generosity towards those less fortunate than himself, and his care for humanity at large (let the number of foundations bearing his name stand as ample testament to his philanthropic tendencies). Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that while he loves the human species as a whole, he doesn’t care much for most of it individually (another reason, perhaps, why he spends much of his time in his mountaintop eyrie, where he shares space only with the eagles, elk and raccoons whom he counts as his brothers). By turns manic, gregarious (occasionally), atrabilious and solipsistic, he is a hard man to get to know; but the result is well worth the effort, for once having gained entrée to his inner circle, one is admitted to a world of rarified thought and refined living where mental agility and a commitment to the truth at all costs are the only currency.
Central to this world, of course, the axis mundi around which all turns, is Dionysos. All conversation turns back eventually to the God, to contemplation of His many wonderful and ineffable attributes, or to recounting of the wonders and miracles He has performed in most of our lives. (While a relationship with Dionysos is not required for entrance to the Circle, a deep and committed spiritual life certainly is; and it is not uncommon for those whose commitments may be other than Dionysian to have certain experiences with the Dancing One as time goes on. Suffice to say that most of us have met Him at least once, and none would deny His reality or power.) Even I myself, who am by no means the most Dionysian among us, have been touched by Him on at least two occasions.
The first, and most notable, of these occasions was at the beginning of my brief career in theatre, which so far has consisted in its entirety of five seasons in the chorus of our regional opera company. My first show was Aïda, and I can imagine no better introduction for a pagan to that most perfectly Dionysian world, the theatre. I still remember that night – almost 15 years ago now – when I first strode onto the stage, a priest entering the temple of the God to worship. (Quite literally – I was in the chorus of priests, and their first entrance is in Act 1 Scene 2, where they enter the temple to pray for Egypt’s victory against the Ethiopians.) And worship I did! If there had ever been any serious doubt that I was meant to walk the Pagan path, it would have been erased at that moment; I felt the Divine hand on me that night, and knew it to be the hand of Dionysos. For a moment all the sounds of the orchestra, my fellow singers, and the rustling of the audience died away to a mere susurrus, and I felt myself transported – if not to ancient Egypt, then certainly into the presence of the Lord of Drama. It only lasted a moment, of course, but the feeling remains with me still.
The other occasion of my experience with Him was more remote, but just as powerful for that. Two or three years ago I requested an oracle of Him through Sannion; it answered an immediate question I had regarding my spiritual life, but left as well several more questions that I have been pondering ever since, questions that I am just now beginning – perhaps – to see the answers to; questions that have shaped the course of my spiritual life since then and continue to do so.
The other members of the Circle have stories at least that dramatic, and most much more so… as I said, Dionysos is at the center of the Circle, and we move round Him like an Aeschylean chorus. Sometimes He manifests through one or another of us at certain moments of greatest festivity: I remember one occasion in particular, at a rare face-to-face gathering of the Circle at the mountain fastness, when I was re-enacting the story of Dionysos and the pirates as a Punch and Judy show to while away an hour as the storm winds raged and blew round the castle walls (a Dionysian Punch and Judy show is something to behold, let me assure you!). When we came to the moment in the story when He revealed His power and transformed the ship to vines, Sannion leaped up from his cushions – scattering grapes and girls to left and right – and bellowed, “I’m a God! Suck it, bitches!”, light momentarily shining from his transformed countenance. I was so startled I swallowed my swazzle (an occupational hazard for the Professor in such a performance); by the time I had finished coughing and found my spare swazzle, the moment had passed, Sannion was once more Sannion, and the show proceeded to the end without further incident.
Such is life around one of the most original personalities of our age. I could go on for pages more, recounting various of his exploits or discoursing on the contributions he has made to the worlds of religion, the arts and quantum physics; but let me defer, rather, to the words of the man himself and close with one final thought – to know Sannion, much less be counted as his friend, is both a privilege and a pleasure, and one that I hope I have in some small measure repaid with this all-too-brief encomium.
Pour the wine, and let the revelation begin!