A Story of the Deepest Mysteries of Existence
By Simon Small (Article from Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine, issue 29, February 2012)
There is no escape from the Greatest Question.
Yet individuals can spend a lifetime refusing to acknowledge its existence; civilisations, eons.
Every now and again it forces its way into the open at a personal level, for most to be resolutely reburied as expeditiously as possible. Even more rarely, if ever, does a whole culture turn to look the Greatest Question firmly in the eye.
Star Pilgrim is a novel, set in the near future, about a civilisation that does just that. It is about an old, incredibly advanced alien race that has realised that only this question ultimately matters. It has become their all-consuming quest.
They have given themselves to penetrating the unspeakable mystery of this moment. The question, “Why is there anything and not just nothing?” is at the centre of all they do. This is the universal question. It is the Great Question.
Filled with awe, it asks “What is this moment?” And from this place it naturally evolves into a contemplation of the meaning and purpose of life. It seeks to know if existence has a fundamental purpose.
And they sense that it has; that hidden in the deepest depths of reality is an intelligence and a will from which all emerges. They are journeying back from whence we all came.
So they travel to the farthest reaches of the universe looking for clues. They also plunge into the mysteries of mind, discovering even more planes of reality in the process. It is the ultimate spiritual search.
They are star pilgrims.
But in the course of this pilgrimage, they have discovered something of great importance about the nature of the search. They have learned that they cannot succeed on their own. No single race can ever answer the Great Question, for the unique perspectives of all intelligent, self-aware beings will be needed. So they seek out others to become companions on the way.
And so one day, out of the depths of space, they appear on Earth.
They have come to join with our deepest spiritual, religious and philosophical impulses, that we may walk with them in their quest. But only if this is what we truly want.
Their first move is to seek out someone on Earth in whom the Great Question also burns, as a way to deepen contact with humanity as a whole. It is the inner and outer journey of a misfit priest, Joseph, around which the story is woven, as he is pulled out of obscurity into a strange relationship with the alien presence.
As the story progresses we learn that this is not the first time the aliens have visited Earth and that in times gone by they have planted seeds that are now coming to fruition. We learn that their choice of Joseph is not random, but is rooted in this deep past. It becomes clear that his life experience of solitude and wonder, of despair at humanity, of great love and the pain of loss, has also prepared him for the role he is asked to play.
He also discovers that in the midst of unspeakable strangeness he is not alone, as help comes from unexpected sources. An unlikely alliance takes shape around him of a wiccan wise woman, a bishop and a mysterious Greek magician; people very different on the surface, but with an innate goodness that brings them together.
And this is help that he desperately needs, for the world is badly shaken by the alien intrusion and Joseph finds himself at the centre of a gathering storm.
In the course of his journey through the book, the great undercurrents of Joseph’s life are brought to the surface. He is forced to face his deepest fears, as well as his most wonderful dreams. It is an initiation that prepares him for the great climax of the story.
For the alien visitors confront humanity with a great fork in the road. They challenge the direction of human civilization and suggest that a new way is needed, for which Joseph is to be midwife – if he is willing.
Star Pilgrim explores the Great Question of existence through the tradition of mythic story. That is, a story which absorbs the reader in a strong narrative but at the same time conveys important ideas. Because the ideas are “dissolved” in the story, they penetrate deeply and can profoundly affect consciousness.
So when I was writing Star Pilgrim the story came first. It is written in the style of a good thriller, which hopefully anyone can enjoy. When writing, I had a picture in my mind of someone at an airport bookstand looking for a good read to while away a long journey. There are great characters, set in the midst of mystery and adventure, with a strange puzzle to be deciphered.
And running through the whole is a moving love story.
But it will also satisfy a person wanting to explore deep ideas through the powerful medium of imagination. The story draws upon our most profound spiritual, philosophical and scientific insights, as it ponders the nature of reality itself. Among other things, it explores the meaning and purpose of life, the destiny of humanity, the existence of inner worlds, life after death and the nature of God.
More than anything else, I hope it is a story that re-enchants the world for the reader; that gives us back our child-like eyes.