“Stricken from our collective memory, and enisled among the shadows into which only the most privileged, cabalistic eyes are allowed to peer, are the relics of antiquity that represent, with seldom ambiguity, humanity’s manifest origins. And to that, or because of that, they are also the most evocative. That the mere utterance of their names have hurried men into a state of blind reverence, I can say with certainty, for it has been proven throughout the archeological records.
The Eighth Tablet of Creation, the Silver Scroll of Hederean, Jyn-Lu’s Ark from the fourth dynasty, and Memnar’s Chalice are but a few that come to mind when I study the curiosities of a history so hidden from the forefront of our consciousness that, to this today, they are but rumors, more believable in works of fiction or philosophy. However, woven into the fiber of every tale, and serving as the foundation of every great thinker’s cosmic investigation, is truth.
First appearing as a mystifying farrago of scarcely-translated symbols, upon the many walls of the Castlewood cave system, then gaining credit as a manifest object by the scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, The Jade Hymnal has rightfully earned the crown as king of all forbidden artifacts. The identities of the authors of this codex are speculative, at best, and contemporary reports put its creation somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen to twenty-five thousand years ago. But, I would not at all be surprised to learn that its age is ten times that amount.
Within covers of solid jade, its pages are said to contain not an imaginative, disconnected account of man’s creation that has been passed down through the generations, only to be muddied by time and the evolution of language, but the absolute, categorically precise truth of our creators. Upon its discovery, to which I believe we are painfully close, its passages will be translated and the world, as we know it, will be forever changed. For thousands of years, we have been made to suffer an existence of control and anti-freedoms and I believe that it is our duty to unearth the ancestors of creation, breathe new life into their words, and relegate the truths deemed so destructive that they were confined to an incomprehensible prison.
Tradition speaks of immemorial curses associated with the Hymnal – for those inclined to believe such things – while others scoff at their similarities to mad ravings. I am reminded of Crawford W. Lanely, acknowledged world-beater and present curator of The Jefferson Heritage Museum of Archeology, when he wrote the following more than half a century ago:
‘For the short time I knew him, Tribal Chief, Kagiso, led his people with pride and respect and possessed the studied barbarism one would expect from a man of his status; however, he went visibly ill when I mentioned the Jade Hymnal, which, to his band of warriors, is known as Isilio Ukufa or Book of the Beast. They understood the awesome power of the book, but spoke little of it contents and more on the raging savages charged, by the order of ‘sky gods’, to keep it protected. While many descriptions believe it to have the characteristics of any other book, the D’arubi clan depict it as an ethereal manifest with the ability to shift its dimensional properties and frequencies, thus allowing limitless travel to points around the globe, seemingly at will; however, according to their legend, the book does not make these preternatural journeys alone. Thulani, second in command to Kagiso, expanded on this further by putting forth that the hideousness summoned by the book are from eras in Earth’s history – or more precisely, Earth’s parallel histories – that we are not allowed to understand. ‘’Kabiinto are beasts of terror and you will know you the book is near when death shadows you’’, he told me.’
These accounts are not singular to the region of South Africa, though. There are vague theories suggesting that when the creatures modernity calls the Yowie, Almas, Mapingauri, Sasquatch, Doolagahl, Wendigo, Bar’hol Tsi-Tsi, the man-eating behemoth of the seas, and a near infinity of others are witnessed, the Jade Hymnal is close.
Whatever the truth may be, we cannot deny that the conspirators, working diligently to keep these truths confined to darkness and to the realm of baseless conjecture, are as mysterious as they are powerfully influential. It is ludicrous to think that our amnesiac culture can argue facts with those whose hands have been furtively writing, and rewriting, the records since the first bipeds looked upon still waters, gazed at their reflections, and were subsequently driven into a fit of madness at the understanding of mortality. It was a damning concept and to suggest that this awakening was not a fundamental change to life, and to the evolution of society as a whole, would be nothing but an act of blatant stubbornness, or foolishness, or both.” – Werner, E. 1984, Beyond Archeology: Occulted Artifacts and Our Forbidden History, lecture notes, Southeast Missouri State University, delivered September 1987.
I knew little of the abandoned church in the hills, save for its remoteness, but even that I had underestimated as the dirt roads seemed to plod on forever, scarcely providing my tired eyes anything more to look than the monotony of harvested cornfields and distant tree-lines that never seemed to come closer than the horizon. At the end of one particular road, which was no more than an overgrown trail by that point, the forlorn temple occupied a clearing, thrice its size, in the bucolic reticence of southeastern Missouri and butted up to a rather perilous line of cliffs that overlooked Stouts Creek. As I pulled through the decaying, iron gates, my eyes fell upon a structure that displayed hints at a pre-civil war era construction, but with patchwork modernizations and remodels where its walls had borne the brunt of certifiable weather patterns and wide-scale neglect. Rising to a modest height over the entrance, the tower no longer contained any trace of a bell, likely having been smelted down or relocated when the charnel was left to nature.
My body yearned for the comforts of home and the arms of my wife, but I attempted to make the best with what I was given. As I sat at the aisle-end of the rearmost pew, waiting for Professor Werner to arrive, my eyes drifted across beams of the morning sun, shining through what remained of the stained-glass window panes, as it clung to the dusty floor in patches of green and red and blue. The colors were mesmerizing and I let my weary mind drift into a place of silence, thinking that a blind man could have easily mistaken the quiet hovel for a graveyard. Muscle memory led my fingers to an inner, breast pocket of my jacket wherein rested a small sheet of folded paper and I brought it to my lips, remembering all I left behind to embark on this odyssey. It smelled just enough like my wife that, for a heartbeat, I was transported back into her embrace.
An errant, browned maple leaf fell into my lap and, following its course, I beheld a sizeable hole in the roof, thinking it curious that we should conduct our meeting in such a place, under the pretense of segregation from prying ears and eyes; the total number of which I assumed to be nil, but I thought better than to push the issue with my potential partner.
I laid my head back again, thinking of no better way to pass the time. Rest would not come easy, though, for the utilitarian manner in which those pews had been fashioned left very little in the way of comfort and I suppose now, as much as I did then, that God wants his devotees to remain upright and at attention whilst his message is being delivered.
Finally, I dropped into a sleep so heavy that I failed to wake when, from just a few feet behind me, the royal doors opened into the nave. It wasn’t until Werner sat down next at my side, with much alacrity, that my eyes opened and I regained any sense of location.
“Church always had the same effect on me, yeah” he said in the erudite parlance of a British humorist. “Why, you’re just lucky Mother Catherine isn’t here. She’d splinter her yardstick on your bum for sleeping.”
He opened his posture to me and, amidst a firm handshake, gave me another moment to collect my fuzzy, scattered thoughts before advancing the conversation. The strength of his grip came as no surprise to me, for despite his frail, sloping shoulders, slightly concave torso and tanned skin, it was exactly what I expected from someone who had spent the better part of four decades digging for answers under eons of layered earth. However, it was a surprise that he had managed to hold on to a full head of hair, unlike myself, and it sat on his head like an inverted, brown bowl. If he had aged one day since I last saw him, in the summer of ‘77, the evidence of such was lost on my eyes.
“It was Father Joe, where I’m from” I replied, matching his levity, but with more of an American delivery. “And it wasn’t a yardstick, either. He would make you fetch a switch.”
“His last name wasn’t Werner, was it?” he volleyed my banter with a chuckle.
We both glanced to a faded mural of The Crucifixion, hanging cockeyed above where the pulpit doubtless stood, to see Jesus Christ himself glaring down at us with great disfavor for our actions. Likely, it was conditioning that caused us to immediately straighten our posture and hush our tone.
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Professor—“
“–Eric” he cut me off. “Eric’ll do fine. I may have a string of fancy abbreviations after my name and a pile of texts to my credit, but you’re work… you’re work, Mr. Hurston, for as much as you’ve been able to keep it under the mainstream radar, has done well at rocking a few boats. I can promise that if what you’re offering today holds any truth, then it will be I thanking you.”
He spoke to me with the esteem of a colleague and I was nearly stricken of my next words. I was finding it hard to address him as an equal because, in my eyes, I could live five lifetimes and not accomplish as much as that man had done in but a few, scant years.
My hands had barely begun to get dirty, as it were, the first time I sat in on one of his lectures, some fifteen years before our meeting in the church; “Exploring the Mayan Connection to Egyptian and Middle Eastern Cultures”, I believe it was. Werner had been a longtime understudy of “alternative archeologist”, Michael Cremo, and his view on the ancient world, with its buried records of millions, if not thousands-of-millions of years, displeased the rock-jockeys who garnered their education from within the unyielding walls of ivy-leagues and who had simply no time to entertain outrageous theories that the current age of Man was indeed not the best, nor the brightest, based on the findings of Werner and Cremo. Suffice it to say, their work cleared the way for explorers such as myself and I absorbed every opportunity possible to learn from them.
I was finally introduced to the professor at a book signing, by his wife, Aileen, who, from what I gathered during our brief encounter, was an intelligent woman in her forties, but her phlegmaticism stopped her from being outright approachable. She had an amiable way about her, yet I surmise that it was out of respect for her husband rather than any real interest in meeting new people. I was unfazed by her because the opportunity to meet Eric Werner had always been a professional dream of mine.
“Mr. Hurston?” Werner said in a flat tone that ripped me from nostalgia. “Tis’ a rude guest that arrives empty-handed.”
I faced the man, confident enough to let my eyes sink into his, and carefully prepared my thoughts; however, my fortitude seemed irrational and was swiftly extinguished. That his patent dismissal of my allegation should eradicate the career I spent years molding, I was wholly terrified by the real possibility. By all rights, who was I but an uncredited, unpublished, untenured dolt? What variety of delusion did I suffer to think I could simply boast such a monumental claim without, for even a moment, considering the ramifications? I swallowed a lump of bitter doubt and Werner looked curiously at my bobbing Adam’s apple.
Knowing that my words must be void of uncertainty or misplaced zeal, lest his interest wither away from unfulfillable promises of grandeur, I spoke the boiled-down truth. “Professor Werner, I have found it.”
“…It?” he asked with excitement chipping away at his voice.
From the inner pocket of my jacket, I withdrew a fragile, aged map, folded in such a way that it seemed altogether too bulky to fit in my pocket. I put another foot of distance between us on the pew, and unfurled the parchment. The ghosts of Sister Catherine and Father Joe and our derisive savoir peered curiously over my shoulder as I released the map’s face from concealment.
A wide, asymmetrical swathe green hues filled the sheet, permeated by lines and markers and symbols from a key no longer available. And inked over the top of the page were the words that I knew would be the catalyst for Werner’s agreement to join me in this endeavor, or his amused dismissal and exit from the church. Breath would not come to me as I waited for a response either way, but when he graced his fingertips over the map, so gently that you would think it was the item itself, I knew the former was the likely outcome.
“Are you certain of this location?” he asked.
Having the upper hand in a situation like that was not something I ever imagined possible, yet there I was. “Very certain, Professor.”
“Are you aware of what this means?” he asked, more to himself than to me.
“Very aware, Professor.”
“If you are correct, everything changes. Everything, Mr. Hurston. Are you prepared for that?”
“More than ever, Professor.”