Forbidden Fruits: An Occult Novel is a “bold thriller full of ancient secrets, psychedelic rituals, and murder”, that follows Monica Bettlheim, an American archeologist on her journey. The book goes through unforeseen discoveries about the ancient world, hallucinogenic sacraments, and modern-day crime syndicates. Forbidden Fruits delivers startling evidence dating back thousands of years to reveal a secret ritual at the heart of Christianity, knowledge of which was passed on by Gnostics and alchemists for centuries. A great read for any interested in psychedelics and their influence on religion.
Physical hallucinations began
Eusebio poured out two glasses of water, added a measure of red wine and some lemon juice to each, and then stirred in the kykeon. The atmosphere was hushed and reverent. All three felt the tremendous import of what they were about to do. Each had a different appreciation of the dangers: Rafael, with his memories of addiction and withdrawal, hated the necessity of giving himself, ever again, to a mind-altering substance. Monica feared the sacrifice of her rationality to unknown forces, but more than that, she admitted to herself, she feared the unknown. Eusebio, as the oldest present, felt a heavy responsibility for these young voyagers whom he was helping to send into terra incognita. All three dreaded the knock on the door and the uncertain future of the hunted.
After Monica and Rafael had drunk, Eusebio turned the lights out and left them, though they knew he would not go far away. They relaxed on the sofa with their feet up. Rafael held Monica’s hand for a while, then they disengaged as each seemed to be entering his or her own encapsulated fantasy.
Monica had never liked marijuana, for as a lifetime non-smoker it was an agony to her throat and lungs. She had enjoyed a few hashish brownies in her student days, but the more powerful drugs were a closed book to her. For a long time, nothing seemed to be happening, except a gradual calming of her fears.
Her thoughts wandered here and there: to her research, her success at the American Academy, her plans for when she returned to the States. Every now and again she recalled her present situation, acknowledging it almost without interest, then moved back into the chain of associations.
She noticed that the links in the chain were becoming more and more vivid. The golden pomegranate, for instance: she could almost see it, with a clarity denied to the normal imagination. With a last comment from her observing self—“This is incredible!”—the pomegranate cracked open along its five seams. Inside, instead of black dirt, was a brilliant, crimson, faceted pattern, like a three-dimensional lattice made from rubies, only the rubies were the pomegranate seeds, each one with a core of lambent gold. Monica was awestruck by the beauty of it, as it shifted like a kaleidoscope from one fivefold symmetry to another.
Then, although she did not realize it, the physical hallucinations began.
She was no longer just a spectator, but an actor in the antics of the pomegranate seeds, feeling them as a ballet dancer feels her gestures. The senses of sight and bodily movement blended, and somehow sound seemed blended with them, too, in a rhythm if not a music. Her hunger must have played a part in it, for there was taste as well. As the dance went on, the limbs of her imagination contracted until she became nothing but a mouth, turned inside out, and the seeds were darting against her taste buds, each one exploding in an orgasm of deliciousness beyond any mortal food.
No self remained as a spectator. Subject and object were in blissful union, secure from the critical eye of consciousness, the petulant claims of guilt or fear. And so it was that she came to the end of the world, where there was nothing more but ocean—not as far as the eye could see, but as far as the mind could ever reach. In a condition of perfect vacuity, she beheld the last outpost of the tangible world.
It took the form of a tower, a stone tower not unlike her recent Tuscan refuge, but which Monica knew with certainty was not that one. Built of massive grey ashlars, it rose out of earth’s last cliffs, its base surrounded by the last, mute witnesses to life: grass and yellow-blossomed shrubs that might have been gorse or broom. The tower had barred windows and battlements, just as in a fairy tale, and even a pennant flying from a flagstaff on top. A palm tree sprouted from its machicolations.
Without putting it into words, Monica knew perfectly well that it had to do with Malta. And without the slightest emotion, she registered that there was evil around it: real, objective evil. Not evil in the sense of the hurtful things people do for reasons that seem good to them, but absolute evil, which desires woe and destruction to all, and finally to itself. Her lack of self-awareness preserved her from the anguish this might otherwise have caused her. She simply knew and acknowledged it as a fact of the universe, much as God, if there is a god, must have to do.
With that thought, as far as she could remember afterward, she lost consciousness.
As Rafael let go of Monica’s hand, he felt as though he was casting off from a lifeboat, alone now and at the mercy of the unfathomable deep. He did not know whether to expect the clean, crystalline flash of cocaine, raising his mind to superhuman alertness; the careless motorbike race of speed; or the deep, ursine embrace of a heroin trance in which all earthly woes would become null and void—for a while. In his years of bondage to recreational drugs, it had never occurred to him that there was anything to be gained or learned thereby beyond the thrill of pleasure or the absence of pain. For all his playing with fire, risking death from an overdose or from contaminated heroin, he had never before felt so apprehensive. How could he, an ex-addict and drug abuser, expect to cleanse the doors of his perception? How could the god whom he had absorbed with the kykeon—which he did not doubt for a moment—deem him deserving of the Mysteries? He was deeply ashamed, his greatest fear that of being judged unworthy and thrown back into his inadequate self.
The words of the Preface to the Mass, Domine non sum dignus, resounded in his mind. “Lord, I am not worthy,” he repeated, “Lord, I am not worthy.” But as the familiar mantra resounded in his inner ear, he felt a different sort of revulsion: this was unworthy behavior, this self-abasement. What did the Christian god and his perverse ethical system have to do with the case? Nothing! Did the aspirants to the Eleusinian Mysteries mouth such words? Unimaginable! There, anyone was worthy, so long as they were not a murderer. “No!” his mind added in instant exculpation, “That wasn’t murder, it was his life or Monica’s—and mine!”
The memory of that victory on Trajan’s Column brought a new sense of his own strength. Like a classical hero, he would conquer, or else fall into nothingness. And thus armed, he faced the vision that had been held up till then at arm’s length.
“My initiation began a lot differently from yours,” said Rafael after Monica had finished describing her visions up to the point of the castle. They had both come to with a tormenting thirst and the sparkling mineral water was ambrosia to them. “I think I learned more from that experience than in my whole life so far, but I can’t put it into words, at least not as eloquently as you have. But in the end, I did have a vision. Let me try to describe it.” He closed his eyes and leaned against the counter.
“I was by the sea, too, though there was no land in sight, only a bright yellow sky, as though the sun were filling the whole thing, and this blue sea, blue like lapis lazuli. I don’t know if it was the same sea as yours, or if this is peculiar to the kykeon, but it felt as though I were looking at it for years, for eons, without a wave, without an atom in motion.”
“Then came the dragon. It came out of the sea, black and scaly and dripping with slime. I could smell the foulness of it, as though all the shit and putrefaction of the world were oozing through its skin.” He paused. “Excuse me, I think I have to throw up.”
He turned and retched into one of the large vessels.
“Here, drink this,” said Monica, pouring him another glass of water. “It’s never tasted so good.”
“The dragon had wings, claws, a reptile’s tail, all very classic I suppose, and multiple heads. It was full of jerky motion, tail lashing, wings flapping, heads looking this way and that. The odd thing is, I had no fear that it would see me. I think I didn’t have a body in the vision, or anything that could be sensed. I could see it, but it couldn’t see me. What I did feel was the greatest sense of revulsion I’ve ever felt in my life. It was as though all the miseries of my past were rolled into this one thing, but I was outside them, and in a way above them. Then—if you can believe this—I felt sorry for this monster, that anything so vile could exist. And that’s all I can put into words. There was a whole lot more, details upon details that were absolutely clear at the time, but they’ve vanished. I feel somewhat cheated, though that doesn’t devalue what I learned earlier on.”
“So, what do we do now?” asked Monica, hoping that Rafael would suggest breaking the fast but not daring to say so.
Nothing was further from his thoughts. He was leafing through the books again, turning them over, looking at them.
“They say that the initiates of Eleusis were never the same again, and that they lost the fear of death. It may not last, but I feel like that now.”
“If there is anything that survives,” said Monica hesitantly, “it might be like the state of mind I was in.”
About the Authors:
Educated at Cambridge and Cornell, Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D., is the author, editor, and translator of more than 30 books, including The Greater and Lesser Worlds of Robert Fludd, and was a professor of music at Colgate University for more than 40 years until his retirement in 2016. He lives in Hamilton, New York. Guido Mina di Sospiro was raised in Milan, Italy. An award-winning novelist and essayist, he has written several books, including The Forbidden Book, coauthored with Joscelyn Godwin. He maintains a blog on Reality Sandwich and for New English Review. He lives with his wife between the Washington, DC, area and central Italy.
Forbidden Fruits by Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D., and Guido Mina di Sospiro © 2020 Inner Traditions. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com