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There, appearing in the body of a fabled hero, he is to experience all that his heroid fantasies had yearned for. A princess to be saved . . . an invader to be thwarted . . . and otherworldly monsters to be ...
There, appearing in the body of a fabled hero, he is to experience all that his heroid fantasies had yearned for. A princess to be saved . . . an invader to be thwarted . . . and otherworldly monsters to be faced!
A thrilling adventure in the grand tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs, as only Lin Carter can tell it!
This edition includes an afterword by Lin Carter.
As I sit writing these words, a weird sensation of unreality sweeps through my being.
Beyond the bay window before which my desk is drawn I can see green fields and tall trees -- hickory and mountain laurel, pine and yellow poplar. And beyond those fields and hills lies the waking world, filled with busy and teeming cities, with ordinary people who lead everyday lives -- lives that seldom touch on mystery and marvel.
Which is real -- the fantastic adventure I feel compelled to relate -- or the world beyond my windows? Have I only dreamed that I have stood where no man of my race has ever set foot before, or is this dull world of tax returns and ball-point pens, of air pollution and TV talk shows, itself but a dream? Are both worlds real?
Are -- neither?
Perhaps I could begin my story in earliest youth, when wide reading brought the first intimations of the occult within the reach of my speculative imagination. But -- no -- I shall begin this narrative with the first moment I took into my hands that immeasurably ancient and incredibly precious book from the secret heart of Asia.
The long-dead hand that inscribed these yellowed and wrinkled vellum pages in queer crooked characters called this book the Kan Chan Ga. For a thousand years it lay in a jeweled box of gold in the most secret archives of the holy Potala -- the Temple-Palace of the Dalai Lama in hidden Lhasa itself. Before that... no one can say for certain. The Commentaries say it was found in a prehistoric stone tomb in the foothills of the Trans-Himalayas long centuries before even the first God-Kingruled from the Lotus Throne -- but no one really knows. There were empires before Egypt, and cities older than Ur, and the sages whispered of lost lands and forgotten realms long before Plato dreamed of Atlantis and set those dreams down to excite the imagination of men forever.
The title, Kan Chan Ga, is not Tibetan. Neither are the odd, crooked little rune-like letters wherewith the vellum pages are thickly lined. The Commentaries say the book is written in Old Uighur, a language that was forgotten before Narmer the Lion brought the Two Lands together under one crown and ruled as the first Pharaoh. And certain obscure and ancient texts hint there was once an Uighur Empire amidst the trackless sands of the Gobi in Central Asia... long, long ago when all that desert was a blooming garden, before the Poles changed. I neither know nor care.
The book cost me two hundred thousand dollars and seven years. When holy Lhasa fell to the invading hordes from Red China, and the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India, the Kan Chan Ga, and certain other priceless treasures, were taken into hiding. In those confused, horrible days, when the snowy peaks of ancient Tibet were crimson with the flames of burning lamaseries and scarlet with the blood of murdered sages, the book was lost. It was to have traveled west with the Panchan Lama and his retinue, but in the snowstorms, with the roar of machine guns echoing from the rocky cliffs, one party of lamas went astray. The book was hidden in the crypts beneath a minor lamasery of little consequence, from which, after years of searching, my agents found and rescued it.
And now I held it in my hands... the book that the most ancient sages speak of with awe and reverence as The Key of the Liberation of the Soul....
My father invested wisely and well in the Market and left me with a private fortune large enough to permit me to indulge my curiosity in the occult sciences.
I am thirty years old, tall, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, and strongly-built. I have blond hair and gray eyes and am accounted a handsome man. But strength and health and handsomeness are a mockery to me, for since I was six years old I have not taken a single step without the help of mechanical aids.
All my father's fortune could not purchase a cure for polio in the twenty years before the perfection of the Salk vaccine.
Being a cripple, it was perhaps natural that I should turn my attention inward. The lore of the occult attracted me from my earliest youth. I had the finest tutors, and mastered Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, and Hebrew. The ancient Eastern science called eckankar -- soul-travel, the projection of the so-called "astral body" -- fascinated me. In my search for the secrets of this lost art, this forgotten science, I went far. A thousand books hinted of the secret, but none could reveal it.
In that strangest of all books, the Bardo Thodol, I first heard of the old book in Uighur. The Bardo Thodol, which may be described as a geography of the travels of the soul after death and before birth, whispered of the Kan Chan Ga. Crumbling scrolls from an old abandoned monastery in the Sinkiang province of China, smuggled out through Hong Kong, told me more. A hundred agents searched the Orient at my behest, and at length the book was unearthed. The seventh of the "living gods" of Tibet -- the Gupcha Lama himself -- translated the Uighur for me, on my promise that the sacred book would be returned to the Dalai Lama once I possessed the wisdom that I sought. This has now been done.
I read the translation of the odd, crooked characters with an inner excitement that my reader can only dimly imagine. If the secret lay in these ancient pages, then I, who had not taken an unaided step in twenty-four years, could travel the earth as swift-winged as thought itself. Unseen, I could walk the thronged bazaars of Rangoon -- peer up at the smiling enigma of the Sphinx by moonlight -- gaze upon the carven stone ruins of jungle-grown Angkor Vat -- explore the mysterious ruins of elder and cryptic Tiahuanaco amidst the plateaus of the Andes.
Bit by bit, the secret emerged from the strange manuscript. Man is more than body and mind and soul, the nameless sage of the Gobi had written. His nature is sevenfold: the animal flesh, the material body itself; the vitalizing life-force that animates that flesh; the ego that is the conscious "I" of every man; the memory, that contains a record of all that each man has seen and felt and known: the astral body, the vehicle of the higher soul-levels on the second plane; the etheric body, that is the chalice contained within the astral vehicle; and, seventh and last, the immortal soul itself, that is the precious flame within the chalice.
Subtly linked together are these seven selves, which make up the individual man. In deep sleep or in hypnotic trance, the astral body sometimes... wanders... causing strange dreams of far-off places and visions of distant friends. But only a stern discipline can release the etheric body and the soul it contains, together with the conscious ego. That was the secret I had sought so long; and I stood upon its threshold at last.
Night after night, mind-weary from the occult disciplines I had practiced, I lay in my bed and stared wistfully up at the stars. If I could master the ancient art of soul-travel, no more would I be chained and earthbound, locked in a helpless, crippled prison of flesh. I would be free... free as few men have ever been... and how I hungered for that freedom!
Day after day I practiced the inner concentration, the "Loosening of the Bonds." Few even of the holy sages of old Tibet had ever in truth mastered eckankar -- but few of them had been driven by the motive that goaded me on.
I shall not bore my reader with a description of my labors. Nor shall I tell of the heartbreaking moments of failure and despair that overcame me at times. The task was long and arduous... it is no easier to train the muscles of the body to Olympic skills, than to train the mind and soul and spirit in this occult science. But at last the day came when I deemed myself ready for the experiment.
Having fasted and performed certain austerities and calmed my mind with the recitation of certain mantras, I informed my housekeeper that on no account was I to be disturbed, and locked myself within the upper portion of my ancestral house which served as my private quarters and library.
The good woman was accustomed to this sort of behavior. My quarters were equipped with a kitchenette and pantry, and many times in the past I had secluded myself for days on end behind locked doors while busied in my researches. I impressed upon her that she was not to interrupt me for any reason.
Emptying my mind of all trivial thoughts, I stretched out on a soft, comfortable sofa and composed myself as if for slumber. Closing my eyes, I visualized a black sphere. It hovered before my mind's eye exact in every detail, almost as if it were a material object. My concentration was focused upon that orb of darkness with such intensity that, ere long, I was unaware of outside sounds. Then I began to will myself into the deepest trance. I began to lose all awareness of my own body; all outer sensation faded; no longer could I feel the faint brush of moving air against my face, or hear the beating of my own pulse, or feel the pressure of my crippled body against the soft fabric of my couch. All of my attention was turned inward now.
Next I visualized the black sphere as not a globular object, but an illusion -- I saw it as the black, circular mouth of a tunnel, and down that endless tunnel I imagined myself traveling, until I was swallowed up in unrelieved darkness.
Deeper and deeper I descended, until at length I perceived the faintest spark of light ahead, like a star against the breast of the night, like the far, dim opening at the end of the tunnel. I drifted toward it at ever-increasing speeds, until I seemed to hurtle through the black hollow darkness at an inconceivable velocity.
I emerged from darkness into dim ruby light.
For a moment I could make nothing of my surroundings. I seemed to be enclosed in a rectangular box of considerable depth, whose floor was drowned in deep gloom and whose upper levels were awash in faint red luminosity.
Then, with a strange, tingling shock of surprise, I recognized my surroundings. I was in the very room wherein I had immersed myself in the sleep-like trance... but floating near the ceiling!
Many hours had passed, for early afternoon had given way to the hour of sunset, and the last level beams shone redly through the windows of the western wall.
Gazing down from my height I saw... myself.
I lay stretched out on a couch, my arms folded upon my chest, my face waxen -- pale and curiously unfamiliar to me. It came to me then that I had never before actually seen my own face as others saw it, but always in a mirror or through the medium of some other reflective surface. Always before I had seen my face reversed, in reflection: but now I saw myself as the rest of the world saw me. It seemed a trivial difference; but it was oddly stranger than it should have been. My face was... empty; blank and expressionless.
Was this because I lay in trance-like sleep, and all of my facial muscles -- which in my waking moments were in tension, giving my features what we call "expression" -- were now completely relaxed? Or was the strange blankness of my features due to the fact that my body was now -- untenanted?
I cannot answer now, nor could I then.
Curiously, I turned my gaze upon my own being, and found that to the eyes of my immaterial self I was an invisible spirit. Indeed, now that I began to accustom myself to this peculiar state, I felt oddly unaware of myself in every way. A man in the flesh may strip himself naked and yet be aware of his bodily envelope in a thousand small ways -- the roughness of a carpet against his bare soles -- the chill wind blowing against naked flanks -- the thousand little internal sensations of the body, tongue resting against teeth, dryness of throat, an itching finger. None of these I felt in my new spirit-state: it was as if I did not possess a body at all.
And, of course, that was the truth of the matter.
I had liberated myself from my body.
I was -- free!
Copyright © 1972 by Lin Carter
Posted January 23, 2010
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Posted December 19, 2011
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Posted January 6, 2011
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Posted June 19, 2010
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