The Long Adventure Begins

An Archetale in the Assembling Terrania Cycle

Craig Chalquist

Once upon a time, when Time itself was young, the Powers of the Cosmos, newly born from the realm of potentiality behind our plenum, held converse. As the animated children of Radantia, whose flaring brilliance birthed a universe, they sought self-definition; and this comes only through relation.

Cosmic clouds of gas condensed as the Powers thought. (At one point they decided to think of themselves as the Komuay.) Quasars switched on to light the new creation. The gas turned incandescent and ignited into shining stars.

Of course, nobody spoke, smirked, gestured, or chuckled, strictly speaking; nor was anyone really “she” or “he.” Such nuances expressed themselves as a brief dimming of protosuns (frown), a brightening of grouped galaxies (a nod), a sudden jagged spike of gamma rays (laughter)….

“…And so commences the Grand Experiment” –Radantia the Creator.

“Let the Cosmic Game begin!” –Kluni, who revels in play. His chortling sizzled briefly along the event horizons of primordial black holes left over from a previous universe.

“I see it more as a beautiful unfolding” –Aluere, the Power that attracts. Stars shone a lovely light through the dark matter frame of the cosmos.

“A competition” –Cempa, Power of all that is heroic. On newly formed planets the proper distance out from their suns, pioneer plants broke the surface of once-empty plains.

“A cycle of births, with each living world a life-maker” –Wildia, or Nature. Into her hand was given the power of primary manifest patterns such as the branchings of veins and rivers, the spirals of whirlpools and galaxies, the curves, squares, lines, pyramids, hexagons, and other basic shapes found throughout the material cosmos. 

“A sustained meditation…” –Innra, the stillness within every form.

“…on the aliveness of all things” –wise Vaeda, First Thought and daughter of Radantia and otherwise known as the Cosmic Soul. Hers was the force of animation below dualities like without and within.

“An Experiment involving worlds guarded by distance and the lightspeed limit so they begin to grow unhindered by other worlds” –expansive Pandere, self-congratulatory. Whereas Innra patterned centers, he gave the cosmos its reach. Ravina, the Power of space, noted his lack of mention of her as spacetime continued to unfold itself like an inflating bubble.

“At least at first” –Kluni, as an aside.

Radantia, listening, looked out across the widening, deepening cosmos, with its winking jewels of early stars held in the arms of darkness, and found it good.

“I have a question” –shy Innra at length. “Why do we need all this and the beings who will inhabit it when we already have each other?” Pandere marveled, unable to fathom this kind of introversion.

“Each of you peers at the Experiment from inside your own partial being” –Radantia pointed out to her watching family. “Even I. We need to innovate, to evolve someone else to help us be more than blind fragments.”

“But with so many species already rising across the cosmos, why these soon-to-be-humans?” –Ordiri, gesturing to a newly formed Earth still hot with the fires of its creation.

“They could go far” –Pandere, sifting possible futures with help from Cronicus, for whom the cosmos was a great multiple chronometer of qualitatively synchronized moments.

“Or destroy themselves” –Kluni, wryly. Cempa frowned, but Bellum grinned fiercely.

“To Ordiri’s point: What makes them different from the other Experiment participants?” –Fortis, who granted increase and decrease where she wished.

“A unique capacity” –Smee the universal artisan. “Humans will be the storytellers of the cosmos. They will wander around, perceive things, think and feel and imagine, and convert their experiences into tales that benefit others to hear.” From taciturn Smee, this sounded to the others like a long-winded speech. Magus applauded.

“And they will thereby transform and evolve” –Innra, comprehending.

“And learn to love” –Aluere, in anticipation.

“And see through false divisions” – Terkwa, child of Aluere.

“And take their place in the rich diversity of life in the cosmos” –ecocentric Wildia.

“And tell our tales” –Pandere with a touch of vanity.

“So what shall be the rules of the game on Earth?” –Kluni. Cempa nodded. They were eager to play in this new field.

“Their destiny will be in their hands, to make of it what they will, personally and collectively” –Fari, who liked to instruct. “We will not intervene directly unless their journey toward awakening demands it.”

“Why not?” –Unda, who turned what was barren into growth. She watched the newly formed worlds cool and awaited her chance to carpet them with life.

“If we interfere too often, the experiment will be rendered useless and they will never mature.” Fari went on: “Instead, each of us may interact with them in one of four ways:

“First, by occasionally, rarely, incarnating as one of them. Vaeda becoming Mitochondrial Eve’s mother, for instance. When we do this, we will be constrained by their limitations.

“Second, by partially possessing a human mind, thereby shaping events from within rather than from without. Some of these minds will interpret us as gods, spirits, daemons, or familiars.

“Third, by infrequently manifesting in outer events that parallel inner developments, but without suspending any natural laws.

“Fourth, and optimally, in measured response to being addressed directly by humans conscious enough to sense what we truly are.”

Kluni made private plans to disrupt this tidy scheme. He envisioned coalitions of Powers in rivalry siding with this group or that of blundering, stealing, fighting, or retaliating humans unwittingly acting out the conflicts of the immortals…

“How long” –Pandere– “are each of them to live?”

“That will be allotted by Meros, holder of destiny. Wildia will see them into the world, Cempa and Unda will cheer them on, as will other Powers, and at the end of their span of life they will be met at last by Doja.” The latter nodded slowly, his eye and hand already closing on suns that failed to ignite.

“To be born into such fragility…” –peaceful Paesha, musing. “Can we not assist them in the worst of what may befall?”

“Not directly”–Fari; “but each will come into mortal being accompanied by an immortal Image, a deathless Angel, to whom their spark of soul returns in the Infrarealm when their bodies enter the soil of their mother planet.”

“But that is after they die.” –Paesha.

“It feels galling” –Pandere– “to be so constrained as we move among them. Are we not the Powers of the Cosmos?”

“We are” –Radantia, with emphasis. The others fell silent. “But humans must learn to move beyond the forms we take in each era. From their evolving point of view, the gods will eventually die and be reborn in new forms, die and be reborn.

“And every time we are, we will gain bright facets of ourselves as reflected anew in awakening corporeal minds.”

While the Powers conversed, a cooling planet had been preparing herself, under their aegis, to host life.

Had she described herself, she would have said something like this:

I am Earth. As one of the youngest children of the Powers, I circle a yellow star, warmed by it even as I cool. White clouds form my turban; blue oceans, my gown; brown soil, my skin; tall mountains, my many wrinkles.

I am circled in turn by Luna, my reflective daughter of a violent past. Although she has withdrawn from me a little, we rotate together through a starry void. Looking upward, I see her silvery phases contrast pleasantly with the steady yellow light of the mighty Sun.

Our solar family floats within a bubble of stellar gas drifting through one curved arm of an immense spiral of light. All of it ensouled, even the dark swirls and scaffolds giving shape to space itself. Ensouled, yet diffuse, unaware of particularity.

That is where I come in.

At the behest of the Powers, I begin to experiment, reaching for a consciousness that can particularize. Over long stretches of time, I combine and recombine, heat and reheat substances near my surface. One day, stirring inside a permeable membrane, a new kind of ensoulment is sparked. It multiplies, changes, complexifies, multiplies…

In a mere instant as I reckon time, it draws a verdant veil across my face. I begin to breathe something other than hot fumes. My skin further cools, bathed in blue air. Winged creatures fly through it; beings with multiple legs walk through it. The circulation of metals deep within me raises an invisible screen in the sky to protect these, my new children.


Magmatic flows pulsing within my center slowly part. One reaches upward. Pushed by a contraction, the plume breaks open the surface of my skin…   

And so from out of the rupturing Rift Valley walked a late-growing twig on the tree of life.

Having lost most of its body hair, it built fires, wondered about the land, painted, chiseled, hunted and fished, ate root and flesh, lived in families, looked after its kin, empathized, loved, and told collective tales. Something of each of the Powers animated its Earth-mothered mortal frame.

This was Human, a social, inquisitive creature formed of oceanic waters and dark humus, its brain branched like corals, rivers, and trees. When it looked into calm waters, it recognized its own face.

The Powers conferred again:

“Behold the latest chapter in Earth’s version of the Experiment” –Radantia.

“The Great Game” –Kluni corrected silently, smiling. He looked forward to playing, having helped at the universal level on the creatively quantum side of things.

“How do you see things unfolding down there?” –Cronicus, asking also for his spacious partner Ravina.

“Alternations of growth and learning punctuated by crises.” –Vaeda, daughter of Radantia and sibling of Naran the structurer and preserver. “Look over here, for instance. Cronicus, please assist me.”

She rolled the time stream forward to when a Sumatran supervolcano leveled itself in a titanic blast. The skies grew dark over much of the globe.

“Thanks to Kluni and the fires of Smee, volcanic disasters threaten humanity. Aluere and Paesha and I help preserve them by encouraging them to band together.”

“Adversity strengthened the survivors” –Kluni.

“Later, Bellum, Cempa, and Kerp the gatherer played a hand by standing behind Sargon, the first of the empire-builders, as, armed by Smee, he conquered Sumer.”

“But I also equipped them with the gifts of civilization: writing, plowing, the wheel…” –Smee, protesting. Uselessly, perhaps, given that one day he would be known as the gods Hephaestus and Vulcan, among other volcanic deities.

“Some of which desertified the region and killed the empire” –Kerp and Wildia spoke/thought together. Kluni, known to the soon-to-be Egyptians as the desert god Seth, winked.

“I gave them the model of rulership” –Naran, to be known under names like Vishnu, Amon, Bythos, Olorun, and Mulungu. 

“And I” –Aluere– “replied to Sargon’s influence by teaching mystic poetry to his daughter, the priestess Enheduanna, by appearing to her as Inanna.” Aluere would also appear as Freya to the warlike Norse, as Venus to the warlike Romans, and as Aphrodite to the warlike Greeks. Ever drawn to each other, she and Bellum (Mars, Hachiman, Tirw, Gun) would dance together in many combinations, on Earth and elsewhere, down the coming millennia.

“You all speak as though all of this already happened, but it hasn’t!” –Cronicus, the Power behind Chronos, Aion, Busyansta, Hyperion, and Zurvan. Like Ordiri, he preferred things kept in order.

“We can’t see past ourselves” –Innra, mother of Hestia, Agnayi, Chantico, Vesta, and St. Brigid; “we already know what we would do in a given situation, earthly or elsewhere, so it feels like it already occurred.” She looked to Vaeda for support.

“Take Ashurbanipal of Assyria”–Vaeda. “A too-tempting target for Bellum, for example, as will be Tudhaliya I, Ramses II, Alexander (with help from Cempa), Wu Zetian, Atilla, Caesar, Aurelius, Muawiyah I, Innocent III, Cromwell, James II, Mussolini, Lenin, ‘Now We Have ‘Em’ Custer, ‘Mission Accomplished’ Bush…and so many others.”

“Not to mention their tools: metals forged in Mesopotamia, the stirrup invented in Mongolia, gunpowder and firearms in China, the machine gun in Britain, the atomic bomb in California…” –Smee, future god of technologists, bragging, as would overconfident Goibniu, Daedalus, Svarog, Vulcan, Yu, and Wayland one day. Aluere thought him repulsive but found herself lingering over his works…

“Likewise Vaeda” —Innra, ignoring Smee while naming the Power behind Athena, Sophia, Amaterasu, Barbelo, White Buffalo Calf Woman, and Chalchihuitzli. “How could she resist lending a hand to institutes like Plato’s Academy, the Jinxia, the House of Baghdad, the Alexandrian Library, Al-Ahzar University? And libraries and museums everywhere?”

“The movable type printing press” –Magus (Orunmila, Cangjie, Kullervo, Solomon, Odin, Thoth) speaking– “was a handy follow-up to the invention of printing in China, although it widened the cultural distance between oral and literate societies.”

“I helped bankrupt Gutenberg in the archbishop’s court” –Kluni, to be known as Satan in Christendom and Iblis in Islam. “The man who sued him was named Fust, just one vowel away from Faust. He published the first psalter.” Kluni and Magus chuckled.

“Speaking of religion, what happened with the Jesus movement?” –Pandere (Jupiter, Izanagi, Ukko, Wengga). Cronicus grimaced: The movement had not yet occurred!

“He started out in my territory” –Magus– “as a Jewish prophet, storyteller, and spiritual healer. After he was crucified, Saul got possessed by the spirit of Dionysus, became Paul, and in his teachings initiated a change of archetypes.”

“To mine, specifically” –Renastra, who would show up not only Dionysus, but also as Shiva, Tammuz, Osiris, Attis, Adonis, and the fabled Phoenix bird of the iridescent purple feathers. “I worked with Kerp, who also worked, eventually, with Bellum.”

“And I with Magdalene” –Vaeda. “It is fortunate she was recognized early on as the consort of Jesus, otherwise humanity might have suffered centuries of religiously sanctioned patriarchal oppression.” Cronicus shook his head.

“The Roman Empire was bad enough that way, especially at its end” –Ordiri– “when Hannibal stopped Scipio Africanus at Zama.” A child of Fari, Ordiri’s earthly faces would include Ma’at, Dharma, Apollo, and Tao.

“And look at how Zoe converted Umar ibn al-Khattab to a regimen of non-aggressive cultural advancement” –Paesha.

“What about when Admiral Zheng He landed in North America?” –Pandere.

“We seem to be drifting” –Radantia, as hunting and gathering hominids spread over the face of Earth. “We could go on forever picking forehistorical events we will appear behind. Shall we succumb to fascination at the dualistic signature of Bellum in Zoroaster and the major religions to follow? What about Kluni (as Rebellion), Vaeda (as Innovation), and Renastra (as Liberation) backing Hannibal even as Bellum, Pandere, and Kerp backed Rome? The influence of Magus and Smee in the coming Information Age? What about Unda as Isis, Demeter, Rhea, Ala, and Terra growing the plants to feed humankind?”

“Don’t forget me in their fossil fuels and the rise of cities and machines” –Athara, friend to Smee, father of Hades, and ally of Bellum.

“And me, freeing their animals from laboratories and cramped pens” –Wildia, known one day as Abnoba, Artemis, Diana, Mejdejn, Zvoruna, Dieredre.

“And us, bringing alternatives” –those offspring of the Powers who would go forth as Aeolus the wind, Oceanus the wave, and Helios the sun spoke together, having helped Al Gore become President of the United States.

“The point is” –Radantia again– “we can’t stay on any point but our own. Our mentalities, embedded as they are in the fabric of Being, propel vast cosmic forces, but they lack sharpness and definition. Nor can wind suddenly become sun, or interiority exteriority.”

“But who will help us focus?” –collective question from puzzled Powers.

“Let us listen in on Eve” –Vaeda. “Under my tutelage and that of Magus, her mother taught her how to hear us.”

“And if she can’t tell us anything new?”–Kluni, ever the trickster’s advocate.

“Then”–Fari–”the experiment will serve no useful purpose.”

The woman known thousands of years hence as Mitochondrial Eve, the matrilineal ancestor of all human beings, lived in southern Africa.

Like the others in her tribe and time, she walked far, fished, built shelters, wove garments, forecast weather, hunted small game, danced, knew plant lore, sang, told stories, taught children and adults, looked after the infirm, and mastered many crafts requiring dexterity and sustained concentration. One day soon she would become a mother.

Unlike the others, she was a prophet, a dreamer of mighty dreams, a wise woman of her tribe, though yet young, and the first member of a time-spanning Transdaimonic League of natural gnostics born to midwife human consciousness into maturity.

In her sleep, she felt the gathering Powers placing their attention on her. She thought of them as gods of her people.

Although they lacked the focus to ask a specific question, Eve felt their intent and replied to it:

“Greetings to you, Holy Ones! I am honored by your presences.” In the dream she bowed to them.

“I overhear some of your thoughts about places and times to be. I do not understand the references you make; but from my limited and mortal standpoint, these events have not happened yet, and might not; for the future is not fixed.

“Some of the events you discuss may come to pass; others, partially, or not at all. Whatever occurs will rest, in the end, on choices made in particular moments by particular people.” Above the turning blue-green world, the Powers nodded.

“To the extent these deciders are not aware of your presences behind events, they will be swayed by you. Perhaps you will react to our blind spots by applying pressure—as when our tribal leadership, becoming arrogant, unintentionally invites raids by a marauding bands of strangers; or when we grow too dependent upon a region whose food sources then dry up, forcing us to move on. Nature can be a harsh teacher, and all of you appear to us as aspects of nature. What you are beyond that, behind that, I cannot say.

“However, if your great Game succeeds, then, with increasing frequency as we learn and mature, we humans will surprise you, and perhaps even change you. Then we will be peers.” Innra and Pandere gasped. On the solar system’s largest planet, a storm shaped like a red eye opened, stared, and dispersed.

“I see in our future, after so much aching hardship, stupidity, and spilled blood, the possibility of our becoming true adults: fully awakened members of a vast society of many members, some human, many not. I see a chance for us to assemble Terrania, let us call it: a just, delightful, nature-honoring tribe of tribes worthy of the best in all of us. I see us finally coming of age, striding into our full glory as mature human beings.

“In each cycle of time (if I understand what you say correctly), the forms you Powers take will die and be reborn down here in the hearts and acts of the vision-holders and storytellers among us.

“In their hands also rests the fate of all my walking kindred. From precarity to precarity we go on our long adventure of awakening.

“Thank you for creating us. In bringing our gifts to each generation, may we honor you, our spiritual parents.”

Eve turned over and entered deeper sleep. (“She will need it!” –Wildia.) Above her, Luna circled Earth, shining face ever toward her blue mother planet. Below, continents continued their slow, grinding shuffling.

“So the future is not set” –Fari, musing out loud; “not even by us. Interesting. We are already learning from them…”

They pondered while galaxies turned.

“What do you suppose will become of them?” –Zoe, who as Blood sometimes played a strange trans-temporal game with her partner Doja, who played as Dust.

“None can say” –Radantia. “Perhaps they will grow up to cherish their world while remembering the lessons they learn along the way. Perhaps they will fall into traps set by Kluni and Bellum, Athara and Doja and allow the immature among them to wreck the beautiful abundance that evolved them. Who knows? But we know this: They will face much.

“Each key historical upheaval–a species initiation, really–will represent an opportunity for them to either assemble or scatter the kind of optimal planetary culture we hope for on every life-birthing world.”

“How?” —Innra.

“Each upheaval will be a Nexus Crisis involving blocs of Powers in conflict, the living presences of particular places involved, the flavor of the moment, and historically key people facing a pivotal event. How they get through it will depend in part on how they recognize and reconcile the Powers behind it.” Aluere and Bellum thought about the Berlin Wall falling as visitors coming from opposite sides exchanged flowers.

“And the humans will have help. Not only ally Powers whom they must learn to detect and summon—”

“Me, for instance” —Komoyna, who all this time had been making room for the Powers to speak together around Innra’s gentle glow.

“—but, among themselves, a perpetual League of visionaries inwardly linked to the Cosmic Soul. This underground tradition will stretch forward in time until the rise of a just and mature planetary culture allows a fuller emergence.”

“Who will these people be?” —Kluni. “Surely not the wealthy and powerful I will so easily manipulate. Eve must be a Leaguer…and Enheduanna? Who else?”

“As the temporal sequence unfolds, all will be revealed.” —Cronicus. Kluni growled impatiently.

“Given what they will face, that hardly seems like enough assistance.” –Aluere.

“When cycles of disintegration hit and old structures and principles collapse” –Fari put in– “Guardians of Renewal will rise, now in this form, now in that, to plumb the meaning in the symptom, the design in the disaster, the hope in what seems hopeless. In dark times, as others despair, the Guardians will enchant with bright, storied visions of what human beings can become together.”

“Also”–Wildia– “do not forget that the subtle animation of the lands, waters, and elements can also assist if their occupants learn to hear the spirit of places they dwell in. On peaks they will find a higher view, in valleys helpful depths, along rivers a feeling of flow, in rain resolution, in sunshine insight, at night intuition under the glowing moon. For every dawn, desert, branch, and blade of grass is inspirited.” Vaeda smiled.

“Finally”–Radiantia– “humans will have to rely on their visionary creatives: their poets, singers, dancers, chanters, artists, mystics, and storytelling fantasists. All will show that when a great work of the spirit summons forth a fantastic image, when a storyteller evokes a magical realm, the door stands open to the Dreamvale and, behind it, to the all-generating Infrarealm.”

At the mention of “door,” Eleg nodded. He would reappear on Earth as Ganesha, Janus, Na-naki, Portunes, Shentu, Heimdal, and Terminus, among others.

“If they succeed, they will all partake consciously of the Infrarealm, and the door of wonder will never close again.” —Radantia, with satisfaction.

“But only to the extent” —Wildia and Komoyna were of one mind on this— “they learn that their own planet is addressing them, the homeworld some of them will have such trouble feeling truly at home on. They need their feet firmly on the ground; and they need to learn to take care of each other. Only then may they survive, let alone flourish, and develop into their truest selves.”

The Powers paused while they watched Earth turn a few times in the light of its sun. Beyond it, the river of Milky Way light stretched outward, a road of possibility among galactic clusters almost without end.

“Every world in the Great Experiment” —Radantia reflected— “will hold all the seeds needed to grow a splendid civilization that delights every living thing upon that world. Earth is particularly rich that way.

“In the end, whatever happens will be up to them. Like their sentient counterparts elsewhere, they will face many crucial turning points to be successfully met only together.

“We will not save them. But we’ll be watching.”

Earth breathed, mulled, nurtured, pruned, and weeded. Shaped from cosmic patterns, animated by Vaeda, watched over by the Komuay, and grown from Aluere and Unda, all rooting, crawling, flying, leaping, slithering, walking, and storytelling beings made up one great Earthly family.

And all around and deep within them glimmered Signs to remind them of their kinship with each other, their descent from Earth, their lineage from the Powers, and their ultimate origin in the Source of All.


See also “Godsylum” and “History Lesson.”