“Freedom of speech” is an idea that is frequently bantered about in the media, especially when one group or another feels it is being censored, or merely criticized by another. Of course, throughout history, every person has been “free” to express himself or herself, but the powers that be were also “free” to punish them for it. What is more precisely meant by “free speech” is “protected speech.” Our own protected speech in the United States is a relatively new idea popping up around 1776.
Before then, deviation from the accepted rigid line of permitted speech resulted in any number of punishments from a fine to execution. Even today in America, some speech made widely public through the Internet and social media has resulted in loss of reputation or livelihood, not by the authorities but by public censure. There is still a list of “banned books” circulated by the American Library Association every September. It is no surprise that before the Renaissance, people who dared to think thoughts and speak ideas that deviated from the world-view controlled by authorities were in grave danger.
The Elysium Texts is a series of novels that delves into the importance of these documents, both as the beginning of science and the stubborn tenacity of philosophies that had been taught in ancient times, but subsequently lost under the rule of rigid despots.
The latest volume, Books of the Dead, explores the philosophical and magical ideas inherent in ancient texts, and the people who had the courage to investigate realities forbidden or discouraged by society. Nadira the Reader continues her education in the ways of a mystic by seeking the advice of the Zoroastrians and Sufis. She contacts the leaders of the Knights of St. John and the representatives of the defunct Knights Templar. She struggles to learn the relationship between the esoterica of ancient knowledge and of each person’s journey from birth to death.
We are fortunate that we can read these same texts translated into English. We can buy them in different formats and read them in public and in our homes without worrying that the authorities will arrest us and put us behind bars or tie us to a stake in the center of town.
The books of the dead come alive again, thanks not only to new technology, but also to a society that protects and defends an individual’s right to explore new ideas.
Annmarie Banks, December 22, 2014