Chapter XI.

15 Jun

Acute zircon eyes took in the stranger from the capital of Caecilia.

The missioner was a large bear of a man named Joai, dressed in a long, coarse gunny gown.

Tadige had left to return home after bringing Ranid to the striawood frame-house where the cleric lived. Upon hearing the story of the trials and persecution of the young man, the frater offered him refuge under his own roof. He studied the fugitive with steady, unblinking eyes. “You wish to learn our systematic odylology?” he asked Ranid.

“Yes. All my life, from early childhood, I have had a consuming curiosity about the realm of the spiritual. There is no way of foretelling where my intellectual explorations might take me, but I am compelled by everything within me to continue the already started journey. I need guidance and advice where to go next. Would you be willing to become my mentor?”

The frator nodded his head. “Certainly. I would be delighted to do so. It is evident to me that you have already made a good start. I can teach you the principles of metaphysical study that I learned during my years at Feretrum. That is the famous conventicle community where I acquired my education. We can use the same standard manuals from there that are still taught. I keep them for references in my sermons. They are an excellent instrument for the mastering of our central principles. They can guide your study quite well, believe me.”

“I am prepared to begin at once,” smiled Ranid with joy on his face.

“You should rest first,” said the missioner. He rose and led his student to a small bedroom upstairs. In seconds, the tired newcomer was asleep on a truckled pallet.

Ranid rose early, rested and ready to begin something new.

Joai, already sitting in the kitchen, had set a breakfast of small bird ovula and bright red rambutan fruit. Even while they ate, the pair went forward into the subjects that most concerned them.

“You will find that our system is rich and subtle in its complications. But it is completely orderly. Every part fits together perfectly. I do not like making comparisons, but we Anurans have from the beginning been the foremost creators of a universal conceptual structure. You shall see that with your own eyes as you read the book I am going to assign for reading and study. Our logical system is incomparable. It contains unified strength and harmony.

“The best starting point is that of the quiddity of the odyle, the essence of the spiritual foundation of all existence. Can you tell me what a quid is? Have you ever come across that term or idea before?” asked Joai.

“No,” confessed the guest as he continued eating. “It is totally new to me.”

“Quids are the ultimate components of the universe, the individual parts that are the smallest and indivisible. They have no shape of their own, no extension or dimensions. Their essence is their spiritual being. If I had to characterize their nature, it is to act and move. They are the centers of all the operating forces in existence. But they do not act upon each other. Not at all. The actions of each quid exclude those of every other one. They exist to themselves and by themselves. The motion of each quid results from its own past motions, almost like inertia. Every quid is the determiner of its own future. No other factor is such, not even the odyle. I plan for you to find out how these quids hang together, though each is separate and independent.”

Ranid, finishing his breakfast, concentrated now on answering his host.

“You speak of contradiction between the concepts of the odyl and the quid, but I believe it is only an apparent one. What if the little quids are only microcosmic mirrors reflecting the universal odyl? And the primary quid is an overarching amphibian, such as the frog or the salamander? So that every quid that exists has internal images that are the shadow of the odyl. What does this amphibian factor accomplish in the picture of reality? Perhaps it is a lens through which every separate, autonomous quid sees and senses the odyl.”

Surprisingly, Joai gave a happy grin. “I must say, Ranid, that you possess an extremely agile philosophical mind. And you have not even begun serious metaphysical study yet. I foresee enormous progress ahead. You are a wonder, in my estimation. Who could have predicted that such a gifted young thinker would come to me for spiritual instruction? It will make me extremely happy to guide you through the landscape of our Anuran system of thought and understanding.”

The pair gazed at each other with rising, expanding hope.

Ranid read Anuran books for several days. Joai continued to quiz his pupil at their meals together. The questions grew sharper and more difficult.

“By itself, the Absolute is distant and abstract. How can the Sublime become specific and concrete?”

“A tangible medium is necessary,” assured Ranid. “A being that humans can see and touch, an intermediary through which people can contact the original energy of all the universe, the odyle of everything.”

“Yes,” reacted the missioner with satisfaction. “Our sacred frog brings the Ultimate close to us, so that it is now tangential. None of us need ever be alone again. There shall be a higher form of being always with us, wherever we be.”

Ranid went on with the thought. “Life has a new meaning when we are able to connect ourselves to the odyle. I have come to recognize the infinite value of the tie to the highest spirituality. It is the supreme goal of all life.”

“What do you know about the nature of the soul?” asked the Frater all of a sudden.

The student searched his memory for a moment.

“Since all existents are only ideas in the mind of the odyl, our souls have to be ideas also. Yes, my soul is an identifiable idea of the Absolute called the odyl. That is what it is.”

Joai sprang up from his chair. “I see that your knowledge is already extensive. As a result, we can enter directly into advanced topics and areas. There is no need to wait. You are ready to go forward to the frontier of our system of thought. There is no need to wait any longer.

“You will go on to a volume on the Prosopon of the odyle. Do you know what that means? It is the face of the Sublime, personified in the batrachian frog. The process is termed Prosopopeia. It is how the odyl creates its own face out of itself. It is the development of a medium from out of the Absolute. You see, if a human has made a union with the sacred frog, that is also a simultaneous union with the odyl as well. Prosopic union is possible in a state of mental ecstasy. It is called spiritual ebriety back there in Feretrum.” He stopped a second. “I am getting ahead of myself. Mystical exercises are a final plane of study. We shall proceed with more subordinate subjects now. Later, I will relate what is known about direct spiritual union.”

Ranid found himself taking daily lessons in the Anuran literature. His reading centered on works from Feretrum that utilized deictic, elenctic, and apodeictic methods of argument and logic. He learned to define the odyle as the divine alembic that refines, purifies, and transforms its chosen object by giving it the deipotent nod of favor. And this supreme numen in the world was the chosen amphibian, the frog of Caecilia. His study revealed the supernatural transfiguration by which the batrachian medium of the frog was elevated to becoming the physical face of the odyle. It was an extremely compelling and cogent argument that was made to him.

Joai gave his pupil access to his manuals of liturgics. Ranid rapidly picked up the litanies, invocations, incantations, appeals, applications, entreaties, petitions, prayers, and chants of the Anuran templa. He began to attend frog services at the small fane located near the house of the missioner. One day, in his second month of studies, his teacher made a surprise request of Ranid.

“You have a fine, rich voice, my friend. Would you be willing to act as my precentor? There has never been anyone here knowledgeable enough to read the lessons and chant the responses. I think you are now fully capable of becoming my psalmodist in the temple services I lead. It would be wonderful if you became an active participant of our continual spiritual practices. I would be overjoyed to have you assisting me in our daily services.”

Ranid accepted, thereby becoming the vocal chanter of the local congregation.

The sonorous voice of the stranger was soon talked about by the inhabitants of the centrum. People who had not been to the fanum in years now attended to hear his melodious tones in hymns to the frog. The building rang with the echoes of his strong baritone. People enjoyed hearing him sing, recite, and read aloud. His participation was a glowing success. He became a star attraction in the services.

Ranid became acquainted with an ever widening circle of members and visited the weekly centrum market, where the swamp people brought food items to sell. The young man from the capital grew familiar with the wares displayed there, so many of which were new to him. For meat-eaters, there was terrapin, anguine, cacomistle, coati, and daman. In the fruit section, Ranid discovered rambutan, nepal, genipap, capsicum, sweetsop, maypop, crowberry, bearberry, dogberry, naseberry, and soapberry.

The cuisine of the Cheerless Swamp fascinated the curious scholar with its uniqueness and originality.

It was while at one of these weekly markets that the fugitive spotted two suspicious-looking outsiders who caused him immediate alarm.

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