According to information found on this website, the prologue to The Holy is based on an experience you had as a young child. From reading Providence, it seems pretty clear to me that other aspects of the book are drawn from your life as well. Some examples: the strong similarity between your experience in the garden at the Trappist monastery, Our Lady of Gethsemani, and Tim Kennesey’s experience in the desert; the Chicago setting; and David Kennesey’s background in educational publishing.

I’m curious about the source(s) for other events in the book’s narrative, though, particularly regarding Howard Scheim’s early attempts to discover what happened to the old, “false” gods of the Bible.

What experiences/research did you draw on in writing about the rite Howard participated in with the Satanists Verdelet and Delices? What did you draw on for Howard’s meeting with the tarot reader, Denise Purcell?

While I do not mean to overstate the endorsement of Darwin’s theory of evolution in your essay “Our Religions: Are They the Religions of Humanity Itself?” I have a related question. I believe that I understand you correctly to only be specifically advocating Darwin’s theory as the most sort of ‘comprehensive’ theory in light of the evidence available, and in terms of its provision of a sort of workable model to explain an apparent question of somewhat comparable significance to the primary question of your essay regarding the processes relating to the placement of the beginning of humanity at the beginning of the agricultural revolution.

I would say that I quite agree with your estimations of the merits of Darwin’s theory, and again I hope that I am not too presumptuous in assuming some greater acceptance in the processes of evolution that he describes.

Ultimately my question is whether or not you would describe the sort of ‘religious’ processes you describe in your essay, or the sort of ‘assault’ on animism as a similarly uncontrollable or irreversible process.

I’m a senior at a Catholic high school (a particularly uncomfortable situation since reading many of the Ishmael books), and in my religion class we have been discussing multiculturalism vs. objectivity. My teacher argues that without God or objective truth then anything is morally permissible and therefore Nazi Germany etc. would have to be considered just fine.

I replied that in tribal culture there is/was no salvationist religion and therefore there are/were no “thou shalt not . . .” laws, and they live/lived much more in peace with themselves and the world than our culture does. My teacher refuses to believe this, so I decided to research it and see what I could find.

Do you have any suggestions as to where I can find resources that describe tribal law as constructive as opposed to oppressive (thou shalt not . . .)?

Is there an afterlife in animism? Without an answer, I would assume that the answer would be something to the effect that “One’s life-force is simply re-inserted into the cycle of life, and one’s energy sustains other lives.

“In practice, a deer continues life after being eaten by a mountain lion in the form of the mountain lion.” That much I assumed is the animist afterlife.

What I want to know is whether one’s consciousness continues after death, as it does in the Christian interpretation of a “soul”?

In Providence, you describe how you became disenchanted with the Catholic Church. You described how the Church’s actions seemed to reject you. I know this isn’t quite the case, but it serves well enough for me to pose the question.

Why did you automatically assume the Catholic Church was speaking directly for God, as they claim to do? I have been raised Catholic and I began to realize that it was just a big show. I assumed that the Catholic Church could not speak for God, that he could only speak for himself.

See, I was still clinging to the thought of a singular, heavenly, benevolent God. What made you decide to abandon GOD instead of just the structure of the CHURCH?

On to the larger question, that is to say, now that you have answered the lesser and more everyday one with your Ishmael essay, there remains (for some, not all thank god) the most troubling and pervasive, relentless, gnawing, and elusive question of all (for some debilitating, not all thank god) and that is “What does this all mean?”

Can we know? Can it be known? With all the investigation that has gone before us (from Lao Tzu to Hesse) have you come across (or for that matter arrived at some notion or conclusion yourself) any findings that merit your recommendation for review? If you can illuminate on this subject I would be most appreciative.

According to Ishmael, symbolically speaking, eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil led man to believe that he could make choices for himself that took him out of the hands of the gods, which ultimately has led him (and the rest of the world) to the edge of his undoing.

The thought occurred to me that perhaps Jesus understood this, and that baptism was his attempt to cleanse mankind from this knowledge. Perhaps this is how he intended to be the savior of man; by washing away the (original) sin of Adam and Eve and placing man back into the hands of the gods.

Tragically, this is not the interpretation of Jesus’s intentions as taught by modern Christianity.