He stepped out of the light, as if made of light himself. Light giving form to light, a being of pure light. His garments shone, blazing brilliance. His countenance radiated light and he spoke not as with words from any mouth but as of precious stones – rubies and emeralds – for he had no mouth that I could see. As his radiance shone forth, his words entered the mind of any who would listen. I listened, transfixed by such a vision of loveliness and power, blinded by his iridescence. He raised his hands as he spoke, if hands they were; more discs of light, brighter than the sun.
‘I am your Lord,’ he said, his voice a mellifluent confluence of joy and authority. ‘I appear here before you to set you apart, to reveal to you my message for the world.’
‘Oh, Lord’, I said, lost in the beauty of his radiance. ‘Pray reveal what this message is. Tell me and I will forever do your will.’
‘Let me see,’ he said as he pulled a golden scroll from the folds of his shining raiment and began to read: ‘Preach salvation to all nations in my name.’
‘That’s it?’ I said, confused. ‘Hasn’t that been done before?’
‘It has?’ he asked, sounding confused himself.
‘Yes, you know, Saint Paul and all that.’
‘Oh, yes. Paul,’ he mumbled. ‘Okay. So how about you take dictation of the Holy Words of the One True God to warn people of the judgement to come?’
‘Hasn’t that been done too?’
‘Has it? Well, what if I throw in some imaginary golden tablets and a couple of magic stones with fancy names? That work for you?’
‘Not really. Haven’t you got any original ideas?
‘Original ideas. Let me think… what about a new cult? What if I said my name was John Frum, or the late Prince Philip even; you could start a brand new cult named after me. It’s worked before.’
I sighed. ‘But that’s I’m trying to tell you. They’ve all been done before. I mean, what is the point of a vision if it’s got nothing new to offer?’
‘Fair enough,’ he said disconsolately. ‘But really, you know, it’s not my fault.’
‘How so?’ I asked, not liking the turn the conversation was taking.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘it was you who conjured me up in the first place. Just like Paul and Muhammad, Joseph Smith, the John Frum crowd and any number of others. You and I both know I don’t actually exist. That I’m… well, I’m a malfunction of your brain creating images and voices from the cultural influences around you.’
And I had to concede: he was right.
I’ve been concerned about the John Frum cult on Vanuatu. What are they going to do now that Prince Philip, their divine being, has died? Are they going to take that as a sign that John Frum is coming back with the cargo any day now, if they just parade around extra hard?
Good news, Ubi. It looks like they’re switching to the son now; Charles will be their new god. Seems appropriate somehow, though you can’t help but feel he’ll be as much use to them as his father (which is also familiar).