The Find At Ephesus

 

A NOVEL

 

BY RICHARD GELDARD

 

West End Books - 2000

 

 

A devastating earthquake in Western Turkey near the famous sanctuary of the Earth Mother in Ephesus, draws two unlikely souls together in an adventure of spiritual and psychological discovery. Maia Spiros, Greek scholar and tour guide, struggles in the midst of a personal crisis when she meets young Tonio Fletcher, an American graduate student studying in Athens. Drawn together by forces unleashed in Turkey and on the island of Crete, Maia and Tonio find themselves tangled in a complex web of religious and archaeological intrigue.

 

 

The following review appeared in the Woodstock Times

Balancing act

Who among us wouldn’t like to hop a plane to the mystifying lands of Athens, Crete or Turkey? If you can’t fit it into your schedule, perhaps you can squeeze in a read of Richard Geldard’s The Find at Ephesus, a dynamic novel that tells of the unearthing of mysterious artifacts, a terrorist attack, a life-threatening natural disaster and an international love affair interwoven with the esoteric.

This book is alluring like an adventurous CD-ROM game. Enter Tonio Fletcher, a 25-year-old American graduate student who spends his time cataloguing artifacts, and Dr. Maia Spiros, a 33-year old scholar leading a tour in Athens. Maia tells Tonio of a devastating earthquake that will soon happen in Ephesus, and he agrees to join her in seeking out what lies in the ruins. Eclipses, visions, alchemy and strange energies all come into play as the duo go in search of the body of a goddess, a grave site which lies in a sacred landscape. What they discover in the ruin—and the religious history Geldard examines here—is an astounding message to the world that blows ideas about modern Christianity out of the water. The historical, archeological and intellectual overtones should be enough to keep some readers hooked; others may be sucked in more by the romance, Goddess principle and blissful spiritual awakenings of both parties. Either way, this suspense-thriller is an engaging, serious read.

There’s a good reason Geldard has such great insight into all this. A former teacher of English and philosophy, Geldard—who now divides his time between Kerhonkson and New York City—traveled and worked in the Mediterranean region ever since completing his doctorate at Stanford University in 1972. The Find At Ephesus is a story he was just dying to get out after years of research in Athens. "It is timely, I think, because we have today a renewed interest in the great myths of the Earth Mother Goddess, whose temples and sanctuaries in the Mediterranean still move us," says Geldard.

Tradition has it that after the death of Jesus Christ, the two Marys and St. John came to Ephesus, the original home of the Great Mother goddess; the Greeks knew this when they built the so-called great navel of the world, the Temple of Artemis. Geldard uses the grave site of Mary Magdalene as the nucleus of this novel. Without giving too much away, The Find At Ephesus focuses on the embodiment of energy connected to the Great Mother myth and brings to light a new twist on a great spiritual tradition.

"There are those who believe the birth of Jesus signaled a needed ascendance of masculine consciousness to balance the feminine influence of the Goddess traditions," explains Geldard. "The trouble is the male influence has pretty much wrecked the planet. Whether the ship will ever be righted again is anybody’s guess."

Geldard just released his seventh book, Remembering Heraclitus, a portrait of the Greek philosopher’s manuscripts, which explores teachings essential to understanding the reality of human relationships beyond our perceptions. "Human beings have always searched for the connection between the human and the divine," says Geldard. "Heraclitus, who lived in Ephesus, was the first to speak of the Logos—the Great Consciousness—as the connection between human and divine nature. As humans reach out, they create images of the divine. All great art reflects that search and that reaching out. In my case, at least, all writing is a similar reaching out."             -- Sharon Nichols

The following interview was conducted by James Geiwitz, managing editor of The Trafford Star, on March 10, 2000

The Find at Ephesus

JG: The Find at Ephesus obviously grows out of your previous non-fiction works, set in Turkey and Greece and focused on the spiritual development of the characters. Why did you choose the fictional form? What do you find yourself able to express in this form that you were unable to do so in the non-fiction books?

RG: The first pieces I ever wrote were short stories, and after a career of teaching and writing non-fiction, I was finally able to return to fiction. I think fiction releases the imagination in unique ways. We can be truthful in ways not possible in more academic forms. I know the people in this novel very well, and I was able to let them breathe and live out their lives.

JG: Tell me about the main characters, Maia Spiros and Tonio Fletcher. What is "the state of their souls" when the novel begins?

RG: Maia is in her mid-thirties and is going through a personal crisis. She has returned to Athens from Paris, where she has been living since earning a PH.D. at the Sorbonne. She says that only in Greece can she learn who she really is. In the course of the novel she discovers exactly that. Tonio, on the other hand, is a bright kid, a graduate student: eager, anxious to get on in the world, and full of ideas. What he learns through Maia shatters his superficial view of the world.

JG: Without giving away all your narrative secrets, what can you tell me about the plot? For example, you say that an earthquake brings them together and that they soon find themselves tangled in a complex web of religious and archaeological intrigue. Please elaborate.

RG: Maia is leading a tour in Athens. Tonio is stuck in the storerooms of the Agora Museum, cataloguing artifacts. When they meet, Maia tells Tonio that an earthquake is going to take place in Ephesus in a weeks time. How is that possible? How can she know? When it happens, Tonio follows Maia into the earthquake site where they serve as relief workers. She tells him that they are supposed to find something important, something exposed by the quake. Once they find what they are looking for the intrigue begins, as does their relationship.

JG: You mention the Earth Mother Goddess in several contexts. Could you tell me who she is and something of the nature of her sacred places? Is the sanctuary in Ephesus of particular importance?

RG: Before the Olympian Gods entered the Mediterranean and before the one male God assumed the religious throne in Israel, human beings worshipped the Great Mother. She was the source, the nurturer, the giver of life and the tomb after death. She appeared in the landscape as rounded hills, deep valleys and springs of fresh water. In Ephesus, she eventually became Artemis, goddess of wild places and twin of Apollo. Her temple there was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, making Ephesus a cultural center.

JG: You also mention legends or Mary Magdalen in Ephesus, so there must be a Christian aspect to the sacred sites. Please elaborate.

RG: Tradition has it that after the crucifixion, the two Mary's and St. John came to Ephesus to escape persecution. The Roman and Eastern Churches recognize the House of the Virgin in Ephesus as the place where the mother of Jesus lived. Mary Magdalen also lived and died there. Her grave site is an important part of the novel. In fact the cover photo is taken from a painting of Magdalen by Le Tour. Book Two of the novel is called The Marion Letters, which is a clue about the "find".

JG: I must say that I find Mary Magdalen one of the most interesting characters in the Bible. You must know of present-day Christian scholars who suggest that Mary Magdalen was Jesus' wife and others who suggest that she wrote the Gospel of Mark. What is your view on these rather controversial hypotheses?

RG: The Novel develops these theories fully. I think it is very likely that Magdalen was not a repentant whore as she is usually portrayed, but in fact a highly enlightened and gifted person whom Jesus kept close to him. How close is, of course, a major question. All we can do is speculate, unless something emerges someday to shed more light.

JG: You have stated elsewhere that the common thread in all your works is the recognition that divine and human consciousness is the basis of creativity and artistic expression, in the works of Astrid Fitzgerald, your wife as well. What do you mean by "divine and human consciousness" and how is it related to creativity? How is it expressed in The Find at Ephesus?

RG: Human beings have always searched for the connection between the human and the divine. All religion is a reaching out to the divine essence. Heraclitus, who lived in Ephesus was the first to speak of the Logos as the connection in consciousness between human nature and divine nature. As humans reach out, they create images of the divine. All great art reflects that search and that reaching out. In my case, at least, all writing is a similar reaching out. As Browning said,"A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

JG: Like you, I find Ralph Waldo Emerson a fascinating and important figure. You say that Emerson's philosophy is especially suited to individuals seeking an idealistic and personal vision. What do you mean by that, and how is this expressed in The Find at Ephesus?

RG: Emerson's self-reliance urges us to look simultaneously inward to know ourselves and outward to know the divine (Over-Soul for Emerson). He also said, in effect, don't follow me. Take your own path. In my novel, Tonio in particular learns to look within to find who he is and outward to find his true place in the world. He learns self-reliance in the Emersonian sense, which means to trust his intuitive instincts and let go of the past, particularly his fathers ambitions for him. It is a long and difficult road for all human beings. He's lucky to learn so fast.

JG: Let me ask the same question of your work on Heraclitus, especially his "three distinct themes": Logos, Ethos and Telos. Are these what all spiritual investigators seek? Principles of life, the essence of human existence and the purpose of life?

RG: You've really done your homework here. Yes, those three Greek terms express the essence of the search for knowledge and understanding. The Logos is really the Great Consciousness which infuses the universe and forms our limited understanding. When we connect to it we are capable of finding our nature and our place. Ethos is, loosely, "character," but it is more than that. It is who we are as individual human beings. And Telos is, as you say, the purpose of life, which for Emerson and Heraclitus means a spiritual uniting with the divine nature. The soul wants more than anything else to return to its source. That instinct runs very deep in all of us. Heraclitus was one of the first westerners to articulate that instinct and to name it.

JG: Since the Trafford Star is a newspaper for writers and publishers, I would like to ask you a few questions about writing. What is it like writing fiction after all your non-fiction books? In your experience, what are the major differences?

RG: The biggest difference is finding a voice. In non-fiction, the matter of voice is pre-determined by the material and the audience for the book. In fiction, you start from nothing and find a voice that fits your characters and the story that wants to be told. The other major difference is that novels have a life of their own that demands freedom. The author is along for the ride, as it were. You have to give up control, whereas in non-fiction you are in the driver's seat all the time. I found myself surprised all the time by where the novel was taking me.

JG: The Toronto Globe and Mail, Canada's major newspaper, has refereed a continuing debate about the ability of male authors to construct believable female characters and the ability of females to write about male experience. Did you find the character of Maia more difficult than that of Tonio? Do you agree that "men are from Mars and women are from Venus"?

RG: The Find at Ephesus is told from Tonio's point of view throughout. It's his story. My wife tells me that she understands Maia and that she is a real woman. I guess it's a matter of both experience and personal insight. We are all both male and female, deep down. Part of self-knowledge is coming to terms with our "other" nature. Maybe I have an advantage having had two sisters and three daughters. Finally, though, I think it's a matter of honesty in writing.