Updated: Mar 25
Recently, a most curious and remarkable manuscript has come into my possession—one which, perhaps, is of more than a little historical significance, and might even help towards healing the wounds of the meaning crisis.
Though it came to me unsought and unexpected, nevertheless, it is now my task to share it with the world.
Let me explain.
As many of you know, I run a holistic retreat center here in Vermont—a lovely scenic sanctuary tucked quietly away into the Green Mountains, miles from the nearest city, with a big barn for gatherings and a number of little rustic cabins for guests to stay in. So far, we’ve tended to cater mainly to larger retreat groups. But, here and there, we get inquiries from individuals looking to do a “solo” retreat: a week-or-so stay, usually, in a cabin just for one, to be dedicated to spiritual introspection or meditation in the quiet solitude of the land. Sometimes these sorts of solo retreats can last much longer—months, even—during which the individual is intentionally cut off from the rest of the world, more or less, and the world from the individual.
Heading into winter, we received an inquiry about such a solo retreat, and booked a gentleman our Robin’s Nest cottage for the entire season. At booking, he requested that contact be kept to a minimum, and avoided altogether if possible (not at all uncommon for such stays, who usually wish to lose themselves in the solitude, and may even commit themselves to silence for the duration). I agreed, naturally, and thought nothing more of it.
The young man arrived sometime in early December, as I recall. I watched from the window as he parted with his Uber (bearing appreciably more luggage than most guests, it now strikes me…), and found his way to his lodgings without incident.
After that, I more or less forgot about him. He had no car in the lot to remind me of his presence, and I never saw him walking the property. I just assumed he was deep into some long, intensive meditation practice, looking for answers, for himself, what have you. (In some ways, as it turned out, I wasn’t so off the mark.)
The snows came, and months passed. Eventually, the thaw… and spring… and—panic. We hadn’t heard a word. Was he alright? I grew anxious, and began to worry. Dark possibilities floated in my head. What if he had lost himself instead? or if I’d find him, frozen in some thukdam state—half monk, half Jack Nicholson from The Shining’s climax? Bad for business, at the very least; morally negligent at most. Eventually, concern outweighed propriety; I’d risk his enlightenment for my peace of mind. And so I trudged through the pasture’s thawing snow toward his cabin for a check.
I knocked… but heard no answer.
I knocked again, and louder, banging on the door now…
Terrified, I moved to action. I grabbed the key, shaking, and unlocked the handle, then barged in—but met resistance. Something blocked the door. I put my back into it, pushing, and, with effort, slowly the door groaned reluctantly ajar. “Hello!?” I shouted, stepping into the small dark cabin, and heard the crunch of papers underfoot. I looked around. The place was utterly disheveled; cluttered, top to bottom, with piles of paper and pigments, rulers, compasses—a vast assemblage of art supplies and drafts, like blueprints on the cutting-room floor of some mad architect. The cabin’s main desk, I saw, had been converted into a sort of studio, a small scriptorium of sheets and shapes and inkwell, like a cold crime scene at a monastery. The cushion by the window showed trace drops of wax and incense ash—enough faded forensics to deduce a since-absconded altar from the windowsill.
But the guest was nowhere. How long had he been gone? Days? Weeks? Hours? The woodstove showed no coals. I looked for answers.
Wading through the flood of torn drafts, dull markers, pencil shavings, and sage ash, I looked for signs or clues. Anything to give meaning to this confusion. Then, amidst the strew of cluttered chaos, some small semblance of order and intention caught my eye. There, on the makeshift scriptorium: a beautifully embossed book cover of dark leather, not yet sown together, holding within it pages on pages of art and text, and on whose rough skin, elegantly carved, was just the symbol
What did it mean? Leafing through the thick sheaf it held, I was confronted, to my astonishment, with an extensive illuminated manuscript, one of considerable care and dedication, like something out of Jung’s legendary Red Book or Blake’s visionary plates. Bizarre and dream-like symbols filled its many pages, accompanied by swathes of careful calligraphic script in columns. …A poem…
I started reading, and, quickly, I realized; quickly I recognized the hand (so to speak). It was the work of Julian.
Julian. That illusive poet, whose epic, GOD, I published (in anthologized form) via A. Severan as the second volume of the Metamodern Spirituality Series, The GOD Emerging. But…what? Why? How? (And all the other interrogatives—in spades.) I couldn’t comprehend it, couldn’t understand…
I brought the collection of unbound pages in their leather portfolio back to my house and waited for the vanished poet to return. I pored over the manuscript in my study, and considered it all, noticed the work was left unfinished, wondered… I waited, ready for the magician to reappear.
But he never did.
Eventually, it hit me. None of this could be coincidence. Whether Julian ever intended to finish the work or no, one thing was clear: he did intend for me to find it. Why else would he have come here, to the retreat center of his publisher? It was a setup from the get-go—the next phase in his on-going guerilla art performance, I had no doubt. The Banksy of metamodern epic poetry could keep his identity a secret still, leaving his next (and, by the looks of it, his magnum) opus directly in the hands of a keen and ready editor and publisher. “Clever…” I thought, and looked down at the numerous pages before me…
This was just over a week ago now. As it’s sunk in since then, I’ve felt a strange mix of emotions: humility, first and foremost, and gratitude, to have the opportunity to bring such a grand and unusual thing into the world under my editorial aegis; but also: indignant annoyance. There goes my schedule! and probably the remainder of my productive editorial life, I thought. This was a massive undertaking—and one not chosen, but foisted upon me by some odd, mischievous poet, unasked and unsought. Audacious! But could I shrink from the editorial task of a lifetime? Hardly. I was hooked. Bastard…
And so begins the effort. For now the real work starts: of collating all the scattered leaves, photographing them, providing notes, and readying everything for the highest quality publication for a broader public. An arduous endeavor. It will take some time, believe me.
So much time, in fact, that I would hate for the final Perfect to be the enemy of the in-process Good. There’s no reason I should sit on this trove until every last jot and tittle have passed my strict editorial examination, perhaps as much as ten years from now. The time will come when this opus will be bound and printed in full color and annotated grandeur, as it should, in a manner fitting its scope and intention. In the meantime, though, I have decided to release what I can, as I can, online, for those who may be interested. So, if the work can’t yet make the visionary splash it seeks, it can at least be released in a steady dribble of glimpses. Slowly, I suspect, the world will see what’s here.
For, what is the splash I speak of, you ask? Well, now we come to the meat. This, my friends, is no humble document. It is, rather, a work that clearly, in its scope and content, aspires to the very heights—to something, well, like a new Bible, quite frankly. Or, at least, a new Divine Comedy—an epic summa expression of the metamodern metanarrative.
But, should you be surprised? Julian’s previous epic, GOD, dealt by-and-large with the history and context of our postmodern spiritual malaise, followed by its prescribed cure: new mythos, new symbols, new scripture and new narrative. Well, this is it—or his attempt at it, anyway. Like Dante’s La Vita Nuova teeing up his Comedy, so GOD’s directed toward Ω. (Or so I’ll argue, anyway, if ever I get around to writing the preface to the print edition.) Point is: what’s gestured toward in everything that came before here finds its culmination, its telos. This would be the scripture of the coming age.
No pressure for the editor or anything…
Well, it’s a responsibility I intend to take seriously. For, if I am to take on the mantle of unwitting mediator for such a metamodern scripture, I’ll do so to the best of my ability, ensuring it’s presented as clearly, accessibly, and in as edifying a manner as possible.
To that end, it quickly became apparent to me that some sort of guidance for readers would be incredibly valuable. That is, I knew it needed supplemental perspectives to lend it light—not just to offer the usual explanatory glosses and definitions for unfamiliar words and images, etc. (as is usually done in annotated texts), but rather something much deeper. After transcribing the text and hyperlinking notes, it still remained for the full scope and span of such a scripture to fully resonate (as all scriptures must) across the various value memes of culture—traditional, modern, postmodern, etc. I needed all the angles, all the colors of perspective refracted in the prism of this text. And so I have chosen to share it with a select few readers in the community, whose meaningful responses I’ve solicited to supplement the publication with a "spectrum of interpretation."
The first is a very sweet and earnest fellow I know, who’s long been a devoted fan of Julian’s work, GOD. (He related to me some time ago that it really spoke to him in a spiritually significant way during a time of transition in his early college days. Since then, he’s adopted it as a chief inspirational text.) When I showed him Ω, he could hardly contain himself. He seemed to treat it like some holy relic or icon, fresh gospel or revelation. (A bit much, I must say—but, then, probably how I’d react if someone handed me a newly-discovered Shakespeare or Wallace Stevens.) This chap’s no scholar or expert, mind you, just a lay person passionate about the material, and wishes his contribution to remain anonymous (“I’m no one big and important anyway, really,” he humbly submits). His responses appear in the amber-colored section labeled “DEVOTIONAL.”
The second person I approached for contributions was the brilliant Professor Demonstrand, a scientist I consider in the mold of a Stephen Pinker or Richard Dawkins, whose expertise is hardly limited to his professional field (evolutionary biology), but really runs the gamut of the sciences. A prolific researcher and autodidact, Dr. Demonstrand brings a deep knowledge of physics, chemistry, and even psychology to the mix. His contributions appear in the orange “ANALYTICAL” section.
Rounding out the commentarial panel is a. verte, a senior lecturer in Religion and Critical Theory at New York Theological College, whose socio-critical perspective I recruited for Volume V of the Metamodern Spirituality Series, GOSPEL. verte will be providing nuancing footnotes to the other contributors’ contributions, with a focus on social constructivism, cultural embeddedness, and value pluralism. They appear in the green section labeled “CRITICAL.”
Such is the roster I’ve gathered to assist me in my editorial efforts. Their supplemental perspectives can, I hope, offer a more comprehensive sample of the possible range of reception. In this way, I hope to help Julian’s singular work find a home in the hearts of a diverse audience—including those for whom each lens is seen to play an integral role.
The project is ongoing. I look forward to watching this opus slowly accrete online, building up in layers towards its (unfinished) end. More than that, I look forward to the responses it generates, the reactions it elicits, the conversations it inspires. Most of all, I hope it succeeds in that most audacious of aims, if only for a few souls, of Julian’s truly great endeavor: to meaningfully sing not just the eulogy of the old God, but, rather—and far more importantly—the vibrant life of the new.
– Brendan Graham Dempsey
The Ides of March, 2022
To Navigate toward Ω, Click HERE.
 One occasionally hears of such cases where the solo retreater returns from their isolation only to find the world radically changed from the way it had been when they left it—say, plunged in pandemic, as our own Daniel Thorson famously experienced: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/us/coronavirus-meditation.html.  Those familiar with developmental psychology and methodological pluralism will understand the significance of representing such a spread in a multi-perspectival work, I presume. Those unfamiliar need not trouble themselves about it—beyond simply considering, perhaps, which of the receptions they might find most attractive, which sensibilities ring most true.