Introduction by Thomas Fortenberry in a book
What more exemplifies the American spirit than rebellion and revolution? Revolution is our founding myth. Rebellion against the status quo is almost our curse. When I was young, we celebrated the American Bicentennial with “The Spirit of ’76!” parades, products, parties, and symbols. Meaning, we celebrated our Founding Fathers and our freedoms, our independent streak, our revolutionary spirit ― that spirit of the revolution which created our independent nation (the world’s first) from the shackles of an imperial colony.
Not quite a modern-day Paul Revere warning, “The British are coming!” Azsacra however has issued a stern warning. Complacency is coming. Stasis and stagnation is coming. Azsacra has called for a revolution in human spirit. An awakening. Though his philosophy embraces the world, let us focus for a moment on America. He posits a fascinating theory that America is poised for a second revolution. This will be a revolution in spirit, a freeing of minds and a release from materialism, rather than a historically-doomed-to-repeat neo-bluecoats fighting against neo-red coats in the streets of Boston for the material wealth of a continent. Nothing is ever that simple in Azsacra’s mind.
It is ironic that Azsacra asked me to write the forward of this book at this time. We are gearing up for a Titanic political battle in America. This year we have record breaking numbers of political candidates spending record breaking amounts of money in seemingly endless derogatory and degrading campaigns to wrest control of this nation from each other. It has nothing to do with the people’s choices, needs, or wishes any more, just the political system (long since a public relations tool of the corporate machine) wrestling with itself to see which one of its spokespersons should be chosen like a popular brand name for the next few years. The machine churns on.
But things like TV ads and debates (which are simply live ads) do nothing to make us think. In fact they are white noise intended for the opposite effect. They dull the mind and spirit. The annoying buzz of angry insects debating becomes eventually a numbing hum, as comforting as the grave, which lulls us all to sleep.
Azsacra Zarathustra is all about waking us up. His thoughts electrify. They are the strike of lightning and crash of thunder that startles you awake, so that you realize a storm is coming.
When he invited me to introduce this book, I leaped at the chance because it was welcome relief from the monotony of the political season. Finally, something about real change, real thought, real action.
I feel I must explain to my fellow Americans who may be discovering his words/thoughts/works for the first time. Some people are startled or put off by Azsacra’s artworks, his performances, or his intense martial meditations. They can be shocking, strong, controversial ― in fact they are on purpose. Their intensity is to awaken, to shake up, to break the viewer out of the routine and force new awareness, new thoughts, new questioning. One thing to comprehend about Azsacra is that his art and symbolism is bottled lightning, captured spirituality ― which, as one knows, cannot be physically realized like a concrete block, but only imagined and groked on a soul level. These art-images are attempts to encapsulate spirit, just as music, dance, song, art are all narrow-spectrum attempts to capture the wider multifaceted spirit. It is the weak material attempt to capture the abstract, the non-physical concept he is trying to convey. To gain our attention he often uses the most extreme methods by body piercing, nudity, physical stress, pain, etc. Azsacra has an uncomfortable habit of pushing his body right up to the ultimate breaking point ― via burning, bruising, injuring himself ― in order to highlight the physical shell’s limitations and point the way beyond the physical vehicle to the higher energy beyond. Furthermore, I know some one here will eventually attack him/his beliefs, claiming he is Communist or Socialist (because he is Russian) or Buddhist or Hindu or Eastern or Witchcraft or whatever, simply because he is non-Christian, misunderstood, or different than they are used to seeing. However, this is pure ignorance and fallacious on several fronts. Beyond the kneejerk reaction of the bigot, the truth is that Azsacra is none of these things. Though he is a fusionist, he has done far more than synthesize the old into new shapes. His interest is universal. He has moved beyond systems. Religions, philosophies, politics, and even culture are not truly his purview. He has moved beyond these base limitations and is far too esoteric. Though his system is hard to comprehend, it is illuminating and well worth the study. I am very interested to see what new thoughts this book presents. I also urge those new to his concepts to simply approach with an open mind. That is all that is required. In some ways there is nothing more American in spirit than Azsacra’s revolutionary creed. To repeat our famous President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Don’t fear. Try to understand. It might just revolutionize the way you approach life.
I conceive of Azsacra in terms of mythology, or perhaps the elusive quasi-reality of hardcore quantum mechanical science. He is symbolic fiction, chaotic reality, transformative myth, and pure quantum physics all in one. Perhaps Azsacra changes per the observer, like an electron being everywhere and nowhere or behaving like a particle and a wave simultaneously. He is like a gateway, doorway, or portal, a physical and metaphysical thing all at once. He is right here, rooted in the wall of our world, and yet, he is simply a portal to somewhere else. You can see the other side through the doorway. Another way to conceive of that is the black hole that follows the supernova. After the violent death of a star, producing the brightest and most powerful energy blasts that we can conceive of in the universe, the remaining matter of the star falls into its own gravity well, inverting, and punches a hole through the fabric of reality. A black hole is infinitely compact and so powerful nothing can escape it, not even light. And yet, in the simplest of taoistic terms, just as E=mc2 and light and matter always exist as mirror states of each other, so you can turn a black hole around and discover that it is in fact a white hole on the other side, pouring forth in the creation of a new universe. The ultimate collapse death of the black hole in this reality is in fact the Big Bang ultimate birth of the new reality. They are aspects of the same event, the same portal.
I thought the phoenix symbol quite apt for an American Azsacra book. The sword as well. These two images seem to me to capture some of the duality of Azsacra. He often utilizes the Tiwaz/Tyr/virya/arrow symbol in his works. I thought Miguel A. Fernandez explained this symbolism well in his article “Azsacra’s Theory: The Atoms of Kshatriyas Against the System of Death.” Blue-skinned Arjuna with his bow and arrow is another perfect example of death-overcoming life-overcoming death from mythology. In a former book in my article “Become the Lightning” I explored this symbolism, linking it to the thunderbolt of Zeus, the hammer Mjolnir of Thor, or the god-trident of the Indo-European mythologies. In this introduction I will add the symbol of the sword, in the ancient Melnibonean way, to the Tyr/trident/arrow/lightning bolt image system of NihillihiN.
As we find in mythology. Azsacra is like the sacrificial hero of old. The Demigod, the Great Warrior, The Absolute Hero, the Eternal Champion, the Overhero who must forever fight against overwhelming odds and eventually sacrifice himself in pursuit of the ultimate freedom from tyranny, and in so doing create a New Way for all of us. As Azsacra states, “To save the terrestrial world it is necessary to blow up absolutely all transcendental worlds!”
Azsacra does so. He exemplifies this with the haiku-equation: 0-0-0. Nothing ― Emptiness ― Absence. This is his way to overcome the fleetingness of Life and the eternity of Death. Read “Death Is Haiku,” for more. But speaking of the literary arts, let me touch on a story that reminds me of Azsacra.
This brings me to the mythic tale of another sacrificial hero, Elric of Melnibone, who has become over the decades a quite powerful cult icon. Elric is the premiere antihero of Michael Moorcock’s elaborate Multiverse. Below is a lengthy excerpt, the final passage from the book Stormbringer (1965). In this fantasy series, Elric of Melnibone, the last Emperor of a dying ancient race of elven-type sorcerers in a world poised to be inherited by the Younger Races of Men, has been wielding a powerful, black magical sword named Stormbringer, which was given him by the Lords of Chaos to fight for their side in the battle to balance the world between themselves and the forces of Order. This semi-sentient, daemonic sword has granted Elric immense strength and power, but at a terrible price. It is powered by souls of the living and is thus a vehicle of death. In these woeful tales he has eventually killed everyone he encounters, friends and foes, enemies and lovers alike. In the final, cataclysmic battle Elric has come out supreme and holds the Horn of Fate which must be sounded at the End Time. However, the battles have wasted his strength and he is thus left, broken and too weak to act, with his one remaining companion, on the final battle field:
At length Elric’s thoughts were interrupted by Moonglum. “You must blow the horn, Elric. Whether it means nothing or much ― you must finish this business forever!”
“How? I have scarcely enough strength to stand on my feet.”
“I have decided what you must do. Slay me with Stormbringer. Take my soul and vitality into yourself ― then you will have sufficient power to blow the last blast.”
“Kill you, Moonglum! The only one left ― my only true friend? You babble!”
“I mean it. you must, for there is nothing else to do. Further, we have no place here and must die soon at any rate. You told me how Zarozinia gave you her soul ― well, take mine, too!”
Moonglum paced towards him and reached down to grip Stormbringer’s hilt, pulling it halfway from the sheath.
But now the sword sprang from the sheath on its own volition. Elric struck Moonglum’s hand away and gripped the hilt. He could not stop it. The sword rose up, dragging his arm with it, poised to deliver a blow.
Moonglum stood with his arms by his sides, his face expressionless, though Elric thought he glimpsed a flicker of fear in the eyes. He struggled to control the blade, but knew it was impossible.
“Let it do it work, Elric.”
The blade plunged forward and pierced Moonglum’s heart. His blood sprang out and covered it. His eyes blurred and filled with horror. “Ah, no ― I ― had ― not ― expected this!”
Petrified, Elric could not tug the sword from his friend’s heart. Moonglum’s energy began to flow up its length and course into his body, yet, even when all the little Eastlander’s vitality was absorbed, Elric remained staring at the small corpse until the tears flowed from his crimson eyes and a great sob racked him. Then the blade came free.
He flung it away from him and it did not clatter on the rocky ground but landed as a body might land. Then it seemed to move towards him and stop and he had the suspicion that it was watching him.
He took the horn and put it to his lips. He blew the blast to herald in the night of the new Earth. The night that would precede the new dawn. And though the horn’s note was triumphant, Elric was not. He stood full of infinite loneliness and infinite sorrow, his head titled back as the sound rang on. And, when the note faded from triumph to a dying echo that expressed something of Elric’s misery, a huge outline began to form in the sky above the Earth, as if summoned by the horn.
It was the outline of a gigantic hand holding a balance and, as he watched, the Balance began to right itself until each side was true.
And somehow this relieved Elric’s sorrow as he released his grip on the Horn of Fate.
“There is something, at least,” he said, “and if it’s an illusion, then it’s a reassuring one.”
He turned his head to one side and saw the blade leave the ground, sweep into the air and then rush down on him.
“Stormbringer!” he cried, and then the hellsword struck his chest, he felt the icy touch of the blade against his heart, reached out his fingers to clutch at it, felt his body constrict, felt it sucking his soul from the very depths of his being, felt his whole personality being drawn into the runesword. He knew, as his life faded to combine with the sword’s, that it had always been his destiny to die in this manner. With the blade he had killed friends and lovers, stolen their souls to feed his own waning strength. It was as if the sword had always used him to this end, as if he was merely a manifestation of Stormbringer and was now being taken back into the body of the blade which had never been a true sword. And, as he died, he wept again, for he knew that the fraction of the sword’s soul which was his would never know rest but was doomed to immortality, to eternal struggle.
Elric of Melnibone, last of the Bright Emperors, cried out, and then his body collapsed, a sprawled husk beside its comrade, and he lay beneath the mighty balance that still hung in the sky.
Then Stormbringer’s shape began to change, writhing and curling above the body of the albino, finally to stand astraddle it.
The entity that was Stormbringer, last manifestation of Chaos which would remain with this new world as it grew, looked down on the corpse of Elric of Melnibone and smiled.
Though long this passage exhibits a quality I find when I think of Azsacra. It covers both the sacrificial hero and his fate, the burning up and transformation of the old into the new, thus the phoenix. Literally, the phoenix in the sword.
The phoenix is an important symbol here because I want to reiterate that Azsacra has moved beyond the simple sacrificial hero. He has rejected the concept of Übermensch or the Overman. He has removed the human element (the weakness/the err) and focused simply on the act: Over. The act is itself the goal, just as energy is the excited state of matter, and verbs the act of doing for any subject. A hero is one who does. Azsacra urges you not settle for being the hero who may act, but rather simply do the acting. Be that which must be done. One cannot rest, even in the moment as the Sacrificial Hero, but rather be the event itself, the sacrifice, or, to put it another way, be the Phoenix.
The phoenix, or firebird, is a common myth in many cultures, including ancient Greek, Egyptian, Native American, and Tibetan. This brilliantly-hued solar bird was basically immortal and could regenerate or be reborn from its self-immolation. After a thousand year cycle it’s nimbus of solar feathers would often erupt in flames and combust down to ashes. The phoenix then resurrects from its own ashes.
This is the concept of Azsacra’s philosophy. The immolation of the lightning bolt is the same as the 0-0-0 sum. The bolt is lightning, it is energy, and the energy is the act. The zero sum is both the ending, the negation, the nothingness to which all returns, and the beginning, the egg, the ovum, the birth of all that is. In a taoistic tantric way, this is the symbolic sexual act. The spear/hammer/sword/1 and the void/ovum/yoni/0 are two aspects of the same act. 1-0. One fills what the other encompasses. The sword/verse/art/song/lightning stabs the heart/body/mind/soul of the wielder and creates satori. They create themselves by their own act of union. Azsacra’s point is the act. Creation itself. He pivots between realities as the gateway, the sword (the Stormbringer) and the phoenix.
The key is to watch this doorway for the opportunity to enter. Like a revolving door, there are many chances over and over and OVER. Seize the day. Enter. Catch fire when lightning strikes this revolving door, ride the bolt and pass through into the new creation. Another term for this endlessly open opportunity at phoenix-like rebirth is: REVOLUTION.
Charlotte, NC, 2015
Thomas Fortenberry is an award-winning American author, editor, reviewer, and publisher. Founder of Mind Fire Press and the international literary arts journal Mindfire. He has judged many literary contests, including The Georgia Author of the Year Awards and The Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction. He helped found several literary companies over the years, such as Mind Fire Press, GKSAS, Third Party Productions (film and TV), and Silverline Comics. Thomas Fortenberry has a great love of mystery and incorporates it stylistically into a wide variety of genres…