The war is over, and the King has gone from our land. Gone with him are the faithful children of men, and now only I am left! I alone remain to sing the Song of the Burning Light over this bloodstained ground. The Earth Brethren are gone; I know not where. It seems they are vanquished who once made all men tremble with fear before the strength of wolf and wind and water, of growing thing and of fire. They are gone, and never more shall I hear their battle cries all around me. My heart quakes to think of them conquered, yet how could it be otherwise? Their power was shattered in grief when the King’s heart was pierced by the treachery of his beloved ones. Surely the anguish of his heart-breaking must shake this world so that nothing can stand untouched.
And the Shearim, the merry ones, the Fairest of Creation: they too are gone. They whom no one could kill have destroyed themselves that the children of men might be protected from their own wickedness. With the life-force which once danced in their eyes the Shearim have woven a Veil, a barrier between the Blackness and men. Yet my heart tells me that even the Veil cannot last forever. One day it will grow weak and tear, and the Shearim will pass out of the world forever. How the stars weep for us!
But now my blood grows hot within me and visions pass before my eyes, and I, the Poet, I, the Prophet, will speak! The Blackness will not reign victorious always. In the end the hearts of men will yearn again for their King, and he shall come! Hear, all you heavens. Listen to me, all you earth! Rejoice, for he will come again!
Yet quietly will it begin. His reign shall not be taken up first on the Throne of Men, but in their Hearts: in the hearts of small things, of insignificant things, of forgotten things. In their hearts shall be kindled the Love of the Ages, and they shall sing the Song of the Burning Light!
And he shall come.
So begins chapter 1 of WORLDS UNSEEN, book 1 of The Seventh World Trilogy.
When I started drafting the initial scenes and character outlines that became this story over thirteen years ago, I had a special challenge: I wanted to write about God.
On the nonfiction front, I’d been writing about him in Letters to a Samuel Generation for a couple of years by then. But depicting God in fiction is a special challenge.
One I had actively avoided for years.
I’d personally found that fictional depictions of Jesus, Christianity, and relationship with God tended to feel trite and lifeless.
(Of course there were, and are, exceptions.)
I was terrified of writing God in a way that stuck him a box, sapped the glory and power and strangeness out of his story, or God forbid, made him feel trite, like something you could stick on a refrigerator magnet. So as a young writer — I started writing seriously in my early teens — I made a promise to myself that I would not try to write about my faith, in fiction, until I felt I actually had the skill to do it right.
Worlds Unseen was my first real attempt at that.
It’s worth stating that the spiritual being known as “The King” in The Seventh World Trilogy is not God. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to try to present God as he actually is in our world. What I wanted to do instead was create a character who reflects aspects of who God is, and illustrates aspects of our own story. You can’t get anything like a complete theology from the books; that wasn’t ever the point.
The point was to take pieces of God’s character, put them under a microscope of sorts, and see how they would play out in a fictional world full of fictional people. The HOPE was that by doing so, I and my readers would open our eyes a little wider to the Reality WE live in. I think it worked.
In The Seventh World, the King is a spiritual being in whom the Seventh World exists and from whom it gets its life. “He is the Heart of the World,” one of the characters explains early on. Without him, the Seventh World would literally cease to exist. But the King is also strangely absent.
In an interpretation of the fall of man, the King chose to absent himself from the world — to exile himself, in a sense — when mankind turned on him. He had once been constantly manifested in the world, but with his heart broken by mankind’s rebellion, he left — going “beyond the sky, to the kingdoms of light.”
In a sense, I see this as analogous to our own situation. The fall did not just result in Adam and Eve’s exile from the garden, but to some extent, it resulted in God’s self-imposed exile from manifest presence with us. Reading through the books of Moses, I had noticed that when God was manifestly present with the people of Israel, his presence became deadly to them when they engaged in sin. Fire would break out in the camp; disease would sweep their ranks. “Our God is a consuming fire,” Hebrews tells us; rebellious human beings cannot live in his presence.
But of course, in The Seventh World as in our world, the goal is not continued exile on either side, but reconciliation and restoration. So the trilogy ultimately centers around the idea that the King will come, is coming, and the ancient war that drove him out will be rekindled, and for those who love him and open their eyes to the truth, victory will mean a return to their original purpose — it will mean finding that all their longings are fulfilled in the one who is the Heart of the World.
For us, too, the King is coming. The exile is nearly over. The only question is, when he comes, will we welcome his return?
If you haven’t read WORLDS UNSEEN yet, you can pick it up for free as an ebook from any major retailer. Check it out here.
“He is the Sun-King, and the Moon-King, and All-the-Stars-King, and he shines like them all together.”
(Worlds Unseen by Rachel Starr Thomson)