Anybody who has read The Passover Plot will see what is going on here quickly enough. This story won the Nebula award in its category. It deals with a man who travels through Time in search of the Christ. He is, in a very strange way, successful in his quest. On first reading, if you're of the Christian persuasion, this story may seem blasphemous and irreverent. Well, maybe it is. Maybe the author is an iconoclast. Say that. Then again, maybe you're an atheist, and a sophisticated one, and you might say that the author is kicking a dead dog. Say that. Christian or atheist, though, if these be your initial reactions, consider the story a bit more closely; it may just be that both reactions are wrong.
Michael Moorcock is a wondrous man, twice the size of any of us, with a beard like Father Time and the ability to practically kill himself for that which he loves and believes in. He edits the British periodical New Worlds, which has been the vehicle for some very fine tellings since he took it over. He is a good editor, and a man who would literally give you his shirt, if you were to stop him on the street and demonstrate that you really needed it. He is a professional human being. What more can I say? Plenty. I've met Michael Moorcock a couple times, and because of this I know what I am saying when I say that there are very few people who could spend an afternoon with him and not come away liking him.
Read his story very carefully, please.
BEHOLD THE MAN
He has no material power as the god-emperors had; he has only a following of desert people and fishermen. They tell him he is a god; he believes them. The followers of Alexander said: "He is unconquerable, therefore he is a god.' The followers of this man do not think at all; he was their act of spontaneous creation. Now he leads them, this mad-man called Jesus of Nazareth.
And he spoke, saying unto them: Yeah verily I was Kari Glogauer and now I am Jesus the Messiah, the Christ. And it was so.
The time machine was a sphere full of milky fluid in which the traveler floated, enclosed in a rubber suit, breathing through a mask attached to a hose leading to the wall of the machine. The sphere cracked as it landed and the fluid spilled into the dust and was soaked up. Instinctively, Glogauer curled himself into a ball as the level of the liquid fell and he sank to the yielding plastic of the sphere's inner lining. The instruments, cryptographic, unconventional, were still and silent. The sphere shifted and rolled as the last of the liquid dripped from the great gash in its side.
Momentarily, Glogauer's eyes opened and closed, then his mouth stretched in a kind of yawn and his tongue fluttered and he uttered a groan that turned into a ululation.
He heard himself. The Voice of Tongues, he thought.
The language of the unconscious. But he could not guess what he was saying.
His body became numb and he shivered. His passage through time had not been easy and even the thick fluid had not wholly protected him, though it had doubtless saved his life. Some ribs were certainly broken. Painfully, he straightened his arms and legs and began to crawl over the slippery plastic towards the crack in the machine. He could see harsh sunlight, a sky like shimmering steel. He pulled himself half-way through the crack, closing his eyes as the full strength of the sunlight struck then). He lost consciousness.
Christmas term, 1949. He was nine years old, born two years after his father had reached England from Austria. The other children were screaming with laughter in the gravel of the playground. The game had begun earnestly enough and somewhat nervously Karl had joined in in the same spirit. Now he was crying.
"Let me down! Please, Mervyn, stop it!"
They had tied him with his arms spreadeagled against the wire-netting of the playground fence. It bulged outwards under his weight and one of the posts threatened to come loose. Mervyn Williams, the boy who had proposed the game, began, to shake the post so that Karl was swung heavily back and forth on the netting.
He saw that his cries only encouraged them and he clenched his teeth, becoming silent.
He slumped, pretending unconsciousness; the school ties they had used as bonds cut into his wrists. He heard the children's voices drop.
"Is he all right?" Molly Turner was whispering.
"He's only kidding." Williams replied uncertainly.
He felt them untying him, their fingers fumbling with the knots. Deliberately, he sagged, then fell to his knees, grazing them on the gravel, and dropped face down to the ground. Distantly, for he was half-convinced by his own deception, he heard their worried voices.
Williams shook him.
"Wake up, Karl. Stop mucking about."
He stayed where he was, losing his sense of time until he heard Mr. Matson's voice over the general babble.
"What on earth were you doing, Williams?"
"It was a play, sir, about Jesus. Karl was being Jesus. We tied him to the fence. It was his idea, sir. It was only a game, sir."
Karl's body was stiff, but he managed to stay still, breathing shallowly.
"He's not a strong boy like you, Williams. You should have known better."
"I'm sorry, sir. I'm really sorry." Williams sounded as if he were crying.
Karl felt himself lifted; felt the triumph. . . .
He was being carried along. His head and side were so painful that he felt sick. He had had no chance to discover where exactly the time machine had brought him, but, turning his head now, he could see by the way the man on his right was dressed that he was at least m the Middle East. He had meant to land in the year 29 A.D. in the wilderness beyond Jerusalem, near Bethlehem. Were they taking him to Jerusalem now?
He was on a stretcher that was apparently made of animal skins; this indicated that he was probably in the past, at any rate. Two men were carrying the stretcher on their shoulders. Others walked on both sides. There was a smell of sweat and animal fat and a musty smell he could not identify. They were walking towards a line of hills in the distance. He winced as the stretcher lurched and the pain in his side increased. For the second time he passed out.
He woke up briefly, hearing voices. They were speaking what was evidently some form of Aramaic. It was night, perhaps, for it seemed very dark. They were no longer moving. There was straw beneath him. He was relieved. He slept.
In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Iudaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:1-6)
They were washing him. He felt the cold water running over his naked body. They had managed to strip off his protective suit. There were now thick layers of cloth against his ribs on the right, and bands of leather bound them to him.
He felt very weak now, and hot, but there was less pain. He was in a building - or perhaps a cave; it was too gloomy to tell - lying on a heap of straw that was saturated by the water. Above him, two men continued to sluice water down on him from their earthenware pots. They were stern-faced, heavily-bearded men, in cotton robes.
He wondered if he could form a sentence they might understand. His knowledge of written Aramaic was good, but he was not sure of certain pronunciations.
He cleared his throat. "Where be this place?"
They frowned, shaking their heads and lowering their water jars.
"I seek a Nazarene Jesus. . . ."
"Nazarene. Jesus." One of the men repeated the words, but they did not seem to mean anything to him. He shrugged. The other, however, only repeated the word Nazarene, speaking it slowly as if it had some special significance for him. He muttered a few words to the other man and went towards the entrance of the room.
Karl Glogauer continued to try to say something the remaining man would understand.
"What year doth the Roman Emperor sit in Rome?"
It was a confusing question to ask, he realized. He knew Christ had been crucified in the fifteenth year of Tiberius' reign, and that was why he had asked the question. He tried to phrase it better.
"How many year doth Tiberius rule?"
"Tiberius?" The man frowned.
Glogauer's ear was adjusting to the accent now and he tried to simulate it better. "Tiberius. The emperor of the Romans. How many years has he ruled?"
"How many?" The man shook his head. "I know not."
At least Glogauer had managed to make himself understood.
"Where is this place?" he asked.
"It is the wilderness beyond Machaerus," the man replied.
"Know you not that?"
Machaerus lay to the southeast of Jerusalem, on the other side of the Dead Sea. There was no doubt that he was in the past and that the period was sometime in the reign of Tiberius, for the man had recognized the name easily enough. His companion was now returning, bringing with him a
huge fellow with heavily muscled hairy arms and a great
barrel chest. He carried a big staff in one hand. He was
dressed in animal skins and was well over six feet tall. His
black, curly hair was long and he had a black, bushy beard
that covered the upper half of his chest. He moved like an
animal and his large, piercing brown eyes looked reflectively
When he spoke, it was in a deep voice, but too rapidly for
Glogauer to follow. It was Glogauer's turn to shake his head.
The big man squatted down beside him. "Who art thou?"
Glogauer paused. He had not planned to be found in this
way. He had intended to disguise himself as a traveler from
Syria, hoping that the local accents would be different enough
to explain his own unfamiliarity with the language. He
decided that it was best to stick to this story and hope for
"I am from the north," he said.
"Not from Egypt?" the big man asked. It -was as if he had
expected Glogauer to be from there. Glogauer decided that if
this was what the big man thought, he might just as well
agree to it.
"I came out of Egypt two years since," he said.
The big man nodded, apparently satisfied. "So you are
a magus from Egypt. That is what we thought. And your
name is Jesus, and you are the Nazarene."
"I seek Jesus, the Nazarene," Glogauer said.
"Then what is your name?" The man seemed disappointed.
Glogauer could not give his own name. It would sound
too strange to them. On impulse, he gave his father's first
name. "Emmanuel," he said.
The man nodded, again satisfied. "Emmanuel."
Glogauer realized belatedly that the choice of name had
been an unfortunate one in the circumstances, for Emmanuel
meant in Hebrew "God with us" and doubtless had a mystic
significance for his questioner.
"And what is your name?" he asked.
The man straightened up, looking broodingly down on
Glogauer. "You do not know me? You have not heard of
John, called the Baptist?"
Glogauer tried to hide his surprise, but evidently John the
Baptist .saw that his name was familiar. He nodded his shaggy
bead. "You do know of me, I see. Well, magus, now I must
"What must you decide?" Glogauer asked nervously.
"If you be the friend of the prophecies or the false one
. we have been warned against by Adonai. The Romans would
deliver me into the hands of mine enemies, the children of
"Why is that?"
"You must know why, for I speak against the Romans who
enslave Judaea, and I speak against the unlawful things that
Herod does, and I prophesy the time when all those who
are not righteous shall be destroyed and Adonai's kingdom
will be restored on Earth as the old prophets said it would
be. I say to the people, 'Be ready for that day when ye shall
take up the sword to do Adonai's will.' The unrighteous
know that they will perish on this day, and they would
Despite the intensity of his words, John's tone was matter
of fact. There was no hint of insanity or fanaticism in his
face or bearing. He sounded most of all like an Anglican
vicar reading a sermon whose meaning for him had lost its
The essence of what he said, Karl Glogauer realized, was
that he was arousing the people to throw out the Romans
and their puppet Herod and establish a more "righteous"
regime. The attributing of this plan to "Adonai" (one of the
spoken names of Jahweh and meaning The Lord) seemed,
as many scholars had guessed in the 20th century, a means
of giving the plan extra weight. In a world where politics
and religion, even in the west, were inextricably bound to-
gether, it was necessary to ascribe a supernatural origin to
Indeed, Glogauer thought, it was more than likely that
John believed his idea had been inspired by God, for the
Greeks on the other side of the Mediterranean had not yet
stopped arguing about the origins of inspirationwhether it
originated in a man's head or was placed there by the gods.
That John accepted him as an Egyptian magician of some
kind did not surprise Glogauer particularly, either. The cir-
cumstances of his arrival must have seemed extraordinarily
miraculous and at the same time acceptable, particularly to a
sect like the Essenes who practiced self-mortification and
starvation and must be quite used to seeing visions in this hot
wilderness. There was no doubt now that these people were
the neurotic Essenes, whose ritual washingbaptismand
self-deprivation, coupled with the almost paranoiac mysticism
that led them to invent secret languages and the like, was a
sure indication of their mentally unbalanced condition. All
this occurred to Glogauer the psychiatrist manque, but Glo-
gauer the man was torn between the poles of extreme ra-
tionalism and the desire to be convinced by the mysticism
"I must meditate," John said, turning towards the cave
entrance. "I must pray. You will remain here until guidance
is sent to me."
He left the cave, striding rapidly away.
Glogauer sank back on the wet straw. He was without
doubt in a limestone cave, and the atmosphere in the cave
was surprisingly humid. It must be very hot outside. He felt
Five years in the past. Nearly two thousand in the future.
Lying in the hot, sweaty bed with Monica. Once again, an-
other attempt to make normal love had metamorphosed into
the performance of minor aberrations which seemed to
satisfy her better than anything else.
Their real courtship and fulfillment was yet to come. As
usual, it would be verbal. As usual, it would find its climax
in argumentative anger.
"I suppose you're going to tell me you're not satisfied
again." She accepted the lighted cigarette he handed to her
in the darkness.
"I'm all right," he said.
There was silence for a while as they smoked.
Eventually, and in spite of knowing what the result would
be if he did so, he found himself talking.
"It's ironic, isn't it?" he began.
He waited for her reply. She would delay for a little
"What is?" she said at last.
"All this. You spend all day trying to help sexual neurotics
to become normal. You spend your nights doing what they
"Not to the same extent. You know it's all a matter of
"So you say."
He turned his head and looked at her face in the starlight
from the window. She was a gaunt-featured redhead, with
the calm, professional seducer's voice of the psychiatric social
worker that she was. It was a voice that was soft, reasonable
and insincere. Only occasionally, when she became particu-
larly agitated, did her voice begin to indicate her real charac-
ter. Her features never seemed to be in repose, even when
she slept. Her eyes were forever wary, her movements rarely
spontaneous. Every inch of her was protected, which was
probably why she got so little pleasure from ordinary love-
"You just can't let yourself go, can you?" he said.
"Oh, shut up, Karl. Have a look at yourself if you're
looking for a neurotic mess."
Both were amateur psychiatristsshe a psychiatric social
worker, he merely a reader, a dabbler, though he had done
a year's study some time ago when he had planned to be-
come a psychiatrist. They used the terminology of psychia-
try freely. They felt happier if they could name something.
He rolled away from her, groping for the ashtray on the
bedside table, catching a glance of himself in the dressing
table mirror. He was a sallow, intense, moody Jewish book-
seller, with a head full of images and unresolved obsessions,
a body full of emotions. He always lost these arguments
with Monica. Verbally, she was the dominant one. This kind
of exchange often seemed to him more perverse than their
lovemaking, where usually at least his role was masculine.
Essentially, he realized, he was passive, masochistic, in-
decisive. Even his anger, which came frequently, was im-
potent. Monica was ten years older than he was, ten years
more bitter. As an individual, of course, she had far more
dynamism than he had; but as a psychiatric social worker
she had had just as many failures. She plugged on, becoming
increasingly cynical on the surface but still, perhaps, hoping
for a few spectacular successes with patients. They tried to
do too much, that was the trouble, he thought. The priests
in the confessional supplied a panacea; the psychiatrists tried
to cure, and most of the time they failed. But at least they
tried, he thought, and then wondered if that was, after all,
"I did look at myself," he said.
Was she sleeping? He turned. Her wary eyes were still
open, looking out of the window.
"I did look at myself," he repeated. "The way Jung did.
'How can I help those persons if I am myself a fugitive and
perhaps also suffer from the morbus sacer of a neurosis?'
That's what Jung asked himself. . . ."
"That old sensationalist. That old rationalizer of. his own
mysticism. No wonder you never became a psychiatrist."
"I wouldn't have been any good. It was nothing to do
with Jung. . . ."
"Don't take it out on me. . . ."
"You've told me yourself that you feel the sameyou
think it's useless. . . ."
"After a hard week's work, I might say that. Give me an-
He opened the packet on the bedside table and put two
cigarettes in his mouth, lighting them and handing one to
Almost abstractedly, he noticed that the tension was in-
creasing. The argument was, as ever, pointless. But it was
not the argument that was the important thing; it was simply
the expression of the essential relationship. He wondered if
that was in any way important, either.
"You're not telling the truth." He realized that there was
no stopping now that the ritual was in full swing.
"I'm telling the practical truth. I've no compulsion to give
up my work. I've no wish to be a failure. . . ."
"Failure? You're more melodramatic than I am."
"You're too earnest, Karl. You want to get out of yourself
He sneered. "If I were you, I'd give up my work, Monica.
You're no more suited for it than I was."
She shrugged. "You're a petty bastard."
"I'm not jealous of you, if that's what you think. You'll
never understand what I'm looking for."
Her laugh was artificial, brittle. "Modem man in search
of a soul, eh? Modern man in search of a crutch, I'd say.
And you can take that any way you like."
"We're destroying the myths that make the world go
"Now you say 'And what are we putting in their place?'
You're stale and stupid, Karl. You've never looked rationally
at anythingincluding yourself."
"What of it? You say the myth is unimportant."
"The reality that creates it is important."
"Jung knew that the myth can also create the reality."
"Which shows what a muddled old fool he was."
He stretched his legs. In doing so, he touched hers and
he recoiled. He scratched his head. She still lay there smok-
ing, but she was smiling now.
"Come on," she said. "Let's have some stuff about Christ."
He said nothing. She handed him the stub of her cigarette
and he put it in the ashtray. He looked at his watch. It was
two o'clock in the morning.
"Why do we do it?" he said.
"Because we must." She put her hand to the back of his
head and pulled it towards her breast. "What else can we
We- Protestants must sooner or later face this question:
Are we to understand the "imitation of Christ" in the sense
that we should copy his life and, if I may use the expression,
ape his stigmata; or in the deeper sense that we are to live
our own proper lives as truly as he lived his in all its im-
plications? It is no easy matter to live a life that is modeled
on Christ's, but it is unspeakably harder to live one's own
life as truly as Christ lived his. Anyone who did this would
. . . be misjudged, derided, tortured and crucified. . . . A
neurosis is a dissociation of personality.
(Jung; Modem Man in Search of a Soul)
For a month, John the Baptist was away and Glogauer
lived with the Essenes, finding it surprisingly easy, as his
ribs mended, to join in their daily life. The Essenes' town-
ship consisted of a mixture of single-story houses, built of
limestone and clay brick, and the caves that were to be found
on both sides of the shallow valley. The Essenes shared their
goods in common and this particular sect had wives, though
many Essenes led completely monastic lives. The Essenes
were also pacifists, refusing to own or to make weapons
yet this sect plainly tolerated the warlike Baptist. Perhaps
their hatred of the Romans overcame their principles. Per-
haps they were not sure of John's entire intention. Whatever
the reason for their toleration, there was little doubt that
John the Baptist was virtually their leader.
The life of the Essenes consisted of ritual bathing three
times a day, of prayer and of work. The work was not dif-
ficult. Sometimes Glogauer guided a plough pulled by two
other members of the sect; sometimes he looked after the
goats that were allowed to graze on the hillsides. It was a
peaceful, ordered life, and even the unhealthy aspects were
so much a matter of routine that Glogauer hardly noticed
them for anything else after a while.
Tending the goats, he would lie on a hilltop, looking out