Saraswathi, an Indian student at Oxford, lost, lonely and far from home, is easy prey for a religious slime-ball and arsehole who seduces her into a religious sect. Although she has her initial reservations she loses all sense of reality when she is brainwashed into the sect. She finally comes to her senses when members of the sect try to gang rape her as part of an initiation ceremony.
That John/Ieuan is a religious nutter is illustrated by his comment 'You won't find God in a stained glass window and rousing music. It's all wrong.' Later we learn that Beethoven, or at least his music, is sinful.
How wrong could he be. Hildergard von Bingen spoke of being 'a feather on the breath of God'. There are those whose art seems to transcend the transition zone, are in communication with the Soul of the World.
Or to quote Paulo Coelho on art:
'Painting is an art. And art is a power that should be aimed at developing the soul. If art does not do this job, the abyss that separates us from God is left without a bridge.'
'The artist owes his talent to God and has to settle this debt. To do this, he has to work hard, know that he is free in his art but not in his commitment to life. Everything he feels and thinks is part of the raw material with which to improve the spiritual atmosphere around him.'
'Beauty, whether in art or in a woman, cannot be empty; it has to be at the service of humankind and the world.'
Later we learn of an Indian temple that appears to have been designed by the gods, but has one minor imperfection that shows it to be the work of man.
It is not though only these small sects who prey on the vulnerable. I was once at St Peter's in Farnborough where an invited speaker bragged of preying on young vulnerable students in London far from home. The Alpha Course is nothing but brainwashing, and the techniques used by the Third Millennium Church are remarkably similar to that used by Alpha, although they do not as far as I know gang-rape their converts. We have Muslim fundamentalists freely recruiting in our universities. In Iran we have the deluded Supreme Being who thinks he has the God-given right to repress women and to send his thugs onto the streets to brutally suppress any dissent. Neda Soltan was one of the innocent victims who lost her life. Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to save her life, a friend of the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, was willing to speak out.
That the police did nothing after the attempted gang rape of Sara comes as no surprise, but what were the university authorities doing? Where was her college tutor when her studies were suffering, where was her college tutor after the attempted gang rape? Why are these cults allowed free reign to prey on vulnerable students? On the other hand, when university authorities turn a blind eye to the activities of Muslim fundamentalists, can we expect them to act over the activities of a rather nasty Christian sect?
Darshan is the second novel by Irene Black. It is far better written than her first novel The Moon's Complexion. It lacks the horrible clichs. It starts off like a girlie novel, but fortunately does not remain in that mode for long.
Saraswathi decides to study in Oxford to get away from India. She also has another reason, she wants to find her estranged Welsh father who her mother will not talk about. She is also on a quest, although she does not know it yet. A spiritual quest to find her inner self. Very Paulo Coelho.
The discussion of darshan is very Paulo Coelho. Darshan is seeing God, and God seeing you. It is the Buddhist concept of enlightenment. It is the Jewish practice of Kaballah, of being as one with God. It is crossing the transition zone, of communicating with the Soul of the World. Knowing God and being known.
Darshan is a very powerful novel, part love story, part thriller, part spiritual quest.
Darshan opens with a beautiful and haunting poem.
A criticism of Darshan is that it ignores the politics in India, other than a passing comment on poverty and extremes of wealth. A billion Indians encouraged to be capitalist consumers! We should be looking at those who do not consume as the only way forward. No mention of Hindu fascists and the racial tensions they are causing, caste is briefly touched upon.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga [see BCID 7329020]
Listening to Grasshoppers by Arundhati Roy
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy [see BCID 6971605]
The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho [see BCID 6890579]
By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho [see BCID 7302494]
Brida by Paulo Coelho [see BCID 6974601]
The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho [see BCID 7092656]
The Zahir by Paulo Coelho [see BCID 7286898]
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho [see BCID 7329093]
How to Know God by Deepak Chopra [see BCID 5802814]
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood [see BCID 7119115]
ASO by Lindsey Mackie [see BCID 6787202]
The Moon's Complexion by Irene Black [see BCID 6420560]