naware of my good fortune, I was invited to Seoul to a Universal Peace Federation meeting and visit to the Peace Palace in the Korean mountains. Its role, as I understand it, is to be a temple and a center for carrying out the vision of Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Universal Peace Federation. The building has become a symbol and feature of a powerful legend because Rev. Moon built it in a place where he had retreated for meditation in moments of difficultly and searching.
When we were approaching the Peace Palace, my friend Luba, who had been familiar with Rev. Moon’s generous work and activities for many years, said that it was a place where God speaks. I do not dare to judge these delicate matters, as my knowledge of Rev. Moon’s teaching and activities is not as intimate. Yet something happened to me there.
Our lives are stories—following a way or a tao—and at the end, we will know whether it is a sequence of steps leading up or down; perhaps we were only hovering, wandering and rambling in a circle. Writers, tested sufficiently by their age, can think this way even about their own books. The secrets and excitement that characterize our lives or creative stories are a product of our free will, thanks to which we do not know, either as a person or author, where our next step will take us. We can only have confidence that the path will lead to fulfillment and not to ruin.
I cannot write with confidence that God spoke to me in the Peace Palace on the gorgeous mountainside. However, I was listening attentively to what Rev. Moon said during the ceremony. The Peace Palace exemplifies Rev. Moon’s vision about the coming of the new age, and it reminded me of something important in my own search for truth as an author. Two of my books gained a completely new context through this powerful spiritual experience. Looking at the Peace Palace from the perspective of Dr. Moon’s vision linked my two books into one and clarified their message. I suddenly saw why I had written them and how they were connected.
The first of the two books is The Lord of the Tower. I began to write it during the dark years of my country’s occupation by the Soviet army after its invasion in 1968. It is a book about guilt at the betrayal of a gift and its redress. The main character in the book is a man who is unable to finish his novel, his life’s work, because he bestowed his gift to a criminal regime. In the first sentence of the book, he dies, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript. A demon then tests him, offering a posthumous possibility to complete the story he was unable to finish.
From the very beginning, my intention with The Lord of the Tower was to return to one fateful week in AD 30. I originally intended its main character to be Pontius Pilate, focusing on his circumstances and the social pressures he faced. However, the story defied that direction. Powerful associations emanated from it in all directions, threatening the accuracy and effect of the literary image, until my intuition counseled me to choose Jesus as the main character of the unmastered novel. When this idea first occurred to me, I became quite scared. Nevertheless, once I had made the choice, it did not allow me to abandon it, and the story about guilt and its redress gained order.
In the unfinished text that permeates the book, I chose for Jesus an image that was not strictly according to the Gospels. He is portrayed as a philosopher coming from David’s lineage with an irrevocable mission in a Jerusalem that is expecting the Messiah. The text of the incomplete novel ends at the moment of Jesus’ condemnation, and the Lord of the Tower—or rather his spirit—picks up the threads of his unfinished novel and takes up Jesus’ cross.
The second book that came to mind in contemplating the meaning of the Peace Palace was my novel about Czech religious reformer Jan Hus, (c. 1369-1415) a book that I began to write after I returned from jail. My initial motive in writing this book was to find a striking pattern in Czech history during those days of great decline. At the same time, I wanted to purge Hus’ personality from a multitude of false interpretations. The book is both fictional and non-fictional. Without a plot, I wrote strictly from historical sources and Jan Hus’ writings in order to give the most precise image possible of Hus’ religious contention with the church of his day which resulted in his becoming one of the founders of the Reformation.
If in The Lord of the Tower Jesus is the projective figure with whom I had difficulty coping, the book about Jan Hus let me experience the figure of Jesus as my own personal discovery. For Hus, Christ was not a mere symbol of religious ceremonies; he experienced Christ directly through a real transformation that takes place during the Eucharist. Christ was for him a living person, a practical role model for daily life, and he interpreted the Gospels as direct instructions for action.
In a theory of the church which Hus was the first to elaborate, Christ is its head, and Hus appealed to Christ as to a judge against the evil pope. He persisted in this appeal even in front of the Council of Constance (1414-18). Because of his deep personal relationship with Christ, he endured the mockery of the church fathers at the Council and identified himself with Christ, even when tied to the stake. As a woman raised in the Renaissance and Enlightenment tradition, I had to deal with Jan Hus’ Platonic way of thinking. Learning to understand the essence of Hus’ decision-making and the foundation of his religious reformation became a joyous discovery.
Even before I visited the Peace Palace, I did not doubt that there were holy places. There was and still is Mount Moria. Hus’ Prague also has its sacred places. I learned that there are quiet places where God speaks, places that are not necessarily connected with great spiritual or historical turning points. However, as I was looking at the hills lining the horizon across the valley from the Peace Palace, which is so perfectly set into the mountainside, the vista seemed to me to be the epitome of earthly beauty.
I also realized something of my own internal reality. At the sight of the snow-white appearance of the Peace Palace, with its snow-white stone staircases, colonnades, central building and dome, I recalled the quantity of literature I had studied while working on The Lord of the Tower. I included a drawing of the Temple in Jerusalem, of which only the Western Wall remains, in order to give the story as authentic a setting as possible. The shape was very similar to the one I was looking at.
This small outward impulse helped me realize that a writer makes seismographic recordings of underground social upheavals through intuition, talent and the awakening of one’s subconscious memory. Thus, a book’s topics need not be objectively distant from the writer. As I entered the pristine courtyard of the Peace Palace and looked at the staircases that resembled the staircases of Solomon’s temple, I was touched by the silent and perhaps already sacred scenery.
After the precious experience of directly meeting Rev. Moon and sincerely attempting to empathize with his vision, I realized that both of these books were personal inquiries. In these books, it wasn’t the Lord of the Tower or Jan Hus but me who was searching for myself. Yes, in exploring critical moments of history, sometimes the writer seems to be giving voice to something that is asking to be written. But without recognizing it, the writer is often writing about his or her own crisis and quest. It was only too obvious that one circle along the way was being completed.