While attending a Catholic conference in the US to boost the faith in difficult times, Australian political journalist and ex seminarian Jack Duggan is made aware of a controversial codex written by a 4th century Syrian bishop. Only photographs of the codex are available, the original having gone missing soon after its discovery at the Palestinian monastery of Mar Saba.
Within a few pages we are engaged in Duggan’s struggle with his religious past, a past that furnished him with the expertise to translate the codex, but left him antagonistic to all things religious. From there we are carried into the thick of a story that reveals, step by step, what this ancient codex contains, and it contains not a few historical surprises.
At once a kind of thriller, a romance and a slice of life, The Mar Saba Codex is a big story with many an unexpected twist that traverses the globe from Sydney to San Francisco, and from New York to Rome, reaching its grand climax in the old walled city of Jerusalem where equally belligerent forces strive for dominance.
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5 November 2009
To Whom it May Concern
Douglas Lockhart recently asked if I would be willing to read and provide some comments on two of his works, one of which is an investigation of issues of philosophy, religion and the self, STOP, and the other a novel, The Mar-Saba Codex. I have enjoyed reading both these works and would recommend them very highly to any potential publisher. I would like to offer some comments about each of these volumes in turn.
Written not against the Christian vision, but in order to recover what Lockhart argues is its real essence, STOP is an impressive and thought-provoking work. Drawing on a wealth of scholarly material, the book develops its arguments in a way that is both engaging and accessible. It not only connects contemporary religious and theological ideas with recent work in the philosophy of mind and consciousness, but also shows how much there is still to be gained from the mystical and contemplative traditions, as well as from other more esoteric sources. Lockhartâ€™s conclusions connect with some of the most innovative current thinking about meaning, mind and self arguing for a view of human existence as neither wholly internalized nor wholly externalized, but as constituted in the â€˜betweenâ€™ of mind and world in a way that encompasses both.
The Mar Saba Codex provides what may be viewed as the fictional companion volume to STOP. While it is certainly not an â€˜actionâ€™ novel, The Mar-Saba Codex is nevertheless structured around a intriguing set of events that provide a narrative tension and direction to the book that has elements of more traditional forms of fiction. However, the real core of the book is actually the intellectual narrative that is played out between the characters. An extremely well-written and well-crafted book, The Mar-Saba Codex takes up a set of philosophical issues that mirror those explored in STOP, and yet the intellectual weight of those issues is not such as to overload the narrative, but actually provides the interplay that drives it forward. While the character of the book harks back to the sort of intellectual fiction that characterized some of the most important English novelists of the last century â€“ writers such as Wyndham Lewis, Lawrence Durrell, and John Cooper Powys â€“ it also points towards a new kind of fiction for the new century, one that engages both narrative and ideas at the same time.
Once again, I would recommend both these works very highly, and very much hope that both will be seen in print in the near future.
Professor of Philosophy and ARC Professorial Fellow, University of Tasmania
Distinguished Visiting Professor, LaTrobe University ~ Jeff Malpas