By John Watts
There were two philosophers, one a Christian, the other an Atheist, and they were enjoying a stroll deep in the woodlands of sunny Sussex, in serious discussion about matters which arrested the minds of philosophers, Christians and Atheists. The discourse and the arguments on both sides were the most profound and convincing of Christian or Atheist that ever I have heard, and could I remember their conversation I would summarise it here for your edification, good reader, but alas, it is now something forgotten.
After hours of wandering and conversing they stopped to try and figure out where they were, for they were somewhat lost at this point, “By fair mother Philosophy, where are we?” cried one to the other. “I recognise that tree”, said the other, “Let’s go to it and see if we can figure the way from there.” They made their way to the tree, which, very surprisingly, spoke to them, “Excuse me sirs, I perceive you two are philosophers, will you help me?”
‘What? You speak?’ said one of the philosophers, more than surprised to be speaking to the tree.
‘Indeed, I tried calling to you some hours ago, when you passed by, but you were too deep in conversation to notice me then. Oh, I am wretched thing! Will you please help me good men, you will surely help me, no?’ responded the tree.
‘But who are you and what is your story?’ one of the philosophers said.
‘I am god—’
‘Ah, there you have it, there is a God!’, cried out the Christian philosopher to the Atheist philosopher, before the tree could continue speaking.
‘Well, if you are God, what is your name and what are you doing, subsisting as a tree?’ said the Atheist philosopher to the tree.
‘If you would have let me finish I was about to say, I am god of wine, theatre and festivity, Dionysus; and, as for why I am currently a tree and have been for a good long while, I do not why, sirs. Before my metamorphosis all I remember is a long day of heavy drinking, then I passed out, and I awoke as thus. But please, it has not rained for some time and I am parched, will you fetch me a stoup of wine?’
‘Alack, I was not expecting this,’ said the Christian philosopher to his friend.
‘I confess, neither was I, I suspect we both may have to revise our positions,’ the Atheist philosopher replied, whilst producing a flask from his pockets, ‘I have this bottle of Jameson if you so wish it Dionysus?’
‘And I have this bottle of Smirnoff for you,’ the Christian philosopher said to the tree, and just then the rain started to come down.
‘Very well, but I see that it has begun to rain, if you would leave those drinks nestled in my leafy boughs I shall have them after the rain has ended, for I do not wish to drink watered down spirits.’
So the philosophers did as they were asked, “Here you are Dionysus, and should we come to know how to release you from your current state as a tree we shall return to help you. It is hardly fitting for a god to be a tree I should say.”
‘Neither, I daresay, is it fitting for a philosopher to be talking to a tree,’ replied Dionysus
‘That is true, but tell me, Dionysus, I am curious, are any of your fellow gods around?’ replied one of the philosophers.
‘I know not if they are, it is hard to say when one is a tree. I should say I am not interested where the others are. I would beseech of you one further favour, if you should know of any young maidens, please send them my way that they may disrobe and dance around me singing and chanting, or that they may press their bare bosoms against my trunk and I shall feed them my fruit and they may fall asleep beneath the shade I can afford them— send them my way please.’
‘We shall see what we can do Dionysus, but before we go, can you tell us what you know of the creation of the universe, if created it is?’ said one of the philosophers.
‘I can’t remember beyond what I was last drinking I’m afraid,’ replied the tree.
So they left Dionysus and went on their way.
‘So,’ said the Christian philosopher, as they continued in the rain under the protection of an umbrella, ‘now that we know Dionysus exists, I am afraid to say that my faith is compromised, I do not think, in good faith, I can remain a Christian, since, according to my doctrine, there is only one God, and that is not Dionysus.’
‘And I too’, the Atheist philosopher replied, ‘cannot maintain my position as an Atheist, as, according to Atheism there are no gods. But since Dionysus exists, I will hereby renounce Atheism. You might be the more satisfied between the two of us by fact that some sort of theism is at least true. Though I must say that this discovery is a disappointing one for myself.’
‘It is for me too; and do not think that I am happy in the least bit by this discovery, I am deeply discomforted to come to the realisation that my faith is false. But I suppose it would stand to reason that we should have a further, and more serious look, into the Greek gods.’
‘I suppose it does stand to reason that we should do as such, if Dionysus exists then perhaps we shall come across Zeus, and he shall have some explanation for us.’
Just then they stopped by another tree, to work out where they were, and were just about to dispute which way they should go when that tree spoke to them, ‘Hello sirs, can either of you help me?’
‘Oh? And who are who?’ said one of the philosophers to the tree, a little less surprised than before.
‘I am Thoth, god of knowledge and wisdom; but certain events have transpired to cause my metamorphosis into this tree.’
‘Thoth? Are you not an Egyptian god?’
‘That I am.’
‘But we just met Dionysus, a Greek god, not long ago, how can this be?’
‘What do you mean?’ replied Thoth
‘Well, are both Egyptian and Greek pantheons true then?’
‘I suppose that they are, but I must insist on your help.’
‘What do you need, Thoth?’
‘My bough just above your heard is in urgent need to have the fruit plucked from it, I can feel it ready to fall and it is a great nuisance, distracting me from important thoughts.’
So the philosophers plucked the fruit in question.
‘Thoth,’ said one philosopher, ‘this is mighty odd we should come across both you and Dionysus—do you know much about the creation of the universe, good god?’
‘I’m afraid I simply cannot answer any questions right now, and certainly not one so involved, I must rest and collect my spirits, perhaps if you come back later I will have answers for you.’
So the philosophers left Thoth and carried on their way, searching for a way out of the woods and in some baffled discussion as to the discovery of these gods. Soon enough, they were stopped by another tree, trying to work out which way they should go when, less a surprise than as before, the tree spoke to them.
‘Good men, are you in need of direction?’ said the tree to them.
‘Hullo! And who are you?’ said one philosopher.
‘Why I am Thoth—’
‘Thoth, but we just met you not long ago, you were another tree entirely different to this one, how can this be?’
‘Why that’s impossible, you must have met someone different for I am Thoth.’
‘Well if, you’re Thoth and that other tree wasn’t, then who did we meet?’
‘Probably Loki, I imagine he’s up to his tricks again, impersonating my good self.
‘How can we be sure? For all we know you might be Loki impersonating Thoth and the other tree was Thoth—I’m not sure I trust all this business with you gods being trees.’
‘I can well prove I’m Thoth, for I’m god of knowledge, and in my knowledge I perceive you are looking for a way out of these woods, and I can direct you out of here, for I have that knowledge.’
‘That would be of great help if you could tell us the way out.’
The tree then gave them directions out of the woods, much to the philosophers’ relief, who were then in agreeance that he must be Thoth and other tree was Loki.
‘Tell me then Thoth,’ said one philosopher, ‘just what is going on with business all you gods subsisting as trees, and what about the creation of the universe? We’re wondering these things.’
‘Well as it happens now, me, Loki and Dionysus are the last gods left but even I can’t remember why that is; some unnatural occurrence, erm, occurred as far as I can tell, resulting in most the gods being struck from existence. Alas. As for the universe and it’s origins, I’ll have my page deliver the files pertaining to that to you when you’re out of these woods, that would be easier than listening to the whole thing here and now, it’s a rather long story, and not all that interesting to be quite honest.’
It was then agreed that the best thing was for the philosophers to carry on their way before it became dark, so on they pressed, now headed in the right direction out of the woods.
‘Perhaps,’ said one philosopher, as they neared the woods’ exit, ‘we have been suffering from some strange hallucination, I can’t imagine we’ve really experienced gods as trees.’
‘Hmm, yes, yes, I think you must be right, we’ve suffered a hallucination, that explains things well enough; and, just as well it does, for I do not think I can forsake my belief in all honesty, I still think I’m right.’
‘Indeed, I admit, I don’t think I am mistaken either, like you, I too must stick to my guns.’
‘Yes, for how could we possibly be wrong?’ they both said and carried on out of the woods.