Can human society ever
learn to live in a world without prejudice? What will it take to heal the wounds
the nature of prejudice inflicts on its victims?
As sentient creatures, we
all have the potential to experience spiritual enlightenment: that moment in
time when divine grace activates our higher self (the divine potential we carry
dissolves the individual’s emotional and intellectual attachments to any preconceptions,
usually the causes of the prejudices which divide us, e.g. race, religion or
Thus, once enlightened, the
individual can cut through the separations and imperfections of this physical world
and grasp that, essentially, there are no differences between us: we are all
essentially the same when stripped of our external differences.
An important theme of my early novel “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” is the illusion of external differences such as skin colour, wealth and social standing as an underlying cause of human prejudice.
A “Pale One,” Lulu is ostracised and punished for her physical difference to others. Jamila and Zahra, too, have differences to what society considers “the norm” and they also feel the cruel effects of being victims of prejudice.
Grace, however, is enlightened. She is an ideal against
which others measure themselves, because she has the compassion to see beyond external
differences to the divine potential within all. “Our hearts are one and the
same, dear,” she says to Zahra, “despite the unfortunate differences the world
imposes.” Grace knows there is another reality beyond this world (she has
visions of angels and Jesus) and she recognises Enoch not only as a separate
being (one of her poor strays), but as a part of her spiritual self.
Enoch and Grace together, Zahra cannot tell where one ends and the other begins:
whenever she looks at them they appear as one. She sees that, no matter what
tragedies life imposes on her, Grace is always at peace. Zahra is torn between being
both Zahra and Little Flower – an inner duality arising from the prejudices she
suffered from as a child – and yearns for what Grace has.
a hard, ruthless shell around herself in an attempt to separate herself from other
people’s cruel prejudice, Zahra crushes the gentle side of herself (Little
Flower) that she thinks turned her into a victim. Her tragedy lies in that she seeks peace
from her inner “war” (between the powerful Zahra and the weak Little Flower) in
the wrong places. She places her faith in the objects of the material world,
her possessions: the silver sugar shaker, her pearls, the mahogany cupboard and
the trigger on the gun that “saved” her. She often becomes incensed with Grace,
for she cannot yet understand what Grace does: that we are linked in pain and
peace through our common sentience, not separated by our physical differences
such as skin colour, wealth and social standing (or perceived lack of it.)
much the same way that nations use war as an excuse to annex another’s
possessions in the vain hope it will bring a lasting peace, so Zahra tries to
annex Grace’s position and possessions in the hope that she will find the inner
peace that fills Grace. Instead, her search leads her into a dance in the darkest
shadows of her soul.
too, seeks an end to her inner “war” in the external world. She thinks her
peace will come through acceptance by those she sees as “high society.” She
shifts between believing that her faith in the Spirit King, and all that his
suffering on the nova symbolises, will
save her from her pain, to believing that only marriage to the wealthy, elite Dawud
can save her. Jamila’s need to become part of those she sees as perfect in this
world – the ideal she wants to achieve – leads her into a battle between her sense
of spiritual unity with Lulu, despite their physical differences, and her inner
demon of shame, which makes her think acceptance by an elite society will bring
her the inner peace she seeks.
Not by her own choice,
Lulu is separated from a physical oneness with others. She is born a Pale One,
and believes no-one can love her because of their prejudices. Lulu is seen by
the majority of people as evil, that is, as someone who is evil because of her physical
differences. From an early age, Lulu is taught to believe that her difference
is an ezomo, a sin or demon she must
be punished for. Her only hope of redemption lies in her longing for a love or
friendship that will see her as “normal.” When she realises that, through no fault of
her own, the physical reality of her skin colour will always separate her from
others, she feels victimised and is filled with what she sees as a justified
The outlander, Enoch, brings
Lulu into a spiritual awareness (enlightenment) that the love she seeks can
only come if she chooses to rise above her anger and the inner pain caused by
the prejudice of others. When she can, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow says "read the secret
history of her enemies, and find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough
to disarm all hostility," it’s then that she will come out of the shadows and dance
in love. Enoch the prophet shows Lulu that, through a simple act of forgiveness,
she will find neither l’amour nor
friendship but rather: a Divine
Compassion for the suffering of others.
This, then, is the love she has sought her whole life, a
correction of her inner, spiritual self that allows her to connect with others
physical differences that inevitably separate people. By using forgiveness to bridge
the prejudices caused by the illusionary external differences lurking in the dusty
attics of the human mind, Lulu can – if she sees through the masks of those who
wish to lead her astray – find inner peace. The inner
fractures of her soul will finally be healed as she finds the greatest love of all: the grace of God that cannot be logically understood, only felt deep
within the shadows of her heart.
Book Review of "Dancing in the Shadows of Love" (first edition, with old cover)
Reveiwed by Gary's Reviews