Copyright (C) 2000 by William Mistele.  All rights reserved. 

Note:  I told this story to my kids one day while we were driving
together downtown. Some might consider this story to be somewhat
dark.  Neanderthal is thought to have had a larger brain capacity than
our species, Homo Sapiens.  As a separate, intelligent species, the
Neanderthals lived on this planet before us for nearly two hundred
thousand years.  The Neanderthals left us few artifacts and no art or
religion.  There is speculation that perhaps for a few thousand years our
two species occupied the same lands before becoming extinct.  Perhaps
we even carry some of its genes.
    My task is to account for the fact that the human race has been
fighting over land for at least since the end of the last ice age.  In
Europe and the Middle East, separate races have been fighting each other
over the same land for thousands of years.  In the process, we have
acquired the ability to destroy all life on the planet and yet the best
which exists within us resists definition.  And so this story probes an
imaginary past to better comprehend the choices which fashion our future.

		     The Neanderthals and the Archangel Michael

And it came to pass that God called the archangel Michael before His
throne.  And God spoke and said, "As you well know, for every purpose
I propose, there is a beginning, a middle, and an ending.  Go therefore
and take an accounting.  Answer this question, `What part have the
Neanderthals chosen to play in the unfolding of creation?"
   "Your will is my command--as you have spoken it, it shall be both
now and for eternity," replied the archangel Michael with that special
fervor and grace granted to beings of his high estate. 
     And straightforth without delay the archangel descended through the
planes.  He approached our planet in a blaze of light like a second sun
set in place to destroy forever all darkness and night.  Then stepping
down upon the ground, the glorious light vanished without a trace. The
archangel considered carefully the intelligence and experience of this
race Neanderthal now dwelling upon the earth.  He assumed a form and
countenance more fitting for casual conversation and dialogue, an
appearance in fact quite unlike anything we might conceive.
    Then the archangel focused his thought to study the mind and soul of
each and every member of this race.  And in a moment he found the
greatest and the wisest of them all living in a cave in what would one
day be called southern France not far from the Mediterranean Sea.  It
was the archangel's intention to enter and meet this creature within his
     But the Neanderthal sensed the archangel's mental probe, awoke, and
spoke aloud, "I am happy to speak with a celestial being so magnificent. 
But tell me why you awaken me from my dreams?  The circle of the
horizon and the ocean of the sky does not bind or limit your flight.  And
your eyes do not require the radiance of natural light to perceive secret
mysteries hidden far beyond the gaze of mortal sight."
     "I would speak to you," replied the archangel, "of those dreams you
seek to fulfill.  Your race has been granted peace and grace.  And for a
hundred and fifty thousand years you have dwelt upon the earth.  And
yet I find you living here in a cave with your family.  Though you live
off the land, you explore not. You invent only a few physical artifacts. 
You cherish no art.  You live the same as your fathers lived a hundred
thousand years before.  It has, therefore, fallen upon me to speak to you
of your destiny."
     The great and wise Neanderthal rose and walked with the archangel
out through the mouth of the cave.  The Neanderthal raised his hand and
gestured saying, "I have no need to explore, to see what is beyond
yonder mountain or across the far sea.  There is sufficient food in this
valley to feed my family.  
     "And as for peace, I understand the hunger that drives the hawk to
strike the dove.  I understand his need for fresh blood.  His eyes and
claws are designed for war and he can not escape his form.  The air is
his home and other birds disturb the power of his throne.  
     "I understand the wolf's desire to command and own the land.  I see
in his heart his need to mark and defend the boundaries of his territory. 
The hunger in his belly requires struggle and strife for victory.
     "And the cold serpent that slithers through the grass--I grasp why
there is venom in his bite.  Aroused by heat and yearning for the life he
can not in himself find, he must steal from others to acquire what he
needs to recapture the peace of sleep.  This unending cycle of desire and
gratification, this repetition of the need to find a completion that can
never be is all perfectly clear to me.  
     "I understand and respect these creatures and their needs but I am
not as these.  As I am sure you understand so well for yourself, my senses
are not the slaves of their sensations.  My perceptions are not the
servants of what they perceive.  In every moment, I find eternity--in
every moment, I am free.  As long as I dwell on this planet, I shall dwell
in peace.
     "As for physical artifacts--tools, weapons to protect myself,
articles of clothing, buildings, the cultivation of fields, herbal
remedies, vessels to carry water and containers for food--what we have now
is sufficient for our needs.
     "As for art, what need do we have to draw or paint upon cave walls
or bark or to fashion images in stone or clay?  I can close my eyes and
recall with perfect clarity any animal, plant, or tree, any scene of sky,
land, or sea so vivid it is as real as any dream.  Yet I am fully awake
within it.  What work fashioned by hands can reflect even in small
measure this inner power of vision and clear recollection I already
     "You would speak to me of destiny.  I perceive in your heart you are
asking me to leave behind the satisfactions I already have.  Magnificent
celestial being, the light in your eyes can penetrate to the depths of any
mystery and the mystery in your heart is the power to resolve any
conflict in creation.  Come, therefore, let us reason together.  As you
well know, there is no higher art than the art of peace in all the
and I already live at peace now.
   "What would you have me do?  Become curious about nature? 
Explore and adventure?  Make, shape, and create?  Fashion tools and
machines and begin a long journey down the road that leads to
technology, industry, and productivity?  
   "I will tell you now how it shall be.  If I go this way, one day those
who follow me will sit in front of a machine which glows with unnatural
light and imitates sound and sight.  And they shall do so just to ease
their pain of loneliness, to find a new friend or talk with a family
member who dwells on the other side of the planet.  
     "But don't you see, all that they will struggle to accomplish, to
command, and to master--all that they can ever hope to attain I already
have.  I have my family and friends who sleep beside me in a cave.  I eat
in their presence.  We sit across from each other.  Whether we hunt or
gather, we do so in each other's company.  We share heart to heart and
speak face to face and embrace freely and without duplicity.  
    And when I fall asleep at night, they are near to me. I hear their
stirring, turning, and the sounds of their breathing.  Don't you
understand?  We share the same needs, the same dreams, and we live at
peace.  Better than this it will never be.  
     "What you offer is a long journey into darkness, a path which neither
sun, moon, nor stars can illuminate.  Though you as a divine being may
require a race to satisfy this need, I am not the one you seek. My dreams
are already complete.  And now I bit you let me return to my sleep."
     This ended the conversation between the archangel Michael sent by
God, the Creator of the universe, and the wisest of the Neanderthals. 
But this is not quite the end of my story.  The Neanderthal's mate had
also awakened and had overheard the conversation.  And so as the
archangel turned and was about to ascend, he was halted by her gentle
    She spoke to the archangel petitioning him to remain a few moments
more. She said, "On occasion, I have noticed that my mate, though
wise, fails to ask the right question. So, if I may, let me put it to you
simply, `What are we missing?'
    The archangel turned around and gazed upon her in astonishment. 
For in Michael's heart, next to his love of the Creator and his divinely
appointed missions, in all the universe he loves most of all a good
question.  And so, unable to resist, compelled by her intelligence, he
    "The world in which you dwell has been given you because of who
you are--the cave, the land, the water your drink, the food you eat, the
air your breathe, your body, your senses, your mind and soul--all of
these things you are free to use, to form and to mold, to shape, and to
recreate according to the desires within your heart.  There is no limit or
restriction placed upon what you may be or become.
     "Yet it is clear to see it is not in your heart to probe the secrets
of physical matter and redesign and fashion it according to your will.  
It is not in your dreams to create and command light as hot and bright as
the light of the stars, to take and hold it in the palms of your hands and
to use it to fulfill new purposes born from out of your imagination.  It
is not in your soul to search out every secret and probe the depths of
every mystery until the entire universe becomes your home."
    "What will you tell God when you return with your report?" she
    And the archangel, who also knows no duplicity, spoke honestly, "I
will tell Him this: we need another race of beings.  Neanderthal is too
wise and the grace he has been granted is too great.  We will need
another creature, one with a smaller brain capacity, one with an
insatiable curiosity.  He shall look upon the world with wonder and out
of his lust to know--the desire to have it, to hold it, to take it, and to
possess it as his own.  
     "He shall not be as free as you are of his desires.  He shall be
ravished by his needs and amid struggle, strife, and every imaginable
craving, he shall acquire his wisdom.  And this shall be both his curse
and his blessing, his suffering and his grace--his attempt to reconcile
passions with the beauty and the wonder of the universe he perceives
will lead his race to finally ascend.  They shall attain the highest
enlightenment that exists in all the universe as well as among all
     "During the course of his journey, he shall master all forms of
conflict and war.  Every desire of every animal shall he know.  Yet in
the end, the powers of creation, of reconciliation, of meditation, and
peace making shall be his discovery--he shall forge these abilities from
out of the flame of his imagination. 
     "As I am the archangel appointed to defend the purity of light, this
is the purpose God has ordained to be accomplished upon this planet.  
After the race of Neanderthals has come to an end, another race shall
dwell upon the earth and be offered this task.  In fact, many races and
civilizations shall arise, as many as it takes until this purpose is
accomplished--until a civilization is born whose members have become
creators who embody the mysterious form and image of the Creator.  They
shall take nothing for granted until the wonder and the beauty of the
universe overflows from their hearts."
     And though the woman understood immediately the archangel's
words spoken to her, she refused to let them sink into her heart.  Such
darkness, nightmares, and suffering--the abyss of desire and pain which
would have to be crossed for the sake of acquiring these divine arts--this
was a place she was unwilling to enter.  And so she was glad when the
archangel took his light and divine insight and departed, returning to his
celestial abode.
    She stood there a moment after the archangel had gone.  The stars
shown above.  An animal cried in the distance.  The wind stirred
through the leaves of the trees.  Then she turned, took the hand of her
mate, and entering through the mouth of the cave, they lay down again
and fell asleep holding each other close.


I read the above to my kids a few weeks later after I had written it out.  
We discussed it briefly.  A writer, as you must realize, does not fully
possess his art after it done.  When he talks about it, he can explain the
process of writing it, but everyone has a right to interpret a story as
they see fit.  The artist's ideas are not qualitatively different from any
other art critic's.
     During the discussion with my kids, I mentioned the Biblical idea of
God who charges mankind, Homo Sapiens, with the task of "Be fruitful,
multiply, and have dominion over the earth."  The wise Neanderthal would
have objected to this.  Perhaps what the God of the Bible wants is to
reproduce Himself--he wants sons and daughters of God who become as He
is--a Creator.  One of my kids said, "And if you do not do what He wants,
He says, `You're extinct.'"
     Certainly the wise Neanderthal and his mate did not think very much
of a divine world which demands so much of us.  They did not want anything
more to do with these divine visions and plans.  In the context of my
story, it would take another fifty thousand years or so for a Jacob to
arrive on the scene who was willing to wrestle with an angel and gain his
blessing--"Your children shall be as the sands of the sea."  (See my
story, Jacob's Angel, as well as The Story of Creation, The Fall of
Atlantis, and Balaam--A Gentile Prophet, which are also in this series)
    But I imagine there is a lot of room for flexibility and give and take
when it comes to negotiating fate and destiny with divinity.  God told
Moses to go down into Egypt and to free a people who were held in slavery.  
Moses flatly refused.  He said he did not have the ability to speak.  God
pointed out that He was the one who had created the mouth and the tongue,
but Moses was firm on this point.
    And so, willing to negotiate, God offered Aaron, who had a gift for
gab, to go with Moses and speak on his behalf.  And so in this way that
divine mission got off the ground.  But I like Neanderthal's point.  Why
surrender peace on a quest destined to develop science, technology,
industry, and productivity--that is, dominion over the earth?
     I imagine that God might have given in had Neanderthal objected after
the fashion of Moses.  Neanderthal might have said, "I will undertake to
fulfill this destiny for I see that this is what you have ordained to
occur on this planet.  But I require for myself the right and also the
power to maintain without exception peace and harmony throughout the world
so that `Nations do not lift up swords against nations' and war never
    I think God's patience would have been severely tested by this mortal
request.  Yet in the end, if the wise Neanderthal or anyone else who
speaks face to face with God or his appointed archangels had persisted in
this negotiating point, God would have given in and granted the request;  
or, at least, He would offer on a temporary basis the power and the
authority to accomplish peace after this fashion.  At least, this is what
I imagine. (See my story, The Witness)