Sunhill Asylum, March 13, 1957

They say that God’s providence protects and governs all things which He made. He created me out of Light, from the beginning of Time, a spiritual Monad who dwelt amongst the Seraphim. Yet now I am mortal, and of the race of Adam, a creature of clay. In the womb of my mother I was fashioned of flesh.[i] Yet my soul is of His essence. Why then, does He not save me from destruction? For all things are naked and open to his eyes. Am I not worthy of His kingdom? Have I not followed in the steps of Sophia, who is more radiant than the sun, and above the order of the stars.[ii] Being compared to the Light, she is found before it.[iii] Did I not gather her precious pearls, and hold them sacred above all things? Yet she too abandons me in darkness. Are my crimes so terrible, that heaven must condemn me to the pyre? Did I not unravel the secrets of the flesh by the light of natural reason? God knows I sinned for the betterment of mankind. Why does His infinite goodness ordain me to a such a diabolic end?

Stop yapping fool! Why are you pleading with Him? He has forsaken you, just as Krew foretold. Did you believe He would ordain you to a supernatural end? Forget it. You’re damned. Is this asylum not proof enough? You iredeemable wretch. There shall be no revelation. Not even the faeries can save you: they have fled this modern world. What more exterior proofs do you require? Admit it: all your miracles and prophecies were for naught. He beholds them as filthy rags. As for your knowledge of the flesh, ’tis naught compared to the omnipotence of God. He alone knows the mysteries of the Monads. But you? The shambles of mortal logic! The bunglings of men! You were such a vain philosopher! To think you could heal the world! Believe me my friend, the world is too old and sick. God has already ordained its destruction by fire. Hubris, Mad Jacques, hubris. You were wrong about so many things, but most of all, the flesh. Salvation does not come by flesh. You make a poor heretic. Mother Church was right all along: men can only be saved by illumination of the Holy spirit. The flesh is an anathema. You are about to learn the secret of this terrible truth…

Paris 1376

Lice teem through my hair. I claw through the visor but cannot scratch. So I charge head-first at the wall. The helmet dents and rivets gouge my scalp. Blood mists my eyes. Bad blood. It trickles down my nose and into my mouth. Tasty.

Footsteps approaching. He comes. Prepare yourself. I’ll wash Christ’s feet. I’ll wash them now. No, that’s not right. I’ll give Him the vinegar. Yes. I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Oh you lame and stupid fool, why can’t you hold your tongue? You’re always cawing like crow. Too late now. This is it. Don’t break your pact; don’t you dare. Save me Father…

The door opens and the gaoler leers with milky eyes:

‘Time to go Mad Jacques: your horse awaits…’

He grabs my chain and leads me through a maze of torch-lit vaults. We enter a low passage draped with cobweb curtains. A fragrant spice hangs in the air. He stops and sighs:

‘Ah, frankincense! The bishop’s perfume makes the dungeon sweet.’

‘’Tis just a papal trick: his silver censer holds a smouldering shit.’

‘Silence, freak! You have a serpent’s tongue, to blaspheme a man of God. Jest while you can, you malignant devil. The infernal judge spares no pity. Your forked tongue shall soon be making a horrid din…’

We follow the scent. The passage opens in a long chamber strewn with bones. Arched cells line the aisle on each side. A fettered corpse grins from an alcove: the image of my future self. The broken crown is a nest of rats. It once held literate brains, for gouged in the wall is a familiar inscription: Beátus ventur qui te portávit et úbera quæ suxísti. [Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the paps that gave Thee suck (iv)]. In the sulphurous light, I glean the terrible truth: I’ve come this way before – in dreams throughout my life…

We drift like ghosts through catacomb arcades where lantern-skulls glow pale. The chamber ends at a stone ingress; it growls open and we spiral down a tight stairwell. A dread weight pulls at my heart. Naught can halt this helical descent. The winding steps turn like gnashing cogs. Deeper we go, into machine of church and state. The air grows dank and cold. Our footsteps echo like legions charging. And in the clanking chains, I hear my Master calling:

‘Take my yoke upon you! Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me!’ [v]

i. Wisdom, 7:1.

ii. Wisdom, 7:21.

iii. Ibid.

iv. Luke, 11:27. (Daily Missal, Third Sunday in the Season of Lent. p. 298)

v. Psalm 129: De Profundis, p. 1000. (Daily Missal, The Sacred Heart. p. 735)

Copyright (c) Nicholas Shea 1998