BOR. Not long after their parting, I heard the waspish drone of the disc and felt a rush of air as it soared into the shaft. Then all was silent. I was alone in the souterraine. I had no doubt they would leave me to rot. Who would risk their life to save the Grand Inquisitor? As I sat in the dark, terrible visions impressed upon my mind. Not least, the many crimes of my office. My confrontation with the Light had left me the most wretched of men. Feeling myself unworthy of God’s mercy, I set about finding a way out. For I recalled a passage where the witches first appeared, and this, I was sure, lay somewhere off to the left, beyond the crystal plinth. Without delay, I ventured into the cavern…
Not long after commencing my blind forage, I chanced upon a sharp rock; so with my back against the promontory, I started cutting my bonds, abrading the rope on a jagged edge. It took little effort to free myself, for the soldiers had tied me in haste. But my attempt to find the passage was in vain. Within minutes I was completely lost and found myself worming amid the stalagmites, cutting my head on rough protrusions. Then, thinking I had found the way, I came across a low horizontal creep with a warren of double bends. I proceeded slowly, crawling on my belly, groping ahead for hidden dangers. Soon after, I met a perpendicular sump some six feet deep which met another sloping shaft about ten fathoms long. To navigate this warren would have been a formidable task, even with a lamp, but in total blackness it was impossible. The shaft soon closed in around me. Unable to turn, I slithered through the labyrinth like a snake. On and on I squirmed, my mind a frenzy of death. The way steepened and the floor began to shift and rattle. My pulse began to race. For I was crawling on bones—a pit of skeletal remains that stretched out in all directions. I screamed until my throat was hoarse. I cursed and cursed; beat my fists upon my head; punched at the darkness; then wept with despair. To think my grave was this! I prayed for deliverance, hurling skulls at the void, counting the seconds until they hit upon some wall or shattered in the depths. I determined a fatal drop to my left, so crawled off in the opposite direction. Onward I went, clawing amid the dead, until the floor was rock once more. Then, to my utter amazement, the walls began to glow a ghostly green…
’Twas a dim and sickly light, but just enough to see by. A large chasm yawned ahead. I slid down a fosse, full of treacherous holes, then met a low vault which extended forty fathoms (or so I calculated). At the end was a small ante-chamber, after which the way descended steeply for sixty fathoms more. Contrary to my hopes, I was going deeper and deeper. The green glow began to fade, and all before me was abyssal darkness. I sank amongst the rocks and resigned myself to a lingering death in perpetual blackness, weakened day-by-day by slow starvation. If hunger didn’t kill me, I would soon be overcome with madness and despair. And I might have given up all hope, but for a draught upon my face. Surely, I was near some vent or ancient mine! I pressed on, following the wind which tugged at my cowl. Still the rock closed in, yet I groped ever further, imagining my escape, as I emerged triumphant from the cleft of some hill, surrounded by green pasture and bleating lambs. I saw them clearly in my mind, tended by a shepherd under a blue sky, their bright bells ringing down the valley… That heavenly vision tormented me so. Alas! ’Twas not summer but the depths of winter. There were no lambs and the mountains were smothered in snow. Already I had forgotten the season. But time had no meaning in this abyssal realm. The hours stretched into days. How far was I from the sunlit world of men, and the happy clamour of the inn! I was but a beetle, lost in Tartarus, and I wondered if I would ever be human again.
Oh Lord, I will condescend to a hermitage and a life of prayer, if you will deliver me from the pit! Aye, I will condescend to spend my days in poverty, locked in a chilly chamber with a rock for a pillow, if you will let me be your anchorite, and lead me out of hell!
I assumed my prayer had been answered. For the passage broadened until I could no longer feel the walls about me. Then I heard the distant thunder of falling water. I was saved! I said an Ave and stepped boldly forward. An up-rush of air followed. To my utter horror, I realised that I was falling. Involuntarily, I thrust out my hands which scraped against the clefts, cutting my fingers to the bone. Yet all the while I was frantic to keep my head upwards. My recollection is of a searing heat, and my legs being driven up into my body. I remember awakening in the inky blackness, and far below the gleam of burning coals. Then I heard wailing and the gnashing of teeth. I had been transported to another place. And that is when the demons led me away…
LORD SCALES. Thank you Bor. You are dismissed from court. You may return to your cell in Hades.
BOR. Pray my Lord, will the devils show me mercy, now that I have been your faithful witness?
LORD SCALES. Alas, I fear not. For you interrogated many a faithful witness with promise of reprieve, but burnt them all the same.
BOR. If I sinned, I sinned for Christ alone. My only desire was to leave the world better than I found it.
LORD SCALES. Better for who? Not for Christians nor Cathars, nor Mother Church for that matter. As the good Saint Bernard said: the road to hell is paved with good intentions,(i) or in the words of Virgil: Facilis descensus Averno. [The road to hell is easy].(ii)
BOR. So much for the justice of Diamonic Law! I came here to condemn Jacques Vallin. And for my statement, you promised me a little mercy!
LORD SCALES. I promised you no such thing inquisitor, least of all mercy. Every faggot you lit had an infernal consequence. Remember, you showed no compassion for the heretics.
BOR. I was only concerned with executing the whole extent of God’s justice and equity.
LORD SCALES. You ignorant fool. God wants to turn men into good persons, not through fear of punishment but through love of virtue. Your inquisition was unjust, immoral and diabolic.
BOR. Show some pity! I fully admit that I was arrogant, ambitious and proud. But you forget one important fact: I was tutored in corruption from an early age. How can I be to blame? After all, I was only doing my duty.
LORD SCALES. Duty? How fortunate that your duty was in accordance with your desires, your worldly interests, your perverse appetites and inclinations! Duty? As if that word could make you inculpable of the crimes! Your duty was the dictate of your conscience, and in direct opposition to the moral universe.
BOR. But –
LORD SCALES. Silence! Nothing you say can draw me the contrary way. God’s law is perpetual and irrevocable; ’tis the same law found in the empyrean heights of Heaven as the Stygian depths of Hell. And as Satan knows well, ’tis a law which no being can revoke without revoking themselves; a law that is immutable, perfect and just, whose statutes reveal all caprices, ignorances, depravities and cruelties in their proper light. A law that is rendered fixed and unalterable, yet also bends to the will of Divine Mercy. A law that is dispensed by devils and upheld by angels; a law that gives no credence to intellectual capacity, but only to love of the heart. Alas, you show no love, except for yourself. The truth of the matter is this: if you realised the implication of your terrible crimes, your heart would stop from remorse. At the very least, you would show some contrition and accept your punishment with dignity. Tell me, what would you have us do to Jacques Vallin?
BOR. Kill him! Send him to the pyre! I shall be waiting for him in hell!
LORD SCALES. Then I rest my case. Inquisitor Bor, you are evil incarnate. For you would rather kill another than admit your own wrongs. I fear you are altogether damned. Leave now, before you incur my wrath. Take the witness away…
SATYR. Now that Bor has left the court, I still have some niggling questions for the accused. Not least of which is Hique’s foul murder. Hique, a poor brother of Christ who met his end skewered on a stalactite.
JACQUES. Hique was a spiteful pig, who hated women and nearly battered me to death. I was acting in self defence. He deserved it.
LORD SCALES. Deserved it? How so? He had pulled his knife, I grant you. But you could just have easily swiped the blade from his hand; or kept him hovering in the air. Instead you used your magic to slay him in a most gratuitous fashion, and in so doing, displayed an inordinate sense of your own power.
JACQUES. If the court will recall, Hique had tried to kill me once before. I wasn’t about to take any chances. I knew the brethren were plotting to ambush me on the disc. I had to make an example of him.
LORD SCALES. And so you did, in a most exemplary manner. I do not deny that Hique was a despicable character, greedy, malevolent, and steeped in all kinds of vice. And no doubt he meant to kill you. But his murderous end, he did not deserve.
JACQUES. Of course he did.
LORD SCALES. Why? Because he killed your pet weasel?
JACQUES. What else could I do? My brethren were lost in the pit. I could have left them to die, but I choose to save them instead, even at risk of my own life. They would not have escaped without my help. Hique’s death was an unfortunate necessity.
DEMON DOCTOR. Hmm… on this occasion, I am apt to agree with the accused. Jacques could have left the brethren to rot, and returned to the surface alone. But he showed the better part of valour. Besides Jacques was then appearing as Jacqueline, and in even greater peril.
LORD SCALES. Nonsense. She was at the height of her powers: no mortal could match her magical feats.
JACQUES. You are right: within the pit, I was invincible; a high priestess of Light – a goddess amongst mortals. But beyond the pit I was nothing – just an ordinary woman. For my powers were drawn from the crystal wands. And I knew that the further I ventured from the Titan chamber, the weaker I would become. Just how would I survive the long ascent, unless the brethren feared me? Truly, if they knew I was mere flesh and blood, they would have cut me down.
LORD SCALES. I see. Well, that puts your predicament in quite a different light. As much as I would like to add Hique’s murder to the charges, I am reluctant to do so. Satyr, you have another question?
SATYR. Yes my Lord. Before we leave the pit, I should like to know the mystery of the crystal wands, which did not heal Lilith but reversed her previous cure. Indeed, the wands only served to exacerbate her monstrous condition. Krew, can you explain to the court exactly what happened?
KREW. With pleasure Satyr. The explanation is quite simple and in accordance with Diamonic Law. Every acute disease is the result of a purifying and healing effort of Nature. Similia similibus curantur, [like cures like]. Ergo, if I give a remedy which produces the same symptoms as the original affliction, am I not aiding Nature in her healing efforts? A drug that produces a certain disease in a healthy body, when given in large dose, will cure a similar disease when given in small dose, thus hastening the curative process… Using this simple principle I inoculated many Cretans against the plague. Similia similibus curantur. This is exactly how the crystal wands worked. And Lilith would have been totally cured, but for Odo’s intervention. For he threw a phial of holy water into the Light Stream. The addition of holy water upset the balance between the subject and the wands. Remember, ’twas not a single drop of water but a copious amount. The wands were simply amplifiers, and obeyed the law of resonance. In response to the energy in the holy water, the Light Stream modulated itself and began working in reverse. The consequence was to increase the disease vibrations, which the wands then magnified to a disproportionate extent. This caused acute scrofulosis. The secretions of the lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, stomach, and skin, were all deranged. Once started, this rapidly developed into vigorous forms of scrofulous elimination, with skin eruptions, glandular swellings, abscesses, haemorrhage and bodily discharges. This was compounded by dissonant vibrations in the braid, whose corrupt code multiplied exponentially. This had disastrous consequences: cankers teemed through the bones; the paps withered; the scrotum and prepuce were inordinately swollen; the belly became distended; and scabby pimples, most purulent and scaly, blistered the flesh. I must admit, the deformity of the skull was most peculiar and quite unexpected. The Janus had fused into one. The result was a cryptid monster so terrible, that even Proteus would have fled in horror. But as I told the court before, all things are latent in man, and that is why he is such an unknown quantity…
SATYR. By which we may infer that Man is latent in Woman, and vice versa?
LORD SCALES. That may be so. But all spiritual knowledge grows from the fruits of a corruptible body. Without a corruptible body, there can be no realisation of the divine nature of the soul. This is in accordance with Diamonic Law: wisdom requires an organism of bios for its birth. Yet the converse is also true; for a man of dross matter, without a spiritual organism is but an insubstantial dream, without any foundation in the realm of Universal Mind. The Satyr will elaborate…
SATYR. Jacques Vallin, you have always asserted that the outward appearance of your body contradicts your inner soul. Is it not more probable that your senses err? I refer to the parable which Plato gives in the seventh book of his Republic which concerns the perceptions in general. For Plato compares the objects of sense to persons in a deep dark cave, who cannot see external objects themselves, but only their shadows, cast by the cave opening.
JACQUES. What are you inferring? That my senses lie? That the perception of myself is an illusion? An insubstantial dream? Then I can only conclude that author of Nature is a malignant demon, who has corrupted my faculties in order to deceive me. For if I never receive the true image of things, but only shadows and illusions, then how am I to trust in God? No, Satyr, I wholeheartedly disagree: this fallacy of the senses is a flaw in philosophical reasoning, not a flaw in God.
LORD SCALES. All things, even falsities may be so confirmed to appear as truths.(iii) Alas, the sensual has been your ultimate aim in life; and you have clung to that bodily part of yourself to the exclusion of all else.
JACQUES. Do you believe only in the judgements and conclusions of your bodily senses? What of my interiors?
LORD SCALES. What of them Jacqueline? Are we to infer that your perception of them is any less flawed than that of your exteriors? You have gone to great lengths to convince us otherwise, but I fear you only think of those things which are outermost to your soul, and not interior at all! And despite the great Natural Light bestowed by Krew, you perceive little else except that which pertains to your own bodily cunning. Yours is a fallacy not of the senses, but of the mind. Clearly, you are quite deluded.
JACQUES. Curse you all! This court is a deep-laid trap! A conspiracy against me! The bench is intent on finding me guilty and only seeks to deprive me of my sex. The goblin jury is nothing but a crowd of incompetent buffoons who are in collusion with the grand inquisitor. As for Lord Scales himself, he is corruption personified and ignorant of the law. Both the satyr and his demon doctors are unscrupulous, negligent in their duties, and unfamiliar with the facts; they have no knowledge of God’s statutes, nor the principles of heavenly justice. Deluded? Since fours years old? How am I deluded, when I have always been conscious of being other than what I am?
SATYR. I fear the accused is mad, my Lord. Always was, and always will be.
LORD SCALES. Indeed. But that is hardly surprising, considering his condition. Consciousness is existence. Yet Nature is a most perverse architect, and there are as many states of consciousness as their are existence. As we discovered in Lilith, the consciousness of a woman, trapped inside a man’s body, is never in harmony with Universal Mind. Indeed, contrary to opinion, the fruits of such corruptible union can never lead to divine salvation but only earthly damnation. For a soul who does not attain true “self-consciousness” does not exist, nor can they ever exist, except in the vapid realm of dreams. Why is this so? Because even in the material mirrors of reality, such transsexual souls can only behold themselves as ever changing illusions. Is that not so Jacques? But with faith, hope and charity, any soul may endure and overcome all materiality. ’Tis true that few men are able to reach this state – only the saints, adepts and magicians of their age; yet even these enlightened souls may stray from the Path when they place too much importance on the body, or when their reasoning is not in harmony with Universal Mind. One question remains: was the magic of the pit in harmony with Universal Mind? Or was it a dark and contrary force – the product of a perverted mind that could not overcome corruptions of the body?
JACQUES. Have you lost your corporeal senses? Speak not to me of faith, hope and charity! For your impressions of them are altogether false! Goblin jury, withhold your verdict. Until you have dwelt in the skin of the opposite sex, you are not fit to judge. I would like to say that I am beyond gender; that I am beyond flesh; that I am just a transmigratory soul in the body of man; that the centre of my consciousness is in God, who holds no such distinctions. But to make such a claim would be a lie, as it would be for every one of you. For no man is beyond the body whilst he is still in it. Not even Jesus Christ, who suffered on the Cross…
LORD SCALES. Forgive me Jacqueline. My only intention was to distinguish between objects of mere fancy and those things which have a real existence… The jury will withhold their verdict on this matter until you have told of the fall of Belloc. But before you begin, I really must congratulate you.
JACQUES. Congratulate me? For why? Do you mock me again?
LORD SCALES. On the contrary. I find your defence most impressive. You have gone to great efforts to convince us of your plight, and the many genuine persecutions you have suffered throughout your wretched life. Indeed, your retrospective falsification of memory, and your blatant distortion of the facts is quite remarkable in its ingenuity… Now, let us return to the evidence. You and your brethren were about to leave the pit. Please tell the court what happened next…
i. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) “Hell is full of good intentions or desires.”
ii. Æneid vi, 126.
iii. Emanuel Swedenborg, ‘Heaven and Hell’. (n. 2477, 2480, 5033, 6865, 8521).
Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2013. (Including John Martin image montage and elaborations).