Vision de Faust

Krew is telling it…

A great roar fills the nave as the brethren rush forward like leaves in the wind. Fabien stands astonished, fumbling his head and face. The cure is immaculate: all trace of his former affliction has gone; the crusty scales that scarred his flesh have vanished, and in their place is virgin new skin; his once reticulated limbs, with their bloody sores and clefts are now smooth and white as lilies of the field. He examines his hands in wonder and strokes his cheeks with trembling fingers. Then his legs buckle as he falls to his knees and cries:

‘A miracle! Oh God, most merciful father! You have answered my prayers! Your Light shines bright in my soul and darkness cannot cover me!’

His fervent sobs make his bosom swell to bursting. Bishop Tolus stoops bewildered, clutching the table, his face haggard and drawn. He reels momentarily, blinking in disbelief, as if all his misconceptions are suddenly rendered in their proper light. Then he mutters:

‘Impossible.’

Inquisitor Bor draws back confounded, his heart hammering in his throat:

‘Devilry!’

Fabien kneels before the chair, trembling in awe, as if a tempest has just swept irresistibly through his body. He cries aloud:

‘Behold! I am reborn in Christ! Ecquis me vivit hodie fortunatior? [Is any man alive more fortunate than I?]

Odo creeps up behind him and taps his shoulder:

‘Fabien. Is that really you?’

‘Yes father! ’Tis I. A miracle!’

The brethren gather round the chair where Jacques slumps in chains, his flesh covered in black blisters.

‘Look!’ gasps Jean. ‘A transference of disease: Brother Lazarus has taken the pains upon himself…’

Jacques looks barely alive, his albinotic flesh weeping with the same bloody sores that covered Fabien just moments ago. He wheezes with every breath as Jean listens to his heart, then studies his hands and face, pulling back the eyelids to peer at the pupils:

‘Lazarus? Can you hear me?’

Jacques groans and his eyeballs roll in delirium. The throng falls silent as he purses his lips to speak:

‘Water,’ he rasps.

‘Fetch him some water!’ cries Jean. ‘Make haste!’

Odo scrambles to the font and returns with a brimming goblet. But just as he proffers the drink, Bor knocks it from his hands:

‘Get back! Get back, you fools! Be not deceived by this devilry. That is not brother Fabien: ’tis an imposter from hell!’

‘No!’ cries Fabien. ‘’Tis I! The Lord has made me whole!’

Poufille raises his giant hand and weeps:

‘Oh Lazarus! Pray do the same for me!’

‘He might cure my cankers!’ cries Bernard.

‘Or give me new limbs!’ adds Joseph.

At this, Bor signals his sentinels who teem from the alcoves, forcing the monks back toward the pulpitum. The brethren stand hemmed between the carvings, pinned by shield and sword.

Odo darkens with rage and fumes:

‘Monsieur! What is the meaning of this? We are all witness to this prodigious miracle. What shall you do? Kill us all?’ I beg you, stop this madness; we have done no wrong. Tell your soldiers to lower their swords.’

But Bor remains silent and stares with a steely determination. So Odo turns to the bishop:

‘Your eminence! Have we not just witnessed the mysterious working of the Lord? Pray, let this miracle be a light in your heart. The light of loving faith. Do not smother this wondrous day in darkness! We have all been given proof of the incorruptible Word in this sweet unspotted flesh!’

The bishop swallows hard and mops his brow. Then he nods to Bor. At length Bor waves his hand and the soldiers step back. The brethren rush forward, teeming round Fabien, examining his head and prodding his soft new skin.

‘’Twas was a great Light!’ exclaims Bernard. ‘What did it feel like brother?’

‘Like fire and ice,’ replies Fabien. ‘But all at the same time. ’Twas beautiful!’

‘A mischievous feat of the Devil!’ cries Bor. ‘This man is an imposter!’

Poufille stamps his foot in protest:

‘Monsieur, this is no imposter! I would know my brother anywhere. He might be unrecognisable to you, but he bears the same countenance and voice as he did before. Look here – a small scar on his right hand which he had as a boy…’

Fabien smiles and holds up his hand:

‘Truly, ’tis I: Fabien. I got this scar from Poufille when I was ten. We were reaping corn and he caught me with his sickle…’

Then Jean turns to the inquisitor and says:

‘Monsieur, brother Lazarus needs my attention. Look at him: he sits on the verge of Death. I beseech you, torture him no more. After all, his miraculous gift might cure us all.’

‘We should turn this spot into a shrine!’ cries Feliz.

‘A shrine to what?’ asks Bor. ‘Or more importantly, to whom? Shall you exalt a heretic to the status of a saint? You might as well build a shrine to the Devil, and give divine honour to one of his disciples. Then poor pilgrims would confound the difference between divine and infernal worship – a difference which the Lord on high preserves inviolate amongst his Creation.’

Jean pleads with open arms:

‘Oh Monsieur, I beg you, reconsider this miracle! No mortal physician could accomplish so wondrous a cure. Did not the Pharisees accuse Christ of consorting with Beelzebub (i) when he cast out devils and cured the sick? Consider the evidence: is it not even possible that this cure comes from God? If you continue with his torture, you will kill the goose that lays the golden egg! At least grant Lazarus a stay of reprieve. Let me attend his wounds; then you can finish your interrogation on the morrow…’

But Bor shakes his head:

‘Jacques Vallin is an accomplished warlock and a professed servant of Satan. His cures are counterfeits of the Devil. There is naught in them but phantasmagoria and diabolical spells… Everything we see before us is an illusion: a false apparition made by a demon!’

Jean throws up his hands in despair:

‘Monsieur! You incorrigible fool! How can this be the work of Satan, when Lazarus has taken the disease upon himself?’

‘Yes!’ cries Poufille. ‘It makes no sense. Why should the devil heal the sick?’

Bor shakes his head in denial, then says:

‘You forget that Satan is God’s foremost Seraph, and as such, he makes a formidable opponent. You cannot comprehend the depths of his deception. The Arch Fiend is beyond all human category and understanding. Just because you are monks do not think you are immune to the whiles of the Devil. In fact, a monk, more than anyone, is vulnerable to Satanic attack, because a monk strives for union with God – which The Wicked One detests above all things. That you view this miracle as the work of God is testament to Satan’s power. This counterfeit cure has deceived you all.’

‘How can the cure be counterfeit?’ protests Jean. ‘Look! His facial bones are completely realigned!’

‘That may be so,’ concedes Bor. ‘But counterfeit cures are sometimes allowed by God to test the faithful and punish the children of unbelief. What does it say in Thessalonians? The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan, displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.(ii) ’

Berthelemy steps forward and fauns:

‘Brethren, I think what the inquisitor is trying to say, is that God suffers us to be deceived by lying wonders and false miracles, in punishment of us not entertaining the love of Truth…’

‘Precisely,’ says Bor.

‘That’s preposterous!’ seethes Jean. ‘It seems to me the lowest depths of ignorance! You have condemned God on every degree. What are you implying? That what we perceive as good is really evil in disguise, and none of us have the wits to know the difference? I know the flesh better than anyone. I’m a physician. And by this transformation I see sufficient indication of God’s truth. A truth which you deny… Per quæ declaratur haud dubie naturae potentia, idque esse quod Deum vocamus! (iii) [These things clearly proclaim the power of nature, that which we call God].’

Bor holds up his hand:

‘I understand your fervent desire to believe. But I can assure you, this cure is the unequivocal work of Satan. I have seen demons do many wondrous things; yet all their works are corruptions and illusions, designed to thwart the holy and lead them astray. This is how Satan gains control of men. Believe me, this miraculous cure is naught to do with God. The healthy body we see before us is but an evil guise: a suit of flesh, conjured by dark forces. For the devil has great power over plagues and diseases, as the scriptures tell in the sufferings of Job. The devil does many things that surpass all human agency. In the time of Moses, Satan wrought miracles in Egypt, and by magicians and sorcerers did many wonders.’Tis said that Egyptian magicians, by secret enchantments, did as Aaron did, and turned their rods into serpents.(iv) But Aaron’s rod devoured their rods, because his was possessed by the sovereign power of heaven… Do not be fooled by this prodigy of Satan .‘’Tis only a temporary reprieve. Quicquid excessit modum pendet instabili loco. [Whatever exceeds its due bounds is always in a state of instability] (iiib). In a matter of days, this illusion will fade and the miraculous cure will be undone. Then Fabien will relapse to his former self: twisted and cankered, his flesh rank with festering sores. Just as Nature first made him. The devil giveth, the devil taketh away. And poor Fabien, having tasted the joys of health so briefly, will despair of God’s mercy, and even life itself. At that moment his faith will falter, and Satan will gain ascendency in his soul. Then his real pain shall begin; for he will have lost the ineffable love of God. A loss greater than any physical suffering known to man. This is how the Devil seduces his subjects.’

Fabien scowls in contempt and says:

‘The devil had no part in this…’

‘You are mistaken monk,’ snaps Bor. ‘…Many in this cloister were born crippled; and when I look amongst you, I see holy men like Job, afflicted with distemper and disease. You have my sympathy: for what palsied creature would not find solace in the promise of a cure? But why take a cure from a warlock, when his only aim is to multiply your suffering? Believe me brethren, Jacques Vallin is full of deceptions, vanity, tricks, impostures, deliriums and lies. Have your fortunes not worsened since his arrival? What of the fire-balls flying about the cloister? The groanings and rappings that haunt you day and night? What of the goblin who put stones in your gruel and turned the kitchen upside down? Did Jacques Vallin not conjure these portents of doom? Are these not signs of his demonic infestation? He has brought a plague of death and suffering upon this house. If you believe in his counterfeit cures, the germs of his horrible harvest will destroy you all… The accused would have you believe that his only desire is to imitate Christ. Whereas, in fact, he imitates Satan. Are you with him, or against him?’

Lucas wipes the soot from his eyes, then raises a hand and whimpers:

‘He causes me pain when I urinate.’

‘He increases my warts,’ says Bernard.

‘He fills my chest with a smelly green sputum,’ says Feliz.

Poufille swings his monstrous hand and declares:

‘He has numbed my fingers so that I cannot sign the cross.’

‘He suffocates me in my sleep,’ scowls Henri.

‘He afflicts me with toothache,’ adds Nicaise. ‘And I am overcome with gloomy thoughts.’

‘He instructs fleas to multiply in my bed,’ says Belon.

Then Hiques says:

‘Ever since he came, I have been afflicted with bloating, diarrhoea and giddiness. He causes me to fall asleep in choir and to fart like a mule. Believe me Monsiuer, I knew he was evil the moment I set eyes on him. He has put a Cathar spell on me.’

‘What spell?’ asks Bor.

‘He said I’d come back as a mongrel bitch, a rabbit or a mare.(v) Maybe as a filthy rat or even an ox.’

‘He was only jesting,’ says Odo. ‘You measly, small minded, vindictive fool!’

‘No prior!’ insists Hique. ‘That red-eyed devil would think no more of slaughtering me than if I were a pig. And he has so benumbed my tongue, that I can no longer taste my food. Wherever I go, I am followed by a hideous figure, darkly cowled, with the face of a beast: it sits opposite me in choir, huddled in the corner stall, and staring with cold green eyes! I pray to God that it might be removed but it always remains; and now it even haunts my dreams. Oh! May Christ have mercy on my soul!’

Jean stamps his foot in protest:

‘This is all nonsense! Have you taken leave of your senses? Your maladies have nothing to do with brother Lazarus; they are afflictions common to all men. As for you Hique, your black beast is nothing but a phantom of too much drink! Delerium Tremens!’

‘I agree,’ says Odo. ‘’Tis one thing to suffer a common cold or the consequences of gluttony. But ’tis quite another to be cursed by witchcraft…’

Tolus knocks three times on the table:

‘You forget prior, that innumerable acts of witchcraft are perpetrated on the innocent every day – acts which the devil is more than happy to be mistaken for natural causes. And only a theologian who is familiar with the Devil can know the difference. In fact, even the bite of a flea might be done through witches, on account of their perfidy and denial of the Catholic faith…’

‘The bishop speaks the truth,’ confirms the steward. ‘For the mother of this heretic was a witch herself – a most pestilent hag, who cursed the priest with toothache. Innumerable sorceries were proved against her, and oft’ she was rapt in diabolical ecstasies. She was an artful whore who cast many spells and maledictions. Ever since a young girl she was a servant of Satan; she attended the sabbat and fed the sacrament to a sow.’

‘Like mother, like son,’ says Tolus. ‘ We have the confessions to prove it. Jacques Vallin was also seen at the sabbat, taking a meal furnished by the Devil: a stinking pie baked from innocent babes and disinterred corpses. A diabolical sacrament. The wine he served was clotted blood, putrid and black, poured from the filthy vessel of a Parfait’s skull. Yet he drank it with relish as he trampled the host underfoot and swore death to Mother Church. This abominable blasphemy was confessed by many witches, whose names are writ in a book of blood. His scourge of sorcery festers in every corner of the land, where his vile heresy is practised in lairs of debauchery and shame.’

‘I don’t believe it!’ scoffs Jean. ‘You have given us a tapestry of lies. That was not Jacques they saw at the sabbat, but his brother Ricon, the Adamite! (vb) But he renounced his vows and fled into the wilderness. How can Jacques be evil, when he only desires to heal the sick? I fear you are all making a terrible mistake.’

‘Mistake? We shall see,’ says Bor. ‘For we now come to the most dangerous part of the interrogation. Jacques Vallin has been put to the question and confessed his crimes in full—crimes so black that Heaven weeps with grief. The accused has vacillated in his replies and showed complete contempt for Mother Church. His heresy has spread through the land like a canker, and its many branches have corrupted the faithful. But if we are to destroy the tree of this evil, we must get to its root. Jacques Vallin possesses many preternatural gifts. A sure sign of demonic possession. For ’tis my belief, that the agent behind these so called miracles is not The Christ, but the Cyclops called Krew. Therefore, I shall now attempt to speak with the demon…’

‘Speak with the demon?’ flusters Tolus. ‘But Monsieur, to communicate with a demon is folly. You should not attempt such a thing!’

‘Fear not,’ says Bor. ‘Christ has given me authority over unclean spirits. During my long years of office, I have become familiar with the ways of the enemy. We must find out who this demon is, why he is here, and what he wants… Prior Odo has told of the many disturbances that haunt this abbey. And I am convinced these supernatural occurrences are the work of the Cyclops. ’Tis only by questioning this entity that we will learn the true extent of his infestation. But be warned, this is a grave and dangerous procedure. Through all of this, the demon will attempt to seduce the faithful. Do not fall victim to his blandishments and threats. I have seen many cases where demonic oppression has escalated into total possession, simply because the faithful were tempted by trickery. A demon craves a human soul with great jealousy and zeal; its whole desire is rooted in total possession of the body. And once inside, a demon will fight tooth and nail to retain its property. So if you experience a sudden coldness or sense of desolation and despair, I urge you to pray – pray to the Virgin with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your strength. Hold fast brethren, for we cannot know what will happen from here on…’

Lucas raises his hand again:

‘Er, your eminence, we dwarves do not wish to offend your office, but our only desire at this moment is to leave and receive the Host. How else shall Christ protect us from this evil?’

‘Very well, you may go,’ says Bor.

The dwarves scurry off and vanish out the cloister door. Then Hique says:

‘Monsieur, I too wish to take the body and blood of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. For this heretic has offended my ears, and your grave warning has unsettled my soul.’

‘You too may go,’ says Bor.

Bernard stutters:

‘M,M,M… Monsieur – I too wish to take the Host, but I also wish to stay – not out of idle curiosity, but to learn from you the ways of the enemy, that I may be better prepared in future…’

‘You are a wise man,’ replies Bor. ‘You may stay and gain instruction. All others wishing to leave may do so now. But go quietly and do not breath a word of what happened here to anyone…’

At this, the steward and conversi scurry out the door. But the choir monks remain by the pulpitum where Poufille sobs in his brother’s arms. Guillaume and Belon stand to one side, whispering in secret, whilst Odo crosses himself and says:

‘Your eminence, I am at a loss to explain this supercreatural transformation. I know not if the miracle is genuine or the work of the evil one. But whatever principles of darkness you might encounter, I beg you to show leniency. For I believe Lazarus is a victim of this maleficent entity…’

‘Victim?’ scoffs Tolus. ‘What are you saying? Do you doubt his crimes? Are you trying to defend this heretic?’

‘No your eminence. But we are faced with a miracle of prodigious proportions! And if Christ cannot intercede with his charity and love, then we are all lost men.’

Bor swivels on his heels and snaps:

‘Fool! What do you infer? That this charismatic Cathar is a vessel of the Holy Spirit?’

‘No Monsieur,’ replies Odo. ‘In point of fact, I know not what he is. But if Lazarus is indeed possessed, then the enemy has come upon him like a wolf upon an innocent sheep.(vi) The ravening demon has usurped another’s body for his own habitation, and darkened the mind of his victim. In which case, Lazarus is not to blame.’

‘Not to blame?’ winces Bor. ‘Not to blame? Was it an innocent sheep who murdered a minorite? Was it a gentle lamb who burnt down the church of Monselle? Prior, you are gravely mistaken!’

‘Perhaps I am Monsieur. But if Christ is not a mediator in our ways of justice, then we are all as good as dead.’

Bor glares defiantly and says:

‘The Holy Office is primarily concerned with rooting out evil – whether from a disturbed person or an infested place. You speak of justice. But ’twould be a grave injustice that Jacques Vallin should escape the fate of lesser heretics; or that the judgement of God on earth did not take vengeance on his sins.’

‘Indeed Monsieur. But who, under such pains, would not confess to anything you suggest?’

‘Prior Odo, your regard for your flock is most commendable. But need I remind you that no man should presume to harbour or protect heretics, or favour or trust them?’

‘No Monsieur,’ concedes Odo. ‘Truly, as God is my witness, I did not know who Lazarus was when he arrived at our gate. And I am horrified to hear of his confessions. But I trust that God’s concurrence with His creatures, and His benign Providence, will lead you to the right judgement…’

Bor signals his assistant who throws a pail of water in Jacques’ face. He wakes with a start, convulsing in the chair. Then his body becomes torpid and limp. He cocks his head and leers in defiance:

‘You still doubt the Lord your God?’

‘Silence!’ snaps Bor. ‘Your demonic tricks have no sway over me. I cannot be fooled by your wicked art.’

‘The miracle was real. Christ created new flesh.’

‘Liar. You are a false apostle and a deceitful workman.(vii) Yours is not a power of creation, nor even of annihilation—but of moulding pre-existent matter. Did the Cyclops do this? Tell the truth, or I will pluck your eye with a spoon. Do you understand?’

‘Yes, I understand.’

‘So, I will ask you again. Did the Cyclops do this? Speak.’

‘Yes. The Cyclops did it. Krew cures all.’

‘Then by the authority of Jesus Christ, I demand to speak with this demon!’

A sudden wind rushes through the church, snuffing the candles and turning pages of the vulgate that stands upon the lectern. Jacques tugs at his chains and snarls:

‘Ossa arida, audite verbum Domini… Dabo super vos nervos et succrescere faciam super vos carnes, et… dabo vobis spiritum et vivetis et scietis, quia ego sum Dominus! [Ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord… I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to grow over you, and… I will give you spirit, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord! (viii)]’

The wind subsides.

‘Is this Krew who speaks?’ asks Bor.

‘Yes!’

‘Demon, how did you work this magic?’

‘By the power of The Light Stream.’

‘What is the Light Stream? Speak.’

‘A light of unfathomable depths. The Light Stream revivifies the body by entering the soul. ’Tis the Light of Living God.’

‘You are not of God.’

‘No. But I am closer to Him than you, mortal.’

‘You are in league with Satan.’

‘Satan? Nay. My God is your God.’

‘Who is your God? Speak His Holy name.’

‘What use is my God to you? Your whole mind dwells in a state of fear and chaos. Shall knowledge of God bring you peace and order? You look upon me amid a tumult of terror; and all my miracles are rendered as demonic tricks. You believe I work in opposition to God, whereas in actual fact God is the very centre of my being. But by your ignorant philosophy, you deprive me of all goodness, strength and virtue. My celestial body consists of a light so pure that it cannot be divided, nor separated from God. The Light Stream comes from Him and Him alone. But all of this transcends your rational knowledge and material intelligence. ’

Bor nods to the torturer who pulls a white hot iron from the coals and presses it upon Jacques’ chest. I take the pain and say:

‘Fire cannot hurt me…’

‘You do not fear the brimstone halls of hell?’

‘Nay. I drink molten lava for breakfast.’

‘What is your purpose with Jacques Vallin?’

‘What is yours, Christian?’

‘Renuntiare daemoni & omnibus malis operibus. [To defy the devil and all his works].’

‘You have answered your own question.’

‘I do not see how the devil’s agent can defy the devil. After all, if Satan stands against Satan, how shall his kingdom stand? Speak.’

‘You have read many books—and you quote the scriptures at the drop of a hat. But you are proud and vain, and the will of God has no connection with your learning. I see many dead letters, tumbling through your mind like leaves in the wind. For all your knowledge of the scriptures, your heart is hard as stone. I fear your soul is damned.’

‘Damned? Then what of yours?’

‘What of it?’

‘You have a soul, demon?’

‘Indeed. I am all soul.’

‘And you are in possession of Jacques Vallin?’

‘Nay, I guide his spirit. But he is stubborn as a mule and hard to lead.’

‘You work alone, or with other demons?’

‘Others. Many others.’

‘Name your accomplices.’

‘All of them? Impossible! Our army is so vast, that if all the Alps with their rocks and glaciers, were divided equally amongst us, not one would have a pound’s weight.’(ix)

‘What place do you inhabit when not in possession of a body. Speak of your world.’

‘My world? Without my mighty eye, you cannot comprehend it.’

‘Indulge me. Describe it, as best you can.’

‘How shall I unlock for you a world that stands in relation to yours, without giving you the required sense to perceive and interpret it? You might as well try and describe your world to a blind man. What shall you use in a world of touch to describe a colour? How shall you paint a picture in his mind?’

‘You dwell under the earth?’

‘I dwell in untold places.’

‘Tell of the spirits that inhabit there…’

‘You call us spirits.’

‘What do you call yourselves?’

‘We are body.’

‘But you are demons.’

‘So are you.’

‘Stop this fencing. Answer the question. Reveal the nature of your world.’

‘’Tis impossible to speak of those things which are rendered visible only by The Holy Spirit. Men do not see things as the really are. Christ tried to open your eyes, yet even with His parables, he could not make you see, for you always insist upon giving your own meaning to what he said. If I have spoken to you of earthly things, and you believe them not: how will you believe, if I shall speak to you of heavenly things? (x) ’

‘You quote the scriptures to sustain your wicked delusions.’

‘I fear you are a lost cause.’

‘Enlighten me.’

‘If the messiah of the Jews could not enlighten you, then how shall I? I fear to say another word, lest you scourge and crucify me.’

‘Was it you who inspired the Cathar heresy in Jacques Vallin?’

‘I inspired him with many things. But most of all, knowledge.’

‘Did you teach him Latin?’

‘Of course. Though I prefer the Armenian tongue.’

‘What other tongues have you taught him?’

‘Greek, Chaldee, Persic and Syriac.’

‘Those are the pagan tongues of heathen races.’

‘Why chastise the heathen when their oracles are everywhere divine?’

‘You have taught many like Jacques Vallin?’

‘Indeed. I even taught Plato, Homer and Aquinas.’

‘The angelic doctor did not consort with demons.’

‘Do you want the truth? Or shall I answer in such a manner as would please you best?’

‘You lie. Aquinas would not heed the words of a devil.’

‘Devil? As far as Aquinas was concerned, I was an angel: a divine intelligence. Needless to say, for a mere mortal to secure an intelligence such as mine is a great honour. But the gifts of intellect are naught compared to the noble art of healing.’

‘Then tell me how you changed brother Fabien.’

‘The works of the flesh are a great mystery, and not for profane ears.’

‘Still, I should like to know. With what gifts did you bestow Jacques? A phial of the Gorgon Medusa’s blood?’

‘You mock. But since you mention it, only blood taken from her left side can raise the dead. The blood from her right side destroys all life, instantly.’

‘You are well versed in Greek myth.’

‘Naturally. I am Cyclops after all. Myth is my speciality.’

‘Myth, precisely. As was the maiden’s resurrection: nothing but a myth.’

‘Oh no. Verily, she was raised from the dead.’

‘Tell me how you did it.’

‘How? A secret mystery surrounds the regions of the great invisible. The treasures of the Light are not to be revealed to the uninitiated. Suffice to say, that every year I enter Paradise, and there receive from Enoch and Elias the power of binding and loosing, which I afterward communicate to Jacques. The celestial order of the Gods contains the eternal measure of beings, and all their signatures which are sent forth from the Demiurgus of wholes. By which means, all things of an ineffable nature are unfolded into The Light… Of which I am a humble servant.’

‘A servant of The Light. The Light of Lucifer, no doubt.’

‘Oh, you really are a most tiresome little worm. Quod nescias damnare, summa est temeritas. [It is extreme presumption to condemn what you do not understand]. Is brother Fabien not evidence enough?’

‘You assert this miracle as divine?’

‘I do.’

‘Then do you, as a divine intelligence, believe in the sacrament of the Lord’s body?’

‘Most surely, I do.’

‘Do you believe in the heretical contention of the Gnostics, namely that Adam was created by a subordinate Monad, or by the author of evil?’

‘No, I do not. The body of the first man, as well as his soul, was created immediately by God. The Creator said: “let us make man to our image and likeness…(xi) And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.”(xii) Nor do I believe in that error of Plato, who contended, along with foolish Rabbis, that Adam was a hermaphrodite.’

‘Er, is Lazarus a hermaphrodite?’ asks Jean.

‘Silence!’ snaps Bor. ‘Do not interrupt! I alone must speak with the demon.’ Then he turns to me and asks:

‘Indeed, I might ask: does the distinction of sex prevail amongst demons, as it does amongst the creatures of earth?’

‘Demons, like angels, are sexless beings; though we can choose a gender that befits our character. But most remain hermaphrodites. As for terrestrial creatures, the distinctions of sex are sometimes most ambiguous. The factors which determine sex are present in the fertilized egg but they vary in potency, and during gestation, one factor may not succeed in controlling the other.(xiii) Have you not heard of the “wildig” a twin to the bull-calf, who looks like an ungainly cow but has a hidden male member? The flesh is a dangerous harbour; and the equilibrium between sexes is easily upset, for the secretion of glands does not always prevail into adult life. Have you never awoken to an elderly crowing hen? Or mocked the hag with a hairy beard, who beats her cuckold husband?(xiv)’

‘And what of Jacques Vallin? My god, he’s a true freak of Nature, if ever there was one.’

‘Jacques is neither male nor female—a thwarted soul that cannot manifest its true identity. To this end, Jacques is not a person at all; he is a contradiction of body and soul… Not man, nor woman, neither here nor there; a dissonant spirit who walks the earth as a corporeal ghost. He is, in every sense, a true magician. Though what is due to nature, nurture, or divine will, I cannot tell. Needless to say, he regards all this as most unfortunate. That is why he upholds the Five Laws.’

Bor paces round the chair:

‘Five Laws? Repeat them, or kiss the irons.’

‘As you wish…Law One: Earth is Hell. Law Two: All creatures are made by God with the freedom to choose between good and evil. Law Three: All created souls are eternal. Law Four: The earth is a rock world and serves as the dumping ground of the Universe for evil entities. Law Five: Earthly life is the union of soul with matter…’(xv)

‘Ah, yes! But those laws are expressly Manichean…’

‘In principal, they are; but nor do they conflict with Thomist doctrine. For Saint Thomas teaches that the spiritual soul is not only the forma corporis, but the unica forma corporis – the sole form of the body. He conceives the compositum humanum as consisting not of body and soul, but of primordial matter and soul, because it is the spiritual soul which renders the body materia secunda, that is, constitutes it a body, and thereby gives it its esse corporis.’(xvi)

‘Deceitful fiend, you cannot beguile me with your evil rhetoric. The Cathar faith is naught to do with Thomist doctrine.’

‘Is it not? Then forgive me for offending your ears.’

‘You still wish to play games with me Cyclops?’

‘Why are you so vexed by the truth? You believe in the Devil, don’t you?’

‘Of course. I am speaking with one of his servants.’

‘You are indeed. Though it perplexes me: if God is a being of infinite power, “self-created and creating all others,” why are there limits to his goodness?’

‘There are no limits to God’s goodness, nor his mercy. The Manichean doctrine is flawed, as simple logic proves. ’Tis foolish to conceive of two opposing principals—a good god and a bad god, which exist independently of each other. For this necessarily implies the existence of a third god, antecedent to both—the real first cause of all—who created both the good god and the bad god. Then the whole Manichean question must be solved all over again. For why were two antagonistic Beings suffered to exist in the first place? No, no, no, that cannot be. Ergo, the entire Cathar proposition is a harebrained cock-eyed nonsense. There is only one God, and His justice is perfect, as your sentence will prove.’

‘As I said, I fear to wag my tongue, lest you crucify me. But then, as a servant of Satan, you would only be doing your duty.’

‘You are not worthy of crucifixion. You shall burn on the faggots. Your false miracles have corrupted the faithful.’

‘Like all my kind, I only act in accordance with the will of God. God has given me permission to carry out magical cures of my own volition. Ergo, why should Jacques be burnt for what God decrees?’

‘Your miracles are maleficia.’

‘That is a gross affront to the omnipotent rule of Heaven. For God, through me, has blessed Jacques with healing hands.’

‘You confuse the limits of divine permission. The execrations of Satan have great efficacy among those who believe in your diabolical cures. These miracles throw doubt upon the articles of the faith, principally because they are worked by a Cathar.’

‘I think your wicked rhetoric is far more harmful to the faith than a simple parfait, whose only desire is to cure the sick.’

‘You err. Those poor souls who desire a cure, or want to witness your maleficia, become drawn into heretical beliefs. All of which is very dangerous to the faith. Your cures are naught but tricks to fool the ignorant, so that their blindness becomes greater, and they fall into the snare that the devil has set…’

‘Is Satan to be more feared than God? And you more feared than Satan? Persuade yourself that you are doing God’s work, whilst you heap up evils in the midst of evils. You do more for the Cathar cause than any Parfait. You are worse than the heathen druids, who burnt children in wicker baskets.’

‘You contradict yourself Cyclops. If a demon cannot work without God’s permission, then how can I? God justly permits me to carry out my work, that the Catholic faith may be preserved.’

‘I do not believe in your dogma of Papal infallibility. ’Tis most revealing that Mother Church and her officials take so much interest in performing gratuitous tortures, just to maintain their stranglehold on the masses. You have turned heaven and earth upside down! I refer to Law One: Earth is Hell.’

‘I expel you, primal source of blasphemy, prince of the rebel host, originator of evil. I expel you, Lucifer, who was cast from the brilliance on high into the darkness of the abyss on account of your arrogance: I expel you and all the fallen hosts which followed your will: I expel you, spirit of uncleanness, who revolted against Adonai, Elohim, the omnipotent God of Sabaoth and the army of His angels! (xvii) Return to hell, Cyclops!’

‘You cannot exorcise me, Monsieur. What shall I make Jacques do? Shall I twist his tongue and draw it out a foot from his mouth? Or turn his face toward his back, with a grimace so terrible it would melt a stone? Or make him cry obscenities and blaspheme in Persic? You are lost inquisitor. The Lord gives you a manifest miracle and you call it the work the devil.’

‘Silence! You will burn at sunset!’

‘’Tis hard to handle fire and not get burnt yourself.’

‘I am not the one condemned to the pyre.’

‘Oh but you are, Monsieur. You shall die as you have condemned others – by the torment of temporal fire.’

Bor draws pale and his lips begins to tremble:

‘You know of my death?’

‘Indeed, both in this life and the next.’

‘Only a fool would heed your forked tongue.’

‘Nevertheless, burn you shall. I have given instructions to a Salamander.’

‘Salamander?’

‘A spirit of fire who will preside over your immolation.’

‘You do not frighten me Cyclops. I am safe within the arms of Christ. ’Tis Jacques Vallin who will burn, not I.’

‘You cannot burn Jacques Vallin.’

‘How so?’

‘The abbess will not allow it…’

‘Abbess? What abbess?’

The air suddenly is disturbed; the floor vibrates and the pews rattle on their feet. The monks look round in dread as a low ominous drone runs through the fabric of the entire church; plumes of dust trickle from the rafters and sconces tremble on the pillars. All that is iron begins to chime out; the braziet judders on the tiles; the manacles rattle; bells tinkle on the censers; spurs spin on every boot; and the belfry sounds the toscin…

Then comes a shrill scream as Lilith bursts through the rose window in a shower of stained glass. She flies through the air like a recumbent hag. The sight is most macabre, for she rides a broom backwards, her body in reverse, her ghoulish face twisted with fury. She cackles as panes topple from the tracery and smash upon the floor.

‘A witch!’ cries Albert. ‘Run for your lives!’

The monks scatter in terror as Lilith swoops from the vault, screaming like a ravenous harpy. What phantasy could conceive it! What spell could conjure a guardian angel so grim as this!

‘Attack!’ cries Bor. ‘Attack! In the name of God, kill her!’

At once the soldiers hurl their pikes like javelins. But Lilith darts effortlessly between them, as if she has foreseen the trajectory of each one. She snarls and claws the air, catching the pikes in her fists and hurling them back down. Two soldiers are skewered in the head, another in the heart, and three more in the chest. Dread panic breaks out as Lilith dives from the galleries, catching Bor’s men by the scruff of the neck. She soars with her pray, high into the rafters, then drops them like snails, so they plummet and split on the tiles. Then she swoops down the aisles, screeching like a strix; her howlings are so powerful that the men clasp their heads, bleeding at the ears. Lilith is invincible: she bolts through the alcoves, flinging the guards with such violence that their bones crack upon the walls.

The courage of the faithful is wanting in all quarters. The bishop wails, trembling beneath the table, gnawing on his knuckles. Odo cowers by the pulpitum and crawls between the screens, sobbing with distress. Bernard runs for door but the threshold is blocked by corpses, so he retreats to the transept and runs up the night stair. Belon follows after, scrambling in wild panic, tripping on his cowl. Guillaume hides behind the font muttering Ave after Ave, his cheeks pale with terror. And Joseph lies beside him, blubbering in his basket:

‘We’re all going to die!’

Yet Bor, to his credit, stands fast by the iron chair, swiping the air with his sword as Lilith circles his head:

‘You cannot fight me!’ she mocks. ‘Move aside or I will crush you like a maggot!’

‘Get back you evil hag!

With a flick of her wrist, she sends Bor hurtling through the air. He comes to an abrupt stop, his back cracking against a pillar. He drops in a heap and groans in the dust.

Barely conscious, Jacques looks up at the harpy which hovers before him like a dream.

‘You took your time…’ he mutters grimly.

Immediately his manacles snap open and Lilith plucks him from the chair as if he were a feather. He slumps across her broomstick as she cackles in triumph and darts toward the ossuary door. No sooner is she upon it than it flings wide open and she flits inside. Her mad laughter echoes in the crypt as they bolt down the tunnels, deep into the halls of hell…

i. Matthew, 12:22-4.

ii. 2 Thessalonians, 2:9-12.

iii. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, II., 5.

iiib. Seneca.

iv. Exodus, 7:11.

v. Fournier’s Register, ii. 35.

vb. Of course, historically, the “Adamites” were not known as such in southern France. But in 1335, during the trials at Carcassonne, a shepherd name André Cicéron confessed to saying Mass naked so as to invoke the demonic powers necessary to make a magical salve from the Eucharist, insisting that this was how Adam sacrificed. This foreshadows the doctrines of the fifteenth-century Adamites in Bohemia. (Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, by Jeffrey Burton Russell, p.181). Just because there is only historical evidence of a sect in one particular location at one particular time does not mean that their doctrines were not practiced by others at an earlier time. In this particular context “Adamites” also refers to Abbot Adam, the leader of the sect, who is an allegorical embodiment of both Lilith and Adam, and his heretical belief in the preadamite world.

vi. Cyril, Catechisms, xvi, No. 15, Engl. Trans., The Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril, in Library of the Fathers (Oxford, 1839).

vii. 2 Corinthians, 11:13.

viii. Ezechiel’s vision of the resurrection of dry bones.

ix. An old legend, cited in the preface to ‘Demonology and Devil Lore’ by Daniel Conway. Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1879.

x. John, 3:12.

xi. Genesis, 1:26.

xii. Genesis, 1:27.

xiii. History of The Devil, by R. Lowe-Thompson. Chapter III. ‘Magicians and Priests’, pp. 52-59. Kegan, Paul, Trenc, Trubner & Co. Ltd., London 1929.

xiv. Ibid.

xv. I cannot be certain where these five laws are from. I read them in a book called “Other Mind” by Edward Shuttleworth, whilst perusing a local charity shop; the subtext is obviously Manichean as I make clear in the text. Obviously I have changed Law One, although even Aldous Huxley once said that it is entirely possible this earthly world is the Hell of another more spiritually advanced civilization.

xvi. The question of whether the definition of the Council of Vienne can be used as an argument in favour of the Aristotelian doctrine of Hylomorphism as developed by the Scholastics.[God the Author of Nature and The Supernatural, by The Reverend Joseph Pohle]. p. 147. The paragraph is quoted in its entirety.

xvii. From the Second Prayer of Exorcism by Saint Basil the Great.

Image Credit: Witches going to their Sabbath (1878) by Luis Ricardo Falero (from WikiMedia)

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 26 November 2008.