Before The Fall

lunar_rebirth

Court Transcript

LORD SCALES. ’Tis typical of the accused to waste our time by trying to gain sympathy from the jury. That a creature so abominable as Lilith could be cured of her disease, is beyond the realm of reason. Indeed, I would say that her mental conversion alone is nothing short of miraculous. Are we to believe that her soul was transformed likewise? That this degenerate homicidal maniac became a compassionate saint? ’Tis an insult to my intelligence, and without precedent in all my years of office.

KREW. You are mistaken, my Lord. What of the apostle Paul? For he was transformed as soon as Light of God fell on him. Before his conversion, he was a hard-hearted judge, who brought slaughter upon the disciples of Christ. But overnight he became a holy lover of saints…When the Lord enters a man’s heart, the sword of persecution drops from his hand.

LORD SCALES. That may be so, but does the court really believe that Lilith’s transformation was inseparable from any base motive? A desire for power and dominion? Lust, greed, envy – and all the dangerous passions of the body? The fact is, we must have a new code of ethics before the question of transformation can be resolved. And nowhere is this need more urgent, than when a man refutes his gender, and seeks to undo the handiwork work of Nature. ’Tis hardly too much to say that the received wisdom concerning transsexuals is mostly incorrect. But as presented by the accused, ’tis also entirely one-sided, imperfect, and coloured by gnostic prejudice. Jacques Vallin has gone to great effort to support the Cathar notion of his time: namely that earth is Hell, and that the body is a dungeon for the soul. Any student of psyche, therefore, finds himself constantly forced to question the ancient wisdom; or else he finds the historical facts take on a very different significance, even if the formal statement of them is allowed to stand. The formal statement being: this man is a woman. From which liberal minded fools infer a fluidity of genders, namely that man is latent in woman, just as woman is latent in man.

No theory of bios is good for anything except when it is interpreted correctly; for almost any generalization can find a colour of truth, if its historical scope is wide enough. But the dangers of interpreting gender are manifold. And lest we take great care, a noxious poison will set in, whereby all the old arbitrary elements of sexual prejudice will stain our judgement – not to mention the religious fervour of biblical interpretations – especially when we pick and choose verses according to our prejudice. Indeed, if we are to proceed in this manner, we will merely dishonour the prophets, and render the book of God completely worthless. For ’tis a very foolish notion that transsexual generalisations hold any less peril than theological specializations.

FURIUS CAMILUS. Then let us take a different tack. Let us look to the past in secular terms. My remarks are worthy of affirmation, especially when we consider the fall of Rome. Many historians have written of the corruption of the Caesars, the advancing inequality of fortunes, and the many military disasters. But no one understands what really destroyed that great civilization. The last days of Rome were characterised by a period of moral decadence that was typified by effeminacy, sensuality and luxury. And such excesses amongst the plebs undermined the very foundations of society – especially when the purity of family life was corrupted. When a society is destroyed by sexual excess, unfaithfulness and luxury, the destruction of the state is a forgone conclusion. Jacques Vallin would like you to think he is akin to Lilith – a warped female, encompassed in the gross material body of a man. Do not be swayed by this gnostic transsexual contrivance. ’Tis really no better than a myth…

JACQUES. And thou art no better than a flea. In fact, I do not consider the “formal statement” worthy of the parchment ’tis written on.

LORD SCALES. You are forbidden to speak by order of the court. Any attempt to open your lips will result in eternal damnation. Look yonder: the morning star is sinking. Let us finish this unsavoury period of your life as quickly as possible.

SATYR. I agree my Lord. Jacques’ main defence is his transsexual condition. And although Krew has made an exhaustive inquiry as to the true nature of his disease, I remain unconvinced. There is no proof, however small, that confirms his crimes are the product of pathology. Methinks his sins are the product of an evil heart, pure and simple. As for his gnostic philosophy, it only serves to aggravate and magnify his dissonance. With this in mind, I call a new witness to the court: Inquisitor Bor.

LORD SCALES. Ah! A man after my own heart. A man of true faith; a man who knows no fear but the fear of God. Come hither. Please face the bench and state your full name and title.

BOR. My name is Jean de Bor, chief inquisitor into heretical depravity for the Provence of Toulouse.

LORD SCALES. Wait a minute… That’s odd: I find no reference of you in the scrolls.

BOR. Er, I was struck out my Lord.

LORD SCALES. Struck out? For why?

BOR. For pursuing my duty with… an unnatural zeal.

LORD SCALES. I see. And are you enjoying your time in hell?

BOR. I confess, I have lost my faith.

LORD SCALES. Lost your faith? Do you not believe in one living and true God, Trine and One, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

BOR. No.

LORD SCALES. Do you not believe that the Son of God took flesh, was baptised in Jordan, fasted in the desert, preached your salvation, suffered, died, and was buried, descended into hell, rose the third day, ascended into heaven, sent the Spirit the Paraclete upon his disciples on the day of Pentecost, will come at the day of judgement to judge the quick and the dead, and that all will rise?

BOR. No, no, I do not! I do not believe it.

LORD SCALES. How so? Is your dire eternal fate not evidence enough?

BOR. I do not see how a loving God could contrive of a hell so terrible, nor allow me to suffer there, especially when I served Him with such faithful devotion.

LORD SCALES. Served who, exactly?

BOR. I am at a loss to know! Pray, do not send me back. Your devils are drawn to my flesh like flies to honey!

LORD SCALES. My devils?

BOR. Oh! The pains they put on me!

LORD SCALES. Sire, you judge me wrong. Those devils are not mine, but yours.

BOR. Mine?

LORD SCALES. Of course. Alas, your sentence is out of my hands. I can offer no reprieve, none at all. For those devils are judging you, as you yourself judged others.

BOR. Oh have mercy! Do not send me back into the clutches of Satan! Give me a body to inhabit – a sow, a dog, or even an ox. Anything but that place!

LORD SCALES. How else shall you atone for what you did?

BOR. Forgive me, but I was ignorant of The Law!

LORD SCALES. Ignorantia legis neminem excusat. [Ignorance of The Law is no excuse]. I regret to inform you, that ’tis not in my power to forgive you anything. You think you are worthy to be delivered from the pains of hell? You think the archangels will rescue your soul from Darkness, and deliver you to the realms of Light? The greater the sin, the greater the punishment. And your sins are so very great. I fear your perpetual fire will never be quenched. Needless to say, your coming here has angered the ranks of Hades, whose bloodthirsty devils are eager to continue with their sport… Clawing, slapping, beating, flogging, branding, racking, garotting, flaying, scolding, eye-gouging, teeth pulling, sconce cracking… Though I dare say they might consider leniency if you serve my counsel well.

BOR. Yes, yes! I will do anything you say; tell me what to confess, and I will confess it!

LORD SCALES. All I require is that you answer the questions truthfully.

BOR. Aye my Lord! The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…

LORD SCALES. Good. Then let us begin. Dry your tears, face the bench, and answer the Satyr.

SATYR. Inquisitor Bor, now that we have learnt of your punisment, would you please give the jury your honest opinion of the accused.

BOR. I cannot imagine my opinion will count for much, especially when the court holds me in such low regard. But know this: I committed my crimes with the full jurisdiction of Mother Church. I once thought myself an advocate of Christ and defender of the Catholic faith. But the cruel manner in which I pursued my office has distinguished me as a true monster and enemy of humanity. My name is known in every sphere of Hades. Demons revere and cite the Holy Inquisition, whose theory and practice is no less honoured by Satan than by the Pope.

Nevertheless, no one would rejoice more cordially than I, if the accused were to burn on the pyre, and be condemned to the everlasting lake of fire. For his crimes have no equal in the annals of the heresy. He has murdered the faithful and poisoned the minds of the innocent. These facts alone confer on me an obligation to present my evidence without prejudice, despite the fact that I despise him with all my heart, and hold him responsible for my own perdition. Jacques Vallin wears a dunces cap. Do not be fooled: he is more cunning than a serpent. He would like you to think he is innocent as a dove. Be not deceived. Like the Arch Fiend, he is steeped in wickedness. That is my opinion of the accused.

SATYR. Thank you Bor. Tell me, do you consider yourself a brave man?

BOR. How is that relevant? Where is the question is leading?

SATYR. Well, I would like you tell the court why you followed Jacques into the ossuary.

BOR. Is it not obvious? ’Twas my mission and duty to arrest him. I have one golden rule that has always stood me in good stead: all manifestations of evil must be addressed and confronted.

SATYR. But did you not fear your own destruction?

BOR. As a man of faith, (as I was then), I believed that Jacques Vallin was the Parfait of a host of wicked Cathars, who irreverently defied the armies of the living Christ; and with the highest presumption, blasphemed the God of Majesty himself. And I was sure that triumph would not be denied to a faithful champion of Christ, who goes forth to war, ready to defend Mother Church… But how wrong was I.

SATYR. Did you enter the ossuary alone?

BOR. No. Odo showed the way, and his brethren followed: Poufille, Bernard and Jean.

SATYR. They had no misgivings?

BOR. Naturally. But Jean said fear had no more substance than what was derived from ignorance and prejudice. In truth, I think they still believed in Jacques, despite his rescue by Lilith. Fabien’s transformation had seduced them all. And they wanted to drink from the magic spring.

SATYR. They wanted to be cured.

BOR. Exactly.

SATYR. So you all went in together?

BOR. Yes – apart from Tolus who fled to the gatehouse. (That bishop was a measly coward). Odo filled a flask with holy water from the stoop, and we took as many candles as we could carry. I must confess, I was always afraid of the dark. But to my astonishment, the catacombs were full of light.

SATYR. Torches?

BOR. No. The walls were aglow with what appeared to be rippling candle flames. At first I thought them fireflies, but on closer inspection, I realised they were crystals in the rock. Sorcery.

DEMON DOCTOR. I am sure the jury will admit, you all showed great metal, to follow Lilith into the catacombs. How many soldiers were left in your company?

BOR. Three: my sergeant, who led the way, and two foot soldiers who took up the rear. The ossuary was a infernal labyrinth, full of monstrous deformities and morbid mouldings.

SATYR. And even though most of your men had been slain by that venomous harpy, you forged onward into the depths.

BOR. – I did.

DEMON DOCTOR. Astounding courage. Astonishing.

BOR. – And when Bernard wanted to turn back, I recited the words of Henry, abbot of Clairvaux: “Why dost thou doubt, O David? Why dost thou fear, O faithful man? Take to thyself the sling and stone. Immediately shall the blasphemer be smitten in his forehead, and that wicked head, which he has impudently raised, shall be cut off by thy hands, with his own sword.”

SATYR. Fine words indeed.

BOR. But completely useless in the face of such terrible power.

SATYR. And how did you find Jacques exactly?

BOR. We crossed a great abyss and came to the Titan shaft. ’Twas there we met the dwarves with brother Hique.

DEMON DOCTOR. Oh? I thought they had gone to pray.

BOR. A deception. They had ventured in before us – via the abbot’s lodging. I was angry, but what could I do? I could hardly chastise them, considering their plight. For they too were in search of the magic spring. Such poor Christians – they had no faith in Paradise – all they desired was earthly perfection. But having learnt of their determination, and knowing that punishment on my part would only cause revolt, I decided to say nothing. Besides, I found them struck with mortal dread; the dwarves hid amid the rocks and Hique could barely speak; he just pointed to the shaft with trembling lips. Odo was at the pit’s brink and in great danger. Extremo in periculo versari. He beckoned me to look; so I stood upon the rim and peered into the depths. That’s then I spied Lilith and Jacques descending…

DEMON DOCTOR. Descending?

BOR. Yes. Descending, on a disc of light…

SATYR. Indeed. The court will recall that Lilith had promised Jacques total transformation. But let us find out if his liberation turns out to be his degradation. Inquisitor Bor, would you please tell the court what happened next…

BOR. We watched the disc vanish in the depths.’Twas a bottomless pit of darkness that steeped our souls in fear. Odo insisted we return to the abbey. But then, to our utter astonishment, the disc reappeared, rising in the shaft at great speed; it came to the surface and hovered in the funnel mouth with a power of self-motion that required no external aid. But Jacques was not aboard. Needless to say, I yearned to follow him.

LORD SCALES. It never ceases to amaze me, how men can trifle with powers so vast, and consequences beyond their calculation.

BOR. You do not understand. We were compelled to go. There was an intelligence at work – a force of will and consciousness, that pressed upon our souls and minds. Despite the danger, we longed to know the secret of the pit. And this longing was from some germinal seed, hidden deep in our hearts. It did not take long for Hique to reveal the lever. Knowingly indeed, but without any foresight of what might happen, we stepped onto the disc; within seconds it began to drone like the wind. We were going down…

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2009.

Image credit: Final hatching of the lunar creature of rebirth. Traditional engraving. Anonymous.

The Hidden Hand

Unus_Mundus_The_Hidden_Hand_03

Jacques is telling it…

That night I dream of Mengarde. He was lurking by Mill Bridge, club in fist. He broke my arm and knocked out two front teeth. Then his gang tied me to the ploughshare and stuffed my mouth with marl. They ran off laughing and left me tethered ’till dusk when the ploughman cut me loose:

‘Go home and don’t come back! If I find you here again, I’ll kill you!’

The following day Moma made a hazel splint and plied my gums with wort. She put me to bed and sat by the hearth, spinning and singing of herbs. I soon fell asleep, my spirit borne aloft in the blasted oak…

 

Toxteth, 1949.

As Jill, I dwelt in my imagination and dreamed. This side of my personality began when I was but a child of three. In those early years I lived as a thing apart ― a mystery of my own. But I was the mind behind his mind; the true inward mind; the self behind his self. During childhood I gradually became ascendant, and was the soul of all his sufferings, dreams and desires. But as he turned into a boy, I could find expression no more, and lived in a hidden way. Yet even this inner life was too intimate and powerful to be killed by Jack, and he struggled in vain to shut me away. Sometimes he would write me a letter on his birthday, saying goodbye and despairing at his hopeless situation. But then I would write back in return, offering my support and encouragement, assuring him that all would be well. Little did I know, the dissociation of these two opposing poles would become my undoing…

I awake to find myself in another world, with an iron fireplace and a fine mantle with a ticking clock. Ma walks in and says:

‘Have you been curled up in that chair all day, Jack lad?’

‘No ma.’

‘You can’t hide in here forever you know. Why don’t you go out and play? It’s a lovely day. Get some fresh air.’

‘I don’t want to play.’

‘Why are the curtains closed? It’s like the black hole of Calcutta in ’ere.’

‘I’ve got a headache.’

‘How’s it feeling? Any better? By god, If I catch that Billy Dobbs, I’ll give him the back of my slipper. He’s beaten you black and blue. That’s a real a shiner you’ve got there.’

I thought it was just a bad dream, but then I feel my broken teeth and the splint across my arm. Ma checks herself in the mirror, unties her scarf and asks:

‘Why did he hit you, anyway?’

‘I stopped the clock.’

‘What clock?’

‘The school clock.’

‘What did you do that for?’

‘Dobbs tied me to a desk, see? Then Mr. Armitage came in and put us in detention. So I stopped the clock. We got extra time doing lines.’

‘Like punishing yourself, do you?’

‘I don’t care. I could do lines ’till doomsday – makes no odds to me. Besides, Dobbs is a scally.’

‘And you a scouser, born and bred.’

‘At least I’m not a divvy like him. He’s a whopping great meff. He thinks the sun goes round the earth. What a Noggsy.’

‘Old misery guts. You’ve been sulking in ’ere for days. Why don’t you play with Janet next door? She asked after you this morning.’

‘Did she?’

A children’s rhyme echoes outside:

Jill is poorly,
Jill is sick,
Call the doctor,
Quick, quick, quick!

I creep to the window and peek through the drapes. A gang of girls is skipping with a long rope. There’s a fine cobbled street with rows of tall brick houses. Smog hangs about the rooftops where chimney stacks puff soot into the evening sky. I wonder where the pond has gone. There’s not a blade of grass in sight.

Ma says:

‘Open them curtains. I can’t see a bloody a thing.’

The rails squeak as I draw the drapes, flooding the parlour with sickly light. The room seems all in pieces. The drab grey walls haven’t seen a lick of paint in years. Despite the fire, the air is damp and cold. Before the range is a moth-eaten rug with a red floral weave; the middle is completely worn away, revealing the weft and a shiny black floorboard. A broken chamber pot lies in the corner where a crack runs up the plaster like a bolt of lightning. A Victorian sampler hangs on the wall, embroidered with a crucifix and the words:

If all mankind would live in mutual love,
This world would much resemble that above.

Beneath is a warped table and two Bentwood chairs. On the table is a brown teapot with a chipped spout and a pile of old ration books. The chair-backs are draped with articles of female clothing, and a whalebone corset is stretched before the hearth on an iron rack.

‘Jack, be a luv and nip out for a loaf of bread, would you pet? We’ve got nowt for tea. Here’s sixpence. Get a white loaf mind, not brown. Hovis gives me heartburn…’

‘White loaf? Which one?’

‘Mother’s Pride.’

‘Am I?’

‘Don’t be daft Jack. I’m not in the mood for jokes.’

‘Mother’s Pride? Never heard of it.’

‘Course you have. You know the one I mean. Scottish Plain. The one with the tartan wrapper.’

‘Just bread then? No jam?’

‘Is there none in the cupboard?’

‘It’s gone.’

‘Gone? ’Ere Jack, you haven’t eaten all that jam have you?’

‘We finished it a week ago.’

‘Did we?’

‘You promised to buy more last Wednesday.’

‘I don’t know Jack lad, you’ll eat me out of house and home.’

She rummages through her purse:

‘I was sure I had some more coppers in ’ere. Never mind. I must ’ave spent ’em all last night.’

‘You came in late.’

‘Did I pet? I can’t remember to be honest.’

‘You were bevied up.’

‘Bevied up? Don’t be so cheeky. I was working. A breach-birth on Earl Street. Misses O’Leary. That’s her sixth child in as many years. Still, I don’t like going round there at night: it’s crawling with Orangemen. It’s marching season. And me a good Catholic.’

She checks her reflection, prodding her cheeks with her finger-tips:

‘Look at me. I’m falling apart at the seams. I’d do anything to be twenty again. I was quite a looker in my time, you know. Still, I couldn’t go through another bloody war. Live and let live, that’s my motto. I don’t understand it Jack. You’d think Hitler might have knocked some sense into them. But it’s worse now then when I was a nipper. An altar boy got stoned in the park last Sunday. Bloody Orangemen.’

‘What colour are we ma?’

She spins on her heels:

‘What colour? Why, we’re green of course! Protestants Orange, Catholics Green. You know that. Green folk are loving and kind. Orange folk are extremist and cruel.’

Extremist? I bet that’s what the Proddies say about us.’

‘We’re not extremist Jack. We’re devout.’

‘I’m not.’

‘Jack Vallis! How could say such a thing? I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and water!’

‘Well where was Jesus in the war? Whole city got bombed to smithereens.’

‘Don’t you question the Lord my lad, or I’ll give you a damn good belting. Understand?’

‘Sorry ma.’

‘I should think so too. I didn’t take you on just to bring you up atheist. Heaven forbid.’

Take me on? I hate it when you say that. You make me sound like a stray dog.’

‘Less of your lip. And take my shawl off. Who do you think you are? Molly Malone?’

‘I’m cold.’

‘Cold? Don’t be soft. How can you be cold? I wish I could sit by the fire all day….’

Her eyes flit madly about the skirting:

‘Listen Jack, there was a mouse in ’ere last night. You ’aven’t seen it, ’ave you?’

‘There’s more than one, you know.’

‘We need a cat Jack. That’s what we need. Well hurry up kidda, it’s nearly six o’ clock. Shop’ll be closing in five minutes.’

‘No jam butties then?’

‘Not tonight pet. Just bread. I’ll buy some jam tomorra. All right?’

She picks a coal with the tongues and lights a cigarette, puckering her lips as she sucks the tip. She draws deeply then adds:

‘―And get some matches pet.’

‘Sykes won’t sell us matches.’

‘Yes he will.’

‘He won’t.’

‘Tell him I sent you. And if he refuses, I’ll have something to say about it. Now off you go. Run along.’

I head for the door, eager to meet Janet in the street. But when I open the latch the city has vanished into thin air. Before me is a pristine vista of snow-capped mountains, with verdant slopes of olives and flax. I’m standing by the pond, surrounded by acolytes of croaking frogs. My horned reflection wobbles in the water. And a faint rhyme still lingers in the air:

Jill is poorly,
Jill is sick,
Call the doctor,
Quick, quick, quick!

 

Sunhill Asylum, 1958.

’Tis just as Krew said: the cosmos is one big hall of mirrors: a skein of reflections that gyre throughout eternity. We dwell in a plurality of worlds: luminous spheres that meld like bubbles of molten glass; hypersurfaces; agglomerated fields; electric fluids that ooze from star to star…

What ill-fate brought me to Sunhill? Was I sent by order of Jove as punishment for my crimes? The precise sequence of events I cannot recall, but I remember falling. Falling, yes. Yet from where I fell is a mystery. I have always had a fear of heights. It is not vertigo that plagues me. On the contrary, I could climb the tallest spire without any trouble at all. No, what plagues me is the urge to jump. And the closer I stand to a precipice, the greater this urge becomes. Sometimes this urge is almost uncontrollable. It comes upon me like a madness – the compulsion to leap and fling myself into oblivion. Despite this fear, towers and parapets are enthralling haunts. I always find myself inching toward the edge, heart pounding in my chest. The closer I stand to Death, the more I feel alive. Even now, I hear Him tempting me to suicide:

‘Fall into in my arms. Forget your earthly toil.’

He whispers of a transcendental world beyond the the gulf – a hidden realm of which the soul has no remembrance. Have you never climbed a mountain and longed to soar like a bird into the valleys below? But most of us have forgotten how to fly. The higher we go, the more we feel that irresistible attraction to the Earth – like a loadstone pulling on our bones. Did Lucifer feel the same when he fell from Heaven? As partakers of life everlasting, how shall we avoid everlasting punishment? Sometimes it seems the punishment allows no room for repentance. Indeed, when does the punishment create the crime?

They call my crimes an evil sorcery. But the charge for my witchcraft can no more be proved than the charge for my insanity. Yet as any inquisitor knows, even an imaginary crime may imply a criminal intention that is not imaginary – especially when it threatens the interests of the state…

Yes, I remember falling. I’m falling still. ’Tis like a terrible dream from which I cannot wake; and no matter how hard I struggle to rouse myself, I remain lost in feverish slumber. Once you enter the gates of Sunhill, there’s little chance of escape. There are chambers within chambers; tunnels within tunnels; doors within doors. ’Tis a fiendish labyrinth whose solution is beyond all human calculation. I fear my soul is entangled with Sunhill forever, and only an act of high magic will set it free.

A hidden hand directs our fate. They say a wise man can recognize the intervention of Divine Providence; but all too oft’ Providence brings catastrophe and chaos. I don’t know what they did to me in Sunhill, but I soon learnt to hate the doctors. I never thought of myself as an anarchist, but perhaps I was destined to incite revolution; to destroy the ill-founded fabric of the Freudians; to shatter their materialist vogue and authority over the masses. Militant atheists have little reasoning capacity; amongst their ranks are the most foolish, vain, conceited, irrational and least-objective thinkers ever to walk upon the face of the earth. Materialists are so infatuated with atheism, that they have invested it with all the faith of a religion.

Nature holds up to us a mirror, for the impulse of the savage always lurks beneath the veneer of civilized society. And what is society but a collection of tribes? There are many tribal terrors lurking in the halls of psychiatric medicine. For the Freudians are the most savage tribe of all. As for the Marxists and Darwinists, they come a very close second. Barbarians. I do not deny that there are many species of madness; but my own particular strain was always less absurd than the dogmas of the day. The theory of Evolution is an unscientific creed; the tenet of a primitive belief system; the religious cornerstone of a radical atheistic political movement. Atheists are naught but unlearned triflers – like the pedant Schoolmen of Paris. Cymini sectores. [Splitters of cummin-seeds]. They’re too ignorant to know when they’re wrong; too proud to admit their errors when corrected; and too dishonest to confess their bias in the first place. Instead they just bury the evidence and silence dissenters.

Those freethinkers who promote such views as spiritual teleology or intelligent design are the most dangerous dissenters of all. To believe in God is akin to insanity. Magic and religion belong to the supernatural, not the dim-lit world of the atheist. Any diagnosis of insanity always renders the greatest service to science. Science bless us all, and shield us from insanity, which is the worst malady in hell. Science may intern insanity, but insanity must never be allowed to intern science. Conformist rule must be maintained at all costs – even it means suppressing Truth in favour of Falsehood. For society is always more in danger of being corrupted by the former than the latter.

Dissenters are often sent to asylums where their seditious minds can be wiped or clinically excised. A heretic is always taught to know his place. Sunhill was an infernal, godforsaken hole; to even loiter in the precinct made the blood run cold. Better the grave than Sunhill Asylum! How oft’ I beat my fists upon the cell door and declared myself sane! But I was only met with the horrid glare of the inquisitor’s eye, who always accused me of depravity, magic and incantation. And for these crimes I was sentenced to lobotomy.

 

Court Transcript…

LORD SCALES. The severity of the sentence does not arise from punitive vindictiveness, but rather from the injuries and hurts you may inflict on Mother Church. Have no fear. Diamonic Law is perfectly just, balanced and immutable. ’Tis time to chose another bubble. Which shall it be? The Old World or the New?

JACQUES. If Lord Scales will permit, I would like to choose five bubbles floating betwixt his horns…

 

Bubble One…

I find a crock of fairy gold buried amid the roots of an elder tree. But when I delve inside the pot, the gold melts into an amber mead. I dip my finger and sniff: it smells of roses and honey. At once I’m overcome by a terrible thirst. But when I sip, an elf appears in a red tunic and says:

‘Don’t you know about food in fairyland?’

‘No little elf, I’m sure that I do not.’

‘The less you partake of it the better.’

‘But why? It tastes so good!’

‘You would be a fool to drink all that.’

‘I shall drink if I like. Besides, why should I heed a little elf like you?’

‘Little? I am really much bigger than I appear now. On earth you do not see things as they really are. You cannot glean the Virgin’s secrets. You need not heed my warning, but the Lady who brewed that wants to take you away.’

‘Take me where?’

‘Who knows? But do you really want to find out? Look yonder at the heavens. See how many stars there are! She made them all!’

‘They are beautiful indeed. But I wonder what she wants with me?’

‘I dare not say. Man is a creature of irreducible complexity. For naught can evolve without a thinking consciousness. The Lady has hidden hands. She can snatch you from one world to another in the twinkling of an eye. But what she wants with you is a mystery.’

I down the mead and the elf shakes his head in dismay:

‘I fear you have drunk too much and will never be sober again. For now your soul is possessed by the moon.’

‘Then what must I do?’

‘You must go forth with humility and good grace, and accept your fate as the Lady wills it.’

He vanishes in a plume of blue fire.

 

Bubble Two…

I am soaring above the earth, flying toward an effulgent orb whose Light is brighter than a thousand suns. I pass through many heavens whilst violent storms rage below, swirling in inky clouds. Thunderbolts crack across the firmament and the land glows red with fire. I fly at great speed and without effort, covering vast distances in the twinkling of an eye. And all the while, my only desire is to fuse with the radiant Orb which constantly evades me. Yet the longer I follow, the more I am overcome by sleep….

 

Bubble Three…

I awake to find myself in a padded cell. I lie on a reeking mattress, buckled in a canvas jacket, my arms strapped behind my back. I cannot stand, for my legs are in irons and chained to a belt about my waist.

The door bursts open and a dread fear seizes my heart. For who should enter but Dobbs, my childhood nemesis. Dressed in a white tunic, he brandishes a truncheon and leers:

‘Hullo Jack. Remember me?’

A sudden hail of blows falls about my head. I curl in a ball, begging for mercy as the truncheon pummels my kidneys.

‘No one can hear you Jack. No one cares. You’re all mine, every night for ever and ever, ’til the end of time…’

He jabs my ribs as I scuttle round the cell, yelping like a caged beast.

‘What’s up Jack? Why don’t you use your powers? Eh? Go on Jack, do some magic.’

‘Leave me alone!’

He snatches my hair and cranes my neck until I glimpse the whites of his eyes:

‘Look at me when I’m speaking! Show some respect. I want to see you do it, Jack.’

‘Do what?’

‘Turn back the clock like you did in school. Go on! Do some magic.’

‘Magic? I can’t do magic.’

‘I saw you do it.’

‘Do what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Liar. I’ll beat seven shades of shit out of you. Now do some magic, or else.’

‘I’m telling Matron on you.’

‘She doesn’t care about you Jack. You’ve got no friends in ’ere.’

‘I’m a Parisian lady, but you treat me worse than a dog!’

Parisian Lady? You mad feck. You were always a dreamer Jack. Stargazer, that’s what we called you. You were always away with the faeries.’

‘Leave me alone.’

‘Do some magic and I’ll go away.’

‘What magic?

‘I don’t know. Show us a trick.’

‘I don’t do tricks.’

‘Do you want another beating?’

‘I’ll walk through that wall! I’ll disappear – then you’ll be sorry!’

He kicks my stomach, knocking the wind clean out of me:

‘Go on then, Jack. Let’s see you disappear.’

I wheeze on all fours, knees knocking, chains rattling, eyes smarting. He spits:

Pathetic, that’s what you are. Pathetic. Disappear? Walk through walls? Yer blaggin’ me, Jack Vallis. Shall I tell you summat, Jack? You can’t disappear. Know why? Cos you’re disappeared already, see? Everyone in this ozzy is disappeared. You’re the disappeared Jack, that’s what you are. The disappeared.’

 

Bubble Four…

I awake screaming and Margot bids:

‘Hush child. You had a bad dream.’

But ’twas not a dream. I know it my bones. ’Twas a firm presentiment of another age. I am overcome with despair, for I have glimpsed my future life. My soul is not purified, but has passed into yet another terrene vessel; and once again I find myself oppressed at the hands of my enemies who preside over my capture like vengeful demons. Why am I not free? Why has the wheel not turned in my favour? Why is Mengarde still at the Zenith, and me at Nadir? What must I do to be saved? Can I be saved? Or am I doomed eternally?

The following moon, a stray cat enters the hovel. Moma says it will bring good luck and keep the mice down, so we keep her and name her Blackie. I soon fall in love. We play round the hearth all day with feathers, leaves and skeins of wool. I feed her goats’ milk, treat her kindly, and comb the flees from her coat. She purrs on my pillow, sleeps on my lap, and eats scraps from my hand. But one twilight, when I’m out gathering rushes, Mengarde steals Blackie away. He drowns her in a sack, skins her with his knife, and makes a purse of her pelt.

I hate Mengarde and wish he was dead.

How could Jesus let Blackie die? And by such cruel fate? I am done with Christ. It seems more wise to worship heathen gods – the Sun and Moon, the rivers, wells and stones – than submit to a god who allows evil to flourish in the world. And in the dead of night the hoot-owl cries:

‘Twice wise to you!’

Wind rustles the leaves and the Devil whispers:

‘Come!’

 

Bubble Five…

A bell tinkles as I enter the shop. Mr. Sykes looks up from a box of cabbages and asks:

‘What happened to you kidda?’

‘I got in fight.’

‘What does the other guy look like?’

‘It’s his funeral tommora.’

He chuckles:

‘What can I do for you then?’

‘A loaf of Mother’s Pride please.’

‘You’re in luck. I’ve got one left. Would you like some Jam with that?’

‘Not today. But I need a box of matches.’

‘Matches? I can’t sell you matches lad.’

‘They’re for ma.’

‘That’s what the last boy said – before he set fire to the church.’

‘What church?’

‘Saint Margaret’s of Antioch – at the corner of Princess Road. Didn’t you hear?’

‘Is it burnt down then?’

‘No. They caught it just in time. Apart from the Lady Chapel.’

‘I thought Adolf bombed it.’

‘Adolf only smashed the windows. But that boy burnt the Virgin to cinders. Sorry lad. I can’t sell you matches.’

‘What’s that matter? Think I’m a pyromaniac?’

‘A what?

‘A fire-starter.’

‘If old bill finds out I sold you matches, I could loose my license. What would you do for bread then?’

‘Perhaps the Orangemen did it.’

He scowls and slides the loaf along the counter:

‘Is that all lad?’

‘My ma will have summat to say about it.’

‘About what?’

‘The matches.’

‘She would an’ all, if you burnt down a church.’

‘Why would I burn down a church?’

‘Not a Catholic church, anyway.’

‘Are you a Proddy?’

He nods gravely:

‘Catholics used to throw pepper and eggs at me, lad. Do you know what I did?’

‘No, what?’

‘I hung a ham outside my shop with a card saying: “This ham was cured at Lourdes”.’

He grins:

Cured. Get it?’

‘Very funny.’

‘It’s a Proddy joke.’

‘Well I’m not Proddy or Catholic.’

‘What are you then?’

‘Buddhist.’

‘You’re pulling my leg.’

‘I’m not. Buddhism is the greatest religion in the world.’

‘And what would you know about it?’

‘This world is full of chattering monkeys. I’m going to Nirvana.’

‘Well before you go, you’d better pay for that loaf. I’m closing now.’

‘How much then?’

‘Four pence.’

I hand him the coin. He cranks the till and the drawer pings open:

‘That’s a tanner you gave me. Which leaves tuppence change.’

‘What can I get for a tuppence?’

‘Sweets?’

‘No. I’ve got toothache.’

‘What about a comic? The Beano? Lord Snooty and his pals?’

‘Not today.’

‘What then? I ain’t got much for tuppence. I could give you some spinach.’

‘I hate spinach. What about them dolls?’

‘What? These peg dolls over here?’

‘Aye. How much are they?’

He squints and checks the price:

‘Well, let me see now. My wife made these. A little side-line. You can have two for a penny.’

‘I’ll take four then.’

He looks puzzled as he wraps them in piece of scrap paper.

‘You got a girl then, ’ave you?’

‘Yes.’

‘What’s her name? Do I know her?’

‘She’s not from round here. But she likes dolls. She collects them.’

He hands me the parcel and winks:

‘All right then lad, ta ra.’

‘Ta ra.’

When I return home Janet has gone. The street is deserted except for a drunk who careers down the gutter. How empty is the world without Janet!

I must confess, the fairer sex were always objects of deification. I fell in love with every beautiful girl I laid eyes upon. But it was a love so spiritualized, that it bore no resemblance to real passion, let alone a real person, the object of my desire being nothing more than a feminine ideal – the phantom of my absent body. Had I known this at the time, I would have locked myself away. But I did not know, and was easily led astray by my delusions. That is not to imply that I didn’t love these girls – I did – I loved them with a true and bleeding heart; but looking back, I realise that I was also in love with the girl I most wanted to be. I might have been lost in the dominions of Pluto, for all hell was in turmoil, burning me up, body and soul. As the human mind generally requires some sort of fiction for its amusement, relaxation and escape, so I required the proximity and company of girls in order to escape myself. It was the only way I felt alive – to immerse myself in the powerful presence of their bodies, scent, laughter and touch. During adolescence, I became a slave to my sexual pathology, and I could not look upon a beautiful girl without longing to marry her and become intimate in all things. But this was yet another ludicrous fantasy, for Nature had not equipped me for such relations, and the very sight of it made me sick with nausea. By and by, one beauty surpassed another, and I tumbled ever onward, head over heels, into transsexual oblivion…

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2004-2019.

Triptych

surrogate

E.C.T. # 7

What bubble is this? What world? What mansion? What body?

They’ve done something to me. I can’t remember what; it might have been last week, last month or last year. I was wheeled into a narrow room with a tall ceiling. The Cyclops appeared just as the pads were put to my temples. He promised to take the pain and preserve me body and soul. Yet I have no memory of what transpired. The past comes in flashes but everything is out of sequence and upside down. I can’t recall waking up. It is now 10 p.m. and Dobbs is pacing the corridor. The page before me is a mystery:

I must kill myself.
I must not hesitate.
I must do it now.

Strange words indeed – but I can’t remember writing them down. What other memories have I lost? Yet how shall I know if I can’t recall the loosing? Pontius has stolen my psyche. I stand at the edge of oblivion, peering into a bottomless abyss. I have lost many vital things of the mind. Essential things. The secrets of Time and Space; the equations of relativity; poetry; music; miraculous inventions that shall never see the light of day. Yet more important things than these. Holy things. For worldly knowledge is naught compared to the joys of love. What was my mother’s name? Let me think a while. It sounds like Willow… minnow, marrow, yarrow, nympho, chateau, l’escargo… Margo! Yes! How she loved snails! I remember a trip to the zoo when I was twelve. Feeding the elephants with iced buns. She cleansed my wounds so tenderly when I was bullied in school. Christ! How shall I ever know the depths of this hideous erosion? Where am I from? You came down with the rain. That’s what she used to say. Margot was my foster mother. But who was my birth mother? What was her name? I can’t remember, God damn it. Did I ever know? Was I ever told? It’s a complete blank.

I fight myself in my sleep. I don’t know who I’m fighting. Myself or the Devil. It seems this cell is all I’ve ever known.

A shadow creeps across the floor: a lobster with snapping claws; a praying mantis; Vishnu in flames; a black Buddha in a sooty lotus. Why is the Buddha so fat? It seems utterly perverse, that one who was enlightened by the starving masses would let himself become obese. The wordling seeks pleasures, fattening himself like a caged foul; yet the Buddhist saint flies up to the sun like wild crane. But not you Buddha. You’re too fat chum. Too fat. He’s grinning like a simpleton. Wipe that smile off your face Buddha. I see nothing to be happy about. Where does the wind dwell, oh wise one? Is wisdom a locality? Is Nirvana a place? When the mind is destroyed, will thoughts persist? Answer me that! You, who sought to escape this world with non-attachment! Chance would be a fine thing! I do not cleave to myself, so what is my error? Will you not speak? Oh most venerable Lord, is a woman still a woman when she dwells in the body of a man? I am anxious to exhibit my true form and shape, whether walking, standing, sitting or sleeping. But you only care to make yourself fat. What’s the matter with you Buddha? Don’t you do any exercise? Oh! Do not answer me, lest I contaminate your holiness. Good thoughts produce good actions. Bad thoughts produce bad actions. Hatred ceases not by hatred: this is an old rule. Can you not see that I’m surrounded by enemies? Hemmed in on all sides? Understand? One thug transforms into another: Pontius, Matron, Dobbs, Wilkes, and a hundred other devils with keys, batons, syringes, pads and paddles, pills, strait-jackets and hoses. Who is doing what to whom? A gang of howling children with dirty faces. Why won’t they let me play cowboys and Indians?

I recall a green door on a cobbled street by the river. Wet afternoons with crayons and paper, colouring Jesus, Joseph and Mary. The Nativity. The musty spice of old hymn books and pencil shavings. Sunday School…

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the pleasant land.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small;
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Christ didn’t escape the world by non-attachment. No, no, no, Christ dived right into it – head first into a manger of dung. He was persecuted, smitten, beaten and crucified. He was well attached to the world. Nailed to it. But not you Buddha. Can you offer any words of religious comfort? Something to alleviate my suffering? There are five things which make a man fat: opulent dinners, love of sleep, hankering after pleasure, thoughtlessness, and lack of occupation. The Tathagata said that. I love you Buddha. Will you say nothing?

Only through ignorance and delusion do men indulge in the dream that their souls are separate and self-existent entities.(i)

But that’s not true Buddha. It’s not true! We are all unique, priceless and irreplaceable!

Who hung that ghastly painting above my bed? I must have torn it down a thousand times. Every night, before I go to sleep, I screw it up and throw it in the bin; yet each dawn it reappears, good as new. What are you trying to tell me, mysterious master? That I’m nothing but canvas and oil? One of your infernal visions? I’m stuck in a triptych: The Garden of Earthly Delights. I inhabit the diabolic panel on the right. What is this madhouse but Uruvela – the place of mortification? Nightmares teem through my brain like fish. Glimpses of hell unbound: the mutilation of Man; a dying sun in tarry flames; a falling comet; the city ablaze amid hordes of walking dead; the apocalypse of Revelation. The bombed streets of my youth. People disintegrate and transmogrify into demons and ravenous dogs. Behold a pig-nun: she croons and pulls me to her nipple; her milk is thin and watery and tastes of gin, yet I suckle hard in anguish. Beside me is a man farting through a flute; another vomits gold into a bottomless well. A maddening music fills the air with horns, whistles, harps and droning hurdy-gurdies. A throng of naked gamblers cower behind an upturned table, their bodies skewered by swords, arrows and knives, thrust by hares, frogs and infernal chimeras.

Little do they know, I’m going to escape this pit of Pandemonium. I will pass through the wall like a vapour and enter the female wards. I’m in need of new clothes. A girdle would be nice, with nylons and heels. But heels are as rare as hens’ teeth in this place. I spotted a blonde wig in the salon last week, last month, last lifetime… who knows? And there was a polka-dot dress hanging in the laundry room. Size sixteen at least. I could fit into that—if it’s still there.

Why do they entrust the care of the insane to thugs and butchers? I have fewer rights than a murderer; I’m assaulted daily: sat upon, cuffed, gagged, kicked and medicated against my consent. My cruel treatment infuriates and terrifies me. There’s no end to the beatings and humiliations. I hate the restraints they thrust upon me when I sleep. Is it any wonder that I’m frightened, suspicious and angry? Doctor Pontius thinks himself a god, but he doesn’t know one form of madness from another, nor indeed a healthy mind from a sick one.

The Cyclops said that every individual must attain perfection in the end, but some take longer than others. Indeed, it can take many centuries to become sufficiently enlightened. For how is it possible to attain perfection if the span of our spiritual growth is restricted to a single lifetime? Whist in this terrene body of clay, I remain in a fallen condition—an exile from the illimitable Orb of Light. The transmigration of souls is a very contradictory business. For salvation can only come whilst living in the body; and only after Death will I ascend to the heavenly world. Yet I fear that I might never return to Paradise. I must prevail, in spite of the insurmountable odds stacked against me. I’m sure there was a time when I was young, vivacious, and formidable to my enemies. But now I am old, hoary and feeble minded.

I have forgotten to remember what I told myself not to forget. What was it? Something about the corridor… Of course, Dobbs! How could I forget something so terrible? Dobbs called me his little bitch, so I bit off his ear and flushed it down the toilet. That’s why he’s pacing the corridor. He can’t wait to give me good kicking. I know what’s coming. Any time after midnight that door will fling open and all hell will break loose. But I have a plan. I’ll pretend I’m sleeping and take him by surprise. Then I’ll club him with a chair leg, straight across his skull. Thwack! And when his soul vacates his body, I’ll trap it in a box. Then Dobbs will be damned forever. Trapped in a little box, forever and ever. I know what you’re thinking: you do not imagine that a such thing is possible. But I did it to Raymond, didn’t I?

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2014.

i. The Buddha on Identity and non-identity. LIII:10.

Image credit: Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.

Solus

surrogate

Sunhill Asylum, March 13th 1957

The subject received no patterned input from his eyes and ears, and as little as possible from his skin receptors, his entire body being immersed in a tank of saline kept at a constant temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Locked in total darkness, he was deprived the opportunity of any purposeful activity. All other bodily needs for food and fluid were administered intravenously. After just six hours in the tank, his mental activity began to go awry. The capacity to carry out complex mental tasks fell away, as did his alertness, orientation, memory and discrimination – all of which suffered critical deterioration.

After two days in the tank, the subject developed delusions, hallucinations and acute paranoia, accompanied by a constant mood of fearfulness. Normal brain function was completely impossible. After a week of isolation, the subject suffered a psychotic break. He had no care for his plight, but remained disorientated and confused. A 20cc injection of the drug was administered shortly after extraction from the tank, whereupon the subject became quite animated and demonstrated an urgent need for talk and companionship. That’s when I introduced his surrogate. Imprinting began three hours later when she administered a further dose in a bottle of warm milk.

Signed:
W. Pontius, F.R.C.P. F.R.C.Psy.

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2019.

Image credit: Detail from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.

Cuckoo Philosophy

Himalayan_Cuckoo_Gnathang_Valley_small

Court Transcript

LORD SCALES. Thank you Krew. That was most interesting, and a foul beginning to be sure. I am sorry to disturb the accused with my constant prying – and I know he is disturbed – but he has to ask himself why he is disturbed. For none could fail to observe, that whilst Krew was speaking, Jacques was convulsing in disgust.

JACQUES. It torments me! It sickens me! I am damned not by this cankered flesh alone – but by the sins of my Janus sire – by the sins of Adam and of Cain – truly, I am cankered to the root!

LORD SCALES. ’Tis most revealing. You flaunt your own sins with shameless pride, yet this dark matter you would rather conceal. How it oppresses and haunts you: your father’s hideous affliction – and his violation of your poor mother. That he used a corpse present as his suitor; and under imprisonment, false marriage, and rape, he got a child of her body. And what a terrible child he got… Goblin jury, do not think I feel no remorse for the accused. On the contrary, for despite his fallen state, in this matter he remains quite innocent. For all men are pergations of matter. But there are some things Jacques dare not admit, even to himself. That is why I asked Krew to tell it. And it brings an important issue to light: his mother was pure of heart and possessed great beauty, but his father was evil and an ugly freak of Nature. We are all revolted by the crimes of his father. But like begets like. And we know well the Infamy of Crete (i) – how that cunning artificer Daedalus turned Pasiphaë into a false heifer, so that she could bed her bull. The product of that union was the Minotaur. But not even the wicked Daedalus compares with the Janus who sired Jacques Vallin. For devils and magicians may abuse mortals with carnal copulation; and such unnatural union always brings forth beasts contrary to nature. Yet ’tis Christian blasphemy to think that God would give a devil leave to create such a diabolical offspring.

KREW. I have known many mortal births whose monstrous teratology has the semblance of devils. But all things proceed from the One, the mighty Archon, ineffable being, primum mobile of Divine Mind, the fountain of fountains, whose myriad rays leap forth in tongues of whirlwind fire, illuming the darkest dross, bringing forth the glory of Creation. God is perfect, but there are inherent limitations in matter, and these account for the imperfections of the world. And so it was with Jacques Vallin…

LORD SCALES. Satan knows this well – but our Infernal Majesty despairs with those Gnostic fools who then conclude that the entire material world is evil. The Cathars deem this a fallen world and Nature as corrupt. The accused claims he is a Luciferan. Are we to understand that he is also a Dualist who believes that God created the world of spirit – which is perfect, whilst the Devil created the world of matter, which is but a crude imitation?

KREW. In truth, the accused knows not. His soul, having fallen from grace, is now so distorted in its terrible body, that his concept of God is splayed like a cloven foot.

JACQUES. I beg pardon, all company, whilst I spit a tooth…

LORD SCALES. Give me that: I am a keen collector of teeth. Ah, a “wisdom tooth”. What long roots: the Inquisitor has strong pliers.

JACQUES. He with his own hands did nothing. But his dwarves mauled my mouth for an hour.

LORD SCALES. Pontius is the more guilty. ’Tis the master of the ship that brings it to harbour, even though others may take the helm.

JACQUES. Then who commands Pontius, if his soul be steered by a higher power?

LORD SCALES. Hell is dark with many slippery windings. All I will say, is that Pontius is full of great envy, wrath and hate. For you are the better part of him. His religious fervour is matched only by his depraved and perverted desire. In his dreams he rides a hog backwards into the gates of hell, where he fornicates with devils, hags and whores…

JACQUES. I trust Satan’s cruellest chamber awaits the holy hypocrite.

LORD SCALES. Would you like to rack him?

JACQUES. No. Let Satan do it for me, lest I foul my hands with his filthy blood.

LORD SCALES. I fear his soul might never be healed, especially when it suffers the frightful extremities of pain inflicted by your vengeance…

JACQUES. There is no redemption for a man like that. Do you hear me? No redemption!

LORD SCALES. Such rage.

JACQUES. By Christ’s bloody nails! I want to see him suffer!

LORD SCALES. But would you even recognise him? His body so deformed and pale, blood churning in his mouth, impeding every breath…

JACQUES. May Satan have mercy on his twisted soul…

KREW. Twisted? When yours is so crooked and crumpt? Ha! Your wits are bent as a ram’s horn and curtailed of all good sense.

JACQUES. That’s rich, coming from you, you purblind Cyclops! Who tutored me in magic and drove me mad with the insoluble quests of alchemy! To think I fell into your encyclopaedic abyss!

KREW. A vain quest: to change your given body.

JACQUES. You two-faced devil! This is Satan’s realm. Mine is a counterfeit body in counterfeit world. If I cannot bend the higher powers, I must move the infernal regions.(ii)

KREW. All subordinate emanations of Divine Mind know the folly of Dualist theory: for God himself is the primary Artificer and the Cosmos is made in His image. To wit, the world is good.

JACQUES. Yet evil reigns.

KREW. God permits evil to derive the greater good.

JACQUES. The greater good. Do not dare not tell me that all suffering is on account of sin. Or that the sins of my Janus sire are visited on me!

KREW. Naught in Heaven is assigned to chance; all is in accordance with the will of God; and whatever God wills is justice.

JACQUES. What curious perversities of fate! What extraordinary grace! To think that God looked down from the steely stars, whilst I was harrowed like a toad, without recourse to moral law.

KREW. God is Love. But He is also the God of Abraham.

LORD SCALES. Yes, He is a jealous god. So please avoid offence by anything that might be construed as independence, freedom of thought, or self consciousness.

JACQUES. For why, when God has given Man free will?

LORD SCALES. Because, in actually, God hates every human attempt to reach a higher level of divinity. Everything about man must remain specifically human – especially his pain.

JACQUES. Then freedom of will is an illusion.

LORD SCALES. Not an illusion, but man’s free-will is sufficiently weak and attenuated, such that his endeavours must be united with God’s grace.(iii)

JACQUES. My endeavours do not require God’s grace. If I was perfect before The Fall, then knowledge shall perfect me again.

SATYR STYX. He thinks the Tree of Knowledge is the key.

LORD SCALES. Of course he does – which is why his familiar is that pompous encyclopaedic Cyclops.

JACQUES. That Cyclopean Christian is not to be trusted. He speaks with a twisted tongue. He presents the bench with a loom of lies; a tapestry of nonsense that is assuredly the work of a disciple of Plato, not of Christ.

KREW. What would you have been without me Jacques? A slave to your genetic inequality. But I gave you wits – and the remedy to change your earthly state. Alas you applied my knowledge wrongly. And now your miserable corpse will never eat or drink again. Forget Satan and the realm of matter. Only Christ the Father can perfect you.

JACQUES. I were God, I would have created a perfect world, full of perfect beings…

KREW. Alas, such a world would not last very long…

JACQUES. …This world is a hell. This world is the destruction of souls…

LORD SCALES. This Adam thinks. He no longer dwells at one with Nature, but suffers separately, as a sentient being. He questions his fall from grace; he queries the stars and calls the elements to witness; he measures the world against his own ideal; and so he suffers unjustly. He remedies this deficiency with knowledge. But alas, his knowledge lacks wisdom, and only becomes the source of further of suffering. Yet all these actions are unavoidable. Because Man is sufficiently free; because he dares; because he is separate from God.

JACQUES. I beg pardon all company, whilst I spit another tooth…

LORD SCALES. Ah! A canine… Thank you Jacques. I shall add it to my collection. I will put it in the jar marked “Penance”, along with the teeth of Moses, who saw the promised land but was forbidden to enter…

JACQUES. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: but his eye was not dim, neither were his teeth moved.(iv)

LORD SCALES. No, but he gnashed them to pieces when he saw Abraham and the prophets dwelling in the kingdom of God, and knew himself cast out.(v)

JACQUES. This God of Love is a great shape-shifter… How many teeth and how many jars? Forget the jar marked “Penance”. Put my teeth in the jar marked: “The Greater Evil”.

DEMON DOCTOR. I am in agreement with the accused. Men are ruled by greed, lust and avarice. How can there be greater good in the suffering of innocent millions than there is evil in the few that are damned? And since there is more evil than good in man, there is obviously more evil than good in all God’s work.

KREW. Wickedness is from corruption, not Creation.

IMP. Cuckoo!

KREW. Who said that?

IMP. I did.

KREW. Oh, sorry little fellow, I didn’t see you there. Well, what of “Cuckoo?”

IMP. ’Tis a wicked bird – a fly-by-night, that lays its egg in the sparrow’s nest.

KREW. A brood parasite yes, but I hardly think you can call it wicked.

IMP. Why not? For no sooner has the ugly cuckoo hatched than it destroys the sparrow’s eggs…

KREW. A scheme of natural necessity.

IMP. But how does the cuckoo know? It has no upbringing of it own. Answer me that.

KREW. A mystery of instinct.

IMP. Or evil? For the foster parents are spellbound by the brute intruder, and watch on helpless as their young are elbowed from the nest. A murderous act performed without instruction! And naught can sate this monstrous changeling; yet with tireless devotion, the foster parents ferry to and fro, stuffing its beak with grubs, whilst they slowly starve! That is very sinister.

KREW. It needs be so, it must be so, God wills it so. The cuckoo has its way.

IMP. But why did God plant such evil in its soul?

KREW. Little imp, you cannot understand His method, so it appears evil. But it remains God’s will… Cuckoo!

DEMON DOCTOR. How inscrutable and unpredictable is the nature of God’s will. This scheme of natural necessity absolves all men from guilt, since moral evil is committed in its name.

JACQUES. By the devil’s horns! Does the counsel take me for an utter fool, with this imp and his cuckoo philosophy? The ambiguous evil of smashed eggs! What a revelation! What a calamity!

KREW. Imp, go make yourself an omelette. Cuckoo!

IMP. Oh! Tell that to the sparrow, you impertinent mongrel!

KREW. Mongrel? How dare you! I come from very good stock. My lineage can be traced right back to Uranus.

LORD SCALES. Er, order! Order in court… Krew, less of the lewd insinuation if you please.

KREW. He started it.

IMP. No, I didn’t.

KREW. Yes, you did – with your cuckoo philosophy.

JACQUES. That will teach you to ask anything of Krew. Show him an egg, and instantly the whole air is full of feathers…

IMP. Or omelettes.

KREW. I will concede the imp has a point; but there is reason in breaking an egg, and the only true and universal end of all action is good.

LORD SCALES. The Cyclops speaks wisely. What appears as evil, is good in the making.

JACQUES. Now I understand the full measure of the Grand Inquisitor, and of the vast goodness residing in his soul, whose Divinity perpetrates infernal crimes on harmless maids and immaculate whores…

KREW. You argue the purpose of a dung fly by virtue of its existence. Does not the Inquisitor have a purpose too?

JACQUES. Forgive me, but I find great difficulty in conceiving that God would co-operate in such evil…

KREW. Without evil, freedom is not possible.

JACQUES. Put that in writing, would you?

KREW. Without temptation, man has no need for the grace of Christ.

JACQUES. The grace of Christ is in great wanting. That He should allow the suffering poor so that I might be blessed for giving alms!

KREW. God wills the salvation of all men but condemns only those whose will is evil.

JACQUES. Then I must congratulate God on creating the most perfect of all possible worlds; and I am humbled by the great wisdom that permits the many atrocities bound up with it.

KREW. His Sovereign Universe is beyond your understanding. You might as well apply yourself to squaring the circle…

JACQUES. How arrogant of me to express the deity in terms of my own humanity…

LORD SCALES. Yours is the wisdom of a beast. What you cannot see in your own little corner of the universe, is that things do not happen in it for your sake alone; you, like all that takes place here, are what you are, in order that its perfection may be complete.(vi)

KREW. Exactly. ’Tis contradictory that an omnipotent God should create a world that he regrets.

JACQUES. ’Tis contradictory that he created me. All you have presented is a tissue of lies and contradictions. What folly, that your cuckoo philosophy should result in such degradation and humiliation. So we are all God’s puppets? Is everything that happens bound to happen from the beginning to all eternity? If this is the case, human beings are not free and cannot sin. Ergo, my trial is a farce.

LORD SCALES. What learned doctor filled your head with so many errors?

SATYR STYX. He remains heretical, even on the eve of his own death.

JACQUES. Your logic is flawed and your words useless… The kingdom of god is not in words, but power. (vii)

SATYR STYX. He likens himself to The Pierced One who sits at the right hand of Power. But he rejects and opposes Him.

LORD SCALES. He who is Alpha and Omega.(viii)

SATYR STYX. What paradox! What tragedy and farce! That this mad, senile, filthy minded heretic, woeful and wretched, drooping, broken-boned, bruised, bandaged and bloody, emaciated, toothless as a hag, pale of complexion, infested with lice, his loins clotted with turd, who lies fettered in the pits of Paris, dares speak to us of power! I ask you, why should we continue his trial according to the prescripts of scripture, when this arrogant, suffering servant of Lucifer, speaks of Holy power in such bold free terms!

LORD SCALES. Power over what exactly?

JACQUES. Matter.

SATYR STYX. Be silent you old trot! We should leave this perverse pedaller of philosophy to join his foster crone. Matter indeed! We all know what that means… Flesh!

LORD SCALES. Agreed. We come to it again: matter. And the heart of the matter is flesh. For we have in the accused nothing more than a simple minded materialist.

JACQUES. No my Lord.

LORD SCALES. Then what are you Jacques Vallin? You accept the power of spirit, Light and truth over matter, darkness and falsehood?’

JACQUES. I do.

LORD SCALES. And you believe your body an evil tunic, the product of demonic union?’

JACQUES. I do.

LORD SCALES. Yet you extol the perfection of matter by Lucifer. A Manichean contradiction. Clearly you are an inverted Dualist.

KREW. He is an inverted everything. Repent, you wretched proselyte.

JACQUES. I cannot repent, any more than I can shed these horns. If Lucifer is God of Light and power, then Christ Adonaï is surely the author of all human misery, and the messenger of all misfortune.

LORD SCALES. Yet you did His works. So why deny He that is the One True God?

JACQUES. Because He renounced the world; and He would not descend from His rood.

LORD SCALES. God reigns from the wood of the cross. Regnavit a ligno Deus.(ix)

JACQUES. That’s a very poor place to reign from.

LORD SCALES. But He rose from the dead on the third day.

JACQUES. Let Mother Church take sides in the cause of Christ. I have taken sides in the cause of humanity.

LORD SCALES. Methinks your soul too unreasonable for resurrection.

JACQUES. Shall I come to life again with this flesh and these bones? Satan forbid!

LORD SCALES. No. Your tunic in the Garden of Demonic Delights will be very different to the one you have here.

JACQUES. My tunic? Er, Majestic Lord Scales, might I see it?

LORD SCALES. Why are you so concerned with your body?

JACQUES. For the same reason you are concerned with my soul.

LORD SCALES. We’ll come to that one later… Whatever is fleshy is alien to us; we do not waste a thought upon it, but deign the flesh as a rude container in which we pass our earthly lives. All flesh transmutes to its proper state in The Garden of Demonic Delights…

JACQUES. The Garden of Demonic Delights is surely where I belong. For as you are shadows of existences most real, so I was manifest from your sublime reality: a diamon incarnate.

LORD SCALES. This mortal fool, afflicted by flaws of Nature, insists he is a diamon. Krew, why do you bow to this wretched man of clay?

KREW. Because he is not a man.

LORD SCALES. This is most irregular!

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2000.

i. Dante, Hell, Canto XII:13.

ii. Jacques borrows from Juno at Aenid VII 312: “flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.” [if the powers of heaven are inflexible, I will stir up Acheron]. The Aeneid of Virgil, Translated by J. W. Mackall.

iii. The Synod of Arles, in about 473 set about the principal that “man’s freedom of will is not extinct but attenuated and weakened” … such that … “man’s effort and endevour is to be united with God’s grace”.

iv. Deuteronomy 34:7.

v. Luke 13:28.

vi. Plato’s Laws, 903 b4.

vii. I Corinthians 4:20.

viii. Revelation 1:8.

ix. Joseph Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI] “Jesus of Nazareth”, Chapter Ten ‘Christ Declares His Identity’.

Image credit: Himalayan Cuckoo photographed at Gnathang Valley in East Sikkim by Dibyendu Ash. Wikimedia commons public domain.

Body and Soul II

Whittingham_Asylum_Corridor_[now-demolished]

Court Transcript

LORD SCALES. Which brings me to the desecration of the Pyx and the Host you emptied on the dying priest. A terrible crime in itself.

JACQUES. Pah! That was no crime. The pyx is but a leaden box, full of mouldy straw!

GOBLINS. Disgusting! Repulsive!

JACQUES. ’Tis only fit for rats!

LORD SCALES. Er, might I ask, is it possible for a rat to take the body of Christ?

KREW. That is the most absurd and elementary of questions.

LORD SCALES. Silence Krew, I’m asking the accused. Well Jacques? Is it possible? You have told the court of Squealing Jeanne, the “sacrament sow”, to whom your mother fed the Host. But what of a rat? If a lowly rat partakes of the consecrated wafer, shall it become a regal rat?’

JACQUES. Absolutely. I have seen them do it a thousand times.

LORD SCALES. I think you miss the point. “He that eats my flesh,” saith Christ, “and drinks my blood, hath eternal life.” But shall a rat gain eternal life by eating the flesh of the Son of Man? Will it cleanse the rat of all sin?

JACQUES. Do you mean to ask, shall the rat be raised up on the last day? Nay, it might as well imbibe the blood of a mountain goat… The folly of the Catholic faith has no end.

LORD SCALES. Yet some demon doctors insist that belief is everything – that the content and reality of the hereafter is created by a faith in one.

JACQUES. Do not atheists have a hereafter?

LORD SCALES. Aye, but in what manner can a rat believe in God the Father Almighty and Jesus Christ, his son?

JACQUES. Oh, all rats must believe. Under pain of death. That’s why they swarm to church and feast on wormy wafers – those rats who think that common bread and wine, by the influence of holy prayer, is mysteriously changed into the true and vivifying body and blood of Christ… The miller was right: all that passes through the body comes to a vile end. Which could not happen to the Host, if Christ were in it.

LORD SCALES. But some of these rats believe the body of Christ is immortal and incorruptible. That is to say, the Host passes through the bum cheeks, as Christ was crucified between two thieves. That which is material is corrupted by the guts, but that which is spiritual remains divine.

JACQUES. It scarcely seems probable that such a monstrous doctrine should be so widely accepted. ’Tis an impudent insult to common sense and the first principals of reason. A wise man knows the difference between a literal and figurative expression. But a rat cannot distinguish between truth and error. Ergo, the rats swallow it: the body of Christ incorruptible, to purify their souls, sanctify their flesh, and confirm their hearts and minds in the hope of heavenly things. Catholics are the greatest of fools. The material water of baptism and the sacraments are not profitable to salvation. They are not even true sacraments, but false and diabolical. That is why Catholics are the cause of all calamity…

LORD SCALES. I see. Thank you for making that clear. Scribe, let the error of the rat be noted…

JACQUES. Error? What do you mean? All transubstantiation is pagan fodder.

DEMON DOCTOR. Well said that man! Even the old Egyptians celebrated the resurrection of Osiris by a sacrament, eating a sacred wafer to become the veritable flesh of his flesh… ’Tis all blood, blood, blood.

JACQUES. Aye! Catholic altars are little more than butcher’s slabs. ’Tis perverse in so many ways…

LORD SCALES. Catholics are the greatest of fools, and their odious rites have blinded them to the Light of the morning star…

JACQUES. Most noble Lord, I see your scales are weighted with reason. Catholics are indeed the greatest of fools.

LORD SCALES. Scribe, let the error of the rat be noted.

JACQUES. Another error? Why? What did I say? Why do you bait me so? Do not Catholics sip wine for His blood and eat bread for His flesh?

LORD SCALES. Of course. I don’t deny it. But whose is the chalice of His blood?

JACQUES. Why, ’tis none other than pagan Dionysus, born of the virgin Semele at winter solstice; nurtured in a cave, and identified with the Bull.

LORD SCALES. Ah! The blood of Dionysus, slain in sacrifice for the purification of man…

JACQUES. He was a horned child, just like myself.

LORD SCALES. Clearly you are a man of theological integrity, and one after my own heart. I find all that Eucharistic blood letting quite repugnant. If only Catholics knew the truth.

JACQUES. That Lucifer is Lord?

LORD SCALES. No. That history is littered with these so called “Christs”. It tickles me to think of it. Goblin Jury, have you not heard of Odin, who hung by his own desire, crucified upon the world’s tree, transfixed by a spear?

IMP. Oh? And did he hasten the resurrection of Spring?

LORD SCALES. I wouldn’t know: Spring always comes late in those northern climbs. And what of Atys, hung upon the pine? Shall I tell of The Day of Blood in the Temple of Cybele, when I tiptoed through the violets, and saw the novices at their vernal rite, castrating themselves for the kingdom of heaven. But you are not so foolish as to castrate yourself for the kingdom of heaven, are you Jacques? I’d be ready to piss myself laughing if you did.

JACQUES. Your frothy jests cannot hurt me.

LORD SCALES. I see you have no heart to be merry. And the very pang of it has put you in a sweat. Yet, ’tis strange that this doctrine of the eternal sacrifice of Himself, ordained by God for the salvation of mankind, has inspired so many religions, and was seized by primitive man before the dawn of history itself. ’Tis very mysterious… Eh, Jacques Vallin?

JACQUES. Yes my lord, very.

KREW. Very mysterious indeed…

LORD SCALES. Hmm…

KREW. Hmm…

JACQUES. Hmm…

LORD SCALES. But the night draws on. Let us not dwell any longer on the bloody rites of antiquity. The bell strikes three…

KREW. Yes, we are running out of time.

JACQUES. I must tell of the milkmaid before you judge my soul…

LORD SCALES. We come to it again: your soul. A clever rogue you are, and how eager to save it. But alas, I have reached the first judgement already. For the image of your soul is before my eyes like a hideous Chimera. Your soul is arrogant, mean and vulgar; the smallest and best parts are enslaved by your own bitterness, and the largest ruling part is but the worst and maddest… Why are you so keen to save it?

JACQUES. For terror of hell-fire!

LORD SCALES. Our god is an all consuming fire.(i) And little do you know, you were already ablaze before your wisdom teeth erupted.

SATYR STYX. He was dammed from the start: a man not fit for purpose.

LORD SCALES. That learned men are condemned to become philosophers is a terrible damnation in itself.

JACQUES. Or that girls like me are condemned to become men.

LORD SCALES. Oh! Oh! Girls like me! Oh! Fetch me a cistern quick, before I flood the bench with tears! A thousand devils seize me! Look at this wretch! Jacques the heretic, Jacques the healer, Jacques the lusty, Jacques the pitiful, Jacques the deformed, Jacques the pretender diamon! Poor Jacqueline. How in God’s name, could you ever transfigure?

GOBLIN. Transfigure, transfer, transferrin, transferee, transfinite, transform, transfuse, transit, transient, transition, transitory, transliterate, translunar, translocation, transmigrate, transmutate, transparent, transplant, transpose, transvestite, transsexual… transgress!

JACQUES. Was it all in vain? That my soul was united to this body for the sole purpose of quickening it? Yet I am not quickened, but full of rage! Christ Jesus, give me one sound doctrine of philosophy!

KREW. Love one another.

JACQUES. Look at me: the seventh son of a seventh son. The Climacteric number of all diseases!

LORD SCALES. Empedocles reduces the soul to elements; Plato to number. Shall we, like Platonists, define the world with numbers?

JACQUES. Oh! Stop it! Stop!

LORD SCALES. One for the universe; Two, for primary length; Three, for breadth; Four, for depth. Goblin Jury, let us see if we can define the soul likewise…

JACQUES. Stop, shadow!

LORD SCALES. – Reason is One (for without it, naught else is possible); Knowledge is Two (since it proceeds from axiom to conclusion); Opinion is Three (and the number of a surface). Sensation is Four (and the number of a solid). By Uranus! What Chaos we make! We tie ourselves in knots, for numbers are but ideas themselves; and ideas are derived from elements. And thus we judge the world falsely, by our reasons, opinions and sensations; for our idea-numbers become the very form of things. But they are not the things. Further, since the soul is cognitive yet also capable of causing motion, some Platonic magpies have combined the two and defined the soul as a self-moving number!

GOBLIN JURY. One for sorrow, two for joy; three for a girl and four for a boy; five for silver, six for gold; seven for a secret never to be told…

JACQUES. From what depths have these mocking goblins come? The pit of Hades or my own insanity?

LORD SCALES. Insanity? Your ignorance is frightening. There are spiritual authorities of which you are totally unaware. But to try and explain them would be a total waste of time, because they are beyond the limit of your feeble imaginings. So you will have to make do with us Shadows. Besides, where is Hades but Earth itself: your material state in bodily life.

JACQUES. The torrent of my restless soul… Wait a minute… Perhaps the Governor was right after all. Perhaps I’m not here…

LORD SCALES. Oh? If you are not here, then where are you, pray tell?

JACQUES. In a floatation tank.

LORD SCALES. Floatation tank? What floatation tank? I see no cistern here.

JACQUES. ’Tis not here. ’Tis in the New World – at the asylum of Sunhill. That’s where I sleep to be sure. Pontius has meddled with my brains. You demons are just phantoms of the Id.

LORD SCALES. The Id? And what is your Id but the moonscape of an Idiot?

JACQUES. Stop thinking! I am lost in the Inquistor’s mill, and orbit myself in contrary ways, wheels within wheels. These apparitions are false and irrational; a fabric of legend, myth and dogma… Look! The wheels are turning again; yet their motion has a law: sometimes reversed, now waning – a governor of time and space, interlocking spindles, spawning golden gyres… Impossible! These devils pervert my thinking. I shall not oppose body to soul – only sense to reason. And my senses lie, for they are in flux and have no fixed being… Lord Scales is an insubstantial thing, a mist of errors, whose atoms are the stuff of shadows…

LORD SCALES. Atoms, mad abbot? Well, even in the Atomists we find much cause for amusement. Apparently, atoms come in many different shapes and sizes, from which the whole universe is made. The different qualities of things are due to the different atomic shapes, sizes and arrangements. This is almost laudable. But the particulars can never be known because they have no abiding existence. What is more, the Atomists insist the soul is no exception; they say the soul is naught but a complex of atoms within the body. Ha! Apparently, soul-atoms are spherical in shape, smaller than a fleas arse, and just as mobile. They resemble atoms of fire and have the consistency of wind – which may be proved by holding a flame to your own bum trumpet… I once knew a doctor of philosophy who, after eating a plate of beans, farted out his entire soul during Mass, and spent the rest of Lent gulping like codfish just to get it back!

KREW. Oh! Oh! That is most amusing my lord. But as a matter of fact, we Cyclopeans are not satisfied with the simple resolution of matter into infinitesimal particles, and prefer instead to imbue the qualities of mind upon infinitesimal particles. Mind is the generative force. Therefore we must call everything mind. One mind. One world. The Unus Mundus. To wit, the body, which decays, is clearly matter and the soul is mind. But if the soul is mind, and the principal cause of the body, then the body is manifest soul. To wit, matter is nothing but mind. Oh you dunces! Haven’t you got it yet?

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2000.

i. Hebrews 13:29

Image credit: Whittingham Asylum corridor – now demolished.

Body and Soul I

beautyCourt Transcript

LORD SCALES. We come to the first judgement. I am far from imagining, that just because the accused has fallen for a damsel and been ground up in the millstones of the world, he should be treated with leniency. Throughout his sinful life, his actions have been in direct conflict with divine agency. And by his own admission, his self-centred philosophy denies God’s omnipotence. Jacques Vallin, do you think the jury will applaud your murderous act because your motive was pure? Folly, folly, folly! The truth of the matter, is that your motive was hate. Hate and hate alone. Hate for your Janus sire, hate for the priest, and hate for the world. Yet you have wickedly disguised this hate as love for a maid. You see yourself as noble avenger for the fairer sex. But that is not love. Because hatred, which is a desire to kill, is the opposite of love, and since ’tis love what makes heaven in man, ’tis evident that hatred is what makes hell in him.(i) A hell you tasted for yourself when you drank the red-cap potion. There is nothing like a little taste of hell to keep a mortal on the straight and narrow… But looking at your future crimes, ’tis evident this did not thwart you…

JACQUES. Because I tasted Heaven too…

LORD SCALES. Ah, yes, we noticed that… Jacqueline. Your ecstasy in The Garden of Demonic Delights. How far from ridicule was your body then… Yet having seen you in that radiant state, how are we to judge your crimes? Your earthly life is almost done. At dawn you shall discover the final mystery of Death: the supreme truth of all existence… The sleep that surrounds your earthly life will soon engulf it, and all material things, including your flesh, will become vapour and smoke… How shall Satan save you? How shall you walk through His sacred gate?

JACQUES. Most majestic Lord Scales, I commend myself lovingly to your royal judgement. Your prudence knows well that all diamons must employ their strength, first to the service of Satan, and second to the destruction of Mother Church. This I have done throughout my life. Let it be known that the principal oath of my Order was to keep and protect the Satanic faith. This was foremost in my mind when Krew summoned the Infernal Council to judge me. Goblin jury, behold a sinner and profane offender of the Catholic faith. I know first hand of the inestimable hurts, idolatries, errors, and false doctrines that Mother Church has spread throughout the land. In truth, you should all cordially thank me for having rendered so great a service to our Holy faith. For my part I most humbly praise, with a contrite heart, Great Satan and His infernal prowess…

LORD SCALES. Stop fawning, you impudent little turd. ’Tis true your battles with Mother Church have added some colour to your personality. But what folly to think you could topple the ramparts of her papacy! Besides, a list of diabolic crimes does not make a diamon, any more than a list of doctorates makes a doctor. We are diamons by birth, not career. And as far as the court is concerned, you will remain a man of clay, ’til you can prove your divine origin by a task requiring superhuman power…

JACQUES. What pray tell, would you have me do?

LORD SCALES. Perform for us a miracle. Heal yourself…

JACQUES. ’Tis miracle enough that I live and breath after being racked so cruelly. And could I perform a miracle on so a grand scale as to heal this wretched body, I would have done it long ago…

LORD SCALES. Yet ’tis written that you raised the dead.

KREW. A work of the Paraclete and Holy Ghost.

JACQUES. I was the channel, not the cause. And who knows if Euripides was right when he said: “to live is to be dead, and to be dead to live?”(ii)

LORD SCALES. But your miracles made you rich. You prospered by disease.

JACQUES. I never asked for money.

LORD SCALES. ’Tis a great thing wanting that you never refused it either.

JACQUES. Wealth is a sordid burden.

LORD SCALES. Especially when you cannot take it with you.

JACQUES. I would gladly give away all that I own, but Mother Church seized my whole estate… That greedy avaricious whore…

LORD SCALES. Why should you care? Unless the blood of the world still flows through your veins?

JACQUES. The world is corrupt, and my blood boils with it.

LORD SCALES. Yet your attempts to uproot Mother Church have only resulted in your own ruin. Is that the work of a true diamon?

JACQUES. Most sapient Lord, only you can judge.

LORD SCALES. Fawning again. The Satanic Scales of Justice beckon with a chime. But if I were to weigh your soul now, I fear the Needle of Salvation would not swing in your favour.

JACQUES. Then I wonder about those scales… And how the movement and dynamics of a soul may be subject to the law of mathematics…

LORD SCALES. ’Tis the weight of your intentions that we measure. You claim to be a product of pathology. Which brings me to the question: is the soul Substance or Quality? Or does Quality have bearing on the nature of the Substance? Wherefore, what Quality results in such deformity?

JACQUES. I have suffered from my affliction in both body and soul. For my soul was always in opposition to my body.

LORD SCALES. Ah, do you mean to tell us that you’re just a little butterfly under all that hoary bulk? Eh, Jacqueline?

JACQUES. I’ll tear your fucking horns off!

LORD SCALES. Ah! Not such a little butterfly after all. Alas Jacqueline, I am a life long Platonist. And to ensoul the body, ’tis necessary for the soul to sympathize with an image of similar idea.(iii) And if every external form shares an identity with its interior substance, what is the image of your soul?

JACQUES. Not this.

LORD SCALES. Then what Jacques? The milkmaid perhaps? Ah, how you craved her body. Oh, that you might step into her silken skin. But you would not fit: your bones are too big; your shoulders too wide; your ribcage too vast for her delicate dress; not to mention your saturnine skull, whose misshapen bones are the very nightmare of Venus. Poor fool, even now I see Proteus has a hold on your heart strings.

JACQUES. They say Time is a great healer. But mine is a curse that worsens with age.

LORD SCALES. Clearly, you are deluded and cannot see what we see.

JACQUES. I see exactly what you see. And you think I’m mad.

LORD SCALES. Well aren’t you, “Mad Abbot”? That’s why you’re having this conversation with yourself at two in the morning, is it not?

JACQUES. No one can tell me what I am.

LORD SCALES. True, but we cannot deny the evidence either. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, then it must be a duck. How I hate those perfidious close shorn apes, who tamper with their cocks, then don the garb of Venus, and strut about like quasi dames, with painted lips and sooty lashes, feigning speech and gesture to perjure woman’s ways.

JACQUES. The soul is not the body.

LORD SCALES. Ergo, your deformity is due to sin.

JACQUES. In which case, the goodmen are right: all flesh is evil, and the punishment of purgatory is nothing less than earthly pains…

LORD SCALES. Poor fool. Have you only just realised? Didn’t you know the carnal body is an invention of the Devil? That is how he reaches the inmost chambers of the human heart. Procreation is the means by which He maintains His hold on Earth. So what is the remedy, I ask you?

JACQUES. I have always dwelt upon myself as an evil beyond the reach of any remedy.

LORD SCALES. How very poignant. Shall you imbibe the urine of pregnant mares, to swell your paps and hips? A maniac’s dream. Let me summon Saint Jude, the patron saint of Lost Causes.

KREW. Little butterfly, how shall you grow wings in this earthly life, when your purse of transformation is the grave?

LORD SCALES. So I ask again, what is body and what is soul?

KREW. The soul is power. Power which a living body possesses and a lifeless body lacks. Soul and body are not two distinct things, but one thing with two aspects. A form-matter complex. Further, the soul dwells in a body, but in a body of a particular kind, by which the soul advances. Such is the sanctity of matter.

LORD SCALES. I’m not asking you Cyclops, you puffed-up hogs bladder! Let the accused speak for himself.

JACQUES. Je doute qu’aucun philosophe ait jammais bien connu l’union de l’âme avec le corps. [I doubt whether any philosopher has ever well understood the union of the soul with the body].

LORD SCALES. But you claim to understand this union better than us.

JACQUES. My union. Oh yes, I am well versed in philosophy, the first precept of which is “Know Thyself”.

SATYR STYX. By the tip of my horns, I find that statement quite preposterous. Are we to assume that this ignorant wretch, deems to know himself?

JACQUES. I cannot be baited by your damned insults and tedious cross examinations. I’ll wager my milk-nuts that I know myself better than you…

SATYR STYX. So what are those cankerous horns and twisted limbs? Some great human truth, decked in the garb of symbolism?

JACQUES. Nay, misery! I know what I am on the inside.

LORD SCALES. But you know in part and prophesy in part.(iv) For you have spent so many years immersed in dreams that you cannot see the wood for the trees… I have learnt by hard experience that all heavenly dreams crumble under the hard hammers of Nature. And only through Nature can man receive the grace of Satan.

SATYR STYX. Spoken like a true philosopher.

LORD SCALES. Philosophize and be damned.

JACQUES. But you just said you were a Platonist.

LORD SCALES. Did I? How very odd. What I meant to say was pragmatist. ’Tis well known in Satanic circles that philosophy is a subject fit only for lunatics. A bottomless sea of vain intellectual sophistry. Democritus, Leucippus, Anaxagoras, Heraclitus, – take your pick. And you, mad abbot, have studied them all…

JACQUES. Naturally. I was especially fond of Proclus. Did you know, he claimed the outer boundary of the cosmos was smooth like a mirror?

LORD SCALES. Such an educated man… A mirror? How fascinating…

JACQUES. – Yes, a mirror that could both receive and convert the Intelligible light: the borderline between incorporeal and corporeal. Wait… I know this bit… What comes next? Think! … Fire, the origin of Light, which has its cause in the Demiurge, the incorporeal from… A mirror, yes. Why, these are reflections all! My poor and wretched soul!

LORD SCALES. I have seen many vainglorious philosophers prattle on the soul, and grievously vex and concuss themselves with shaking sconces, ’til they lie drunk in intellectual stupor. Man is subservient to the ends of Nature, lest a higher power dwells in him. Then his goodness, like a poultice, heals the world.(v) So tell me Proselyte, what power dwells in you?

JACQUES. Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

LORD SCALES. Hark! Is he speaking in tongues?

SATYR STYX. It sounds like Galilean.

IMP. It might be Egyptian…

GOBLIN. No, he’s drunk like a Pentecost apostle.(vi)

LORD SCALES. God forbid, I thought he was filled with the Holy Ghost. For there can be no fellowship between Light and Darkness here… Behold the grubby little man that stands before us. And how this little grub, repugnant to the senses, could become a gilded butterfly is beyond me. Perhaps he still thinks the essence of the butterfly is the self same essence as the grub? Nay, different creatures. Oh, what mysteries of incarnation this hermaphrodite of Satan would have us believe.

KREW. What mystery of incarnation, that God became man, the living Christ.

LORD SCALES. Alas, this proselyte is not capable of receiving Christ. The mysteries of Christ are hidden from the Jews.

KREW. Yet he wrought His miracles, even at the touch of a dead body.

LORD SCALES. Miracles are not always subject to gratuitous grace; they are also the work of unclean spirits and false prophets.(vii) Physician, cure thyself.

JACQUES. To align this body and soul is not within my power.

LORD SCALES. So, like the Orphic sects of old, you deem the soul better than the body?

JACQUES. I do. The incorporeal is superior to the corporeal. The alchemists believe one reflects the other. As above, so below. But they quite mistaken. I am quite secure in this knowledge, and nothing you can say will persuade me to the contrary.

LORD SCALES. Get down off your dungheap! Incorporal and corporeal? What is this unintelligible model of the world you present us? How can there be any foundation of secure knowledge, when the world is constantly changing its physical image? Little wonder, when your own mirror is so distorted. Do not speak to us of mirrors, when you are too terrified of your own reflection!

JACQUES. My flesh has always repulsed me.

LORD SCALES. Indeed? Yet you have revelled in its lusts and fluxes; glutted yourself with a self-centred passion on the one hand and an idolatrous goat-worship on the other. That is hardly the behaviour of an ascetic. On the contrary, you have been entranced by your senses.

JACQUES. I admit my soul has been besmeared by passions; I have floundered in the glory of the female sex; I have sunk into the mire and bondage of the flesh.

LORD SCALES. Ah, the infirmity and fallibility of human nature.

JACQUES. I was lost in it.

KREW. My lord, what Jacques really means to say, is that his soul is imprisoned in his body. Imprisoned unjustly.

LORD SCALES. Krew! Do you take me for an utter numbskull?

KREW. No my lord!

LORD SCALES. I see no injustice here. ’Tis simply a matter of atonement. Which brings us to the crux of the matter: transmigration.

JACQUES. What? Are you mad? Transmigration? What a perverse doctrine of agonies! A phantom carrot, by which the churlish ass is drawn toward his death, whilst Mother Church goads him from behind: “Oh humble churl, accept your lowly lot, for your reward will be in Heaven where you shall change into a shining angel.”

KREW. And so you shall. For in the Kingdom of God there is neither suffering nor death, and the chosen dwell at ease in Paradise…

JACQUES. – But meanwhile, we must soundly flog you, ’til your welts run with blood, for you deserve these earthly sorrows, because you were born in sin… Eternal life will be yours if you but keep the faith. So remain vigilant; beware of the enemy; for Satan stalks the earth like a hungry lion. Fall not into his snares – for He can transform himself into an angel of Light… Yea, be not deceived, for He may even change himself into a beautiful woman…

LORD SCALES. Well, He might Jacqueline, but not you. There’s more possibility of an ox speaking Latin, than of you becoming a milkmaid… Mind you, the Dumb Ox of Sicily did end up speaking Latin. And I always wandered how he did it. Do you think the Angelic Doctor was inspired by the devil?

JACQUES. – What?

LORD SCALES. Never mind. All this metempsychotic transmigratory deliberation has put me in a pickle. But I should very much like to know what you were before that. To work it out would be an exercise of profound sagacity. A task beyond The Wisest Man of Greece.

SATYR STYX. Then let us say, for argument’s sake, that the accused is a fallen seed of Adam, once perfect, but who is now buried in a sepulchre of flesh. His body is a grave.

JACQUES. Oh, there’s a good genius. If I am in a grave, should I not try and escape?

SATYR STYX. By what means?

JACQUES. Suicide, you idiot. A legitimate relief from intolerable suffering.

SATYR STYX. ’Tis unlawful to destroy the body.

JACQUES. What’s the harm, if I’m dead already dead?

SATYR STYX. Only an act of grace can save you. You claim to be a diamon but diamons are Dionysiacal; we are part of Him, formed from the same sooty ashes of the Titans who tasted his flesh.

JACQUES. Then let me launch forth a contrary argument, lest I be scorned any further by a theological blockhead. Satyr, what act of grace will purge your horns and fetlocks?

SATYR STYX. These are my father’s horns and I am proud of them.

JACQUES. But as any eunuch will tell you, that body is a product of your milk-nuts, id est your bollocks. And had you been castrated as a kid, we might now mistake you for a doe…

KREW. Correct. Adulthood is preceded by a transient phase of plasticity, in which cell groups, though destined to produce a particular type of tissue, may form a totally different tissue if exposed to contrary secretions.

JACQUES. Too late for the Satyr. He has lived his entire adult life as a doe.

SATYR STYX. What! No horns, no cock? I am inexpressibly alarmed!

JACQUES. You would be! Then one day, after spying yourself in a pool, you decide you can stand it no more. So you jump up and declare: “I’m not a doe! I’m a Stag! And my name is Runcibold!” But despite your protestations, no one believes you. You are told, in no plain words, that you are deluded, and cannot see what others see. They crown you King of Fools, and you end up mad, like me…

SATYR STYX. My lord, I must protest. I find this most insulting. To be equated with a eunuch in this manner. Must I wager my milk-nuts to prove a point?

KREW. Well if you did, your only course to salvation would be to find new milk-nuts, or learn the mystery of their secretion.

SATYR STYX. The very idea! My lord – see how the goblins mock me. Yes, yes, very funny. That is sufficient, if you don’t mind! No, I never was a doe. No, not ever! Nor a nymph neither! Yes, these are my own milk-nuts! Oh! Enough of this verbal castration!

LORD SCALES. Order! Order! Goblin jury, hold your tongues! Milk-nuts indeed. And the accused will kindly show the bench some respect. Jacques Vallin, apologise to the Satyr.

JACQUES. I was merely trying to present the problem from another point of view. For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mothers womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it.(viii)

SATYR STYX. By the codpiece of Pan, I will not take it! I am very well endowed, and with a reputation to match! They don’t call me “Mr. Love Muscle” for nothing, you know!

JACQUES. Pardon all company whilst I spit another tooth…

LORD SCALES. Another tooth! Quick, quick, pass it here… Ah! An incisor. The inquisitor has long pliers. I shall put this in the jar marked “Mental Disease”, along with other freaks of Nature dredged up from the Tyber.

JACQUES. If I cannot choose what I am to be, how shall I work out my own salvation?

LORD SCALES. With fear and trembling. The world will always shrink from adopting your state as imperative and official. And rightly so, because ’tis contrary to the course of Nature. Your only route to salvation is to reincarnate according to your deeds in this life, taking a higher or lower body in the next life…

JACQUES. Absurd! Reincarnate? I cannot not commit myself to such insanity! The corruption of the flesh; the burden of living amongst other men; and the humiliation of becoming one!

KREW. Have you taken a look at yourself lately? When your soul is purified by the chastening sorrows of its earthly career, ’twill be re-united with the divine Essence.

JACQUES. An infringement of my intelligence! That I should be condemned to an eternity of transmigration, as I advance or recede in purity. To think that I was a fly in one incarnation and a fish in another! That through a course of ages, after living as flowers, birds and beasts, I will finally become pure enough to join the heavenly elect! Yet there is more purity in a flower than a Saint; and the simple Ox is far more noble than the pope. Oh, pardon my boldness if I transgress, but it makes precious little sense that our Imperial Satanic Majesty, when purified of his sins, will rejoin the angels in Paradise, where no doubt, his fine intellect would re-offend God, who would then cast him back down to hell… And may I ask, what manner of body Satan will give me in the next life?

KREW. What manner of body did Adam and Eve have before the fall? For now you see through a dark glass.(ix) The death of the soul is nothing more than a profound union with the ruinous bonds of the body.(x) The body is a tomb.

LORD SCALES. You are a very grave beast indeed.

JACQUES. Then how shall I be resurrected?

KREW. Not in that body, which you have received from the first Adam, but in one attainable from the Holy Ghost alone…

JACQUES. I would prefer the body the red cap potion gave me…

LORD SCALES. When will the accused admit the irrefutable evidence of his flesh? Despite its vile deformity, ’tis what God intended.

JACQUES. Then God has made a terrible mistake. This is not my body.

LORD SCALES. But Jacqueline, my dear girl, you are fused to it as an oyster to its shell. To Aristotle the body is the natural instrument of the soul. To wit, the soul is both the first and last cause of the body, for a soul cannot incarnate into a random body.

JACQUES. Then let the goblins think on that before they reach a verdict.

GOBLIN. Unlike you, we are not ashamed of our material nature.

LORD SCALES. So I ask again, is the soul Substance or Quality? Or does Quality have bearing on the nature of the Substance? Answer, man of clay…

JACQUES. My wits are gone. I behold luminous devils hovering in the air… Gargoyles on the corbels and imps upon the sills. Pray, save me from the pyre…

LORD SCALES. Goblin Jury, how many faggots will it take to smelt this pretender diamon? He longs to keep his pact. But will Satan be paid by such a counterfeit coin?

JACQUES. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust… Cease this frenzy! My substance is of Earth, born in a fiery crucible… My bones are formed of clay kneaded with marrow and tempered by fire… My flesh is a ferment of the same, dissolved in acid and brine…

LORD SCALES. Then shall we, like Empedocles, assume that “like is known by like”, and resolve your soul into the four elements, and its two moving causes Love and Strife?

JACQUES. Yes. All flesh is grass.(xi) I shall be as chaff before the storm, and as ash which the whirlwind scatters.(xii) Let me return to that state without sensation, where I will cease to be held by pleasure and pain; free from this vile vessel that is corruption and clay.

LORD SCALES. Nay, ’tis folly to compound the soul from the elements. If that were so, all things would be animate. You think matter is the foundation and principal of things? Then what is the common essence of the four elements? For they are constantly changing into each other. Water by Fire becomes Air; and Air condenses again to become Water. Air changes to Fire when flint strikes Earth. Yet even Earth changes into Water over time. A continuous process of dissolution that proves matter is impermanent. Ergo, there must be a fifth element.’

JACQUES. What is the fifth element?

LORD SCALES. I’m asking you, Jacques.

JACQUES. Er, is it the prima materia?

LORD SCALES. The prime chaotic matter of Aristotle? Oh dear, oh dear. You’ll have to do batter than that.

GARGOYLE. Methinks the Mad Abbot makes a very poor alchemist.

LORD SCALES. Agreed. Alchemy was never his strong point. And the transmutation of his base substance is nigh impossible considering the impurities of his soul.

IMP. The dissolution of the egg is the genesis of the cuckoo; the dissolution of the cuckoo is the genesis of the four elements. Upon my soul, that is most strange and contradictory. What perverse profundities. Is this what the learned call metaphysics, and the unlearned alchemy? Then what is the philosophers stone that transmutes the cuckoo into an egg again?

LORD SCALES. Shall we let you into a secret Jacques? Matter is most mysterious and ’tis not safe to talk about it too plainly and openly. The real principals and constitution of the corporeal world are known only to God. Man’s senses only give him the husks of things; and their true essence is beyond the power of his reason. So if you believe Empedocles, go and jump into the fiery mouth of Aetna… But give me your sandals first.(xiii) Ha! Ha!

JACQUES. If I shall not return to the elements, how shall I be resurrected? Pray, not in this body…

KREW. No, not in that body. For the second Adam is the philosophic man, and has passed from the elements into eternity. One substance never dies, but continues by perpetual increase: the Holy Spirit. Wherefore Christ bears witness by the resurrection of his flesh.

[Long Silence]

JACQUES. Er, my Lord, pardon my ignorance, but will you reveal the secret?

LORD SCALES. Secret, Jacques?

JACQUES. The fifth element. If ’tis not the prima materia, then what?

LORD SCALES. Love, Jacques. The fifth element is Love.

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2000.

i. After Swedenborg, on the nature of the inner man, “Heaven and Hell”.

ii. Euripides, quoted by Socrates in his dialogue with Callistes in Plato’s Gorgias.

iii. Commentary of Olympiodorus on the Phaedo of Plato.

iv. Corinthians I, 13:9.

v. Then his goodness like a poultice heals the world. These might be Colin Wilson’s words. I can’t remember.

vi. Acts 2:13.

vii. Matthew 24:24.

viii. Matthew 19:12.

ix. Corinthians I, 13:12.

x. The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries. Thomas Taylor, 1891.

xi. Peter I, 1:24.

xii. Job 21:18.

xiii. According to Lucian, Empedocles cast himself into the mouth of Etna so that people might believe he had returned to the Gods; but Etna spewed out his sandal and destroyed the illusion.

Out

lady

Court Transcript

JACQUELINE. So where does the right end begin? That’s a very good question, and one I have been pondering for a long time. The court will be eager to know what happened when I first arrived at Paris, and the many crimes I perpetrated against the body of Mother Church. But before I tell of my despicable career, I must pause to relate yet another shameful event in my life.

What do you think I did after fleeing the abbey of Belloc? Do you think that monastic gruel had subdued all my gross appetites and carnal attachments? Was Odo’s instruction ever present in my ear, chastising my wicked heart, warning of the Devil who was forever at my heels? Not at all. In fact, I was so enamoured with my new body, that I had forgotten his religious instruction altogether. Our memory is poorest when it suits us best. And it suited me to forget Belloc. I am ashamed to say, that after travelling a mere ten leagues, the cloisters of Belloc were all but sunk in oblivion. And when I awoke in the middle of the night, plagued with guilt over so many fiery deaths, I convinced myself ’twas all for the greater good and the betterment of my sect. The brethren became little more than grim spectres, hovering on the borderlands sleep, where the ruins of Belloc brooded in the shadows of estranged hills. Like a bad dream that dissolves in the sun, Belloc faded away in the dawn mists, and with each new mile, my sense of amnesty increased.

By and by, the reality of Jacques no longer existed. The past was naught but spectral moonshine. I was a butterfly emerging from its purse. Solve et coagula. All the memories and impressions which defined my consciousness until that point were like visions of another life: a dim existence that I longed to forget. Day by day, old acquaintances faded from view and the tracks of youth became deserted paths, never to be trod again. Yet the great oak of childhood was ever present in my heart, tossing its golden boughs in sighing winds, whispering of miracles and forbidden transformations. The elegance of Maria, in whose body I had always longed to dwell, was now a dream come true; and this union of body and soul imparted the world with a heavenly radiance and splendour that was beyond my wildest imaginings. A divine spark flashed within my eyes and illumed everything I saw. All the forbidden pleasures of womankind, that were only permitted to the distaff side, were now allowed to me. Except childbirth.

Yes, amid this conflagration of rebirth, ascension and identity, I was haunted by one bodily imperfection. Although I had begun my menses, I knew instinctively that I had no womb. Lilith was right: childbirth was forbidden to creatures like us. Yet what need had I for a child? Indeed, the thought struck me as quite ridiculous. For I had Joseph to attend – a limbless homunculus – who demanded my constant attention. I was happy to be barren if could remain beautiful.

Alas, the dead were not so far behind as I had hoped. For one morn as I lay upon the brink of sleep, I heard Odo whisper in my ear:

‘That body you possess is just an infernal illusion. You shall awake one morn in pangs of grief and find it gone. Like Æneas, who tried to embrace the infelix simulacrum of his lost Creusa, you shall clasp the empty air; but your flesh shall be unsubstantial as the breeze and vanish like a ghost…’

I awoke with a start and jumped, heart pounding in my chest. I began to panic and checked myself in the twilight, fumbling my loins and hair. Reassured by the fullness of my breasts, I crawled back to bed and watched Lucifer twinkling in the East. As the dawn chorus filled the wood with merry song, I knew my master would never break his pact.

The journey to Paris was fraught with danger. Disguised as a hermit in humble garb, I forged north-west to Toulouse – the lion’s den of the Holy Inquisition. So fearful was I of those Dominican devils, that I dared not enter the city gates. I kept to the outskirts where peasants toiled the fields, and admired the Capitole from a distance. Never had I seen so many houses crammed so close and arranged so higgledy piggledy! Yet even from the banks of the Garrone, ’twas a wondrous site. There was the great church of Saint Sernin, the Daurade basilica and the mighty cathedral of Saint Étienne, all built from gleaming red stone. Wherever I looked, troubadours were singing – in the squares, on street corners, and all along the mighty bridge that ran from Saint-Cyprien to the heart of town. How I longed to wander those gleaming streets!

But I dared not let curiosity get the better of me, lest by some ghastly plot I was strung up on the rack. So I kept to the thickets and travelled further north, over the hills and through many a provincial town, boarding at flea infested inns and leaving at dawn. Along the way, I managed to accrue a large collection of ladies apparel which I purchased at markets and fairs. When I was sure that the past was far behind, I threw off my motley and put on my skirts. Then I ventured out in broad daylight, just like other women. But one day, as I sat down to admire my reflection in a pond, I was suddenly struck by an obvious contradiction. How could I enrol at university as a girl? How could I possibly pass as a boy, dressed in naught but an over-tunic, toga or a hood? Whilst pondering this problem, I heard an old man ask:

‘Are you lost my lady?’

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2014

The Key

Unus_Mundus_Nephilim_Skull_cinematic_visual_03_small_Nicholas_Shea

Jacques is telling it…

I count more than two hundred steps before reaching the bottom. Before us is a gloomy catacomb stacked with bones. Skulls cram the arches, their horizontal courses slotted with femurs and ribs. The abbot strides into darkness, his torch illuming macabre candelabras that hang from the vault; human spines are strung into columns, arrayed with scapulars and clawing carpels for candle cups. The sepulchre devours the light and ’tis hard to distinguish the boundary. Yet I glimpse a steep rift to the left where a subterranean stream gurgles into foramens of stone. A warren of holes perforates the higher galleries, and yet further down are several low tunnels that funnel off in all directions; some show signs of ancient workings, with tool marks in the rock, and one gapes wide enough for a horse and cart to pass with ease.

‘What is this place?’ ask I.

‘This ancient chamber is older than Devil’s Ditch. ’Twas discovered by our founding fathers who built the abbey above…’

The walls are encrusted with sparry concretions that sparkle in the torchlight. From the crevices of the vault hang large projections of brute figures that drip crystal tears; one resembles a headless woman nursing a child; another a hunchback with a swollen foot; yet another an ape brandishing a club. The rock is of a dark liverish red, veined with creamy whorls and milky bands. A shallow trench runs along the floor, covered in coralline stalagmites that gleam like writhing maggots. The outer boundaries are strewn with fallen boulders where the cavern contracts in ominous black apertures. Two columns tower before us like ossified bones, riddled by a spongy mass of calibres and pores. Beyond is a forbidding gloom, punctured by inlets, vents and vomitories.

A benthal wind drones in the depths like the Devil’s hurdy-gurdy. My father grins, flashing his rotten teeth:

‘These are the Catacombs of Lazarus. For he was the abbot who built them, many centuries ago. I gave you his name for a reason.’

‘Because I returned from the dead?’

‘The dead indeed. Whenever I visit this place, I think of that army of skeletons whose resurrection was predicted by Ezechiel. “Ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.(i) Behold, I will send spirit into you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to grow over you, and will cover you with skin… And I will give you spirit and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord…” (ii) But for a miracle, you too would be mouldering here, awaiting your resurrection. Yet there is a greater power at work. Truly, you were delivered to me for a reason. Do you not sense the hand of destiny upon your shoulder?’

‘What do you want from me, father?’

‘I want you to trust me. Put your faith in me and all shall be well.’

‘But where are you taking me? Where do these tunnels go?’

‘All over. This land is riddled with caves. That larger passage leads into the woods—half a league or more. There are scores of tubes and bungholes. I have crawled down most in my youth. But now I’m too old and fat. No doubt there are many splendid chambers yet to be found…’

‘So many dead men…’

‘Like us, the monks of yore suffered from a terrible curse. Come this way my son: your destiny awaits…’

We pass over a ridge, covered with a delicate fretwork of dripping stone, where tiny hollows of water quiver under our footsteps. Then we enter another catacomb, filled with monstrous bones that speak of terrible sufferings. Here lie the misbegotten, misshapen and grotesque; the crook-backed, scalene and crippled; the bow-legged, knock-kneed and splay- footed. Disfigured skulls, uncanny and bizarre: pig-nosed, dog-faced and toad headed. Pelvic candelabras dangle like plough-shares, bat-winged, round-shouldered and riven. Hanging carpals brush against my horns, cat-clawed, frog-fingered, taloned and taliped.

The abbot thrusts his torch high into the vault and lights a candelabra:

‘This ossuary holds the baleful bones of our ancestors—a corrupt line that stretches back over four centuries. Our former abbot had a perverse sense of humour. Do you like his harpy?’

He points to a mighty bird of bones, assembled from a menagerie of beasts; it squats on bovine feet, a chain of human femurs making up the legs; these locate with the pelvis of a horse; then a spine of interlocking fox skulls soars overhead, where a great rib cage is formed from clusters of human ulnas; the sternum is made from two scapulars, and the collar bones from stag-shanks. The clawing wings spread ten feet wide—an umbrella of ox ribs and tarsals, splayed like a swooping bat. And perched on top is the sinister skull of a boar with two great tusks…

The parapets are strung with cascading teratologies; jawbones, vertebrae, sacrums and skulls, which hang in frilly drapes, giving the impression of some prodigious leviathan that has swallowed us whole. I spot an alcove with an iron gate entwined with rusty chains; a narrow passage rises beyond the bars, leading upward in a straight course.

‘Where does that passage go?’ ask I.

‘To the nave…’

‘Who else knows of this place?’

‘Only the prior and my sixth son Ricon. But not even they know of my secret.’

‘Which is?’

‘Follow, and you shall see…’

We push into darkness, turning down a steep incline, then under an arch of rock. The way is wide and slopes into abyssal depths. We pass though another catacomb, much older than the first, with rectangular alcoves on each side. Each cove contains a corpse, poised at work or prayer, occasionally draped in vestments, so as to mimic the living. Some are dressed as women, their skulls painted with iron and ochre pigments. But the bones are unmistakably male. The grisly effect is heightened by wigs of horse hair, stuck to the craniums with isinglass.

The abbot makes a sharp left and ducks through a gully. I follow him down an umbilical conduit, weary of Lilith who rolls her eyes and grins about her gag. The rock closes in. We squeeze through a tight fissure into a low-vaulted rotunda. A fresco of ancient art covers the walls: red bulls, black stags and strange bird-headed men.

‘What are these?’ ask I.

‘Spirits of the dead. Pagan invocations to the gods.’

Before I can say another word, he flits behind a water-worn buttress:

‘This way Lazarus…’

He moves quickly, like some vaporous gnome gliding between the shadows. Clumsily, I follow after, groping the slimy stone, my feet slipping on a bulbous pavement that glistens in the torchlight. The roof begins to lower, inclining steeply, until I am forced to crawl. The torch splutters, its lambent flame gleaming on ruddy vulvul walls. I squeeze through the twisting canal, half-sensing the walls contracting all about me, forcing me ever onward. The portal opens into a vast chasm, black as hell. My father hurries ahead, his flame illuming fistulas and flues that hang with prodigious formations. The dank air seems to penetrate my very bones, and truly, I am overcome with fear, for I sense some ancient evil brooding in the depths. My instinct is to flee. Yet no sooner have I resolved to return when a ghostly apparition looms in the distance, like some gargantuan mushroom growing in the depths. Lilith whispers:

Oh! ’Tis a terrible thing! A terrible, terrible thing!

A pang of dread seizes my heart and I cry in panic:

‘Stop! I want to go back!’

‘The abbot halts and turns to face me:

Go back? Have you no courage?’

He glares with cold stern eyes, his liverish face all glossy green, and adds:

‘If you turn back now, you shall live out the rest of your days in ignorance, for I shall never bring you here again, and my secret will die with me…’

‘But what is that thing, father?’

‘Come, and you shall see…’

‘It makes me want to flee as if it were the pestilence.’

‘I can assure you ’tis perfectly harmless. What frightens thee? Does Sire Stench disturb your faithless heart? You think your ancestors would forgive such peevishness?’

‘How much further?’

‘Another hundred yards. Keep close Lazarus…’

My torch splutters in a chill wind. We press on, our footsteps echoing off cavernous walls. As we descend, I sense we are in some kind of inverted transept that mirrors the church above. The flowstone walls are streaked with vermilion, green and gold. Thousands of stalactites hang from the ceiling: delicate pink pipes and pale long straws. Limestone galleries sweep overhead, glistening like frozen waterfalls. The whole edifice looks like some infernal cathedral, fashioned by Mother Earth; it bares a striking simulacrum to a pig’s heart: the vast atrium; the curved ventricular walls; the aortal passages and papillary curtains that screen even deeper recesses…

We pass downward under a stalagmite arch then slide down a wet rift. Gradually the looming dome becomes more distinct: a vast gibbosity, tuberous and pocked, with strange grooves wandering over its surface; it stands some eight feet high, perched on a rocky plinth that obscures the lower half; torchlight flickers round its eerie form, illuming furrowed holes and a sinuous ridge that curves round one side. We climb toward the plinth and with each unhallowed step, the dome reveals its deathly guise…

I stand stupefied at first, rooted to the spot, and shaking head to foot. Before me looms a giant skull that appears altogether human, yet stands over twelve feet high. It grins ear to ear, its black orbits glaring from some primaeval past. I fall to my knees in awe, lost in Titanic realms. The abbot raises his torch and declares:

‘Hail your antediluvian ancestor! who walked this earth before The Flood! The Preadamite giants who fell from Heaven on chariots of fire! For giants were upon the earth in those days; and after the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, they brought forth children!(iii) These are the mighty men of old, the Titans of renown!’

Raising my torch, I peer into the septum and wander round the mandible; there are three rows of terrible teeth, with molars wider than a cubit. I tremble at the prodigious scale and all its frightful implication. My tears begin to run at such a marvel so long overseen and lost to the world of men. And I wonder how it lived and how it ate; what incantations were uttered by its tongue; and what lost mysteries lit its terrible eyes.

‘By my reckoning, this giant stood over eighty feet tall,’ says the abbot.

‘Eighty feet? That’s higher than the nave!’

‘The skull alone is twelve feet high, and large enough to contain at least six-hundred bushels of corn. A single tooth must weight at least twenty pounds. Eighty feet, most certainly, at least—that’s assuming the skeleton is seven heads long, and has the same proportions as modern man…’

‘But where’s the rest of him?’

‘Lost and buried in time. I found a finger bone beyond the outer fosse: the cavity is so large that I can pass my whole arm through its middle. This was a prodigious giant indeed, a Titan—and surely one of the first to ever walk the earth: for they were the biggest of all. ’Tis written by Saint Augustine that there were many giants born of the line of Seth. Augustine himself saw on the shore near Utica, a fossil human tooth, which had been cast up after a storm; ’twas a hundred times the size the tooth of any person living.(iv) But this Titan is older than Seth—older even than Adam…’

‘I wonder who put it here.’

‘Pagans methinks—on horse and cart—through that gaping tunnel we passed on the way. This must have been their temple.’

‘But the way we came is too narrow.’

‘…Too narrow, yes, indeed. There must be another way in—one I haven’t found yet…’

‘It must have taken many men to raise it.’

‘Aye, but do not forget our ancestors were skilled engineers who raised megaliths all over the land…’

‘Perhaps it comes from Giant’s Grave.’

‘No. That tomb holds human bones. The grave of this titan is still a mystery; but the skull can’t have been here more than a few centuries, or ’twould be little more than dust. Yet it has not even petrified. I found marrow in the cranium. Would you like to go inside?’

‘Inside?’ I ask, faltering.

‘Yessss!’ whispers Lilith, ‘Go in… Go inside!

‘Fear not,’ grins the abbot. ‘I can assure you ’tis quite dead! We may enter via the foramen magnum— a large hole at the base of the occipital. Come…’

He leads me round the back of the Titan’s head and we climb between two smooth condyles into the skull itself. The cranial cavity shimmers in the torchlight, with vascular furrows running round the skullcap like dried up rivers. ’Tis a sinistral space, full of eerie hollows and bulbous spurs. I tremble to tread where thoughts once ran in such a vast archaic mind, now lost to oblivion, yet still omnipresent in this labyrinth of bone. And I think of Raymond, dreaming on the riverbanks, when he sojourned out of his body into the skull of an ass, and I wonder if I myself am fast asleep, dreaming in the infirmary…

We perch in two fossa where a mighty cerebrum once pulsed with reason. And in that moment I am swept away with wonder and forget my father’s crimes:

‘Oh father! What vistas of heaven this Titan must have seen! What arcane knowledge was held within this sconce! If only we could only live as he once lived! To stride through Eden before The Flood; to smell the perfumed flowers and gaze upon the dawn of God’s Creation! Yet all is lost and so far gone in time…’

‘Aye my son. But would you, like Adam, still eat from the Tree of Knowledge?’

‘Most certainly.’

‘And sustain such great distress? To be cast into the wilderness, to forage for seeds and delve for worms? For Adam cried and said:† “O God, when we lived in the garden, and our hearts were lifted up, we saw the angels that sang praises in heaven, but now we cannot see like we used to see; no, when we entered the cave, all creation became hidden from us.” Then God the Lord said to Adam: “When you were under subjection to Me, you had a bright nature within you, and for that reason could you see things far away. But after your transgression your bright nature was withdrawn from you; and ’twas not left to you to see things far away, but only near at hand; after the ability of the flesh; for ’tis brutish.” When Adam and Eve had heard these words from God, they went their way; praising and worshipping Him with a sorrowful heart. And God ceased to commune with them.(v) And so ’tis with us…’

I feel a sudden desolation and sense of trespass:

‘We have sinned in coming here. Is this unhallowed place not forbidden to mortal eyes? We wretched men, so stunted and cursed in flesh, are poles apart from this magnificence. Which makes me wonder why you brought me here…’

‘Aye, we are poles apart in time and flesh. Yet not so far as you might think. Aristotle’s Doctrine of Four Causes states there is a common material substratum to all material bodies.(vi) This giant shares the same substratum as you or I. But such a substratum cannot control its own modifications—or we too would be perfect beings, without defect or blemish. No, there is a movement set up in the material.(vii) Find the cause of movement, and you control the substratum…

‘You mean the flesh?

‘Precisely. All things generate different degrees of goodness and beauty. But neither movement nor the substratum alone can produce such characters of being. Hence, the cause of movement must be in Nature, whose ends and purposes direct her creatures to the better good.(viii) But there lies an even greater power, over and beyond Nature: Essence.(ix) And Essence is the chief cause of all. The Essence is extra carnem [outside flesh], but when Essence is added to the other three causes, the secrets of Nature are revealed—and the substratum becomes a clay we can mould…’

My father looks oppressed with fantastical visions (yet not so mad as one who raised the dead and cured a withered stump). He gesticulates wildly:

The knowledge of things past is the key of things to come! We are descendants of giants, but the giants are descendants of angels. These were giants of high genius who possessed great mental powers—powers to levitate colossal stones and control the winds and clouds. They walked tall in the midst of the stones of fire!(x) Never will we find another remnant of the heavenly Essence! This material substratum is almost perfect, hardly subject to corruption or decay. How it died I know not, but had it lived out its natural span, it might have lived ten times longer than Methuselah—perhaps even longer. Man was originally created righteous and immortal, but Death got power over him through sin, when the Satan Gadreel seduced Eve… God planted The Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden, and it bore angelic fruit, capable of repelling Death. But once Eve and Adam were cast out into the wilderness, they were no longer under its life-sustaining influence. That expulsion incurred the sentence of Death over all mankind. Our terrestrial bodies are made of dust—and to dust we must return, by the dissolution of our flesh. We are perishable creatures who dwell in a tenement of clay. But what if we could reclaim our immortal birthright?’

What is he saying? I could avenge my mother now; I cloud kill him in this profane place, and not a living soul would ever find his body. Yet that idea now strikes me as the most sinful and reckless thing to do… For he is a true magician. There are arcane mysteries to be unsealed—forbidden fruits, far beyond the gates of Eden and the sunset of the Fall. I could kill him now, aye mother I could. But I recall what old Jacob said—when Adam was combined with Eve, and The Divine Hermaphrodite shone with a radiance brighter than the sun. Surely, this magus will heal me. My father beams with haunted eyes:

‘This titan is the key! For even now, we may extract its material substratum, and by my chymic art, work back toward to its Holy Essence… Aye! Yet such a task is not easy: all powers of Heaven must be aligned accordingly—both the order of the planets and the motion of the sun. ’Tis necessary to prepare the order of hours and days, and seek the position of the Moon, without the operation of which, we can effect nothing. Yet further, such an operation requires special qualities of blood: the seventh son of a seventh son, born in the noon-day night…’

Me.

He lops about the cranium like a mad toad, his arms held high:

‘Think Lazarus! With this titan’s flesh and your mysterious blood, we can cure our deformities and restore our fallen seed! Ever since your arrival, I have been observing the heavens with great diligence. Only when the time is right may we begin the work. But we must still invoke the aid of higher powers. Like them, our composite bodies share a contiguous union with the Essence. The Essence of the Monads… whose divine Nature contains a distinct but united multitude allied to itself. The first Monad is the world, which comprehends in itself the entire multitude of which ’tis the cause. The second Monad is the inerratic sphere; and from this succeeds the third Monad, which is occupied by the spheres of the planets, each of which is also a Monad that comprehends its own created multitude. And in the fourth and last Monad are the spheres of the elements, which are also Monads. All these Monads are denominated by Wholeness, and subsist perpetually in the Eternal—that infinite life, which has no connection with time, the whole of which is at once present, and in which there is neither past nor future. This is The Demiurgus of Wholes—the artificer of the universe—who, by His own immediate energy, produces the universe as a whole, and all the wholes it contains. Many subordinate powers co-operate with Him in the production of parts. But He produces the universe totally and at once(xi) – from Essence—just as He produced this Titan…’

It all sounds completely mad. For the Essence of this Titan is but a bloodless ghost, wandering amid the Forms of eternity. The Janus grins and says:

‘You think me insane? Think again. A flower perishes when it burns. Whatever was the substratum of the flower when it grew is gone—turned to ash—and you can never re-collect it. But you can, by sorcery, out of the burned dust, raise a spectrum of that flower, just as it seemed in life. ’Tis the same with human flesh. The dead soul has as much escaped the flesh as the Essence of the flower. Yet still, you may make a spectrum of it. But this phantom must not be confounded with the true soul; ’tis but the eidolon of the dead form. And so ’twill be with this Titan, whose spectre I shall raise. Then by union with your mysterious blood, the eidolon will rise up and join its heavenly Essence, and so transmute your flesh…’

His magic disturbs me. He glares with limpid eyes and his gnomish face gleams in the torchlight. I should turn away; I should seek peace in the higher parts of soul, furthest removed from my senses, and disregard this animal part, with its corruptions and secretions. Aye, I know ’tis right to abandon myself to God in all things, and to cease disturbing my mind with the preoccupations of the body—this fleshy prison, with all its flaws and fluxes. Yet the prospect of such diabolic art sets my mind ablaze. If a single Essence makes all things, then even imperfect creatures must possess a spark of the Divine. What is my twisted life but the expression of a Monad? And I, like a struggling caterpillar, must weave a purse to seek my own fuller expression. What cruel perversity of fate: is not the history of Eve accomplished in me? The Serpent has found me alone and seduced my soul. My Janus sire, who in wrong doing and wrong thinking, fuses Satan with Christ, now proposes to transmute my corrupt flesh with high sorcery. Like father, like son. Was I not forged with him in Hell? How I yearn for the dawn of my rightful body! I break down and weep on a fistula, my face pressed on the cold unhallowed bone.

And Lilith wails:

What wretched men! What wretched men of clay!’

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2003

i. Ezechiel 37:5.

ii. Ezechiel 37:6-7.

iii. Genesis, 6:4

iv .Giantology and Dwarfiana. From ‘Giants and Dwarfs’ by Edward Wood, 1868.

v. The text after ‘†’ to this endnote (v) is from ‘The First Book of Adam and Eve’ by Rutherford Platt [Chapter VIII – ‘The Bright nature of Man is taken away’]. This work is considered by many scholars to be a pseudepigragha; however it is entirely genuine in that it was written a few centuries before the birth of Christ, and much of it is derived from ancient Egypt, the Jewish Talmud and the Islamic Koran.

vi. Aristotle’s doctrine of The Four Causes: the first cause.

vii. Ibid: the second cause.

viii. Ibid: the third cause.

ix. Ibid: the fourth cause.

x. Ezechiel 28:14.

xi. Dissertation of the Philosophy of Aristotle by Thomas Taylor, London 1812.

Unus Mundus nephilim skull image montage © Nicholas Shea 2016.

Three Steps

Grumpy Statue Gargoyle Lawn Ornament Creepy

Court Transcript

LORD SCALES. Yet more blood on your hands.

JACQUES. But the court cannot deny that I tried to save him.

LORD SCALES. Alas, you did it too rudely; and in dragging him out the door, his head broke upon the steps. Whereupon he incurred a haemorrhage of the wits.

JACQUES. I fear his wits had gone already. Brother Symon was a senile fool with one foot in the grave. He hated life and longed for death.

SATYR. Let us not forget, he was also the son of the former abbot: the very man who tortured your grandmother. I put it to you, that your attempt to save Symon was nothing of the kind; indeed as you dragged Symon from the fire, you were already seething with hatred, spitting curses and yanking his fragile frame as if he were your quarry.

JACQUES. But I suffered terrible burns trying to save him.

SATYR. Your burns were but a guise for murder.

JACQUES. That’s a lie!

SATYR. Then let us go over the three steps one by one. After his hump scraped on the first step, what was your first thought?

JACQUES. I thought… serves you right.

SATYR. And when his skull cracked on the second step, what did you think?’

JACQUES. I thought… Oh my god, I’ve killed him.

SATYR. But still you kept on pulling…

JACQUES. Naturally, the chamber was full of smoke.

SATYR. The jury will note that the accused did not carry the man – he simply pulled him by the ankles… Jacques, after Symon’s head bumped on the second step, you saw a trickle of blood oozing from his nose, did you not?

JACQUES. Aye.

SATYR. Then why did you not think to take him by the shoulders?

JACQUES. I couldn’t: his cowl was on fire, and my hands were scorched. Besides, the sight of his blood disturbed me. In truth, I feared to touch it… ’Twas tainted and unclean.

SATYR. Ah! Exactly! For on seeing his blood, you recalled the curse fulfilled by the cat. And your urge for revenge fell like a bane from heaven. For in the pall of smoke was Margot’s mother, hanging from the gallows tree; and suddenly, this wretched, God-fearing hunchback, who had shown you every kindness, became the most despicable fiend. So you yanked him even harder over the third step, deliberately kicking his head against the wall –

JACQUES. No!

SATYR. –Whereupon his skull cracked, and his lobes began to bleed.

JACQUES. That’s a lie!

SATYR. Are we to take your word for it?

JACQUES. You cannot prove I killed him.

SATYR. Oh, but I can. I have a witness.

JACQUES. Symon?

SATYR. No, not Symon. He cannot be summoned to court, for he is dwelling in the Light. But I have another witness.

JACQUES. Another? Who? There was no one there but me.

SATYR. On but there was. A devout and holy soul, who saw everything that happened. Poor Jacques. You rather imagined that you were hidden away, didn’t you? But you were being watched, Jacques Vallin.

JACQUES. Watched? By whom? Krew?

SATYR. No, not Krew.

JACQUES. Then who?

SATYR. A gargoyle on the chimney.

JACQUES. A gargoyle? Are you mad? What kind of witness is that?

SATYR. A very fine witness indeed. A creature of living stone, and of unquestionable character. I call a new witness to the court.

LORD SCALES. Would the witness come forward. Please face the jury and state your full name.

BUG-EYES. Name I have none, but the monks called me Bug-Eyes.

JACQUES. This is an insult to common sense!

BUG-EYES. Why? Do you deny the life in me? That I have wits to reason and heart to know the mind of God? Within my stony flesh is a spinning phantasm of matter you cannot comprehend.

LORD SCALES. Bug-Eyes, would you please tell the court what you saw when Jacques reached the third step.

BUG-EYES. Well my lord, it was just as the Satyr said. Jacques kicked poor Symon in the head. Bish, bash, bosh!

JACQUES. ’Twas an accident!

SATYR. Accident or not, the fact is, by the time you dragged him to the garth and quenched his smouldering cowl, you knew he was already dead. Yet still you feigned to cry: “Bring him back! Oh Symon! Please don’t die!” … But what is most revealing of all, is that you made no attempt to raise him with your powers. Maria was deserving of God’s grace, as was Old Jacob – the wandering Jew – but this harmless, and I must say quite charming old man, was not worthy of resurrection in your eyes.

JACQUES. But I did try to raise him! At least, I think I did. Oh! How can I be sure, when I was half-dead myself? Bug-Eyes, did you see Symon return from the dead?

BUG-EYES. Return from the dead? What utter rot! I saw no such thing. And what’s more, my nose split in the heat. Look at my poor face: I’ve lost six teeth, both ears and suffer from soot in the head.

LORD SCALES. Yes, thank you Bug-Eyes. I will see to it personally that you are restored to your former glory by my finest mason.

BUG-EYES. Thank you my Lord.

LORD SCALES. Very well Bug-Eyes, you may leave the court… Members of the jury, you have heard the full account of Symon’s death. How do you find the accused on the charge of murder three?

GOBLIN JURY. Guilty my lord.

JACQUES. Guilty? But what of The Rule of Infernal Inversion? Should I not be found innocent on this count?

LORD SCALES. Alas, The Rule of Infernal Inversion is always liable to be infernally inverted, depending on my mood and direction of the wind – which has just turned due North – and it blows toward your pyre whose faggots it will fan, unless you can convince the jury that the fall of Belloc was not the direct result of your inflated pyromania. For Symon did not spill the pot of fat, you did. A fact which you conveniently forgot.

JACQUES. All this is Sagrit’s doing! He has stacked the deck against me. How can I atone for my sins when every outcome has been writ in advance?

LORD SCALES. We warned you of that duplicitous Selenite but you would not listen. Did you really think he would permit the subversion of Time and Space? Especially by a mere mortal like you? Not to mention the altercation of history by so many interwoven fates! How oft’ has my verdict passed unseen before your eyes? Yet each time you plot to overturn it! But let me assure you, your once uncertain future is now quite irrevocable. The malignancy and madness of The New World is writ in stone – as is your ensoulment in the asylum of Sunhill. The New World lies afar, like a dream left behind in the night: a land of veiled ghosts and shadow, where the powers of reason incur an obliquity of vision and a perverse mental metamorphosis; ’tis like a tale you once read in a book, or remembered from a faraway place: a godless realm of irrational rationalists, who always plead for reason but are themselves naught but rabid fundamentalists. If you thought to escape that atheist hell by saving Symon, you were hopelessly deluded. Already I see the black clouds of doubt are teeming though your brain. As if the panorama of madness that unrolls before you has been marked out by a dark and preternatural doom. In truth, you are powerless to stop it. The fact is Jacques, brother Symon was destined to die at your hands, and your hands alone.

JACQUES. But why?

LORD SCALES. Why? Is it not obvious? ’Twas the witch’s curse, what else? The sins of the father are visited upon the son. Symon’s father killed the witch, and the witch’s grandson killed Symon. ’Tis all perfectly just, balanced and amenable.

JACQUES. Just? There’s nothing just about it!

LORD SCALES. Protest all you like. There is naught you can do, in heaven or in hell, to change the contrived caprice of fate.

JACQUES. If that is so, then what am I doing here? If I am destined for the convenient oblivion of the madhouse, send me to the pyre and be done with it. Why humiliate me further with these ridiculous proceedings?

LORD SCALES. Because we have yet to expose the inner texture of your soul and life.

JACQUES. Your stern determination to inflict summary justice is naught but an excuse to deprive me of my rightful body. ’Tis all mockery and deprivation: a counsel of misdirection, forfeiture, and waste. This court is in need of great reproof, correction, and instruction!

LORD SCALES. Do not presume to instruct The Infernal Counsel. ’Tis an unfortunate trait of your damnable spirit, that whatever life you live, you are always ensouled within the queerest freaks of Nature. The aggregate of your flesh is like a strained harp, ready to snap at the slightest touch. Not to mention your wits, which flit back and forth in Time as if there were no tomorrow. The vicissitudes of life, in this world and the next, have left you in a state of perpetual dissonance, adrift like a bubble in the air, blown hither and thither by the fortunes of deformity. Brother Symon warned you, in no uncertain terms, that transmogrification of the flesh was a power granted by demons. Yet still you sought to change your mortal sex. The court must know how this came to pass. Continue…

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2002

Bug-Eyes image montage assembled from public domain sources.