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.
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?
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.