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?
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.
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.
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.
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.