Jacques is telling it…
For some unknown reason, and may Satan forgive me, I seek sanctuary in the church. I flee the world of flesh and seek the world of spirit. I turn away from creaturely things and gaze upon the Virgin. The nave is forbidden, cool and still. I hide in the gloom and say Ave after Ave, beholding Her holy face; then I gaze upon the rood and contemplate the five wounds. Oh Lord! Give me some sweet fruit of instruction from those sharp thorns! That I might be washed in your streaming wounds! Peace comes upon me like dove. Rapt, my soul rises to the vault, free from the fetters of earth and the sorrows of the sods. To whom do I belong? Begotten not born; conceived in rape; delivered in suicide; the bastard son of a lady, but known only as “The Goblin”. Wind whips round the tower and Satan moans:
‘What are you doing up there? Don’t be a fool! Come back! Come back down!’
I fall to the pews, eclipsed in shadow. Dusk tumbles over the woods and creeps up the aisle. This is the darkness of night; the darkness of birth. I dare not leave, for beyond the door, reality peels away at every blade of grass. I’m in mind to stay here forever; to hide in the walls and starve; to waste and wither, and proceed, day after day, to crumble into dust. Yes, it strikes me as a good thing to die, to fall between the flags and vanish into the fabric of God’s house.
The gilt Virgin gleams upon the reredos. ’Tis then I spy Grazide flitting in her halo like a firefly. I would try and catch her but she moves too fast. She oft’ appears out of the blue – by the pond, in the grotto, or upon the altar. If she’s a fallen spirit, why does she come here? I pray she might translate me to another world, where I can live out my life in the proper body.
‘You must imitate The Christ,’ says she.
‘Impossible. He lifts me up: I fall back down.’
‘The more you are afflicted, the closer your fellowship with Him…’
‘I’m the Devil’s child with the Devil’s horns. If imitating Christ is the only way I can enter heaven, then I am lost in a labyrinth of evil.’
‘Come, and I will give you sanctuary.’
‘Mine is an unintelligible sphere, whose circumference is nowhere but whose centre is everywhere…’
‘You speak in riddles. Moma was right: you’re a fallen spirit.’
‘If I am a fallen spirit, then what are you? You are caught in your father’s net. Refuse me now, and you will be cursed eternally. I know your heart’s desires and all the pains it will suffer – in this life and the next.’
‘You see my future?’
‘Like a tapestry, laid out before me.’
‘What is my fate?’
‘Murder and insanity.’
‘I was born in darkness, when the Devil ate the sun. What of the next life?’
‘The next life is even worse than this. Not even Magic Mullard can save you.’
‘Who’s Magic Mullard?’
‘He is nothing. A void. A vacuum.’
‘Nothing? How can something be nothing?’
‘He is small but very powerful.’
‘No. He is naught like me.’
‘What does he look like?’
‘His body is a phial of fiery glass, full of subatomic particles.’
‘Does he do magic like you?’
‘Yes, but his magic is Dark and altogether earthly. Whereas mine is Light and above all materiality.’
‘Then why would I need his help?’
‘Because in the New World, they don’t believe in Fairy Magic – they only believe in Mullard Magic. The supernatural indwelling of Spirit is forbidden to all; the windows of Eternity are closed, and the transfiguration of Man is left to physic alone. In the New World, they only believe in mechanical certainty; the sufferings, merits and miracles of the saints are regarded as signs of mental disease, and the radiant chalice of the grail is but an abasement of materialist doctrine.’
‘You talk in words I do not understand.’
‘Look into my sphere, and I will give you understanding. All matter disintegrates by continuous dissociation of its constituent atoms. Within matter is a huge reserve of energy: intra-atomic energy. It is from the energy manifested during the dissociation of matter, that all materialist forces are derived. Inside the atom are many imponderable particles, maintained in equilibrium by a complex system of orbitals, attractions and repulsions. Such equilibria give material bodies their apparent weight, form and permanence. Gold differs from lead only by its amount of intra-atomic energy. Matter represents a stable form of intra-atomic energy, whilst heat, light and the thunderbolt represent unstable forms. All this is Mullard Magic. But the true nature of this magic escapes Man, because it requires knowledge of the First Cause.’
‘And Fairy Magic?’
‘Fairy Magic conceives all energy without substance, for there is naught that requires its support. Thus Ether and Matter represent two different states of the same principle. By the dissociation of your atoms, that is to say, by the dematerialization of your body, I am able to change your flesh entirely; and not only your flesh, but the sphere of your entire existence. Chemical life is no more invariable than spiritual life. This is the secret of resurrection.’
‘Fairy Magic is higher than Mullard Magic.’
‘Yes, but in the New World, there are no faeries.’
I break down and sob upon the stall. Her voice echoes in the vault like a zither:
‘Follow me Jacqueline. Within my sphere is a divine peace that neither angel, nor devil, nor man, nor any other creature can take away.’
‘I cannot go. I fear you will lead me astray into dark mires.’
‘Very well. If you will not come by your own free will now, I will drag you to salvation later…’
She spreads her wings to leave. But her words have set my soul aflame. I cry out in tears:
‘Wait! Who are you Grazide?’
‘Why, don’t you know? I am the Principle of Perfection to those who are being perfected…’[i]
She circles the Mother of God, then adds:
‘The Virgin and I are one.’
‘That is heretical.’
She giggles and parts in a stirring mote.
A giant monk-fish glares from the heights with glassy eyes and gnashing teeth; inside his gaping jaws is a lurid vision of hell. Lucifer stands twelve feet tall, black as a crow, with glowing eyes and oxen horns; He is surrounded by flames and sulphurous smoke, and swarms of repulsive insects; a horde of devils leaps about His feet, holding the human race in chains; and between His legs lies an infernal realm of brimstone caverns, where sinners drown in fiery lakes, or get devoured by savage beasts no mortal eye has ever seen.
His voice is getting louder, clearer…
‘The sacrament is useless and no intersession of saint or martyr can change your wretched state. Do not hope to attain grace with solemnities, masses, vigils and feast-days! Put your faith in me. I alone can save you. I am the Prince of this fallen world! The prince of all flesh! Now, I command the rood be broken up and burnt!’
I could not obey. For the rood still whispered of that invisible world – the world that parts on waking – the gossamer realm of feminine desires. ’Twould be a lie to say that I was stung by a sudden love for Christ Crucified. But I was thirsty for His eternal remedy. Twas then I felt a terrible unease stirring in my breast. Little did I know that my whole body was preparing for war. Christ and Lucifer were about to battle for my soul. They say there are but two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. And in the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind…
‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, I would not have been delivered to the Jews…’ [ii]
‘If that is so, then who created this world? The Father of the invisible realm? Or the Father of matter, that stubborn and rebellious substance which cloaks your soul in demon guise? Is one Pater Noster really worth more than the sound of ten bells? Do you believe that bit of wood can really perform a miracle? You have lived here twelve years and hardly known one day of happiness. You do not deserve that tunic of flesh. Everything comes from the Earth, and not from God. Break up the rood with an axe! Use it as wood to boil your pots!’
‘I am the Bread of Life: the Man of Sorrows who was led as a sheep to the slaughter and was dumb; who was covered with wounds and reputed with the wicked… Who was bruised for your sins and cut out of the land of the living…’
I am sorely offended. I would welcome a God of power, but Christ comes to me crucified and defeated. I would love a God with whom I could be happy, but I am confronted with a God I have slain. He died for my sins, and even this offends me, because I come before Him in guilt. Christ never comes in the form I expect. I would be glad if He came as a god of war, so that I might join my sword with His, and fight against the unrighteousness of the world. But Christ does not come with a sword; on the contrary, He asks me to put my sword away, so I am offended…[iii]
Yet not so Lucifer, who towers on the wall like a Minotaur – the very depiction of power, strength and vitality. Great Master! Put me in the way of salvation, for I am ready to despair of God’s mercy! Trembling, I kneel before the Prince of The World and mutter:
‘Take me. I’m yours…’
Just then the vestry curtain parts in swish. The priest seethes on the steps, his clammy face flushed with rage. His frock is smeared with grease and he clasps a cheese in his fat fingers:
‘You! What are you doing in God’s house? Kneeling before Satan! You devil! You goblin! You fiend!’
Dropping his cheese, he goads me up the aisle:
‘Be gone! Be gone you wicked beast! Be gone!’
I scramble through the porch and flee into Night.
On my way home I find three frogs perched on a log. They look so happy, croaking in the moonbeams. Do they deserve happiness any less than me? Without a second thought, I stamp them all to death.
Copyright © Nicholas Shea 1992-2020.
i. Dionysius on The Divine Names: “God is a Principle of Perfection to them that are being perfected; a principle of Deity to them that are being deified”.
ii. John 18:36.
iii. The offence of faith, which has troubled Christians for centuries, is here outlined as given by Kierkegaard.