JACQUES. And so I grew, intoxicated by Nature and Her many splendid gifts. A fallen leaf could hold me rapt for hours, and many days might be lost in the labyrinth of its veins. Beyond the gloomy hovel, the spirit of Life burst forth upon the land, ripening the corn and forest fruits. But my deformity was evidence of Her dark works, and I bore witness to sinister things… A beaver eating a trout alive, starting at the tail and nibbling toward the head; a rat who did the same but with her own brood; and of course, the spider and the fly. Such cruel things made me doubt the benevolence of His Divinity…
KREW. I should point out that Jacques was six times united with the Divinity through my ineffable energy; and whilst this may be ridiculed by the jury, ’twill be evident to the bench once they have explored the profundity of his mind.
LORD SCALES. Profound indeed. It says here that the Mad Abbot was oft’ called “Intellect” by some of his contemporaries.
KREW. Quite so. And the exalted nature of his genius will soon become apparent. For he has written many books under the influence of Divine Illumination.
LORD SCALES. Fascinating. Would the “Intellect” please continue…
KREW. Before he does, I trust the bench will not make the foolish mistake of equating his outer form with his inner self, and conclude his soul deformed, intemperate and unjust?
LORD SCALES. Or vexed with ignorant fears, prey to false hopes, and bound in the fetters of depraved delights? No, no, fear not Krew. Justice will prevail. Despite his diamonic horns, we shall treat him as an angel. I am not fooled by his ghastly appearance or his demonic cornua; they are nothing but flaws of the flesh.
KREW. Indeed my lord. His cornua started off as boils which were little more than inflammations of sebiferous ducts. Even so, their formation was hard to check. When the sebaceous excretion was forced through the aperture of the boil, it desiccated, hardened, and was converted into horn. Then, by the addition of fresh material from below, the indurated mass was forced outward, dilating the aperture even further. This process continued for many years, resulting in the magnificent pair of horns we see before us. I should point out that the greater frequency of this disorder is among females – a fact admitted by all doctors.
LORD SCALES. Well, thank you Krew, for your scholarly explanation! Would you kindly hold your tongue? If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it! … Now, let us return to the earthly charges. Er, it says here that the accused had a spring named after him. Is that correct Jacques?
JACQUES. Yes my lord. A grotto in the woods.
LORD SCALES. Was it a healing spring?
JACQUES. No my lord. Whatever was thrown in became encased with a stony crust; not only green saplings but also tender flowers grew to be rocks. People left many charms there – rusty pots, kettles, dolls and spoons – and all were turned to stone. One day I found a goat’s skull in the thickets, and Lucifer bid:
So I hung the skull on a mossy ledge and the waters bathed it night and day. After six moons it became a monstrous gargoyle, encased in stony carbuncles. A haunting transfiguration. By and by, it fused with the grotto wall: a visage of ancient Pan, terrible to behold. Needless to say, the grotto became known as Devil’s Spring. But the water itself was quite pleasant to drink.
LORD SCALES. The correlation is obvious.
JACQUES. Yes, I too was immersed in Devil’s Spring, buried in my bones, transfigured by a poison that corrupted my soul.
LORD SCALES. The jury will note that the accused speaks of two very different deformities; the first is the direct result of a soul covered in corporeal stains – its own inward filth, or what is commonly called sin. The second is quite the opposite, and is caused by the introduction of foreign matter – a poison that corrupts all splendour, colour and gloss, and results in deformed vestments of matter, so that one species appears to become another.
SATYR STYX. Exactly. His outer form appears Diamonic. But his soul is that of a man.
JACQUES. That’s a lie!
SATYR STYX. Do you mean to tell the bench, that yours is a genuine metamorphosis, after the same manner in which a tadpole becomes a frog?
LORD SCALES. Meta-mor-pho-sis. What a lovely word. It has so many implications; opens such bright portals in the mind; the very sound of it stirs my soul. Meta-mor-pho-sis. The transmutation of the soul is an arcane art. But let us not depart from intelligible progressions. For when a soul makes commerce with the body, anything can happen. Eh, Jacques? All mortal flesh is dust. Tallow of pig; pith of reed; spawn of frog; germ of wheat. All flesh is grass. Do not set yourself apart. The entire earth is of One Flesh: animal, vegetable and mineral. Man, bird and beast. Bread is flesh and wine is blood. If the sacraments are indeed the body of Christ, then all earthly things are resolved in Him. The furrows and fruits are of His flesh. As is your deformity.
JACQUES. His flesh? My communion with Him has always been perverse and contradictory. Plotinus says we are assimilated to God through virtue.[i] But to become assimilated with anything requires a twofold similitude. And I was the product of evil conditions. The terrestrial sphere is full of imperfections. The goodmen said God would destroy it, for the Apocalypse was at hand. But destruction was deferred, on account of the many imperfect souls, waiting for assimilation with Him.[ii]
LORD SCALES. What mischievous light headed fools those goodmen were: to suggest your deformity was a condition of your own making!
JACQUES. My exile was the cause of some former descent, so I was smothered in evil matter. Any chance of escape was impossible. Oh! That I should consider myself separate from the impediments of body! How I longed to break the bonds of flesh and flee with Grazide!
LORD SCALES. What deflection of the wings! What flight of fancy!
JACQUES. You may call it that. But Her nymphs flaunted miraculous transformations; they swarmed on the heath, flitting over brambles in brightly coloured tunics. Painted ladies, meadow browns and orange gatekeepers…
LORD SCALES. Ignorant little fool! To think She might bestow a freak like you with her golden transmutations!
JACQUES. She was my only hope. How else could I escape the spreading darkness? Or bear the mordant of my murrain? Sin was the cause of my corrosive disease. And Lucifer fanned the flames of my desire. I knew that a butterfly hatched from a purse which was spun by a grub. But the modus of how an ugly grub, repugnant to the senses, became a gilded butterfly was a mystery of the purse. The hidden realm of Venus! That I might descend into the labyrinth of dark matter, and glean her fine divisions! To gauge Her silken threads and plot the pattern of Her wings! Was the essence of the butterfly the self same essence as the grub? Or were they two completely different creatures? I could never bring myself to split the purse and find out. But a boy from the village did. His name was Raymond – the miller’s son. Raymond was my only friend on account of his club foot. I say friend, but we were rarely on amicable terms; and Margot was always keen to keep him at arm’s length. For Raymond had a cruel streak and was always messing about with beetles and worms, cutting them in half or pulling off their legs. On the day in question, I found him by the river, beating the ground with a stick…
Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2000.
i. Plotinus. ‘On The Virtues’. In II.ii, he states: “Since evils are here, and revolve from necessity about this [terrestrial] place, but the soul wishes to fly from evils, it is requisite to fly from hence. What therefore is the flight? To become similar, says Plato, to God. But this will be effected, if we become just and holy, in conjunction with [intellectual] prudence, and in short if we are [truly] virtuous. If therefore we are assimilated through virtue, is it to one who possesses virtue? But to whom are we assimilated? To divinity. Are we then assimilated to that nature which appears to possess the virtues in a more eminent degree, and also to the soul of the world, and to the intellect which is the leader in it, in which there is an admirable wisdom? For it is reasonable to suppose that while we are here, we are assimilated to this intellect.” [Select Works of Plotinus, translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor, 1895].
Plotinus. ‘Against The Gnostics’.