JACQUES. Most regal Lord, I admit my sin is great. But have mercy: I am a product of pathology. Every evil has its cause, every shape its seed. So I grew from an inner flaw: photophobia.
Like a thwarted plant, I grew in gloom, hating God for my affliction. Whilst others played in sunlit streams, I hid from dazzling day, and longed for dusk, when shadows I would meet. Thus I was drawn like a moth to flame, to my lord and master Lucifer. His eternal truth broke the fetters of my dull existence; under His wings, my mind took flight and all my pains elapsed; by virtue of His diabolic power, I grew tall and strong; and so my starving spirit was nourished by His fire.
Man’s life is governed by the stars. Sun and moon conspired my fate. Born in totality of eclipse, I was destined to embrace Darkness. But in my lupine odyssey, I saw a brighter orb: Lux Occulta! The interpenetration of all matter and reality!
I have seen the jewelled Gates of Paradise; beheld the Light of the Living God. Yet I stand before you now, a fallen angel, in the final hours of decrepitude and decay. For the grain of an evil seed was sown in the flesh of Adam at the dawn of Time. The curse of Original Sin has brought forth much sorrow and disease into this world; yet how much more shall it corrupt ’til the harvest of Apocalypse! Pray the Master comes quickly….
’Tis written in the book of Sirach, that they who fear the Lord are a sure seed, and they that love him are an honourable plant: but they that regard not His law are a dishonourable seed; and they that transgress His commandments are a deceivable seed. (i)
The priests said mine was a seed misbegotten; a profane and corrupt seed, sunk in the mires of iniquity; a seed of darkness and depravity, full of bane and blight… Believe me, there was no end to their dire proclamations. Mala mens malus animus! Mine was a nefarious seed that bloomed into shameful and indecorous flowers; a dissolute seed, immoral, improper and obscene; a fiendish seed, transgressive and perverse; a seed deformed in body and soul; an accursed seed, profligate, malignant and malefic. In short, a seed most abominable, felonious and inhuman…
But Lucifer said mine was a golden seed; a seed of high virtue, sown amid base briars. He was the author of my bones, and He alone had the power to change them. The philosophers claim that to achieve true knowledge of the Demiurgus, we must study His works. According to Proclus, the author of the Universe planted in all things, impressions of His own perfect excellence, and is present with all living creatures in an ineffable manner. Thus every being, when entering into the sanctuary of its own nature, finds there a symbol of the Father; and by this mystical impression, communes with Him.
LORD SCALES. You speak wisely of the Father, yet like a pagan ignoramus, blame your fate on Sun and Moon.
JACQUES. Ignoramus? Even wise Socrates believed in the corporal influence of the planets and their various houses. Needless to say, I was born in the House of Agonies – with my moon in Pisces – the twelfth and last astrological house, always associated with adversity and death. Truly, I was born under an evil star. Diis adversis! Vel iratis! Genio sinistra! Vel quartâ lunâ, natus!
LORD SCALES. If man’s fate and condition is compelled by the stars, he is naught but a slave, living in a deterministic world of abject hopelessness. You claim your infernal state was caused by the House of Agonies. Come now, surely you don’t believe that? You are no more a product of pathology than of Pisces or any other house. You are a product of character. Is that not so?
JACQUES. No. I am the product of a misbegotten seed. Tel père, tel fils.
SATYR. Who was your sire? Did he suffer the same blight as thee? Indeed, were you born of man at all?
GOBLIN. He is a changeling of the Dracs: a faery seed of darkness, conceived in ether, ex-utero.
LORD SCALES. Well anything is possible… According to the Chief Rabbi of Paris, the accused is the spawn of Shekina – she who bore Nephesh, Soul of the Earthly World, and the ancestral shade of the Nephilim – those infamous giants of old.
JACQUES. If you would but let me speak, I will tell of the Nephilim, and their misbegotten seed—
LORD SCALES. I could say much of the seed – of its mysterious origin and dispersals. Some men are blown into this world like the Rose of Jericho (which is not a rose at at all, but a tumble-weed, and first cousin of the mustard). Yet others fall to earth as gyring sycamore, torn from the bowers of bliss by Hesperian winds. Such are the men of genius and renown: like Noah, Moses and the thrice great Trismegistus. But methinks you were born of more common stock…
JACQUES. Common stock?
LORD SCALES. A dandelion seed from a dandelion clock.
JACQUES. A dan-de-lion?
LORD SCALES. At the fateful hour, you were blown from the pastures into your mother’s womb – the matrix and receptacle of your wretched soul. What does Proclus think? Hmm?
JACQUES. Dandelion? Pastures? That’s very insulting! You think I grew amid the marl of sheep and goats? That the cause of my conception was the illiterate wind?
LORD SCALES. Do not denigrate the winds. All wise devils know of certain seeds that are carried by zephyrs or ocean currents after rain. Indeed, many fruits are fashioned for this very purpose, as can be gathered from their form and habitat. The Tree of Knowledge itself grew beside a river, whereby its fruit fell into water, to be ferried by wind and waves. Nature has invented many ingenious ways for scattering her seed. I have witnessed sling-fruit send out their pods with such force as to carry them not less than fifteen feet. Which begs me to ask, how did the seed of Adam traverse the cosmos, to propagate on planet earth? I’m asking you Jacques, as an erudite philosopher, who is well acquainted with author of the Universe, to enlighten us…
JACQUES. You talk of forbidden things: the arcane knowledge of Genesis, and the progress of earthly life from the first bud of existence, to the last stages of corruption and decay. I defer to my diamon, Krew…
KREW. How mysterious is the seed! A seed of wheat resembles a seed of barley, yet wheat grows out of one and barley out of the other. The seed of an ox shows no essential difference from that of a man; yet a bovine grows out of one, and a human out of the other! The diversity of Mankind is fully expressed in all particulars of the seed, and every characteristic is held within its husk.
Within the seed are writ all traits of flesh, from the general to minutia. For every hair is numbered, as is the instance of each bone – the shape of the ribs, skull and teeth; limbs that are long or short; the density of marrow and fat; the size of the liver, lungs and heart; the bulk of hip, tint of eye, and timbre of voice… Whatever part you may take of the body, you will find it writ in the seed. For the Demiurgus, who produces all things, is the master of matter, and the eternal fabricator of the Universe.
I shall not yet divulge the mysteries of the cell, nor its miraculous braid, suffice to say that an invarious inequality exists in the seeds of all bodies; and on account of this, no man is born equal. For where in the seed is beauty? And where is intellectual power? Where is the talent for numbers, music or poetry? Where is genius and where is brawn? What are the generative rules for the eye or hand? What defects cause knocked knees, crooked spines, hare-lips, webbed hands, or cloven feet?
Where in the seed is the prescript for male and female? Where is the entelechy for hoary flesh and manly bones? Where is the geniture of smooth complexion, and slender limbs? Indeed, I might ask the demon doctors, where is the archegenesis of cock and cunt? And how does one transmute into another? ’Tis a conundrum of high alchemy!
The theory of transmutation is based upon the existence of a heavenly substance, which, when applied to matter, exalts and perfects it. This is what alchemists call the Philosopher’s Stone. And much senseless scribbling has been done about it. According to one foolish Egyptian, the solution to the problem is simple: Take ten parts of cœlestiall slime; separate the male from the female, and each afterwards from its own earth, physically, mark you, and with no violence. Conjoin after separation, in due, harmonic vital proportion; and straightway, the Soul, descending from the pyroplastic sphere, shall restore, by a mirific embrace, its dead and deserted body.
What’s simple about that? Nothing! Indeed, I might ask, what is cœlestial slime? And where can it be found? Some alchemists believe it resides in Chaos—that confused and shapeless mass, in which slumbers the primordial seed of all things. Others insist the cœlestial slime is clay – that which Prometheus kneaded with water, to create Man in the image of the gods… There is much obfuscation regarding the Philosopher’s Stone, with many absurd keys to its accomplishment. As a youth, I myself followed several red herrings – not least the four vases of Hermes with their four regimens. I speak of Sol and Luna, dancing atop their fertilized egg, with the three-headed Serpens Mercurialis coiled inside its nucleus. But how to kill the serpents, and resurrect the philosophers gold? Ask me not! Alchemy is a bottomless abyss of cunning misdirection. There is much scandalmongery concerning The Royal Art. Some say ’tis a conspiracy of the Jews, to foil unwitting Christians. The ancients held alchemy in high regard, but nowadays ’tis a dubious and shady business. The veracity of the Philosophers Stone is vehemently denied and passionately defended. Either way, rumours of gold are always attended by heresy and murder. As for Transmutation, there are so many blood-baths, deaths, and conquests of begetting! Not to mention legions of hideous chimera! The task is quite impossible. You might as well get figs from thistles, or catch a weasel asleep. So much for the perfection of matter. Needless to say, the Philosopher’s Stone is not a stone at all. The heavenly substance that perfects all things is what we call “The Light”. And ’tis by the Light, that man finds eternal life and salvation.
Philosophers assert that man’s salvation lies in the perfection of his moral sensibilities. But materialists assert that man’s salvation lies in perfection of his seed. As the Serpent knows, perfectibility of the seed lies in knowledge. To understand the seed, we must divulge deep into the heart of matter. Every atom consists of parts, indissolubly glued together, yet the immediate cause of this cement is something incorporeal…
Reason infers that Nature gives form to bodies, not by impulsion of the soul, but by prerogatives of the seed. Yet with respect to the material powers in seeds, I assert that each is fused with a substance incorporeal – an eternal soul – whose hidden quality remains a complete mystery.
Does the soul select a seed of corporeal life which is in accord with its true nature? Surely not! For beauty is only skin deep, and the loveliest rose is oft’ a nefarious harlot; yet a misshapen hag may conceal a heart of dazzling virtue. Materialists argue that virtue is not a property of the soul, but of the seed – that the propensity to evil action is writ within the braid itself. Wherefore, what is evil, but corruption of the seed? Moreover, what seeds shall bring forth good or evil fruits? Pray, believe Jacques when he tells you: he is a product of pathology!
JACQUES. My eternal spirit was flung into a mire of matter, and this misbegotten body contradicts my soul.
LORD SCALES. Do you think yourself special in that regard? All fleshy incarnations are contradictions of body and soul. But the noble character dwells in the spiritual realm alone; to sink into fleshy concerns is to degenerate and die.
JACQUES. You make me sound like a base materialist.
LORD SCALES. Well aren’t you? Either man has an immortal soul, or he does not.
JACQUES. If he does not, then he is naught but dust.
LORD SCALES. If you are Cathar, who despises the flesh of procreation, why are you so obsessed with your body?
JACQUES. Because God endowed me with reason, and the means to better my condition. I speak of restitution.
LORD SCALES. Which begs me to ask, by what agency did you bring about vivification and quickening of the dead? For the corpse is not a dormant seed, and cannot be resurrected except by supernatural force.
JACQUES. I used the Light my Lord.
LORD SCALES. But did you use it wisely? Your acts of regenesis only caused more suffering and death. The jury might doubt your true aim in channelling the Light.
JACQUES. My aim was to bring about The Earthly Paradise – that all men might dwell in The Garden of Earthly Delights.
LORD SCALES. You conceited little fool. You might as well beat the waves with a stick! Everywhere in the workshop of Nature, spirit acts upon matter, and not the other way round. But you subverted the natural order, and made spirit subservient to matter. The Demiurgus cannot be degraded. The fruits of knowledge cannot be misapplied. Spirit does not suffer by breaking its connection with the flesh, for flesh always corrupts and dies. This is by design. For what is flesh but the rotten kernels of that sinful fruit?
JACQUES. Sinful? Had I dwelt in Eden, I would have scoffed every apple on the Tree of Knowledge! Who wants to be mortal? Who wants to live in servitude and pain? Better to become a god, with the body of an angel! To glean the inmost secrets of the atom! To transit the heavens like Venus, blazing in chariots of fire!
LORD SCALES. The chariots of the cherubim are not for the likes of you, Jacques Vallin. I have no doubt that you were a prodigal child of great intelligence. But the Demiurgus cannot be circumscribed by intellect alone; it can only be approached by the heart.
JACQUES. Are you baiting me?
LORD SCALES. No, little man. Why do you ask?
JACQUES. Little man. I’ll have you know, that I’ve spoken with the Demiurgus, face to face!
LORD SCALES. ’Twas your own narcissistic reflection, no doubt.
JACQUES. We both know that’s not true.
LORD SCALES. Face to face? Was this a sudden revelation?
JACQUES. No. It happened by degrees.
LORD SCALES. But when was your first inkling of His presence?
JACQUES. When I was seven.
LORD SCALES. Did you see him bodily?
JACQUES. Not at first. It began in the furrows…
LORD SCALES. The furrows?
JACQUES. Aye my lord. With parsnip, gourde, and peas. For within each seed, my inner eye beheld the entire universe, laid out in golden skeins.
LORD SCALES. Indeed, there is much mystery in the furrows of earth. You grew up a lowly churl, like outcast Adam, a tiller of the soil. Tell me now, how do you sow peas?
JACQUES. Do you jest?
LORD SCALES. No. I simply wish to establish your horticultural knowledge.
JACQUES. But why?
LORD SCALES. Just answer the question. How do you sow peas?
JACQUES. Well, peas require warm, light soil. As soon as the ground can be worked, open rows three inches deep, two feet apart. Drop the peas and cover them lightly. The smooth variety are best for early planting; but the wrinkled kind are more tender, and must be sown later.
LORD SCALES. I see. And what about gourde?
JACQUES. Er, is all this strictly necessary?
LORD SCALES. Absolutely. You said it began with parsnips, gourde, and peas. So tell me about gourde.
JACQUES. Gourde is sown early May.
LORD SCALES. Yes, yes, yes, that’s all very well: early May. But that explains nothing at all. What I really want to know is how to sow it. Can you recall?
JACQUES. Of course. I’ve sown more gourde than you’ve had hot dinners.
LORD SCALES. Then tell me how you do it.
JACQUES. Gourde… Make hills eight to ten feet apart, and plant six seeds per hill. When the shoots come up, they must be thinned to two or three. Gourde can be sown with corn in every fourth hill, but must be marled oft’, to keep the soil rich.
LORD SCALES. I see. And what about parsnip?
JACQUES. Er… Well, if I remember correctly, parsnip is sown in spring, thumb deep, in fertile soil…
LORD SCALES. Go on…
JACQUES. As soon as the earth can be worked, make rows a rod apart. But parsnip sprouts unevenly and must be rolled after sowing. When the plants are well up, they are thinned to a hand apart.
LORD SCALES. Very good. So you understand the cultivation of the soil. In Eden, I grew gourde over six hundred talents, and my parsnip were six feet long. Did you know that?
JACQUES. No my Lord.
LORD SCALES. Yes, I too am a keen husbandsman, and particularly fond of herbs. Parsley goes well with roast Bishop and broccoli; sage is most aromatic with pickled priest and parsnip; dill improves the tang of Cluniac and carrot; and sorrel adds a certain je ne sais quoi to stewed Benedictine and beans… Just a few of my favourite dishes. But enough of my culinary art. Now would you please tell the court of how the Demiurges first came to your attention.
JACQUES. Well, as I was trying to explain, it began in the furrows. ’Twas on All Saints in my seventh year when it happened. I was sowing the lower field, with a purse of peas strapped about my back. I’d been trudging the furrows all day, bent double in the pouring rain. I was cold, wet and miserable, with heavy clods about my feet. It took ’til dusk to sow that field. I was dog-tired and ready to drop. My purse was empty but for a single pea which I kept in my fist. For some reason, I was reluctant to plant it. So I stood there for moment, watching the starlings in the leaden sky. Their great murmuration flew above the thickets like a pulsing cloud, lurching and churning in formless waves. Then all at once, they fell to roost and night crept down from the hills. I was about to head home when I glimpsed the black velvet of a mole digging up the earth. I’d never seen a mole before, and felt quite enchanted by this little creature, with its twitching nose and homunculus hands. Yet there was something else going on. The pea in my fist was throbbing. Tickling. So I opened my hand to look. To my astonishment, the pea began growing before my eyes. There followed a rapid germination. First the testa split, and then the radicle appeared, its pale tip probing for water. It seemed more animal than plant; ’twas all a tremble and writhing like a worm. The epicotyl pulled the plumule from between the cotyledons, and the stem burst forth, with unfurling leaves. It scared me half to death: a dormant seed coming to life in my hand. I gasped and dropped it in the mud. Now I must tell you, all this happened in a twinkling. No sooner had the pea sprouted, than the mole had gone to earth. But from that moment on, I knew there was a power within me. A power of vivification. That night I dreamt of a Cyclops who pointed at the sky. And there I beheld my destiny writ amid the firmament.
SATYR. What did you see?
JACQUES. I saw a bright star and a worm.
SATYR. A star and a worm? Whatever did it mean?
JACQUES. Well the worm was easy to interpret: the worm was me – a baseborn churl, chained to the sods.
SATYR. But what of the star? It could mean anything at all. Does anyone in court have an inkling?
GOBLIN. Perhaps it signified a foreign land – for sailors navigate by stars; or perhaps ’twas a secret wish – something far too mysterious for a simple worm to understand.
JACQUES. No. The star was my soul – an eternal fire of love and intelligence, pure and indestructible. The meaning of the dream crystallized like a diamond. Why should I, a baseborn churl, accept my given lot, if I had power to change it? My deformity was not fixed, but reversible.
LORD SCALES. A foolish notion, little man—if a man is what you are. No wonder they locked you up.
JACQUES. I wasn’t imprisoned for foolish notions. I was imprisoned for preaching the truth.
LORD SCALES. You and your big mouth.
JACQUES. I was never in agreement with other men.
LORD SCALES. That much is obvious – from your futile war with Mother Church.
JACQUES. The Devil lurks behind that cross.
LORD SCALES. Is that your excuse for slaying monks and priests?
JACQUES. Educated fools. Derelicts. And all abandoned by god.
LORD SCALES. Yet if god would abandon any man, how could they continue to exist?
JACQUES. They didn’t. I killed them.
LORD SCALES. Because of your perverse philosophy.
JACQUES. No. Because the priests are instruments of the Devil. The light in them is darkness. Their knowledge of God and Life is false.
LORD SCALES. Some say that Lucifer is Light – that the Morning Star is not of the Devil but of The Christ. What say you Jacques Vallin?
JACQUES. I refer the court to the Gospel of Matthew. The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then, the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself, how great shall it be! (ii)
LORD SCALES. So the god of the Catholics is Darkness, but the god of the Cathars is Light. Correct?
LORD SCALES. Then who is your god, if not the god of the Catholics?
JACQUES. My god is their Satan; and my Satan their god.
LORD SCALES. Do not speak in riddles Jacques Vallin. I asked a straight forward question. Who is your god?
JACQUES. My god is the same as your god.
LORD SCALES. Speak his name.
JACQUES. His sacred name is unutterable. I cannot tell it. But I know who Satan is, and from whence He came.
LORD SCALES. Any man who professes to know the origin of Satan is a pitiful ignoramus. ’Tis impossible to know such things. Forget the Book of Job. Radical evil is beyond all human construct. The god of darkness wants your total and utter destruction; and the more twisted the path of your desolation and suffering, the more pleasing to Him. The Prince of Darkness is a foul and tempestuous abomination, and the gates of heaven are forever bolted against Him.
JACQUES. Methinks you mean the Pope, who tortures innocents and burns disciples of The Christ.
SATYR. You were not condemned for Dualist heresy, but chymic art: a beastly pact, by which you and the Cyclops dabbled in secrets of the flesh. The flesh of unborn children. You meddled with the sacred seed of Adam.
JACQUES. I worked for the spiritual regeneration of Mankind.
SATYR. Spiritual regeneration? There was nothing spiritual about it! Your earthly progress was hindered by a profound spiritual indifference. Throughout your life, you tampered with the hyle and plenum of the material world– for one purpose alone: to become Protean, and change your shape at will.
JACQUES. The court knows nothing of my work, except what I confessed under duress. If the jury will judge me fairly, they must know the truth, plain and simple.
SATYR. So what is the truth, plain and simple?
JACQUES. I was a gardener of men.
SATYR. Goblin jury, make no mistake, the accused is no humble tiller of the ground; on the contrary, he is an arrogant alchemist, who diced the unborn child like a common gourde! And look where it got him: there was no permanent change of state – only further degradation. Qui sème des chardous, recueille des épines. [He who sows thistles, reaps thorns].
JACQUES. I wouldn’t expect you to understand my work, or my regenerate philosophy. I have unlocked the secret of the Arbor Vitæ! The prenatal tree of life! The miraculous placenta of the human womb! ’Tis a panacea for all ills! An exilir of youth! The key to Man’s apotheosis and ascension!’
SATYR. You wormy hypocrite! You claim all flesh is of the Devil, yet you contrived a diabolic scheme to reverse the work of Nature!
GOBLIN. Plus je vois les hommes, plus j’admire les chiens. [The more I see of men, the more I love dogs].
JACQUES. My fate was sealed the moment I was born.
SATYR. I find it hard to believe that men would condemn you, merely for your birth.
JACQUES. But don’t you see? This whole world is run by the Jews. You think the Grand Inquisitor is Catholic? Think again. I spied him at the Synagogue conspiring with the Rabbi. They hatched a plot to steal my manuscripts and research. Not to mention my gold and property. How could I refute their slurs and accusations, looking as I do?
SATYR. Impediments of the body are no excuse. You are all too quick to blame others for your own evils. Both Catholics and Jews alike. The truth is plain and simple. You are a witch, just like your mother before you. And ’twas witchcraft that condemned you to the stake.
JACQUES. My craft is true. And there is no religion higher than the truth.
SATYR. Goblin jury, no one can argue with the profundity of that statement. But it can scarcely apply to Jacques Vallin, as he never tells the truth anyway. His confession is full of lies. He denied all knowledge of The Book of Death, yet he penned every single word – in the blood of his acolytes. In sanguine fœdus. [A covenant sealed with blood]. His craft was not for the betterment of mankind, but for his own material gain. Jacques Vallin is a malicious wizard; an enchanter of men, who snared his victims in a long chain of calamities – slaughter and butchery which no angel could untangle, nor holy prayer deliver. He claims to be virtuous, but how virtuous was his magic? He put curses upon his enemies; he cast spells for jewels and gold; he invoked demon spirits to transport his body and transmute his flesh… Yet he would have you believe that he is noble Cathar, and parfait of the Christ! He claims to be a herald of the New Jerusalem; and that his fervent desire for Apocalypse is naught but a longing for Christ’s return. Yet there are many holy men who have already found that Paradise on earth, for they are at peace with Divine Will and wait for nothing in this world but death; and in like manner they are at one with Eternity… But not Jacques Vallin: he is at war with the world, the flesh and the Devil. His conceit is boundless as the sky. Only a Cathar, who deals in apocalyptic conspiracies, would claim to know the end of the world – as if the Devil made it. Tush!
JACQUES. Well, if the Devil didn’t make it, then why I am in this skin suit? A tunic of fire, no less. Within this mortal body, I have eagerly sought the Christ, whilst suffering the Devil’s pains. I have no care for your verdict. I will soon be far from Satan’s reach – enclosed in garments of celestial Light.
LORD SCALES. You seem all too familiar with the Devil, but The Christ remains a complete stranger to you. You speak of the Light as if it were your birthright, yet I doubt you know the first thing about it. Its true nature eludes you, as it eludes all men.
JACQUES. I know more about it than you think.
LORD SCALES. Oh? Then please enlighten the court.
JACQUES. The First Light came from the Depths – the Father of All who is called the First Man. The birth of his thought was the emission of his Son, the Second Man. Beneath these two was born the Holy Spirit, and beneath Her came the elements – water, earth fire, darkness, abyss and chaos – over which the Spirit was born who was The First Woman. The First Man with his Son rejoiced over the beauty of the Female spirit, and he illuminated her soul, and from her came an imperishable Light, the Third Man, who is called the Christ, the Son of the First and Second Man and the Holy Spirit, the First Woman, who is mother of all living things: The Holy Virgin.
SATYR. Oh! Oh! Oh! Jacques Vallin, that is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. Look! The whole jury is laughing at you! They’ll be hurling shit at you next!
LORD SCALES. Er, order! Order! Order in court! And will that mischievous sprite stop swinging from the bars! Does the imp think he’s in a zoo? What has become of you, young sir? Where are your manners? Need I remind you, I was with your father at Trinity – and he was such a charming well behaved young devil… Yet I must soundly confess, the Satyr is right in his appraisal. Darkness. Chaos. Illumination. Imperishable Light… Ludicrous words indeed! What a pompous little twat is this Jacques Vallin!
JACQUES. You’re trying to taunt me, of course. Twat: a course term for female genitals, or the secret parts of a nun’s frock.
SATYR. They should crown you King of Fools for such stultiloquence! The first light came from the depths. Oh deary, deary me! I’m half-ready to die with laughter!
JACQUES. Laugh all you like. Have a good long laugh, why don’t you? And crown me King of Fools if you wish. But there’s an old Latin proverb: Aut regem aut fatuum nasci oportuit. [A man ought to be born a king or a fool]. For fools, like kings, are oft’ held in high estate and allowed the utmost license. Many times it suited me to play the fool – if only to dispel the fear that I caused in others. After all, ’tis better to be laughed at than treated with contempt. Yet like a fool, I have rushed on my fate in blind haste – even when I sought to fly from it; and in attempting to avoid the smaller fault, I oft’ ran into the greater peril. I have been calumniated, reviled, hated, anathematized, excommunicated, imprisoned, fined, beggared, starved, and forced to commit many blasphemous crimes – when all I ever wanted was to help my fellow man. You would think that after suffering so much ill fortune, I might have grown wise. But I maintain the opposite: I’m as much a fool now as I ever was – nay, a greater fool. And perhaps the more so, for summoning the Infernal Counsel to judge me… Like the gaoler said: the fates are cruel taskmasters.
SATYR. The gaoler speaks wisely. But you are no victim of circumstance. As Plutarch said: “He who blames the ordinances of the gods is as foolish and ignorant as he who censures them.” The King of Fools indeed. ’Twould be funny if it weren’t so tragic. In truth, there is nothing to laugh at. The charges are despicable, lamentable, indefensible and irremissible. You have dwelt in the company of Death, both spiritual and material. In pursuing your selfish goal, you displayed a complete lack of compasion and inward discipline, with no care for the eternal hazards of your actions. You profess an inner knowledge for the nature of things, yet have slaughtered men for the shimmering dream of a false Paradise. You call yourself a Cathar, yet have executed your chymic art with the divine rights of a mad Caesar. The insane quest to transform your body has brought about the ruin of many poor souls. Who can you blame but yourself?
LORD SCALES. ’Tis time to chose a bubble. Behold the years of your life, floating like orbs in the air. The court is eager to know where you will start. In this life or the next? Modo vir, modo fœmina. [Now as a man, now as a woman]. Do you think you know the story of your days? Think again. Each bubble is a revelation – a convoluted mystery, quite beyond the sphere of your tiny intellect.
JACQUES. You claim great powers of perception but see only a devil in me. How shall I convince you otherwise? Nature made me thus, with heart to feel and mind to reason, but with flesh in the image of a beast. Corrupt of shape, immersed in gross and corporeal form, and withdrawn from all things pertaining to my proper sex, I have lived as exile on this earth. Scorned by day and hunted by night, I stand before you in the garb of heresy. But I wear it with pride. Credo: all heresy is truth and sackcloth is finer than silk.
Noble Lord, I commend myself lovingly to your good justice. Your prudence knows well that all good souls should employ themselves to the service of the Light. But the rack is strong and flesh is weak. Who can defy the Grand Inquisitor of Heretical Error? A gouging iron extracts a priceless sin… What other pearls did I confess? Truly, I have lost count of my nefarious crimes.
’Tis with great trepidation that I choose my first bubble. For in reviewing my formative years, I feign to catch sight of my stains. When I look back on my blighted days, I realise what impelled me: the desire to break free from my repulsive self. Satan showed the way. Even from an early age, I heard the Devil calling… Most sapient Lord Scales, to weigh my soul, you must know my life. Allow me to present my case…
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i. Proverbs, 10:2.