Z-Point II

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The Sentencing Trial: the Great Assize

An angel blew a trumpet, then commanded: “Bring all the dead forth to the Judgment and the Throne!”

Having anticipated with utmost dread this moment, the legions of hell hopped up and down, and writhed and agonized in convulsed spasms of dread and pain, but, then, remembering that they would not be judged and had already been condemned, they hurried to obey the summons. They were cattle herders, the cattle were immortal, over a hundred billion human souls who had never consented to having their spirits quickened to life while their bodies still lived on earth, and the prods used were stings, fangs, claws, teeth, and brute force. Like dark waves the swarms of all sizes and kinds of spiders, bats, snakes, centipedes, scorpions, poison frogs, and other foul things moved toward the pens. Turned out, the multitudes within fled their tormentors, but they could not get away, for they were not only surrounded by hell’s keepers , but the keepers themselves were ringed by angels under command of Michael, who would conclude the Judgment by throwing all the keepers of Hades together with all condemned souls into the Pit of Hell and then closing the lid.

When all the dead spirit-souls--the great and the small, the rich and the poor, emperors and slaves--were assembled on the single platform with their guards, it rose in an instant to the Judgment Hall. One moment the condemned spirit-souls could see only the flames, smoke, and darkness of Hades beneath the Earth, and the next moment they were confronted by mountains soaring up on either side of the vast valley in which they were confined. Beyond, far to the north, lay a mountain on which a white throne was set like a glacier cap on a mountain crest. From the north flowed a crystal river, but it lay within a gorge whose sides were ringed by undying fire. There was no climbing the mountainsides in hopes of escape from the throne at the head of the great valley and gorge, for the talus-strewn sides were far too steep, and angels stood all along the crests. To the west towered the Cirque of the Unclimables, which were similarly guarded. Within were the Mount of Crowns (victory crowns for overcomers of the world, the flesh, and the devil, the condemned souls might have been awarded), the Mount of the Cross (The Means of Salvation ignored and despised by the condemned), the Mount of the Wardrobe (containing the Wedding Robes spurned by the condemned), the Mount of Rainbow (The New Life in Paradise rejected by the condemned), and the Mount of the Bridge (The Atonement denied by the condemned)--the Five Mounts all wished not to see, yet their eyes were continually drawn to their soaring crests which would forever now elude their grasp.

Another trumpet blast from Michael split the rocks and threw them down the gorge in avalanches of rock, ice, and snow. This was the signal for the souls to be brought forward, one by one, in single file. Until this time they had been together as a herd, but now they experienced the horror of being totally separate, and forced to walk between a gauntlet of fiends, who identified them as they were prodded from behind, and heaped scorn and abuse on them as they went forward to the Judgment Seat.

The screams of women’s souls might have been pathetic, and they were to a point, but each scream of despair and pain ended in hideous cackles or screeching laughter. Souls of women who had been the most cultivated and sophisticated on earth now issued the most horrible sounds imaginable, as what had been hidden within them beneath the glittering exterior now found full expression. Rage, hate, spite, vindictiveness--these things came out of the condemned souls of the women. The men, too, were unmasked.

Virginia, in her day a much noted British novelist, literary critic and publisher, found herself a candidate for the gauntlet, and she was prodded forward toward the Throne. She had miles to climb, so there was plenty of opportunity for the armies of horrible creatures to persecute her along the way. Weeping, she went, her long nails gashing her arms and legs as she cried out with horror and hatred of her own body, which she had believed would be utterly dissolved back into its constituent elements when she walked into a river with stones in her pockets, leaving only her immortal reputation as a great writer behind on earth for humans to admire in ages to come. That was the only futurity she counted on. Where were her books, her art, her lovely homes and gardens, the unique dining room set at Monk’s Head her friends had designed and monogramed for her and Leonard? She saw they would avail her nothing now. Besides, the horrible creatures reminded her that they, not she, had developed the style she had used in writing Mrs. Dalloway, her magnum opus. Her writing was just a means to deceive her into thinking she was a creative genius, when they had been sitting behind and in front of her at her writing desk, pouring into her conscious mind constant impressions and sensory detail. Oh, she had a talent for writing, but with their help she had been made a major literary figure! And, thus, they had deceived her, and she had been made an utter fool!

To torment her she was shoved to one side to see a herd of creatures that were a mix of swine and minotaur attack a certain, defenceless man. Moaning and crying out for mercy, his head was pushed down by the clawed feet of two of the monsters, while his body was held in position by others, and still another tortured him in a Hieronymous Boschian way. Her arms pinned, she was forced to look upon it, though the man screamed the most heart-rending scream each time his attacker--then she herself screamed. Duncan! She recognized him--charming, touseled-haired, boyish-faced Duncan who had been her sister’s lover and her sister’s husband’s lover at the same time. How the fiends howled when they saw their joke had succeeded. Duncan! she kept screaming, as they tore her away and sent her rolling head over heels with vicious kicks. Scrambling to get free of them, she left poor Duncan far behind, and kept moving with the others, hoping the terrible creatures would not grab her again. Ever since her plunge in the Darkness--awful sensation, like a lift going down at the speed of a bullet--ever since that she had wondered, as she was wondering now, “Why aren’t there more common people, why so many of professional classes like myself, or so many of high position and reputation? And little children are quite non-existent!”

It was a disturbing question. She had seen renowned doctors of theology, rabbis, university dons, even members of the earth’s wealthiest families, and many kings and queens of Britain’s and Europe’s royal families, and prime ministers and presidents, film star celebrities and fashionable, society figures, even Anglican archbishops still leading flocks, not to mention a gaggle of Renaissance popes and anti-popes, but the flocks of parishioners were nearly all composed of deacons, choirmasters, Sunday School teachers, church board members, priests and abbots and bishops and --all very decent people with surprised, terrified expressions who couldn’t believe they were in such surroundings. “ Why them? Such had gone to church or synagogue all their lives--what could they have done that was so dreadful it warranted this mistreatment? Their entire assemblies were intact to a man or woman, with the only exceptions being those they had cast out as sinners unworthy or undeserving of communion. And why so few children? Or the poor peasants? Or simple little widows and orphans? Why so many of the best people?” And, most disturbing, why so many of the best people accompanied by the very worst trash of society--such as purveyors of dirty books and French postcards, bandits, serial murderers, rapists, pedophiles, Peeping Toms, and such?

Finally, as each dead spirit-soul must, she arrived at the seat of judgment, though it looked like none in the British judiciary, since there was only one figure besides hers present. Not sure what was expected of her, Virginia looked about. It was a curious place, ringed by curtains of glowing fire that couldn’t have been mere fire, the quality being so pure it made her shrink back as if scalded. In the center of the pavement was a pillar, which she took to be the kind Paris had in public places, with posters of the latest shows and revues tacked to it. She went over to the pillar, thinking to gain some shade and shield herself from the heat and piercing rays of the surrounding flames. She could look up, too, and a single glance told her the gigantic, diamond-brilliant Being was still there, sitting on the stupendous throne, with its face covered by mist, and a rainbow of emerald color arching overhead. She shouldn’t have looked, she realized, gasping from a sense of being black and polluted to the core. Awful! She wouldn’t look again, she decided--it was just too terrifying a specter to try to contemplate.

But the cinematic pillar turned out to be all too alive! It glowed with all sorts of pictures as she came to it. She gazed amazed, and then consternation. It was shamelessly divulging her life, public and private, all of it! Each side of the square column dealt with a quarter life. Here she was a baby, with her parents. The houses, then nannies, the first words and attempts to color and scribble in play books, the--it ended in blankness, so she went to the next side, and here she was a young, self-conscious schoolgirl, decided on being different from the “herd” about her and knowing and speaking her own mind at school, to her classmates, to her relatives and parents.

Incident after incident was ruthlessly, meticulously exposed to public view, with her changing and ageing into young womanhood. She heard herself say, not devulging she was Jewish, which at the time she thought would spoil the effect of her unattached, liberated intellect, things like: “Being so uneducated, illiberal, and mean-spirited, Christians are all rank and inveterate persecutors, you know. They have this notion they alone can apprehend the truth, have a monopoly of moral truth, and whoever disagrees with that is then persecuted by them.” She said many other things like that, all related. She was so young then, wasn’t she? But the series showed the books she read, most that were not assigned in school, but which she read to strengthen her beliefs against the Christian position, and to find her own alternative. She first found support in the atheists, and agnostics, and various clever skeptics of her time, and then she found her writing ability was more than ordinary, and then art philosophy consumed her beyond her religious and philosophical system.

She then pushed the question of a “Supreme Being,” and her relation to such, aside, laughing with Aldous Huxley --whom PUNCH and the TIMES both crowned as Great Britain’s “Modern Titan of Flaming Wit and Philosophy”--when she came to his description of “God” as “gaseous vertebrate” in Autumn Leaves, one of his highly clever books of satire. That side of the pillar closed with her first date with Leonard, and the clever talk they made in their post-graduate days, when they went the rounds of the best foreign films, and the finest gardens in London, and the nicest, most discreet cafes and cabarets. She went to other side, not so much interested as to see what the biographical pillar would have to say about her most successful period--her maturity, when she developed her professional roles of writer, literary critic--in other words, as a woman of the modern world in art and letters and gardens--all conducted in good taste and with sustained brilliance of intellect.

Strangely, the remarkable events of how she established herself as a noted reputation were only given mention, while odd encounters--odd to her--occupied center stage. A railway trip, for example. She watched as she slipped into a compartment, going down to Monk’s Head, leaving Leonard at the publishing firm in London to work out some dreary, technical matter men are better at than pure artists like herself, just to have the country house and gardens utterly to herself. She herself purposely hadn’t asked a single friend or “reputation.” Then a woman and children stepped in, which wasn’t exactly what she would have liked, preferring a quiet, reserved space around herself always.

“We can find another,” the mother said hurriedly, noticing Virginia’s lifted eyebrows. “Oh, no, I find children a sheer delight, I can assure you.” From outside Light interrupted, entering the compartment, shining with a stabbing ray directly in Virginia’s face from some unknown source, and she turned her head aside. The mother moved in uncertainly with a baby in her arms and a little girl at her legs. “So you have--?” the woman began. “No, we--” She caught herself. The annoying finger of light, moving her way again, was arrested. The woman shook her head. “Pardon me, I’m prying, am I not?” Virginia looked out the window. “You need not be sorry, we won’t cross paths ever again.” It was a cold voice, almost startling herself with its iciness. The light ray, flickering, ran across the ceiling and vanished as the train plunged into a tunnel beneath the Thames at a point where diggers, first making the excavation, had found a head of the Emperor Hadrian that some Angle or Saxon had hacked from a royal statue. The woman looked at her surprised? “Really, how do you--” “I mean it’s not likely in Greater London!” Virginia broke in quickly and with a shade of human warmth. Even this, the watching Virginia could see, was said too firmly. That would explain why the woman, busy with her children’s needs, turned to her when she was somewhat freed. “So you are going on holiday?” “Yes!” This was deliberately as cold as she could make it, , to put the woman off. She wanted her thoughts to herself,and the woman was now definitely invasive. The other woman’s thoughts now came from the pillar. “Strange how she thinks we’ll never meet again, when I have this deep feeling I will someday meet with her again! Who is she? What does she do? Does she know the Lord? I doubt it, she answers so proudly. But she has money and fine breeding, evidently--her things are fine, even elegantly monogramed with initials. She could be a lady in waiting to Royalty, even a countess or such.” Virginia took out a notepad of blue paper from her purse and began to jot what came to mind-- it was a chapter of her planned life masterpiece, Mrs. Dalloway. She wrote a few things, then was distracted by the baby, then the little girl asking for her doll packed in a suitcase, and by the mother’s efforts to find something else for amusement. Finding it simply impossible to think and write, Virginia closed her eyes and turned her face to the window which showed only a constant flux of light and dark rows as the train came back to the surface between a divided War War I cemetery and deepened its invasion of the London’s quiet suburbs. A big factory wall, looming in the distance, spelled out the white letters, I.D.O.M. and, curiously, the giant “I” swam down a moat of water all the way to the rail line, but she didn’t see it.

“You’re a writer by profession?” “Yes!” she said wearily, already looking for the journey to end, though it had just started. That was it! No more appeared, since the original journey had run through with no more conversation, which she, Virginia, had effectively cut off by that last “Yes!”

It was as if she had slammed a door, for the woman was hurt, her thoughts, now appearing on the pillar, revealing the fact. “She is a strange woman, lost, but seems to think she can make her own way in life without a supreme God! I so want to tell her how she can know God, but I don’t dare--she isn’t open. She isn’t open. How could she be so withdrawn into herself? What made her so? Why isn’t she more open to life? I can see somehow she possesses a rare, refined sensitivity that would be marvelous in helping unfortunate people--only she’s completely locked it away in cold storage--and is serving something that simply isn’t true about herself, I fear.”

That last thought amazed Virginia, for she had portrayed herself as eminently alive to life’s sensory qualities, which she had elevated to the heights as the greatest knowable Truth, an aliveness she had refined and cultivated in her art and writing, an achievement that had drawn the attention of the world of letters in Britain and even abroad in France and Germany. She had been compared, in this aspect, to the master stylists and aesthetes, Mr. William Morris, Mr. James Joyce, Mr. Gustav Flaubert, and even to Mr. Rainer Rilke--flattering accolades, indeed. But this working-class woman--for Virginia could see the plain cotton stockings, the cotton dress, the dreary, dark coat--thought SHE was not open to life and truth! How absurd!

Virginia went round to the next side, but found it was pretty much the same--depicting other incidents of her maturity. The chance encounters seemed to grow in number--odd bits of conversation about Christ, or examples of Christians doing this or that thing, or even references to Christian belief held by various great writers or public figures--all which she easily, quickly discounted in one way or another, as shown on the pillar. Her exclusive garden soirees at Monk’s Head or trips to Stanway House in Gloucestershire, especially, showed her discussing art and philosophy with friends down from London or from the Continent. Her remarks--whenever the topic of Christianity came up, or what Christ may have signified, or what the Cross signified--were always a clever shutting of the door on the topic, if not actual contempt and cold rejection. How her friends laughed, for her remarks were always put cleverly, with some reference to a literary source few had read but the cognosenti, of which she, Virginia, had always shown herself to be an integral member, if not “spiritual” leader. “By George, you should wear the archbishop’s mitre,” Vita had once chided her rather pointedly after she had won yet another point on a hotly contested question—whether there was an Afterlife or not. That was a compliment born of envy, but she had laughed and said, “Then I insist you crown me in a special ceremony with the best people present!” A few minutes later, Vita had come with a crown cut from gilded paper, and in a clever enactment of a royal investiture, though everyone had champagne glasses in hand, she was crowned “Goddess of Good Taste and Reason”! Pictures were taken, and everyone had a good time.

Incident, incident, incident! Each was a shutting of the door on the original question of a Supreme God, and “Messiah,” and what they entailed for her individual life. Finally, the incidents ended with her doing the rational thing for the set of trying circumstances she found herself in: taking her life. There was no mention of her affairs, her encouragement of a dozen or more Bloomsbury indiscretions and tangled relationships of lovers with each other’s lovers--but the breakdowns she suffered, and how she decided she couldn’t maintain her control and her position in the art world if she lost mental control--thus the decision to end it all when she was at the height of her reputation.

Even in her breakdowns, some Christian things slipped through the doors--shining into her mind like a ray of light into a black Birmingham coal-yard. Her ageing gardener, Arthur Quiggims--his long-ailing wife had just died, and she had brought him a ribbon-tied bouquet of her best roses and a card of condolence. He stood holding the flowers awkwardly in one arm, embarrassing her by saying nothing, and letting big dumb, silent tears roll down his potato-brown, Scotch cheeks. “I am so sorry for you,” she blurted out, but he had replied, “That’s all right, Mum--Jesus told me she’s with Him, and I be join’ her and Him soon! I saw Him, just as I be seein’ you, only his eyes were so kind, I could have walked right up and took His hand!” “I’m glad to hear it, Quiggy!” she said, fleeing back to her study. Then, amongst her collected artwork and books, Arthur’s words wouldn’t go away, and kept distracting her. “How can he be so sure he heard such a thing?” she had wondered. What possibly can give such a uneducated, poor old man such confidence in the face of death? Could he have stumbled upon a source of strength where I see nothing whatsoever?” Before she snipped it off with a thought, she had been revitalized briefly, enough to postpone her own suicide a bit more, but used it to think how she was in control, not whatever it was that would seek to change her mind on her life. “No, there is really nothing there!” she had concluded, reminding herself she had something better in her art. And she turned her face resolutely and stoically toward the Blankness like a moth fluttering vainly against the inside of a closed, shuttered window, preferring the page she had written, and bequeathed her books and reputation to the world---

“Depart from Me,” a Voice of infinite sadness spoke, interrupting Virginia’s thoughts, and she knew instantly it was coming from the One on the Throne, the One she refused to look at again. “I never knew you.” “Oh, Quiggims can’t be right and I am wrong! He can’t possibly exist, He can’t possibly exist!” she cried to herself. “This is some sort of bad dream. I’m not really here, hearing this, experiencing this! I’m really back in the river, my pockets filled with stones and dragging me to the grassy bottom!”

Nevertheless, she sensed a dramatic change the moment the voice ceased speaking. It was if all life were withdrawing from here, leaving the heaving mass of serpents within her to come darting and leaping and uncoiling out of her! They had sharp, individual voices, and they now spoke openly to her. “We are the lies you worshipped with all your heart, mind, and soul. You were our slave! You served us your entire life! You little fool! You thought you were so clever!--so original!--when actually we’ve created and duped hundreds, thousands, exactly like you!” Screaming obscenities, shrieking at her, the serpents massed together and tried to escape the heat of the flames, which were their chief enemy too.

The walls of fire now began to move as she hesitated. They moved toward her, forcing her away from the pillar. She grew frightened. She cried out to Leonard, but there was no Leonard? Who else could help? Duncan? Vanessa? Vita? The boys? Poor old Quiggy? Where were they when she needed other rational, civilized human beings? The flames advanced on her, and she was forced to flee. But the flames came forward all the same, closing in on her and the serpents as in a box.

Suddenly, Virginia saw she was not alone on the pavement. Fierce beings stood there, surrounding a much smaller figure, a woman’s in solemn black judge’s robe and wig. Virginia recognized her instantly, even though it had been a fleeting acquaintance. The mother on the train whose children had upset her writing session! She of all people! What a scandal! The woman now faced Virginia. She pointed upwards to the misted colossus on the throne. “Don’t you see the face of the Lord? He’s my Savior and Lord, Yeshua your people’s Messiah, whom I tried to tell you about on the train. The sentence had already been given down by the time I met you on the train. I knew only at that time, of course, that you were in spiritually great trouble. And the worst thing was the blackness of a great Lie that covered you, which came to me in a vision shortly after I first cast eyes on you. But the Lie you had cultivated all your life, it bound you fast head and foot, and you weren’t open, you really weren’t open or wanting to be set free--”

This was too much platitude and humbug for Virginia. Hate and contempt now welled up in her even as her doom closed in. Then, giving way, her knees bent, and she found herself kneeling before the enthroned Messiah. Out of her mouth tumbled words, her flesh testifying what her flesh knew was the truth: “You, Jesus, are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!“

She grabbed her own mouth to stop the terrible words, sinking her nails into her flesh to make her lips stop condemning herself.

“What did I say?” she cried. “Why am I kneeling to something I don’t know or recognize?”

She clawed her way back to her feet, and shook her fists at the unknown Personage. “You can’t force me into your so-called Light! Nobody’s going to force me! I will run my own life! How I hate You!” she screamed, no longer the delicate woman of art and cultivation but a mass of writhing serpents--for they had just now fled back into her to get away from the scorching flames. “I hate, hate, hate, hate--” And she said his name, Christ, no longer denying that she knew exactly who He was.

Her sentence delivered, her confession completed, the visitor, the Lie and darkness she served all her life, and her attendants were not allowed to remain a moment longer. The flames swept the revealed, unregenerate heart, and the pillar, after they passed, stood ready for the next condemned soul.

Out of the multitude of howling and despairing souls, Pablo was separated after a time. He now howled like the minotaurs and satyrs he had once painted. Driven by minotaur-looking fiends, he wept and bellowed as he climbed the valley toward the Throne. His wartime protest paintings, what did they do for him now? “Guernika” was a bald, self-serving lie! He hadn’t really cared for the bombed Basque women and children massacred by German bombers and fighter plains. If he had really cared, he would have left his painter’s life in Paris and gone underground and fought the Nazis like any common person whowanted to regain the freedom of his country. He would have sold everything, given all the money to the city for distribution to the victims’ families. Instead he preserved his skin and his career at all costs. He continued his former life as a minotaur of lust and power, adding mistress to mistress, as he continued to feed his ego on the world-famous paintings he was able to paint. He played the game, which he knew all along was a game, superbly to the end, when he died a supreme dictator in the world of art, but really naked, wretched, and blind.

From out of the huge roster of the great and notable Dead, Napoleon, once dictator of France, was singled out to run the gauntlet. Poisoned with arsenic in his wine by a close friend--Charles Tristan de Montholon, who was also in the ranks of condemned souls--the emperor had boasted that public memory would never forget him, nor fail to give him his rightful due. Now the fiends fufilled the prophecy. They jeered, reminding him at each step he took toward Final Judgment how he had bombarded hundreds of defenceless villages, from Moscow to Warsaw to East Germany and to Portugal and Spain. “You burned the homes of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and put them on the roads, as they tried to escape your raping and looting armies! Your ‘Grande Armee’ was nothing but a troop of stinking satyrs that raped thousands of young girls and old women everywhere they went, as you sacked and looted the cities, towns, and villages,with no thought of what man or God would do to you. You ransacked churches and monasteries, stole the icons, plundered saints’ tombs, and smashed the stain glass windows with cannon shots and musketry! You left over three million dead soldiers on Europe’s battlefields, and many millions more of the maimed and wounded! You shattered the staff of life for millions more by scouring the lands you occupied, and left all Europe sinking in fear and dread of you, even in your own country of France! All this you did because you lived for Power, your glory, your pride, your self-exaltation. As for your dreams of destiny, we gave them to you, and you fed on lies and were utterly deceived like all these others round you!”

The fiends’ parting litany for Napoleon was longer than most. And it went on from this point. He heard every sin, every affair of lust committed by himself, proclaimed all along his route to the Throne. Psychics and practitioners of black magic came in for special cruel treatment. Psychic to a number of American First Ladies and many senators and representatives, a woman was made to run the gauntlet. Reluctant to go forward, fighting the inevitable, she hung back, but scorpion-devils leaped at her, fastening to her legs and thighs, stinging her so horribly that she was made to go anyway. Kurt, a rock star who took his life after years of addiction, promiscuity, and violent living while championing fredom to do anything he pleased as the best thing for himself and his followers, was but one of a long series. Popes and other exalted religious leaders of the major religions who had championed their ecclesiastical rank while commiting every mortal sin came in for special fire too. But their sins were obvious. They had never aimed to live according to the example of the humble Carpenter from Nazareth, whom they ostensibly served as Vicar. Truly, they never knew Him. They had even persecuted His true Church, throwing faithful shepherds of the Flock into prison, torturing them, turning deaf ears to their cries.

Eaters of souls’ agony, the hosts of tormentors leaped at their last opportunities to sting, and claw, and degrade. Singling out Shickelgruber, the arch-murderer of the Jews, himself part Jew though denying it by murdering the evidence, thousands of the most evil and venomous swarmed over him, and the heap they made moved back and forth across the slopes, his head appearing now and then from the writhing black mass screaming soundlessly.

Great and small, rich and poor--all of the Second Earth’s liars, gossips, and backbiters, and those who lived doubting and fearful all their days--they all received sentences and were commanded to depart into everlasting fire and damnation. After that it was the turn of the idolators, then the fornicators, the sorcerers, and the fearful doubters. And when the last soul, still spewing forth hate and profanity, dropped into the mouth of the whirling pit of a black hole, the fallen angels’ spirit-forms and their master, the Serpent and Dragon, the one called Lucifer and Satan, were also rounded up and thrown in where the forces inside compacted them into a size almost to the vanishing point.

For them was reserved the Lake of Fire, where they would burn for eternity when Death and Hell were thrown into it.

The Lake of Fire

Then mighty archangel Michael, Heaven’s general in warfaring, came and closed the Pit with a lid only he could move with his great strength, and stood upon the sealed pit until the time the dragon of the pit was to be released to complete his last task in the final Harrowing of the Earth.

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