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From Hell to Heaven
Chapter 136 - Jesus discussed. The Franciscan’s religious experience. The Count as versed in Scripture. The Franciscan’s final counsel.
1. Says the Count: “Well – who or what actually is your Lord Jesus? Perchance the one whom Roman mythology makes the Son of God, of whom you yourself said earlier you never believed in, together with all Roman Catholic drivel about Him?”
2. Says the Franciscan: “Indeed, the same one, of whom Gospel tradition says that He is and shall remain the Son of God – a Lord of Heaven and Earth eternally! I certainly during my Earth life did not believe in this tradition, because of its great misuse by Rome, causing me of necessity to reason thus: ‘If the thing were not just the work of ancient overbearing hierarchies, then surely it would not be possible to treat such divine doctrine so shamelessly. Because such things took place within the Roman hierarchy in the near twelve hundred preceding years as would elicit respect even from hell in aggregate. Should its initiator within such grey background be a Son of the Most High?’ Verily, Mr. Count, to believe that would have been no mean feat for my spirit.
3. “But when I later got hold of the complete Bible from a Protestant Minister, a different light struck me. I then made every effort to get out of the Roman spiritual den of murder at any price, and would rather be a common soldier than ever again an instrument of Roman Catholic spirit murdering, thinking it better in any event to be a flesh, rather than a spirit murderer.
4. “Hence the said Jesus could very well be still the Son of God with the power to help, irrespective of being shamelessly denied by the Roman woman. For notwithstanding Judas Ischariot’s betrayal, He rose from death by His own power, robbing it of its power. And through this very Jesus, help was offered us by an invisible mouth! We all heard the precious words, yet still hesitate whether to accept them or not! You especially, Mr. Count, are the most stubborn and don’t want to agree – as if in this miserable state you still had to forgive yourself God knows what. Hence I advise you for the last time to accept the proffered help, or to stop troubling us!”
5. Says the Count: “If it will not harm you, it will not kill me either. I too want to accept the help! But we could stipulate some conditions, otherwise we might fare as upon Earth, where one surrendered pleading mercy, only to reap disgrace. Thus a buxom revenge against our earthly foes would be a main precondition, together with full compensation for all loss in the world!”
6. Says the Franciscan: “What stupid ideas can you have here! If for instance on Earth you walked into robbers, and some powerful man wanted to lend you a hand and you enumerated your conditions for accepting it – would not even the polar bears laugh? Has one heard of a beggar placing preconditions on his benefactor? Ah, Mr. Count, say no more about it! Our surrender upon Earth was an entirely different matter. No help was being offered us there, and there it meant: mercy or disfavour, depending on recommendation! – But here, full aid was expressly offered. How can one even remotely compare it to the earthly conditions which brought us physical death? Please, Mr. Count, aren’t you getting somewhat thick?”
7. Says the Count: “Indeed, right you are again! I may be a little stupid, but for a child, burnt once is twice shy. There are bound to be entirely different life-conditions here to those on Earth. But deeply adverse experiences cling to an unfortunate soul, not to be cast off overnight. And I surely merit some indulgence for hesitating a little before accepting the proffered help.
8. “They also promised us amnesty but delivered up to the Austrian, there was no further talk of amnesty! After such tragic earthly experience brought over live, a human or spirit is most hesitant to get down to business.
9. “I certainly recognise that there has to be a God, without whom we would have reverted to nothing and not survived. But this God is almighty, and there is no reversal of His judgement. Whence there is overabundant reason for hesitating and taking stock of all circumstances before accepting proffered help. I well remember from my early youth when reading about a great feast from the Gospel. When the invited guests excused themselves, the mighty host’s servants went into the streets and invited all the proletarians, all but pulling them in by the hair. When the big dining hall was thus filled, the master of the feast came in, looking over the common people, finding one not wearing wedding apparel, having him seized and thrown into prison! – What am I saying? Well, what was the poor devil’s offence? The servants hauled him in like all the others, who happened to be better dressed, they themselves finding no fault with his outfit. But when the Lord then comes, he condemns only the poor devil, who surely was in the dining hall for no fault of his own!
10. “If you think more closely about this thing, through which the Deity is represented in its wanton dealing, then no one can hold it against one if he proceeds with caution, even with help proffered from above. Because Judas too was handed the bite, not until after which he became really of the devil! Tell me whether you still regard me as stupid for my well-founded hesitancy?”
11. Says the Franciscan: “Well well. Mr. Count is famously well-versed in the Bible! It pleases me the more for bringing up a passage that struck me as extremely unjust as well. There are also other passages through which the usually exceedingly good Lord Jesus reveals an inexorably unjust nature, seen from an earthly viewpoint. Notwithstanding this, there are of course many other passages that are most comforting. From this aspect, your apprehension is of course excusable. Because power has the attribute of being able to always do as it pleases. The good thing about it is that no true authority is imaginable without perfect wisdom. And it is always easier to get along with a most wise being than a stupid one. Hence I maintain that we could risk accepting the proffered help.
12. “Therefore let us turn to Jesus the Crucified in our hearts and patiently await the outcome! If something good comes of it, then we have turned no bad corner. Should something seemingly bad result from it, then we revert back to our former condition.”
13. Says the Count: “That would be just fine, but not even the highest wisdom will allow Itself to be bartered with! What It has enounced stands for eternity! This Jesus Himself clearly exposes when He says: ‘Heaven and Earth shall pass, but My Word shall remain forever!’ If therefore, after turning into our hears, we hear ‘depart from Me, you doers of evil’ – what then, friends? I am saying that as long as we are not asking Him for anything, he had no need of giving us anything, neither good nor bad. If however we ask for something, then we have opened the door for Him to do as His unchangeable wisdom wills it.
14. “Another passage springs to mind, supporting my opinion, concerning ten virgins – five wise and five foolish, all awaiting their bridegroom. The wiser ones provided their lamps with oil, but the foolish ones did not. When news came at night that the bridegroom is coming – probably in an hour – the foolish ones asked the wise ones for oil for their lamps. But the wise ones refused – probably out of Christian neighbourly love? This forced the foolish ones to go to a merchant, to fill their lamps for money. They then cheerfully returned to the house to await the bridegroom, but found the door was already locked! For the bridegroom turned up before they could get back. And when they innocently knocked at the door asking for admission, the bridegroom’s voice thundered: ‘away with you! I have never known you and do not recognise you!’
15. “From an honestly human aspect, this is extremely rude, unrighteous and, strictly speaking, untrue, if the Deity is meant by bridegroom. For how can the Deity say to someone: ‘I know you not’ – when it also teaches that it knows the number of hairs upon every head! But who can fault the almighty Deity? It allows freezing, even if thousands are frozen to death. And if millions of poor devils ask for warmth, it still remains cold for as long as its wisdom deems it desirable. It likewise allows the most beautiful plantations to be destroyed by frost and hail, without grace, and none can curb It. I tell you that, whoever makes himself dependant on God has the misery already within him. What could have happened to the five virgins if they had not returned to the bridegroom’s house? The would at least have spared themselves the crudeness! For they would not have given the exceptionally crude bridegroom the chance to lock the door in front of their noses. And so I think we should only listen to God’s voice when convinced of His goodwill towards us. In the alternative we stay where we are, for I don’t trust the almighty Deity!”
16. Says the Franciscan: “Mr. Count, you are too cautious over the whole thing! I say unto you that one need not take God’s word so literally, as Scripture as a whole is only a pictorial presentation of higher morals, as incumbent upon a perfect man. By lamp oil is to be understood true love for God, and by the lamp’s light the wisdom flowing from love. The foolish virgins however had no love and also wanted to take the other’s love away. But these were cleverer and did not let themselves be led into temptation. They referred the loveless ones out into the world, to pick up the love-oil out there. And the loveless ones went and filled their lamps – or rather their hearts with love of the world. When, with love of the world they desired to return to the bridegroom’s house (where, not without reason I surmise, we find ourselves for a lengthy period already) – or rather: when they arrived without love for God, demanding admission to the kingdom of heaven, then the Deity could have hardly said anything other to them than: “I know you not with this your love, which I had never destined for Me! Hence go where your love is!’ – This, Mr. Count, is how I understand this and many another text. And it is so. Wherefore I think milord Count ascribes too much hardness on the Deity! Let us all rise above that and seize the proffered help! Verily, we shall not fare so badly, the way my heart speaks to me!”
17. Says one from the crowd standing next to him (with heavy Austrian vernacular [reminding the reader of the impossibility of equivalent English vernacular, and therefore the translators resort to plain English equivalent]) – “That I also believe! The Gospel is metaphorical!” – Says the Count: “Please get hold of your mouth, or we shall all get sick! Was our execution on Earth something metaphorical, or perhaps provisional? Or was Jesus nailed to the cross metaphorically?"” – Says the rebuked one: “Oh no, that was not metaphorical, that was real, or we should not be saved!” – Says the Count: “Nice salvation that. I for one have not dreamt of it yet! This Egyptian darkness, and our completely empty stomachs especially, are the most tangible proof of our salvation. Verily, this salvation should do! – Upon Earth, death upon the gallows, and here eternal darkness. These are most palpable evidence of our redemption! How do we like it, my dear friends?”
18. Says another: “Up ‘till now, there has been mighty little to our salvation. But on the other hand I must confess that we have never done anything that would make us partakers of salvation. Should at the final stage the gallows not have removed a substantial portion of our mortal sins, then prospects for salvation here are damned small – if things proceed according to the Gospel over here. Because with us, there was hardly ever any talk of Christian virtue. Hence I am all for immediate acceptance of the help offered, or we may fare miserably! For we had nothing to fall back on other than perhaps our limitless stupidity, and under most favourable circumstances, upon Jesus Christ’s grace and mercy!”
19. Says the Franciscan: “Spoken straight from my soul! So it is! God Jesus Christ’s grace and mercy – or we are all of the devil! For were we not like that upon Earth – especially towards the end, and we had damned little sympathy for the thousand-fold miseries of our fellow men. We drove them before us like cattle, thrusting them unto the battlefield. And enemies fared appallingly if taken prisoner by us. In short, if we are still animated by revenge towards those who laid their hands on us, then what kind of revenge can we expect from the many thousands who fell at our hands and were as good and often a thousand times better humans than us!
20. “Wherefore I say: let us forgive, from the depth of our hearts, forgive all who morally and physically mistreated and finally crucified us! For we too knew how to thoroughly nail the cross to their lives! What do you say, Mr. Count, am I right?”
21. Says the Count: “Unfortunately so! But that is precisely what makes me fear that we shall fare like the five foolish virgins. The moment we knock, we shal hear sentence pronounced, and then goodnight forever!”
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