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From Hell to Heaven
Chapter 53 - The rabble-rousers Messenhauser, Jellinek and Becher in the beyond. Their opinions about God, hell and fate
1. The two of us arrive at the door, which immediately opens as if by itself.
2. The three can be seen sitting at a circular table, sunk in thought, rummaging through various writings and files as if searching for some vital document.
3. After a while of fruitless searching, Messenhauser says somewhat agitated: “I have always said that this most important document, proving our innocence, has either been lost or even destroyed during that last unfortunate episode! Of what use our search? If some proper genius does not rescue us from this prison, then we are done for. Expecting pardon from these know-alls would be sheer lunacy. We now are in devils’ hands, good and proper, with no grace or mercy! You will see it won’t be long before a war-councilor enters with a court clerk to read out our death warrants, and that dispassionately, as if dealing not with humans but with earthworms to be trodden into the dust. I tell you, we are going to be shot!”
4. Says Jellinek: “My friend Messenhauser, what you are still fearing has already been factually carried out upon us! The thing does indeed resemble a delirium, yet it is no dream! Because I recall only too well being led out to the terrible trench, and formally shot. Likewise, that I immediately found myself within this prison – not unlike the earthly one, encountering you, Messenhauser, here. Whereupon friend Becher also arrived here. We therefore continue with certainty to live some kind of spiritual soul-life here after physical death, and out fear of a repeated firing-squad is completely vain!
5. “But something entirely different impresses itself upon me in this peculiar state: the uncertainty as to where we are now and, secondly, what we are to expect! – If, in the name of the devil, the hellfire sermons of the clerics turned out to have substance, then we will not be envied! An everlasting condemnation by some almighty Being would complete our lucky run. Yet I comfort myself in believing that the divine Being, if there is one, is bound to be endlessly better than all the best people of Earth taken together. It is bound to be better than Field-marshal Windischgräz, who had us executed with such calmness. Oh, if only there were a means to take revenge of this tiger – and that in the most terrible way. That would make me exceedingly blissful, don’t you agree?”
6. Says Becher: “Indeed, brother, you seem to be right in everything. Friend Messenhauser still feels terrestrially captive, languishing in some prison in Vienna, awaiting execution, but I agree entirely with our friend in this point. It is the naked truth, unfortunately, that we three have been shot, although I could not name the day with certainty. For over here, where there is neither complete day or night, I lack all concept of time. But neither does that matter – terrestrially we are dead for all time to come, and it is useless to think or talk otherwise.
7. “Yet I nevertheless believe in no hell, and if there is a God then there can be no hell. If however there is no God, then there is even less a hell! Because the concept of a God is too pure, exalted and wisely good for a concept of the most total imperfection of hell to derive from it. If however there is no God but only mechanical, conscious powers, then it can be asked how these could have brought about a systematic hell!”
8. Says Jellinek: “Oh, this I can easily imagine! If there is a God, which cannot be doubted, then it can be asked how could this most perfect and good Being have also created a Windischgräz for example? This tiger-man is fairly representative of hell on Earth, and like every rattlesnake, is a product of the most perfect Deity. Should there be no Deity however, then how could the mute natural forces have picked up the mood of chancing upon a Windischgräz model? From that you see that the bad as well as the good is to be found both under a God and without a God, the bad even predominating; form which a hell can easily be deduced from both scenarios. Wherefore it is just as easy to innocently end up in hell as it was to end up in Windischgräz’s hands on Earth. What are your opinions?”
9. Says Messenhauser: “Indeed, you seem to be perfectly right! It is now also quite clear to me that been shot, and that soon after the kind-hearted Blum. Having made a few observations by now, I could pass these on.
10. “Look at the table where we had our important papers. Suddenly they are invisible! This is indeed an intriguing circumstance! I furthermore notice an open door, whereas previously we had no clue where to find a door. And lastly, I notice with some astonishment that our prison is turning into an attractive room, and I actually begin to discover windows and clearly discern things with precision, and notice all kinds of decorous objects!
11. “All these appearances give me a rising conviction that we must find ourselves in some dream or spirit world. What however is to become of us in this world is another question.
12. “You, brother Jellinek, indicated how retribution upon Windischgräz would make you enormously happy – I cannot agree. For behold, I am a fatalist through and through. Upon Earth, fate has scattered poison and balm in equal measure. Can a tiger be blamed for being a tiger? Can a poisonous plant be blamed for its deleterious effect upon man? It can similarly be said of Windischgräz – he is a blind tool of fate, that has made him as he is. In his own way he is to be pitied, like us, who became his bloody victims.
13. “We have come through it, praise God; he has yet to do so. Who knows whether he will fare better than us! ‘Me today, you tomorrow’! And it ultimately makes no difference whether one has trodden the Earth’s dust smooth for a hundred or ten years; or handed over one’s body to the worms upon the gallows or in a soft bed. It’s all the same to me now!
14. “I have a life once more, and am still Messenhauser! I have no pain, no hunger and no thirst. And you, dear friends, also are left with me, and our room is getting steadily brighter and more beautiful! What more can we ask for? If this continues, we can but congratulate ourselves. Because upon dear Earth we did not have it any better, nor fewer cares. Who knows what this will turn into yet. I believe it will get gradually better. And should it get worse after a while, then think of how often upon Earth fate pushed us back and forth between good and bad.
15. “I can’t change the situation, and so it is best to take things as they come, hanging up one’s wishes on the hook. For these never bore us interest yet and probably never will be of any use to us. Do you not fully agree with me??!”
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