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In the first degree of hell
1. You say: Dear friend! We follow the couple as they go forth before us for quite a while already, still just as blind and silent as the night itself, and look, there is still nothing to be seen of the morning red behind the mountains of which the wife spoke. Where is it then? Would the wife really have lied to her husband? I tell you: Have a bit more patience, then you will see the praise-worthy morning red soon enough. Take notice of our pair, how the wife is becoming ever more joyful, but the husband, in contrast, becomes more sorrowful and somber.
2. You ask: Why? The answer is obvious: She is getting closer to the element towards which her love is focused; therefore, she becomes happier, but it is the opposite case for him. He is getting closer to an element not related to him, he is not drawn by his love, but is dragged along by the love for his wife.
3. It goes with him almost like the lover in the old tale about the love for the beautiful Siren. As long as the lover would observe the enchanting Siren, he was elated. To be embraced by such a beloved seemed to him like the pinnacle of all happiness. When he did approach his beloved and when she embraced him with her soft arms, dragging him down into her element, the initial fantastic enchantment vanished and a great fright and fear of death enveloped him.
4. Look, this is exactly the case here. The husband notices that it is gradually getting darker. Such an increasingly impenetrable night is not his element, but the wife feels more and more satisfied the darker it becomes because the utter darkness is the element of her love and therefore also of her life. But now you can also hear a muffled noise, almost like that of a great, distant waterfall.
5. You ask what it means? I tell you: Nothing other than that we have come rather close to the bordering river, which we already came to know through our visit to the northern region. Let us go there courageously, then we will reach the riverside quickly. You ask again about the previously mentioned morning red behind the mountains, which is still not in sight. Have a bit more patience. When we will have reached the riverbank, which is already quite close as you can gather from that growing noise, you will probably be able to see the morning red in the distance behind the mountains. Pay attention and watch the ground, for, in just a few steps, we will reach the riverbank.
6. Stop now; we have reached our goal and look, there beside the river, there far away in the background, you can see a very strong, red glow, looking like a distant, great fire. Now, pay attention again to our couple's conversation. She says: Well, my dear husband, what do you say, was I right or not? Look at that beautiful morning red and here at the broad river. What shall we do now to get to the bright region? Look, we cannot cross the river, but we can indeed walk along the riverbank. It becomes increasingly lighter as you can see with your own eyes, and in time we shall certainly reach that bright region.
7. The husband says: My dear, most appreciated wife! It seems as if something is amiss with this light. Regarding the dawn, this red glow does not seem to have anything in common with it. To my eyes, it does not look like a glow coming from the sun, but much more like that of a burning city behind the mountains. I do doubt that there is, in fact, a burning city here, but that something is indeed burning, is certainly beyond suspicion. I, therefore, want to go with you until we get a proper view of the fire, but no further, for one cannot know whence it originates, and it is therefore always sensible to stay far away, for one should preferably stay out of an environment he does not know and which is not related to his nature.
8. She says: What kind of utter nonsense you now sputter! Only now does one see how dumb you really are; but where does this come from? I tell you, only because, upon earth, you didn't much care about what relates to the effects of the primordial powers of nature, making you now incapable of explaining these phenomena. Secondly, you have been here only for a very short while, and you have had way too little opportunity to observe such phenomena and let yourself be educated about them by the sages of this region. But look, there are two men walking along the riverbank, approaching us. Let us go to meet them; I am convinced that you could profit much by engaging in a conversation with them. The husband says: Yes, dear wife, I've always been a great friend to men in possession of much knowledge. Why would I not be?
9. But now I tell you: Pay good attention. The husband greets the bigger and the more imposing of the two very courteously. The man stiffly bows and asks the husband: What has shown you vermin of the night the way from the darkness to the domain of the light?
10. The husband says: Most respectable friend, I have only arrived here in the deep night a few days ago, but my wife has been here already for about six years. She knew nothing of this light domain; I also knew nothing, but I only feel a great yearning towards light, so much so that nothing else remains for me than to let me be led here, as a most inexperienced person, by my more experienced wife. Therefore you would not regard it as a transgression, my most respectable friend? If anyone did wrong, then it could obviously only have been my wife.
11. The stranger says: And you dare to acknowledge this here, as a man? Truly, you do not seem to be something significant, for men who need the guidance of their wifes are on the same level as apes to us. Then the stranger turns to the woman and says to her: Has this really been your work, my most amiable and lovely lady? She says: Oh, respectable friend, I indeed must acknowledge to my shame that he, my otherwise truly loving husband, would probably prefer to eat the moss and dry grass in the thickest darkness out of a purely idiotic and insignificant love for the to you well-known Jewish philosopher, than to walk the way of the light as it was suggested not only by me but also by the exceptionally wise, to you well-known scholar, who calls himself Melanchthon.
12. The stranger says: O very estimable and loveable lady, I truly have sincere compassion for you, but on the other hand, I also admire your strength, the inherent power with which you are so untiringly busy to bring such an awkward man onto the right path. Most loving and worthy lady, do not blame me if I would, in this increasingly brighter time, jump out of my skin out of anger for that old Christian-Judean philosophy. Yes, it seems even more dumb and stupid to me than when one would resolve to stay true to a terribly old-fashioned dress, while the whole world around him has long ago seen the benefits of the new clothing and has accepted it unconditionally.
13. Now the stranger turns to the husband, and says to him: Is this indeed true, what your truly wise wife has said about you?
14. Look, the husband is a bit puzzled and does not immediately know what to answer this man who seems incredibly erudite to him. He does not want to let go of Christ and it seems not advisable to say something about Him in the presence of this man who seems to be so mighty and learned.
15. But the learned stranger again turns to him and says: Yes, my dear friend, if this is the case with you, then you are a tax free man. Do you understand me? The husband says: No, I do not know what you mean. The stranger says: It does not surprise me anymore. Regarding the ‘tax free’, it was already the custom with the old, wise Romans and Greeks that one should not charge the crazy and the foolish. Even in this time, one gives to men like you the honorable diploma of foolishness without cost, by which you could easily be taken into a well-provided madhouse. This should not be unknown to you, for, as far as I know, you were experienced in management and state affairs. Do you understand what I mean?
16. The husband says: Alas, I must understand it, but I am also at liberty to pose a question to you. Who gives you, with all your erudition, the right to treat me so crassly, while I, in fact, approached you with particular courtesy, almost like, on earth, an utterly haughty pedant would do to a dumb and miserable student? The stranger says: Listen, dear friend, the fact that I have treated you only somewhat gruffly was a special courtesy from my side, which you received thanks to your sound wife. Otherwise I would have treated such a dumb Christian simpleton as yourself differently, and such a treatment would have probably eternally bereaved you of your longing for a brighter region. But when you are open to reason, take your wife’s side and give me the assurance that you repent for your old and worldly stupidity, which caused you to come into this darkness. Only then will I bring you - and take note, only because of your wife - close to that bright place, to an educational institution where you will, if you are not of a slow mind, come to a better understanding.
17. The husband says utterly dumbfounded and humble: Dear, esteemed friend, if this is so, then I ask you to take me there. On earth I have always belonged to the best students and I will certainly not be the worst in your school.
18. The stranger says: Good, I will accept you, but be aware that you must leave the school immediately in case of bad results, and you will be sent back to your original night. But should you be an outstanding student, then your deserved acknowledgment would not be withheld from you. But regarding your old Christian-Judean philosophy, I do recommend not to speak much of it in this exalted school, for this will result in you being chased out right away. Such is an adverse sign, for fanatics are not suitable for the study of serious and higher sciences; only sober and dispassionate thinking can be applied there.
19. The wife now sinks to her knees before the erudite man and thanks him anew ,with the most flattering words, for such an exceptional favor. The erudite man answers her: Yes, yes, my esteemed, beloved lady, you are the only one in a thousand, yes, a million inhabitants of this nightly region whom he owes this to. Therefore, follow me!
20. Look, the wife grabs her husband’s arm, follows the erudite man and says to him while walking: Well, what do you say now? I hope you will now realize that things work much differently here than you would have ever dreamt of on earth. The husband says: Dear wife, this is indeed obvious and clear, but if these relations are actually good and useful, only the future will tell. Between ourselves, this whole situation still seems rather suspicious to me; but only time will tell what will become of this.
21. In a text of the honorable apostle Paul it says: Examine all and keep the good things. This I will do here as well, but deep in my heart I do think that there is not much good or no good at all to be expected from this strange trial. This increasingly intense light, which seems to me as if one is approaching a burning city, is not really suited to illuminate the good. But as said, it is all subject to examination. Look there, further down along the river, how in the distant background it almost seems to glow, and how the waves almost dissipate into an incadescent haze. It seems as if we are approaching a sea of fire that consumes this river.
22. The wife says: Yes, my dear husband, here it is all about getting to know the powers at hand in their foundation, and it certainly looks much more magnificent than with a pathetic student who studies a Roman author in the dim sheen of a night lamp upon earth.
23. Look, a boat is moored here at the riverbank. The leader says: If you want to follow me to your greatest fortune, step into the boat with which we shall sail downstream to the exalted realm of the light.
24. The wife steps into the boat very quickly, but the husband hesitantly scratches himself behind the ears and does not know what he should do. But to not stay behind, and again for the sake of decency, he steps into the boat. The boat gets untied, and we see how it shoots downstream like an arrow from a bow. But now we will go quickly as well, for we are as fast as the vehicle and can be even faster if need be.
25. We have reached the boat. Look how the water down there is glowing with increasing intensity until where the river flows into a broad cleft in the mountain. Let us therefore advance beyond the mountain and wait for our boat at the outflow of the river. Do not be afraid, for we are untouchable here as well; all the horrors you will see there cannot harm us.
26. Look, we are there already. You are quite frightened here because you see the river as a broad, glowing waterfall, thundering down into a deep, endless sea of flames, and you ask what it means.
27. I tell you: This is the aforementioned ‘exalted school’ where our poor husband will get to know the fundamental workings of the primordial powers, but actually, this is the first level of hell!
28. Now look down at the river; our boat is arriving. The husband gets up, throws his hands upwards and tries to jump off the boat, but the wife throws her arms around him and holds on tight, and look, the boat, together with the four of them, plunges over the edge, right down into the exalted school!
29. You ask: do we need to go down there as well? I indeed told you beforehand that you need to see everything until the end, otherwise you would only know half of what such a bond of twofold love in a heart signifies. Do not be afraid of these flames, for they are nothing but an apparition of the hellish. Once we are there it will look much different. Follow me then, without fear.
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