Had to take a break from reading this one even though it's brilliant. On the one hand I stopped posting excerpts cause I felt I could be posting everything from a certain point on. On the other hand all the Christian/Hebrew symbolism annoys me to no end, I have little tolerance for the monotheistic religions.
There are two realities, he said to himself. The Black Iron Prison, which is called the Cave of Treasures, in which they now live, and the Palm Tree Garden with its enormous spaces, its light, where they originally dwelt. Now they are literally blind, he thought. Literally unable to see more than a short distance; faraway objects are invisible to them now. Once in a while one of them guesses that formerly they had faculties now gone; once in a while one of them discerns the truth, that they are not now what they were and not now where they were. But they forget again, exactly as I forgot. And I still forget somewhat, he realized. I still have only a partial vision. I am occluded, too.
Why should I help any of them? he asked himself. They do what is right only when forced to, when there is no alternative. They fell of their own accord and are fallen now, of their own accord, by what they have voluntarily done. My mother is dead because of them; they murdered her. They would murder me if they could figure out where I am; only because I have confused their wits do they leave me alone. High and low they seek my life, just as Ahab sought Elijah's life, so long ago. They are a worthless race, and I do not care if they fall. I do not care at all. To save them I must fight what they themselves are. And have always been.
"What is this for?" he said. "They are what they are. I grow more and more weary. And I care less and less, as I begin to remember. For ten years I have lived on this world, now, and for ten years they have hunted me. Let them die. Did I not say to them the talion law: 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'? Is that not in the Torah? They drove me off this world two thousand years ago; I return; they wish me dead. Under the talion law I should wish them dead. It is the sacred law of Israel. It is my law, my word."
Zina was silent. "Advise me," Emmanuel said. "I have always listened to your advice." Zina said: One day Elijah the prophet appeared to Rabbi Baruka in the market of Lapet. Rabbi Baruka asked him, "Is there any one among the people of this market who is destined to share in the world to come?" . . . Two men appeared on the scene and Elijah said, "These two will share in the world to come." Rabbi Baruka asked them, "What is your occupation?" They said, "We are merrymakers. When we see a man who is downcast, we cheer him up. When we see two people quarreling with one another, we endeavor to make peace between them." "You make me less sad," Emmanuel said. "And less weary. As you always have. As Scripture says of you:
Then I was at his side every day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually, playing on the earth, when he had finished it, while my delight was in mankind.
And Scripture says: Wisdom I loved; I sought her out when I was young and longed to win her for my bride, and I fell in love with her beauty. But that was Solomon, not me. So I determined to bring her home to live with me, knowing that she would be my counselor in prosperity and my comfort in anxiety and grief. Solomon was a wise man, to love you so." Beside him the girl smiled. She said nothing, but her dark eyes shone. "Why are you smiling?" he asked. "Because you have shown the truth of Scripture when it says: I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall love the Lord. Remember that you made the Covenant with man. And you made man in your own image. You cannot break the Covenant; you have made man that promise, that you will never break it." Emmanuel said, "That is so. You advise me well." He thought, And you cheer my heart. You above all else, you who came before creation. Like the two merrymakers, he thought, who Elijah said would be saved. Your dancing, your singing, and the sound of bells. "I know," he said, "what your name means."
"Zina?" she said. "It's just a name. "It is the Romanian word for-" He ceased speaking; the girl had trembled visibly, and her eyes were now wide. "How long have you known it?" she said. 'Years. Listen:
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough
I will finish; listen:
To wrap a fairy in.
And I have known this," he finished, "all this time." Staring at him, Zina said, "Yes, Zina means fairy." "You are not Holy Wisdom," he said, "you are Diana, the fairy queen." Cold wind rustled the branches of the trees. And, across the frozen creek, a few dry leaves scuttled. "I see," Zina said. About the two of them the wind rustled, as if speaking. He could hear the wind as words. And the wind said:
He wondered if she heard it, too.
In these judgments of the dead, stemming from Egypt and Persia, the scrutiny was pitiless and the sinful soul was de facto doomed. Upon your death the books listing your good deeds and bad deeds closed, and no one, even the gods, could alter the tabulation. In a sense the procedure of judgment was mechanical. A bill of particulars, in essence, had been drawn up against you, compiled during your lifetime, and now this bill of particulars was fed into a mechanism of retribution. Once the mechanism received the list, it was all over for you. The mechanism ground you to shreds, and the gods merely watched, impassively.
But one day (Zina said) a new figure made its appearance at the path leading to the sifting bridge. This was an enigmatic figure who seemed to consist of a shifting succession of aspects or roles. Sometimes he was called Comforter. Sometimes Advocate. Sometimes Beside-Helper. Sometimes Support. Sometimes Advisor. No one knew where he had come from. For thousands of years he had not been there, and then one day he had appeared. He stood at the edge of the busy path, and as the souls made their way to the sifting bridge this complex figure-who sometimes, but rarely, seemed to be a woman-signaled to the persons, each in turn, to attract their attention. It was essential that the Beside- Helper got their attention before they stepped onto the sifting bridge, because after that it was too late.
"Too late for what?" Emmanuel said.
Zina said, "The Beside-Helper upon stopping a person approaching the sifting bridge asked him if he wished to be represented in the testing which was to come. "By the Beside-Helper?"
The Beside-Helper, she explained, assumed his role of Advocate; he offered to speak on the person's behalf. But the Beside- Helper offered something more. He offered to present his own bill of particulars to the retribution mechanism in place of the bill of particulars of the person. If the person were innocent this would make no difference, but, for the guilty, it would yield up a sentence of exculpation rather than guilt. "That's not fair," Emmanuel said. "The guilty should be punished." "Why?" Zina said. "Because it is the law," Emmanuel said. "Then there is no hope for the guilty." Emmanuel said, "They deserve no hope." "What if everyone is guilty?" He had not thought of that. 'What does the Beside-Helper's bill of particulars list?" he asked. "It is blank," Zina said. "A perfectly white piece of paper. A document on which nothing is inscribed." "The retributive machinery could not process that." Zina said, "It would process it. It would imagine that it had received a compilation of a totally spotless person. "But it couldn't act. It would have no input data." "That's the whole point." "Then the machinery of justice has been bilked." "Bilked out of a victim," Zina said.' 'Is that not to be desired? Should there be victims? What is gained if there is an unending procession of victims? Does that right the wrongs they have committed?" "No," he said.
"The idea," Zina said, "is to feed mercy into the circuit. The Beside-Helper is an amicus curiae, a friend of the court. He advises the court, by its permission, that the case before it constitutes an exception. The general rule of punishment does not apply." "And he does this for everyone? Every guilty person?" "For every guilty person who accepts his offer of advocacy and help." "But then you'd have an endless procession of exceptions. Because no guilty person in his right mind would reject such an offer; every single guilty person would wish to be judged as an exception, as a case involving mitigating circumstances." Zina said, 'But the person would have to accept the fact that he was, on his own, guilty. He could of course wager that he was innocent, in which case he would not need the advocacy of the Beside-Helper." After a moment of pondering. Emmanuel said, 'That would be a foolish choice. He might be wrong. And he loses nothing by accepting the assistance of the Beside-Helper." In practice, however,' Zina said, most souls about to be judged reject the offer of advocacy by the Beside-Helper."
'On what basis?" He could not fathom their reasoning. Zina said, 'On the basis that they are sure they are innocent. To receive this help the person must go with the pessimistic assumption that he is guilty, even though his own assessment of himself is one of innocence. The truly innocent need no Beside- Helper, just as the physically healthy need no physician. In a situation of this kind the optimistic assumption is perilous. It's the bail-out theorem that little creatures employ when they construct a burrow. If they are wise they build a second exit to their burrow, operating on the pessimistic assumption that the first one will be found by a predator. All creatures who did not use their theorem are no longer with us." Emmanuel said, It is degrading to a man that he must consider himself sinful." 'It's degrading to a gopher to have to admit that his burrow may not be perfectly built, that a predator may find it."
'You are talking about an adversary situation. Is divine justice an adversary situation'? Is there a prosecutor?"
'Yes, there is a prosecutor of man in the divine court: it is Satan. There is the Advocate who defends the accused human. and Satan who impugns and indicts him. The Advocate, standing beside the man, defends him and speaks for him: Satan, confronting the man, accuses him. Would you wish man to have an accuser and not a defender? Would that seem just'?"
"But innocence must be presumed." The girl's eyes gleamed. "Precisely the point made by the Advocate in each trial that takes place. Hence he substitutes his own blameless record for that of his client, and justifies the man by surrogation."
"Are you this Beside-Helper'?" Emmanuel asked. "No," she said. "He is a far more puzzling figure than I. If you are having difficulty with me, in determining-"
"I am," Emmanuel said. He is a latecomer into this world," Zina said. "Not found in earlier aeons. He represents an evolution in the divine strategy. One by which the primordial damage is repaired. One of many, but a main one. Will I ever encounter him?" You will not be judged," Zina said. "So perhaps not. But all humans will see him standing by the busy road, offering his help. Offering it in time-before the person starts across the sifting bridge and is judged. The Beside-Helper's intervention always comes in time. It is part of his nature to be there soon enough." Emmanuel said, "I would like to meet him." Follow the travel pattern of any human," Zina said, "and you will arrive at the point where that human encounters him. That is how I know about him. I, too, am not judged." She pointed to the slate that she had given him. "Ask it for more information about the Beside-Helper." The slate read: TO CALL
"Is that all you can tell me?" Emmanuel asked it. A new word formed, a Greek word:
He wondered about this, wondered greatly, at this new entity who had come into the world . . . who could be called on by those in need, those who stood in danger of negative judgment. It was one more of the mysteries presented to him by Zina. There had been so many, now. He enjoyed them. But he was puzzled. To call to aid: parakalein. Strange, he thought. The world evolves even as it falls more and more. There are two distinct movements: the falling, and then, at the same time, the upwardrising work of repair. Antithetical movements, in the form of a dialectic of all creation and the powers contending behind it. Suppose Zina beckoned to the parts that fell? Beckoned them, seductively, to fall farther. About this he could not yet tell.
FUBAR comes to mind...