Thomas Greenall & Jordan Hodgson 2.18.2012 WSJ
[Caldwell, Taylor. Dialogues With The Devil. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1967. pp 34-45.] Please see Taylor Caldwell’s Dialogues With The Devil (1967) #1 of 22 for an introduction to this serialization.
GREETINGS to my brother, Michael . . .
. . . There is a strange similarity between Heaven and hell: . . . Each morning my damned say, “This is another day!” But they discover that it is the same as the day before. In Heaven, there is no time. Surely that is a greater weariness. My damned do not attain, for there is nothing to attain. Your holy souls do not attain, for total attainment is not possible. The soul strains, whether in Heaven or hell. If there is a singular difference I have yet to discern it. . . . But if even archangels are not to know its supreme secrets, wherein lies the satisfaction? To know that one can never know all appears to me, at times, to be hell, itself. At least my damned know all there is to know of hell, and my nature. There are no hidden corners, and if there are no fresh delights there are no fresh mysteries and no terrors, however sublime. This condition has always seemed the most desirable among men — and have I not given it to them?
There is an answer for every question in hell. My demons are solicitous. No soul asks without a reply. If the reply is mundane and possesses no novelty — did not man wish that for himself during the time of his mortal life? Nothing affrights these miserable wretches more than a hint that a strangeness is about to appear, yet they bewail — after a space — the sameness of hell. On all their worlds they struggle for the very condition they find in my hells — no disturbing variety, no uncertainty, no danger, no test of courage, no challenge, and no enigmas. They considered this the most marvelous of existences. Once assured of it in hell, however, they are agonized. I have always said that human souls were pusillanimous [lacking courage] and blind, and contradictory.
Certainly, in hell, there is no free will, for the damned relinquished it on their worlds. This torment has been denied them by me. Therefore, they cannot will to climb to Heaven by self-denial, by contemplation, by worship, by dedication, by acts of faith and charity. These attributes shriveled in them during their lives, or were rejected scornfully by them in moods of risible sophistications. They can desire to possess them now, but I would keep them safe and warm, as Our Father never kept them so! So, they can will nothing. They can only accept the pleasures — and the pains — I bestow on them.
In Heaven, however, free will is fully released. The ability to reject, to deny, remains with archangels, angels and the souls of the saved. The gift of repudiation is still with them and the possibility of disobedience. Is that not most frightful? What insecurity! What danger! My damned remain with me in eternal slavery because in life they desired only safety, and lacked the fire of adventure, though, God knows, they protested enough on their worlds! But what did they protest? Inequality, which is the variety of God. Instability, which is the light of the universes. Uneasiness of mind, which is the soul of philosophy. Apparent injustices, which are the goad of the spirit. Vulnerability to life and other men, which is a charge to become invulnerable through faith in God. The presence of suffering or misfortune — but these are a call for the soul to put on armor and serenity. They demanded of their rulers that they remain in constant cocoons, silky and guarded by earthly authority. They did not ask for wings to soar into the sunlight, and the ominous threats of full existence. They rejected freedom for hell. Certainly, they cried for freedom on their worlds, but it was freedom only to live happily without the freedom to be divinely unhappy.
I have satisfied all these lusts of men. Strange, is it not, that my hells, though the ultimate success of the dreams of men, are filled with weeping? And strange, is it not, that they still do not believe in the existence of God? But then, they never did; they believed only in me. They cannot will to believe in God. They see absolute reality about them now, which was their will in life. I will not pretend that I do not understand them, for was it not I who promised them all without work and without striving?
But lately I asked of a newly descended soul which had much acclaim on Terra: “What was your greatest desire on your world, you who were applauded by rulers and admired by your fellowmen?
He replied, “Justice for all,” and put on a very righteous expression.
That was admirable, for who does not admire justice, even I? But I probed him. He declared that in his earthly view all men deserved what all other men possessed, whether worthy or not. “They are men, so they are equal, and being born they have a right to the fruits of the world, no matter the condition of their birth or the content of their minds, or their capacities.” I conducted him through the pleasures of my hell, and he was delighted that no soul was lesser in riches than another, and that every soul had access to my banquets and my palaces, no soul was distinguishable from another, none possessed what another did not possess. Every desire was immediately gratified, he discovered. He smiled about him joyfully. He said, “Here, justice is attained!”
Then he saw that no face was joyful, however mean or lofty its features. He remarked, wonderingly, on the listlessness of my damned, and how they strolled emptily through thoroughfares filled with music and through streets wherein there was not a single humble habitation. He heard the cries of pleasure over my laden tables, and then heard them silenced, for there was no need now for food and where there is no need there is no desire and no enjoyment. He saw that the poorest on earth were clothed in magnificence and jewels, yet they wept the loudest. He was no fool. He said, “Satiety.” [Satisfied to excess.] True, I answered him, but satiety can live only in the presence of total equality. He pondered on this while I led him to the seat of thousands of philosophers, and he sat down among them. But, as there is no challenge in hell, and no mystery, there can be no philosophy. That night he came to me on his knees and begged for death. I struck him with my foot, and said, “O man, this was the hell you made, and this was the desire of your heart, so eat, drink, and be merry.”
He attempted to hang himself, in the manner of Judas, and I laughed at his futility. I meditated that above all futility is the climate of hell.
He said to me, in tears, “Then, if you are, then God exists.”
“That does not follow,” I replied to him. “But, did you not deny Him on Terra? Did you not speak of supra-man, and man-becoming, and the ultimate glorification of man on earth, without God?”
“I did not see God among men,” he said, wringing his hands.
“You did not look,” I said. “You were too dull in your human arrogance and too enamored of humanity. You never denounced your fellows for their lusts and their cruelties. You told them they were only ‘victims.’ You refused to look upon their nature, for you denied the infinite variety and capacities of nature. To you, one man was as good as any other man, and equally endowed, for the foolish reason that he had been born. You saw no saints, and no sinners. It was only a matter of environment, though the proof was all about you that environment is a mere shading or tint on the soul, and is not destiny. You denied that men have gifts of the spirit, often above those of other men. In truth, you denigrated those gifts of striving and wonder. You denied free will. Everything evil that happened to a man was only the result of his fellowmen’s lack of justice. You denied the reality of good and evil, the ability to make a choice. In short you denied life, itself.”
“Then God in truth does exist?” he asked, after a moment’s miserable thought.
“That you will never know,” I said. “But rejoice! All your dreams are fulfilled here. Delight yourself. Behold, there are beautiful female demons here, and banquets and sports and pleasures and soft beds and lovely scenes and all whom you had wished, in life, you had known. Converse with them.”
“There is no desire in me,” he said. “I want nothing.”
“You are surely in hell,” I replied, and I left him weeping.
God pursues them even in hell. Or, does He, my beloved Michael? Grief is the gift of God. But He will not have my damned! For they have no will to rise to Him. . . .
But let us speak of your new worlds, which you mentioned in your last letter.
Pandara, among the dozen about the enormous and fiery blue sun, interests me. Our Father struck six women and six men from the jeweled dust, and gave them the Sacrament of marriage. I must congratulate God, for these creatures are fairer than many others. Their flesh resembles rosy alabaster, and their hair is bright and sparkling, and their eyes are green and full of light. They will have eternal youth if they do not fall. They frolic and work in the warm and turquoise radiance, where there are no seasons because Pandara moves upright in her long slow orbit about her parent sun. There will be no fierceness of storm or calamities of nature — unless these creatures fall. There will be joyous labor and eager participation in life, and life without end in the forests full of red and purple and golden flowers, and about the lucent rivers and the mother-of-pearl lakes. There will be cities of song and learning. There will be adventure and delight. I have seen the red peaks of mountains, and the dawns like benedictions and the sunsets like Heaven, itself. There is no disease here, no hunger, no sorrow, no pain, no death. There is knowledge of God, and God moves among them, and they feel His presence and His love.
Alas, God has also endowed them with free will.
That is my opportunity.
The women and the men are as young as life. I can bring them age and evil and disease and death and violence and hatred and lusts. Six women, and six men. What shall I do?
Shall I introduce a seventh man, my Damon, who seduced so many on other worlds, and on miserable Terra, where he seduced Eve and Helen of Troy and millions of other women? He is a beautiful angel, full of gaiety and subtlety and delectabilities. His conversations are absorbing and delicious. His inventions of the flesh are luscious and charming; his concupiscences [sexual desires] are sweeter than any fruit. Few women have ever rejected him. His very touch, his smile, is beguiling, and he is all that is male. How can any woman resist him?
If introduced on Pandara the women will reflect that he is far more beautiful than their husbands, and that he does not toil in the fields and that his discourses are wondrous and mysterious, and that he hints of joys they have never experienced before. Sad, is it not, that even Our Father stands at bay before a woman? Who can know the intricacies of a female heart, and its secret imaginings? Damon knows these intricacies, and winds them about his fingers like silver or darksome threads. He can persuade almost any woman into adultery.
It needs but Damon to destroy Pandara.
Or, perhaps, I will send Lilith, my favorite female demon, to the men of Pandara, that beautiful planet. She seduced Adam and Pericles and Alexander and Julius Caesar and so many rulers on Terra now. Who is so lovely as Lilith? Once she graced the Courts of Heaven and all looked on her beauty with awe. She has a thousand astounding forms, and each one more gorgeous than another. She is never oppressive, never demanding. She is yielding and soft and attentive. She follows; she never leads. When she speaks her voice is like celestial music. Each attitude resembles a stature of sublime glory. She says to men, “How wondrous you are, how unique, how intellectual, how far above me in understanding!” She is femininity itself, easily conquered, easily overcome by flattery, easily induced to surrender. She has only to beckon and men rush to her with cries of lust and desire.
Damon or Lilith?
Strange to remark, men are less susceptible to determined seduction than women. Damon can offer women mysteries and endless amusement, and what woman can spurn mystery or amusement? They love the secret dark places, the moon, the whispered hotness, the promise of uniqueness and adoration. Women do not crave power; they are not objective. Truth to them is relative. Is this evil or good? Women in their minds can create a confusion, and this, on so many worlds, they have bequeathed to their sons. A woman can resolve all things in her mind and make so many splendid compromises. If the women of Pandara look upon Damon there will be rivalries for his smiles and attention, the lonely male they will yearn to take to their breasts when their husbands are absent. There is a certain doggedness in husbands which women find full of ennui.
On the other hand, there is Lilith, who is always ambiguous and never captured. Men seek after the uncaptured, the unattainable, which, alas, is the climate of Heaven. Lilith is always pursued but never caught. What man can resist Lilith, who never argues, never complains, is always complaisant and always fresh and dainty? Her conversation never demands that a man ponder, or question. Men, I have discovered, detest women who pose challenges of the mind and the soul. They are engrossed in the flesh to the deepest extent, therefore they are simple, however their pretensions to intellect. They dislike women who ask “Why?” They turn from women with serious faces and furrowed brows. They wish only to play, to gratify themselves in moments of leisure. They find their wives always at hand, and women’s conversation is usually concerned with children and the dull affairs of daily living. The women say, “How are the crops, or the cattle? How is our present treasure?”
But Lilith says, “Let us frolic and rejoice in the sun and weave garlands of roses and drink wine and laugh and discover comedies. Above all, let us embrace each other.” This is the exact opposite of the conversation of wives, and so is irresistible.
Too, women are sedulous [persevering] in the seeking of God, which is the other side of their nature. Men can endure just so much of God, and just so much discussion of Him. After that, they seek love and physical activity or their little philosophies. Or sleep. Men love slumber, though women resist it. Man reasons, woman conjectures. Therefore, man wearies first. He is always yawning in the very midst of feminine discourse.
Considering this, I believe Damon will be the most potent in Pandara, as he was in the majority of worlds. Women do not fall lightly. Eve gave much thought before she ate of the Forbidden Tree. (Adam was merely vaguely aware of it, and, as it was forbidden, he usually ignored it. Men are slaves to law.) Damon adores the struggle in the female spirit, for while seductible it thinks of God. Lilith often complains that men are so easily the victims of their flesh, so there is no serious enticement, no arduous pursuit. In concupiscence, men never think of God at all.
I shall send Damon, the beautiful, the most alluring of male demons.
(If I seem contradictory concerning the nature of humanity . . . Michael, it does not follow that I am inconsistent. I have written that men are less susceptible than women to seduction, but that is on the score of sensibility. A woman cannot be seduced by raw sensuality; her mind and spirit must be engaged also, and she must be convinced that in some fashion the purity of love is involved. She must feel the wings of her soul expand, so that all is well lost for love, itself. It takes on itself, in her mind, the aspect of the eternal, the immutable. So, women are an excitement to Damon. But the purely female, like Lilith, cannot be resisted by men, who see nothing eternal in marital love, nothing sanctified, however the words they repeated by rote. A woman is just an encounter to a man. She can be successfully resisted only if she is intelligent and only if she asks questions, and only if she demands that the situation be permanent. Woman must be seduced through her most delicate emotions. Man alone can be seduced if no spiritual emotions are present at all. Damon was forced to converse with Eve to the point of exhaustion before she ate of the fruit which was forbidden. Had Lilith approached Adam, the deliciousness of the fruit would have needed only to be described. . . .
Yes, my choice will be Damon. He will be elegant to the women of Pandara. He will not openly seduce. He will treat them as equals, yet not so equal that it diminishes his masculine power. He will declare that their souls and their minds entrance him, that above all women they are the most ravishing. He will talk poetry with them hour after hour; he will never be bored, as husbands are bored. He will indicate the beauties on their world, and will strike attitudes, but not effeminate ones. He will tenderly entwine flowers in their bright hair. He will kiss their hands, and show his muscles at the same time. If they leap with enjoyment, he will leap higher. He will pursue, and offer them ardent embraces. He will discuss their natural problems with them, with manly indulgence. If they become pettish, in the way of women, he will seize them in his strong arms and quiet their mouths with his own. At the last, as if tired of play, he will lift them up and run with them to some silent glade and forcibly take them, ignoring their hypocritical cries and their beating hands. Above all, he will pretend that they, themselves, seduced him with their beauty and reduced him to distraction. What woman can believe that she is without allurement, either of the body or the mind?
I am sad for you, Michael, my brother. Pandara is already lost. I am sending Damon tonight to the women of your beautiful planet. I will reserve Lilith for later, when the race is fallen. She will convince men that lust is more delightful than reason, and feminine charms more to be desired than sanctity, or duty. The flesh, she will say, has its imperative, but where is the imperative of the soul — if it exists at all? The flesh is tangible and lovely. Who would forego it for the transports of the spirit? The man who would do that, she will inform her victims, is no man at all and is not potent.
In short, he is a eunuch. What man does not believe that with a perceptive woman he will be forever virile, despite age or change? Lilith will introduce man to perversions and to atrocities. She will guide him into cruelties which women can never imagine. She will cloud his mind. She will darken his soul against God, while he basks in her arms.
I anticipate Pandara and her sister worlds, for they are now inhabited with a new race, fairer and more intelligent than Terra, among others. Terra, in particular, has always had a certain and sickening mediocrity of intellectual climate, now stimulated by those who designate themselves as “intellectuals.” Terra dutifully conforms to what her race calls non-conformity. Rare has been the man in her history who was truly individual, and those men were either murdered for their purity of soul or, in despair at the race, became its glorious assassins. In general, the history of Terra has been stupid if frightful, predictable if dreadful. The souls of Terra which descend to me give even hell disagreeable moments, for they are ciphers. Yet, on the other hand, they form a special torment to those souls from other worlds who are more intellectually endowed, and it is very amusing. The men from other worlds have even, in hell, attempted to lift up the intelligence of the men of Terra, to no avail, but to much comedy for my demons. There have been desperate but fruitless classes in the sciences and the arts for the men of Terra, and they have always failed, and there have been cries, “These souls are not truly human! They are impermeable! True, but I always discourage such outcries with the formula of “democracy.” This ritualistic word silences the souls of other worlds, if it tortures them, for was it not their own invention?
My dear brother. In the golden twilight of Pandara I visited your magnificent planet. There I discovered you in a great purple garden, conversing with Our Father, and your voice was full of laughter and gaiety and innocent abandon, for you were rejoicing in the beauty of where you found yourself and were exchanging jests with Him. . . . I did not see Our Father, but He saw me. I felt His majestic presence, and I covered my face with my wings. But still, I knew His penetrating eyes and how can I bear them, so full of reproach and sorrow? It is not my fault. He does not understand, and, alas, it is possible that He never will. He did not speak to me, but He spoke to you, and I heard your voices and your mirth. The green dolphins of the seas appeared to be amusing you.
I have had another thought: When Pandara has fallen I will send one of my favorite demons to her, whose name is Triviality. You know him well. You have seen him in his activity on thousands of planets, and he is more deadly than Damon and Lilith combined. . . .
. . .
Your brother, Lucifer