Gnostic Nights, Part II: Losing the Soul of the Universe, the Spiritus Mundi
I smelled the odor before I went downstairs: not a good smell. Like sour meat, only burning. Kirby, my Shih Tzu, went with me; he’s not brave; he barks when he’s nervous—he’s a rescue—but he’s good company. He went down two steps ahead, then up three, then back down. That’s his style, a mixture of Courage and Carefulness, but he does get there, eventually.
When I turned the corner, the Demiurge was there. I wasn’t surprised. He had built a fire in the middle of the floor—B’s gonna be pissed, I thought—and was toasting something putrid on a—stick?—No; it was a wire hanger, like he’d locked himself out of his car.
What kind of car would a Demiurge drive? I found myself thinking, foolishly.
The Beast turned to me, and grinned. Saliva dripped from his upper plate, almost like an Old Man’s; Yes, I thought, he’s old; he’s older than Time, he is—
And then, he spoke—aloud, or in my mind? It didn’t matter….
“Hello Rabbi,” he said, “I’m ba-ack.”
And grinned. Rows and rows of ‘gator-teeth—yellow, misshapen, lopsided, with bits of bloody flesh between—
Somehow, though, his voice echoed through my mind, like an echo-chamber, and would not stop. I groped behind me for the recliner, and sat—almost fell—into it. My head pounded, but I forced myself to stare at him.
Don’t show fear, I said to myself, Maybe this Creature can change the Whole Mess around. He deals in Cosmic Matters, after all. Still, it’s so hazy in here—I feel sick, I—
He reached for a—beaker?—on the coffee table. It looked like old, battered pewter, with an ebony handle, sort of a dragon’s body-and-tail, and he lifted it to me; I almost said “L’chaim!” out of habit, but quickly stopped myself; can’t be saying that on Whatever Stuff he has in there; no, can’t be right—
The Beast drank deeply.
“Ah!” he smacked his lips, and belched. The room filled with a coppery smell—strange, and yet familiar, like the time I had a nosebleed—of course; it was
“Blood,” he said, “and fresh. Just the way I like it. Now, what vintage?”
He tapped his forehead—to the left of his monstrous Horn, all red-black-yellowish, like a bone that had been left underwater for too long—and delved into his Beastly Memory, back through the Aeons of Time—
Of course, I remembered; He does have a long time to think back, all of Creation, and before….
“No,” he said, “I’m coming up dry—dry, isn’t that droll? It’s either Gaza, 2014, or Hebron Riot, 1929. I’m getting old, Rabbi; can’t tell one baby’s blood from another, and that’s a fact. Hee, hee—can you believe it?”
Turning, blundering—he really was huge, gigantic—not too big for the Universe, but far too big for our living room—his dragon’s tail bumped into my Seforim-Schrank, my bookcase of Holy Books, and my copy of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah fell to the floor. I leapt forward, picked it up, and reflexively kissed it, as I had been taught in Hebrew School, so many, many innocent and religious years ago, by well-meaning, concerned, and pious, God-fearing teachers and rabbonim.
The Beast looked on, exasperated but striving to be patient, all at once.
“You Jews,” he said, “You just don’t give up, do you?”
I looked at him, puzzled, holding the book before me, like a shield, or a talisman.
“When will you give up?” he said, “You’ve lost. It’s over. We—the Demogorgon and I—have the advantage, don’t you see?”
“I—I—we have Torah, we have Talmud, we have History, we are a small people, we are in the Right, we….” I stammered.
“Oh, Rubbish!” the Dragon snorted. “There is no Right, no Morality. That all went up in flames in Gaza. Don’t you see, Rabbi? Puff-Puff-Puff. It’s all Mine, now, Mine and the Demogorgon’s—not that He cares a baby’s ass about the whole Affair. He is Uninvolved; he floats in Space, clear and free. There is no—well, you know—God. There is only Time, and Space, and Happenstance, and Human Free Will. Yes: Free Will. And you’ve all gone and bollixed that one up good and well, now, haven’t you?”
His face creased into wrinkles of what were supposed to be Amusement, but which served only to make him look even Uglier. I thought of the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland, but the Duchess never stank like this Dragon-Beast, as he swished his tail, to-and-fro, while Kirby yelped and hid under the kitchen table, clutching his favorite squeaky toy.
I spoke; I had to; I was a rabbi, after all, and would speak for as long as God and Right gave me the Strength:
“God rules; only God, even when He Hides His Face—a Hester Panim, His Hidden Godly Countenance—we do mitzvote to Cause the Revelation of the Godly Countenance.” I continued to recite, doggedly, almost robot-like. “There is a Judge, and a Judgment,” I went on, realizing as I spoke how tired I felt—
Too many English papers to grade, I thought; too many news stories about the War, the War, the War….
“You’ve lost,” said the Dragon, with an air of exaggerated patience, “Don’t you see? There is only Strength, and Action, and Military Might. Kill them before they kill you. Last man standing. Hamas rockets IDF; IDF strikes back at Hamas. Rockets fly at Tel Aviv; Tanks fire at Gaza. Israelis cower in shelters; Palestinians die in Gaza. Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, endlessly. Blood, carnage, death. Marches, countermarches, demonstrations, screaming, hatred, no peace. Jews right, Jews wrong; Palestinians angels, Palestinians villains. World in turmoil. That is what we planned, aeons ago—soon, He will come, and rule over All.”
“Wh-who?” I asked, trying to fight off a strong feeling of dizziness. The room, full of that coppery smell, was growing closer and darker. The table-lamp appeared to be a slight spark, gleaming amid a fog of redness—
The blood in the air, I realized; the same blood the Beast is drinking.
Hebron or Gaza? I remember asking myself.
“The Universe will be Ours!” chuckled the Dragon, bubbling into a fresh serving in his pewter winecup—though I knew it contained liquid far more ghastly than any earthly wine. “I will become Yaldabaoth, once again. Every death, every fresh killing releases the Dark Sparks that enliven me. There will be a Second Coming, and it will be Soon, and Deadly, oh yes, believe me….”
That is all I remember.