Bishop Martin - The Progress of a Soul in the Beyond

- Chapter 161 -

pon these words, the oldest and wisest sage of the third level, clad in a gray pleated robe, comes out of the large vestibule of the temple, surrounded by young men and maidens. In his right hand he carries a staff, like the one of Aaron's, and in his left hand a magic band, stuck to which are various signs of a mystical appearance. When he has advanced to within five feet of the three leaders, he unrolls the band completely and displays it in front of him on the blue, velvety ground. Then he lowers the staff onto the band and says, after a while:
(The elder): "As the first and oldest man of this everlasting world, which is maintained by me, I adjure you by the boundless strength and might I possess thanks to my infinite wisdom ..."
(Says Martin to himself): "What about it? The chap is becoming droll! Just continue on those lines!"
(The elder continues): ". . . that you tell me faithfully and truly what it is that you want and what has led you to this world. The least trace of an untruth from you, and my unconquerable might will reduce all of you to dust. Now speak!"
(Says Martin): "All of us simultaneously, or should only one speak for all? You will have to define this more clearly, for we are not quite as clever as you are, Your Reverence." (To himself): "This one suits me fine, for his stupidity draws a veil over the beauty of the maidens. Now I am once more fully reconciled with Peter, John, and the others."
(Says the sage): "If one speaks, one cannot know what the others are thinking. Therefore, all must speak simultaneously, and very loudly."
(Martin, to himself): "Normally I am rather stupid, especially compared with these old princes of heaven, but nothing can surpass the stupidity of this sage. With his wisdom I shall deal by myself in a way that in the end he will be helplessly embarrassed by his stupidity. But I had better ask Peter first what I should do here." And Martin turns to Peter for advice.
(Says Peter): "Dearest brother, it is now your turn to say, with full freedom and truth, whatever you feel like saying."
(Says Martin to the sage): "You unlimited sage, if your wisdom is so boundless, I cannot understand how you can ask us about the reason for our coming. We, who are much less wise than you, can look through you and know exactly what is behind your supposed supreme wisdom. And so I assume that you likewise can look through us, if you are really so infinitely wise. What do you say to that?"
(Says the sage): "That I can do if I have before me the large magic band and carry the double staff. However, having for such unimportant guests only brought with me my ordinary equipment, I have to ask for such information. And now you must speak!"
(Says Martin): "If so, how will you be able to know whether we speak the truth or not?"
(Says the sage): "To be sure, I have threatened you, and this threat will be carried out if you lie. So, out with the absolute truth, or else!"
(Martin): "Or else - you are and remain an ass!"
(The sage): "What is an ass?"
(Martin): "It is in our world a harmless being of your color. It has very long ears but very little sense."
(The sage): "What gives you the right to take me for one of those?"
(Martin): "Will your infinite wisdom allow me a bit of time, for such an important question requires intensive study?"
(The sage): "What is that you call 'study'? We do not have anything here called 'study'."
(Says Martin): "Listen, you wisest of the wise, your wisdom cannot be worth much if you do not know what is, at least in the beginning, necessary to acquire wisdom. Study is as much as diligent thinking about the basic concepts and elements that must precede wisdom. Do you now understand what study is?"
(Says the sage): "No, I do not. For my wisdom is too great and does not comprehend such trifles which are much too insignificant for it. Therefore, express yourself with more grandeur, or I cannot understand you."
(Says Martin): "Now really, you are not quite as stupid as one would think when seeing and hearing you! So you mean that because your wisdom is so immense, you cannot grasp such trifles. But how, then, could you grasp the considerably small concept of an ass without much explanation?"
(Says the sage): "Ass is a being, but study is only a concept, and it is always much easier to comprehend a being than a pure concept. Therefore, speak on a grander scale and thus more comprehensible for me."
(Says Martin): "Friend, I believe the two of us will not be able to understand each other too well, if at all! For, with all your wisdom, you are an extremely stupid human being, without the least trace of any true wisdom.
I advise you to step back and let somebody else - one without magic band and staff - speak for you. Maybe he will be more successful, at least like the three daughters of this house, who were the first to meet us and whose words were rather wise, so that I assumed you would be considerably wiser.
However, I was mistaken. There may not even be another fellow in this world of yours who is quite as stupid as you! The two of us have now finished with each other and I suggest that you step back and let another speak for you."
(Says the sage): "That is impossible! For if I descend to these common worms from the height of heights, nobody may speak but I, as the Most High, the Wisest, the Mightiest, the Eternal, the Infinite!"
(Martin): "Oh dear! Then you may even be the Supreme, Divine Being?"
(The sage): "Not quite, but also not much less; only He is a bit older, since I am His son!"
(Martin): "Is that all? Or maybe you can add a bit to it?"
(The sage): "Of course, there is much more, but that would be quite incomprehensible to you. I cannot tell you anything, for you are a nothing compared with me."
(Says Martin): "Sure, sure, I believe you! You are really something great, something quite unique! There couldn't be another one like you anywhere on this world! Oh, you, you - !"
(Says the sage): "Yes, I have no one above me. When I touch the ground with my staff, the whole world shakes, and all beings tremble with fear when I approach them. But I cannot understand why you do not tremble before me, nor your weak companions, considering that I could destroy you in a moment!"
(Martin): "It is to be hoped that what you do not understand now, you will soon. Not thanks to me, though; but there is somebody present in this party who will tell you why we do not and will not ever tremble in your presence.
You have been thoroughly deceived by an evil spirit who once came to you in the guise of an angel and, subsequently, you deceived this entire large community, giving laws that allow its members to do whatever they want, without ever being able to break them - laws that are as good as no laws.
I know that you used to be quite a humble sage and a good leader of your large community, until the time when the false spirit of light deceived you, substituting your present extreme stupidity for your original true, divine wisdom."
(Says the sage): "What you say is factually true, but whether it makes me a fool has still to be proved. I do not feel like one. Therefore, I bid you to go on speaking, but only in a grand way."
(Says Martin): "Tell me whether you can remember how old you are. Have you always been what you are now, or has there been someone else in this office before you? Maybe your father? Weren't you younger at some time - maybe even a boy? Just tell me this, then it will be much easier for me to answer your question."
(Says the sage): "I cannot answer your first question, because our big-time recorder was ruined a long time ago. The rope of the large pendulum was torn off by a tempest and we cannot repair it. Therefore, no one here knows how old he is.
As to whether I have always been what I am now, or whether I had some beginning, I can only remember vaguely that I was born at some time, and that I was not always what I am now. I also have a feeling that I had a father who held my office when I was a boy; but, of course, not with the great wisdom I possess. As I have answered your questions, it is now your turn to speak."
(Says Martin): "Well, I knew that you were neither a god nor the son of a god, but simply a mortal human being like we used to be. And that is good for you and your entire community, for this way you can still be saved. Had you persisted in your stubborn folly, things might have taken a very bad turn for all of you. Why, you will soon see. If you want to become very happy, better throw away your magic band and staff, otherwise it will still not be possible to speak with you sensibly."
(Says the sage): "You are asking too much! If I put away these essential aids of my strength, might, and wisdom, I would become quite helpless. Who will obey me if I have no might? Who will have confidence in me if I am weak? And who will listen to me if I have no wisdom? You must not ask things of me that are incompatible with my high office."
(Says Martin): "Friend, we earth-dwellers were given the following assurance by God Himself: 'Whatever you may give up for My sake, you will receive back a hundredfold at the time of judgment!'
That will also be the case with you. For all that you do or give up in the name of our Lord, you will be truly rewarded a thousandfold. If you let go what is wretched, you will receive what is noble. For an illusion, you will receive a true existence; for falsehood, truth; for stupidity, wisdom; for weakness, true strength; for impotence, might! Thus, you will receive from God the Lord rich compensation for all the things of your great futility which you may now relinquish.
Therefore, comply voluntarily and gladly with my request. I give myself as a hostage to you, and if what I tell you now is not completely true, you may do with me whatever you wish."
(Says the sage): "All right, I see that you are a truthful spirit and I will do what you ask. But, in return, you should now answer my first question as to who you are and whence you have come, so that I may lead you into this house."