«THE QUESTION OF LUCIFER A RECORD OF THINGS SEEN AND HEARD IN THE SECRET SOCIETIES ACCORDING TO THE EVIDENCE OF INITIATES BY A R T H U R E D WA R D WA ...»
In the year 1880, Dr Hacks, who makes, I believe, no attempt to conceal himself under the vesture of Dr Bataille, was a ship's surgeon on board the steamboat Anadyr, belonging to the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes, and then returning from China with passengers and merchandise. On a certain day in the June of the year mentioned, he was to the fore at his post of duty—that is to say, he was extended idly over the extreme length of a comfortable deck-chair, and the hotel flottant was anchored at Point-de-Galle, a port at the southern extremity of Ceylon, and one of the reputed regions of the terrestrial paradise. While the doctor, like a good Catholic, put a polish on the tropical moment by a little gloss of speculation over the mystery of Eden, some passengers presently came on board for the homeward voyage, and among them was Gaëtano Carbuccia, an Italian, who was originally a silk-merchant, but owing to Japanese competition, had been forced to change his métier, and was now a dealer in curiosities. His numerous commercial voyages had made them well acquainted with each other, but on the present occasion Carbuccia presented an appearance which alarmed his friend;
a gaillard grand et solide had been metamorphosed suddenly into an emaciated and feeble old man. There was a mystery somewhere, and the ship's doctor was destined to diagnose its character. After wearing for a certain period the aspect of a man who has something to tell, and cannot summons courage to tell it—a position which is common in novels—the Italian at length un-bosomed himself, beginning dramatically enough by a burst of tears, and the terrific information that he was damned. But the Carbuccia of old was a riotous, joyful, foul-tongued, pleasure-loving atheist, a typical commercial traveller, with a strain of Alsatia and the mountainbrigand. How came this red-tied scoffer so far on the road of religion as to be damned? Some foolish fancy had made the ribald Gaëtano turn a Mason. When one of his boon companions had suggested the evil course, he had refused blankly, apparently because he was asked, rather than because it was evil; but he had scarcely regained his home in Naples than he became irreparably initiated. The ceremony was accomplished in a street of that city by a certain Giambattista Pessina, who was a Most Illustrious Sovereign Grand Commander, Past Grand Master, and Grand Hierophant of the Antique and Oriental Rite of Memphis and Misraïm, who, for some reason which escapes analysis, recognised Carbuccia as a person who deserved to be acquainted with the whole physiology and anatomy of Masonry. It would cost 200 francs to enter the 33rd grade of the sublime mystery. Carbuccia closed with this offer; and was initiated there and then across the table, becoming a Grand Commander of the Temple, and was affiliated, for a further subscription of 15 francs annually, to the Areopagite of Naples, receiving the passwords regularly.
Impelled by an enthusiasm for which he himself was unable to account, he now lent a ready ear to all dispensers of degrees; Memphis initiates of Manchester allured him into Kabbalistic rites; he fell among occult Masons like the Samaritan among thieves;
he became a Sublime Hermetic Philosopher; overwhelmed with solicitations, he fraternised with the Brethren of the New Reformed Palladium, and optimated with the Society of Re-Theurgists, from whom he ultimately received the veritable initiation of the Magi. Everywhere lodges opened to him, everywhere mysteries unveiled; everywhere in the higher grades he found spiritism, magic, evocation; his atheism became impossible, and his conscience troubled.
Ultimately his business led him to revisit Calcutta, where his last unheard-of experience had overwhelmed his whole being, just eight days previously to his encounter with Doctor Bataille. He had found the Palladists of that city in a flutter of feverish excitement because they had succeeded in obtaining from China the skulls of three martyred missionaries. These treasures were indispensable to the successful operation of a new magical rite composed by the Supreme Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry and Vicegerent of Lucifer, General Albert Pike. A séance was about to be held; Brother George Shekleton of immortal memory, the hero who had obtained the skulls, was present with those trophies; and the petrified quondam atheist took part, not because he wished to remain, but because he did not dare to go. The proceedings began, the skulls were placed on the tables; Adonaï and his Christ were cursed impressively, Lucifer as solemnly blessed and invoked at the altar of Baphomet. Nothing could be possibly more successful—result, shocks of earthquake, threatened immediate demolishment of the whole place, confident expectation of being entombed alive, terrific burst of thunder, a brilliant light, an impressive silence of some seconds, and then the sudden manifestation of a being in human form seated in the chair of the Grand Master. It was an instantaneous apparition of absolute bodily substance, which carried its own warrant of complete bona fides. Everyone fell on their knees; everyone was invited to rise; everyone rose accordingly; and Carbuccia found that he had to do with a male personage not exceeding eight and thirty years, naked as a drawn sword, with a faint flush of Infernus suffusing his skin, a species of light inherent which illuminated the darkness of the salon—in a word, a beardless Apollo, tall, distinguished, infinitely melancholy, and yet with a nervous smile playing at the corners of his mouth, the apparition of Aut Diabolus aut Nihil divested of evening dress. This Unashamed Nakedness, who was accepted as the manifestation of Lucifer, discoursed pleasantly to his children, electing to use excellent English, and foretold his ultimate victory over his eternal enemy; he assured them of continued protection, alluded in passing to the innumerable hosts which surrounded him in his eternal domain, and incited his hearers to work without ceasing for the emancipation of humanity from superstition.
The discourse ended, he quitted the daïs, approached the Grand Master, and eye to eye fixed him in deep silence. After a pause he passed on, without committing himself to any definite observation; yet there seems to have been a meaning in the ceremony, for he successively repeated it in the case of every dignitary congregated at the eastern side, and finally of the ordinary members. When it came to the turn of Carbuccia, he would have given ten years of his life to have been at the Galleys rather than Calcutta, but he contrived to pull through, without, however, creating a favourable impression, foradversarius noster diabolus passed on with contracted brow, and when the disconcerting inquiry was over, returned to the centre of the circle, gave a final glance around, approached Shekleton, and civilly requested him to shake hands. The importer of missionary skulls complied with a horrible yell; there was an electric shock, sudden darkness, and general coup-de-théâtre. When the torches were rekindled, the apparition had vanished, Shekleton was discovered to be dead, and the initiates crowding round him, sang: " Glory immortal to Shekleton! He has been chosen by our omnipotent God." It was too much for the galliard merchant, and he swooned.
Now, this is why Signor Carbuccia concluded that he was damned, which appears to have been precipitate. He has contrived, by the good offices of his lay confessor, to square matters with the hierarchy of Adonaï, who belongs to the Latin persuasion; he has changed his name, adopted a third profession, and is so safe in retreat that his friends are as unlikely to find him as are the enemies who thirst for his blood.
Doctor Bataille, faithful to his rôle of good Catholic, perceived at once that the Merchant's Story of these new Arabian Nights was characterised by extreme frankness, was devoid of a sinister motive, and was not the narrative of a maniac. A physician, he adds sententiously, is not to be deceived. He determined thereupon that he himself would descend into the abyss, taking with him a mental reservation in all he said and did as a kind of discharge in full. The Church and humanity required it. Behold him then presently at Naples, making acquaintance with Signor Pessina, and outdoing Carbuccia by expending 500 francs in the purchase of the 90th Misraïm grade, thus becoming a Sovereign Grand Master for life! "I will be the exploiter and not the accomplice of modern Satanism," said the pious Doctor Bataille.
§ 3. A Priestess of Lucifer.
Fortified with the purchase of his Memphis sovereignty, and the possession of various signs and passwords communicated by Carbuccia, which, by some interposition of Providence, must be assumed to have remained unchanged in the intervening period, Dr Bataille entered on his adventurous mission, bedewed with many tears, and sanctified by many blessings of an old spiritual adviser, who, needless to say, was at first hostile to the enterprise, and was afterwards as inevitably disarmed by the eloquence and enthusiasm of his disciple. Having regard to the fact that Masonry and Diabolism abound everywhere, according to the hypothesis, it obviously mattered little at what point he began the prosecution of his design; all roads lead to Rome, and the statement is equally true of the Rome of Masonry and the Vatican of Lucifer. As a fact, he started where Carbuccia may be said to have left off, namely, at Point-de-Galle in Southern Ceylon. There he determined to acquaint himself with Cingalese Kabbalism, a department of transcendental philosophy, about as likely to be met with in that reputed region of the Terrestrial Paradise as a cultus from the great south sea in the back parts of Notting Hill. Signor Pessina, however, had provided him with the address of a society which operated something that the doctor agrees to term Kabbalah, after the same manner that he misnames most subjects. But he was not destined to Kabbalize.
Repairing to the principal hotel, he there witnessed, through one of those fortuitous occurrences which are sometimes the mask of fate, a sufficiently indifferent performance by native jugglers, the chief of whom was exceedingly lean and so dirty as to suggest that he was remote from godliness. During the course of the conjuring this personage held the doctor by a certain meaning glance of his glittering eye, and when all was over the latter had private information that Sata desired to speak with him. The naïve mind of the doctor regarded the name as significant in view of his mission; Sata was, assuredly a Satanist. He consented incontinently, and was greeted by the juggler with certain mysterious signs which showed that he was a Luciferian of the sect of Carbuccia, though, by what device of the devil he divined the doctor's adeptship, the devil and not the doctor could alone explain at the moment.
A miscellaneous language is apparently spoken by the Cingalese jugglers—Tamil, including a littlebad French, not less convenient than needful in the present case. It was made clear by some brief explanations that the medical services of Dr Bataille were solicited at the death-bed of a personage named Mahmah, for which purpose the two entered a hired conveyance, while the rank and file of the jugglers followed at a brisk trot. In this manner they traversed a frightful desert, plunged into a forest of brushwood, finally forded a stream, and after two hours arrived at an open clearing, in the centre of which was a hut. An ape occupied the threshold, a vampire bat hung from a convenient beam, a cobra was curled underneath, and a black cat welcomed them with arched back. The ape spoke Tamil freely and then marched off, reflecting upon which circumstance, the doctor thought that it was quite the strangest thing in the world.
The hut was the covering of a species of well, down which, with some quakings for the safety of limbs and body, our adventurer was persuaded to follow his guides, and they reached, at the end of a long flight of steps, an immense mortuary chamber.
There, on a bed of cocoanut fibre, he found his patient, from whose mummified and hideous appearance he at once concluded that she was entirely given over to Satan and had long been a lost soul. As spiritually, so also physically, she was past all human aid; indeed she seemed dead already, and he gave his medical opinion to that effect. The countenance of this opinion was apparently the warrant required for the proceedings which immediately followed, and it is difficult to understand why fakirs in league with Satan—for such we are told they were—and possessed, no doubt, both of ordinary native and occult methods of diagnosis, could not have discovered this for themselves, more especially as the lady, who seems to have been a pythoness by profession, and commerced with a familiar spirit, had already reached the ripe age of 152 years.
To shorten a long and peculiarly noisome story, the astounded doctor ultimately beheld the dying woman revive suddenly, and crawl to the end of the chamber, where there was an elaborate altar surmounted by a figure of Baphomet; the fakirs crowded round her the ape, the bat, the snake, the cat, all appeared on the scene; a brilliant illumination was produced by means of eleven lamps suspended from the ceiling; the woman drew herself into an erect position; the fakirs piled resinous branches round her; amidst invocations, mysterious chants, and yells, she permitted herself to be burned to death, her body slowly blackening, her face turning scarlet in the flames, her eyes starting from her head, and so she passed into ashes.
Why was the doctor privileged to be present at these proceedings? Because an agent of the fakirs had previously investigated his portmanteau on the hotel premises, and had discovered his Memphis insignia, which they returned to him in the mortuary chamber. As to the Baphomet, it is very fully described, and is identified with similar images of Masonic lodges in America, India, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, and Monte Video. The doctor says that it is the god of the occultists. The venerable Sata quoted Latin as intelligently as the ape spoke Tamil; he overwhelmed his benefactor with acknowledgments, and instead of a fee presented him with a winged lingam, by means of which he would be received among all worshippers of Lucifer in India, China,—in fact, as Sata said, partout, partout.
So did Dr Bataille make his first acquaintance with practical occultism, and these things being done, he returned to his hotel and departed thankfully to bed.
§ 4. A House of Rottenness.