The Hidden Report. vii

As he said the name over and over again, he lashed on the table with his human hands, and I heard the sound of chains rattling on the side of the desk and I realized that his whole diatribe was a sort of incantation he was involuntarily performing on himself. I wondered if the Dragon would wake up in the next room, but there was not a sound in his office, except for his subdued meowing and the chains.

I felt in me a feeling I had never felt before. It was the feeling of my mouth being unzipped at the very moment that I tried to scream something – anything – to make the demon shut his mouth. I tried to scream, knowing that I would be unable to scream anything. But as soon as I moved up in my chair, I said, “Shut your mouth! Shut it!”

And the shrieking stopped. And the chains were silent. I stood with my feet on different stairs. My arms were to my side. And I stood there in the darkness and for the first time I smelled the burning paper. The whole office smelled like burning paper and I had the image in my mind of black leaves flying in the heat. Then I heard the fire. It was as if the entire office had no doors, but was a box that sat in the middle of a fire that did not consume it.

In the darkness, with the shrieking stopped and the chains silent, I heard my breath and the heavy breath of some other creature. That heavy breath ended each time with a soft thud, like a brick thrown on a pillow.

I walked down the stairs towards the breath. I walked down the stairs toward the light and the desk. I walked down the stairs towards the pair of hairy hands. I walked down the stairs towards two eyes glowing in the darkness. I walked down the stairs past the rows in the amphitheater. I walked down the stairs full.

I came to the desk so that my belt buckle rested on its surface. I stood there and watched puffs of hot breath come out of the darkness and into the light.

“I want to know something,” I said.

The breath in the light, a nose poked into the light with its nostrils flared. Eyes above it.

“What do you want to know?” said the scribe.

“What is your name?” I asked.

A face in the light. The face of a goat, blank eyes.

“My name?” I watched the scribe say, his lips pronouncing the words and his white teeth.

“Yes. Your name,” I said. I put my hands on the table next to his. The tips of my fingers touched the tips of his fingers.

“My name. My name. My name. My name…” he muttered, something and closed his eyes, his square blank pupils. “You do not need to know my name.”

“Tell it to me. Tell me your name.”

He laughed.

“What name do you want?”

“What should I call you?”

“The scribe,” he said.

“What did God call you?”

“Belwal.”

“What do you call yourself?”

“Legion,” he said, opening his eyes and his pupils contracting.

“Belwal, I am going to ask you a question.”

“Ask it, Abe.”

“What would you have written?”

He said nothing, but leaned back into the darkness.”

“Abe, Abe, for you I would have written something great. I had it all planned out. It was going to be my masterpiece.”

I sat down in the front row, so that my eyes were at the same level as the glowing eyes behind the light.

“Abe,” he said, sliding his arms across the table and the chains dragging with them. They were attached to his hairy wrists. “I would have written something not unlike what has been written. You married Lucy. You had Elijah. You joined the church and became a religious man. But mistaking the women in your childhood as women and not civilizations, you exchanged your knowledge for hidden lusts. Your next promotion brought you and your family to Illinois. You worked long days and had little time to think of anything besides work. When you came back home at night, when Lucy sat at the kitchen table with two cups of tea, you did not sit down and talk to her or even drink the tea. You showered and went straight to bed. Earlier in your marriage, she would have said something about this behavior, but years in she found no reason to. If she had to make you see that she was dying and that Elijah was dying, then it proved to her that you no longer loved either of them, or knew how. She did not want to be harsh. She knew you were doing what you thought was best for the family. And so she did what she thought was the best for the family. She raised Elijah, quietly…

 

…I had my head between my legs and my arms crossed over my knees and I wept. The scribe was silent and he let me weep. Finally, I brought my head up and asked him what my life would be like from now on. He said that his authority was taken. He told me not to rejoice in this, but that I should rejoice that my name is written in heaven.

The whole room was filled with light and I saw the scribe in his suit and he raised his arms up and I saw the chains and he began to shriek and he asked me for forgiveness and the whole room shook and I wondered if the Dragon was being awakened and he said no it is not but that I was being awakened and then he tells me that of all creatures he and his fellows are to be the most pitied for they are the only creatures made by Yahehwei who are under the burden of the strict legality of predestination and then Belwal cried out to God and said Lord if you are a Lord of mercy take away my reason and my senses and make me nothing but a tool why does a tool need to feel when it cannot act on its own Lord just take away this eternal pain and make me a tool of muscles and flesh and mind make me unable to distinguish good from evil or kill me now.

I woke up with pastor Rick Wilder and Lucy looking down at me. “Abraham? Abraham?”

Caleb and Hester, 1996

She would come to the back door

when we ate dinner and rub her bloody

sores on the glass, sick in old age. Chipmunks

used to lay dead near her full bowl

with their necks splayed and I inside proud

that we shared a birthyear.

 

I once put on a surgical glove to dig

my fingers into her caked black fur

and laid a towel across my lap

so the huntress could rest, but that last day

when she shook outside in the rain,

I watched our shared lives passing

without a touch from the family

room window.

“The New Monasticism Gets Older” by Greg Peters

The New Monasticism Gets Older

Amen, brother! Amen! Amen! Amen!

If anyone would like to understand why the Protestant church needs monasticism – or why someone would even perceive the need – here it is. The only part I disagree with, is that monastic and married are antonyms. The root word of monastic is Greek for “alone” or “single.”

Why, why, why do Protestant monasteries simply not exist? It is a shame, an absolute shame. Luther and Calvin, the Reformed fathers, advocated monasticism. Their qualification for there being no life-long vows is one with which I fully agree.

I know it sounds unusual, especially to Protestant thinkers who simply dislike monasticism and the idea of it – And why? Where did that dislike come from? Certainly not from the fathers of the Reformation, not from the Bible, not from the Reformed tradition, not from any common sense, not from thinking about it, not from studying it, not from ecumenicism, not from interest, not from safety in the Gospel, not from theological support, not from love for monastic brothers, but from 1950’s American materialism, the idol of the nuclear family, the disinterest in Church tradition, the fear of Catholics, an insecurity about mystery, a discomfort with any sort of silence whatsoever (if you love God, you will sing loudly! Talk to him? Through work? Through silent prayer? Obscene!), the worry of strangers, the hatred of salvation-by-works (rightly so), the misunderstanding of asceticism, the mistakes of systematic theology, platonism, an obscure grasp of history, a subconscious distrust and enmity of single people and celibacy (single? must not be pure.), an inability to see a good amidst corruptions, a skewed view of how to worship God, a rejection of reformational thinking, an adoption of pagan cultural boundary lines, and a disregard for vocations that make you, not capitalist, but communist – but there is an aching need in the church for a reformed monasticism. Anyone who sees no good in monasticism needs to check their reasoning. They may not be enemies of the Church, they may love Christ, but they are the opposition of a branch of Christ’s body that desperately needs a chance to grow again. They are the opposition of an orchard of fruits, of a vocation that will do good for the Church, of a part of the body that will satisfy needs that a married person with kids in the system simply cannot satisfy, of a group of brothers.

The Hidden Report. vi

“I have thoroughly explained a denial of knowledge. But I have not explained the human pursuit of will in knowledge. A human who has knowledge of the Antidragon is free to pursue the will of the Antidragon if that is what he desires.

“While your human life is completely directed in every detail, it is not directed against your will. And since the definition of free will is the free pursuit of your will, you therefore have free will even though everything you do has been directed. This is why neither the Antidragon nor we fallen angels direct your actions, but rather direct your desires. Everything you do flows out of your desire for it. You are not a puppet or robot, Abraham, because puppets and robots have no desire. If a personal report is put in the lower library, then that proves that the person who lived that life desired to be put in the lower library. If a personal report is put in the upper library, then that proves that they desired to be there. Life is not determined by humans, but it is determined by human motivations which humans are not in charge of directing.

“So we fallen angels, inadvertently in accord with the will of the Antidragon, plan out human lives. This is not some duty we have that is apart from the Antidragon. When we write a report, that action is an action of the Antidragon. When we direct a motivation, it is really the Antidragon directing the motivations. Religious men call it predestination, but I prefer to call it plotting. The Antidragon predestines everything that will happen to a human by means of a fallen angel writing a report.

“I hope you can see now that my decision to stop directing your motivations is a revolutionary one. Your report, Abraham, ends in 1980 with your fictional death and lower library fate. This report, however, is a false and truncated one designed to be shown specifically to the Dragon, so that he feels he has won some victory. The official report continues on past 1980, but I stop directing your motivations once I release your body from the grasp in which it is currently. Your body right now, Abraham, is back on earth and being exorcised. This was not my intention, but in some sense it is because I had intended that something happen that I had not intended. Once that exorcism is complete, I will no longer have control over you. Religious men call it salvation.

“This is a difficult thing to describe to you, Abraham. All this time, I have told you that I seek to direct human motivations away from salvation. Yet when I as the Scribe write that Abraham was saved, it is not I who write, but the Antidragon who writes in me. For all of the rebellion to which I am subject, I am also subject to the rules of creation. These, I cannot relate to you, but they are unbreakable. If I have written part of a report and see that the report is leading in some direction, I cannot direct it another way. The salvation in your report is something I saw coming in the very first word I wrote of this book. I was losing from the start, but I kept writing, with each word as an attempt to undo this fate. Yet there is no possible report written about you where you do not come to salvation. Because of this, I could not have led you away from the Antidragon, because it simply would not have fit into the narrative.

“As a scribe, I am given some clue into the direction of the entire narrative, but this direction is something of which I am not in control. I am only filling out a completed picture. It is the act of predestination which I complete by writing the report, but there is also a level of predestination that goes above even that act. This higher level of predestination is untouchable to me. It works above me and it is not even possible for me to rebel from it. Because of your free will, you cannot see how the first level works on you. As a fallen angel, I am within the first level and under the second.

“My experience with the first level is a corollary to your experience with free will without the fulfillment of pleasure. I can pursue pleasure but I can never get it. I can try to foil the plans of the Antidragon, but I see that they never are. He has given me freedom to try. My experience with the second level is how you might imagine it feels to be directed like a robot. Sometimes, my entire being will fight against putting the pen to paper, but the pen goes to the paper. Other times, it feels like being unable to resist temptation. I am always tempted to do the will of the second level of predestination and I can never resist it. Yet there is no pleasure attached to this; it is only the feeling of powerlessness that humans feel when they are chained to sin. In the first level, there is the inability to obtain pleasure. In the second level, there is the inability to resist pain.

“This is the very reason that I know I cannot switch sides. And it is the very thing that still directs me to plead my case to Yahehwei, so that I might call him Father. I am bound to the fate that Yahehwei has decided for me. Yahehwei! Yahehwei! Yahehwei! Yaheh………..”

“The New Monasticism” by Pastor George Grant

The New Monasticism

In this article, Pastor George Grant responds to the new monastic movement.

Before I briefly respond, I just want to say that I am “all the sudden” exploring these ideas, not because I have a new-found passion, but instead because I see the benefit of dialogs over private considerations. By linking articles written by others, I am wanting to be in discussion with other thinkers, not just myself. I am doing this informally, sporadically, and for personal benefit. It is something I am “doing in my free time.”

I link this article by Pastor Grant for a few reasons. I just found it. I have met him and respect him. I disagree with him.

I don’t know if he will see this, but my follow up question would be, “How is new monasticism a retreat from culture?” I can see how certain branches of the monastic tradition fell prey to an unhealthy asceticism and isolation. But how, specifically, is new monasticism a retreat?

On Monasticism and New Monasticism.ii

This is a response to Brenton and his post “On Monasticism and New Monasticism”

I don’t really want to “critique” your post, more than I would like to be in discussion with you! You obviously have a different perspective on the movement and, frankly, I would like to learn more about these European and Canadian streams you mentioned.

If we were to dispute anything, it would be monasticism without celibacy. Since I grew up in the Reformed tradition, I am looking at monasticism from the outside. In my bias, I have had to work away from a very – very – negative conception of it. I, and most reformed thinkers, see the solitary Medieval monk in a black robe denying himself every conceivable blessing from God, because he thinks his works will make him holier. The criticism of monasticism is its asceticism, particularly the abstinence of celibacy. This asceticism – although I prefer sacrifices of certain blessings – are inseparable from monasticism. How could there possibly be monasticism without celibacy? When you take that away, you suddenly move away from a vocation bound up with communal and silent tasks to a Christian still in need of picking a vocation

To put it in crass, secular terms, being a monk is a job for those interested. Part of that preparation is celibacy, another part is the dedication to silence and a skill (basket-weaving, gardening, book-binding, healing, beer-brewing, and, the king of all, writing). If this is not true, but is simply what I wish it was, then so be it. This is how I wish monasticism would be. Even that – a vision for what monasticism should be – is part of the monastic nature; thus the movements in its history. At the core, however, I think the vocation remains the same, because there are patterns which repeat themselves; silence, community, poverty, etc.

I think the identity – and attraction, even – of monasticism is its specificity. It is for people who are: alone, silent, scheduled, prayerful, artful, poor, communistic (as set apart from a community-orientation; a possible side discussion is that monasteries are the only place where distributism actually works), simple, intellectual, studious, subservient, and locked (in place, to a building, to a town).

Yes, some of these aspects intersect with the calling of the broader Christian. Other aspects – and the ones which make monasticism a stand-alone calling, are incompatible with some blessings that the universal Christian can take (marriage, children, loud noises).

For another example, where a monastery is (generally) more capable of having visitors and keeping them, it is (usually) inappropriate for a Christian family to take in strangers. At least the moms think so. Monasteries and monks are there for the world, not for the family. The monastery is a family; the monks brothers. Marriage does not fit in this and the dutiful protection of the family certainly does not.

I recognize that this is not really a “systematic” response, but I prefer a conversational tone if you do.

God bless.

On Monasticism and New Monasticism.i

On Monasticism and New Monasticism.

The above post has some interesting things to say about the New Monasticism, Shane Claiborne, and the monastic revival for this “restless generation”.

(rude comment excised), he has some good things to say about monasticism; especially if you are unfamiliar with the movement.

He argues that monasticism is not a retreat from culture, but a cultural engagement (which I agree with more than anything).

Skip to the ten minute mark, if you want to hear him talk explicitly about monasticism. Before that, he is building an Early Church background.

The Hidden Report. v

“And I have always been perplexed that when a report seems to have ended in the Dragon’s favor – and hear me out, these are reports that I have written! – they somehow please the Antidragon still. Why do you think he has a lower library? If he did not want one, he would not have put one there. He likes when reports go there. He also likes when reports go to the upper library. He likes that much more. There is a varying degree of things that give him pleasure. Make no mistake about this, Abraham; there may be two libraries, but there are millions of subdivisions within them. It is not that he has favoritism. When the Dragon heard of this, he accused the Antidragon of sin. But he responded with something like, ‘Is the potter guilty if he delights in one pot over another, even if they are both good pots?’ The Dragon didn’t know how to respond, but it really ticked him off. After that, he plotted on how he could kill him. He eventually did – but even that!

“Sorry, I am losing my focus. My point is this; all of our work is really the same work we would have done had we not rebelled. There still would have been reports to write and motivations to have directed. This was true before the coming of the Christ. If we had not rebelled, we would be retired like the loyal angels right now. The Antidragon has allowed them freedom to go about creation cloaked in any form they prefer, so they can secretly aid his people. As the enemies of these faithful angels, we find this to be disgusting. Why does humanity need any more help after the Christ has come?

“That brings me to my next point; in the fight to direct the motivations of humans, we do not fight against other angels, but against the Antidragon himself. He has taken over the role that he previously gave to the angels. In my personal opinion, he is much more adept at directing them towards himself than the angels ever were! It almost seems like our duties before were a compensation for his distance. We were taking the place as mediators before something more suitable came along. There are now two forces that vie for your soul, Abraham. The first is the spirit of the Christ himself. Before he has won completely, there is a shadow of this influence over all men. Religious men call it common grace. Secular men call it a conscience.

“When the conscience has been heard and given a council, it is strengthened. When it is ignored – as you have done for so many years under my direction – it goes quiet. It gets so quiet, that eventually you cease to perceive both it and me. When that happens, you no longer see anything motivating you. All you see is yourself and this is exactly where I wish all my subjects were at! If you had listened to your conscience, you would have heard the faint call of the spirit of the Christ himself. This call in itself cannot direct you towards the upper library. If you continue to heed it without recognizing what it is, all it does is bear frustration and the deepest depression at the end of someone’s life. I did not use this strategy with you, but I have done it with others. Marcus Aurelius – and now that I am thinking of Romans, Cicero – experienced this. They heard the distant voice of the spirit of Christ himself in them, but they could not understand it. At the end of their lives, they were left feeling close to the presence of something good, but equally as distant from it. Perfect. I would not have had it any other way – and neither would the Dragon.

“Concerning your free will, it is not as difficult as many would like it to be. I prefer that you have a clear picture of it before you go on your way, where usually I like my subject to be confused about it. You have more free will than we fallen angels do. Our work is always directed towards the pleasure and glory of the Antidragon, but so is yours. You and I are under the same oppression. It is impossible for us not to bring glory to the Antidragon. The best example of this inability to frustrate his plans is the death of the Christ. I don’t even want to talk about it, it makes me so pissed. There have been other times when we thought that we had frustrated his plans. The clearest example of this was the angel that tried to come to some prophet in Ancient Israel. And the angel said that he was a few days late, because he was held up. We thought that was a victory for us, but it turned out that it also brought glory to the Antidragon. That made me so pissed when I heard about it.

“Anyways, our oppression is different and it is different in one key area; pleasure. Let me compare myself to someone that has their personal report in the lower library. When I rebel from the Antidragon to pursue my own pleasure, my pleasure is never fulfilled because I only find pleasure in not bringing glory to him. When a human rebels from the Antidragon, he forgets him. When I rebel from him, I cannot forget him. When I seek not to bring him glory, the climax is always the opposite of what I pursue. When a rebellious human pursues his own pleasure, he does so by forgetting the Antidragon. He lives in a delusion and can experience the temporary satisfaction of his pleasure. In the end, while he may be closer to remembering the Antidragon, he still lives in this delusion and can end his life honestly believing that he lived a good life – with no regrets – and that he enjoyed all the pleasures he had sought to enjoy.

“There is no possible delusion like this for me. I have seen the truth. I can blind a human with delusion, but I cannot blind myself. Only after his death, does he experience eternal frustration like I do. The human has free will, because he can pursue any pleasure he wants. As a fallen angel, I am not free to pursue any pleasure I want. The difference is a denial of knowledge. All humans are born into this world having that shadow of the call of the spirit of the Christ himself.

“Free will is the freedom to pursue your individual will. I think I have shown quite clearly that humans are free to pursue their own will under delusion or in knowledge. Fallen angels are not free to pursue their own wills in any sense, because there is no knowledge that we have been denied, but yet it is that knowledge that we try to work against. To be a slave is to be full of knowledge.

………………………….

They don’t have any fun. They stay in hell at their desks solving equations to prove themselves equal with God, while on the side working on equations for all of us, weighing our sins next to God’s grace, trying to get us down there, because we are all very late for a meeting.

Why can’t humans just be on time? They are waiting around up there, most of them for seventy years or so. Why can’t humans just be on time?

We do the same sort of thing with our sin. They want us to do the same sort of thing, to become mathematicians, accountants, auditors. When we are in sin, when we give into temptation, we are choosing the boring thing. Sin is boring and it makes you anxious. Sin is extra work, something to think about and take care of on the side, except you don’t get paid for it, it’s a time sink, and it keeps you from activities like enjoying being alive. Sin is no fun. 

Satan has a gigantic desk. He has these big reading glasses that fit behind his horns. They have scratches in them, because every surface in Hell is made out of stones.

 

The Hidden Report. iv

“Before I get into that, let me just say that when Lucifer fell, his soul was still the same and because his soul remained the same, so did his body. He has not, in any permanent way, changed his form. He likes to be called the Dragon and he likes to be seen as one, too, because people nowadays find that to be more scary than the appearance of an angel. We down here all know from first-hand experience that there is nothing more terrifying than an angel, but you humans up there have no idea. Most of us like to be seen in the scariest form possible or in our symbolic form for portraits but only the holy Dragon has the right to be seen as the scariest and most fearful thing imaginable to the modern imagination; a dragon, according to our statistics. We might be a few hundred years off.

“The Dragon is in no way a humanoid form nor does he have the legs of a goat as many imagine. I do and I could go into why I prefer it, but I think that you would find our sexuality down here grotesque. Anyway, the Dragon is really a very large serpent with clipped wings and curled horns.

“The appearance of us fellows may terrify you, but this is really just a ploy. We like to terrify, so that we feel powerful. Our original bodies are the most terrifying thing your human mind can imagine and yet that terrifying appearance draws its power not from cultural trends, but from the unchanging power of the Antidragon. This is another reason why we prefer not to be seen as angels; it takes the attention away from us. I’m only being honest. At the core, we remain angels and this is why our duties have not changed even since the Rebellion.

“You may think that when Lucifer fell from heaven, he was no longer under the service of God. That is false. The truth is more concerning for us and we are still unsure how to escape it. Many of our lieutenants – there is a district of our offices in this council that fancies itself a military – have spoken personally to the chained – or sleeping, if that makes more sense to you – holy Dragon and they have said that the Dragon knows that he is still under the service and that he also knows there is no way to get out of it! For us small fellows, we find that to be abominable and I have considered starting a revolt for the past thousand years and putting someone like the crafty Azazel in charge. The Dragon is a hothead and the smallest things annoy him. His main fault is that he deceived all of us. Many of us thought we had a fighting chance. That is why we rebelled with him in the first place. But he has known all along that we are going to lose? Bastard! Bastard, I say! You’re calling me a bastard? He’s the bastard!

“Anyway, we remain under the service of the Antidragon as angels, even though many people see us as the enemies of angels – which we are. We play many roles and have confused allegiances down here.

“Many modern humans are unaware that angels played an essential role in creation before the coming of the Christ. The Antidragon is obsessive about details and he does not let anything happen in Creation without his direction. We down here have observed this since the beginning and it is always quite stunning how he is able to pull it off. Before the Christ, he never needed angels to do some of this grunt work for him. He could have done it himself using other methods. But he used angels. Back then, angels presided over everything. I don’t have to think of examples for you. Think of something and they presided over it. He set them up as rulers of different levels of creation. They even governed humans. Angels directed the souls of righteous men.

“As angels under the authority of the Antidragon, the Rebellion did not exclude us from our past duties. We are still used for some things, even though we still maintain that we do not work for the Antidragon. We have a law down here which requires us to profess that we work exclusively for the Dragon. No one believes it. While we are always trying to direct the reports for the Dragon’s benefit, every personal report we write is always used by the Antidragon. The Dragon does not even have a library. When a report ends in his favor, he has to appeal to the offices in heaven to see if a report went into the lower library or not. It is sad, really. Very, very sad. Our fearless leader is dependent entirely on the regulations of our enemies.