from Chapter 7
The Dark Night of the Soul into Magic
Once I was completely embodied, my head in the clouds in the higher realms got connected to my body, and then my feet pushed me into the dung. The pull into connection with the cosmos forced me into my own feet. Like a root from a seed diving straight down into the soil, the journey into the dark night of the soul became a total compulsion. I needed to shine a searchlight into my deepest recesses, and what I could find would be my teacher.
It is 1208 AD . . .
The madness spreads like the plague. The people run through the towns whipping themselves, and we hear about more and more burnings at the stake. The people go to watch the burnings, but I do not. I do not go because I feel fear in my heart. There is thickness in my throat from the fires and the stench of burning flesh. I will not look. I will not look. While sitting in the office of my store in Marseilles, a crying woman comes in to ask me to help her just because I’m rich. She is too dirty to pass by my fabric, and I want her out, away! My valet shoves her and she hits her head. She throws my door open and screams as my men tear at her hair, at her dress. I stop them and say, “No, let her go! Don’t grab her!” She screams a piercing scream and falls forward on my desk with her hands clutching the edge. She screams, “You can stop them, all you have to do is pay the Dominicans. If you don’t, they will burn her. She is my little girl, only twelve, and you have the money. You can pay the Church. If you don’t pay, they will burn my girl.”
I feel nothing. As if my heart is in the damp ashes and coals lying in the hearth next to where my mother died, frozen for days, I feel nothing. My men grab her shoulders, pull her away, and throw her out the door. She wants twenty florins, which I make in an hour. But there are too many of them. If I did it, I’d be flooded with filthy ragged women begging for their daughters. Suddenly a ray of white light pierces my head, and I clutch my head as if I’m having an aneurysm. My muscles lose their tone as I fall against my desk. My consciousness as Hebrew prophet comes in, the time when I told the people how to live. In those days, I left behind my own wife and children as soon as the light of my mission took over my soul. Now I am here again as medieval merchant with another chance. But I do nothing.
Now, I’m an old man still living in my house, and now that I am old, I have feelings. Thinking about the different things that happened in my life, I go back to that time when she was being burned. On that fated day, I remained a while in my office worrying about my heart while I sorted brocades from Florence. I couldn’t shake it, so I went to the square where a large tree was cut down into a stake that was piled high with faggots ready to light. It all comes back, as if I am there again, the people screaming like animals with no souls. I hear a scream above the crowd, a screaming small sound like a wounded bird. They are bringing in a little girl pulling on her shoulders, as rags come off exposing her flesh. This is the little girl--I see her mother being restrained. Five or six men are holding her and laughing. The little girl screams the most unearthly sound I have ever heard. They bring the ragged, mangy little girl through the crowd, and as she comes close to me, she turns and I see her face. I stare with horror into this unearthly beautiful little face, beautiful eyes, skin, white skin. Her eyes are hot coals staring into the face of my own soul. I know I’m allowing my own soul to be burned by killing it with indifference, killing it with the fear of feeling the fire in my heart.
Oh, God, I’ve seen this face before, and I am terror struck. I fish in my pocket desperately for twenty florins. But I’ve brought no money in case the beggars would try to get it from me. I look up again at the face, and my soul realizes this is the face of my own daughter long ago in Thrace. But now I am a male merchant, and this I don’t understand. I run toward her and clutch for the men who carry her along. They see my good clothes and they seem ready to stop, but a Dominican shoves one of them hard. He whispers in a raspy voice, “It is the devil, it is the devil,” and again they move her along. The crowd of crazed peasants sees my good clothes, and they become angry. One of them pulls a gem ring off my finger almost breaking my knuckle, and I am more afraid for myself than for the little girl. One of them grabs me by the throat and starts to strangle me. I can feel my throat gurgling, and the pain is unbearable. Somebody stabs me in the heart! I think I feel somebody stab me in the heart, but it is the sound of that little bird stabbing me in my heart. I have my own dagger, I hear her cry again as the flames sear her flesh, and I stab myself in the heart. I never want to have life again. I’m lying on the ground feeling heat and flames and somebody kicks me on the side of my head. That is all I remember.