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Joseph Wheless Is It Gods Word Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Joseph Wheless

16 page printout, page 390 - 405



IN the twentieth century after the traditional advent of the
Son of Yahveh on earth, the religion which is built around that
event persists in a congeries of primitive cosmological notions,
which modern knowledge has made totally obsolete. The Hebrew, and
ancient primitive, notions of the architectural scheme of their
very limited universe were intimately related to, and an integral
part of, their scheme of theology and of eschatology, or after-life
affairs as they conceived them. Their notions of God, of heaven, of
hell, and of after-life, were adapted, and were adaptable only, to
the narrow limits of the universe as imagined by the ancient
theologians. And present-day Christian theology adopts wholly and
wholly rests upon the ancient Hebrew revelation of earth and heaven
and hell -- with fire later kindled in the last.

According to this ancient Hebrew revelation, the earth is flat
and four-cornered; the sun moves around it as a center, and on
occasion can be made to stand still in its course. No great
distance above the flat surface of the earth is  a solid arched
"firmament," in which the sun, moon, and stars are somehow set and
on which they move. Just within this firmament, which is a solid
something which "divides the waters which were under the firmament
from the waters which were above the firmament" (Gen. i, 7), is
heaven, where Yahveh and angels, seraphim, the "sons of the gods,"
and others of the "heavenly hosts" have their abode.

This heaven is so close to the earth that men could propose
and attempt to build a tower which should reach into it and enable
them to scale up to the gods; so close that a ladder resting on the
earth actually reached into the heaven, and angels passed to and
fro on it. Yahveh and his messengers can easily and quickly pass
back and forth between earth and heaven; the "sons of the gods" can
come to earth among the daughters of men. The voice of Yahveh can
easily be heard when he cries from heaven, and from heaven he can
hurl stones and thunder-bolts when he fights, like Jove, in the
battles of his chosen warriors. The Spirit of Yahveh can flit dove-
like from heaven to earth to accredit the Son of Yahveh to men. The
living bodies of Enoch and Elijah can be "translated" into heaven,
the latter in a chariot and horses of fire, before human eyes; the
flesh-clothed shades of Elijah and Moses can swoop down upon the
Mount of Transfiguration and back again like flashes of lightning,
The human eye in ecstasy can see into heaven and behold Yahveh
seated on his throne. Dives in hell can look up into heaven and see
Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham and hold converse with him. Satan,
King of Hell, was wont to pass readily to heaven to hold Yahveh in
challenging argument and defiance and to plot evil to Job. Under
the "new dispensation," the souls of the newly dead found instant
lodgment in heaven or hell, according to the deeds done in the

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"In the beginning Elohim [gods] created the heaven and the
earth," reads the ancient Hebrew revelation, and "made the
firmament, and called the firmament Heaven" (Gen. i, 7, 8).

About the same time, perhaps, Marduk, Babylonian sky-god and
creator of heaven and earth, forged the immense dome of heaven out
of the hardest metal, resting it upon a wall surrounding the earth.
For the Egyptians, the heavens were an arched iron ceiling from
which the stars were suspended by cables. To the ancient Greeks and
Romans, the sky-father (Zeus-pater, Jupiter) had set up a great
vault of crystal, to which the fixed stars were attached, the sun
and planets being suspended movably by brazen chains. Olympus's
high head pierced the visible sky, and on its lofty summit awful
Zeus held his court. The Romans called the vaulted ceiling or
covering of the earth coelum.

How do the heathen rage and the peoples imagine vain things!
Fatuous notions these, of childish heathen cosmogony, of pagan
superstition. Only the Hebrews in their hoary Holy Writ had the
true revelation of creation by their true God(s); they only,
inspired by their Yahveh, truly knew what or where heaven is, for
their Yahveh himself wrought it, as is revealed: "I am Yahveh that
maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that
spreadeth abroad the earth by myself" (Isa. xliv, 24). Heaven, Job
says, "is strong, and as of molten brass" (Job xxxvii, 18).

This was the heaven of the Hebrew: in his consonantal language
SHM, "to be high"; in Anglo-Saxon heofon, "heaved, lifted up." "And
Elohim called the firmament Heaven"; a solid something which was
fixed "in the midst of the waters, to divide the waters from the
waters" (Gen. i, 6) -- thus a sort of great vaulted bulkhead or
retaining-wall for the vast celestial reservoir above, through
which the upper waters poured in Noah's deluge when "the windows of
heaven were opened" (Gen. vii, 11). The firmament (RQY) of Hebrew
revelation is something" beaten or hammered out," something "made
firm or solid -- hence firmamentum" in the Vulgate. How strangely
alike the pagan fables and inspired revelation! The revealed
Hebrew-Christian heaven so closely girded the four-cornered flat
Bible earth that, as Amos says, living people might "climb up to
heaven" (Amos ix, 2). And it is common knowledge that the departed
soul "in the twinkling of an eye" flashes from earth to its home in
heaven, so near is heaven to us, according to Paul.

But profane human knowledge points otherwise. By processes
wonderful as they are precise, the primitive heaven of Hebrew
revelation has been pushed back beyond the tiptop of Jacob's
dreamed ladder and the storied snow-capped peaks of Olympus, and
has been translated so far into fathomless sidereal space that the
journeyman departed soul needs much more time to reach it.

Delicate instruments devised by the genius of man, and the
divine powers of trigonometry, while not yet attaining the exact
triangulation of heaven, have amazingly shown where heaven is not.
The unwritten revelations of the real Creator God through astronomy
have made manifest for our wonder and reverence the far-flung

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extent of his universe; the Sun at 93,000,000 miles from its tiny
planet earth; Neptune, most distant of his planets, 2,793,000,000
miles farther into space; the nearest of the fixed stars, which
"God set in the firmament," 20,000,000,000,000 miles from the base
of Jacob's ladder on earth.

Not to pause at other stars which have yielded the secret of
their distance to the eye of science, we plunge in thought upward
and onward to "star clusters," so thick-studded and so far away
that their separate bodies are mingled to the sight of the most
powerful sidereal telescope so as to be in appearance almost as
identical and inseparable as are in dogma the ineffable Persons in
the mystery of the Three-in-One Godhead, Yahveh, Logos, and
Paraclete Bel, On, and Hea; Osiris, Isis, and Horus; or Brahma,
Siva, and Vishnu -- one has a liberal choice of trinities. And
there is revealed, on the very frontiers of the fathomed universe
a truly divine revelation -- the star cluster, known only by its
number, N.G.C. 6822, which lies in profound depths of space so far
distant that the blaze of light from it reaches this mundane sphere
only after a flight through space of 1,000,000 years! (Int. Encyc.
Year Book, 1924, p. 66). Those true prophets of the God Creator,
astronomers, measure sidereal distances not by miles or leagues but
by "light years," or units of the distance in miles that light
travels through space in a year of time; and 1,000,000 such light
years measure the stupendous distance from earth to somewhere this
side of heaven where star group N.G.C. 6822 answered the divine
flat: "Let there be light," and burst into glorious being.

But we have not yet defined this stretch of space heavenward;
we will at least resolve it into its arithmetical elements. Light
flashes through space at the dizzy speed of about 186,280 miles in
one second of time. In one year there are 31,557,600 seconds. Thus
one light year is equal to 5,879,180,880,000, or approximately six
trillions, of miles of travel per year. This number of miles
multiplied by the 1,000,000 years the light of this star group
requires to reach our eyes gives us a number that no man can
apprehend and only the mind of God can comprehend --
5,879,180,880,000,000,000 miles! And heaven -- since we can see
with uninterrupted, though telescopic, sight up to that star
cluster -- is somewhere beyond, with its myriads of mansions, its
jasper walls, its golden streets and pearly gates, its wondrous
River of Life which flows by the throne of Yahveh; otherwise it
would intercept and shut off the blaze of light from the star group
N.G.C. 6822.

Nowhere by inspiration is the speed of a soul in flight
revealed to man, or the time it takes to flit "from earth to
heaven's immortal day." A near-revelation is near-made in one well-
known scripture passage, when about the sixth hour of a memorable
day One Crucified is reported as saying to one of his companions in
passion: "Verily, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise." It
was not until the ninth hour that that immortal Spirit gave up the
ghost, leaving only three hours of the day remaining for the
journey to paradise; so that this remark may be interpreted as a
suggestion of very rapid ascent to the kingdom of heaven. But the
data are too meagre to allow of exact computations, such as we are
able to make in the calculations just submitted.

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Inspiration and science have here yet another point of
friendly contact, in their processes. "Believe not every spirit,
but try the spirits whether they are of God" (John iv, 1) is the
thumb-rule of revelation. Science, applying this same principle to
test its own revelations, tries out every possible hypothesis
before it puts the seal of infallibility upon its really heavenly
dogmas. So until it is revealed or otherwise satisfactorily shown
that a departed soul has, as it were, a muzzle velocity on leaving
the body and a constantly maintained flight through space far
excelling the speed of light and quite equal to that of thought,
our conclusions from irrefragable figures that three hours are too
narrow a margin of time for a soul to span the gap from earth to
heaven stand on at least as firm a foundation of truth as that of
the revelation of the efficacy of priestly prayers -- at so much
per -- for the relief and ultimate release of the souls in

Scientific methods of research for truth, as well as certain
precepts of inspired dogma, compel us to examine the hypotheses of
purgatory and hell, against the possibility that perchance, after
all, the soul of the repentant thief did not, in sad reality, bend
its flight heavenward, but, in virtue of sin, original or acquired
or both, was barred from that kingdom of glory, and must seek its
temporary or eternal habitat in one or another of the spirit realms
conveniently provided for unshriven souls by inspired revelation or
equally inspired tradition. Such an inquiry is demanded by
scientific candor; as the problem of the destiny of the soul, when
disembodied, is both quite germane to our theme and not without a
curious interest of its own, the subject justifies a brief excursus
on the hypotheses of these two other Christian provinces, or
providence, or properties.


Hell, as it comes first in time of discovery, or revelation,
or invention, claims first our fearful attention. In the genial
doctrine of the gospel of love, hell is the goal of the soul which
dares even to doubt, which is the unpardonable sin. Here we are not
vexed with scientific or mathematical speculations of time of
transit. Dogma, which so admirably complements the shortcomings of
revelation, has set its fatal sanction on the assured fact of
instantaneous translation, and sundry other congenial incidents.

Thanks to the inspired infallible decree "Unionis" (Council of
Florence; Cath. Encyc., Vol. VII, p. 208), we now know just when
and where we arrive and what to expect upon arrival: "The souls of
those who depart in mortal sin, or only in original sin, go down
immediately into hell." And patching out this precious piece of the
sacred deposit with a scrap from the creed, we learn that it is
"into everlasting fire" that we go; and once landed safely in it,
"the torments of the damned shall last forever and ever," as Holy
Writ of the dispensation of God's love and mercy so often reassures
us for our warning.

The "sacred science of Christianity," like profane knowledge,
is a progressive science, and hell has evolved with the process of
the suns and of revelations. In the Babylonian "Lay of Ishtah" --

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from which Hebrew revelation would seem to have cribbed this and
other matters of revelation -- the underworld to which the shade of
the departed, sinner and saint alike, sank after death, is
described in appropriately gloomy colors. It is variously and
poetically called "the pit," the "house of darkness," the "land of
no return" -- metaphors strangely reminiscent of "Pluto's gloomy
realm" of Homer, of the "go down to the pit," of the Psalmist, of
Isaiah, and of Job; of the "bottomless pit" of the Apocalypse; of
the "outer darkness" and "pits of darkness" of the evangelists; of
the "land of forgetfulness" of the sweet singer of Israel (Psalm
lxxxviii, 12); of "death, and the house appointed for all living"
of the man of boils and patience (Job xxx, 23) -- of the "borne
from whence no traveller returns" of another of high inspiration.

Wherever in the old Hebrew revelation the place of dim life
after death is named, its name is Sheol (the cave, dug-out); it is
equivalent to and often rendered as "the grave" in English
versions: "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave [Sheol],"
cries Job (xiv, 13), "until thy wrath be past"; Korah and his band
"went down alive into the pit [Sheol], and the earth closed upon
them" (Num. xvi, 33); "Thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol,"
sings the Psalmist (Psalm xxx, 3). It is identical in every sense
with the "Hades" of pagan and Christian Greek: "Thou wilt not leave
my soul in Sheol," sings again in Hebrew the Psalmist (Psalm xvi,
10) -- quoted: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades" (Acts ii,
27). Good and bad alike found there their rest after life's fitful
fever; it was truly "the house appointed for all living" (Job xxx,
23). The soul of the Psalmist we have just seen there, though his
hope is that it will not remain always. "Out of the belly of Sheol
cried I," wails the godly Jonah (ii, 2). In grief for Joseph
reported dead, the patriarch Jacob rent his garments and cried: "I
will go down into Sheol unto my son mourning" (Gen. xxxvii, 35).
There in the same Sheol was the shade of the holy Samuel, conjured
up to earth at King Saul's behest by the uncanny witch of En-dor (1
Sam. xxviii).

Moreover, the place and locality of the Hebrew Sheol is fixed
with a precision unusual to revelation: "I shall ... set thee in
the low parts of the earth, in places desolate of old, with them
that go down to the pit [Sheol] (Ezek. xxvi, 20). Nor is it so far
down that reasonable efforts of excavation may not lay it bare:
"Though they dig into Sheol" (Amos ix, 2); indeed there are things
and places which are "deeper than Sheol" (Job xi, 8). And in all
this not one fleck of hell fire; not one whiff of brimstone; not
even the sound of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Luke xiii, 28)!
In the Old Testament, therefore, Sheol is simply "the place
desolate of old," bereft morely of the "glory set in the land of
the living" (Ezek. xxvi, 20). The books of the law and the
prophets, major and minor, are silent as the grave on the whole
Christly-apostolic-churchly doctrine of the future reward of good
and punishment of evil. Their hell is on earth, in life; the
nearest approximation in Hebrew revelation to the notion of
heavenly reward is death and the ensuing "sinking down into Sheol,"
away from the awful wrath of their jealous Yahveh.

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Had the repentant thief then, by luck or in providence, lived
and passed from life under the post-mortem regime of the old
dispensation, his spirit would have found its lasting abode in a
cheerless, maybe, but not fiery habitat, where it would have
enjoyed the companionship of the shades of Adam and Eve and Noah,
of the patriarchs (but not of the prophets, as we shall see, except
Samuel), of Kings David and Solomon, of the Queen of Sheba, and
Jezebel, and the harlot of Jericho, and other worthies, good, bad,
and indifferent, of Israel; of Homer, Ulysses, Socrates, Xantippe,
Sappho, of unnumbered other great and good spirits of olden times.
That the worthies of Israel were there their own inspired
revelation indicates; a newer revelation, not indeed of the
Scriptures but of equal inspiration, vouchsafes to us the real
reason for their seclusion in that house of darkness, or limbo; "in
which the souls of the just who died before Christ awaited their
admission to heaven; for in the meantime heaven was closed against
them in punishment for the sin of Adam" (Cath. Encyc., Vol. VII, p.
207). This proves that there was no fire in hell prior to the new
dispensation, and that purgatory was not yet discovered; for it
would not have been fair to broil the just along with the unjust
for four thousand years, while they waited for transfer to heaven.
It also proves that Mohammed spoke the truth when he said: "God is
just," as the event also proves.

If the ghost of our repentant thief had been immured in Sheol-
Hades, it would undoubtedly have been an interested spectator, if
not a beneficiary, of the remarkable act of justice, however tardy,
rendered to these poor imprisoned spirits by the unparalleled
deliverance from hell which inspiration, at first rather hazily,
afterwards with the most soul-satisfying assurance, relates. To St.
Paul we are indebted for the first glimmer of inspired light on
this affair, in the lucid passage where he is said to say, in
substance and effect, that in the three days -- or one and a half
-- between the Crucifixion and the resurrection, the redeemer of
mankind occupied his time in a trip to hell (Eph. iv, 10). This
valuable information is illumined further by St. Peter, who relates
that while there, the Master "preached unto the spirits in prison"
(I Peter iii, 19). Between the two, supplemented and made
intelligible by more positive revelation out of the inexhaustible
sacred deposit, we have the assurance that as the result of this
infernal excursion "Christ conducted to heaven the patriarchs who
had been in limbo."


The inspired history of all this is deserving our profound
ponderation; the logic which demonstrates it is as unique as it is
faith-compelling. The great logician of the faith, St. Paul,
speaking to the Ephesians, springs upon them without warning this
inspired syllogism:

"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the
measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he
ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts
unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also
descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that
descended is the same also that ascended.)" (Eph. iv, 7-10)

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This is almost as convincing of his conclusion as the ditty-

"Whatever goes up is bound to come down,
On somebody's head or on the ground."

And this sententious surplusage mixed in with the statement
about "leading captivity captive," by every postulate of reason, as
of faith, means that the spirits of the patriarchs and worthies
which were in the captivity" of Sheol four thousand years were now
led "Captive" into heaven! The wonders of inspired logic, as of
grace, are beyond comprehension.

To the Ephesians, who were only new-hatched pagan-Christians,
unread in the Hebrew Scriptures, the foregoing probably sounded
familiarly like an Orphic oracle, and therefore worthy of all
acceptation. But in the memory of one better read in the Hebrew
Scriptures "captivity captive" jingles like a half-forgotten
quotation, like an ill-remembered "old odd end stolen out of Holy
Writ." Pricked by curiosity, let us then "search the Scriptures"
for this alluring alliteration. Our reward is as great as our
surprise; there is naught of "ascending on high" nor of saying
anything on the ascent; but we capture the captivity, in the
jubilation song of Deborah and Barak over Sisera, him against whom
the "stars fought in their courses":

"Awake, awake, Deborah:
Awake, awake, utter a song:
Arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive!"
(Judges v, 12)

The incident of the sermon to the spirits is revealed by
equally cogent and inspired St. Peter (1 Peter iii, 17-20):

"It is better ... that ye suffer for well doing, than for
evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered. ... being put
to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit: By which
also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which
sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God
waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing,
wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."

After this preachment, addressed clearly only to the
disobedient pre-Noachians, the whole of "captivity captive" was
led, like the rats by the Pied Piper, out of hell into heaven; for
this truth, if not entirely deducible from the two inspired
passages quoted, is vouched for by the inspired source above cited:
"Christ conducted to heaven the patriarchs who had been in limbo."
But how this trip to Hades during the day and a half between
crucifixion and resurrection was possible does not appear, in view
of the assurance of the Crucified One to the repentant thief: "This
day shalt thou be with me in paradise," which shows that they
"ascended" together, and did not "descend" into hell at all.

Just here we seem to strike a snag in inspiration. Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob certainly were patriarchs of the patriarchs; but
unfortunately they were not in Sheol to share in this patriarchal

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deliverance, which happened just after the Crucifixion. For some
time before this event Christ himself speaks positively of
"Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.
viii, 11). Beggar Lazarus "died, and was carried by the angels into
Abraham's bosom" (Luke xvi, 23). Dives in hell, "lift up his eyes,
... and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom"; and
Dives cried to Father Abraham to please send Lazarus with a drop of
water, "for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke xvi, 24) -- which
proves that the fire had been kindled in Hades, which was now the
Christian hell. Abraham called back that there was a great gulf
fixed between heaven and hell, "so that they which would pass from
hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come
from thence" (xvi, 26); though evidently it was no trick for people
in either place to see well into the other and talk, as if by
wireless telephony, across the gulf of space. There was no
thoroughfare however nor corporeal passing back and forth; which
causes wonder how Christ managed to "conduct to heaven the
patriarchs [except Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] who were in limbo" --
though Satan fell from heaven into hell, and often used to go back
to heaven to talk with Yahveh regarding Job.

Nor were these the only absentees from the roster of
patriarchs in limbo. The godly Enoch was not there, for he had been
"translated" from the original Hebrew into heaven alive; nor was
Elijah in hell, for he had been whirled alive in the fiery chariot
right into heaven; nor was Moses, for he and Elijah appeared there
to Peter and his companions on the Mount of Transfiguration. They
must have come down from heaven together, not one down from heaven
and the other up from hell. Moreover, "all the prophets" were on
the absence-list of hell, for they were "with Abraham, and Isaac
and Jacob. ... in the kingdom of god" (Luke xiii, 28).


All these wonders and this good and godly company our
repentant thief must have missed. His departure from life was under
the new dispensation of love and mercy, after the fires of
brimstone had been kindled by Christ himself in Sheol, and, in
providence, it had become the Christian hell. If, according to the
hypothesis which we are examining, having missed heaven, the
repentant thief's soul was doomed to the Christian hell, what a
hell of a doom awaited it! We know so much about it already from
the hell-reeking pages of the gospels of love, and from the blood-
curdling Inferno of the "man who has been in hell" on a personally
conducted tour with a good old pagan guide, there resident, and
also by the glimpse of Dives "in anguish in this flame" -- that we
turn away with a shudder of soul from the spectacle, and will not
look for even a thief in such a damned place or "place of the
damned," if that sounds less profane, as it is more scriptural and
theological. And surely the gentle reader would not endure the
apocalyptic vision revealing the genial repentant soul among poor
sinners (either of original or of mortal sin), who are there
"tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy
angels, and in the presence of the Lamb," who all look on
complacent while "the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever
and ever: and they have no rest day nor night" from the fierceness
of the wrath of Almighty God (Rev. xiv, 10, 11). This is the
inspired revelation of the God of all love.

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What a horrid caricature of the Christian Yahveh's mercy is
that of the abominable Koran of the infidel, with its crude brutal
bullying fate of the unbeliever: "Verily, those who disbelieve our
signs, we will surely cast to be broiled in hell fire; so often as
their skins shall be well burned, we will give them other skins in
exchange, that they may taste the sharper torment; for Allah is
mighty and wise" (Sutra iv)! Oh, the holy mercies of the Christian
faith, wherein no such fiendish skin-grafting is practiced for our
greater torment! Turning away in holy horror and godly fear from
such a hell, we would fervently utter in spirit the prayer: "God
have mercy on the souls in hell"; but are checked by the
remembrance that this our prayer would not do them any good, for it
is revealed that "the wrath of God abideth on the damned" -- and
"the torments of the damned shall last for ever and ever." without
even any such graft of new skin as the brutish Mohammedan god
provides. Besides, equally inspired revelation warns us that the
souls of the Christian damned in the Christian hell, "are never
released, notwithstanding the mass for dead souls" (probably
meaning souls of the dead) -- no, "the soul that sinneth it shall
surely die." Why then torment dead souls? This brings us up with a
sudden jerk in purgatory, whither we have been steering our course
for some pages back. Let us look around for our crucified thief


Purgatory is surely the strangest Place this side of hell.
Curiously in the Bible there is no jot nor tittle of remotest hint
of it from "In the beginning" of Genesis to the final "Amen" of the
Apocalypse, search for it who will; and positive proof of its non-
existence is in the two passages from Peter and Paul that we have
just reviewed and in the revelation quoted, that "the souls of the
just who died before Christ awaited in hell their admission to
heaven," there being evidently no purgatory open for occupation at
that time. This omission of purgatory from the earlier Christian
"properties" is the more curious because we have admirable and
elaborately defined purgatories in a number of contemporary heathen
systems of the hereafter; as, for example, in the twelve cycles of
purgation of Zoroaster, the seven of the very near-Christian
Mithraism, and the refined "empyrosis" of the Stoics; from which
ancient but diabolic religions, and from several others, the
Hebrew-Christian sacred science had apparently borrowed so many
revelations that the holy Fathers, to explain away the identities
of the pagan and Christian rituals, said that "the Devil had
blasphemously imitated the Christian rites and doctrines." This
would be very persuasive, if not conclusive, but for the fact that
all of these plagiarized pagan systems antedated Christianity by
many centuries.

It is curious, too, that not for several centuries after the
close of the canon was this serious omission ever officially
noticed by the inspired guardians of the sacred deposit. When it
was, they held a hasty council session at Lyons in the year 1274 --
confirmed (on the well-known principle that by frequently repeating
a thing one often comes himself to believe it) at Florence in 1439,
and in the famous Council of Trent, in the 1540's -- and resolved:

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"Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost,
has from the Sacred Scriptures [chapter and verse not cited] and
the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in councils
[unspecified] and very recently in this ecumenical synod, that
there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are
helped by the suffrages [i.e., paid prayers] of the faithful, but
principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy
synod enjoins on the bishops that they diligently endeavor to have
the sound doctrine of the Fathers in councils regarding purgatory
everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful"
-- (Cath Encyc., Vol. XII, p. 575). This proves that the faithful
did not very much believe it, so that Tetzel & Co.'s famous bargain
sales of indulgences from purgatorial pains were not so
remunerative as in greater faith they really should have been.

In honor of truth, however, it must be admitted that much
earlier efforts to "graft" purgatory on the true faith had often
been made, though not with such plenary instruction of the Holy
Ghost as could be invoked by the holy councils referred to. For
instance, the Holy Father Pope Gregory the Great, about A.D. 604,
was the first to formulate the hitherto vacuous doctrine into good
Latin and to "call a spade a spade," as it were, by naming the
place purgatory, though its latitude and longitude in
ecclesiastical cosmogony have never been satisfactorily defined.

Here we may pause in honor of the memory and spiritual
illumination of this great man, Pope Gregory, to note an amusing
incident for which he vouches with the same infallible inspiration
as that which attests his discovery and definition of purgatory.
When elected pope in A.D. 590, Rome was threatened by a dreadful
pestilence sent by the Hebrew God Yahveh, who had supplanted
Jupiter in the Roman theogony. The pious new Pontifex Maximus
(another heathen institution appropriated by the Christians) at
once determined to propitiate (a euphemism for "bribe") the angry
God, who was flinging fiery darts into the devoted city. Yahveh's
inspired vicar-general Gregory headed a monkish parade through the
unclean streets (maybe an indirect adjunct of the pestilence).
Suddenly he saw (he tells it himself, just as he told about the nun
swallowing the devil on a lettuce leaf) the Arch-angel Michael
hovering over the great pagan mausoleum of Hadrian, just in the act
of sheathing his flaming sword, while three angels with him chanted
the Regina Caeli, a monkish hymn to the "Queen of heaven." The
great pope made the sign of the cross and broke into hallelujahs
(Heb., "Praise Yahveh"), whereupon the plague promptly ceased. In
commemoration of this notable event, the pope built a Christian
chapel dedicated to St. Michael on the top of the pagan monument,
and over it erected the colossal statue of the destroying archangel
in the act of sheathing his bloody sword; thus the pagan mausoleum
became the Christian Castle Saint' Angelo, which stands to this day
in proof of the infallibility of papal narratives, and thus
corroborative of Pope Gregory's dogma of purgatory.

The holy Council of Trent, for the better ensuring that its
doctrine of purgatory, and the superior efficacy of paid prayers,
should be believed by the faithful, who might be curious to know
just where their money went in this direction, and what good it
did, solemnly warned and commanded the bishops "to exclude from

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their preaching difficult and subtle questions which tend not to
edification, and from the discussion of which there is no increase
either of piety or devotion" -- though there might thereby be a
decrease of churchly revenues. Some of these unedifying questions
might, to some of the inquisitive faithful, be, for instance -- but
why should there be any "difficult and subtle questions" about so
interesting and important a revelation of faith, especially when
the Holy Ghost was present in person in at least three councils,
and could be called into any other at a moment's notice, to
"instruct" them on these very points? Besides, it is idle to ask
questions as to what good paid prayers do for the souls of the dead
when the answer to such questions is always the silencing retort of
"the angelic doctor" St. Thomas: "Unless they [i.e., the souls of
the dead] know that they are to be delivered, they would not ask
for the prayers" (Cath. Encyc., Vol. XII, p. 578) -- which clinches
it; though the source or means of the dead souls' knowledge is not
revealed, nor are their messages of request, in spirit handwriting,
ever exhibited for confirmation of faith in them, to the interested
or curious public, in proof of their pious petitions.

But the real question for a faith up a tree, as it were, is
how there can be any purgatory, in which slightly soiled and faded
souls may be burnt free from earthly dross and renovated for heaven
-- even if the Holy Ghost did very tardily instruct the holy
councils that there is such a place -- when the same Holy Ghost had
in effect assured councils, including these same councils of Lyons
and Florence, that there was no such place, for "the souls of those
who depart in mortal sin, or only in original sin [which defiles
even the souls of just-born babes and of ecclesiastical persons],
go down immediately into hell, to be visited, however, with unequal
punishments" (Cath. Encyc., Vol. VII, p. 207)? From the latter
place, as Abraham told Dives, there was no return. Such a clash of
inspirations -- or rather slip in promulgating the last before
repealing, or concealing, the former -- illustrates the convenience
of keeping a well regulated card-index system as an adjunct to the
depository of faith, to assist in keeping a ready check on
revelations, and thus avoiding possible future embarrassments of
faith, due to their conflicts.

Here we must confess an error in our quest, induced by
friendly zeal for the comfort of our ex-thief's soul, in suggesting
the possibility of finding it in this purgatory of the orthodox
(i.e., "right-believing") faith. For in life he was either a Jew or
a pagan, bence a heretic, who could have no part in the orthodox
Christian pangs of purgatory; and he would no doubt have added to
his heresy by sharing with Luther, the great faith-splitter, the
doctrine of the twenty-seventh of his ninety-five theses nailed up
on the Wittenberg church door: "They preach man who say that the
soul flies out of purgatory as soon as the money thrown into the
chest rattles"; or, in poetic version:

"As soon as the gold in the casket rings,
The rescued soul to heaven springs"!

The phrase "as soon as" is unorthodox; for the orthodox rule
of payment is that the suffering soul "is not released until the
last farthing be paid" -- which suggests an instalment plan of

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payments. This is just and as it should be. For if the well-to-do
heirs of a just-dead Christian sinner were to make an immediate
lump-sum payment for prompt prayers, the soul might escape from
purgatory into heaven before the penitential flames had done their
work of preparatory purification, the great idea being, according
to Father Origen, that "the purgatorial fire burns away the lighter
materials of faults, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God,
where nothing defiled may enter"; and all the celibate Fathers

The instalment plan of payments is distinctly recognized and
enjoined by the Father Tertullian, who advises a widow "to pray for
the soul of her husband, begging repose for him, and participation
in the first resurrection"; he commands her also to make oblations
(a euphemism for priestly "tips") for him on the anniversary of his
demise, and charges her with infidelity (whether spiritual or
corporal is not explicit) if she neglect to succor his soul (Cath.
Encyc., Vol. XII, p. 577). Evidently this good Father, and the
great Father St. Augustine, pinned no faith on the efficacy of such
paid prayers to hurry the escape of the soul from the fires of
purgatory; for the former suggests such escape only at the "first
resurrection," and the latter postpones it till the last (whenever
either of these should be) -- declaring that "the punishment of
purgatory is temporary and will cease at least at the last
judgment" (De Cir.. Dei, lib. xxi, cap. xiii, xvi). That is a long
time to wait, writhing in terrible torment; for we are assured by
the holy Pope Gregory the Great, taking the cue from St. Augustine
if not from the Holy Ghost, that "the pain of those who after this
life expiate their faults by purgatorial flames will be more
intolerable than any one can suffer in this life." It must
certainly be considerable, judging by the excruciating tortures
which Holy Church, by rack and wheel, by flaying alive, by slow
burning at the stake, and other like pious practices, inflicted
upon the sensitive bodies of thousands who dared to disbelieve her
inspired dogmas, and despise the source, and defy her prostituted

Here we may digress a moment to do tribute to that ancient and
cherished precept of Mosaic law, generously observed through the
ages, and become the chief stone of the corner of the Church
universal: "They shall not appear before Yahveh empty" (Deut. xvi,
16) -- "when they give an offering unto Yahveh, to make an
atonement for your souls" (Ex. xxx, 15) -- but shall pay, rich and
poor alike, to "buy atonement"; and this pious work is to the
churchman, like faith to Father Abraham, accounted for
righteousness. Curiously, while the new dispensation quite
overthrew and repealed the whole code of laws and ceremonies of the
old, this one thrifty exception escaped, and the Holy Church of the
dispensation of free grace, with a wisdom of this world worldly,
preserved it and diligently taught that in the article of tithes
the Mosaic law is still "of divine obligation and cannot be
abrogated" (Cath. Encyc., Vol. XVI, pp. 741, 742). Further yet it
went, inciting the faithful to outdo even the quota of the tenth
commandeered by the ancient law, by yet more liberal donatives
exhorted by the Master, who commanded to "give all that ye have"
(Mark x, 21) in order to be his true disciples.

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This inspired retention by divine command of the "pay" precept
of the law is expounded with his usual naive and cogent logic by
the dogmatic second founder of the faith:

"Do ye not know that they which minister about holy
things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait
at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the
Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of
the gospel." (i Cor. ix, 13, 14)

Among the devotional gems of the sacred litany of Holy Church
a foremost place is held by the doggerel Latin chant celebrating
this mystic union of the law and the gospel:

"Cum summa cura est fratribus,
(Ut sermo testatur loquax)
Offere, fundis venditis
Sestertiorum millia.
Addicta avorum praedia
Foedis sub auctionibus,
Successor exheres gemit,
Sanctis egens parentibus.
Haec occulantur abditis
Ecelesiarum in angulis,
Et summa pietas creditur
Nudare dulces liberos!"
(Prudentius, Hymn II)

This is the poetry of the scriptural injunction to "sell and
give all," with the added prosaic truth that the denuded children
and disinherited heirs of the giver groan as naked beggars so that
their prodigal parents may have the odor of pious saints. O
temporal O mores! Thus a goodly portion of their heirs'
expectations our churchmen often obediently spend in this pious
form of mundane vanity, leaving their families fewer worldly goods,
but buying their soul's atonement in truly churchly fashion, and
earning incidentally the plaudits of the clergy, who hold up before
their flocks for emulation this godly example -- of giving.

How striking and faith-compelling is the system of types and
symbols of the oriental scriptures, wherein everything typifies or
symbolizes something else -- which the inspired scrivener nine
times in ten never really thought or heard of in his life, but
which all perplexed delvers into the "hidden things of scripture"
assure us is implied in the plain and ordinary Hebrew or Greek
words. But for once in scripture, type and typified are here
readily identified, even to unimaginative occidental minds. In the
new dispensation the groups of true believers are figured forth as
"flocks"; the older, dyed-in-the-wool bell-wethers of the flocks
are dubbed "sheep"; the tender ones wholly innocent of sense are
affectionately termed "lambs"; and all are herded and driven by
venerable "pastors" (postors, or in some later readings im-postors)
called "shepherds," always allegorically pictured as going about
armed with "crooks," to hook the stragglers into the "fold," and to
keep them there when once hooked in. The imagery of the oriental
mind is singularly appealing at times and persuasive of a sure-
enough inspiration of ironic truth under its symbols!

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Even in a prosaic standard lexicon of the twentieth century we
may discover the persistence of this bit of oriental imagery in the
accepted definition of "sheep," in the figurative sense: "The flock
of the Good Shepherd; simple-minded and silly persons"; while to be
"sheepish" is to "resemble a sheep in silliness or dullness!" The
sheep is to this day the symbol of the vacuous herd, all blindly
following some equally stupid old bellwether which heads the flock
this way or that as his inner lights lead, or the crook of the
shepherd pulls.

The diminution of patrimonial expectations occasioned by such
contributions to the "Lord's treasury was once, we blush to say,
measurably retrieved by the excellent income which the good and
generous givers derived from the rental of some of their best
corner buildings down town for saloons, and in some exceptional
instances of houses owned by them in the "restricted districts" for
uses which are as well understood as need be without being
specified. True, the fine sense of churchmanly propriety and of
Christian riglitmindedness often does not allow our good churchmen
to make these leases directly to the degraded occupants. They
piously salve their consciences by giving their agents carte
blanche and asking them no inconvenient questions. We all know that
"Yahveh loveth a cheerful giver"; and Yahveh commands his people:
"Thou shalt remember Yahveh thy God: for it is he that giveth thee
power to get wealth" (Deut. viii, 18), which we must acknowledge is
a potent appeal.

This scrupulous delicacy on the part of some good churchmen,
which does them honor, and which is a refinement upon the
scriptural injunction not to let the right hand know what is left-
handedly done (a sanctimonious injunction much invoked by the godly
of these cultured times), is one of the most eloquent testimonies
to the cultural influence of our professed religion in refining the
grosser practices of earlier forms of worship. Everyone who is not
blinded by prejudice against the Christian faith and is not a
chronic scoffer at its cherished practices must recognize the
(relative) purity of thus replenishing by discreet indirectness the
Lord's treasury from the toll of sin, as compared with the
unblushing system of temple harlotry of ancient pagan-Hebrew
worship, and with the quasi-gross but lucrative scheme of
relatively recent times when brothels of pious prostitution were
recognized adjuncts of holy nunneries, and the virgins of Christ
hallowed as pious alms the wages of sin earned for them by their
sisters, whose virginity was a welcome sacrifice on the altar, not
of Cupid, but of churchly cupidity. So all praise to those worthy
churchmen who, in returning a pittance of their gifts from Yahveh,
reject such unrefined practices, and find ready means to obey the
divine command to "Give to the Lord," without openly offending the
more refined feelings of modern churchianity, though the productive
source is the same.

To return from this sympathetic digression on the theme of
pious paying enjoined by Holy Writ to the post-mortem purgatorial
payment plan of Holy Church. A revelation which would make possible
some commutation of penitential torment and final escape therefrom
some time this side of the first resurrection or final judgment,
even at considerable cost to the harrowed and terrified survivors,

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would be regarded as a good thing for the tormented soul, its
family, and friends, and incidentally net a handsome revenue.
However it may have been, the Holy Ghost is said to have instructed
the holy Council of Trent as to the instalment-pay-plan, revealing
that "indulgences [at so much per] are most salutary for Christian
people, and may be applied to the souls in purgatory" (Cath.
Encyc., Vol. XII, p. 578).

It betrays a darkened understanding, or a malevolent wit, of
course, to imagine that this pay-as-you-enter plan of priestly
prayers for the souls in purgatory smacks even remotely of buying
Yahveh's grace or of bribing Holy Church. The distinction, if not
difference, is acutely indicated by an approved theological
apologist, thus: "The celebration of the mass for money would be
sinful; but it is perfectly legitimate to accept a stipend offered
on such occasion for the support of the celebrant. The amount of
the stipend varying for different times and countries, is usually
fixed [in advance, you see] by ecclesiastical authority" (Cath.
Encyc., Vol. XIV, p. 1). It is thus the stipend which must be paid,
and not the prayers; though the corollary -- "No stipend, no
prayers" -- deprives the soul of the prayers and of any benefit
they might do it. But the scheme testifies to the refining
influence of the Holy Ghost working upon greedy humanity. Simon the
Magician, the earliest Christian exponent of the offence
stigmatized with his name, simony, grossly offered money outright
for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and was justly rebuked by St.
Peter, "because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be
purchased with money" (Acts viii, 20). The successors of St. Peter,
being more practical, piously shun such gross venality and take the
money, but do not sell the gift. With the utmost delicacy of
discriminating propriety, they simply withhold the free gift until
the stipulated stipend is paid. This, when paid, on the analogy of
the coin in the slot, loosens the mechanism of the mass, and the
prayers begin to ascend for the writhing tenants of purgatory. Only
in this roundabout, de-Simonized, and legitimatized left-handed
sense should the reasonable mind understand the otherwise ribald
gibe of Father Luther that only "when the money thrown into the
chest rattles," does the tortured soul begin to shake loose its
singed wings for flight from the flames, being thereunto "aided by
the acceptable sacrifice of the altar," prepaid according to the
schedule of stipends prescribed by Holy Church. Honi soit qui mal
y pense after so adroit an explanation.

This near-hell-fiery habitat of the near-blessed being
exclusively a resort of the orthodox Christian, we are precluded --
not by doubt (which is damnable), but by dogma (which is
infallible) -- from the possibility of encountering our repentant
thief's soul there. And our compassion is already seen in revolt
against the doctrine of hell fire, common alike to orthodoxy and to
heterodoxy (signifying my "doxy," or "right-think," and your
"doxy," or "wrong-think," according as one is the speaker or the
spoken to or of). Being evidently in neither of these places, and
not yet arrived at heaven, the soul of our crucified thief, we have
thus an added reason in concluding, is still wending its way
heavenward through the fathomless reaches of sidereal space, and
may yet confidently be expected to present itself and its
credentials to the celestial concierge, St. Peter.

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If someone should be disposed to question this, on the faith-
founded theory above indicated that no soul clogged with the
material dross of earthy fault may be suffered to enter in at the
golden gates, but that the fault must first be purged away by the
purgatorial fires, we oppose a very reasonable, and equally
effective, counter-theory, suggested by more modern science: that
the upper interstellar regions are infested with inconceivably
intense cold, a degree of cold even greater maybe than the fires of
purgatory are hot; that heat and cold, in intense degree, have
often a similar effect, particularly in point of drying up
substances, rendering them brittle; therefore, that the earthly
dross of venial faults yet clinging to the departed soul, being
subjected for the 1,000,000 light years of its trajectory
heavenward to such extreme cold, may thus be either frozen quite
off, or at least rendered so crumbly that the simple violent swish
of the air caused by the rapidity of flight would flip it off en
route, or at any rate enable it to be very easily scraped off just
outside the pearly gates of heaven upon arrival, and the soul thus
present itself as freed from such dross as if it had done its
penance amid the flames of purgatory.

Thus the same result is attained, and by a process quite as
uncomfortable -- which is a very great desideratum in theology; and
an enormous amount of time would be saved, as the soul could begin
its purging flight heavenward immediately on its corporeal release,
instead of first doing infinite time until the "first resurrection"
or the "last judgment" in purgatory before beginning its million-
light-year flight heavenward. Moreover, sidereal spatial cold is a
scientific fact, while purgatorial fire is only a theological
"speculation," though a highly successful one as the source of a
fine church revenue. As it doesn't cost anybody anything to accept
our new "cold storage" revelation, and as we vouch for its being as
good as any on the market, we trust that it may have ready
credence, and in time even supplant some of the ancient and more
costly nostrums of credulity.

In the long meanwhile, let us bid good-speed to the fleeting
soul on its heavenward flight, with the classic ex voto: "Let it

****     ****

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