He, Who Drinks Boiling Tea

Dear Reader: What follows is the disturbing tale of George Jackson Mivart, who abandoned his friendship with colleague Charles Darwin only to be, in turn, abandoned by his Catholic church and excommunicated. The story begins in hell and ends with a surprise. Mivart’s tragic predicament  is reviewed by Satan who is surprisingly sympathetic with the fallen scientist. Mivart was a real person who had difficulty in reconciling his religious beliefs with his beloved science.

“An apology for the Devil: it must be remembered that we have heard only one side of the case: God has written all the books.” Samuel Butler (1835-1902), English satirist.

 He, Who Drinks Boiling Tea – (Mivart is Missing From Hell)

Chapter One

Saint George Jackson Mivart’s shoulders throbbed with pain as if they had been dislocated again. It wasn’t the first time he had been hung up by his arms until shoulder ligaments and tendons painfully stretched and tore apart. In addition, the third-degree burns on his back and buttocks were the reason he now lay prone on a bed in “Dante’s Infirmary” with a clean white sheet lightly covering him. True, the torture session had gotten a little out of hand again, but Mivart knew whenever that happened he ended up in the infirmary to recuperate before being returned to his dungeon cubical. The brief infirmary stay was a “Godsend”, so to speak, for several reasons.

Dante’s Infirmary was the only place Mivart ever got to meet and converse with another soul. Loneliness caused as much pain as scorched skin. The infirmary also provided a short reprieve from the harsh conditions of his dirty little cubical. Today, as usual the infirmary-ward was almost full, as far as his eyes could see. Moans emanated from the lump on the cot to his right. Mivart painfully inched his way to the edge of the bed and swung his feet to the floor. He was desperate to talk to anyone about anything, but especially about science. If he was lucky a soul might be a new arrival and would have news of new scientific achievements from the world above.

Except for the little black imps scurrying around doing chores, he saw no one else. The imps changed the bed linens, cleaned the floors and distributed food trays. Their tails twitched aimlessly as if they were no longer under the imp’s control. In spite of his pain, Mivart could not help but laugh whenever these unruly vestigial appendages accidentally knocked over a bedpan or tripped them up. The imps’ uncooperative tails and small stature made it difficult for them to change bed linen without climbing up on the beds and sometimes tumbling off. They made high-pitched squeaking complaints when they were frustrated but they never threatened the patients. The imps didn’t seem to care or even acknowledge Mivart’s attempts to communicate with other patients.

Mivart gingerly shuffled to the edge of the other occupied bed. He pulled back the sheet to see who it was. “Hello, anyone home?”

The figure rolled over and groaned. “Who in hell are you? What do you want?”

The face, although screwed with pain seemed familiar to Mivart; “Who, sir, do I have the honor of addressing?”

The frail old man in the bed rose up on one elbow to get a better look at who it was that was bothering him. A screechy voice indignantly replied, “I, sir, am the late retired Vice Admiral of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, Robert FitzRoy. Now, please refrain from bothering me while I try to recover from my recent torture. God damn you! Just leave me alone.”

Mivart was not discouraged by the rude reply. “Ah, my good Vice Admiral, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance even as you recover from your wounds and unjust treatment.”

FitzRoy: “There were no injustices done to me. Alas, I suffer here in Hell for good reason. I took my own life. God has punished me for that terrible sin. I deserve it. Now leave me alone.”

Mivart: “Fascinating, absolutely fascinating. I have never talked to anyone who successfully committed suicide.” Enjoying the humor in his words, he chortled, “How astute of me.”

Mivart continued: “My friend, you well know that you will very soon recover, as you always have before. Tomorrow you will be rested and ready for the torture chambers once again. We are guaranteed relief so we may feel new pain. Satan is clever, is he not?”

FitzRoy struggled to a sitting position in spite of his pain. “It appears the Evil One sent you to me so I can be further tortured by your asinine babble?”

Mivart: “I suppose that is very possible my friend. But, I too have been tortured as you have. I find conversation takes my mind off the pain. I am St. George Mivart, scholar, professor, scientist, and one-time colleague of Charles Darwin.”

That last statement got FitzRoy’s complete attention, as if he were slapped in the face.

“So, you know that scoundrel Darwin? Now I am sure you are a worthless and evil person. Darwin is the reason I took my life and why I now reside in Hell undergoing daily torture. Any friend of Darwin is my enemy. Be gone fool! Leave me to my suffering.”

In spite of the insults Mivart remained in a pleasant mood. FitzRoy was a fascinating character.  “Forgive me FitzRoy. I did not say I was Darwin’s friend. When I fully comprehended the tragic consequences of his evolution theory, I repudiated my friendship and association with the man and became his greatest critic. I am most proud of that fact.”

FitzRoy settled back into his bed and said, “You may have some moral virtue after all Mivart.”

Mivart sat on the edge of FitzRoy’s bed and asked, “How do you know the notorious Dr. Darwin?

FitzRoy: “He was a young and impetuous lad. He brought liberal ideas aboard my ship and infected my crew. He believed in the equality of all men, even Negroes, imagine that.”

Minaret sarcastically, “Imagine that.”

FitzRoy: He even was critical of the bible’s acceptance of slavery. He was a young, immature heretic in the making.”

Minaret: “Ahh yes, now I remember your face. Did not you and Darwin publish a book together about your adventures, The Voyage of the Beagle? I read it but do not recall any mention about his heretical beliefs on evolution.”

FitzRoy: “True. At that time those sacrilegious beliefs were still incubating in his evil mind and were not published until years later, after Alfred Wallace sent Darwin his own evolutionary papers. Thereafter, Darwin published his books The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man. I must admit that I am to blame for Darwin’s theory.

Minaret: “How so Admiral?

FitzRoy replied angrily: “I invited him to join me on the Beagle and I provided him the opportunity to collect those accursed specimens and fossils. My misjudgment of his moral character is the reason mankind now battles with the blasphemy of evolution.”

Minaret: “And that is why you took your own life?

FitzRoy: Of course, I could not live with the guilt. He and Huxley drove me crazy with their continual blasphemies. They published papers, and books about evolution and they lectured about it. There was nothing I could do to stem the tide of their infectious lies and undo the harm I had allowed.”

Mivart: “I take it, Admiral, that you are a believer in the literal truth of the bible.”

FitzRoy: “Of course. If you are a critic of Darwin, you too must believe as I. Do you not?”

Mivart, not wanting to upset the old admiral further, declined to answer him directly.  “My major criticism pertained to the effect evolution was having on the morality of the nation. Evolution confuses the average man. It has a sinister effect on humanity; it undermines religion. Evolution of the animal body is something to be debated, but evolution of the soul is quite impossible and was my concern. Darwin and Huxley preached blasphemy to the world; they claimed body and brain evolved together.”

FitzRoy: “A curse upon you Mivart. You should not have compromised with Darwin’s satanic views, not in the slightest. Genesis is the only book of any value. All the truth one needs is to be found in the good book. The Origin should be burned. I, in fact, have purchased and burned six copies.”

The conversation between the two men continued on into the evening. FitzRoy became more irrational, occasionally working himself into a rage, loudly quoting biblical passages. Mivart, a man of distinction and moderation, sympathized with the distraught Admiral but was not about to give up the scientific facts and methodology upon which evolution was based. For the most part, he believed in scientific methodology but only when convenient. It all depended upon where science led him.

Mivart became aware that FitzRoy was looking at him in a peculiar way: “What are you looking at FitzRoy?”

Fitzroy: “I am a strong believer in phrenology. You have interesting cranial features.”

Mivart was astounded at the statement but humored Fitzroy. “Surely you don’t accept phrenology as a science.”

Fitzroy: “Phrenology is a true science backed by evidence. The facial structure of Negroes easily identifies them as less than human, closer to chimpanzees. And the lumps and bumps on the skull are a good indication of intelligence and morality, as evidenced by the horns protruding from Satan’s own head.”

Mivart: “You can’t be serious.”

Fitzroy: “I can tell by your forehead you are a skeptic as was Darwin. Prior to my choosing the young Darwin to accompany me on my voyage I noted the deficiencies of his head and face, and told him so.”

Mivart: “Most fascinating. What did your observations tell you about the young man?”

FitzRoy: “Darwin’s nose and forehead were quite primitive. His features showed low morality, sparse honesty, and minimal intelligence. I almost did not select him as my voyage companion, but time was short and the Beagle was being outfitted for a near sailing date. It was my greatest mistake and one I will never forgive myself for.”

By now Mivart thought his infirmary companion was totally balmy. The Evolution of the body seemed reasonable to Mivart, although much of what Darwin and Huxley preached had yet to be explained. To Mivart there was little doubt that the body was created by natural processes, but the soul was different. It could only have been created by the Good Lord. The soul was what separated man from beast. His studies had confirmed the truth of a God designed evolution. It could not be denied, but Darwin’s Godless evolution message was a blight upon humanity. This, however, was not the time to debate evolution with his emotional companion. Mivart guided the conversation onto different subjects as best he could.

The lights in the infirmary finally sputtered out telling them it was time to sleep. The two men were destined never to meet again, although Mivart would eventually plead to Satan for FitzRoy’s redemption. For FitzRoy, tomorrow would be little different from the preceding days of suffering; he would continue to harvest the bitter fruit of his irrational faith. He had chosen his fate. But, for Mivart, tomorrow would be momentous.

Chapter 2

Meanwhile, on the bottom floor of the Satan’s kingdom sat a little innocuous balding man with his feet propped up on a smoldering desk. He had been deep in thought all evening. In as much as there was no one to talk to he usually expressed his thoughts to the little imps that infested hell and served him. They were everywhere, always ready to listen to and obey their master. Several imps now lingered around Satan’s desk and faithfully listened to him although their understanding of his words was minimal.

Satan spoke out loud to them but mostly to himself: “Most of my guests do not deserve eternal damnation and the grievous torments I invent for them. Many have been tortured in real life, died hideous deaths and already suffered too long. So, why is it necessary to make them suffer endlessly? It’s true I enjoy causing pain, but it’s like beating a dead horse. Oh well, it’s not my call. I do my duties as God commands. Torturing helpless souls for thousands of years has lost its excitement and become quite boring. There must be more to my existence than torturing those who cannot fight back. Where is the challenge and the satisfaction in that?”

The imps dutifully listened with blank eyes and empty heads.

The recent Galileo affair had been quite entertaining and satisfying for Satan. It was a change of pace from his boring responsibilities and an opportunity to give God a hard time. Satan had been studying the “Innocents’ File Folder” on the computer screen ever since Galileo had been deleted from his Questionable Sinner file. He had clicked the top name on the list, a St. George Jackson Mivart, and had been studying the file.

Satan: “Hmmm! Here is a case that any good American trial lawyer would love to get his hands on. It is clearly an example of a gross miscarriage of moral justice, carried out by ignorant clergy who cared more about retaining their personal power and the prestige of the Church than finding the truth. The Mivart case is even more disgraceful than the Galileo fiasco.”

Satan reviewed the computer files before him. “Mivart was a Catholic convert who had distinguished himself as a scientist and philosopher in the mid nineteenth century. For his substantial contributions to humanity and support of Catholic doctrine, Pope Pius IX conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.” Satan read on: “Six weeks before Mivart’s death, in 1900, he was excommunicated from the church and condemned to the eternal fires of hell.” Satan marveled at the injustice perpetrated upon the poor man.

Satan’s Internet research was temporarily interrupted by a conversation Mivart was currently having with the crazy Admiral FitzRoy in the infirmary. He sipped a cup of boiling tea while he monitored their conversation, on his computer screen. A sly smile crept onto his chubby face as he listened. A drop of perspiration dripped from his pudgy nose into his cup unnoticed as he listened.

Satan: “Hmm! I wonder what FitzRoy would find interesting in my face. The casual face I now wear would probably bore him, but my formal face with horns would, no doubt, get the crazy fool’s attention. What an ass.”

Satan was slowly hatching a plan.

Turning to an imp. “As for Mivart, I like the man. He struggles like most humans with the conflicts between science and religion. I may be able to convince him to repudiate his belief in God and thereby free him from this Hell he now endures. I could give him the ‘Galileo treatment.’ Wouldn’t that be a wonderful embarrassment to the Lord? Mivart does not deserve my special hospitality; he is innocent of all charges against him. The church that condemned him has since accepted the very facts that originally convicted him.”

Satan turned to another imp and rhetorically asked, “What was it that caused Mivart to fall out of grace with the Church and why did God allow this innocent man to suffer under my dominion for over a hundred years?” Satan remembered this case but scrolled down and to get more details.

Steam and the acrid smelling brimstone smoke, that he loved, filled the hall. Satan had to lean forward and wipe the screen in order to read the rest of Mivart’s tragic story. The little man’s face turned crimson with glee as he read on; wisps of smoke escaped from his ears and nose. His eyes narrowed as they darted from line to line and then gradually they widened in disbelief. Satan pushed his chair backward from his desk, raised both arms with fists clenched over his head, and screamed with delight.

This was not the scream of a little man. It was a three-octave scream like only The Great Evil One could muster. It echoed around the great hall and even shook the big desk. The vibrations of the scream momentarily cleared the hall of the billowing steam and smoke, which condensed and fell as a light, opaque rain that sizzled into oblivion as it hit the scorching floor. There he sat, leaning back in his chair, feet upon the desk, hands behind his head with huge grin on his face. An imp crawled out from under Satan’s desk where it had taken cover and watched its master like a scolded dog.

Satan took another sip of boiling tea and mumbled, “Yes, yes, I believe this will work just fine.” He eagerly continued his Internet research. Trouble- making was one of the few things that made his existence bearable. Hell in all its terrible glory was boring and not very challenging to a fallen ark angel. And, hell was not of his making. He was its victim as well as its master.

Later that night Satan sat down again at his desk. He spoke to his computer monitoring system. “Cubical number 666.”  Immediately the screen was filled with a view of Mivart’s living space, which was the mirror image of Galileo’s now vacant cubical next door. Thick steam and smoke did not hinder Satan’s vision.

Mivart slept restlessly after yesterday’s torture session and his long conversation with FitzRoy. The expression on the sleeping man’s face was no different from what it had been for the last one hundred and three years. It was an old depressed face of a beaten man with tired eyes, resigned to an eternity of suffering. Yet, something in Mivart’s character impressed Satan; he still retained a spark of reason waiting to be kindled into a rebellious flame.

Satan muttered softly to himself. “Now here is a good man, an excellent scientist and an intellectual who never meant to harm anyone. He must have been shocked when he heard that he had been excommunicated and had no hope of salvation in the next life.” Satan was well aware that good people, who did not deserve to be in hell, occupied many of his cubicles. On his bad days he felt a tinge of sympathy for them.

Satan could easily read the minds of all his guests. That skill came in handy when choosing new torments for them each day. Mivart’s thoughts were always the same; he wished for spiritual death, the total extinguishment of his soul and consciousness. He wished for peace and eternal sleep free of pain and regret. Mivart was a perfect candidate for deconversion.

Satan spoke. “Control panel.”

Chapter Three

Mivart awoke the next morning in a cool cubical. The temperature, usually one hundred degrees, was surprisingly comfortable this morning. His smoldering straw mattress had been replaced sometime in the night with a comfortable infirmary-like cot with clean linen.

Mivart swung out of bed ready for trouble. “What is going on Satan? What insidious trick do you play on me today?” He did not expect an answer.

Mivart, dressed in a threadbare knee length shirt shivered in the 75-degree temperature. As if having anticipated Mivart’s discomfort, an imp approached and offered him a robe, which he accepted gratefully. The imp scampered away but soon reappeared with a breakfast tray. It set the tray on the lone table in the cubicle and stood by to watch. Mivart cautiously approached the table and examined the food. There were eggs, bacon, toasted bread with berry jam, an orange, and a tall glass of water with chunks of ice in it. It was all quite amazing to Mivart. He had not experienced such a breakfast since before his death. Breakfast in hell usually consisted of stale bread, moldy cheese infested with maggots, and putrid hot water with the smell of urine.

Mivart had a right to be suspicious. Many times before he had been led to believe an improvement was in store only to have his hopes shattered by Satan, the master of mind games. Mivart cautiously sat down to sample the food. When he was convinced it was real and not another satanic trick, he eagerly consumed everything while the curious imp watched.

“Here, have some bread little imp.” Mivart tossed a crust to the imp who pounced on it like a starving cat.”

“It appears Satan doesn’t treat you any better than the rest of us.”

Mivart, having satiated himself, scanned his little cubicle. It contained a table and chair, a bed, a bedpan, and a bookcase filled with bibles, a good sampling of all the bibles ever written. Long ago he had enough of them and stopped reading. They contradicted themselves, and were filled with inconsistencies and the greatest atrocities ever committed upon man. He was distressed that the Holy Catholic Church had strayed from God’s true word. It had been his mission while alive to reconcile science and religion. Unfortunately his efforts undermined Church teachings and dogma. During his later years he became a scientific and festering thorn in the side of his Church. He had to be publicly discredited, and what better method than excommunication. The Church felt obliged to punish the dying scientist for his well-intentioned but dangerous efforts to bring science and reason to the faithful.

Mivart watched as the imp quickly finished the remaining scraps of his breakfast. He asked the imp, “So what does your Lord have in store for me today?”

The words were barely out of his mouth when the static of the speaker system conked out and was replaced by somber organ music. A pleasant sounding voice followed, “Good Morning Professor Mivart. I trust you enjoyed an unimpaired restful sleep and your special breakfast.”

Mivart: “Who speaks?”

Satan: It is I, your Master. The one who has cared for you so lovingly since your death. Who else could it be?”

Mivart: What do you want from me? I have not disobeyed you…have I?

Satan: “No, no, not at all my dear Mivart. Would you be so kind as to join me for a cup of tea and some biscuits…in about thirty minutes? Your imp will guide you to my office.” The intercom went silent before Mivart had a chance to reply.

While he waited Mivart freshened up with a bowl of clean water brought to him by an imp. After 30 minutes of nervous waiting his cubicle door swung open and the imp, who had been sitting cross-legged on the floor watching, sprang to its feet. It dragged Mivart out of his cubicle and down a dark hall lined with doors. Mivart noticed that the plaque over the door next to his no longer had the name “G. Galilie” on it. The sign now said, “Vacant”. He wondered at its significance. To his knowledge it was the first time a name had ever been removed from a cubical door.

The imp led Mivart to the elevator, the same one that transported him to the torture chambers each day. They entered and as soon as the doors closed the elevator dropped rapidly to the bottom floor. Its abrupt stop crashed its occupants to the floor. As the doors opened, billowing steam poured in and took Mivart’s breath away. The imp helped Mivart to his feet and then pushed him into a vast steam and smoke filled room. A narrow red carpet led away into the swirling seam.

Mivart: “Where do you lead me imp?”

Without reply the creature pulled Mivart along the carpet until he saw a dark shape up ahead. As they approached Mivart made out what appeared to be a desk and two chairs. Finally, when he stopped in front of the desk a little man with balding head, rosy cheeks and pudgy nose stepped out from behind the desk.

Satan: “Welcome my dear Professor Mivart. I am Satan. Thank you for being so prompt. Please have a seat”

Mivart did as he was told. There was a pause as Satan studied Mivart’s puzzled face. “I am sure you do not recognize me from our previous meeting. That horrible appearance of mine is standard for greeting all new arrivals.”

Mivart was too amazed to reply. He eyes were transfixed on the benign looking little man with kindly voice and twinkling black eyes. How could this harmless person be the great evil one?

Satan: “But, I am the Evil one. Trust me. Do you mind if I call you George?”

Mivart: “Call me what you wish Satan, I care not.”

Satan: “ George, how about a cup of hot tea? Oh, excuse me, I’m sure you would prefer   ice tea.” Satan motioned to the imp that hurried away, soon to return with a goblet and a pitcher of ice tea. It set the goblet before Mivart and filled it.

Mivart eagerly gulped the tea as Satan pulled his chair around the desk closer to Mivart.

A sly smile crept onto Satan’s face as he studied the old man before him. He was enjoying this encounter and hoped it would lead to as desirable results as did the Galileo affair.

“ George, I have some news for you that may upset you and please you at the same time. Would you like to hear it, or would you rather not face the truth?” Satan continued without waiting for a reply. “Truth is not always desirable, especially when it destroys comfortable faith. You, Professor Mivart, have attempted to live two lives at once, like many other humans. One life was based upon reason and science and the other was based upon superstition and fear of the unknown.”

Mivart nodded his head. It was true, although he had not realized it when he was alive.

Satan continued. “Most humans seem to adjust well to this dichotomy, as did you. Unfortunately your novel solution to the debate between evolution and superstition came to the attention of The Church. Due to your reputation and past loyalty, the Church could not very well tolerate your authoritative voice speaking to the masses. Your words undermined the dogma of the church. You were brave but quite stupid to contradict the Pope.”

Mivart nodded again. “Yes, I now realize why I was persecuted. I did not think the church would react so violently.”

Satan smiled and continued on. “Your basic beliefs differed little from your contemporary Alfred R. Wallace, who now shares a portion of credit with Darwin for the concept of evolution. Unfortunately, your name has been lost in history. Only a few scientists and even fewer clergy know your name. The very Church, that condemned you to Hell, does not care about you, and in fact hopes your name, like Galileo’s, will never be mentioned again. You are an embarrassment.” Satan paused again to watch Mivart’s reaction and to read his thoughts.

Mivart straightened his drooping shoulders and looked into the intense unblinking, black eyes of Satan. “Truth blinded me to the danger that lay in my path. I had faith that Jesus was with me as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death. But, had I known the church would betray me, I would have done no different.”

Satan: “Bravo George, I admire your spunk. You defied both Darwin and Huxley, and then, the Church. While you burned your candle on both ends, your fellow scientist Charles Darwin defied the scientific community and the church. He was however, immune to the barbs and slings of The Church because he did not believe its doctrine or in God. But you, George, were not. Your blind faith in the Pope’s infallibility made you vulnerable. That is why you are here and have suffered in my domain since your death.”

Satan sipped boiling tea from his cup and stuffed several biscuits into his mouth, waiting for Mivart’s reply.

Mivart lowered his head and mumbled. “I know, I know. I deserved my punishment because I grievously undermined The Church’s authority and teaching. I accept my fate.”

Satan replied with obvious sarcasm, “ How contrite you are Professor! But why should you accept your fate? I have the distinct pleasure to inform you that the great Galileo Galilee was your neighbor and lived in the cubicle next to yours…until three days ago! At that time the Catholic Church admitted, after centuries of review, that it had made a mistake in its condemnation of him and his views. The Church presently accepts his concept of the universe as fact. Such a reversal was inevitable.”

Mivart: “But it took so long. Poor Galileo, how he must have suffered at your hands in this terrible place.”

Satan sat back grinning proudly, and then modesty replied, “Thank you for the compliment Professor, but I was merely doing my job as instructed by our Heavenly Father. In all honesty, I can neither accept the blame or the credit, for I am but one actor in the universal plan of The Lord. Galileo created his own Hell because he had blind faith that heaven and hell really existed, as do you.”

Mivart looked puzzled and pathetic; his quivering hands lowered the now empty cup from his lips.

Satan knew, now was the time to twist the dagger he had placed in Mivart’s heart. “Did you know, my dear professor, that your beliefs, the ones that you debated with Darwin, are now very respectable, at least with those who believe in Intelligent Design? Your theory of God as the author of evolution, is today, the very basis of Catholic doctrine concerning the evolution of life? The Church now echoes your own words ‘Christian thinkers are perfectly free to accept the general evolution theory.’ Do you recall writing those exact words?”

Mivart nodded his head. “The Church tried to censure me… but I would have none of it.”

Satan: “The Roman Church today cannot improve on your sentiments, spoken over a hundred years ago. You also wrote, ‘We have a true reconciliation of science and religion, in which each gains and neither loses, one being complementary to the other.’ Your words George, your words.”

Mivart: “I know, I know.”

Satan: “Congratulations George! Your theory finally prevailed, but alas, you did not get the credit for it. No mention of your name was made, when in the year 1996, Pope John Paul II announced to the world that there was no conflict between belief in God and biological evolution. I think that the Pope did not want to remind the world that The Church had made another blunder concerning your excommunication, especially on your very death bed. You can well understand and sympathize with The Church, can you not?”

Those stinging words from Satan took their toll. Mivart was speechless and devastated. “How could this be true? Should I believe Satan’s words?”

Mivart sat in disbelief for several minutes trying to reconcile the fact that the Holy Roman Church now believed exactly what it had excommunicated him for. It was a terrible injustice!

Satan: “It is true George, and you are correct, it is a terrible injustice”.

Neither of them spoke again for several minutes during which time an imp filled Mivart’s cup again with ice chunks and cold tea.

Tears filled Mivart’s eyes and he was soon weeping uncontrollably while Satan silently observed. In the beginning Satan regretted what he had to do, but now after thousands of years he was unmoved. This was just another suffering soul and he had little sympathy. His real interest was in embarrassing God and The Holy Roman Church, or any religion that believed Hell and Heaven were real places. To reach that end he would help this miserable human soul who now wept pathetically before him.

Finally, when Mivart gained control of his emotions, Satan continued. “If the Catholic Church gave Galileo a pardon, why should it not give you a pardon my dear Professor? You have suffered enough.”

Confused at what he had just heard, Mivart looked up and across the desk into the intense black eyes of the little man, who now leaned forward with a quizzical and hopeful look on his face, waiting for a reply.

Mivart’s mind was racing wildly. Had he heard correctly? Could it be true that he actually had a chance to quit this Hell? Or, was this a cruel trick of Satan, to give him one  fresh breath of hope and then a second breath of burning brimstone and disappointment?

“I assure you professor, it is no trick. I would be delighted to release you from this Hell. Although The Church has not investigated your case as it did Galileo’s, I have my ways of making them reconsider. Shall I proceed?”

Satan gave Mivart time to contemplate the offer. As soon as Satan sensed Mivart had made his decision, he grinned and reached across the desk with open hand.

Mivart hesitated a moment.

Mivart considered: Should I shake the hand of the Great Evil One? Would that small gesture be seen by God as act of disloyalty? Would God discover that he was in league with Satan to manipulate the Roman church? Would this handshake bring on the wrath of The Almighty One? On the other hand, what worse punishment could possibly be given to him?

Satan held his open hand across the desk while he followed Mivart’s reasoning. If Mivart refused his offer, then surely Satan had chosen poorly. Mivart would be unworthy of the offer and the effort. To Satan’s pleasure, the old man’s trembling hand slowly reached across the desk and into his outstretched hand. The handshake was momentous, even to the Great Satan. Never before had a lost soul ever received such an offer, and accepted it with his free will. Satan was truly moved by Mivart’s courageous act of reason. It was hard for the human soul to overcome the influence of ignorance and fear of the unknown. Mivart was truly a brave soul who was worthy of Satan’s interest and effort. Now the real work would begin, and it would be a challenge, even for The Great Evil One.

Satan: “I will do what I can to influence the church fathers. There are no guarantees.”

Satan dismissed Mivart without any promises. “I will review your case and bring it to the attention of those who have the power to help you. I can do nothing more.”

With the imp at his side Mivart retraced his steps alone the red carpet back to the elevator and to his cubical. The cubical was as he left it; clean, bright, temperate and well stocked with those items that would make the following days actually pleasant and bearable. Apparently his torture schedule had been cancelled indefinitely. He had nothing to do but wait. Satan, on the other hand, was already busy creating a devious plan to help the brave man of science.

Chapter Four

While Mivart anxiously waited for news from Satan, he marveled at The Church’s belated acceptance of his theory concerning creation and evolution. He was puzzled about Church doctrine.

Mivart, to his cubical imp: “How is it that The Church made so many gross errors concerning science? How could anyone accept church doctrine as being true in the light of its many past errors?”

Mivart also pondered the concept of creation and evolution and the role that God played in them. Unlike him, Darwin believed that the creation and evolution of life were natural phenomena. Darwin, he expected, was an atheist, and immune from the wrath of The Church and fear of God. To Darwin, heaven and hell did not exist, but unfortunately, for Mivart, they did.

Mivart to imp: “Could it be, as Satan has suggested, that humans invented their own Hells?”

Mivart, like Darwin, did not fully understand the mechanism by which variation in plants and animals developed, but it obviously did happen and Mivart accepted it as simply another element of God’s plan. To Darwin, if there was some great, unknown power out there in the universe, it did not meddle with natural laws. Natural laws ran their course without plan or direction from a Divine power.

The very next morning, after a restful night’s sleep in his comfortable bed, Mivart found a new book in his library of bible editions. Sitting on top of a Latin translation of the Old Testament was a book titled “The Laws of Inheritance” by Gregor Mendle. Mivart picked it up and eagerly started reading. He could hardly bring himself to put it down. He devoured it while waiting to hear from Satan. Other books on genetics followed.

Memo from Satan’s files:

“During the time of sleep there is a time for dreams; dreams that cannot be controlled by volition or ecclesiastical law; dreams that respond to hunger and passion; dreams that arise from the firing of neurons stimulated by causes unknown to man. I have long been accused of being the source of disturbing and lascivious dreams; dreams powerful enough to influence human behavior, change the direction of human events and even create nighttime erections and orgasms in sleeping Popes and Cardinals. Once I became aware of this ability endowed upon me by God, himself, I have used it frequently to tempt and twist those who were susceptible, and there were many to tempt including Popes themselves. Now, as I plan my strategy, dreams will be the portal through which I can attack the infallibility of The Church, in my rescue attempt of George Mivart’s soul. Tonight, the Pope will dream.

Shortly after retiring for the night, the frail Pope John Paul II began a succession of dreams. Visions of poor souls, victims of Church blunders, visited and tormented the Holy Father in his dreams, and as it turned out they visited every one of his most entrusted staff as well. The “Satan Dream Network” would have been the envy of any Internet aficionado; such was its effectiveness in instilling guilt in God fearing minds. It took several days for the dream virus to increase in virulence and come to a festering head.

In due time the name George Mivart predictably came up at a Vatican Counsel Meeting, and discussions followed. The Pope, in good conscience, felt an obligation to request an aid to research and report on the Mivart case. He instructed the aid to keep his research under the strictest secrecy.

Satan was pleased; his plan seemed to be working.

Exactly six weeks later the inhabitants of Hell heard a deep rumble and felt a strong vibration that shook every cubicle and torture chamber. The imps wondered what Satan was up to. George Mivart had no idea that he was the cause of this most unusual event and continued to wait patiently and fearfully for the voice of Satan over the loudspeaker in his cubicle.

Finally, on the seventh day of the seventh week, the silence in his cubicle was broken by Mozart’s jubilant “Halleluiah chorus.” And then, the gentle voice of the little man who drank boiling tea was heard. “Good morning Professor Mivart, I have news for you. Please be ready in half an hour for a meeting.”

George Mivart had been anxiously standing at his cubicle door for twenty minutes, waiting for it to open. It opened exactly on time and an imp escorted him down the long hall to the elevator. When it arrived at its destination and the elevator doors opened, he was pushed out into the smoke and steam filled hall. In short order the imp led him into the bowels of the great hall and to the large desk and benign looking little man.

Satan greeted Mivart with a broad smile and extended hand. Mivart shook the hand again and then sat down to hear his fate. Would he suffer in Hell for eternity or would he be released to some other fate? The answer, unfortunately, was not immediately forthcoming. Iced tea and biscuits were pushed in his direction across the desk again while they both sat in silence for what seemed, to Mivart, to be an eternity.

Finally Satan broke the silence and asked, “ I am curious Professor, what is your definition of Hell?”

Mivart’s answer was a compilation of church teaching and legend drawn from both fiction and art. It was a thorough and colorful description, identical to Mivart’s personal experience for the last one hundred years; fire, brimstone, agony, pain, torture, etc.

Satan listened patiently while sipping his boiling tea. When Mivart finished answering the question he ventured to ask “Have I not described Hell, in all its terrible reality, to your satisfaction?”

Satan: “No my poor Mivart, you have not. Here is the current, and therefore the correct definition of Hell, as written in a recent issue of the Vatican Newspaper. It is the official pronouncement of the Catholic Church. Apparently the definition has changed since your days upon the earth.” Satan tossed a small newspaper across the desk to Mivart who read the article over several times and then, in astonishment, looked across the desk into the deep black eyes of the little man.

Satan smiled and repeated, from memory, the Pope’s actual words as written in the paper. “Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God. The scriptures use symbolic language that figuratively portrays Hell as an actual place in the bowels of the earth.”

“But” protested Mivart “I did not freely and definitively separate myself from God! And, if Hell is no longer an actual place, how can it be that I am here with you at this moment?”

Satan: “An excellent observation my dear Mivart. That, my friend, is for you to figure out, as Galileo did.” The two sat in silence for a while, broken only by the slurping sounds of Satan sipping from his steaming cup.

Finally Satan interrupted Mivart’s thoughts. “You are wondering how successful I have been in my attempt to arrange a pardon for you.”

Those were Mivart’s exact thoughts. Mivart leaned toward the desk and clasped his hands together as if praying and held them to his lips. He quickly thought better of it, lowered them, and firmly grasped the arms of the chair in which he sat.

Satan: “The Pope has formed a committee to investigate your case. He is sympathetic to your cause. There are, however, more conservative voices in the Vatican, which advise him to be cautious and proceed slowly and carefully in the matter. The Pope is an old frail man, susceptible to persuasion.  Consequently, and unfortunately, the Vatican has decided to give your case the same fair and deliberate consideration that it gave Galileo’s case. You may be looking at a wait of a couple of hundred years before the matter is resolved.”

Mivart: Damn the church, Damn the pope.

Satan paused a moment. “Fortunately, I still have a few connections in Heaven, and so I have it on reliable authority that The Almighty One has been well aware of your plight since you were excommunicated and the inaction of his church. He is also sympathetic to your cause and will, most probably, not object to your full pardon from Hell.”

Mivart’s spirit soared! He could hardly believe the good news. At last he might be released from the torments of Hell. But, how much longer would he have to wait? He broke down and wept while Satan watched impassively. Satan neither smiled nor frowned. Mivart could see no hint of emotion in the chubby little face and it worried him.

Mivart: “Is there more news yet to come? What haven’t you told me?”

Satan continued on and explained to Mivart. “As I have indicated, the Vatican council is a very deliberate body embroiled in bureaucracy and politics. There is a distinct possibility that The Church will forget our cause when this Pope dies. In addition, the church will soon be so distracted and embarrassed with the pedophilic sins of its leadership, that you will be forgotten.  If I were you Professor, I would not get my hopes up too high.”

Satan seemed to enjoy the anguish of this poor soul before him. He enjoyed announcing the shortcomings of the Catholic Church, or any church for that matter. He enjoyed stirring up trouble for his sponsor. Satan, like Mivart, had little to lose and was never one to follow heavenly protocol if he could avoid it.

Satan held out his hand into which a waiting imp placed a large serpent skin covered book, the Unabridged Catalogue of Heavens, the same one he had loaned Galileo. After a brief explanation of its contents, Satan pushed it across the desk. “Study this carefully professor. If or when the day comes that you receive a pardon, you will have to decide where your miserable soul will reside, if in any place. There are many other man-made heavens out there from which you may choose. The Viking Valhalla, the American Indian Happy Hunting Grounds, the sexual heaven of Islam and many thousands more both ancient and contemporary. The Catholic Heaven is not mandatory. By its initial rejection of your soul, it has given up all rights to it.”

Mivart: “There are other heavens?”

Satan: “As you will discover, the religions of man offer you many choices other than the Christian Heavens. Furthermore, the index of this catalogue contains a complete alphabetical listing of all beings that have ever existed on the earth and where they are spending eternity. Look up names of scientists like yourself, or politicians, or clergy, or royalty, or even the common man. You will find that some dwell neither in any Heaven or Hell. They have made other choices. Choose wisely George.”

Mivart returned to his cubicle with Satan’s heaven catalogue. Its study occupied most of George Mivart’s time until that day July 22, 2010, when the future of his soul was determined. Satan was not surprised by Mivart’s liberated selection.

The history books of heaven and hell are unclear as to what happened to George Mivart’s soul. The last recorded mention of his name was that he had checked out the Unabridged Catalogue of Heavens from Satan’s personal library. Thereafter, his name disappears from historical accounts. It is rumored in the torture chambers and cubicles of Hell, and in the cathedrals of Heaven that a secrete deal was struck between the forces of good and evil. The Church was spared the embarrassment of having committed another Galileo like blunder, and Satan had another delightful distraction from his boring responsibilities.

The rumor alleges that a diabolical compromise enabled a human soul to escape the clutches of Satan, for the first time in history without an official pardon from the Church. Sounds of diabolical laughter periodically resonated throughout Satan’s domain, and it is claimed that the din was even heard on earth, by human ears.

That evening Satan was at his computer. He pulled up the Innocents’ File Folder once again and made a notation next to the name of St. George Jackson Mivart (Location unknown.) Satan smiled and then scrolled down and revealed the next name on the list. He nodded his head in approval and went to work.

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About cgosling

I am a retired medical/scientific illustrator who has given up illustration to write about science, superstition, and secular humanism. I consider myself all of the following: atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, freethinker, skeptic, and nature lover. I have several published books but the mass of my writing is unpublished. I write children's fiction, poetry, essays, and several plays and radio theater shows, that are available as free downloads to be used on secular podcasts and meetings. They can be heard on Indy Freethought Radio. I hope some of my writings will be of interest to like minded freethinkers who I cordially invite to respond.
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