THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT PIUS OF SUTICA
BOOK II: ILLUSION.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Blessed Pius of Sutica (1610-1803), known before his conversion as Malgath, was an High Elven philosopher who converted to Canonism and later became a Canonist Priest, founding the Priestly Fraternity of SS. Jude and Kristoff. He was the author of many influential spiritual works. Disowned by his natural family as “impure”, High Pontiff Saint James II called him “An example of humility whom I wish to emulate and a teacher to whom I submit”; he was beatified for the greater glory of God by High Pontiff Jude II in 1807. He was canonised by Everard VI in 1836.
READ HERE: BOOK I (IMPURE), PUBLISHED BY FRATERNITY PRESS.
CHAPTER I - THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE.
I.My philosophy of life, then, was thus: having abandoned any attempt to build character, I resolved that the only meaning to life was to suck as much pleasure out of it as could be gained, and to avoid as much pain as could be avoided. My sense of morality was hence bent towards this, so that I never indulged brutal or greatly mean tendencies in terms of causing physical harm, which I would have rejected as uncivilised, but remained always outwardly polite and seemingly harmless. I was a coward, what might informally be called a ‘wimp.’ I stood for no principle or cause, except to not stand; and I would rather look in the mirror and see a coward than incur any pain to myself. Although it was of course, contrary to Thee, the experience of this philosophy taught me much which I now know. For example, I cannot now delude myself into believing myself a strong or courageous man, capable of standing up without Thy holding me up. I know that when I stood for nothing but my own self, I really did not stand at all. I was content to avoid trouble and pursue pleasure, and, again, this I called Life on the Basis of the Pleasure Principle, as if some great intellectual invention of mine, when in fact it is as old as iblees. Thou wast not my God, my God. Rather, I was my own god, a rule unto myself, and I thought this bold and new! But most novelties are just old philosophies with new labels.
II.For this reason, I never explicitly crossed the line to do acts or say words that would render me Impure in the eyes of the State. I kept these things bottled up within my head. And yet, along with this contentment - that the struggle did not really matter and that I might as well get as much pleasure out of it as I could - I remained angry with the Silver State and what I thought was her fiction of Purity. Perhaps it was because they denied me the most intense pleasures, such as fornication. A lust denied is often the wellspring of anger. I cannot claim to have lived chastely at this time, for although I kept the outward chastity of Mali’aheral, yet inwardly I would not have, with only my own cowardice preventing me. Hence, I have no moral high ground whatever over the adulterer: in spirit, I was an adulterer, with only a slavish fear of the State and society that kept me from consummating the acts I desired.
III.Wherefore, I desired the thrill of being a rebel, testing the line, but never with the backbone to actually cross it. I would drink altogether too much, each week, each day; each hour daring to push toward the edge of the line closer and closer. I fell in with a bad group, and they accelerated my ‘progress.’ My life hence became one of petty crime. I was merely a petty criminal simply because I was too pathetic to be a serious one. My friends were bolder than me; and I often-times lied to them in order to make it seem like I had committed crimes as grievous as theirs. A man, boasting of an act of lust, or wickedness or rebellion, would make me feel compelled to lie that I had done just as bad, if not worse. My family were worried about my habits, but they never really became aware of their true extent. And if they did, my parents loved me too much to expose me to the scandal of our society.
CHAPTER II - THE NATURE OF SIN.
IV.One night, it came to a head when we broke the Silver Laws in a clear and indefensible manner. Second among the ‘Obvious Laws’ is that in which stealing is strictly prohibited (Eltiran’thilln I.I.II) - and it was this Law which we violated on one warm summer night. But unlike some of the laws written in our code, this was not merely an offence against the Silver Laws, but against the very Law which Thou hast engraved into our hearts - namely the natural Moral Law which belongs to all men. It was in the trade district of the city, where we stole some bottles of rather mediocre wine. The wine was of no real value. We had much better at home. There was nothing financial in what I did. But to the man from which we stole, it could have represented a serious loss.
V.If it was not money, why did I choose thee, O sin of mine? “It’s a victimless crime, Malgath.” The boys urged, their smooth voices like melting butter. Yes. I would not have chosen thee alone, O cursed one. Were I alone, the thought of stealing would never have entered my mind. But shamed by the urging of peers, I caved to the baser instinct. Again, O my soul, learn thy lesson. Thou art not as strong or self-dependent as thou thinkest thyself to be. No, no! Thou art inclined to take the path of least resistance - and in a fallen world, that path is often the road that creeps softly to death. There is no man so vulnerable as he that trusts in his own energy and resources! Lean, O my soul, on Thy God, and never forget all that He hath done for thee.
VI.That is the tension which I think must shatter any remnant of Mali'thill pride which still remains with me. I once read in one of the Akritian pagan poets: Video meliora proboque, deteriora seqour. ((OOC Note: Ovid, Met.VII.20-21)) “The better things I see, and I praise them; but it is the baser that I follow.” Or in other words, as one wise man, or perhaps rather God in him, put it: “Non enim quod volo bonum, hoc facio: sed quod nolo malum, hoc ago.” ((OOC note: Romans 7:19)) Viz., for the good which I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do. Is it not amazing that I never read the like in any of our authors, despite the fact that we pride ourselves on being wise above men? Our Laws say: “Our ancestors strove for Purity...” (Elitiran’thilln I.I.IV.) but it seems that even peer pressure, passions and emotions, the law of our members and flesh, and such influences, can cause us to capsize like a gunboat on the open sea very easily. We do not realise that we are fallen creatures. Sin has a certain hold over us, and we are compromised by a mortal weakness which inclines us to the baser instincts. The refusal to acknowledge this weakness makes the High Elf even more likely to fall, and, worse, makes him refuse to pity his brother who does fall. We need to realise we all have something of the Old Krug in us. Deliver me not to a prideful heart, my God.
VII.But there was more. It was not merely a caving into pressure, but I took a positive pleasure in the act. Whence came this pleasure? Allow me to guess, my Lord. I think it came from that instinct of pride and rebellion which caused me to have a contempt for a higher law placing a restriction on my free act. In my licentious philosophy, if it can be honoured by that word (for philosophy means love of wisdom, and this was the love of nothing), freedom was the highest good. By therefore inordinately chasing freedom even at the cost of evil, I fell into a bad way. Sin seems to me to be rooted in nothing less than a pursuit of a lesser good to its extreme, to the point where it overrides the Moral Law.
VIII.This is why we need to have moral absolutes. My father used to tell me a story about a plotting human queen, the wife of the king. The queen desperately wanted her son, the king’s step-son, to follow after the death of the childless king. Therefore she poisoned, blackmailed and schemed, stopping at no length, ceasing to commit no evil to obtain this end. In the end, even the husband of her bosom and king was made her victim when it became clear to her he was going to prefer another man to her son. At her husband’s deathbed, she justified herself: “I never did anything, never thought anything, never said anything except for thee and for the kingdom, my lord,” sounded she in the ears of the dying king. If she was a mere lunatic it would not be a frightening story. But the truly abominable thing is that she truly believed - or at least convinced herself - of the necessity of these acts. For, she reasoned, without a single heir, the kingdom would be plunged into civil war. Her son, in her mind, would be the only one who could be universally accepted as king. This is a terrifying truth cloaked in a fictional story. For, without moral absolutes, we can justify any evil to pursue any lesser good. Convicted of our own righteousness, we will, in our pride, do every evil imaginable before facing the trial of conscience which our sins - at the least - deserve.
IX.In these acts I sought to make myself free, but merely enchained myself afresh. And the chains were more chafing than before. For when I held myself to the laws of Purity, the chains were outward - now the chains enclosed my very heart and soul. O, that I had wings like a dove! Thou art my desert place, O my God, and let my soul take its final flight to Thee. [Editor’s note: Pius’ declining health meant he was convinced his own death was close at hand upon writing.] For who was freer, the man from whom I had stolen, or the thief? I had loosed myself from a Law, but bound myself by sin. My victim was constrained now by a new economic necessity. But in his heart and conscience he remained innocent and free. This is true freedom. For the just man, though a slave, is free. But the wicked man, though he reigns, is a slave, for the slave has for his master but one, and that outward, but the wicked man has as many masters as he has vices which enslave even his very interior life. I therefore freed myself only to enslave myself yet more profoundly, convincing myself that slavery was freedom, and freedom was slavery. O, had I known the free and true law of Love! She has the chains of law, but they chafe not: for they are held in place not by servile fear, but by the sweet bonds of charity. Late have I come to Thee, O my Love. But possess me ,for I am utterly Thine to possess. Hold me fast, and let me never depart from Thee!
CHAPTER III - ACADEMIC CAREER.
X.Whilst this reality dawned upon me, I began to suffer from intense boredom. I went from enjoying life to sneering at it. This was another flaw in Life According to the Pleasure Principle. For pleasures are transitory and suffer what I may call a Law of Diminishing Returns. That is, sensual pleasure gradually loses its novelty, and so we become weary of it, and so, to stimulate an ever-decreasing capacity for pleasure, one must seek for pleasures more and more intense, novel and illicit. Therefore, that night of my theft was when things came to a head. After that, for weeks, I would go seeking to replicate the thrill which I experienced that night. But I could never find it. I went to the same stupid job every day. I drank the same wine. Everything seemed grey and meaningless. I have felt grief, anger and other negative emotions at various points in my life. But to feel truly grieved, I must love something greatly, care greatly about something. But I cared for nothing. So there was no passion; no lamentations cried to an unknown god. Grey. Transitory. It was the true face of nihilism - a blank nihil staring me down the long prospective centuries, and driving me insane. After a time I decided I could not live by this principle any more.
XI.I returned to the Silver Library. The pleasures of childhood had been more wholesome, so I suppose I reckoned that in the pleasures of the Library I might find solace. I encountered a genre of literature which might be called Self-Improvement. It involves things such as “Growing in Knowledge of Self” “Self-Esteem”, and Listening. (A Full Guide to Meditation and ‘The Self.’) As the name implies, it is far too self centered. Nevertheless, devouring volumes such as these which gave practical tips for “self-actualisation”, I sought a perverted kind of asceticism, which is far from the kind which Thy servant, our Holy Father Saint Jude practised upon this earth. Saint Jude understood that the love of Thee takes the primacy in our lives. (Thesis on Love.) We rather chase an inordinate love of self and chase “improvement” out of self-love, rather than seeking out the other to become the object of our love.
XII.Dearest God, my Creator, I exist only in relation to Thee. Without Thee I am nothing. Apart from Thee, I have nothing to claim for my own but sin and death. Thou art the source, summit and sustainer of my entire life from the womb onwards. Thou art Wisdom - without Thee I am only pitiful unwisdom - Thou art beauty - without Thee I am only brute ugliness - Thou art Goodness - without Thee I am only utter wretchedness. I therefore give Thee all of my love, I make to Thee a sacrifice of love as I say: I love Thee. I immolate myself in this Act of Love. Let ‘I’ only exist to be in the ‘I’ in ‘I love Thee!’ let me be enclosed within this Act of Love in time and in eternity. I love Thee with my whole heart and above all things. O let all other things dissolve before me in this Act of Love; let me be wrapped up in the consciousness of two, and only two, luminously self-evident beings: myself, and my Creator.
CHAPTER IV - PIUS REJECTS CONTRACT.
XIII.It was therefore in this self-absorption that I gave myself to return to an academic career. I chased “success.” That meant power, wealth and prestige. But to what end? That question I carefully avoided, deciding to cast myself body and soul into the pit of materialism. This provided solace, for a time. I gave myself up furiously to the study of architecture for several decades until I was considered a respected master of the field. At the end of my resolve, I finally found what I had grasped for so anxiously: the great work which would propel me into an illustrious career. A senior magistrate in the Silver State commissioned me to build for him a great townhouse which would gain for me great fame in the land and would probably be enough to secure me great favour with the State. My family would be proud of me. A woman I was sweet on would be greatly impressed, and I would gain universal admiration, a comfortable life and a reputation as a great patriot. But despite all my vehement devotion to my work, I could not bring myself to sign the contract. My pen shaked, much as I did when I began this writing. Something was off.
XIV.I requested a few days off to consider. The magistrate eagerly granted, but seemed surprised. I had, after all, seemed such an ambitious sort! But there was a nagging doubt which I could not answer, because I could not work out what it was. I could not sleep. I had always kept on my desk some archive documents talking about the calendar: the months of the year, the difference between Elven and normal hours, and so on, and so forth - and, most importantly of all, the years of the various realms upon which the descendants had dwelt in modern history. I studied the details only because I had nothing else to do for lack of sleep. Anthos. 1420-1454. 34 years. Athera. 1470-1513. 43 years. Vailor. 1513-1570. 67 years. And then my birthplace, Axios: 1571-1642. 71 years. And now Atlas: 1643-1704. 61 years. And now I was in Arcas and they wanted me to build a townhouse. 1704-to...what? When would this one finish? I swiftly calculated the median of the time it took for each continent to implode and force a mass migration. 61+71+67+43+34. Divided by 5. 55.2. My mind raced: in about half a century, this new place I was supposed to call home would be finished, on average, by 1759. (Griffith, thou must needs understand - that seems a long time for a human. But to an Elf, it is almost nothing.) So what? Was I to lay the foundations of a townhouse which would be abandoned so swiftly? How fleeting an honour! How pointless an endeavour! How futile a contract! O, Vanity of Vanities! And yet my blessed race, which looks upon men with pity for their short years, differ nothing from them in this manner of thinking. I was building as if for eternity something which would last, in Elven terms, ten fortnights at the most.
XV.I took that contract which I had coveted for half a century of gruelling mental labour and I ripped it in shreds. At first, I felt a tremendous weight lift from my shoulders. Although I knew it not, Thou hadst delivered me from the cage of covetousness. For I now see that I would not have wrested myself from that pitiable position: there is no reason I should have read that calendar and raced my mind along such a path, unless Thou didst spur it on. Thou hast spared me from the fate I deserved, from the fate I had chosen for myself, Lord - centuries of centuries of labour ever more futile, working away at a thing that passeth away like stubble in the wind, ere its foundations were laid. O, Thou art my Liberator who hath broken my bonds asunder. Having received of this unmerited grace, unknowing that it be grace at all, I returned home that very night, unsure of what to do next.
CHAPTER V - PIUS TAKES UP THE VOCATION TO PHILOSOPHY.
XVI.The Library was the only place I knew where to go. And so I did. My employer was there and was looking very smug. “Ah, after so rudely ripping up the opportunity of a lifetime, young Malgath hath returned. I will, in my generosity, over thee a second chance.” He thought my refusal was a thing of vanity, and that I would now accept a worse offer. He was wrong.
XVII.What now? As a child and young man, I had studied the Flexio and Akritian languages. But I had considered other races, naturally, inferior. In the natural order of science, such as in medicine, perhaps they might have something valuable to teach us. But in terms of philosophy and metaphysics, we were told as a rule of dogma that there was nothing possibly they could teach us. Indeed, to embrace foreign ideas was considered of questionable Purity, and to do so to the exclusion of the State’s ideas of Purity and so forth, utterly Impure. [Editor’s Note: c.f. Othelu Orrar, Enumerated Distinctions of Purity.] Therefore, whilst I had studied Flexio and Akritian works on mathematics, medicine, architecture, linguistics and so forth, I had never read any work of philosophy not approved by the State, except works bent toward ‘self-improvement.’ But now my mind took a different turn. The philosophy of the Blessed Mali had proven nothing but disastrous and illusory for me on a personal level. Nihilism had proven equally so. These people seemed very advanced in the natural sciences. Could it hurt to start to study their philosophies as well as their natural sciences? I had to give it a try.
XVIII.I take a moment to observe how excellent the timing of this decision, or rather how excellent Thy timing was. If I had studied these things as a boy or a youth, I would have read them with nothing but scorn, disgust and a deep conviction of my own superiority. But now I was eager to learn from them. Before I would have read the philosophers to lecture them on my own superiority. Now, all that I had experienced, the lies upon which I was brought up, the utter evil of hedonism and the giving over of monstrous enemies to a transitory gust of wind, I had gone from lecturer to student. I knew I did not have the answers so I sought them elsewhere. Before I thought: I do not have the answers; surely these inferior civilisations cannot tell me them. There are no answers. Now I had abandoned that evil line of thinking, and was determined to investigate.
XIX.I took another job at the Silver Library as a linguist and translator. After a few months of study, I came across an Akritian pagan writer writing in Flexio called Archimedes. Akritos was a far-away country which for centuries had never been Canonist. I did not read the Canonists because I considered them fanatics, so I stuck to the pre-Canonist philosophers. Archimedes wrote an epistle to his friend exhorting him to the love of wisdom above all things and how she needed to be preferred over any material thing. I was entranced. “Did this Archimedes have disciples?” I asked. If so, they must be found abroad. Yes, I must go and talk if this man hath any more written works and any men who know his philosophy in detail. Everything material was vain; I was now inflamed with the spirit of a philosopher. I knew that I could not rest until I knew where the true good of the sons of Malin lay. My vocation was clear: I was to become a philosopher, a Lover of Wisdom.