Dee has been aggravatingly taciturn since I asked him to tell me more about the sword Azoth. For more than three weeks he has spoken to me only to borrow a tool. Meanwhile, I have noticed that he neither eats nor sleeps. He staggers between his cell and mine like a wandering ghost. But today there came a change.
Today, as I sat crumbling bits of bread in a corner for the young rats, he stumbled through the breach in the wall, sat down in front of me, and said, “There was another.”
“Another like you. A prisoner who would plague me with questions about the sword. I told him next to nothing. But then he asked me something else.”
“And what was that?”
He did not answer directly. Instead, he said, “What dost thou know of the New Birth?”
“Is that what you want to know?” I replied. “It’s simple, really. ‘Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.’ Boehme writes that this is the true ‘Satisfaction of all desire.’”
“The kingdom of heaven,” he mumbled. “I told thee once that I had spoken with angels.”
“Words they gave me. Words to engrave upon the crossguard before I cast Azoth into Carbonek’s stream. That was a long time ago. But he—that other—he inquired of me concerning one of those words! I marveled at the question. Where, I wonder, could he have heard it?”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” I said. “Did you answer him?”
“Nay.” He shook his head and was silent for a while. At last he said, almost in a whisper, “I am unutterably old and weary. Like Paracelsus, I seek release. The angels spoke to me and I kept their command. Am I, then, of the kingdom of heaven?”
I did not reply.
“I have not sought the gold of the common crowd,” he went on. “Thou sayest that the true Philosopher’s Stone is the New Birth. Canst thou—or that other—give it to me?”
“I can give you nothing,” I answered. “Heaven must be as death in the soul. That, too, is the New Birth. Men are led to heaven by their loves, but these must first be sacrificed. Does this mean anything to you?”
He turned away. “I cast it into Carbonek,” he said.
* * * * *