Here The naked souls are running horror-struck with their hands bound behind them by serpents that thrust their heads and tails out through their loins.
There is also an element of hypnosis going on, which reminds me of a note at the end of last Monday's post, from the Oxford Dictionary: Fascinate ARCHAIC (esp. of a snake) deprive (a person or animal) of the ability to resist or escape the power of a look or gaze: the serpent fascinates its prey.
The serpents "transfix" their victims, at which time the latter instantaneously burst into flames and are reduced to ashes. But as in the Terminator movies, the ashes are reunited of themselves / And instantly resume his spirit's form.
The first thought that comes to mind is, of course, the seductive serpent of paradise, who first draws Eve into its spell before Eve hypnotizes Adam with her charms.
For just as grace operates through various intermediaries in a hierarchical, top down fashion (↓), so too does this inverted version -- which is not (↑) per se, but perhaps (↑) devoid of (↓), which renders it promethean and therefore ripe for a fall.
Indeed the fall is inevitable in such a case -- which, I think, is the deeper meaning of today's aphorism: Why deceive ourselves? Science has not answered a single important question.
The point is that science can only answer important questions if it isn't divorced from reality in the fuller sense. In isolation -- in particular, from the vertical -- it is axiomatic that science cannot answer important questions, for only the mature soul (who ipso facto eludes any scientific explanation) knows what is important. This is called judgment.
Back to the canto. The souls here who are tormented by the serpents are thieves -- not just any thieves, but those who steal sacred objects and vestments from the Church sacristy.
Such a theft is full of implications. One immediately thinks of how the secular west is parasitic on the Christian civilization that gave birth to it, but without so much as acknowledging the debt. This is not just a discourtesy but a grave sin.
Think of how contemporary liberals ransack the Constitution in order to remove and distort what they need in order to confer a fraudulent legitimacy upon their policy preferences. Any sensible American intuitively understands that this involves the theft of something sacred -- not the least of which being the blood that was shed in order to make that Constitution possible and to endure.
For even prior to the Constitution are the courageous human beings who recognized and were willing to risk their lives and fortunes in defense of the Good. To steal this priceless treasure from one's countrymen is morally indistinct from grave robbing. Then the left has the hutzpah to call it a "living" document!
Again, it all goes back to the false promise of the serpent: Ye shall be as gods. As Upton explains, "The primal theft was Eve's theft of the forbidden fruit. Tempted by the serpent, she took something from the Divine realm and enclosed it within the human one."
Note the similarity to what I said above about (↑) devoid of (↓): "Man can descend but not ascend on his own power, because his very existence is a gift from God; he can squander but he cannot earn" (Upton).
I would amend that slightly to say that we can earn, but only through a grace that is already operative in the form of a desire for ascent -- for purification and illumination. In other words, the desire to know God is already God. Obey your thirst!
Upton adds another important point, that "Theft, more than any other sin, is involved with concealment, since both the act and the stolen goods must be hidden." This is obvious in the case of stolen objects, but becomes much more complex when one is stealing, say, our Constitution or civilizational heritage. How does one cover up such a massive crime?
Through endless and systematic lying at the highest levels. People must be taught in such a way that the conclusions of the left become at least plausible. One such way is to teach people that their desires are rights, that their defects are society's fault, that the state is good at "solving" the human condition, that the accumulated wisdom of the past is obsolete, that what is newest is the best, and that someone else's wealth redounds to your poverty.
Something stolen cannot really be assimilated into the self. For example, one can pass a test by cheating, but that doesn't mean one has mastered the material. The initial lie will have to be followed by an even bigger lie, because one will have to pretend one has assimilated the information. One becomes a counterfeit version of oneself, a phony, which is a kind of primordial betrayal and lie.
The worst lies begin by pulling the wool over one's own eyes, or auto-flimflammery, for then one may transmit lies with an undisturbed conscience.
Souls struggling with the primordial Lie that gave them birth