Memnoch the Devil Discussion Part 2: The Splendor of Heaven, Lestat’s journey to Dante’s Paradiso
Originally, my vision of heaven was innocently divine and was very vacuous. When I was younger, the only earthly sense to describe heaven with was perfect gratification. Essentially, I thought heaven contained infinite amounts of all the pleasurable things known to me at this point. I was not mature enough to conceptualize a heaven that perhaps could be dull or filled with questionable paradoxes. Heaven to me was simply the inevitable hereafter that we are privileged to dwell in for holding steadfast to faith in the existence of God.
As I aged, I thought I had to repetitiously beseech God for salvation. My gratification came then only in the form of allaying my doubts with trust that God has somehow remembered that I continue to exist on the Earth that I was led to believe he no longer paid any attention to. This highly negligent God becomes a very prominent character when Memnoch offers his account of being exiled from heaven temporarily and making a case for the inherent worth of humanity.
Regarding the evolution of my beliefs, I really do think that Lestat cleaved to these beliefs until he faced the glaring reality that he was not allowed to be a priest. Similar to Anne Rice herself, Lestat felt forced into questioning his faith and altogether forfeiting it because he finally realized a hole in the logic of his religious beliefs. My own personal loss of faith was brought about by repressed doubts that were eventually shaped into one unified argument against the veracity of Christianity. As with the first post, Lestat’s understanding of the world, as with my immature vision of heaven, was a world that was dependent upon pleasure and sensuality to distract us from the disillusioning knowledge that the world is absent of any meaning. Our pleasure and ambitions are the only things that we can derive some semblance of meaning.
Before being ushered to heaven with his wonderful consort Memnoch, Lestat converses with Armand and the others who think Lestat’s proposed journey is predictably insane. Armand notably mentions that Satan is a seductive figure who might deceive Lestat into believing an erroneous concept of God and heaven. Strangely, this is the same Armand who answered Louis’ desperate questions about God by curtly saying that there was neither a God nor Satan in existence. When cautioning Lestat about his forthcoming plans, he mentions the medieval archetype of Satan as the adversarial figure that opposes God’s majesty. Within the medieval times, he essentially represented human feelings that were either unresolved or pitted against any penitent feelings.
When Lestat finally returns to Memnoch, Lestat is taken aback by Memnoch’s human precense. Lestat vaguely remembers being haunted by Armand’s haunting portrayal of Lucifer. Memnoch not only has a different shape and nature than Armand’s concept of Satan. He also adopts a different name which serves as Anne Rice’s method of undoing our preconceived notions of Satan and allow us to invite his explanation of heaven and hell that no mortal has ever encountered before death.
Anne Rice’s depiction of heaven is written with marvelous approximation. Her language has wrongly been described as being overwrought in passages such as these. I’ve never been able to understand that perspective since no author I’ve encountered has ever been able to bring the feeling of naturalness that Anne Rice brings with her deftly written prose. Her heaven scene imbues the reader with a sense of overwhelming beauty. From Lestat’s perspective, some lucidity is brought in to stabilize a scene that could easily become unbalanced by the sheer density of the description.
In CS Lewis’ “The Last Battle,” he relied on meager details for his heaven sequence to respectfully allow for it to fit with the metaphorical nature of the story. Anne Rice’s style is much more bombastic and Lestat is certainly someone who is arrogant and fond of artistry. Within her heaven sequence, the ethereal beauty of “Cry to Heaven’s” musical descriptions reappear within the scene almost as a homage to that wonderful book. In this novel, it serves as Anne Rice’s memory of music recalling her thoughts of God. Lestat remembers his days as a vagrant with Nicholas when they travel to Paris to play violin. Therefore, Lestat’s heaven vision would be focused upon the musical element of heave. Or at least when writing “Memnoch the Devil,” Lestat would probably retain pronounced memories of the ineffable beauty of heaven’s music. There is definitely no superior way of describing heaven’s indescribable nature than to use the enigmatic force of music. Remember, Anne Rice used music “Cry to Heaven” to express the depth of pain that some of the characters faced within that book.
Towards the end of Lestat’s experience with heaven, he peruses some books filled to the brim with answers to all the questions he’s ever formulated about Earth and the nature of “being.” Except, he cannot remember distinctly any of the answers because only the complexity of music can be remembered while prodigious knowledge cannot be stored by our limited minds. After leaving heaven, Lestat feels unsatisfied afterwards and this aids in helping him to better understand the restiveness of the souls in Sheol. The next post will explore the complications of believing in God when the metaphysical world is too vast and unreal for us to instill true belief in it. Therefore, is it really possible for any of us to even have a “belief” in God when the word implies having knowledge in the definite existence of that being.