Officer: You will rise and acknowledge the presence of High Academia Carlisle Neville, head of the Academic Ministry of Theology.
(Enter Carlisle Neville, a stenographer, and Aid)
Phineas: Academia Neville, this is an honor.
Neville: Be seated, Mr. Galen. You’re not as I pictured you. I pictured some renegade rogue with wild hair and a crazed look in his eyes.
Phineas: I’m sure that’s how the community expects me to look by now. I hear I have no credibility even as a person anymore.
Neville: (to Officer) That’ll be all thank you. (Officer hesitates) This prisoner is not charged with a violent crime. I assure you, I will be safe.
Officer: As you wish.
Neville: Mr. Galen, I’ll come straight to the point. You have caused quite a bit of disturbance with your claim.
Phineas: My intent was never to cause a riot, sir.
Neville: Did you not? Oh, come! You’re quite the extraordinary man. You come strutting about claiming exceptional knowledge outside of acceptable models and thought, teach it in your class and then turn around to claim your intent was to not cause a riot? Well sir? What do you have to say?
Phineas: Since you have asked a question which pertains to my ongoing trial, I’m afraid I have no option but to refuse to answer. My hands are tied. I apologize.
Neville: Quite right. Both our hands are tied here. (To Stenographer) Make a note of this. “Herewith and from this moment on, all communication which shall transpire between our two parties are herein exempt from subpoena from all officers of The Court of Trials.” There. Now we can speak freely.
Phineas: You can do this?
Neville: Only I can do this. Or any other High Academic who has a scholarly interest in speaking with you and needs the ever-present Directive of Truth lifted so that you may speak off the record.
Phineas: Scholarly interest, sir?
Neville: There are issues which beg investigation, here, son. I would be remiss in my duties if I were to let this event go by as a mere spectator without making an official case-study of your… current condition.
Phineas: (dryly) You mean, am I insane?
Neville: That is a possibility I am not ruling out.
Phineas: It would seem to me that they shouldn’t have gone to such extraordinary lengths by enlisting you to get something they could’ve done with a court ordered psychologist. I’m surprised this is not a function of the High Academia of the Psychology. Was his schedule booked today?
Neville: Mr. Galen. Being in my position, I have the luxury to have an open mind on the matter. I should think you should recognize for what that means.
Phineas: You mean, you would believe me?
Neville: I said I have an open mind with no predispositions. I make no guarantees on what I would “believe”. I may not have the luxury to “believe” in anything at this point. But I do have the responsibility to declare an opinion in the matter. Besides, I have a personal interest in the matter, a curiosity if you will, that makes this whole exchange rather interesting to me personally. That, you should also recognize, as an advantage for you.
Phineas: I meant no disrespect. It’s been a very trying time here, on my own. Forgive me, High Academia –
Neville: Please. How can we have a stimulating conversation if you must continue to defer to me by title? You may address me as Mr. Neville, and I “Mr. Galen” to you. Let us speak on an even playing field, as it were.
Phineas: Yes, Mr. Neville.
Neville: Excellent. Now, shall we begin with the facts as we know them?
Phineas: All right.
Neville: On the fourteenth of last month, you addressed your theology class by posing the question of the history of God, its origins in different cultures, the role it plays in early societal structure, and the Declaration of Man by the Scientocracy which, in effect, put to rest the final question of the existence of God.
Phineas: If that is what the records show.
Neville: Mr. Galen, I can appreciate you having to communicate in a guarded manner in the Court of Trials, but I am not interested in “what the records show”. I am interested in your corroborating what I understand as the situation at hand. I assure you, Mr. Galen, upon my office, none of this conversation can be used against you.
Phineas: Again, apologies, Mr. Neville. It’s been so long—
Neville: No apologies necessary, Mr. Galen. I’m sure after these months of being under the Directive of Truth, you are having a difficult time speaking freely. We should have had this conversation weeks ago. But, as you had alluded to earlier about a colleague of mine, my schedule was quite booked up until now.
Phineas: That was churlish of me, High Academia.
Neville: You are deferring again, Mr. Galen. This will grow quite tiresome if we spend our time together apologizing to each other. Let’s get to the matter at hand, shall we? Is this, more or less, how you began to address your class on that particular day?
Phineas: Yes. Yes it is.
Neville: That wasn’t so bad, now was it? To begin with it was pretty basic curricula for a class of budding theologians, although, I dare say, it was a bit out the lesson plan, wasn’t it?
Phineas: Yes, yes it was.
Neville: And why, of all days during that school year, did you pick that particular day to stray from your planned material?
Phineas: Spur of the moment, I guess.
Neville: You’re evading, Mr. Galen. Remember I have an open mind, you do me a disservice in forgetting that. Would it better to phrase it that “you were inspired”, Mr. Galen? Mr. Galen?
Phineas: Mr. Neville, standing here, before you, and to actually bring it into words, I almost convince myself that I am raving – my impulse is to beg you to put me away in an institution—
Neville: --Why is that, Mr. Galen? What is it that seems so inexplicable that to put it into words is inconceivable that it would be received by another’s ear? What happened to you that makes you want to run and hide rather than face the idea of even discussing the possibility of it being a reality? Mr. Galen, did you, or did you not, to a class of third year theology students, on that particular day, in your class, with sound mind and clear conscience, declare to your class that you heard, with no possibility of misunderstanding, with no room for error, no argument for another explanation, the voice of God?
Phineas: It sounds insane, doesn’t it?
Neville: Of course it does. Which intrigues me, why, in the face of this claim sounding like a madman’s rant, why in the face of the discredit that you have suffered and everything else, why would a man of your standing continue to this day to hold on to the idea that you had contact with some otherworldly being.
Phineas: No, not, otherworldly being, Mr. Neville.
Neville: How do you mean?
Phineas: Otherworldly would indicate foreign, alien, unfamiliar. This was exactly the opposite. This was organic to our world, this was everything familiar, this was not mysterious but instantly recognizable. And that’s how I knew, that’s how I could come the next day to class and say what I did. Only –
Neville: Only what, Mr. Galen?
Phineas: Only now that the “inspiration” is gone, the “feeling of familiarity”, the indescribable…I guess that’s the best way to put it, the “indescribable” is gone, it just seems like a vague memory, and after going through this inquiry, I have doubts.
Neville: But you didn’t have doubts at that time, did you?
Phineas: None. None at all, Mr. Neville. With all the conviction I could muster. Unequivocally, undoubtedly, unmistakably.
Neville: You heard the voice of God.
Phineas: …Not so much as “heard”, but “experienced” God. It was, it was an event, a happening, a… a… visitation if you will.
Neville: I see. But now you’re not so sure.
Phineas: Mr. Neville, one can be convinced of something so basic as their own name, but if they are questioned enough times by enough people, one will begin to doubt even their own identity. That’s what’s happening now, to me.
Neville: And that, is why I am here, now, Mr. Galen. To find out if we are asking the wrong questions, and looking for the wrong answers.