263. While meditating on this, it was said to me by the Lord through an angel, "You shall now see the nature of that infernal love, and seeing, you will be confirmed." Then suddenly, the earth on the left opened and I saw a devil coming up out of hell. On his head he had a square cap pressed down over his forehead as far as his eyes. His face was full of pustules as of a burning fever, his eyes fierce, and his chest swollen into a rhomb. Out of his mouth he belched smoke like a furnace. His loins were all aflame. Instead of feet were bony ankles without flesh; and from his body exhaled a stinking and unclean heat.
 Terrified at sight of him, I called out, "Do not come near. Tell me whence you are." He answered hoarsely: "I am from the lower regions and am there with two hundred in a society which is pre-eminent above all societies. There we are all emperors of emperors, kings of kings, dukes of dukes, and princes of princes. No one there is a mere emperor or a mere king, duke or prince. There we sit upon thrones of thrones and send out our mandates into all the world and beyond."
I then said to him, "Do you not see that from the fantasy of pre-eminence you are insane?" and he replied, "How can you speak in that way? To ourselves we seem such as I have said. Moreover, by our companions we are recognized as such." Hearing this, I did not wish to repeat "You are insane," because from his fantasy he really was insane. It was then granted me to learn that, while living in the world, that devil had been merely a house steward, and that he was then so greatly elated in spirit that he despised the whole human race in comparison with himself, and indulged the fantasy that he was more worthy than a king and even than an emperor. From this pride he had denied God and counted all the holy things of the Church as nothing for himself and as something only for the stupid multitude.
 At last I asked him, "As to your two hundred there, how long do you thus boast among yourselves?" He said, "For ever; but those of us who torment others for denying their pre-eminence sink down, it being allowed us to boast but not to bring evil on any one."
I then asked him, "Do you know what is the lot of those who sink down?" He said, "They sink into a prison where they are called viler than the vile or the very vilest, and there they labor." To that devil I then said, "Have a care then lest you also sink down."