ANOTHER week had passed, and I, in accordance with instructions had striven to the best of my ability to secure mastery over mind. And now, for the first time I commenced to realize the power of the will. Whenever my thoughts recurred to Iole, with relentless severity, I cast them away. In order to do this more effectually, I chose deep questions in science and metaphysics and concentrated all the power of my mind upon them. I took the symbols and instructions that had been partially explained or outlined to me, and dwelt upon them separately, and whenever my mind tended to another object, I brought it back with firmness and determination.
Likewise, in all the little things of life I practiced concentration; I tried by all possible means to overcome the habitual tendency of the mind to wander and strove to attain what the Hindu yogi calls “One-pointed-ness.” On the night for another meeting, I received a note by special messenger telling me to remain home and continue for another week as I had in that just gone by.
It was signed, “Iole” and offered no explanation. Without comment or question, I went back to my room and, to stay my thoughts, which now had a tendency to drift more than ever, chose the Ego as a subject for contemplation.
Following certain rules, I locked the door, put out the lamp, and took my position on my heavy cushioned seat. For several moments, there was a slight wavering, but, as I persisted, this ceased, and my mind became centered upon my subject. The concentration grew more fixed and a pain commenced to throb within my head. It ceased, and a numbness, commencing in my lower limbs, stole up my body. At the same time, an inner suction commenced between my eyes, and burning fire pervaded my upper brain and temples.
At this point, a violent agitation commenced in my right side, and a sense of fear came over me. I opened my eyes, which had been closed to facilitate concentration, and – My God! I was surrounded by a white light, and just beyond it in the darkness, now full of red-colored currents, was a host of horrid creatures, half-human, half-animal, with monstrous shapes and evil features. With a cry, I sprang up; the light vanished, the shapes faded away and with my frame shaking with tremors I was left alone in the darkness. After a time, recovering myself, I lit the lamp and became more calm.
“I have gone too far,” I muttered to myself. “I tempt the demons of the air. If I thus call up elementals, without sufficient strength to master them, I am doomed to madness.”
Another week passed by, and I thought I had done my duty well. Evening having come, and having received no orders to the contrary, I took my carriage to the place of meeting. The masked woman motioned me to enter the door at the right as before, and, passing through, I found myself in the presence of the woman before whom I had first appeared and who was known to me as Madame Petrovna. Without a word, she motioned me to a seat, and fixing her penetrating blue eyes on me, gazed at me with searching looks for several minutes.
I returned her gaze without flinching, and at last she said: “Brother, your teacher informs that you wish to enter the sixth sub-degree; is it so?"
I thought I was already a member of the sixth degree, and, as if she read my very thoughts, she said: “No, you are not yet in the sixth degree; you are merely a probationer. You can enter only when vouched for by a member who knows you. Your teacher, whom we know as Iole, had vouched for you and affirms that she knows you.”
“Now, know that by so doing she has assumed an awful responsibility; for if you fail, she must suffer with you the dire results that inevitably ensue. Now be candid, sir; has your teacher asked you to take this step?”
“Only indirectly, by telling me of the grand heights to be attained; I ask of my own free will and without solicitation.”
“‘Tis well; it is dangerous to proselytize; for, by so doing, we unite ourselves with the results of the failures that may come. You then assume all responsibilities, do you?”
“I do,” I answered.
“Do you realize the serious nature of this step? Do you know the responsibilities and duties that it brings?”
“I assume all these, whatever they may be; I am ready and willing,” I answered.
“Do you love your teacher?” she answered.
“As strong as man can love,” I answered, without hesitation.
“Then do not fail, for, if you do, she is doomed.” Then, as though by a secret sign, Iole opened the door and entered. She had on her accustomed dress of white, but her beautiful face was unveiled and her long rich hair hung loosely over her shoulder.
“Unmask,” commanded the Madame, addressing me, for all this time I had been partly masked.
“Sister,” she said, turning to Iole, “Do you know, approve, and recognize him as a brother?”
“I do,” she answered, in a clear, certain voice, as she looked at me with a deep and intent gaze.
“Then take him as your full brother; instruct him in the teachings of this degree; we hold you responsible for all failures.”
“Brother, tell me of the experience you had in your room last meeting night.”
“Why! How did you find out concerning it?” I asked in astonishment.
“By that portion of myself in you,” she replied, smiling at my surprise.
“Will you explain more fully what you mean?”
It is best that you should learn from experience; to explain by talking to you of things perceptible only to senses you have not as yet unfolded, would be but adding mystery to mystery. You can hardly understand what is beyond your experience. When without aid you have evolved or brought from their latent condition your higher senses, all will be clear. Now proceed.
I then related my experience, just as it was, and when I had finished, she said:
The last three exhortations I gave you, my brother, were to kill out doubt, fear, and love, or thoughts of self, the three great enemies of knowledge. You evidently forgot these or failed to do as I told, for fear, and therefore thought of self, brought on this astral vision. But, brother, you should know that so long as you are pure and your thoughts unselfish, you have naught to fear.
That white light which shone around you, so long as white, is impenetrable and proof against all evil that may be without. Then gods have not left the pure man without protection; he is guarded, even though he knows it not. And further, you are now a member of the Great Brotherhood whose great Protectors, although invisible, are ever present around you.
She paused, and I replied: “Sister, your words recall the teachings of my parents, and fill me with an anxious haste to know more of the Great Brotherhood, its Masters, and my beloved parents who await me there.”
“Brother, everything must abide its time; the eternal decrees of law cannot be set aside to gratify your haste. You cannot be put into the Great Brotherhood, you must grow into it. Heretofore, little has been told you of your noble parents; now this much I tell you; they live and are members of the exalted ‘Third Degree.’”
“And canst thou tell me of my sister, Esmeralda?”
“She too lives, a virgin sister, and you will meet her in this degree. Now let us to our studies. “
As she spoke, she drew a rolled parchment from her robe and spread it out between us on the table. It was a kind of vellum, and looked very ancient. Upon it was a strange combination of numbers, signs, letters, colors, plants and animals; while in the corners were four allegorical scenes.
“This key, my brother, was brought from Tibet or Tartary, by Paracelsus in the sixteenth century and, like all the occult works of that great mystic, is incomprehensible to all but the initiated.”
Iole had now, indeed, become a teacher; and as she commenced to explain this mystic chart, I became all attention.
This chart explains, when fully comprehended, all the mysteries of the universe from the infinitely small to the infinitely great. It makes clear that great, mysterious law, the law of Correspondence — and, when you understand the workings of this law of laws you will be ready for the great “Third Degree.” Here only part is given; this degree.
To proceed: “These signs,” pointing to a number of signs, “known to all astrologers, symbolize the seven qualities that make the universe. Now you will notice,” she continued, as I bent forward, deeply interested, “these three symbols are separated, and there is no sign of correspondence between them." She continued:
This is a blind; they are really the most closely related of the whole, and symbolized under the constitution of man. Know that the universe came from an all-pervading, primordial, homogeneous substance, every part or portion of which contained in potentiality all the powers that now or ever hereafter shall exist. Now, every particle of the present heterogeneous universe, being but a conditioned aspect of the homogenous from which it came, contains inherent within it all these infinite powers, which are ever seeking to express themselves.
But, the activity of these powers is conditioned by the states of the substance in which they act, and all these conditioned activities, one in reality, make life, will, mind, and all the forces of nature. There is a trinity back of everything that is, and that is, spirit or portion of this same spirit which moves; and the third and likewise inseparable fact of motion. Spirit, substance, and motion make a trinity which is a unity.
Passing her fingers to some other peculiar signs, she continued:
Now there are many different kinds and rates of motion or vibration, and every motion or vibration makes its corresponding substance, color, sound, and number. Of the different kinds of motion, this character represents the spiral, this is the vertical, this the vibratory, this is the undulatory, and this attraction and repulsion. Scientists, by the aid of microscopes, have discovered invisible lives corresponding with these, and even their form reveals their relation. Let them beware, they are treading on the domains of the occult, and before long may be proclaiming as scientific, the much-ridiculed superstitions of the ancients. Under new names ancient occultism is being taught today.
Thus, for two hours she continued, on this one chart, elaborating with the greatest care each statement. At the end of her lecture, what a wonderful flood of light had been thrown upon my past studies! Many puzzles were explained; while many mysteries of the past now were clear to me, the field of knowledge only widened, and new mysteries were presented to my view.
“Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!” I cried. “Is the field of knowledge infinite?”
“Infinite,” she answered. “The higher we go, the further we see, the limits that have bound us ever expanding, even enlarging, until the vastness of man and the universe give place to a still greater vastness.”
“Oh, Iole,” I exclaimed, “How much I owe you?” Her fingers checked me, and she replied:
“Naught but your desserts; in times, every man receives the full rewards of his merits, full justice and all her dues, be they good or evil. You delayed yourself; your heart you did not check, and when the past you know, this will all be clear. Now again, our lesson time ends,” she said, as a musical note vibrated through the room.
“With the key you now possess, you must study for some time alone. I simply show the way; you, yourself, must do the work. I have now tried to show you the infinity of love and likewise the infinity of knowledge and mind. Man, containing both a heart to love and a mind to think, is the world’s greatest consummation, the end toward which all evolution tends, the object of creation.”
“Do you consider man the consummation of all things?” I asked.
“Man, containing all. In him is the universe in miniature. In man is God and demon; heaven, earth and hell; stars, suns, and planets; spirits, angels, and all the hosts that be.”
“Then, truly, the ancient axiom, ‘Know thyself’ has far wider meaning than most men give.”
“Far wider,” she answered, “he who knows himself comprehends the universe.”
“You just said that all men in time got their deserts; do not men often obtain what they do not deserve, and do not many suffer unjustly? Do you believe that justice is certain and that there is no injustice?” She responded:
We cannot say with certainty what a man deserves or what he does not deserve; we do not know his past, which extends through many lives gone by. The innocent do suffer, and there is injustice in the world, but this is because man is unjust to man; God and nature are infallibly just and certain. Man has it within his power to go contrary to the laws which should govern his nature, and by so doing, can, as it were, pervert nature and establish conditions not in harmony with the divine good.
Therefore, in the world of men there is a certain amount of injustice, and men who identify themselves with this world are subject in proportion to its uncertainties. But they, who join themselves with God, and work harmoniously with nature are never unprotected. Not only are they guarded by higher powers, the Great Protectors, but their mode of life unfolds the white-light mystery which you saw the other night. The elemental powers and evil shapes you saw could not penetrate that essence. It is a protection against all things exterior; only that within you can bring you harm.
“But,” I persisted:
How can you say that God and nature are just when there are so many self-evident inequalities in the world? How can you explain the inequalities that come from birth? Why is this babe born pure and good, with noble tendencies, when this other child is born diseased, an imbecile, or evil in its tendencies? Shall the sins and errors of the parents be thus visited upon the innocent children and by nature’s God-made law? Conceding that man has the power to pervert nature’s laws with regard to results which affect himself, it seems to me that there should be guards to prevent these perversions when the results affect others.
This is a question the answer to which the world is seeking, but which, for fear of sequences, it seeks blindly. The Church, having no answer, evades it; the pessimist, to substantiate his argument, proclaims it; and the doubting world, not answered, cries: ‘Why should men be just when nature is unjust?’
Let us cast an oriental light upon this subject. The character or nature with which every being enters this life is the result which it has built up in many lives gone by. The sins of the parents are not visited upon innocent children, but upon reborn souls of ancient lives whose conserved qualities draw them to the parents through whom they get their bodies and just desserts.
“Then you accept the teaching of pre-existence and rebirth as an explanation?”
“Without these teachings to justify the inequalities among men, duty has no basis, and justice is a myth. Without these teachings, the soul’s continuance has no logic; conservation has no basis; evolution has no meaning; and the inequalities of life blaspheme the Creator. But, my brother, all this will become clear to you when you have passed through this degree.” As she finished speaking we arose and proceeded toward the entrance. Our minds had made time pass almost as rapidly as upon the preceding evenings, and we were among the last to leave.
Iole was most certainly a remarkable woman. Loving me, as I knew she did, with all her heart, she controlled her love with an iron will and gave it no expression. Her conversation throughout the entire evening was in tones of kind and affectionate earnestness, but never once did she show sign of deeper sentiment. As we passed across the portico, I noticed a tall cloaked figure came in the same and enter the door through which we had just come out; and, as he did so, Iole turned and nodded her head. I said nothing, but could not help but recall the strange adept, Albarez, who always dressed this way.
As the carriage rolled away through the darkness, Iole suddenly broke the quiet by turning at my side and saying:
Cleo, brother, I see a cloud overhanging you, and I now warn you that you will be tested to the utmost limits of your strength before long. Be on your guard and do not fail. Guard well your heart, beware of selfishness, fear and trouble, and whatever comes, be strong, be brave, be true. Kill out selfishness with universal love; kill out doubt by knowledge; kill out fear with strength; are you now strong?
She dwelt with peculiar emphasis upon this last question, and I responded: “If I were always as strong as when in your presence, I never should succumb.”
“Why, I am always with you, my darling,” she said, as she clasped my hand.
“Ah! I forget that glorious truth, my soul,” I answered, returning the clasp.
“You must not forget, my love of this life and many lives gone by,” she replied, as she laid her head on my shoulder.
Oh, the fever of my love was coming over me again; the calm tranquility of the higher love commenced to give place to a more restless energy. I pressed her hand, and as I looked into her face, I saw that her beautiful brown eyes were filled with tears.
“Iole,” I said, “why are you so sad? Why are those pretty eyes thus filled with tears?”
“Cleo,” she answered, with a tremor in her voice and form, “my pent-up love would speak.”
“My darling, my love,” I answered as I embraced her and kissed away her tears, “let us be happy in our love.”
Now her head nestled on my breast, now her heart beat against my own. Oh, what joy has love! Too full for words, we loved in silence. Smoothing back the beautiful brown hair from her broad white forehead, I kissed her brow with fervent kisses. And now, her loving arms are around my neck and fond caress she whispers: “Cleo, my darling, I love you. I love you.”
And now the carriage stops, and we are home.
“Ah! Must we part so soon?” she sighed.
“‘Tis only for a little while, my love,” I answered. “But, my darling, why did you repulse my love so long?”
“That was but a test to try it, Cleo,” she answered, as I lifted her from the carriage.
“Then from now on our love shall know no barriers,” I said, as I kissed her goodnight, “you are to be mine? My own true loving wife, will you not, Iole?”
“My own darling husband,” she answered, and with a lingering caress, we parted.
Back to home I returned; now, all my thoughts made one continuous dream of love — Iole, my wife, my darling wife.
Thus, a week went by, and I appeared before the inner guards. The patriarch and woman in black looked at me sharply; when they had their scrutiny in silence, a hitherto unknown door opened, and at their command, I passed through. Looking around, I found myself in a room finished in a combination of green and indigo. Around the walls were a number of isolated glass compartments, each containing a large cushioned seat, a shelf of books, and a small table, while upon the glass doors of each was a hieroglyphic character.
In the center of the room, almost surrounded by a table hung with indigo-colored trimmings and covered with mystical characters, sat a man of undeterminable age. His curly chestnut hair, thin brown beard and light mustache, gave him an appearance of youth, which contrasted strangely with the lines of thought and experience which marked his white forehead and face. No one else was in the room, and as I entered, he motioned me to a seat near him at this table.
“My brother,” he said, in a kind, low voice, “I am from now on to be your teacher, and that you may know the reason for the transfer from Iole to my charge, I will say that you failed to pass certain tests necessary to entitle you to the privilege.”
“I failed!” I gasped, with a vague apprehension of fear.
“Yes, you failed, but only because she sought to take you by extraordinary means to the seventh sub-degree of which she is a member. You failed because you had not sufficiently developed your will to control your heart. Before you can pass into the seventh sub, where she now is, your will must be made supreme king.”
A suspicion commenced to steal across my mind, and I asked: “What have I done? When did I fail?”
“When you yielded to her love and your heart’s desires last meeting-night,” he answered.
Now all became clear, her love had been a test; she had warned me of a trial, I had declared my strength to meet it; she then tried me, and I failed. Those tears had been caused by mingled love and misery; loving me, she was condemned to try me, and those tears had been caused, not only by her suppressed love, but by the thought that I might fail. Then, I having failed, and knowing the results could not be worse, she had for the time let loose the floodgates of her heart and nestled in fond love upon my bosom.
O God! What trials were these for human beings; could any mortal man overcome them? Turning to my new teacher, I asked, with lips trembling with emotion: “Could any human being pass such tests and not yield to such supreme affection?”
“My brother,” he answered solemnly, “the degree to which she sought to take you is super-human. When you reach it, you will be more than man as he is now known.”
For the moment, I sat in thought, my teacher looking silently on. “And does this mean separation?” I asked, steadying myself.
“Until you have the strength to meet her in her proper sphere, you must remain apart. No more will it be permitted for her to descend and suffer again for you; you must from now on fight your own battles and unfold and rely upon your own strength.”
As he ceased speaking, a fierce determination arose within me, and I said: “My teacher, oft before have I said ‘It shall be done,’ and failed. But now for the last time I say, ‘Nothing shall bar my progress.’ What course shall I pursue?”
“Your course must now be regular. And, while slower, it is sure and certain if persevered in First, you must labor for complete mastery over mind, and when this accomplished your will, developed by the process, will be sufficiently strong to master your heart. Both heart and mind must be mastered by you and controlled before you can pass into the next degree.”
“Then I am ready, and without delay put myself under your direction,” I answered, with firmness. “What is our course? What shall I do? Let me proceed at once.”
My teacher, with an indulging smile, replied:
Aspirant, your fierce impetuosity speaks well but remember that enduring growths come slowly. Learn all patience and strive to realize the eternity of time. Your first duty will consist of solitary meditation and study. In addition to the instructions you have already received, you will be given more and in a private room. Devoted to no other purpose, you must ponder faithfully upon their meaning. Every meeting-night a lecture will be given here, and when it is finished you are to retire to one of these compartments, which shall be yours exclusively, and meditate upon the instructions given. If, at the end of six months you have acquired sufficient control over your mind to restrain its wanderings in the midst of the greatest confusion and diversity of surroundings, you will be permitted to stand trial for entrance into higher degrees.
In the meantime, it is hardly necessary for me to tell you that you cannot possibly succeed unless you regulate your habits of living. The animal nature cannot be subdued when it is constantly being stimulated with animal food; neither can the life energies find expression in the highest mental activity unless the strictest continence is preserved. But to you these orders are unnecessary, for if there had been the slightest exception here, you would never have had the privilege of associating with one so pure as Iole.
At this point a number of students who had evidently left the room for the time being, re-entered, and the teacher commenced a lecture, saying by way of introduction:
Brothers and Sisters:
A new member has joined us in our search for the truth, and for his instruction I will call your attention again to the three professional requirements necessary for entrance into this degree. We do not seek knowledge to stoke it away unused within the chambers of our brains. We seek knowledge that we may be useful in the world and beneficial agents for it. With this end in view, we make an indispensable requirement: a knowledge of art, medicine, and law.
Art, that under the forms, colors, and symbols which only give it meaning, we may scatter far and wide throughout the world our noble teachings. Under the cloak of art, through which the blind will never see, we present our truths to all who seek the light, and impress unconsciously even those who love the night.
By music, subtle language of the soul and inseparable from art, we calm the outer nature and soothe the soul that lies buried in the man of sense. By the secret power of sound, we reach the souls of the most debased and stir them, even though it be ever so little, to a higher life. We learn and know medicine that we may relieve the suffering and mitigate the world’s greatest pain.
Here vast are the opportunities for good; for, in this charnel-house of life, pain and misery contend with death to keep the world in woe. Great is the happiness that comes to him who relieves the miseries of another; therefore, both for duty and for happiness, we seek to be physicians.
We master law that we may protect the helpless, defend the innocent, and secure justice in the world of men. We must excel in law; not law as perverted for the cruel and selfish ends, but law, the rule of right, in whose courts the weak with equity can meet the strong, and purity and poverty contend with crime, greed, and gold.
But know that we do not confine ourselves with the narrow limits that the outside world puts around these fields. To comprehend these grand professions, man must make the universe his study and understand himself. Know that science cannot be without philosophy, the science of the essence, the science of that great unity whose trinity we know as color, form, and sound.
He paused, and assuming a low, conversational tone, commenced a secret lecture on the great triune mystery of color, form and sound, as made clear by numbers. Having finished his discourse thereon, he handed each member a chart, giving me one also, as well as, a key to one of the compartments.
Going to the one designated, I unlocked the door and entered. Unrolling the chart upon the table, I found it to be a cipher-key; taking the books from the shelves, I found they were in similar characters and a treatise on spiritual magic. This was the commencement of a course of study which continued for six months.
All through the study hours of this period, the chief teacher sat in the middle of the room and kept a careful watch upon each student; while at the end of each session, he took all charts and keys. During the six months, I had, with a determination that was almost cruel, banished Iole from my mind. I determined, if need be, to tear out my very heart; an irresistible impetuosity to master all came over me, and I made my assault upon the Kingdom of Heaven with violence, as it were. On the twenty–seventh night my teacher told me that, if I so desired, I could try the necessary test of strength preparatory to entrance into the next higher degree.
“I desire the test,” I answered, with confidence; at the same time, recalling my past failures, I shut my teeth together with a grim determination to succeed.
“Then follow me,” he answered coldly.
I now had an idea of what the test would be, and was therefore better prepared. I knew it would be a test of mental concentration. They would give me a subject for thought, and then try, by means of noise, confusion, and other devices, to divert my attention from my subject. I recalled Socrates, who stood for entire day lost in deep thought, even while the army was moving in confusion around him. I remembered the Hindu yogi who, during the Indian mutiny, sat for hours silent and immovable while cannons thundered over him and bullets hissed around.
With mind on the alert, I accompanied my companion to the test. With a mask on my face, he led me to the center of the crowded ballroom. The lively strains of a quickstep filled the hall and dancing figures were gliding around me. Keeping my eyes upon the polished floor, but ready at any instant to turn them within, I was led to a cushioned seat, and my teacher whispered the one word, “Within!”
Instantly, I threw all the power of my will and mind into the deep. Music forms, time, space, and all things vanished; a confused roar arose within my ears, a clanking throb pulsated in my sub-cranial organs, and then all was nothingness. All sense of the self died out; I was no more. Three hours later I found myself alone with my teacher in his study. When the change was made, I knew not, but a wonderful light filled my soul.
“The mysteries of the universe are not to be revealed,” he said significantly; He then added: “you passed; not even Iole or your parents aroused you. Let your next tests be met as successfully and all is well.”
Ordinarily, his remark about my parents and Iole would have disturbed me, but now a serious calm and immovable indifference was upon me.
“Are there any more tests?” I asked, with a feeling of power.
“None from me,” he answered, “If you wish to proceed, write out your application, and I will give it to the proper parties; Remember, I do not advise you so to do; you must apply of your own free will.”
A fearless recklessness now possessed me, and I answered: “I go of my own free will; I choose with deliberation; give me a blank.”
Without a word, he handed me an application — blank, and in a firm, bold hand, I filled it out.
“Brother,” he said, as he took the application, “this act of yours shall be kept with the most inviolable secrecy by me; see that you do not expose yourself to unnecessary dangers by revealing it." He continued:
You need come here no more. If the seventh degree council see proper to consider your application, you will hear from them direct; if not, assume your duties in the world and do all the good you can for your fellow-man. The seventh degree council is not bound to receive any one; by this application our relations are severed, and you pass outside our jurisdiction. Forever maintain silence concerning the instructions you have received, and perhaps, we may meet again. Now, you may go. Good thoughts and pure aspirations protect you.
With a coolness that was surprising, I left my teacher and returned to my rooms at the Durant mansion, little dreaming of what was so soon to follow.
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