WHEN the mind absorbs all our energies, we forget the body; there are those who can be so lost in mind that they can have their limbs amputated and hardly be conscious of the pain. Likewise, men, under intense mental strain, can labor far beyond their ordinary endurance.
As we walked along the corridor, I learned from Iole that eighteen hours had passed since she, after tempting me, had got in the cab with the driver during the first short stop. It was now the middle of the day, and for twenty-four hours I had not tasted food; yet, strange to say, I felt no hunger. Had the consuming lives ceased to work since my initiation? Iole answered my silent question by saying: “Before proceeding to your next ordeal in the hall of choice, it is but proper that you should have some food.”
“Then you are still subject to the necessity of food?” I asked, with a smile. She answered:
Yes, while our mode of life reduces the amount of food we use to a very small amount, still we are not so high as to dispense with it altogether; it is said that the members of the ‘Third Degree’ are above this necessity to us, or at least almost so, repairing what little waster takes place in their physical bodies by a concentrated elixir, the secret of which they alone know. But we, my brother, have much to accomplish before we are so far along; I will join you in a light repast.
Up to this time all the rooms and corridors had been lighted by the same diffused light, which seemed to be incandescence in the air; now, passing through a door and up a stairway, we were in a hall with windows on either side open to the light of day. This hall was richly carpeted and hung with paintings, and as we passed along, several robed brothers and sisters met us with kindly greeting. Wherever this building was, it was of immense size. The hall was fully a hundred feet long, and, looking out the windows as we passed, I saw that a large open court was on each side. Both courts were immense conservatories, containing large trees of many varieties and flowers and plants in abundance. Reaching the end of the hall, a robed figure confronted us. In answer to his challenge, Iole whispered something in his ear; he bowed, and we were passed on.
“That was a guard,” said Iole, “and as it is my privilege, I will now communicate the passwords.”
“The one to be used in coming out is the Sanskrit word, ‘Janana,’ meaning knowledge; the one to use when entering is ‘Naga,’ the Sanskrit word for serpent; when you give them never speak above a whisper.”
We had now passed into an interior hall and come to a door at the right. Pushing a concealed button in a rosette near the floor, Iole opened the door and we entered.I saw immediately that we were in a private room, and looking to one side, I beheld a life-size painting of my beloved companion.
Noticing my admiring glances, for it was indeed a work of art, Iole modestly remarked: “Do not think this a display of vanity, my brother; Zerol insisted upon making me a subject, and, like a good sister, I had to humor him. But, to keep from making an exhibit of myself, I hang it in my private room.”
“What ill-chosen modesty,” I replied, “to deny people the enjoyment of such a picture and the elevating influence that must come from such a work of art, and such a perfect subject.”
“Hush! My brother: recall the words of Socrates when he said, ‘Flattery is worse than a vulture, for the latter consumes only the dead while the former eats up the living!”
“You will probably be my guest for some time,” she continued, as we took seats at a small table near the side of the room, “and you must consider yourself perfectly at home; everyone in this degree is proved pure, and we therefore indulge in no forms or ceremonies with one another, such are necessary only in the world of shams.”
“It does one good to get among people where such freedom reigns,” I answered; “in a world where all are hedged around by forms and ceremonies how many sympathetic souls are kept asunder. I take you at your word, and all my actions shall be free.”
“Be free,” she answered with a smile, as she extended her hand across the table, and we clasped in a true good-fellowship.
A young man, evidently a Hindu, now entered with a tray containing our repast.
“You see,” said Iole, as she poured our cups of chocolate, “the members of this degree eat in private; it is one of our rules. But, you being so intimately related;” she smiled with a bewitching smile, “we can eat at least once together.”
“And only once! No oftener?” I asked, eying her affectionately across the table.
“Well, that depends,” she answered. “From now on, I am your obedient servant, and whatever you say will be done.”
“Now see here, my pretty coquette, are you trying to tempt me again?” I asked. “If you are, you will fail; for I have sworn to be a monk.”
She looked into my eyes searchingly and replied:
No, you will be tried with no more temptations of deception through me; my duty has been performed to you and yours to me. The deceptions I had to stimulate were trials to me as well as you; loving you, I had to deceive you and try to lead you to your ruin. Could any trials be more severe? But I did my duty, and, thanks to thy inner self, you did yours. Now that we meet upon the plane of equal brothers, a deception will nevermore come through me. This is my solemn affirmation, and you can rely upon it in the future.
Without giving me a chance to reply, she continued: “As to your being a monk, I would say that the noblest men of earth have been such, and it seems that to be a monk is an indispensable requisite to the highest perfection."
Checking as exclamation of admiration, I asked: “And did you all this time implicitly obey, without question or doubt, the commands of your brothers?”
“I did,” she answered:
I had been with them for many years and during all that time they had taught me nothing but what was good and pure, and their lives were filled with beautiful simplicity and self-denial; they had always acted most nobly, and I could not doubt them. Then they had taught me that there are protecting powers overshadowing every being, and that these powers are proportionately strong as the divinity in man is strong. They taught me that those whose aspirations were pure would in time succeed, no matter how great the temptations. I believed these teachings, not simply because they told me so, but because my reason was convinced and my heart accepted the conclusion.
This belief in protecting powers brought great peace to my soul and became a source of strength, for I did not believe in Providence as taught in the world, and my ideas of God were too far off, too exalted. I needed some intermediate link, and this teaching of protecting powers: Masters and Protectors supplied the need.
She spoke with deep earnestness, and I remained silent as she continued:
Before this, how cruel the world seemed; how heartless, how unjust! I could not conceive of the Infinite setting aside the laws that rule the universe; I could not conceive of God as some gigantic knight going from place to place in the twinkle of an eye and protecting the innocent and guarding the helpless. Even when a child, I wondered how such a God could be everywhere at once. But, when they told me of the Masters and Protectors, perfected men of long-lost races, who had evolved far beyond all men now known in the world and who worked for truth and justice, I deemed the teaching reasonable. For if man evolves, who can mark the limits of his evolution?
As we are above the savage, so there are those who are even farther above us. Some of these exalted men still live on earth, but in undecaying bodies. And, unknown, they go from place to place throughout the world, working ever for the right, protecting the innocent, guarding the helpless, and alleviating suffering. Still higher ones have evolved beyond the power of death; renouncing the privileges of Nirvana, they exist in the invisible. They forfeit the bliss of heaven and hover o’er the earth, laboring in the world of mind for the uplifting of mankind. Unknown and unhonored, they live a living death for man, for infinite is their compassion.
She paused, her large, brown eyes filled with a wondrous light, her face illuminated with divine love. What speech has the power of that which comes from a pure and earnest heart? Her words were fast throwing me into an enchanted spell, and it was well, perhaps, she ceased, to let me ask: “And you believed that these great powers, Protectors, and Masters would guard me so long as my heart was pure and my aspirations noble?”
“I had not the least doubt of it,” she answered.
“Well, my love, I will remember your smile and avoid further comparisons with vultures. But, tell me, do they allow love here? Do they permit marriage? Or are they all monks and nuns?”
It was well I had mastered myself and learned the power of will, for with a look which formerly would have undone me, she answered: “Love, as divine man would give meaning to that word, we teach: the love of soul for soul. We have talked upon this great theme before, and what held there holds here. But beware of that love which gives a single thought of self.”
As she said this she looked at me with a deep, significant look and then continued:
Marriage, as the world gives meaning to that word, we know not. Marriages are not made by man-enacted laws, churches, or any human institutions. Marriage is the harmonious union of two similarly attuned souls for a pure and holy purpose, soul-development, and the providing of tabernacles for subjective conditioned souls seeking re-embodiment. Marriage, as a means of gratifying sensuous desires and lusts, or to satisfy uncurbed appetites and passions, we abhor.
As a true brother, I can speak to you with candor upon a subject which ignorance has branded as improper. We hold that the generative organs are most holy and directly related to divine creative power; any misuse of them is the most unpardonable of sins. The ancient phallic symbols have been much misunderstood, and superficial minds have been unable to see their sacred meaning. Blinded by a modesty which is only on the surface, the world mistakes ignorance for virtue. Oh, how civilized our savagery which degrades and pollutes these sacred functions!
For the first time, her words had a tinge of scorn as she continued. "What is the world today but a vast whirlpool of savage lust? May the savage forgive me for that slander,” she added quickly, as though she had used the wrong word. “It is only civilized man, with his glossy exterior, who perverts these sacred functions; not even the cattle stoop so low as he. Then what code of morals govern these relations!” She exclaimed with flashing eyes, which showed that, notwithstanding her usual calmness, she had a heart of fire.
“Do you know,” she said leaning forward, “that if I was man, I would hide my face in shame to demand of woman what he makes no pretense of having: purity. For shame! For lasting shame that any man should sanction such a code of morals! But woman, heaven pity her blind ignorance! She permits this evil, for she overlooks in man what she never overlooks in woman.”
She straightened up in her chair, and her hitherto animated face became overspread with an expression of wonderful sadness as she said:
“But passion is blind, deaf, and dumb, and heedeth no persuasion; only pain can kill the monster. Blessed be pain!”
“My dear Iole,” I said, as she again paused, “if I ever loved you before you can multiply it by infinity now. I concur with you in every word you have said, and I would that all the world would do the same. Now, you said that you would obey and be my humble servant; will you?”
She looked at me searchingly and replied: “Will you be a good master?”
She spoke in a serious tone I did not exactly understand, but I seized the opportunity and said: “No, but a good husband, my darling Iole.”
“You are to be a monk,” she answered quickly, with neither a yes nor a no. “And this reminds me that I have not answered that part of your question. We are not all monks and nuns, although many are. But, monks and nuns of a peculiar kind as you will learn as you proceed.”
She had evaded an answer, but I now asked doggedly: “And do you really think I ought to be a monk?”
“That is for you alone to decide, but not here,” she added quickly, as I was about to speak. “There is one rule in this degree, which I might as well announce to you at once, and that is that every man must choose of his own free will and without advice. This is one of the most important rules of occultism.”
“Well, then, I will have to trust my own inner voice,” I said, at the same time wondering which she would prefer me to be.
“You can find no better guide,” she answered, and as though she read my thoughts, continued: “Never do anything just to please somebody; do it because you think it is right, and remember that the less self there is in any decision, the nearer right it will be.”
“But,” I answered, “Would you make conscience the sole guide in life? Is not conscience relative and very uncertain?” She replied:
In all ordinary men, conscience must be conjoined with reason. With the initiated, conscience and reason are one. Truly, in most men, conscience and reason are relative, but not because of the instruments through or in which they work. Conscience and reason, per se, are attributes of the Infinite, and as such are perfect; they are qualified by the conditions in which they manifest and, therefore, appear imperfect. A perfect musician can make only imperfect music upon a defective instrument, and likewise God, as conscience and reason, can make only imperfect expressions in imperfect men. The more perfect you are the more perfect the expression of your God-like attributes.
Most truly did Jesus say, ‘Lead the life and you will know the doctrine.’
He who leads a pure, unselfish life has a sense peculiarly his own, and the information or knowledge which it brings is incomprehensible to those who do not possess it. Be free from self, for self continually perverts the truth.
"It is now one o’clock,” she added, as she looked at her watch, “and I must leave you for a while. Make yourself at home, and I will return for you before long.”
As she spoke, she arose and left the room, and I with all the authority of a would-be brother or husband, I knew not which, commenced to make myself familiar with my surroundings. In addition to her reception-room, there was a suite of bedchambers and bath and toilet-rooms. These are indeed peculiar monks and nuns, I thought, as I surveyed her elegantly furnished apartments. How can she indulge in such luxury when there is so much poverty and misery in the world? Surely, here is an inconsistency.
I now noticed the picture of a remarkably handsome man hanging on the wall near her bed, and instantly the thought came to me, have I sufficiently overcome my lower nature to be above the pangs of jealousy? What if she had another lover; could I surrender or give up to him? Straightening up, I answered my own question with a determined yes. If need be, I will give her to another. I turned, and as I did so I beheld myself in a large mirror opposite. I started back; I hardly knew myself. How white my face, possibly made still whiter by the spotless robe I wore. My eyes shone with a brilliant luster, and I remarked, truly interior improvements bring corresponding results without; a perfect form is a symbol of the God-manifesting attributes within it. Is this not the secret of Grecian art?
I returned to the reception-room and was standing before a hitherto-unnoticed picture with Iole’s signature in the corner, when she entered. Like all the works of these brothers and sisters, it was a work of art. It was a night scene upon a dismal swamp, and over the dark waters three evil-looking men were rowing in a boat. Between them was a beautiful woman in white, bound like a captive. The dripping trees, murky clouds and flying bats caused me to shiver, and I thought of my recent experiences.
“Iole,” I said, “where did you get the idea for such a dismal picture?”
“There is a legend connected with that picture,” she answered, as she stopped beside me.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Your recent experiences ought to tell you,” she replied, “but I will repeat.”
Those three dark and evil-looking men are named Passion, Desire, and Avarice; the white-robed woman is the virgin nature in man. The black boat trimmed in red represents the lower nature, which is controlled by the three oarsmen. The swamp represents perdition or the pool of matter. Now, the legend says that these three men have time and again drowned the beautiful virgin in the swamp. But, by some miraculous means, she always escapes when they go away.
Again, and again, do they capture her and take her back. Now, there are two conclusions to the legend, and people differ as to which is true. Some say that despairing of ever destroying here they put her in a black sack, and tying a large stone to it, sunk her in the pool to rise no more. Others say that one night she succeeded in persuading her captors to listen to a song, and while she was singing, the full moon came up and the oarsmen were transformed into angels of Love, Virtue, and Mercy, and elected her their queen, and that she took them away to a far-off land where only gods can dwell.
“I see,” I said, with admiration, “that all your art has a purpose.”
“All true art has,” she answered. “Never was there a more powerful and universal teacher than art; great is the influence we exert in the world through its mysterious language, the meaning of which, while often incomprehensible to the intellect, seldom fails to reach the soul. But, my brother, I have come to conduct you to the hall of choice; the council there awaits you.”
As she spoke she opened the door, and having passed through, she led the way along the hall.
“Iole,” I said, as we walked along the corridor, “how do you reconcile all this palatial magnificence with your claims of humanity, when there is so much poverty and misery in the world?”
“My brother,” she replied, “do not be deceived by appearances; the world cannot be saved by money or wealth, however much good it may do in isolated cases. The wealth we have here does not in the least diminish that which we have to use elsewhere.” With this remark, she smiled significantly, and continued:
Wealth and luxuries are not to be discarded except by those who cannot master them; while surrounded by wealth, we do not allow it to consume our souls like the avaricious men of earth. We believe in art, in music, in sweet perfumes and beautiful homes, but we do not allow the possession of such to blind us to the fact that everything here on earth is temporary and fleeting. We do not allow any magnificence to separate us from the poor; we wish and long for the time when they can enjoy with us. Whether wealth is good or evil is determined by the influence it exerts upon the heart and mind. We who have learned to control and keep pure these God-attributes do not allow them to become smothered by a lust after material things, no matter how beautiful they may be. Remember that everything on earth is good in itself, and only its perverse use evil.
“You say, sister, that money and wealth cannot save the world; what can?”
“A reformation of man, an upbuilding of character, a purification and elevation of mind and heart; no external remedies or superficial palliations will do it. Everything objective is the outcome of that which is subjective. To change the visible, you must change the invisible, and this can be done only through mind and heart.”
“But,” I interjected, “cannot the invisible be changed by the visible? Will not the proper environment bring about this much-desired internal state?”
“To a certain extent, yes,” she answered.
The objective and subjective mutually interact upon each other, but the great power is in the subjective, for the mind and will have power superior to environment, and it is a pernicious teaching to say that they have not. There can be no changes in environment without changes first occurring in the minds and hearts of the people; they both go together. Man, if he only will, can, even in the most antagonistic environment, rise above all external influences; this is one of the greatest and most important teachings of occultism. All occultists believe in the omnipotence of that God-power, Will.
“Do you believe in freewill?” I asked.
“That is a word much misunderstood,” she answered. “Man is influenced both internally and externally in every act he does, and, therefore, he is not absolutely free, but nevertheless, he has the power to choose, and this power is superior to all influences.”
“But are there no exceptions to this? Have not some people sunk so low that they have lost this power?”
“There are,” she said sadly. “The lost soul has no will of his own, but only the will of his demon self which feeds on desire and passion. To this monster, he has surrendered his will, and he must obey its orders. But,” she added as though to brighten this last sad statement, “as long as that small green thread connects the pyramid and the cube, so long has he the power to rise.”
With these words, we turned down a cross-hall and stopped before a robed brother seated in front of a door.
“The cock crows,” said Iole.
“The dawn approaches,” answered the brother, and he opened the door and we passed through. We entered a room finished in white and gold, and found ourselves in the presence of seven white-robed figures seated around a large table of the same pure color. The features of all were unconcealed, and at the head of the table, I recognized the king of the morning. The three at his right were men; the one next to him being he who had represented the sun. The three at his left were women, and she who had represented Luna likewise sat next to the king. Two vacant seats were at the end of the table opposite the king, and at his motion, we took them side by side.
“What does the sister say?” asked the king, and all eyes immediately became fastened upon me:
The unseen intelligences, who rule the apparent accidents of life, have spoken through the mystic language of numbers and say that you are worthy to become a candidate for the exalted ‘Third Degree.’ Few men are so found in the world; of all her fifteen hundred million, not a thousand such exist.
This does not mean that you are exalted above all others but that you have the possibilities that will make you great, and that these can be unfolded in one life. In other words, though you know it, you were a student of occultism in lives gone by. Now, brother, do you earnestly wish to enter the path that leads to this higher degree?
“I do,” I answered, in a clear, firm voice.
“Remember, brother, we do not advise you to take this step, neither do we urge you not to as has been done before. All who reach this degree are considered as having enough wisdom to decide for themselves. You understand?”
“I do,” I answered.
“Then let there be no secrets here. We know from the colors visible to clairvoyant sight that you and our sister, Iole, are of the same vibratory key; your auras blend without discordant measure; she is perfectly attuned to you and you likewise to her. This shows that you are sympathetic souls and explains your love for one another.”
Iole pressed my hand under the table, and I returned the clasp as the king continued:
“Your love has been perfectly evident to us, for we have likewise loved; love is no mystery to those who have truly loved.”
“Now two paths lie before you, and this is the hall of choice; do not choose hastily. If desired, we will give you time for due consideration.” He confinued: "the first route is known as ‘Virgin Husband.’ By this route, you take our beloved sister in the holy bonds of marriage."
I clasped Iole’s hand, but received no clasp in answer. He continued:
Your souls attuned to one harmonious chord give nature’s parental joys. Pure parents, with minds informed, have children like themselves, and a boy and girl will bless your home, teach you the beauties of parental love, spiritualize your souls and take your places in the world when you pass on. When they are thus prepared to take your places, when you have reared them in a life of love and one all within your power to help unfold their inner strength and fit them for a life of duty, you will both be called and admitted to the exalted ranks to which you now aspire.
For a moment, he paused, and then in the same low but earnest voice continued: "the second route is that called ‘'Virgin Lover.’”
Again, I clasped Iole’s hand, but still received no answer. He continued:
On this route, there is no marriage except that pure and most exalted union of soul with soul without a single thought of body; a marriage of which the impure world knows not. On this route, you pass through quick and awful trials of seven years’ duration, when, if you both have persevered, it will be thy privilege to pass on. Seven years will consummate an entire change within thy body, and all the atomic particles that make it will be replaced by purer ones impressed with the aspirations which characterize your higher life.
Now, if you take this second route, this council is your master, and its orders are your laws; for we but represent a higher council, and during your seven years’ probation, our commands must be obeyed. Consider well. The first route gives you a loving wife, a happy home, and sweet-faced children playing on your knees or romping with you and your darling Iole in fields of flowers.
Picture yourself this home of sunshine, heart, and joy, where life is an almost constant caress of your loving wife, and where beautiful children kiss your smiles and nestle in your arms. Listen to the music of their laughter as it mingles with the songs of birds; listen to the prattle of their infant speech. In fancy, garland yourself and those you love with fragrant flowers, inhale their sweet perfumes and enjoy all that nature’s spirit power has made beautiful and good.
Again, he paused as though to give me time to dwell in rapture on the scene, for his words had a magic power; as he spoke, a mirage-like panorama filled my mind. Then, when my heart had reached the highest pitch of parental love, he continued in a voice intensely serious:
But remember that all this must end, for everything on earth is limited by time. Recall the words of Jesus, our Great Brother, when he said, ‘he that forsaketh not cannot be my disciple.’ If you would pass beyond time’s limitations, you must sacrifice all these. Mistake not, this is not a rule to be given to the world; we speak to you alone as one who would elect himself a member of the ‘Third Degree.’
Men of the world can have no higher aspiration than a home. A pure and beautiful home is the most sacred thing on earth: the highest ideal upon which the noblest of the world can set their hearts, the greatest power to purify men’s souls and bring them to God, and the grandest temple in which the human heart can offer up its aspirations to an infinite and all-pervading Love. And we, as an organized body, are working with all our power and might to make this world a world of homes and fill it with love, happiness, and peace.
But, there must be a few great souls to labor in a higher sphere; these, the Great Elect, must renounce even the purest happiness of earth, until through the influence they exert on men they have brought the universal consummation — perfection on earth. Brothers of the ‘Third Degree’ make this great renunciation. Humanity becomes their family, all men their children, and no earthly joys will they accept until all men can share them. But let not our speech determine your choice; both sides you now know. While more effective and mighty work can be accomplished in the path of renunciation, much and great work can be done in the path of parental love.
Again, he paused as though to emphasize his words and then continued:
You can choose now or after seven days; do naught in haste. If you choose the path of ‘Virgin Husband,’ you take your sister Iole as your loving wife; if you choose the path of ‘Virgin Lover,’ you must love each other through the Universal, and an hour may see you severed in the world of forms. In the first path, you are both bound together in this world. In the second, apparently separated but united in the Universal Soul.
And that you may know the nature of possible orders if you choose the second path, know that the end of a great cycle draweth nigh. A ferment, which has long been gathering in the world of mind, will soon break forth; even now, it has broken forth in the East, and war is threatening in the West. Before this century ends, kings and rulers, principalities and powers will rise and in violence fall.
Ah! A dark cloud impends; the invisible is threatening and awful! War, pestilence, famine, and conflagration will ere long expiate the accumulated Karma of the ages. When these times come, we will guide and work unseen and bring to the appointed end the decrees of retribution. In these labors, we need men and women who have no fears, to whom life is eternal and indestructible, and self is not. Such must be free from all personal ties and such are the brothers of the ‘Third Degree,’ and their disciples on the second path.
He paused and, as a moment’s death-like stillness reigned, all eyes were turned on me. Then in a slow-measured voice, he asked: “Aspirant for the ‘Third Degree’ calmly now, do you wish time? Or do you choose now? If now, which path?”
"Ah! Which?" I asked myself.
I clasped Iole’s hand, but she gave no sign; her hand was cold and motionless, and with impassive face, she sat with a far-away look in her large brown eyes. The king had dwelt long and dispassionately upon each side; it seemed that he had endeavored to make the influences of each equal in power. On the first path, I pictured my childhood home with Iole as wife, and I as father. On the second path was immediate and ceaseless labor on the fields of war and carnage; on the first was a life of love; on the second a life of labor; on the first was Iole, my darling wife; on the second, separation!
Ah! It was again a conflict between self and duty. I recalled Iole’s words, “Forget self,” and casting doubt to the winds and looking Iole in the face, I turned to the king. In a clear ringing voice, I replied: “I choose the second path.”
Immediately a single chord of wondrous sound, as from gigantic instrument, vibrated through the room; a violent tremor seized me; my eyes grew dim; every molecule in my body seemed to be striving to fly away from every other. And with a feeling as though I was being consumed by an internal fire, I lost consciousness and sank into oblivion.
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