TIME, in itself, is an illusion; it depends upon states of consciousness. When struggling in the black pool each moment seemed an hour, each hour a day. The same holds good for the man whose mind dwells on the things of earth alone and whose thoughts are sensuous in nature.
The secret of happiness lies in forgetting self, and any slight diversion, business, or amusement, which brings this end, brings a proportioned happiness; the happiness which comes from a willful and conscious forgetfulness of self exceeds all others and brings a state of consciousness in which all sense of time is lost.
As the boat was drawn swiftly through the water we became lost in each other’s love. My heart, like hers, had now become responsive to the divine vibrations in the celestial soul, and the happiness that comes from this state cannot be told. Our thoughts were again brought back to earth by our coming to a stop on the sandy shore. At the same instant, the clairvoyant vision and clairaudient hearing, which had revealed to me the celestial presences in the ether, departed, and I beheld the mysteries of the invisible world no longer. But Iole was still with me, and looking up, I beheld a white-robed assembly on the strand around the boat.
“Arise, brother, your trials are over, and you have only won,” said Iole. Hand in hand, we stepped out upon the sand. The white-robed assembly stood around with heads uncovered in reverence to the sacredness of our love, when a beautiful woman advanced to meet me. A cry of joy escaped my lips.
“Triumph of love,” I cried, “it is my long-lost sister, Esmeralda!” Beautiful in youth, divinely beautiful now! Like all of those gathered around, her face revealed her spiritual power and love.
“My noble brother,” she said, as I embraced her fondly, “I told you we would meet again, but neither you nor I ever dreamed of such a meeting.”
“My darling sister,” I answered, “this indeed is happiness beyond all expectation, but may I ask concerning father and mother.”
“They live,” she replied, with a glad smile, “but still farther on, members of the Third Degree; we shall meet them there. But, my Brother, we have met more recently than you think.”
“When and where?” I asked in surprise.
“As the simple gypsy girl, known as Rahula, who met you at the ball.”
“Ah, that explains your silence and timidity as you stood beside the stately Turk, but why did thus conceal your identity?”
“I was forbidden to make myself known; you had trials to meet, and the occasion was also a test for me.”
At this point a noble looking man with a long gray beard and large golden girdle around his waist, advanced, and bowing low, said in kind and gentle voice: “Brother, let your sisters lead you to the royal chamber.”
As he spoke, he made a motion to the assembly, and all formed in lines to make a triangle, he, as leader, forming the apex; while I, with Iole and Esmeralda at my arms, marched in the center.
What a contrast since I had donned the robes of white! Now all was beautiful, and my trials seemed all passed. We crossed the cavern and entered a broad vaulted passage, walled with marble and trimmed in gold and silver. Everything was lighted by a diffused light from no apparent source, and I could not help but marvel at the beauty of my brothers and sisters as their faces shone under its radiance.
Fully half of those who formed my escort were women, and as we marched along the passage, Iole said: “You now see man as the noblest work of God, where perfect form responds to mind and spirit.”
“Yes,” said Esmeralda, “and you can now more fully realize the grandeur of that philosophy which teaches that it is for the evolution of perfect man that the universe came into being.”
“Yes,” answered Iole, “the chief end of God is to glorify man, and the chief end of man should be to glorify God.”
“And the latter can only be done through the former,” said Esmeralda, “for it is only through man that God can be glorified.”
“Then,” I replied, “if man but does his full duty to man, he performs his full duty to God.”
“That is the sum of all duties; man’s duty is to man,” they both replied together.
We now reached a gilded gate, which opened before us, and we entered a large, white chamber, hexagonal in shape and with a pyramidal roof. Around at the top of the walls was a golden finished frieze containing the twelve sins of the zodiac in relief, while at the side of the chamber, opposite the gate through which we had come, sat a man of apparently middle age. His remarkably handsome face was beardless and gave him a youthful appearance, while his features looked like those of a man of age and thought. His uncovered head was crowned with thick and long golden curls, while his blue eyes shone with a luster even more wonderful than that of my companions. Dressed in the loose and flowing costume of the ancient Greeks, his manly form revealed the perfections of human development.
At the right of the enthroned king sat a man who looked like an Apollo; his form was also only partly clad by flowing garments, and his figure thus revealed was indeed a symbol of strength and power. He evidently represented or symbolized the sun, for his hands rested upon a disk-like shield with a central dot and an encircling margin in gold. At the left of the king sat a woman whose brunette beauty was marvelous to behold, her black eyes and hair contrasting with wondrous effect with the pearly form which showed all its lines of beauty through the light and flowing drapery. Her white and shapely hands rested upon a large silver crescent, and she evidently symbolized the moon.
Dare any one brand this scene as immodest?
None but the pure were here. He who cannot view, without a blush of shame, the human form when a perfect temple of divinity, stands self-confessed; his mind is poisoned with impure thoughts; his imagination corrupted by the taint of lust. Crossing the white floor of polished marble, we approached a long white table in front of the throne. I took the seat facing the king, while Iole and Esmeralda took seats by me on each side. Then, all the sisters of the escort took seats upon the left, while the brothers took those upon the right.
And now I noticed that the constellation Leo marked the zodiac above the throne, and in it were the sun and moon in close conjunction.
All had thus far been silent, but now the gray-bearded leader arose and, with a bow to the king, commenced to speak: “Most high and noble king, another star has risen, another child has been born into our kingdom; we have brought him here to receive your blessing and adoption.”
The Master-king bowed with a smile and, in kind and gentle tones, addressed me: “Dear brother, gladly do I welcome thee in the kingdom of true brotherhood. It adds to our joy to see one more joined with the small minority. All greet you as our brother.”
As though in answer to his words, all the assembly around looked at me and cried in chorus: “Our brother, we greet you as our brother.”
How different this king to the kings of the earth, I thought. He greets me as a brother and does not deem a gentle smile and words of tenderness as inconsistent with severity and power.
And now, without noisy cry or spreading gesture, he leaned forward in his chair, and in a calm, earnest, and soul-stirring voice spoke:
Brother, our special explanations and instructions will be given to you by the proper teacher, but I will now lay out the square upon which we build our temple. There is one God, one man, one Brotherhood, one truth; these are our cornerstones, upon these, we erect our structure.
God is the Infinite and all-pervading Spirit, formless, immutable, eternal and incomprehensible to save itself.
Man is an individualized manifestation of God in self-imposed conditions; a center in the Infinite Essence around which the spirit vibrates and through which it flows forth and reveals itself in the world of forms and things.The one Brotherhood is humanity, the sum total of all the individualized centers of the divine activity, which, while apparently separate, are one in life and essence.
Truth is the full, self-conscious realization of God, within its individualized manifestations, and the illumination that comes to each therewith. God comprehends all truth; man, as God individualized, can comprehend all truth through God in him.
He ceased speaking; the wonderful magnetism which accompanied his words remained, and for some moments a profound stillness reigned. The meaning of words uttered with a spirit-impress cannot be expressed in type; sound has a power unknown to writing. Now the gray-bearded leader arose, and again bowing in respectful reverence to the king, drew forth a white box from his robe.
Shaking it in his hand, he threw four dice upon the table. Three times he shook and threw. Then, he turned to the king and said: “The throws sum fifty-one and each time seventeen; the invisible powers who rule these throws decree that our sister Iole shall deliver the instructions.”
He turned to Iole, with a bow. Pressing my hand upon the table, she arose and, with a graceful and reverential bow to the king and leader, addressed me: “Is my brother’s number forty-nine?” I looked to the leader, and as he bowed I answered, “It is.”
“Then,” she said, addressing the leader and king with bold unflinching eyes, “the meaning of this choice becomes revealed; fifty-one plus forty-nine makes the square of ten, whose meaning you all know.”
The grey-bearded leader gave an inquiring look at the king, who again leaned forward and addressed me: “Brother, the invisible powers say that you aspire to still higher degrees; is this true?”
“I aspire to reach the highest summit, yea, even to God-hood does my soul aspire,” I answered, with a wonderful lightness of heart and consciousness of strength. Without reply, the king made a sign to the leader, and he and Iole took their seats.
The lightly draped Apollo at the right of the king now spoke: "I represent the sun, symbol of life, center of vitality and heart of the solar essence that throbs through all within the boundaries of our solar sphere. I am the spirit as it acts and manifest in matter, but my sign conceals a mystery and has two meanings; learn thou this secret, and thou shalt never die.”
He ceased, and the woman on the left, in a clear, musical voice, spoke: “I represent the moon, symbol of subtle matter, the essential substance necessary to form and growth. I am the vehicle of spirit and the base without which it could not act; my sign, too, conceals a mystery, and has two meanings; learn thou its secret, and thy form, made perfect, will not dissolve.”
She ceased, and the king again spoke: “Ever since the time when we met in the columned halls of Thebes and Memphis, Osiris and Isis have been with us; and their perfect and harmonious union in you will make you Horus.”
As he spoke all eyes turned toward the zodiac as a mist covered it. As the substance enveloped the sign, it seemed alive with golden atoms which moved and vibrated rapidly therein. The cloud continued but a moment, when it disappeared, and the sign was visible once more; instead of the sun and moon as before, there was a golden disk with a white cross therein. As I wondered by what strange mechanism this phenomenon was accomplished, the leader arose and gave the order: “To the hall of learning!”
The assembly immediately arose, and, with united bow to the king, marched in double column from the hall. We proceeded along a passage not unlike the one through which we had entered, until we came to another vaulted chamber.
The frieze of this chamber was also a zodiac with movable planets in the different signs, while the great stars also had their places. The walls around were covered with mystic symbols, circles, triangles, crosses, squares, lines, spots, letters, allegorical scenes, and numbers. On the four sides of the chamber were four remarkable pieces of statuary: a golden lion, an ivory man, a gigantic eagle, and a bull. In the center of the hall was a long, low table, made of a solid block of marble, and upon it were cubes, miters, spheres, and like symbols.
But there were two pieces of art above all others the most remarkable. Near one end of the table was a solid cube of the blackest marble; above this, supported by four lotus-capital Egyptian columns, which rested upon the four corners of the cube, was a pyramid with square base of transparent whiteness. In the center of the space between the base of the pyramid and the top of the cube were two marvelous figures closed by a greenish-colored thread which connected the pyramid with the cube. One was a demoniacal-looking dwarf, made of some blood-red material, who with leering and malignant features, was trying to cut the thread with a blood-smeared sword. The other figure was a noble-looking man made of ivory. With features, every line of which expressed with an agonizing pain, he fought back the monstrous dwarf with his bare and bloodstained hands and arms. This piece of art held me with an irresistible fascination, until I was drawn by Iole to an equally remarkable symbol at the other end of the table.
Here, in full life-size, was a man of pearl nailed upon a black cross, while encircled around him and over the cross was a huge serpent, which, with its body emitting a red phosphorescent light, drank the blood which dripped from the nail wounds of the tortured man. The veins of the man were distended and every line of his body expressed torture; but while his face showed pain, it expressed wondrous fortitude.
A shiver ran through me, and turning my eyes away, I saw across the table a meditating Buddha sitting upon a gigantic lotus with petals of pearls. The calm look upon that meditating face was in marked contrast with the tortured look of the figure upon the cross. All these had been viewed in a few minutes. We now stopped on the vacant side of the table, and, at a motion from our leader, a middle-aged man with light curly whiskers and long brown hair stepped from the ranks beside him and addressed me: “Brother, the trials through which you have passed are not without their meaning, and when explained, they will, no doubt, be impressed indelibly upon your mind.”
As he spoke, he pointed to a large vulture carved from black material, which rested near him upon the table:
Ever since the day when we left the now lost Atlantis for a new home in the land of the Pyramids, the vulture, as a destroyer of all corruption and things foul, has been the symbol of a sacred power. The initiated hierophants of Egypt did not use the vulture symbol without reason. And, like Prometheus among the Greeks, everyone who enters here must let this power consume his liver. But, unlike Prometheus, he must kill its growth or, like him, be bound to the rocks in pain and misery.
He paused a moment, as though to let the words impress me and then continued:
Next, no man can enter here who has not killed all thoughts of self, and extinguished every selfish purpose. The tests to try your pride and love of life determined how you stood. When we asked you for your wealth, you doubted; those were there who could read your colors, and your thoughts were not concealed. Know that here no evil thought can be concealed; your mind is an open book.
Know also that doubt is a canker-worm, which ever breedeth fear and paralyzes strength — not doubt of forms, creeds, and dogmas, but doubt of the eternal excellence and superiority of truth and justice. He who doubts not these eternal principles ever adheres to the right, confident that, no matter what appearances may indicate, he will in the end succeed and triumph over all. Know, also, that we have no need of your money; what wealth we need, our knowledge of nature’s powers enables us to get. Now hear the explanation and meaning of your further trials. When you had passed the tests of selfishness and cast aside the world’s ambitions, we considered you as man before the time of Adam.
Man was then a celestial being, pure and innocent, but without knowledge. Prompted by an inner intuition which dimly told him of his inherent but latent possibilities, he aspired for wisdom and experience. This aspiration brought a momentary light, and, gazing out into the radiant depths of space, he beheld a vision of what might be. Across a black and murky pool, enveloped in dense clouds of smoke and noxious odors, he saw a radiant sphere where men, once beings like himself, had evolved to the heights of perfection and became as gods, knowing good and evil, and masters of all powers of mind and will.
The almost latent light whispering to him said: ‘Being, it is within thy power to be like them, knowing all things, and conscious of the knowledge; but to reach that height thou must cross that pool of black and murky matter, descend into its depths and conquer all its horrid creatures. It is only by passing through a world of evil that thou canst know what evil is, and it is only by this knowledge that thou canst know and realize the good.’
‘I have no knowledge and know not the meaning of your words,’ answered the celestial being to the urging spirit within ‘but something within tells me to listen to you, and if you prompt me on this journey, I will trust your guidance.’
Then did the inner light reply: ‘O being! I would share myself with thee and make thee wise and God-like. I not only urge thee to the journey, but give thee this my promise: Through this awful pool of matter I will go with thee, and if thou wilt but rely on me, will ever guard and lead thee to the free upon the other side. But, before thou dost this journey undertake, listen to my warning.
Two paths lie through this awful whirlpool: one straight and certain and not over-dangerous in its nature; the other devious and with many pitfalls which make it most dangerous and productive of much pain. The first is trod by those who take me for their guide and learn the nature of suffering by sympathetic identification with those who suffer but who do not themselves bring suffering because they keep free from the causes which produce it. Many who start with me lose sight of me when the vapors gather around them; then, not hearing or listening to my guiding voice, but decided by the perfidious beauties which ever tempt them, they take the second path. Great is their misery! Long and painful is their path! Thus deceived, they may descend so low and stray so far that I can no longer reach them; then they die; absorbed in matter their substance returns into the All, and I return to help across another being.’
‘For know you, celestial being, that it is my nature to seek to be a being with individuality. But, it is only by union with one like you that I can realize my aspiration and reach the other side. You give yourself to me, and I will give myself to thee; together, we will make the journey. Separate, thou art devoid of mind, and I am formless essence; together, you will bring me individuality, and I will bring to thee a mind with knowledge.’
The speaker paused; his deep and earnest words had stirred my soul and roused my intuition, and it told me the hidden meaning of his dialogue.
Iole, evidently anticipating what he next would say, now clasped my hand and held it as the speaker continued:
As in the universal evolution two paths lead to Nirvana, so here below two paths lead to the chamber. Your loving, sister sought to lead you here through the path of love and light, but, like most, you wandered and had to take the dark and downward path into the depths of earth. A skeleton, which symbolized the death of spirit in the tomb of matter, led you on until you reached the very slime of the earth and fell into the pool. But thou hadst not entirely lost sight of thy inner self, and listening to its promptings thou hast won.
Hadst thou been blinded by thy fears and doubts and not heard thy inner self, thy soul would have been lost. When the king of matter tempted thee, thou gavest up thy life and all the world’s ambitions. This surrender was thy victory; for with this last renunciation, thou commenced the ascent, and the spirit brought thee strength.
Know, O aspirant, that ambition and the love of life are the king passions which bind the soul to earth. Men laud ambition, and in her name, try to justify their selfish fight for power and fame. But what is selfish ambition compared to that more noble aspiration which, forgetting self, labors for mankind? Your death brought life and strength; you crossed the pool and met the witch. Most truly did she tell you that you must kill a man; no one can enter here who has not accomplished this, but that man is the lower self of him who seeks to enter.
When, listening to your inner spirit, you refused to take a human life, you killed your lower self; into the grave you put it, and the burial brought you peace. Peace brought you resurrection; you ascended to a higher plane and your spirit was enthroned within the form which was a tomb, but which now is a willing instrument of the higher self.
As the path you entered led downward, the one by which you returned led upward; the farther you descended, the darker things became; the higher you ascended the brighter grew the light. And now do we all welcome the brother of the great degree.
He finished, and those around repeated in chorus: "All hail our new-born brother! All hail our new-born brother!”
The Orator took his position in the ranks, and the grey-bearded leader, with a bow to Iole, made a motion, and the assembly immediately formed into couples and departed.
“I will leave you to your other sister,” said Esmeralda, as she took the arm of a tall blonde brother.
“What is the course?” asked the leader, as he passed Iole.
“The law shall rule,” answered Iole, as he departed, leaving us alone in the room.
Now, my dear brother, I will explain some of the symbols; remember that some symbols have more meaning than can be given in the largest book, and these symbols have many keys, and therefore, many meanings.”
As she spoke, she led me to the white pyramid connected with the black cube by the slender thread of tree.
“Recall the words of the Orator, and the meaning of this symbol will be plain,” she said, as I gazed in silence at this truly marvelous work.
The white pyramid symbolizes the higher self, the spirit of the pilgrimage; the black cube symbolizes the lower man or the celestial being after it is lost in matter. The being has sunk so low that nothing but a thread connects it with the higher self, and the passions and desires that arise from matter, and which are symbolized by the red demon, would sever even this frail connection and destroy the soul.
The white figure symbolizes the spirit in the form which, it takes when in matter, and it is fighting and striving to preserve the connection, although by so doing it perpetuates its pain. But rather than again return and commence a new pilgrimage, the spirit hangs on to its degraded vehicle until the last hour, hoping that by so doing it may at last bring it back to the path from which it has wandered.
For, know you, that the being once conjoined with spirit on this pilgrimage has a will of its own, a will which the spirit cannot overcome unless the will permits. The spirit is all-powerful on its own plane but becomes conditioned, as it were, when in matter. The contest seems unequal; the white man has no weapons except the power of persuasion, to which passion will not listen, and the cruel sword of the dwarf falls relentlessly upon his bleeding arm, which would soon give way, but that the pain heals it as fast as it is cut away.
See the agony written on his countenance! Many men thus allow passion and desire to torture their higher natures until at last the demon conquers, the thread is severed, and the soul is lost.
As she paused for a moment, I questioned: “But, Iole, can anything be destroyed?” She answered:
Not in its essence. Both matter and spirit, as such, are eternal and indestructible, but their individualized or special combinations are not unless the will that rules them so wills. At this separation of the lower from the higher, or spirit from matter, spirit returns into the Universal Spirit and matter into the universal matter. But, the individuality that came from their union is lost. Know that the occult teaching that man can lose his soul is most scientific when correctly understood.
All souls either attain spiritual individuality and pass on to God-like perfection or are dissipated or dissolved. Many men now live on the earth whose higher souls have left them: such are the monsters who sometimes appear in the forms of man and startle the world with their wickedness. But this is a vast and deep study — this study of the soul. Let us proceed to the other symbols.
Nearby rested a large black cube, and as we came to it, she said:
This you no doubt understand, but it has many meanings. Let me explain - this black cube symbolizes the four elements or principles which make the lower man; that is, earth, water, fire, and air or the essences which these words symbolize.
She pressed a spring, and the ends and sides of the cube unfolded on the floor and formed a cross, four squares high and three squares broad. “You see,” she said, “that by counting the center twice there are seven squares, which symbolize the seven principles which make the complete man. As a black body is an instrument of torture; as man with arms extended makes a square of four equal measures; the four which make his width, and four times four equals sixteen, a perfect square, and the fourth power of the dead, two. Such is mystic mathematics.”
We closed the cross into its cubic shape and approached the wondrous symbol. For a moment, she stood by in silence; then in a deep, solemn and soul-stirring voice, said:
This explains the mystery of Christ, the meaning of the crucifixion and the mystery of pain. The black cross, as just explained, represents man’s lower nature, this body, a tomb for the spirit and an instrument for its torture. Nailed upon or fastened to this cross, or form of flesh, is Divine Man, Christos, the Son of God.
The serpent encircled around is the serpent of desire and passion, lust, avarice, and hate. Its life depends upon the blood which issues from those bleeding wounds. How truly does this symbolize the life of all men of earth; it is a universal symbol, and applicable to all men, for every man who feeds his lusts and passions or yields to the lower nature crucifies the Christ within him.
Every evil act we do, every impure thought we think, every evil aspiration or desire, tortures the divine man within ourselves, and feeds this horrid monster of desire with fresh blood, which represents the life of Christ, drawn with acutest pain.
She paused, and I thought how beautiful, yet how pathetic, this interpretation of the story of Christ; how much misunderstood this wonderful allegory, teaching a universal truth.
“Iole,” I said, “I see that you give an allegorical interpretation to the story of Christ; do you believe that a historical Christ existed?” She answered:
That a character excised around whose life the Christ-story was built, I have no doubt; but the Universal Christ, the divine in man, had always existed and has never died. All ancient Scriptures have an esoteric meaning, and under the forms of allegories and symbols the great truths of the universe and man, the macrocosm and the microcosm, are veiled; but veiled so lightly that all who seek can find their meanings. Paradoxically, the most deeply hidden is the most open, but the blind pass by and will not see.
The universe is built on simplicity, but superficial and selfish minds know not the meaning of this word. Men seeking for a mystery know not the meaning of this word. Men seeking for a mystery overlook this truth; relying solely on the intellect, they scorn to see philosophy in the simple parables of everyday events. But Jesus thus taught, for parables were his constant method, and his philosophy of human life, thus dimly veiled, was told to his disciples.
St. Paul, his eminent successor, taught in like manner, and, still later, Origen and Clement of Alexandria. All the Gnostics and Neoplatonic Christians taught the same, and down to the time of Constantine the esoteric meaning of the Scriptures was acknowledged.
Again, she paused, and as I stood looking at this solemn symbol of the mystic Christians, a wonderful compassion arose within me.
“Come,” she said, “these wondrous symbols must be explained at length some other time; we will now pass to the others.”
Then she explained the meanings of the man, the ox, the lion, and the eagle, dwelling with great care on each; suffice it to say that the mystic language of the Hebrew prophets was for the first time made clear. Having thus received a brief synopsis of the many symbols in the hall of learning, we left the chamber of that name and proceeded along another corridor. If I had ever doubted that knowledge came from the unfolding of an inner faculty, I now doubted it no longer. I was beginning to realize this inner light, but Iole seemed to already possess universal knowledge. No question could I ask but what I got an answer; thus, continuing our conversation, with active minds and hearts attuned to the same key, we proceeded along the corridor on our way to the hall of choice.
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