A strange and original little story, charmingly fantastic, but full of poetic feeling and, what is more, of deep philosophical and occult truths, for those who can perceive the ground-work it is built upon. A fresh Eclogue of Virgil in its first part, descriptive of Alpine scenery in the Tyrol, where the author “dreamt” his adventure, with “shining glaciers glistening like vast mirrors in the light of the rising sun,” deep ravines with rushing streams dancing between the cliffs, blue lakes slumbering among the meadows, and daisy-sprinkled valleys resting in the shadow of old pine forests.
Gradually as the hero of the “Adventure” ascended higher and higher, he began losing the sense of the world of the real, to pass unconsciously into the land of waking dreams.
“In these solitudes there is nothing to remind one of the existence of man, except occasionally the sawed-off trunk of a tree, showing the destructive influence of human activity. In some old, rotten, and hollow trunks rain-water has collected, sparkling in the sun like little mirrors, such as may be used by water-nymphs, and around their edges mushrooms are growing, which our imagination transforms into chairs, tables, and baldachinos for elves and fairies. . . . No sound could now be heard, except occasionally the note of a titmouse and the cry of a hawk who rose in long-drawn spiral motion high up into the air. . . .”
Throwing himself upon the moss, he begins watching the play of the water until it becomes “alive with forms of the most singular shape,” with super-mundane beings dancing in the spray, “shaking their heads in the sunshine and throwing off showers of liquid silver from their waving locks.” . . .
“Their laughter sounded like that of the Falls of Minnehaha, and from the crevices of the rocks peeped the ugly faces of gnomes and kobolds, watching slyly the fairies.”
Then the dreamer asks himself a variety of questions of the most perplexing nature, except, perhaps, to the materialist, who cuts every psychological problem as Alexander cleft the Gordian knot. . . .
“What is the reason that we imagine such things?” he inquires.
“Why do we endow ‘dead’ things with human consciousness and with sensation? . . . Is our consciousness merely a product of the organic activity of our physical body, or is it a function of the universal life . . . . . within the body? Is our personal consciousness dependent for its existence on the existence of the physical body, and does it die with it; or is there a spiritual consciousness, belonging to a higher, immortal, and invisible self of man, temporarily connected with the organism, but which may exist independently of the latter? If such is the case, if our physical organism is merely an instrument through which our consciousness acts, then this instrument is not our real self. If this is true, then our real self is there where our consciousness exists, and may exist independently of the latter. . . . Can there be any dead matter in the Universe? Is not even a stone held together by the ‘cohesion’ of its particles, and attracted to the earth by ‘gravitation’? But what else is this ‘cohesion’ and ‘gravitation’ but energy, and what is ‘energy’ but the soul, an anterior principle called force, which produces an outward manifestation called matter? . . . All things possess life, all things possess soul, and there may be soul-beings . . . invisible to our physical senses, but which may be perceived by our soul.” (p. 19)
The arch-druid of modern Hylo-Idealism, Dr. Lewins, failing to appear to rudely shake our philosopher out of his unscientific thoughts, a dwarf appears in his stead. The creature, however, does not warn the dreamer, as that too-learned Idealist would. He does not tell him that he transcends “the limits of the anatomy of his conscious Ego,” since “psychosis is now diagnosed by medico-psychological symptomatology as vesiculo-neurosis in activity,”1 and—as quoth the raven—“merely this, and nothing more.” But being a cretin, he laughingly invites him to his “Master.”
The hero follows, and finds he is brought to a “theosophical monastery,” in a hidden valley of the most gorgeous description. Therein he meets, to his surprise, with adepts of both sexes; for, as he learns later:—
“What has intelligence to do with the sex of the body? Where the sexual instincts end, there ends the influence of the sex.”
Meanwhile, he is brought into the presence of a male adept of majestic appearance, who welcomes and informs him that he is among “The Brothers of the Golden and Rosy Cross.” He is invited to remain with them for some time, and see how they live. His permanent residence with them is, however, objected to. The reasons given for it are as follows:—
“There are still too many of the lower and animal elements adhering to your constitution. . . . They could not resist long the destructive influence of the pure and spiritual air of this place; and, as you have not yet a sufficient amount of truly spiritual elements in your organism to render it firm and strong, you would, by remaining here, soon become weak and waste away, like a person in consumption; you would become miserable instead of being happy, and you would die.”
Then follows a philosophical conversation on Will, in which the latter, in individual man, is said to become the stronger if it only uses the universal Will-Power in Nature, itself remaining passive in the Law. This sentence has to be well understood, lest it should lead the reader into the error of accepting pure mediumistic passivity as the best thing for spiritual and occult development. A phenomenon is produced on a passing cloud, into which apparent life is infused by the Master’s hand, stretched towards it; this is again explained by showing that Life is universal and identical with Will. Other phenomena still more wonderful follow; and they are all explained as being produced through natural laws, in which science will not believe. The thoughts of the student are read and answered as though his mind were an opened book. A lovely garden, full of exotic plants and luxurious palm-trees, into which he is taken, striking him as something unnatural in the Tyrolean Alps; so much luxury, moreover, seeming to him to disagree with the ascetic views just expressed by the adept, he is told forthwith, in answer to his unexpressed thoughts, that the garden had been erected to make his visit an agreeable one; and that it was an illusion.
“All these trees and plants . . . require no gardeners, . . . they cost us nothing but an effort of our imagination”—he learns.
“Surely,” he said, “this rose cannot be an illusion . . . or an effect of my imagination?”
“No,” answered the adept . . . “but it is a product of the imagination of Nature, whose processes can be guided by the will of the adept. The whole world . . . is nothing else but a world of the imagination of the Universal Mind, which is the Creator of forms. . . .”
To exemplify the teaching, a Magnolia Tree in full blossom sixty feet high, standing at a distance, is made to look less and less dense. The green foliage fades into gray, becomes “more and more shadowy and transparent,” until “it seemed to be merely the ghost of a tree, and finally disappeared entirely from view.”
“Thus,” continued the adept, “you see that tree stood in the sphere of my mind as it stood in yours. We are all living within the sphere of each other’s mind. . . . The Adept creates his own images; the ordinary mortal lives in the products of the imagination of others, or the imagination of nature. We live in the paradise of our own soul but the spheres of our souls are not narrow. They have expanded far beyond the limits of the visible bodies, and will continue to expand until they become one with the universal Soul. . . .”
“The power of the imagination is yet too little known to mankind, else they would better beware of what they think. If a man thinks a good or an evil thought, that thought calls into existence a corresponding form or power which may assume density and become living . . . and live long after the physical body of the man who created it has died. It will accompany his soul after death, because the creations are attracted to their creator.” (p. 83)
Scattered hither and thither, through this little volume are pearls of wisdom. For that which is rendered in the shape of dialogue and monologue is the fruit gathered by the author during a long research in old forgotten and mouldy MSS. of the Rosicrucians, or mediæval alchemists, and in the worm-eaten infolio of unrecognized, yet great adepts of every age.
Thus when the author approaches the subject of theosophical retreats or communities—a dream cherished by many a theosophist—he is answered by the “Adept” that
“the true ascetic is he who lives in the world, surrounded by its temptations; he in whose soul the animal elements are still active, craving for the gratification of their desires and possessing the means for such gratification, but who by the superior power of his will conquers his animal self. Having attained that state he may retire from the world. . . . He expects no future reward in heaven; for what could heaven offer him except happiness which he already possesses? He desires no other good, but to create good for the world.” . . .
Saith the Adept.
“If you could establish theosophical monasteries, where intellectual and spiritual development would go hand-in-hand, where a new science could be taught, based upon a true knowledge of the fundamental laws of the universe, and where at the same time man would be taught how to obtain a mastery over himself, you would confer the greatest possible benefit upon the world. Such a convent would afford immense advantage for the advancement of intellectual research. . . . These convents would become centres of intelligence. . . .”
Then, reading the student’s thoughts:
“You mistake,” he added, “it is not the want of money which prevents us to execute the idea. It is the impossibility to find the proper kind of people to inhabit the convent after it is established. Indeed, we would be poor Alchemists if we could not produce gold in any desirable quantity . . . but gold is a curse to mankind, and we do not wish to increase the curse. . . . Distribute gold among men, and you will only create craving for more; give them gold, and you will transform them into devils. No, it is not gold that we need; it is men who thirst after wisdom. There are thousands who desire knowledge, but few who desire wisdom. . . . Even many of your would-be Occultists . . . have taken up their investigations merely for the purpose of gratifying idle curiosity, while others desire to pry into the secrets of nature, to obtain knowledge which they desire to employ for the attainment of selfish ends. Give us men or women who desire nothing else but the truth, and we will take care of their needs. . . .”
And then having given a startlingly true picture of modern civilisation, and explained the occult side of certain things pertaining to knowledge, the Adept led on the student to his laboratory, where he left him for a few minutes alone. Then another adept, looking like a monk, joined him, and drew his attention to some powders, by the fumigations of which the Elementals, or “Spirits of Nature” could be made to appear. This provoked the student’s curiosity. Sure of his invulnerability in the matter of tests and temptations, he begged to be allowed to see these creatures. . . .
Suddenly the room looked dim, and the walls of the laboratory disappeared. He felt he was in the water, light as a feather, dancing on the waves, with the full moon pouring torrents of light upon the ocean, and the beautiful Isle of Ceylon appearing in the distance. The melodious sound of female voices made him espy near to where he was three beautiful female beings. The Queen of the Undines, the most lovely of the three—for these were the longed-for Elementals—entices the unwary student to her submarine palace. He follows her, and, forgetting theosophical convents, Adepts and Occultism, succumbs to the temptation. . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Was it but a dream? It would so appear. For he awakes on the mossy plot where he had lain to rest in the morning, and from whence he had followed the dwarf. But how comes it that he finds in his button-hole the exotic lily given to him by the adept lady, and in his pocket the piece of gold transmuted in his presence by the “Master”? He rushes home, and finds on the table of his hotel-room a promised work on “The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians,” and on its fly-leaf a few words in pencil. They ran thus:—
“Friend, I regret . . . I cannot invite you to visit us again for the present. He who desires to remain in the peaceful valley must know how to resist all sensual attractions, even those of the Water Queen. Study . . . bring the circle into the square, mortify the metals. . . . When you have succeeded we shall meet again. . . . I shall be with you when you need me.”
The work ends with the quotation from Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, where the man caught up into Paradise (whether in the body or out of the body . . . God knoweth) “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
The “adventure” is more than worth perusal.
1. What is Religion? A Vindication of Free Thought. By C. N., annotated by Robert Lewins, M. D. See his Appendices, p. 35, et seq.