II. THE MONASTERY
I FOLLOWED my weird companion, and soon we regained the path running along the bed of the creek, which flowed tranquilly over a bottom covered with white pebbles, and the shallowness of the water seemed to indicate that we were not far from its source. As we approached the mysterious mountain the stone walls appeared to rise perpendicularly before us, and there was no place visible where any other being but a bird could have ascended; but as we came still nearer, I noticed a rent or break in the side of the wall, opening like a cave or a tunnel. This tunnel we entered, and, as we proceeded, I saw that it penetrated the giant wall and led into another valley beyond. We arrived at the other end of the tunnel, and an exclamation of joy and surprise escaped my lips as I beheld the beautiful sight which presented itself to my view.
Before me was a valley surrounded by mountains of evidently inaccessible height, and this valley nature and art seemed to have combined to endow with an almost superterrestrial beauty. Like a vast ocean bay it opened before my sight, closing in the distance with a kind of natural amphitheatre. It was covered with short grass and planted with maple trees, and on all sides there were forests and groves, small lakes and lovely creeks. Immediately in front of me, but still at a considerable distance, rose the vault of a sublime mountain peak high into the blue ether of space, presenting a cavity with overhanging rocks, looking like the hollow space under a gigantic wave, which had been petrified by some magic spell. The sides of the mountain sank sheer towards a lower declivity, and then again rose abruptly to an imposing height.
In the presence of so much sublimity I became dumfounded. My companion seemed to comprehend my feeling; for he, too, stood still and laughed, as if he were pleased to see how full of admiration I was. The stillness which surrounded us would have been complete if it had not been for the noise of a cataract, at a distance to the left, falling over a steep precipice and appearing like a string of fluid silver backed by the dark gray rock. The monotonous rush of that fall in contradistinction to the surrounding stillness seemed to me like the rush of the river of time in the realm of eternity; another world than the one to which I had been accustomed seemed to have descended upon me; the air seemed more pure, the light more ethereal, the grass more green than on the other side of the tunnel; here seemed to be the valley of peace, the paradise of happiness and content.
Looking towards the high peak in the distance, I noticed what seemed to be a palace, a fortress, or a monastery of some kind, and as I came nearer, I saw it was a massive building of stone. Its high walls rose above the tops of the surrounding trees, and a dome, as if of a temple, crowned the top of the building. Its exterior appearance indicated the solidity of the walls. It was built in rectangular form, but its architecture was not of a regular style; it presented many projecting windows, turrets, balconies, and verandas.
On the other side of the valley nature was not less sublime and inspiring. Gray giant cliffs, standing out prominently against the steel-blue background of the sky, rose up to an extraordinary height. Below the highest peaks long strips of white clouds had settled around the mountain, and seemed to separate the top of the latter from its main body. The part below the cloud was partly covered by the shadow and partly illuminated by a pale ghostly light, producing a glamour. There, where the masses of clouds rested against the bulk of the mountain, it seemed to me that I was looking into a world of destruction. It was as if the entrails of the mountain had been torn up, and the uniformity of the desolate jumble of rocks was only interrupted by a few remnants of snow situated in the caverns and on the crags of the mountain.
As we advanced we came into a broad avenue leading to the building, and I beheld a man of noble and imposing appearance approaching. He was clad in a yellow robe, his head covered with black flowing hair, and he walked with an elastic step. When the cretin saw this man he hurried towards him, prostrated himself before him, and suddenly vanished, like an image of a dream.
I was struck with astonishment by this extraordinary occurrence, but I had no time to reflect, for the stranger approached me and bid me welcome. He appeared to be a man of about thirty-five years of age, of tall and commanding stature; and his mild and benevolent look, full of spiritual energy, seemed to penetrate my whole being and to read my innermost thoughts. “Surely,” I thought, “this man is an Adept!”
“Yes,” answered the stranger, as if he had been reading my thought, “you have fallen into the hands of the Adepts, of whom you have thought so much and whose acquaintance you often desired to make, and I will introduce you into our temple and make you acquainted with some of our Brothers of the Golden and Rosy Cross.”
I scanned his face, and now it seemed to me as if this man were not a stranger to me. There was something so familiar about him, as if I had known him for years, and yet I could not find a place for him in my memory. In vain I tortured my brain to find out when or where I had met this man, or at least some other one resembling him in appearance. But again the Imperator of this “Rosicrucian Society,” for such he proved to be, answered my unspoken thought by saying: “You are right; we are not strangers, for I have often been in your presence and stood by your side, although you did not see me. I have directed the flow of ideas which streamed into your brain, while you elaborated them and put them down in writing. Moreover, this place has often been visited by you while your animal body was sleeping, and you have conversed with me and with the brothers; but when your soul returned to its house of flesh and blood, it could not impress the memory of the brain with the recollection of the events through which you had passed, and you could remember none of your transcendental experiences when you awoke. The memory of the animal form retains only the impressions which are made upon it by the avenues of the external senses; the memory of the spirit awakens when we are in the spiritual state.”
I told the Imperator that I considered this day the happiest one in my life, and only regretted that I should not be permitted to remain here for ever, as I felt that I was not yet worthy to remain in the society of beings so far exalted above my own state.
“We shall not permit you to go away very soon,” answered the Master. “You will have ample time to see how we live. But as to your permanently remaining here, this is at present an impossibility. You have other duties to perform, and, moreover, there are still too many of the lower and animal elements adhering to your constitution and forming a part of yourself. 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 a state of consumption; you would become miserable instead of being happy. You would die.”
“Master,” I said, “then I can at least hope to learn, while I am here, the mystery of those great spiritual powers which you possess; by which you are said to be able to transform one thing into another, and transmute base metals into gold?”
“There is nothing mysterious or wonderful about it, my friend,” said the Imperator. “Such things are not more wonderful than the ordinary phenomena of nature which we see every day. They are only mysterious to those whose own prejudices and misconceptions hinder them from seeing the truth and knowing the power the spirit possesses to subjugate matter by means of the soul. We need not be surprised about them any more than about seeing the moon revolve around the earth, or watching the growth of a tree. It is all merely the effect of that one primordial power which is called the Will, and which called the world into existence. It manifests itself in various ways as mechanical force or as a spiritual power; but it is always the same divine power of Will, acting through the instrumentality of the organism of man, who directs it by his intelligence.”
“Then,” I said, “the principal requirement would be to learn how to strengthen the Will?”
“Not so,” said the Imperator. “The Will is the law, the universal power holding together the worlds in space and causing the revolutions of planets; it pervades and penetrates everything, and does not require your strengthening it, for it is already strong enough to accomplish everything. You are only an instrument through which this spiritual power may act and manifest itself, if you do not attempt to oppose it.”
“Then,” I said, “how can we accomplish anything at all? If we can do nothing through the power of our own will, we may as well never attempt to do anything.”
“We can accomplish nothing useful,” answered the Master, “by attempting to employ any separate will of our own; but we may employ our Reason and Intelligence to guide and conduct the already existing universal Will-power in Nature which constitutes the life of all things, and thus we may accomplish in a few moments certain things which it would require unconscious nature much longer periods of time to accomplish without our aid. The miller who employs the water of a river to set his mill in motion does not create water, nor does he attempt to make the river run upwards towards its source; he merely leads the stream into certain channels and uses the already existing current in an intelligent manner to accomplish his purpose. He knows the law of nature and acts in accordance with it. Being obedient to that law he is able to employ it. Nature obeys those who act in obedience to her laws. In the same manner acts the Adept. He guides the existing spiritual power by his intelligence, and thereby causes it to accomplish certain things in accordance with the law of nature.”
“Do you see yonder cloud which has settled below the top of the mountain?” continued the Adept. “It will remain there until some current of air blows it away, or until a change of temperature causes it to rise or to fall. If we disperse it by causing the universal forces of nature to act upon the dense masses, we do not act against the law of nature, but guide it by our intelligence.”
While the Master spoke these words, he extended his hands toward the mountain, below whose top the clouds had collected, and immediately it seemed as if life had been infused into the dense mass. It began to whirl and to dance, and finally it rose like a column of smoke up to the top of the mountain, ascending from there high up into the air, giving the mountain the appearance of a volcano. At last it collected again far above the top, in the air, forming a little silvery cloud, through which the sunshine was streaming.
I wondered at this manifestation of life in a cloud; but the Adept, reading my thoughts, said: “Life is universal and everywhere; it is identical with the Will.”
During our conversation we had slowly approached the building, and I had now an opportunity to examine its exterior in all its details. It was only two stories high, but the rooms seemed to be lofty. It was built in a quadrangular form, and surrounded by oaks and maple trees, and a large garden or park. Seven steps of white marble led up to the main portal, which was protected by two massive pillars of granite, and over the door appeared in golden letters an inscription, saying: You, who enter here, leave all evil thoughts behind.
We entered through the portal into a large vestibule paved with flagstones. In the midst of this room was a statue of Gautama Buddha on a pedestal, and the walls were ornamented with golden inscriptions representing some of the most important doctrines of the ancient sages. To the right and left, doors opened into long corridors leading to the various apartments of the Brothers; but the door opposite the entrance led into a beautiful garden, where I beheld many plants and trees such as are usually only to be found in tropical climes. The back of this garden was formed by a building of white marble, surrounded by the dome which I had seen from the distance, after entering through the tunnel, and on the top of the dome was a silver dragon resting on a golden globe.
“This,” said the Imperator, “is the sanctuary of our temple; in this you cannot enter. If you were to attempt it, the immediate death of your personality would be the consequence; nor would it serve you even if you were able to enter and live, for in that sanctuary everything is dark to all who do not bring with them their own spiritual light, the inextinguishable lamp of divine intelligence, to illuminate the darkness.”
We walked into one of the corridors. On our left there were numerous doors leading into the cells or apartments of the Brothers, but to the right was a wall, occasionally opening into the tropical garden, and the interstices between these openings were filled out with beautifully painted landscapes. One of these landscapes represented Indian scenery, with the white snow-covered Himalaya Mountains in the background, while the fore-part of the picture represented what appeared to be a Chinese pagoda, with a small lake and wooded hills at a distance.
“These pictures,” the Master explained, “represent the various monasteries or lamaseries of our order. The one before you is situated near a lake in the interior of Tibet, and is occupied by some of the highest Adepts of our order. Each of these pictures shows also a part of the country in which the monastery is placed, so as to give a correct idea of the general character of the locality. But these pictures have an occult quality which will become apparent to you if you concentrate your mind upon some part of the picture.”
I did as directed, and concentrated my attention upon the grand portal of the lamasery, and to my astonishment the door opened, and the tall form of an Indian, dressed in shining white robes, with a turban of pale yellow silk upon his head, stepped out of the door. I immediately recognised him to be one of the Tibetan Adepts whom I had seen in my waking dreams. He, too, seemed to recognise me, and smilingly nodded his head, while I bowed reverentially before him. A fine-looking horse was brought forward by some attendant, and he mounted and rode away.
I was speechless from astonishment, but the Imperator smiled and drew me away, quoting a passage of Shakespeare, with a little modification; for he said, “There are many things in Heaven and Earth which are not understood by your philosophers.”
We passed on to another picture, representing Egyptian scenery, with a convent in the foreground and pyramids at a distance; it was of a more gloomy character than the former, probably on account of the desert places by which it seemed to be surrounded. The next picture represented a similar building, situated in a tropical and mountainous country, and the Adept told me it was one situated somewhere in the Cordilleras of South America. Another one showed a Mohammedan temple, with minarets and the half-moon upon their tops. I expressed my surprise to see all the various religious systems in the world represented in these Rosicrucian orders; for I had always believed that the Rosicrucians were an eminently Christian order.
The Imperator, again reading my thought, corrected my mistake. “The name ‘Rosicrucian Order,’ or the ‘Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross,'” he said, “is a comparatively modern invention, and was first used by Johann Valentin Andreæ, who invented the story of the knight Christian Rosencreuz for the same purpose as Cervantes invented his ‘Don Quichote de la Mancha,’ namely, for the purpose of ridiculing the would-be Adepts, reformers, and gold-makers of his age, when he wrote his celebrated ‘Fama Fraternitatis.’ Before his pamphlet appeared, the name Rosicrucian did not mean a person belonging to a certain organised society of that name, but it was a generic name, applied to occultists, adepts, alchemists of a higher order, in possession of some occult knowledge and acquainted with the secret signification of the Rose and the Cross; symbols which have been adopted by the Christian Church, which were, however, not invented by her, but used by occultists thousands of years before Christianity was known. These symbols do not belong exclusively to the Christian Church. They are as free as the air for any one who can grasp their meaning, but unfortunately very few of your Christians know that meaning; they only worship the external forms, and know nothing about the principles which those forms represent.”
“Then,” I said, “a spiritually enlightened man may become a member of your order, even if he did not believe in any of the so-called Christiandogmas?”
To this the Imperator answered: “No man can become a member of our exalted order whose knowledge is merely based upon dogmas, beliefs, creeds, or opinions which have been taught to him by somebody, or which he has accepted from hearsay or from the reading of books. Such imaginary knowledge is no real knowledge; we can know nothing real except that which we realise within ourselves. That which is usually called knowledge is merely a matter of memory. We may store our memory with innumerable things, and they may be true or false; but even if they are true, opinions do not convey real knowledge. Real knowledge cannot be imparted by one man to another; a man can only be guided to the place where he may obtain it; but he must himself grasp the truth, not merely intellectually with his brain, but also intuitionally with his heart.
“To obtain real knowledge we must feel the truth of a thing, and understand its true nature. To believe in the truth of anything without having real knowledge is merely a superstition. Many of your scientific, philosophical, and theological speculations are based upon superstition and not upon real knowledge or self-consciousness. The science and knowledge of your modern philosophers and theologians rest upon opinions, and are continually in danger of being overthrown by some new discovery which will not amalgamate with their artificial systems. The truth cannot be overthrown; it needs no argumentation, and if it is once perceived by the spiritual power of perception and understood by the spiritual intelligence of man, it conveys real knowledge and cannot be disputed away.
“Our order has, therefore, nothing to do with beliefs in creeds or opinions of any kind. We care nothing for them. If we were all sufficiently perfect to recognise all truths by direct perception, we should not need any books or instruments; we should not need to use logic or make any experiments. As it is, we are still men, although far above the intellectual animal which is usually called man. We still use our books and have a library, and study the opinions of thinkers; but we never accept such books or opinions–even if they came from Buddha himself–as our infallible guides, unless they receive the seal from our reason and understanding. We venerate them and make use of them; they serve us, but we do not serve them.”
During this conversation we walked into the library, where thousands of books were standing upon a great number of shelves. I noticed many ancient books of which I had heard, but which I had never seen. There were the sybilline books, which are said to have been destroyed by fire; the books of Hermes Trismegistus, of which only one is believed to be in existence; and many others of priceless value for the antiquary or the student of hermetic philosophy. While I wondered how these Brothers came into possession of such treasures, the Imperator said:
“Well may you be surprised how we came into possession of books which are supposed to exist no more; but the secret of this is, that everything, and consequently every book which ever existed, leaves its imperishable impression in the Astral Light, and that by certain occult means these impressions may be reproduced from that universal storehouse, the memory of nature, and be put in a visible, tangible, and material shape. Some of our Brothers are to a great extent engaged in making such reproductions, and thus we have without any financial outlay obtained these treasures, which no amount of money could have procured.”
I rejoiced to hear these words, because they confirmed my opinion that life in a solitude was not necessarily a life of uselessness, and that ideas are real things, which may be seen and grasped far more easily in a tranquil place than while we are surrounded by the turmoil and the petty cares of life in “society.”
In answer to this thought, the Imperator said: “Our monastery has been founded by spiritually enlightened people who had the same thought which I read in your mind. They therefore selected this spot in a secluded valley, whose existence is known only to a few, and by making use of certain elementary forces of nature, which are as yet unknown to you, they created an illusion which renders this place safe against all unwelcome intruders. Here those in whom the germ of divinity, being latent or dormant in the heart of mortal man, has awakened into life and activity, may find the conditions required for its further development. Here we live in peace, separated from the outer world by a barrier which none can surmount; for even if the existence of our retreat were known, it would be an easy matter for us to create other illusions which would prevent the intrusion of those who attempted to enter it. We are, however, not excluded from that outer world, although we seldom enter it with our physical forms. By the exercise of our clairvoyant and clairaudient powers, we may at any moment know what is going on in that world; and, if we desire to come into personal contact with it, we leave our physical forms and go out in our astral bodies. We visit whomsoever we wish, and witness everything without our presence being perceived. We visit the statesman, the minister, the philosopher, the inventor; we infuse thoughts in their minds which are useful, and they do not know from whence those thoughts come. If their prejudices and predilections are very strong, they may reject those thoughts; but, if they are reasonable people and know how to discriminate, they will follow the silent advice and profit by it.”
“In that case,” I said, “your order can exercise a tremendous influence in the politics of the world; but why, then, did you not try to abolish some of the greatest evils that afflicted the world in the history of the past? Why did you permit such monsters as Nero and Caligula to exist? Why did you permit the horrors of the Inquisition? Why did you allow the terrors of the French Revolution to take place? Why did you not destroy such villains as Louis XI of France, and others of that class?”
“Alas!” answered the Adept, “there is a certain law of justice, whose action causes evils for individuals, which we are not permitted to oppose, because its working is necessary for the evolution of the race. As the surgeon sometimes has to inflict pain for the purpose of removing a cancerous growth and saving the life of the patient, so it is often necessary to purge the organism of a nation for the purpose of restoring its health. It is said that evils are blessings in disguise, and God may execute His purpose even through instruments full of wickedness and depravity.”
“Nevertheless,” I interposed, “it seems to me that you might interfere in individual cases to protect people from committing acts of imprudence which will cause them to suffer.”
To this he replied: “It is true that we might handle mankind as if they were merely automata, and we could cause them to do what we please, while they would still imagine that they were following their own inclination. But to do so would be against the rules of our order and against the great Law, for the latter decides that each man shall be the creator of his own Karma. We are permitted to advise our followers, but we are not permitted to interfere with their mental freedom.”
“Still,” I persisted, “there are innocent people who have to suffer for actions not done by themselves; there were martyrs who underwent torture and death for the sake of some great cause. Why did you not save them? Why did you permit Hypatia to be torn to pieces by a fanatical mob, or Jeanne d’Arc to die an ignominious death upon the stake?”
“Such people will have their reward. From the blood of a martyr springs fruit in abundance. Their bodily sufferings are as nothing in comparison with the joy they earn. Nothing is useless, although you narrow-sighted mortals cannot always see the use of a thing. Moreover, it often happens that worthy people are saved in a manner appearing to you miraculous.”
A strong desire to become a member of the Rosicrucian Society entered my mind; but I did not dare to express it. The Master, however, reading my mind, continued to say:
“We accept in our circle every one who has the necessary qualifications to enter it, but you will perceive that these qualifications are not in everybody’s possession; they cannot be conferred by favour, and it is a well-known saying, even among the lowest grades of occultists, that the Adept cannot be made, but that he must grow to become one.”
“Master,” I said, “would it not be well for those who desire to develop spiritually, and to become Adepts, to imitate your example and to select some secluded places where they could reside undisturbed and give their time to interior meditation and concentration of thought? I know that there are at present a great many people in various parts of the world, belonging to various nationalities and having various creeds, who have become convinced of the fact that the conditions, under which the majority of men and women of our present civilisation exist and live, are not conducive to the quick attainment of a higher spiritual state. They believe that the objects which people usually strive to attain during their comparatively short life upon this globe, such as the gratification of pride and ambition, the hoarding of money, the enjoyment of sexual love, the obtaining of bodily comfort and pleasure, &c., cannot be the true objects of life; but that our present life is only one of the many phases of our eternal existence, and that terrestrial life is only a means to an end, namely, to afford the conditions by which the divine element, germinally contained in every man, may grow and develop, whereby man may attain a higher life like yours, which is not subject to transformation and death, and is therefore of permanent value.”
The Adept, who had patiently listened to my outburst of enthusiasm, smiled and said: “If those people are ripe enough to be able to bear a life of seclusion, let them enter it; but to do so it is above all necessary that they possess real knowledge. As long as men move merely on the plane of beliefs and opinion, each man’s opinions and tastes will differ from those of the others to a certain extent, and I am afraid that your proposed harmonial society would prove in the end to be a very inharmonious one.
“I have, however, no doubt that even under such unfavourable auspices considerable advantage might be derived from the establishment oftheosophical academies in secluded places. If you had any colleges, seminaries, schools, or societies where the truth could be taught without all the accompanying rubbish of scientific and theological misconceptions and superstitions, which have accumulated through the ages, great progress would undoubtedly be made. As the present civilisation now stands, there are two methods adopted for the education of the people. One is by means of what is called Science, the other by means of what is called Religion. As far as science is concerned, her deductions and speculations are based upon observation and logic. Her logic may be good enough; but her powers of observation, upon which the fundamentals of her logic rest, are restricted to her very imperfect faculties of sensual perception, and therefore your science is based entirely upon external illusions, and is consequently a superficial and illusive science. Knowledge of the inner life of nature is far more important than the study of external phenomena.
“You must not misunderstand me,” he continued, seeing that I did not fully grasp the meaning of his words. “I do not mean to say that your modern science knows nothing about natural laws. She knows what she sees and understands, but knows little or nothing about the invisible spiritual causes which are the fundamental causes of visible effects. She knows a great deal about the little details of existence which are the ultimate effects of the action of universal Life; but she knows nothing about the Tree of Life, the eternal source from which all these transient phenomena spring.
“As far as your modern theology is concerned, it is based upon an entire misconception of terms which were originally intended to signify certain spiritual powers, of which your priests and laymen can have no correct conception because they have not the spiritual powers necessary to conceive of such things. Being narrowminded, the universal principles and powers which are active within the great workshop of nature have, in their conceptions, become narrowed down to personal and limited beings; the divine universal and infinite power which men call God, has been reduced in the minds of the ignorant to an extra-cosmic deity of some kind, who can be persuaded by mortals to change His will, and who needs substitutes and deputies upon this earth to execute His divine laws. Your religion is not the religion of the living God who executes His own will; it is the religion of a dead and impotent god, who died long ago and left an army of clergymen to rule in his stead.
“Your theology should above all be based upon the power spiritually to perceive the truth. But where can you find a clergyman who has any spiritual perceptions, and who dares to trust to his intuition more than to the dogmas prescribed by his Church? If he dared to have an opinion of his own, and to assert it, he would cease to be a minister of his Church and be considered a heretic. In your “intellectual” age everything is left to intellectual investigation alone; little is done to develop the intuitive power of the heart. The consequence is, that your present generation is like people looking at everything by means of a telescope; they may see, but they do not feel and grasp the truth, and the consequence is an entirely false conception of nature and man.”