IV. THE REFECTORY
WE stepped out into the corridor and entered the garden. The palm trees and exotic plants, by which we were surrounded, formed a strong contrast to the weird and desolate scenery, with its fields of ice and scrub-pines, which I had seen before entering this enchanted valley. High bushes of fuchsias alternated with rose-bushes, and all were covered with the most beautiful flowers; the air was perfumed with the odour of many varieties of hyacinths, heliotropes, and other plants whose names I do not remember. Nevertheless the place was not a hot-house, for there was no other roof over it than the clear blue sky. I wondered whether perhaps the garden was heated from below the surface, and the thought came into my mind that so much luxury seemed not to agree with the view, expressed by the Adept, that those who live within the paradise of their own souls do not care for external sensual gratification. But again the Imperator seemed to know my thought even before it had taken a definite form in my mind, and said:
“We have created these illusions to make your visit to this place an agreeable one in every respect. All these trees and plants which you see require no gardener, and are inexpensive; they cost us nothing but an effort of our imagination.”
I went up to one of the rose-bushes and broke one of the roses. It was a real rose, as real as I had ever seen before; its odour was sweet, and it had just unfolded its leaves in the rays of the midday sun.
“Surely,” I said, “this rose which I hold in my hand cannot be an illusion, or an effect of my imagination?”
“No,” answered the Adept, “it is not produced by your own imagination, but it is a product of the imagination of nature, whose processes can be guided by the spiritual will of the Adept. The whole world, with its solid planets, its mountains of granite, its oceans and rivers, the whole earth with all its multifarious forms, is nothing else but a product of the imagination of the Universal Mind, which is the creator of forms. Forms are nothing real, they are merely illusions or shapes of substance; a form without substance is unthinkable and cannot exist. But the only substance of which we know is the universal primordial element of matter, constituting the substance of Universal Mind, the A’kâsa. This element of matter is invisibly present everywhere; but only when it assumes a certain state of density, sufficient to resist the penetrating influence of the terrestrial light, does it come within the reach of your sensual perception, and assume for you an objective shape. The universal power of will penetrates all things. Guided by the spiritual intelligence of the Adept, whose consciousness pervades all his surroundings, it creates in the Universal Mind those shapes which the Adept imagines; for the sphere of the Universal Mind is his own. By an occult process, which cannot be at present explained to you, but which exists principally in a motion of will, the shapes thus created in the mind-substance of the Adept are rendered dense, and thereby become objective and visible to you.”
“I acknowledge,” I said, “that this is still incomprehensible to me. Can an image formed in your head come out of your head and assume a material form?”
The Adept seemed to be amused at my ignorance, and smilingly answered: “Do you believe that the sphere of mind in which man lives exists only within the circumference of his skull? I should be sorry for such a man; for he would not be able to see or experience anything whatever beyond the processes going on in that part of his mind contained within his skull. The whole world would be to him nothing but impenetrable and incomprehensible darkness. He would not be able to see the sun or any external object; for man can perceive nothing except that which exists within his own mind. Fortunately for man, the sphere of the mind of each individual man reaches as far as the stars. It reaches as far as his power of perception reaches. His mind comes in contact with all things, however distant they may be from his physical body. Thus his mind–not his brain–receives the impressions, and these impressions come to his consciousness within his physical brain, which is merely the centre in which the messages of the mind are received.”
After giving this explanation, the Adept, evidently still seeing some doubts in my mind, directed me to look at a magnolia tree which stood, at a short distance. It was a tree of perhaps sixty feet in height, and covered with great, white, beautiful flowers. While I looked, the tree began to appear less and less dense. The green foliage faded into gray, so that the white blossoms could hardly be distinguished from the leaves; it became more and more shadowy and transparent; it seemed to be merely the ghost of a tree, and finally it 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, and he in whom the power of spiritual perception has been developed may at all times see the images created in the mind of another. The Adept creates his own images; the ordinary mortal lives in the products of the imagination of others, either in those of the imagination of nature, or in those which have been created by other minds. We live in the paradise of our own consciousness, and the objects which you behold exist in the realm of our consciousness; but these spheres are not narrow. They may be expanded far beyond the limits of the visible objects around us, and continue to expand until they become one with the whole Universe.
“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 within the sphere of his mind, which may assume density and become living, and continue to 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.”
“Does, then,” I asked, “every evil thought, or the imagination of something evil, create that evil and cause it to exist as a living entity?”
“Not so,” answered the Imperator. “Every thought calls into existence the form or power of which we think; but these things have no life until life is infused into them by the Will. If they do not receive life from the Will, they are like shadows and soon fade away. If this were not the case, men could never read of a crime without mentally committing it, and thereby creating most vicious Elementals. You may imagine evil deeds of all kinds; but, unless you have a desire to perform them, the creations of your imagination obtain no life. But if you desire to perform them, if your will is so evil that you would be willing to perform them if you had the external means to do so, then it may perhaps be as bad for you as if you had actually committed them, and you create thereby a living although invisible power of evil. It is the Will which endows the creations of imagination with life, because Will and Life are fundamentally identical.”
Seeing a doubt arise in my mind, he continued: “If I speak of the Will as a life-giving power, I am speaking of the spiritual will-power which resides in the heart. A willpower merely exercised by the brain is like the cold light of the moon, which has no power to warm the forms upon which it falls. The life-giving will-power comes from the heart, and acts like the rays of the sun which call life into action in minerals, plants, and animals. It is that which man desires with his heart, not that which he merely imagines with his brain, which has real power. Fortunately for mankind in general, this spiritual power which calls the creations of the imagination into objective visible existence is in the possession of very few, else the world would be filled with living materialised monsters, which would devour mankind; for there are in our present state of civilisation more people who harbour evil desires than such as desire the good. But their will is not spiritual enough to be powerful; it comes more from the brain than from the heart; it is usually only strong enough to harm him who created the evil thought, and to leave others unaffected. Thus you see how important it is that men should not come into possession of spiritual powers until they become virtuous and good. These are mysteries which in former times were kept very secret, and which ought not to be revealed to the vulgar.”
We entered through a Gothic portal into a hall. The light fell through four high windows into the room, which was of an octagonal form. In the midst of this room stood a round table surrounded by chairs, and the corners formed by the sides of the octagon were provided with furniture of various kinds. There were quite a number of the Brothers assembled, some of whom I recognised from having seen their pictures in historical representations; but what astonished me above all was that there were two ladies present–one appearing very tall and dignified, the other one of smaller stature and of a more delicate, but not less noble, appearance, and exceedingly beautiful. To find ladies in the monastery of the Brothers of the Golden and Rosy Cross was a fact which surprised and staggered me, and my confusion was evidently observed by all present; but after I had been introduced to all the persons present–or, to express it more correctly, after they had all been introduced to me, for they all seemed to know me and not to need my introduction–the tall lady took my hand and led me to the table, while she smilingly spoke the following words:
“Why should you be so surprised, my friend, to see Adepts inhabiting female forms in company of those whose forms appear to be of a male character? What has intelligence to do with the sex of the body? Where the sexual instincts end, there ends the influence of sex. Come, now, and take this chair by my side, and have some of this delicious fruit.”
The table was covered with a variety of excellent fruits, some of which I had never seen before, and which do not grow in this country. The illustrious company took their seats, and a conversation ensued in which all took part. I only too deeply felt my own inferiority while in this place, but every one seemed to exert his powers to reassure me and to make me imagine that I was their equal. The Brothers and Sisters hardly tasted the food, but they seemed to be pleased to see me enjoy it, and in fact my morning walk and the pure air of the mountain had given me a very good appetite. The noble lady next to whom I was seated soon succeeded in making my embarrassment vanish, answered my questions in regard to the causes of certain occult phenomena, and made a few practical experiments to illustrate her doctrines. The following may serve as an example of the powers she possessed to create illusions.
We came to speak of the intrepidity and undaunted courage which he must possess who desires to enter the realm of occult research: “For,” she said, “the whole elemental world, with all its monstrosities and animal elements, is opposed to man’s spiritual progress. The animals (Elementals) in the animal principle of man’s constitution live on his life and on the substance of his animal elements. If the divine spirit awakens within the heart of man and sends its light into those animal elements, the substance on which these parasites live becomes destroyed, and they begin to rage like other famished beasts. They fight for their lives and for their food, and they are therefore the greatest impediments and opponents to the spiritual progress of man. They live in the lower regions of the soul of man, and are, under normal conditions, invisible to the external senses, although under certain conditions they may even become visible and objective. They live in families, and reproduce their species like our terrestrial animals; they fight with each other and eat each other up. If a man’s selfish desires, such as are of a minor type, are all swallowed up by some great master-passion, it merely shows that a monster elemental has grown in his soul and devoured all the minor elementals.”
I answered that it was impossible for me to believe that man was such a living and walking menagerie, and said I wished I could see one of these elementals, so as to realise what it was.
“Would you not be afraid,” she asked, “if such a vicious thing were to appear?”
I began to boast of my bravery, and said that I was never afraid of anything which I could see with my eyes and reach with my hands; that fear was the outcome of ignorance, and that knowledge dispelled all fear.
“You are right,” she answered; “but will you be so kind as to hand me that basket with pears.”
I stretched forth my hand after the basket with pears, which stood in the midst of the table, and as I was about to grasp it, a horrible rattlesnake rose up between the fruit; rearing its head and making a noise with its rattles as if in great anger. Horror-struck, I withdrew my hand, barely escaping its venomous bite; but while I stared at it, the serpent coiled itself up again among the pears, its glistening scales disappeared in the basket, and it was gone.
“If you had dared to grasp the snake,” said one of the Brothers, who had witnessed the scene, “you would have found it to be merely a shadow.”
“The Will,” remarked the Imperator, “is not merely a life-giving power; it is also a destroyer. It causes the atoms of primordial matter to collect around a centre; it holds them together, or it may disperse them again into space. It is Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva in one; the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of form.”
“These Elementals,” said the beautiful lady, “master us if we do not master them. If we attack them without fear, they can do us no harm; our thought is destructive to them; because they are the creations of our own thoughts.”
The conversation during our breakfast turned to occultism and kindred subjects. “Occultism and alchemy,” said one of the Brothers, “are at once the most difficult and the easiest things to grasp. They are indeed easy to comprehend, if we only look at the mysteries of nature by the light of wisdom, with which each human being, except an idiot, has been endowed by nature at the time of his birth. But if in the place of the sun of divine wisdom, the artificial candlelight of false logic, sophistry, and speculation has been lit by irrational education, man steps out of his natural state and becomes unnatural. The images of the eternal truths–which were mirrored in his mind while he was a child and innocent, and not sufficiently intellectually developed to understand them–become, by the time that his intellect is developed, so distorted and perverted by prejudices and misconceptions that their original forms are no more recognisable, and, instead of seeing the real, man only sees the hallucinations which his fancy has created.”
“Do you mean to say,” I asked, “that man can possibly know anything about the nature of things, besides that which has been taught to him by his books?”
“Does the child,” asked the Adept, in answer to my question, “need an instructor to explain to it the use of its mother’s breasts? Do the cattle require books on botany to know which herbs are poisonous and which are wholesome? Those artificial systems which have been created by man, and which are therefore unnatural, cannot be found in the book of nature; to know the name of a thing which has been invented for it by man, the child needs man’s instructions; but the essential attributes of a thing are independent of the name given to it.
Shakespeare says that a rose would have an agreeable odour, even if it were called by some other name. At the present stage of education, natural philosophers know all about the artificial names and classifications of things, but very little about their interior qualities. What does a modern botanist know about the signatures of plants, by which the Occultist recognises the medicinal and occult properties of plants as soon as he sees them? The animals have remained natural, while man became unnatural. The sheep does not need to be instructed by a zoölogist to seek to escape if a tiger approaches; it knows by his signature, and without argumentation, that he is his enemy. Is it not much more important for the sheep to know the ferocious character of the tiger, than to be informed that the latter belongs to genus Felis? If by some miracle a sheep should become intellectual, it might learn so much about the external form, anatomy, physiology, and genealogy of the tiger, that it would lose sight of its internal character and be devoured by it. Absurd as this example may appear, it is nevertheless the true representation of what is done in your schools every day. There the rising generation receive what they call a scientific education. They are taught all about the external form of man, and how that form may be comfortably fed, lodged, and housed, but the sight of the real man who occupies that form is entirely lost, his needs are neglected, he is starved, ill-treated, and crucified, and some of your ‘great lights of science’ have become so short-sighted that they even deny that he is.”
“But,” I objected, “is it not a great prerogative which intellectual man enjoys over the animal creation, that he possesses an intellect by which he is able to understand the attributes of things which the animal merely instinctively feels?”
“True,” said the Brother; “but man should use his intellect in accordance with reason, and not oppose his intellect to the same. Instinct in animals is the activity in the animal organism of that principle whose action in human beings is called reason. It is the faculty of the soul to feel the truth; while the function of the intellect is to understand that which is instinctively or intuitively felt by the soul, or perceived by the exterior senses. If the intellect were to act only in harmony with reason, all intellectual human beings would not only be intellectual, but would also be wise; but we know from our daily experience that intellectuality is not necessarily accompanied by wisdom, that often those who are most cunning are also most vicious, and the most learned often the most unreasonable.”
“The first and most important step,” continued the Brother, “which man must take, if he desires to obtain spiritual power, is to become natural. Only when he has thrown off all his unnatural qualities can he hope to become spiritually strong. If he were to become spiritual before he becomes natural, he would be an unnatural spiritual monster. Such monsters have existed and still exist. They are the spiritual powers of evil acting through human forms; they are the Adepts of Black Magic, sorcerers and villains of various grades.”
“Then,” I said, “I presume that great criminals are to a certain extent black magicians.”
“Not necessarily so,” answered the Brother. “The majority of evil-doers do evil, not for the love of evil, but for the purpose of attaining some selfish purpose. The villains who are on the road to Black Magic do evil because they love it, in the same sense as those who are on the road to true adeptship perform good merely because they love good. But whether man performs good or evil acts, a constant or frequent repetition of such acts causes him finally to perform them instinctively, and thus his own nature becomes gradually either identified with good or with evil. He who merely tortures a fly for the sake of torturing it, and because he is pleased to do so, is farther progressed on the road to villainy and absolute evil with consequent destruction, than he who murders a man because he imagines it to be necessary for his own protection that he should murder him.”
Here the conversation began to turn about White Magic and the wonderful powers of certain Tibetan Adepts. The Imperator, who had recently visited them, gave a detailed account of his visit. But, strange as it may appear, while all the details of the other part of our conversation remained deeply engraven in my memory, the account given by the Imperator about that visit is entirely effaced from my recollection, and I cannot remember anything whatever about it. It is as if its recollection had been purposely eradicated from my mind.
After our breakfast was over, the Imperator recommended me to the care of the two Lady-Adepts, and told me that he would soon rejoin us to show me his alchemical laboratory. I then accompanied my two protectors into the beautiful garden.