"Of course he had in your then weak state. But now that you are as strong as he is, he could not influence you at all. Let us be brief in our converse, my child. I have a few serious things to say to you before you leave me, on your celestial journey."
I trembled slightly, but took the chair he pointed out to me—a large easy-chair in which one could recline and sleep.
"Listen," continued Heliobas; "I told you, when you first came here, that whatever I might do to restore you to health, you would have it in your power to repay me amply. You ARE restored to health; will you give me my reward?"
"I would and will do anything to prove my gratitude to you," I said earnestly. "Only tell me how."
"You are aware," he went on, "of my theories respecting the Electric Spirit or Soul in Man. It is progressive, as I have told you—it begins as a germ—it goes on increasing in power and beauty for ever, till it is great and pure enough to enter the last of all worlds—God's World. But there are sometimes hindrances to its progression—obstacles in its path, which cause it to recoil and retire a long way back—so far back occasionally that it has to commence its journey over again. Now, by my earnest researches, I am able to study and watch the progress of my own inner force or soul. So far, all has been well—prayerfully and humbly I may say I believe all has been well. But I foresee an approaching shadow—a difficulty—a danger—which, if it cannot be repelled or passed in some way, threatens to violently push back my advancing spiritual nature, so that, with much grief and pain, I shall have to re-commence the work that I had hoped was done. I cannot, with all my best effort, discover WHAT this darkening obstacle is—but YOU, yes, YOU"—for I had started up in surprise—"you, when you are lifted up high enough to behold these things, may, being perfectly unselfish in this research, attain to the knowledge of it and explain it to me, when you return. In trying to probe the secret for myself, it is of course purely for my own interest; and nothing clear, nothing satisfactory can be spiritually obtained, in which selfishness has ever so slight a share. You, if indeed I deserve your gratitude for the aid I have given you—you will be able to search out the matter more certainly, being in the position of one soul working for another. Still, I cannot compel you to do this for me—I only ask, WILL you?"
His entreating and anxious tone touched me keenly; but I was amazed and perplexed, and could not yet realize what strange thing was going to happen to me. But whatever occurred I was resolved to give a ready consent to his request, therefore I said firmly:
"I will do my best, I promise you. Remember that I do not know, I cannot even guess where I am going, or what strange sensations will overcome me; but if I am permitted to have any recollection of earth at all, I will try to find out what you ask."
Heliobas seemed satisfied, and rising from his chair, unlocked a heavily-bound iron safe. From this he took a glass flask of a strange, ever-moving, glittering fluid, the same in appearance as that which Raffaello Cellini had forbidden me to drink. He then paused and looked searchingly at me.
"Tell me," he said in an authoritative tone, "tell me WHY you wish to see what to mortals is unseen? What motive have you? What ulterior plan?"
I hesitated. Then I gathered my strength together and answered decisively:
"I desire to know why this world, this universe exists; and also wish to prove, if possible, the truth and necessity of religion. And I think I would give my life, if it were worth anything, to be certain of the truth of Christianity."
Heliobas gazed in my face with a sort of half-pity, half-censure.
"You have a daring aim," he said slowly, "and you are a bold seeker. But shame, repentance and sorrow await you where you are going, as well as rapture and amazement. 'I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE IF IT WERE WORTH ANYTHING.' That utterance has saved you—otherwise to soar into an unexplored wilderness of spheres, weighted by your own doubts and guided solely by your own wild desires, would be a fruitless journey."
I felt abashed as I met his steady, scrutinizing eyes.
"Surely it is well to wish to know the reason of things?" I asked, with some timidity.
"The desire of knowledge is a great virtue, certainly," he replied; "it is not truly felt by one in a thousand. Most persons are content to live and die, absorbed in their own petty commonplace affairs, without troubling themselves as to the reasons of their existence. Yet it is almost better, like these, to wallow in blind ignorance than wantonly to doubt the Creator because He is unseen, or to put a self-opinionated construction on His mysteries because He chooses to veil them from our eyes."
"I do not doubt!" I exclaimed earnestly. "I only want to make sure, and then perhaps I may persuade others."
"You can never compel faith," said Heliobas calmly. "You are going to see wonderful things that no tongue or pen can adequately describe. Well, when you return to earth again, do you suppose you can make people believe the story of your experiences? Never! Be thankful if you are the possessor of a secret joy yourself, and do not attempt to impart it to others, who will only repel and mock you."
"Not even to one other?" I asked hesitatingly.
A warm, kindly smile seemed to illuminate his face as I put this question.
"Yes, to one other, the other half of yourself—you may tell all things," he said. "But now, no more converse. If you are quite ready, drink this."
He held out to me a small tumbler filled with the sparkling volatile liquid he had poured from the flask. For one moment my courage almost forsook me, and an icy shiver ran through my veins. Then I bethought myself of all my boasted bravery; was it possible that I should fail now at this critical moment? I allowed myself no more time for reflection, but took the glass from his hand and drained its contents to the last drop. It was tasteless, but sparkling and warm on the tongue. Scarcely had I swallowed it, when a curiously light, dizzy sensation overcame me, and the figure of Heliobas standing before me seemed to assume gigantic proportions. I saw his hands extend—his eyes, like lamps of electric flame, burned through and through me—and like a distant echo, I heard the deep vibrating tones of his voice uttering the following words:
"Azul! Azul! Lift up this light and daring spirit unto thyself; be its pioneer upon the path it must pursue; suffer it to float untrammelled through the wide and glorious Continents of Air; give it form and force to alight on any of the vast and beautiful spheres it may desire to behold; and if worthy, permit it to gaze, if only for a brief interval, upon the supreme vision of the First and Last of worlds. By the force thou givest unto me, I free this soul; do thou, Azul, quickly receive it!"
A dense darkness now grew thickly around me—-I lost all power over my limbs—I felt myself being lifted up forcibly and rapidly, up, up, into some illimitable, terrible space of blackness and nothingness. I could not think, move, or cry out—I could only feel that I was rising, rising, steadily, swiftly, breathlessly ... when suddenly a long quivering flash of radiance, like the fragment of a rainbow, struck dazzlingly across my sight. Darkness? What had I to do with darkness? I knew not the word—I was only conscious of light—light exquisitely pure and brilliant—light through which I stepped as easily as a bird flies in air. Perfectly awake to my sensations, I felt somehow that there was nothing remarkable in them—I seemed to be at home in some familiar element. Delicate hands held mine—a face far lovelier than the loveliest face of woman ever dreamed by poet or painter, smiled radiantly at me, and I smiled back again. A voice whispered in strange musical murmurs, such as I well seemed to know and comprehend:
"Gaze behind thee ere the picture fades."
I obeyed, half reluctantly, and saw as a passing shadow in a glass, or a sort of blurred miniature painting, the room where Heliobas stood, watching some strange imperfect shape, which I seemed faintly to recognise. It looked like a small cast in clay, very badly executed, of the shape I at present wore; but it was incomplete, as though the sculptor had given it up as a failure and gone away, leaving it unfinished.
"Did I dwell in that body?" I mused to myself, as I felt the perfection of my then state of being. "How came I shut in such a prison? How poor a form—how destitute of faculties—how full of infirmities—how limited in capabilities—how narrow in all intelligence—how ignorant—how mean!"
And I turned for relief to the shining companion who held me, and obeying an impulse suddenly imparted, I felt myself floating higher and higher till the last limits of the atmosphere surrounding the Earth were passed, and fields of pure and cloudless ether extended before us. Here we met myriads of creatures like ourselves, all hastening in various directions—all lovely and radiant as a dream of the fairies. Some of these beings were quite tiny and delicate—some of lofty stature and glorious appearance: their forms were human, yet so refined, improved, and perfected, that they were unlike, while so like humanity.
"Askest thou nothing?" whispered the voice beside me.
"Tell me," I answered, "what I must know."
"These spirits that we behold," went on the voice, "are the guardians of all the inhabitants of all the planets. Their labours are those of love and penitence. Their work is to draw other souls to God—to attract them by warnings, by pleading, by praying. They have all worn the garb of mortality themselves, and they teach mortals by their own experience. For these radiant creatures are expiating sins of their own in thus striving to save others—the oftener they succeed the nearer they approach to Heaven. This is what is vaguely understood on your earth as purgatory; the sufferings of spirits who love and long for the presence of their Creator, and who yet are not pure enough to approach Him. Only by serving and saving others can they obtain at last their own joy. Every act of ingratitude and forgetfulness and wickedness committed by a mortal, detains one or another of these patient workers longer away from Heaven—imagine then what a weary while many of them have to wait."
I made no answer, and we floated on. Higher and higher—higher and higher—till at last my guide, whom I knew to be that being whom Heliobas had called Azul, bade me pause. We were floating close together in what seemed a sea of translucent light. From this point I could learn something of the mighty workings of the Universe. I gazed upon countless solar systems, that like wheels within wheels revolved with such rapidity that they seemed all one wheel. I saw planets whirl around and around with breathless swiftness, like glittering balls flung through the air—burning comets flared fiercely past like torches of alarm for God's wars against Evil—a marvellous procession of indescribable wonders sweeping on for ever in circles, grand, huge, and immeasurable. And as I watched the superb pageant, I was not startled or confused—I looked upon it as anyone might look on any quiet landscape scene in what we know of Nature. I scarcely could perceive the Earth from whence I had come—so tiny a speck was it—nothing but a mere pin's point in the burning whirl of immensities. I felt, however, perfectly conscious of a superior force in myself to all these enormous forces around me—I knew without needing any explanation that I was formed of an indestructible essence, and that were all these stars and systems suddenly to end in one fell burst of brilliant horror, I should still exist—I should know and remember and feel—should be able to watch the birth of a new Universe, and take my part in its growth and design.
"Remind me why these wonders exist," I said, turning to my guide, and speaking in those dulcet sounds which were like music and yet like speech; "and why amid them all the Earth is believed by its inhabitants to have merited destruction, and yet to have been found worthy of redemption?"
"Thy last question shall be answered first," replied Azul. "Seest thou yonder planet circled with a ring? It is known to the dwellers on Earth, of whom when in clay thou art one, as Saturn. Descend with me!"
And in a breath of time we floated downwards and alighted on a broad and beautiful plain, where flowers of strange shape and colour grew in profusion. Here we were met by creatures of lofty stature and dazzling beauty, human in shape, yet angelic in countenance. They knelt to us with reverence and joy, and then passed on to their toil or pleasure, whichever invited them, and I looked to Azul for explanation.
"To these children of the Creator," said that radiant guide, "is granted the ability to see and to converse with the spirits of the air. They know them and love them, and implore their protection. In this planet sickness and old age are unknown, and death comes as a quiet sleep. The period of existence is about two hundred years, according to the Earth's standard of time; and the process of decay is no more unlovely than the gentle withering of roses. The influence of the electric belt around their world is a bar to pestilence and disease, and scatters health with light. All sciences, arts, and inventions known on Earth are known here, only to greater perfection. The three important differences between the inhabitants of this planet and those who dwell on Earth are these: first they have no rulers in authority, as each one perfectly governs himself; second, they do not marry, as the law of attraction which draws together any two of opposite sexes, holds them fast in inviolable fidelity; thirdly, there is no creature in all the immensity of this magnificent sphere who has ever doubted, or who ever will doubt, the existence of the Creator."
A thrill of fiery shame seemed to dart through my spiritual being as I heard this, and I made no answer. Some fairy-like little creatures, the children of the Saturnites, as I supposed, here came running towards us and knelt down, reverently clasping their hands in prayer. They then gathered flowers and flung them on that portion of ground where we stood, and gazed at us fearlessly and lovingly, as they might have gazed at some rare bird or butterfly.
Azul signed to me, and we rose while yet in their sight, and soaring through the radiance of the ring, which was like a sun woven into a circle, we soon left Saturn far behind us, and alighted on Venus. Here seas, mountains, forests, lakes, and meadows were one vast garden, in which the bloom and verdure of all worlds seemed to find a home. Here were realized the dreams of sculptors and painters, in the graceful forms and exquisite faces of the women, and the splendid strength and godlike beauty of the men. A brief glance was sufficient to show me that the moving spring of all the civilization of this radiant planet was the love of Nature and Art united. There were no wars—for there were no different nations. All the inhabitants were like one vast family; they worked for one another, and vied with each other in paying homage to those of the loftiest genius among them. They had one supreme Monarch to whom they all rendered glad obedience; and he was a Poet, ready to sacrifice his throne with joy as soon as his people should discover a greater than he. For they all loved not the artist but the Art; and selfishness was a vice unknown. Here, none loved or were wedded save those who had spiritual sympathies, and here, too, no creature existed who did not believe in and worship the Creator. The same state of things existed in Jupiter, the planet we next visited, where everything was performed by electricity. Here persons living hundreds of miles apart could yet converse together with perfect ease through an electric medium; ships ploughed the seas by electricity; printing, an art of which the dwellers on Earth are so proud, was accomplished by electricity—in fact, everything in the way of science, art, and invention known to us was also known in Jupiter, only to greater perfection, because tempered and strengthened by an electric force which never failed. From Jupiter, Azul guided me to many other fair and splendid worlds—yet none of them were Paradise; all had some slight drawback—some physical or spiritual ailment, as it were, which had to be combated with and conquered. All the inhabitants of each star longed for something they had not—something better, greater, and higher—and therefore all had discontent. They could not realize their best desires in the state of existence they then were, therefore they all suffered disappointment. They were all compelled to work in some way or another; they were all doomed to die. Yet, unlike the dwellers on Earth, they did not, because their lives were more or less constrained and painful, complain of or deny the goodness of God—on the contrary, they believed in a future state which should be as perfect as their present one was imperfect; and the chief aim and object of all their labours was to become worthy of attaining that final grand result—Eternal Happiness and Peace.
"Readest thou the lesson in these glowing spheres, teeming with life and learning?" murmured Azul to me, as we soared swiftly on together. "Know that not one smallest world in all the myriad systems circling before thee, holds a single human creature who doubts his Maker. Not one! except thine own doomed star! Behold it yonder—sparkling feebly, like a faint flame amid sunshine—how poor a speck it is—how like a scarcely visible point in all the brilliancy of the ever-revolving wheel of Life! Yet there dwell the dwarfs of clay—the men and women who pretend to love while they secretly hate and despise one another. There, wealth is a god, and the greed of gain a virtue. There, genius starves, and heroism dies unrewarded. There, faith is martyred, and unbelief elected sovereign monarch of the people. There, the sublime, unreachable mysteries of the Universe are haggled over by poor finite minds who cannot call their lives their own. There, nation wars against nation, creed against creed, soul against soul. Alas, fated planet! how soon shalt thou be extinct, and thy place shall know thee no more!"
I gazed earnestly at my radiant guide. "If that is true," I said, "why then should we have a legend that God, in the person of one called Christ, came to die for so miserable and mean a race of beings?"
Azul answered not, but turned her luminous eyes upon me with a sort of wide dazzling wonder. Some strange impelling force bore me onward, and before I could realize it I was alone. Alone, in a vast area of light through which I floated, serene and conscious of power. A sound falling from a great height reached me; it was first like a grand organ-chord, and then like a voice, trumpet-clear and far-echoing.
"Spirit that searchest for the Unseen," it said, "because I will not that no atom of true worth should perish, unto thee shall be given a vision—unto thee shall be taught a lesson thou dreamest not of. THOU shalt create; THOU shalt design and plan; THOU shalt be worshipped, and THOU shalt destroy! Rest therefore in the light and behold the things that are in the light, for the tune cometh when all that seemeth clear and visible now shall be but darkness. And they that love me not shall have no place of abode in that hour!"
The voice ceased. Awed, yet consoled, I listened for it again. There was no more sound. Around me was illimitable light—illimitable silence. But a strange scene unfolded itself swiftly before me—a sort of shifting dream that was a reality, yet so wonderfully unreal—a vision that impressed itself on every portion of my intelligence; a kind of spirit-drama in which I was forced to enact the chief part, and where a mystery that I had deemed impenetrable was made perfectly clear and simple of comprehension.
A MINIATURE CREATION.
In my heaven-uplifted dream, I thought I saw a circular spacious garden in which all the lovely landscapes of a superior world appeared to form themselves by swift degrees. The longer I looked at it, the more beautiful it became, and a little star shone above it like a sun. Trees and flowers sprang up under my gaze, and all stretched themselves towards me, as though for protection. Birds flew about and sang; some of them tried to get as near as possible to the little sun they saw; and other living creatures began to move about in the shadows of the groves, and on the fresh green grass. All the wonderful workings of Nature, as known to us in the world, took place over again in this garden, which seemed somehow to belong to me; and I watched everything with a certain satisfaction and delight. Then the idea came to me that the place would be fairer if there were either men or angels to inhabit it; and quick as light a whisper came to me:
And I thought in my dream that by the mere desire of my being, expressed in waves of electric warmth that floated downwards from me to the earth I possessed, my garden was suddenly filled with men, women and children, each of whom had a small portion of myself in them, inasmuch as it was I who made them move and talk and occupy themselves in all manner of amusements. Many of them knelt down to me and prayed, and offered thanksgivings for having been created; but some of them went instead to the little star, which they called a sun, and thanked that, and prayed to that instead. Then others went and cut down the trees in the garden, and dug up stones, and built themselves little cities, where they all dwelt together like flocks of sheep, and ate and drank and made merry with the things I had given them. Then I thought that I increased their intelligence and quickness of perception, and by-and-by they grew so proud that they forgot everything but themselves. They ceased to remember how they were created, and they cared no more to offer praises to their little sun that through me gave them light and heat. But because something of my essence still was in them, they always instinctively sought to worship a superior creature to themselves; and puzzling themselves in their folly, they made hideous images of wood and clay, unlike anything in heaven or earth, and offered sacrifices and prayer to these lifeless puppets instead of to me. Then I turned away my eyes in sorrow and pity, but never in anger; for I could not be wrathful with these children of my own creation. And when I thus turned away my eyes, all manner of evil came upon the once fair scene—pestilence and storm, disease and vice. A dark shadow stole between my little world and me—the shadow of the people's own wickedness. And as every delicate fibre of my spiritual being repelled evil by the necessity of the pure light in which I dwelt serene. I waited patiently for the mists to clear, so that I might again behold the beauty of my garden. Suddenly a soft clamour smote upon my sense of hearing, and a slender stream of light, like a connecting ray, seemed to be flung upwards through the darkness that hid me from the people I had created and loved. I knew the sound—it was the mingled music of the prayers of children. An infinite pity and pleasure touched me, my being thrilled with love and tenderness; and yielding to these little ones who asked me for protection, I turned my eyes again towards the garden I had designed for fairness and pleasure. But alas! how changed it had become! No longer fresh and sweet, the people had turned it into a wilderness; they had divided it into small portions, and in so doing had divided themselves into separate companies called nations, all of whom fought with each other fiercely for their different little parterres or flower-beds. Some haggled and talked incessantly over the mere possession of a stone which they called a rock; others busied themselves in digging a little yellow metal out of the earth, which, when once obtained, seemed to make the owners of it mad, for they straightway forgot everything else. As I looked, the darkness between me and my creation grew denser, and was only pierced at last by those long wide shafts of radiance caused by the innocent prayers of those who still remembered me. And I was full of regret, for I saw my people wandering hither and thither, restless and dissatisfied, perplexed by their own errors, and caring nothing for the love I bore them. Then some of them advanced and began to question why they had been created, forgetting completely how their lives had been originally designed by me for happiness, love and wisdom. Then they accused me of the existence of evil, refusing to see that where there is light there is also darkness, and that darkness is the rival force of the Universe, whence cometh silently the Unnamable Oblivion of Souls. They could not see, my self-willed children, that they had of their own desire sought the darkness and found it; and now, because it gloomed above them like a pall, they refused to believe in the light where still I was loving and striving to attract them still. Yet it was not all darkness, and I knew that even what there was might be repelled and cleared away if only my people would turn towards me once more. So I sent down upon them all possible blessings—some they rejected angrily, some they snatched at and threw away again, as though they were poor and trivial—none of them were they thankful for, and none did they desire to keep. And the darkness above them deepened, while my anxious pity and love for them increased. For how could I turn altogether away from them, as long as but a few remembered me? There were some of these weak children of mine who loved and honoured me so well that they absorbed some of my light into themselves, and became heroes, poets, musicians, teachers of high and noble thought, and unselfish, devoted martyrs for the sake of the reverence they bore me. There were women pure and sweet, who wore their existence as innocently as lilies, and who turned to me to seek protection, not for themselves, but for those they loved. There were little children, whose asking voices were like waves of delicious music to my being, and for whom I had a surpassing tenderness. And yet all these were a mere handful compared to the numbers who denied my existence, and who had wilfully crushed out and repelled every spark of my essence in themselves. And as I contemplated this, the voice I had heard at the commencement of my dream rushed towards me like a mighty wind broken through by thunder:
A great pity and love possessed me. In deep awe, yet solemn earnestness, I pleaded with that vast commanding voice.
"Bid me not destroy!" I implored. "Command me not to disperse into nothingness these children of my fancy, some of whom yet love and trust to me for safety. Let me strive once more to bring them out of their darkness into the light—to bring them to the happiness I designed them to enjoy. They have not all forgotten me—let me give them more time for thought and recollection!"
Again the great voice shook the air:
"They love darkness rather than light; they love the perishable earth of which they are in part composed, better than the germ of immortality with which they were in the beginning endowed. This garden of thine is but a caprice of thy intelligence; the creatures that inhabit it are soulless and unworthy, and are an offence to that indestructible radiance of which thou art one ray. Therefore I say unto thee again—DESTROY!"
My yearning love grew stronger, and I pleaded with renewed force.
"Oh, thou Unseen Glory!" I cried; "thou who hast filled me with this emotion of love and pity which permeates and supports my existence, how canst thou bid me take this sudden revenge upon my frail creation! No caprice was it that caused me to design it; nothing but a thought of love and a desire of beauty. Even yet I will fulfil my plan—even yet shall these erring children of mine return to me in time, with patience. While one of them still lifts a hand in prayer to me, or gratitude, I cannot destroy! Bid me rather sink into the darkness of the uttermost deep of shadow; only let me save these feeble little ones from destruction!"
The voice replied not. A flashing opal brilliancy shot across the light in which I rested, and I beheld an Angel, grand, lofty, majestic, with a countenance in which shone the lustre of a myriad summer mornings.
"Spirit that art escaped from the Sorrowful Star," it said in accents clear and sonorous, "wouldst thou indeed be content to suffer the loss of heavenly joy and peace, in order to rescue thy perishing creation?"
"I would!" I answered; "if I understood death, I would die to save one of those frail creatures, who seek to know me and yet cannot find me through the darkness they have brought upon themselves."
"To die," said the Angel, "to understand death, thou wouldst need to become one of them, to take upon thyself their form—to imprison all that brilliancy of which thou art now composed, into a mean and common case of clay; and even if thou couldst accomplish this, would thy children know thee or receive thee?"
"Nay, but if I could suffer shame by them," I cried impetuously, "I could not suffer sin. My being would be incapable of error, and I would show these creatures of mine the bliss of purity, the joy of wisdom, the ecstasy of light, the certainty of immortality, if they followed me. And then I would die to show them death is easy, and that in dying they would come to me and find their happiness for ever!"
The stature of the Angel grew more lofty and magnificent, and its star-like eyes flashed fire.
"Then, oh thou wanderer from the Earth!" it said, "understandest thou not the Christ?"
A deep awe trembled through me. Meanwhile the garden I had thought a world appeared to roll up like a cloudy scroll, and vanished, and I knew that it had been a vision, and no more.
"Oh doubting and foolish Spirit!" went on the Angel—"thou who art but one point of living light in the Supreme Radiance, even THOU wouldst consent to immure thyself in the darkness of mortality for sake of thy fancied creation! Even THOU wouldst submit to suffer and to die, in order to show the frail children of thy dream a purely sinless and spiritual example! Even THOU hast had the courage to plead with the One All-Sufficing Voice against the destruction of what to thee was but a mirage floating in this ether! Even THOU hast had love, forgiveness, pity! Even THOU wouldst be willing to dwell among the creatures of thy fancy as one of them, knowing in thy inner self that by so doing, thy spiritual presence would have marked thy little world for ever as sanctified and impossible to destroy. Even THOU wouldst sacrifice a glory to answer a child's prayer—even thou wouldst have patience! And yet thou hast dared to deny to God those attributes which thou thyself dost possess—He is so great and vast—thou so small and slight! For the love thou feelest throbbing through thy being, He is the very commencement and perfection of all love; if thou hast pity, He has ten thousand times more pity; if THOU canst forgive, remember that from Him flows all thy power of forgiveness! There is nothing thou canst do, even at the highest height of spiritual perfection, that He cannot surpass by a thousand million fold! Neither shalt thou refuse to believe that He can also suffer. Know that nothing is more godlike than unselfish sorrow—and the grief of the Creator over one erring human soul is as vast as He Himself is vast. Why wouldst thou make of Him a being destitute of the best emotions that He Himself bestows upon thee? THOU wouldst have entered into thy dream-world and lived in it and died in it, if by so doing thou couldst have drawn one of thy creatures back to the love of thee; and wilt thou not receive the Christ?"
I bowed my head, and a flood of joy rushed through me.
"I believe—I believe and I love!" I murmured. "Desert me not, O radiant Angel! I feel and know that all these wonders must soon pass away from my sight; but wilt thou also go?"
The Angel smiled and touched me.
"I am thy guardian," it said. "I have been with thee always. I can never leave thee so long as thy soul seeks spiritual things. Asleep or awake on the Earth, wherever thou art, I also am. There have been times when I have warned thee and thou wouldst not listen, when I have tried to draw thee onward and thou wouldst not come; but now I fear no more thy disobedience, for thy restlessness is past. Come with me; it is permitted thee to see far off the vision of the Last Circle."
The glorious figure raised me gently by the hand, and we floated on and on, higher and higher, past little circles which my guide told me were all solar systems, though they looked nothing but slender garlands of fire, so rapidly did they revolve and so swiftly did we pass them. Higher and higher we went, till even to my untiring spirit the way seemed long. Beautiful creatures in human shape, but as delicate as gossamer, passed us every now and then, some in bands of twos and threes, some alone; and the higher we soared the more dazzlingly lovely these inhabitants of the air seemed to be.
"They are all born of the Great Circle," my guardian Angel explained to me: "and to them is given the power of communicating high thought or inspiration. Among them are the Spirits of Music, of Poesy, of Prophecy, and of all Art ever known in all worlds. The success of their teaching depends on how much purity and unselfishness there is in the soul to which they whisper their divine messages—messages as brief as telegrams which must be listened to with entire attention and acted upon at once, or the lesson is lost and may never come again."
Just then I saw a Shape coming towards me as of a lovely fair-haired child, who seemed to be playing softly on a strange glittering instrument like a broken cloud strung through with sunbeams. Heedless of consequences, I caught at its misty robe in a wild effort to detain it. It obeyed my touch, and turned its deeply luminous eyes first upon me, and then upon the Angel who accompanied my flight.
"What seekest thou?" it asked in a voice like the murmuring of the wind among flowers.
"Music!" I answered. "Sing me thy melodies—fill me with harmonies divine and unreachable—and I will strive to be worthy of thy teachings!"
The young Shape smiled and drew closer towards me.
"Thy wish is granted, Sister Spirit!" it replied. "The pity I shall feel for thy fate when thou art again pent in clay, shall be taught thee in minor music—thou shalt possess the secret of unwritten sound, and I will sing to thee and bring thee comfort. On Earth, call but my name—Aeon! and thou shalt behold me. For thy longing voice is known to the Children of Music, and hath oft shaken the vibrating light wherein they dwell. Fear not! As long as thou dost love me, I am thine." And parting slowly, still smiling, the lovely vision, with its small radiant hands ever wandering among the starry strings of its cloud-like lyre, floated onward.
Suddenly a clear voice said "Welcome!" and looking up I saw my first friend, Azul. I smiled in glad recognition—I would have spoken—but lo! a wide immensity of blazing glory broke like many-coloured lightning around me—so dazzling, so overpowering, that I instinctively drew back and paused—I felt I could go no further.
"Here," said my guardian gently—"here ends thy journey. Would that it were possible, poor Spirit, for thee to pass this boundary! But that may not be—as yet. In the meanwhile thou mayest gaze for a brief space upon the majestic sphere which mortals dream of as Heaven. Behold and see how fair is the incorruptible perfection of God's World!"
I looked and trembled—I should have sunk yet further backward, had not Azul and my Angel-guide held me with their light yet forcible clasp. My heart fails me now as I try to write of that tremendous, that sublime scene—the Centre of the Universe—the Cause of all Creation. How unlike Heaven such as we in our ignorance have tried to depict! though it is far better we should have a mistaken idea than none at all. What I beheld was a circle, so huge that no mortal measurements could compass it—a wide Ring composed of seven colours, rainbow-like, but flashing with perpetual motion and brilliancy, as though a thousand million suns were for ever being woven into it to feed its transcendent lustre. From every part of this Ring darted long broad shafts of light, some of which stretched out so far that I could not see where they ended; sometimes a bubbling shower of lightning sparks would be flung out on the pure ether, and this would instantly form into circles, small or great, and whirl round and round the enormous girdle of flame from which they had been cast, with the most inconceivable rapidity. But wonderful as the Ring was, it encompassed a Sphere yet more marvellous and dazzling; a great Globe of opal-tinted light, revolving as it were upon its own axis, and ever surrounded by that scintillating, jewel-like wreath of electricity, whose only motion was to shine and burn within itself for ever. I could not bear to look upon the brightness of that magnificent central World—so large that multiplying the size of the sun by a hundred thousand millions, no adequate idea could be formed of its vast proportions. And ever it revolved—and ever the Rainbow Ring around it glittered and cast forth those other rings which I knew now were living solar systems cast forth from that electric band as a volcano casts forth fire and lava. My Angel-guide motioned me to look towards that side of the Ring which was nearest to the position of the Earth. I looked, and perceived that there the shafts of descending light formed themselves as they fell into the shape of a Cross. At this, such sorrow, love, and shame overcame me, that I knew not where to turn. I murmured:
"Send me back again, dear Angel—send me back to that Star of Sorrow and Error! Let me hasten to make amends there for all my folly—let me try to teach others what now I know. I am unworthy to be here beside thee—I am unfit to look on yonder splendid World—let me return to do penance for my sins and shortcomings; for what am I that God should bless me? and though I should consume myself in labour and suffering, how can I ever hope to deserve the smallest place in that heavenly glory I now partly behold?" And could spirits shed tears, I should have wept with remorse and grief.
Azul spoke, softly and tenderly:
"Now thou dost believe—henceforth thou must love! Love alone can pass yon flaming barrier—love alone can gain for thee eternal bliss. In love and for love were all things made—God loveth His creatures, even so let His creatures love Him, and so shall the twain be drawn together."
"Listen!" added my Angel-guide. "Thou hast not travelled so far as yet to remain in ignorance. That burning Ring thou seest is the result of the Creator's ever-working Intelligence; from it all the Universe hath sprung. It is exhaustless and perpetually creative; it is pure and perfect Light. The smallest spark of that fiery essence in a mortal frame is sufficient to form a soul or spirit, such as mine, or that of Azul, or thine, when thou art perfected. The huge world rolling within the Ring is where God dwells. Dare not thou to question His shape, His look, His mien! Know that He is the Supreme Spirit in which all Beauty, all Perfection, all Love, find consummation. His breath is the fire of the Ring; His look, His pleasure, cause the motion of His World and all worlds. There where He dwells, dwell also all pure souls; there all desires have fulfilment without satiety, and there all loveliness, wisdom or pleasure known in any or all of the other spheres are also known. Speak, Azul, and tell this wanderer from Earth what she will gain in winning her place in Heaven."
Azul looked tenderly upon me and said:
"When thou hast slept the brief sleep of death, when thou art permitted to throw off for ever thy garb of clay, and when by thine own ceaseless love and longing thou hast won the right to pass the Great Circle, thou shalt find thyself in a land where the glories of the natural scenery alone shall overpower thee with joy—scenery that for ever changes into new wonders and greater beauty. Thou shalt hear music such as thou canst not dream of. Thou shalt find friends, beyond all imagination fair and faithful. Thou shalt read and see the history of all the planets, produced for thee in an ever-moving panorama. Thou shalt love and be beloved for ever by thine own Twin Soul; wherever that spirit may be now, it must join thee hereafter. The joys of learning, memory, consciousness, sleep, waking, and exercise shall all be thine. Sin, sorrow, pain, disease and death thou shalt know no more. Thou shalt be able to remember happiness, to possess it, and to look forward to it. Thou shalt have full and pleasant occupation without fatigue—thy food and substance shall be light and air. Flowers, rare and imperishable, shall bloom for thee; birds of exquisite form and tender voice shall sing to thee; angels shall be thy companions. Thou shalt have fresh and glad desires to offer to God with every portion of thy existence, and each one shall be granted as soon as asked, for then thou wilt not be able to ask anything that is displeasing to Him. But because it is a joy to wish, thou shalt wish! and because it is a joy to grant, so also will He grant. No delight, small or great, is wanting in that vast sphere; only sorrow is lacking, and satiety and disappointment have no place. Wilt thou seek for admittance there or wilt thou faint by the way and grow weary?"
I raised my eyes full of ecstasy and reverence.
"My mere efforts must count as nothing," I said; "but if Love can help me, I will love and long for God's World until I die!"
My guardian Angel pointed to those rays of light I had before noticed, that slanted downwards towards Earth in the form of a Cross.
"That is the path by which THOU must travel. Mark it well! All pilgrims from the Sorrowful Star must journey by that road. Woe to them that turn aside to roam mid spheres they know not of, to lose themselves in seas of light wherein they cannot steer! Remember my warning! And now, Spirit who art commended to my watchful care, thy brief liberty is ended. Thou hast been lifted up to the outer edge of the Electric Circle, further we dare not take thee. Hast thou aught else to ask before the veil of mortality again enshrouds thee?"
I answered not, but within myself I formed a wild desire. The Electric Ring flashed fiercely on my uplifted eyes, but I kept them fixed hopefully and lovingly on its intensely deep brilliancy.
"If Love and Faith can avail me," I murmured, "I shall see what I have sought."
I was not disappointed. The fiery waves of light parted on either side of the spot where I with my companions rested; and a Figure,—majestic, unutterably grand and beautiful,—approached me. At the same moment a number of other faces and forms shone hoveringly out of the Ring; one I noticed like an exquisitely lovely woman, with floating hair and clear, earnest, unfathomable eyes. Azul and the Angel sank reverently down and drooped their radiant heads like flowers in hot sunshine. I alone, daringly, yet with inexpressible affection welling up within me, watched with unshrinking gaze the swift advance of that supreme Figure, upon whose broad brows rested the faint semblance of a Crown of Thorns. A voice penetratingly sweet addressed me:
"Mortal from the Star I saved from ruin, because thou hast desired Me, I come! Even as thy former unbelief, shall be now thy faith. Because thou lovest Me, I am with thee. For do I not know thee better than the Angels can? Have I not dwelt in thy clay, suffered thy sorrows, wept thy tears, died thy deaths? One with My Father, and yet one with thee, I demand thy love, and so through Me shalt thou attain immortal life!"
I felt a touch upon me like a scorching flame—a thrill rushed through my being—and then I knew that I was sinking down, down, further and further away. I saw that wondrous Figure standing serene and smiling between the retiring waves of electric radiance. I saw the great inner sphere revolve, and glitter as it rolled, like an enormous diamond encircled with gold and sapphire, and then all suddenly the air grew dim and cloudy, and the sensation of falling became more and more rapid. Azul was beside me still, and I also perceived the outline of my guardian Angel's form, though that was growing indistinct. I now recalled the request of Heliobas, and spoke:
"Azul, tell me what shadow rests upon the life of him to whom I am now returning?"
Azul looked at me earnestly, and replied:
"Thou daring one! Seekest thou to pierce the future fate of others? Is it not enough for thee to have heard the voice that maketh the Angel's singing silent, and wouldst thou yet know more?"
I was full of a strange unhesitating courage, therefore I said fearlessly:
"He is thy Beloved one, Azul—thy Twin Soul; and wilt thou let him fall away from thee when a word or sign might save him?"
"Even as he is my Beloved, so let him not fail to hear my voice," replied Azul, with a tinge of melancholy. "For though he has accomplished much, he is as yet but mortal. Thou canst guide him thus far; tell him, when death lies like a gift in his hand, let him withhold it, and remember me. And now, my friend—farewell!"
I would have spoken again, but could not. An oppressed sensation came over me, and I seemed to plunge coldly into a depth of inextricable blackness. I felt cramped for room, and struggled for existence, for motion, for breath. What had happened to me? I wondered indignantly. Was I a fettered prisoner? had I lost the use of my light aerial limbs that had borne me so swiftly through the realms of space? What crushing weight overpowered me? why such want of air and loss of delightful ease? I sighed restlessly and impatiently at the narrow darkness in which I found myself—a sorrowful, deep, shuddering sigh .... and WOKE! That is to say, I languidly opened mortal eyes to find myself once more pent up in mortal frame, though I retained a perfect remembrance and consciousness of everything I had experienced during my spirit-wanderings. Heliobas stood in front of me with outstretched hands, and his eyes were fixed on mine with a mingled expression of anxiety and authority, which changed into a look of relief and gladness as I smiled at him and uttered his name aloud.
SECRETS OF THE SUN AND MOON.
"Have I been long away?" I asked, as I raised myself upright in the chair where I had been resting.
"I sent you from hence on Thursday morning at noon," replied Heliobas. "It is now Friday evening, and within a few minutes of midnight. I was growing alarmed. I have never known anyone stay absent for so long; and you resisted my authority so powerfully, that I began to fear you would never come back at all."
"I wish I had not been compelled to do so!" I said regretfully.
"No doubt you do. It is the general complaint. Will you stand up now and see how you feel?"
I obeyed. There was still a slight sensation about me as of being cramped for space; but this was passing, and otherwise I felt singularly strong, bright and vigorous. I stretched out my hands in unspeakable gratitude to him through whose scientific power I had gained my recent experience.
"I can never thank you enough!" I said earnestly. "I dare say you know something of what I have seen on my journey?"
"Something, but not all," he replied. "Of course I know what worlds and systems you saw, but what was said to you, or what special lessons were given you for your comfort, I cannot tell." "Then I will describe everything while it is fresh upon me," I returned. "I feel that I must do so in order that you may understand how glad I am,—how grateful I am to you."
I then related the different scenes through which I had passed, omitting no detail. Heliobas listened with profound interest and attention. When I had finished, he said:
"Yours has been a most wonderful, I may say almost exceptional, experience. It proves to me more than ever the omnipotence of WILL. Most of those who have been placed by my means in the Uplifted or Electric state of being, have consented to it simply to gratify a sense of curiosity—few therefore have gone beyond the pure ether, where, as in a sea, the planets swim. Cellini, for instance, never went farther than Venus, because in the atmosphere of that planet he met the Spirit that rules and divides his destiny. Zara—she was daring, and reached the outer rim of the Great Circle; but even she never caught a glimpse of the great Central Sphere. YOU, differing from these, started with a daring aim which you never lost sight of till you had fulfilled it. How true are those words: 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you'! It is not possible," and here he sighed, "that amid such wonders you could have remembered me—it were foolish on my part to expect it."
"I confess I thought nothing of you," I said frankly, "till I was approaching Earth again; but then my memory prompted me in time, and I did not forget your request."
"And what did you learn?" he asked anxiously.
"Simply this. Azul said that I might deliver you this message: When death lies like a gift in your hand, withhold it, and remember her."
"As if I did not always guide myself by her promptings!" exclaimed Heliobas, with a tender smile.
"You might forget to do so for once," I said.
"Never!" he replied fervently. "It could not be. But I thank you, my child, for having thought of me—the message you bring shall be impressed strongly on my mind. Now, before you leave me to-night, I must say a few necessary words."
He paused, and appeared to consider profoundly for some minutes. At last he spoke.
"I have selected certain writings for your perusal," he said. "In them you will find full and clear instructions how to cultivate and educate the electric force within you, and thus continue the work I have begun. With these you will also perceive that I have written out the receipt for the volatile fluid which, if taken in a small quantity every day, will keep you in health, strength, and intellectual vigour, while it will preserve your youth and enjoyment of life to a very much longer extent than that usually experienced by the majority. Understand me well—this liquid of itself cannot put you into an uplifted state of existence; you need HUMAN electric force applied strongly to your system to compass this; and as it is dangerous to try the experiment too often—dangerous to the body, I mean—it will be as well, as you have work to do yet in this life, not to attempt it again. But if you drink the fluid every morning of your life, and at the same time obey my written manual as to the cultivation of your own inner force, which is already existent in a large degree, you will attain to certain advantages over the rest of the people you meet, which will give you not only physical, but mental power."
He paused a minute or two, and again went on:
"When you have educated your Will to a certain height of electric command, you can at your pleasure see at any time, and see plainly, the spirits who inhabit the air; and also those who, descending to long distances below the Great Circle, come within the range of human electricity, or the attractive matter contained in the Earth's atmosphere. You can converse with them, and they with you. You will also be able, at your desire, to see the parted spirits of dead persons, so long as they linger within Earth's radius, which they seldom do, being always anxious to escape from it as soon as possible. Love may sometimes detain them, or remorse; but even these have to yield to the superior longings which possess them the instant they are set free. You will, in your intercourse with your fellow-mortals, be able to discern their motives quickly and unerringly—you will at once discover where you are loved and where you are disliked; and not all the learning and logic of so-called philosophers shall be able to cloud your instinct. You will have a keener appreciation of good and beautiful things—a delightful sense of humour, and invariable cheerfulness; and whatever you do, unless you make some mistake by your own folly, will carry with it its success. And, what is perhaps a greater privilege, you will find that all who are brought into very close contact with you will be beneficially influenced, or the reverse, exactly as you choose to exert your power. I do not think, after what you have seen, you will ever desire to exert a malign influence, knowing that the Creator of your being is all love and forgiveness. At any rate, the greatest force in the universe, electricity, is yours—that is, it has begun to form itself in you—and you have nothing to do but to encourage its growth, just as you would encourage a taste for music or the fine arts. Now let me give you the writings."
He unlocked a desk, and took from it two small rolls of parchment, one tied with a gold ribbon, the other secured in a kind of case with a clasp. This last he held up before my eyes, and said:
"This contains my private instructions to you. Never make a single one of them public. The world is not ready for wisdom, and the secrets of science can only be explained to the few. Therefore keep this parchment safely under lock and key, and never let any eye but your own look upon its contents."
I promised, and he handed it to me. Then taking the other roll, which was tied with ribbon, he said,
"Here is written out what I call the Electric Principle of Christianity. This is for your own study and consideration; still, if you ever desire to explain my theory to others, I do not forbid you. But as I told you before, you can never compel belief—the goldfish in a glass bowl will never understand the existence of the ocean. Be satisfied if you can guide yourself by the compass you have found, but do not grieve if you are unable to guide others. You may try, but it will not be surprising if you fail. Nor will it be your fault. The only sorrow that might happen to you in these efforts would be in case you should love someone very dearly, and yet be unable to instil the truth of what yon know into that particular soul. You would then have to make a discovery, which is always more or less painful—namely, that your love was misplaced, inasmuch as the nature you had selected as worthy of love had no part with yours; and that separation utter and eternal must therefore occur, if not in this life, then in the future. So I would say beware of loving, lest you should not love rightly—though I believe you will soon be able to discern clearly the spirit that is by fate destined to complete and perfect your own. And now, though I know you are scarcely fatigued enough to sleep, I will say good-night."
I took the second roll of parchment from his hand, and opening it a little way, I saw that it was covered with very fine small writing. Then I said:
"Does Zara know how long I have been absent?"
"Yes," replied Heliobas; "and she, like myself, was surprised and anxious. I think she went to bed long ago; but you may look into her room and see if she is awake, before you yourself retire to rest."
As he spoke of Zara his eyes grew melancholy and his brow clouded. An instinctive sense of fear came upon me.
"Is she not well?" I asked.
"She is perfectly well," he answered. "Why should you imagine her to be otherwise?"
"Pardon me," I said; "I fancied that you looked unhappy when I mentioned her."
Heliobas made no answer. He stepped to the window, and throwing back the curtain, called me to his side.
"Look out yonder." he said in low and earnest tones; "look at the dark blue veil strewn with stars, through which so lately your daring soul pierced its flight! See how the small Moon hangs like a lamp in Heaven, apparently outshining the myriad worlds around her, that are so much vaster and fairer! How deceptive is the human eye!—nearly as deceptive as the human reason. Tell me—why did you not visit the Moon, or the Sun, in your recent wanderings?"
This question caused me some surprise. It was certainly very strange that I had not thought of doing so. Yet, on pondering the matter in my mind, I remembered that during my aerial journey suns and moons had been no more to me than flowers strewn on a meadow. I now regretted that I had not sought to know something of those two fair luminaries which light and warm our earth.
Heliobas, after watching my face intently, resumed:
"You cannot guess the reason of your omission? I will tell you. There is nothing to see in either Sun or Moon. They were both inhabited worlds once; but the dwellers in the Sun have ages ago lived their lives and passed to the Central Sphere. The Sun is nothing now but a burning world, burning rapidly, and surely, away: or rather, IT IS BEING ABSORBED BACK INTO THE ELECTRIC CIRCLE FROM WHICH IT ORIGINALLY SPRANG, TO BE THROWN OUT AGAIN IN SOME NEW AND GRANDER FORM. And so with all worlds, suns and systems, for ever and ever. Hundreds of thousands of those brief time-breathings called years may pass before this consummation of the Sun; but its destruction is going on now, or rather its absorption—and we on our cold small star warm ourselves, and are glad, in the light of an empty world on fire!"
I listened with awe and interest.
"And the Moon?" I asked eagerly.
"The Moon does not exist. What we see is the reflection or the electrograph of what she once was. Atmospherical electricity has imprinted this picture of a long-ago living world upon the heavens, just as Raphael drew his cartoons for the men of to-day to see."
"But," I exclaimed in surprise, "how about the Moon's influence on the tides? and what of eclipses?"
"Not the Moon, but the electric photograph of a once living but now absorbed world, has certainly an influence on the tides. The sea is impregnated with electricity. Just as the Sun will absorb colours, so the electricity in the sea is repelled or attracted by the electric picture of the Moon in Heaven. Because, as a painting is full of colour, so is that faithful sketch of a vanished sphere, drawn with a pencil of pure light, full of immense electricity; and to carry the simile further, just as a painting may be said to be formed of various dark and light tints, so the electric portrait of the Moon contains various degrees of electric force—which, coming in contact with the electricity of the Earth's atmosphere, produces different effects on us and on the natural scenes amid which we dwell. As for eclipses—if you slowly pass a round screen between yourself and a blazing fire, you will only see the edges of the fire. In the same way the electrograph of the Moon passes at stated intervals between the Earth and the burning world of the Sun."
"Yet surely," I said, "the telescope has enabled us to see the Moon as a solid globe—we have discerned mountains and valleys on its surface; and then it revolves round us regularly—how do you account for these facts?"
"The telescope," returned Heliobas, "is merely an aid to the human eye; and, as I told you before, nothing is so easily deceived as our sense of vision, even when assisted by mechanical appliances. The telescope, like the stereoscope, simply enables us to see the portrait of the Moon more clearly; but all the same, the Moon, as a world, does not exist. Her likeness, taken by electricity, may last some thousands of years, and as long as it lasts it must revolve around us, because everything in the universe moves, and moves in a circle. Besides which, this portrait of the moon being composed of pure electricity, is attracted and forced to follow the Earth by the compelling influence of the Earth's own electric power. Therefore, till the picture fades, it must attend the Earth like the haunting spectre of a dead joy. You can understand now why we never see what we imagine to be the OTHER SIDE of the Moon. It simply has NO other side, except space. Space is the canvas—the Moon is a sketch. How interested we are when a discovery is made of some rare old painting, of which the subject is a perfectly beautiful woman! It bears no name—perhaps no date—but the face that smiles at us is exquisite—the lips yet pout for kisses—the eyes brim over, with love! And we admire it tenderly and reverently—we mark it 'Portrait of a lady,' and give it an honoured place among our art collections. With how much more reverence and tenderness ought we to look up at the 'Portrait of a Fair Lost Sphere,' circling yonder in that dense ever-moving gallery of wonders where the hurrying throng of spectators are living and dying worlds!"
I had followed the speaker's words with fascinated attention, but now I said:
"Dying, Heliobas? There is no death."
"True!" he answered, with hesitating slowness. "But there is what we call death—transition—and it is always a parting."
"But not for long!" I exclaimed, with all the gladness and eagerness of my lately instructed soul. "As worlds are absorbed into the Electric Circle and again thrown out in new and more glorious forms, so are we absorbed and changed into shapes of perfect beauty, having eyes that are strong and pure enough to look God in the face. The body perishes—but what have WE to do with the body—our prison and place of experience, except to rejoice when we shake off its weight for ever!"
Heliobas smiled gravely.
"You have learned your high lesson well," he said. "You speak with the assurance and delight of a spirit satisfied. But when I talk of DEATH, I mean by that word the parting asunder of two souls who love each other; and though such separation may be brief, still it is always a separation. For instance, suppose—" he hesitated: "suppose Zara were to die?"
"Well, you would soon meet her again," I answered. "For though you might live many years after her, still you would know in yourself that those years were but minutes in the realms of space—"
"Minutes that decide our destinies," he interrupted with solemnity. "And there is always this possibility to contemplate—suppose Zara were to leave me now, how can I be sure that I shall be strong enough to live out my remainder of life purely enough to deserve to meet her again? And if not then Zara's death would mean utter and almost hopeless separation for ever—though perhaps I might begin over again in some other form, and so reach the goal."
He spoke so musingly and seriously that I was surprised, for I had thought him impervious to such a folly as the fear of death.
"You are melancholy, Heliobas," I said. "In the first place, Zara is not going to leave you yet; and secondly, if she did, you know your strongest efforts would be brought to bear on your career, in order that no shadow of obstinacy or error might obstruct your path. Why, the very essence of our belief is in the strength of Will-power. What we WILL to do, especially if it be any act of spiritual progress, we can always accomplish."
Heliobas took my hand and pressed it warmly.
"You are so lately come from the high regions," he said, "that it warms and invigorates me to hear your encouraging words. Pray do not think me capable of yielding long to the weakness of foreboding. I am, in spite of my advancement in electric science, nothing but a man, and am apt to be hampered oftentimes by my mortal trappings. We have prolonged our conversation further than I intended. I assure you it is better for you to try to sleep, even though, as I know, you feel so wide awake. Let me give you a soothing draught; it will have the effect of composing your physical nerves into steady working order."
He poured something from a small phial into a glass, and handed it to me. I drank it at once, obediently, and with a smile.
"Good-night, my Master!" I then said. "You need have no fear of your own successful upward progress. For if there were the slightest chance of your falling into fatal error, all those human souls you have benefited would labour and pray for your rescue; and I know now that prayers reach Heaven, so long as they are unselfish. I, though I am one of the least of your disciples, out of the deep gratitude of my heart towards you, will therefore pray unceasingly for you, both here and hereafter."
He bent his head.
"I thank you!" he said simply. "More deeds are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of! That is a true saying. God bless you, my child. Good-night!"
And he opened the door of his study for me to pass out. As I did so, he laid his hand lightly on my head in a sort of unspoken benediction—then he closed his door, and I found myself alone in the great hall. A suspended lamp was burning brightly, and the fountain was gurgling melodiously to itself in a subdued manner, as if it were learning a new song for the morning. I sped across the mosaic pavement with a light eager step, and hurried up the stairs, intent on finding Zara to tell her how happy I felt, and how satisfied I was with my wonderful experience. I reached the door of her bedroom—it was ajar. I softly pushed it farther open, and looked in. A small but exquisitely modelled statue of an "Eros" ornamented one corner. His uplifted torch served as a light which glimmered faintly through a rose-coloured glass, and shed a tender lustre over the room; but especially upon the bed, ornamented with rich Oriental needlework, where Zara lay fast asleep. How beautiful she looked! Almost as lovely as any one of the radiant spirits I had met in my aerial journey! Her rich dark hair was scattered loosely on the white pillows; her long silky lashes curled softly on the delicately tinted cheeks; her lips, tenderly red, like the colour on budding apple-blossoms in early spring, were slightly parted, showing the glimmer of the small white teeth within; her night-dress was slightly undone, and half displayed and half disguised her neck and daintily rounded bosom, on which the electric jewel she always wore glittered brilliantly as it rose and sank with her regular and quiet breathing. One fair hand lay outside the coverlet, and the reflection from the lamp of the "Eros" flickered on a ring which adorned it, making its central diamond flash like a wandering star.
I looked long and tenderly on this perfect ideal of a "Sleeping Beauty," and then thought I would draw closer and see if I could kiss her without awaking her. I advanced a few steps into the room—when suddenly I was stopped. Within about a yard's distance from the bed a SOMETHING opposed my approach! I could not move a foot forward—I tried vigorously, but in vain! I could step backward, and that was all. Between me and Zara there seemed to be an invisible barrier, strong, and absolutely impregnable. There was nothing to be seen—nothing but the softly-shaded room—the ever-smiling "Eros," and the exquisite reposeful figure of my sleeping friend. Two steps, and I could have touched her; but those two steps I was forcibly prevented from making—as forcibly as though a deep ocean had rolled between her and me. I did not stop long to consider this strange occurrence—I felt sure it had something to do with her spiritual life and sympathy, therefore it neither alarmed nor perplexed me. Kissing my hand tenderly towards my darling, who lay so close to me, and who was yet so jealously and invisibly guarded during her slumbers, I softly and reverently withdrew. On reaching my own apartment, I was more than half inclined to sit up reading and studying the parchments Heliobas had given me; but on second thoughts I resolved to lock up these precious manuscripts and go to bed. I did so, and before preparing to sleep I remembered to kneel down and offer up praise and honour, with a loving and believing heart, to that Supreme Glory, of which I had been marvellously permitted to enjoy a brief but transcendent glimpse. And as I knelt, absorbed and happy, I heard, like a soft echo falling through the silence of my room, a sound like distant music, through which these words floated towards me: "A new commandment give I unto you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you!"
The next morning Zara came herself to awaken me, looking as fresh and lovely as a summer morning. She embraced me very tenderly, and said:
"I have been talking for more than an hour with Casimir. He has told me everything. What wonders you have seen! And are you not happy, dearest? Are you not strong and satisfied?"
"Perfectly!" I replied. "But, O Zara! what a pity that all the world should not know what we know!"
"All have not a desire for knowledge," replied Zara. "Even in your vision of the garden you possessed, there were only a few who still sought you; for those few you would have done anything, but for the others your best efforts were in vain."
"They might not have been always in vain," I said musingly.
"No, they might not," agreed Zara. "That is just the case of the world to-day. While there is life in it, there is also hope. And talking of the world, let me remind you that you are back in it now, and must therefore be hampered with tiresome trivialities. Two of these are as follows; First, here is a letter for you, which has just come; secondly, breakfast will be ready in twenty minutes!"
I looked at her smiling face attentively. She was the very embodiment of vigorous physical health and beauty; it seemed like a dream to remember her in the past night, guarded by that invincible barrier, the work of no mortal hand. I uttered nothing, however, of these thoughts, and responding to her evident gaiety of heart, I smiled also.
"I will be down punctually at the expiration of the twenty minutes," I said. "I assure you, Zara, I am quite sensible of the claims of earthly existence upon me. For instance, I am very hungry, and I shall enjoy breakfast immensely if you will make the coffee."
Zara, who among her other accomplishments had the secret of making coffee to perfection, promised laughingly to make it extra well, and flitted from the room, singing softly as she went a fragment of the Neapolitan Stornello:
"Fior di mortelle Queste manine tue son tanto belle! Fior di limone Ti voglio far morire di passione Salta! lari—lira."
The letter Zara had brought me was from Mrs. Everard, announcing that she would arrive in Paris that very day, Sunday.
"By the time you get this note," so ran her words, "we shall have landed at the Grand Hotel. Come and see us at once, if you can. The Colonel is anxious to judge for himself how you are looking. If you are really recovered sufficiently to leave your medical pension, we shall be delighted to have you with us again. I, in particular, shall be glad, for it is real lonesome when the Colonel is out, and I do hate to go shopping by myself, So take pity upon your affectionate
Seated at breakfast, I discussed this letter with Heliobas and Zara, and decided that I would call at the Grand Hotel that morning.
"I wish you would come with me, Zara," I said wistfully.
To my surprise, she answered:
"Certainly I will, if you like. But we will attend High Mass at Notre Dame first. There will be plenty of time for the call afterwards."
I gladly agreed to this, and Heliobas added with cheerful cordiality:
"Why not ask your friends to dine here to-morrow? Zara's call will be a sufficient opening formality; and you yourself have been long enough with us now to know that any of your friends will be welcome here. We might have a pleasant little party, especially if you add Mr. and Mrs. Challoner and their daughters to the list. And I will ask Ivan."
I glanced at Zara when the Prince's name was uttered, but she made no sign of either offence or indifference.
"You are very hospitable," I said, addressing Heliobas; "but I really see no reason why you should throw open your doors to my friends, unless, indeed, you specially desire to please me."
"Why, of course I do!" he replied heartily; and Zara looked up and smiled.
"Then," I returned, "I will ask them to come. What am I to say about my recovery, which I know is little short of miraculous?"
"Say," replied Heliobas, "that you have been cured by electricity. There is nothing surprising in such a statement nowadays. But say nothing of the HUMAN electric force employed upon you—no one would believe you, and the effort to persuade unpersuadable people is always a waste of time."
An hour after this conversation Zara and I were in the cathedral of Notre Dame. I attended the service with very different feelings to those I had hitherto experienced during the same ceremony. Formerly my mind had been distracted by harassing doubts and perplexing contradictions; now everything had a meaning for me—high, and solemn, and sweet. As the incense rose, I thought of those rays of connecting light I had seen, on which prayers travel exactly as sound travels through the telephone. As the grand organ pealed sonorously through the fragrant air, I remembered the ever youthful and gracious Spirits of Music, one of whom, Aeon, had promised to be my friend. Just to try the strength of my own electric force, I whispered the name and looked up. There, on a wide slanting ray of sunlight that fell directly across the altar was the angelic face I well remembered!—the delicate hands holding the semblance of a harp in air! It was but for an instant I saw it—one brief breathing-space in which its smile mingled with the sunbeams and then it vanished. But I knew I was not forgotten, and the deep satisfaction of my soul poured itself in unspoken praise on the flood of the "Sanctus! Sanctus!" that just then rolled triumphantly through the aisles of Notre Dame. Zara was absorbed in silent prayer throughout the Mass; but at its conclusion, when we came out of the cathedral, she was unusually gay and elate. She conversed vivaciously with me concerning the social merits and accomplishments of the people we were going to visit; while the brisk walk through the frosty air brightened her eyes and cheeks into warmer lustre, so that on our arrival at the Grand Hotel she looked to my fancy even lovelier than usual.
Mrs. Everard did not keep us waiting long in the private salon to which we were shown. She fluttered down, arrayed in a wonderful "art" gown of terra-cotta and pale blue hues cunningly intermixed, and proceeded to hug me with demonstrative fervour. Then she held me a little distance off, and examined me attentively.
"Do you know," she said, "you are simply in lovely condition! I never would have believed it. You are actually as plump and pink as a peach. And you are the same creature that wailed and trembled, and had palpitations and headaches and stupors! Your doctor must be a perfect magician. I think I must consult him, for I am sure I don't look half as well as you do."
And indeed she did not. I thought she had a tired, dragged appearance, but I would not say so. I knew her well, and I was perfectly aware that though she was fascinating and elegant in every way, her life was too much engrossed in trifles ever to yield her healthy satisfaction.
After responding warmly to her affectionate greeting, I said:
"Amy, you must allow me to introduce the sister of my doctor to you. Madame Zara Casimir—Mrs. Everard."
Zara, who had moved aside a little way out of delicacy, to avoid intruding on our meeting, now turned, and with her own radiant smile and exquisite grace, stretched out her little well-gloved hand.
"I am delighted to know you!" she said, in those sweet penetrating accents of hers which were like music. "YOUR friend," here indicating me by a slight yet tender gesture, "has also become mine; but I do not think we shall be jealous, shall we?"
Mrs. Everard made some attempt at a suitable reply, but she was so utterly lost in admiration of Zara's beauty, that her habitual self-possession almost deserted her. Zara, however, had the most perfect tact, and with it the ability of making herself at home anywhere, and we were soon all three talking cheerfully and without constraint. When the Colonel made his appearance, which he did very shortly, he too was "taken off his feet," as the saying is, by Zara's loveliness, and the same effect was produced on the Challoners, who soon afterwards joined us in a body. Mrs. Challoner, in particular, seemed incapable of moving her eyes from the contemplation of my darling's sweet face, and I glowed with pride and pleasure as I noted how greatly she was admired. Miss Effie Challoner alone, who was, by a certain class of young men, considered "doocid pretty, with go in her," opposed her stock of physical charms to those of Zara, with a certain air of feminine opposition; but she was only able to keep this barrier up for a little time. Zara's winning power of attraction was too much for her, and she, like all present, fell a willing captive to the enticing gentleness, the intellectual superiority, and the sympathetic influence exercised by the evenly balanced temperament and character of the beautiful woman I loved so well.
After some desultory and pleasant chat, Zara, in the name of her brother and herself, invited Colonel and Mrs. Everard and the Challoner family to dine at the Hotel Mars next day—an invitation which was accepted by all with eagerness. I perceived at once that every one of them was anxious to know more of Zara and her surroundings—a curiosity which I could not very well condemn. Mrs. Everard then wanted me to remain with her for the rest of the afternoon; but an instinctive feeling came upon me, that soon perhaps I should have to part from Heliobas and Zara, and all the wonders and delights of their household, in order to resume my own working life—therefore I determined I would drain my present cup of pleasure to the last drop. So I refused Amy's request, pleading as an excuse that I was still under my doctor's authority, and could not indulge in such an excitement as an afternoon in her society without his permission. Zara bore me out in this assertion, and added for me to Mrs. Everard:
"Indeed, I think it will be better for her to remain perfectly quiet with us for a day or two longer; then she will be thoroughly cured, and free to do as she likes."
"Well!" said Mrs. Challoner; "I must say she doesn't look as if anything were the matter with her. In fact, I never saw two more happy, healthy-looking girls than you both. What secret do you possess to make yourselves look so bright?"
"No secret at all," replied Zara, laughing; "we simply follow the exact laws of health, and they suffice."
Colonel Everard, who had been examining me critically and asking me a few questions, here turned to Zara and said:
"Do you really mean to say, Madame Casimir, that your brother cured this girl by electricity?"
"Purely so!" she answered earnestly.
"Then it's the most wonderful recovery I ever saw. Why, at Cannes, she was hollow-eyed, pale, and thin as a willow-wand; now she looks—well, she knows how she is herself—but if she feels as spry as she looks, she's in first-rate training!"
"I DO feel spry, Colonel," I said. "Life seems to me like summer sunshine."
"Brava!" exclaimed Mr. Challoner. He was a staid, rather slow Kentuckian who seldom spoke; and when he did, seemed to find it rather an exertion. "If there's one class of folk I detest more than another, it is those all-possessed people who find life unsuited to their fancies. Nobody asked them to come into it—nobody would miss them if they went out of it. Being in it, it's barely civil to grumble at the Deity who sent them along here. I never do it myself if I can help it."
We laughed, and Mrs. Challoner's eyes twinkled.
"In England, dear, for instance," she said, with a mischievous glance at her spouse—"in England you never grumbled, did you?"
Mr. Challoner looked volumes—his visage reddened, and he clenched his broad fist with ominous vigour.
"Why, by the Lord!" he said, with even more than his usual deliberate utterance, "in England the liveliest flea that ever gave a triumphal jump in air would find his spirits inclined to droop! I tell you, ma'am," he continued, addressing himself to Zara, whose merry laugh rang out like a peal of little golden bells at this last remark—"I tell you that when I walked in the streets of London I used to feel as if I were one of a band of criminals. Every person I met looked at me as if the universe were about to be destroyed next minute, and they had to build another up right away without God to help 'em!"
"Well, I believe I agree with you," said Colonel Everard. "The English take life too seriously. In their craze for business they manage to do away with pleasure altogether. They seem afraid to laugh, and they even approach the semblance of a smile with due caution."
"I'm free to confess," added his wife, "that I'm not easily chilled through. But an English 'at home' acts upon me like a patent refrigerator—I get regularly frozen to the bone!"
"Dear me!" laughed Zara; "you give very bad accounts of Shakespeare's land! It must be very sad!"
"I believe it wasn't always so," pursued Colonel Everard; "there are legends which speak of it as Merrie England. I dare say it might have been merry once, before it was governed by shopkeepers; but now, you must get away from it if you want to enjoy life. At least such is my opinion. But have you never been in England, Madame Casimir? You speak English perfectly."
"Oh, I am a fairly good linguist," replied Zara, "thanks to my brother. But I have never crossed the Channel."
The Misses Challoner looked politely surprised; their father's shrewd face wore an expression of grim contentment.
"Don't cross it, ma'am," he said emphatically, "unless you have a special desire to be miserable. If you want to know how Christians love one another and how to be made limply and uselessly wretched, spend a Sunday in London."
"I think I will not try the experiment, Mr. Challoner," returned Zara gaily. "Life is short, and I prefer to enjoy it."
"Say," interrupted Mrs. Challoner, turning to me at this juncture, "now you are feeling so well, would it be asking you too much to play us a piece of your own improvising?"
I glanced at the grand piano, which occupied a corner of the salon where we sat, and hesitated. But at a slight nod from Zara, I rose, drew off my gloves, and seated myself at the instrument. Passing my hands lightly over the keys, I wandered through a few running passages; and as I did so, murmured a brief petition to my aerial friend Aeon. Scarcely had I done this, when a flood of music seemed to rush to my brain and thence to my fingers, and I played, hardly knowing what I played, but merely absorbed in trying to give utterance to the sounds which were falling softly upon my inner sense of hearing like drops of summer rain on a thirsty soil. I was just aware that I was threading the labyrinth of a minor key, and that the result was a network of delicate and tender melody reminding me of Heinrich Heine's words:
"Lady, did you not hear the nightingale sing? A beautiful silken voice—a web of happy notes—and my soul was taken in its meshes, and strangled and tortured thereby."
A few minutes, and the inner voice that conversed with me so sweetly, died away into silence, and at the same time my fingers found their way to the closing chord. As one awaking from a dream, I looked up. The little group of friendly listeners were rapt in the deepest attention; and when I ceased, a murmur of admiration broke from them all, while Zara's eyes glistened with sympathetic tears.
"How can you do it?" asked Mrs. Challoner in good-natured amazement. "It seems to me impossible to compose like that while seated at the piano, and without taking previous thought!"
"It is not MY doing," I began; "it seems to come to me from—"
But I was checked by a look from Zara, that gently warned me not to hastily betray the secret of my spiritual communion with the unseen sources of harmony. So I smiled and said no more. Inwardly I was full of a great rejoicing, for I knew that however well I had played in past days, it was nothing compared to the vigour and ease which were now given to me—a sort of unlocking of the storehouse of music, with freedom to take my choice of all its vast treasures.
"Well, it's what WE call inspiration," said Mr. Challoner, giving my hand a friendly grasp; "and wherever it comes from, it must be a great happiness to yourself as well as to others."
"It is," I answered earnestly. "I believe few are so perfectly happy in music as I am."
Mrs. Everard looked thoughtful.
"No amount of practice could make ME play like that," she said; "yet I have had two or three masters who were supposed to be first-rate. One of them was a German, who used to clutch his hair like a walking tragedian whenever I played a wrong note. I believe he got up his reputation entirely by that clutch, for he often played wrong notes himself without minding it. But just because he worked himself into a sort of frenzy when others went wrong, everybody praised him, and said he had such an ear and was so sensitive that he must be a great musician. He worried me nearly to death over Bach's 'Well-tempered Klavier'—all to no purpose, for I can't play a note of it now, and shouldn't care to if I could. I consider Bach a dreadful old bore, though I know it is heresy to say so. Even Beethoven is occasionally prosy, only no one will be courageous enough to admit it. People would rather go to sleep over classical music than confess they don't like it."
"Schubert would have been a grander master than Beethoven, if he had only lived long enough," said Zara; "but I dare say very few will agree with me in such an assertion. Unfortunately most of my opinions differ from those of everyone else."
"You should say FORTUNATELY, madame," said Colonel Everard, bowing gallantly; "as the circumstance has the happy result of making you perfectly original as well as perfectly charming."
Zara received this compliment with her usual sweet equanimity, and we rose to take our leave. As we were passing out, Amy Everard drew me back and crammed into the pocket of my cloak a newspaper.
"Read it when you are alone," she whispered; "and you will see what Raffaello Cellini has done with the sketch he made of you."
We parted from these pleasant Americans with cordial expressions of goodwill, Zara reminding them of their engagement to visit her at her own home next day, and fixing the dinner-hour for half-past seven.
On our return to the Hotel Mars, we found Heliobas in the drawing-room, deep in converse with a Catholic priest—a fine-looking man of venerable and noble features. Zara addressed him as "Father Paul," and bent humbly before him to receive his blessing, which he gave her with almost parental tenderness. He seemed, from his familiar manner with them, to be a very old friend of the family.
On my being introduced to him, he greeted me with gentle courtesy, and gave me also his simple unaffected benediction. We all partook of a light luncheon to-gether, after which repast Heliobas and Father Paul withdrew together. Zara looked after their retreating figures with a sort of meditative pathos in her large eyes; and then she told me she had something to finish in her studio—would I excuse her for about an hour? I readily consented, for I myself was desirous of passing a little time in solitude, in order to read the manuscripts Heliobas had given me. "For," thought I, "if there is anything in them not quite clear to me, he will explain it, and I had better take advantage of his instruction while I can."
As Zara and I went upstairs together, we were followed by Leo—a most unusual circumstance, as that faithful animal was generally in attendance on his master. Now, however, he seemed to have something oppressive on his mind, for he kept close to Zara, and his big brown eyes, whenever he raised them to her face, were full of intense melancholy. His tail drooped in a forlorn way, and all the vivacity of his nature seemed to have gone out of him.
"Leo does not seem well," I said, patting the dog's beautiful silky coat, an attention to which he responded by a heavy sigh and a wistful gaze approaching to tears. Zara looked at him.
"Poor Leo!" she murmured caressingly. "Perhaps he feels lonely. Do you want to come with your mistress to-day, old boy? So you shall. Come along—cheer up, Leo!"
And, nodding to me, she passed into her studio, the dog following her. I turned into my own apartment, and then bethought myself of the newspaper Mrs. Everard had thrust into my pocket. It was a Roman journal, and the passage marked for my perusal ran as follows:
"The picture of the Improvisatrice, painted by our countryman Signor Raffaello Cellini, has been purchased by Prince N——for the sum of forty thousand francs. The Prince generously permits it to remain on view for a few days longer, so that those who have not yet enjoyed its attraction, have still time to behold one of the most wonderful pictures of the age. The colouring yet remains a marvel to both students and connoisseurs, and the life-like appearance of the girl's figure, robed in its clinging white draperies ornamented with lilies of the valley, is so strong, that one imagines she will step out of the canvas and confront the bystanders. Signor Cellini must now be undoubtedly acknowledged as one of the greatest geniuses of modern times."
I could see no reason, as I perused this, to be sure that I had served as the model for this successful work of art, unless the white dress and the lilies of the valley, which I had certainly worn at Cannes, were sufficient authority for forming such a conclusion. Still I felt quite a curiosity about the picture—the more so as I could foresee no possible chance of my ever beholding it. I certainly should not go to Rome on purpose, and in a few days it would be in the possession of Prince N——, a personage whom in all probability I should never know. I put the newspaper carefully by, and then turned my mind to the consideration of quite another subject—namely, the contents of my parchment documents. The first one I opened was that containing the private instructions of Heliobas to myself for the preservation of my own health, and the cultivation of the electric force within me. These were so exceedingly simple, and yet so wonderful in their simplicity, that I was surprised. They were based upon the plainest and most reasonable common-sense arguments—easy enough for a child to understand. Having promised never to make them public, it is impossible for me to give the slightest hint of their purport; but I may say at once, without trespassing the bounds of my pledged word, that if these few concise instructions were known and practised by everyone, doctors would be entirely thrown out of employment, and chemists' shops would no longer cumber the streets. Illness would be very difficult of attainment—though in the event of its occurring each individual would know how to treat him or herself—and life could be prolonged easily and comfortably to more than a hundred years, barring, of course, accidents by sea, rail and road, or by deeds of violence. But it will take many generations before the world is UNIVERSALLY self-restrained enough to follow such plain maxims as those laid down for me in the writing of my benefactor, Heliobas—even if it be ever self-restrained at all, which, judging from the present state of society, is much to be doubted. Therefore, no more of the subject, on which, indeed, I am forbidden to speak.
The other document, called "The Electric Principle of Christianity," I found so curious and original, suggesting so many new theories concerning that religion which has civilized a great portion of humanity, that, as I am not restrained by any promise on this point, I have resolved to give it here in full. My readers must not be rash enough to jump to the conclusion that I set it forward as an explanation or confession of my own faith; my creed has nothing to do with anyone save myself. I simply copy the manuscript I possess, as the theory of a deeply read and widely intelligent man, such as Heliobas undoubtedly WAS and IS; a man, too, in whose veins runs the blood of the Chaldean kings—earnest and thoughtful Orientals, who were far wiser in their generation perhaps than we, with all our boasted progress, are in ours. The coincidences which have to do with electrical science will, I believe, be generally admitted to be curious if not convincing. To me, of course, they are only fresh proofs of WHAT I KNOW, because I HAVE SEEN THE GREAT ELECTRIC CIRCLE, and know its power (guided as it is by the Central Intelligence within) to be capable of anything, from the sending down of a minute spark of instinct into the heart of a flower, to the perpetual manufacture and re-absorption of solar systems by the million million. And it is a circle that ever widens without end. What more glorious manifestation can there be of the Creator's splendour and wisdom! But as to how this world of ours span round in its own light littleness farther and farther from the Radiant Ring, till its very Sun began to be re-absorbed, and till its Moon disappeared and became a mere picture—till it became of itself like a small blot on the fair scroll of the Universe, while its inhabitants grew to resent all heavenly attraction; and how it was yet thought worth God's patience and tender consideration, just for the sake of a few human souls upon it who still remembered and loved Him, to give it one more chance before it should be drawn back into the Central Circle like a spark within a fire—all this is sufficiently set forth in the words of Heliobas, quoted in the next chapter.
THE ELECTRIC CREED.
The "Electric Principle of Christianity" opened as follows:
"From all Eternity God, or the SUPREME SPIRIT OF LIGHT, existed, and to all Eternity He will continue to exist. This is plainly stated in the New Testament thus: 'God is a SPIRIT, and they that worship Him must worship Him IN SPIRIT and in truth.'
"He is a Shape of pure Electric Radiance. Those who may be inclined to doubt this may search the Scriptures on which they pin their faith, and they will find that all the visions and appearances of the Deity there chronicled were electric in character.
"As a poet forms poems, or a musician melodies, so God formed by a Thought the Vast Central Sphere in which He dwells, and peopled it with the pure creations of His glorious fancy. And why? Because, being pure Light, He is also pure Love; the power or capacity of Love implies the necessity of Loving; the necessity of loving points to the existence of things to be loved—hence the secret of creation. From the ever-working Intelligence of this Divine Love proceeded the Electric Circle of the Universe, from whence are born all worlds.
"This truth vaguely dawned upon the ancient poets of Scripture when they wrote: 'Darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light. And there was light.'
"These words apply SOLELY to the creation or production of OUR OWN EARTH, and in them we read nothing but a simple manifestation of electricity, consisting in a HEATING PASSAGE OF RAYS from the Central Circle to the planet newly propelled forth from it, which caused that planet to produce and multiply the wonders of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms which we call Nature.
"Let us now turn again to the poet-prophets of Scripture: 'And God said, Let us make man in our image.' The word 'OUR' here implies an instinctive idea that God was never alone. This idea is correct. Love cannot exist in a chaos; and God by the sheer necessity of His Being has for ever been surrounded by radiant and immortal Spirits emanating from His own creative glory—beings in whom all beauty and all purity are found. In the IMAGES, therefore (only the IMAGES), of these Children of Light and of Himself, He made Man—that is, He caused the Earth to be inhabited and DOMINATED by beings composed of Earth's component parts, animal, vegetable, and mineral, giving them their superiority by placing within them His 'LIKENESS' in the form of an ELECTRIC FLAME or GERM of spiritual existence combined with its companion working-force of WILL-POWER.
"Like all flames, this electric spark can either be fanned into a fire or it can be allowed to escape in air—IT CAN NEVER BE DESTROYED. It can be fostered and educated till it becomes a living Spiritual Form of absolute beauty—an immortal creature of thought, memory, emotion, and working intelligence. If, on the contrary, he is neglected or forgotten, and its companion Will is drawn by the weight of Earth to work for earthly aims alone, then it escapes and seeks other chances of development in OTHER FORMS on OTHER PLANETS, while the body it leaves, SUPPORTED ONLY BY PHYSICAL SUSTENANCE DRAWN FROM THE EARTH ON WHICH IT DWELLS, becomes a mere lump of clay ANIMATED BY MERE ANIMAL LIFE SOLELY, full of inward ignorance and corruption and outward incapacity. Of such material are the majority of men composed BY THEIR OWN FREE-WILL AND CHOICE, because they habitually deaden the voice of conscience and refuse to believe in the existence of a spiritual element within and around them.
"To resume: the Earth is one of the smallest of planets; and not only this, but, from its position in the Universe, receives a less amount of direct influence from the Electric Circle than other worlds more happily situated. Were men wise enough to accept this fact, they would foster to the utmost the germs of electric sympathy within themselves, in order to form a direct communication, or system of attraction, between this planet and the ever-widening Ring, so that some spiritual benefit might accrue to them thereby. But as the ages roll on, their chances of doing this diminish. The time is swiftly approaching when the invincible Law of Absorption shall extinguish Earth as easily as we blow out the flame of a candle. True, it may be again reproduced, and again thrown out on space; but then it will be in a new and grander form, and will doubtless have more godlike inhabitants.