"Any earthly being," said Arletta, as her face fairly beamed with intelligence, "whether it be a man, an Apeman or a monkey, who claims to be related to the Creator of the universe, or to be His prophet, or His specially appointed spokesman, or in any way tries to lead others to believe that he possesses supernatural powers, is either an impostor or an idiot.
"When all earthly beings make use of the reasoning faculties nature endows them with, all religions will perish through the agency of their own untruths."
"Then am I to understand that your people were Atheists?" inquired I of Arletta.
"Not at all," replied she. "We believed in Natural Law but not in religion. Our most intellectual men decided that by no stretch of the imagination could they build a god for religious purposes as great as the Creator of the universe must naturally be, and knowing that it remains for man himself to reach his highest state of perfection without any supernatural influence whatsoever, they therefore abolished all forms of religious worship and established a code of ethics which was termed Natural Law.
"Religion teaches one to believe in an unnatural god who apparently must be ever ready to answer anybody's prayerful cry and act as a general servant to humanity by distributing good things to those who beg for them; a sort of meddlesome god who enters into all the petty quarrels of hunan beings and generally settles them in the wrong way.
"Natural Law teaches that there exists on grand supreme ruler who guides the entire machinery of the universe; the Deity who created the principle of life, and one who does not deviate from His eternal and immutable laws; an all-wise, everlasting and unchangeable being far beyond the faintest conception the brain of man has ever been able to formulate. His power unlimited; His laws supreme; His goodness incalculable.
"Natural Law explains that He created the principle from which humanity evolved, but that it remains for all living things to make better or worse their own conditions. His laws may be studied and practiced by all human beings, but to claim to know the reasons of the Creator's actions would be to assume His wisdom and knowledge. His purposes, therefore, are unfathomable.
"Natural Law sets forth that notwithstanding the earth is but a mere speck in the universe, still, it being a part of the vast machinery governed by the Almighty, there is a reason for its existence and a work for it to perform. Like other bodies in space, it contains particles of living matter which are constantly passing through a course of development with methodical changes from life to death and from death to life. But while all living things live and die, the material thereof is used over and over again indefinitely. Human beings are a species of these particles. All living things are composed of three parts, matter, energy and soul. The matter is the machinery; energy the motion and soul the engineer. The mind is that part of the machinery having power to control its movements. The soul is the spark of life and acts as a moral guide to the mind. Soul and conscience are synonymous. The soul, always pure, is continually striving to improve the condition of the mind. The mind alone is responsible for the disposition of the body and the evils arising therefrom, the soul merely acting as its instructor for good. It is the mind which inherits evil instincts and but for the good influence of the soul, living creatures would not exist in harmony. As the mind hardens against righteousness the sway of the soul is lessened, but as the mind softens towards goodness the soul increases its power. There is a continual struggle between the soul for good and the mind for evil, but the soul will eventually gain the ascendancy and all living things will be cleansed of impurities.
"The body, including the mind, of each living thing dies, the material disintegrates and passes into the composition of other forms. The soul never dies; it remains in one body until its collapse and then transmigrates into another. The soul of man today may be that of a lower animal tomorrow; therefore he should use the greatest kindness and consideration toward all living things. There is only a certain quantity of matter upon earth to be moulded together in living forms and a certain number of souls to abide therein, so that with the increase of mankind there must naturally be a decrease in the ranks of other animals, hence it remains the duty of man to extend in number and quality his own species until all the material in existence is utilized by human beings of the very highest intelligence. Humanity, however, will never rise above the savage state until the barbarous custom of killing and eating other animals is abolished.
"Selfishness is the root of all evil; eradicate selfishness from humanity and the earth will be heaven.
"Man's heaven is here on earth if he is only capable of making it so, but men cannot enjoy heavenly blessings with hellish minds, and no selfish being can properly enjoy the sweets of life. The real essence and pleasure of life can only be extracted when mankind labors harmoniously together as a unit, instead of each individual struggling separately and murderously to obtain the largest portion of the earth's blessings. The production of the world must be divided equally among all honest toilers and man's greatest happiness must arise from serving others instead of himself. No good mortal can thoroughly enjoy luxuries that are beyond the reach of his fellow men, therefore all human beings should work together as one; enjoying equally the fruits of their combined efforts; the weak and the strong alike. There must be but one master—the entire human race bound together as one. When mankind, acting as a unit, masters itself, then will it rule the earth and gain knowledge of extraneous matters; thus the wisdom of inhabitants of older and more advanced worlds will be attained and intercourse with them practiced, thereby unraveling many apparent mysteries of the universe.
"It is an error to suppose that the Deity is your maker; He created the source from which all living things sprung, but collectively, man makes himself and is responsible for his own conditions. If the Almighty was your maker then the production of criminals, cripples and lunatics would demonstrate very bad workmanship, so do not try to shift the blame for human weakness upon the Creator of the universe. The Deity controls the principle of life; man controls himself.
"Do not pray; you cannot alter the Creator's plans and you place him in the light of a petty vanity seeker when claiming that he wants to be worshipped. Better please the Omnipotent by kind acts toward all living creatures than by offering ridiculous exhortations for favors and forgiveness. You proffer insults to the Creator when you claim you can change His immutable plans by prayer; when you think he would take from one and give to another; when you pretend to communicate with Him; when you imagine He takes part in the silly squabbles of human beings; when you say that man was made in His image; when you take His name in vain.
"A united world, with all living things on the same plane of perfection and working harmoniously together for the common good is the heaven humanity should strive to reach. It is within the power of mankind to perfect itself, but this can only be accomplished through the unselfish efforts of the whole people. Each individual can make better or worse his own condition and thereby stamp a good or bad impression upon the lives of his descendants. The creature who passes his life without adding to the knowledge and goodness of the world has lived for naught, and he who fails to improve his own worth morally, mentally or physically has spent a life of uselessness for which his descendants must suffer; for to misuse oneself is to commit a crime against posterity. Each generation should be an improvement upon the preceding one. Having been entrusted with a piece of living machinery, it is the duty of everyone to give it the very best care and attention possible, that its value might be increased to nature, hence moral, mental and physical perfection are the highest aims of life to achieve. Parents should have no off-spring when one or both of them are insane, diseased, gluttons, drunkards or criminals.
"Practice moderation in all things that you may live longer and acquire strength to enjoy natural blessings and bestow character upon those to follow. Pleasure can only be extracted from temperateness; it increases or decreases in proportion to quantity, and he who takes sparingly, lives longer to enjoy the most. Do not over-work, over-study, over-eat, over-drink, over-sleep, or commit any excess whatsoever. The surest way to make the world better is to begin with yourself. Such is the essence of Natural Law."
"At the present time," proceeded Arletta, "the earth resembles a huge table over-loaded with good things and surrounded by a pack of gluttons each striving to secure the largest portion. And in this piggish scramble the strong obtain more and the weak less than is needed while enough is wasted to amply supply the whole. The best forces of the participants, which should be utilized for other purposes are also lost in the ravenous struggle, for it requires more power to retain than obtain these things.
"The same avaricious principal—individual accumulation—is the foundation of every government in the world today, and consequently all of your social systems are being run upside down. Your people spend their time and strength in looking for remedies instead of stopping the source from which all evils flow. Corruption is the result of a diseased root and as long as that remains, iniquities will continue to multiply. Extirpate the cause, however, and sin will depart like magic.
"The system which allows the individual to acquire personal wealth is the direct cause for nearly every evil in existence. There is no remedy for a wrong unless you eradicate it entirely, and just as long as a nation clings to the pernicious plan which permits separate persons to store up the products of the earth for private uses, just so long will selfishness be the characteristic feature of the people, and all kinds of criminals will be bred from the material which otherwise would prove very useful to a unified world. According to present methods success is based upon what each individual accumulates and not what mankind is capable of producing.
"The foundation of existence is effort, without which the inhabitants of the world would perish. United exertion produces better results and with less toil than competitive efforts. With united labor in force, every living being must work, for he who consumes and does not produce is a thief. If all the inhabitants of the world combined their labors on the most economic basis, there would be enough comforts for all created by one-tenth of the power expended at the present time. Each person would add his mite to the whole, and in return would receive as much as anyone else. All worthless occupations would be done away with, and the power thereof directed into useful channels. Labor would rule the world instead of money. For of what good would be all the money on earth if there was no labor to produce the necessities of life? At present there exists but one honest toiler whose labors enrich the world, to ten schemers who spend their time plotting to secure the results of his work; and these parasites actually confiscate the largest portion of that which is produced. The schemers feast and govern, while the laborers fast and are governed. Can you imagine more unnatural conditions than one class of beings producing all the comforts and receiving none in return?
"With the abolition of the noxious system of individual accumulation, money would have no value and all the evils arising therefrom would cease. Take away the opportunity of the individual to accumulate wealth for himself, and you remove the temptation for fraud, theft and numerous other crimes, for there is then no incentive left for them. Expel the motive and selfishness will disappear, and each mortal give his best efforts toward perfecting himself morally, mentally and physically for the good he may render the world.
"Teach the child that it will not have to worry over the future; that it will not have to lie, cheat, steal, murder or take any advantage of its fellow beings in order to receive its share of the good things of life; explain to it that the real incentive is to give its best services toward increasing the general production of the earth, that all mankind may enjoy the sweets thereof together in peace and harmony; impress upon its young mind, that he who works in excess of others for the good of mankind, lives the noblest life and receives the highest esteem of his fellow beings and the blessed approbation of his own soul, and that child, reaching maturity, will be a thousand times more useful to himself and humanity than he who has been taught to hoard up riches for his own special purposes.
"Individual accumulation is responsible for crime; crime necessitates laws; laws breed tyranny.
"Abolish individualism, and crime, tyranny and nine-tenths of your superfluous laws will be exterminated.
"A few well-defined and just laws properly enforced are sufficient to successfully operate the governmental machinery of the human race according to Natural Law."
"Telepathy," continued Arletta, "proved to be one of the greatest factors for good utilized by our people. Through its agency we not only found that it was the most natural and complete way to converse with one another, but also learned to think collectively as well as singly.
"The brain is both a receiver and transmitter of thought, and all minds are directly connected with each other by an invisible force. Thought is an element of life and exists everywhere; it is not originated by the mind, but is a utility for it. Thoughts are sustenance for the brain, as air is for the lungs, or food for the appetite; they are good and bad in quality, and it is within man's power to accept or reject them at will. By admitting good and repelling bad thoughts, the brain acquires moral as well as mental strength but vice versa it is poisoned, and degeneracy is sure to follow.
"Nature created both the mountains and the thoughts; look and you can see those lofty hills; think and you can receive inspiring thoughts. Shut your eyes and you cannot see; close your brain and you cannot think. The broader the mind, the greater the ideas to enter. Ignorance is bred from a closed brain; intelligence from an open one. He who is incapable of thinking is like the blind who cannot see or the deaf who cannot hear. The thought is the mightiest force for good or evil, humanity has to contend with; time is measured by it and pure meditation makes the days short and sweet, while evil notions lengthen and depreciate them. The mind that retains good ideas and refuses bad ones is of incalculable value to mankind for it has an instantaneous effect upon other minds in all parts of the earth.
"It is easier for many minds working in harmony together to grasp a thought, than for the single brain to receive it without aid. No one earthly being ever conceived a great idea unassisted. One might have believed and proclaimed the origin of an idea, but unknown and innumerable others secretly aided in its conception. The strongest intellect, however, retained and gave it to the world, and he who accepts, practices and impresses the thought upon others, deserves the credit thereof.
"It took several generations of continuous experimentation by the Sagemen to acquire the fundamental principles of telepathy and many more to establish the custom of conversing with the mind instead of the voice. In the beginning, the evil ones looked upon the practice with horror, for it was impossible to conceal anything from their fellow beings. But this very fact alone caused them to keep clean and allow no impure thoughts to enter their minds that would lower them in the estimation of their associates, and after a few generations of active use it was accepted as one of the great benefits of nature.
"Whenever a great problem confronted the nation, a hundred or more of our deepest thinkers would simultaneously concentrate their mental forces upon it, and if unsuccessful in reaching a satisfactory conclusion, then the whole people would devote an hour each day upon it until finally solved. Thus in thought as well as in action we labored together as a unit, harmoniously working out vast ideas that never could have been conceived by a single brain, and each mortal receiving an equal share of the many blessings derived therefrom.
"And there again is where your individual system retards natural progress. A little Apeman receives part of one of nature's ideas. His immature brain is incapable of receiving the whole of it so he spends his entire life stumbling along in the dark, vainly searching for the remainder. Sometimes he becomes insane or dies under the strain of the burden, and mankind loses the portion he had already understood. It was his greedy desire that caused him to struggle alone for something that many minds could easily have brought forth had they been called to his assistance. But no, his purpose was not to aid humanity, but get money and the power to wield over his fellow creatures by accepting and having patented for himself one of nature's gifts.
"And then again one of your little Apemen finally does conceive a good idea, or part of one, after thirty years, more or less, of constant strain upon his mental faculties. So the progress of the world must be held in check for that length of time for an invention that could have been produced and put into useful operation by the combined efforts of many minds in a few days, weeks or months. But it is the individual system and not the individual himself which causes this stupendous waste of time and power, and as long as it is kept in force the leakage of human progress will naturally be beyond calculation.
"It seems a pity," said Arletta, looking at me sympathetically, "that your brain is not sufficiently developed to enable you to grasp the magnificent principle of life as it was understood by the Sage-men, but it would be as hard for you to comprehend an attempted explanation of the whole subject as it would be for a monkey to understand algebra. So I have to be content with impressing upon your little intellect just as much as it will absorb.
"But come, you look tired, let us partake of some refreshments. And remember, do not overload your stomach."
"Do not overload your stomach." This admonition caused me to feel like a child once more, and I was uncertain whether I ought to laugh or become indignant over the remark. Still I fully realized the necessity of this warning; not only for myself alone, but for the entire human race from which I sprung. How many beings are there in the world today who would not profit by following this advice? How many are there with sense enough to heed it? I cannot recall to memory any person I have ever met who had absolute control of his appetite.
"We take pleasure in living, but do not live for pleasure," continued Arletta, as she touched an invisible spring concealed within a dainty flower and graciously invited me to eat—or rather to breathe. And as I inhaled the delicious fumes it seemed that the very breath of life itself was injected into every pore of my body.
"That is enough of the soup," commented Arletta mirthfully, "now try the roast; now the entree; and here, perhaps, a little dessert will not hurt you; there, that is plenty; a little is strengthening but too much is poisonous.
"You see, this process of living is very simple indeed; our chemists merely extracted the vital parts of vegetables, herbs, cereals, fruits, nuts, flowers, etc., and reduced them to aeriform. These artificial flowers are arranged to conceal small tubes from which the nutriment flows. By operating these automatic springs the substance is allowed to escape in such quantities as is required for meals. Very simple, is it not? Much cleaner and better than munching a piece of fat pork, don't you think? And there are no cooks needed to prepare it, no waiters to serve it, nor any dishes to wash afterward. Our food was arranged ready for consumption at the great national laboratories and piped directly to the people, to use as they pleased."
"It is all very wonderful," exclaimed I, looking up to Arletta as if she were the goddess of life itself, "but there is one thing in particular I am anxious to know and that is: what causes daylight here when darkness prevails on the outside of this building?"
"Very simple," explained she, "about a thousand years before the great catastrophe our scientists discovered a method whereby they could store up the rays of the sun for light, heat and power, and after much experimenting they found that they could mix these rays with other ingredients into solid substances. The light you observed in the hallway before entering here is merely compressed into the material of which the walls are composed and as long as that remains light will shine from it. The light in this room comes from the miniature sun you see in the picture; that too will give forth radiance as long as the material holds together. Our scientists were remarkable men; they not only made use of the sun's rays in many different ways for the benefit of mankind, but actually controlled the power of the sun itself insofar as it related to the earth. They also restrained the atmosphere which surrounds the earth and made the weather conditions to suit their own welfare. But these things are so infinitely beyond the Apeman's comprehension, who feels that he has almost reached the limit of human resources with his crude little steam engines, that it would only be a waste of time and power to try and explain them to you, besides being a considerable strain upon your half-grown brain."
"This is certainly a wonderful painting," said I, looking about the room with much admiration. "I have never seen anything to compare with it before."
"There is nothing about it that is extraordinary," remarked Arletta, "it is merely a little ornamentation of my own private apartment which I did myself according to my own fancy. Any of our ordinary house decorators could have done as well or better. All of our children were taught to paint and they devoted considerable of their spare time to the art, but the works of the real artists were placed upon exhibition in the national galleries where everybody could see and enjoy their magnificence."
"I observe an absence of jewelry about your person," mentioned I, "was it not the custom of your people to wear jewels?"
"Do you think that to wear rings around your toes and suspended from your nose is a sensible thing to do?" inquired Arletta.
"No, no; decidedly not," answered I, "such are the customs of the barbarians only, but our civilized people wear rings around their fingers and in their ears."
"Indeed, and wherein lies the difference?" asked she, good naturedly. It then struck me rather forcibly that there was no difference and that it was just as ridiculous to wear rings from the ears and around the fingers as it was to have them suspended from the nose and about the toes. "But were there no diamonds in your country?" questioned I.
"Yes," replied Arletta, "there was a large pile of them in the national museum which we looked upon as old junk—sort of relics of the savage Apemen. When our children were shown these things and informed that a king of an Apeman nation would gladly sacrifice the lives of a hundred thousand of his subjects in an attempt to gain possession of them, or that his subjects would murder their friends, brothers, wives or children in an effort to secure some for themselves, it was impossible for their youthful minds to fully understand why the Apeman should become so ferocious and idiotic over such trifles. They naturally looked upon your species as you would view a tribe of monkeys fighting amongst themselves for the possession of a string of glass beads. The Apeman like the monkey is incapable of seeing his own absurdities."
"And what about gold?" I inquired. "We had a building constructed of it," answered she. "One of the first things the Sagemen did after they abolished the system of individual accumulation was to take all the gold there was in the country, and mould it into a huge edifice to be used as a national museum, and represent a sort of monument to a dead system."
"It must have been a magnificent structure," said I, in amazement. "On the contrary," replied Arletta, "it was the most hideous building in our land. As a curiosity it was worth seeing, but as an object of grandeur it was a total failure. There is more real beauty in one of nature's tiniest flowers than there would be in a mountain built of gold and studded with diamonds, but the little Apeman who considers gold the standard of value cannot understand this."
"When you mentioned the absurdity of wearing jewelry," said I, "it brought to my attention the fact that you wear no shoes upon your feet, and that your toes are much longer and far more shapely and supple than is the case nowadays."
"Yes," answered she, "that is because we made use of our toes as well as our fingers for useful purposes. It appears to me that the Apeman has permitted his feet to grow into mere hoofs with which to stump along upon, and from what I observed during my excursion around the world, your people are even allowing their hoofs to become worthless," and here she smiled as she recalled to mind some of the gouty, rheumatic and over-fed mortals she had seen during that trip.
As Arletta smiled, her beautiful lips parted and for the first time I noticed, much to my surprise, that she had no teeth. A woman of our own kind without teeth generally presents a rather dilapidated appearance, but here was a woman that I thought actually looked more lovely without them.
"Well," remarked Arletta, noting my astonishment, "I do not have teeth to bite and chew with like the lower animals. The Sageman shed his teeth shortly after he discontinued the filthy animal habit of devouring flesh and other solid substances for subsistence, and substituted the more scientific, cleanly and healthful method of inhalation."
"Now we shall enjoy a little music," said Arletta, as she turned her attention to the pictorial orchestra.
"Music," repeated I, "then it was real music I heard a short time ago and not a mere fancy of my own."
"I was not aware that you heard it at all," replied she. "Yes," responded I, "when first coming into this room, the men in the picture appeared to me to be alive, and wishing to attract their attention I touched the shoulder of the leader, and then it was that I thought I heard the sweetest and grandest music it has ever been my good fortune to listen to."
"In that case," said Arletta, "your ears did not deceive you, for you certainly heard real music. You see in this picture, an exact portrayal of that which existed over four thousand years ago. This delineation is an almost perfect representation of one of our national bands as they once appeared in life ready to play. The music, of course, is reproduced mechanically, the mechanism being concealed from view behind the scenery. When you placed your hand upon the shoulder of the leader you unconsciously pressed the spring which set the machinery in motion, causing a reproduction of the same strains once rendered by these men."
"But this being a painting, I cannot understand how the figures moved as if playing upon their instruments," said I.
"They did not move at all," answered Arletta, "it was your soul that brought to your senses the movements that once took place among these men in real life. Music is inspired by the soul, and likewise has a direct influence upon it. No Sageman was considered an eminent composer if his work lacked the force to convey the soul of the listener to the actual scene from whence the inspiration was derived. No doubt your inferior brain was incapable of grasping the magnificent conception of the author, but the selection being so enrapturous your soul awakened and brought your senses to the point where you could see the movements of the musicians. Perhaps the next rendition may have a stronger effect upon your soul which will cause you to get an outline of what was intended by the composer. The composition which the orchestra will now reproduce for your benefit was considered by our people to be the musical masterpiece of all time. It was named 'The Soul's Retrospection,' and was composed by the leader of this band only a few years prior to the great catastrophe. Look," said Arletta, with much feeling as she waved her hand toward the exalted director, "take a good look at this model of a perfect man and you may be able to realize just what qualities he had to possess before acquiring the tremendous intellectual strength necessary to produce the wonderful work that will shortly be impressed upon you. Note the extraordinary look of kindness, gentleness and self-denial that is stamped upon his handsome features. See the expression of thankfulness and intense reverence he maintained for the many splendid gifts nature bestows upon all mankind capable of accepting them. Observe the optimistic appearance of one that believed the earth was real heaven and who strived to make it so. Notice the cast of superior intellectuality caused by devoting his time and mentality to natural thoughts, instead of allowing absurd civilized theories to take root in his expansive brain. Behold the magnificent physique, the result of the constant care and attention he gave to the machinery nature provided him with. Ah, me! such a noble being, and to think that there is not another piece of flesh and blood on earth at the present time to compare with him seems cruel."
At this point Arletta appeared almost overcome with sadness and emotion as she buried herself in contemplation of a glorious past and an unknown future. Great tears rolled from her beautiful eyes, and unconsciously from my own as well. How utterly helpless I felt at that moment. I knew of no way to cheer her, although I would have gladly given up my life to do so. Aye, more than that, my love for her was so strong that in order to make her happy, I should have welcomed back to life again, if such a thing were possible, any one of those handsome fellows in the picture. However, by a superb display of will power, she quickly regained control of herself, and becoming cheerful once more, bade me recline upon one of the lounges while she pressed the spring which set the musical apparatus in motion.
And as I followed her directions, there suddenly burst forth the voluminous and harmonious sound of a hundred strange instruments, causing an indescribable thrill of ecstasy to take possession of my senses, until it seemed that there was nothing left of me but an invisible spirit. And then, even the music apparently stopped, and a peculiar feeling overcame me as if my soul had actually left its charge and was flying about in an effort to find a convenient resting place. Suddenly, as if half awake and half dreaming, I found myself within a luxuriously furnished hall, surrounded by a score of richly-clad beings, who were bowing, kneeling, and cutting up all sorts of silly antics about me. In a dreamy sort of a way, I looked down at myself and discovered that I was arrayed in the gorgeous garments of a king, and weighted down with dazzling jewels from head to foot. Then everything became clear enough to my memory; I was the king, and these idiotic creatures fawning and cringing about me were my obedient subjects; my slaves; the willing tools which kept me in power. A gouty feeling in my feet, a dyspeptic ache of the stomach and an alcoholic pain in the head, caused me to be in a very disagreeable mood, and I felt like kicking the entire gathering out of my presence.
"Sire," squeaked a knock-kneed, sickly looking civilized creature about five feet high, who wore knee breeches, silk stockings and fancy ribbons, as he bowed low in addressing me, "those ungrateful subjects of your majesty, the ignorant common laboring horde whom God in His infinite wisdom has entrusted to your noble guidance, have become dissatisfied and turbulent again, and are disturbing the peaceful prosperity of the domain by clamoring for bread—more bread and less toil is their beastly cry. A delegation of their representatives requested me to beg your majesty to grant them an audience that they might state their imaginary grievances to you in person."
"More bread and less toil," shouted I furiously, "the audacity of the vermin! By the gods! I shall teach those craven beggars that I am the master and will tolerate no new-fangled ideas. Give orders to the generalissimo to have this delegation beheaded at once and to put to the sword every dissatisfied laborer in the land." As I uttered those words, intermingled with terrible oaths, and with intense hatred for the wretches who dared to complain against such conditions a sudden change affected me and I found myself within a dark, filthy little room, seated at a bare table, with a feeling of hunger gnawing at my stomach. My limbs felt tired and sore from a hard day's toil. Beside me sat a thin, haggard, sorrowful woman and several half-famished children piteously crying for something to eat. Oh, what a dismal, melancholy feeling. "What is it," mused I, observing my bony hands, crooked limbs and ragged clothes, "that causes my inability to earn enough money to supply bread for myself and family, after working fifteen hours a day, while thousands of men in this land do not work at all and have luxuries to waste? What unnatural law governs the world that starves myself and family who work, and over-feeds the pet dog of the aristocrat, who loafs? The Church teaches me that God rules the universe, and that in order to please Him I must be contented with my lot. Can I believe this unreasonable doctrine of the Church? Can I give thanks to such a god?"
Another change, and behold, I am clad in the garments of a hunter, seated upon the back of a spirited horse and in mad pursuit of a fleet- footed antelope. I raise my rifle and blaze away at the frightened beast. There, I have hit the mark and brought him down at the first shot, much to my delight. But lo, it is not dead yet; see how it pants and struggles in desperation, as it tries to regain its feet. Now I am right upon it, and quickly dismounting, I take hold of its horns, draw a long keen knife from its sheath, and with a powerful stroke I almost sever the victim's head from the body. And as the warm blood pours forth in every direction and the last sign of life departs from its shivering body, I view the work of destruction with the fiendish glee of a noble sportsman.
But hold! What causes me to tremble with fear as though some blood- thirsty monster were pursuing me with the intention of crushing out my life's blood? Ah, I understand. I am the four-footed beast and am running, running, running as fast as my weary limbs will carry me. And such a terrified feeling overcomes me as I look backward and discover I am pursued by the most dangerous, savage and cruel animal in existence— man. How relentlessly he dogs my footsteps. On, on, on he comes until he is right behind me and there is no chance to escape—nor any hope for quarter. At last being brought to bay I turn about and decide to give battle to my pursuer. But look! The cowardly savage will not fight after all. No, he will not advance and fight fair, but at a distance and out of harm's way, he stops, and pointing a weapon at me, takes deliberate aim, there is a loud report, a quick flash, and the scene once more changes.
And thus I transmigrated from one thing into another, in a seemingly endless procession of lives, experiencing all the peculiar sensations of the many bodies I temporarily inhabited. In some cases I was the big strong brute—either physically or mentally—taking advantage of the puny weakling. In others, I was the miserable weakling, being crushed by the over-powering strength of the bully. But whether strong or weak, either physically or mentally, I was always the moral coward and selfish creature, ready to cater to those who were stronger, and take advantage of those who were feebler than myself, until finally I emerged into a most extraordinary being, utterly deficient in all human weaknesses.
Master of a physique absolutely free from all imperfections, and controlling a mind powerful enough to grasp nature's beautiful ideas unadulterated, I found myself seated upon a platform in the center of a mammoth theatre and surrounded by the finest body of musicians the earth has ever produced—the immortal Sixth National Band of Sageland. Then I fully realized that as leader of this wonderful group I was about to render for the first time, my latest musical conception and masterpiece— "The Soul's Retrospection"—which would prove to humanity beyond a doubt, the positive truth of one of nature's grandest secrets—the indestructibility of the soul.
It was generally believed that music was the direct inspiration of the soul. It was also thought that the soul was one of the unchangeable forces of nature whose duty it was to operate and purify different pieces of natural machinery known as animal lives; starting each on its brief career and remaining a part thereof until the mechanism exhausted its power and collapsed, after which it attached itself to another bit of animal matter, remaining therewith until its death, and so on indefinitely.
And now, after a life of unswerving devotion to this purpose, I was about to establish the truth of these theories by producing a musical composition that would cause the listener's soul to leave the body, and going backward, revisit, as in a dream, the various animal forms it had previously inhabited. How extremely happy I felt to think what a great blessing humanity was about to receive direct from nature, through the instrumentality of myself and the incalculable good that would result therefrom. Not only would it prove of vast scientific value to my own countrymen, but also to the millions of ferocious Apemen in all parts of the world, who could now be made to understand that no soul is immune from hardship, misery and torture until all living things on earth have reached the highest stage of perfection.
The news that the first production of "The Soul's Retrospection" was about to be given had attracted great attention among the Sagemen, and I observed that the great National Auditorium, which was capable of seating four hundred thousand persons, was crowded to its very doors, a proceeding I had never witnessed before, notwithstanding my companions and I had appeared there many times previously to give musical performances. I also noticed that the transmitters in all of the domes of the auditorium were open and ready for use and I knew that my countrymen in every part of Sageland were at their musical receivers ready to obtain the instantaneous results of our efforts. All of the celebrated wise men and great scientists, while openly skeptical concerning the claims of my composition, showed their interest in the matter by being present personally and appearing anxious for success to crown my efforts. As my eyes wandered over the great assemblage completely filling tiers upon tiers of seats, as far back in every direction as the natural eye could reach, I felt positive that there was at least one person present who had no doubts of successful results. "Ah, where is she?" mused I, looking about for a sign of recognition. "Here I am," came the quick telepathic response, and immediately my gaze fell upon the loveliest woman on earth—Arletta—nature's companion to my soul. I am utterly powerless to describe the feeling of joy experienced as our eyes met in mutual admiration. Being held momentarily spellbound by her loving glance, I fully recognized the fact that she was the acme of purity—the guiding star of my life. And with such a guide there was no such thing as fail.
All in readiness, I arose to my feet and the entire audience did likewise, as a token of appreciation for past services rendered. Acknowledging the honor and waiving them seated, without further ado I signaled my assistants to begin.
Never did a body of musicians commence a difficult task with more determination to create, through the medium of their instruments, an exact interpretation of the author's purpose. In no degree could they have succeeded more admirably than on this occasion. Never was an entire audience so completely carried beyond the borders of reality than now. From the first until the last note not a twitch of a muscle could be seen in all that mass of humanity, which now resembled a great concourse of motionless statues. The musicians themselves, with their minds and souls bent upon giving the fullest expression to their grand work, were the only evidence that any life at all remained in the large auditorium. How bravely they stuck to their laborious undertaking; how beautifully they executed their divine work.
At last the piece was finished, and looking about, I observed that the great audience jumped to its feet instantly, and every person present frantically extended both hands above the head—a sign that we had been successful. Never before did I see my countrymen under such intense excitement and jubilation as now. Men hugged each other; women cried with joy. The world is saved, was the general exclamation. Amid the great confusion that followed, I noticed Arletta with her arms outstretched toward me—a sign that she was betrothed to me forever. Her beautiful face was the picture of happiness and love. As I descended from the platform and started forward to clasp her in my arms the entire audience seemed to vanish into nothingness, and my head began to whirl. I turned and looked backward, and to my great astonishment and confusion beheld myself still seated upon the platform. It seemed to me that I was divided into two parts. I rubbed my eyes in amazement and looked again. There was the leader of the band sitting on the platform motionless and surrounded by his faithful helpmates. I looked in the other direction. There was Arletta reclining upon the couch with her lustrous eyes fixed upon me. I glanced down at myself and found that I was the same old John Convert dressed in sailor's clothes.
For several moments I stood there buried in the depth of serious meditation. Then slowly walking over near Arletta, I stooped and resting upon one foot and knee, I tenderly took her hand in mine and bowed my head in reverence. I understood it all now.
"What a wonderful world this is! What writer of fiction could draw upon his imagination for anything to compare with this extraordinary freak of nature?" soliloquized I, arising and taking a seat opposite Arletta and staring at her in amazement.
"There is no such thing as a freak of nature," corrected Arletta, "the utmost reason prevails for all of her acts; but the simplest of nature's laws appears complex and incomprehensible to the Apeman, who merely uses his brain as an organ for self-gratification instead of an instrument to grasp natural laws for which purpose it is intended. And therefore, while your famous Apemen stunt the growth of the brain by misusing it for the base purpose of accumulating individual wealth, our great men utilized their brains to receive, understand and operate the wise laws established by nature for the equal benefit and betterment of all mankind. And therein lies the chief difference between the piece of human machinery your soul now occupies and that which it once directed over four thousand years ago. Behold," said she, dramatically pointing at the director of the band, "that you were," and then casting her eyes upon me, "that you are. Does your mind lack the strength to fully appreciate the magnificent lesson nature has forced upon you, and which, no doubt, stands unparalleled in the history of your species?
"Oh, if each little Apeman could only be made to understand, that the present body is but one little installment of the innumerable lives his soul has to preside over, and that the rich and powerful today may be the weak and lowly tomorrow, he would begin at once to treat all living things with equal kindness and sympathy. If he could only realize that the dog he kicks, the horse he mistreats, or the poor mental or physical weakling he takes advantage of might possibly be impelled by the same soul that moved the form of his deceased father, mother, or offspring, his selfishness and cruelty would vanish forever. If he could only comprehend that the soul suffers as well as the flesh it stimulates, and that it must naturally continue to do so, more or less, until every particle of living matter has been cleansed and remoulded into the highest type of earthly being, he would strive to reach perfection himself and urge others to do likewise. For all terrestrial life must go up or down together; a moment of selfish pleasure now, means an age of suffering and torment in the future. Such are the immutable laws of nature. And these laws must be obeyed before mankind can climb the ladder of greatness.
"It sometimes appears as if Natural Law works very slowly before reaching a given point, but there is always a reason for every one of its movements. While apparently incomprehensible, still it was in accordance with an eternal law, that you were sent back here again after an interim of over tour thousand years. My soul, which had been held a captive during all that time, might have remained here for millions of years had you not come back to release it from its peculiar bondage. But you did return, and nature thereby demonstrated that it never forgets anything, from the workings of the great living things of which the suns, moons and planets are but mere organs, down to the minutest microbe of the microbe. So you can readily perceive that at least two of the bodies which your soul has inhabited were chosen to perform great services for the human race. First, by a natural course of instruction, you proved to the Sagemen over four thousand years ago that the soul was indestructible. And now, through a mysterious operation of nature you are brought back here in an inferior organism and have had a positive manifestation of the identical principle thus established, in order that you might resurrect and make known to all mankind the unalterable truth— Natural Law. Do you not feel highly honored to be called upon twice for such grand missions?"
"But I cannot understand," said I, "why nature, after having allowed the Sagemen to reach such a state of physical, mental and moral superiority, should destroy them just when they had reached the threshold of success."
"Nature did not destroy the Sagemen," replied Arletta, "they extinguished themselves in making an effort to accomplish something beyond their powers. They tried to operate a law with which they had not become sufficiently familiar to insure success. If one of your little Apemen experiments with steam or dynamite and is blown to atoms, that is his own fault, not nature's.
"For a thousand years the Sagemen had made remarkable progress along scientific lines. They had mastered themselves, and had learned to think both individually and collectively; and also to properly distribute and enjoy the products of their combined efforts. They had acquired a thorough knowledge of the particles of which the earth is composed, and had secured control of the atmosphere that surrounds it. They had harnessed the chemical properties of the sun after reaching the earth, and had gained possession of many other valuable utilities by following the course of Natural Law, but when they undertook to regulate the earth's path in space they simply over-stepped the confines of their abilities and failed. That was one of nature's laws they were not thoroughly acquainted with. However, as it requires many drawbacks to achieve extraordinary success in all things, humanity should not be discouraged over this failure, but gradually work its way up again until it has not only reached, but surpassed the high standard of excellence attained by the Sagemen.
"In the great stretch called time, the length of one little human existence is but a mere fraction of a moment. Therefore, one should devote his best efforts during that brief period, to making better the conditions of the place in which he has to spend many lives, for, according to what he has done in one life, so must he contend with in the next. If, while possessing physical and mental strength in one body, he assists in upholding a corrupt social system which takes from the weak and gives to the strong, he must expect these same conditions to exist when he returns as a weakling. For as long as hogs are bred and slaughtered, so must he take his chances of being one of them. How much better to help mankind seek a higher plane of intelligence, in which equality would be a reality, thus firmly cementing the tie of sympathy and love between all living things. In this case he would have no fear concerning his chances upon the next visit, no matter in what form he might appear. And how much better to carry on the work of decreasing the birth of the lower animals and increasing the numbers and quality of the higher species, until there was nothing left on earth but the very best type of human beings for all souls to inhabit.
"Natural Law is very easily understood if the mind is properly directed toward it. Great thoughts are easily conveyed from one to another after the strong intellects have conceived them. Nature itself is simply the principle of the utilization of creative life. This principle plainly shows an evolutionary tendency of all living particles toward a final state of complete intelligence. This intelligence is absorbed by the mind. The mind itself is expanded in proportion to the quantity it takes in, and is capable of directing it for either good or evil purposes. The difference between good and evil is merely that between unselfishness and selfishness. Owing to its immature growth, the mind has a tendency to use the intelligence it acquires for selfish ends. And here is where the soul or conscience has its work to perform, in trying to direct it into good channels.
"Intelligence means the ability to think, or understand the thoughts conceived by others. The most intelligent mind will listen to the soul, and use the thought as an unselfish medium with which to aid others. The poorly developed brain stifles the pleadings of the conscience and utilizes it as a selfish weapon to secure the power to take from others. The battle of existence is constantly carried on between selfishness, which is bred from the very lowest form of intelligence, and unselfishness, which represents the very highest state of mentality. A well-balanced mind wants all men to enjoy equal rights and opportunities in common with one another, affording each a chance to rise as high as his capabilities will permit. For the more intelligent beings there are in existence, the better for all concerned. If you want to eradicate disease, you must stamp out the conditions that breed it. Before you can reach the highest form of intelligence, you must exterminate the causes which create selfishness. And he who labors to improve others, unconsciously produces better conditions for himself."
"The history of Sageland," continued Arletta, "during one thousand years prior to the great catastrophe was simply a record of heaven on earth, in which the inhabitants lived for and loved one another. The abolition of the pernicious system of individual accumulation was the direct cause for the existence of this beautiful state of affairs. For when the people discovered that they could no longer hoard up wealth for personal advantage, but were required to give their best efforts toward general production in exchange for the necessities of life, they lost all evil desires and endeavored to secure the highest esteem of their fellow- beings by perfecting themselves mentally, morally and physically for the good of the community.
"The system by which the State required each individual to devote a portion of his time toward general production, and which gave him in return for his services a home, food, clothes, education, entertainment, and, in fact, everything necessary to his welfare and comfort, is so simple and easy of comprehension that any living thing above the intellectual line of the Ape should be able to understand it.
"In the first place, the State was simply the people—all of the people— working harmoniously together as a unit. Every child was educated from its infancy in the economic principles of the State, and upon arriving at maturity was given a voice in its government. There were no privileges whatsoever granted to any particular person or persons, no matter how superior their intelligence nor how valuable the services they rendered to the country. As long as any one, whether strong or weak, lived up to the laws of the State and applied himself to the best of his ability, just so long was he allowed a voice in the government and an equal proportion of the benefits accorded to all. Both men and women enjoyed equal rights. Every man and woman in the country was a public servant; they all worked for the public good. Each law adopted was put into force through the direct vote of all the people. Municipal and sectional laws were made uniform throughout the entire nation. The public officials were chosen from the wisest men and women of the land. These officials formulated the laws, but none of them became operative until sanctioned by the people through suffrage. And no matter whether the law was great or trivial, it was left for the people to decide whether they would accept or reject it. The majority always settled the question, and the law went into operation for a stated period, at the expiration of which time the question would again be reconsidered and voted upon if necessary. The laws were few and perfectly plain, and could not be evaded. Nor was there any advantage to be gained by evading them. The principle simply decreed, that all persons must devote a certain portion of their time to advancing the conditions of the country which gave them sustenance. The State allotted to the individual the employment for which it was demonstrated he was best fitted. The working hours were few, so that there was no strain upon any one, no matter what labor he had to perform. The average length of time the individual was compelled to work for the public was four hours daily, the balance of the time being at his own disposal, but usually occupied as follows: four hours study; two hours for physical exercise and recreative games; three hours to music, painting and other intellectual amusements; three hours for nourishment and eight hours for sleep. While it was not compulsory to pass one's time as stated, still it was generally taught and believed that in so doing the individual developed his greatest qualities.
"As the State provided everything the individual needed from time of birth until death, it gave him an opportunity to devote his time to higher and purer thoughts and purposes than the mere animal desires for selfish gain, and thus exterminated the cause of deception, fraud, theft and all other crimes arising therefrom.
"According to our laws the public owned and operated everything, and produced and distributed all of its own goods. And in doing this it set aside all superfluous vocations that merely wasted public power and turned these forces into other channels for the common good. For instance: as the State owned all of the land and everything that was produced, and simply gave to the individual that which he was capable of consuming, there was no need for such things as taxes. And without taxes there was no public labor wasted by tax collectors, lawyers, treasurers, auditors, clerks, book-keepers, etc.
"Then again, the individual being able to obtain everything free of charge, money became valueless, all the evils of the financial system eliminated, and the preponderance of labor expended in upholding this unnatural system was used for productive purposes, thus doing away with such occupations as money making, money lending, banking, broking, speculating, gambling, etc.
"Without money in existence, and labor being the only purchasing power, and as every want was satisfied by the State in return for the individual's services, there was nothing left to steal, and consequently no necessity for utilizing the labor of an army of human beings as police, detectives, judges, lawyers, juries, etc.
"And as all the public necessities were produced and distributed by the most systematic, direct, and economic methods, straight from the store- houses to the consumers, there was no use for merchants, traders, jobbers, agents, salesmen, clerks, peddlers, etc.
"As each individual was compelled to give a percentage of his time toward general production, in order to be a member, in good standing, of the community, and able to enjoy all the rights that such membership accorded, there was no chance to avoid honest work and no room for such parasites as tramps, beggars and society loafers.
"So that in abolishing the stupid system of individual accumulation and substituting nature's plan of united labor and honest distribution, all useless vocations and parasitic accessories were extirpated entirely, thus transferring that tremendous leakage of human power into honest production, the beneficial results of this change being: shorter work hours, increased education, refinement, comfort, and security for everybody, and the extermination of selfishness and crime.
"United labor merely utilized the various forces of nature, to produce and distribute all the necessities of life for the general welfare of mankind, by the most intelligent, humane, and unselfish methods."
"But," said I, as Arletta paused for a moment, "was it not a very difficult matter to make all men give their best efforts to the State when there was no incentive for personal gain other than that which everybody else received, and did not those who were capable of accomplishing more work than others, complain of the benefits given those with less ability and not so industriously inclined as themselves?"
"Those same questions were asked and answered over five thousand years ago," replied Arletta, "and were subsequently proved to be fallacies. If a man's highest aim in life is to foolishly pile up worldly products for his own piggish satisfaction, then he is really on no higher plane than the swine; for the rich accumulate wealth like the hog does filth, for what, they know not. It requires far more ability to build a strong moral character and a kindly feeling for others, than it does to accumulate a mountain of produce. The Sagemen, with their splendid intellects, would gladly have worked themselves to death for the public good had not the State restricted the working hours and required each person to give proper care and attention to himself as well as to the public.
"Immediately after discarding the old system of individual accumulation, the Sagemen passed a law that all persons refusing to do their portion of work for the public should be considered insane, and put into asylums until such time as they regained their proper senses. No work, no freedom, the statute said. But even in the beginning there was very little use for these asylums, and within two generations they became obsolete for the want of inmates. The vast majority of human beings are anxious to appear in the best possible light in the eyes of their contemporaries and are swayed either forward or backward by the sentiment of others. If public opinion says to the individual: you are held equally responsible with everybody else for the general welfare and conditions of your country, and if you show a lack of self-respect by trying to evade the small portion of work necessary to pay for your keeping, then you shall be judged mentally and morally unsound, and not fit to associate with respectable people, he will not only do all that is expected of him, but will try to out-work everybody else in order to secure the highest esteem of his fellow beings.
"The system of individual accumulation as now practiced throughout the entire world is a most brutal plan of existence. It is either directly or indirectly responsible for all the crime and suffering humanity has to contend with. It causes men to forget their souls in the desperate struggle for a mere living. It saps the strength of the individual and then censures him for being weak. It robs him of the fruits of his labor and then blames him for being poor. It forces him to steal and then punishes him for being a thief. It drives him to all sorts of crime, and then condemns him for being a criminal. It encourages and gives everything to the strong and discourages by taking everything from the weak. It originated with the primitive savages, and is the most beastly and debasing system conceivable. It keeps mankind in the very lowest stage of intelligence, and in a condition of helplessness on one side and slavery on the other. It has been saturated with so many idiotic laws and so-called remedies since its inception that it now resembles a great network of legalized corruption. Laws for this and laws for that, and laws to offset other laws are enacted until the power of the human race is wasted, in either making or breaking the innumerable edicts made to uphold a weak and rotten system.
"You cannot make right by patching up wrong. A new and effective system cannot be created by changing the features of an old and putrid one. An entirely new foundation must be constructed in order to insure solidity and strength. That was the reason the Sagemen uprooted entirely the cancerous system of individual accumulation and planted in its place the scientific and mutually beneficial plan of united labor and equal distribution as decreed by Natural Law.
"The Apeman being the foremost of living particles on earth at the present time, and nature being capable, willing and generous enough to abundantly provide for all of his needs, he should immediately cast off the yoke of greed and devote his time and best efforts to a nobler work than the petty accumulation of plunder."
"In equal proportion to man's moral and mental strength, so should he be well-balanced physically," proceeded Arletta. "In fact, he cannot accept his greatest opportunities unless perfectly sound and healthful. The mind derives its power of conception from the body, as well as the body secures its impetus from mind, therefore, the development of the frame should at least keep pace with that of the intellect, if not exceeding it. There is nothing more delightful to behold or conceive than a perfect physical man, whose features manifest strong moral and mental attributes, as exemplified by the portraits of the Sagemen."
"Excepting a perfect woman as depicted by yourself," thought I, with uncontrollable rapture, as I feasted my eyes upon her exquisite form and lovely countenance. Taking notice of my passionate cogitation, she interjected, "Nature created the male and female, and in order to perpetuate life itself, the union thereof is necessary; therefore, the highest aim of each should be to win and hold the love and companionship of the other. To do this successfully, each must strive to reach the very highest point of physical, as well as mental and moral excellence. Our men adored women as the most sacred and beautiful objects of life; the women revered men as the grandest things extant.
"According to the philosophy of Sage—who, by the way, was the founder of our government, and the first to expound the principles of Natural Law—men belonged to the community, and not the community to man. He contended that it was just as essential to the general welfare of the public for the individual to build himself up from a healthful standpoint, and likewise make himself pleasing to the eyes of others, as it was to construct sanitary and artistic houses.
"Health and beauty are natural; disease and deformity are acquired, and are therefore crimes against mankind. There are three good reasons why it is criminal for one to neglect health. First, by going contrary to Natural Law, he unfits himself to give his best labors toward the progress of his species. Second, by breeding disease in himself, he forces it into the community. Third—the most heinous crime of all—he passes down to his offspring the ghastly inheritances resulting from his own degraded weaknesses, which, in turn, are handed down from generation to generation.
"Intemperance, such as over-eating, over-drinking, over-work, over-rest, and many other forms of over-doing things, together with worry and uncleanliness, is directly responsible for disease and deformity. All living things would be healthful, if they contained enough intelligence to live according to Natural Law.
"Besides using moderation in taking nourishment, work and pleasure, the Sageman was careful about his exercises, assiduously devoting from two to three hours each day to physical culture. He practiced all manner of games and acrobatic performances, in order to bring the body up to its best possible shape. Suppleness, agility, and gracefulness were desired in preference to brute strength. Running, jumping, swimming, and flying were considered a necessary part of every one's daily routine, from early youth until old age and death."
"Flying," exclaimed I, incredulously, "you surely do not mean to inform me that the Sagemen could fly?"
"Yes," answered Arletta, "the practice of floating in the air was begun shortly prior to the great catastrophe and many of our men and women were becoming adepts at it. You see, after the Sagemen discontinued the animal method of eating flesh and other solid substances and adopted the aeriform process of nourishment, he naturally became much lighter in proportion to his bulk, and gravitation did not hold him so tightly to the earth as formerly. Of course it took many generations of tendency in that direction before he could even acquire the rudiments of aerial propulsion. But after the dread feeling of worry and want was finally eradicated from his mind by the abolition of the individual accumulative system, he then began to apply himself carefully to physical development, and as running, jumping and acrobatic work have the best symmetrical effects upon the human form, this kind of exercise was extensively followed, and as each generation succeeded in outdoing the feats of the preceding one, the entire nation finally evolved into one of extraordinary springing propensities. What will you think, when I tell you that any of our men or women could jump over the highest building there is in the world today, or run faster than any of your steam locomotives? It seems hard for you to realize such things, but still these are facts. In these days, the Apeman devotes his time to the construction of machinery with which to carry around his decaying and almost useless frame, while the Sageman utilized the power of his own body to propel himself as nature intended.
"The gradual increase from year to year, and generation to generation, of the Sageman's ability to make high leaps, and his continual desire to remain in the air as long as possible, eventually bore evolutionary results by man learning to fly. And like swimming, so with flying, the mind plays the biggest part towards its accomplishment.
"As you appear incredulous regarding my statements, I will just give you a little illustration," said Arletta, and before I was aware of her intentions she arose, and with an almost imperceptible spring went straight up to the ceiling, and then with a graceful movement somewhat similar to a fish swimming in the water, she went half way across the room and slowly descended to the floor again. "There is no good reason why a man should not fly as well as swim," said Arletta, being seated once more. "Time and inclination work wonders, and the human race has no limit to its achievements if it only takes the right course.
"In order to obtain the best results physically, the individual must live according to the simple laws of nature. Plenty of good healthful exercise must be taken regularly and without strain. The intelligent direction of the mind must also be brought into action with all muscular efforts. Man's daily employment should be a mixture of both mental and physical labor, for all brain work strains the mind and weakens the flesh, while all bodily exertion over-taxes the frame and retards the growth of intellect. Deep breathing, an abundance of pure fresh air and plenty of sunlight are indispensable to perfect health. Daily baths are essential to keep the exterior of the body clean, while the interior must be kept in good order with a moderate supply of simple, wholesome and unadulterated foods. Nature's plain beverage, water, is all that man should imbibe. No evil thoughts must be allowed to enter the mind. Cheerfulness, self-control, kindliness and optimism are great aids in promoting health. Pessimism, worry, anger, fear and violent emotions are poison to the system. There should be nothing in life to fear. The unselfish know no fear. Those who teach it, or cause others to fear are common enemies to health and progress.
"The beastly custom of drinking intoxicating liquors, now prevalent throughout the world, is one of the very worst forms of robbing the individual of his physical strength and vitality, as well as his reason and moral character.
"The tobacco habit also; that idiotic and ridiculous performance of filling the mouth with smoke merely to blow it out again, is another dangerous obstacle thrown in the path of good health. It seems strange that the Apeman cannot open his eyes wide enough to see the danger as well as the absurdity of these silly customs which sap his strength and leave him in a state of abject weakness. What a pity he cannot exert enough will power to overcome these stupid and harmful practices.
"If you want to use your faculties when you are old, exercise them properly when you are young. Improve yourself and you make better the world."
"Sageland, previous to the catastrophe," resumed Arletta, "was a small oblong continent surrounded by what are now known as the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans. It ran from north-east to southwest. Its extreme length was nine hundred and twenty-eight miles and its greatest width was three hundred and ninety-six miles. There were a little over thirty million inhabitants in the land.
"Unlike the different countries of the present time, there were no large cities in Sageland. The population was scattered over the entire surface of the country at intervals and was domiciled in two distinct ways, namely: the rural form of dwelling, in which a single family occupied a separate house for its own private use, and the borough settlements, whereby several thousand persons lived together under one roof.
"The great structures known as borough buildings covered about a square mile of land each, and were from fifty to eighty stories in height. They were very artistically designed, most luxuriously furnished and the sanitary arrangements absolutely perfect. They contained, besides a private room for each individual, public reception rooms, libraries, music halls, theatres, gymnasiums, baths, etc. No person was allowed more than one room for private use, but a family could have a suite of apartments in proportion to its own number. The reception rooms, music halls, theatres, libraries, gymnasiums, baths, etc., were entirely public and all persons were at liberty to come or go as they pleased. The room in which you are now seated was my own private apartment in a borough building which was occupied by seven thousand people.
"I have already explained the method whereby we received our sustenance, the different aeriform substances being piped directly from the laboratories to the consumers' personal apartments, thus obviating the necessity for dining halls and kitchens.
"There being no such agency as commerce in Sageland, through which the necessities of life were bought, sold, exchanged, or stolen, there was, of course, no need for such establishments as wholesale or retail stores, banks, etc. Neither were there any jails. Great national work- shops, laboratories, and store-houses, a national auditorium, art gallery, museum, and observatory were the only buildings erected besides the rural and borough dwellings.
"The chief industries of our people were planting, reaping, condensing and distributing dietary substances; manufacturing such things as machinery, clothing, paints, musical and scientific instruments, and building. Railroads, steamships, mail service, the telegraph and telephone had become obsolete with the Sagemen. In the first place, it was not necessary for men to travel at all in person, for by the power of mind sight they were able to see what took place at any particular place on earth, and also they were capable of communicating with each other telepathically at any distance just as easily as I am now conversing with you.
"Great centrifugal and centripetal engines, capable of transplanting any quantity of material from one place to another, were constructed for carrying purposes, while automatic transmuting machines, by which one element could be turned into another, cut down the necessity of transportation to a minimum. Machinery, directed by the human mind, and deriving its power from the sun and other forces of nature, did all of the Sageman's laborious work.
"The Sageman's discovery and partial utilization of the two great forces of nature, centrifugal and centripetal power, were the causes of his final destruction, however, for he not only used them advantageously here, but by that method actually tried to regulate the earth's course in space to suit himself. And furthermore, he not only contemplated steering his own world in whatever direction or part of the heavens he might choose, but his ultimate plans were to visit, inhabit and control the movements of all the great bodies of the universe.
"These laudable purposes, while no doubt practical, failed by being undertaken prematurely as forewarned by many of our ablest thinkers, who, unfortunately, were in the minority when the question of making the initial trial was voted upon. And by this failure the earth was rent in a fearful manner, its map considerably altered and Sageland and its people wiped out of existence entirely.
"Many millions of Apemen who inhabited the balance of the globe at that time must also have perished from the effects of the awful convulsion which no doubt shook the earth to its core. And so it was, I presume, the upset atmospheric conditions of the earth resulting from this catastrophe, forty-two hundred and thirty years ago, that is responsible for the legend by which the Apeman blames the Creator for sending a flood to destroy the inhabitants of the world, good and bad alike.
"But notwithstanding his superior intellectuality the Sageman was far from being infallible. He often made mistakes as he relentlessly struggled along in search of knowledge. Natural Law teaches that the main object of life is to absorb, concentrate and utilize intelligence. Intelligence rules the universe. The Sageman considered it his duty to first control himself, then the earth, and finally the universe. But he became impatient, and wanted to explore the heavens before he had assimilated all terrestrial life, and concentrated sufficient power to insure success. He was anxious to control new worlds before he had put his own into the best order. Had he waited until the Apeman and other living particles could have reached the same state of intelligence as himself, and then concentrated and utilized the combined mental strength of the whole to solve the great problem, no doubt he would have been more successful in his first attempt at universal navigation.
"However, he tried and failed, and by that failure thoroughly demonstrated the futility of one part of humanity trying to rush ahead of the whole, and the absolute necessity for all mankind to work unitedly and harmoniously, and go forward as a unit to accomplish the greatest results within its power."
"But," inquired I, "what law or chance was it that destroyed all of your countrymen, and still preserved you through all these ages?"
"That is the most remarkable circumstance of the whole affair," answered Arletta, as she cast a loving glance in the direction of the leader of the band, and then, reverently pointing toward him, she continued, "he was the foremost man of his day, and it was generally conceded by all of our people that he was the greatest man the earth ever produced. Like Sage, the founder of our government, he lived entirely fox others. His sole aim in life was to make better the conditions of all living things; to make hardship, sorrow, suffering or misery an impossibility on earth. In order to be of the greatest service to others, he knew that he must not only be unselfish, but also build up his body, brain and character to the very highest degree of efficiency and perfection. And he did so. He built himself up from a physical, mental, and moral standpoint, until it seemed to others that he was the personification of intelligence, love, virtue, and magnificence. While possessing the greatest brain power, still he was the most humble man in Sageland. Although a giant in physical strength, yet he was as gentle as a lamb. He was the greatest thinker of all time, but there was no room in his brain for an impure thought. Notwithstanding he was still a young man, being but fifty years of age, nevertheless he had attained distinct success and fame as a musician, composer, scientist, inventor, architect, and athlete. He endeavored to unravel all the mysteries of nature which attracted his attention. One of the many occult forces he experimented with was human magnetism. It was his belief that man could preserve himself indefinitely, either in a state of animation or suspended vitality, by the strength of his own will power. He often said that, barring accidents, he would live to be a thousand years old. In order that he might thoroughly study the subject and discover, if possible, the exact forces that caused life and death, he often used me as an example for his experiments. Many times he had caused me to lie in a trance for several months' duration without the slightest change in my appearance showing itself. While my aid was necessary to suspend animation, yet when once under the influence of the strange forces by which it was accomplished, my senses departed entirely, and I had no power to revive myself, but had to depend upon him to restore consciousness. Ten days prior to the date set for the first trial whereby man was to navigate the earth in space, I allowed him to put me under the spell of these influences, and although it seems like yesterday that it happened, still over forty-two centuries have since passed by. Uncounted billions of human beings have lived, suffered and died since that time, but the same soul which guided the magnificent being who put me into that trance, has lived through it all, and by a mysterious power, has finally returned to release my soul from its incarceration. It was a natural law which caused me to sleep peacefully through all those centuries, and likewise it was according to nature's principle that you were brought back here to awaken me.
"The seed of united labor sown by the immortal Sage, which proved so prolific in love and progress to the Sagemen, was not entirely destroyed by the great catastrophe, but lay smouldering in this tomb during the dark ages of superstition, ignorance and cruel civilization, that have since elapsed, and must now be replanted in the soil of human hearts, and its benevolent results spread throughout the earth, offering peace and good will to all living things.
"And you, who are guided by the soul of my final consort," said Arletta, as the full rays of her luminous eyes were fastened upon me, "I entreat you to go forth as a messenger of truth and justice and teach the principles of Natural Law to all of your species."
"But what about yourself?" inquired I of Arletta, as I met her sympathetic gaze with a look of adoration. "If you would visit the different countries of the world you could revolutionize things in a very short time, I am sure. You could explain the principles of Natural Law to the people, and teach them methods of which I know nothing. The wise and learned men of the present time would understand your explanation much better, and would give the subject far more serious consideration than if I, a poor ignorant fellow with neither education nor standing, undertook to instruct them. The whole world would stop and listen to you. The inhabitants would set you up as a goddess, and rally to your standard as mistress of the earth. Besides, the power your apparently unlimited intelligence would create, your wonderful beauty would immediately charm every mortal who once set eyes on you. Kings, emperors and potentates of all kinds would fall madly in love with you at first sight, and you would have but to command to bring them to your feet as slaves ready to do your slightest bidding. To further your own purposes you could"-but here I stopped short in my recital, shocked by a thousand little demons of jealousy entering my brain as it occurred to me that perhaps Arletta would forget me entirely if all the great persons of the earth showered honors and favors upon her. I felt intensely miserable at the very idea of such a thing.
"Do not allow silly thoughts to enter your head," said she compassionately, "I shall never leave this place. This room has been the scene of the happiest hours of my life in which my coeternal companion, incased in the flesh of a real man, plighted his everlasting love and devotion to me. And by a simple and intelligent law of nature I have been held a captive in this room through countless generations to witness the transformation and return of that faithful comrade to release my soul from captivity. And now this room shall be my mortal sepulcher.
"Although I should like, ever so much, to go forth and devote many years to teaching the Apeman the glorious principles of Natural Law as prescribed by my beloved countrymen, yet it is not within my power to do so.
"Owing to the constant change in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and the vast difference in its present arrangement and that of four thousand two hundred years ago, it would be impossible for me to live five minutes outside of this chamber. In fact I have noticed that the supply of air, which must have been hermetically sealed within this vault at the time of the catastrophe, has been gradually escaping by way of the hole through which you forced a passageway. Hence within a very short time my life will have oozed away for the want of proper stimulus. Then again, the period in which the particles of this human frame should naturally cling together has long since expired, and should I but expose myself to the elements now existing on the exterior of this place, I should no doubt, crumble into dust and be blown away with the winds. Notwithstanding nature compels the mutability of all things, its laws however remain unchangeable, and as the time has passed and the conditions altered since I should have lived my natural life, this material of which I am now composed must soon collapse, its parts disintegrate and return to the elements from whence they came.
"But my soul shall continue to live, and the same law which brought you back here to me will also bring our souls together many times and in different forms during eternity. And as you now possess the strength, intelligence and opportunity, it is your sacred duty to go forth and teach Apemen to love one another and practice kindness toward all living things, for you know not in what shape I may return. As you would be kind to me now, so must you treat all of nature's creatures. And remember, that the soul you so ardently worship now and so reverently loved over four thousand years ago, cannot return in a perfect form if there are none such forms to inhabit, or in a good and pure being if there are no such beings extant. But, on the contrary, if in the future none but good and beautiful lives exist on earth, my soul cannot possibly occupy anything else. Thus, Natural Law plainly teaches that, as you prepare earthly conditions in one form of life, so must you tolerate them in the next. In fact, our own future safety and happiness depend upon all living things reaching a high state of perfection and equality. And now," said Arletta, arising and exhibiting considerable emotion, "having briefly instructed you in Natural Law as deeply as your limited mental capacity will permit, the time has arrived that we must part, for I feel that I am growing weak and cannot live much longer. In fact, it has been through the power of my will alone that I have been kept alive until now. So prepare yourself to go."
"Go!" ejaculated I, jumping to my feet with an awful feeling of anguish as I realized the full meaning of her words. "Me, go? Never! I shall remain here and we shall die together. I could never live without you. There would be left no object in life worth living for." And then, advancing forward, I took her shapely hand in mine, and, looking directly into her lovely eyes with much earnestness, said: "I fully understand that in comparison to the Sage-man, I am a hideous and degraded creature. And I also know that the love that filled the heal is of your contemporaries for one another was sublime, having for a few moments during that musical spell been moved by the same emotions that once impelled the exalted being of which I am the re-incarnation, but believe me when I say that my love for you now is ten thousand times stronger than it was then. I worship you. I shall die for and with you. Aye, even nature itself cannot keep me alive after you have gone. I may not be the equal of the Sageman in other ways, but I shall prove that my love for you is equally as great."
During this outburst of my thoughts, Arletta stood in a motionless attitude, holding my outstretched hand and returning my excited gaze with a look of mingled pity and sorrow. "Is it possible," said she, "that there is not one Apeman in the world today with sufficient strength of character to relinquish his own selfish desires for the good of his species? Can it be that not one Apeman exists whom nature can rely upon for the great work of uplifting humanity, who is brave enough to resist the temporary fascination of a lovable woman? And have I lived to see the reincarnated soul of the bravest and noblest man that ever breathed, bound within the flesh of a wretched coward incapable of living for any greater purpose than his own self-gratification? Am I to understand that one who is controlled by the spirit of my everlasting associate, intends betraying nature's trust by shirking the responsibilities of manhood, because he lacks the courage to live? Will there be promulgated among the records of time an account of my immortal partner having deserted his post of duty by sneaking out of the world before his allotted time? Would this being, who is blessed with physical strength and a well-balanced brain, allow himself to sink to the level of a craven suicide, because he cannot secure something beyond his reach? Does he think that nature brought him into existence for no other purpose than to feed his own petty desires? Would he deliberately die like a useless poltroon, and leave the world in its present state of savagery and wretchedness, without even attempting to be of service to humanity in the very work it requires the most?"
"Stop! Enough!" cried I. "You have wounded my feelings to the very core. I'll admit that I am weak in this instance. Very weak indeed. But this is the first time that my courage has ever been assailed by anyone, and to have you above all persons, openly insinuate that I am a coward is far worse than having inflicted upon me the cruelest tortures of the Ape-man's prospective hell. I am only an Apeman, but as I said before, I love you beyond all power of expression. You no doubt, cannot understand my puny feelings any more than I can fully comprehend your lofty ideals or the full meaning of your higher knowledge of things. The very greatest hardship for me to undergo would be to live after you have passed away. But, if by the promise of so doing I can gain your respect and one encouraging look or word of approval, I will not only rescind the text of my previous statement and live, but I swear to you in the name of the Creator of the law which governs all things, that I shall strictly follow to the letter any instructions you may wish to offer concerning my future movements, no matter what they might be. So make my task a hard one, for the courage you so unfeelingly attacked must be tested to its full limits. I am ready to obey your commands."
Having thus addressed Arletta, I straightened myself up to my full height with as much dignity as I could assume, folded my arms across my chest and awaited her orders.
"The Sagemen never urged their desires by a command," replied Arletta, "they simply requested that which they would like to have done. The request I shall make concerning your future duty can be incorporated in a very few words, but it will require a lifetime and great strength of character to execute. But as you have promised like a man to follow my instructions, I shall die with implicit confidence in your determination to do so. So consider well the following mandate, for it contains the essence which will stimulate you to heroic deeds:
"Always consult your soul for advice,
"Do no act your conscience will not sanction."
Three times Arletta slowly repeated this precept, and then placing her hands upon my shoulders, she continued: "The first time you act contrary to the admonition of your soul, then you will have broken your promise to me. Now go," said she, turning me about until I faced the doorway, "I must request your immediate departure. Go, and try to be a man. We shall meet many times in the future, so while you have the chance try and make better the conditions of life, that we may eventually meet on the same plane of equality without the shadow of strife or animosity to mar our happiness. Good-bye."
With the meaning of these words ringing in my head, I fully understood that my audience with Arletta was at an end, and overcome with grief and gloom I weakly responded, "good-bye," and then added, "I shall never break my promise." Then with a heavy tread I walked to the opening through which I had entered, turned half around and took one long, last, loving look at Arletta and passed into the corridor beyond. At the same time I fancied I heard her gently sobbing.
Suffering with a dejected feeling of despair, I wended my way through the chaotic anterior hall in search of the hole through which I had so miraculously entered. It seemed as if life's sole aim had suddenly been stricken from the range of my vision. I could not understand why nature should be so cruel as to give me but one momentary glimpse of that angelic mortal and then thrust me away from her in such an indifferent manner. I wondered why the world was not populated exclusively by such lovely beings. Was it because the people themselves, through their individual accumulative system, created conditions whereby only the most abject and debased mortals could survive? Was this system responsible for petty selfishness, instead of conscience governing man, causing him in his greedy scramble for temporary gain, to keep others in a state of helplessness, ignorance, and squalor, thus propagating an inferior race of physical, mental, and moral pigmies as the foremost inhabitants of the earth? Why could not humanity organize itself as a great unit of unselfish effort and equality, for the purpose of uplifting and strengthening all of its component parts, instead of those parts pulling down, weakening, and destroying one another in a ferocious struggle for individual predominance?
As these and similar thoughts crowded themselves into my brain, my attention was attracted by soft strains of music emanating from the room I had just left, and I stood still and listened. Arletta had evidently set the orchestral mechanism in motion again, and was accompanying it by tenderly singing her own requiem. With tremulous modulation, her vocal chords produced sounds such as I had never heard before, and of which I am powerless to give the faintest description. Like a statue, I stood and listened to the almost supernatural melody, and inwardly prayed that it might continue forever. But suddenly both the music and singing ended, and absolute quietness prevailed. It may have been a pure fancy on my part, but as I waited in breathless silence, hoping for more music, the apparition of Arletta seemed to pass directly over my head, and continued right on up through the solid roof of the hallway. Startled beyond expression at what I now consider a mere delusion, I shouted Arletta at the top of my voice several times, and receiving no answer, either telepathically or phonetically, I came to the awful conclusion that she was no more.
Is it unmanly to cry? If so, I must confess my unmanliness, for on this occasion it was impossible for me to repress the tears from coursing down my cheeks, as I realized that the last of nature's grandest and noblest earthly beings had passed away. But the tears I shed apparently softened my nature, and as I stood buried in the depth of meditation concerning the preceding events, I became impregnated with the desire to try and do some real good in the world; to make myself useful to mankind; to live for others instead of myself alone. And then and there I resolved that I would devote the remainder of my natural life to teaching human beings the beautiful principles of Natural Law, as I understood them, without expectation of compensation or future reward. I would go forth, as Arletta had requested, and plant the seed of real truth, justice, love, and equality in human hearts to the best of my ability, and trust in the souls of men to further aid in its universal and everlasting productiveness. I felt positive that the theory of the Sagemen was right, and that the soul just released from Arletta was even then beginning life in a different form. Would it not be criminal on my part to make no effort to better earthly conditions for her future welfare? Perhaps, conjectured I, the soul of my own mother, who died at the time of my birth, might, even at that moment, be incased in a degraded body, surrounded by want and misery, caused by the operation of that selfish, brutal and murderous system, which encourages the strong to squeeze the very light and hope from the weak, thus forcing and keeping mankind in a state of continual degradation. A system that was created in the beginning by savages, and which is upheld at the present time by savages. And the Church, that gigantic symbol of ignorance and stupidity, not only fails to protest against such a beastly system, but actually advocates its continuance.