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Unveiling a Parallel, by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant [1893], at

p. 129



                                        "I spoke as I saw.
I report, as a man may report God's work—all's Love, yet all's Law."—BROWNING.

I have spoken of Ariadne, and promised to re-introduce her to you. You will remember her as the graceful girl who accompanied Clytia and her husband to Thursia. She had not made quite so strong an impression upon me as had the elder woman, perhaps because I was so preoccupied with, and interested in watching the latter's meeting with Elodia. Certainly there was nothing in the young woman herself, as I speedily ascertained, to justify disparagement even with Clytia. I was surprised to find that she was a member of our charming household.

She was an heiress; but she taught in one of the city schools, side by side with men and women who earned their living by teaching. I rather deprecated this fact in conversation with Clytia one day; I said that it was hardly fair for a rich woman to come in and usurp a place which rightfully belonged to some one who needed the work as a means of support,—alas! that I should have p. 130 presumed to censure anything in that wonderful country. With knowledge came modesty.

Clytia's cheeks crimsoned with indignation. "Our teachers are not beneficiaries," she replied; "nor do we regard the positions in our schools—the teachers' positions—as charities to be dispensed to the needy. The profession is the highest and most honorable in our land, and only those who are fitted by nature and preparation presume to aspire to the office. There is no bar against those who are so fitted,—the richest and the most distinguished stand no better, and no poorer, chance than the poorest and most insignificant. We must have the best material, wherever it can be found."

We had but just entered the house, Clytia and I, when Ariadne glided down the stairs into the room where we sat, and approached me with the charming frankness and unaffectedness of manner which so agreeably characterizes the manners of all these people. She was rather tall, and slight; though her form did not suggest frailty. She resembled some elegant flower whose nature it is to be delicate and slender. She seemed even to sway a little, and undulate, like a lily on its stem.

I regarded her with attention, not unmixed with curiosity,—as a man is prone to regard a young lady into whose acquaintance he has not yet made inroads.

My chief impression about her was that she had remarkable eyes. They were of an indistinguishable, dark color, large horizontally but not too wide open,—eyes that drew yours continually, without your being able to tell whether it was to settle the question of color, or to find out the secret of their fascination, or whether it was simply that they appealed to your artistic sense—as being something finer than you had ever seen before. They were heavily fringed at top and bottom, and so were in shadow p. 131 except when she raised them toward the light. Her complexion was pale, her hair light and fluffy; her brows and lashes were several shades darker than the hair. Her hands were lovely. Her dress was of course white, or cream, of some soft, clinging material; and she wore a bunch of blue flowers in her belt, slightly wilted.

There is this difference in women: some produce an effect simply, and others make a clear-cut, cameo-like impression upon the mind. Ariadne was of the latter sort. Whatever she appropriated, though but a tiny blossom, seemed immediately to proclaim its ownership and to swear its allegiance to her. From the moment I first saw her there, the blue flowers in her belt gave her, in my mind, the supreme title to all of their kind. I could never bear to see another woman wear the same variety,—and I liked them best when they were a little wilted! Her belongings suggested herself so vividly that if one came unexpectedly upon a fan, a book, a garment of hers, he was affected as by a presence.

I soon understood why it was that my eyes sought her face so persistently, drawn by a power infinitely greater than the mere power of beauty; it was due to the law of moral gravitation,—that by which men are attracted to a leader, through intuitive perception of a quality in him round which their own energies may nucleate. We all recognize the need of a centre, of a rallying-point,—save perhaps the few eccentrics, detached particles who have lost their place in the general order, makers of chaos and disturbers of peace.

It is this power which constitutes one of the chief qualifications of a teacher in Lunismar, because it rests upon a fact universally believed in,—spiritual royalty; an august force which cannot be ignored, and is never ridiculed—as Galileo was ridiculed, and punished, for his wisdom; because there ignorance p. 132 and prejudice do not exist, and the superstition which planted the martyr's stake has never been known.

Ariadne said that she had been up in the observatory, and that there were indications of an approaching storm.

"I hope it may be a fine one!" exclaimed Clytia.

I thought this rather an extraordinary remark—coming from one of the sex whose formula is more likely to be, "I hope it will not be a severe one."

At that moment a man appeared in the doorway, the majesty of whose presence I certainly felt before my eyes fell upon him. Or it might have been the reflection I saw in the countenances of my two companions,—I stood with my back to the door, facing them,—which gave me the curious, awe-touched sensation.

I turned round, and Clytia immediately started forward. Ariadne exclaimed in an undertone, with an accent of peculiar sweetness,—a commingling of delight, and reverence, and caressing tenderness:

"Ah! the Master!"

Clytia took him by the hand and brought him to me, where I stood rooted to my place.

"Father, this is our friend," she said simply, without further ceremony of introduction. It was enough. He had come on purpose to see me, and therefore he knew who I was. As for him—one does not explain a king! The title by which Ariadne had called him did not at the moment raise an inquiry in my mind. I accepted it as the natural definition of the man. He was a man of kingly proportions, with eyes from which Clytia's had borrowed their limpid blackness. His glance had a wide compresiveness, and a swift, sure, loving insight.

He struck me as a man used to moving among multitudes, with his head above all, but his heart embracing all. p. 133

You may think it strange, but I was not abashed. Perfect love casteth out fear; and there was in this divine countenance—I may well call it divine!—the lambent light of a love so kindly and so tender, that fear, pride, vanity, egotism, even false modesty—our pet hypocrisy—surrendered without a protest.

I think I talked more than any one else, being delicately prompted to furnish some account of the world to which I belong, and stimulated by the profound interest with which the Master attended to every word that I said. But I received an equal amount of information myself,—usually in response to the questions with which I rounded up my periods, like this: We do so, and so, upon the Earth; how is it here? The replies threw an extraordinary light upon the social order and conditions there.

I naturally dwelt upon the salient characteristics of our people,—I mean, of course, the American people. I spoke of our enormous grasp of the commercial principle; of our manipulation of political and even social forces to great financial ends; of our easy acquisition of fortunes; of our tremendous push and energy, directed to the accumulation of wealth. And of our enthusiasms, and institutions; our religions and their antagonisms, and of the many other things in which we take pride.

And I learned that in Caskia there is no such thing as speculative enterprise. All business has an actual basis most discouraging to the adventurous spirit in search of sudden riches. There is no monetary skill worthy the dignified appellation of financial management,—and no use for that particular development of the talent of ingenuity.

All the systems involving the use of money conduct their affairs upon the simplest arithmetical rules in their simplest form; addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. There are banks, of course, for the mutual convenience of all, but there are no p. 134 magnificent delusions called "stocks;" no boards of trade, no bulls and bears, no "corners," no mobilizing of capital for any questionable purposes; no gambling houses; no pitfalls for unwary feet; and no mad fever of greed and scheming coursing through the veins of men and driving them to insanity and self-destruction. More than all, there are no fictitious values put upon fads and fancies of the hour,—nor even upon works of art. The Caskians are not easily deceived. An impostor is impossible. Because the people are instructed in the quality of things intellectual, and moral, and spiritual, as well as in things physical. They are as sure of the knowableness of art, as they are—and as we are—of the knowableness of science. Art is but refined science, and the principles are the same in both, but more delicately, and also more comprehensively, interpreted in the former than in the latter.

One thing more: there are no would-be impostors. The law operates no visible machinery against such crimes, should there be any. The Master explained it to me in this way:

"The Law is established in each individual conscience, and rests securely upon self-respect."

"Great heavens!" I cried, as the wonder of it broke upon my understanding, "and how many millions of years has it taken your race to attain to this perfection?"

"It is not perfection," he replied, "it only approximates perfection; we are yet in the beginning."

"Well, by the grace of God, you are on the right way!" said I. "I am familiar enough with the doctrines you live by, to know that it is the right way; they are the same that we have been taught, theoretically, for centuries, but, to tell the truth, I never believed they could be carried out literally, as you appear to carry them out. We are tolerably honest, as the word goes, but when honesty p. 135 shades off into these hair-splitting theories, why—we leave it to the preachers, and—women."

"Then you really have some among you who believe in the higher truths?" the Master said, and his brows went up a little in token of relief.—My picture of Earth-life must have seemed a terrible one to him!

"O, yes, indeed," said I, taking my cue from this. And I proceeded to give some character sketches of the grand men and women of Earth whose lives have been one long, heroic struggle for truth, and to whom a terrible death has often been the crowning triumph of their faith. I related to him briefly the history of America from its discovery four hundred years ago; and told him about the splendid material prosperity,—the enormous wealth, the extraordinary inventions, the great population, the unprecedented free-school system, and the progress in general education and culture,—of a country which had its birth but yesterday in a deadly struggle for freedom of conscience; and of our later, crueller war for freedom that was not for ourselves but for a despised race. I described the prodigious waves of public and private generosity that have swept millions of dollars into burned cities for their rebuilding, and tons of food into famine-stricken lands for the starving.

I told him of the coming together in fellowship of purpose, of the great masses, to face a common danger, or to meet a common necessity; and of the moral and intellectual giants who in outward appearance and in the seeming of their daily lives are not unlike their fellows, but to whom all eyes turn for help and strength in the hour of peril. But I did not at that time undertake any explanation of our religious creeds, for it somehow seemed to me that these would not count for much with a people who expressed their theology solely by putting into practice the p. 136 things they believed. I had the thought in mind though, and determined to exploit it later on. As I have said before, the Master listened with rapt attention, and when I had finished, he exclaimed,

"I am filled with amazement! a country yet so young, so far advanced toward Truth!"

He gave himself up to contemplation of the picture I had drawn, and in the depths of his eyes I seemed to see an inspired prophecy of my country's future grandeur.

Presently he rose and went to a window, and, with uplifted face, murmured in accents of the sublimest reverence that have ever touched my understanding, "O, God, All-Powerful!"

And a wonderful thing happened: the invocation was responded to by a voice that came to each of our souls as in a flame of fire, "Here am I." The velocity of worlds is not so swift as was our transition from the human to the divine.

But it was not an unusual thing, this supreme triumph of the spirit; it is what these people call "divine worship,"—a service which is never perfunctory, which is not ruled by time or place. One may worship alone, or two or three, or a multitude, it matters not to God, who only asks to be worshiped in spirit and in truth,—be the time Sabbath or mid-week, the place temple, or field, or closet.

A little later I remarked to the Master,—wishing to have a point cleared up, "You say there are no fictitious values put upon works of art; how do you mean?"

He replied, "Inasmuch as truth is always greater than human achievement—which at best may only approximate the truth,—the value of a work of art should be determined by its merit alone, and not by the artist's reputation, or any other remote influence,—p. 137of course I do not include particular objects consecrated by association or by time. But suppose a man paints a great picture, for which he receives a great price, and thereafter uses the fame he has won as speculating capital to enrich himself,—I beg the pardon of every artist for setting up the hideous hypothesis!—But to complete it: the moment a man does that, he loses his self-respect, which is about as bad as anything that can happen to him; it is moral suicide. And he has done a grievous wrong to art by lowering the high standard he himself helped to raise. But his crime is no greater than that of the name-worshipers, who, ignorantly, or insolently, set up false standards and scorn the real test of values. However, these important matters are not left entirely to individual consciences; artists, and so-called art-critics, are not the only judges of art. We have no mysterious sanctuaries for a privileged few; all may enter,—all are indeed made to enter, not by violence, but by the simple, natural means employed in all teaching. All will not hold the brush, or the pen, or the chisel; but from their earliest infancy our children are carefully taught to recognize the forms of truth in all art; the eye was made to see, the ear to hear, the mind to understand."

The visit was at an end. When he left us it was as though the sun had passed under a cloud.

Clytia went out with him, her arm lovingly linked in his; and I turned to Ariadne. "Tell me," I said, "why is he called Master? Is it a formal title, or was it bestowed in recognition of the quality of the man?"

"Both," she answered. "No man receives the title who has not the 'quality.' But it is in one way perfunctory; it is the distinguishing title of a teacher of the highest rank."

"And what are teachers of the highest rank, presidents of colleges?" I asked. p. 138

"O, no," she replied with a smile, "they are not necessarily teachers of schools—old and young alike are their pupils. They are those who have advanced the farthest in all the paths of knowledge, especially the moral and the spiritual."

"I understand," said I; "they are your priests, ministers, pastors,—your Doctors of Divinity."

"Perhaps," she returned, doubtfully; our terminology was not always clear to those people.

"Usually," she went on, "they begin with teaching in the schools,—as a kind of apprenticeship. But, naturally, they rise; there is that same quality in them which forces great poets and painters to high positions in their respective fields."

"Then they rank with geniuses!" I exclaimed, and the mystery of the man in whose grand company I had spent the past hour was solved.

Ariadne looked at me as though surprised that I should have been ignorant of so natural and patent a fact.

"Excuse me!" said I, "but it is not always the case with us; any man may set up for a religious teacher who chooses, with or without preparation,—just as any one may set up for a poet, or a painter, or a composer of oratorio."

"Genius must be universal on your planet then," she returned innocently. I suppose that I might have let it pass, there was nobody to contradict any impressions I might be pleased to convey! but there is something in the atmosphere of Lunismar which compels the truth, good or bad.

"No," said I, "they do it by grace of their unexampled self-trust,—a quality much encouraged among us,—and because we do not legislate upon such matters. The boast of our country is liberty, and in some respects we fail to comprehend the glorious possession. Too often we mistake lawlessness for liberty. p. 139 The fine arts are our playthings, and each one follows his own fancy, like children with toys."

"Follows-his-own-fancy," she repeated, as one repeats a strange phrase, the meaning of which is obscure.

"By the way," I said, "you must be rather arbitrary here. Is a man liable to arrest or condign punishment, if he happens to burlesque any of the higher callings under the impression that he is a genius?"

She laughed, and I added, "I assure you that this is not an uncommon occurrence with us."

"It would be impossible here," she replied, "because no one could so mistake himself, though it seems egotistical for one of us to say so! but"—a curious expression touched her face, a questioning, doubting, puzzled look—"we are speaking honestly, are we not?"

I wondered if I had betrayed my American characteristic of hyperbole, and I smiled as I answered her:

"My countrymen are at my mercy, I know; but had I a thousand grudges against them, I beg you to believe that I am not so base as to take advantage of my unique opportunity to do them harm! We are a young people, as I said awhile ago, a very young people; and in many respects we have the innocent audacity of babes. Yes," I added, "I have told you the truth,—but not all of it; Earth, too, is pinnacled with great names,—of Masters, like yours, and poets, and painters, and scientists, and inventors. Even in the darkest ages there have been these points of illumination. What I chiefly wonder at here, is the universality of intelligence, of understanding. You are a teacher of children, pray tell me how you teach. How do you get such wonderful results? I can comprehend—a little—'what' you people are, I wish to know the 'how,' the 'why'." p. 140

"All our teaching," she said, "embraces the three-fold nature. The physical comes first of course, for you cannot reach the higher faculties through barriers of physical pain and sickness, hunger and cold. The child must have a good body, and to this end he is taught the laws that govern his body, through careful and attentive observance of cause and effect. And almost immediately, he begins to have fascinating glimpses of similar laws operating upon a higher than the physical plane. Children have boundless curiosity, you know, and this makes the teacher's work easy and delightful,—for we all love to tell a piece of news! Through this faculty, the desire to know, you can lead a child in whatever paths you choose. You can almost make him what you choose. A little experience teaches a child that every act brings consequences, good or bad; but he need not get all his knowledge by experience, that is too costly. The reasoning faculty must be aroused, and then the conscience,—which is to the soul what the sensatory nerves are to the body. But the conscience is a latent faculty, and here comes in the teacher's most delicate and important work. Conscience is quite dependent upon the intellect; we must know what is right and what is wrong, otherwise conscience must stagger blindly."

"Yes, I know," I interrupted, "the consciences of some very good people in our world have burned witches at the stake." "Horrible!" she said with a shudder.

She continued: "This, then, is the basis. We try, through that simple law of cause and effect, which no power can set aside, to supply each child with a safe, sure motive for conduct that will serve him through life, as well in his secret thought as in outward act. No one with this principle well-grounded in him will ever seek to throw the blame of his misdeeds upon another. We teach the relative value of repentance; that though it cannot p. 141 avert or annul the effects of wrong-doing, it may serve to prevent repetition of the wrong."

"Do you punish offenders?" I asked.

She smiled. "Punishment for error is like treating symptoms instead of the disease which produced them, is it not?—relief for the present, but no help for the future. Punishment, and even criticism, are dangerous weapons, to be used, if at all, with a tact and skill that make one tremble to think of! They are too apt to destroy freedom of intercourse between teacher and pupil. Unjust criticism, especially, shuts the teacher from an opportunity to widen the pupil's knowledge. Too often our criticisms are barriers which we throw about ourselves, shutting out affection and confidence; and then we wonder why friends and family are sealed books to us!"

"That is a fact," I assented, heartily, "and no one can keep to his highest level is he is surrounded by an atmosphere of coldness and censure. Even Christ, our Great Teacher, affirmed that he could not do his work in certain localities because of prevailing unbelief."

"There is one thing which it is difficult to learn," went on Ariadne, "discrimination, the fitness of things. I may not do that which is proper for another to do,—why? Because in each individual consciousness is a special and peculiar law of destiny upon which rests the burden of personal responsibility. It is this law of the individual that makes it an effrontery for any one to constitute himself the chancellor of another's conscience, or to sit in judgment upon any act which does not fall under the condemnation of the common law. It is given to each of us to create a world,—within ourselves and round about us,—each unlike all the others, though conforming to the universal principles of right, as poets, however original, conform to the universal principles p. 142 of language. We have choice—let me give you a paradox!—every one may have first choice of inexhaustible material in infinite variety. But how to choose!"

I quoted Milton's lines:

"He that has light within his own clear breast,
 May sit in the center and enjoy bright day;
 But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts,
 Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
 Himself is his own dungeon."

She thanked me with a fine smile.

Clytia had come in a few moments before, but her entrance had been such that it had caused no disturbing vibrations in the current of sympathetic understanding upon which Ariadne and myself were launched.

Now, however, we came ashore as it were, and she greeted us as returned voyagers love to be greeted, with cordial welcome.

She informed us that dinner was ready, and I was alarmed lest we might have delayed that important function.

The children had disappeared for the day, having already had their dinner in the nursery under the supervision of their mother.

Calypso had invited in his friend Fides. He was a man of powerful frame, and strong, fine physiognomy; with a mind as virile as the former, and as clear-cut as the latter. The woman who had created the dinner—I do not know of a better word—also sat at table with us, and contributed many a gem to the thought of the hour. Thought may seem an odd word to use in connection with a dinner conversation,—unless it is a 'toast' dinner! but even in their gayest and lightest moods these people are p. 143 never thoughtless. Their minds instead of being lumbering machinery requiring much force and preparation to put in motion, are set upon the daintiest and most delicate wheels. Their mental equipment corresponds with the astonishing mechanical contrivances for overcoming friction in the physical world. And this exquisite machinery is applied in exactly the same ways,—sometimes for utility, and sometimes for simple enjoyment.

Ariadne's prediction had been correct, the storm-king was mustering his forces round the mountain-tops, and the Eudosa was answering the challenge from the valley.

After dinner we went up into the observatory, and from thence passed out onto the balcony, thrilled by the same sense of delightful expectancy you see in the unennuied eyes of Youth, waiting for the curtain to go up at a play. All save myself had of course seen thunder-storms in Lunismar, but none were blasé. There was eagerness in every face.

We took our station at a point which gave us the best view of the mountains, and saw the lightning cut their cloud-enwrapped sides with flaming swords, and thrust gleaming spears down into the darkling valley, as if in furious spite at the blackness which had gathered everywhere. For the sun had sunk behind a wall as dense as night and left the world to its fate. Before the rain began to fall there was an appalling stillness, which even the angry mutterings of the Eudosa could not overcome. And then, as though the heavens had marshaled all their strength for one tremendous assault, the thunder broke forth. I have little physical timidity, but the shock struck me into a pose as rigid as death.

The others were only profoundly impressed, spiritually alive to the majesty of the performance.

That first explosion was but the prelude to the mighty piece played before us, around us, at our feet, and overhead. p. 144

Earth has been spared the awfulness—(without destruction)—and has missed the glory of such a storm as this.

But the grandest part was yet to come. The rain lasted perhaps twenty minutes, and then a slight rent was made in the thick and sombre curtain that covered the face of the heavens, and a single long shaft of light touched the frozen point of the Spear and turned its crystal and its snow to gold. The rest of the mountain was still swathed in cloud. A moment more, and a superb rainbow, and another, and yet another, were flung upon the shoulder of the Spear, below the glittering finger. The rent in the curtain grew wider, and beyond, all the splendors of colors were blazoned upon the shimmering draperies that closed about and slowly vanished with the sun.

We sat in silence for a little time. I happened to be near Fides, and I presently turned to him and said:

"That was a most extraordinary manifestation of the Almighty's power!"

He looked at me but did not reply.

Ariadne, who had heard my remark, exclaimed laughingly:

"Fides thinks the opening of a flower is a far more wonderful manifestation than the stirring up of the elements!"

In the midst of the storm I had discovered the Master standing at the farther end of the balcony, and beside him a tall, slender woman with thick, white hair, whom I rightly took to be his wife. I was presented to her shortly, and the mental comment I made at the moment, I never afterward reversed,—"She is worthy to be the Master's wife!"

Although the rain had ceased, the sky was a blank, as night settled upon the world. Not a star shone. But it was cool and pleasant, and we sat and talked for a couple of hours. Suddenly, a band of music on the terrace below silenced our voices. It was p. 145 most peculiar music: now it was tone-pictures thrown upon the dark background of shadows; and now it was a dance of sprites; and now a whispered confidence in the ear. It made no attempt to arouse the emotions, to produce either sadness or exaltation. It was a mere frolic of music. When it was over, I went down stairs, with the others, humming an inaudible tune, as though I had been to the opera.

Next: Chapter 11. A Comparison