Unveiling a Parallel, by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant , at sacred-texts.com
"Work out your own salvation."ST. PAUL.
I HAD a feeling, when I retired to my room that night, as if years lay between me and the portion of my life which I had spent in Paleveria. But across the wide gulf my soul embraced Severnius. All that was beautiful, and lovable, and noble in that far-off country centered in him, as light centres in a star.
But of Elodia I could not think without pain. I even felt a kind of helpless rage mingling with the pain,remembering that it was simply the brutality of the social system under which she had been reared, that had stamped so hideous a brand upon a character so fair. I contrasted her in my mind with the women asleep in the rooms about me, whose thoughts were as pure as the thoughts of a child. Had she been born here, I reflected, she would have been like Clytia, like Ariadne. And oh! the pity of it, that she had not! p. 147
I was restless, wakeful, miserable, thinking of her; remembering her wit, her intelligence, her power; remembering how charming she was, how magnetic, and alas! how faulty!
She gave delight to all about her, and touched all life with color. But she was like a magnificent bouquet culled from the gardens of wisdom and beauty; a thing of but temporary value, whose fragrance must soon be scattered, whose glory must soon pass away.
Ariadne was the white and slender lily, slowly unfolding petal after petal in obedience to the law of its own inner growth. Should the blossom be torn asunder its perfume would rise as incense about its destroyer, and from the life hidden at its root would come forth more perfect blossoms and more delicate fragrance.
I had arrived at this estimate of her character by a process more unerring and far swifter than reason. You might call it spiritual telegraphy. The thought of her not only restored but immeasurably increased my faith in woman; and I fell asleep at last soothed and comforted.
I awoke in the morning to the sound of singing. It was Ariadne's voice, and she was touching the strings of a harp. All Caskians sing, and all are taught to play upon at least one musical instrument. Every household is an orchestra.
Ariadne's voice was exceptionally finewhere all voices were excellent. Its quality was singularly bird-like; sometimes it was the joyous note of the lark, and again it was the tenderly sweet, and passionately sad, dropping-song of the mocking-bird.
When I looked out of my window, the sun was just silvering the point of the Spear, and light wreaths of mist were lifting from the valleys. I saw the Master, staff in hand, going up toward the mountains, and Fides was coming across the hills. p. 148
I had wondered, when I saw the Master and his wife on the balcony the night before, how they came to be there at such an hour on such a night. I took the first opportunity to find out. The only way to find out about people's affairs in Caskia, is by asking questions, or, by observationwhich takes longer. They speak with their lives instead of their tongues, concerning so many things that other people are wordy about. They are quite devoid of theories. But they are charmingly willing to impart what one wishes to know.
I learned that Clytia's parents lived within a stone's throw of her house on one side, and Calypso's grandparents at about the same distance on the other. And I also learned that it was an arrangement universally practiced; the clustering together of families, in order that the young might always be near at hand to support, and protect, and to smooth the pathway of the old. Certain savage races upon the Earth abandon the aged to starvation and death; certain other races, not savage, abandon them to a loneliness that is only less cruel. But these extraordinarily just people repay to the helplessness of age, the tenderness and care, the loving sympathy, which they themselves received in the helplessness of infancy.
The grandparents happened to be away from home, and I did not meet them for some days.
On that first morning we had Clytia's parents to breakfast. Immediately after breakfast the circle broke up. It was Clytia's morning to visit and assist in the school which her little ones attended; Ariadne started off to her work, with a fresh cluster of the delicious blue flowers in her belt; and I had the choice of visiting the steel-works with Calypso, or taking a trip to Lake Eudosa, on foot, with the Master. I could hardly conceal the delight with which I decided in favor of the latter. We set off at p. 149 once, and what a walk it was! A little way through the city, and then across a strip of lush green meadow, starred with daisies, thence into sweet-smelling woods, and then down, down, down, along the rocky edge of the canyon, past the deafening waterfalls to the wonderful Lake!
We passed, on our way through the city, a large, fine structure which, upon inquiry, I found to be the place where the Master "taught" on the Sabbath day.
"Do you wish to look in?" he asked, and we turned back and entered. The interior was beautiful and vast, capacious enough to seat several thousand people; and every Sunday it was filled.
I thought it a good opportunity for finding out something about the religion of this people, and I began by asking:
"Are there any divisions in your Church,different denominations, I mean?"
He seemed unable to comprehend me, and I was obliged to enter into an explanation, which I made as simple as possible, of course, relative to the curse of Adam and the plan of redemption. In order that he might understand the importance attaching to our creeds, I told him of the fierce, sanguinary struggles of past ages, and the grave controversies of modern times, pertaining to certain dogmas and tenets,as to whether they were essential, or nonessential to salvation.
"Salvation from what?" he asked.
"Why, from sin."
"But how? We know only one way to be saved from sin."
"And what is that?" I inquired.
"Not to sin."
"But that is impossible!" I rejoined, feeling that he was trifling with the subject. Though that was unlike him. p. 150
"Yes, it is impossible," he replied, gravely. "God did not make us perfect. He left us something to do for ourselves."
"That is heretical," said I. "Don't you believe in the Fall of Man?"
"No, I think I believe in the Rise of Man," he answered, smiling.
"O, I keep forgetting," I exclaimed, "that I am on another planet!"
"And that this planet has different relations with God from what your planet has?" returned he. "I cannot think so, sir; it is altogether a new idea to me, andpardon me!an illogical one. We belong to the same system, and why should not the people of Mars have the sentence for sin revoked, as well as the people of Earth? Why should not we have been provided with an intercessor? But tell me, is it really so?do you upon the Earth not suffer the consequences of your acts?"
"Why, certainly we do," said I; "while we live. The plan of salvation has reference to the life after death."
He dropped his eyes to the ground.
"You believe in that life, do you not?" I asked.
"Believe in it!"he looked up, amazed. "All life is eternal; as long as God lives, we shall live."
A little later he said:
"You spoke of the fall of man,what did you mean?"
"That Man was created a perfect being, but through sin became imperfect, so that God could not take him back to Himself,save by redemption."
"And God sent His Only Son to the Earth, you say, to redeem your race from the consequences of their own acts?"
"So we believe," said I.
After another brief silence, he remarked:
"Man did not begin his life upon this planet in perfection." p. 151
At this moment we passed a beautiful garden, in which there was an infinite profusion of flowers in infinite variety.
"Look at those roses!" he exclaimed; "God planted the species, a crude and simple plant, and turned it over to man to do what he might with it; and in the same way he placed man himself here,to perfect himself if he would. I am not jealous of God, nor envious of you; but just why He should have arranged to spare you all this labor, and commanded us to work out our own salvation, I cannot comprehend."
It struck me as a remarkable coincidence that he should have used the very words of one of our own greatest logicians.
A longer silence followed. The Master walked with his head inclined, in the attitude of profound thought. At last he drew a deep breath and looked up, relaxing his brows.
"It may be prodigiously presumptuous," he said, "but I am inclined to think there has been a mistake somewhere." "How, a mistake?" I asked.
He paid no heed to the question, but said: "Tell me the story,tell me the exact words, if you can, of this Great Teacher whom you believe to be the Son of God?"
I gave a brief outline of the Saviour's life and death, and it was a gratification to mebecause it seemed, in some sort, an acknowledgment, or concession to my interpretation,to see that he was profoundly affected.
"Oh!" he cried,his hands were clenched and his body writhed as with the actual sufferings of the Man of Sorrows,"that a race of men should have been brought through such awful tribulation to see God! Why could they not accept the truth from his lips?"
"Because they would not. They kept crying 'Give us a sign,' and he gave himself to death."
I grouped together as many of the words of Christ as I could p. 152 recall, and I was surprised, not only that his memory kept its grasp on them all, but that he was able to see at once their innermost meaning. It was as if he dissolved them in the wonderful alembic of his understanding, and instantly restored them in crystals of pure truth, divested alike of mysticism and remote significance. He took them up, one by one, and held them to the light, as one holds precious gems. He knew them, recognized them, and appraised them with the delight, and comprehensiveness, and the critical judgment of a connoisseur of jewels.
"You believe that Christ came into your world," he said, "that you 'might have life.' That is, he came to teach you that the life of the soul, and not the body, is the real life. He died 'that you might live,' but it was not the mere fact of his death that assured your life. He was willing to give up his life in pledge of the truth of what he taught, that you might believe that truth, and act upon that belief, and so gain life. He taught only the truth,his soul was a fountain of truth. Hence, when he said, Suffer the little children to come unto me, it was as though he said, Teach your children the truths I have taught you. And when he cried in the tenderness of his great and yearning love, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, he meant,oh! you cannot doubt it, my friend,he meant, Come, give up your strifes, and hatreds, your greeds, and vanities, and selfishness, and the endless weariness of your pomps and shows; come to me and learn how to live, and where to find peace, and contentment. 'A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.' This was the 'easy yoke,' and the 'light burden,' which your Christ offered to you in place of the tyranny of sin. 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.' There is nothing finer than that,there is no law above that! We Caskians have been trying to work upon that principle for p. 153 thousands of years. It is all that there is of religion, save the spiritual perception of abstract truths which we may conceive of, more or less clearly, as attributes of God. Your Great Teacher explained to you that God is a spirit, and should be worshiped in spirit and in truth. Hence we may worship Him where and when we will. Worship is not a ceremony, but profound contemplation of the infinite wisdom, and infinite power, and the infinite love of God. The outdoor world,here, where we stand now, with the marvelous sky above us, the clouds, the sun; this mighty cataract before us; and all the teeming life, the beauty, the fragrance, the song,is the best place of all. I pity the man who lacks the faculty of worship! it means that though he may have eyes he sees not, and ears he hears not."
"Do you believe in temples of worship?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied, "I believe in them; for though walls and stained windows shut out the physical glories of the world, they do not blind the eyes of the spirit. And if there is one in the pulpit who has absorbed enough of the attributes of God into his soul to stand as an interpreter to the people, it is better than waiting outside. Then, too, there is grandeur in the coming together of a multitude to worship in oneness of spirit. And all things are better when shared with others. I believe that art should bring its best treasures to adorn the temples of worship, and that music should voice this supreme adoration. But in this matter, we should be careful not to limit God in point of locality. What does the saying mean, 'I asked for bread, and ye gave me a stone?' I think it might mean, for one thing, 'I asked where to find God, and you pointed to a building.' The finite mind is prone to worship its own creations of God. There are ignorant races upon this planet,perhaps also upon yours,who dimly recognize Deity in this way; they bring the best they have of skill in handiwork, p. 154 to the making of a pitiful image to represent God; and then, forgetting the motive, they bow down to the image. We call that idolatry. But it is hard even for the enlightened to avoid this sin."
He paused a moment and then went on:
"I cannot comprehend the importance you seem to place upon the forms and symbols, nor in what way they relate to religion, but they may have some temporary value, I can hardly judge of that. Baptism, you say, is a token and a symbol, but do a people so far advanced in intelligence and perception, still require tokens and symbols? And can you not, even yet, separate the spiritual meaning of Christ's words from their literal meaning? You worship the manthe God, if you will,instead of that for which he stood. He himself was a symbol, he stood for the things he wished to teach. 'I am the truth," 'I am the life.' Do you not see that he meant, 'I am the exponent of truth, I teach you how to live; hearken unto me.' In those days in which he lived, perhaps, language was still word-pictures, and the people whom he taught could not grasp the abstract, hence he used the more forcible style, the concrete. He could not have made this clearer, than in those remarkable words, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
"I know," I replied, as he paused for some response from me; "my intellect accepts your interpretation of these things, but this symbolic religion of ours is ingrained in our very consciences, so that neglect of the outward forms of christianity seems almost worse than actual sin."
"And it will continue to be so," he said, "until you learn to practice the truth for truth's sake,until you love your neighbornot only because Christ commanded it, but because the principle
of love is 'ingrained in your consciences.' As for belonging to a church, I can only conceive of that in the social sense, for every soul that aspires upward belongs to Christ's church universal. They are the lambs of his flock, the objects of his tenderest care. But I can see how a great number of religious societies, or organizations, are possible, as corresponding with the requirements of different groups of people."
"Yes," I said, glad of this admission, "and these societies are all aiming at the same thing that you teach,the brotherhood of man. They clothe the poor, they look after the sick, they send missionaries to the heathen, they preach morality and temperance,all, in His Name, because, to tell the truth, they cannot conceive of any virtue disassociated from the man, Jesus. Jesus is the great leader of the spiritual forces marshaled under the banners of truth upon the Earth. In all their good works, which are so great and so many, good christians give Christ the glory, because, but for him, they would not have had the Truth, the Life,the world was so dark, so ignorant. All the ancient civilizations upon the Earth,and some of them were magnificent!have perished, because they did not possess this truth and this spiritual life which Christ taught. There was a great deal of knowledge, but not love; there was a great deal of philosophy, but it was cold. There was mysticism, but it did not satisfy. Do you wonder, sir, that a world should love the man who brought love into that world,who brought peace, good-will, to men?"
"No, no," said the Master, "I do not wonder. It is grand, sublime! And he gave his body to be destroyed by his persecutors, in order to prove to the world that there is a life higher than the physical, and indestructible,and that physical death has no other agony than physical pain. Ah, I see, I understand, and I am not surprised that you call this man your redeemer! I think, my friend," p. 156 he added, "that you have now a civilization upon the Earth, which will not perish!"
After a moment, he remarked, turning to me with a smile, "We are not so far apart as we thought we were, when we first started out, are we?"
"No," said I, "the only wonder to me is, that you should have been in possession, from the beginning, of the same truths that were revealed to us only a few centuries ago, through, as we have been taught to believe, special Divine Favor."
"Say, rather, Infinite Divine Love," he returned; "then we shall indeed stand upon the same plane, all alike, children of God."
As we continued our walk, his mind continued to dwell upon the teachings of Christ, and he sought to make clear to me one thing after another.
"Pray without ceasing," he repeated, reflectively. "Well, now, it would be impossible to take that literally; the literal meaning of prayer is verbal petition. The real meaning is, the sincere desire of the soul. You are commanded to pray in secret, and God will reward you openly. Put the two together and you have this: Desire constantly, within your secret soul, to learn and to practice the truth; and your open reward shall be the countless blessings which are attracted to the perfect life, the inner life. 'Ask whatsoever you will, in my name, and it shall be granted you.' That is, 'Ask in the name of truth and love.' Shall you pray for a personal blessing or favor which might mean disaster or injury to another? Prayer is the desire and effort of the soul to keep in harmony with God's great laws of the universe."
As it had been in Thursia, so it was here; people came to see me from all parts, and there were some remarkable companies in Clytia's parlors! Usually they were spontaneous gatherings, p. 157 evening parties being often made up with little or no premeditation. There was music always, in great variety, and of the most delightful and elevated character,singing, and many kinds of bands. And sometimes there was dancing,not of the kind which awakened in De Quincey's soul, "the very grandest form of passionate sadness,"but of a kind that made me wish I had been the inventor of the phrase, "poetry of motion," so that I could have used it here, fresh and unhackneyed. In all, there was no more voluptuousness than in the frolic of children. Conversation might beand often wasas light as the dance of butterflies, but it was liable at any moment to rise, upon a hint, or a suggestion, to the most sublimated regions of thought,for these people do not leave their minds at home when they go into society. And here, in society, I saw the workings of the principle of brotherly love, in a strikingly beautiful aspect. There was no disposition on the part of any one to outdo another; rather there seemed to be a general conspiracy to make each one rise to his best. The spirit of criticism was absent, and the spirit of petty jealousy. The women without exception were dressed with exquisite taste, because this is a part of their culture. And every woman was beautiful, for loving eyes approved her; and every man was noble, for no one doubted him.
If the sky was clear, a portion of each evening was spent in the observatory, or out upon the balcony, as the company chose, and the great telescope was always in requisition, and always pointed to the Earth!if the Earth was in sight.
The last evening I spent in Lunismar was such a one as I have described. Ariadne and I happened to be standing together, and alone, in a place upon the balcony which commanded a view of our world. It was particularly clear and brilliant that night, and you may imagine with what feelings I contemplated it, being p. 158 about to return to it! We had been silent for some little time, when she turned her eyes to methose wonderful eyes!and said, a little sadly, I thought:
"I shall never look upon Earth again, without happy memories of your brief visit among us."
A strange impulse seized me, and I caught her hands and held them fast in mine. "And I, O, Ariadne! when I return to Earth again, and lift my eyes toward heaven, it will not be Mars that I shall see, but onlyAriadne!"
A strange light suddenly flashed over her face and into her eyes as she raised them to mine, and in their clear depths was revealed to me the supreme law of the universe, the law of life, the law of love. In a voice tremulous with emotionsad, but not hopelessshe murmured:
"And I, also, shall forget my studies in the starry fields of space to watch for your far-distant planetthe Earthwhich shall forever touch all others with its glory."
And there, under the stars, with the plaintive music of the Eudosa in our ears, and seeing dimly through the darkness the white finger of the snowy peaks pointing upward, we looked into each other's eyes and"I saw a new heaven and a new earth."