THE CELESTIAL OPENED
THE first physical manifestation received by me consisted in my wrist being
grasped by some invisible agency, while I was using my typewriter, and forcibly
guided over the keys, the words being presented simultaneously to my mind, but
only as they were being written. For the greater part of a page I sat and
watched while this continued, freely yielding my hand to the influence. Not only
was the grasp firm and strong, but the movement differed in character from my
own, very much as does the fingering on an organ differ from that on a
pianoforte. “This,” I said to myself, “must be what is meant by being a medium.”
It was the first disclosure to me of the existence of unseen intelligences able
to operate directly on the organism, and independently of the mind of the
individual. Not that my consciousness was set aside. I was in full possession of that; I was fully
aware of what was being written during the writing, but I did not originate it;
I accompanied it only. The passage thus written was the first half of the
Soon after this, while sitting in my room one day and pondering the method of the production of matter and organism, being the while in a very interior state, I found myself gazing on a mass, resembling a thin grey cloud, of some tenuous material, which
revolved on its axis as if under impulsion of some immanent and central force, the immediate place of which was luminous. At the centre the movement was comparatively slow, but it quickened towards the circumference, and in proportion as it quickened the mass became more dense and opaque, until at the very edge it seemed to solidify and become converted into matter, through the rapidity of the motion among its particles. It was only long afterwards that I fully comprehended and recognised the value of this experience. This was when we were told that all things are made of the Divine Substance, which is the Divine Idea, and that matter is spirit made manifest by motion. Coagulating exteriorly, it becomes in the outermost matter. So that “by the gathering together,” or coagulation, “of her waters, the dry land” – earth, body, matter – “appears,” as said in Genesis I.
The experience I am about to relate was not only remarkable in itself, it was remarkable as striking what proved to be the keynote of all our subsequent work, the doctrine, namely, of the substantial identity of God and man. It had suddenly flashed on my mind as a necessary and self-evident truth, the contrary of which was absurd; and I seated myself at my writing-table to give it expression for my book [England and Islam]. The hour was past midnight, and all without was quiet, and my abstraction was unbroken and complete, and so profound that I wrote some four pages without, as it seemed to me, drawing breath; while the matter seemed to flow not merely from but through me, without conscious mental effort of my own. I saw so clearly that I had no need to think. In the course of the writing I became distinctly aware of a presence as of someone bending over me from behind, and actively engaged in blending with and reinforcing my mind. Being unwilling to risk an interruption to the flow of my thought, I resisted the impulse to look up and ascertain who or what it was. Of alarm at so unlooked-for a presence I had not a particle. Be it whom it might, the accord between us was as perfect as if it had been merely a projection of my own higher self. I had never heard of higher selves in those days, or of the possibility of such a phenomenon; but the idea of such an explanation occurred to me then and there. But this solution of the problem of my visitant’s personality was presently dissipated by the event.
The passage I had been writing concluded with these words: –
“The perfect man of any race is no other than the perfect expression in the flesh of all the essential characteristics of the soul of that race. Escaping the limitations of the individual man, such an one represents the soul of his people. Escaping the limitations of the individual people, he represents the soul of all peoples, or Humanity. Escaping the limitations of humanity, but still preserving its essential characteristics, he represents the soul of the system of which the earth is but an individual member. And, finally, after climbing many a further step of the infinite ladder of existence, and escaping the limitations of all systems whatever, he represents – nay, finds that he is – the soul of the universe, even God Himself, once ‘manifested in the flesh,’ and now ‘perfected through suffering,’ ‘purified, sanctified, redeemed, justified, glorified,’ ‘crowned with honour and glory,’ and ‘seated for ever at the right hand of the Father,’ ‘one with God,’ even God Himself.”
At this moment – my mind being so wholly preoccupied with the utterance, and all that I saw it involved, as to make me oblivious of all else – the presence I had felt bending over me darted itself into me just below the cerebral bulb at the back of my neck, the sensation being that of a slight tap, as of a finger-touch; and then in a voice full, rich, firm, measured, and so strong that it resounded through the room, exclaimed, in a tone indicative of high satisfaction, “At last I have found a man through whom I can speak!”
So powerful was the intonation that the tympana of my ears vibrated to the sound, palpably bulging outwards, showing that they had been struck on the inner side, and that the presence had actually projected itself into my larynx and spoken from within me, but without using my organs of speech. I was conscious of being in radiant health at the time, and was unable to detect any symptom of being otherwise. My thought, too, and observation were perfectly coherent and continuous, and I could discern no smallest pretext for distrust of the reality of the experience. And my delight and satisfaction, which were unbounded, found expression in the single utterance, “Then the ancients were right, and the Gods ARE!” so resistless was the conviction that only by a divinized being could the wisdom and power be manifested of the presence of which I was conscious. The words, “At last I have found a man,” were incompatible with the theory of its being an objectivation of my own particular
ego, and, moreover, they indicated the speaker as one high in authority over the race.
Nothing more passed on that occasion; but a vivid impression was left with me that my visitant belonged to the order of spirits called “Planetaries.” But as I had then no knowledge of such beings, I put aside the question of his identity for the solution which I trusted would come of further enlightenment. This came in due time, as will be seen, and with the result of confirming the impression given me at the time.
Meanwhile I found, by searching among the old Hermetists
with whom, and the existence of the science of Occultism, I now for the first
time became acquainted, and of whose writings there are many in the
Of the scientific possibility of the experience, it required but a very small amount of thinking to convince me. For all that it was requisite to do was to reflect that there are no scientific grounds whatever for assigning limits to the tenuity of the substance which may serve as a vehicle for consciousness, intelligence, and force. And in this I was confirmed by finding that the Hermetists have always recognised matter as subsisting under two modes, the fixed, in which it is appreciable by the senses, and the volatile, in which it eludes the senses.
Some years later, when I had made some acquaintance with the Occultism of the Hindoos, I found that they recognise the existence of an order of spirits whom they call Nirmâna-kâyas. These are men who have, while in the earth-life, advanced so far in the elaboration of their inner principles as to be able after death to remain at will within hail of the earth, in order to influence and instruct persons who, while still in the body, are deserving and accessible, they themselves voluntarily postponing their ascent towards Nirvâna for that purpose.
The same voice accosted me again soon afterwards, but from without, as will be
told in its place. It was in connection with a remarkable and prophetic dream
received by my colleague [in November 1876] just after her return to
this dream was given in the book [
On bringing it to me on the morning of its occurrence, she exclaimed as she entered the room, “Oh, I have had such a terrific dream! It has quite shattered me. And I have brought it for you to try and find its meaning, if it has one. I wrote it down the moment I was able.” Her appearance fully confirmed her statement. It alarmed me. This is the account: –
“I was visited last night by a dream of so strange and vivid a kind that I felt impelled to communicate it to you, not only to relieve my own mind of the oppression which the recollection of it causes me, but also to give you an opportunity of finding the meaning, which I am still far too much shaken and terrified to seek for myself.
“It seemed to me that you and I were two of a vast company of men and women, upon all of whom, with the exception of myself – for I was there voluntarily – sentence of death had been passed. I was sensible of the knowledge – how obtained I know not – that this terrible doom had been pronounced by the official agents of some new reign of terror. Certain I was that none of the party had really been guilty of any crime deserving of death; but that the penalty had been incurred through their connection with some regime, political, social, or religious, which was doomed to utter destruction. It became known among us that the sentence was about to be carried out on a colossal scale; but we remained in absolute ignorance as to the place and method of the intended execution. Thus far my dream gave me no intimation of the horrible scene which next burst on me, – a scene which strained to their utmost tension every sense of sight, hearing, and touch in a manner unprecedented in any dream I have previously had.
“It was night, dark and starless, and I found myself, together with the whole company of doomed men and women who knew that they were soon to die, but not how or where, in a railway train hurrying through the darkness to some unknown destination. I sat in a carriage quite at the rear end of the train, in a comer seat, and was leaning out of the open window, peering into the darkness, when, suddenly, a voice, which seemed to speak out of the air, said to me in a low, distinct, intense tone, the mere recollection of which makes me shudder, – ‘The sentence is being carried out even now. You are all of you lost. Ahead of the train is a frightful precipice of monstrous height, and at its base beats a fathomless sea. The railway ends only with the abyss. Over that will the train hurl itself into annihilation. THERE IS NO ONE ON THE ENGINE!’
“At this I sprang from my seat in horror, and looked round at the
faces of the persons in the carriage with me. No one of them had spoken, or had heard those awful words. The lamplight from the dome of the carriage flickered on the forms about me. I looked from one to the other, but saw no sign of alarm given by any of them. Then again the voice out of the air spoke to me, – ‘There is but one way to be saved. You must leap out of the train!’
“In frantic haste I pushed open the carriage-door and stepped out on the footboard. The train was going at a terrific pace, swaying to and fro as with the passion of its speed; and the mighty wind of its passage beat my hair about my face and tore at my garments.
“Until this moment I had not thought of you, or even seemed conscious of your presence in the train. Holding tightly on to the rail by the carriage-door, I began to creep along the footboard towards the engine, hoping to find a chance of dropping safely down on the line. Hand over hand I passed along in this way from one carriage to another; and as I did so I saw by the light within each carriage that the passengers had no idea of the fate upon which they were being hurried. At length, in one of the compartments, I saw you. ‘Come out!’ I cried. ‘Come out! Save yourself! In another minute we shall be dashed to pieces!’
“You rose instantly, wrenched open the door, and stood beside me outside on the footboard. The rapidity at which we were going was now more fearful than ever. The train rocked as it fled onwards. The wind shrieked as we were carried through it. ‘Leap down!’ I cried to you. ‘Save yourself l It is certain death to stay here. Before us is an abyss; and there is no one on the engine!’
“At this you turned your face full upon me with a look of intense earnestness, and said, ‘No, we will not leap down; we will stop the train.’
“With these words you left me, and crept along the footboard towards the front of the train. Full of half-angry anxiety at what seemed to me a quixotic act, I followed. In one of the carriages we passed I saw my mother and eldest brother, unconscious as the rest. Presently we reached the last carriage, and saw by the lurid light of the furnace that the voice had spoken truly, and that there was no one on the engine.
“You continued to move onwards. ‘Impossible! Impossible!’ I cried. ‘It cannot be done. Oh, pray, come away!’
“Then you knelt upon the footboard, and said, ‘You are right. It cannot be done in that way; but we can save the train. Help me to get these irons asunder.’
“The engine was connected with the train by two great iron hooks and staples. By a tremendous effort, in making which I almost lost my balance, we unhooked the irons and detached the train; when, with a mighty leap as of some mad supernatural monster, the engine sped on its way alone, shooting back as it went a great flaming trail of sparks, and was lost in the darkness. We stood together on the footboard, watching in silence the gradual slackening of the speed. When at length the train had come to a standstill, we cried to the passengers, ‘Saved! Saved!’ And then, amid the confusion of opening the doors and descending, and eager talking, my dream ended, leaving me shattered and palpitating with the horror of it.”
The meaning was not for a moment doubtful to me. The passengers were the world of to-day, and the regime which was hurrying them to destruction was the Materialism which is fast sapping the very life of humanity by the rejection of the ideal and spiritual, to the suppression of every principle and sentiment that redeems and ennobles man. This was the precipice towards which the world was unconsciously hurrying – the extinction of humanity – under the impulsion of blind force, which Materialism alone recognises. And it is the stupidity of the materialistic hypothesis that was implied by the absence of any intelligent control. “There is no one on the engine!” No directing mind in the universe. And to us it had been given to see the danger, and to avert it before the final crash came. But not by stopping the engine. Nothing can save blind force from dashing itself over the precipice and perishing in the void of its negations. They, indeed, whom it is dragging with it to perdition can be saved. But only by being detached from it. And this was the mission assigned to us, and for which we had been associated together. It was not to save ourselves merely, it was to save others, even the world at large, at whatever risk to ourselves.
She listened silent but acquiescent, and when I had finished my exposition, remarked, “To one the dreaming of dreams, and to another the interpretation thereof. But the same spirit.”
Meanwhile our feeling was that we were living in “Bible times,” which in reality had never ceased, nor ever do cease, except for those who are devoid of the spiritual consciousness, and for these those times never begin and have no existence. The revelation is perpetual, and the power to receive it is natural to man, requiring no miracle. That he fails to receive it is through defect, not of constitution, but of condition, being self-induced by his habits of life and thought.
It was in reference to this dream that I was spoken to aloud the second time by the voice which had spoken within me.
I had determined to include an account of this vision in the book on which I was then engaged, England and Islam. And I was alone in my rooms, reading the proofs of it, my mind being occupied solely with the letterpress, until I came to the remark ascribed to me in the vision, as made in reply to her entreaty that I would jump out with her to save ourselves, “No, we will not leap down; we will stop the train.”
At this moment the voice which shortly before had said to me, “At last I have found a man through whom I can speak!” addressed me again, saying in a pleased and encouraging tone, as if the speaker had been following me in my reading, and desired to remove any doubts I might have of the reality of our mission – “Yes! Yes! I have trusted all to you!” This time he spoke from without me, but apparently quite close by. And among the impressions which at the same instant were flashed into my mind, was the impression, amounting to a conviction, that whatever might be the part assigned to others in the work of the new illumination in progress, and the restoration thereby to the world of the one true doctrine of existence, the exposition of its innermost and highest sphere, the head corner-stone of the pyramid of the system which is to make the humanity of the future, had been committed to us alone. And now, writing nearly twenty years later, I can truly say that this conviction has never for a moment been weakened, but, on the contrary, has gathered confirmation and strength with every successive accession of experience and knowledge, and while cognisant of and fully appreciating all that has taken place in the unfoldment of the world’s thought during the interval.
Among the things impressed most strongly on me in connection with the experience last related, was that, while the “You” comprised my colleague as well as myself, she, as a special instrument of the Gods, was a part, and that an essential part, of the trust with which I was charged.
Her enforced return to
The experience in question was as follows: – It was night, and I was alone and locked in my chambers, and was writing at full speed, lest it should escape me, an exposition of the place and
office of woman under the coming regeneration. And I was conscious of an exaltation of faculty such as might conceivably be the result of an enhancement of my own mind by junction with another and superior mind. I was even conscious, though in a far less degree than before, of an invisible presence. But I was too much engrossed with my idea to pay heed to persons, be they whom they might, human or divine, as well as anxious to take advantage of such assistance. I had clearly and vividly in mind all that I desired to say for several pages on. Then, suddenly and completely, like the stoppage of a stream in its flow through a tube by the quick turning of a tap, the current of my thought ceased, leaving my mind an utter blank as to what I had meant to say, and totally unable to recall the least idea of it. So palpable was its withdrawal, that it seemed to me as if it must still be hovering somewhere near me, and I looked up and impatiently exclaimed aloud to it, “Where are you?” At length, after ransacking my mind in vain, I turned to other work, for I was perfectly fresh, and the desertion had been in no way due to exhaustion, physical or mental. On taking note of the time of the disappearance, I found it was 11.30 precisely.
The next morning failed to bring my thought back to me as I had hoped it would
do; but it brought instead an unusually early visit from my colleague, who was –
as I have said – staying at
“Such a curious thing happened to me last night,” she began, on entering the room, “and I want to tell you of it and see if you can explain it. I had finished my day’s work, but though it was late I was not inclined to rest, for I was wakeful with a sense of irritation at the thought of what you are doing, and at my exclusion from any share in it. And I was feeling envious of your sex for the superior advantages you have over ours of doing great and useful work. As I sat by the fire thinking this, I suddenly found myself impelled to take a pencil and paper, and to write. I did so, and wrote with extreme rapidity, in a half-dreamy state, without any clear idea of what I was writing, but supposing it to be something expressive of my discontent. I had soon covered a page and a half of a large sheet with writing, different from my own, and it was quite unlike what was in my mind, as you will see.”
On perusing the paper I found that it was a continuation of my missing thought, taken up at the point where it had left me,
but translated to a higher plane, the expression also being similarly elevated in accordance both with the theme and the writer, having the exquisiteness so characteristic of her genius. To my inquiry as to the hour of the occurrence, she at once replied, “Half-past eleven exactly; for I was so struck by it that I took particular notice of the time.”
What I had written was as follows: –
“Those of us who, being men, refuse to accord to women the same freedom of evolution for their consciousness which we claim for ourselves, do so in consequence of a total misconception of the nature and functions both of Humanity and of Existence at large. The notion that men and women can by any possibility do each other’s work is utterly absurd. Whom God hath distinguished, none can confound. To do the same thing is not to do the same work; inasmuch as the spirit is more than the fact, and the spirit of man and of woman is different. While for the production of perfect results it is necessary that they work harmoniously together, it is necessary also that they fulfil separate functions in regard to that work.”
This was the point at which my thought had failed me, to be taken up by her at the same instant two miles away, without her knowing even that I contemplated treating that particular theme, as I had purposely reserved it until I should have completed the expression, hoping to give her a pleasant surprise, for it was one very near to her heart. This is her continuation of it. It will be seen that, besides complementing my thought, it responded remedially to her own mood: –
“In a true mission of redemption, in the proclamation of a gospel to save, it is
the man who must preach; it is the man who must stand forward among the people;
it is the man who, if need be, must die. But he is not alone. If his be the
glory of the full noontide, his day has been ushered in by a goddess.
world! Without thee He could not have been; but for thine impulse He could have worked no mighty work. This shall be the history of all time; it shall be the sign of the Christ. Mary shall feel; Christ shall speak. Hers the glory of setting His heart in action; hers the thrill of emotion to which His power shall respond. But for her He shall be powerless; but for her He shall be dumb; but for her He shall have no strength to smite, no hand to help. It is the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. The Christ, the true Prophet, is her Child, her gift to the world. ‘Woman, behold thy Son!’”
Such was the first intimation, and the manner thereof, given us of the truth
subsequently revealed in plenitude, – the presence in Scripture of a mystical
sense concealed within the apparent sense, as a kernel in its shell, which, and
not the literal sense, is the intended sense. As was later shown us in regard to
the story of the cursing of the fig-tree, that of the marriage in
This experience was a further demonstration to us of the reality and accessibility not merely of the world spiritual, but of the world celestial also. For the only explanation which would account for it was, that it was due to some spiritual being, extraneous to ourselves, who, after prompting me up to a certain point, had passed to her and inspired her with her part of the utterance. Nor could we credit any source short of the Church invisible with an interpretation so noble of the Scriptures of the Church visible.
Nevertheless, while ascribing it to an extraneous source, the results so closely resembled memory that even at this early stage of our initiation, and while still without the smallest conception of such an explanation being possible, I found myself speculating as to whether the modus might not consist in the uplifting of the perceptive point of the mind to some interior region of one’s own system where the knowledges already were which were thus obtained, – the function of the overshadowing influence being not to impart fresh knowledge, but to enable one to reach knowledge already possessed, or at least so to enhance faculty as to enable one to discern truths previously unrecognised.
The following is an account of an experience which seemed to me to belong to the former of these two categories, the impression being – as I wrote at the time – irresistible that either I had been present at the event concerned, or that it had been
reproduced and impressed on my consciousness by some one who had been present, and was transferring his memory to me. Though the former only of these two hypotheses was at all conceivable, as I did not see how the memory of one individual could be transferred to another.
Being seated at my writing-table, and meditating on the Gospel narrative, with a strange sense of being separated by only a narrow interval from a full knowledge of all that it implied, I found myself impelled to seek the precise idea intended to be conveyed by the story of the woman taken in adultery. No account that I had read of it had satisfied me, least of all that which was proposed in the Ecce Homo of Professor Seeley, a book then recent and enjoying a repute which filled me with a strong feeling of personal resentment. For his account, especially of the feelings excited in Jesus by the sight of the accused woman, revolted me by its ascription to Him of a sense of impropriety at once monkish and conventional, and of a limitation of charity altogether incompatible with the abounding sympathy which was the essence of his nature. It made Him that most odious of characters, a prude.
As I meditated, and in following my idea I passed into a state which, though highly interior, was not sufficiently interior for my purpose – for I wanted, so to speak, to see my idea – a voice, audible only to the inner hearing, yet quite distinct, said to me, “You have it within you. Seek for it.” Thus encouraged, I made a further effort at concentration, when – to my utter surprise, for I had no expectation or conception of such a thing – the whole scene of the incident appeared palpably before me, like a living picture in a camera obscura, so natural, minute, and distinct as to leave nothing to be desired, and, at the same time, utterly unlike any pictorial representation I had ever seen of it. Close before me, on my right hand, stood the Temple, with Jesus seated on a stone ledge in the porch, while ranged before Him was a crowd of persons in the costumes of the country and the time; each costume showing the grade or calling of its wearer. Standing together in a group in front of Him were the disciples, and immediately beside them were the accusers, who were readily recognisable by their ample robes and sanctimonious demeanour; and quite close to Him, between Him and them, stood the accused woman. As I approached the scene, moving meteor-like through
the air, He was in the act of lifting Himself up from stooping to write on the ground, and I had a perfect view of His face. He was of middle age, but, to my surprise, the type was that of a Murillo rather than a Raffaelle, and the lower portion of the face was covered with a short, dark beard. The expression was worn and anxious, and somewhat weary. The skin was rough as from exposure to the weather. The eyes were deep-set and lustrous, and remarkable for the tenderness of their gaze. One of the apostles, whom I at once recognised by his comparative youthfulness as John, though his back was towards me as I approached, was in the act of bending forwards to read the words just traced in the dust on the pavement; and, as if drawn to him by some potent attraction, I at once passed unhesitatingly into him as he bent forward, and tried to read the words through his eyes. Their exact purport escaped me; but the impression I obtained was that they were unimportant in themselves, having been written merely to enable Jesus to collect and calm Himself. For He was filled with a mighty indignation, which was directed, not against the accused woman, but against the by-standing representatives of the conventional orthodoxies, the chief priests and Pharisees, her sanctimonious and hypocritical accusers, – those moral vivisectors through whose pitilessness the shrinking woman stood there exposed to the public gaze, while her fault was so brutally blurted out in her presence for all to hear; for her attitude showed her ready to sink with shame into the ground, and afraid to look either her accusers or her Judge in the face. He, her Judge, also has heard it, and knows that they who utter it are themselves a thousandfold greater sinners than she, inasmuch as that which she has yielded through exigency either of passion or of compassion, has with them been a cold-blooded habit engendered of ingrained impurity.
In contrast with them she stands out in His eyes an angel of innocence; and an
overwhelming indignation takes possession of Him, so that He will not at once
trust Himself to speak. His impulse is to drive them forth with blows and
reproaches from His presence, as once already He has driven the barterers from
expended upon insensates such as they, and exhortation would be vain. He will try sarcasm. So He raises Himself up, and looks at them, very quietly, and even assentingly. Yes, they are quite right; the law must be vindicated, and so flagrant a sin severely punished. But, of course, only the guiltless is entitled to inflict punishment on the guilty. Therefore He says, “He of you who is blameless in respect of this sin, let him first cast a stone at her.” And having said this, He stoops down again to write, this time to hide His smiles at their confusion, the sight of which would but have incensed and hardened them. What! No rush for ammunition wherewith to pound to death this only too human specimen of humanity! What can be the meaning of the general move among these self-appointed censors of morals? “They which heard Him, being convicted of their own consciences, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest even unto the last.” No wonder they crucified Him when they got their chance. And no wonder that most of the ancient authorities omit all mention of the incident. Even of His immediate biographers only he records it who is styled “the Beloved,” and whose name, office, and character indicate him as the representative especially of the love-principle in humanity.
Such were the impressions made on me by this vision while it lasted, and written down at the time. And so strong in me was the feeling that I could similarly recall the whole history of Jesus, that I mentally addressed to the presences which I felt, though I could not see, around me an inquiry whether I should then and there begin the attempt. The reply, similarly given, was a decided negative so far as that present time was concerned, but accompanied by an intimation that our future work would comprise something of the kind; a prediction which, as will be found, was duly fulfilled.
The modus operandi of this experience continued long to perplex me, and only ceased to do so when the time came for us to recognise as positive facts the doctrines, first, of Reincarnation and the soul’s ability to recover, while in the body, the memory of things learnt and experiences undergone in previous lives, and to communicate of them to its owner; and, secondly, of the survival of an indefinite period of the images of events occurring on the earth, in the astral light, or memory of the planet, called the anima mundi, which images can be evoked and beheld.
The expression which I had used, “too human specimen of humanity,” was an
adaptation of the expression, “inhuman specimen of humanity,” which had recently
been applied by Mr. Gladstone to the Turkish power, as I conceived very unjustly
and unwisely. Unjustly, because there was little to choose on the score of
The attraction which the Apostle John had for me presently found this further expression. I was reading chapter X of the Book of Revelation, being the while in a deeply introspective mood, but perfectly calm and critical withal, when, on coming to the verse describing the “little book” which was so sweet in the taste and so bitter in the digestion, a strange tremor came over me, such as I had never before experienced, accompanied by the feeling that I had, somehow, a strong personal interest in the utterance. And then, while engaged in analysing the sensation and wondering to what it was due, a whole chorus of several voices, audible to the inner hearing, exclaimed in accents of jubilation, “Yes! Yes! You wrote that, and it refers to your present work!” Fearing it might be but an echo of some idea latent in my own system, and being unaware of the nature of the personalities which thus addressed me, I refrained from attaching any value to the statement. But the impression remained with me that at heart it was in the spirit of John that I was to work, and that the perfection and success of the work would be according to the measure in which I did so.
The health of my colleague was again causing us much anxiety, and medical advice was accordingly sought. Besides the propinquity of the river, the distance from her hospital-work told against her, and her domestic conditions were the reverse of hygienic and otherwise uncongenial, especially as regarded the preparation of her food. November was hardly over when I received a letter from A. saying, “I have just had a letter from Nina. What a terrible account she gives of herself! (...) Will you write and tell me exactly what the doctor said about her? She tells me he had a long talk with you after seeing her.”
“Active mischief at the apex of the left lung; complete renunciation
of study; and a winter in the
were the diagnosis and advice of one
of the most esteemed physicians in
Meanwhile experiences crowded on us, a full account of which is neither practicable nor necessary. The most striking and important were those which occurred to myself. They came, not in response to any attempt to obtain phenomenal manifestations, or any desire therefor, but purely in the course of the intense direction of my mind towards the spiritual and essential in respect of truth; and, though eagerly welcomed when they came, were altogether unsought for and unexpected. One of the most striking was as follows. It had been impressed upon me to describe the type of woman whom a character such as that of Jesus might be expected to have had for mother. In this view I wrote, using my typewriter: –
“It must be a woman whose ‘virginity’ consists in the total subordination in her of the physical to the moral and spiritual nature; one absolutely unselfish, in that it never occurs to her to have a wish of her own but what was baaed on the welfare of her husband and children; one, in fact, such as some of us have known among our English wives and mothers; – women who have been so perfect in all the relations of their lives that they never seemed to want anything on their own account, but, in that boundless love of which woman is the special representative on earth, subordinate themselves without effort to the good of those about them, until, by sinking themselves far below the man in respect of the things of the flesh, they rise as far above him in respect of those of the spirit. Who better than I, who am doubly the son of such an one, should know how to describe them?”
I said “doubly,” because I had in my mind two women, who stood out for me from all others I had ever known. One was my own mother, and the other one whom I had been wont to regard as my spiritual mother for the influence she had exercised over the moulding of my own character. It was from her that I had drawn the heroines of my two novels, the “Mary” in The Pilgrim and the Shrine, and the “Margaret” in Higher Law, my design being to exhibit what I conceived to be a perfect type
of womanhood under the opposite conditions, in the one, of a happy, and in the other of an unhappy, marriage. She was Mary Margaret Woolley, wife of the first Principal of the University of Sydney, at which place she was living at the time of which I am writing; and came later to be a most dear and valued friend of my colleague. During the writing of the passage above cited my mother’s image appeared unmistakably before me. Not, as the event proved, her mental image merely, but her actual spiritual self. For at the moment of my completing the sentence, and almost before I had time to recognise that I was not alone, her well-remembered tones struck on my ears in the most unmistakable manner, and in a voice that anyone might have heard, calling me by the endearing diminutive she had ever used for me, and exclaiming, “O Eddie! Eddie! We have found each other at last!” No use was made of my organs for this utterance. She spoke from without, standing close by me on the right. But the next instant she flung herself upon me in an all-pervading embrace in which we seemed to mingle together into one, and gave way to a violent burst of joyous sobbing and crying, causing the tears to stream from my eyes. Profoundly affected as I was, my intellectual faculties were even more on the alert than my emotional feelings. And I was occupied in examining intently a phenomenon so strange as that of a person discharging tears and sobs without being himself a party to them. On her part it was an immense and unrestrained burst of gladsome weeping. It was daytime, and I could not see her so distinctly as I otherwise should have done, and as I had seen my father, or the other presence by which she was accompanied, but I was aware of there being two, herself and what was impressed on me as being an attendant guardian spirit. The time came when we learnt that such a return of the true soul is possible, but occurs only on very solemn occasions, and that one of the proofs that it is indeed the true soul and not the mere phantom is the power to speak aloud to the outward hearing.
Such an experience, vouchsafed on such an occasion, seemed to me to imply high sanction for my rejection of the physical meaning ordinarily attached to the story of the Nativity. The actual significance of that story, and the scientific definition of the doctrine symbolised in it, were reserved for future disclosure, being given in plenitude when the time came. There
was one other occasion when I was addressed aloud by my mother’s voice, which I will relate in its place.
I come to an experience the solemnity and importance of which cannot be overestimated, whether as regards its own nature or as regards its bearing on our work. At the time of its occurrence I had never heard of it as a fact coming within human cognition; nor, although several times alluded to in the Bible, had the accounts of it ever found a response in my own consciousness. Hence when it came it was entirely without anticipation or previous knowledge even of its possibility. The experience in question, and the manner of its coming, were these: –
I had observed that when I was following an idea inwards in search of its primary meaning, and to that end concentrated my mind upon a point lying within and beyond the apparent concept, I saw a whole vista of related ideas stretching far away as if towards their source, in what I could only suppose to be the Divine Mind; and I seemed at the same time to reach a more interior region of my own consciousness; so that, supposing man’s system to consist of a series of concentric spheres, each fresh effort to focus my mind upon a more recondite aspect of the idea under analysis was accompanied and marked by a corresponding advance of the perceptive point of the mind itself towards my own central sphere and radiant point. And I was prompted to try to ascertain the extent to which it was possible thus to concentrate myself interiorly, and what would be the effect of reaching the mind’s ultimate focus. I was absolutely without knowledge or expectation when I yielded to the impulse to make the attempt. I simply experimented on a faculty of which I found myself newly possessed, with the view of discovering the range of its capacity, being seated at my writing-table the while in order to record the results as they came, and resolved to retain my hold on my outer and circumferential consciousness, no matter how far towards my inner and central consciousness I might go. For I knew not whether I should be able to regain the former if I once quitted my hold of it, or to recollect the facts of the experience. At length I achieved my object, though only by a strong effort, the tension occasioned by the endeavour to keep both extremes of the consciousness in view at once being very great.
Once well started on my quest, I found myself traversing a succession of spheres or belts of a medium, the tenuity and luminance of which increased at every stage of my progress, just as I had observed in the vision above described, of the revolving cloud; the impression produced being that of mounting a vast ladder stretching from the circumference towards the centre of a system, which was at once my own system, the solar system, and the universal system, the three systems being at once diverse and identical. My progress in this ascent was clearly dependent upon my ability to concentrate the rays of my consciousness into a focus. For, while to relax the effort was to recede outwards, to intensify it was to advance inwards. The process was like that of travelling by will power from the orbit of Saturn to the Sun – taking Saturn as representing the seventh and outermost sphere of the spiritual kosmos, and the Sun its central and radiant point – with the intermediate orbits for stepping-stones and stages, I trying the while to keep both extremes in view. Presently, by a supreme, and what I felt must be a final, effort – for the tension was becoming too much for me, unless I let go my hold of the outer – I succeeded in polarising the whole of the convergent rays of my consciousness into the desired focus. And at the same instant, as if through the sudden ignition of the rays thus fused into a unity, I found myself confronted with a glory of unspeakable whiteness and brightness, and of a lustre so intense as well-nigh to beat me back. At the same instant, too, there came to me, as by a sudden recollection, the sense of being already familiar with the phenomenon, as also with its whole import, as if in virtue of having experienced it in some former and forgotten state of being. I knew it to be the “Great White Throne” of the seer of the Apocalypse. But though feeling that I had no need to explore further, I resolved to make assurance doubly sure by piercing, if I could, the almost blinding lustre, and seeing what it enshrined. With a great effort I succeeded, and the glance revealed to me that which I had felt must be there. This was the dual form of the Son, the Word, the Logos, the Adonai, the “Sitter on the Throne,” the first formulation of Divinity, the unmanifest made manifest, the unformulate formulate, the unindividuate individuate, God as the Lord, proving by His duality that God is Substance as well as Force, Love as well as Will, feminine as well as masculine, Mother as well as Father.
Overjoyed at having this supreme problem solved in accordance with my highest aspirations, my one thought was to return and proclaim the glad news. But I had no sooner set myself to write down the things thus seen and remembered, than I found myself constrained to maintain regarding them the strictest silence, and this even as regarded my fellow-worker; and all that I was permitted to say at that time was, that under a sudden burst of illumination I had become absolutely aware of the truth of the doctrine of the Duality in Unity of Deity to which that in Humanity corresponds, both alike being twain in one. On seeking the reason for the reticence thus imposed on me, I learned that the stage in our work had not yet come when it could be given to the world, either with safety to myself or with advantage to others; and it was necessary that my colleague receive no intimation in advance of any experiences which were to be given to her – of which this experience was one – in order that her mind might be wholly free from bias or expectation. Only so would our testimony have its due value as that of two independent witnesses.
The promise was duly fulfilled, as will appear when we come to that part of our narrative. And it was from our joint experiences that the account given of the vision of Adonai in Lecture IX of The Perfect Way was written. Meanwhile I lost no time in examining the various accounts given in the Bible of the same experience, and was not a little struck by the relation in Exod. XXIV, 9-11, in which it is stated, as if in token of the extraordinary power of the spiritual battery with which Moses had surrounded himself, that no less than seventy of his initiates were able to receive the vision without magnetic reinforcement by the imposition of their master’s hands. Pursuing my researches, I found that the same vision has always been a recognised experience of mystics in all times and places, and that for them also the form beheld was dual, the only reason why this is not specified in the translations of the Bible being that, apparently unknown to the translators, the names for God themselves imply the duality expressly declared in Gen. I, 26, 27.
From the time of my receiving this vision there was a new meaning for me in what is probably the grandest verse in all Scripture, if not in all literature, that in Rev. XX, 11, in which the seer says, “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and
there was found no place for them.” It was not that there was any disappearance of creation by reason of its change of place; but that the perceptive point of the mind of the seer himself had transcended the sphere of the manifest, and penetrated to that of the unmanifest, where creation is not. He was in the within of space, the arché or “fourth dimension,” whence returning outwards and downwards he would find creation where he had left it, as I did.
There was another point of identity which I recognised as subsisting between my own experiences and those of the mystics generally. This was the suspension of the ordinary respiration during the ecstasy or trance state and the substitution for it of an internal respiration, as if by the breathing of a distinct personality within and other than the physical organism. This condition would continue for an hour or even longer, according to the period of abstraction and the degree of its intensity. Not that the inner personality in question was that of some being other than and foreign to myself. Rather was it – as I found myself concluding – my own inner and substantial, as distinguished from my outer and phenomenal self; that which Aristotle calls the entelecheia; the self which, when finally perfected, constitutes the “Christ within” of St. Paul; being the spiritual and substantial individuality engendered within the physical and phenomenal personality, and representing, therefore, the rebirth of the man on a plane transcending the material.
There were also seasons, and these not unfrequent, during this period of my initiation, when I found myself in a condition of the real nature of which I seemed to find an explanation only when I came upon the writings of the foremost of all the great Neoplatonic school of mystics, Plotinus. This was a condition in which the enhancement of power, physical and mental, was so extraordinary, as to make it seem that it was only necessary to will or to speak to work some great miracle, whether of healing or of destroying. It was not in the least as if one were possessed and filled by something other than one’s proper self; but as if that self, instead of but partially animating the organism, had descended into it in plenitude, completely suffusing it with the spirit, to the indefinite enhancement of every faculty, one effect of which was to suggest the idea that the spiritual part of man does not, as a rule, reside within the man, except to a very limited
extent, but hovers over him, descending into him in varying measure according to circumstances. Such were my experiences of the state which I supposed to be that described by Plotinus, as “being united with his God,” meaning that portion of the Deity which is allotted to any particular individual, the microcosmic God within, as distinguished from the macrocosmic God without.
But, as I learnt by careful observation, close as such union may be, it involves no suppression of the self, or loss of individuality. The mere external personality, indeed, may suffer effacement, but the substantial and permanent individuality, the true self, becomes by such union indefinitely enhanced and reinforced, whether the union occur by means either of descent from above, or of ascent from below, the latter being the condition in which the individual expands into the universal without loss of individuality.
Of such kind were the experiences which, when the time came for us to receive the long-lost gnosis which underlay the works sacred scriptures and religions, enabled us to recognise it as indefeasibly true, and founded in the nature of being. It interpreted us to ourselves, by finding response in ourselves. Among its utterances was the following: –
“As God is at the heart of the outer world, so also is God at the heart of the world within thee.
“When the God within thee shall be wholly united to the God without, then shall thou be one with the Most High.
“Thy will shall be God’s will, and the Son shall be as the Father.”
With like alacrity we recognised the erroneousness of that view of Nirvâna, which identifies it with the mergence of the individual in the universal to the loss of his individuality, when we were told that instead of all re-becoming one, the one becomes many, the end of evolution being not the absorption of the individual in God, but the individuation of God. The only absorption that takes place is that of the externality of the individual in the divine in himself, by means of the indrawal of the circumference into the centre, of the nether into the upper, to the divinisation of the whole system. (1)
On one occasion, during a period when my consciousness was thus largely indrawn to my centre, it was given to me to see gamboling around me a group of spirits, diminutive and grotesque, being compounded of a variety of animal forms, assumed apparently without regard to congruity, the heads by no means matching the bodies. These, I was led to suppose, were some of the physical consciousnesses or “spirits” of my system, which were taking advantage of my indrawal to detach themselves, and indulge in objective manifestation.
(128:1) In England and Islam, Edward Maitland
says: “The aspiration of the Buddhist is not towards extinction. Man seeks for
some assurance that he is not merely a product or function of Nature, and
partaker of her evanescence, but has in him an immortal principle whereby he may
claim relationship, if not identity, with the eternal source of all secondary
existence. To be ‘one’ or at one ‘with God’ is the goal of the aspirations of
the souls of all men; and their various religions represent but the various
methods whereby men seek to attain the assurance of that union. Attaining
conviction of the essential identity of the spirit of which humanity is the
sensible expression, with the animating spirit of the universe, the soul of man
is content” (p. 23). “The ‘Nirvâna’ preached by Buddha was no more annihilation
than was the ‘heaven’ of Christ. Man could no more return to ‘nothing’ in