Brother of the Third Degree

Will L. Garver






Thursday night came again, and I, filled with the expectation of meeting Iole, once more passed the doorkeeper. I had again dressed myself as a monk, but contrary to the usual garb, had taken the orange robes of the Buddhist. Some slight accident with my driver had made me somewhat late, and I found I was the last one to enter, the guard closing the outer doors as I passed.

As I appeared before the inner guards, the woman said something to the patriarch in Sanskrit, with which I was comparatively familiar. The words were not distinct enough, however, for me to catch their meaning. Presenting my card, they bowed in acknowledgment, and the woman arose and accompanied me into the white room at the right. Motioning me to a seat she took one just in front of me. For several minutes we sat facing each other in silence, her piercing eyes never leaving my face. Presently the patriarch entered and, taking a book from his robe, seated himself opposite us at the table.

“Alphonso Colono,” began the woman, in her low, penetrating voice, “when you first entered here we had cast your horoscope and found all things favorable.” She paused an instant and her voice became very stern as she continued: “But recent developments have caused us apprehension, and fearing some mistake in hour of birth, our conclusions must be verified. We must protect our darling daughters and debar all unfit from the sacred chambers; and unless you can pass the test you must go back to earth until your time. None but the pure can associate with those who wear robes of white.”

A fear commenced to steal over me; what had I done? Then a conviction of purity came to me, and I grew firm and strong. Reaching out her hand the woman said: “Let me see your palm.”

Ah! I thought, they are going to check my horoscope by the science of chiromancy.

Leaning over my hand she gazed at it long and intently; then taking my other palm, she pressed the palms together, straightened them out and seemed to compare them with great care. Then with a peculiar instrument, not unlike a compass, she gauged the length of my thumb and finger joints; then, having taken a measurement as though for a standard, followed carefully along the line of life.

At last she seemed satisfied, and rising, said to the patriarch: “’Tis well; there is no conflict; his hand is strong and has marks of special favor. A halo on Apollo’s mount, a long, deep, jaggy, but continuous line of heart with branches high upon and over Jupiter’s mount. This means great glory and strong and freely-given love. Saturn’s line of fate plows straight through. The line of head, broad, deep and of good color, is torn from that of life—he is unselfish. No Venus girdle, no crosses that bring lasting ill; and Luna strong, but not to excess, gives occult mind. A double square, distinct and plain on Jupiter, declares that he is doubly protected. All signs indeed are good; he can be trusted. If she can but divert his heart from one to all, there are promises of a Master.”

The patriarch, who had noted down each item, now put up his book, and as she dropped my hand pointed to a door at the side of the room and said: “You may pass.”

As I arose to leave the room, the woman said: “Brother, guard well your heart, your greatest strength and yet your greatest weakness. It must be controlled, otherwise your mind will be unsteady. Allow not thoughts of pleasure, brief and short, to keep you from wisdom that leads to the Eternal. Now enter!”

The door opened; and, as though by some secret signal or understanding, as I stepped through, the white-robed nun stepped up beside me.

“A heathen monk! and in a Christian land!” she exclaimed, with well-simulated surprise.

“The Buddha was no heathen, nun, he taught the morals of thy Christ and three of the grandest doctrines that ever man has taught.”

“Ah! since when? What were they, monk?”

“Since five hundred years before thy Christ, Buddha and his true disciples have taught the doctrine of Enlightenment, Law, and Evolution, to perfection.”

“What! enlightenment in that benighted country?” she said mockingly, apparently in an altogether different mood this evening.

“How long benighted? Only since the sword of Allah usurped the throne; only since the British Christians robbed and plundered; only since the iron rule of might has usurped Buddha’s teaching of gentleness and right.”

While my garments were assumed this speech was not, and, as I finished, she answered: “Thou hast most firmly-set convictions, monk; what of the Law?”

“The law that every cause has its effect which again reacts upon its cause; and that all things upon the earth are bound by this eternal law, immutable and certain.”

“But what of evolution? That is a modern doctrine; Buddha taught no such.”

“The materialistic evolution of the West—no. Mind cannot come from cold, dead matter; life cannot come from lifeless form; but the endless evolution or unfoldment through manifestation of an invisible and all-pervading Essence—yes.”

“But the Buddhist is an atheist.”

“Not so; thy priest has taught thee wrong. The Eastern idea of God, I must confess, is very different from that held in the West. No form-clothed personality can they conceive as present everywhere, but an infinite and all-pervading Brahma they do proclaim.”

“Well, we will not quarrel, Christ and Buddha both were good; and this is very serious conversation for a ballroom.”

Speaking this with her usual tenderness, she took my arm.

“Shall we not relieve our minds by participation in the dance?” I ventured, as the music struck up a waltz, and I remembered I had never danced with her.

“To think,” she answered, “that monk and nun should dance. No mind can dwell on serious thoughts that drifts thus to the frivolous.”

“Not so,” I answered. “The master minds can dwell on different things at different times; but others mix all things at all times, which brings confusion, never wisdom. Now, when the dance is over, we will concentrate our thoughts in study and the recreation will have refreshed us.”

“You reason with wisdom, monk, and listening to you, the nun, against her rules, will dance.”

Ah, hitherto a formal handclasp, now like a fairy on my arm! Could this be the peasant girl? Ah, no! There she had by power of will kept soul restrained; here she was her real self, her heart alive with fire. Now her head leans on my shoulder; now I feel her beating heart. Souls attuned to subtle music blend in unison on earth.

Oh, happiness! what joy! Our souls are one. What! The music ceased already? How short! How delusive is that thing called time!

She was the first to return to consciousness. For the time she had given herself to me, but now, again individualized and separate, she spoke: “Come, my monk, we must waste no more time, but get to our studies.”

“Waste time!” I protested, as we started toward the study door.

“Yes, waste time,” she answered cruelly, and then added earnestly: “That was but a temporary union; there is a union which is eternal.”

We had now entered the study room, and, to my surprise, she took a seat in front of me and asked: “What have you been thinking of since last we met?”

“Sister,” I answered, with some hesitation on the word, “my thoughts have been mostly of thee.”

“A very poor subject for thought,” she answered; and before I could reply continued: “You spoke with wisdom prior to the dance; is it a fact that you can concentrate and control your mind?”

“I had attained some success in that line prior to our meeting,” I answered honestly, trying to draw her into the channel of my thoughts.

“Then you have not been so successful since meeting me?”

“I must confess I have not,” I answered, hesitatingly.

“Then I have exercised a bad influence on you, have I?”

There was a tone of sadness in her voice, and I quickly answered: “No, no bad influence, only my heart has become stronger than my head. My love has become master. Iole, my long-lost love, I love you.”

I stretched forth my hands, and, with heart on fire with love would have caressed her, but with a look that almost consumed my soul she motioned me back, and with a voice most wonderfully under control, answered:

“Have all thy past existences been for naught? Has all the pain and suffering we have endured been productive of no results? Must we, bound down by earth desires, still dwell in this vale of misery? Did we die on Œtas mount, did we languish in convent cells for naught? No! It was but to exhaust the evil dues that came from lives still prior. It was but to teach us the uncertainty attached to all selfish loves. And now, with karmic dues exhausted, with all these experiences registered within our souls, must we still linger, through weakness, in this vale of night and death, the victims of rebirth?”

She leaned forward as she spoke, her veil thrown aside, and her expressive brown eyes were luminous with a spiritual fire. Far from repelling me her words entranced, while they held me checked in action as I answered:

“Thou hast recalled the memory of my love for thee in times gone by, and that, added to the present, only makes it stronger; but know, my soul, this love is pure, and what can claim superiority to love, pure love?”

“Love, so long as tinctured by a thought of self, cannot be absolutely pure; pure love is universal and includes all things, forgetting self. What dost thou love? my soul or body?”

“Thy soul; I have no thought of body.”

“Dost thou realize the meaning of those words? If so, there may be hope on higher planes of love.”

“I realize the meaning; I love thy soul.”

“Canst thou love with all sense of body absent?”

“You speak of higher planes, but if such a love is possible, I can.” Was her soul lifting mine to her own exalted height? I felt a spirit power stir in me.

“It is possible; it is a fact. We can love in mind, in soul, in spirit; and the highest love of earthly unions is but a dim foretaste of this grand love. Know you mot the meaning of true love?”

“Tell me, my sister; your words uplift me to a higher world of love.”

“Then know, what few men know, that every man is complete within himself, and nothing is there lacking if he will but search the depths. Love is but the soul’s desire for a portion of itself which it has lost, and without which its joy is incomplete. Think not the soul cannot lose a portion of itself; it can. That which we possess yet are not conscious of, is lost, latent as it were, present but unmanifest. Now the perfect being is fully self-conscious of all his parts and attributes, and perfection must be our end and aim. Know that thou art in me and I in thee; and through you I become self-conscious of thyself in me, and through me thou becomest self-conscious of myself in thee. This is the ‘Virgin Marriage.’ This the meeting of the bride and bridegroom, and the only marriage known in heaven.”

She paused. What strange ecstasy her words brought to my soul. How grand and noble, how lofty this conception of divine, eternal love! How debased my hitherto ideals! Now only did I commence to realize the teachings of my parents. How far did my views of the universe expand! How infinite became the field of love!

“My dear sister soul,” I answered, all on fire from the inspiration of the moment, “never more will I debase my heart with impure love; even now I feel thy soul within my own, within the invisible essence they throb in unison. From now on I join with thee as a true brother to labor for the same great end.”

For several moments we sat gazing at each other in silence, drinking through our eyes each other’s souls. She broke the silence with a sigh of joy and said: “Long have I waited for this moment, love! Long have I mourned for thee and waited in a robe of black! Now will we go on together, crowned with the virgin purity that entitles us to light.”

“Oh! sister soul, how kind of thee to wait for me who from sinful dues was yet not free.”

She only smiled happily in answer, but her features spoke volumes.

“Brother,” at last she said, and I never heard that word sound so sweet before, “we have tasted of the joy that belongs to the perfectly pure; now we must once more descend to the world and do our present duties. Are you ready for regular instructions?”

“I am ready and attentive, sister,” I answered, now having all emotions under control.

“Then the first thing for you to do is to obtain complete mastery over your mind. I know your body, so far as willful acts are concerned, is controlled, otherwise you would not be here. But know that before you can proceed farther you must control your very thoughts, for every thought you think forms corresponding conditions in your mind and body. Thoughts are more powerful and potent than acts. Acts are but the expression of thoughts. Thoughts come first, we are built up of our thoughts; and we are surrounded by invisible powers and potencies created and given strength by the thoughts we think. It behooves you, therefore, to become able to guard the temple of your mind and keep therefrom all things impure. With this control of thoughts you must cultivate the power of concentration; you must be able to set your mind upon a single thing or idea, and hold it there to the exclusion of every other. In this manner your mind becomes identified with the essence of the thing upon which you think, and real knowledge comes. Some secret rules for your assistance in this practice will be given. Now, further, you must control your heart and master all emotions, for here will be your greatest trial, and you must be prepared. Do you love me?”

“With all my heart and soul,” I answered, to this abrupt question.

“Then you must be ready to sacrifice that love,” she said, with a vehemence that startled me.

“Is that your command?” I asked, not fully under control when such a vital issue was at stake.

“It is necessary and for your good,” she answered.

“Then I will; but tell me, what can demand so great a sacrifice as this?”

“Humanity and truth,” she answered. “These have nothing before them and everything must be sacrificed upon their altar.”

“But what if I love you as an embodiment of these?”

“Then beware; only the less advanced have need of forms to aid them to conceive universals or abstractions, and the personified is often taken for that which it represents. The untrained mind is weak, and no doubt is aided in its upward evolution by forms and symbols upon which to concentrate its thoughts. And you, tonight, dressed as Oriental monk, must know that this is the object of the idols of the East; only childlike minds mistake their meaning. Then recall that great animated him. For all this, untrained minds can be excused; their worship, if from the heart, is never lost; but from you better things are to be expected.

“Again our time is up; but before we leave let me give you some final cautions. Heretofore you have had few trials, but from now on your path becomes more rugged; the sacred truths that give all power are only reached through deep, dark and awful passes, for mighty mountains hem them round. Through these passes you must proceed alone. No supporting arm can aid you. You must find your inner strength, or you will fail and all is lost. Beware of doubt, and fear, and thoughts of self; these are the snares that trip, the fogs that blind. Wilt thou, O brother, be strong, and brave, and patient?”

“I will, dear sister,” I answered, with a determination her strength inspired.

“Then come, let us go; and remember these my final words—whatever comes to pass, trust in me and kill out doubt.”

“I trust, I will not doubt,” I answered, as we prepared to leave.

The social features of the evening were over and most of the members had departed; the moments had passed so swiftly that we had consumed the entire time.

“Of course I am your escort home?” I said, questioningly, as we passed the doorkeeper.

“Yes, this time,” she answered, as though to provoke me by the qualification.

Descending the steps we entered her carriage, and were soon rolling rapidly away. By a tacit understanding we both remained silent the entire drive, content to feel each other’s souls within the depths and communicate in the language of silent thought. We passed through the arch and under the ever-watchful cupid, and were approaching the front steps, when she broke the silence by saying, addressing me for the first time by my ancient name:

“Cleo, for this coming week I give you, as a test of mental strength, to blot me from your mind, and the degree to which you succeed will determine the nature of our next meeting.”

“The task is great,” I replied, “but for that which follows, and in compliance with your order, I will do my best.”

We had now reached the steps and I left her at the front door with a gentle handclasp, no kiss, no caress, only a sweet “good-night.”

But Oh! you who mistake a selfish passion and call it love, you know not the divine ecstasy of that mighty love where soul meets soul within the depths unseen. For the first time there seemed no parting, her soul was here in mine; was mine with her? And would we thus be forever present, indissolubly united?