As breakfast progressed, our conversation turned toward the subject of white, as well as black, magic and the wondrous powers of certain Tibetan Adepts. A visiting Master who had been in Tibet recently was giving a detailed account of his visit there, and I became engrossed in his story.
Now that I am alone in my quarters, returned from the valley where I heard them, strange as it seems, I have tried repeatedly to recall the details of his adventure. But they have been obliterated from my memory. It is just as if I purposely had washed off and had had all recollections of the details eradicated from my mind.
After breakfast, the Master suggested that the two women Adepts take me in their charge, saying that he would rejoin us soon. As we moved away, he turned abruptly and said:
"Oh yes, when I rejoin you, I will show you my alchemical laboratory which you wanted to see."
I left the dining hall with my two protectors, as I first thought of them and we moved into the beautiful garden. And then the thought came to me: What am I being protected from?
The answer came readily enough: I was being protected from myself, so that I did not get into trouble, like a little boy with too many toys which he doesn't understand.
We passed through a corridor of oleander bushes in full bloom which lined the path. At the end of the path we arrived at a small round pavilion standing on a little knoll from which we could view all of the beautiful valley and the soaring mountain tops in the distance.
The roof of the pavilion was supported by marble columns covered with ivy which spiraled up the columns and over the roof. The ivy hung over the edge of the roof between the columns, forming a lacy pattern of Nature's green beauty.
We seated ourselves on the pavilion. After a short pause, one of the women, whose name was Mary, said:
"Really, I owe you an explanation in regard to the remarks I made, for I saw your astonishment at seeing the female sex represented in the Order of the Golden Cross. You're quite right. Adeptship while inhabiting a female form, indeed, does not happen often. The female form is not as adept as the male one to develop energy and power. It has, therefore, frequently happened that women who have become far advanced on the road to Adeptship must reincarnate in order to achieve the final results.
"In the process of attainment it is also more difficult for the female to relinquish the world and all of its things. This is primarily due to the fact that all female species, man or animal, have the same instinct, which is a natural one. And that is of gathering things to them to produce a nest for their offspring. This is inherent in Nature and is necessary. Consequently, woman is more attached to things and becomes a hoarder or gatherer of all the things of the material world about her. She also possesses people, regardless of whether she is married or in a single state. Nevertheless, exceptions are found.
"It is biologically known that the organism of man is not fundamentally different from that of woman, for all human beings are both male and female and the same elements are combined in both. In woman, though, the female element is usually predominant. In man, the male is usually more active. As is well known of course, we sometimes meet women with masculine characteristics and men who are 'womanish.'
"In a perfectly balanced human being, the male and female elements are equally strong, with a slight difference in accordance with the form which they are taking. The male form represents the productive power in Nature, while that of the female represents the formative principle.
"The occult laws which explain their function would lead us into a very deep discussion of the mysteries of Nature. You would not understand them unless you studied the laws of harmony and other numerous analogies, which, we find, never stay with a person unless a comprehensive study is made of them. I'm sure you'll find them out in your advancement over the road of attainment.
"In the future, if you find an Adept inhabiting a female form, you'll be right in concluding that such an abnormal circumstance is due to some extraordinary condition and experience which such an Adept had passed through in her last incarnation. Therefore she has an added grace in order to make it this time in a female form, completing her development.
"Remember that the mastery of all situations is essential for one who is to become a Master Teacher. Therefore, if one does suffer a little more at one time or another, it only brings him or her greater strength."
This revelation aroused my curiosity. I thought she was speaking of some experience in a past life, such as before she became an Adept, and I asked her if she would give an account of it for my edification.
"It is painful," said Mary, "to dwell on memories of the past, but perhaps our Sister Helen will give you an account of her own past life that may enlighten you."
Helen smiled and said, "I will certainly do so to inform our visitor of my experiences, which, in comparison with yours, Mary, have been very uninteresting. If you will proceed with your history, I will add mine at the end."
"Very well then," Mary answered. "But to simplify matters and save time, I'll show you its pictorial representation in the astral light. Look upon the table before you."
The table was highly polished and its surface was like that of a smooth, large bowl of water which stood in the center of the pavilion.
I had no more than cast my eyes upon the table-top than there appeared the life-like image of a battlefield. There in action were the contenders, fighting with sword and spear -- some on horseback and some on foot. There were bowmen sending long arrows glistening through the air; there were hordes of knights in shining armor.
The fight grew furious; the dead and wounded covered the ground. The soldiers on the left of the field began to give way while those on the right pressed forward. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, appeared a beautiful woman dressed in armor. In one hand she carried a sword and in the other a banner.
Her features resembled those of Mary, the Adept. At her sight, the men on the left seemed to be filled with strength while their enemies were struck with terror. The latter, who had been advancing, fled the field, pursued by those on the left. A shout of victory arose as the picture faded away.
I was reminded that its fading was like the heroic deeds of those on the field of battle. For so the time had passed and the battle had been won, but who was the victor and who was the vanquished?
Now there appeared a picture on the mirror of my mind, or was it in the mirror of the table top? The picture was that of the interior of a Catholic church. There was a great assembly of the dignitaries of Church and state, a gallant array of knights and nobles, bishops and priests, and a multitude of commoners. In front of the altar was an armored knight who seemed to be the king. A bishop in ornate robes was putting a golden crown upon the head of the knight.
By the side of the king was standing that noble looking woman with a smile of triumph upon her face. Solemn music swelled through the great hall and, the crown rested on his head. The new king rose and a thousand voices hailed him. That picture also faded into the halls of time.
The next vision represented a dungeon filled with instruments of torture, such as those used in the time of the Inquisition. There were men dressed in black and in their eyes burned the fire of hate. There were others dressed in red, evidently executioners. Then there was the vision of a procession of people bearing torches and in their midst was Mary, bound with chains.
She looked on the men in black with pity and contempt. They asked her some silly questions, which she refused to answer, and she scorned them for their childish play. Then they began to torture her with all the exquisite techniques of that ancient art. I turned my head, but when I looked again, that vision was gone.
The next scene showed a pile of wood and, in its midst, a stake to which a chain was fastened. A procession approached led by villainous-looking monks and flanked by soldiers. There were crowds of people surrounding the pile, and they gave way to the procession as it approached.
In the midst of the procession was Mary, emaciated from the pain and torture. Her hands were tied and a chain was fastened around her neck. She mounted the pile and was linked to the stake. She attempted to speak, but the monks interrupted their
prayers to dash water in her face, refusing to let her talk. Then the executioner appeared with a flaming brand which he plunged into the midst of the tindery dry wood. The flames blanketed the body of the beautiful woman whom I desired to see no more, for I knew who Mary was.
Uncovering my face from the vision which had so horrified me, and trying to eradicate the impression they had made upon my mind, I told Mary of my admiration for her valor and virtue. I realized that I always had admired her as I read about the historical character of Joan of Arc and that I had always wanted to see a faithful portrait of her. Now she stood before me, the living original -- young, strong, noble and beautiful, but, according to the records of the mortals outside the valley, more than 450 years of age.
I knew it was useless to attempt to conceal my thoughts in the presence of Adepts. Mary read my thoughts and answered:
"No, I'm much older than you think. You and I, all of us, are as old as creation. When the Spirit began to breathe, after the great Pralaya was over, sending out the center of light from the Logos which called the world into existence, we lived already. And we shall continue to live many centuries until this light returns to its source. Or, we eventually might move out into that state of All-Being where we become the center of our own being.
"Our real 'I' knows no age. Always young, always vital, it is independent of the conditions of time. Nor can our forms be destroyed by fire. They are the mirrors in which the Spirit reflects its divine image. Matter is as eternal as space and spirit; as long as matter exists, the Spirit will reflect its image therein, the image which the Spirit requires for the purpose of attaining self-knowledge.
"A man cannot see his face without the help of a mirror. We cannot see ourselves objectively unless we step outside of ourselves. It is impossible to do otherwise, because man reflects his light into matter and sees himself as in a mirror.
"In order that man may speak of another level of reality outside of the physical world or the level which he is working in, it is necessary that he also be in that other state. Thus it is from earth to heaven and heaven to earth.. When one has attained the reality of the illusion of the things around him, whether he be in earth or in heaven, he then knows the reality above him and below him. This is the great paradox, for it is all of God's Creation which God gave man dominion over."
"How is it," I asked, "that your body was destroyed by fire in the vision, but I can see you in a tangible form?"
"That which was destroyed was merely the grossest matter or substance of my physical organization. The fire could only consume that which was on the plane it was functioning on, and my spiritual form rose above the fire and smoke. That spiritual form was invisible to the multitude present, because their senses were so gross that they could only perceive the grossest form of matter. It was visible, however, to the Adepts who were present in their ethereal or spiritual bodies and who took care of me after I lost consciousness. At that time, I was awakened to the external life.
"After a short period of time, my body hardened again by the actions and the influences prevailing in my new home. There- fore, I am now as visible and tangible as you, as if I were still inhabiting a gross material body."
Something clicked in my mind and I remarked:
"Then I presume that the astral body of every human being or animal could harden after they had left their physical form. Thus, the spirit of the dead -- those who have passed through transition -- could be made to appear in visible or tangible form."
"It could be done and has often been done," answered Mary, "by a practice we do not advise -- the practice of the necromantic art. It can be done with the astral forms of those who have died quickly in accidents or have been murdered, for in those astral forms is still a great deal of molecular cohesion. The astral forms of those who have died a natural death or who have passed through transition a long time age cannot be thus invoked because their astral corpses have already been decomposed by the influences of the psychic world.
"Those materialized forms have no life of their own and cannot endure. They only live by the life-principle infused into them by a necromancer who performs such acts consciously or by a medium which performs them unconsciously.
"TO ENABLE AN ASTRAL FORM TO CONTINUE TO LIVE AFTER DEATH OF THE PHYSICAL FORM, THE ASTRAL FORM MUST HAVE ATTAINED LIFE DURING THE LIFE OF THE PHYSICAL BODY."
"But surely," I said, "in every human being the spiritual form which contains the astral stuff, or material within the physical body, has life?"
"That is true," she answered, "but not in every human being is it the center of life and consciousness. In ordinary mortals the seat of life is in the blood contained in the veins and arteries of the physical form. The vital form lives only, so to say, from the reflex of the physical life of opposite polarity.
"Therefore, in the life of the Adept the center of life and consciousness has been established in the organism of the expanding Self, clothed by the soul and the astral form, and is, therefore, Self-conscious and independent of the life of the physical body.
"In my former life I had already acquired in my incarnation that life and consciousness of the Spirit. I was on the way to Adeptship before I was born in a peasant's hut. During my childhood I had had spiritual intercourse with Adepts although I did not know them intellectually at that time. My intellectual activities and my physical activities were then not sufficiently perfect to understand that which my spirit perceived."
She paused a moment and looked at me intently. "I see you are becoming fatigued by the metaphysical speculations which become more difficult to comprehend because there is always an exception to every rule," she said. "The Laws of nature are liable to produce endless varieties of modifications. So let us hear the history of our Sister Helen."