This is a story that I heard long ago when I was just a student in the Holy Order of Mans. It is not my story but I do not have the original nor do I know the author. This is as close as I can remember the story, my apologies to the true author if I do not do it justice. (I have recently found the book and author - "The Way of the Lonely Ones" by Manly Palmer Hall. However, since this version is slightly different I will keep it here.)
If you have a set of Tarot Cards, you will find the subject of this story in the 11th card, called the Hermit. What you will see is a picture of an old man standing on the precipice of a high mountain holding aloft a lantern with a staff in his hand. Around him is the cold darkness and the light within his lantern shines out in this darkness with the six points of light. This is his story.
In my search through all the old sacred writings I was looking for the mysteries of the Universe. My search had eventually led me to the base of a mountain. I had long ago dedicated my life and heart to God and was searching for the true path that would allow me to serve God in the way that He wanted.
Here now in the darkness of the valley floor I looked at the top of the mountain. To my surprise at the very tip top point I thought I saw a light. There was something about its luster that was so compelling. It flickered and I wondered if perhaps I had just imagined it. But, no, there it was again. The color of the light seemed to change a bit going through the seven colors of the rainbow. I found myself walking up a well worn path trying to get a better view.
It did not seem strange at the time for me to follow this strange luminescence for I could feel it beckon to me. As strange as it may sound there was a comfort and peace that filled me. Here at the base of the mountain the path was well worn and easy to walk. Along the sides there were little alcoves to sit and rest. I could tell that many had come this way before.
As I continued on I could see that there were other little roads that would branch off from time to time leading to a town or an oasis of water and a peaceful grove of trees. But the light at its height had bewitched me and I did not want the added distraction. I just gazed at that beautiful light and watched as the flickering lessened with the strengthening glow as I moved closer to it.
The path became narrower and much more pitted with rocks and debris. Occasionally I would encounter objects left right in the middle of the path. It would appear that the ones who had gone before me had left packages and bundles that they had carried along the way. As I had been carrying several books in a pack with me I realized that the steeper climb before me would be easier if I would lay this burden down. So I found a suitable place and let go of my burden.
It was not long before I was very glad that I had done this. Here the path became very narrow and the climb was so steep I needed to use all my effort to climb. Occasionally I would see another path going off to the right or left. But I could see that although those paths were easier to navigate, they wound around the mountain staying at the same level for miles and miles.
Before me the path I was on was steep and treacherous in places, however, it led directly up the mountain to my goal of that beautiful light. Its glow was a steady stream now and at times bathed me in its warmth. I just had to get closer to it. So I continued on.
Now the path was barely perceptible. I had to concentrate to see it and would sometimes look away from the light to find the steps I needed to take. I admit that during those times I would begin to feel a little desolate and alone. It was obvious that not many had come this way before. I began to feel that perhaps I was being foolish to attempt such a journey. Then I would feel the warmth of the light shining down on me as though it was seeking me out. I would look up and that light was so much stronger and beautiful beyond my imagination. The warmth of its rays upon my face filled me with courage and I remembered why I had begun this trip.
Just a little way further and I would know the source of this glorious light. I had to go on for this light felt like the source of all joy and love I had been seeking for so long.
I found the climb so much easier by keeping my focus on the light. Before where I was hunting for where to place my feet and hands, now it was as though the light was guiding me. So I relaxed into the glow of the light and believe it or not the light just took over.
Now here I was at the very top of the mountain. Before me was an ancient old man with a long beard holding a simple lantern up like he was holding a beacon so others could see. At first I was disappointed for I expected something more incredible, though what I am not sure. I decided to go talk to the old man and find out about this light, for how could such a small lantern of light be seen from such a distance.
As I approached him he smiled at me and my whole body could feel the welcome and warmth in this being. It was like the light I had followed – this feeling of joy and love encompassed me with more passion than I had ever experienced before.
So I asked him, "Why are you here?"
His response, although spoken with great kindness, startled me. "Why are YOU here?"
"I saw the light at the base of the mountain and it was as if it was speaking to me to follow it." I told him.
"Ah, yes that would be the way." He said. "Not many make it all the way to the top. It takes a lot of courage and strength to get here. You should be proud to have made it this far."
"Thank you." I replied although I did not feel especially courageous.
"Please will you tell me why you are holding this lantern here at the mountain top and if you can, why I was so drawn to it?" I asked him.
"Yes, my son, I know how you feel for the journey you just made I made long, long ago. Here on the mountain I hold aloft the light that our Creator gave to all at the beginning of Creation."
"There in the world man gets so caught up in the daily efforts of survival that he forgets the light is here. But when they have hit their bottom and are in the depths of despair they will pause and look up. It is then that they catch a glimpse of this light I hold and regain hope. For at that moment they remember that they are a part of this light and can go on."
"Once in a while someone will gaze up and begin to search for the source of the light. Then is when they are inspired to really seek out God, the source of all light. However, as they seek the light so often they get sidetracked, distracted, or discouraged. Then they look away from the light and God. Those often decide the straight path is too hard and try to get here by the winding path around the mountain."
"I hold up the light so they all have hope. So they can find their way back to God, even if it is just a little way farther up the mountain."
"But," I asked, "how long have you been here and how long do you have to stay?"
He sighed and answered, " I have been here for centuries so long I have lost track of time for time has little meaning here. I mentioned that I made this journey myself long ago. I chose to stay and take the place of the one who was here before me. I wanted to release that wonderful being so he could move on to take on a greater responsibility."
Now I admit that hearing this teacher say those words made me feel terribly uncomfortable. I recognized that this old wizened man was truly a teacher. In my soul began a terrible struggle and war. I looked down the mountain remembering the books I had left behind. For so many years they had been a source of enlightenment and comfort to me. I remembered the laughter of colleagues as we shared some new discovery of an esoteric nature. As each of these things passed through my consciousness they were somewhat bittersweet. It felt as though I was saying farewell to a life that I had not realized I treasured.
I looked at the teacher who was gazing at me with open love and peace in him. Before I realized what I was saying I heard my voice ask him, "Teacher, would you go on to do greater things if one were here to take your place?"
"Hmmm, Yes I could go on but the one who takes my place must know that this is an awesome task. This one must tend the light and make sure that it does not go out. All those people would lose hope forever without this light even though most are not even aware of its existence. That one cannot abandon this post until someone comes to take this sacred trust. And as I have told you that in my case it has been centuries."
"I understand." I said. But as I looked at the light he held my soul filled with such wonder and joy. It was such a small thing, I knew I could do this. Suddenly such peace filled me. No more struggle for I knew that this was the task I had been looking for – my way to serve God and man.
"Teacher, may I take your light and stand here in your place?" I asked him.
He smiled and as he gave the lantern to me the glow of his person increased to such brightness it was almost blinding. It was more than anything I could think possible. Then this bright being ascended to the heavens and became a bright star in the sky. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
I stepped into his place holding the lantern high. I could now see those people in the valley and watched as one and another would draw the light I now held to give them strength and hope. "Incredible." I thought.
I now looked around and in the distance I saw other mountain tops. "Amazing!" On these other mountains were the flickering of other lights and I knew that I was not really alone.
Then I looked up at the night sky and the flickering light of the stars above me now had a whole new meaning.
And that my son is how I came to be here. May I ask, why are you here?
End or beginning – you chose.