I sat for a long time beside the window as night settled slowly upon the landscape. I hadn’t been here long and I was still accustoming myself to the beautiful view. The air was filled with the scents of summer.
At length I felt a draft as the door opened and closed behind me. Wavering candlelight threw shadows across the floor. The man crossed the room and set his candle upon the nearby table. He stood beside me, staring silently at the darkening meadows that surrounded the castle.
“When you gaze far into the distance,” he began at length, “do you also look deep into yourself?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know,” I said. “I’d have to think about it.”
“You are about to reach the point where it is impossible to do one without the other,” the man observed. “For you must soon learn that there is neither distance nor self when all is said and done. Do you not know that the further you travel or the higher you climb, the more you despair or the deeper you plunge, the more you think and act, so are you inexorably bound to yourself, until sight teaches inner sight and inner sight guides you to Light?” He smiled. “Out there,” he said gesturing through the window, “and in here,” he continued, tapping my chest, “is one place, one space, one time and finally no time.”
“I’m frightened of my heart,” I confessed.
He laughed. “Humans are so frightened of heart attacks, they bring them on themselves. They should be more concerned with love.” He paused. “It is love you fear – the very reality of it, the consequences. I do not refer to little love but real love, that rises like a tide to swamp the self and drown it so it may be stripped bare like a valley in flood and made ready for higher ground.” His grey eyes grew intense. “Are you ready for higher ground?” he demanded. “Greater altitudes and views that go all around? Or are you a-feared that the winds will strip your bones?” I hesitated, fearful as ever. “You are neither your bones nor your skin nor any part of that,” he said. “Soon no wind will touch you, or else blow right through you, for you,” he said, “will be finer than air.”
He raised the candle and glanced round the room. “Should we fill this place with books?” he pondered. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? You could ponder and pontificate for a thousand years.”
It was true.
“I know a great many men and women who right now are enslaved to pontificating,” the man intoned gravely. “They are wasting time. Very well! Let them squander time, and let us hope that they eventually come to realise that there is, very truly, no time – no time at all. But you,” he emphasised, “I hope you and others like you will savour these bare walls of stone, for they encourage inner sight, inner light and the reading of a different kind of wisdom – your own. For every reality you have experienced, every truth you have realised and every due lesson learned is writ within you. Therefore learn that which you have already learned, and save your eyes the trouble of a million more words.” He closed his eyes momentarily. “I pray that you be blinded by light and given in time every insight.”
“Thank you,” I said.
He gestured round the little room. “If there were books here and you could select but one for discussion, which would it be?”
I drew breath, starting to consider, but he already knew the answer. “It would be fear,” he said.
I nodded reluctantly. “Fear is like a brother to me,” I muttered.
“You cling to fear like an infant to its mother,” he went on, “and cherish every moment. It has become like a precious elixir, something you cannot do without. Or so, I suppose, you imagine.” He drew the candle nearer and together we gazed into the flame. I looked past it into my companion’s eyes, and in them I glimpsed worlds beyond any world I knew.
“Again, entire libraries have no doubt been filled with tomes dedicated to the pursuit and worship of terror,” he said. “And a still larger number dedicated to its eradication and banishment. Yes, the world rolls with fear like a ship rolls on a tempestuous tide. Yet,” he persevered, “a single flame, given nourishment and due care, can grow to light the world, do you see? Cultivate your fire, beloved one; warm your hands at its heat; raise your flame aloft for all to see. Be not a creaking ship, lurching in the world’s flood; be a fire – become your Mighty Self!” He paused. “One candle for all to see by.”
“I know I am physically young,” I volunteered. “But I have always felt so old – like I’ve been around forever.”
He laughed again. “And so you have,” he said, pausing for a second. “So have so many. Your life – your One Life – has seen as many years, I am sure, as a year itself contains seconds. Each year like a heartbeat, containing so much experience, so much emotion, and ultimately – finally – so much learning, so much understanding. Someone once said that life must be lived forwards only to be understood backwards, but it seems to me that it is best viewed neither backwards nor forwards but from above.” He smiled. “Of course, only experience can bring you to such a seat of vision.”
He rose and crossed to the window. “The world is increasingly filled with children who are now ready to mature into so much more than mere adults, do you follow? They may be weary children, tired and forlorn; yet in their hearts they carry the very seeds of Eternity. Through countless pairs of eyes have they witnessed the long ages of the Earth – they have built civilisations and destroyed them; they have loved and lost in eternally equal measure; they have abandoned themselves to reason and come thereby to madness; they have tasted grief beyond imagining and wept for their innocence; yes very truly they have seen everything, and lived so well that they threaten now to need to live no more. For their eyes and their hearts are fixed upon Heaven. Therefore do not complain about feeling old – instead relish your age and cherish your understanding, for they are your guiding lights, your abiding stars!” He came closer and spoke urgently. “Yet never lay claim to wisdom, my son. No one should ever indulge such a fancy.”
“But I struggle so much with my emotions,” I complained. “Sometimes they even make me physically ill.”
“Yet look not to your belly,” the man said, seating himself once again. “Think instead of the stars. You can see them appearing now in that small section of sky visible from your little window. Yet if you focus, can you not sense them all – those few stars you can see and the countless you cannot?” He closed his eyes. “Feel their mighty pull…let the magnetism of the Almighty pull at your head…let God draw the poisons from you and suck the toxins into infinity.”
I shut my eyes too and trembled at his words.
“Someone else once commented that when you gaze into the abyss, it gazes into you,” the wise man continued. “But – the same is true of Eternity. Therefore, remember also to look up! Let Cosmic Fire burn away your dross! Let the bountiful Ardour of the Radiant Light dry your tears! May vision come…open your eyes to the One True Light; open your mind to Joy and let Cosmos flow into your heart! Then,” he stated emphatically, “there will be no more mortal tears; no more little whims, for you will be too astonished to do all but gape at the true nature of things. Have feelings, yes – God knows I have feelings. But what power has emotion when you are filled with Eternity? And you will be filled with it – for this joy I have foreseen.”
“I get tired of hearing about energy,” I grumbled. “It seems so clinical. Is everything really just energy?”
“Consider again this candle,” he mused. “Outside night has fallen on Earth and people run home to their beds. In here, all would be dark too but for this one flame. One flame, mark you, to hold back the darkness. Look now – the melting wax, the burning wick; the tiny flame; the oxygen that feeds the flame; the discharging light and heat. A chemical process! Yet consider too – and consider well…so much darkness, so much absence of light…just this one courageous flame to hold back all of that. Yet does the flame fear the night? It burns fiercely, merrily…all it knows is that it burns…do you see? Each of us is a flame holding back the dark, and although – unlike the candle – we must acknowledge that darkness fully in all due consciousness, yet what matters is that we too abandon ourselves to burning and consequently shine as brightly as we are able. Each of us is fire and flame; even more so, each of us is light, part of the One Light that shines forever. Light is energy as energy is light; eternity is energy as energy is eternity.”
“It seems so difficult,” I protested. “As you grow spiritually and open to the subtle planes, so you long more and more for those planes and wish to be free and no longer to reincarnate. It is so painful, coming back time and again into physical life.”
“But such is the way of things,” my wise friend said. “Would you rather wander in darkness for a further Age, lost in ignorance? Be glad you have reached for Heaven – and be glad Heaven has responded! The pain of physicality, as you may term it, is nothing compared with the suffering of the unenlightened. Not that you are enlightened,” he interjected hastily, “far from it. But you at least wander in the vale close to morning, and not the abyss of the darkest night. It is just that the sunrise dazzles your eyes – that is all. Do not expect life to get easier as your advance into the dawn.” He paused. “Do you see how you protest and whine and berate your lot? If you could truly see the goal, even for a moment, you would case your whining and rush gladly onward! Yet it would not be safe for you to do so. You only know that somewhere up ahead is everything, and that getting there is hard. Harder still by far however, is not knowing, not trying.”
“You may choose to believe,” the Wise Companion said, “that you are forced into incarnation, but this is not true. The only person who brings you into the world is yourself. Until you are wholly finished with desire you will return, make no mistake. It is your own whim that causes the babe to be delivered; similarly it will be your fierce conviction that will bring true deliverance. Do not protest to me that you do not wish to be here. Of course you wish! – desire has drawn you back! You may indeed ‘long for the subtle realms’ – yet too must you lust after life and seize it gladly, to live and live and live again. No, you may lay claim to weariness, my son, but you are not yet so world-weary that you are done with the mortal life. Still it holds magnetism for you; still you lust after it! Think – if this were your last life on Earth, what experience would you indulge and savour again and again before it was too late? What whim would consume you; what fulfilment would your heart crave most desperately?” He paused and I shuddered involuntarily. “This is what draws you back; these wishes, I tell you, are the bars that keep you caged! They are the shackles that imprison you on the seabed even as another part of you bravely seeks the surface and the good air! No, you are yet tied to experience – still you hunger for the jewels of the Earth. Your hands yet grasp, even as your lungs fill with water.”
He held one hand close to the candle flame. “Do not rail at the gods when you suffer. Each is responsible for his own pain. In truth, you can walk away at any time.” He stood sharply and his chair scraped on the floor. Suddenly the Wise Man seemed ten feet tall. “Awaken from this terrible dream!” he shouted. “The Cosmos is all around you; Infinity and Eternity walk as friends beside you! You crouch down, grasping and clutching at tiny things, refusing to acknowledge the grand vista that is yours! Do you want earthly power? It is nothing! Choose divine love instead! Do you want glamorous wealth? It will surely crumble; you will grow old and die and reincarnate and then what? Chase it again and again, the same pitiful recurring nightmare, while the Jewels of the Heavens sparkle all around you! Do you want earthly joy? – it is fleeting, for everything is fleeting. Nothing lasts – except Ardour; except Love! For these are not of the Earth; you must bring them to Earth. Stop taking!” He shouted this last sentence so loudly that the candle flame flickered and tears sprang into my eyes. “Stop taking,” he repeated more gently. “Start bringing: bring the Light of Heaven through your hands, through your eyes, through your very smile. Reverse the process. The Earth is exhausted; it has little more to give. Blessed are the ones who reach up and bring down, not those who reach down and grasp. Bring more into the world, in true recognition that you take nothing out! Give and give and give again – and you will swiftly find that you have no more need to be here.”
“Forget desire – cultivate passion,” he continued. “Passion for Eternity; passion for universal vistas; passion for the Heart of the Universe! Gravitate from Earth towards the central point – the Eye of God, the Heart of all things! Look there!” He pointed into space and I saw nothing. “Watch the foggy mists and veils draw back; journey now closer and closer to the Grand Centre where I tell you there is naught but Light. Do you not understand,” he cried, “do you not yet see that there is only Light, this and nothing more? Ever seek Light and travel faster and faster, on beyond the billion suns into the Heart of the Galaxy, burning and purging, as only the Soul knows how! Gravitate to the Heart of the Almighty! Do you feel the heat?” he whispered. “Do you feel the pull, the draw?” He fell silent for some moments, still gazing into ineffable distance. “Humanity is so easily swayed by earthly passion,” he concluded. “Yet what influence has it when compared with such forces?”
I pondered for a time. The man sat quietly and I felt that he was hearing or somehow reading my thoughts.
“What about love and intimacy?” I asked. “It doesn’t get any easier, does it?”
“Would you wish it so?” he responded. He paused and a wry smile played on his face. “Yes, you would,” he observed. “Oh to lie in the boat and let the vessel drift along with the current, while the sunshine warms your face, to recite poetry and linger long in love!”
“As life and love get harder,” he continued, “they yet grow more rewarding. Life is not a game; love is not a game. The people you meet on this road are not meant for idle play! The experiences you undergo and the consequences of your choices are yet preparing you for great things. Life is hard; love is hard. Yet when love comes it offers you oars to speed you on your way – following not some lazy brook but the spiritual current. You may suffer in love, yet too are you purged and made lighter. You may experience heartbreak, yet find light within the wound; you may come even to hate, yet swear as consequence never to hate again! Those with whom you share the journey are climbing with you; they have not come to bring joy in any fleeting and transient sense but to urge you to a greater joy in the ultimate sense – a joy reliant on naught save itself. So,” he continued, “work with love, even if you do not love the work! It is not all pain and suffering is not inevitable.” He tapped my chest again. “You have great love – of course this is so or we would not be here as we are. Relationship does not come finally to reveal your flaws, failings and glamours but to seek out the diamond in the chest – the Jewel in the Heart. It may seem covered over – you may doubt its true measure, yet I promise you this revelation is the true purpose of the loves you encounter on the upward-curving way! Reflect well on this. Love comes not to expose you as a failure but finally to speed your success. And there is but one true success, and that is the revelation of Light. Let your heart then be brought to Light – let Divine Light be your blood.”
“I myself know it is hard,” he went on. “But know that even in the throes of despair, when two seem to bring each other only sadness and even loathing, yet are they climbing God’s hillside, hands entwined, moving ever closer to the Sun. Not the Sun that briefly warms the lovers in the boat; I refer to the One Sun, the True Sun, the Light of all Lights.”
“But how do I learn to cope when all comes to sorrow?” I persisted.
“Everything is fleeting as we have learned,” he answered. “Sorrow does not last. Loss does not last. Something or someone else replaces it in time, and that does not last either. Love is fleeting; loss is transitory; grief itself is ephemeral. Therefore let all cycles bring you to the realisation of what is permanent and true. Let the endless waves of experience bring you to the shore of peace; let the waves wash over you until they are still.”
He continued: “Every one must learn in time that there is no hiding place, that there is a Light of Infinite Magnitude shining upon them like an all-seeing eye. A Light so powerful that it penetrates everything. It will break through the roof; it will seek out every shadow, every secret, every thought – it will come down through the house, through the bedroom into the kitchen and even into the dark, dank cellar. The Infinite Light, lens of the Absolute, will ensure the transmutation of shadow, the banishment of darkness. You will be exposed, mark you – there will be nowhere to hide! Love is just one method by which Light will find you. There are in truth many methods. You may have heard that the forces of darkness have many agents, but greater in numbers by far are the Agents of Light.” His eyes twinkled in sudden amusement. “There are spies everywhere, peeking into all you would seek to deny, hide away and despise within yourself.” He paused, glancing up in reverence. “Do you feel it – the power, the certainty? The Light will find you out, first to expose the shadow, then to transform it. In love, in matters of earthly love, lies one of the quickest methods of dealing with the shadow that clings to night and fears the morning. So far as you are able you should embrace pain and investigate it! It is not without end – always are you chipping away at the stone that is the shadow! Ultimately the effigy you have made of yourself will crack and fall, and you will stand in the Light in full honesty as God made you and nothing more.”
“Many who pursue the spiritual life are called dreamers,” the Wise Man observed. “And those who term them such would perceive themselves to be the sensible and awake ones. Yet the ‘dreamers’ are of course the ones who are truly awake – or at least awakening. They sense – no matter how dimly – that wakefulness is not so very far away. It is as though there is just one thin current of air blowing above your head, a current both invisible to the eye and yet dense enough to fool the unwary into believing that it separates worlds. One stream of air is all that would separate the every day world from the glory of the higher worlds beyond! Dare to perceive it. Dare to fix your eyes upon it and cut through in an instant. Reach up and push your arm through the veil that binds you to the mortal coil, draw aside the fog and suddenly! – there it is: the vista you are seeking. It was only an arm’s length away all this time – throughout all of time! Mountains so glorious and high that they touch the Cosmos! Oceans of calm countless fathoms deep, undisturbed by harsh winds and changing tides! Fields of peace where the workers harvest bountiful crops of their own making and the children run free without fear of harm. And the sky…the sky is as high as forever and bids you aspire to higher worlds and greater existences.”
The man smiled. “Let me take you to a place not far from here where peace is ever-present, to meet people Who live forever, to Whom all knowledge and understanding is given. For whom Compassion is a force and Love the power. In Whose grasp the world is eternally safe.” He paused. “Close your eyes and be transported. Better still,” he said, “come with me to the window.”