The Star Publishing Trust, Eerde, Ommen, Holland, 1928
Part II - back to part I
The Path gives no answer to my desperate call; the cruel skies look down on me with complete indifference; the comforting echo does not exist, nor is there the dismal moan of many winds. Profound silence reigns, save for the monotonous sound of slow breathing and of the dragging of weary footsteps. There is no peace; there is a movement of thousands of invisible beings around me, as though they were mocking at my solitary suffering. The expectant hush that comes before a storm is my sole companion; only the annihilation of centuries replies to my continuous entreaties; my isolation is complete and cruel. The Path no longer speaks to me as of ancient days when she used to point out the right and the wrong, the true from the false, the essential from the unessential, the great from the petty. Now she is as silent as a grave. She has shown me a part of the way; but the rest I must tread by myself, before this beloved Path can be left behind and I reach the mightier and more glorious Path. She cannot enter there, she cannot be the signpost as of yore, but let me be satisfied with the thoughts of her guidance through
many epochs and storms to that everlasting resting-place.
The Path lies in front of me, gently and imperceptibly climbing, with never a curve and not a thing to obstruct its gentle slope. Like some gigantic snake, that lays itself in warm sand, heavy with killing, sleepy and contented, is the silent Path. It appears to be breathing and sighing with some quiet and happy satisfaction.
Now the sun steadily pours down his burning rays and drives away all thought from my mind. My only longing is to find some delightful cool shade where I can rest my weary body for a while, but an irresistible force pushes me and urges me on, never allowing me any respite. That power impels me to go forward with faltering footsteps. I cannot resist it.
I am weak and exhausted, but I obey that eternal and powerful compelling. I take a step, totter and fall, like a swift bird that is wounded by the cruel arrow; I struggle and become unconscious. Slowly and wearily I wake up and gaze at the naked and bright heavens, and I desire to lie and rest where I am; but that mighty force pushes me on to my feet, as of yore, to walk on the never ending Path.
Lo, there is a solitary tree, many feet away, whose delicious shadow welcomes me. The leaves are tender, velvety, and fresh, as though the sudden healing breath of spring had but lately awakened the dead branches to joyous life and to delicate green foliage. Its shadow is thick, shutting out the searching sun. The fresh fragrant grass and the protecting tree smile with contentment on me, inviting me to share their happy abode. It is full of birds, joyous in their continuous chatter, calling to each other in playful tones. With failing strength I drag myself to enjoy the rare gift which the kind gods have granted to me.
As I with pain approach, the whole tree bends down welcoming me, giving some of its vital strength; I crawl under its fragrant and whispering shadow and gaze wearily into its cool depths. Sleep and exhaustion overcome me; I am asleep, lulled by the welcoming twitterings of may birds and the gentle rustle of many leaves. I rest through happy moments of complete oblivion of all suffering and pain, and the ache of many ages. Might I lie here, always, in this soft light, soothed by the murmerings of living things, unruffled by inner and outer storms! Glorious would it be to lie everlastingly here and sleep, sleep, sleep.
I am burning, the sun is viciously glaring on me, revengeful for my momentary happiness. Where is my beloved tree and where are those birds with their happy song? Gaze as I may, nowhere can I find the tree of happiness. Gone, gone, and I am alone once again. Was it a dream? Was it the ancient unreality, taking a form that would give sure delight? Was it the pity of some kind God, or the cruel sport of a God unkind? Was it the great promise of the future? Or was it that some mighty Being desired to test the strength of my forbearance? Many vanishing realities have I followed only to hear their merciless laughter when I have grasped them; but here I thought that I was safe from their old and bitter sway, their barbarous persecution when I sought the lasting – the real. They have, then, pursued me even into this far and lonely place? With infinite caution have I learned to disentangle the real from the false, and when I thought I had mastered the supreme art, must I begin again at the bottom of the difficult ladder?
When I commenced this Path in bygone ages, there was a firmness in my tread; now again decision rules my steps, a new enthusiasm is born in me, as of yore, when before the many sufferings and many sorrows I was eager to face the unknown, and anxious to test my strength against the unweary Path. The joy of struggle is surging up in me to conquer the mighty and immortal happiness. The Path with its great force need no longer impel me forward; I run faster, nor do my feet falter. I no longer lag behind. I am the Master of the Path. No longer need it spur me to act, for I am all action; I am willing and I walk in freedom.
The Path stretches mile upon mile, age upon age; steeper than of yore, narrower, more strenuous, the way winds precipitously, leaving behind the country of the past. Far below me lies the land of desolation and of immense sorrow, where Unreality, in many shapes and in many a guise rules the great stricken dominions. Here, at this altitude, there reigns complete silence; the silence smiles on me; but as I walk unceasingly on this mountainous way, the recent joy is dead again, my weary feet falter as of old, and I long for that beloved tree which shared with me its happy shade and the soft wooing songs of the innumerable birds. That phantom tree gave me but the happiness of a fleeting moment, and yet I was gratified with that temporary joy. I beseech the same God who extended His fitful compassion to me, to grant me but a moment of shade, the happy song to lull the aching heart, and the companionship. If it was but a dream of phantasy, let me once more embrace it and cling to it, even though it be for a brief space! Though ephemeral was the taste of that momentary pleasure, grateful was the rest in the deep, cool shadows.
Where art thou, my beloved – glorious unreality though thou be? Hast thou forgotten the weary traveler who sheltered in thy calm shade? Though thou hast been a false comfort, yet how I crave for thee, to sink once more in thy soft arms, forgetting all but my delicious comfort. Grant me thyself but this once, and I shall be thy love everlasting. I am weary; come to my aid, my beloved, with thy transient beauty. Lull me with thy false murmerings, and encourage me with thine untrue flattery. I am spent with beseeching and exhausted with weariness, and I am in utter despair.
Far in the distance, there is a clump of trees surrounding a gay house, with a sweet and fragrant garden. I am in it, enjoying the cool, and the bewitching smiles of many a beauteous maiden. I join in their fresh laughter and in their merrymaking. Their pleasure-laden voices soothe me and soft music lulls me to sleep. Here there is peace and quietness and complete forgetfulnes. I am happy and contented, for in this abode of pleasure is the joy for which I have searched through innumerable ages; reality cannot exist but here. Am I not satisfied? Am I not surrounded by all that I desire? Why did I endure, why did I struggle? For here there is balm to the aching heart and comfort to the comfortless.
How long, or how many ages, or how many days, I have dwelt in this pleasurable abode, I cannot tell; nor can I count the happy hours that have been spent here. Once again the unquenchable longing is stirring in the depths of my heart; it has awakened anew and tortures me. I cannot rest in this house of gratification; the contentment which it promised has not been given to me; there is no happiness, no comfort within its walls. I have been deceived with unrealities; I have feasted on untruth; I have been guided by the light of false reason, and I have worshipped, as of yore, at the temple of darkness. I have cheated myself with the temporary and with the impermanent; after many ages and much pain have I once again fallen victim to the mocking gods. Again must I wander forth; again must I face the unyielding Path.
Once more I am in the blazing sun, once more do I feel the strength to face the long journey. Fresh enthusiasm and fresh hopes are surging in me; courage is born anew. The Path of many ages smiles on me, promising once more to be the passage of light. Like a mighty tree that has bowed down before the stormy winds, but reasserts itself when they are stilled, and gazes again, with head erect, into the unfathomable skies, defiant and sparkling in the sun, so do I feel. Once more the joy of loneliness is pulsating through all my being, and the solitude, away from vain pleasures and the unmeaning crowd, is like a breath of fresh wind that blows in the mountains. I am alive once more, eager to find the end of all sorrow, the glorious liberation. Happy is the man who struggles!
The long sinuous Path lies in front of me, and all life has ceased to exist except the one traveler on that lonely road.
I am throbbing with the excitement of a new and strenuous conquest, like a soldier, proud and haughty, that marches into a vanquished town. I long for greater and more difficult battles to be won, and I cry for the lack of them.
The solemn stillness breaks in upon my joy, and the grave quietness grips me. I am humbled by the vast expanse, and the pitiless skies threaten me; the pride of victory is broken, and its glory has departed; the terrible loneliness is gently and slowly overwhelming me. But the longing to attain the end is unabated; invincible is the strength, and the will to succeed is indomitable.
For how many centuries I have traveled I cannot count, for my memory is weary, but I have journeyed through many seasons. The Path is as tired as he who treads it, and both are crying for the end, but both are willing, the one to lead, the other to follow.
On either side of the road there arise, in the far distance, at fitful intervals, tall and stately trees, tossing their bright heads in the sun, forgetting that they were like plants once upon a time. Birds of all feathers, of all hues and of all sizes, frequent them; their plaintive but happy cries reach my ears that have not heard a sound for many an age, except the sound of weary footsteps.
As I approach those joyous creatures are not afraid, but gaze with supreme indifference, continuing their songs. Under the dreaded shade, the green grass sways to the soft music of the winds among the leaves. The strong tree, the gay birds, and the humble grass, all welcome me and promise to lull me to sleep. It is so close, so fragrant, so peaceful to the worn eyes – I almost hesitatingly yield – but there rise in me the memories of other trees, other birds and other shades, so deliciously welcoming, yet so deceitful. My beloved Path smiles, wondering and watching what my actions will be, whether I shall choose again the shadows.
It is cool under that tree, and blissful with the song of the birds and the soft music of the rustling leaves. Ah! let me but stay a fleeting moment and then let me pass on! The sun is hot and I am weary, and my body aches with the long journey. The refreshing shadows can do me no harm – let me but stay, oh, thou inexorable Path, for a happy second! Long sleepless nights have I passed with thee for many centuries, and dost thou grudge and deny me the sleep of but a passing moment? Canst thou not grant me this one pitiable desire? Whither hath fled thy love, thine infinite understanding? I implore thee not to turn away from me, but to answer my call.
A profound silence reigns. The wind has ceased to play with the leaves. The birds are quiet, quiet as death, and the mighty tree broods in deep thought. The shadows have deepened, there prevails a greater calm and greater cool; the green, tender grasses look on me with their small inquisitive eyes, debating in their little minds as to the cause of my unforeseen faltering, whispering to each other to encourage me in my plight. The Path of many experiences and great understanding smiles on my struggling hesitation, neither with encouragement nor pleasure; it is a smile of wisdom and knowledge, which says: "Thou mayst do what thou desirest, but repentance awaits thee."
My choice is made. Like the morning mist that is gently dispelled by the first warm rays of the slow-rising sun, so the magnificent tree of gratification fades gradually before me; the gay birds melt away as before a fast-approaching storm, and the green grass withers in the burning heat of the sun. There remains only a faint vestige of the past. The Path leads on and I humbly follow.
At irregular intervals along the roadside there arise trees inviting me to taste of their bright-coloured and luscious fruit and enjoy their sweetness. It would soothe my parched throat and quench my burning thirst, but my Path is rigorous, and I pass them by. Further on there are magnificent houses, places of pleasure and delight, their welcoming doors always open, inviting the travelworn pilgrim. An age and many lives lie between house and house, and the tired traveller is the too-willing victim of their charm. Craving for their enchantment, shelter, many a time have I hesitated at their doorsteps, sometimes straying into them and coming out with shame to walk again with gladness on the clean, sunburnt Path.
The house of strong and selfish passions, with its gross gratification and its impurities, have I entered, and have feasted on all that they could give. Oft have I passed with lingering footsteps the house of many false shadows, the house of satiety with its fleeting contentment, the house of flattery, and the house of learning, where false and fugitive facts lull the ignorant; but only to be enticed into the house of the love that limits, that is selfish, that is unkind, forgetting all except the one; the love that clings, the love that desires; the narrow love of the father, the mother, the sister, the brother, and the child; the love that slowly and pitilessly destroys the nobler feelings; the love that contents itself with little things.
Many a time have I crossed the threshold of the house of blissful ignorance, of the brilliant house of vain flattery, and of the dismal house of black hate and cunning deceit. Often have I fallen to the temptations of the imperishable house of intolerance, to the boisterous house of patriotism, that breeds venomous and warring hate, and the house of solitary and cold pride, that is unapproachable and untouchable. In the house of friendship that uproots the friendship of others and is consumed with jealousy, and in the house of concealed and talented vice, have I sojourned for many weary seasons. And I have visited the house of small wisdom that excludes all knowledge except its own petty creation, and the house of little learning that understands little but condemns violently and clamorously all that is beyond its insignificant comprehension.
Many a house of religion have I entered, dwelling within its narrow walls, sleeping in the lap of dark superstition, worshipping false gods, sacrificing innocent things at the temple's altars, and taking part in futile, religious wars and bitter persecution. Wandering into dark houses, have I sought light, and have strayed forth blind and comfortless.
The sympathetic Path ever understood me when I returned to its bare arms, with the head bowed down, with shame gnawing at my heart; it ever welcomed me, promising to be my guide and my everlasting friend.
I can see on each side of the long pathway many temptations in delightful shapes and forms, but they are not for me. Let others be enticed, but I will follow my ancient Path. My sore need is to rest and to drink deep at the long-promised source, and no longer do I desire to quench my immemorial thirst at the shadowy fountains. Yet, as far as the eye can see, false things obstruct my view.
Once I was able to talk quietly and for many an hour with my lonely companion, the Path, but now it is silent, overwhelmed by sound. Once there was profound peace and tranquility, but now the holy silence is broken by the barbarous tongues of the multitude. Yet through these clamorous scenes and this continuous babble my Path leads, and I follow without hesitation.
How long I have travelled through the land of false phantasies I cannot say, but unerring, with a grave deliberation, have I adhered to my pathway. Always the Path mounts, and with aching limbs have I climbed, clinging desperately; but never have I strayed and gone down into the dark valley. Many centuries have I struggled, resisting fleeting pleasures and inclinations; and yet in front of me there ever spring up temptations in new and varied forms to beguile me.
True it is that I can never again be their victim, and yet ….. Ye pitiless gods, is there never an end to this goading misery and to this cruel and false land of passing desires? For how many an age have I trodden this Path of righteousness! Yet the end is still not in view. Or is this the goal of all my endurance? Nay, it cannot be, for I have seen, once upon a time, in a far bygone age, the summit of enlightenment. But for how many incarnations must I wander amidst sorrow and tribulation before I knock at the portals of bliss? Without demand, without question, and without lamentation, I must tread this Path for another age.
I am weary and sick at heart; incarnations of great misery and pain have I endured. Vain hopes and promises have made me strong; imperishable has been my desire for the goal; persistent has been my blind groping after truth, and indestructible my ardent enthusiasm. Can all my aching sorrow and torture be in vain? Cannot my beloved Path lead me to the mountain top, as it has constantly and faithfully promised? Still, after the exquisite pain and indescribable longing, does the pathway lead amidst a vast expanse of shadowy illusions. Why? Ah! what have I done and what have I left undone, what little things of life have I neglected, what sacrifices are there still to be offered, what greater agonies must I bear? What greater purifications must I undergo, what fiercer burning must I sustain, and what mightier experience of torture awaits me, before I reach that abode of pure enlightenment and sacred content?
The mother that bore me knew not what she did, and, had she known, the milk that she nourished me with so tenderly would have turned to poison, and would have spared me these never-ending tortures. Happy would I have been to cease upon the midnight hour, but idle is it to moan and hurl myself against the inevitable. Blameless is my dear mother, and fruitlessly do I clamour against the pain of evolution. And in the end this groping, this fumbling in the dark must cease; for the door of knowledge must be found; there must be the light that guides, the truth that gives contentment, the enlightenment that brings calm happiness.
O! I can no longer cry, my body is too feeble to stand, the strength is gradually ebbing out of me – my entire being revolts against the merciless void. Can no god turn his pitiful eyes on the lonesome, spent traveller? Ye Masters of Wisdom, have compassion and shed that infinite mercy that can heal and that can bring light to the wanderer in utter darkness. O, ye cool nights, compel the fiery sun to depart; ye dark clouds, cover up the burning rays! Ah! for the strong hand that could lead and support me, the gentle voice that could comfort and encourage me, the embrace and the kiss that could make me forget! Forlorn am I and with a dying voice, I call.
The voice of profound quietness answers me with complete silence, and the void echoes that dreadful stillness. My beloved Path smiles on me, but, pitifully and on all sides, even among the boisterous houses of mirth, deep and awful quiet reigns, as on a night when some murderous deed is being enacted or when the churchyard grave opens its ponderous jaws as in a subdued yawn. I am exhausted, and I totter. The end of my very being draweth nigh. Within the mind's eye I seem to perceive the vision of the haven of perfect peace and the resting-place for the weary and the travel-worn. Yet for how many an age must I endure this pain of the mind, this surging dissatisfaction, this grief of ages and these woes of bodily suffering, I cannot tell. As far as eye can scan, I see nothing but shifting and transient things. Yet at each footstep there throbs in me the assurance that the end of the long journey is at hand and approacheth its harbour like a ship at sea. May the deities that be above hasten me towards my destination!
Suddenly the air has become still, breathless with some great expectation, and there is a hush like that which comes for a moment after a glorious sunset, when the whole world is in profound adoration. There is a deep silence as on a night when the distant stars waft their kisses to each other, there is an unexpected tranquility as that of a sudden cessation in a thunderous storm, and there reigns a great peace as in the precincts of a sacred temple. Within me the pain and sorrow of ages is partly stilled; there is a faint and soothing murmuring in the air as my eyes softly close. All things animate and inanimate are resting from their weary toil. The whole world is peacefully asleep and dreaming sweet dreams. The sun, whose fiery rays have for so many ages burnt me ruthlessly, has suddenly become kind, and there is a coolness as that of a deep wooded forest. Divinity is taking shape within me.
The Path has become much steeper and I feebly climb the difficult ascent. As I mount this hill, the abodes of innumerable pleasures of the flesh, the houses of many desires and the green trees grow scarce, and as I reach the summit the enticing Phantasies entirely vanish. The Path ever ascends in a long straight line, the air is cooler and the climbing is easier. There is a fresh energy born within me and I surge forward with renewed enthusiasm.
Far in the high distance my Path vanishes into a thick grove of mighty and ancient trees. I dare not look behind or on either side, for the pathway has become precipitous and dangerously narrow. I traverse this perilous passage in a spent and dreamy condition, with my eyes ever fixed on the far-off vision, scarcely looking or caring where I tread. I am in great ecstasy, for the dim sight ahead of me has inspired a deep and lasting hope. With a light footstep I am running forward, fearful lest the happy vision should dissolve and elude me as it has done so often. There is not another traveller in front of me, but the pathway is smooth as though worn by thousands of footsteps through innumerable ages; it shines like a mirror; it is slippery. I tread as though walking in sleep, dreading to wake to false realities and transient things. The vision stands out clear and more distinct as I rapidly approach.
The gracious Gods have at last answered my pitiful calls uttered in the wilderness. My long and sorrowful journey has come to an end and the glorious journey has begun. Far ahead there are other Paths and other gateways, at whose doors I shall knock with greater assurance and with a more joyous and understanding heart. From this world I can behold all the Paths that lie below me. They all converge to this point, though separated my immeasurable distances; many are the travellers on these lonely Paths, but yet each voyager is proud in his blind loneliness and foolish separation. For there are many that follow him and many that precede him. They have been like me, lost in their own narrow path, avoiding and pushing aside the greater road. They struggle blindly in their ignorance; walking in their own shadow and clinging desperately to their petty truths, they call forth despairingly for the greater truth.
My Path that has guided me through rough and storm-laden countries is beside me. I am gazing with welling tears at those weary and sorrow-eyed travellers. My beloved, my heart is broken at the cruel sight, for I cannot descend and give them divine water to quench their vehement thirst. For they must find the eternal source for themselves. But, ye merciful Gods, I can at least make their path smoother and alleviate the pain and the sorrow which they have created for themselves through ignorance and pitiful carelessness!
Come all ye that sorrow, and enter with me into the abode of enlightenment and into the shades of immortality. Let us gaze on the everlasting night, the light which gives comfort, the light which purifies. The resplendent truth shines gloriously and we can no longer be blind, nor is there need to grope in the amysmal darkness. We shall quench our thirst, for we shall drink deep at the bubbling fountain of wisdom.
I am strong, I no longer falter; the divine spark is burning in me; I have beheld in a waking dream, the Master of all things and I am radiant with his eternal joy. I have gazed into the deep pool of knowledge and many reflections have I beheld. I am the stone in the sacred temple. I am the humble grass that is mown down and trodden upon. I am the tall and stately tree that courts the very heavens. I am the animal that is hunted. I am the criminal who is hated by all. I am the noble man who is honoured by all. I am sorrow, pain and fleeting pleasure; the passions and the gratifications; the bitter wrath and the infinite compassion; the sin and the sinner. I am the lover and the very love itself. I am the saint, the adorer, the worshipper and the follower. I am God.