"In scientific terms one can say: Consciousness is everywhere; it is awake
when and wherever the bodily energy underlying the spiritual exceeds that
degree of strength which we call the threshold. According to this, consciousness
can be localized in time and space." - FECHNER, Buchlein vom Leben nach
The offer of the cabin, meanwhile, remained open. In the solitude that
O'Malley found necessary that evening he toyed with it, though knowing
that he would never really accept.
Like a true Celt his imagination took the main body of Stahl's words
and ensouled them with his own vivid temperament. There stirred in him
this nameless and disquieting joy that wrought for itself a Body from material
just beyond his thoughts - that region of enormous experience that ever
fringes the consciousness of imaginative men. He took the picture at its
face value, took it inside with his own thoughts, delighted in it, raised
it, of course, very soon to a still higher scale. If he criticized at all
it was with phrases like "The man's a poet after all! Why, he's got creative
imagination!" To find his own intuitions endorsed, even half explained,
by a mind of opposite type was a new experience. It emphasized amazingly
the reality of that inner world he lived in.
This explanation of the big Russian's effect upon himself was terrific,
and that a "doctor" should have conceived it, glorious. That some portion
of a man's spirit might assume the shape of his thoughts and project itself
visibly seemed likely enough. Indeed, to him, it seemed already a "fact,"
and his temperament did not linger over it. But that other suggestion fairly
savaged him with its strange grandeur. He played lovingly with it.
That the Earth was a living being was a conception divine in size as
in simplicity, and that the Gods and mythological figures had been projections
of her consciousness - this thought ran with a magnificent new thunder
about his mind. It was overwhelming, beautiful as Heaven and as gracious.
He saw the ancient shapes of myth and legend still alive in some gorgeous
garden of the primal world, a corner too remote for humanity to have yet
stained it with their trail of uglier life. He understood in quite a new
way, at last, those deep primitive longings that hitherto had vainly craved
their full acknowledgment. It meant that he lay so close to the Earth that
he felt her pulses as his own. The idea stormed his belief.
It was the Soul of the Earth herself that all these years had been calling
And while he let his imagination play with the soaring beauty of the
idea, he remembered certain odd little facts. He marshalled them before
him in a row and questioned them: The picture he had seen with the Captain's
glasses - those speeding shapes of beauty; the new aspect of a living Nature
that the Russian's presence stirred in him; the man's broken words as they
had leaned above the sea in the dusk; the curious passion that leaped to
his eyes when certain chance words had touched him at the dinner-table.
And, lastly, the singular impression of giant bulk he produced sometimes
upon the mind, almost as though a portion of him - this detachable portion
moulded by the quality of his spirit as he felt himself to be - emerged
visibly to cause it.
Vaguely, in this way, O'Malley divined how inevitable was the apparent
isolation of these two, and why others instinctively avoided them. They
seemed by themselves in an enclosure where the parent lumberingly, and
the boy defiantly, disported themselves with a kind of lonely majesty that
And it was later that same night, as the steamer approached the Lipari
Islands, that the drive forward he had received from the doctor's words
was increased by a succession of singular occurrences. At the same time,
Stahl's deliberate and as he deemed it unjustifiable interference, helped
him to make up his mind decisively on certain other points.
The first "occurrence" was of the same order as the "bigness" - extraordinarily
difficult, that is, to confirm by actual measurement.
It was ten o'clock, Stahl still apparently in his cabin by himself,
and most of the passengers below at an impromptu concert, when the Irishman,
coming down from his long solitude, caught sight of the Russian and his
boy moving about the dark after-deck with a speed and vigour that instantly
arrested his attention. The suggestion of size, and of rapidity of movement,
had never been more marked. It was as though a cloud of the summer darkness
moved beside them.
Then, going cautiously nearer, he saw that they were neither walking
quickly, nor running, as he had first supposed, but - to his amazement
- were standing side by side upon the deck - stock still. The appearance
of motion, however, was not entirely a delusion, for he next saw that,
while standing there steady as the mast and life-boats behind them, something
emanated shadow-like from both their persons and seemed to hover and play
about them - something that was only approximately of their own outer shapes,
and very considerably larger. Now it veiled them, now left them clear.
He thought of smoke-clouds moving to and fro about dark statues.
So far as he could focus his sight upon them, these "shadows," without
any light to cast them, moved in distorted guise there on the deck with
a motion that was somehow rhythmica...great movement as of dance or gambol.
As with the appearance of "bigness," he perceived it first out of the
corner of his eye. When he looked again he saw only two dark figures, motionless.
He experienced the sensation a man sometimes knows on entering a deserted
chamber in the night-time, and is aware that the things in it have just
that instant - stopped. His arrival puts abrupt end to some busy activity
they were engaged in, which begins again the moment he goes. Chairs, tables,
cupboards, the very spots and patterns of the wall have just flown back
to their usual places whence they watch impatiently for his departure -
with the candle.
This time, on a deck instead of in a room, O'Malley with his candle
had surprised them in the act: people, moreover, not furniture. And this
shadowy gambol, this silent Dance of the Emanations, immense yet graceful,
made him think of Winds flying, visible and uncloaked, somewhere across
long hills, or of Clouds passing to a stately, elemental measure over the
blue dancing-halls of an open sky. His imagery was confused and gigantic,
yet very splendid. Again he recalled the pictured shapes seen with his
mind's eye through the Captain's glasses. And as he watched, he felt in
himself what he called "the wild, tearing instinct to run and join them,"
more even - that by rights he ought to have been there from the beginning
- dancing with them - indulging a natural and instinctive and rhythmical
movement that he had somehow forgotten.
The passion in him was very strong, very urgent, it seems, for he took
a step forward, a call of some kind rose in his throat, and in another
second he would have been similarly cavorting upon the deck, when he felt
his arm clutched suddenly with vigour from behind. Some one seized him
and held him back. A German voice spoke with a guttural whisper in his
Dr. Stahl, crouching and visibly excited, drew him forward a little.
"Hold up!" he heard whispered - for their india-rubber soles slithered
on the wet decks. "We shall see from here, eh? See something at last?"
He still whispered. O'Malley's sudden anger died down. He could not give
vent to it without making noise, for one thing, and above all else he wished
to - see. He merely felt a vague wonder how long Stahl had been watching.
They crouched behind the lee of a boat. The outline of the ship rose,
distinctly visible against the starry sky, masts, spars, and cordage. A
faint gleam came through the glass below the compass-box. The wheel and
the heaps of coiled rope beyond rose and fell with the motion of the vessel,
now against the stars, now black against the phosphorescent foam that trailed
along the sea like shining lace. But the human figures, he next saw, were
now doing nothing, not even pacing the deck; they were no longer of unusual
size either. Quietly leaning over the rail, father and son side by side,
they were guiltless of anything more uncommon than gazing into the sea.
Like the furniture, they had just - stopped!
Dr. Stahl and his companion waited motionless for several minutes in
silence. There was no sound but the dull thunder of the screws, and a faint
windy whistle the ship's speed made in the rigging. The passengers were
all below. Then, suddenly, a burst of music came up as some one opened
a saloon port-hole and as quickly closed it agai...tenor voice singing
to the piano some trivial modern song with a trashy sentimental lilt. It
was - in this setting of sea and sky - painful; O'Malley caught himself
thinking of a barrel-organ in a Greek temple.
The same instant father and son, as though startled, moved slowly away
down the deck into the further darkness, and Dr. Stahl tightened his grip
of the Irishman's arm with a force that almost made him cry out. A gleam
of light from the opened port-hole had fallen about them before they moved.
Quite clearly it revealed them bending busily over, heads close together,
necks and shoulders thrust forward and down a little.
"Look, by God!" whispered Stahl hoarsely as they moved off. "There's
He pointed. Where the two had been standing something, indeed, still
remained. Concealed hitherto by their bulk, this other figure had been
left. They saw its large, dim outline. It moved. Apparently it began to
climb over the rails, or to move in some way just outside them, hanging
half above the sea. There was a free, swaying movement about it, not ungainly
so much as big - very big.
"Now, quick!" whispered the doctor excited, in English; "this time I
find out, sure!"
He made a violent movement forward, a pocket electric lamp in his hand,
then turned angrily, furiously, to find that O'Malley held him fast. There
was a most unseemly struggle - for a minute, and it was caused by the younger
man's sudden passionate instinct to protect his own from discovery, if
not from actual capture and destruction.
Stahl fought in vain, being easily overmatched; he swore vehement German
oaths under his breath; and the pocket-lamp, of course unlighted, fell
and rattled over the deck, sliding with the gentle roll of the steamer
to leeward. But O'Malley's eyes, even while he struggled, never for one
instant left the spot where the figure and the "movement" had been; and
it seemed to him that when the bulwarks dipped against the dark of the
sea, the moving thing completed its efforts and passed into the waves with
a swift leap. When the vessel righted herself again the outline of the
rail was clear.
Dr. Stahl, he then saw, had picked up the lamp and was bending over
some mark upon the deck, examining a wide splash of wet upon which he directed
the electric flash. The sense of revived antagonism between the men for
the moment was strong, too strong for speech. O'Malley feeling half ashamed,
yet realized that his action had been instinctive, and that another time
he would do just the same. He would fight to the death any too close inspection,
since such inspection included also now - himself.
The doctor presently looked up. His eyes shone keenly in the gleam of
the lamp, but he was no longer agitated.
"There is too much water," he said calmly, as though diagnosing a case;
"too much to permit of definite traces." He glanced round, flashing the
beam about the decks. The other two had disappeared. They were alone. "It
was outside the rail all the time, you see," he added, "and never quite
reached the decks." He stooped down and examined the splash once more.
It looked as though a wave had topped the scuppers and left a running line
of foam and water. "Nothing to indicate its exact nature," he said in a
whisper that conveyed something between uneasiness and awe, again turning
the light sharply in every direction and peering about him. "It came to
them - er - from the sea, though; it came from the sea right enough. That,
at least, is positive." And in his manner was perhaps just a touch to indicate
"And it returned into the sea," exclaimed O'Malley triumphantly. It
was as though he related his own escape.
The two men were now standing upright, facing one another. Dr. Stahl,
betraying no sign of resentment, looked him steadily in the eye. He put
the lamp back into his pocket. When he spoke at length in the darkness,
the words were not precisely what the Irishman had expected. Under them
his own vexation and excitement faded instantly. He felt almost sheepish
when he remembered his violence.
"I forgive your behaviour, of course," Stahl said, "for it is consistent
- splendidly consistent - with my theory of you; and of value, therefore.
I only now urge you again" - he moved closer, speaking almost solemnly
- "to accept the offer of a berth in my cabin. Take it, my friend, take
it - to-night."
"Because you wish to watch me at close quarters."
"No," was the reply, and there was sympathy in the voice, "but because
you are in danger - especially in sleep."
There was a moment's pause before O'Malley said anything.
"It is kind of you, Dr. Stahl, very kind," he answered slowly, and this
time with grave politeness; "but I am not afraid, and I see no reason to
make the change. And as it's now late," he added somewhat abruptly, almost
as though he feared he might be persuaded to alter his mind, "I will say
good-night and turn in - if you will forgive me - at once."
Dr. Stahl said no further word. He watched him, the other was aware,
as he moved down the deck towards the saloon staircase, and then turned
once more with his lamp to stoop over the splashed portion of the boards.
He examined the place apparently for a long time.
But O'Malley, as he went slowly down the hot and stuffy stairs, realized
with a wild and rushing tumult of joy that the "third" he had seen was
of a splendour surpassing the little figures of men, and that something
deep within his own soul was most gloriously akin with it. A link with
the Universe had been subconsciously established, tightened up, adjusted.
From all this living Nature breathing about him in the night, a message
had reached the strangers and himsel...message shaped in beauty and in
power. Nature had become at last aware of his presence close against her
ancient face. Henceforth would every sight of Beauty take him direct to
the place where Beauty comes from. No middleman, no Art was necessary.
The gates were opening. Already he had caught a glimpse.
IN the state-room he found, without surprise somehow, that his new companions
had already retired for the night. The curtain of the upper berth was drawn,
and on the sofa-bed below the opened port-hole the boy already slept. Standing
a moment in the little room with these two close, he felt that he had come
into a new existence almost. Deep within him this sense of new life thrilled
and glowed. He was shaking a little all over, not with the mere tremor
of excitement, however, but with the tide of a vast and rising exultation
he could scarce contain. For his normal self was too small to hold it.
It demanded expansion, and the expansion it claimed had already begun.
The boundaries of his personality were enormously extending.
In words this change escaped him wholly. He only knew that something
in him of an old unrest lay down at length and slept. Less acute grew those
pangs of starvation his life had ever felt - the ache of that inappeasable
hunger for the beauty and innocence of some primal state before thick human
crowds had stained the world with all their strife and clamour. The glory
of it burned white within him.
And the way he described it to himself was significant of its true nature.
For it vans the analogy of childhood. The passion of a boy's longing swept
over him. He knew again the feelings of those early days when
A boy's will is the wind's will,
when all the world smells sweet and golden as a summer's day, and a village
street is endless as the sky....
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts,
This it was, raised to its highest power, that dropped a hint of explanation
into that queer heart of his wherein had ever burned the strange desire
for primitive existence. It was the Call, though, not of his own youth
alone, but of the youth of the world. A mood of the Earth's consciousness
- some giant expression of her cosmic emotion - caught him. And it was
the big Russian who acted as channel and interpreter.
Before getting into bed, he drew aside the little red curtain that screened
his companion, and peered cautiously through the narrow slit. The big occupant
of the bunk also slept, his mane- like hair spread about him over the pillow,
and on his great, placid face a look of peace that seemed to deepen with
every day the steamer neared her destination. O'Malley gazed for a full
minute and more. Then the sleeper felt the gaze, for suddenly the eyelids
quivered, moved, and lifted. The large brown eyes peered straight into
his own. The Irishman, unable to turn away in time, stood fixed and staring
in return. The gentleness and power of the look passed straight down into
his heart, filled him to the brim with things their owner knew, and confirmed
that appeasement of his own hunger, already begun.
"I tried - to prevent the - interference," he stammered in a low voice.
"I held him back. You saw me?"
A huge hand stretched forth from the bunk to stop him. Impulsively he
seized it with both his own. At the first contact he starte...little frightened.
It felt so wonderful, so mighty. Thus might a gust of wind or a billow
of the sea have thrust against him.
"A messenger - came," said the man with that laborious slow utterance,
and deep as thunder, "from - the - sea."
"From - the - sea, yes," repeated O'Malley beneath his breath, yet conscious
rather that he wanted to shout and sing it. He saw the big man smile. His
own small hands were crushed in the grasp of power. "I - understand," he
added in a whisper. He found himself speaking with a similar clogged utterance.
Somehow, it seemed, the language they ought to have used was either forgotten
or unborn. Yet whereas his friend was inarticulate perhaps, he himself
was - dumb. These little modern words were all wrong and inadequate. Modern
speech could only deal with modern smaller things.
The giant half rose in his bed, as though at first to leap forward and
away from it. He tightened an instant the grasp upon his companion's hands,
then suddenly released them and pointed across the cabin. That smile of
happiness spread upon his face. O'Malley turned. There the boy lay, deeply
slumbering, the clothes flung back so that the air from the port-hole played
over the bare neck and chest; upon his face, too, shone the look of peace
and rest his father wore, the hunted expression all gone, as though the
spirit had escaped in sleep. The parent pointed, first to the boy, then
to himself, then to this new friend standing beside his bed. The gesture
including the three of them was of singular authority - invitation, welcome,
and command lay in it. More - in some incomprehensible way it was majestic.
O'Malley's thought flashed upon him the limb of some great oak tree, swaying
in the wind.
Next, placing a finger on his lips, his eyes once more swept O'Malley
and the boy, and he turned again into the little bunk that so difficultly
held him, and lay back. The hair flowed down and mingled with the beard,
over pillow and neck, almost to the shoulders. And something that was enormous
and magnificent lay back with him, carrying with it again that sudden atmosphere
of greater bulk. With a deep sound in his throat that was certainly no
actual word and yet more expressive than any speech, he turned hugely over
among the little, scanty sheets, drew the curtain again before his face,
and returned into the world of - sleep.
"It may happen that the earthly body falls asleep in one direction
deeply enough to allow it in others to awaken far beyond its usual limits,
and yet not so deeply and completely as to awaken no more. Or, to the subjective
vision there comes a flash so unusually vivid as to bring to the earthly
sense an impression rising above the threshold from an otherwise inaccessible
distance. Here begin the wonders of clairvoyance, of presentiments, and
premonitions in dreams; - pure fables, if the future body and the future
life are fables; otherwise signs of the one and predictions of the other;
but what has signs exists, and what has prophecies will come."
But O'Malley rolled into his own berth below without undressing, sleep
far from his eyes. He had heard the Gates of ivory and horn swing softly
upon their opening hinges, and the glimpse he caught of the garden beyond
made any question of slumber impossible. Again he saw those shapes of cloud
and wind flying over the long hills, while the name that should describe
them ran, hauntingly splendid, along the mysterious passages of his being,
though never coming quite to the surface for capture.
- Fechner, Buchlein vom Leben nach dem Tode.
Perhaps, too, he was glad that the revelation was only partial. The
size of the vision thus invoked awed him a little, so that he lay there
half wondering at the complete surrender he had made to this guidance of
Stahl's warnings ran far away and laughed. The idea even came to him
that Stahl was playing with him: that his portentous words had been carefully
chosen for their heightening effect upon his own imagination so that the
doctor might study an uncommon and extreme "case." The notion passed through
him merely, without lingering.
In any event it was idle to put the brakes on now. He was internally
committed and must go wherever it might lead. And the thought rejoiced
him. He had climbed upon a pendulum that swung into an immense past; but
its return swing would bring him safely back. It was rushing now into that
nameless place of freedom that the primitive portion of his being had hitherto
sought in vain, and a fundamental, starved craving of his life would know
satisfaction at last. Already life had grown all glorious without. It was
not steel engines but a speeding sense of beauty that drove the ship over
the sea with feet of winged blue darkness. The stars fled with them across
the sky, dropping golden leashes to draw him faster and faster forwards
- yet within - to the dim days when this old world yet was young. He took
his fire of youth and spread it, as it were, all over life till it covered
the entire world, far, far away. Then he stepped back into it, and the
world herself, he found, stepped with him.
He lay listening to the noises of the ship, the thump and bumble of
the engines, the distant droning of the screws under water. From time to
time stewards moved down the corridor outside, and the footsteps of some
late passenger still paced the decks overhead. He heard voices, too, and
occasionally the clattering of doors. Once or twice he fancied some one
moved stealthily to the cabin door and lingered there, but the matter never
drew him to investigate, for the sound each time resolved itself naturally
into the music of the ship's noises.
And everything, meanwhile, heard or thought, fed the central concern
upon which his mind was busy. These superficial sounds, for instance, had
nothing to do with the real business of the ship; that lay below with the
buried engines and the invisible screws that worked like demons to bring
her into port, And with himself and his slumbering companions the case
was similar. Their respective power-stations, working in the subconscious,
had urged them towards one another inevitably. How long, he wondered, had
the spirit of that lonely, alien "being" flashed messages into the void
that reached no receiving-station tuned to their acceptance? Their accumulated
power was great, the currents they generated immense. He knew. For had
they not charged full into himself the instant he came on board, bringing
an intimacy that was immediate and full-fledged?
The untamed longings that always tore him when he felt the great winds,
moved through forests, or found himself in desolate places, were at last
on the high road to satisfaction - to some "state" where all that they
represented would be explained and fulfilled. And whether such "state"
should prove to be upon the solid surface of the earth, objective; or in
the fluid regions of his inner being, subjective - was of no account whatever.
It would be true. The great figure that filled the berth above him, now
deeply slumbering, had in him subterraneans that gave access not only to
Greece, but far beyond that haunted land, to a state of existence symbolized
in the legends of the early world by Eden and the Golden Age....
"You are in danger," that wise old speculative doctor had whispered,
"and especially in sleep!" But he did not sleep. He lay there thinking,
thinking, thinking, a rising exaltation of desire paving busily the path
along which eventually he might escape.
As the night advanced and the lesser noises retired, leaving only the
deep sound of the steamer talking to the sea, he became aware, too, that
a change, at first imperceptibly, then swiftly, was stealing over the cabin.
It came with a riot of silent Beauty. At a loss to describe it with precision,
he nevertheless divined that it proceeded from the sleeping figure overhead
and in a lesser pleasure, too, from the boy upon the sofa opposite. It
emanated from these two, he felt, in proportion as their bodies passed
into deeper and deeper slumber, as though what occurred sometimes upon
the decks by an act of direct volition, took place now automatically and
with a fuller measure of release. Their spirits, free of that other world
in sleep, were alert and potently discharging. Unconsciously, their vital,
underlying essence escaped into activity.
Growing about his own person, next, it softly folded him in, casing
his inner being with glory and this crowding sense of beauty. This increased
manifestation of psychic activity reached down into the very core of himself,
like invisible fingers playing upon an instrument. Notes - powers - in
his soul, hitherto silent because none had known how to sound them, rose
singing to the surface. For it seemed at length that forms of some intenser
life, busily operating, moved to and fro within the painted white walls
of that little cabin, working subtly to bring about a transformation of
himself. A singular change was fast and cleverly at work in his own being.
It was, he puts it, a silent and irresistible Evocation.
No one of his senses was directly affected; certainly he neither saw,
felt, nor heard anything in the usual acceptance of the terms; but any
instant surely, it seemed that all his senses must awake and report to
the mind things that were splendid beyond the common order. In the crudest
aspect of it, he felt as though he extended and grew large - that he dreaded
to see himself in the mirror lest he might witness an external appearance
of bigness which corresponded to this interior expansion.
For a long time he lay unresisting, letting the currents of this subjective
tempest play through and round him. Entrancing sensations of beauty and
rapture came with it. The outer world seemed remote and trivial, the passengers
unreal - the priest, the voluble merchant, the jovial Captain, all spun
like dead things at the periphery of life; whereas he was moving toward
the Centre. Stahl...! the thought of Dr. Stahl, alone intruded with a certain
unwelcome air of hindrance, almost as though he sought to end it, or call
a halt. But Stahl, too, himself presently spun off like a leaf before the
And then it was that an external sense was tapped, and he did hear something.
From the berth overhead came a faint sound that made his heart stand still,
though not with common fear. He listened intently. The blood tearing through
his ears at first concealed its actual nature. It was far, far away; then
came closer, as a waft of wind brings near and carries off again a sound
of bells in mountains. It fled over vales and hills, to return a moment
after with suddennes...little louder, a little nearer. And with it came
an increase of this sense of beauty that stretched his heart, as it were,
to some deep ancient scale of joy once known, but long forgotten....
Across the cabin, the boy moved uneasily in his sleep.
"Oh, that I could be with him where he now is!" he cried, "in that place
of eternal youth and eternal companionship!" The cry was instinctive utterly;
his whole being, condensed in the single yearning, pressed through it -
drove behind it. The place, the companionship, the youth - all, he knew,
would prove in some strange way enormous, vast, ultimately satisfying for
ever and ever, far out of this little modern world that imprisoned him....
Again, most unwelcome and unexplained, the face of Stahl flashed suddenly
before him to hinder and interrupt. He banished it with an effort, for
it brought a smaller comprehension that somehow involved - fear.
"Curse the man!" flamed in anger across his world of beauty, and the
violence of the contrast broke something in his mind like a globe of coloured
glass that had focussed the exquisiteness of the vision....The sound continued
as before, but its power of evocation lessened. The thought of Stahl -
Stahl in his denying aspect - dimmed it.
Glancing up at the frosted electric light, O'Malley felt vaguely that
if he turned it out he would somehow yet see better, hear better, understand
more; and it was this practical consideration, introduced indirectly by
the thought of Stahl, that made him realize now for the first time that
he actually and definitely was - afraid. For, to leave his bunk with its
comparative, protective dark, and step into the middle of a cabin he knew
to be alive with a seethe of invisible charging forces, made him realize
that distinct effort was necessary - effort of will. If he yielded he would
be caught up and away, swept from his known moorings, borne through high
space out of himself. And Stahl with his cowardly warnings and belittlements
set fear, thus, in the place of free acceptance. Otherwise he might even
have come to these long blue hills where danced and raced the giant shapes
of cloud, singing while...
"Singing"! Ah! There was the clue! The sound he heard was singing -
faint, low singing; close beside him too. It was the big man, singing softly
in his sleep.
This ordinary explanation of the "wonder-sound" brought him down to
earth, and so to a more normal feeling of security again. He stepped cautiously
from the bed, careful not to let the rings rattle on the rod of brass,
and slowly raised himself upright. And then, through a slit of the curtain,
he - saw. The lips of the big sleeper moved gently, the beard rising and
falling very slightly with them, and this murmur that he had thought so
far away, came out and sang deliciously and faint before his very face.
It most curiously - flowed. Easily, naturally, almost automatically, it
poured softly forth, and the Irishman at once understood why he had first
mistaken it for an echo of wind from distant hills. The imagery was entirely
accurate. For it was precisely the singing cry that wind makes in a keyhole,
in a chimney, or passing idly over the sweep of grassy hills. Exactly thus
had he often listened to it swishing through the crannies of high rocks,
tuneless yet searching. In it, too, there lay some accent of a secret,
dim sublimity, deeper far than any other human sound could touch. The terror
of a great freedom caught him, a freedom most awfully remote from the smaller
personal existence he knew To-day...for it suggested, with awe and wonder,
the kind of primitive utterance that was before speech or the development
of language; when emotions were still too vague and mighty to be caught
by little words, but when beings, close to the heart of their great Mother,
expressed the feelings, enormous and uncomplex, of the greater life they
shared as portions of her - projections of the Earth herself.
With a crash in his brain, O'Malley stopped. These thoughts, he suddenly
realized, were not his own. An attack of unwonted sensations stung and
scattered his mind with a rush of giant splendour that threatened to overwhelm
him. He was in the very act of being carried away; his sense of personal
identity menaced; surrender well-nigh already complete.
Another moment, especially if those eyes opened and caught him, and
he would be beyond recall in the region of these other two. The narrow
space of that little cabin was charged already to the brim, filled with
some overpowering loveliness of wild and simple things, the beauty of stars
and winds and flowers, the terror of seas and mountains; strange radiant
forms of gods and heroes, nymphs, fauns and satyrs; the fierce sunshine
of some Golden Age unspoilt, of a stainless region now long forgotten and
denied - that world of splendour his heart had ever craved in vain, and
beside which the life of To-day faded to a wretched dream.
It was the Urwelt calling....
With a violent internal effort, he tore his gaze from those eyelids
that fortunately opened not. At the same moment, though he did not hear
them, steps came close in the corridor, and there was a rattling of the
knob. Behind him, a movement from the berth below the port-hole warned
him that he was but just in time. The Vision he was afraid as yet to acknowledge
drew with such awful speed towards the climax.
Quickly he turned away, lifted the hook of the cabin door, and passed
into the passage, strangely faint. A great commotion followed him out:
father and son both, it seemed, suddenly upon their feet. And at the same
time the sound of "singing" rolled into the body of a great hushed chorus,
as it were of galloping winds that filled big valleys far away with a gust
of splendour, faintly roaring in some incredible distance where no cities
were, nor habitations of men; with a freedom, too, that was majestic and
sublime. Oh! the terrific gait of that life in an open world! - Golden
to the winds! - uncrowded! - The cosmic life...!
O'Malley shivered as he heard. For an instant, the true grain of his
inner life, picked out in flame and silver, flashed clear. Almost - he
knew himself caught back.
And there, in the dimly-lighted corridor, against the panelling of the
cabin wall, crouched Dr. Stahl - listening. The pain of the contrast was
vivid beyond words. It seemed as if he had passed from the thunder of organs
to hear the rattling of tin cans. Instantly he understood the force that
all along had held him back: the positive, denying aspect of this man's
mind - afraid.
"You!" he exclaimed in a high whisper. "What are you doing here?" He
hardly remembers what he said. The doctor straightened up and came on tiptoe
to his side. He moved hurriedly.
"Come away," he said vehemently under his breath. "Come with me to my
cabin - to the decks - anywhere away from this - before it's too late."
And the Irishman then realized that his face was white and that his
voice shook. The hand that gripped him by the arm shook too.
They went quickly along the deserted corridor and up the stairs, O'Malley
making no resistance, moving in a kind of dream. He has a fleeting recollection
of an odour, sweet and slightly pungent as of horses, in his nostrils.
The wind of the open decks revived him, and he saw to his amazement that
the East was brightening. In that cabin, then, hours had been compressed
The steamer had already slipped by the Straits of Messina. To the right
he saw the cones of Etna, shadowy in the sky, calling across the dawn to
Stromboli their smoking brother of the Lipari. To the left over the blue
Ionian Sea the lights of a cloudless sunrise rose softly above the world.
And the hour of enchantment seized and shook him anew. Somewhere, across
those faint blue waves, lay the things that he so passionately sought.
It was the very essence of their loveliness and wonder that had charged
down between the walls of that stuffy cabin below. For every morning still,
at dawn, the tired world knows again the splendours of her youth; and the
Irishman, shuddering a little in his sacred joy, felt that he must burst
his bonds and fly to join the sunrise and the sea. The yearning, he was
aware, had now increased a thousandfold: its fulfilment was merely delayed.
He passed along the decks all slippery with dew into Dr. Stahl's cabin,
and flung himself on the broad sofa to sleep. Sleep, too, came at once;
he was profoundly exhausted; and, while he slept, Stahl watched over him,
covering his body with a thick blanket.
"It is a lovely imagination responding to the deepest desires,
instincts, cravings of spiritual man, that spiritual rapture should find
an echo in the material world; that in mental communion with God we should
find sensible communion with nature; and that, when the faithful rejoice
together, bird and beast, hill and forest, should be not felt only, but
seen to rejoice along with them. It is not the truth; between us and our
environment, whatever links there are, this link is wanting. But the yearning
for it, the passion which made Wordsworth cry out for something, even were
it the imagination of a pagan which would make him 'less forlorn,' is natural
to man; and simplicity leaps at the lovely fiction of a response. Just
here is the opportunity for such alliances between spiritualism and superstition
as are the daily despair of seekers after truth."
And though he slept for hours the doctor never once left his side, but
sat there with pencil and note-book, striving to catch, yet in vain, some
accurate record of the strange fragmentary words that fell from his lips
at intervals. His own face was aflame with an interest that amounted to
excitement. The very hand that held the pencil trembled. One would have
said that thus somewhat a man might behave who found himself faced with
confirmation of some vast, speculative theory his mind had played with
hitherto from a distance only.
- Dr. Verrall
Towards noon the Irishman awoke. The steamer, still loading oranges
and sacks of sulphur in the Catania harbour, was dusty and noisy. Most
of the passengers were ashore, hurrying with guide-books and field-glasses
to see the statue of the dead Bellini or watch the lava flow. A blazing,
suffocating heat lay over the oily sea, and the summit of the volcano,
with its tiny, ever-changing puff of smoke, soared through blue haze.
To Stahl's remark, "You've slept eight hours," he replied, "But I feel
as though I'd slept eight centuries away." He took the coffee and rolls
provided, and then smoked. The doctor lit a cigar. The red curtains over
the port-holes shut out the fierce sun, leaving the cabin cool and dim.
The shouting of the lightermen and officers mingled with the roar and scuttle
of the donkey-engine. And O'Malley knew perfectly well that while the other
moved about carelessly, playing with books and papers on his desk, he was
all the time keeping him under close observation.
"Yes," he continued, half to himself, "I feel as if I'd fallen asleep
in one world and awakened into another where life is trivial and insignificant,
where men work like devils for things of no value in order to accumulate
them in great ugly houses; always collecting and collecting, like mad children,
possessions that they never really possess - things external to themselves,
valueless and unreal..."
Dr. Stahl came up quietly and sat down beside him. He spoke gently,
his manner kind and grave rather. He put a hand upon his shoulder.
"But, my dear boy," he said, the critical mood all melted away, "do
not let yourself go too completely. That is vicious thinking, believe me.
All details are important - here and now - spiritually important, if you
prefer the term. The symbols change with the ages, that is all." Then,
as the other did not reply, he added: "Keep yourself well in hand. Your
experience is of extraordinary interest - may even be of value, to yourself
as well as to - er - others. And what happened to you last night is worthy
of record - if you can use it without surrendering your soul to it altogether.
Perhaps, later, you will feel able to speak of it - to tell me in detail
His keen desire to know more evidently fought with his desire to protect,
to heal, possibly even to prevent.
"If I felt sure that your control were sufficient, I could tell you
in return some results of my own study of - certain cases in the hospitals,
you see, that might throw light upon - upon your own curious experience."
O'Malley turned with such abruptness that the cigar ash fell down over
his clothes. The bait was strong, but the man's sympathy was not sufficiently
of a piece, he felt, to win his entire confidence.
"I cannot discuss beliefs," he said shortly, "in the speculative way
you do. They are too real. A man doesn't argue about his love, does he?"
He spoke passionately. "To-day everybody argues, discusses, speculates:
no one believes. If you had your way, you'd take away my beliefs and put
in their place some wretched little formula of science that the next generation
will prove all wrong again. It's like the N rays one of you discovered:
they never really existed at all." He laughed. Then his flushed face turned
grave again. "Beliefs are deeper than discoveries. They are eternal."
Stahl looked at him a moment with admiration. He moved across the cabin
towards his desk.
"I am more with you than perhaps you understand," he said quietly, yet
without too obviously humouring him. "I am more - divided, that's all."
"Modern!" exclaimed the other, noticing the ashes on his coat for the
first time and brushing them off impatiently. "Everything in you expresses
itself in terms of matter, forgetting that matter being in continual state
of flux is the least real of all things..."
"Our training has been different," observed Stahl simply, interrupting
him. "I use another phraseology. Fundamentally, we are not so far apart
as you think. Our conversation of yesterday proves it, if you have not
forgotten. It is people like yourself who supply the material that teaches
people like me - helps me to advance - to speculate, though you dislike
The Irishman was mollified, though for some time he continued in the
same strain. And the doctor let him talk, realizing that his emotion needed
the relief of this safety- valve. He used words loosely, but Stahl did
not check him; it was merely that the effort to express himself - this
self that could believe so much - found difficulty in doing so coherently
in modern language. He went very far. For the fact that while Stahl criticized
and denied, he yet understood, was a strong incentive to talk. O'Malley
plunged repeatedly over his depth, and each time the doctor helped him
in to shore.
"Perhaps," said Stahl at length in a pause, "the greatest difference
between us is merely that whereas you jump headlong, ignoring details by
the way, I climb slowly, counting the steps and making them secure. I deny
at first because if the steps survive such denial, I know that they are
permanent. I build scaffolding. You fly."
"Flight is quicker," put in the Irishman.
"It is for the few," was the reply; "scaffolding is for all."
"You spoke a few days ago of strange things," O'Malley said presently
with abruptness, "and spoke seriously too. Tell me more about that, if
you will." He sought to lead the talk away from himself, since he did not
intend to be fully drawn. "You said something about the theory that the
Earth is alive, a living being, and that the early legendary forms of life
may have been emanations - projections of herself - detached portions of
her consciousness - or something of the sort. Tell me about that theory.
Can there be really men who are thus children of the earth, fruit of pure
passion - Cosmic Beings as you hinted? It interests me deeply."
Dr. Stahl appeared to hesitate.
"It is not new to me, of course," pursued the other, "but I should like
to know more."
Stahl still seemed irresolute. "It is true," he replied at length slowly,
"that in an unguarded moment I let drop certain observations. It is better
you should consider them unsaid perhaps: forget them."
"And why, pray?"
The answer was well calculated to whet his appetite.
"Because," answered the doctor, bending over to him as he crossed over
to his side, "they are dangerous thoughts to play with, dangerous to the
interests of humanity in its present state to-day, unsettling to the soul,
shaking the foundations of sane consciousness." He looked hard at him.
"Your own mind," he added softly, "appears to me to be already on their
track. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have in you that kind of
very passionate desire - of yearning - which might reconstruct them and
make them come true - for yourself - if you get out."
O'Malley, his eyes shining, looked up into his face.
"'Reconstruct - make them come true - if I get out'!" he repeated stammeringly,
fearful that if he appeared too eager the other would stop. "You mean,
of course, that this Double in me would escape and build its own heaven?"
Stahl nodded darkly. "Driven forth by your intense desire." After a
pause he added, "The process already begun in you would complete itself."
Ah! So obviously what the doctor wanted was a description of his sensations
in that haunted cabin.
"Temporarily?" asked the Irishman under his breath.
The other did not answer for a moment. O'Malley repeated the question.
"Temporarily," said Stahl, turning away again towards his desk, "unless
- the yearning were too strong."
"In which case...?"
"Permanently. For it would draw the entire personality with it...."
Stahl was bending over his books and papers. The answer was barely audible.
"Death," was the whispered word that floated across the heavy air of
that little sun-baked cabin.
The word if spoken at all was so softly spoken that the Irishman scarcely
knew whether he actually heard it, or whether it was uttered by his own
thought. He only realized - catching some vivid current from the other
man's mind - that this separation of a vital portion of himself that Stahl
hinted at might involve a kind of nameless inner catastrophe which should
mean the loss of his personality as it existed to-day - an idea, however,
that held no terror for him if it meant at the same time the recovery of
what he so passionately sought.
And another intuition flashed upon its heels - namely, that this extraordinary
doctor spoke of something he knew as a certainty; that his amazing belief,
though paraded as theory, was to him more than theory. Had he himself undergone
some experience that he dared not speak of, and were his words based upon
a personal experience instead of, as he pretended, merely upon the observation
of others? Was this a result of his study of the big man two years ago?
Was this the true explanation of his being no longer an assistant at the
H... hospital, but only a ship's doctor? Had this "modern" man, after all,
a flaming volcano of ancient and splendid belief in him, akin to what was
in himself, yet ever fighting it?
Thoughts raced and thundered through his mind as he watched him across
the cigar smoke. The rattling of that donkey-engine, the shouts of the
lightermen, the thuds of the sulphur-sacks - how ridiculous they all sounded,
the clatter of a futile, meaningless existence where men gathered - rubbish,
for mere bodies that lived amid dust a few years, then returned to dust
He sprang from his sofa and crossed over to the doctor's side. Stahl
was still bending over a littered desk.
"You, too," he cried, and though trying to say it loud, his voice could
only whisper, "you, too, must have the Urmensch in your heart and blood,
for how else, by my soul, could you know it all? Tell me, doctor, tell
me!" And he was on the very verge of adding, "Join us! Come and join us!"
when the little German turned his bald head slowly round and fixed upon
the excited Irishman such a cool and quenching stare that instantly he
felt himself convicted of foolishness, almost of impertinence.
He dropped backwards into an arm-chair, and the doctor at the same moment
let himself down upon the revolving stool that was nailed to the floor
in front of the desk. His hands smoothed out papers. Then he leaned forward,
still holding his companion's eyes with that steady stare which forbade
"My friend," he said quietly in German, "you asked me just now to tell
you of the theory - Fechner's theory - that the Earth is a living, conscious
Being. If you care to listen, I will do so. We have time." He glanced round
at the shady cabin, took down a book from the shelf before him, puffed
his black cigar and began to read.
"It is from one of your own people - William James; what you call a
'Hibbert Lecture' at Manchester College. It gives you an idea, at least,
of what Fechner saw. It is better than my own words."
So Stahl, in his turn, refused to be "drawn." O'Malley, as soon as he
recovered from the abruptness of the change from that other conversation,
gave all his attention. The uneasy feeling that he was being played with,
coaxed as a specimen to the best possible point for the microscope, passed
away as the splendour of the vast and beautiful conception dawned upon
him, and shaped those nameless yearnings of his life in glowing
THE shadows of the September afternoon were lengthening towards us from
the Round Pond by the time O'Malley reached this stage of his curious and
fascinating story. It was chilly under the trees, and the "wupsey-up, wupsey-down"
babies, as he termed them, had long since gone in to their teas, or whatever
it is that London babies take at six o'clock.
We strolled home together, and he welcomed the idea of sharing a dinner
we should cook ourselves in the tiny Knightsbridge flat. "Stew-pot evenings,"
he called these occasions. They reminded us of camping trips together,
although it must be confessed that in the cage-like room the "stew" never
tasted quite as it did beside running water on the skirts of the forest
when the dews were gathering on the little gleaming tent, and the wood-smoke
mingled with the scents of earth and leaves.
Passing that grotesque erection opposite the Albert Hall, gaudy in the
last touch of sunset, I saw him shudder. The spell of the ship and sea
and the blazing Sicilian sunshine lay still upon us, Etna's cones towering
beyond those gilded spikes of the tawdry Memorial. I stole a glance at
my companion. His light blue eyes shone, but with the reflection of another
sunset - the sunset of forgotten, ancient, far-off scenes when the world
His personality held something of magic in that silent stroll homewards,
for no word fell from either one of us to break its charm. The untidy hair
escaped from beneath the broad-brimmed old hat, and his faded coat of grey
flannel seemed touched with the shadows that the dusk brings beneath wild-olive
trees. I noticed the set of his ears, and how the upper points of them
ran so sharply into the hair. His walk was springy, light, very quiet,
suggesting that he moved on open turf where a sudden running jump would
land him, not into a motor-bus, but into a mossy covert where ferns grew.
There was a certain fling of the shoulders that had an air of rejecting
streets and houses. Some fancy, wild and sweet, caught me of a faun passing
down through underbrush of woodland glades to drink at a forest pool; and,
chance giving back to me a little verse of Alice Corbin's, I turned and
murmured it while watching him: What dim Arcadian pastures Have I known,
That suddenly, out of nothing, A wind is blown, Lifting a veil and a darkness,
Showing a purple sea - And under your hair, the faun's eyes Look out on
It was, of course, that whereas his body marched along Hill Street and
through Montpelier Square, his thoughts and spirit flitted through the
haunted, old-time garden he for ever craved. I thought of the morrow -
of my desk in the Life Insurance Office, of the clerks with oiled hair
brushed back from the forehead, all exactly alike, trousers neatly turned
up to show fancy coloured socks from bargain sales, their pockets full
of cheap cigarettes, their minds busy with painted actresses and the names
of horses! A Life Insurance Office! All London paying yearly sums to protect
themselves against - against the most interesting moment of life. Premiums
upon escape and freedom!
Again, it was the spell of my companion's personality that turned all
this paraphernalia of the busy, modern existence into the counters in some
grotesque and rather sordid game. To- morrow, of course, it would all turn
real and earnest again, O'Malley's story a mere poetic fancy. But for the
moment I lived it with him, and found it magnificent.
And the talk we had that evening when the stew-pot was empty and we
were smoking on the narrow-ledged roof of the prison- house - for he always
begged for open air, and with cushions we often sat beneath the stars and
against the grimy chimney-pots - that talk I shall never forget. Life became
constructed all anew. The power of the greatest fairy tale this world can
ever know lay about me, raised to its highest expression. I caught at least
some touch of reality - of awful reality - in the idea that this splendid
globe whereon we perched like insects peeping timidly from tiny cells,
might be the body of a glorious Being - the mighty frame to which some
immense Collective Consciousness, vaster than that of men, and wholly different
in kind, might be attached.
In the story, as I found it later in the dusty little Paddington room,
O'Malley reported, somewhat heavily, it seemed to me, the excerpts chosen
by Dr. Stahl. As an imaginative essay, they were interesting, of course,
and vitally suggestive, but in a tale of adventure such as this they overweight
the barque of fancy. Yet, in order to appreciate what followed, it seems
necessary for the mind to steep itself in something of his ideas. The reader
who dreads to think, and likes his imagination to soar unsupported, may
perhaps dispense with the balance of this section; but to be faithful to
the scaffolding whereon this Irishman built his amazing dream, I must attempt
as best I can some précis of that conversation.
"Every fragment of visible Nature might, as far as is known,
serve as part in some organism unlike our bodies....As to that which can,
and that which cannot, play the part of an organism, we know very little.
A sameness greater or less with our own bodies is the basis from which
we conclude to other bodies and souls....A certain likeness of outward
form, and again some amount of similarity in action, are what we stand
on when we argue to psychical life. But our failure, on the other side,
to discover these symptoms is no sufficient warrant for positive denial.
It is natural in this connection to refer to Fechner's vigorous advocacy."
It was with an innate resistance - at least a stubborn prejudice - that
I heard him begin. The earth, of course, was but a bubble of dried fire,
a huge round clod, dead as mutton. How could it be, in any permissible
sense of the word - alive?
- F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality
Then, gradually, as he talked there among the chimney-pots of old smoky
London, there stole over me this new and disquieting sense of realit...strange,
vast splendour, too mighty to lie in the mind with comfort. Laughter fled
away, ashamed. A new beauty, as of some amazing dawn, flashed and broke
upon the world. The autumn sky overhead, thick-sown with its myriad stars,
came down close, sifting gold and fire about my life's dull ways. That
desk in the Insurance Office of Cornhill gleamed beyond as an altar or
a possible throne.
The glory of Fechner's immense speculation flamed about us both, majestic
yet divinely simple. Only a dim suggestion of it, of course, lay caught
in the words the Irishman used - words, as I found later, that were a mixture
of Professor James and Dr. Stahl, flavoured strongly with Terence O'Malley
- but a suggestion potent enough to have haunted me ever since and to have
instilled meanings of stupendous divinity into all the commonest things
of daily existence. Mountains, seas, wide landscapes, forests, - all I
see now with emotions of wonder, delight, and awe unknown to me before.
Flowers, rain, wind, even a London fog, have come to hold new meanings.
I never realized before that the mere size of our old planet could have
hindered the perception of so fair a vision, or her mere quantitative bulk
have killed automatically in the mind the possible idea of her being in
some sense living. A microbe, endowed with our powers of consciousness,
might similarly deny life to the body of the elephant on which it rode;
or some wee arguing atom, endowed with mind and senses, persuade itself
that the monster upon whose flesh it dwelt were similarly a "heavenly body"
of dead, inert matter; the bulk of the "world" that carried them obstructing
their perception of its Life.
And Fechner, as it seems, was no mere dreamer, playing with a huge poetical
conception. Professor of Physics in Leipsic University, he found time amid
voluminous labours in chemistry to study electrical science with the result
that his measurements in galvanism are classic to this day. His philosophical
work was more than considerable. "A book on the atomic theory, classic
also; four elaborate mathematical and experimental volumes on what he called
psychophysics (many persons consider Fechner to have practically founded
scientific psychology in the first of these books); a volume on organic
evolution, and two works on experimental æsthetics, in which again
Fechner is thought by some judges to have laid the foundations of a new
science," are among his other performances...."All Leipsic mourned him
when he died, for he was the pattern of the ideal German scholar, as daringly
original in his thought as he was homely in his life, a modest, genial,
laborious slave to truth and learning....His mind was indeed one of those
multitudinously organized cross-roads of truth which are occupied only
at rare intervals by children of men, and from which nothing is either
too far or too near to be seen in due perspective. Patientest observation,
exactest mathematics, shrewdest discrimination, humanest feeling, flourished
in him on the largest scale, with no apparent detriment to one another.
He was in fact a philosopher in the 'great' sense."
"Yes," said O'Malley softly in my ear as we leaned against the chimneys
and watched the tobacco curl up to the stars, "and it was this man's imagination
that had evidently caught old Stahl and bowled him over. I never fathomed
the doctor quite. His critical and imaginative apparatus got a bit mixed
up, I suspect, for one moment he cursed me for asking 'suspicious questions,'
and the next sneered sarcastically at me for boiling over with a sudden
inspirational fancy of my own. He never gave himself away completely, and
left me to guess that he made that Hospital place too hot to hold him.
He was a wonderful bird. But every time I aimed at him I shot wide and
hit a cloud. Meantime he peppered me all over - one minute urging me into
closer intimacy with my Russian - his cosmic being, his Urmensch type -
so that he might study my destruction, and half an hour later doing his
utmost apparently to protect me from him and keep me sane and balanced."
His laugh rang out over the roofs.
"The net result," he added, his face tilted towards the stars as though
he said it to the open sky rather than to me, "was that he pushed me forwards
into the greatest adventure life has ever brought to me. I believe, I verily
believe that sometimes, there were moments of unconsciousness - semi-consciousness
perhaps - when I really did leave my body - caught away as Moses, or was
it Job or Paul? - into a Third Heaven, where I touched a bit of Reality
that fairly made me reel with happiness and wonder."
"Well, but Fechner - and his great idea?" I brought him back.
He tossed his cigarette down into the back-garden that fringed the Park,
leaning over to watch its zig-zag flight of flame.
"Is simply this," he replied...'that not alone the earth but the whole
Universe in its different spans and wave-lengths, is everywhere alive and
conscious.' He regards the spiritual as the rule in Nature, not the exception.
The professorial philosophers have no vision. Fechner towers above them
as a man of vision. He dared to imagine. He made discoveries - whew!!"
he whistled, "and such discoveries!"
"To which the scholars and professors of to-day," I suggested, "would
think reply not even called for?"
"Ah," he laughed, "the solemn-faced Intellectuals with their narrow
outlook, their atrophied vision, and their long words! Perhaps! But in
Fechner's universe there is room for every grade of spiritual being between
man and God. The vaster orders of mind go with the vaster orders of body.
He believes passionately in the Earth Soul, he treats her as our special
guardian angel; we can pray to the Earth as men pray to their saints. The
Earth has a Collective Consciousness. We rise upon the Earth as wavelets
rise upon the ocean. We grow out of her soil as leaves grow from a tree.
Sometimes we find our bigger life and realize that we are parts of her
bigger collective consciousness, but as a rule we are aware only of our
separateness, as individuals. These moments of cosmic consciousness are
rare. They come with love, sometimes with pain, music may bring them too,
but above all - landscape and the beauty of Nature! Men are too petty,
conceited, egoistic to welcome them, clinging for dear life to their precious
He drew breath and then went on: "'Fechner likens our individual persons
on the earth to so many sense-organs of her soul, adding to her perceptive
life so long as our own life lasts. She absorbs our perceptions, just as
they occur, into her larger sphere of knowledge. When one of us dies, it
is as if an eye of the world were closed, for all perceptive contributions
from that particular quarter cease.'"
"Go on," I exclaimed, realizing that he was obviously quoting verbatim
fragments from James that he had since pondered over till they had become
his own. "Tell me more. It is delightful and very splendid."
"Yes," he said, "I'll go on quick enough, provided you promise me one
thing: and that is - to understand that Fechner does not regard the Earth
as a sort of big human being. If a being at all, she is a being utterly
different from us in kind, as of course we know she is in structure. Planetary
beings, as a class, would be totally different from any other beings that
we know. He merely protests at the presumption of our insignificant human
knowledge in denying some kind of life and consciousness to a form so beautifully
and marvellously organized as that of the earth! The heavenly bodies, he
holds, are beings superior to men in the scale of lif...vaster order of
intelligence altogether. A little two-legged man with his cocksure reason
strutting on its tiny brain as the apex of attainment he ridicules. D'ye
I gasped. I lit a big pipe - and listened. He went on. This time it
was clearly a page from that Hibbert Lecture Stahl had mentioned - the
one in which Professor James tries to give some idea of Fechner's aim and
scope, while admitting that he "inevitably does him miserable injustice
by summarizing and abridging him."
"Ages ago the earth was called an animal," I ventured. "We all know
"But Fechner," he replied, "insists that a planet is a higher class
of being than either man or animal - 'a being whose enormous size requires
an altogether different plan of life.'"
"An inhabitant of the ether...?"
"You've hit it," he replied eagerly. "Every element has its own living
denizens. Ether, then, also has hers - the globes. 'The ocean of ether,
whose waves are light, has also her denizens - higher by as much as their
element is higher, swimming without fins, flying without wings, moving,
immense and tranquil, as by a half-spiritual force through the half-spiritual
sea which they inhabit,' sensitive to the slightest pull of one another's
attraction: beings in every way superior to us. Any imagination, you know,"
he added, "can play with the idea. It is old as the hills. But this chap
showed how and why it could be actually true."
"This superiority, though?" I queried. "I should have guessed their
stage of development lower than ours, rather than higher."
"Different," he answered, "different. That's the point."
"Ah!" I watched a shooting star dive across our thick, wet atmosphere,
and caught myself wondering whether the flash and heat of that hurrying
little visitor produced any reaction in this Collective Consciousness of
the huge Body whereon we perched and chattered, and upon which later it
would fall in finest dust.
"It is by insisting on the differences as well as on the resemblances,"
rushed on the excited O'Malley, "that he makes the picture of the earth's
life so concrete. Think a moment. For instance, our animal organization
comes from our inferiority. Our need of moving to and fro, of stretching
our limbs and bending our bodies, shows only our defect."
"Defect!" I cried. "But we're so proud of it!"
"'What are our legs,'" he laughed, "'but crutches, by means of which,
with restless efforts, we go hunting after the things we have not inside
ourselves? The Earth is no such cripple; why should she who already possesses
within herself the things we so painfully pursue, have limbs analogous
to ours? What need has she of arms, with nothing to reach for? Of a neck
with no head to carry? Of eyes or nose, when she finds her way through
space without either, and has the millions of eyes of all her animals to
guide their movements on her surface, and all their noses to smell the
flowers she grows?'"
"We are literally a part of her, then - projections of her immense life,
as it were - one of the projections, at least?"
"Exactly. And just as we are ourselves a part of the earth," he continued,
taking up my thought at once, "so are our organs her organs. 'She is, as
it were, eye and ear over her whole extent - all that we see and hear in
separation she sees and hears at once.'"
He stood up beside me and spread his hands out to the stars and over
the trees and paths of the Park at our feet, where the throngs of men and
women walked and talked together in the cool of the evening. His enthusiasm
grew as the idea of this German's towering imagination possessed him.
"'She brings forth living beings of countless kinds upon her surface,
and their multitudinous conscious relations with each other she takes up
into her higher and more general conscious life.'"
He leaned over the parapet and drew me to his side. I stared with him
at the reflection of London town in the sky, thinking of the glow and heat
and restless stir of the great city and of the frantic strivings of its
millions for success - money, power, fame, a few, here and there, for spiritual
success. The roar of its huge trafficking beat across the night in ugly
thunder to our ears. I thought of the other cities of the world; of its
villages; of shepherds among the lonely hills; of its myriad wild creatures
in forest, plain, and mountain....
"All this she takes up into her great heart as part of herself!" I murmured.
"All this," he replied softly, as the sound of the Band beyond the Serpentine
floated over to us on our roof...the separate little consciousnesses of
all the cities, all the tribes, all the nations of men, animals, flowers,
insects - everything." He again opened his arms to the sky. He drew in
deep breaths of the night air. The dew glistened on the slates behind us.
Far across the towers of Westminster a yellow moon rose slowly, dimming
the stars. Big Ben, deeply booming, trembled on the air nine of her stupendous
vibrations. Automatically, I counted them - subconsciously.
"And all our subconscious sensations are also hers," he added, catching
my thought again; "our dreams but half divined, our aspirations half confessed,
our tears, our yearnings, and our - prayers."
At the moment it almost seemed to me as if our two minds joined, each
knowing the currents of the other's thought, and both caught up, gathered
ill, folded comfortably away into the stream of a Consciousness far bigger
than either. It was like a momentary, specific proof of what he urge...faint
pulse-beat we heard of the soul of the earth; and it was amazingly uplifting.
"Every form of life, then, is of importance," I heard myself thinking,
or saying, for I hardly knew which. "The tiniest efforts of value - even
the unrecognized ones, and those that seem futile."
"Even the failures," he whispered...the moments when we do not trust
We stood for some moments in silence. Presently, with a hand upon my
shoulder, he drew me down again among our rugs against the chimney-stack.
"And there are some of us," he said gently, yet with a voice that held
the trembling of an immense joy, "who know a more intimate relationship
with their great Mother than the rest, perhaps. By the so-called Love of
Nature, or by some artless simplicity of soul, wholly unmodern of course,
perhaps felt by children or poets mostly, they lie caught close to her
own deep life, knowing the immense sweet guidance of her mighty soul, divinely
mothered, strangers to all the strife for material gain - to that 'unrest
which men miscall delight,' - primitive children of her potent youth...offspring
of pure passion...each individual conscious of her weight and drive behind
him..." His words faded away into a whisper that became unintelligible,
then inaudible; but his thought somehow continued itself in my own mind.
"The simple life," I said in a low tone; "the Call of the Wild, raised
to its highest power?"
But he changed my sentence a little.
"The call," he answered, without turning to look at me, speaking it
into the night about us, "the call to childhood, the true, pure, vital
childhood of the Earth - the Golden Age - before men tasted of the Tree
and knew themselves separate; when the lion and the lamb lay down together
and a little child could lead them. A time and state, that is, of which
such phrases can be symbolical."
"And of which there may be here and there some fearful exquisite survival?"
I suggested, remembering Stahl's words.
His eyes shone with the fire of his passion. "Of which on that little
tourist steamer I found one!"
The wind that fanned our faces came perhaps across the arid wastes of
Bayswater and the North-West. It also came from the mountains and gardens
of this lost Arcadia, vanished for most beyond recovery....
"The Hebrew poets called it Before the Fall," he went on, "and later
poets the Golden Age; to-day it shines through phrases like the Land of
Heart's Desire, the Promised Land, Paradise, and what not; while the minds
of saint and mystic have ever dreamed of it as union with their deity.
For it is possible and open to all, to every heart, that is, not blinded
by the cloaking horror of materialism which blocks the doorways of escape
and prisons self behind the drab illusion that the outer form is the reality
and riot the inner thought...."
The hoarse shouting of a couple of drunken men floated to us from the
pavements, and crossing over, we peered down towards the opening of Sloane
Street, watching a moment the stream of broughams, motors, and pedestrians.
The two men with the rage of an artificial stimulant in their brains reeled
out of sight. A big policeman followed slowly. The night-life of the great
glaring city poured on unceasingly - the stream of souls all hurrying by
divers routes and means towards a state where they sought to lose themselves
- to forget the pressure of the bars that held them - to escape the fret
and worry of their harassing personalities, and touch some fringe of happiness!
All so sure they knew the way - yet hurrying really in the wrong direction
- outwards instead of inwards; afraid to be - simple....
We moved back to our rugs. For a long time neither of us found anything
to say. Soon I led the way down the creaking ladder indoors again, and
we entered the stuffy little sitting- room of the tiny fiat he temporarily
occupied. I turned up an electric light, but O'Malley begged me to lower
it. I only had time to see that his eyes were still aglow. We sat by the
open window. He drew a worn note-book from his still more worn coat; but
it was too dark for him to read. He knew it all by heart.
Some of Fechner's reasons for thinking the Earth a being superior in the
scale to ourselves, he gave, but it was another passage that lingered chiefly
in my heart, the description of the daring German's joy in dwelling upon
her perfections - later, too, of his first simple vision. Though myself
wholly of the earth, earthy in the ordinary sense, the beauty of the thoughts
live in my spirit to this day, transfiguring even that dingy Insurance
Office, streaming through all my dullest, hardest daily tasks with the
inspiration of a simple delight that helps me over many a difficult weary
time of work and duty.
"'To carry her precious freight through the hours and seasons what form
could be more excellent than hers - being as it is horse, wheels, and waggon
all in one. Think of her beauty...shining ball, sky-blue and sunlit over
one half, the other bathed in starry night, reflecting the heavens from
all her waters, myriads of lights and shadows in the folds of her mountains
and windings of her valleys she would be a spectacle of rainbow glory,
could one only see her from afar as we see parts of her from her own mountain
tops. Every quality of landscape that has a name would then be visible
in her all at once - all that is delicate or graceful, all that is quiet,
or wild, or romantic, or desolate, or cheerful, or luxuriant, or fresh.
That landscape is her fac...peopled landscape, too, for men's eyes would
appear in it like diamonds among the dew- drops. Green would be the dominant
colour, but the blue atmosphere and the clouds would enfold her as a bride
is shrouded in her vei...veil the vapoury, transparent folds of which the
earth, through her ministers the winds, never tires of laying and folding
about herself anew.'
"She needs, as a sentient organism," he continued, pointing into the
curtain of blue night beyond the window, "no heart or brain or lungs as
we do, for she is - different. 'Their functions she performs through us!
She has no proper muscles or limbs of her own, and the only objects external
to her are the other stars. To these her whole mass reacts by the most
exquisite alterations in its total gait and by the still more exquisite
vibratory responses in its substance. Her ocean reflects the lights of
heaven as in a mighty mirror, her atmosphere refracts them like a monstrous
lens, the clouds and snow-fields combine them into white, the woods and
flowers disperse them into colours....Men have always made fables about
angels, dwelling in the light, needing no earthly food or drink, messengers
between ourselves and God. Here are actually existent beings, dwelling
in the light and moving through the sky, needing neither food nor drink,
intermediaries between God and us, obeying His commands. So, if the heavens
really are the home of angels, the heavenly bodies must be those very angels,
for other creatures there are none. Yes! the Earth is our great common
guardian angel, who watches over all our interests combined.'
"And then," whispered the Irishman, seeing that I still eagerly listened,
"give your ear to one of his moments of direct vision. Note its simplicity,
and the authority of its conviction:
"'On a certain spring morning I went out to walk. The fields were green,
the birds sang, the dew glistened, the smoke was rising, here and there
a man appeared; a light as of transfiguration lay on all things. It was
only a little bit of the earth; it was only a moment of her existence;
and yet as my look embraced her more and more it seemed to me not only
so beautiful an idea, but so true and clear a fact, that she is an angel,
an angel so rich and fresh and flower-like, and yet going her round in
the skies so firmly and so at one with herself, turning her whole living
face to Heaven, and carrying me along with her into that Heaven, that I
asked myself how the opinions of men could ever have so spun themselves
away from life as to deem the earth only a dry clod, and to seek for angels
above it or about it in the emptiness of the sky, - only to find them nowhere.'"
Fire-engines, clanging as with a hurrying anger through the night, broke
in upon his impassioned sentences; the shouts of the men drowned his last
Life became very wonderful inside those tight, confining walls, for
the spell and grandeur of the whole conception lifted the heart. Even if
belief failed, in the sense of believin...shilling, it succeeded in the
sense of believin...symphony. The invading beauty swept about us both.
Here was a glory that was also a driving power upon which any but a man
half dead could draw for practical use. For the big conceptions fan the
will. The little pains of life, they make one feel, need not kill true
joy, nor deaden effort.
"Come," said O'Malley softly, interrupting my dream of hope and splendour,
"let us walk together through the Park to your place. It is late, and you,
I know, have to be up early in the morning...earlier than I."
And presently we passed the statue of Achilles and got our feet upon
the turf beyon...little bit of living planet in the middle of the heavy
smothering London town. About us, over us, within us, stirred the awe of
that immense idea. Upon that bit of living, growing turf we passed towards
the Marble Arch, treading, as it were, the skin of a huge Body - the physical
expression of a grand angelic Being, alive, sentient, conscious. Conscious,
moreover, of our little separate individual selves who walked...a Being
who cared; who felt us; who knew, understood, and - loved us as a mother
her own offspring...."To whom men could pray as they pray to their saints."
The conception, even thus dimly and confusedly adumbrated, brought a
new sense of life - terrific and eternal. All living things upon the earth's
surface were emanations of her mighty central soul; all - from the gods
and fairies of olden time who knew it, to the men and women of To-day who
have forgotten it.
Were these then projections of her personality - aspects and facets
of her divided self - emanations now withdrawn? Latent in her did they
still exist as moods or Powers - true, alive, everlasting, but unmanifest?
Still knowable to simple men and to Children of Nature?
Was this the giant truth that Stahl had built on Fechner?
Everything about us seemed to draw together into an immense and towering
configuration that included trees and air and the sweep of open park -
the looming and overwhelming beauty of one of these very gods survived
- Pan, the eternal and the splendid...a mood of the Earth-life, a projection
clothed with the light of stars, the cloudy air, the passion of the night,
the thrill of an august, extended Mood.
And the others were not so very far behind - those other little parcels
of Earth's Consciousness the Greeks and early races, the simple, primitive,
childlike peoples of the dawn, divined the existence of, and labelled "gods"...and
worshipped...so as to draw their powers into themselves by ecstasy and
Could, then, worship now still recall them? Was the attitude of even
one true worshipper's heart the force necessary to touch that particular
aspect of the mighty total Consciousness of Earth, and call forth those
ancient forms of beauty? Could it be that this idea - the idea of "the
gods" - was thus for ever true and vital...? And might they be known and
felt in the heart if not actually in some suggested form?
I only know that as we walked home past the doors of that dingy Paddington
house where Terence O'Malley kept his dusty books and papers and so to
my own quarters, these things he talked about dropped into my mind with
a bewildering splendour to stay for ever. His words I have forgotten, or
how he made such speculations worth listening to at all. Yet, I hear them
singing in my blood as though of yesterday; and often when that conflict
comes 'twixt duty and desire that makes life sometimes so vain and bitter,
the memory comes to lift with strength far greater than my own. The Earth
can heal and bless.
Slowly, taking life easily, the little steamer puffed its way across the
Ionian Sea. The pyramid of Etna, bluer even than the sky, dominated the
western horizon long after the heel of Italy had faded, then melted in
its turn into the haze of cloud and distance. No other sails were visible.
With the passing of Calabria spring had leaped into the softness of
full summer, and the breezes were gentle as those that long ago fanned
the cheeks and hair of Io, beloved of Zeus, as she flew southwards towards
the Nile. The passengers, less lovely than that fair daughter of Argos,
and with the unrest of thinner adventure in their blood, basked lazily
in the sun; but the sea was not less haunted for those among them whose
hearts could travel. The Irishman at any rate slipped beyond the confines
of the body, viewing that ancient scene as she had done, from above. His
widening consciousness expanded to include it.
Cachalots spouted; dolphins danced, as though still to those wild flutes
of Dionysus; porpoises rolled beneath the surface of the transparent waves,
diving below the vessel's sides but just in time to save their shiny noses;
and all day long, ignoring the chart upon the stairway walls, the tourists
turned their glasses eastwards, searching for a first sight of Greece.
O'Malley, meanwhile, trod the decks of a new ship. For him now sea and
sky were doubly peopled. The wind brought messages of some divine deliverance
approaching slowly; the heat of that pearly, shining sun warmed centres
of his being that hitherto the world kept chill. The land towards which
the busy steamer moved he knew, of course, was but the shell from which
the inner spirit of beauty once vivifying it had long since passed away.
Yet it remained a clue. That ancient loveliness, as a mood of the earth's
early consciousness, was buried, not destroyed. Eternally it still flamed
somewhere. And, long before the days of Greece, he knew, it had existed
in yet fuller and more complete manifestation: that earliest, vastly splendid
Mood of the earth's soul, too mighty for any existence that the history
of humanity can recall, and too remote for any but the most daringly imaginative
minds even to conceive. The Urwelt Mood, as Stahl himself admitted, even
while it called to him, was a reconstruction that to men to-day could only
seem - dangerous.
And his own little Self, guided by the inarticulate stranger, was being
led at last towards its complete recapture.
Yet, while he crawled slowly with the steamer over a tiny portion of
the spinning globe, feeling that at the same time he crawled towards a
spot upon it where access would be somehow possible to this huge expression
of her first Life - what was it, phrased timidly as men phrase big thoughts
to-day, that he really believed? Even in our London talks, intimate as
they were, interpreted too by gesture, facial expression, and - silence,
his full meaning evaded precise definition. "There are no words, there
are no words," he kept saying, shrugging his shoulders and stroking his
untidy hair. "In me, deep down, it all lies clear and plain and strong;
but language cannot seize a mode of life that throve before language existed.
If you cannot catch the picture from my thoughts, I give up the whole dream
in despair." And in his written account, owing to its strange formlessness,
the result was not a little bewildering.
Briefly stated, however - that remnant, at least, which I discover in
my own mind when attempting to tell the story to others - what he felt,
believed, lived, at any rate while the adventure lasted, was this: -
That the Earth, as a living, conscious Being, had known visible projections
of her consciousness similar to those projections of our own personality
which the advanced psychologists of to-day now envisage as possible; that
the simple savagery of his own nature, and the poignant yearnings derived
from it, were in reality due to his intimate closeness to the life of the
Earth; that, whereas in the body the fulfilment of these longings was impossible,
in the spirit he might yet know contact with the soul of the planet, and
thus experience their complete satisfaction. Further, that the portion
of his personality which could thus enter this heaven of its own subjective
construction, was that detachable portion Stahl had spoken of as being
"malleable by desire and longing," leaving the body partially and temporarily
sometimes in sleep, and, at death, completely. More, - that the state thus
entered would mean a quasi-merging back into the life of the Earth herself,
of which he was a partial expression.
This closeness to Nature was to-day so rare as to be almost unrecognized
as possible. Its possession constituted its owner what the doctor called
a "Cosmic Being...being scarcely differentiated from the life of the Earth
Spirit hersel...direct expression of her life, a survival of a time before
such expressions had separated away from her and become individualized
as human creatures. Moreover, certain of these earliest manifestations
or projections of her consciousness, knowing in their huge shapes of fearful
yet simple beauty a glory of her own being, still also survived. The generic
term of "gods" might describe their status as interpreted to the little
human power called Imagination.
This call to the simple life of primal innocence and wonder that had
ever brimmed the heart of the Irishman, acknowledged while not understood,
might have slumbered itself away with the years among modern conditions
into atrophy and denial, had he not chanced to encounter a more direct
and vital instance of it even than himself. The powerfully-charged being
of this Russian stranger had summoned it forth. The mere presence of this
man quickened and evoked this faintly-stirring centre in his psychic being
that opened the channel of return. Speech, as any other explanation, was
unnecessary. To resist was still within his power. To accept and go was
also open to him. The "inner catastrophe" he feared need not perhaps be
insuperable or permanent.
"Remember," the doctor had said to him at the end of that last significant
conversation, "this berth in my state-room is freely at your disposal till
Batoum." And O'Malley, thanking him, had shaken off that restraining hand
upon his arm, knowing that he would never make use of it again.
For the Russian stranger and his son had somehow made him free.
Between that cabin and the decks he spent his day. Occasionally he would
go below to report progress, as it were, by little sentences which he divined
would be acceptable, and at the same time gave expression to his own growing
delight. The boy, meanwhile, was everywhere, playing alone like a wild
thing; one minute in the bows, hat off, gazing across the sea beneath a
shading hand, and the next leaning over the stern-rails to watch the churning
foam that drove them forwards. At regular intervals he, too, rushed to
the cabin and brought communications to his parent.
"To-morrow at dawn," observed the Irishman, "we shall see Cape Matapan
rising from the sea. After that, Athens for a few hours; then coasting
through the Cyclades, close to the mainland often." And glancing over to
the berth, while pretending to be busy with his steamer-trunk, he saw the
great smile of happiness break over the other's face like a sunrise....
For it was clear to him that with the approach to Greece, a change began
to come over his companions. It was noticeable chiefly in the father. The
joy that filled the man, too fine and large to be named excitement, passed
from him in radiations that positively seemed to carry with them a physical
extension. This, of course, was purely a clairvoyant effect upon the mind
- O'Malley's divining faculty visualized the spiritual traits of the man's
dilating Self. But, nevertheless, the truth remained that - somehow he
increased. He grew; became interiorly more active, alive, potent; and of
this singular waxing of the inner spirit something passed outwards and
stood with rare dignity about his very figure.
And this manifestation of themselves was due to that expansion of the
inner life caused by happiness. The little point of their personalities
they showed normally to the world was but a single facet, a tip as it were
of their whole selves. More lay within, beyond. As with the rest of the
world, a great emotion stimulated and summoned it forth into activity nearer
the surface. Clearly, for these two Greece symbolized a point of departure
of a great hidden passion. Something they expected lay waiting for them
there. Guidance would come thence.
And, by reflection perhaps as much as by direct stimulation, the same
change made itself felt in himself. Joy caught him - the joy of a home-coming,
At the same time, the warning of Dr. Stahl worked in him, if subconsciously
only. He showed this by mixing more with the other passengers. He chatted
with the Captain, who was as pleased with his big family as though he had
personally provided the weather that made them happy; with the Armenian
priest, who was eager to show that he had read "a much of T'ackeray and
Keeplin"; and especially with the boasting Moscow merchant, who by this
time "owned" the smoking-room and imposed his verbose commonplaces upon
one and all with authoritative self-confidence in six language...provincial
mind in full display. The latter in particular held him to a normal humanity;
his atmosphere breathed the wholesome thickness of the majority of humankind
- ordinary, egoistic, with the simplicity of the uninspiring sort. The
merchant acted upon him as a sedative, and that day the Irishman took him
in large doses, allopathically, for his talk formed an admirable antidote
to the stress of that other burning excitement that, according to Stahl,
threatened to disintegrate his personality.
Though hardly in the sense he intended, the fur-merchant was entirely
delightful - engaging as a child; for, among other marked qualities, he
possessed the unerring instinct of the snob which made him select for his
friends those whose names or position might glorify his banal insignificance
- and his stories were vivid pictorial illustrations of this useful worldly
faculty. O'Malley listened with secret delight, keeping a grave face and
dropping in occasional innocent questions to heighten the colour or increase
the output. Others in the circle responded in kind, feeling the same chord
vibrating in themselves. Even the priest, like a repeating-gun, continually
discharged his little secret pride that Byron had occupied a room in that
Venetian monastery where he lived; and at last O'Malley himself was conscious
of an inclination to report his own immense and recently discovered kinship
with a greater soul and consciousness than his own. After all, he reflected
with a deep thrill while he listened, the desire of the snob was but a
crude and simple form of the desire of the mystic: - to lose one's little
self in a Self which is greater!
Then, weary of them all and their minute personal interests, he left
the smoking-room and joined the boy again, running absurd races with him
from stern to bow, playing hide-and-seek among the decks, even playing
shuffle-board together. They sweated in the blazing sun and watched the
dance of the sea; caught the wind in their faces with a shout of joy, or
with pointing fingers followed the changing outlines of the rare, soft
clouds that sailed the world of blue above them. There was no speech between
them, and both felt that other things, invisible, swift, and spirit-footed,
whose home is just beyond the edge of life as the senses report life, played
wildly with them. The smoking-room then, with its occupants so greedy for
the things that money connotes - the furs, champagne, cigars, and heavy
possessions that were symbols of the personal aggrandizement they sought
and valued - seemed to the Irishman like a charnel-house where those about
to die sat making inventories in blind pride of the things they must leave
It was, indeed, a contrast of Death and Life. For beside him, with that
playing, silent boy, coursed the power of transforming loveliness which
had breathed over the world before her surface knew this swarming race
of men. The life of the Earth knew no need of outward acquisition, possessing
all things so completely in herself. And he - he was her chil...glory!
Joy passing belief!
"Oh!" he cried once with passion, turning to the fair-haired figure
of youth who stood with him in the bows, meeting the soft wind, - "Oh,
to have heard the trees whispering together in the youth of the world,
and felt one of the earliest winds that ever blew across the cooling seas!"
And the boy, not understanding the words, but responding with a perfect
naturalness to the emotion that drove them forth, seized his hand and with
an extraordinarily free motion as of flying, raced with him down the decks,
happy, laughing, hair loose over his face, and with a singular action of
the shoulders as though he somehow - cantered. O'Malley remembered his
vision of the Flying Shapes....
Towards the evening, however, the boy disappeared, keeping close to
his father's side, and after dinner both retired early to their cabin.
And the ship, meanwhile, drew ever nearer to the haunted land.
"Privacy is ignorance."
Somewhat after the manner of things suffered in vivid dreams, where surprise
is numbed and wonder becomes the perfect password, the Irishman remembers
the sequence of little events that filled the following day.
- Josiah Royce.
Yet his excitement held nothing of the vicious fling of fever; it was
spread over the entire being rather than located hotly in the brain and
blood alone; and it "derived," as it were, from tracts of his personality
usually unstirred, atrophied indeed in most men, that connected him as
by a delicate network of feelers with Nature and the Earth. He came gradually
to feel them, as a man in certain abnormal conditions becomes conscious
of the bodily processes that customarily go on in himself without definite
Stahl could have told him, had he cared to seek the information, that
this fringe of wider consciousness, stretching to the stars and winds and
earth, was the very part that had caused his long unrest and yearning -
the part that knew the Earth as mother and sought the sweet and savage
freedom of what he called with the poverty of modern terms - primitive.
The channels leading towards a state of Cosmic Consciousness, one with
the Earth Life, were being now flushed and sluiced by the forces emanating
from the persons of his new companions.
And as this new state slowly usurped command, the readjustment of his
spiritual economy thus involved, caused other portions of himself to sink
into temporary abeyance. While it alarmed him, it was too delicious to
resist. He made no real attempt to resist. Yet he knew full well that the
portion sinking thus out of sight was what folk with such high pride call
Reason, Judgment, Common Sense!
In common with animal, bird, and insect life, all intimately close to
Nature, he began to feel as realities those subtle currents of the Earth's
personality by which the seals know direction in the depths of a thousand-mile
sea, by which the homing pigeons blaze trails through space, birds fly
south, the wild bees know their pathways, and all simple life, from the
Red Indian to the Red Ant, acknowledges the viewless guidance of the mother's
enveloping heart. The cosmic life ran through his being, lighting signals,
offering service, more - claiming leadership.
With it, however, came no loss of individuality, but rather a powerful
increase of life by means of which for the first time he dreamed of a fuller
existence which should eventually harmonize and combine the ancient simplicity
of soul that claimed the Earth, with the modern complexity which, indulged
alone, rendered the world so ugly and insignificant...! He experienced
an immense, driving push upon what Bergson has called the élan vital
of his being.
The opening charge of his new discovery, however, was more than disconcerting,
and it is not surprising that he lost his balance. Its attack and rush
were overwhelming. Thus, it was a kind of exalted speculative wonder lying
behind his inner joy that caused his mistakes. He had imagined, for instance,
that the first sight of Greece would bring some climax of revelation, making
clear to what particular type of early life the spirits of his companions
conformed; more, that they would then betray themselves to one and all
for what they were in some effort to escape, in some act of unrestraint,
something, in a word, that would explain themselves to the world of passengers,
and focus them upon the doctor's microscope for ever.
Yet when Greece showed her first fair rim of outline, his companions
still slept peacefully in their bunks. The anticipated dénouement
did not appear. Nothing happened. It was not the mere sight of so much
land lying upon the sea's cool cheek that could prove vital in an adventure
of such a kind. For the adventure remained spiritual. O'Malley had merely
confused two planes of consciousness. As usual, he saw the thing "whole"
in that extraordinary way to which his imagination alone held the key;
and hence his error.
Yet the moment has ever remained for him one of vital, stirring splendour,
significant as life or death. He remembers that he was early on deck and
saw the dawn blow up softly from behind the islands with a fresh, salt
wind that blew at the same time like music into his very heart. Golden
clear it rose; and just below, like the petals of some vast, archetypal
flower that gave it birth, the low blue hills of coast and island opened
magically into blossom. The rocky cliffs of Matapan slipped past; the smooth,
bare slopes of the ancient shore-line followed; treeless peaks and shoulders,
abrupt precipices, summits and ridges all exquisitely rosy and alive. He
had seen Greece before, yet never thus, and the emotion that invaded every
corner of his larger consciousness lay infinitely deeper than any mere
pseudo-classical thrill he had known in previous years. He saw it, felt
it, knew it from within, instead of as a spectator from without. This dawn-mood
of the Earth was also his own; and upon his spirit, as upon her blue-crowned
hills, lay the tide of high light with its delicate swift blush. He saw
it with her - through one of her opened eyes.
The hot hours the steamer lay in the Piræus Harbour were wearisome,
the noise of loading and unloading cargo worse even than at Catania. While
the tourist passengers hurried fussily ashore, carrying guide-books and
cameras, to chatter among the ruined temples, he walked the decks alone,
dreaming his great dream, conscious that he spun through leagues of space
with the great Being who more and more possessed him. Beyond the shipping
and the masts collected there from all the ports of the Mediterranean and
the Levant, he watched the train puffing slowly to the station that lay
in the shadow of Theseus' Temple, but his eyes at the same tune strained
across the haze towards Eleusis Bay, and while his ears caught the tramping
feet of the long Torchlight Procession, some power of his remoter consciousness
divined the forms of hovering gods, expressions of his vast Mother's personality
with which, in worship, this ancient people had believed it possible to
merge themselves. The significant truths that lay behind the higher Mysteries,
degraded since because forgotten and misinterpreted, trooped powerfully
down into his mind. For the supreme act of this profound cult, denied by
a grosser age that seeks to telephone to heaven, deeming itself thereby
"advanced," lay in the union of the disciple with his god, the god he worshipped
all his life, and into whose Person he slipped finally at death by a kind
of marriage rite.
"The gods!" ran again through his mind with passion and delight, as
the letter of his early studies returned upon him, accompanied now for
the first time by the in-living spirit that interpreted them. "The gods!
- Moods of her giant life, manifestations of her spreading Consciousness
pushed outwards, Powers of life and truth and beauty...!" ... -
And, meanwhile, Dr. Stahl, sometimes from a distance, sometimes conning
close, kept over him a kind of half-paternal, half-professional attendance,
the Irishman accepting his ministrations without resentment, almost with
"I shall be on deck between two and three in the morning to see the
comet," the German observed to him casually towards evening as they met
on the bridge. "We may meet perhaps..."
"All right, doctor; it's more than possible," replied O'Malley, realizing
how closely he was being watched.
In his mind at the moment another sentence ran, the thought growing
stronger and stronger within him as the day declined:
"It will come to-night - come as an inner catastrophe not unlike that
of death! I shall hear the call - to escape...."
For he knew, as well as if it had been told to him in so many words,
that the sleep of his two companions all day was in the nature of a preparation.
The fluid projections of themselves were all the time active elsewhere.
Their bodies heavily slumbered; their spirits were out and alert. Summoned
forth by those strange and radiant evocative forces that even in the dullest
minds "Greece" stirs into life, they had temporarily escaped. Again he
saw those shapes of cloud and wind moving with swift freedom over the long,
bare hills. Again and again the image returned. With the night a similar
separation of the personality might come to himself too. Stahl's warning
passed in letters of fire across his inner sight. With a relief that yet
contained uneasiness he watched his shambling figure disappear down the
stairway. He was alone.
"To everything that a man does he must give his undivided attention or
his Ego. When he has done this, thoughts soon arise in him, or else a new
method of apprehension miraculously appears....
"Very remarkable it is that through this play of his personality man
first becomes aware of his specific freedom, and that it seems to him as
though he awaked out of a deep sleep as though he were only now at home
in the world, and as if the light of day were breaking now over his interior
life for the first time....The substance of these impressions which affect
us we call Nature, and thus Nature stands in an immediate relationship
to those functions of our bodies which we call senses. Unknown and mysterious
relations of our body allow us to surmise unknown and mysterious correlations
with Nature, and therefore Nature is that wondrous fellowship into which
our bodies introduce us, and which we learn to know through the mode of
its constitutions and abilities." - NOVALIS, Disciples at Saïs. Translated
by U. C. B. AND so, at last, the darkness came, a starry darkness of soft
blue shadows and phosphorescent sea out of which the hills of the Cyclades
rose faint as pictures of floating smoke a wind might waft away like flowers
to the sky.
The plains of Marathon lay far astern, blushing faintly with their scarlet
tamarisk blossoms. The strange purple glow of sunset upon Hymettus had
long since faded. A hush grew over the sea, now a marvellous cobalt blue.
The earth, gently sleeping, manifested dreamily. Into the subconscious
state passed one half of her huge, gentle life.
The Irishman, responding to the eternal spell of her dream- state, experienced
in quite a new way the magic of her Night- Mood. He found it more difficult
than ever to realize as separate entities the little things that moved
about through the upper surface of her darkness. Wings of silver, powerfully
whirring, swept his soul onwards to another place - towards Home.
And the two worlds intermingled oddly. These little separate "outer
things" going to and fro so busily became as symbols more or less vital,
more or less transparent. They varied according to their simplicity. Some
of them were channels that led directly where he was going; others, again,
had lost all connection with their vital source and centre of existence.
To the former belonged the sailors, children, the tired birds that rested
on the ship as they journeyed northwards, swallows, doves, and little travellers
with breasts of spotted yellow that nested in the rigging; even, in a measure,
the gentle, brown- eyed priest; but to the latter, the noisy, vulgar, beer-drinking
tourists, and, especially, the fur-merchant....Stahl, interpreter and intermediary,
hovered between - incarnate compromise.
Escaping from everybody, at length, he made his way into the bows; there,
covered by the stars, he waited. And the thing he waited for - he felt
it coming over him with a kind of massive sensation as little local as
heat or cold - was that disentanglement of a part of his personality from
the rest against which Stahl had warned him. That portion of his complex
personality in which resided desire and longing, matured during these many
years of poignant nostalgia, was now slowly and deliberately loosening
out from the parent centre. It was the vehicle of his Urwelt yearnings;
and the Urwelt was about to draw it forth. The Call was on its way.
Hereabouts, then, near the Isles of Greece, lay a channel to the Earth's
far youth, a channel for some reason still unclosed. His companions knew
it; he, too, had half divined it. The increased psychic activity of all
three as they approached Greece seemed explained. The sign - would it be
through hearing, sight, or touch? - would shortly come that should convince.
That very afternoon Stahl had said - "Greece will betray them," and
he had asked: "Their true form and type?" And for answer the old man did
an expressive thing, far more convincing than words: he bent forwards and
downwards. He made as though to move a moment on all fours.
O'Malley remembered the brief and vital scene now. The word, however,
persistently refused to come into his mind. Because the word was really
inadequate, describing but partially a form and outline symbolical of far
more...measure of Nature and Deity alike.
And so, as a man dreading the entrance to a great adventure that he
yet desires, the Irishman waited there alone beneath the cloud of night....Soft
threads of star-gold, trailing the sea, wove with the darkness a veil that
hid from his eyes the world of crude effects. All memory of the casual
realities of modern life that so distressed his soul, fled far away. The
archetypal world, soul of the Earth, swam close about him, enormous and
utterly simple. He seemed alone in some hollow of the night which Time
had overlooked, and where the powers of sea and air held him in the stretch
of their gigantic, changeless hands. In this hollow lay the entrance to
the channel down which he presently might flash back to that primal Garden
of the Earth's first beauty - her Golden Age...down which, at any rate,
the authoritative Call he awaited was to come...."Oh! what a power has
Wings from the past, serene and tranquil, bore him towards this ancient
peace where echoes of life's brazen clash to-day could never enter. Ages
before Greece, of course, it had flourished, yet Greece had caught some
flying remnant ere it left the world of men, and for a period had striven
to renew its life, though by poetry but half believed. Over the vales and
hills of Hellas this mood had lingered bravely for a while, then passed
away for ever...and those who dreamed of its remembrance remain homeless
and lonely, seeking it ever again in vain, lost citizens, rejected by the
cycles of vainer life and action that succeeded.
The Spirit of the Earth, yes, whispered in his ears as he waited covered
by the night and stars. She called him, as though across all the forests
on her breast the long sweet winds went whispering his name. Lying there
upon the coils of thick and tarry rope, the Urwelt caught him back with
her splendid passion. Currents of Earth life, quasi-deific, gentle as the
hands of little children, tugged softly at this loosening portion of his
Self, urging his very lips, as it were, once more to the mighty Mother's
breasts. Again he saw those cloud-like shapes careering over long, bare
hills...and almost knew himself among them as they raced with streaming
winds...free, ancient comrades among whom he was no longer alien and outcast,
including his two companions of the steamer. The early memory of the Earth
became his own; as a part of her, he shared it too.
The Urwelt closed magnificently about him. Vast shapes of power and
beauty, other than human, once his comrades thus, but since withdrawn because
denied by a pettier age, moved up, huge and dim, across the sham barriers
of time and space, singing the great Earth-Song of welcome in his ears.
The whisper grew awfully....The Spirit of the Earth flew close and called
upon him with a shout...!
Then, out of this amazing reverie, he woke abruptly to the consciousness
that some one was approaching him stealthily, yet with speed, through the
darkness. With a start he sat up, peering about him. There was dew on his
clothes and hair. The stars, he saw, had shifted their positions.
He heard the surge of the water from the vessel's bows below. The line
of the shore lay close on either side. Overhead he saw the black threads
of rigging, quivering with the movement of the ship; the swaying mast-head
light; the dim, round funnels; the confused shadows where the boats swung
- and nearer, moving between the ropes and windlasses, this hurrying figure
whose approach had disturbed him in his gorgeous dream.
And O'Malley divined at once that, though in one sense a portion of
his dream, it belonged outwardly to the same world as this long dark steamer
that trailed after him across the sea. A piece of his vision, as it were,
had broken off and remained in the cruder world wherein his body lay upon
these tarry ropes. The boy came up and stood a moment by his side in silence,
then, stooping to the level of his head, he spoke: -
"Come," he said in low tones of joy; "come! We wait long for you already!"
The words, like music, floated over the sea, as O'Malley took the outstretched
hand and suffered himself to be led quickly towards the lower deck. He
walked at first as in a dream continued after waking; more than once it
seemed as though they stepped together from the boards and moved through
space towards the line of peaked hills that fringed the steamer's course
so close. For through the salt night air ran a perfume that suggested flowers,
earth, and woods, and there seemed no break in the platforms of darkness
that knit sea and shore to the very substance of the vessel.
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