Horil awoke in the morning an hour before the dawn. It seemed to him that some one had been standing close beside his couch and he had been listening to a long discourse. Also it appeared as though his physical senses had awakened suddenly and he had caught, with both inward and outward ear, the last sentence spoken.
But as had happened on former occasions, the moment he was fully awake to outward things he could not recall the sentence, nor any word of all that he had heard. He was troubled at this, desiring greatly that he might remember all that had been shown to him in dreams. But this he could not do, and, as he lay pondering on these things, suddenly he heard a voice close beside him, though he.saw no man. Yet a vision was opened to his sight. Then the Voice said unto him:
"Look and behold, O Horil! thou disciple whose feet are at the entering of two ways."
And as Horil gazed, a beautiful green valley between high mountains lay spread out before him. Through the midst ran a gently winding path, and there were purling streams and flowering shrubs. Tall trees rose up here and there, and the smooth green turf was studded with blossoms. As Horil looked he thought how easy such a path would be for tired feet, how grateful the coolness and the quiet to a heart pierced by the world's cruel stings, and faint and weary with the conflict of life.
"But thou would'st walk alone, unknown, unthought of by the world," said the Voice.
"For the world I care not," replied Horil; "I have drunk deep of its bitterest cup; and its praise I would willingly forego that I might walk my own way untroubled."
"That thou could'st in this path. Thine own life might be blameless, and lead thee on to rest. But for others thy voice would be silenced. The torch of Truth thou could'st not uphold; and as its light would not fall on thee, thou would'st not become a mark for the envy, hatred, and malice of those who would destroy Truth and its light-bearers. This path thou mayst choose; but look first at the other."
Then Horil turned his eyes to the right, and lo! a great mountain rose up before him. A path wound up its side, but it was steep and in many places the feet would find nothing upon which to rest but sharp points of stone. But the pathway, even from the beginning, was covered by a clear, white light, which as it ascended grew ever brighter and brighter until far up the mountain side it appeared like tongues of leaping flame. Then the heart of Horil burned within him and he said:
"Nay, but better still is the upward path. That will I choose."
"Decide not in haste," answered the Voice. "Bethink thee how cool and pleasant is the valley. Thy feet are bruised with life's journey and thy heart sore with its conflict. There thou canst rest. Here thou must renew the strife. Here thou wilt bear a torch flaming high above thy head and its light will illumine thy form, and thus thou wilt become a fairer mark for the missiles of the foe than thou hast ever been before."
Then the heart of Horil sank down in his breast, cold and heavy with dread. And he thought: "How can I walk in that path? How can I bear the finger of scorn, the laugh of derision, the speech that is sharper than the sword, that burneth like fire? I that am already faint and worn with life's battle, I am not strong enough." And he turned slowly and sadly toward the valley.
"It is well," said the Voice. "Thou hast chosen. But give me now the torch thou bearest in thy right hand."
"Nay," replied Horil, "that was given to me by One, even the Master. That will I not yield up."
"But the torch is only for those who pass over the mountain. There, as thou ascendest and the air becomes clearer, it will burn with a brighter, purer flame. But in the valley the atmosphere is too dense. It will be quenched. Yet may'st thou walk pleasantly, in the sunlight by day, and under the moon and stars by night, and having no torch to distinguish thee from another, none will molest or make thee afraid."
Then was Horil greatly troubled, and his soul was rent within him. And he cried out in his anguish, even to the Master, saying:
"Lord! if it be possible let this cup pass from me. My enemies hate me with a cruel hatred. They lie in wait for me. When I hold up my torch they will assail me with fury. Fear taketh hold on me. Nevertheless, O Master! thy gift I cannot quench. I may not turn into the pleasant valley. Strengthen thou mine hands to bear aloft thy torch to light the children of men who faint and stumble in darkness and despair."
Then fell upon his soul words not uttered in speech — the Voice which speaketh in Silence — from the viewless it came.
Then was Horil greatly comforted, and though fear had not altogether departed, nor the dread of what his enemies might do unto him, he turned resolutely away from the pleasant path, and grasping his torch more firmly in his right hand he set his face toward the mountain.
The PathTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE