The Theosophical Forum – October 1937


"'Travellers between life and death": is not this how serious minded people generally regard their passage through the world; as a "single" journey from a known, if imperfectly apprehended, life of numbered days and decades into an unknown, inapprehensible, timeless world elsewhere? The phrase I have placed as a heading to this article, presumes upon a wider outlook than this and is more befitting such brief notice as another fellow traveller can give of two notable members of the Theosophical Societies in England and Wales who have arrived at the halt we call death. For Kenneth Morris and Percy Leonard, with many differences of temperament and preoccupation each typical of his own nation, shared a common plan of travel, in their conception of an evolution of the Universal Self, through which each envisaged death as but marking one stage, a station at which he was temporarily breaking his journey. It was for each of them a needed break, as for a few nights" rest, in that continuous travel towards and within the country of the Spirit which each regarded as the fundamental fact in his journeying. To neither of these courageous and purposeful adventurers upon the highlands of spiritual dream was their grave a bourne from whence no traveller returns. On neither tomb may we inscribe: "I pass this way but once." Though in their meditation their vision sped towards the mystics" country "afar beyond the stars," they had contracted to return again to earth, "for labours yet unaccomplished."

The chasm between the illusions of time and the incertitudes of eternity was for neither an impassable barrier, nor could they imagine their passports to life, here or beyond, snatched from them as they arrived at the alighting place. In their plan of travel they had it laid down that the "narrow stream" dividing the heavenly land from ours must be crossed and re-crossed many times, the events of birth and death symbolic of an alternating evolution and involution of being through which man fulfils himself that so his ever-becoming may bring him gradually closer to the maturities of a near-absolute. For such, as to Browning's "Paracelsus," "man is not man as yet." Through living he becomes, actuates himself, achieves, through dying those potentialities of the imagination we call the soul re-create themselves — and perhaps all real recreation is of that essence. This, or something like it was the route of life and death Kenneth Morris and Percy Leonard foresaw for themselves marked out upon the maps and road-books they studied and discussed. Death, then, was no more for these a "passing" than birth, not the end of a journey but a "break" in it, a break neither greatly to be desired, though travellers must have rest, nor at all to be evaded, were evasion possible. So ran their dream.

For Kenneth Morris, the poet, this charting of the ways of life and death was perhaps rather dream than doctrine. These excursions upon the hills of dream revived a sensitive, brooding and sometimes tried and bruised spirit, straining within a body inapt to sustain the spirit's soaring purpose. Was it rather more doctrine than dream to Percy Leonard, a mind which might seem to a casual acquaintance abstract and aloof but which quickly revealed affections alert in their response to the claims of living things upon his generosity? He was peculiarly sensitive to the unexpressed claims of young and ardent life, in child or beast, to the young children who clustered about him in his daily walks, and the birds and creatures who came to know his haunts and shyly visit him in room or city street. It seemed as if a clairvoyant insight led him beyond their animal forms, an instinct not dissimilar, perhaps, from that clairaudient voice St. Peter once heard saying: "What God hath cleansed that call not thou common," beast life evoking from him not revulsion but sympathy. For, perceiving the future flower within the seed, the soul-to-become in the "mere" animal, and humanity itself blossoming within childhood, his heart was always open to friendship with innocent lowly life. If therefore that theosophical brotherhood he discoursed of to his friends or from the pulpit of the Bristol Unitarian Church was, in form, doctrinal, it was in substance plain loving kindness.

Kenneth Morris could discourse too and in two sorts, preaching a universal ethic of courage and hope to the distressed and dispossessed and exhaling an imaginative influence of tranquillity over the printed page. His early friend "M" (early and late, new found in 1929 when Kenneth returned from America to Ireland) used to tell friends that the Return of Don Quixote was the best English short story written in their generation and he (George Russell) knew better perhaps than any of our writers the heights and depths of worded dream. Those who seek a counterpoise to the clash and jar of the jazzing cymbals with which many contemporary writers of fiction make their resounding discords will find it in the cool, crystalline, unperturbed prose of The Secret Mountain. He would I think have ascribed its translucent quiet to influences imbibed in Point Loma, when he lived there, and probably to Katherine Tingley — influences whose remembered contacts animated him later in his unflagging and courageous activity for the Welsh Section of the Theosophical Society of which he was President. His spirituality of utterance owed much also to the Authorised Version of the New Testament, around which he and Percy Leonard found fruitful ground for friendly controversy. For Percy's more scientific mind found in modern translations a more "living" speech for to-day than in the Tudor quaintness of King James's English; but Kenneth's ear rejoicing in the music of the old rhythms, listened to a golden harmony of beneficent sound and sense. And each found a renewal in these books of an antique wisdom, a re-invigoration of meanings from which each reunited a spirit too often despoiled of its native ease through the impoverishing ravages of an imperfect physique. Yet it is not for their handling of words or their addiction to doctrines that I would linger in a final brief meditation on these two high-minded men, so different, so similar; each realising his best self through a devotion, the same at root, to Universal Brotherhood, exercised, for the one, through simple men, those unemployed miners in Wales, for and among whom he lived and worked with consistent, compassionating fortitude; and, for the other, through and for children or wild life and who wrote to me during his final illness (he lived alone): "the fact that these dear children often ring my bell is a great encouragement to me." It is rather for qualities rooted within themselves, Kenneth's self-sacrifice, Percy's loving kindness; each making for itself appropriate contacts with other selves which it beheld as mirroring the One Self. This, and a responsiveness to beauty and a power of creating it, in Kenneth largely though not solely through imaginative writing, in Percy often through wise silences, or the simplest talk. These are the qualities which make them live again, with all their gentle courage, within the memory of other fellow travellers whom they have left behind, and who will remember wise utterances perhaps, but will best remember a spirit of manly gentleness incarnate within the hearts of these two who were so responsive to the demands of others" lives, lives less sensitive perhaps and more demanding than their own, and certainly less matured. For I think that best gift which each gave out of his enthusiasm for theosophical ideas was his own idealistic passion, a fragment of his own spirit, creative because searching after hidden harmonies in life itself and revealing them to those quick enough to hear them.

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