One who had read a legend somewhere repeated it to me thus from memory:
"There was a Greek woman who, being visited by spirits in the guise of two Chaldeans, was dowered by them with transcendent powers and superhuman knowledge, and she was able to behold at once all the deeds that were done in all lands beneath the sun, and was raised high above all human woes and human frailties, save only Love and Death. The woman dwelt alone with the stars and the palms and the falling waters, and was tranquil and at peace, and she was equal to the gods in knowledge and in vision, and was content. Then one day a tired wanderer came and asked her for a draught of water to slake his thirst and lave his wounds, and she gave it, and, giving, touched his hand, and one by one the magic gifts fell from her, and the Chaldeans came no more! In all the vastness of the universe she only hearkened for one voice; her eyes were blind to earth and heaven, for they only sought one face. She had power no more over the minds of men or the creatures of land and air, for she had cast her crown down in the dust and had become a slave, and her slavery was sweeter than had ever been her strength — sweeter far — -for a space. Then the wanderer, his wounds being healed and his thirst slaked, wearied. He arose and passed away; she was left alone in the silence of the desert — but never more came the Chaldeans.
Thus ran the tale; it seems unfinished and I am moved to finish it.
When the woman had made fair progress and attained into power, it was her right to be tested by the gods. Now we are most tested by Love and by Death.
So, as the tale runs, she was left mourning in the desert. She called upon the Chaldeans and their power, which she had shared; but power comes not at call; we must seize it and make it our own. She cried then to death; but death comes not quickly to those to whom he comes as a friend. It is only as dread warrior and foeman that his approach is swift and terrible. She could not die. In all the world there was left to her only her love; this she could not slay, though now she strove to cast the burden off, and then she clasped it to her burning heart. She could not lie forever thus in the desert. Her great love impelled her, and she arose, thirsting for one more sight of that distant face, determined to follow through the world that she might once more look upon it. She passed from the palms and limpid waters over the burning sands, and, all unseen, her guardian spirit and the spirit of her Ray went with her.
Thus she came into the world, and seeking saw on every hand sin, misery, disease, death, shame, and bitterness, and all the wrong man heaps on man, and all the joys of sense and soul that are the wombs of future pain. Failing to find him whom she sought, she asked herself, "What if he be wretched as these?" And, as her heart swelled with pity at the thought, she strove more and more to help the suffering, to clasp the imploring hands that clutched at her gown, — all for his sake. Learning to love them so, she hoped to forget that master love for one, and hoped in vain, for human love, is strong and tests us as a sword. At last she cried to all the gods. "Let me see him once, and die." So strong the cry, the inner heavens rang with her demand; on it she staked her all, and drew from Karmic powers, in that one gift, all that they held as treasure for her in many a life to come. Her guardian spirit hid its face and trembled, but the spirit of the Ray, the Watcher, saw unmoved.
So she beheld her lover. The man had changed. The fret of life had worn him. His sphere was dimmed by a dark, inpouring tide that colored all his deeds, impeded his higher aspirations, and mysteriously sapped his life, by him unseen, unknown.
"Call back that evil tide!", she said. And then again, "What is it?"
Her guardian spirit could not answer for tears.
"It is thy love, whose strong barrier resists and impedes the law. Hark to the discord of his sphere," said the Watcher, the spirit of the Ray.
The woman uttered a moan of pity and of shame.
"He is changed. Dost thou love him still?" asked her guardian spirit.
"Better than ever I love and long to comfort him," she answered.
"Behold," said her guardian to the Watcher, "how strong is this love, now purified by pain. Shalt thou not deliver the woman?"
The unmoved Watcher spoke. "When the man came to her in the desert, did she speak to him of the starry Truths of the darkness? Aye, I know that she spoke, but her words were forms devoid of life while her voice — their carrier — cooed the notes of love. Aye, I know that she taught and tended him in tenderness and pity, but did she not ask reward, the reward of his love? What free gift asks a great gift in return? She only asked to serve, sayest thou? Know, Spirit, that in heaven's high hosts are thousands who wait through the passing of cycles for permission to serve, and sometimes ask in vain. Accepted service is the gift of gifts in the power of the Divine. Saw she his soul-spark yearning for freedom from personality and separation? Under that crust which is the outer man, saw she his inner self, the radiant, imprisoned, emmeshed in the web of matter, awaiting a deliverer? No. She saw but her own reflection, the mirrored flame of her own desire. Her image she projected towards him. Her glamour she cast about him; her own fond yearning, it was that she loved. The imprint she stamped upon him faded, for his guardian spirit stood near. Then the radiant one within impelled him from her. Life bore him away. He passed on to other scenes, dragging after him, unknown but not unfelt, the dark and ever-lengthening chain of her recalling thought. The woman loved herself, so loving love; she to whom power was entrusted by the gods cast it, for self aside."
"Ah! say not so!" the guardian spirit cried. "Was no pure flame behind the smoke; no living germ within the husks of love?"
"Look!" answered the Watcher.
As the woman gazed, spellbound, she saw, above her lover, a shape of superhuman beauty, glorious and full, one of a band of mighty ones, filling the world, strong to aid and to save, interlinked, interdependent, all in one and one in all, the immortal hosts, the higher selves, the higher self of man. Seeing the loved one thus transfigured, thus translated, a cry of joy broke from her lips. "He is free!" she cried.
Then the Watcher bent above her, while the guardian spirit held his breath.
"Shall he become as one of these and pass beyond thee?"
"Oh! take him to that blessed place," the woman said.
"That place is one which men themselves attain. By fortitude; by duty; by self sacrifice; by entire acceptance of the law; he may attain. Or wilt thou — O caviller at the law, constructive of thine own desire, destructive of the universal trend of things — wilt thou detain him on the way?"
"Why may he not go there with my love?" she asked.
"With thy love, yes; for love makes free what it loves. But not with thy desire. The law has parted you in the flesh; who shall withstand that law and not be broken? But love coheres, inheres, and knows not space nor time."
The woman bent her head. From her heart a wild complaint arose. But she had seen the glorious vision; she longed to see her beloved on that way, the path of law. "Set him free", she said.
"But if thy desire recall him —?"
"Hast thou forgotton, Stainless One, or hast thou never known, that true love loves the better self, the shining ideal? I was blind, but now mine eyes are opened. I give him to his higher life, that life which is the law. And I — I bless that law, though it deny me, because it sets him free."
As she spoke, something seemed to break in her heart. Before her swept the great, blinding, glorious vision of a freed humanity, lifted upon the sorrows of such as she, lifted by very force of woe endured, into that shining host. The world that suffered and the world that conquered were one, and all, above, below, were types of souls freeing and set free by higher Love.
"I love the world," she cried, "for all is one."
Upon the face of the guardian spirit there shone a great joy. "Thou hast conquered by love," he said. "There remains only death for thee to meet and to subdue."
The Watcher spoke, "Nay; death is overcome. The only true death is the death of self. She lives for all, her powers reclaimed, restored, for the power of powers is universal love."
Thus runs the tale of truth. If woman knew her power to uplift, before the eyes of man, the splendid ideal, knew her power to nourish and sustain it, she, loving thus, would teach man how to love, and, freeing him, retain him forever in the higher bonds that knit all souls to Soul.
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