Vincent sat in the shadow of a large tree, his horse lazily nibbling the grass at his feet. In one hand he held a chunk of bread and in the other a tin mug filled with fresh, cool water, which he had taken from the brook that gurgled and jumped so gaily beside him. He was so deep in thought that he did not notice the man who stumbled wearily up to him. He looked up and saw him only when the stranger addressed him with these words:
"I greet you, unknown one. I am weary and hungry, for I come from afar. Will you permit me to rest beside you and share your meal?"
"You are welcome to join me in my meager repast," answered Vincent as he made room for him beside him, "if you do not despise such humble fare as this."
"I am grateful for your hospitality, brother," said the newcomer, whereupon he sat down and bent over the brook, and filling his hands with the fresh liquid, drank greedily thereof. This act accomplished, he washed his face and hands and sat down beside the youth. The latter broke off a large piece of bread and passed it to him without a word. For a while both ate in silence. Then Vincent turned towards his companion with a friendly smile.
"Will my brother consider me indiscreet if I ask him whither he is bound?" he said. The man returned his smile and answered:
"You are welcome to know, friend, for I have nothing to hide. I am but a homeless pilgrim going whither the Father of all life sees fit to lead me, seeking to help those who are calling for help. My material needs I have placed in the hands of such charitable persons as yourself: in exchange I feed the spiritually hungry and clothe the spiritually naked. I am a beggar-monk, my brother, having renounced all earthly possessions and pledged myself to poverty. Will you not likewise tell me something about yourself?"
"Willingly," said Vincent. "For many years I have ridden through the world in search of the Secret of Existence. You seem surprised, my brother, and, indeed, my words must seem strange to you: yet it is as I say. Only through the accomplishment of this deed may I claim the love of her who fills my thoughts and dreams. It is not possible to convey to you with speech the grandeur and the queenliness of her. The very stars of heaven look pale beside the glory of her face! She is as divine as I am earthly, as pure as I am full of sin, as wise as I am ignorant, as clear-sighted as I am wrapped up in illusion and darkness!"
The monk listened attentively to this flow of eloquence.
"A remarkable story have you told me," he said thoughtfully. "But how is it that you have not yet found the Secret of Existence? Is it not the peace of God, and faith, and prayer? Believe me, it can be no other thing! I was no less ardent a seeker than yourself in my youth, until I found these three. Since then I seek no more, for my soul is satisfied."
"God?" repeated Vincent. "I too have looked for God, far and near, but I have not found him. He seems unreal to me, and thoughts of him fill me with doubt and resentment, for from the devout speeches of his priests and worshippers I can only deduce that he is cruel and despotic, and that he finds pleasure in mystifying and ensnaring the minds of the children of his own creation."
"Hush! This is rank blasphemy!" said the monk sternly. Then his face softened a little. I too was a doubter once," he said, "but sorrow and suffering taught me to trust in Him and to believe in Him with all my heart, and not with my all-too-human mind. Thus have I found the peace and joy which have been with me ever since."
"I would I could believe as you do!" said Vincent wistfully. "But each one of us must find his own salvation: I have not yet found mine."
Then he rose and made a peculiar sound at which his horse, who had strayed from his side, immediately came back.
"I must hence now," he said, turning to the monk. "The sun is already bound for home and I and my horse must find a more appropriate lodging for the night. Farewell, stranger: may success and happiness follow you everywhere!"
"God bless you, my brother," said the monk. "May you find that which you seek so ardently! But stay! Where will you find a lodging? This is a deserted spot, and I know of no human dwelling in our vicinity. Were it not better if my brother remained here until morning? Else might he lose his way in the darkness."
"There is no cause for worry, although I am grateful for your solicitude," said Vincent with a smile. "I am not without company on my wanderings. He, there, will surely lead me somewhere!"
And he pointed to a little black shadow that danced and hopped alternately before his horse.
"What is that?" asked the monk in amazement.
"It is my constant companion," said the youth, his face serious again, "and a more peculiar companion I could not have. It leads me everywhere I go, whether I wish it or not, and nothing I can do will frighten it away. Strangely does it lead me! When I am sad and dreary and filled with hopelessness, it leads me through barren fields and melancholy cliffs where there is no living green thing to gladden the eye; when my heart is filled with hope and joy, it leads me to green valleys where bright-cheeked flowers nod and whisper in the breeze, or along a sparkling beach, where the sun glitters merrily on the waves and seagulls cry gaily overhead. When I give vent to anger or another feeling as unworthy, it leads me through the crowded streets of some town where coarse-mannered merchants push my horse and me, and mutter oaths after me, and throw unfriendly glances at me. Often have I thought that we had parted company, yet when I look attentively about me, there it is, running before me and pulling my horse by the bridle!"
And he looked with an almost fearful wonder at the impish form that still performed its antics beside them. But the monk nodded his head and said significantly:
"May it never lead you astray! Creatures of such fiber are not to be trusted, but feared, rather. Watch it carefully, my brother! Watch it carefully!"
Vincent nodded his agreement thoughtfully. Then he mounted his horse and calling "Farewell!" once again, swiftly rode away, the little black figure running quick as lightning before him.
After many months of fruitless searching for God Vincent entered a Christian city and asked to be directed to the nearest priest. Willing hands pointed out a house to him, and eagerly he rode up to it, and dismounting, secured his horse to an iron ring in the wall. Then he knocked at the massive door of oak, and as it was opened from within, boldly walked in.
"Priest! I have come to ask you about God and Truth and Religion!" he said to the man who confronted him, inquiry in his eyes. He, thus addressed, looked at him in wonder, then smiled and said: "Come in!"
And then, when both were seated, they began to discuss religion, Vincent questioning the priest and the priest answering his queries with the admirable indulgence of the erudite scholar imparting his knowledge to the blundering neophyte. The Holy Bible was brought, gilt-edged and beautifully bound, and passed continually from one to the other, for although their knowledge of the Christian form of worship and acknowledged dogma was as different as night and day, both were versed in the Holy Writ, and both were eager to quote from it. For a while their conversation was all harmony, but this latter was soon crudely broken.
". . . what I cannot understand is that your God must share his power and might with Satan! Is he then so feeble that he is unable to overcome the Power of Darkness?" Vincent said perplexedly, after some moments of argument on this theme.
"You have misunderstood my words, my son," the horrified priest hastened to answer. "You see, God is essentially good, just, and merciful. Satan is a power of Evil, a fallen angel, a God-defier."
"Then God knows not the kind of creatures he creates!" said Vincent. "If he be omnipotent, if he be omniscient, he must be ruler of all that is. If he shares his reign over the world with a creature of his own creation, he must be either weak and feeble, or else evil, if he allows evil to seduce mankind and all the sentient units of life."
"Indeed, no!" cried the priest in agitation. "No evil thing can touch you if you trust in God and obey His commandments. Satan has only power to tempt sinners and God-deniers!"
"Then your Bible is a book of lies," Vincent said hotly, "although you proclaim it to be inspired by God himself! This is what it says about this matter: 'If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.' (Psalm 139, v. 8.) So, you see, you contradict the Bible, priest! Then you say that Satan tempts men. If such be the case, then explain to me why pious Christians daily address this prayer to God: and lead us not into temptation. . . .'? (Matthew 6, v. 13.) The only conclusion I can come to is that Satan and God are one! 'For there is no power but of God: the powers that are ordained of God,' says the Bible. (Romans 13, v. 1 .)"
"Hush! This is impious talk!" said the priest severely. "You are deliberately distorting the meaning of the Holy Book and indulging in purposeless argumentation. Only if you come with a simple mind and a heart full of faith will you receive true understanding. If you come with a mind full of pride and arrogance you will be given no light of God, for too much prying into His mysteries, too great a curiosity where His works are concerned are inspired by the Evil One.
"If a little child come with a pure heart and listen to the Word it will grasp the truth of it better than any grizzled sage!"
"I think not," said Vincent unperturbably, "or else you are again contradicting this book!" and he touched the gilt-edged Bible. " 'I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world,' (Matthew 13, v. 35) says Christ. 'All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them.' (Matthew 13, v. 34.) 'But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.' (I Corinthians 2, v. 17.)
"But let us touch on other matters, for I see clearly that about this we shall never agree. You say that bliss and happiness in after life are only to be attained if man realizes that he is but a sorry creature that should live in continual fear of God and remember constantly that he is a cursed sinner, unable to do aught for himself, unable to fight against a predestined fate! But why should God have made us partly carnality and partly weakness? That would be cruel sport on the part of the Almighty! As for the nothingness and contemptibleness of man, hark to what the Holy Writ says about it. 'I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.' (Psalm 82, vv. 6, 7.) 'Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?' (John 10, v. 34.) 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' (I Corinth. 3, v. 16.) No, friend, I think that your mind needs the purification of a few more lives before it can understand these teachings as they are meant to be understood."
"What do you mean?" said the priest uncomprehendingly.
"I mean — do not take this amiss! — that you do not yet understand the Bible, and will probably be able to do so only after a few more reincarnations," said Vincent.
"Reincarnations" repeated the priest incredulously. "What new blasphemy is this?"
"Why do you call it a blasphemy?" said Vincent, mildly surprised. "This is no blasphemy."
"Is it not blasphemy to mention reincarnation, that devilish doctrine, invented by God-deniers, in the same breath as God and His Word?" exclaimed the priest. He was trembling with agitation and what in one less holy might be called anger. As for Vincent, he merely looked at him with a puzzled frown between his eyes.
"Do you mean to tell me that you, a Christian, do not accept the doctrine of reincarnation?" he asked in amazement.
"Indeed I do not!" said the priest emphatically. "Every good Christian knows that when this earth-life is ended he will find his reward or punishment in Heaven or Hell, according to the works accomplished on earth. Believe me, my son, this is the only true belief!"
Vincent laughed merrily.
"Priest, you astonish me!" he exclaimed. "The source from which I first derived the idea of reincarnation is the Bible! How have you studied it not to have done the same? Why, it is full of hints about this doctrine! Listen, and I will read out some of them to you: 'Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. (Genesis 9, v. 6.) 'He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.' (Revelation 13, v. 10.) Now, how can you explain these verses if you do not believe in reincarnation? How many homicides have not escaped from justice! How many do not so daily! If you deny reincarnation, then you must admit the weakness and impotency of your God who, in spite of his promise that each murderer shall be killed, allows untold homicides to die a peaceful death! Listen again: '. . . for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.' (Exodus 20, v. 5.) Here you must either admit that the 'children' are the 'fathers' reincarnated, suffering for their old sins — or else that your God of love and mercy is a cruel and demoniacal tyrant! Again, 'The Lord is long-suffering and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.' (Numbers 14, v. 18.) You talk of Heaven and Hell, of reward and punishment. Can you, a rational being, truly believe in a Hell where 'wicked' — or more truly ignorant-souls are cruelly tortured for all eternity in a great Fire, or in a Heaven where so-called 'good' souls float about and sing psalms without cease? If men weave their destinies on earth, how can they be punished or rewarded elsewhere? If you sow wheat in your own field, will you reap the barley of your neighbor's? Listen to the words of the Bible: 'Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.' (Ecclesiastes 11, v. 1). 'Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have born their iniquities' (Lamentations 5, v. 7). And again, 'As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath . . .' (Zechariah 8, v. 14). Do you take all this literally, priest? Do you admit that your God is a cruel joker who would punish you because of the sins of your parents? Or will you admit that reincarnation is a truth, and that the 'fathers' are but our old selves, whose sins we now have to bear? I think the latter tenet would be more respectful to your God's logic and intelligence!"
At the end of this vehement speech the priest raised a pair of convulsively clenched hands to heaven and exclaimed in a loud and passionate voice:
"In the name of Christ, Thine one and only-begotten Son, I implore Thee to forgive him, oh, Lord, for he knoweth not what venom is dropping from his lips!"
Vincent, astounded, listened in silent wonder. Then he leaned forward eagerly and repeated slowly:
"Thine only-begotten son! What do you mean by that?"
"Do you not even know that Christ is the only-begotten Son of the Lord our God, you wretched heathen?" said the priest in horror.
Vincent shook his head.
"Do you mean that Jesus Christ is considered to be the unique emanation of the Divine Spirit of the universe?" he asked.
"Certainly!" was the answer. "When God saw how sinful and wicked His creatures had become, He took pity on them, and moved by an infinite love, sent down His beloved Son to save us all from eternal damnation."
"Hm!" said Vincent. "I fear that I do not altogether understand this. Almost it would seem that God is powerless and not able to save from perdition the work of his own hands, but must needs send his son down to earth for that purpose! But granted for the sake of argument that he had sent down his son to save humanity, and that this son was Christ, the founder of your creed, what of the innumerable others who have come from time to time to enlighten and inspire various peoples of the earth during the most critical periods in the history of the world? What of Gautama the Buddha, the Indian Savior? His miracles were as great and wonderful as those performed by Christ. And would you dare to place his wisdom on a lower level? He, too, had followers and disciples; he, too, like Christ, taught great truths and uttered mystical allegories! What of the great Sage Sankaracharya? We are told that nature rejoiced at his birth, that the heavens sang with gladness, and that even the wild animals forgot their savagery and fierceness and were at peace with one another. Was his wisdom not as great as Christ's? What of the Greek mystic and seer, Apollonius of Tyana? What of Confucius and Lao-Tse? What of the great Teacher and Master of the Persians, the divine Zoroaster? What of . . . But there have been so many others! If you would but search the records, you would find many, many other names as illustrious as these."
"You do not know what you are saying," the priest said with irritation when Vincent ceased speaking. "These men have, of course, been good and wise, but they were mere men, while Christ was God incarnate. You have only to read the wonderful story of His birth, that story which befell but once, and which will never again be repeated on earth, which . . ."
"Stop!" Vincent cried, interrupting him. "You talk ignorantly now, for in affirming that the story of the life of Christ is unique you utter an untruth, involuntary perhaps, but nevertheless an untruth, for it is a mystical, universal story, and has been attached to the lives of many other Sages and Saviors."*
At this point, however, the self-control of the priest utterly broke down, and rising to his feet, pale and trembling, he cried, wildly pointing to the door: "Begone, blasphemer! Begone and come no more before my eyes! Satan has surely put these arguments in your mouth, for you have uttered unholy words in direct opposition to the true belief and the Holy Church of God!"
Vincent rose likewise, fixed a long and earnest regard on the agitated priest — then turned and walked out through the door. There he released his horse and mounted on its back.
As he neared the city-gates, Vincent came upon a crowd of people who seemed to be listening to some discourse or other, for he heard a man's deep voice arising from the center. As he mingled with the crowd he perceived an old man addressing those who surrounded him with powerful words. Almost Vincent passed by him but the stranger's earnest voice arrested him in spite of himself, and reining in his horse, he stopped and listened.
"True religion is Love; perfect, impersonal Love," the stranger was saying to the crowd, "but oh! ye children of error, what know ye of true love? It is not the selfish passion kindled in a man's breast at the sight of a maiden — nor is it the devotion limited to wife or husband or child or parent alone! It is a UNIVERSAL LOVE, a love for all that lives and breathes! Think ye that this means a lessening of the love ye feel for them whose lives are linked with yours? That the heart must grow cold so that it may learn to love the more fully? Worse than folly were it thus to think! Verily I tell you that Universal Love means the raising of the pity and compassion and understanding ye are capable of feeling for the sorrows of others to the same height and greatness as the love ye feel for those whose destinies are twined with yours! Lo! that is religion, and it needs no man-made temples or churches, no sacrifice, no ceremony, no prayer; for it is a temple in itself, a sacrifice in itself, a living prayer in itself. Yet ye cannot feel truth unless ye kneel before a man-made image or mutter words of prayer 'neath a vaulted roof! But I tell you that your doctrines are false and devoid of meaning.
"Oh, ye Christians! Pious church-goers and lovers of humbleness and self-abasement! Think you truly that ye follow Him, the holy Teacher after whom ye name yourselves, when ye crawl in the mire of false humility? Full well do I know how ye love to preach and babble of humility and the breaking of all pride — but to come down to lowliness ye must first have reached a height to come down from! Ye, who call yourselves worm, and who disfigure and misinterpret the Sacred Writings, before attempting to attain the humility of Christ, rise to His height! Verily, it is no remarkable thing to kiss the ground when ye creep upon it already! It takes a swan who has breathed the pure air of heaven to bend its proud neck with becoming grace and kiss the dust of the earth!"
While he had been speaking the faces that surrounded him had been growing darker and more threatening with every moment, but as he spoke these last words innumerable hands were stretched forward to seize the daring speaker and furious voices called out:
"Down with him! Down with the blasphemer! Down with the heathen, the pagan, the cursed Antichrist! Kill him! Torture him! Tear him to pieces!"
And as Vincent, horrified, dismounted and rushed forward to help the unfortunate man, he was thrust aside by a pair of rough arms, and coming forward again saw how the angry mob fell over the wretched preacher of the streets like a pack of hungry wolves and crushed the life out of him. Sick with horror the youth turned away and hastily hurried out through the open gates, followed by his horse.
"Did he preach the truth?" he said agitatedly, his thoughts with the murdered man; "I wonder, did he preach the truth?"
* * * *
Some distance away from the town Vincent perceived a man sitting by the road. He was lightly touching the strings of a lute and singing the following song in a clear and pleasingly tuneful voice:
"Have you heard how the silence of eventide steals
Over forest and mountain and dale,
While the darkening sky, half-reluctant, reveals
One by one each fair jewel in its veil?
"Have you stood by the sea, where the storm-ridden wave
O'er the turbulent surface doth chase?
Have you read in the sand it rolls forward to lave
The mute SONG it there lingers to trace?
"Have you heard the aerial voice of the breeze
As it sighs in the yellow-haired corn —
Or as gently it wanders mid flowers and trees
On the wings of the roseate morn?
"Have you heard how the lark sweetly warbles in spring
In the crystalline aether above?
Have you heard how the sky with its message doth ring,
With its message of gladness and love?
"Have you heard the grand song of the earth, of the sky,
Of the spheres as in space they rotate?
To the song of the atoms revolving you by
In their task to construct and create?
"To the song that re-echoes again and again
Through Infinitude's borderless hall,
At each added new link in the cyclical chain —
OF THE UNITY, ONENESS OF ALL?
"Hark! The millions of jubilant voices among
Doth your soul sound a quavering tone;
Hark! It too sings the glorious, wonderful Song:
'With the Boundless, the All, I am One!' "
When he ended his song Vincent dismounted and came up to him. At the sound of his footsteps the man turned his face towards him and asked in a startled voice:
"Who stands before me?"
"A stranger, friend," answered the youth, "and a humble pilgrim as you may see by my garments!"
"I cannot see you, stranger," said the man, while the flicker of a smile passed over his face. "I am blind. But I greet you, whoever you may be, even though I may not greet you with my eyes."
"I heard you singing as I rode along, and forthwith reined in my horse to greet one who gives vocal expression to truth and beauty in so sincere a manner. I am more used to hearing sincerely-spoken oaths and words of abuse than poetry," said Vincent.
Again the blind man smiled.
"I am no poet, good sir," he said. "I would not presume ever to claim such a noble title for myself. The only title I have a right to is Truth-seeker, for that I am and ever will be."
"A Seeker of Truth!" exclaimed the youth. "If it is as you say, then give me your hand, my brother, for I am such a one likewise!"
The blind man eagerly stretched out his hand and grasped that of the youth.
"Yes, you are!" he said softly. "I can hear it in your voice. Since the day when my eyes ceased to be of any use to me my ears have served me in their stead. Have you ever noticed the difference in the quality of each human voice?"
"I do not know," said Vincent doubtfully.
"I do, however," the stranger said with his peculiar smile. "Infinite are its variations. Some voices are high and shrill: those belong to the conceited, the self-centered, the selfish, and the empty. Others are pale and monotonous: those belong to the conventional and the narrow-minded. There are warm and deep voices, owned by passionate and emotional natures; there is the curiously varying voice of the hypocrite and deceiver; then there is the soft and hesitating one of the timid and the fearful, the loud and metallic one of the bully, and the calm and musical and sweet one of the compassionate and selflessly-loving. Yours is like the last."
"With all my heart I thank you," said the youth. Then he sat down at the blind man's feet, eager to continue conversing with so remarkable a personage.
"My brother will not mind if I rest beside him for a little while?" he said, turning towards the blind man.
"It will afford me infinite joy to talk to an earnest seeker of Truth!" the blind man answered. "I have met so few that a pilgrim like you is a revelation to me! Stay, therefore, and let us talk of the real things of life and for once ignore the trifles that the unspiritual and unthinking love to discuss. Of a truth, I am weary of listening to grave arguments about the latest fashion in ribbons and flounces, the most scientific way of preparing a meal, and all the silliest written and unwritten laws of convention ever invented by men and women who have had nothing better to occupy their minds with!"
"Then let us do so by all means!" said Vincent heartily. "But, you say that you have met so few truth-seekers: surely you exaggerate? There is such an enormous number of people on earth that I cannot help but think that in every crowd, in every street, are men who through the knowledge of their fellow human beings, through the penetration into their hearts and minds, through the realization of their joys and sorrows come very near to Truth . . ."
"Knowledge of their fellow human beings! Realization of their joys and sorrows!" exclaimed the stranger. "Indeed, I perceive more clearly than ever that you must be one of the few crystal-hearted ones to talk thus! There are people everywhere, ay, truly, but not one of them can point to another and say, 'I know him!' How awful this is! How frightening! But this they do not feel, they do not understand; they do not care to understand, for thus it is written on their faces.
"Two kinds of faces only did I see when my sight was as yours now is: those formed by a soul which had not yet awakened and infused life and consciousness into them, and those on which pain had sculptured lines and furrows which nature had never intended to be there. And it seems truly marvelous to me that the former contrive to move about and speak as they do: they are so unseeing, they are so deaf, they are so dead! How is it that they act after the manner of living beings? As for the latter, I have seen nothing in them except a bottomless despair. Oh, sad and most pitiful sight! But if one looks into those other faces to see whether there be no thought, no feeling, no desire to help, one shudders on encountering their gaze, for it is always one of thick, impenetrable ice . . . But this is a time of many changes, and soon, very soon, this ice will surely be melted, this sorrow done away with, for this state of things is not according to the Divine Plan.
"When I saw these terrible sights so constantly, my eyes grew hateful to me and I shut out the treacherous and ever-deceptive pictures of the world and looked inside all manifested life. There did I find the answer to my endless questions; there did I find true light and true vision. Men call me blind, but I tell you, I would not exchange my blindness for the best pair of eyes in the world!"
"But how can you find your way about in big cities, where an alert eye is more precious than any other thing?" Vincent asked him curiously.
"I avoid big cities," the blind man answered. "The solitude is my home, and my only companions the wild things that live in forest and dell, and occasionally a chance passer-by like yourself."
"But is it right to go into seclusion as you have done?" Vincent questioned him thoughtfully. "Is it not the duty of every man to live among his fellow-men and help them and serve them wherever he can?"
"The duty of each man in life is different," the blind man said solemnly. "Those whose mental and moral capacities are but limited should not attempt gigantic tasks concerned with the welfare of the world: their duty claims them in their home and in the circle of their friends and acquaintances. It is difficult enough at times, humble as it may seem. There are others, however, who are imbued with a moral strength far above the average: their duty is towards the many, and with them family affection and other personal ties must count as nothing, for between helping and aiding the few and the many there can be no question as to choice. In the same way there are some who are intended for a life of solitude: others are destined to live with other men and to work among them and take part in their activities. Wrong were it to judge either category, for the destiny of no two men is alike, each one receiving according to his deserts. You are one of those who are meant to mingle with men; I, on the other hand, must remain in seclusion, away from the disturbances of the world."
For some time Vincent said nothing. Then he suddenly leaned forward and asked impulsively:
"Tell me, do you never feel lonely?"
"Lonely?" repeated the blind man. "Why should I feel lonely? Have I not my thoughts to talk to?"
The youth uttered a low laugh.
"I wonder how your life would suit those countless thousands who are possessed by a constant craving for the company of other men, and are never happy unless they are lost in a sea of known and unknown faces!" he said.
The blind man smiled.
"People who can never remain alone but must always have other people around them should remember, that if they bore themselves so much — how much more will they not bore others!" he said. "Thoughts are company if rightly treated, but men have yet to learn the full significance and power of thought."
No more was said between them after that. The youth looked towards the west where the sun was rapidly sinking, suffusing the sky with light. A star, clear and silvery, blinked sleepily overhead. Nearby a cricket chirped loudly, as if trying to deafen with his persistent little noise the lazy croaking of frogs in the distance. All was peaceful around them.
"I wonder whether this man has found genuine religion?" thought Vincent. "I Wonder whether his few words concerning life are not more true than any of the most eloquent explanations offered by the priests of those innumerable creeds, whose dogmas are cemented in men's hearts by fear?"
NOTE. — The Christos Legend belongs not to the life of one man, nor to any particular epoch in history. It is a Mystery-tale, replete with deep symbology. Similar stories are told of many of the world's Great Teachers; for instance, Krishna of India, who lived 3,100 years before the beginning of our Christian era.
It is said of Krishna that his birth was foretold; that he was an incarnate god, his mother a virgin; that he had an adopted father; that there was rejoicing on earth and in heaven at his birth. He was born in a cave on December 25th; was visited by wise men and shepherds, who were led by a star; his parents were warned of danger by an angel, all children having been ordered to be destroyed so as to include him. He existed prior to birth, and on earth and in heaven at the same time; was both human and divine. He healed all manner of diseases, raised the dead, etc. He submitted to injuries and insults; had a last supper; was said in one account to have been crucified; descended into hell and was resurrected after three days. He was entitled Savior, Redeemer, Shepherd, and Lion of the tribe of Saka.
Quetzalcoatl, the Mexican Savior, was born about three hundred years before Christ. His mother was the Virgin Sochiquetzal, the Queen of Heaven, who received the announcement of the miraculous conception from an angel who gave her a token of flowers. The morning star was his symbol. According to the legend, he lived a life of humility and piety, suffered for the sins of mankind; retired to a wilderness and fasted forty days; was crucified, and descended into hell, rising again on the third day.
Mithras, the Persian Savior, also born at the Winter Solstice, was called the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world." Tradition tells us that he also was put to death, remained three days in Hades, rose and ascended into Heaven. His death, his pains, his sufferings were said to have worked our salvation.
Many other names of Saviors whose stories strikingly resemble the Christ-story, have come down to us. Besides those mentioned, are Osiris, Horus, Adonis, Prometheus, Bacchus or Dionysus, Ixion, Hercules, Baldur, and Gautama the Buddha, and there are similar traditions among the records of the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Tibetans and other peoples of the old world . . . — From The Christos Legend: its symbology, by E. Heather. Lucifer, December, 1933 (return to text)