Part 3 out of 5
the vital activities of my senseless and invisible being. But these
extremely favorable conditions are rare; usually I feel myself gliding
rapidly through the sphere of perception, anxious lest it should pass
before I have made the most of it.
A long series of observations has made clear to me this above all: that
there are various spheres which, on gaining consciousness, one
immediately recognizes by their peculiar atmosphere, impossible more
closely to describe. One knows what depths, what fields of observation
There is a sphere wherein we see again the world of day-life - the
earth we have seen with its landscapes and habitations - all strangely
altered. It is not the same, but we know: this is meant.
Thus over and over again many a night I saw my paternal home in the
city with its old-time luxury - but in its dream image. Moreover Lake
Como and the forest of Gombo, near Pisa, and also England and the North
Sea - but it is always the dream sea, and the dream forest, and the
dream London, differing totally from the realities of day. But they
themselves remain the same and without exception I immediately
Thus there is a sphere of ecstasy and great joy. In this our
consciousness of self is strongest, and it is impossible to give an
idea of the wonderful clearness with which one views and admires
everything, and the undoubted sense of a reality, though wholly unlike
the reality of our waking hours. One sees vast, splendid, more or less
clearly lighted landscapes, fashioned indeed according to earthy
pattern, with mountains, trees, seas and rivers, but more beautiful and
filling us with overwhelming admiration. And one sees them perfectly
distinctly, with sharp intensity and full consciousness.
In this sphere one also possesses a peculiar body with very intense
corporal feeling and definite qualities. One feels one's own eyes
opened wide and sees with them, one feels one's mouth and speaks and
sings at the top of one's voice - wondering meanwhile that the sleeping
body should lie there still as death - one sees one's own hands and
feet and the clothes one wears, resembling the clothes worn by day. It
is all a little different, it is seen fleetingly as through running
water, and it changes also through the influence of pronounced will.
But one recognizes the dream-body exactly as one recognizes the waking
body, when one has again returned to it. And one retains the sense
recollection of both, each independent of the other. One remembers on
awaking that the dream body has been actively stirring, but the waking
body knows that it has been lying calm and still, though not wholly
dead, for an unaccustomed noise would have wakened it. And the
dream-body possesses all the sense perceptions and all the energies of
the waking body and even more, for it can not only see, feel, hear,
taste and smell, but also think very clearly and discern more delicate
subtleties of mood. Yes! this last it does with such unwonted subtlety
and acuteness that one cannot compare it to any sense perception of day
and might with good reason speak of a new sense. And it can soar and
fly. It feels light and free - though the waking body is wrapped in the
deep sleep of weariness, the dream-body in this sphere is always
supple, light and delightful beyond description. This ability to fly is
always the infallible proclaimer of the advent of the joy-sphere. But
this soaring power is not unlimited. The dream-body can safely descend
into the deepest chasm, but it cannot rise to every height. Ascending
requires exertion and often meets with failure despite the greatest
The careful observation of the reversion of the one body into the other
on awakening is most remarkable.
One can always wake voluntarily from this joy-sphere. And to me it is
an ever recurring and never waning wonder when the two bodies, each
with its distinct bodily recollection, merge into one another. The
dream-body, let us imagine, assumes an attitude, with arms stretched
out and raised high above the head, and it shouts and sings, but at the
same time it knows the sleeping body, still as death, is lying on its
right side, with arms folded over the breast; this seems impossible,
however, so distinct is the consciousness of speech, of the muscles, of
the open eyes ? and yet there follows a single indescribable moment of
transition and we regain the physical consciousness of the sleeping
body with the memory of having lain silent, immovable, unseeing, in
quite another attitude.
Who once has observed this, as I have hundreds of times observed it, no
longer meets with flat denial the supposition that the decline and
decay of this visible body does not exclude the possibility of
reintegration and of renewed consciousness, will and perception. No
more will he dare to confirm my father's opinion that we possess no
sign or proof of the existence of any part of our being, whether we
call it "soul" or "spectre" or by another name, that can separate
itself from the visible body.
It was this sphere of joy which I always hoped to regain and the
attainment of which made me happy all day. In this sphere I can make
music and sing wonderfully - a talent wherein by day I do not, alas,
excel. In this sphere I can also exert influence on myself and on the
life of day. A strong suggestion uttered by my dream-body acts upon my
waking body and drives away weariness, dejection and some of the slight
disorders that sometimes trouble me.
But what is of greater importance - in the joy-sphere I can pray
without shame or embarrassment. Then I pour out my whole heart - I who
was never a good speaker - in lucid, fervent, flowing language,
thanking, asking, praising.
Auto-suggestion? Yes, surely! Yet of very peculiar kind. For there is
response. Response that has never wholly deceived me. When, in this
wonderful sphere, I pray in transcendent rapture - subtle, silent,
deeply significant signs take place in the wonderful landscape before
my eyes. A soft veil of clouds obscures the light, as a warning of
danger or calamity, - a great glowing brilliance rises behind me or at
my side as an encouraging greeting, - a light layer of clouds gradually
evaporates and a deep, dark, boundless, ravishing azure comes to view,
filling me with unknown comfort. Blue, an incomparably beautiful blue,
is the most characteristic color for this sphere. When I see blue I
know that all is well, that I am going right and safely, that divine
favor and support surround me. Blue is the cosmic color, the color of
sky and ocean, of the vaster universal life, just as green is the
telluric color, the color of the more limited earthly existence.
Very gradually, very slowly, by repeated observation one acquires a
thorough knowledge of all these spheres and impressions. I have tried
to describe this more minutely in other writings. The full meaning can
naturally not be computed solely from my observations. Years of
repeated investigation by following generations are still required. But
an unknown perspective of seeing and knowing opens itself, where before
we could only believe and trust.
If only for the purpose of rightly following the brief history of my
career in life, it will be necessary to know something of this
nocturnal life of observation, for it has greatly influenced my lot. I
record it, undisturbed by the fear that these pages may fall into the
hands of the herd of philistines. For they will look upon it as an idle
phantasy, as curious invention, in the style of some of the wonder
tales by Rudyard Kipling or H. G. Wells, conceived for their amusement.
You, dear reader, and ready sympathizer, will easily recognize the note
of truth. I am anything but phantastic, and am a faithful and devoted
follower of the sober naked truth; but I do not deny her because she
reveals herself by night instead of by day, and to me a revelation
remains a revelation, whether it does or does not come to me through
That the dream-spheres adhere to a definite arrangement and situation
as well as the area perceived by day, I consider likely, because they
appear in a fixed order of succession. Once only I was in a most
profound sphere from which I could not voluntarily awaken and in which
I had some very joyous encounters, - creatures resembling men but
without mortal cares and a winged child which, in my dream, I already
compared to Goethe's Euphorion, the child of Faust and Helena. This
sphere lay still deeper - though one must understand the word deep
wholly as a metaphor - than the beautiful joy-sphere with its vast
The joy-sphere, however, is inevitably followed toward waking by the
sphere of the demons with their pranks and spook. This sphere is easily
recognizable. One sees the visionary objects sharply and clearly, but
they have an indescribable yet very distinct spectral character. A
single object, a brush, a horseshoe or anything of the kind may
suddenly come before my eyes and by the horror and ghastliness issuing
from it, I immediately recognize it as an invention of the demons.
A very common pleasantry of this demon pack is to let you awaken
apparently. You imagine it is morning, open your eyes, look around and
recognize your bedroom. When you want to rise, however, you see all at
once that there is something strange, something weird and spectral
about the room - a chair moves by itself, an empty garment stalks
about, the windows, the light - everything is different, unaccustomed,
and all at once you realize that you are not yet awake, that you are
still dreaming and have landed in a world of spectres. The first few
times this occurred to me, I was frightened and nervously made strong
efforts to wake. But after a few experiences of this false awakening it
no longer caused me the slightest alarm. The curious spectre sphere
with its sharp outlines and intense light interested me, and I woke
from it voluntarily as easily and as calmly as from other dream-domains.
This land of demons most dreamers frequent without knowing it, and even
to the present day, when my consciousness and memory are not very
clear, I easily let myself be deceived by it. Then come the mocking
dreams, the vile, offensive, bloody, immoral and obscene dreams.
But when I come from the joy-sphere and thus have clear consciousness
and presence of mind, I see the strange images themselves in action,
while traversing this spectral world. I cannot describe them better
than Teniers and Breughel have portrayed them. This, however, the
artists could not convey to us: that they were constantly changing in
shape and color. And they do this not only of their own accord but also
at my command, and sometimes I amuse myself by letting them grow larger
or smaller, black or blue, and by making them assume curious shapes.
Amid throngs numbering hundreds of them I have moved about, and though
my power over them varies, yet I never feel again the old nameless
dread and when they become too obtrusive I can keep them at a distance
by vigorous words of authority and also by a lash of the whip. This
perhaps sounds strange to you, dear reader, but you must in truth
understand that even in the senseless sphere, thought alone is not
efficacious without a certain plastic expression in shape of a visible,
audible or palpable form. If this spectral company becomes too much for
me I must loudly command them, even shout at them, "begone," and if
that does no good I must wish for a whip - which forthwith appears -
and give them a sound thrashing. And I assure you, and you will
yourself experience it if you test my statements by personal
observation, that one never awakens more refreshed, never does there
follow a happier, serener and freer morning than after such a
successful struggle with the demons. Yet, it was this sort of fighting
that, more than all my efforts by day, has helped me to overcome my low
and vile temptations. Thus, much from the old transmitted tales
regarding evil visitations and struggles with demons has appeared true
to me in the light of new experience.
Here I must warn you against a very strange and important peculiarity
of our dream-body and our dream-nature. In many respects it is superior
to our waking body - in sensitiveness of mood and feeling, in keenness
of vision, in the sense of peace, comfort and happiness, and also in
subtlety of thought. But in one respect it is weaker, namely - in the
control of passion. Once kindled to passion -in grief, in joy, in
rapture, in every soul-stirring emotion - it very speedily grows beyond
control. It then looses itself in countless extravagances, which the
contemplating judgment does not countenance, even deplores, but is
powerless to check or curb. From this I draw the conclusion that we
must learn to regulate and control our passions by day, for though the
senseless life is enriched by everything the day-life conveys to it, it
can only avail itself of well-mastered and disciplined passions.
Therefore abiding in the demon-sphere is never without danger. If, with
a little too much self-confidence, I let myself be induced to assume a
less haughty and reserved manner, if I associated a little more
familiarly with the bold tribe, I soon repented, for I was carried
along by their wantonness and folly, I could no longer subdue the
laughter and extravagances, nor could I, to my own disgrace and sorrow,
restrain myself in my wrath toward them.
And this most especially applies to licentiousness, of which they are
particularly ready to take advantage. They are past masters in
lascivious pranks and practised on my weakness with much success. I
soon noticed that they are sexless and can alternately appear as man or
woman. As long as I clearly realize this I have power over them. But
when the clearness of my consciousness and memory is dimmed they get
the better of me.
Thus you must understand me rightly, dear reader, as regards the
salutary effect resulting from this demon fight. Struggling with demons
is not struggling with passions. Demons are enemies and stand outside
our own individual domain. But passions are our friends, the useful
domestic animals belonging to our own household, to the economy of our
own personal nature. The passions and emotions should be tamed, never
combatted. And this taming is accomplished by day, for at night they
are more difficult to master, and the body invisible to the senses,
that which can remain after the fading and wasting away of our material
body, has no longer the power to tame. It only harvests what is sown by
Yet this nocturnal life of struggle with the demon brood is extremely
stimulating to the soul, above all through the knowledge, the clearer
comprehension, the deeper insight with regard to our own obscure being
and its no less obscure besiegers.
In the better, the higher or deeper dream-spheres impure lust and base
lasciviousness do not occur. Love transports of unknown splendor do,
however. But it is an almost unfailing characteristic of everything
pertaining to the joy-sphere, that it passes over sexual matters with a
curious disregard, and never carries with it any suggestion of that
lust for which we feel shame and humiliation. Yet there are in it
unions and raptures very similar to the love-life of day, though more
beautiful and tranquil. But the peculiar quality that is vile and
leaves behind aversion and disgust, is eliminated with subtle
The things I related to you in the preceding chapter are necessary for
the comprehension of my subsequent life. But they are the issues of an
entire lifetime, and in the years previous to my marriage, when I lived
with my mother and her protégée, I was only at the beginning and knew
yet very little of all this. I did not speak of it either, and in all
my later life I mentioned it to only one person.
As my plan of entering the priesthood had come to naught, we were all
three glad to leave the sultry city of Rome. We went to Como, occupying
our villa at the lake. It was an old house with wainscotings of yellow
stucco and a sad air of ruined stateliness, of a splendor that even in
its prime had pretended to more than it really was. It was quite
different than my memory had pictured it. Much humbler, smaller - a
weak and feeble reflection of the solid marble splendor of antique and
renaissance which it affected to imitate. But this very decay now
spread over it an involuntary charm. For the garden with its cypresses,
mimosas, magnolias and roses had grown all the more beautiful in its
neglected wilderness, and we inhabited only a few rooms of the great
still house, making ourselves at home in the nooks and corners as
though we were caretakers instead of owners. And directly in front of
the garden was the lake, with its smooth extent of deep blue, with
satin or moiré sheen according as it was touched by the gentle breeze,
- and behind were the mountains with thousands of primulas, the purple
erica, and the pink and white Christmas rose. The brooklet was still
there - and the old pillared portico, where the stone showed from under
the crumbling stucco and the roses had pushed their way through the
stone paving and entwined the columns.
Into this abode I withdrew, gathering books about me, and by study and
a quiet, temperate life endeavored to attain by myself the consecration
which I could not find in Rome. Lucia with her maid continued to live
with us, and I saw her and my mother at the meals, but aside from that
They were rigorous, tranquil, secluded years, which may probably be
reckoned among the good years of my life. I quietly went my own way and
studied, following only the guidings of my inner thirst for knowledge.
But the women waited, waited, and I did not see it, or did not heed it.
Bernard Shaw, the Benjamin and the enfant terrible among my brethren,
tries his best to show the world that it is the woman who wins the man
and not the reverse - and surely there is more truth in this than the
common herd suspects. But if one were to believe him, one should
imagine that the woman thereby considers only selfish ends and
primarily cares for, desires and accepts the man, because she finds him
useful to the interest of her deep-seated instincts, of the desired
good and beautiful child. But after all this is not true, and the woman
in her quiet, unnoticed, luring and combining activities does not want
to take only, but to give as well, above all to give, and usually she
values the husband higher than the father.
Lucia was a very gentle woman, yet of firm character. She had the large
firm build and the regular, massive features of Titian's women, but her
eyes were softer, and showed less of that daringly exuberant spirit.
She was also characteristically Latin and un-Germanic in her feelings
and sentiments. Without criticism she subjected herself to the
spiritual teachings of the group to which she belonged. The
conventional was an unalterable mental reality to her, tradition
possessed for her all the power of the living and the sublime. Thus the
conception of "honor" with all its personal and social facets was to
her as fixed, clear, clean-cut and immutable as a diamond. That it
might be variable, that some ages had called honorable what was now
considered dishonorable, and vice versa, on that she never reflected
and she did not seek for the lasting kernel of the changing idea.
Through this she possessed a serenity and peace of mind which, in my
perplexities, often seemed very enviable to me. She had no tendencies
which she despised, but also no ideals which, as I, she must constantly
curtail at life's behest. That a young bachelor like myself sometimes
allowed himself dissipations, was a fact which she passed over with a
light French step. And she bore allusions to it so undisturbed that it
often impressed me painfully. She did not seem to feel the
Englishwoman's need of upholding the illusion of prematrimonial purity
in both husband and wife, and though I recognized that she had a
perfect right to this way of thinking, yet it annoyed me and I
preferred Emmy's ingenuous or assumed blindness.
But I also realized that Lucia's indulgence would be turned into an
equally rigid condemnation as soon as conventional bounds were
overstepped. What a young man did before his marriage had in Latin
countries never yet jeopardized his honor. But her honor as a wife, the
honor of the home, the honor of a family name - these were for her
circumscribed realities, which might be menaced by certain actions, and
which if need be she would sacrifice her life to defend.
She had been reared in luxury, and on reaching her majority had a large
fortune at her disposal. But she never seemed to give it a thought, and
lived in my mother's house with the utmost simplicity. That my mother
cared just as little about it I dare not say, and for me this was
another reason for maintaining my stubborn resistance. It impressed me
most disagreeably to hear my mother forever talking of the
miserableness and worthlessness of the earthly life, and of the
blessedness hereafter as the only thing deserving of our attention, and
at the same time observe how with unconscious motherly matchmaking and
secret strategy she sought to arrange a rich marriage for her son. I
therefore resisted her silent machinations as much as was possible
without endangering the household peace.
It profited me nothing, however. I was bound to lose this game because
I did not have my mind on it. The two women were determined to win it,
not with conscious deliberate intent, but as women want a thing with
all the obstinate strength of their mind, without ever saying a word
about it or admitting it to themselves. And I was absorbed in chemistry
and physics, in physiology and biology, my whole mind was engrossed in
the great endeavor to decipher something of the mysterious writ of the
phenomena of life and Nature, and in some degree to penetrate the dark
recesses of my own nature.
Thus the conflict was unequal - and though it lasted for years I
finally found myself conquered as by surprise. I felt that it was no
longer possible for me to draw back, and moreover that I was alone
responsible. There is no finer diplomacy than the unconscious diplomacy
of women. I had been conquered and withal wholly maintained in the
illusion that I myself was the acting, the attacking and the conquering
party. But all this, mark it well, with the most devoted and unselfish
Actually in love, as with Emmy Tenders, I never was with Lucia del
Bono: and this, despite my amorous nature, her great charm and our many
years' companionship. I admired her for her beauty and for what
everyone must call her stainless character. But she lacked for me just
that certain mysterious, impenetrable something that in Emmy excited me
to so mad a passion. I loved Lucia for the same reason that everyone
must love her, because she really was a very lovable creature. But this
rational sentiment, that to many would seem a more solid basis for a
happy union than most paroxysms of love, never rose to the height of a
passion mightier than all reason. And I believed, as do many sensible
and staid people, and as my mother also believed, that I could make
this well-considered affection suffice for making her happy, and for
giving direction and balance to my own life. I lived in the very common
conceit that I had my own nature entirely in my power and thus, from
out the headquarters of my self-consciousness, could freely dispose of
it, always following the counsels of a reasonable deliberation.
That I should make Lucia happy by marrying her seemed beyond doubt.
That I should ever feel for another woman what I had felt for Emmy, I
could not believe. Then how could I do better than to devote my life to
an excellent woman, to whom I thus accorded what she seemed to desire
and who as my wife would surely never disappoint me? True, to save her
from humiliation, I should have to feign a love which I never expected
to feel. But I no longer faced mankind with the naive brotherly
uprightness, and I saw no wrong in acting such a part with such good
intention. I also considered myself perfectly capable of it, and again
swore to myself an oath - no less sincerely meant and also no less
fragile - that I would be a faithful and exemplary husband to her, and
would at all times make my own happiness subservient to hers.
Now every human person is, according to the primitive meaning of this
word, also a mask, and there is no person living, be he ever so simply
sincere, so wholly uncomplicated, but has wrought for himself such a
mask, has assumed such a rôle, according to his ideals of human worth,
of fitness and breeding. And if he means it honestly, he tries to live
himself into the part so that he can believe himself to be what he
pretends. Thus, following his own or others' form ideals, he moulds and
fashions himself into a personality which will be the more respected
the more pronounced, decided, and unchangeable it manifests itself. But
would he assume a mask, enact a part far removed from his own form
ideals and unattainable to the plasticity of his true nature, he fails
miserably, is called a scoundrel and a knave and is indeed a wretch.
Thus the part I played toward Lucia was not one entirely foreign to my
nature. I simply tried my best to efface the boundaries between, and
merge the emotional degrees of affection and love. This was not
difficult and I honestly hoped that my true nature would some time
really fill the assumed form: that thus I would become for Lucia the
true lover and devoted husband she expected to find in me. I also
related to her the history of my heart and my past, in so far as was
essential to a just estimation; and she accepted it all reverently, as
a pleasing and honoring mark of confidence, and saw no difficulty
whatsoever. She followed the suggestion of her own desire, that
everything would be as she wished it, with the same complacence with
which she had trusted in my mother's wisdom, and she continued to
hearken to the voice of the herd.
The wild, sultry sirocco had suddenly melted the snowy caps of the
mountains to about half their former extent, the mimosas bloomed
profusely, their luxuriant yellow masses standing out vividly against
the deep blue ether, and up on the mountains everywhere beamed the
hepatica with its myriad sweet flower-stare of faint and tender blue -
when Lucia and I were to wed in the white marble cathedral of Como. I
had acceded to her wish that all the ceremonies should be duly
observed. More and more I had learned to divide my life, as the only
means of keeping the peace with mankind and with myself. I realized
that what in brother Michael had seemed to me despicable hypocrisy was
nothing more than the brutal acceptance and shocking confirmation of a
sad necessity, to which every deeply thinking person must submit. Was
not Socrates far too wise a man to believe that if there really existed
a god of medicine, Asklepias by name, he would please this personage by
beheading and burning a cock? Yet he ordered this to be done in
acknowledgment of the speedy effect of the poison that killed him; this
at a moment when a sensible man does not usually jest or act. This poor
cock of Socrates has often come to my mind; also on the day when I left
my books and microscopes, my sprouting seeds and growing salamander
larvae to array myself for the wedding ceremony. Even the very wisest
man is obliged to offer to the gods of his time.
It was a lovely day and a brilliant scene. Lucia's distinguished family
had arrived in full force and glittering pageant. Not only the violet
but the crimson clergy were represented. The street populace of Como
were lined up from the landing place of our boats to the cathedral as
at the arrival of royalty. The street urchins ran before us, and there
was even cheering as though this event signified an additional joy on
earth. The church was fragrant with masses of roses and radiant with -
hundreds of candles, and returning our gondolas formed a long
multi-colored line on the lake, with draperies trailing through the
water, and songs and music, as though we were still in the good days of
Lucia was serene and beaming with quiet happiness, like a blue hepatica
blossom, a little bashful, but responding archly and merrily, and her
fine clear eyes dimmed by only the slightest suspicion of a tear. She
saw nothing ahead of us but bliss, a welcome happiness, a regular
God-pleasing life. For me it was not hard to sustain my part in this
beautiful scene. It was not so much a rôle or a comedy that I enacted,
as perhaps a lovely dream.
When the sun sank I sat on the terrace meditating and contemplating the
colors of the darkly shimmering well-nigh blackish green foliage of the
magnolias, the snow of the mountains opposite, glittering golden in the
evening light, above it the luminous, pale greenish blue sky, and below
the purplish violet mountain slopes and the soft steel blue lake. The
colors merged and became one with the fragrance of the lemon blossoms
surrounding me, marking this as one of the unforgettable representative
moments, to which we look back repeatedly on our journey of life as the
skipper looks back to a buoy or lighthouse passed.
I thought of my dream-world and compared the sharp brilliant
impressions of the night with those of the day, asking myself when I
was most truly and really myself, and which of the two worlds was the
more real - and why?
Time is a sphere in the dream-world in which you, dear reader, have
surely been as well as I, but probably without distinguishing it as
such. Without doubt it has happened to you that you dreamt very vividly
of persons who have died. Then you may have observed two peculiarities,
first, that you usually do not remember in your dream that these
persons are dead, and moreover that if you see others with them, or
near them, or shortly after having met them these others are also dead
persons, whose passing away you had forgotten in your dream. Long
before the day of which I told you in the last chapter, I had already
observed the regularity in these visions, and had formed a presumption
from it, concerning the relation of their causes.
A presumption I say - not without value for all that. All that we call
proofs are presumptions of different degrees of certainty. Nietzsche
scornfully says that God is but a presumption. It is so. But it is not
nice of him to fool people for that reason, and to thrust the superman,
whom no one has ever seen and who is even slighter than a presumption,
into their hands as a waggishly contrived idol.
Believe nothing beyond experience, dear reader. But God and Christ are
more experience than the superman, even though they be presumptions.
Your father and your mother, too, are but presumptions, deduced from
experiences, aroused by what their skin and their eyes seem to imply
and to conceal for you.
Thus I presumed that the dead also have their sphere, and that when the
dream-body of living, sleeping man enters there, he cannot grasp the
difference between this sphere and his own and therefore always retains
the illusion that the dead are still alive.
Now I had very often before this dreamed of my father. First that I was
still sailing with him on our last expedition. But this belonged to the
terror-dream of which I spoke before, which at the beginning regularly
This dream I consider nothing but the painful echo in the deeper chasms
of my soul, of the violent shock that my waking body had sustained.
Beyond this I attach to it no deeper significance.
But then came a dream of wholly different character, in a perceptibly
different sphere, in which I walked with my father while he put his arm
around my shoulders and cried. It seemed to me as though he was trying
his best to show me the marks of tenderness which he knew I was fond of
and of which he was usually so sparing.
I did not remember that he was dead and I walked by his side somewhat
embarrassed, as the child that unexpectedly gets more than it has asked
for. So as also to do something on my part to please him, I caught a
fine butterfly with curious blue arabesques on his wings, and I
pronounced a Latin word to let him see that I knew the species. The
word I no longer remember and moreover it was only dream Latin, that is
to say: nonsense. But my good intention was apparently evident to him,
and pointing to the wondrous design on the wings he said something
about "plasmodic" or some such word, just as nonsensical as my name for
the species. But in the dream there is a wholly different relation
between word and spirit, and one can construe sensible meanings out of
nonsense and also interchange thoughts without words, - and I knew very
well at the time and also on awaking that my father wanted to make me
think about the way in which this butterfly decoration was formed.
Then I woke and it took me a long time to realize fully that my father
was dead. And this realization suddenly struck me like a cold
whirlwind, making me shiver from head to foot.
The first hours after waking I was sure that it was he who had communed
with me, that he felt remorse for his rage at me in the last moments of
his life, and therefore cried and was unusually tender toward me. I
also thought his pointing to the ornamented wings of the butterfly
important and full of meaning, albeit not yet clear to me.
But the impressions of the day are so different from those of the
night, the two are so hostile, that they alternately seek to supplant
one another as absolutely as possible, as though by turns one had been
in the company of a religious devotee and an atheist, of a poet and a
dull philistine, of a spendthrift and a miser. No man so firm in
character but undergoes this influence. And it still regularly befalls
even me, after so many years, that at the end of day I face the night
with its wonders with critical unbelieving expectancy. Even when
falling asleep I cannot realize the coming transition, and only the
next morning I again know how everything was, and am surprised that I
could ever doubt and forget it, just as we see again the face of one we
love and are surprised that the image in our memory could have faded so
The mightiest and most prodigious fallacy of men in this age, that
cripples their aspirations, and like a deadly frost bends low and kills
the tender blossoms of their young growing wisdom, erecting cruel steep
walls between heart and heart, between group and group - is the fallacy
that in this struggle between belief and unbelief a verdict can be
reached through something that they call Reason and that bears as its
weapon the True Word. But reason rules only in the realm of
imagination, in the realm of word, of language, of scheme and symbol.
In the realm of actual experience Reason is not what we call Reason,
and only the young person and the childish nation, as that of ancient
Athens, confuse reason and see in the "Logos" the actual, and in the
logical the truth, expecting that patient reasoning must indeed lead to
the truth. But did not father Plato himself get nearest the truth where
his logos is most illogical?
It was really she! It was in a long lane bordered on both sides by dark
spruce and beeches decked out in the golden brown tints of autumn. The
sunbeams, distinctly bluish in the fine mist, slantingly penetrated the
dark spruce, and fell in golden radiance upon the pale green moss, and
the blue ether and the brown and green foliage shone in a brilliance of
hue suggesting the brown and blue lustre of the opal. I had already
seen her approaching from a distance, her white bare feet noiselessly
pressing the soft moss. I gazed intently at her face; at the young
fresh complexion; the softly waved lustrous blonde hair with the
little, fine loose hairs standing out around her head, shimmering in
the sunlight like a halo; at the amber tints in the shadows of her
finely modelled ear.
It was she, and she laid her finger on her lips as though I should
listen. But I heard nothing. I saw distinctly how the round spots of
sunlight glided over her face and her hair and the shadows of the
foliage fell upon her breast and shoulders draped in white.
While I gazed at her, wondering what she would say, my thoughts carried
on their subtle play. The subtle play from which they so seldom rest,
night or day. I thought: "How will the life after death be? Shall we
perceive, see, hear, smell, taste, touch then too? Surely the
perception can never be as positive as now - here. As clearly as I now
see these trees and her dear face - now, now while I am alive and awake
- so clearly I cannot perceive after death, without a body and sense."
While I was thinking this, she had come close up to me and I spoke
"Is it you, Emmy?"
Then I looked at her, somewhat doubtfully, as though there were
something unusual about her, and she whisperingly replied:
"Not yet entirely."
These strange words did not surprise me. At the moment I understood
very well what she meant to say with them, and I asked:
"Will you stay?"
Then I wanted to fold her in my arms. But I saw her shake her head and,
with the slender fingers on her mouth, again motion as though I should
listen. Then I heard sounds as of a wildly galloping beast, a trampling
of hoofs that resounded hollowly on the wooded path. And all at once I
remembered a heavy responsibility that rested upon me, and I knew that
this trampling gallop was connected with it. It was to fetch me or to
drive away Emmy, to put an end to this great serene happiness. And I
felt a horrible, choking fear rising in me, while the sounds came
nearer and nearer.
But Emmy smiled - a tender gracious smile and said:
"I shall come again."
Then, at the very end of the straight lane, where the alternating
brownish red beeches and blackish green spruce appeared very small, and
the light green mossy path gleamed up and narrowing met the sky, I saw
the galloping beast approaching. It was black, a horse or a bull - I
could not distinguish which - but it came nearer and nearer and my fear
rose to terror. Then all at once, sideways through the row of trees,
the pale face of my father appeared, and he walked toward Emmy as
though to shield her, saying:
"It is too late!"
After this that strange transition took place, which is like a chaotic
mingling of two spheres of life, a rolling together of space and light,
one moment oppressing, then again relieving, as the sensation of the
diver who, turning around under water, loses the consciousness of up
and down until he regains his balance, air and daylight, the transition
from dreaming to waking.
I had dreamt and only now actually woke. And meanwhile, only a moment
ago, I had thought that there could never be such clear and distinct
perceptions in the life without the body and senses, as those which now
after all turned out to belong to the dream - to the life without body
and senses. I was astonished and perplexed as on so many a morning on
But then came a yet more dazzling, more overwhelming memory - Emmy! I
had seen her as positively as I had ever seen her, her glance still
lived in my eyes, her voice in my ears. It was Emmy - and we had wanted
to clasp each other in our arms, we had tasted each other's love.
I opened my eyes and looked about the world in which I had awakened. I
saw the cold, soulless luxury of a hotel apartment, mirrored wardrobes,
thick red carpets. Out doors, bells were pealing, carts were rattling,
and whips were cracking. Another bed stood next to mine and in it I saw
dark, glossy hair - spread out dishevelled on the white cushion in the
disarray of morning. It was my wife - Lucia.
A violent agitation seized me. My thoughts and feelings were stirred to
commotion like a bee-hive which someone has knocked against. Vainly I
sought to restore harmony and peace in myself by calm reflection.
My strongest feeling was one of guilt, terrible, inexpiable guilt. Much
graver guilt than had ever oppressed me after my youthful errings.
Guilt toward this gentle, dark-haired woman, who lay sleeping by my
side, and whom I had permitted to become my wife. For after all it was
deceit - Emmy still existed. I had seen her and spoken to her, and we
loved each other, as I should never be able to love this other.
Emmy still existed - but where and how?
Then another memory came back to me which made me shiver with nervous
fright. I had not only seen Emmy, but also my father with her. And I
knew what this meant. Might her appearing to me so distinctly this
night be an instance of the oft-propounded correspondence of death and
the manifestation of the spirit?
In my anxiety I got up quietly, dressed and went out.
The air was keen and sparklingly fresh, the smoke from the houses rose
up in straight columns. We were at Lucerne and the winter, which had
already forsaken Italy, was here bidding a last farewell. A thin layer
of snow covered the roofs and the mountains, and the transparent bright
emerald green of the lake, the light brown of the antique wood work on
the bridges, towers and houses, and the soft tender white of the snow
formed a cool and noble harmony.
I roved about in the woods and mountains and only returned toward
afternoon - my spiritual balance restored, but more than ever estranged
from the human world.
I sent a telegram to Emmy's family in London: "Wire address Mrs. Emmy
Truant." And toward night came the reply: "Mrs. Truant died fever Simla
Not this night, but three months ago she had died. I attached no
significance, as so many do, to the fact that the point of time did not
correspond exactly. I knew that it had been she, and the certainty of
her death made me calm. It was as though she was now really mine, and
would ever remain mine.
I showed Lucia the message, thereby explaining my sad and introspective
mood. She willingly forgave me and did not ask me more than I wished to
tell, just as she had always met me with the utmost discretion in my,
to her inexplainable, humors.
But if perchance she had hoped that my heart would now feel itself
free, that my entire love would now be bestowed on her, she was
miserably deceived. The effect was exactly the reverse. I only now
fully realized what I had done, and only now felt it as a great wrong.
I felt that I had a wife, but it was not the one who slept by my side
and who bore my name. A fervent passionate desire went out toward the
being whose fair image I had seen so clearly, whom I had wished to
embrace with unutterable tenderness, and whose voice and whose presence
had procured for me bliss such as the day had never brought me, and the
clear, cold daylight could not dispel. I longed for the night all day
long, - and with bitter certainty I felt that I should never be able to
offer more to the poor woman, whom I had taken into my arms as my wife,
than a friendly mask, an assumed appearance of loyalty and tenderness.
And the feeling of guilt, which in another might perhaps have been
lulled by the news of her death, began to burn on my conscience with
greater intensity than ever. I abused myself as a coward, a weakling,
an adulterer, for something that no man on earth would ever have
imputed to me as guilt.
But even then, while I writhed with pain, I knew that my free judgment
never would have condemned as guilty one who had acted as I, thus -
that remorse and the distressing consciousness of sin are not the
logical and just consequence of a deed realized as bad and pernicious,
but that it is the sad effect of a law, salutary for humanity as a
whole, but often baneful and unjust for the individual, to which we
must submit with love and patience for the sake of the sacred character
of this law and out of respect to the sublime will of its Maker.
In order actively to carry out a thing in the dream world, I must
resolve upon it betimes and definitely determine upon the plan. During
the actual dream the time is usually too short, the incidents pass too
fleetingly. Sometimes I soar on in swift flight so that everything
rushes by me without my being able to delay the pace. It is usually
after one of these happy dreams with full consciousness, that I plan
out, that very morning before getting up, what I shall do the next time
in my dream. And then, every evening before falling asleep, it is once
more distinctly formulated and stamped upon the memory, so that like a
ready tool it will be at hand during the moments of observation - just
as astronomical instruments during an eclipse of the sun.
Thus I had determined on calling some one in my dream. And the first
one I selected for this purpose was my father.
I had seen him many times in my dreams, but never with full
consciousness, never with the memory that he was dead, never in the
sphere of light and happiness.
I made up my mind to call him night after night, as soon as I should
awaken in the sphere of observation. For it is an awakening just as
much as our awakening in the morning, but the body sleeps on.
And I succeeded. One night I was dreaming in the usual way in the
demon-sphere and they played one, of their familiar dismal pranks. We
were acting a farce, some friends of my youth and I, and the stage was
a cemetery and all the actors had grinning skulls. Then, firmly
regarding one of these acting apparitions, I said: "There is no death,"
as though to resist this obtruding horror. The head grinned mockingly
and, with a sarcastic expression, pointed to all the skulls and bones
round about. But I repeated, now with fixed determination and in a loud
voice: "There is no death!" and behold! the eyes of the being before me
faded, the whole apparition vanished - and I felt it was by my will.
Then I gained full consciousness, the complete remembrance of my
day-life and waking sensibilities, and blithely and thoroughly
conscious I rose into the sphere of knowledge and joy. Then hastily and
animatedly I spoke to myself, and I felt my mouth, my breath, my whole
body, the animæ corpus; and yet I knew that my day body lay sleeping
and silent and did not stir. Hastily I spoke: "I am there! I am there!
What is it that I wanted? I wanted to see my father. Oh yes! my father!
I wanted to see my father!"
Then I saw a sunny, green landscape spread out before me, a little
house, low and small. "He is inside," said I. "Here I shall find him."
I ran through many rooms and did not see him, but I continued my search
from room to room. And when I saw the last room empty too, I made an
additional room. And behold! I saw him sitting there.
This time he looked exactly like my father as I had known him, only
much younger than when he left me. He wore a dark blue suit, top boots
and a felt hat. The expression on his face was mild, and his eyes shone
clear and bright.
"Father!" said I; "Father!" and with a beseeching gesture I walked
toward him. I heard him say: "Good day, Vico mio!" And it was his
voice, even more than it was his face.
Then I gave him my hand and he took it. He tried to press my hand and
it seemed to cost him physical exertion.
I said, "Have you forgiven me?"
It was a warm, glorious sensation; I saw that he tried his best and he
looked at me mildly.
He murmured something, but I could not understand it or I have
forgotten it. Thereupon, with the utmost effort to express myself
clearly and with sincerest fervor, I asked: "Can you give me advice? I
seek for the best. Tell me what I must do, counsel me!"
But he said nothing.
Then an old question arose in me, unexpectedly and without my having
resolved anything about it:
"Father," I said, "what is Christ?"
Then I heard him say:
"Ask the butterfly."
And I understood that he meant the butterfly in the last dream with the
blue decorated wings. I asked:
"Can you tell me nothing?"
Then he shook his head very gently and everything in my dream vanished;
I saw only his head shaking "no" - and with that I awoke. The day was
dawning, and I lay thinking over everything and impressing it on my
I felt absolutely certain that I had spoken with him.
I went to sleep again and dreamed, as frequently happens after a dream
of this kind, that I related my dream, but without knowing that I was
That morning I was extraordinarily refreshed and happy. And the whole
day the sound of his voice was in my ears, with the words: "Good day,
Vico mio!" And repeatedly I tried to recall the exact tones.
I had this dream some time before the first appearance of Emmy, and had
asked for advice, because at the time I was still in conflict with
myself whether I should take Lucia for my wife.
"How is it that they wired you so late that your little friend had
died, so many months after?" Lucia asked me, some days after we had
"Because I, myself, had only then wired to inquire about her."
Lucia looked at we silently and thoughtfully for a while, and then said
with a kindly unsuspecting earnestness, full of delicate chastity:
"Oh, then I understand. Then she appeared to you in a vision, didn't
I nodded and Lucia questioned me no further.
She had remained a strict Catholic and had retained much of the lavish
popular superstition of my country. She attached importance to amulets,
to trinkets blessed by the Pope, to the offering of candies to saints.
Regarding dreams she held a creed, elaborated in every detail, the
accuracy of which she continued to maintain, although I never heard
from her a single striking proof. To dream of flowers, of water, of
money, of blood - it all meant something, but it was always equally
vaguely asserted, equally inaccurately observed, and with equally
little foundation accounted proved. For me it was absolutely worthless
and I carefully guarded against contradicting her in these things and
making her a partner of my own experiences.
But it was strange and remarkable that a certain dream to which she
herself attached no significance and whereof her dream-lore made no
mention, always repeated itself in connection with a certain experience
of mine in my night and day life.
Whenever another woman stepped across my path in life, threatening to
endanger the soundness of my union with Lucia, she would dream of a
large, wild horse that frightened her or bore down upon her. Sometimes
it was white, sometimes brown, sometimes black, - there also would be
two or three of them; they menaced and frightened her, but did her no
harm. She always faithfully and unsuspectingly reported to me when she
had again dreamt of horses, without having the least idea that for me
this was a stern and covert warning.
For it never failed, whenever I had fallen into serious temptation -
which, after the peaceful and secluded years at Como, was quite
inevitable on our numerous journeys - she would very soon come to me
with her innocent story that she had again been worried by the
And as I know that not only she, but my mother too sometimes, as well
as other women I have known, have been warned in this strange way, I
would advise you, dear reader, to pay attention to this. It may have
been a strange chance and coincidence; it may also be peculiarly proper
to me and the persons associated with me, - but it may also have a more
universal meaning, and no wonder, if we take into consideration the
presumable slight coöperation of the men, that the women have not yet
ascertained this meaning. But we should make reservations before sowing
suspicion between the innocent!
After my first vision of Emmy I lived in a peculiar state of outward
calm and inward happiness. To Lucia I was kind, tender and solicitous,
but I did not feel myself her husband, nor could I approach her as such
without a sense of guilt. At Como the temptations besetting my life as
a youth had vanished. The close application to study, the simple, rural
life, the absence of temptation, the pure, serene atmosphere of the
little domestic circle - all this had given me support and kept me out
And when I travelled with Lucia the strange fact revealed itself that,
mindful of Emmy's love and her appearance to me, I charged myself with
sin and baseness for what everyone considered just and lawful. The
temptation against which I fought and to which, bitterly ashamed, I
nevertheless repeatedly yielded, now no longer went out from hapless
prostitutes, but from the beautiful and amiable woman whom I had made
my wife. It would all have sounded very queer to other people, but once
for all it was so, my spirit responded to life in its own original way
and would not be forced. It was of no avail that I told myself how
differently the world judged, and I was just as unhappy when I had
yielded to Lucia's charms as when I had succumbed to the intrigues of a
strange woman. But nevertheless one as well as the other occurred, for
the incongruous relations in my heart and life were not ordered and the
wild lusts remained untamed. While all who knew me accounted me lucky
on account of my marriage, I led for many long years a hard and
tortured life. My love and devotion to my wife and children were forced
and strained, and I grieved bitterly that so much beauty and loveliness
did not attract my natural interest. My task was a giant task that
often seemed too mighty for me, and what I attained was nothing
unusual, nothing but what everyone expected as self-understood. I was
called a good husband and father, but no one knew the enormous effort
it cost me, and how far I still fell short, and no one would have
believed me or showed me sympathetic understanding.
When I had succeeded in summoning my father in the night and thus knew
that I possessed this power, the nights in which I penetrated to the
clear dream-sphere became all the more important to me.
And when I had seen Emmy in the common dream-sphere, in the sphere of
the dead, but without being myself clearly conscious, my first thought
that morning was to call her as soon as the sphere of clear perception
should open before me. And with great suspense I awaited such a night,
and morning after morning was disappointed and vexed that this clarity
had not come. For as I said before, sometimes this perception eludes me
for months and the dreams are on the ordinary confused, insignificant
order. Then all at once some inexplainable cause summons forth the
good, happy and clear moments of perception three or four nights in
But at last, after all, came the blessed night in which my project was
It was after a most tiring and not very pleasant day. A long mountain
excursion in the rain. I dreamed that I walked in the street among a
crowd of people. Beside me walked a little friend of my youth. Suddenly
it shot through my mind like a ray of light that I would call some one,
I would summon Emmy. Hastily I said to my comrade: "I beg your pardon,
but I must look for some one, Emmy Tenders!" I did indeed think
meanwhile that I was giving publicity to something very intimate, but
the matter was too important, I had to say the name. Then I ran through
the crowd searching and calling: "Emmy! Emmy!" Meanwhile, I thought
that I should be heard calling in my sleep, that Lucia would hear me. I
passed by trees and verdure, observing everything sharply and
distinctly. Busily absorbed in my quest I murmured to myself: "Yes! I
see it distinctly - autumn sun on elm leaves - small green apples. I
can remember their position, but I must have Emmy, - Emmy!"
Then I saw a closed door, and I pointed to it with my finger, saying:
She is there! if I open this door I shall see her!
I opened the door and saw - a slaughter house. Pieces of meat, a floor
streaming with blood, men slaughtering, a disgusting stench - horrible!
a demon trick to hinder me.
Profound disappointment. Well-nigh despair. I sobbed convulsively,
calling "Emmy!" Meanwhile, again the thought: "I shall find the marks
of my tears on waking."
I saw a piece of paper and wrote upon it with my finger dipped in
blood: "I was here in my dream"; with a vague hope that this might
serve as proof, one of the half-considered ideas that one sometimes has
in these dreams.
Then, deeply grieved, I felt myself waking up. But I fell asleep again
directly. And then I thought: "I shall go to her country," and I ran
hurriedly as though I knew the way. I considered meanwhile: "How shall
I get there? She is in India. I don't know the way and yet I am going
Then I felt myself soar and I saw a sea foaming beneath me as in the
wake of a big ship, and I saw the gulls flying around above it, preying
upon the refuse.
After that a luxuriantly wooded mountain and on its slope a house. I
hurriedly flew down and went into the house. I heard knocking and
thought: "There she is."
I saw a door on which it said: "Waiting room," and it opened slowly. A
figure emerged from it.
"Can it be she? She does not resemble her. And it so often happens that
people are quite different in dreams. How can that give me assurance?"
I came up closely. She had wound her thick blonde hair in braids around
her head and upon it rested a wreath of myrtle and orange blossoms. I
saw distinctly the small, shiny dark green leaves and the little
reddish twigs - and I smelled the sweet fragrance of the orange
blossoms. I looked at her and they were her eyes - very serious as
though absorbed in her own deep thoughts.
Then I folded her in my arms and I knew positively that it was she and
I called out passionately: "Are you there? How sweet of you that you
came after all!" It was very happy - happier than any moment of my
waking life has ever been.
I woke up, no longer sad, but very serious, and also, for the first
time after such a dream, a trifle tired.
I did not find any marks of tears and I asked Lucia whether she had
heard me cry or speak or making a noise in my sleep.
"No," she said. "You were lying still and tranquilly sleeping, I
believe. I was awake early. I again had such a disquieting dream about
that white horse. It was a splendid creature with a heavy full mane, a
long white tail and red glittering eyes. I stood close beside him and
he would not let me pass. I was frightened to death, but when I kept
quiet he did not harm me."
Very few people, you, dear reader, excepted, will find anything
important or curious in these records. The lay philistine will consider
them an idle play of the imagination for his amusement, and speedily
forget them. The philistine scholar will smilingly utter a few words of
authority, whereby he will consider the matter explained and settled.
There is such a one, his book is lying before me, who pretends to have
solved the entire mystery of dreams. Mind it well - the entire mystery.
And then he pronounces a few hollow phrases, which as an "Open, sesame"
should give admission to all the unspeakable wonders of this untrodden
reality, saying: "the dream is a wish fulfilled." Then upon this the
man is contented and glad, considering that he has said something.
I cannot furnish you with positive proof, dear reader, that it was
surely my beloved who appeared to me at night as my betrothed. Some of
the facts could probably be accounted as proof that my nocturnal
observations are not merely creations of my own imagination, but that
they concern a world with which others also are in communion, and which
has a peculiar nature. There was indeed a correspondence between the
words heard and the things seen by me at night and that which, unknown
to me, had occurred in the waking life. But I had no need of these
proofs. The primal feeling of certainty is a feeling that one gains by
experience. The communication of this feeling along the lines of reason
is an illusion that never subsists, nor has subsisted. We communicate
primal certainties to one another along intuitive and suggestive lines,
not by proofs. Though my proofs were clear as crystal and firm as rock,
the obstinate would easily reason them away; while only those who by
repeated and repeated observation have gained complete assurance can
also value the significance of the observations. For what I observed is
like the tiny spark from the rubbed piece of amber, like the
contraction of the muscles of the dead frog that Galvani observed - a
small phenomenon that the unbelieving ridicules, but in which the wise
sees the germ of new, never-guessed-at conceptions and deeds.
From that night when Emmy appeared to me, at my summons, as my bride, I
led for many years a double life, in which the incidents of the day did
not seem more important to me than the observations of the night. A
successful reunion with Emmy in the joy sphere of the dream was to me
the best and most joyous event, that I desired more and remembered with
more grateful satisfaction, than the most fortunate incident of my
daily life. The few solitary moments in the night, recurring only a
limited number of times during the long year, and perhaps lasting but a
few minutes, in force of impression and deep after-effects outweighed
the many days crowded with events, so that now it seems to me as though
the years had flown by and I can measure and define them better by the
visions of the nights than by the events of the day.
Yet my life was not empty, not barren in deeds and experience; but it
was the ordinary life that thousands lead and that has already left so
many wise and sensitive men unsatisfied, because they could not
penetrate the deeper meaning, and saw death and destruction so
unavoidably threatening them at the end of their career.
In accordance with my father's wishes, which my mother sanctioned, I
became a diplomat and lived and worked in different countries, first as
attaché and later as secretary of the legation. Outwardly my life was
as prosperous as could be and all who knew me envied me, without
therefore showing me ill will or seeking to harm me. I had a sweet,
pretty wife who bore me four fair, healthy children, I had money enough
for a life of luxury and plenty, and did my work with apparent devotion
and success. Transferal was the cause of frequent travel, and I saw a
large part of the civilized human world. We lived in sunny Madrid,
fragrant with acacias and carnations, with its subtle dangerous
atmosphere, its elegantly indolent culture, its desolate surroundings;
- in restless Marseilles, full of crime and rabble, where we never felt
safe; - in orderly, methodical, soberly bourgeois Berlin, where they
strive so sagaciously and diligently for culture; - in blithe and
beautiful Paris, where they still live on happily in the illusion that
they are the leaders of civilization; - in the not less self-satisfied
London, immutably grim in its sombreness, hardened in its dangerous
luxury and misery, full of intellectual life, but without much sign of
improvement, like a strong, prosperous, hardened villain; - in wanton
St. Petersburg, with its extremely polished, yet withal ever equally
barbarous luxury; - in vain, amusing Vienna, where all thought of the
possibility of still higher culture has long ago been given up as
insulting; - in the curiously grave and affected Washington, with its
trim green lawns and white buildings of state in confectioner's style,
with its blasé air of aristocratic calm and state in the midst of the
bustling, bourgeois, informal but intensely living American world; -
finally in the little, neat, doll-like Hague, that is so difficult to
consider as real, where the good Hollanders play at Metropolis and
where even the diplomatic world acquires the well-nigh comic aspect of
a very chic and well-cast amateur stage.
I could not have borne this existence calmly, without the stay of my
nocturnal experiences, without the constant preoccupation with the
miracle that again and again befell me, without the remembrance of how
I had last seen and heard Emmy, without the looking forward to her
return, and the considering of what I would do and say and what I
should observe in her the next time.
I did not therefore neglect my daily work; on the contrary, I performed
it with vigor and perseverance solely on that account. But how others
could cheerfully persevere in it I could not understand - unless they
were insignificant persons, wholly governed by the power of formal
religion and conventional patriotism. And I must admit, too, that the
most advanced and independent of my colleagues did not continue their
task without bitter self-derision and a sort of melancholy
epicureanism. Diplomacy may be carried on with fine forms and on a
grand scale, yet it remains nothing but an exceedingly narrow-minded
bickering for the greatest profit, for the largest morsel. Something
remarkable lies in the fact that the diplomat does not fight directly
for his own profit, but identifies himself with the Government he
represents. But what man fights for a really personal profit and not
for a fancied one? Thus the zeal, the enthusiasm, the satisfaction of
the diplomat is usually the same as that of the player moving wooden
figures about on a board, and finding his pleasure in the making and
the disentangling of confusion. But an earnest man asks after all: what
is the good of it all? Wherefore do I work and let so many others work
for me? My body which I keep in condition with so much care shall
wither, the royal house or the Government for which I fight and exert
myself some day shall fall after all; and though I fought not for
myself, nor even for my Government and people, but for a still higher
ideal - humanity - will it not also die some time when the earth shall
dry up and become uninhabitable?
These questions must be answered, for it is not true that it is man's
nature to go on working with courage and zeal without their being
answered. No; if he now still goes on working without an answer, it is
because he does not reflect. But it is truly man's nature to reflect
and thus he is still making his living by denying his nature. This is a
contradiction doomed to disappear. And I witnessed with pity the
endeavors of the so-called religious people, like my good wife Lucia,
to escape the chill wind of the new knowledge by the fostering of a
worn, patched and half-decayed Church system. Her cheerful acquiescence
and placid contentment in the enervated, marrowless shadow of what was
once, for a more childish generation, a solid joy, seemed pathetic to
me. Faithfully she sought her daily share of consecration, edification
and purification, that every human spirit needs as much as the body
needs a bath. But it was a dead, nerveless consecration through sounds
and impressions from which the living thought, the soul, had long
vanished. How could the poetry of the Hebrews and the thoughts of the
Middle Ages still touch her? Only the hollow tones of the declaiming
priests and the outward magnificence of the churchly edifice brought
something like a fleeting shadow of the true sense of the divine. And
in the poetry or music which she could really and wholly feel, in the
art of her age, in the thought and science of her age - the living,
direct expression of God - in these she did not seek, because round
about her no one realized that only in these consecration is found, and
must be sought for.
But for me, that which had been indicated by the meditative of all the
ages, in vague, and for the most part impotent, expression, began to
acquire a new, wonderful character of reality. I had learned to speak,
to hear, to see, to taste, to smell, to touch, to create things and
beings, and to enter into relations with what seemed to me independent
beings, without having the body - that which is positively doomed to
destruction - take part. What generation after generation had repeated
one after the other as empty sound, idle chimera, or suggestion, the
existence of a world beyond the senses, had for me become actual
experience. I knew now that I had another body, beside the ordinary
one, an animæ corpus, with a proper world of perception; and this
knowledge rested upon equally good foundations as every one's knowledge
concerning the existence of his ordinary body. Time and again I faced
the undeniable wonder of another space, perceived by the selfsame I,
from the same centre of observation, as the space by day.
What some sages had presumed and concluded by speculation - that what
we call room and place is nothing but one of the infinitely numerous
ways of perception of our being that neither taken up room nor occupies
space, the ego that is neither here nor there - had become for me an
ordinary fact, the knowledge of which influenced all my thought. That
I, without stirring from my place, could arrive in a totally different
world, in many worlds, all with a proper space, all with the same
evidence of real existence, all full of life, full of sensations, fall
of beauties and transports - this became for me a matter of simple
experience. And no one only knowing it from hearsay can realize how
different and how much more profound is the effect of actual experience.
In this conjunction the eternal error of the human phantasy in wishing
to fly directly toward the perfect and complete revealed itself. All
the defective work of the human imagination errs in wanting to make its
creations too beautiful, in affording a soulless perfection, such as is
manifested in human art by its decay after every period of bloom.
The insensible world is not full of pure loftiness and unmixed
nobility. I do not constantly wander there in Elysian fields, absorbed
in flowing conversations regarding important questions with spectres of
noble stature and dignified bearing. As all reality, the reality of the
beyond is unexpectedly fantastic, full of surprises and full of
disillusions; but on the whole more stimulating and more beautiful than
anything the imagination has pictured regarding it. And this is of
supreme importance in the practice of our daily life - that the
insensible world is in part our own creation, subject to our will,
built up from the conclusions gathered in our day-life, with the
faculties and powers which by practice and use we have in this same
life made our own. To say for this reason that nothing new awaits us
would be equal to the assertion that Beethoven had given nothing new to
the world, because, after all, he only employed combinations of
familiar sounds and tones. I again repeat - nothing in our actual
day-life can equal the ecstasy of even a single awakening in the new
And who would now confront me with the assertion that then probably the
dear being that appeared at my summons as my bride and made me
supremely happy in her arms, was also my own creation - to him I can
only reply as he himself would reply to the agnostic philosopher, if
the latter asked him for proofs that the entire world of the senses,
with his wife and children and the whole family included, were anything
else than a product of his imagination.
Does it make much difference whether we give to one and the same thing,
vehemently and intensely felt, the name of fancy or the name of
reality? - and does anyone know a reliable mark of distinction between
the two? Everything is the product of imagination, the sun and the
stars are also works of God's imagination. But there is weak and
strong, enervated and potently creative imagination; and very subtle is
the boundary line between the idle thought image and the created one,
endowed with personal being and reality.
How absurd, in the light of my experience, now seemed to me the common
idea of the so-called believers - as though the earthly life with all
its joys and its misery would break off all at once with death and
suddenly, without transition, change into a bliss the purer, the more
miserable had been the earthly existence.
All that we can expect is directly connected with what we attained
here. Here on earth, imperceptibly and continuously, we weave our
future, not by a right to reward from on high, as compensation for
sorrow and disaster, accounted and awarded irrespective of any action
on our part, but by personal activity, personal ability, personal
achievement of the joy and ecstasy we deem the most desirable.
Therefore the closer knowledge and study of the immaterial reality does
not lead away from the earthly life and coöperation with all striving
humanity, as the fanatics and ascetics in the misconception of their
idle and defective phantasy have believed and taught.
No, the blessedness that we all desire and can attain at will, must
already be sought for here in our mortal life, in this earthly sphere.
For only from the transient can the less transitory be compiled.
I now knew that my immaterial being with the repose or decease of the
waking body, also lost the heaviness and the aches, the melancholy and
dejection proceeding from the mortal, defective nature of this body:
but I also knew that its joys and transports are dependent upon the
happiness obtained by the day body through an active, wise life brought
into harmony with the development of all mankind.
The more beautiful my days, the more crowded with effective labor my
life, the gladder and serener my soul - the loftier also are the
exaltations and transports of my nights, the more glorious the scenes I
behold, the more beneficent the moods and the influences I undergo.
True, often a dream of most sublime splendor comes to brighten a time
of the very deepest dejection; but only when this earthly affliction in
the necessary consequence of the struggle for a higher and more common
happiness, when I am after all inwardly hopeful and know that I am on
the right road.
But, poverty, want, misery, affliction and loneliness are not good
guides toward a better life, and smothered desires not good travelling
The will for happiness may indeed burn so brightly in some of us that
its flame shoots up all the higher through all the accumulated sorrow;
but the spark of joy must remain visibly glowing, and to keep the
sacred lamp of gladness burning is the primal duty of every human being.
It is true that man has often shown that he could not stand luxury and,
like a child, broke out into folly when abundance came after a long
period of want. But wealth is the only nurturing ground for the bloom
of beauty, whereto in our striving for a higher life, we feel ourselves
Only in the land of abundance can we play the game of beauty which is
our sole destination and which unites our nature to God's nature. And
if we cannot stand abundance we must learn to accustom ourselves to it.
He who created us leads us by the line of joy, another link between Him
and us does not exist. Though the way lead through dismal gloom, the
luring voice of happiness continues to go before us. That is our will
and God's will, disagreement is but misunderstanding.
Forgive me, dear reader, if I join the conclusions to the facts. I know
that among them there are many confirmations of ancient, long-known
truths. But you shall see that the very simplest and most well-known
facts must be repeated to men over and over again, because they lack
the courage and originality to keep their hold on them.
If so far you have believed and understood me, dear reader, it cannot
fail but you will demand more of me than I can give. You will not
demand further proofs, but revelations: communications from beings of
another sphere, distinct, well-formulated communications concerning the
beyond, concerning the meaning of our life, concerning the soul,
concerning Christ, concerning God. Everyone desires these, not
considering that for a distinct communication two factors are always
required - namely, a good communicator and a good understander; just as
air and fuel are required to start a flame.
I myself, as everyone would have, also sought for revelation, and many
a time instead of calling Emmy I committed the folly of calling for
Christ, or even worse, for God.
In the clear moments of observation of the night one can only
effectually carry through one thing, there is no time for more; and it
would happen that throughout the entire vision I would pray
passionately, not thinking of Emmy, thanking God for his favors and
beseeching him for enlightenment, and in the same way Christ. I could
never do it by day with so much earnestness, conviction and eloquence.
In the daytime I am not eloquent, but bashful and embarrassed, even
when alone. I cannot pray by day for fear of feeling ridiculous, for
gêne. But at night this gêne is gone and I abandon myself to prayer
with a true passion, sometimes - even as all passions in the immaterial
life - going beyond my control. At times my devout passion during
prayer, even at the very moment, seems exaggerated and affected to me,
but I am unable to restrain it.
But now the remarkable fact about it is that I never, absolutely never,
have perceived anything in my visions that at my passionate and ardent
invocation appeared as a divine image, as an angel or as Christ. Human
beings, dead or living, came almost always when at all strongly urged;
Emmy I saw many times in various shapes and circumstances. But at my
invocations and prayers to these higher beings, whose existence man has
always had to conclude from the signs of the world perceptible to the
senses or from inner consciousness, I have never seen anything but what
we call natural beauties - sunlight; blue heavens; flaming evening
skies; radiant horizons, brightening or clouding with promising or
And this where the history of human civilization is replete with
stories of visions of angels, of Mary, and of Christ. We may explain
this as we like, yet it proves that the simple wish, the invocation,
the self-suggestion is not enough to create a visionary image. The
demons of the Middle Ages I have seen, but not their angels, their
Marys, their Jesus, their God the Father, while yet I often longed for
it as a child and prayed for it as a man, until I was old and wise
enough to understand that I had to be glad of their non-appearance,
because the apparition of an old, bearded king as God, of a
white-robed, long-haired man as Jesus, of a winged man as an angel,
would simply have been nothing but fancied images, spectral deception
or impotent human phantasy.
Does not our simplest reason tell us that all life that is more than
human life, all higher beings, whether superman, or Christ, or God, can
have no form perceptible to man with his five senses? Do not all
endeavors of art and imagination to create something above man, remain
limited to a perfected humanity? Has not the sole conception of a
superhuman being always been the impossible one of a man with wings?
Yet we know that there is a higher being, higher life with more exalted
beauties; but clear reflection must also teach us that its form remains
imperceptible and unimaginable as long as our perceptive faculty and
our knowledge have not, in a manner at present quite inconceivable,
increased in a higher sphere, and that therefore all their awarded
shapes, though formed by Dantesque phantasy, must be erroneous.
Sometimes, indeed, I saw worlds and sad beings that, much as they
resembled the familiar and human, seemed to me to belong to a wholly
different sphere. One night I dreamed of the sea, but it changed to
something else, - a park, a landscape peopled with many creatures. I
remember that the ground was moving like ocean waves, but magnificently
blue and speckled with intensely yellow spots. There were also bushes
and a multitude of happy, festive, richly dressed human beings. They
were not demons, that I felt, but a species of men - happy, luxuriously
Then I remembered that I was on another planet, and though my
consciousness was not yet quite clear, still I began to pay close
attention. Thus I remember that I gazed at the sky and seeing the blue
color immediately drew the conclusion: "so there is oxygen in this
atmosphere too," because it is oxygen that gives the blue color to our
atmosphere. I went on and on and the landscape changed repeatedly. The
inhabitants were extremely sympathetic and kindly disposed toward me.
Of language or words I have no remembrance, but there was a cordial
understanding. Then I saw trees and hills or something resembling them,
and I fell into raptures. "0 my earth!" I cried, "it resembles my
earth!" and I wept with emotion, because it reminded me of my beloved
earth. Then I noticed that everything differed somewhat from earthly
things and yet resembled them. "Just as America resembles Europe and
yet differs from it," I thought in my dream.
Upon this I came into a barren and uninhabited part and I saw a
perspective of mountains, a mountain chain rising out of the sea,
luminous and steep, but so affecting and terrible to behold that it
oppressed me. The perspective stretched out farther and farther - a
dizzy extent, and all the way my eyes travelled along the ridge of
faint-rose-colored rocks. Below me, at the left, was a mighty abyss,
also, a distant mountain prospect. I saw everything with peculiar
sharpness and distinctness. My mind was clear at the time and I was
fully conscious - the terrific depth made me dizzy.
Thereupon I saw two strange beings in the wilderness. Human beings also
- not demons. One was slate-colored like clay, the other brownish red
like baked earth. They were hard at work - and the thought crossed my
mind whether these were perchance the proletarians, who in this land
supported the luxurious people I had just now seen. They were busy with
a fire and I asked them something, about food or wood I believe.
Laughingly they explained: "That is scarce here." Then I pointed back
toward the land where I had left the people living in affluence:
"Yet it is not scarce there." Thereupon they laughed, feigning
indifference, and intimated, how I no longer remember, that they were
not envious of this, that these things were not essential, that it
should be so. I awoke pondering the meaning of this dream, which I did
not comprehend, and even now would not dare to explain entirely.
All that the perception during sleep teaches us, demands exactly as
much scientific thought and comparison, critical analysis and
selection, and building up into fixed, universal and lasting truth, as
do all our waking perceptions. There can be no other true revelation
than that of creative art and of science, established by all and for
all. What would a personal revelation signify, that depended on the
receptivity of a single individual, and could be affirmed in a few
words and, by suggestion, forced upon the unreceptive? Would it not be
as though the Divinity entrusted to the apostle the work of convincing
thousands, where he himself had found only one - the apostle -
susceptible to persuasion? Can such a revelation, spread by inculcation
and pressure, by authority and servility, be anything else than passing
fancy, and fleeting deception?
Therefore the study of the immaterial did not draw me away from the
world of day, but caused me to work in it with all the more zeal and
satisfaction, because I learned to look upon this world as our real
field of labor, where the riches that shall count on a higher plane of
vision are prepared.
Dreams only give us slight hints; the work must be done in this life.
But my dreams also showed me that solitude and seclusion could never
lead to the highest joy and purest bliss. Unspeakably happy as were the
moments of meeting with my dream bride, they were surpassed by those in
which a universal joy, a great and transcendent enthusiasm
simultaneously filling many beings - human happy beings - carried along
myself and my beloved in a wave of radiant festive bliss.
I have had them often, such dreams, and they were the most beautiful of
all. I know not whether they were the proclaimers of future or the
dawning of already existing reality - but I would see spectacles of
countless enthusiastic multitudes, processions of festive people
streaming together and marching in solemn rhythm, with jubilation and
sound of clarion. And we two, my beloved and I, were a part thereof, we
belonged to it; and a feeling of festiveness and of unlimited
confidence toward all possessed us, lifting us up into a bright and
joyous mood, and yet not detracting from our mutual affection, but
transfiguring and strengthening it.
Thereby - as through repeated experience I learned to understand them -
truths were pointed out to me in a peculiar symbolical way. Thus I once
saw in my dream many people building a large house and laying out a
path, and they did it with marvellous alacrity. And there was no one to
command them, to give directions, or point out anything.
The incredible swiftness with which the work advanced was due to the
fact that each one of the builders, down to the very least, knew and
comprehended the entire work and therefore did not need the slightest
I understood these hints better and better, and more and more clearly
comprehended what hindered man on his upward path - the dawning rays of
pure universal blessedness shone for me ever more brightly from out the
chaos of our confused personal and social life. But all the more
tormentingly I felt my impotence to bring about an effectual reform.
Ah, what could I do, imprisoned as I was in the cage of my honorable
position, my definitely-prescribed sphere of action, my distinguished
connections, my luxurious domestic establishment, my reputation and my
money? The better I saw what society lacked for leading man toward the
highest development, the more I felt myself paralyzed when I wished to
contribute something toward his deliverance.
I felt as does the sailor on board a ship in distress who sees the safe
waters and rescue close at hand - he alone, of all the others - but he
has no authority, he knows that they would not believe him, discipline
prevents him from speaking. Then it is harder for him to do his duty
than for the others who plod on blindly, obedient to their superiors,
without seeing deliverance.
I saw how men suffered misery through gigantic misunderstandings, which
like great clouds of mist enveloped and confused the nations. I saw
them blundering with their tongue and their words as children who have
their first paint box and get as much color smeared over their dresses,
hands and faces as on the paper. And on this mess-work they build their
treaties, with this mess-work they enact laws, and thus messing,
blundering and squandering they prepare their food, their clothing and
From words wrongly understood and wrongly employed arose the bloody
frenzy of revolutions, the grim party-rage, the useless slaughtering
and disputing and the fatal dissipation of thinking and working powers.
In their blind faith in reason and the True Word men destroyed their
own and each other's joy and happiness, not realizing that they all
wanted one and the same thing, for which they employed many different
I saw how they all acted from the mighty impulse of the herd-instinct,
the group-sense, the sacred gift of Christ, warrant of their power and
safety - but at the same time how they all thought they acted from
personal, independent judgment and reasonable conviction, to their own
miserable confusion and wretchedness.
I saw the grouping into rich and poor, because the wholesome craving
for luxury and abundance is corrupted and weakened through neglect of
the tie of love, so that the individual thinks that he alone can be
luxurious and happy in a world of wretches, and thus no one attains
blessedness. And this once more: - because there are no two people who
with the same word know that they mean the same thing.
And I saw the demagogues taking advantage of our good instincts, of the
craving for luxury, of the group-sense, to start up fatal currents
through the influence of hollow catchwords and ridiculous
over-estimation of self. As though the poor who had known nothing but
poverty and envy would be better proof against luxury than the rich; as
though self-insight and self-restriction were possible without culture;
as though the perfect maturity of every individual, which demands the
very highest organization and efficiency, and which in name is called
the Christian ideal, could be attained all at once, without practice,
without development, without patient discipline.
All this I saw, and what could I do? My sphere of activity bound me to
fixed duties and to my superiors. I worked in a definite
group-confederacy, the political world of diplomats, and to go beyond
this meant immediate expulsion and ostracism.
Well, yes, in the clubs and "circles" people speak more freely. There
one sometimes hears the entire diplomatic service ridiculed with
cynical sarcasm by those of inferior rank, and the superiors listen
smilingly, as though regretting that their higher dignity forbade them
this freedom of speech. In these circles many a sharp word would
sometimes escape me too, in regard to the structure of national
prosperity, still everywhere based upon the want of the weaker, and
also regarding the mighty ones on earth with whom I associated, and who
were yet so often embarrassed and foolish when obliged to say something
concerning the highest human gifts - wisdom, art and beauty. And from
some vague confusion of thought, characteristic of the chaos of their
ideas, I was known there as "the red duke," or sometimes too as "the
But nothing could weaken my conviction that the chaos is busy arranging
itself, at first blindly, with a cruel indifference to suffering,
driven by an inscrutable impulse - but by degrees with clearer
consciousness, more insight, more skill, in proportion as higher wisdom
gradually pairs itself with wider active power.
It was plain to me that if there ever was a time in human history in
which men were awaiting a hero, a Messiah, a redeemer, it is ours. No
opinion is more foolish than the one that in our age there would be no
room for a prophet. But he must not be a moralist preaching repentance,
not a speculative builder of systems, not a man of lamentations and
warnings, but a poet in very deed.
Riper than was the French revolution for the advent of an organizing
and suggestively powerful general and ruler like Napoleon, is our time
for the advent of the wise and high-minded administrator, who will make
use of the group-confederacy, the herd-spirit, so much stronger and
more consolidated to-day than ever before.
I also knew what the qualities and talents of this hero should be. The
time of the great generals is past; the brute power of force is no
longer needed for establishing, only for preserving. The commercial
alliance covers the entire world course, and tolerates war only as a
secondary aid. The honor of the soldier becomes that of the police, the
But the qualities of the general, the ability for organizing, for
ruling and for the bearing of responsibility, these remain equally
The Messiah of our time must be the hero-organizer who brings order
into the confused operations and the half-conscious action of our
society. And as in the time of the generals, it was only the
poet-generals, the great dreamers of a world-realm, such as Alexander,
Cæsar and Napoleon, who shone out through all the ages as heroes and
geniuses, so in our time, it will be the poet organizer, the dreamer of
a world fellowship, who will attain still greater heroism, and much
more lasting honor.
The time of eloquence is also past. The elusive phrases of oratorical
logic only blind young nations, and even America is outgrowing the
authority of the orator who is solely an orator.
But the time of the drama and of music is not past, and he who knows
how to handle these mighty suggestive expedients can turn the course of
humanity. The herd will follow him though he lead them into the
wilderness or the desert. Wagner and Ibsen have proved it.
But some day, and probably soon, it will come to pass that the hero of
the new times, the poet organizer, will join hands with the one
suggestively mighty through music and drama, or perchance that these
rare powers shall be united in one man.
And only then shall the herd be led into green pastures and shall be
satisfied and shall see the day of maturity dawning.
I say it, I, old hermit among the philistines, and my peace rests upon
this knowledge. I had not the gift for ruling, for organizing, for
leading. I was not eloquent. I had not the power of music or drama. I
could not attempt to be this hero, this "Sotèr" of mankind, for I knew
what was required of him. But I knew and still know that he shall be
born with the infallible certainty with which statistics foretell the
number of geniuses and defectives, the number of those above and below
the normal. His birth is approaching, and speedily moreover, as surely
as the birth of a majority of sons after a man-slaughtering war. For
the race has need of him, Christ requires him.
And if I myself cannot be he, still I can be his John the Baptist,
testifying of him, happy and enthusiastic in my solitude, in this
desert of caddishness and provincialism.
I had been married seventeen years and my youngest child was eight
years old when I returned to this same Holland, where so many strands
of my rope of destiny are fastened. Little had changed in my life.
Order and peace reigned in my family, prosperity in the sphere of my
activities. Lucia seemed wholly satisfied and ruled her household with
quiet devotion. My children were fair and well brought up. I felt my
growing attachment to them and to their mother, as every creature is
attached to the creatures and the things that have long been its daily
companions - an affection from symbiosis, I might call it. Yet with my
inmost being I remained a stranger to them, and my affection for them
retained its forced quality. An ever-growing discontent was gathering
in me. The older I grew, the nearer I saw the time approaching when age
would make me powerless, the more intense became the strain. I felt as
though I should die without really having lived. I did not fear death,
but to be doomed to die without having revealed my true life, this was
a prospect quite unbearable to me.
I lived on, strengthened only by my dream nights, but it seemed as
though they were driving and spurring me on to something more - to an
act, to an outbreak. They became rarer and I encountered greater
difficulties in attaining the light and in seeing Emmy in my dreams.
Often it was but a desperate struggle to force my way through chambers,
garrets, and corridors. I could no longer see the unobstructed blue
sky, I could no longer attain the ecstasy of joy so greatly desired, I
could no longer pray in earnest, the voice of my dream-body grew husky
and weak, sometimes when I called Emmy, it sounded as though I spoke in
the tones of a dying man.
Moreover my temptations became stronger. As soon as the flame of life
burns more dimly, the demons regain their influence and their wanton
tricks are more successful. Lucia's maternal instincts were satisfied,
and her allurement, which had always seemed the same as seduction to
me, lost its power and was most easily evaded. But the old tormenting
life in the big cities began anew, not easier but harder to bear with
the advancing years, for the shame and the self-contempt are greater;
and the contrast between what one appears to be before the world, and
what one knows oneself to be, becomes more painful the older one grows.
And the while I knew that I harbored thoughts and intentions and even
planned deeds for which everyone, and above all, Lucia and my children,
considered me too good, I at the same time felt something like contempt
for their complacence, their content; I felt angry at this careless,
happy household, in this great, imperfect world, full of misery,
ugliness, error and confusion, this open wound from which it behooves
each of us to suffer until it is healed.
The great love that burned in me, the great love for Christ, led me to
what most people would call godless ingratitude. I cursed my prosperity
and only with difficulty bore my apparent wedded happiness. I felt as
does the soldier, who is left behind at the warm, comfortable hearth
while the army to the strains of music marches out to take the field.
The first thing I did in Holland was to buy a little sail yacht. It was
anchored at Amsterdam, as from there I could sail on the Zuiderzee. One
day I had made an engagement with a colleague from the Austrian
legation, a clever, strong, young Hungarian to sail to E------, the
little town, then still unknown to me, where I now write these pages.
In those days I was passing through the gloomiest period of my life, I
was nauseated with all the sweetness around me, the oppressive
semblance of happiness suffocated and palled on me. I saw absolutely no
deliverance, not even an accident that might threaten to change the
course of my life - new abilities I should surely never acquire,
nothing seemed in view that could bring about a change in my unreal
existence. I was indeed willing humbly to submit if I must - but there
was something that incited and disturbed me, as though submission was
the very greatest sin.
Wanton suicide before I was brought to the last extremity filled me
with aversion and disgust. But the perils of my sailing expeditions had
again acquired for me their former attraction, as in the days when I
sailed the North Sea with my father. To die the death of Shelley, my
greatest-bard, is an honor I had desired from boyhood, and I thought:
If after all it must be, then why not now, before I sink still deeper?
The day before our expedition I was deeply depressed. The wind was
blowing strongly, but it was a summer day and my companion thought as
little as I did of postponing our undertaking.
When I fell asleep that night, I knew that I was falling asleep and I
retained perfect consciousness. In wondrous transition I suddenly rose
from the deepest dejection to the light, free, joyous, soaring life of
the dream. "Thank heaven!" I thought; "let the body sleep now, I rest,
and really I am not at all tired now. I can sing and move about, fly
and soar with thorough perceptive enjoyment." Soon after I was out of
doors in a vast wooded landscape under a sunny blue sky. For a long
time the dream world had not been so beautiful. I was enchanted and
grateful and soared upward. I met a bird, and talking aloud to myself
all the time, I said that I not only wanted perceptive enjoyment but a
being to understand me - spiritual and mental communion.
I saw a white bull - the animal which in ordinary dreams most alarmed
me - the most feared dream-animal; but I felt no fear and soared high
above him over a sea; there was no danger.
Then I called my beloved, just as always. But before I myself knew it I
had called not "Emmy," but "Elsie," and this same mistake I repeated,
without noticing my error. From out a dim valley I saw a maiden
approaching, younger and smaller than Emmy, with smooth blonde hair.
But I went to meet her nevertheless as though it were Emmy, and I
walked and talked with her. I talked Dutch, which I had pretty well
mastered by that time.
Then the maiden pointed to a dark, threatening thunder cloud which was
slowly drawing up over the blue sky. This was a symbol of disaster. But
I was proud and happy and not afraid and wanted to fold her in my arms.
But she was gone; the perfect clarity of my thoughts declined, but not
my sense of happiness. The dream then attained a symbolical
significance, as often happens. I saw a long line of human beings in
bondage, like a procession of slaves, and among them many priests. And
I said things that I knew would cost others their life, heresies about
the evil brought about by false religion, and I saw the poor creatures
growing pale with fright and the priests pale with anger, but I soared
out above them, and their hatred was powerless. Then I saw a large
building, a most peculiarly beautiful and impressive temple, with
mighty pillars of gray stone and carpeted with green moss. There none
might enter without permission of the priests. But I soared far out
above them, entering it from above by the windows. And everyone saw me
and was astonished, and there was a sort of silent recognition that I
was the only one that could do this, and the priests tried to deny the
fact and even to seize me. But I laughed at them, and when they wanted
to touch me I paralyzed them with a gesture.
And there was no palsied pride or hatred herein, but a calm
self-consciousness of freedom, personal authority and triumph - a good
and beautiful emotion.
When I awoke I was surprised that I had talked Dutch with Emmy. And I
doubted whether it had indeed been she, although the face was like hers
and I had indeed seen her in such youthful form before.
The following day we sailed with a stiff sou'-wester toward my little
city, which I was then to see for the first time. From time to time
there were rain showers, mist, with a rough and rising sea. My
companion and I had donned our yellow oilskins and we had our hands
full to keep the frail little craft in the right course. The sea was
deserted, the fisherman had taken refuge in the harbors. When we saw
the harbor of E------ before us and the little city veiled in gray
mist, the waves were dashing over the rear of the boat and the little
yacht was sinking her nose deep into the billows. We had to keep up
bailing her busily, and with mute suspense we gazed toward the pier for
which we were directly heading, expecting every minute to see the boat
fill with water or the rigging break. We could distinguish the people
on the stone pier which ran out into the sea. A crowd had gathered and
stood watching us with mute interest, anxious to see whether we should
make the landing safely. I was unusually calm and happy. I would have
drowned with perfect composure, but I knew that this time it was not
yet to be.
The black eyes of the Hungarian sparkled with pleasure and pride when
at last, by dint of skilful man?uvring, with furled sail we ran safely
through the narrow entrance of the port. He shouted in his excited way,
and the sober Hollanders, sent up a little answering cheer.
Then as we glided along past the line of people who stood thronging the
stone quay, amid the stupid indifferent or coolly critical boys' faces
and the faces of the fishermen, rough and weather-beaten as though
carved out of wood, I caught sight of a pair of eyes full of intense
interest and attention, that seemed to light up gladly as with relief,
in a little face still pale from suspense or anxiety. Amid the men
stood a young woman, bareheaded, the wet, blonde hair blowing about her
cheeks. She had thrown a dark gray shawl around her as though she had
run from the house just as she was to watch for us. She looked straight
at me with an expression of concern and gladness.
I nodded to her, as every Italian, seeing a sweet woman manifesting
concern in his danger which has aroused the general attention, would
do. I nodded gaily and waved to her as though to thank her for her
sympathy. She just gave a little smile and nodded back, not blushing,
nor embarrassed or prudish - but grave and confiding as though she had
At the exchange of this greeting and these glances I had a curious
sensation. It was as if I had forgotten myself for a moment and did not
recognize myself, and as if everything I saw did not fit in the life of
the day. I thought of my dream and without yet consciously drawing any
inferences or comparisons, I for a moment was entirely gone from the
ordinary waking world and in the land of dreams again.
"Hallo! Muralto - the boat hook!" my Hungarian called out.
With a shock I came back to earth, and it seemed as if I had been off a
great way and as if everything I saw had been familiar to me, as though
I saw it again after a long absence.
Before I came back to my senses sufficiently to hand over the boat
hook, my eyes once more sought those of the young woman. But she had
vanished from the quay. I only just caught sight of the slender figure
in the gray shawl as she crossed the little square of the port. She
hurried along with a glad, light step as though she had come solely for
us and now went home, calm and well satisfied.
"What's the matter? What ails you, Muralto? Do you see anything
particular - or anyone?"
"Did you see the young woman standing on the quay?" I asked.
"No!" said the Hungarian, "I didn't remark her. I knew of course that
there were pretty girls here, but not that you knew them."
"I know no one here. I'm here for the first time," said I curtly,
We went to the hotel and dried and warmed ourselves and ordered the
dinner. I looked at everything that, despite the rain, was to be seen
of the little town, later so dear to me, - the pretty gables, the
narrow little streets, glistening with water, the sombre elms creaking
and groaning in the storm, the yellow raging sea. I also saw the house,
in which I now live, and thought it a pretty, dignified little
structure with its free-stone gable, and its tall windows.
After that we regaled ourselves with food and drink, and my companion
said that after all I must surely have seen some good acquaintance of
mine, some little friend or other - for I was so quiet, so abstracted
and yet so merry.
That night I slept without dreams of any significance. But sleep itself
had a character of gently elevating joy, and the morning found me
without a semblance of the melancholy that so long had possessed me.
The weather had cleared, the wind gone down, the sky was blue. We
decided to sail back early.
As we were leaving the hotel and stopping a moment in the vestibule,
with the blue and white tiled marble flooring and the brown wooden
ceiling, the young woman, who yesterday had stood upon the quay, came
from the out-building and, running past us, went into the upper
chamber. Again she looked me straight in the eyes and nodded cordially.
I was even more confounded than the day before. But nevertheless I had
time to remark that she was very graceful and that she had fine and
noble features and long, aristocratic hands. Her eyes were bright and
had the clear lustre that I had seen in only one pair of eyes, and an
expression as though, together with me, they knew innumerable,
My Hungarian comrade now again saw my agitation and, moreover, the
cause of it.
"Oh! was it she that you saw yesterday?" he cried out in French when
the girl had passed. "Then I comprehend your dumbfoundedness."
"Do you know her?" I asked.
"Certainly, she is one of the sights of the town. All the strangers
"Is this her home?"
"Of course! and not to the loss of the hotel-keeper. She's his daughter
or his adopted daughter. But not interesting to me, because notoriously
"What's her name?"
"Elsie - Elsie van Vianen, or Elsje as they say here."
On our prosperous homeward voyage over the sunny sea I was even more
quiet and even merrier than the night before.
As soon as I could make myself free for a day I went out sailing again.
I now knew the way and the water and took no one with me this time. At
daybreak I left The Hague and was beyond the locks before eight
o'clock. I had not mentioned my encounter to Lucia, but nevertheless I
felt none of that secret sense of guilt of a married man, who feels
himself charmed by a strange woman.
To-day it was a warm summer's day with a light eastern breeze blowing.
The great yellow sheet of water looked as peaceful and friendly as it
had appeared wild and wicked the time before. The little waves sparkled
in the sun and with sweetly soothing murmurings splashed against the
little boat. The shores with their steeples and windmills lay rosy and
placid round about me in perfect dream splendor. I was six hours on my
way instead of three, as before, and they were hours full of light and
sunny bliss. My little city lay as sweetly pensive in the bright glow
of sunlight as a drifting isle of the blessed. The round, leafy,
blue-gray crowns of the trees with the little belfry peaking out above
them, appeared as if tranquilly floating above the sparkling silvery
sheet of water -
"Du bist Orplid, mein Land!
Das ferne leuchtet -"
I sang. I smiled at the contrast between the meaningless and trivial
life of the people, who presumably lived there, and the wondrous magic
glory it all assumed through the power of my imagination. I meditated
on the land Orplid - the youthful phantasy of Möricke - to which with a
few measured words he was able to lend a deep, mysterious, glowing
splendor, which has filled thousands, like myself, with a yearningly
passionate thrill of beauty, yes, with a real longing. Is not the
dreamed Orplid that for so many shines afar, more real than all the
lands that waking we behold?
When I landed there was hardly anyone on the quay; the fisherman sat
caulking his boat, a few boys were fishing in the dark green waters of
the harbor - everything exactly as I can still see it to-day - my
future dwelling-house already looked at me with familiar friendliness
from out its cool, dark window-eyes; the doves cooed in the softly
rustling elms; it smelled of pitch and tar and of the inevitable Dutch
peat-smoke, which rose from the stove pipes of the fishing smacks lying
in the harbor, where the fishermen's wives were cooking the dinner.
I went straight ahead toward my goal as though I were already a loved
and longingly expected lover, smiling and myself wondering at my
assurance. I went past the little rope shops, where the door-bell
sounded loudly through the empty street when a solitary visitor in
Sunday attire stepped out of the shop, past the barber shop with the
brightly polished brass basins, past the few stately mansions with
ancient stone gables representing "Fortune" or "Love," where the
daughters of the house, from dark side chambers peeped out, from behind
the inevitable Clivia Hower-pot, at the rarely passing stranger, on to
the hotel "de Toelast."
I have, indeed, as I have already with shame confessed to you, been out
a couple of times on gallant adventure, but never with such
point-blank, unabashed directness as on this summer's day in my beloved
little Dutch city. I also felt none, absolutely none, of the shyness,
the conscientious scruples, the nervousness that usually attend the
gallant adventures of a married man. I felt like a schoolboy going to
claim a prize after a successful examination. My heart only beat a
trifle faster with glad expectation - perhaps too with a little fear at
the thought of the type that would present itself before my eyes as the
I asked directly for the hotel keeper. At my first visit he had not
made his appearance. From the out-house, after a long wait, a big lazy
Dutch man came shuffling on in a very slovenly and ill-fitting gray
suit, a black silk cap, a soiled shirt in place of the missing collar
and tie, an open vest full of cigar ashes, a cigar in a paper holder in
his mouth, and worn, flowered, green slippers on his feet. When after
some little conflict with myself I finally looked into his face, I saw
a flushed, full-moon countenance, clean-shaven except for a drooping