Part 2 out of 5
Stahl was giving himself his head, talking freely of beliefs that rarely
found utterance. Clearly it was a relief to him to do so--to let himself
be carried away. There was, after all, the poet in him side by side with
the observer and analyst, and the fundamental contradiction in his
character stood most interestingly revealed. O'Malley listened, half in a
dream, wondering what this had to do with the Cosmic Life just mentioned.
"Moreover, the appearance, the aspect of this etheric Double, molded
thus by thought, longing, and desire, corresponds to such thought,
longing, and desire. Its shape, when visible shape is assumed, may be
various--very various. The form might conceivably be _felt_, discerned
clairvoyantly as an emanation rather than actually seen," he continued.
Then he added, looking closely at his companion, "and in your own case
this Double--it has always seemed to me--may be peculiarly easy of
detachment from the rest of you."
"I certainly create my own world and slip into it--to some extent,"
murmured the Irishman, absorbingly interested; "--reverie and so forth;
partially, at any rate."
"'Partially,' yes, in your reveries of waking consciousness," Stahl took
him up, "but in sleep--in the trance consciousness--completely! And
therein lies your danger," he added gravely; "for to pass out completely
in _waking_ consciousness, is the next step--an easy one; and it
constitutes, not so much a disorder of your being, as a readjustment, but
a readjustment difficult of sane control." He paused again. "You pass out
while fully awake--a waking delusion. It is usually labeled--though in my
opinion wrongly so--insanity."
"I'm not afraid of that," O'Malley laughed, almost nettled. "I can manage
myself all right--have done so far, at any rate."
It was curious how the rôles had shifted. O'Malley it was now who checked
"I suggest caution," was the reply, made earnestly. "I suggest caution."
"I should keep your warnings for mediums, clairvoyants, and the like,"
said the other tartly. He was half amazed, half alarmed even while he
said it. It was the personal application that annoyed him. "They are
rather apt to go off their heads, I believe."
Dr. Stahl rose and stood before him as though the words had given
him a cue he wanted. "From that very medium-class," he said, "my most
suggestive 'cases' have come, though not for one moment do I think of
including you with them. Yet these very 'cases' have been due one and
all to the same cause--the singular disorder I have just mentioned."
They stared at one another a moment in silence. Stahl, whether O'Malley
liked it or no, was impressive. He gazed at the little figure in front of
him, the ragged untidy beard, the light shining on the bald skull,
wondering what was coming next and what all this bewildering confession
of unorthodox belief was leading up to. He longed to hear more about that
hinted Cosmic Life ... and how yearning might lead to its realization.
"For any phenomena of the séance-room that may be genuine," he heard him
saying, "are produced by this fluid, detachable portion of the
personality, the very thing we have been speaking about. They are
projections of the personality--automatic projections of the
And then, like a clap of thunder upon his bewildered mind, came this
man's amazing ultimatum, linking together all the points touched upon and
bringing them to a head. He repeated it emphatically.
"And in similar fashion," concluded the calm, dispassionate voice
beside him, "there have been projections of the Earth's great
consciousness--direct expressions of her cosmic life--Cosmic Beings. And
of these distant and primitive manifestations, it is conceivable that
one or two may still--here and there in places humanity has never
stained--actually survive. This man is one of them."
He turned on the two electric lights behind him with an admirable air of
finality. The extraordinary talk was at an end. He moved about the cabin,
putting chairs straight and toying with the papers on his desk.
Occasionally he threw a swift and searching glance at his companion,
like a man who wished to note the effect of an attack.
For, indeed, this was the impression that his listener retained above
all else. This flood of wild, unorthodox, speculative ideas had been
poured upon him helter-skelter with a purpose. And the abruptness of
the climax was cleverly planned to induce impulsive, hot confession.
But O'Malley found no words. He sat there in his armchair, passing
his fingers through his tumbled hair. His inner turmoil was too much
for speech or questions ... and presently, when the gong for dinner
rang noisily outside the cabin door, he rose abruptly and went out
without a single word. Stahl turned to see him go. He merely nodded
with a little smile.
But he did not go to his stateroom. He walked the deck alone for a
time, and when he reached the dining room, Stahl, he saw, had already
come and gone. Halfway down the table, diagonally across, the face of
the big Russian looked up occasionally at him and smiled, and every
time he did so the Irishman felt a sense of mingled alarm and wonder
greater than anything he had ever known in his life before. One of the
great doors of life again had opened. The barriers of his heart broke
away. He was no longer caged and manacled within the prison of a puny
individuality. The world that so distressed him faded. The people in it
were dolls. The fur-merchant, the Armenian priest, the tourists and the
rest were mere automatic puppets, all made to scale--petty scale,
amazingly dull, all exactly alike--tiny, unreal, half alive.
The ship, meanwhile, he reflected with a joy that was passion, was
being borne over the blue sea, and this sea lay spread upon the curved
breast of the round and spinning earth. He, too, and the big Russian
lay upon her breast, held close by gravity so-called, caught closer
still, though, by something else besides. And his longings increased with
his understanding. Stahl, wittingly or unwittingly, had given them an
immense push forwards.
"In scientific terms one can say: Consciousness is everywhere; it is
awake when and wherever the bodily energy underlying the spiritual
exceeds that degree of strength which we call the threshold. According to
this, consciousness can be localized in time and space."
--FECHNER, _Buchlein vom Leben nach dem Tode_
The offer of the cabin, meanwhile, remained open. In the solitude that
O'Malley found necessary that evening he toyed with it, though knowing
that he would never really accept.
Like a true Celt his imagination took the main body of Stahl's words and
ensouled them with his own vivid temperament. There stirred in him this
nameless and disquieting joy that wrought for itself a Body from material
just beyond his thoughts--that region of enormous experience that ever
fringes the consciousness of imaginative men. He took the picture at its
face value, took it inside with his own thoughts, delighted in it, raised
it, of course, very soon to a still higher scale. If he criticized at all
it was with phrases like "The man's a poet after all! Why, he's got
creative imagination!" To find his own intuitions endorsed, even half
explained, by a mind of opposite type was a new experience. It emphasized
amazingly the reality of that inner world he lived in.
This explanation of the big Russian's effect upon himself was terrific,
and that a "doctor" should have conceived it, glorious. That some
portion of a man's spirit might assume the shape of his thoughts and
project itself visibly seemed likely enough. Indeed, to him, it seemed
already a "fact," and his temperament did not linger over it. But that
other suggestion fairly savaged him with its strange grandeur. He played
lovingly with it.
That the Earth was a living being was a conception divine in size as in
simplicity, and that the Gods and mythological figures had been
projections of her consciousness--this thought ran with a magnificent
new thunder about his mind. It was overwhelming, beautiful as Heaven
and as gracious. He saw the ancient shapes of myth and legend still alive
in some gorgeous garden of the primal world, a corner too remote for
humanity to have yet stained it with their trail of uglier life. He
understood in quite a new way, at last, those deep primitive longings
that hitherto had vainly craved their full acknowledgment. It meant that
he lay so close to the Earth that he felt her pulses as his own. The idea
stormed his belief.
It was the Soul of the Earth herself that all these years had been
calling to him.
And while he let his imagination play with the soaring beauty of the
idea, he remembered certain odd little facts. He marshaled them before
him in a row and questioned them: The picture he had seen with the
Captain's glasses--those speeding shapes of beauty; the new aspect of
a living Nature that the Russian's presence stirred in him; the man's
broken words as they had leaned above the sea in the dusk; the curious
passion that leaped to his eyes when certain chance words had touched
him at the dinner-table. And, lastly, the singular impression of giant
bulk he produced sometimes upon the mind, almost as though a portion of
him--this detachable portion molded by the quality of his spirit as he
felt himself to be--emerged visibly to cause it.
Vaguely, in this way, O'Malley divined how inevitable was the apparent
isolation of these two, and why others instinctively avoided them. They
seemed by themselves in an enclosure where the parent lumberingly, and
the boy defiantly, disported themselves with a kind of lonely majesty
that forbade approach.
And it was later that same night, as the steamer approached the Lipari
Islands, that the drive forward he had received from the doctor's words
was increased by a succession of singular occurrences. At the same time,
Stahl's deliberate and as he deemed it unjustifiable interference, helped
him to make up his mind decisively on certain other points.
The first "occurrence" was of the same order as the "bigness"--
extraordinarily difficult, that is, to confirm by actual measurement.
It was ten o'clock, Stahl still apparently in his cabin by himself, and
most of the passengers below at an impromptu concert, when the Irishman,
coming down from his long solitude, caught sight of the Russian and his
boy moving about the dark after-deck with a speed and vigor that
instantly arrested his attention. The suggestion of size, and of rapidity
of movement, had never been more marked. It was as though a cloud of the
summer darkness moved beside them.
Then, going cautiously nearer, he saw that they were neither walking
quickly, nor running, as he had first supposed, but--to his
amazement--were standing side by side upon the deck--stock still. The
appearance of motion, however, was not entirely a delusion, for he next
saw that, while standing there steady as the mast and life-boats behind
them, something emanated shadow-like from both their persons and seemed
to hover and play about them--something that was only approximately
of their own outer shapes, and very considerably larger. Now it veiled
them, now left them clear. He thought of smoke-clouds moving to and
fro about dark statues.
So far as he could focus his sight upon them, these "shadows," without
any light to cast them, moved in distorted guise there on the deck with a
motion that was somehow rhythmical--a great movement as of dance or
As with the appearance of "bigness," he perceived it first out of the
corner of his eye. When he looked again he saw only two dark figures,
He experienced the sensation a man sometimes knows on entering a deserted
chamber in the nighttime, and is aware that the things in it have just
that instant--stopped. His arrival puts abrupt end to some busy activity
they were engaged in, which begins again the moment he goes. Chairs,
tables, cupboards, the very spots and patterns of the wall have just
flown back to their usual places whence they watch impatiently for his
departure--with the candle.
This time, on a deck instead of in a room, O'Malley with his candle had
surprised them in the act: people, moreover, not furniture. And this
shadowy gambol, this silent Dance of the Emanations, immense yet
graceful, made him think of Winds flying, visible and uncloaked,
somewhere across long hills, or of Clouds passing to a stately, elemental
measure over the blue dancing-halls of an open sky. His imagery was
confused and gigantic, yet very splendid. Again he recalled the pictured
shapes seen with his mind's eye through the Captain's glasses. And as
he watched, he felt in himself what he called "the wild, tearing instinct
to run and join them," more even--that by rights he ought to have
been there from the beginning--dancing with them--indulging a natural and
instinctive and rhythmical movement that he had somehow forgotten.
The passion in him was very strong, very urgent, it seems, for he took
a step forward, a call of some kind rose in his throat, and in another
second he would have been similarly cavorting upon the deck, when he
felt his arm clutched suddenly with vigor from behind. Some one seized
him and held him back. A German voice spoke with a guttural whisper
in his ear.
Dr. Stahl, crouching and visibly excited, drew him forward a little.
"Hold up!" he heard whispered--for their India rubber soles slithered
on the wet decks. "We shall see from here, eh? See something at last?"
He still whispered. O'Malley's sudden anger died down. He could not
give vent to it without making noise, for one thing, and above all else
he wished to--see. He merely felt a vague wonder how long Stahl had
They crouched behind the lee of a boat. The outline of the ship rose,
distinctly visible against the starry sky, masts, spars, and cordage. A
faint gleam came through the glass below the compass-box. The wheel and
the heaps of coiled rope beyond rose and fell with the motion of the
vessel, now against the stars, now black against the phosphorescent foam
that trailed along the sea like shining lace. But the human figures, he
next saw, were now doing nothing, not even pacing the deck; they were
no longer of unusual size either. Quietly leaning over the rail, father
and son side by side, they were guiltless of anything more uncommon
than gazing into the sea. Like the furniture, they had just--stopped!
Dr. Stahl and his companion waited motionless for several minutes in
silence. There was no sound but the dull thunder of the screws, and
a faint windy whistle the ship's speed made in the rigging. The
passengers were all below. Then, suddenly, a burst of music came up as
some one opened a saloon port-hole and as quickly closed it again--a
tenor voice singing to the piano some trivial modern song with a trashy
sentimental lilt. It was--in this setting of sea and sky--painful;
O'Malley caught himself thinking of a barrel-organ in a Greek temple.
The same instant father and son, as though startled, moved slowly away
down the deck into the further darkness, and Dr. Stahl tightened his grip
of the Irishman's arm with a force that almost made him cry out. A gleam
of light from the opened port-hole had fallen about them before they
moved. Quite clearly it revealed them bending busily over, heads close
together, necks and shoulders thrust forward and down a little.
"Look, by God!" whispered Stahl hoarsely as they moved off. "There's
He pointed. Where the two had been standing something, indeed, still
remained. Concealed hitherto by their bulk, this other figure had been
left. They saw its large, dim outline. It moved. Apparently it began
to climb over the rails, or to move in some way just outside them,
hanging half above the sea. There was a free, swaying movement about
it, not ungainly so much as big--very big.
"Now, quick!" whispered the doctor excited, in English; "this time I find
He made a violent movement forward, a pocket electric lamp in his hand,
then turned angrily, furiously, to find that O'Malley held him fast.
There was a most unseemly struggle--for a minute, and it was caused by
the younger man's sudden passionate instinct to protect his own from
discovery, if not from actual capture and destruction.
Stahl fought in vain, being easily overmatched; he swore vehement German
oaths under his breath; and the pocket-lamp, of course unlighted, fell
and rattled over the deck, sliding with the gentle roll of the steamer to
leeward. But O'Malley's eyes, even while he struggled, never for one
instant left the spot where the figure and the "movement" had been; and
it seemed to him that when the bulwarks dipped against the dark of the
sea, the moving thing completed its efforts and passed into the waves
with a swift leap. When the vessel righted herself again the outline of
the rail was clear.
Dr. Stahl, he then saw, had picked up the lamp and was bending over
some mark upon the deck, examining a wide splash of wet upon which
he directed the electric flash. The sense of revived antagonism between
the men for the moment was strong, too strong for speech. O'Malley
feeling half ashamed, yet realized that his action had been instinctive,
and that another time he would do just the same. He would fight to the
death any too close inspection, since such inspection included also
The doctor presently looked up. His eyes shone keenly in the gleam
of the lamp, but he was no longer agitated.
"There is too much water," he said calmly, as though diagnosing a case;
"too much to permit of definite traces." He glanced round, flashing the
beam about the decks. The other two had disappeared. They were alone. "It
was outside the rail all the time, you see," he added, "and never quite
reached the decks." He stooped down and examined the splash once more. It
looked as though a wave had topped the scuppers and left a running line
of foam and water. "Nothing to indicate its exact nature," he said in a
whisper that conveyed something between uneasiness and awe, again turning
the light sharply in every direction and peering about him. "It came to
them--er--from the sea, though; it came from the sea right enough. That,
at least, is positive." And in his manner was perhaps just a touch to
"And it returned into the sea," exclaimed O'Malley triumphantly. It
was as though he related his own escape.
The two men were now standing upright, facing one another. Dr. Stahl,
betraying no sign of resentment, looked him steadily in the eye. He put
the lamp back into his pocket. When he spoke at length in the darkness,
the words were not precisely what the Irishman had expected. Under them
his own vexation and excitement faded instantly. He felt almost sheepish
when he remembered his violence.
"I forgive your behavior, of course," Stahl said, "for it is
consistent--splendidly consistent--with my theory of you; and of value,
therefore. I only now urge you again"--he moved closer, speaking almost
solemnly--"to accept the offer of a berth in my cabin. Take it, my
friend, take it--tonight."
"Because you wish to watch me at close quarters."
"No," was the reply, and there was sympathy in the voice, "but because
you are in danger--especially in sleep."
There was a moment's pause before O'Malley said anything.
"It is kind of you, Dr. Stahl, very kind," he answered slowly, and this
time with grave politeness; "but I am not afraid, and I see no reason to
make the change. And as it's now late," he added somewhat abruptly,
almost as though he feared he might be persuaded to alter his mind, "I
will say good-night and turn in--if you will forgive me--at once."
Dr. Stahl said no further word. He watched him, the other was aware, as
he moved down the deck toward the saloon staircase, and then turned once
more with his lamp to stoop over the splashed portion of the boards. He
examined the place apparently for a long time.
But O'Malley, as he went slowly down the hot and stuffy stairs, realized
with a wild and rushing tumult of joy that the "third" he had seen was of
a splendor surpassing the little figures of men, and that something deep
within his own soul was most gloriously akin with it. A link with the
Universe had been subconsciously established, tightened up, adjusted.
From all this living Nature breathing about him in the night, a message
had reached the strangers and himself--a message shaped in beauty and in
power. Nature had become at last aware of his presence close against her
ancient face. Henceforth would every sight of Beauty take him direct to
the place where Beauty comes from. No middleman, no Art was necessary.
The gates were opening. Already he had caught a glimpse.
In the stateroom he found, without surprise somehow, that his new
companions had already retired for the night. The curtain of the upper
berth was drawn, and on the sofa-bed below the opened port-hole the
boy already slept. Standing a moment in the little room with these two
close, he felt that he had come into a new existence almost. Deep within
him this sense of new life thrilled and glowed. He was shaking a little
all over, not with the mere tremor of excitement, however, but with the
tide of a vast and rising exultation he could scarce contain. For his
normal self was too small to hold it. It demanded expansion, and the
expansion it claimed had already begun. The boundaries of his personality
were enormously extending.
In words this change escaped him wholly. He only knew that something
in him of an old unrest lay down at length and slept. Less acute grew
those pangs of starvation his life had ever felt--the ache of that
inappeasable hunger for the beauty and innocence of some primal state
before thick human crowds had stained the world with all their strife
and clamor. The glory of it burned white within him.
And the way he described it to himself was significant of its true
nature. For it vans the analogy of childhood. The passion of a boy's
longing swept over him. He knew again the feelings of those early days
A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts,
--when all the world smells sweet and golden as a summer's day, and a
village street is endless as the sky....
This it was, raised to its highest power, that dropped a hint of
explanation into that queer heart of his wherein had ever burned the
strange desire for primitive existence. It was the Call, though, not of
his own youth alone, but of the youth of the world. A mood of the Earth's
consciousness--some giant expression of her cosmic emotion--caught
him. And it was the big Russian who acted as channel and interpreter.
Before getting into bed, he drew aside the little red curtain that
screened his companion, and peered cautiously through the narrow slit.
The big occupant of the bunk also slept, his mane-like hair spread about
him over the pillow, and on his great, placid face a look of peace that
seemed to deepen with every day the steamer neared her destination.
O'Malley gazed for a full minute and more. Then the sleeper felt the
gaze, for suddenly the eyelids quivered, moved, and lifted. The large
brown eyes peered straight into his own. The Irishman, unable to turn
away in time, stood fixed and staring in return. The gentleness and power
of the look passed straight down into his heart, filled him to the brim
with things their owner knew, and confirmed that appeasement of his
own hunger, already begun.
"I tried--to prevent the--interference," he stammered in a low voice.
"I held him back. You saw me?"
A huge hand stretched forth from the bunk to stop him. Impulsively he
seized it with both his own. At the first contact he started--a little
frightened. It felt so wonderful, so mighty. Thus might a gust of wind
or a billow of the sea have thrust against him.
"A messenger--came," said the man with that laborious slow utterance, and
deep as thunder, "from--the--sea."
"From--the--sea, yes," repeated O'Malley beneath his breath, yet
conscious rather that he wanted to shout and sing it. He saw the big
man smile. His own small hands were crushed in the grasp of power.
"I--understand," he added in a whisper. He found himself speaking with
a similar clogged utterance. Somehow, it seemed, the language they
ought to have used was either forgotten or unborn. Yet whereas his friend
was inarticulate perhaps, he himself was--dumb. These little modern
words were all wrong and inadequate. Modern speech could only deal
with modern smaller things.
The giant half rose in his bed, as though at first to leap forward and
away from it. He tightened an instant the grasp upon his companion's
hands, then suddenly released them and pointed across the cabin. That
smile of happiness spread upon his face. O'Malley turned. There the
boy lay, deeply slumbering, the clothes flung back so that the air from
the port-hole played over the bare neck and chest; upon his face, too,
shone the look of peace and rest his father wore, the hunted expression
all gone, as though the spirit had escaped in sleep. The parent pointed,
first to the boy, then to himself, then to this new friend standing
beside his bed. The gesture including the three of them was of singular
authority--invitation, welcome, and command lay in it. More--in some
incomprehensible way it was majestic. O'Malley's thought flashed upon
him the limb of some great oak tree, swaying in the wind.
Next, placing a finger on his lips, his eyes once more swept O'Malley
and the boy, and he turned again into the little bunk that so difficultly
held him, and lay back. The hair flowed down and mingled with the beard,
over pillow and neck, almost to the shoulders. And something that was
enormous and magnificent lay back with him, carrying with it again that
sudden atmosphere of greater bulk. With a deep sound in his throat that
was certainly no actual word and yet more expressive than any speech, he
turned hugely over among the little, scanty sheets, drew the curtain
again before his face, and returned into the world of--sleep.
"It may happen that the earthly body falls asleep in one direction deeply
enough to allow it in others to awaken far beyond its usual limits, and
yet not so deeply and completely as to awaken no more. Or, to the
subjective vision there comes a flash so unusually vivid as to bring to
the earthly sense an impression rising above the threshold from an
otherwise inaccessible distance. Here begin the wonders of clairvoyance,
of presentiments, and premonitions in dreams;--pure fables, if the future
body and the future life are fables; otherwise signs of the one and
predictions of the other; but what has signs exists, and what has
prophecies will come."
--FECHNER, _Buchlein vom Leben nach dem Tode_
But O'Malley rolled into his own berth below without undressing, sleep
far from his eyes. He had heard the Gates of ivory and horn swing softly
upon their opening hinges, and the glimpse he caught of the garden beyond
made any question of slumber impossible. Again he saw those shapes of
cloud and wind flying over the long hills, while the name that should
describe them ran, hauntingly splendid, along the mysterious passages of
his being, though never coming quite to the surface for capture.
Perhaps, too, he was glad that the revelation was only partial. The
size of the vision thus invoked awed him a little, so that he lay there
half wondering at the complete surrender he had made to this guidance
of another soul.
Stahl's warnings ran far away and laughed. The idea even came to him that
Stahl was playing with him: that his portentous words had been carefully
chosen for their heightening effect upon his own imagination so that the
doctor might study an uncommon and extreme "case." The notion passed
through him merely, without lingering.
In any event it was idle to put the brakes on now. He was internally
committed and must go wherever it might lead. And the thought rejoiced
him. He had climbed upon a pendulum that swung into an immense past; but
its return swing would bring him safely back. It was rushing now into
that nameless place of freedom that the primitive portion of his being
had hitherto sought in vain, and a fundamental, starved craving of his
life would know satisfaction at last. Already life had grown all glorious
without. It was not steel engines but a speeding sense of beauty that
drove the ship over the sea with feet of winged blue darkness. The stars
fled with them across the sky, dropping golden leashes to draw him faster
and faster forwards--yet within--to the dim days when this old world yet
was young. He took his fire of youth and spread it, as it were, all over
life till it covered the entire world, far, far away. Then he stepped
back into it, and the world herself, he found, stepped with him.
He lay listening to the noises of the ship, the thump and bumble of
the engines, the distant droning of the screws under water. From time
to time stewards moved down the corridor outside, and the footsteps
of some late passenger still paced the decks overhead. He heard voices,
too, and occasionally the clattering of doors. Once or twice he fancied
some one moved stealthily to the cabin door and lingered there, but the
matter never drew him to investigate, for the sound each time resolved
itself naturally into the music of the ship's noises.
And everything, meanwhile, heard or thought, fed the central concern
upon which his mind was busy. These superficial sounds, for instance,
had nothing to do with the real business of the ship; _that_ lay below
with the buried engines and the invisible screws that worked like demons
to bring her into port. And with himself and his slumbering companions
the case was similar. Their respective power-stations, working in the
subconscious, had urged them toward one another inevitably. How long, he
wondered, had the spirit of that lonely, alien "being" flashed messages
into the void that reached no receiving-station tuned to their
acceptance? Their accumulated power was great, the currents they
generated immense. He knew. For had they not charged full into himself
the instant he came on board, bringing an intimacy that was immediate
The untamed longings that always tore him when he felt the great winds,
moved through forests, or found himself in desolate places, were at last
on the high road to satisfaction--to some "state" where all that they
represented would be explained and fulfilled. And whether such "state"
should prove to be upon the solid surface of the earth, objective; or in
the fluid regions of his inner being, subjective--was of no account
whatever. It would be true. The great figure that filled the berth above
him, now deeply slumbering, had in him subterraneans that gave access
not only to Greece, but far beyond that haunted land, to a state of
existence symbolized in the legends of the early world by Eden and the
"You are in danger," that wise old speculative doctor had whispered,
"and especially in sleep!" But he did not sleep. He lay there thinking,
thinking, thinking, a rising exaltation of desire paving busily the path
along which eventually he might escape.
As the night advanced and the lesser noises retired, leaving only the
deep sound of the steamer talking to the sea, he became aware, too, that
a change, at first imperceptibly, then swiftly, was stealing over the
cabin. It came with a riot of silent Beauty. At a loss to describe it
with precision, he nevertheless divined that it proceeded from the
sleeping figure overhead and in a lesser pleasure, too, from the boy upon
the sofa opposite. It emanated from these two, he felt, in proportion as
their bodies passed into deeper and deeper slumber, as though what
occurred sometimes upon the decks by an act of direct volition, took
place now automatically and with a fuller measure of release. Their
spirits, free of that other world in sleep, were alert and potently
discharging. Unconsciously, their vital, underlying essence escaped into
Growing about his own person, next, it softly folded him in, casing
his inner being with glory and this crowding sense of beauty. This
increased manifestation of psychic activity reached down into the very
core of himself, like invisible fingers playing upon an instrument.
Notes--powers--in his soul, hitherto silent because none had known how
to sound them, rose singing to the surface. For it seemed at length that
forms of some intenser life, busily operating, moved to and fro within
the painted white walls of that little cabin, working subtly to bring
about a transformation of himself. A singular change was fast and
cleverly at work in his own being. It was, he puts it, a silent and
No one of his senses was directly affected; certainly he neither saw,
felt, nor heard anything in the usual acceptance of the terms; but any
instant surely, it seemed that all his senses must awake and report to
the mind things that were splendid beyond the common order. In the
crudest aspect of it, he felt as though he extended and grew large--that
he dreaded to see himself in the mirror lest he might witness an external
appearance of bigness which corresponded to this interior expansion.
For a long time he lay unresisting, letting the currents of this
subjective tempest play through and round him. Entrancing sensations of
beauty and rapture came with it. The outer world seemed remote and
trivial, the passengers unreal--the priest, the voluble merchant, the
jovial Captain, all spun like dead things at the periphery of life;
whereas he was moving toward the Center. Stahl--! the thought of Dr.
Stahl, alone intruded with a certain unwelcome air of hindrance, almost
as though he sought to end it, or call a halt. But Stahl, too, himself
presently spun off like a leaf before the rising wind...
And then it was that an external sense was tapped, and he did hear
something. From the berth overhead came a faint sound that made his
heart stand still, though not with common fear. He listened intently.
The blood tearing through his ears at first concealed its actual nature.
It was far, far away; then came closer, as a waft of wind brings near and
carries off again a sound of bells in mountains. It fled over vales and
hills, to return a moment after with suddenness--a little louder, a
little nearer. And with it came an increase of this sense of beauty that
stretched his heart, as it were, to some deep ancient scale of joy once
known, but long forgotten...
Across the cabin, the boy moved uneasily in his sleep.
"Oh, that I could be with him where he now is!" he cried, "in that
place of eternal youth and eternal companionship!" The cry was
instinctive utterly; his whole being, condensed in the single yearning,
pressed through it--drove behind it. The place, the companionship, the
youth--all, he knew, would prove in some strange way enormous, vast,
ultimately satisfying forever and ever, far out of this little modern
world that imprisoned him...
Again, most unwelcome and unexplained, the face of Stahl flashed
suddenly before him to hinder and interrupt. He banished it with
an effort, for it brought a smaller comprehension that somehow
"Curse the man!" flamed in anger across his world of beauty, and the
violence of the contrast broke something in his mind like a globe of
colored glass that had focused the exquisiteness of the vision.... The
sound continued as before, but its power of evocation lessened. The
thought of Stahl--Stahl in his denying aspect--dimmed it.
Glancing up at the frosted electric light, O'Malley felt vaguely that
if he turned it out he would somehow yet see better, hear better,
understand more; and it was this practical consideration, introduced
indirectly by the thought of Stahl, that made him realize now for the
first time that he actually and definitely was--afraid. For, to leave his
bunk with its comparative, protective dark, and step into the middle of
a cabin he knew to be alive with a seethe of invisible charging forces,
made him realize that distinct effort was necessary--effort of will. If
he yielded he would be caught up and away, swept from his known moorings,
borne through high space out of himself. And Stahl with his cowardly
warnings and belittlements set fear, thus, in the place of free
acceptance. Otherwise he might even have come to these long blue hills
where danced and raced the giant shapes of cloud, singing while....
"Singing!" Ah! There was the clue! The sound he heard was singing--faint,
low singing; close beside him too. It was the big man, singing softly in
This ordinary explanation of the "wonder-sound" brought him down to
earth, and so to a more normal feeling of security again. He stepped
cautiously from the bed, careful not to let the rings rattle on the rod
of brass, and slowly raised himself upright. And then, through a slit of
the curtain, he--saw. The lips of the big sleeper moved gently, the beard
rising and falling very slightly with them, and this murmur that he had
thought so far away, came out and sang deliriously and faint before his
very face. It most curiously--flowed. Easily, naturally, almost
automatically, it poured softly forth, and the Irishman at once
understood why he had first mistaken it for an echo of wind from distant
hills. The imagery was entirely accurate. For it was precisely the
singing cry that wind makes in a keyhole, in a chimney, or passing idly
over the sweep of grassy hills. Exactly thus had he often listened to it
swishing through the crannies of high rocks, tuneless yet searching. In
it, too, there lay some accent of a secret, dim sublimity, deeper far
than any other human sound could touch. The terror of a great freedom
caught him, a freedom most awfully remote from the smaller personal
existence he knew Today ... for it suggested, with awe and wonder, the
kind of primitive utterance that was before speech or the development of
language; when emotions were still too vague and mighty to be caught by
little words, but when beings, close to the heart of their great Mother,
expressed the feelings, enormous and uncomplex, of the greater life they
shared as portions of her--projections of the Earth herself.
With a crash in his brain, O'Malley stopped. These thoughts, he suddenly
realized, were not his own. An attack of unwonted sensations stung and
scattered his mind with a rush of giant splendor that threatened to
overwhelm him. He was in the very act of being carried away; his sense of
personal identity menaced; surrender well-nigh already complete.
Another moment, especially if those eyes opened and caught him, and he
would be beyond recall in the region of these other two. The narrow space
of that little cabin was charged already to the brim, filled with some
overpowering loveliness of wild and simple things, the beauty of stars
and winds and flowers, the terror of seas and mountains; strange radiant
forms of gods and heroes, nymphs, fauns and satyrs; the fierce sunshine
of some Golden Age unspoiled, of a stainless region now long forgotten
and denied--that world of splendor his heart had ever craved in vain, and
beside which the life of Today faded to a wretched dream.
It was the _Urwelt_ calling....
With a violent internal effort, he tore his gaze from those eyelids that
fortunately opened not. At the same moment, though he did not hear them,
steps came close in the corridor, and there was a rattling of the knob.
Behind him, a movement from the berth below the port-hole warned him that
he was but just in time. The Vision he was afraid as yet to acknowledge
drew with such awful speed toward the climax.
Quickly he turned away, lifted the hook of the cabin door, and passed
into the passage, strangely faint. A great commotion followed him out:
father and son both, it seemed, suddenly upon their feet. And at the
same time the sound of "singing" rolled into the body of a great hushed
chorus, as it were of galloping winds that filled big valleys far away
with a gust of splendor, faintly roaring in some incredible distance
where no cities were, nor habitations of men; with a freedom, too, that
was majestic and sublime. Oh! the terrific gait of that life in an open
world!--Golden to the winds!--uncrowded!--The cosmic life--!
O'Malley shivered as he heard. For an instant, the true grain of his
inner life, picked out in flame and silver, flashed clear. Almost--he
knew himself caught back.
And there, in the dimly-lighted corridor, against the paneling of the
cabin wall, crouched Dr. Stahl--listening. The pain of the contrast was
vivid beyond words. It seemed as if he had passed from the thunder of
organs to hear the rattling of tin cans. Instantly he understood the
force that all along had held him back: the positive, denying aspect of
this man's mind--afraid.
"_You!_" he exclaimed in a high whisper. "What are _you_ doing here?"
He hardly remembers what he said. The doctor straightened up and came on
tiptoe to his side. He moved hurriedly.
"Come away," he said vehemently under his breath. "Come with me to my
cabin--to the decks--anywhere away from this--before it's too late."
And the Irishman then realized that his face was white and that his
voice shook. The hand that gripped him by the arm shook too.
They went quickly along the deserted corridor and up the stairs,
O'Malley making no resistance, moving in a kind of dream. He has a
fleeting recollection of an odor, sweet and slightly pungent as of
horses, in his nostrils. The wind of the open decks revived him, and he
saw to his amazement that the East was brightening. In that cabin, then,
hours had been compressed into minutes.
The steamer had already slipped by the Straits of Messina. To the right
he saw the cones of Etna, shadowy in the sky, calling across the dawn to
Stromboli their smoking brother of the Lipari. To the left over the blue
Ionian Sea the lights of a cloudless sunrise rose softly above the world.
And the hour of enchantment seized and shook him anew. Somewhere, across
those faint blue waves, lay the things that he so passionately sought. It
was the very essence of their loveliness and wonder that had charged down
between the walls of that stuffy cabin below. For every morning still, at
dawn, the tired world knows again the splendors of her youth; and the
Irishman, shuddering a little in his sacred joy, felt that he must burst
his bonds and fly to join the sunrise and the sea. The yearning, he was
aware, had now increased a thousandfold: its fulfillment was merely
He passed along the decks all slippery with dew into Dr. Stahl's cabin,
and flung himself on the broad sofa to sleep. Sleep, too, came at once;
he was profoundly exhausted; and, while he slept, Stahl watched over him,
covering his body with a thick blanket.
"It is a lovely imagination responding to the deepest desires, instincts,
cravings of spiritual man, that spiritual rapture should find an echo in
the material world; that in mental communion with God we should find
sensible communion with nature; and that, when the faithful rejoice
together, bird and beast, hill and forest, should be not felt only, but
seen to rejoice along with them. It is not the truth; between us and our
environment, whatever links there are, this link is wanting. But the
yearning for it, the passion which made Wordsworth cry out for something,
even were it the imagination of a pagan which would make him 'less
forlorn,' is natural to man; and simplicity leaps at the lovely fiction
of a response. Just here is the opportunity for such alliances between
spiritualism and superstition as are the daily despair of seekers
And though he slept for hours the doctor never once left his side, but
sat there with pencil and notebook, striving to catch, yet in vain, some
accurate record of the strange fragmentary words that fell from his lips
at intervals. His own face was aflame with an interest that amounted to
excitement. The very hand that held the pencil trembled. One would have
said that thus somewhat a man might behave who found himself faced with
confirmation of some vast, speculative theory his mind had played with
hitherto from a distance only.
Toward noon the Irishman awoke. The steamer, still loading oranges and
sacks of sulfur in the Catania harbor, was dusty and noisy. Most of the
passengers were ashore, hurrying with guidebooks and field-glasses to see
the statue of the dead Bellini or watch the lava flow. A blazing,
suffocating heat lay over the oily sea, and the summit of the volcano,
with its tiny, ever-changing puff of smoke, soared through blue haze.
To Stahl's remark, "You've slept eight hours," he replied, "But I feel as
though I'd slept eight centuries away." He took the coffee and rolls
provided, and then smoked. The doctor lit a cigar. The red curtains over
the port-holes shut out the fierce sun, leaving the cabin cool and dim.
The shouting of the lightermen and officers mingled with the roar and
scuttle of the donkey-engine. And O'Malley knew perfectly well that while
the other moved about carelessly, playing with books and papers on his
desk, he was all the time keeping him under close observation.
"Yes," he continued, half to himself, "I feel as if I'd fallen asleep in
one world and awakened into another where life is trivial and
insignificant, where men work like devils for things of no value in order
to accumulate them in great ugly houses; always collecting and
collecting, like mad children, possessions that they never really
possess--things external to themselves, valueless and unreal--"
Dr. Stahl came up quietly and sat down beside him. He spoke gently,
his manner kind and grave rather. He put a hand upon his shoulder.
"But, my dear boy," he said, the critical mood all melted away, "do
not let yourself go too completely. That is vicious thinking, believe me.
All details are important--here and now--spiritually important, if you
prefer the term. The symbols change with the ages, that is all." Then, as
the other did not reply, he added: "Keep yourself well in hand. Your
experience is of extraordinary interest--may even be of value, to
yourself as well as to--er--others. And what happened to you last night
is worthy of record--if you can use it without surrendering your soul to
it altogether. Perhaps, later, you will feel able to speak of it--to tell
me in detail a little--?"
His keen desire to know more evidently fought with his desire to protect,
to heal, possibly even to prevent.
"If I felt sure that your control were sufficient, I could tell you in
return some results of my own study of--certain cases in the hospitals,
you see, that might throw light upon--upon your own curious experience."
O'Malley turned with such abruptness that the cigar ash fell down
over his clothes. The bait was strong, but the man's sympathy was not
sufficiently of a piece, he felt, to win his entire confidence.
"I cannot discuss beliefs," he said shortly, "in the speculative way you
do. They are too real. A man doesn't argue about his love, does he?" He
spoke passionately. "Today everybody argues, discusses, speculates: no
one believes. If you had your way, you'd take away my beliefs and put in
their place some wretched little formula of science that the next
generation will prove all wrong again. It's like the N rays one of you
discovered: they never really existed at all." He laughed. Then his
flushed face turned grave again. "Beliefs are deeper than discoveries.
They are eternal."
Stahl looked at him a moment with admiration. He moved across the cabin
toward his desk.
"I am more with you than perhaps you understand," he said quietly, yet
without too obviously humoring him. "I am more--divided, that's all."
"Modern!" exclaimed the other, noticing the ashes on his coat for
the first time and brushing them off impatiently. "Everything in you
expresses itself in terms of matter, forgetting that matter being in
continual state of flux is the least real of all things--"
"Our training has been different," observed Stahl simply, interrupting
him. "I use another phraseology. Fundamentally, we are not so far
apart as you think. Our conversation of yesterday proves it, if you have
not forgotten. It is people like yourself who supply the material that
teaches people like me--helps me to advance--to speculate, though
you dislike the term."
The Irishman was mollified, though for some time he continued in the same
strain. And the doctor let him talk, realizing that his emotion needed
the relief of this safety-valve. He used words loosely, but Stahl did not
check him; it was merely that the effort to express himself--this self
that could believe so much--found difficulty in doing so coherently in
modern language. He went very far. For the fact that while Stahl
criticized and denied, he yet understood, was a strong incentive
to talk. O'Malley plunged repeatedly over his depth, and each time the
doctor helped him in to shore.
"Perhaps," said Stahl at length in a pause, "the greatest difference
between us is merely that whereas you jump headlong, ignoring details
by the way, I climb slowly, counting the steps and making them secure.
I deny at first because if the steps survive such denial, I know that
they are permanent. I build scaffolding. You fly."
"Flight is quicker," put in the Irishman.
"It is for the few," was the reply; "scaffolding is for all."
"You spoke a few days ago of strange things," O'Malley said presently
with abruptness, "and spoke seriously too. Tell me more about that, if
you will." He sought to lead the talk away from himself, since he did
not intend to be fully drawn. "You said something about the theory that
the Earth is alive, a living being, and that the early legendary forms of
life may have been emanations--projections of herself--detached portions
of her consciousness--or something of the sort. Tell me about that
theory. Can there be really men who are thus children of the earth,
fruit of pure passion--Cosmic Beings as you hinted? It interests me
Dr. Stahl appeared to hesitate.
"It is not new to me, of course," pursued the other, "but I should like
to know more."
Stahl still seemed irresolute. "It is true," he replied at length slowly,
"that in an unguarded moment I let drop certain observations. It is
better you should consider them unsaid perhaps: forget them."
"And why, pray?"
The answer was well calculated to whet his appetite.
"Because," answered the doctor, bending over to him as he crossed over to
his side, "they are dangerous thoughts to play with, dangerous to the
interests of humanity in its present state today, unsettling to the soul,
shaking the foundations of sane consciousness." He looked hard at him.
"Your own mind," he added softly, "appears to me to be already on their
track. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have in you that kind of
very passionate desire--of yearning--which might reconstruct them and
make them come true--for yourself--if you get out."
O'Malley, his eyes shining, looked up into his face.
"'Reconstruct--make them come true--if I get out'!" he repeated
stammeringly, fearful that if he appeared too eager the other would stop.
"You mean, of course, that this Double in me would escape and build
its own heaven?"
Stahl nodded darkly. "Driven forth by your intense desire." After a
pause he added, "The process already begun in you would complete
Ah! So obviously what the doctor wanted was a description of his
sensations in that haunted cabin.
"Temporarily?" asked the Irishman under his breath.
The other did not answer for a moment. O'Malley repeated the question.
"Temporarily," said Stahl, turning away again toward his desk,
"unless--the yearning were too strong."
"In which case--?"
"Permanently. For it would draw the entire personality with it...."
Stahl was bending over his books and papers. The answer was barely
"Death," was the whispered word that floated across the heavy air of
that little sun-baked cabin.
The word if spoken at all was so softly spoken that the Irishman
scarcely knew whether he actually heard it, or whether it was uttered by
his own thought. He only realized--catching some vivid current from
the other man's mind--that this separation of a vital portion of himself
that Stahl hinted at might involve a kind of nameless inner catastrophe
which should mean the loss of his personality as it existed today--an
idea, however, that held no terror for him if it meant at the same time
the recovery of what he so passionately sought.
And another intuition flashed upon its heels--namely, that this
extraordinary doctor spoke of something he knew as a certainty; that
his amazing belief, though paraded as theory, was to him more than
theory. Had he himself undergone some experience that he dared not
speak of, and were his words based upon a personal experience instead
of, as he pretended, merely upon the observation of others? Was this a
result of his study of the big man two years ago? Was this the true
explanation of his being no longer an assistant at the H--hospital,
but only a ship's doctor? Had this "modern" man, after all, a flaming
volcano of ancient and splendid belief in him, akin to what was in
himself, yet ever fighting it?
Thoughts raced and thundered through his mind as he watched him across
the cigar smoke. The rattling of that donkey-engine, the shouts of the
lightermen, the thuds of the sulfur-sacks--how ridiculous they all
sounded, the clatter of a futile, meaningless existence where men
gathered--rubbish, for mere bodies that lived amid dust a few years,
then returned to dust forever.
He sprang from his sofa and crossed over to the doctor's side. Stahl
was still bending over a littered desk.
"You, too," he cried, and though trying to say it loud, his voice could
only whisper, "you, too, must have the _Urmensch_ in your heart and
blood, for how else, by my soul, could you _know_ it all? Tell me,
doctor, tell me!" And he was on the very verge of adding, "Join us! Come
and join us!" when the little German turned his bald head slowly round
and fixed upon the excited Irishman such a cool and quenching stare that
instantly he felt himself convicted of foolishness, almost of
He dropped backwards into an armchair, and the doctor at the same moment
let himself down upon the revolving stool that was nailed to the floor in
front of the desk. His hands smoothed out papers. Then he leaned forward,
still holding his companion's eyes with that steady stare which forbade
"My friend," he said quietly in German, "you asked me just now to tell
you of the theory--Fechner's theory--that the Earth is a living,
conscious Being. If you care to listen, I will do so. We have time." He
glanced round at the shady cabin, took down a book from the shelf
before him, puffed his black cigar and began to read.
"It is from one of your own people--William James; what you call a
'Hibbert Lecture' at Manchester College. It gives you an idea, at least,
of what Fechner saw. It is better than my own words."
So Stahl, in his turn, refused to be "drawn." O'Malley, as soon as he
recovered from the abruptness of the change from that other conversation,
gave all his attention. The uneasy feeling that he was being played
with, coaxed as a specimen to the best possible point for the microscope,
passed away as the splendor of the vast and beautiful conception dawned
upon him, and shaped those nameless yearnings of his life in glowing
The shadows of the September afternoon were lengthening toward us from
the Round Pond by the time O'Malley reached this stage of his curious and
fascinating story. It was chilly under the trees, and the "wupsey-up,
wupsey-down" babies, as he termed them, had long since gone in to their
teas, or whatever it is that London babies take at six o'clock.
We strolled home together, and he welcomed the idea of sharing a dinner
we should cook ourselves in the tiny Knightsbridge flat. "Stewpot
evenings," he called these occasions. They reminded us of camping trips
together, although it must be confessed that in the cage-like room the
"stew" never tasted quite as it did beside running water on the skirts of
the forest when the dews were gathering on the little gleaming tent, and
the wood-smoke mingled with the scents of earth and leaves.
Passing that grotesque erection opposite the Albert Hall, gaudy in the
last touch of sunset, I saw him shudder. The spell of the ship and sea
and the blazing Sicilian sunshine lay still upon us, Etna's cones
towering beyond those gilded spikes of the tawdry Memorial. I stole a
glance at my companion. His light blue eyes shone, but with the
reflection of another sunset--the sunset of forgotten, ancient, far-off
scenes when the world was young.
His personality held something of magic in that silent stroll homewards,
for no word fell from either one of us to break its charm. The untidy
hair escaped from beneath the broad-brimmed old hat, and his faded coat
of grey flannel seemed touched with the shadows that the dusk brings
beneath wild-olive trees. I noticed the set of his ears, and how the
upper points of them ran so sharply into the hair. His walk was springy,
light, very quiet, suggesting that he moved on open turf where a sudden
running jump would land him, not into a motor-bus, but into a mossy
covert where ferns grew. There was a certain fling of the shoulders that
had an air of rejecting streets and houses. Some fancy, wild and sweet,
caught me of a faun passing down through underbrush of woodland glades to
drink at a forest pool; and, chance giving back to me a little verse of
Alice Corbin's, I turned and murmured it while watching him:
What dim Arcadian pastures
Have I known,
That suddenly, out of nothing,
A wind is blown,
Lifting a veil and a darkness,
Showing a purple sea--
And under your hair, the faun's eyes
Look out on me?
It was, of course, that whereas his body marched along Hill Street and
through Montpelier Square, his thoughts and spirit flitted through the
haunted, old-time garden he forever craved. I thought of the morrow--of
my desk in the Life Insurance Office, of the clerks with oiled hair
brushed back from the forehead, all exactly alike, trousers neatly turned
up to show fancy colored socks from bargain sales, their pockets full of
cheap cigarettes, their minds busy with painted actresses and the names
of horses! A Life Insurance Office! All London paying yearly sums to
protect themselves against--against the most interesting moment of
life. Premiums upon escape and freedom!
Again, it was the spell of my companion's personality that turned all
this paraphernalia of the busy, modern existence into the counters in
some grotesque and rather sordid game. Tomorrow, of course, it would
all turn real and earnest again, O'Malley's story a mere poetic fancy.
But for the moment I lived it with him, and found it magnificent.
And the talk we had that evening when the stew-pot was empty and we were
smoking on the narrow-ledged roof of the prison-house--for he always
begged for open air, and with cushions we often sat beneath the stars and
against the grimy chimney-pots--that talk I shall never forget. Life
became constructed all anew. The power of the greatest fairy tale this
world can ever know lay about me, raised to its highest expression. I
caught at least some touch of reality--of awful reality--in the idea that
this splendid globe whereon we perched like insects peeping timidly from
tiny cells, might be the body of a glorious Being--the mighty frame to
which some immense Collective Consciousness, vaster than that of men, and
wholly different in kind, might be attached.
In the story, as I found it later in the dusty little Paddington room,
O'Malley reported, somewhat heavily, it seemed to me, the excerpts
chosen by Dr. Stahl. As an imaginative essay, they were interesting, of
course, and vitally suggestive, but in a tale of adventure such as this
they overweight the barque of fancy. Yet, in order to appreciate what
followed, it seems necessary for the mind to steep itself in something of
his ideas. The reader who dreads to think, and likes his imagination to
soar unsupported, may perhaps dispense with the balance of this section;
but to be faithful to the scaffolding whereon this Irishman built his
amazing dream, I must attempt as best I can some précis of that
"Every fragment of visible Nature might, as far as is known, serve as
part in some organism unlike our bodies.... As to that which can, and
that which cannot, play the part of an organism, we know very little. A
sameness greater or less with our own bodies is the basis from which we
conclude to other bodies and souls.... A certain likeness of outward
form, and again some amount of similarity in action, are what we stand on
when we argue to psychical life. But our failure, on the other side, to
discover these symptoms is no sufficient warrant for positive denial. It
is natural in this connection to refer to Fechner's vigorous advocacy."
--F.H. BRADLEY, _Appearance and Reality_
It was with an innate resistance--at least a stubborn prejudice--that
I heard him begin. The earth, of course, was but a bubble of dried fire,
a huge round clod, dead as mutton. How could it be, in any permissible
sense of the word--alive?
Then, gradually, as he talked there among the chimney-pots of old smoky
London, there stole over me this new and disquieting sense of reality--a
strange, vast splendor, too mighty to lie in the mind with comfort.
Laughter fled away, ashamed. A new beauty, as of some amazing dawn,
flashed and broke upon the world. The autumn sky overhead, thick-sown
with its myriad stars, came down close, sifting gold and fire about my
life's dull ways. That desk in the Insurance Office of Cornhill gleamed
beyond as an altar or a possible throne.
The glory of Fechner's immense speculation flamed about us both, majestic
yet divinely simple. Only a dim suggestion of it, of course, lay caught
in the words the Irishman used--words, as I found later, that were a
mixture of Professor James and Dr. Stahl, flavored strongly with Terence
O'Malley--but a suggestion potent enough to have haunted me ever since
and to have instilled meanings of stupendous divinity into all the
commonest things of daily existence. Mountains, seas, wide landscapes,
forests,--all I see now with emotions of wonder, delight, and awe unknown
to me before. Flowers, rain, wind, even a London fog, have come to hold
I never realized before that the mere _size_ of our old planet could
have hindered the perception of so fair a vision, or her mere
quantitative bulk have killed automatically in the mind the possible idea
of her being in some sense living. A microbe, endowed with our powers of
consciousness, might similarly deny life to the body of the elephant on
which it rode; or some wee arguing atom, endowed with mind and senses,
persuade itself that the monster upon whose flesh it dwelt were similarly
a "heavenly body" of dead, inert matter; the bulk of the "world" that
carried them obstructing their perception of its Life.
And Fechner, as it seems, was no mere dreamer, playing with a huge
poetical conception. Professor of Physics in Leipsic University, he found
time amid voluminous labors in chemistry to study electrical science
with the result that his measurements in galvanism are classic to this
day. His philosophical work was more than considerable. "A book on the
atomic theory, classic also; four elaborate mathematical and experimental
volumes on what he called psychophysics (many persons consider Fechner to
have practically founded scientific psychology in the first of these
books); a volume on organic evolution, and two works on experimental
æsthetics, in which again Fechner is thought by some judges to have laid
the foundations of a new science," are among his other performances....
"All Leipsic mourned him when he died, for he was the pattern of the
ideal German scholar, as daringly original in his thought as he was
homely in his life, a modest, genial, laborious slave to truth and
learning.... His mind was indeed one of those multitudinously organized
crossroads of truth which are occupied only at rare intervals by children
of men, and from which nothing is either too far or too near to be seen
in due perspective. Patientest observation, exactest mathematics,
shrewdest discrimination, humanest feeling, flourished in him on the
largest scale, with no apparent detriment to one another. He was in fact
a philosopher in the 'great' sense."
"Yes," said O'Malley softly in my ear as we leaned against the chimneys
and watched the tobacco curl up to the stars, "and it was this man's
imagination that had evidently caught old Stahl and bowled him over.
I never fathomed the doctor quite. His critical and imaginative apparatus
got a bit mixed up, I suspect, for one moment he cursed me for asking
'suspicious questions,' and the next sneered sarcastically at me for
boiling over with a sudden inspirational fancy of my own. He never
gave himself away completely, and left me to guess that he made that
Hospital place too hot to hold him. He was a wonderful bird. But every
time I aimed at him I shot wide and hit a cloud. Meantime he peppered
me all over--one minute urging me into closer intimacy with my
Russian--his cosmic being, his _Urmensch_ type--so that he might study
my destruction, and half an hour later doing his utmost apparently to
protect me from him and keep me sane and balanced." His laugh rang
out over the roofs.
"The net result," he added, his face tilted toward the stars as though
he said it to the open sky rather than to me, "was that he pushed me
forwards into the greatest adventure life has ever brought to me. I
believe, I verily believe that sometimes, there were moments of
unconsciousness--semi-consciousness perhaps--when I really did leave my
body--caught away as Moses, or was it Job or Paul?--into a Third Heaven,
where I touched a bit of Reality that fairly made me reel with happiness
"Well, but Fechner--and his great idea?" I brought him back.
He tossed his cigarette down into the back-garden that fringed the
Park, leaning over to watch its zigzag flight of flame.
"Is simply this," he replied, "--'that not alone the earth but the
whole Universe in its different spans and wave-lengths, is everywhere
alive and conscious.' He regards the spiritual as the rule in Nature, not
the exception. The professorial philosophers have no vision. Fechner
towers above them as a man of vision. He dared to imagine. He made
discoveries--whew!!" he whistled, "and such discoveries!"
"To which the scholars and professors of today," I suggested, "would
think reply not even called for?"
"Ah," he laughed, "the solemn-faced Intellectuals with their narrow
outlook, their atrophied vision, and their long words! Perhaps! But in
Fechner's universe there is room for every grade of spiritual being
between man and God. The vaster orders of mind go with the vaster orders
of body. He believes passionately in the Earth Soul, he treats her as our
special guardian angel; we can pray to the Earth as men pray to their
saints. The Earth has a Collective Consciousness. We rise upon the Earth
as wavelets rise upon the ocean. We grow out of her soil as leaves grow
from a tree. Sometimes we find our bigger life and realize that we are
parts of her bigger collective consciousness, but as a rule we are aware
only of our separateness, as individuals. These moments of cosmic
consciousness are rare. They come with love, sometimes with pain, music
may bring them too, but above all--landscape and the beauty of Nature!
Men are too petty, conceited, egoistic to welcome them, clinging for dear
life to their precious individualities."
He drew breath and then went on: "'Fechner likens our individual
persons on the earth to so many sense-organs of her soul, adding to
her perceptive life so long as our own life lasts. She absorbs our
perceptions, just as they occur, into her larger sphere of knowledge.
When one of us dies, it is as if an eye of the world were closed, for
all perceptive contributions from that particular quarter cease.'"
"Go on," I exclaimed, realizing that he was obviously quoting verbatim
fragments from James that he had since pondered over till they had
become his own, "Tell me more. It is delightful and very splendid."
"Yes," he said, "I'll go on quick enough, provided you promise me one
thing: and that is--to understand that Fechner does not regard the
Earth as a sort of big human being. If a being at all, she is a being
utterly different from us in kind, as of course we know she is in
structure. Planetary beings, as a class, would be totally different from
any other beings that we know. He merely protests at the presumption of
our insignificant human knowledge in denying some kind of life and
consciousness to a form so beautifully and marvelously organized as
that of the earth! The heavenly bodies, he holds, are beings superior to
men in the scale of life--a vaster order of intelligence altogether. A
little two-legged man with his cocksure reason strutting on its tiny
brain as the apex of attainment he ridicules. D'ye see, now?"
I gasped, I lit a big pipe--and listened. He went on. This time it was
clearly a page from that Hibbert Lecture Stahl had mentioned--the one
in which Professor James tries to give some idea of Fechner's aim and
scope, while admitting that he "inevitably does him miserable injustice
by summarizing and abridging him."
"Ages ago the earth was called an animal," I ventured. "We all know
"But Fechner," he replied, "insists that a planet is a higher class of
being than either man or animal--'a being whose enormous size requires an
altogether different plan of life.'"
"An inhabitant of the ether--?"
"You've hit it," he replied eagerly. "Every element has its own living
denizens. Ether, then, also has hers--the globes. 'The ocean of ether,
whose waves are light, has also her denizens--higher by as much as
their element is higher, swimming without fins, flying without wings,
moving, immense and tranquil, as by a half-spiritual force through the
half-spiritual sea which they inhabit,' sensitive to the slightest pull
of one another's attraction: beings in every way superior to us. Any
imagination, you know," he added, "can play with the idea. It is old as
the hills. But this chap showed how and why it could be actually true."
"This superiority, though?" I queried. "I should have guessed their
stage of development lower than ours, rather than higher."
"Different," he answered, "different. That's the point."
"Ah!" I watched a shooting star dive across our thick, wet atmosphere,
and caught myself wondering whether the flash and heat of that hurrying
little visitor produced any reaction in this Collective Consciousness
of the huge Body whereon we perched and chattered, and upon which
later it would fall in finest dust.
"It is by insisting on the differences as well as on the resemblances,"
rushed on the excited O'Malley, "that he makes the picture of the earth's
life so concrete. Think a moment. For instance, our animal organization
comes from our inferiority. Our need of moving to and fro, of stretching
our limbs and bending our bodies, shows only our defect."
"Defect!" I cried. "But we're so proud of it!"
'"What are our legs,'" he laughed, "'but crutches, by means of which,
with restless efforts, we go hunting after the things we have not inside
ourselves? The Earth is no such cripple; why should she who already
possesses within herself the things we so painfully pursue, have limbs
analogous to ours? What need has she of arms, with nothing to reach
for? Of a neck with no head to carry? Of eyes or nose, when she finds
her way through space without either, and has the millions of eyes of
all her animals to guide their movements on her surface, and all their
noses to smell the flowers she grows?'"
"We are literally a part of her, then--projections of her immense life,
as it were--one of the projections, at least?"
"Exactly. And just as we are ourselves a part of the earth," he
continued, taking up my thought at once, "so are our organs her organs.
'She is, as it were, eye and ear over her whole extent--all that we see
and hear in separation she sees and hears at once.'" He stood up beside
me and spread his hands out to the stars and over the trees and paths
of the Park at our feet, where the throngs of men and women walked
and talked together in the cool of the evening. His enthusiasm grew as
the idea of this German's towering imagination possessed him.
"'She brings forth living beings of countless kinds upon her surface,
and their multitudinous conscious relations with each other she takes
up into her higher and more general conscious life.'"
He leaned over the parapet and drew me to his side. I stared with him
at the reflection of London town in the sky, thinking of the glow and
heat and restless stir of the great city and of the frantic strivings of
its millions for success--money, power, fame, a few, here and there, for
spiritual success. The roar of its huge trafficking beat across the night
in ugly thunder to our ears. I thought of the other cities of the world;
of its villages; of shepherds among the lonely hills; of its myriad wild
creatures in forest, plain, and mountain...
"All this she takes up into her great heart as part of herself!" I
"All this," he replied softly, as the sound of the Band beyond the
Serpentine floated over to us on our roof; "--the separate little
consciousnesses of all the cities, all the tribes, all the nations of
men, animals, flowers, insects--everything." He again opened his arms to
the sky. He drew in deep breaths of the night air. The dew glistened on
the slates behind us. Far across the towers of Westminster a yellow moon
rose slowly, dimming the stars. Big Ben, deeply booming, trembled on
the air nine of her stupendous vibrations. Automatically, I counted
"And all our subconscious sensations are also hers," he added, catching
my thought again; "our dreams but half divined, our aspirations half
confessed, our tears, our yearnings, and our--prayers."
At the moment it almost seemed to me as if our two minds joined, each
knowing the currents of the other's thought, and both caught up, gathered
ill, folded comfortably away into the stream of a Consciousness far
bigger than either. It was like a momentary, specific proof of what
he urged--a faint pulse-beat we heard of the soul of the earth; and it
was amazingly uplifting.
"Every form of life, then, is of importance," I heard myself thinking,
or saying, for I hardly knew which. "The tiniest efforts of value--even
the unrecognized ones, and those that seem futile."
"Even the failures," he whispered, "--the moments when we do not trust
We stood for some moments in silence. Presently, with a hand upon my
shoulder, he drew me down again among our rugs against the chimney-stack.
"And there are some of us," he said gently, yet with a voice that held
the trembling of an immense joy, "who know a more intimate relationship
with their great Mother than the rest, perhaps. By the so-called Love
of Nature, or by some artless simplicity of soul, wholly unmodern of
course, perhaps felt by children or poets mostly, they lie caught close
to her own deep life, knowing the immense sweet guidance of her mighty
soul, divinely mothered, strangers to all the strife for material
gain--to that 'unrest which men miscall delight,'--primitive children of
her potent youth ... offspring of pure passion ... each individual
conscious of her weight and drive behind him--" His words faded away into
a whisper that became unintelligible, then inaudible; but his thought
somehow continued itself in my own mind.
"The simple life," I said in a low tone; "the Call of the Wild, raised
to its highest power?"
But he changed my sentence a little.
"The call," he answered, without turning to look at me, speaking it
into the night about us, "the call to childhood, the true, pure, vital
childhood of the Earth--the Golden Age--before men tasted of the Tree and
knew themselves separate; when the lion and the lamb lay down together
and a little child could lead them. A time and state, that is, of which
such phrases can be symbolical."
"And of which there may be here and there some fearful exquisite
survival?" I suggested, remembering Stahl's words.
His eyes shone with the fire of his passion. "Of which on that little
tourist steamer I found one!"
The wind that fanned our faces came perhaps across the arid wastes
of Bayswater and the North-West. It also came from the mountains and
gardens of this lost Arcadia, vanished for most beyond recovery....
"The Hebrew poets called it Before the Fall," he went on, "and later
poets the Golden Age; today it shines through phrases like the Land of
Heart's Desire, the Promised Land, Paradise, and what not; while the
minds of saint and mystic have ever dreamed of it as union with their
deity. For it is possible and open to all, to every heart, that is, not
blinded by the cloaking horror of materialism which blocks the doorways
of escape and prisons self behind the drab illusion that the outer form
is the reality and riot the inner thought...."
The hoarse shouting of a couple of drunken men floated to us from the
pavements, and crossing over, we peered down toward the opening of Sloane
Street, watching a moment the stream of broughams, motors, and
pedestrians. The two men with the rage of an artificial stimulant in
their brains reeled out of sight. A big policeman followed slowly. The
night-life of the great glaring city poured on unceasingly--the stream
of souls all hurrying by divers routes and means toward a state where
they sought to lose themselves--to forget the pressure of the bars that
held them--to escape the fret and worry of their harassing personalities,
and touch some fringe of happiness! All so sure they knew the way--yet
hurrying really in the wrong direction--outwards instead of inwards;
afraid to be--simple....
We moved back to our rugs. For a long time neither of us found
anything to say. Soon I led the way down the creaking ladder indoors
again, and we entered the stuffy little sitting-room of the tiny flat he
temporarily occupied. I turned up an electric light, but O'Malley begged
me to lower it. I only had time to see that his eyes were still aglow. We
sat by the open window. He drew a worn notebook from his still more
worn coat; but it was too dark for him to read. He knew it all by heart.
Some of Fechner's reasons for thinking the Earth a being superior in the
scale to ourselves, he gave, but it was another passage that lingered
chiefly in my heart, the description of the daring German's joy in
dwelling upon her perfections--later, too, of his first simple vision.
Though myself wholly of the earth, earthy in the ordinary sense, the
beauty of the thoughts live in my spirit to this day, transfiguring even
that dingy Insurance Office, streaming through all my dullest, hardest
daily tasks with the inspiration of a simple delight that helps me over
many a difficult weary time of work and duty.
"'To carry her precious freight through the hours and seasons what form
could be more excellent than hers--being as it is horse, wheels, and
wagon all in one. Think of her beauty--a shining ball, sky-blue and
sunlit over one half, the other bathed in starry night, reflecting the
heavens from all her waters, myriads of lights and shadows in the folds
of her mountains and windings of her valleys she would be a spectacle
of rainbow glory, could one only see her from afar as we see parts of
her from her own mountain tops. Every quality of landscape that has
a name would then be visible in her all at once--all that is delicate or
graceful, all that is quiet, or wild, or romantic, or desolate, or
cheerful, or luxuriant, or fresh. _That landscape is her face_--a peopled
landscape, too, for men's eyes would appear in it like diamonds among the
dew-drops. Green would be the dominant color, but the blue atmosphere
and the clouds would enfold her as a bride is shrouded in her veil--a
veil the vapory, transparent folds of which the earth, through her
ministers the winds, never tires of laying and folding about herself
"She needs, as a sentient organism," he continued, pointing into the
curtain of blue night beyond the window, "no heart or brain or lungs
as we do, for she is--different. 'Their functions she performs _through
us_! She has no proper muscles or limbs of her own, and the only objects
external to her are the other stars. To these her whole mass reacts by
the most exquisite alterations in its total gait and by the still more
exquisite vibratory responses in its substance. Her ocean reflects the
lights of heaven as in a mighty mirror, her atmosphere refracts them like
a monstrous lens, the clouds and snowfields combine them into white,
the woods and flowers disperse them into colors.... Men have always
made fables about angels, dwelling in the light, needing no earthly food
or drink, messengers between ourselves and God. Here are actually
existent beings, dwelling in the light and moving through the sky,
needing neither food nor drink, intermediaries between God and us,
obeying His commands. So, if the heavens really are the home of angels,
the heavenly bodies must be those very angels, for other creatures there
are none. Yes! the Earth is our great common guardian angel, who
watches over all our interests combined.'
"And then," whispered the Irishman, seeing that I still eagerly listened,
"give your ear to one of his moments of direct vision. Note its
simplicity, and the authority of its conviction:
"'On a certain spring morning I went out to walk. The fields were green,
the birds sang, the dew glistened, the smoke was rising, here and there a
man appeared; a light as of transfiguration lay on all things. It was
only a little bit of the earth; it was only a moment of her existence;
and yet as my look embraced her more and more it seemed to me not
only so beautiful an idea, but so true and clear a fact, that she is an
angel, an angel so rich and fresh and flower-like, and yet going her
round in the skies so firmly and so at one with herself, turning her
whole living face to Heaven, and carrying me along with her into that
Heaven, that I asked myself how the opinions of men could ever have so
spun themselves away from life as to deem the earth only a dry clod,
and to seek for angels above it or about it in the emptiness of the
sky,--only to find them nowhere.'"
Fire-engines, clanging as with a hurrying anger through the night,
broke in upon his impassioned sentences; the shouts of the men drowned
his last words....
Life became very wonderful inside those tight, confining walls, for
the spell and grandeur of the whole conception lifted the heart. Even
if belief failed, in the sense of believing--a shilling, it succeeded in
the sense of believing--a symphony. The invading beauty swept about us
both. Here was a glory that was also a driving power upon which any
but a man half dead could draw for practical use. For the big conceptions
fan the will. The little pains of life, they make one feel, need not kill
true joy, nor deaden effort.
"Come," said O'Malley softly, interrupting my dream of hope and
splendor, "let us walk together through the Park to your place. It is
late, and you, I know, have to be up early in the morning ... earlier
And presently we passed the statue of Achilles and got our feet upon
the turf beyond--a little bit of living planet in the middle of the
heavy smothering London town. About us, over us, within us, stirred the
awe of that immense idea. Upon that bit of living, growing turf we
passed toward the Marble Arch, treading, as it were, the skin of a huge
Body--the physical expression of a grand angelic Being, alive, sentient,
conscious. Conscious, moreover, of our little separate individual selves
who walked ... a Being who cared; who felt us; who knew, understood,
and--loved us as a mother her own offspring.... "To whom men could
pray as they pray to their saints."
The conception, even thus dimly and confusedly adumbrated, brought a new
sense of life--terrific and eternal. All living things upon the earth's
surface were emanations of her mighty central soul; all--from the gods
and fairies of olden time who knew it, to the men and women of Today who
have forgotten it.
Were these then projections of her personality--aspects and facets
of her divided self--emanations now withdrawn? Latent in her did they
still exist as moods or Powers--true, alive, everlasting, but unmanifest?
Still knowable to simple men and to Children of Nature?
Was this the giant truth that Stahl had built on Fechner?
Everything about us seemed to draw together into an immense and
towering configuration that included trees and air and the sweep of
open park--the looming and overwhelming beauty of one of these very
gods survived--Pan, the eternal and the splendid ... a mood of the
Earth-life, a projection clothed with the light of stars, the cloudy air,
the passion of the night, the thrill of an august, extended Mood.
And the others were not so very far behind--those other little parcels
of Earth's Consciousness the Greeks and early races, the simple,
primitive, childlike peoples of the dawn, divined the existence of, and
labeled "gods" ... and worshipped ... so as to draw their powers into
themselves by ecstasy and vision ...
Could, then, worship now still recall them? Was the attitude of even
one true worshipper's heart the force necessary to touch that particular
aspect of the mighty total Consciousness of Earth, and call forth those
ancient forms of beauty? Could it be that this idea--the idea of "the
gods"--was thus forever true and vital...? And might they be known
and felt in the heart if not actually in some suggested form?
I only know that as we walked home past the doors of that dingy
Paddington house where Terence O'Malley kept his dusty books and
papers and so to my own quarters, these things he talked about dropped
into my mind with a bewildering splendor to stay forever. His words I
have forgotten, or how he made such speculations worth listening to at
all. Yet, I hear them singing in my blood as though of yesterday; and
often when that conflict comes 'twixt duty and desire that makes life
sometimes so vain and bitter, the memory comes to lift with strength
far greater than my own. The Earth can heal and bless.
Slowly, taking life easily, the little steamer puffed its way across the
Ionian Sea. The pyramid of Etna, bluer even than the sky, dominated
the western horizon long after the heel of Italy had faded, then melted
in its turn into the haze of cloud and distance. No other sails were
With the passing of Calabria spring had leaped into the softness of
full summer, and the breezes were gentle as those that long ago fanned
the cheeks and hair of Io, beloved of Zeus, as she flew southwards toward
the Nile. The passengers, less lovely than that fair daughter of Argos,
and with the unrest of thinner adventure in their blood, basked lazily
in the sun; but the sea was not less haunted for those among them whose
hearts could travel. The Irishman at any rate slipped beyond the confines
of the body, viewing that ancient scene as she had done, from above.
His widening consciousness expanded to include it.
Cachalots spouted; dolphins danced, as though still to those wild
flutes of Dionysus; porpoises rolled beneath the surface of the
transparent waves, diving below the vessel's sides but just in time to
save their shiny noses; and all day long, ignoring the chart upon the
stairway walls, the tourists turned their glasses eastwards, searching
for a first sight of Greece.
O'Malley, meanwhile, trod the decks of a new ship. For him now sea
and sky were doubly peopled. The wind brought messages of some divine
deliverance approaching slowly, the heat of that pearly, shining sun
warmed centers of his being that hitherto the world kept chill. The land
toward which the busy steamer moved he knew, of course, was but the
shell from which the inner spirit of beauty once vivifying it had long
since passed away. Yet it remained a clue. That ancient loveliness, as a
mood of the earth's early consciousness, was buried, not destroyed.
Eternally it still flamed somewhere. And, long before the days of Greece,
he knew, it had existed in yet fuller and more complete manifestation:
that earliest, vastly splendid Mood of the earth's soul, too mighty for
any existence that the history of humanity can recall, and too remote
for any but the most daringly imaginative minds even to conceive. The
_Urwelt_ Mood, as Stahl himself admitted, even while it called to him,
was a reconstruction that to men today could only seem--dangerous.
And his own little Self, guided by the inarticulate stranger, was being
led at last toward its complete recapture.
Yet, while he crawled slowly with the steamer over a tiny portion of
the spinning globe, feeling that at the same time he crawled toward a
spot upon it where access would be somehow possible to this huge
expression of her first Life--what was it, phrased timidly as men phrase
big thoughts today, that he really believed? Even in our London talks,
intimate as they were, interpreted too by gesture, facial expression,
and--silence, his full meaning evaded precise definition. "There are no
words, there are no words," he kept saying, shrugging his shoulders and
stroking his untidy hair. "In me, deep down, it all lies clear and plain
and strong; but language cannot seize a mode of life that throve before
language existed. If you cannot catch the picture from my thoughts, I
give up the whole dream in despair." And in his written account, owing
to its strange formlessness, the result was not a little bewildering.
Briefly stated, however--that remnant, at least, which I discover in
my own mind when attempting to tell the story to others--what he
felt, believed, _lived_, at any rate while the adventure lasted, was
That the Earth, as a living, conscious Being, had known visible
projections of her consciousness similar to those projections of our own
personality which the advanced psychologists of today now envisage as
possible; that the simple savagery of his own nature, and the poignant
yearnings derived from it, were in reality due to his intimate closeness
to the life of the Earth; that, whereas in the body the fulfillment of
these longings was impossible, in the spirit he might yet know contact
with the soul of the planet, and thus experience their complete
satisfaction. Further, that the portion of his personality which could
thus enter this heaven of its own subjective construction, was that
detachable portion Stahl had spoken of as being "malleable by desire and
longing," leaving the body partially and temporarily sometimes in sleep,
and, at death, completely. More,--that the state thus entered would mean
a quasi-merging back into the life of the Earth herself, of which he was
a partial expression.
This closeness to Nature was today so rare as to be almost unrecognized
as possible. Its possession constituted its owner what the doctor
called a "Cosmic Being"--a being scarcely differentiated from the life
of the Earth Spirit herself--a direct expression of her life, a survival
of a time before such expressions had separated away from her and become
individualized as human creatures. Moreover, certain of these earliest
manifestations or projections of her consciousness, knowing in their
huge shapes of fearful yet simple beauty a glory of her own being, still
also survived. The generic term of "gods" might describe their status as
interpreted to the little human power called Imagination.
This call to the simple life of primal innocence and wonder that had ever
brimmed the heart of the Irishman, acknowledged while not understood,
might have slumbered itself away with the years among modern conditions
into atrophy and denial, had he not chanced to encounter a more direct
and vital instance of it even than himself. The powerfully-charged being
of this Russian stranger had summoned it forth. The mere presence of this
man quickened and evoked this faintly-stirring center in his psychic
being that opened the channel of return. Speech, as any other
explanation, was unnecessary. To resist was still within his power. To
accept and go was also open to him. The "inner catastrophe" he feared
need not perhaps be insuperable or permanent.
"Remember," the doctor had said to him at the end of that last
significant conversation, "this berth in my stateroom is freely at your
disposal till Batoum." And O'Malley, thanking him, had shaken off
that restraining hand upon his arm, knowing that he would never make
use of it again.
For the Russian stranger and his son had somehow made him free.
Between that cabin and the decks he spent his day. Occasionally he
would go below to report progress, as it were, by little sentences which
he divined would be acceptable, and at the same time gave expression
to his own growing delight. The boy, meanwhile, was everywhere, playing
alone like a wild thing; one minute in the bows, hat off, gazing
across the sea beneath a shading hand, and the next leaning over the
stern-rails to watch the churning foam that drove them forwards. At
regular intervals he, too, rushed to the cabin and brought communications
to his parent.
"Tomorrow at dawn," observed the Irishman, "we shall see Cape Mattapan
rising from the sea. After that, Athens for a few hours; then coasting
through the Cyclades, close to the mainland often." And glancing over to
the berth, while pretending to be busy with his steamer-trunk, he saw the
great smile of happiness break over the other's face like a sunrise....
For it was clear to him that with the approach to Greece, a change
began to come over his companions. It was noticeable chiefly in the
father. The joy that filled the man, too fine and large to be named
excitement, passed from him in radiations that positively seemed to
carry with them a physical extension. This, of course, was purely a
clairvoyant effect upon the mind--O'Malley's divining faculty
visualized the spiritual traits of the man's dilating Self. But,
nevertheless, the truth remained that--somehow he increased. He grew;
became interiorly more active, alive, potent; and of this singular waxing
of the inner spirit something passed outwards and stood with rare dignity
about his very figure.
And this manifestation of themselves was due to that expansion of
the inner life caused by happiness. The little point of their
personalities they showed normally to the world was but a single facet, a
tip as it were of their whole selves. More lay within, beyond. As with
the rest of the world, a great emotion stimulated and summoned it forth
into activity nearer the surface. Clearly, for these two Greece
symbolized a point of departure of a great hidden passion. Something they
expected lay waiting for them there. Guidance would come thence.
And, by reflection perhaps as much as by direct stimulation, the same
change made itself felt in himself. Joy caught him--the joy of a
home-coming, long deferred....
At the same time, the warning of Dr. Stahl worked in him, if
subconsciously only. He showed this by mixing more with the other
passengers. He chatted with the Captain, who was as pleased with his
big family as though he had personally provided the weather that made
them happy; with the Armenian priest, who was eager to show that he
had read "a much of T'ackeray and Keeplin"; and especially with the
boasting Moscow merchant, who by this time "owned" the smoking-room and
imposed his verbose commonplaces upon one and all with authoritative
self-confidence in six languages--a provincial mind in full display. The
latter in particular held him to a normal humanity; his atmosphere
breathed the wholesome thickness of the majority of humankind--ordinary,
egoistic, with the simplicity of the uninspiring sort. The merchant acted
upon him as a sedative, and that day the Irishman took him in large
doses, allopathically, for his talk formed an admirable antidote to the
stress of that other burning excitement that, according to Stahl,
threatened to disintegrate his personality.
Though hardly in the sense he intended, the fur-merchant was entirely
delightful--engaging as a child; for, among other marked qualities, he
possessed the unerring instinct of the snob which made him select for
his friends those whose names or position might glorify his banal
insignificance--and his stories were vivid pictorial illustrations of
this useful worldly faculty. O'Malley listened with secret delight,
keeping a grave face and dropping in occasional innocent questions to
heighten the color or increase the output. Others in the circle responded
in kind, feeling the same chord vibrating in themselves. Even the priest,
like a repeating-gun, continually discharged his little secret pride that
Byron had occupied a room in that Venetian monastery where he lived; and
at last O'Malley himself was conscious of an inclination to report his
own immense and recently discovered kinship with a greater soul and
consciousness than his own. After all, he reflected with a deep thrill
while he listened, the desire of the snob was but a crude and simple form
of the desire of the mystic:--to lose one's little self in a Self which
Then, weary of them all and their minute personal interests, he left
the smoking-room and joined the boy again, running absurd races with
him from stern to bow, playing hide-and-seek among the decks, even
playing shuffle-board together. They sweated in the blazing sun and
watched the dance of the sea; caught the wind in their faces with a shout
of joy, or with pointing fingers followed the changing outlines of the
rare, soft clouds that sailed the world of blue above them. There was no
speech between them, and both felt that other things, invisible, swift,
and spirit-footed, whose home is just beyond the edge of life as the
senses report life, played wildly with them. The smoking-room then,
with its occupants so greedy for the things that money connotes--the
furs, champagne, cigars, and heavy possessions that were symbols of the
personal aggrandizement they sought and valued--seemed to the
Irishman like a charnel-house where those about to die sat making
inventories in blind pride of the things they must leave behind.
It was, indeed, a contrast of Death and Life. For beside him, with
that playing, silent boy, coursed the power of transforming loveliness
which had breathed over the world before her surface knew this swarming
race of men. The life of the Earth knew no need of outward
acquisition, possessing all things so completely in herself. And he--he
was her child--O glory! Joy passing belief!
"Oh!" he cried once with passion, turning to the fair-haired figure of
youth who stood with him in the bows, meeting the soft wind,--"Oh,
to have heard the trees whispering together in the youth of the world,
and felt one of the earliest winds that ever blew across the cooling
And the boy, not understanding the words, but responding with a
perfect naturalness to the emotion that drove them forth, seized his
hand and with an extraordinarily free motion as of flying, raced with
him down the decks, happy, laughing, hair loose over his face, and with
a singular action of the shoulders as though he somehow--cantered.
O'Malley remembered his vision of the Flying Shapes....
Toward the evening, however, the boy disappeared, keeping close to
his father's side, and after dinner both retired early to their cabin.
And the ship, meanwhile, drew ever nearer to the haunted land.
"Privacy is ignorance."
Somewhat after the manner of things suffered in vivid dreams, where
surprise is numbed and wonder becomes the perfect password, the Irishman
remembers the sequence of little events that filled the following day.
Yet his excitement held nothing of the vicious fling of fever; it was
spread over the entire being rather than located hotly in the brain and
blood alone; and it "derived," as it were, from tracts of his personality
usually unstirred, atrophied indeed in most men, that connected him
as by a delicate network of feelers with Nature and the Earth. He came
gradually to feel them, as a man in certain abnormal conditions becomes
conscious of the bodily processes that customarily go on in himself
without definite recognition.
Stahl could have told him, had he cared to seek the information, that
this fringe of wider consciousness, stretching to the stars and winds
and earth, was the very part that had caused his long unrest and
yearning--the part that knew the Earth as mother and sought the sweet
and savage freedom of what he called with the poverty of modern
terms--primitive. The channels leading toward a state of Cosmic
Consciousness, one with the Earth Life, were being now flushed and
sluiced by the forces emanating from the persons of his new companions.
And as this new state slowly usurped command, the readjustment of
his spiritual economy thus involved, caused other portions of himself
to sink into temporary abeyance. While it alarmed him, it was too
delicious to resist. He made no real attempt to resist. Yet he knew full
well that the portion sinking thus out of sight was what folk with such
high pride call Reason, Judgment, Common Sense!
In common with animal, bird, and insect life, all intimately close to
Nature, he began to feel as realities those subtle currents of the
Earth's personality by which the seals know direction in the depths of a
thousand-mile sea, by which the homing pigeons blaze trails through
space, birds fly south, the wild bees know their pathways, and all simple
life, from the Red Indian to the Red Ant, acknowledges the viewless
guidance of the mother's enveloping heart. The cosmic life ran through
his being, lighting signals, offering service, more--claiming leadership.
With it, however, came no loss of individuality, but rather a powerful
increase of life by means of which for the first time he dreamed of a
fuller existence which should eventually harmonize and combine the
ancient simplicity of soul that claimed the Earth, with the modern
complexity which, indulged alone, rendered the world so ugly and
insignificant...! He experienced an immense, driving push upon what
Bergson has called the _élan vital_ of his being.
The opening charge of his new discovery, however, was more than
disconcerting, and it is not surprising that he lost his balance. Its
attack and rush were overwhelming. Thus, it was a kind of exalted
speculative wonder lying behind his inner joy that caused his mistakes.
He had imagined, for instance, that the first sight of Greece would bring
some climax of revelation, making clear to what particular type of early
life the spirits of his companions conformed; more, that they would then
betray themselves to one and all for what they were in some effort to
escape, in some act of unrestraint, something, in a word, that would
explain themselves to the world of passengers, and focus them upon the
doctor's microscope forever.
Yet when Greece showed her first fair rim of outline, his companions
still slept peacefully in their bunks. The anticipated _dénouement_ did
not appear. Nothing happened. It was not the mere sight of so much land
lying upon the sea's cool cheek that could prove vital in an adventure
of such a kind. For the adventure remained spiritual. O'Malley had
merely confused two planes of consciousness. As usual, he saw the thing
"whole" in that extraordinary way to which his imagination alone held
the key; and hence his error.
Yet the moment has ever remained for him one of vital, stirring
splendor, significant as life or death. He remembers that he was early
on deck and saw the dawn blow up softly from behind the islands with
a fresh, salt wind that blew at the same time like music into his very
heart. Golden clear it rose; and just below, like the petals of some
vast, archetypal flower that gave it birth, the low blue hills of coast
and island opened magically into blossom. The rocky cliffs of Mattapan
slipped past; the smooth, bare slopes of the ancient shore-line followed;
treeless peaks and shoulders, abrupt precipices, summits and ridges all
exquisitely rosy and alive. He had seen Greece before, yet never thus,
and the emotion that invaded every corner of his larger consciousness lay
infinitely deeper than any mere pseudo-classical thrill he had known in
previous years. He saw it, felt it, knew it from within, instead of as a
spectator from without. This dawn-mood of the Earth was also his own;
and upon his spirit, as upon her blue-crowned hills, lay the tide of high
light with its delicate swift blush. He saw it with her--through one of
her opened eyes.
The hot hours the steamer lay in the Piraeus Harbor were wearisome,
the noise of loading and unloading cargo worse even than at Catania.
While the tourist passengers hurried fussily ashore, carrying guidebooks
and cameras, to chatter among the ruined temples, he walked the decks
alone, dreaming his great dream, conscious that he spun through leagues
of space with the great Being who more and more possessed him. Beyond
the shipping and the masts collected there from all the ports of the
Mediterranean and the Levant, he watched the train puffing slowly to
the station that lay in the shadow of Theseus' Temple, but his eyes at
the same tune strained across the haze toward Eleusis Bay, and while
his ears caught the tramping feet of the long Torchlight Procession, some
power of his remoter consciousness divined the forms of hovering gods,
expressions of his vast Mother's personality with which, in worship, this
ancient people had believed it possible to merge themselves. The
significant truths that lay behind the higher Mysteries, degraded since
because forgotten and misinterpreted, trooped powerfully down into his
mind. For the supreme act of this profound cult, denied by a grosser age
that seeks to telephone to heaven, deeming itself thereby "advanced," lay
in the union of the disciple with his god, the god he worshipped all his
life, and into whose Person he slipped finally at death by a kind of
"The gods!" ran again through his mind with passion and delight, as
the letter of his early studies returned upon him, accompanied now for
the first time by the in-living spirit that interpreted them. "The
gods!--Moods of her giant life, manifestations of her spreading
Consciousness pushed outwards, Powers of life and truth and beauty...!"
* * * * *
And, meanwhile, Dr. Stahl, sometimes from a distance, sometimes coming
close, kept over him a kind of half-paternal, half-professional
attendance, the Irishman accepting his ministrations without resentment,
almost with indifference.
"I shall be on deck between two and three in the morning to see the
comet," the German observed to him casually toward evening as they
met on the bridge. "We may meet perhaps--"
"All right, doctor; it's more than possible," replied O'Malley, realizing
how closely he was being watched.
In his mind at the moment another sentence ran, the thought growing
stronger and stronger within him as the day declined:
"It will come tonight--come as an inner catastrophe not unlike that
of death! I shall hear the call--to escape...."
For he knew, as well as if it had been told to him in so many words,
that the sleep of his two companions all day was in the nature of a
preparation. The fluid projections of themselves were all the time active
elsewhere. Their bodies heavily slumbered; their spirits were out and
alert. Summoned forth by those strange and radiant evocative forces
that even in the dullest minds "Greece" stirs into life, they had
temporarily escaped. Again he saw those shapes of cloud and wind moving
with swift freedom over the long, bare hills. Again and again the image
returned. With the night a similar separation of the personality might
come to himself too. Stahl's warning passed in letters of fire across his
inner sight. With a relief that yet contained uneasiness he watched his
shambling figure disappear down the stairway. He was alone.
"To everything that a man does he must give his undivided attention or
his Ego. When he has done this, thoughts soon arise in him, or else a new
method of apprehension miraculously appears....
"Very remarkable it is that through this play of his personality man