Rosicrucian Writings Online

The Imperator's Monthly Message

 [By H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Mystic Triangle February 1929]
MY message to you this month is in the form of a little story that is taken from life, one which has made an indelible impression upon my mind, and which I feel sure will register itself permanently upon your mind.
I left my hotel room early one week-day morning to go out and take a walk in the bracing air before breakfast.  It was in a large eastern city, and I was passing beneath the rumbling, noisy elevated structure on Columbus Avenue on my way toward Central Park.  At the corner there was the usual news stand to which men and women, young and old, were approaching in a hurried manner to buy their morning papers, and then rush up the stairway into the elevated trains to get to their down-town positions, despite the fact that it was only seven o'clock.
Close by the news stand, there was also one of the usual chewing gum slot machines, with its ornate form and its decorative mirror in front.  Many a young person had stopped at that machine and purchased some chewing gum, and many of them, especially the young ladies, had paused for a moment to look into the mirror to put another little touch to their hair or to their hat or perhaps flap a little more powder on their nose.  Faces that were young, youthful, pretty, vibrant with life, hope, and joy, had looked into that mirror many a time in the days, weeks, and months that had passed.  Faces that were worn and perhaps dissipated looking had also gazed into that silvery surface with just a touch of shame or a sense of regret.  Faces that were old and wrinkled with honorable effort and respectful labor, faces that were sad, and faces that were happy; faces that were despondent and forlorn, faces that were indifferent, and hardly expressive of anything at all.  A very wonderful story could be told by that mirror at that corner.  But I do not believe that that old mirror, located in a neighborhood where the wealthy and those of the middle class alike passed by it by the scores every minute, ever expected to reflect such a picture as it reflected this morning.
I had stopped near to the mirror for just a moment to determine which way I should cross the street, and my attention was attracted at once by a figure that was approaching the mirror so listlessly, so indifferently, that it stood out in contrast to those who were hurrying so rapidly.  I stepped back from the moving crowd to watch this figure, and I saw that it was that of a woman, but what a woman!  I did not see her face at first, and I could only judge her by a view from the back and side of her body.  She had on old black clothing, threadbare, shiny, torn, soiled, and muddy.  Despite the fact that the air was brisk and the temperature low, she wore a very short, and thin, black jacket, of the ages so long ago that even a costumer would find it difficult to place the year of its style.  The lower part of her body was covered with a long, thin, black skirt that touched the dirty, slushy street, and was so ragged and uneven in its tears and fringed edges that its real length and finish at the bottom could never be known.  Her feet were covered with heelless shoes, the soles of which were worn.  The shoes were broken, crooked, and tied with strings that were never intended to be used on shoes.  I looked upward to her head, and I saw beneath the little old-fashioned, black bonnet, that was covered with dirt and grime, the straggling ends of gray hair, unkempt, uncared for, and devoid of all that health and nourishment which human hair should have.
I saw that the woman walked not only listlessly, but with staggering step, and it was quite evident that she was somewhat intoxicated, and unable to walk steadily or properly.  It was such a terrible picture that I was held spell-bound and I waited until I could see her face.  Finally she turned to see if anyone was noticing her, and she was quite satisfied to discover that the men and women, young and old, were hurrying by without giving her the least attention or consideration.  Then I saw that in her very old, wrinkled, knotted hand, red with the cold, and unquestionably worn with years of toil and labor, she held a little package wrapped up in newspaper and tied with a string.  Then I saw her face.  I saw that her eyes were bleary from the influence of liquor, and the cutting winds made tears run down her cheeks.  Her cheeks were hollowed, wrinkled, and chafted by the cold.  Her mouth was firm in lines and of a formation that plainly indicated the possession of considerable character, but her lips were quivering and trembling with nervousness.  Her exposed neck showed wrinkles and hollows that brought a lump into my throat, and made me realize that the woman was undernourished and probably suffering from a cold, if not from the early stages of tuberculosis.  From the general appearance of her clothing, it was quite evident that she had spent the night sleeping on one of the benches in the park nearby, and as the daylight hours had come, she found it necessary to be up and about in order to avoid arrest.  And here she was, on one of the busy thoroughfares of New York, unnoticed except by myself, and as greatly alone as though she were in the midst of a wilderness.
And just at this moment she too looked into the mirror, and she caught a fleeting glimpse of her face in the silver glass.  The shock to her must have been as great as was the shock to me when I first saw her, for she leaned forward and peered into the glass as though she could not believe that what she saw was a real reflection.  Then she stepped back a few inches and peered again, and searched in the glass for some change, for some indication that it was all a delusion, and that what she saw was not real.  What she thought or what thoughts passed through her mind at that moment, I could only get from her through the attunement and psychic contact built up by my interest and my concentration, and through my entire being there passed the impression of surprise, regret, and determination.  I could almost hear her mental thoughts saying:  "Is that I?  Can it really be that I look like that?"  Then she stepped a little closer to the mirror.  Her whole being became nervous--her hands trembled, her lips trembled, she began to cry, and she looked around quickly to see if anyone was observing her, and over her consciousness there passed the sense of public inspection, public scrutiny, and public condemnation.  Shame had taken possession of her.  Fear of public opinion had returned at least to her consciousness, and for a fraction of a moment she was a woman again, a woman that cared.  Quickly her right hand rose to her face, and almost unconsciously with the habit that had been hers in youth she pushed some of the stray hairs back beneath her hat.  She wiped the tears from her cheeks.  She straightened her bonnet on her head.  She threw back her shoulders and lifted her head erect, and tried to put into the mirror a picture that was not there.  One moment's pause, as though waiting for the transformation to take place on the silvered surface, and--there came disappointment.  Her head bowed, her hands and body trembled again, her lips quivered, and tears came once more, her body bent forward in its same stupid, listless form that it had been, and again she was the woman of the street, uncared for and hopeless.  What a conviction came over her, and what a change it made in her.  And then realizing the hopelessness of her case and the fact that she could not by any effort of her own, redeem herself and bring back the appearance of what she once had been, she rambled on her way amid the crowd, unnoticed except for the jeering smiles and sarcastic remarks of younger people who passed her by.
As I watched her pass away, determined that I would do something at once for her, the thought came to my mind that here was a woman who had not only been a babe in the loving, tender arms of some mother, but who at one time had been a child at school, a young girl of youth and vivacity, a wife respected and loved, and perhaps a mother who had been worshipped by some one.  And yet evil had come upon her, her parents had forgotten her, childhood chums remembered her no more, sweetheart and husband cared no more, and whatever children she may have had were gone from her life forever.  Or, was it possible that she had been born a waif in the city streets, uneducated, uncared for, untutored?  Had she never known any love?  Had she never known the care of a husband?  Had she never had the joy of motherhood?  Could it be possible that this woman had lived all her life, fifty years or more, and had never known love, care, protection, or the interest of a friend.  Whatever was the cause of her present situation, whatever had been her life in the past, here was most certainly a living condemnation of the world's social conditions.  In thousands of homes, within the call of my voice, there on Columbus Avenue women of younger age were being cared for by husbands, adored by children, admired by friends.  In a dozen churches in the same neighborhood the doctrines of Christianity and of Judaism were being preached, and in the schools and educational institutions of that section of the city lessons were being taught to create in the minds and hearts of men and women the duties they owe toward all mankind in keeping life and soul united in peace and harmony.  And yet, here was this woman, forsaken, forlorn, and rejected by men.
What a pitiful sight, what a sad commentary on human nature.  How long will the human race permit one of the least of its members to go through life as this woman was going through it?  Where was the human respect for womanhood?  Where was the boasted love we have for our fellow being?  Where was the tenderness that man says is the one great element that lifts him above all of the animal kingdom?
I shall never forget her story.  I shall never forget the joy that eventually came to her, and this one thing I hope you, my brothers and sisters, will never forget:  Remember that in every woman, high or lowly, young or old, rich or poor, there is the potential power of the Virgin Mary.  In every woman there is the love and tenderness, the sweetness and magnificence of motherhood, and of godliness.  And may you never permit yourselves to be one of those who, hurriedly and disinterestedly, passes by a woman of any age or any station in life who is in need, who requires only the hand of friendship or the soft words of helpfulness.  If the light within you that constitutes your mission in life has found no other channel at any time for its divine expression on earth, let it shine in the eyes of a rejected one, of one who is hopeless and in despair, that it may bring some joy into the heart of such a person and perhaps establish for all time some comprehension of Peace Profound.
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