Rosicrucian Writings Online

A Pilgrim's Journey to the East

 "And I Journeyed to the Eastern Gate"
By H. Spencer Lewis, F. R. C., Imperator of the Order in America
Fifth Installment of the Complete and Authentic History of the Order
[From The American Rosae Crucis May 1916]
"IF you came to Paris and found it convenient to call at the Studio of Mons. the professor of Languages at ---- B'l'v'd St. Germain, he might be able to tell you something of the circle of which you inquire. It might be advisable to hand him this note. Certainly a letter to him announcing your coming (by date and name of boat) would be courteous."
Such was, in substance, the letter I received from the editor of a Parisian paper of whom I had asked the simple question: "How can I learn of the method to pursue which will secure guidance to the Rosae Crucis?"
True, I had placed beneath my name a peculiar mark which had been impressed upon my mind in a series of dreams, although I did not know or appreciate its significance.
When the heart truly yearns for a great privilege or blessing, when the mind is daily, hourly, reverting to one great determination, one is very apt to find the hours of dreams fraught with signs and symbols, or perchance, significant messages whose source and purpose are generally veiled.
After many years' study of the exoteric work of Rosaecrucianism and an increasing, obsessional desire to join with the Brotherhood, unselfish in its great undertakings for the betterment and unity of man, I wrote--after a deep inner impression to do so--to the unknown editor of the Parisian paper.
The answer was discouraging and encouraging. Just what else I could have expected I did not know. It was gratifying to see that my request met with recognition and a prompt reply. I was delighted to learn that the great Brotherhood was not "extinct" as so many reference books proclaimed. But that I must go to Paris to learn "something of the circle" simply meant a postponement of a realization of my hopes and desires.
Determination I had, and the visions I dreamed by day and by night kept alive my ambition and my faith. It was early in July that I received my letter from Paris; possibly by the following year I might find it convenient to go to Paris. What was a year of waiting? Had I not waited two, three, four, five years in the hope of even learning that the Order still existed? And so I folded the letter carefully and put it among the precious papers that constituted my hopes of the future.
Day by day the words rang through my mind: "If you came to Paris." The words appeared before my eyes in the dark and seemed to dazzle in letters of red across every sheet of paper I held in my hand at times of introspection.
And then, within a week, came a letter through a business proposition, which offered a most unexpected opportunity to visit several cities in France. And--I could visit Paris, my mind free and easy, and my desires to be gratified. Surely this was a demonstration of a Rosaecrucian principle.
I wrote once again to Paris, this time announcing to the professor, my coming on the steamer "America," leaving New York on July 24th, fifteen days hence.
The usual preparations being made, my letter from the editor safely placed in my wallet, my maps, guide-books and notes in a grip, I started my journey to the Eastern portal of wisdom.
The twenty-fourth was on a Saturday. Early on Sunday morning I made the acquaintance of a dark complexioned young man, whom I believed to be an East Indian. He seemed to place himself in my company at every opportunity--above and below deck--on Saturday afternoon, and I felt that lonesomeness, the one great equalizer at sea, was gnawing at his heart as it was at mine.
I found him pleasant company. He was going to France, and then to Jerusalem, he said, on a mission of secrecy for one of the prominent American heiresses well known for her charitable work.
There was something, however, about his personality--his inner-self--which made a very deep and weird impression upon me.
I recall coming from the salon deck one day to an upper deck and discovering him standing in the sunlight gazing far out to sea. His figure was straight, his form drawn up to its full majestic height and his bearing one of dominant power. I stood and studied him. His attitude was one of intense interest--in what? The rising sun? And as I watched him, unsuspectingly, fixed like a bronze statue, a sense of awe, of respect, came over me and I could not help feeling that I was looking at a mystic of the Orient.
But his jovial pleasantries and positive avoidance of any subject pertaining to the occult, gave me no reason to believe otherwise than that he was an East Indian. But my attempts to draw him out along occult, and especially East Indian philosophical lines, gave him a very intimate acquaintance with my own philosophical ideals and beliefs. Naturally they reflected, when they did not actually express, my personal moral and religious tenets and practices.
We arrived at Cherbourg on the coast of France on Sunday morning August 1st and found the bay in gala dress because of the presence of the Czar's personal yacht escorted by a number of Russian warships. The Czar was paying an official visit to the President of France.
A six hour trip brought my companion and myself into Paris and at the entrance of my hotel we parted, fully believing that we would not meet again.
Before we reached Paris, however, I had requested a number of deck acquaintances to subscribe their names to a picture of the steamer. My foreign companion suggested that, in addition to this I might desire his name and address on a separate card. Agreeing that it would be more than welcome, he tore a square sheet of heavy, foreign paper from a note book and wrote what seemed to be his address and a few other words under his name. This I automatically placed in my wallet and not among my miscellaneous papers. I never thought to study its intent or meaning. One could do little but think automatically--dreamily--when he spoke or directed.
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
A week passed before I ventured to see Professor "X." I had mentioned the words Rosae Crucis in the presence of different French men and women with varying results. I found that the words acted like a charm in most cases--bringing a look of wonderment, surprise, respect and awe to many faces--but ne'er a word or act of recognition. There was one exception. In the hotel I found a young woman--possibly 16 years of age--scrubbing the floors of the lobby early one morning. Pursuing my usual method of testing and searching, I stood where I could watch her face, and said slowly, "Ros-a-e Crucis." She hastily arose to her feet, stood erect and faced me with that serene, but awe-inspired expression that I have since then seen upon the faces of several Vestal Virgins. She said not a word but waited for either a sign or word from me. I knew of nothing else to do and she slowly dropped down to her work and paid no more attention to me.
But of one thing I was sure. The hotel proprietor, a wealthy guest (a Frenchman), a visitor from a convent in Paris, two taxicab drivers, one tram-way conductor, two gendarmes, one fruit-seller, one newsboy, one scrub-girl and a number of others of all classes and ranks knew of Rosae Crucis and either feared or honored the words.
Rosae Crucis was not DEAD in Paris!
I visited the Professor early one morning and found that he was the proprietor of a store whose sole merchandise was rare and beautiful etchings and photographs of the "monuments of France." I will give, to the best of my ability, a fair record of our conversation on August 7th, 1909:
"Are you Professor X?" I spoke in English without realizing that I was speaking to a Frenchman. In fact I naturally feared to venture into French with my extremely limited knowledge of it, and during my stay in Paris had found many who spoke English fairly well.
"I am, sir," he replied with a very profuse courtesy. "And I presume that you are an--an American? I speak English well--it being one of my delights--and I am happy to address you in your own tongue. What is your pleasure?"
"I have been directed to you," I answered, "and wrote you a letter that I would call sometime this week. I am a total stranger to you, my home being in New York City. I do not know just how you can assist me, but I have come with one question to ask which may lead to others."
"I understand your errand, sir, and was informed of your desires by Mons. le editeur of the ----, some weeks ago. I await your questions."
He ushered me into a small office partitioned at the rear of his store. As I walked the length of the store I noticed that the walls were banked from floor to ceiling with beautiful mahogany and glass cases within which hung very beautiful etchings, fine photographs and an occasional water-color. There were other cabinets too, with drawers, in which, I afterward learned, were hundreds of similar prints classified as to sections of the country. I recall having ever seen but one other store devoted exclusively to one line of art as was this.
Professor X is a man of fine build and fair height, typically French in his appearance and demeanor. The extreme courtesy, the polished mannerisms, the expressive gestures, the soft voice and the twinkling eye make one love and respect the French gentleman, who is always sincere and always affable. I judged him to be about 45 years of age. His well trimmed beard (trimmed in the usual French style), his ruddy cheeks and dark hair might well hide his true age. His language was well chosen at times, but I recall with what delight he ventured a few phrases of American idioms bordering on the vernacular. There was only a slight indication of French accent when he spoke English, but when he mentioned French names he was captivating with his peculiar vocal tones.
"And why do you seek to know a Brother of the Rosey Croix?" he asked as we seated ourselves in his very old-fashioned office.
"Because I want to know if the old Order is still in existence and if it is--" I was lost for words. I could not say that I wanted to become a member. One could not bluntly ask such a privilege in the presence of a man like Professor X.
"And that is your only excuse for coming to Paris, for coming here? Is it what you call, a curiosity?"
"Ah, no, Professor," I began, feeling that I had wrongly expressed myself and had done an injustice to my real motives. "I am not acting out of idle curiosity at least. I want to know because I want, some day, to be one of them, if I may." There, the secret was out, I thought. Surely I was being frank.
"But why, my friend? You want to be one of them? One of whom? Of the Brothers? You WANT to be? You ask as a demand? You neither pray nor beg, but demand! You are not acquainted with the Order, with any Brother, yet you demand to be one of them, of the Order!"
There was no attempt to make me feel that I was in an awkward position, or that I was impertinent. His remarks were made kindly, but pointedly.
"But, Professor," I began again, "I only want--desire--to learn how I may proceed if I am ever to have my fond hopes realized. I make no demand now for admission into the Order; I ask for no rare privilege or honor at this time. I come to you only as a seeker for knowledge--for light."
As I went on with my speech a more kindly expression came to his face and it was only as the last two words were literally forced out of my consciousness by some strange power, that I saw the barrier between us drop. Those two words--FOR LIGHT, were like the magic words of old. It occurred to me as I said them that I was merely using words which others had used as a symbolical way of expressing a desire for Eastern knowledge. But the years which have passed since then have shown me that I could not have used a better symbol nor more appropriate words. Light! The key to Rosaecrucianism--the pass-word to the secret realms.
"Then, my good friend, if you seek Light," he went on, "you must first show that you deserve light. We were born in darkness and some of us must ever live in darkness on this plane and in this existence. The Light cannot come to all. The brilliancy, the fire, the heat, the illusion of Light may blind some and lead others to destruction. You must be sure that you deserve Light and you can deserve only in proportion to your reason for desiring."
"It is my great desire, Sir, to learn the laws, the secrets, the great principles of Rosaecrucianism that I may assist in giving them to those who may deserve, and to help mankind. I have no selfish motive whatever. I seek not for myself--but for others through me. For years I have read and studied on similar lines of thought. I have edited several philosophical magazines, I have written for many others. I have taught in a philosophical school. I have received recognition from one of your French Academies for my philosophical writings. I love the work. It is my religion. And I have gained some reputation in America as a student of the occult and a lecturer and writer. That is why I am anxious to go further and do more."
"And you come to me, Sir," he rejoined very quickly, "without other credentials than your worldly reputation and accomplishments. You have had worldly honors bestowed upon you. You have a college degree. You have been recognized by a French Academy. Your name is well-known in American occult journalism and on American lecture platforms. All worldly honors. What of yourself--your real self, your inner self. How has that spoken? How has that developed? Speak of your soul, your--, well I cannot say to you what I might say to another."
"I have some other papers, here," I said as I opened my wallet. "They concern my worldly affairs I suppose, but throw some little light on my life work which fairly represents my aims and ideals in life. But of my soul, of my inner-self, I know not how to speak. I,--"
"And you have there your business card," he said, as I drew one from my wallet. "That is typically American, or rather of the United States citizen. His card he considers as his passport, his letter of introduction, his letter of credit, his pass-word into society, his admission into heaven and his key to all that he desires. Yet I believe they can be printed for a few francs per hundred."
He did not offer to look at my card, and, abashed at his remarks, I returned it to my wallet. There were other papers there of considerable interest to me. They--with my card--had served me well in worldly matters, but I felt instinctively, that they were of no value now. Certainly not to the Professor. So I closed my wallet and made to place it in my pocket. He detained my arm in its movement, and looking significantly at me said:
"And have you not a paper there which does not resemble the others?"
I thought a moment--and I seemed to discern his meaning; for the strange light in his eyes was unmistakable. It meant that I did have--that I could take from my wallet that which he fully expected to receive. What was it? I thought rapidly--it seemed like a resume of my whole life and all that had ever been given to me. But, in a flash, one thing stood out before me--the square piece of paper which the foreigner had given me on the steamer.
"I have this," I replied, as I drew it from the wallet. "It is only an address, and a few lines of other writing," I added as I noticed for the first time that the writing below the name and address was in the form of a sentence. "Perhaps this is what YOU mean." I could not help impressing him with the fact that I had noticed his evident reference to some particular paper.
"Yes, this is what I sought. It means little to you--perhaps little to me. It will mean a great deal to others at some time. I merely suggest that you preserve it, keep it always at hand and show it only when you are INDIRECTLY asked to do so. If you will call to see me again on Monday morning--about noon--I will be very glad to answer the one question for you. It is a beautiful day. I trust you had a very pleasant trip across the sea. Do you like our Paris?"
Merely questions to let me know that my interview was at an end. I arose, shook hands with him cordially, was led to the door and out into the street. As I walked away from his store and came to the wall surrounding the Seine I saw that just below, a block away, there was a bridge; and before me came the picture that I had noticed on the wall of the Professor's store. It was of an old Monk in blackest robes, leading a child across a similar bridge. The waters of the Seine, now quiet and glistening with the bright sunlight, seemed to accentuate the fact that in the picture the water was turbulent, threatening. Was I being led across a bridge that would take me over the turbulent waters? I wondered! Or would it prove to be a "Bridge of Sighs"? Little did I know then that sighs there would be, and tears and heartaches. But oh, so glorious!
*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
Monday morning I prepared for my second visit. Traveling around Paris without a guide, and without a good knowledge of French, is very much like making one's way out of a crystal maze. The funny little taxi-cabs await you at every corner--ready to take you anywhere. But when you cannot make the driver understand where you want to go, it is very unpleasant. I had to resort to writing all names and addresses on a pad, and I likened myself to the deaf-and-dumb who must resort to this means of expression.
I reached the Professor's store promptly at noon. I was careful to be prompt. I felt that I had incurred sufficient criticism and that my conduct was under observation. I did not know that in reality I was being closely watched. The temptations of Paris are many. Most of the men I met on the steamer had plans well made for seeing "Paris by night." It is the usual way for Americans to see Paris. Such things, however, did not appeal to me and I had no concern of my moral conduct in Paris. Had I acceded to the requests of many I met, or joined with those from my country who were going to see the real Paris, I know that I should have not only regretted my conduct, but have suffered the defeat of my fondest hopes.
The Professor did not meet me in the store, but called to me from his office to come there and be seated. He closed the door behind me, this time, making us isolated from those who were in the store.
"What is the question you wish me to answer," he asked, now in a very business-like manner.
"What shall I do," I began timidly and slowly; for I was weighing very carefully every word I spoke, knowing full well that it must represent my desires and yet be in the form of a plea. "What shall I do to learn how and where I may be considered an applicant for admission into your sacred Order?"
Had I spoken well? Was I too bold? Many questions came to my mind before he answered. I waited--and thought. Would he again criticise my words? Would he refuse an answer? It seemed hours that he gazed at me and pierced my very soul with his eyes. But it could not have been more than a minute before he spoke.
"You shall travel some distance and then inquire for further directions. At the final end of your journey you shall begin again. Always go as you are directed, but keep your counsel!"
"Thank you, Sir," is all I could say. In my heart I fear I thought otherwise than my words indicated, for he suddenly pointed his finger at me and fairly shook my body with the strong vibrations that came from his mind and soul.
"Formality! Form! Conventionality!--that's Americanism! It's not Rosaecrucianism. You say 'Thank you' because it is the custom to say it. In your heart you feel differently. Unless you speak as you feel, unless you break down the barriers of form and custom and become natural, you can never make the journey. You must become a humble soul groping for Light. Your credentials count for naught. It is not what you have been in the past in your worldly affairs that will assist you, but what you become now, from this moment on. Let your pride, your self-esteem, your spirit rise, and the darkness will engulf you. Cast away your precious reputation--it is character alone that makes the true seeker for Light! Away with your worldly self--be a man as God made you--just one of His humble souls praying for guidance, crying aloud for help, and ever conscious of your ignorance, your weakness and your oneness with all men!
"What is your birth day? your birth year? and your birth hour?
"And what is your correct name? your American address? and your family connections?"
To these I gave response in a most crushed and humiliated spirit. I began to feel that, after all, I was a most humble, weak, ignorant soul in the presence of one who could plainly see the real self in me. He did not impress me with superiority, as the cold words on this paper would seem to indicate. I felt that he meant that I should understand that he too was just what he said I should know I was.
"And now, if you find it convenient," he began again, using those same words that I had seen before my eyes so many times in America, "to visit the South of France, and can take the 7:10 train for Avignon on Tuesday evening, you will find further instructions at your destination. This is all the advice I may give you now. May Peace be with you. I shall be glad to see you sometime again--if you return to Paris."
He extended his hand. There was a significant pause before he spoke those words so slowly--"if you return to Paris." Was there any doubt of it? Could something detain me so that I might not come back to Paris? Was he trying to frighten me, or test me, to see if I would be discouraged in taking the trip?
"Before you go, I would like to show you just one of my pictures," he said, as he slid back one of the glass doors of a cabinet.
Art had always interested me and I wondered why it was that I had not shown some interest in the etchings that hung around me on all sides. I was surely obsessed with my errand not to have become interested in art so rare as this.
"Among the many beautiful sights you may see while in this country is this one. You see here only a material representation of a spiritual place. This old tower--a very old building--is one of the truly great French monuments. Some day you may see this tower, then remember that I have called your attention to it. I believe that you will always cherish a view of it--and this is a very excellent piece of art work."
And so I passed out again into the street and over to the old wall around the Seine where booksellers were closing up their stands and peddlers of students' art-work were offering crude sketches of various kinds. I might have spent hours there--in the realm of bliss that I often sought in America. Old books and old prints, enticing indeed at other times, but now as passable as the signboard which announced that a few days hence there would be a water carnival and feature events at St. Cloud. I could only think of Avignon--and the old tower.
I made my train. Making the train in the great P. L. M. R. R. station is a difficult feat. You buy tickets--a folder or book containing many pages, some of which are tickets and others having printed thereon important instructions. Not being able to correctly read the instructions you find that about every other move you make in getting to your train is an error or a violation of some law. You buy first-class tickets and then have the privilege of riding any class you like--or being left behind in the maze of trains, platforms and doorways. Your tickets are examined as you enter the station and never on the train. You are not quite sure whether you are on the right train or not and you simply give up to the law of averages and trust that you will reach where you expected to go. Of course, this is only an American viewpoint. Perhaps the French are quite satisfied with their railway system.
Seating myself in one of the compartments of the train I awaited its departure. It was to be an all-night ride and sleepers were not available. For a little extra charge one secured a cleanly covered pillow and with this one could rest by lounging in the lace-bedecked seats. The movement of the train was preceded by the ringing of a bell and the blowing of one of those funny shrill whistles with which the French trains are equipped.
There were several other passengers in the same compartment--designed to comfortably seat eight persons. On one side was a door leading to the step which runs on the outside of the train, and on the opposite side was a similar door leading to a narrow hallway which ran the full length of the train. This hallway was really a sort of observation place, for its outer side was lined with glass.
The country through which the train would pass (I had secured a map of my journey) was new to me and promised to be replete with interesting sights. As soon as we left the environs of Paris I strolled up and down the narrow hallway watching the sun setting in the West beyond the beautiful hills and plains. The trains in France run on left side tracks going south instead of on the right side as in America, and occasionally my view was blocked by trains standing on the other track.
The train I was on was one of the very rapid expresses. It covered a great distance in that short ride--from evening until morning. I compared it to our American expresses and could not help smiling at the thought that though the speed was the same--perhaps even greater--the cars were so lightly built, so short and so oddly shaped that they trailed behind the small, but powerful engine much like a child's train of cars trails behind the little engine on tin tracks on the floor. As we sped on our cars rocked from side to side, trembled and jerked, threatening to leave the tracks at any moment. But they did not. I understand they seldom do. Standing in the hallways was difficult--but the scenes were so interesting that one forgot about the difficulty.
I saw hills topped with beautiful castles and occasionally a ruin. I saw plains with verdure so green it seemed like a painting. The colors of all nature seemed more vivid--even in the setting sun--that I realized why pictures of the Orient are always so vividly colored. The nearer the Mediterranean we traveled the more beautiful the coloring of sky, water, rocks, grass, buildings and trees.
We were approaching Lyons. It was somewhere after 11 o'clock and I was fatigued when I was suddenly brought face to face with my errand. I had been looking at my map by the weak light. I was examining the environs of Lyons. Beautiful Lyons! I knew that Rosaecrucianism had at one time flourished there. I knew also that the early Protestant churches were organized there. I also knew that it was an old, old city. As I looked at my map the lines and words faded away and I saw developing there a strange picture of ancient Temples with a procession of white garbed men and women entering through the gates of one of the largest Temples. I could almost hear the chants and chimes. I was lost in the scene, enraptured by it. And then in a deep, sonorous voice I heard the words: "The Annual Conclave at Lyons,--are YOU going there?"
I feared to look around; I feared to take my eyes from the paper. I had learned from past experiences that when the mind sees and hears, distraction often wipes it all away. Why look away from the point of concentration, which was yielding so much, for an objective glimpse of that which could yield nothing, now that the sun had set? But I seemed to feel the presence of some one--a strange presence--an almost recognizable presence, and I did look up from my map to gaze right into the smiling countenance of--my foreign friend from the steamer.
"O, you, why, I was just studying the map. I see we reach Lyons," I said, certainly with no denial of my surprise. "I am not going to Lyons, now, but I may stop there sometime. I am going to Avignon and there I will meet--" ... I stopped. Meet whom? Where was I really going? I had left Paris with so much certainty that I would meet someone and all would be well, that I had forgotten that I did not even know the someone.
"No, you will not meet any one at Avignon. You will not even leave the train at Avignon. In fact, I will meet you again for breakfast at Tarascon and then I shall tell you when and where you will leave this train. In the meantime, join me in one of these Persian cigarettes; I know it will be a treat, for they are not sold in America."
And so we spent part of the night talking as we had on the steamer. He was absolutely non-committal. I discovered--but surely he was just clever in permitting me to discover--that he was a Persian, and not an East Indian. I also discovered that he lived in Egypt most of the time and made yearly visits to his Madame on the Banks of the Hudson where she maintained her American villa and directed her American charitable work. He was her confidential agent--and, was he also a confidential agent of others?
"You know, Mr. P., that square paper you gave me with your name and address upon it has served me well. I gave it to a man in Paris--"
"You gave it to a man in Paris?" His tone, his expression, his words, indicated extreme surprise--possibly fear.
"Why, yes; he asked to see some papers and I showed it to him casually. He seemed to be very pleased and advised me to preserve it for--"
"Then you still have it?"
"Yes, most certainly." I assured myself and him by exhibiting it. He was delighted.
"I feared for the moment," he said, half apologetically. "You see, my friend, your words were not well chosen. You said 'I gave it to a man in Paris.' You should have said 'I showed it to a man.' Just a little thing, I grant you. But, may I be permitted to suggest that while in this country and when speaking to a foreigner through an interpreter or otherwise, you use extreme caution and care in the selection of your words? English at best does not always convey the true and exact shades of meaning you desire. When carelessly used, or when the vernacular or American idioms are used, you may do a very great injustice to yourself and your thoughts. In fact--you may bring defeat to your plans. Words create thoughts, you know. And--thoughts mean action."
*   *  *   *   *  *   *   *
At about 6 o'clock Wednesday morning I aroused myself from my uncomfortable position in the compartment and proceeded to view again the beautiful scenes. The blinds on the windows of the compartment had been drawn down by those who desired to sleep and the little half-sphere lamp in the ceiling had been covered by its curved shade so that the compartment was dark and none could see that the sun had risen.
I found the train was slowing down to make a stop. I also found my friend approaching me from the other end of the hallway.
"This is Tarascon," he said. We will breakfast here. I hope you rested well last night, for after a little sleep this day, you must prepare for a very active morrow. Let us step out on the platform and make haste. On other trains except this one you would have to 'change cars', as they say in America. But this train goes on in your direction. It is I who must change. I am going to Marseilles and there take the steamer for Alexandria, Egypt. You shall continue on--until you reach--Montpellier."
In this wise was I made acquainted with a number of important facts. He was going to Egypt. I was going to Montpellier--that dear old city of--but, no, I shall not tell those things which are better left out of a public paper like this.
We walked along the unsheltered platform which extended beyond the covered station. The platform was between many tracks. In the centre of it was a long table to which many were making haste. It had upon it cups and saucers, large baskets filled with rolls, and a tank of coffee.
"You see we have not time to eat in the station restaurant. The train will leave any minute. Usually we have fifteen minutes' wait here, but whenever a train is a few minutes late in its running time, it makes it up by shortening its stop at these junctions."
We actually pushed our way to the table and grabbed at the cups and had them filled and then grabbed again for a roll, much like we see women engaged in securing what they want at a typical New York bargain counter. The cups were covered with cinders from the soft coal of the engines--one of the very annoying features of French railway traveling. We had time to take a few mouthfuls of coffee and a bite or two of the rolls, when the whistle of the engine blew. He dropped his cup and saucer and warned me to make haste to my compartment. As I started to leave him--forgetting our separation at this point--he said:
"Adieu, my friend. At Montpellier proceed to the Hotel Metropole and retire to your room. Someone will call to see you. Watch for him to make this sign. Then follow his instructions. Be sure to take a good sleep between 9 and 12 this morning. I may see you again--sometime. Peace be with you and if ever you wish to send me a thought, or call me to mind, hold before you that square paper and pronounce slowly the last word."
And--he was off! I saw him pass through the crowds into the station and out of sight. I have never seen his actual material form since then. But--I do see him often--and talk to him. My good old friend. He has grown to be a dearer friend, for day by day I discover the value of what he did for me in those days. I trust he reads this--and finds in it evidence of my sincere appreciation.
As my train moved on and passed by the coffee-table, I saw the proprietor pouring back into the coffee-tank the undrained portions of coffee left in the cups by those who had to retreat hastily. The coffee was unsweetened and without milk--and I understand it is sold over and over again during a morning. All pay before being served, and then take chances on even drinking more than a mouthful of the black fluid. The rolls too were being selected--the whole ones finding their places again in the basket.
The journey from Tarascon is replete with beautiful scenes. The train travels to the southwest and crosses through that part of France which was at one time the stage of great religious wars, of Troubadors' songs and the early advancement in all the arts. Looking out of the car window one sees at times great stretches of green fields from which the grapes are taken for the many wines. Winding through these plains of green are the public roads so white that they look like a map drawn with white chalk on a green dais. In the distance are hills, usually surmounted with white or gray castles or walled cities. Then the scene will change and show a small river across which extends an old Roman bridge, or towers and walls in ruins lining its shores. As the train approaches a city or town one will notice on its outskirts many very old buildings, which the guide-book correctly points out as having at one time played an important part in the affairs of the nation. The coloring in every direction is superb. The feeling is one of peace and contentment. The atmosphere is soft, mild, invigorating and enticing. Those you meet are cordial, plain, wholesome and sincere. The South of France is a charming place to live--that is, to live spiritually and honestly.
Then--Montpellier. I have not the time to speak of my wanderings there. Sleep? I recall the words of my kind advisor and I recalled them then. But who can sleep in Montpellier the first day you see it? The sun was very warm, so warm indeed that all the buildings--even the stores--had their shutters closely drawn. The city seemed lifeless. The buildings as well as the sidewalks were made of that beautiful, soft, white stone which is so abundant in that part of the country. When the sun shines upon it it is as white as snow. They have a dry-spell for many months in that part of the country, and this was its time. The fields were well irrigated, but the city streets were so dry that carriages and automobiles threw into the air the white powder and it had decorated the green trees, fences and other wooden structures with a sprinkling of white.
The hotel to which I was directed was the most modern in that part of the country; and I found that the proprietor could speak English--a rare talent in that part of France. I retired to my room and waited. A note was delivered to me to call at the fountain--"The Chateau of Water." If it were possible I should like to reproduce in these pages a photograph of that spot. A high tower set upon a broad base, approached by stone stairs, much like Grant's Tomb in New York. It overlooked a small lake and in every respect it had the resemblance of an ancient work of art, which it was.
I seated myself at its side and waited--for what? Have you ever waited and knew not what you were waiting for? I remember well that as I sat there I tried to look at myself as a passerby might do. There I was, a young man from New York City with no more actual business there than a mere wanderer on the face of the earth. I looked at my blue suit, my tan shoes, my New York straw hat, my camera at my side, my watch and chain; all were things from America and I seemed to be sitting on one of the benches at Riverside Drive along the Hudson viewing the private yachts at anchor. Why was I there? My family at home--my business interests far away, my friends busy at their daily tasks--I began to feel lonesome. If I could only hear from home--but none knew my address. None knew exactly when I would return--or if ever I would. And what was my quest? A mere fantasy? I was seeking that of which I knew so little. Men had traveled far for gold. Many had gone great distances for that which was known to exist. But I--I only believed there was something somewhere that I wanted. I was a seeker for Light. For Light! Again those words came to me. How my friends--many of them perhaps--would smile at my answer if they could see me there at the Chateau of Water, replying that I left all behind, left family and home, friends and business, all that was dear, and had come to France, to its South, to an unknown place to see unknown persons--for Light! I was giving a great price--and all for faith.
I was lost in retrospection for perhaps thirty minutes when a young man passed by with a basket. He was a delivery clerk it seemed, but I judged him to be of better position in life for his face showed refinement. His clothes, made to look like those of a peasant, impressed me as being part of a stage costume. And he approached me by turning about in his walk. He came directly in front of me and, making a sign that I recognized, I arose. He waited until I gave every evidence of having seen his very unconscious sign. Then he handed me a paper upon which was written in English (with French penmanship): "When you have an opportunity to drink a glass of fresh milk, permit the woman to serve you."
I realize how oddly this reads now--especially to the average mind. But associate it with all that had occurred, put yourself in my place, and you will believe as I did, that it was meant symbolically. The young man walked away without saying a word. I walked toward my hotel. Was this to be all for the day, or what?
Walking along the street or boulevard which was overhung with beautiful trees, I stopped again to rest in the shade. I seemed to be transplanted to the Mall in Central Park.
Soon I was conscious of a most weird form of calling. I cannot (and if I could, I would not) give you the odd vowel sounds that some one was chanting. It seemed to be a feminine voice in the distance. Soon there came within my vision an old woman driving a cow. The cow was pulling a two-wheel something upon which rested a small can of water and a little shelf. There was on the shelf a number of glasses. As she came toward me singing the odd vowels she glanced toward me and held up a glass. I sat so still, amused at the sight of the poor old cow who had to not only furnish the milk but carry the glasses and water as well, that the woman was about to pass on without giving me any more attention.
Realizing, suddenly, that I was to have a drink of milk when it was offered to me, I called to the woman, who drove the cow to my seat. She milked the cow before me and offered me the warm milk in the glass she had cleaned in the can of water. Not one word passed between us. Then I offered to pay. I handed her a franc. She passed the change to me--and was about to pass on without a sign or word of recognition. What did it mean? Then I spoke.
"Pardon," I said with a slight French accent. She turned about so quickly and alarmed, that I saw she was surprised. She had recognized a foreign accent--an American accent--in that one word. She looked at me critically from head to foot, slowly withdrew from the folds of her dress a wallet from which she took a folded paper, passed it to me, and went on her way.
Surely there was considerable mysticism about this affair. I thought of the melodramas I had seen as a boy, of some detective stories, of weird tales. When would the surprising features of the adventure end? And, if you, my reader, think that I am injecting too many questions in this little historical story, pray think of the thousand and one questions which were constantly coming to my mind. As I look back on it now, my adventure was one of questions. And all these mysterious elements were designed to tax my patience, to discourage me, to tempt me to be rash in some way. My sincerity was being tried.
The folded paper bore this message in English: "Journey to-night to Toulouse. Register at the 'Grand Hotel Tivolier'. Visit the Gallery of the Illustrious at 10 A. M. Thursday morning and meet Mons. ----, the eminent Photographer. Prepare to remain at the Hotel one week. Communicate with no one but your relatives and say nothing of your plans. Communicate with Mr. ----, from Chicago, who is editor now of the Toulouse ---- (a newspaper). Peace!"
"My," I thought, "but whoever issues these instructions knows many people that I may know and is absolutely unconcerned as to the costs which are involved in moving about. It is very kind to direct me here and there, with no promise of meeting or seeing anything or anyone but an 'eminent photographer' and a newspaper editor."
Would you not have soliloquized in the same manner? I was about to complete a journey half-way around the country of France--and for what? Hope! That was all.
Wednesday afternoon found me again in the train en route to Toulouse. The country through which I passed was beautiful. At some other time I hope to be able to describe to my readers--my Brothers and Sisters--the many wonderful sights I saw. But just now I will try to keep pace with the rapidly moving train and take you to Toulouse without a stop.
Toulouse, you know, is one of the very old cities of France. It is on the banks of the Garonne--the river down which the Norsemen sailed to make their attacks on Toulouse and the South of France.
I did as I was instructed and found that the Grand Hotel Tivolier was a very large and exclusive place--really grand and elaborate in its appointments. Approaching it I found that many of the streets of the city were very old despite the many changes. The original wall which surrounded the city has been leveled to its foundation and the city has spread beyond these limits. In passing through some of the streets the foundation of the old wall is plainly seen between the cobblestones of the street, and one walks over this wall on the way to the Grand Hotel Tivolier.
I found that at this hotel arrived, early every evening, a great many English and American automobile parties, touring through France to Spain. They stop here over night. Their automobiles are well taken care of, their trunks automatically delivered from the garage to the guests' rooms, and all of the parties "clean up" for the long course dinner which begins at 8 and ends at 11. The principal amusement in Toulouse for these tourists is to dine well and sleep well. Consequently the dining-room--a beautiful "Hall" as they call it--was well crowded at night, and absolutely empty in the morning when I, American fashion, would go there to breakfast. The Tourists were always up and off and on their way South at sunrise.
It was not strange--and it was certainly a pleasure--to meet so many English speaking people, and a few Americans, in Toulouse. But to none of them did I tell my business. It was tempting, at times, to speak of some of the strange things which occurred, but I resisted all such temptations,--for FAITH.
I visited the "Hall of the Illustrious" as instructed. It is a public building, but admission is by special ticket. It was built by architects and builders who donated their work. Inside the decorations, the rare mural work, the carvings, the statuary and the wonderful paintings were likewise donated. It is the one aim of every great artist of the South of France to some day be worthy--in his line--of donating a masterpiece to this "Hall of the Illustrious." And some there are who have spent the greater part of their life-time in producing just one panel in oils on one of the walls of that Hall. Such is the pride they take in their art.
The art in the South of France is distinctly different from the work in Paris. Parisian art is usually vulgar. I saw little nudity, but rather spirituality, in the work in the South. They informed me that the artists in the South never have a figure undraped unless it is necessary to tell the story being depicted. How different from Paris and the North. There, it seems, the undraped figure is painted--and some sort of title or story is concocted to fit the picture. It's merely a difference of view-point; a difference of the wholesomeness of the mind.
The art work in the "Hall of the Illustrious" has never been photographed for public reproduction, has never been copied on Post-cards and sold, and a camera is always forbidden. But, because two of the masterpieces in that Hall interested me (being strictly Rosaecrucian and of interest to all Rosaecrucians who may never visit that gallery) I was able to secure permission from the very highest officials, even the Mayor of Toulouse, to have a photographer copy the two pieces of work for me. Some day the only copies in the world, perhaps, will adorn the Rosae Crucis Supreme Grand Lodge Library.
But I must not forget my errand. Ah, yes, Mons. the photographer! He was there. He watched me, probably knowing who I was by the difference in clothing and general appearance. But I did not know him until I saw that some strange sign which the young man had given me in Montpellier. Then I approached him.
"Pardon, Monsieur," I said, "but I believe I am addressing a gentleman who has some information for one who is seeking Light." That seemed to be a very proper way of addressing him.
His reply was in French--and I could understand but one word,--"yes." Seeing my embarrassment, he took from his pocket a paper and with a pencil he wrote some few words and handed it to me to read. I can read more French than I can speak. In fact that is not the proper comparison. I can read about one hundred French words--and can speak only three or four. What he wrote, however, said:
"Why did you so study that one painting in the alcove?" I was disappointed at what I read. At first I thought it was a statement. It was only the question mark that enabled me to realize--with my limited knowledge of French--that it was a question. And, such a question after all the expectations.
"Because, Monsieur," I said, "it seems so beautiful, so wonderful and expresses what I believe. I see in it a very mysterious meaning, a symbol of--"
He was smiling. He could not understand what I was saying, and I was going along rapidly, enthusiastically, as I recalled the deep impression the painting had made.
Then he wrote again on the paper: "I understand, I appreciate." Putting the paper away he gave me a piece of paper bearing an address. He motioned with his hands that I was to go there--and walk. That was all I could understand from his gestures. I looked at the address; it was only the name of a boulevard. I was to walk along that boulevard. Then he bowed himself away and I was alone again.
Returning to my hotel I sent a messenger with a note to the editor from Chicago. I saw a copy of his paper on the reading-room table and analyzed it keenly. He was trying to introduce American journalism in the South of France. On the front page was the statement that the train on which my foreign friend had journeyed from Tarascon to Marseilles had been wrecked and completely burned. It said nothing of the loss of any life, and I was greatly concerned for my friend.
I told Mr. ---- that I was in Toulouse, and that I would appreciate an interview with him and would await his advice. That was all. I was at least discreet.
Then I went to the boulevard. I would like to say its name--but that would be saying quite too much since I am submitting with this story some sketches. Together, the name of the boulevard and the sketch would tell a story I cannot tell so publicly.
I rode in a carriage. They have trolley-cars in Toulouse far superior to any in Paris or even America; but none would take me along the boulevard. I rode perhaps a mile before I realized that I must watch for something. Surely there was a reason for this little jaunt. So I kept a careful search of all persons, places and things. I rode another mile. I was out of the heart of the city and was going in a different direction. I was, in fact, practically skirting the city. I saw old churches, old buildings, some old Roman Bridges across the Garonne, some ruined places--and then--ah, at last, the Old Tower.
There, before me, was the actual Tower itself, the one I had seen in the picture at the Professor's store in Paris. I notified the driver to stop, I paid and dismissed him. And, in rapture and doubt, I stood before that Old Tower (known to Rosaecrucians as "The Dongeon") for many minutes with a feeling in my heart that, somehow, this was the goal. My search was ended. So, I have taken the privilege of reproducing with this story the first picture of that sacred old place that has ever come to America.
I will be more brief now. I do not want to tire you with details. You, like myself, are anxious to see the end,--to know the outcome of this search for Light.
So I approached the Old Tower,--not without some misgivings, but certainly as bravely and boldly as I have approached many less weird looking places.
At the Old Tower door I knocked. Then I discovered a bell-cord and pulled it. I heard it ringing somewhere in the depths of that old structure, which seemed to have been built a thousand years ago. In fact it was.
As the ringing died away a question came to my mind. What should I say if I received any response? I trust that my reader will picture me--or picture yourself--standing before the heavy wooden, iron-bound, rusty, worm-eaten door, the stones in front of which were stained with green and between which moss and grass were growing. Whose place this was, what it was, prison, jail, home of a madman, or what, I did not know. Yet I was asking for admittance.
Finally I heard a cracking sound and noticed the door open a little way. I waited. It was very dark within and there was no sign of life. Then I pushed the door open wide and found an old--but not dusty--stairway in front of me. I stepped in and actually closed the heavy door behind me tightly, and heard the lock tumble into place. I was really locking myself in--and fearlessly doing it.
From up-stairs came a sound of something being moved. All sounds seemed to echo in the building. There was a great opening above the first flight and from there on upward the stairway was circular and each floor consisted of a gallery surrounding the stairway. The galleries were not more than 8 feet wide--and very dark.
I gazed upward through the opening and shouted "Hello." Not very appropriate, I grant you. It was the "telephone habit" manifesting itself on impulse, I suppose. But it brought forth a soft but distinct "Entre, entre," from an upper floor.
I immediately began my ascent. I saw then that the stairs were made of stone, as were the floors. The edges of the steps were deeply worn--I should judge that wear had cut into each stone to the depth of three inches at the deepest part of the curve. The walls too, were of gray stone, the plaster or cement between the stones being gone in many places, and a mouldy odor pervaded the atmosphere. As I ascended I found that the upper galleries were lighter and I could distinguish shelves against the walls, filled with old books.
At last I reached the upper floor to find that it was a square room with a glass roof and a number of small windows. There were some bookcases about the walls stacked with very old and very rare books. There were two tables--crudely made and very old. There were also about twenty old chairs--each being a rare piece of antique furniture--and an old desk littered with manuscripts, several sealing outfits, candle, sealing wax, matches, some chemicals, a quill pen, ink and--some horoscopical maps.
I was greeted by an old man. I say old, because he had a very long gray beard and pure white hair hanging to his shoulders and slightly curled. He stood erect, however, with broad shoulders, a good figure, bright snappy brown eyes and full rosy checks. His voice was soft, his actions spry and his dress a white mantle of good linen embroidered with some symbols then unknown to me but now known to many who read this story.
I addressed him in English: "I have intruded, sir," I began, "first because I believe this building to be of interest to me, and secondly because you bid me enter. I am searching for some rare information and perhaps you can tell me something of that which I seek,--especially since you are interested in astrology." I said this last pointing to his desk and the maps upon it.
To my surprise he answered in English, but brokenly and with a deep, French accent.
"You have come here, my young friend, not by intrusion. You know astrology; you know 'arcs of direction.' Your coming here was by direction. See, I have there on my desk, your horoscope. I have expected you,--for there is a letter addressed to you. I know your purpose, for the contents of that letter is an answer to your question. But be seated. I have many things to show you and to explain.
"You have earnestly sought the Rose Croix Order. You wish to enter the sacred brotherhood. Your wish may be granted--but what then? You will help in the great work? You will spread the work to your land? You wish for a Herculean task! I admire your courage, your bravery and your determination.
"You have been well spoken of by those who have met you. You are surprised. Did not ---- meet you on the steamer and direct you? His reports are there on my desk. Did not Professor ---- meet you in Paris and examine you? He sent me his report and your birthdate which you will find I have changed by two minutes. You were watched by those who observed your movements in Paris by day and by night. I have their reports. You were watched in Montpellier, and again in this city. Four of our Brothers have seen you and have had an opportunity to look into your eyes and report to me. Monsieur ---- the photographer made the final decision this very day. You shall now meet our beloved Grand Master and Imperator in his Holy Temple.
"But before you leave here--and you will not again return to this place--I wish to show you the accurate records we preserve. I am the Grand Archivist. Here you will see the records of our Brothers and Sisters since the Order was established in this country. Nothing is ever lost to our records--not even the thumb prints of our members. Here your letters will be filed, your reports, your grants, your degrees and your work. The all-seeing eye, the all knowing mind, receives--and here it shall be recorded for all time."
I spent an hour examining some rare hand-made, hand-illuminated books. I saw one book--made in the time of Christ, recording His work for the Order,--containing a sketch in water colors of the true Christ and other sketches of incidents of His life. The book was bound with wood and iron, had iron hinges and an iron lock--all greatly rusted. I saw articles from Egypt, from various pyramids and Temples. I saw rare relics from Jerusalem and other countries. And--I saw the last Oath of the Order made by Lafayette before he came to America,--the first Rosaecrucian from France to come here. May his name ever remain sacred to the Order in America.
And then--I departed with more DIRECTIONS.
I met the editor at his office. It adjoined a very old building near the Post Office. He welcomed me and explained that some day he would meet me in America and join with me in the good work. What else he said I cannot repeat here.
In the afternoon--about 3 o'clock--I engaged a taxi-cab automobile, and, giving the driver a written address I was surprised to see him turn his automobile and myself over to another driver whose car was close at hand. This driver seemed very courteous, while a number of the other drivers stood and gazed at me in perplexity. I seemed to be a curiosity. And they whispered together in an annoying manner.
I was driven for a mile or more to the city gates and then through them along the banks of a creek toward the old city of Tolosa. Tolosa was the original Roman city of Toulouse and is in ruins to-day. The ride was exhilarating and interesting. At least we reached a great estate which was within a wall. We approached the gateway. Beyond the gate there were fields of flowers and beautiful lawns. To the left of the estate was a hill topped by a walled chateau. Within the estate were several old buildings, one of which was square in shape.
We approached this old building and were met at its entrance by a young man in semi-military uniform. He saluted the driver knowingly--shook hands with him in a very brotherly fashion. Then I was asked for a card or letter--all by gesture. I handed the letter addressed by the old Archivist to the young man and after reading it he greeted me very cordially and ushered me into a very large reception room.
The building was very odd as well as old. It was made of stone inside and out,--but the stones were badly worn. It seemed as though the building might fall in, or collapse, from age. After a few moments' pause, I was confronted by an elderly woman who bowed to me, offered her hand and led me to an upper floor where I was again formally ushered into a small reception room. Then I was handed some typewritten instructions addressed to me in person.
These instructions informed me that I was to meet the Officers of the Grand Lodge at sunset (fully three hours later) and that in the meantime I should rest and study the instructions contained therein. I cannot give these instructions, and they would be of little help to the uninitiated and of no interest to the initiated who has already gone through the same preparation.
And so I read and--yawned from fatigue. I read again--and relaxed. I read a little longer--and yawned once more--and fell asleep on the old divan in that upper stone room of that old, cold, mysterious building known throughout all of France as the Grand Temple.
Later that night I was initiated into the Order Rosae Crucis. I Crossed the Threshold in the Old Lodge in that very old building. I met the many Officers, I took the solemn pledges, I received the great blessing and was made a Brother of the Order as the witching hour of midnight was struck by the old chimes in the tower of the building.
I had found the Light--and it had illumined me as I faced the Rosae Crucis.
I remained in Toulouse one week as directed. During that time I attended a great number of lectures, demonstrations, experiments and private classes. I was shown much, told a great deal more and given a very considerable amount of matter in the form of hieroglyphic manuscript to take away with me to study for a year or more.
I would like to speak of the many beautiful details of my stay in Toulouse, of the many ceremonies and ritualistic convocations, but, of course, I cannot.
I attended the Monthly Convocation of the Illuminati in another old building along the banks of the Garonne. The building proper, illustrated in this article, was constructed of stones brought from various parts of Egypt, Spain and Italy from buildings, Temples and Pyramids now in ruins. The illustration shows one corner of this building and one can plainly see the odd manner in which these stones of various colors, qualities and sizes, have been grouped. The cornerstone, bearing appropriate lettering, was brought from EL AMARNA where our Great Master once had his home.
The upper part of this building, and its courts, are used as a Rosaecrucian Monastery. In the cellar is the old Rosaecrucian Grotto where the Illuminati hold their convocations. It has an arched ceiling and walls made of very old gray stones, some of them damp, and between the stones one can see moisture and moss. It is heated with a large open fireplace, and the only light comes from candles and torches. There is an altar in this Grotto wonderfully carved from a rare Egyptian wood. There is a story that one time Martin Luther found refuge in a Temple in which this altar stood in Germany, and his initials are marked on one of the panels. There are many other marks on the carving which plainly show the effects of the various religious wars in the South of France when the several Temples in which this Altar stood were burned,--one of them having been used as a stable for horses by the soldiers.
On the day I left Toulouse I was given certain papers and documents to enable me to proceed with the spreading of the Light in "America." The following is the substance of the last words I heard delivered to me by The Most Worshipful Grand Master of France, Mons. L----:
"Brother, these papers appoint you as a Legate of this Order for your country. Your duty and privileges are well defined. The documents you have--and the few jewels I now hand to you,--will enable you to proceed at the time and in the manner indicated. When you have made some progress you will meet with a representative from the Order in Egypt who will hand you, under certain conditions, other papers and seals. From time to time there will come to you those whom you will recognize by the signs indicated. They will add to your papers and devices until your working papers and tools are completed. Our archivist will send you under seal, with the protection of the French Government, other papers as soon as you have made the progress which will be reported to us by our Agents. Your semi-annual reports will warrant, or deny, you progress and assistance. The Masters of the world will be glad to administer to your wants and your requirements from time to time; and Peace and Power shall come to America if the dictates of our Order are faithfully fulfilled."
These words, said so sacredly by the dear old soul, subscribed to by the French Supreme Council and accompanied by a most wonderful ovation, still ring in my ears. They were the blessing which the Masters sent to America, and I, in turn, give them to my Brothers and Sisters of the Order Rosae Crucis in the United States. A la Verite,--Fr. 12. Ill. R. F., Profundis.
Webmaster's Note: The above article was published with an illustration, "Sketches from the Author's Notebook".

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