Rosicrucian Writings Online
A Strange ExperienceBy Royle Thurston
[From The Mystic Triangle September 1928]
THERE is one experience in my life which I will never forget, and although I have written of it before, I know that there are so many new members in our Order who have not heard the story that it will bear repeating at this time.
The experience occurred in 1917, while the National Headquarters of the Order were located in a building occupied exclusively by the Order in West 48th Street, New York City. On the second floor of this building were located the reception room and general executive offices, and in the rear of that floor, in an extension to the building, was located the Supreme Lodge. On the upper floors of the building were the editorial rooms, the printing plant, secretarial offices, a lunch-room, and some rest rooms.
One Saturday morning at about eleven o'clock, there came into the reception room of this place a man of foreign appearance, and with very old and very worn foreign clothes. He seemed to be about forty-five years of age, robust with the health of a foreign peasant, fresh from the fields of agriculture, or from the mountains or valleys of rural districts. There was a kindly smile in his eyes, and his lips spoke hesitatingly as he asked: "Is this the office of the Rosicrucian Order?" There was a foreign accent to his speech, and his mannerisms those of an educated or cultured person, despite his clothes. At first appearance, and without hearing him speak, I am sure that our office boy would have decided that he was either a peddler or an emigrant who was seeking his way about the city, and I feel certain that he would have given the slight attention which office boys usually give to persons of this class.
I happened to be passing through the reception room at the time, and so it was to me he addressed his question. I invited him to come over to a corner of the room and be seated, and before I could ask any further questions he proceeded to say:
"I am a foreigner in your city, a stranger in your land, if you please. Having heard of your Lodge here, I came to you to ask a favor. Forgive me if I am intruding, but on Monday morning I will begin some work in your city and until that time I must take care of myself in some way. I am totally without funds, and I ask the privilege of doing some menial work so that I may earn enough to have a few meals and a place to sleep until Monday morning."
I asked him a few questions about himself, and when I asked for his birthdate he significantly stated that he even knew the hour of birth, and that it was eleven a.m. I made a notation of the birth data with the intention of making a hasty horoscope during my rest hours on Sunday, and perhaps finding something about him that would help me in giving him useful information before he started to work on Monday.
I offered to permit him to sleep in one of the rest rooms on the premises, and naturally offered to have him partake of a meal with us. He insisted, however, that he be permitted to earn whatever food or shelter we gave him, and stated that he would prefer to clean, scrub, sweep or dust. He said that he had had no breakfast, and although it was approaching noon-time he said he would not think of eating anything until he had first given some service in exchange.
I realized, of course, that the man's motives were prompted by a beautiful spirit, and since it was Saturday, and the offices would be closed for the afternoon, I suggested that he could do some cleaning if he wished to, and if he wanted to start work before the offices were closed he could begin in the Lodge room or Temple in the rear of the premises where there was no activity at that time of the day. We pointed out to him where the janitor of the premises kept his broom, mops and pail, and then ushered him to the doorway of the Lodge. We noticed that as he approached the Temple and stood upon the threshold, that he hesitated and did not enter. We understood his amazement and seeming embarrassment, for the view of this Egyptian Temple from the threshold was a most picturesque one, and the entire aspect was one unexpected in such a locality, and after having passed through offices that appeared to be no different from the regular offices of any business institution. Not having time to spend with him, I left him at the threshold to proceed in his own way.
About one hour later, at twelve thirty, I went to the Temple to call him to lunch, I found that in that one hour he had mopped the Temple floor and had done his work so completely and neatly that the care taken by him was quite evident. He washed his hands and put on his old coat, and tried to tidy himself for the little meal at the table on the second floor where several of us ate each day. A special lunch had been prepared because of this stranger's presence, and we noticed that he remained very quiet during our few moments of ceremonial blessing preceding the meal, and then entered into the spirit of the occasion in a manner which made all of us realize that the man had seen more prosperous and happy days in his past. His comments were always kindly, softly spoken, and with certain inflections which gave extreme significance to his remarks. I remember that at one moment he broke into a manner of speech that made me believe he would be a good orator. At another moment he almost brought the tears to our eyes and we felt like drawing him closer to us and saying one word: "Brother!"
As the meal progressed, we learned that he came of a wealthy family living in Marseilles, on the coast of the Mediterranean. He said that his father was a wealthy banker and his mother a sweet and learned woman. He admitted after much questioning, without pretense or affectation, that he could speak and write eight or ten languages, including Syrian and Persian. Why he was in the financial position which forced him to seek menial work, and why he wore such old clothes, he did not explain; but permitted us to surmise that he had wandered away from home many years ago, had failed as a soldier of fortune, and by some means had emigrated to America, and after wandering for awhile in New York had succeeded in getting the promise of some menial work beginning on Monday morning.
The Supreme Secretary waited upon him, and served him during the meal, and I recall that this brought forth one strange, insignificant remark. He said: "It is I who should be the servant at the table with the Masters." When the meal was finished, which was all too soon we thought, for the stranger was interesting indeed, and we all felt that there was some problem to be solved before we permitted him to leave us. And yet the hour was close at hand for all of us to leave the premises for the weekend. The stranger insisted, however, upon completing his task in the Temple. He called our attention to the fact that he had not yet dusted every seat, every bench, and every bit of the equipment in that large room. He even asked permission to remain throughout the afternoon and clean the offices in exchange for the privilege of sleeping in one of the small rooms upstairs. So while he went to work within the Temple, the Secretary and myself proceeded to work out his horoscope for we could not wait any longer in trying to solve the mystery. The map of his birth clearly showed that we had in our presence a remarkable soul, and a true mystic. Every planetary aspect, every angle, every position in the map was worthy of many minutes of study, and thus several hours were spent.
Before we knew how long we had worked over his horoscope, we found the stranger approaching us and asking if he could not begin work upon the offices, because he had finished the work in the Temple. The Secretary and myself went to the Temple to see what he had done, and we were surprised at the thoroughness of his work, in so short a time. Realizing that we were not ready to leave the office, he asked if he could go upstairs and have a drink of water. We allowed him to go, and although he was absent from us for fifteen or twenty minutes, we thought nothing of it, and when he returned to the office we told him that we thought he had done sufficient work for the little help that we were able to give him in the form of meals and shelter.
We were surprised then to find that he was preparing to leave the place rather than stay, as we anticipated he would do. We thought that he and the caretaker would spend the afternoon, evening, and all day Sunday, together, but instead he was now preparing to leave. He extended his hand to say goodbye to us. I approached him with my hand extended. He made a courteous bow and instantly our two hands were clasped, and at once I discovered that he was giving me the grip of a high officer of the Rosicrucian Order. Astounded, I called to the Supreme Secretary. The Secretary approached and the stranger said: "Brother Secretary, I am very glad to have met you." He also gave the Secretary the same sign and grip which he had given to me. It was the grip of the Illuminati. As the stranger stood in the doorway, he turned again and with the bow that one often sees made by foreigners, raised his hat and said: "I am happy, Sirs, to have had the pleasure on my first visit to your Temple to cleanse the Lodge and give the service I have given." Then he made a sign with his right hand which is made in Europe by officers when walking backward out of the Temple. It is a sign of blessing, and in another moment he was gone.
What a lesson in humility and in greatness! For weeks the story was of intense interest to all the members of the Lodge in New York. And then one day from New Orleans came a letter. It was from the stranger, and it stated his whole history. He was truly the son of a great banker who had several branches in America, including one in New Orleans. But he was more than a banker's son. He was one of the highest officers of the Order in France and Egypt, and a member of the High Council of the Order in Switzerland. He had purposely changed his clothes in New York and given himself the appearance of a poor peasant so that he might call on us in disguise and offer his services, and in this way introduce himself first with humility, and then allow us to discover the real self in other ways. In later months, letters came from him after he returned to Europe, and his contact with our organization has been one of the beautiful experiences of our life.
How many of our members hoping to visit the Lodge of the Order in one of the foreign lands would be willing to enter one of them in such humility, asking for the privilege to serve in a menial capacity in order to become acquainted with the real spirit of the persons connected with the Lodge? And yet, this great Master proved to himself, and proved to others, that the spirit of the Rosicrucian ideal is kept active in this country as it is in foreign lands. For at the end of his letter to us he quoted this significant phrase: "I was a stranger and you took me in and gave me bread!"
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