Rosicrucian Writings Online

The Lost Horizon

By Thor Kiimalehto, Sovereign Grand Master
[From The Rosicrucian Digest January 1938]
OCCASIONALLY a play or a picture appears that fills the heart of the mystic with delight. I remember The Ladder, a play that illustrated the theme of reincarnation. I recall the picture Death Takes a Holiday, and The Return of Peter Grimm, both the play and the picture. Each illustrated one point in the mystic philosophy of life. Now a picture has appeared which actually dramatizes the entire cycle of soul development.
I saw the picture twice. The first time I was completely absorbed by the problems and struggles of the people involved. I saw man's terrific struggles with a seemingly hostile environment, man's inner longing for something better, and the opposition he meets with, even among his own people. As the Bible tells us, "A man's enemies are of his own household." I saw a bit of a utopian fairyland in a hidden valley of the lofty mountains of Tibet. In this unbelievably lovely village of Shangri-La peace and beauty and love abound. The struggle for existence has ceased. All is harmonious growth and self-expression.
Children learn in the open fields. When weary, they throw off their garments and swim in a nearby lake. Men and women, godlike, with serene countenance and dignified step, tread the even paths of daily life. All is beautiful, unhurried and soul-satisfying. The woman of fifty looks like twenty; the man of a hundred is active, in the prime of life. Greed, fear, envy, and jealousy have disappeared. There is no reason for these vices to exist. Each has all that he needs for a happy life of perfect self-expression. Money is meaningless. Gold abounds, but no one so much as stops to pick it up. Divorce does not exist. It is courteous for a man to let his wife go when her heart is elsewhere. Since cost need not be considered and profits are unnecessary, everything bears the impress of love and beauty. The walls are covered with magnificent tapestries and paintings, the halls are adorned with statues, every dish is a work of art, and every garment is a thing of beauty. The village abounds in inviting walks, trellised arbors, exquisite flower gardens, and fountains gleaming in the brilliant sunshine. The music of the bells and the deep organ tones from the temple overlooking the village add sanctity to the joy and the beauty.
Into this paradise comes a party of five, three Englishmen and two Americans. They were escaping from a local revolution in China, and the plane, instead of taking them to Shanghai, took them to Shangri-La. Strange to tell, the high lama knew that they were coming and had everything in readiness for them. The plane broke down, and a rescue party from Shangri-La came the next morning with the proper equipment, clothing, and food. The refugees were Robert Conway, a British diplomat; his brother George; a Mr. Lovett who was a retired teacher of geology; an American fugitive from justice whose firm had collapsed in the market crash; and a sick woman, an American, whom the doctors had given only six months to live.
All, except George, yield to the enchantment of the new environment. Robert finds a cherished, half-forgotten dream come true. The geologist joyfully organizes classes to teach the subject close to his heart. The ruined financier, who had started life as a plumber, is busy with plans to install a modern running water system for the village. The sick woman feels better and more cheerful. Only George, a typical product of a twentieth-century city, a lover of noise, confusion, excitement, and crowds, cannot endure the peace and quiet. He considers the whole situation an outrage. He rebels vociferously. With the aid of one of the girls of Shangri-La who has fallen in love with him, he manages to bribe porters to guide him through the mountains. This girl, who in reality is an old woman, has been told that she will stay eternally young as long as she is contented to stay in Shangri-La, and will revert to her natural age as soon as she leaves. She does not have faith in this statement and accepts George's worldly views readily. George cannot persuade the geologist or the plumber, or the sick woman to leave, but he does finally prevail upon his brother Robert by appealing to his brotherly love.
The high lama, a very aged man, a person of extraordinary sweetness and spiritual beauty, just before he died, had asked Robert to succeed him. Robert, too, found the girl of his dreams. Yet George succeeded in convincing him that he had been deceived. The three leave Shangri-La. In fact they take flight. A severe snow storm drives furiously through the passes. The guides are brutal. The passes are treacherous. The storms are violent and unremitting. The girl cannot endure the difficulties of the journey. She ages over night and perishes in the cold. George becomes mad at the sight of his aged love, his conscience is awakened to his fearful error, he loses his balance, falls down the mountain-side of snow and disappears forever. The guides lose their lives in an avalanche. Robert alone is eventually rescued. But the world of struggle and greed has become utterly repugnant to him. After months of heroic effort, in constant peril of his life, he finally finds the way back.
At first glance the story seems one of adventure and romance. Then one sees that it is a picture of utopia, a delightful fairy-tale land; a dream in a poet's heart. Then one becomes aware of the fact that the entire story is a symbol of the journey of the soul through life. It is a modern Pilgrim's Progress. It is the story told oft before by mystics of the world. It is the story told in a nineteenth century setting in Will Garver's A Brother of the Third Degree and Marie Corelli's Life Everlasting. It is the great adventure of life. It is the quest of the ages, the search of the soul for God, the attainment of evolution. It is the flight of the alone to the Alone.
When the young soul awakes to life in this world, it knows not for the moment whither it is bound. It finds itself a breathing, struggling human being on an unknown quest. It is buffeted in the storms of adversity. It is beset with doubts and fears. It is so immersed in the turmoil of the everyday world that it completely forgets the celestial realm from which it came and the divine nature of the quest on which it is bound. Only a faint longing remains, a longing that gnaws at man's heart in quieter moments when he takes time to think and reflect, but which he impatiently suppresses. It makes the struggle about him seem hideous, and the life about him seem meaningless and sordid. The juggernaut of modern civilization counts its victims by the millions. On every side human beings collapse like the leaves in autumn. The weak are ruthlessly elbowed aside or trampled under foot or pushed to the wall. These humble and simple souls, these frail children of God, in their despair and anguish, seek refuge beneath the wings of the Almighty. They lay their burdens at the feet of God. They find the kingdom of heaven that is within; they experience the supreme ecstasy of illumination. The wealthy, the powerful, and the successful often fail because they are hindered by their pride, their egotism, and their spiritual blindness. To rely exclusively upon reason is to miss the way. Reason frequently impedes spiritual vision and silences the promptings of intuition. The poor, the unfortunate, the lowly, even the thief and the scarlet woman can, therefore, enter easily the straight and narrow gate that leads to union with the God within.
The distractions of the world are not the only barrier. There is a struggle in the man himself. "The good that I would do I do not," says the apostle Paul, "and the evil I would not do I do." Man has become habituated to the brutal world about him and its primitive standards. He fears the adjustments to higher standards. Inertia prevents him from making the necessary effort. Even when he has once glimpsed the beauty and the light of the eternal, his carnal nature can still drag him down. Only one thing remains--to control resolutely his lower nature and make his body serve his will. In the story Robert actually has to knock his brother George down to prevent him from doing violence, and even then George finally prevails upon Robert to leave Shangri-La.
It is obvious that Robert and George represent the two aspects of a human being, his higher self and his lower self, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The two girls of Shangri-La express the same symbolism. The one who falls in love with George, although she has lived in Shangri-La for years, is tempted to leave. A purely earthly love, a love bound by physical attraction alone, can completely divert the soul from its original course in life or from pursuing higher aims. As far as the girl who falls in love with Robert is concerned, she represents the mystic bride, the soul that waits for the day of union with the bridegroom, the outer personality. This is the chymical marriage of which the mystics write. This is the complete integration of personality as the mystics know it. This is the complete harmonization of the outer personality and the inner personality. Mind, heart, and body become instruments of the soul. The whole personality becomes a channel for divine wisdom, love, and inspiration.
When Robert yields to his brother's frantic protests, Chang cries to the despairing maiden, "He will return." Salvation is the end of the journey. The human being may stumble again and again. But if he sincerely aspires to the divine, God meets him half way. The glorious fact is that man does not have to make the entire journey alone and unaided. He finds that his coming was expected. A place has been prepared for him. In the story the plane breaks down before it reaches Shangri-La. The rescue party is at hand with supplies and equipment. Man is helped to attain. As the medieval Spanish mystic poet said: "Before I reached Him, He came to meet me." The ruined industrialist whom the world called thief entered easily and gladly into the new environment, and found peace and contentment. The Magdalene who stumbled on the path of life and who needed help every step of the way, attained and likewise rejoiced in the contentment and peace of Shangri-La.
We must be as little children. Children accept their home, their parents, and the plans of their parents. We children of a larger growth must accept the world as it is, God, and His plans. Our faith must banish suspicion, fear, and temptation. We must not set our will against divine will. When we find that we are going in a direction opposite to the direction we expected, or find our plans overruled and altered, we must not be resentful and rebellious. We must realize that Divine Love and Wisdom can will only what is best for each and every one of us. The group of refugees expected to travel east, and they found that they were traveling westward. They expected to go to Shanghai, and they found that they were in Shangri-La. Robert Conway dreamed of being a foreign secretary of England. He found that he had been selected to rule Shangri-La. The ruined financier, the Magdalene and the poor retired teacher thought that life held nothing more for them, yet they found joy beyond their wildest dreams in Shangri-La. There was even a place for George because he accompanied Robert.
There is not a sheep that is forever lost in all the world. Every soul can aspire to all that the universe affords. In fact, attainment is his divine heritage and destiny. But he must have confidence in divine justice. He must have faith through even the severest tests and trials. He must have an eye on the ultimate goal. He must let the larger point of view be reflected in every word, deed, and thought. He must ardently desire the fulfillment of this magnificent plan for all as well as for himself. Though dark be the night, he must confidently await the dawn. Though marooned in the gloomiest hamlet, though lost in the maelstrom of a deafening city, let us all joyfully seek our Shangri-La.
In closing let me say a word of appreciation and gratitude to the producer, the entire cast, and to all who assisted in the beautiful stage settings and extraordinary photography and last, but not least, to the author.

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