My companion did not attempt to watch over my motions or in any way to interfere with my freedom.
"I will for a time necessarily be absent," he said, "arranging for our journey, and while I am getting ready you must employ yourself as best you can. I ask you, however, now to swear that, as you have promised, you will not seek your wife and children."
To this I agreed.
"Hold up your hand," he said, and I repeated after him: "All this I most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, with a firm and steadfast resolution to keep and perform my oath, without the least equivocation, mental reservation or self-evasion whatever."
"That will answer; see that you keep your oath this time," he said, and he departed. Several days were consumed before he returned, and during that time I was an inquisitive and silent listener to the various conjectures others were making regarding my abduction which event was becoming of general interest. Some of the theories advanced were quite near the truth, others wild and erratic. How preposterous it seemed to me that the actor himself could be in the very seat of the disturbance, willing, anxious to testify, ready to prove the truth concerning his position, and yet unable even to obtain a respectful hearing from those most interested in his recovery. Men gathered together discussing the "outrage "; women, children, even, talked of little else, and it was evident that the entire country was aroused. New political issues took their rise from the event, but the man who was the prime cause of the excitement was for a period a willing and unwilling listener, as he had been a willing and unwilling actor in the tragedy.
One morning my companion drove up in a light carriage, drawn by a span of fine, spirited, black horses.
"We are ready now," he said, and my unprecedented journey began.
Wherever we stopped, I heard my name mentioned. Men combined against men, brother was declaiming against brother, neighbor was against neighbor, everywhere suspicion was in the air.
"The passage of time alone can quiet these people," said I.
"The usual conception of the term Time—an indescribable something flowing at a constant rate—is erroneous," replied my comrade. "Time is humanity's best friend, and should be pictured as a ministering angel, instead of a skeleton with hour-glass and scythe. Time does not fly, but is permanent and quiescent, while restless, force-impelled matter rushes onward. Force and matter fly; Time reposes. At our birth we are wound up like a machine, to move for a certain number of years, grating against Time. We grind against that complacent spirit, and wear not Time but ourselves away. We hold within ourselves a certain amount of energy, which, an evanescent form of matter, is the opponent of Time. Time has no existence with inanimate objects. It is a conception of the human intellect. Time is rest, perfect rest, tranquillity such as man never realizes unless he becomes a part of the sweet silences toward which human life and human mind are drifting. So much for Time. Now for Life. Disturbed energy in one of its forms, we call Life; and this Life is the great enemy of peace, the opponent of steadfast perfection. Pure energy, the soul of the universe, permeates all things with which man is now acquainted, but when at rest is imperceptible to man, while disturbed energy, according to its condition, is apparent either as matter or as force. A substance or material body is a manifestation resulting from a disturbance of energy. The agitating cause removed, the manifestations disappear, and thus a universe may be extinguished, without unbalancing the cosmos that remains. The worlds known to man are conditions of abnormal energy moving on separate planes through what men call space. They attract to themselves bodies of similar description, and thus influence one another—they have each a separate existence, and are swayed to and fro under the influence of the various disturbances in energy common to their rank or order, which we call forms of forces. Unsettled energy also assumes numerous other expressions that are unknown to man, but which in all perceptible forms is characterized by motion. Pure energy can not be appreciated by the minds of mortals. There are invisible worlds besides those perceived by us in our planetary system, unreachable centers of ethereal structure about us that stand in a higher plane of development than earthly matter which is a gross form of disturbed energy. There are also lower planes. Man's acquaintance with the forms of energy is the result of his power of perceiving the forms of matter of which he is a part. Heat, light, gravitation, electricity and magnetism are ever present in all perceivable substances, and, although purer than earth, they are still manifestations of absolute energy, and for this reason are sensible to men, but more evanescent than material bodies. Perhaps you can conceive that if these disturbances could be removed, matter or force would be resolved back into pure energy, and would vanish. Such a dissociation is an ethereal existence, and as pure energy the life spirit of all material things is neither cold nor hot, heavy nor light, solid, liquid nor gaseous—men can not, as mortals now exist, see, feel, smell, taste, or even conceive of it. It moves through space as we do through it, a world of itself as transparent to matter as matter is to it, insensible but ever present, a reality to higher existences that rest in other planes, but not to us an essence subject to scientific test, nor an entity. Of these problems and their connection with others in the unseen depths beyond, you are not yet in a position properly to judge, but before many years a new sense will be given you or a development of latent senses by the removal of those more gross, and a partial insight into an unsuspected unseen, into a realm to you at present unknown.
"It has been ordained that a select few must from time to time pass over the threshold that divides a mortal's present life from the future, and your lot has been cast among the favored ones. It is or should be deemed a privilege to be permitted to pass farther than human philosophy has yet gone, into an investigation of the problems of life; this I say to encourage you. We have in our order a handful of persons who have received the accumulated fruits of the close attention others have given to these subjects which have been handed to them by the generations of men who have preceded. You are destined to become as they are. This study of semi-occult forces has enabled those selected for the work to master some of the concealed truths of being, and by the partial development of a new sense or new senses, partly to triumph over death. These facts are hidden from ordinary man, and from the earth-bound workers of our brotherhood, who can not even interpret the words they learn. The methods by which they are elucidated have been locked from plan because the world is not prepared to receive them, selfishness being the ruling passion of debased mankind, and publicity, until the chain of evidence is more complete, would embarrass their further evolutions, for man as yet lives on the selfish plane."
"Do you mean that, among men, there are a few persons possessed of powers such as you have mentioned?"
"Yes; they move here and there through all orders of society, and their attainments are unknown, except to one another, or, at most, to but few persons. These adepts are scientific men, and may not even be recognized as members of our organization; indeed it is often necessary, for obvious reasons, that they should not be known as such. These studies must constantly be prosecuted in various directions, and some monitors must teach others to perform certain duties that are necessary to the grand evolution. Hence, when a man has become one of our brotherhood, from the promptings that made you one of us, and has been as ready and determined to instruct outsiders in our work as you have been, it is proper that he should in turn be compelled to serve our people, and eventually, mankind."
"Am I to infer from this," I exclaimed, a sudden light breaking upon me, "that the alchemistic manuscript that led me to the fraternity to which you are related may have been artfully designed to serve the interest of that organization?" To this question I received no reply. After an interval, I again sought information concerning the order, and with more success.
"I understand that you propose that I shall go on a journey of investigation for the good of our order and also of humanity."
"True; it is necessary that our discoveries be kept alive, and it is essential that the men who do this work accept the trust of their own accord. He who will not consent to add to the common stock of knowledge and understanding, must be deemed a drone in the hive of nature—but few persons, however, are called upon to serve as you must serve. Men are scattered over the world with this object in view, and are unknown to their families or even to other members of the order; they hold in solemn trust our sacred revelations, and impart them to others as is ordained, and thus nothing perishes; eventually humanity will profit.
"Others, as you soon will be doing, are now exploring assigned sections of this illimitable field, accumulating further knowledge, and they will report results to those whose duty it is to retain and formulate the collected sum of facts and principles. So it. is that, unknown to the great body of our brotherhood, a chosen number, under our esoteric teachings, are gradually passing the dividing line that separates life from death, matter from spirit, for we have members who have mastered these problems. We ask, however, no aid of evil forces or of necromancy or black art, and your study of alchemy was of no avail, although to save the vital truths alchemy is a part of our work. We proceed in exact accordance with natural laws, which will yet be known to all men. Sorrow, suffering, pain of all descriptions, are enemies to the members of our order, as they are to mankind broadly, and we hope in the future so to control the now hidden secrets of Nature as to be able to govern the antagonistic disturbances in energy with which man now is everywhere thwarted, to subdue the physical enemies of the race, to affiliate religious and scientific thought, cultivating brotherly love, the foundation and capstone, the cement and union of this ancient fraternity."
"And am I really to take an important part in this scheme? Have I been set apart to explore a section of the unknown for a bit of hidden knowledge, and to return again?"
"This I will say," he answered, evading a direct reply, "you have been selected for a part that one in a thousand has been required to undertake. You are to pass into a field that will carry you beyond the present limits of human observation. This much I have been instructed to impart to you in order to nerve you for your duty. I seem to be a young man; really I am aged. You seem to be infirm and old, but you are young. Many years ago, cycles ago as men record time, I was promoted to do a certain work because of my zealous nature; like you, I also had to do penance for an error. I disappeared, as you are destined to do, from the sight of men. I regained my youth; yours has been lost forever, but you will regain more than your former strength. We shall both exist after this generation of men has passed away, and shall mingle with generations yet to be born, for we shall learn how to restore our youthful vigor, and will supply it time and again to earthly matter. Rest assured also that the object of our labors is of the most laudable nature, and we must be upheld under all difficulties by the fact that multitudes of men who are yet to come will be benefited thereby."