|Chapter IX||Contents etc.||Chapter XI|
FOREST started on his mission none too soon. To explain its result and the events of this day so fruitful of consequences in Unæan history, it is necessary to turn back a few hours, to when as yet in the morning calm still reigned, when the minds of men had not been disturbed by the earthquake, and the only forces at work were those which Wall had set in motion by his successful persistence in claiming a hearing for Farmer. When he met Laura, Wall was on his way to call Farmer to appear before the great council which the Orbian pontiff had summoned. As they proceeded together to the Orbian palace he felt it incumbent on him to make Farmer realise the gravity of the situation. It was not a mere matter of arguments and words as Farmer appeared to think, but the question resolved itself into an antagonism which at any time might be fraught with the most serious consequences.
Cartwright, watchful as ever, had kept himself informed of Farmer's movements. He deeply resented the betrayal of his confidence, and as to anyone really believing in the extraordinary proposals his brother held out, he laughed the idea to scorn. To him the whole movement was a thinly-veiled plot against the government, and if he had not struck before, it was simply due to his failure to move some obstinate members of the council. Wall knew the blow might fall at any moment, and with Cartwright and his scientific advisers in power, it could not be long delayed.
"You have talked with the clergy of all denominations," he remarked to Farmer, on his way to the council, "what impression have you produced?"
"The clerical mind is curiously constituted, it seems to have lost all grip of actual fact, whether a thing isdefinitely true or not is the last thing that presents itself to their consideration. What we believe seems to them more or less a matter of choice, and as to what I say they look on it from the point of view of whether it will contribute to the promulgation of their dogmas, not straight and direct."
"Good," said Wall, "the less effect they have produced on you, the more you have probably produced on them, but what did you think of them personally?"
"I dislike them," said Farmer, "the only things we know independently of ourselves are the properties of matter, and generally the physical constitution of things, those we know without any projection of ourselves—they give as pure and impartial views. Where human feelings come in such as right, duty, good, we are at the mercy of our own fancies, our views depend on our training, our antecedent circumstances, on every kind of prejudice. If there is any revelation it is in the laws of the material universe, with regard to which human feelings count not one jot. Now they reverse the truth and look on feelings of right and wrong as the revelation, whereas they are the distinctively human part. Consequently, they heap on men all sorts of false ideals, and compel us to follow them with all the influence within their power. Happily they have been shorn of the control over men that was once theirs, and have been brought to acquiesce in their dominion being merely one of influence."
"This acquiescence is merely skin deep," said Wall, "a leopard cannot change its spots, and there is no limit to the compulsion they would exercise if they could—quite right too; I hate this amorphous body politic of ours, it wants discipline and fashioning. The only way to move the people is to make it precious uncomfortable for them if they do not go your way. It is a few resolute men who have driven the herd in any of the great movements of history. But as to your criticism of the priests it seems to me entirely irresponsible; you have not had their problems and without experience of their difficulties you have not the slightest possibility of judging of their means. You have got to work with them, and your only chance lies in this, that you in your path have come to something which they in their path of advance have also recognised. Say that it is this way—in your inquiry you have flung aside everything which is not physically possible, they in their path have flung aside everything which does not ring true to the inmost and most serious nature of men. Do you meet on mutually intelligible ground? Remember this, they have been as earnest in their way as you have been in yours. We meet them to-day and say our last words. Speak in some way that they will understand."
"What do you mean by 'last words'?" asked Farmer.
"You do not suppose that you can have met and talked with so many men without your exertions being the subject of general remark. Even if those you talk to respect your confidence, your brother is likely to suspect you. He has his plans, and is not likely to tolerate any movement which interferes with them. He intends to excavate vast subterranean chambers and stock them with provisions, so that a portion of the race may survive, at any rate for a time. Unless you gain enough influence to over-ride him, you will be effectually silenced. You have a great opportunity. The supreme pontiff has issued an invitation to the priests of every religion to meet him for deliberation in common. He came to the conclusion that, whatever he decided, he could only direct half of the dwellers on the earth, whereas we want all. Action is useless unless it is universal, and he has found that after all it is possible for the disciples of every religion to find common ground."
It was indeed a remarkable assembly that had collected in the palace of the Orbian pontiff. Range upon range of faces of ecclesiastics rose in array, each bearing in his heart a portion of that volition that shapes the aims of men, each bearing in his brain a portion of that responsibility for wielding it rightly that falls on the minister of faith. Out of the uttermost ends of the land they had come, called by presentiment of a demand on them to do something more than influence the individual actions of men.
Political power, in the division of the creeds, had long ago passed from the church. In the complexity of life, in view of the theories of science it had come to be admitted that the direction of affairs lay out of the scope of religion—the private conscience and the ordering of the intimate life alone was theirs.
What was then this strange call—this unheard of summons, which brought them all as possessed of something in common, to that palace which stood for half of them, as the centre of a sublime error?
The summons had been obeyed by them in the light of a thought that perhaps now in these latter days the will of God was to be revealed, not as they held forth in their services, in the duty of a preparation for a world to come, in the maintaining of a standard whose value lay in thought—but, on the contrary, in something quite simple and direct, as of old times, in the performance of something visible, a simple service in the household of the world.
In the Orbian palace, Farmer stood before the mighty assembly of prelates, priests, and clergy of every de-nomination. The influence and force of their natures so alien to his own seemed to make no impression on him. In a few simple words he placed his thought before them in the manner he judged they would best understand it:
"In the history of our race who can say what is the order and what is the plan by which we came upon these great facts, the knowledge of which reveals to us what we are and gives us mastery and control of our fate?
"There is no order or plan that I can discern save that somehow, when the time has come, we have seized on that which it is important for us to know.
"Thus, in the early ages when our mechanical powers were nothing and when our rational knowledge of nature was ridiculously meagre, you—those with whom you are united as one in the succession of your efforts—you, I say, discovered the soul. There is something in us superior to the body that stands apart, directing it to higher ends than its mere self preservation. But this discovery, great and all important as it was, was not complete and rounded off; it depended and depends on an inner intuition of man's nature, it was not and is not connected with the rational system of things as known.
"And gradually as the examination into the nature of the material world around us progressed, this discovery of the soul, this near and intimate knowledge became incongruous with the record of our senses.
"For we found no real place to which the soul could go, as in the earliest ages was implicitly believed. We found nothing in the body but an animal organism. And hence to this day when you give your message to the world you rely on other evidence, on other principles than those which govern the reasonable conduct of affairs.
"But I have discovered the soul again. I have discovered it not by the way of inner conviction, not by the overmastering energy of its verdict on our conscience and on our actions. I have discovered it as a real being giving as much for the outlook on this physical world as it has done to enlarge our prospect as human beings. Just as the intuitive knowledge of the soul has raised our moral being above the waysof animals, so does the rational knowledge of the soul raise our intellectual being above the ways of things.
"For in our thought we have lived a life of acquiescence in the subjection of the body, whereas, when we know our true being we find that we—our essential selves, our souls—stand clear of it. And this knowledge comes to us now when it is necessary now when even to preserve ourselves we must rise above the conditions of our subjection.
"I would lead you to the greater higher world. And do not turn from me when you think I speak of insignificant things. You tell us of highest love revealed in common offices. And we reach the freedom of our intellectual being through thoughts of common and insignificant things.
"I tell you that the thought of old time of the soul as real is right, undivested of any of the garb of our life, nay rather clothed upon more and more with an indescribable fulness of being—such you should know it—follow me and you will know the soul rationally and deliberately, as now you know it outleaping the slow steps of reason.
"The path is this. Think of a being confined to a line. You will perhaps think of an insect that cannot rise above its support, but the illustration is not correct, for, inasmuch as the insect feels the support it is on, it has a knowledge of two dimensions. A being confined to a line would have no idea of anything except that which was in front of him or behind him in that line. And by the very condition of the limitation of his being he regards certain operations as impossible.
"The line being has two extremities which we may call the head end and the tail end. The head points one way and the tail another. By no possibility can the line being interchange these directions. Given two 'line beings, the head of one pointing in one direction, the head of the other pointing in the other direction, to them it would appear to be impossible that they should be so placed that their heads could point in the same direction.
"We see that they could easily be placed pointing in the same direction, we can turn them round so as to point the same way. We can do this because we can use two dimensions. Not being able to move in two dimensions they think this is an impossibility, they think it is of the nature of space that there should be this impossibility. But we see that the impossibility to them, of disposing themselves so as to point the same way simply shows that they are limited, that they do not possess in their bodily movements the possibilities that actually exist.
"Now coming to ourselves we find an impossibility. Think of equal right-angled triangles symmetrically placed about a straight line. We may shift these triangles for ever but cannot make one occupy the space of the other—there is always some incongruity.
"Now I say that this impossibility is not a real impossibility—it is a consequence of our limitation. If we could move in the third dimension we could easily place one of these triangles so that it would fit in the space of the other. Just as the impossibility the line being finds, which I spoke of, so this impossibility which we find is a sign of our limitation.
"And now consider the line being. The recognition of the second dimension would make him aware that he was always in contact with something—his world is not a world of empty space but of support upon something—there is, where he would think it was free space, an alongside being.
"And similarly with us when we stand upright and move our hands we think we are in free space except for the earth rim on which we stand. But it is not so, there is an alongside being for us too, and howeverwe move we are in contact with it, along it we move our arms whatever way we point.
"And existence itself stretches illimitable, profound, on both sides of that alongside being. Realise this, it follows so that no one can doubt it from what I have said; even begin to realise it and never again will you gaze into the blue arch of the sky without an added sense of mystery. However far in those never-ending depths you cast your vision, it does but glide alongside an existence stretching profound in a direction you know not of.
"And knowing this, something of the old sense of the wonder of the heavens comes to us, for no longer do constellations fill all space with an endless repetition of sameness, but there is the possibility of a sudden and wonderful apprehension of beings such as those of old time dreamed of could we but look athwart this all of sense, know that which lies each side of all the visible.
"Such an apprehension lies in the future—what is the meaning for us now?
"To interpret the mystery of our being, to discover our relation to the wider universe, go back and ask yourselves how a line being could exist. No real being could exist in a line. A real thing or beings must have all the dimensions there are. But a real being like ourselves, possessed, as cannot be denied, of two dimensions, can be put in such circumstances that it has only a one dimensional experience. It can be part of a structure or organization which is limited to one dimensional movement.
"Think for instance of a ship which moves on the water. It can only move in a line. Imagine its captain directing it, if he were unconscious of his own movements and simply had regard in all his thoughts to the motion of the ship and identified himself with it, he would look on himself as a line being. But if by any means the idea carne to him that there were two dimensions, if he could interrogate his own bodily consciousness, realise himself separate and apart from that which he directs, he would have plenty of experience of two dimensional movements. All he would have to do would be to wake himself up to his own essential mode of being.
"And similarly with ourselves.
"We, essentially, are higher beings possessed of a higher kind of action than we realise in our bodily movements. This being, that is essentially ourselves, is the soul, and just as it has waked up to a knowledge of itself in conduct, has recognised that it is the master of the body and stands apart from and superior to a mere animal life, so it now is ready to wake up and recognise that it is superior to the ways of things. The movements of the body are inferior to, less ample than, our own movements. The mechanics and movements cognate to the soul are superior to those it can apprehend through sense, are superior to those it sees through the bodily vision.
"The proof of this lies in trying it. I have waked up my soul, and I can think of three dimensional things and how they act and react on one another.
"And I have found what lies beyond all I have been telling you, that just as the captain of a ship has an activity independent of the ship, so our souls have an activity independent of the body. Our souls can act on the alongside being. We, the earth, and all slip rapidly over the alongside being in the course of our planet's motion. In any movement we make with our bodies we do but act on things all equally subject to this motion. But our souls can act on the alongside being directly. And by this action we have the possibility of influencing the directions of our movements apart from pushing against or pulling anything we can see.
"At present exactly how this is done is obscure, these organs in the body by which the soul effects this resultare too minute for us to distinguish them, all that we know is that we can rationally predict their existence. And those old legends of men raising themselves or flying through the air have their basis in the very fact of a relation to the alongside being which enables a man by the activity of his soul, not directed in the way of any of our ordinary bodily manifestations, to change the direction of his motion relatively to that of the earth.
"If, filling my mind with devotion, I think of myself as soaring, as rising like an angel through the air, my soul does that which would make me rise, altering my direction by acting on the alongside being.
If all men were to have the same thoughts, then all of them would tend to rise, and the united force would be very great, enough to influence the course of the earth in its orbit. The force would be great enough, but, unless regulated, that which was exerted at one time would neutralise that which was exerted at another time.
"If, however, we properly choose our times, then by devotional exercises, by the whole human race uniting together in the thought of a glorified rising and soaring above the earth, we can influence the course of our planet, we can effect that small deviation of our course which will enable us to pass Ardaea in safety.
"You are now face to face with the question. The danger is real. It forces us to leave off trying to explain the world by our ideas and try instead to conceive the reality."
Now there were in Astria a class of philosophers who looked on the all as one great being bent on his self development. They said that different individuals were but his ways of imperfectly and partially apprehending his own thoughts. Among some denominations these philosophers were considered to have made a valuable contribution to the support of religion, and were regarded as very profound. One of them rose up and said:
"We can never go outside our own ideas; it is absurd to speak of reality as if it were any different from an idea."
"I will not stay," said Farmer, "to discuss this question, which is merely one of words. I have found, for my part, that words never have any definite meaning when you take them close, but held at a distance they serve very well to point out a general tendency, or suggest a contrast. And the contrast I alluded to is plain. From our two dimensional solids we have, we obtain by abstraction, the idea of an edge bounding them. And from this edge or line, we can make the further abstraction of a point. We can try to explain the world by using these abstractions, these ideas, or we can, on the other hand, try to conceive that with regard to which things, as we think them, are mere abstractions. We must form ideas which we have not got. And in the face of that necessity, which has occurred before now, I believe that the rough and ready way we have of contrasting our ideas with reality points to and indicates a distinction in our way of proceeding. To cope with Ardaea we must obtain new ideas, for with our present ideas, as you know well, there is no possibility of avoiding destruction.
"I have found that by thinking certain thoughts, I can volitionally direct the activity of that real being, my soul. I can alter my weight. There is a power in everyone of doing this. Now an alteration of weight can only come by our acting on the alongside being, and this is the very action which is necessary to alter the course of our planet. Our souls have this power. By introducing the thoughts which produce this action into your forms of worship and inducing your congregations to follow them with fervent piety, you can alter the course of the earth and pass Ardaea in safety. Everybeing must sometimes come to reckon with the absolute facts of its being or perish. That is our case now. Though placed as far as our bodily vicissitudes in a two-dimensional state, we must act according to the three-dimensional reality.
"And as your congregations by this worship gradually bring safety to the world, you can inculcate the truth, which they will at first act on unreasoning and blindly; you can tell them of a real soul, you yourselves will not grope blindly about in tradition, but discover more about the soul, you will approach its study, not from the side of consciousness only, but as an objective reality. And if you hesitate to take my view, because you think you demean the soul by considering it small, you must remember, that though small in any way you can measure, yet it has a thickness in a direction you cannot point to. There is more in a square, however small, than in an infinite line. And so one soul has matter enough in it to make up endless universes such as we conceive them."
All through this speech the Orbian pontiff sat unmoved, his face, pallid and emaciated, was as that of death, to which no words can come, and his gaze was as if sunk in some profound region from which it would never return.
The first to take up the word was a bishop of the Literal Church, whose doctrine was a faithful adherence to the sacred texts.
"Brethren," he said, "in commencing our deliberations on what we have heard, our first thought must he, 'How does it agree with the message we are pledged to deliver to the world?' Ours is the message of salvation, not of mere earthly good, and we must not let any promise, however fair, quench the light we have, or tend to weaken us in the promulgation of the truth."
Farmer broke in:
"Yes, you see that it destroys every vestige of what you teach and inculcate. For want of anything else real to think about, you identify yourselves with these bodies, and all your notions of right and wrong are centred in the bodily relations. You believe the earth is a place for the display of virtues. What you eat, drink, how you marry, get unmarried, how you tend your own and your neighbour's body--that is all your thought. Not a glimmer in all you teach of the real work of man, but pitiless immersion in the utterly insignificant."
Wall could detect no sign passing from the Orbian chair, but some indication must have been conveyed, for a great prelate close to the pontiff rose.
"Our thanks are due to Mr. Farmer," he said, "for putting so lucidly before us the real question for our consideration. Mr. Farmer has arrived at a new conception of the body and, if he is correct, it will require a reconsideration of our ideas with regard to the soul, these two aspects can never be confounded, and his criticism of us in the light of his new conception of the bodily, will be most welcomely received. But that question has nothing to do with our present deliberations. They are, I take it, directed to our practical action."
These few words sufficed to turn the discussion to relevant topics. A period of earnest debate set in, and the minds of the participants were so absorbed that they paid but scant attention to the shaking of the walls when the earthquake came, and paid no attention to the messages which told them of the disturbed state of the populace. One speaker after another gave his reasons for and against Farmer's views, and gradually the sense of the meeting came to declare itself in favour of making a public exposition of them in every part of the earth, and bringing all possible pressure to bear on the government to appoint a commission of enquiry. A motion to adjourn was proposed. But Wall stepped forward, his heavy sword hitting the steps to where he descended in their midst.
"There is a voice," he said, "which speaks within every man, telling him at the last extremity what to do. That is the voice of God. And in you is the voice of God to men. Many times before now you have declared it. It is no time to turn this way and that. Either this man is of God and we believe him, or he is of the devil and we leave him. Before you I lay down a staff"—and he made a gesture of flinging something before them—"it is an iron staff and whom it smites it crushes. It is the army. Its honour is in obedience; if you command it in the name of God, in whose name stands the vow of every commission, all other allegiance is dissolved. As one man waiting to hear the voice of God, the army stands before you."
The solemnity of the moment grew clear to them, as the indescribable weight of the man who had spoken pervaded the silence. Almost it seemed as if no breath were drawn in that vast gathering. One word would unchain the deep. From the loosening of that incalculable power embodied in that one man, the man of peace shrank, appalled at his simple words. . . . The Orbian pontiff and all his priests, prelates, and monks had arisen. From the lips of that frail old man, came a voice clear and solemn.
"God has spoken," he said, "through the voice of the servant whom he has chosen, he has saved the world." Then, placing his hand on Wall, he said, "I absolve you from your oath. Take the message of Salvation forth to the world."
Forth from the Orbian palace a vast procession went, coming with a message of peace and rest to the distracted populace. But even as they emerged from the noble dome, a company of dark-skinned soldiers came upon them. These ignorant men were deeply superstitious and, according to their wont, they bowed down to let the religious procession pass without waiting for their officer's command. Forest, who had overtaken them, saw his opportunity and pressing forward told the errand on which the men had come. Many a heart quailed. So near and yet so far that hope. And the old curse of the land, the Scythian foe of Unæa here in this reincarnation, the old peril was ready to strike the fairest hopes. But the Orbian pontiff advanced unmoved, and a very effulgence of the Divine power glowed in the slanting rays of the sun—illuminating his solitary figure. He spoke. The superstitious emotional nature of the men before him made them like wax in his hands. He told them of the end of the world, decreed for their sins, and the death they had all merited—then spoke of pardon and hope. Weeping and shouting they went before him to carry the message, and their officers returned, their mission unfulfilled.
But such men were not to be relied on. Wall knew the temper of the army. He had told his fellow officers of the danger which threatened, together they had discussed the measures which the government had taken for meeting it, they had together felt the impotence and inefficiency of the central authority. He had told them of a plan which had been devised, which the government had rejected—and when they asked him more, he had simply said that, being soldiers bound by their oath, they could do nothing. Whether Astria perished or survived they were but instruments, used simply to strike at others' judgment. To minds thus prepared, the sudden assumption of power by the ministers of God, came as a light from Heaven revealing their only path. Men ready for instant action gathered round Wall, the others were hesitating and loth to assume responsibility and, almost without a struggle, the military organization of Unæa turned to its new masters. The sword rested in other hands,
In the city where panic reigned and even the foundations trembled, the only thing secure and firm on which men could trust and place their reliance, was the authoritative decree of the ministers of religion, who, dispersing on either hand, brought certain assurance to all. By nightfall the spread of the moral force emanating from the new arbiters of the nation's destiny was such, that those, and they were many, who antagonized Wall, could find no men to lead against him. He was master of the situation. He gave orders for the arrest of all of the political leaders from whom he apprehended danger, dissolved the representative assemblies. Close on the wave of despair, which spreading all over the country told of the destruction and death of the world, came another, telling of hope, a Divine interregnum, a reorganization, a marvellous deliverance. A bidding was winged to the ends of the earth, calling all to prepare for a universal effort, in which, and by which, only, the salvation of the world was to be wrought.
In these halls where the representatives of the nation had sat, each bound to some sectional interest, concerned with the incidence of taxation, the advancement of local interests, there now presided the pontiff of the Orbian church, supreme through the union of his followers, directing the councils of an ecclesiastic assembly. The first task before them was easy. Farmer had drawn up a minute set of regulations, describing the thoughts, attitudes and hours of the religious services to be held.
Recognising that any attempt to explain the physical reasoning on which these regulations were based, would be worse than useless, they issued an absolute and unqualified demand for obedience to these rules, and, martial law being decreed all through the land, could count on their enforcement. But there remained the question of the economic reorganization of society.
All avocations, so Farmer asserted, must be suspended, save such as were necessary for the provision of sustenance for the race. The question of wages, the means of distribution, the total subversion of all the procedure of civil society met them.
In the midst of the debates with which they attacked these problems, news suddenly came that the arsenal had been seized by a band of malcontents, and that communication with the western part of Astria was interrupted. The arsenal was a strong fortification which had been built in the time of the old wars, and was now used by experts employed by the State, engaged in the manufacture of explosives. The place was strong, its defenders were sure to be well provided with the munitions of war. It was a rock on which the newly-launched vessel of State might well founder.
|Chapter IX||Contents etc.||Chapter XI|