The Light Invisible
The Light Invisible
My friend, whose talk I have reported in this bookso far as I am able, would be the first to disclaim(as indeed he was always anxious to do) the rôle ofan accredited teacher, other than that which hissacred office conferred on him.
All that he claimed (and this surely was withinhis rights) was to be at least sincere in his perceptionsand expressions of spiritual truth. His power,as he was at pains to tell me, was no more thana particular development of a faculty common to allwho possess a coherent spiritual life. To one DivineTruth finds entrance through laws of nature, toanother through the medium of other sciences or arts;to my friend it presented itself in directly sensibleforms. Had his experiences, however, even seemedto contravene Divine Revelation, he would haverejected them with horror: entire submission to theDivine Teacher upon earth, as he more than oncetold me, should normally precede the exercise of allother spiritual faculties. The deliberate reversal ofthis is nothing else than Protestantism in its extremeform, and must ultimately result in the extinction offaith.
For the rest, I can add nothing to his own words.It is of course more than possible that here and thereI have failed to present his exact meaning; but atleast I have taken pains to submit the book beforepublication to the judgment of those whose theologicallearning is sufficient to reassure me that at least Ihave not so far misunderstood my friend’s words andtales, as to represent him as transgressing the explicitlaws of ascetical, moral, mystical, or dogmatictheology.
To these counsellors I must express my gratitude,as well as to others who have kindly given me theencouragement of their sympathy.
|The Green Robe||1|
|Over the Gateway||49|
|The Bridge over the Stream||95|
|In the Convent Chapel||107|
|Under which King?||127|
|With Dyed Garments||145|
|The Sorrows of the World||203|
|In the Morning||227|
|The Expected Guest||241|
The Green Robe
The old priest was silent for a moment.
The song of a great bee boomed upout of the distance and ceased as the whitebell of a flower beside me drooped suddenlyunder his weight.
“I have not made myself clear,” saidthe priest again. “Let me think a minute.”And he leaned back.
We were sitting on a little red-tiled platformin his garden, in a sheltered angle ofthe wall. On one side of us rose the oldirregular house, with its latticed windows,and its lichened roofs culminating in a bell-turret;on the other I looked across thepleasant garden where great scarlet poppieshung like motionless flames in the hotJune sunshine, to the tall living wall ofyew, beyond which rose the heavy greenmasses of an elm in which a pigeonlamented, and above all a tender blue sky.The priest was looking out steadily beforehim with great childlike eyes that shonestrangely in his thin face under his whitehair. He was dressed in an old cassockthat showed worn and green in the highlights.
“No,” he said presently, “it is not faiththat I mean; it is only an intense form ofthe gift of spiritual perception that Godhas given me; which gift indeed is commonto us all in our measure. It is thefaculty by which we verify for ourselveswhat we have received on authority andhold by faith. Spiritual life consists partlyin exercising this faculty. Well, then,this form of that faculty God has beenpleased to bestow upon me, just as He hasbeen pleased to bestow on you a keenpower of seeing and enjoying beauty whereothers perhaps see none; this is calledartistic perception. It is no sort of creditto you or to me, any more than is thecolour of our eyes, or a faculty for mathematics,or an athletic body.
“Now in my case, in which you arepleased to be interested, the perceptionoccasionally is so keen that the spiritualworld appears to me as visible as whatwe call the natural world. In suchmoments, although I generally know thedifference between the spiritual and thenatural, yet they appear to me simultaneously,as if on the same plane. Itdepends on my choice as to which of thetwo I see the more clearly.
“Let me explain a little. It is aquestion of focus. A few minutes agoyou were staring at the sky, but youdid not see the sky. Your own thoughtlay before you instead. Then I spoketo you, and you started a little andlooked at me; and you saw me, andyour thought vanished. Now can youunderstand me if I say that these suddenglimpses that God has granted me, wereas though when you looked at the sky,you saw both the sky and your thoughtat once, on the same plane, as I have said?Or think of it in another way. You knowthe sheet of plate-glass that is across theupper part of the fireplace in my study.Well, it depends on the focus of youreyes, and your intention, whether you seethe glass and the fire-plate behind, or theroom reflected in the glass. Now can youimagine what it would be to see them allat once? It is like that.” And he madean outward gesture with his hands.
“Well,” I said, “I scarcely understand.But please tell me, if you will, your firstvision of that kind.”
“I believe,” he began, “that when Iwas a child the first clear vision came tome, but I only suppose it from my mother’sdiary. I have not the diary with me now,but there is an entry in it describing howI said I had seen a face look out of a walland had run indoors from the garden; halffrightened, but not terrified. But I remembernothing of it myself, and mymother seems to have thought it musthave been a waking dream; and if it werenot for what has happened to me sinceperhaps I should have thought it a dreamtoo. But now the other explanation seemsto me more likely. But the first clearvision that I remember for myself was asfollows:
“When I was about fourteen years old Icame home at the end of one July for mysummer holidays. The pony-cart was atthe station to meet me when I arrivedabout four o’clock in the afternoon; butas there was a short cut through the woods,I put my luggage into the cart, and startedto walk the mile and a half by myself.The field path presently plunged into apine wood, and I came over the slipperyneedles under the high arches of the pineswith that intense ecstatic happiness ofhome-coming that some natures know sowell. I hope sometimes that the firststeps on the other side of death may belike that. The air was full of mellowsounds that seemed to emphasise the deepstillness of the woods, and of mellow lightsthat stirred among the shadowed greenness.I know this now, though I did not knowit then. Until that day although thebeauty and the colour and sound of theworld