I am one of a concourse. All, or nigh all, seem fallen into heaviness, not from exhaustion of labour, but from lethargy. The plain is vast beyond eye to mark it's bounds, even were not all dark with blight of fog and thick with marish damp. A few of us are half awake, gaze dumbly on the East.
No light responds. Alas for me who am too much alive with the horrible and hopeless ache for sleep of one half-drugged! Dazed, stupified - I know not who I am - I know not whence I came - I know not whither I go. Vaguely I say within my dull heart: I must not sleep because I am a soldier. But of what captain, in what war? I cannot guess.
There is but a dim shape as of some disaster long, oh! very long ago - the dusty memory of some leader who failed, some plan that broke its spine - I am sure of this: that all discipline is done, all courage quashed, all purpose perished. Behind me - strange! - the gloom is less obscure than in the East to which the eyes yearn feebly.
Do I feel it by instinct - the form of a vast pyramidal hill of stark black rock? I am too weary to turn my head to look. All of a sudden, far behind me, far beyond that crest, if it be one, rings out a voice, clear, firm, courageous, confident. It is a soldier's voice, the accent of command, the valour of manhood. None can mistake - I am assured - that ringing call.
Truth, Victory, in each trumpet tone: Listen! VOX. The captain cries: "Behold, the Star in the West!" Instant on that comes silence.
But among us the sudden stirring warns me that not all were sleeping; that there were watchers like myself, men more intent than I. I hear a murmur on my left.
I catch three words: "The Zero Hour. " They call me back to myself: I know now that I am one of a great army - an army baffled and broken, but yet in being. Sharp comes a whisper of swift absolute authority: "Zero is Two." Somehow I am aware - like a man stricken of lightning, in the same moment slain and initiated - that the strange phrase declares a final Mystery of Truth, the Word of the Plan of Battle, the Key of the Campaign. But in my mind its meaning is most utter darkness.
Again the solemn stillness. Few were they who had heard the voice of the young captain: for the sleep of all but the youngest and strongest was the sleep of death.
Even of these the fate was ill indeed; for their minds had been distraught by the bitterness of their hearts. So, when they noted the Voice, they mocked. I heard: "A Star in the West. What folly!" or: "That is no voice of any leader of ours." or: "Star in the West? Beware: that is the Star called Wormwood.
" Then, presently, from the blind land behind the mountain, comes one heavy groan, then the sound of a fall, made vile by a titter of malignant tinkling laughter. There follow ghoulish wailings. The mystery, the evil darkness of these incoherent cries, sets my teeth on edge with horror. And yet I cannot give up the hope which thrilled me at the Voice. But so keen, so desolate, so deadly, is the pain of my spirit that blank darkness overwhelms me altogether. UMBRA. Within the Vision is a dream - I struggle in my sleep in a morass of blood and mud.
Howlings more bestial than hell's: stench at whose touch, solid as putrid flesh itself, I retch with the pangs of death; most frantic madness: phantoms of crime, ice- cold, ghosts made of murder - the nightmare seems interminable - no, it exhausts itself, sick with its own foulness, and sinks into a stolid stupor. PHANTASMA. I waken from the horror. Every nerve is numb, every muscle frozen, every bone one ache, my blood throbbing with poison. But the shambles is now dimly to be seen. What? Can the Voice have spoken Truth after all?
Is then that Star a Sun, whose light is at last piercing the foul mists of massacre, whose heat is forcing the congealed miasma to steam skyward in those murky bands of dim grey cloud? Hark! Yes, the few that are still alive have seen what rouses them to lift their crippled arms, to stare with blear bloodshot eyes, to jabber with broken jaw-bones and torn tongues. "For Christ's sake," screams an emasculate rag of flesh, "don't look at that damned Star!" "We're lost," another squeals. "The Beast!
" yells a third: maniac. I too am appalled not a little. For on the moving fumes crawl monstrous and hideous shapes - frightful forms, detestable gestures. All past belief for loathsomeness: filling my mortal spirit with delirious fear. Beholding them, the wounded writhe in deadly anguish. Some crazily catch up the filth in which they are already half sunk to throw it at the spectre, therby only to smear themselves more thickly in the face. Their impotent malice so exceeds itself that I am moved for a moment to laugh.
At that, as at the Master-spell of a great sage, the charm is snapped: I soar into sanity. I must be simple indeed! How did I fail for a moment to understand that Broken-Spectres must be shadows cast by some Star, a Sun, upon sun-lifted vapours - that all these diverse shapes of madness are but distortions of one form upon the mountain-crest, a solitary shadow - the shadow of a Man! LUX I stood erect. I found myself unhurt.
I turned. I lifted up mine eyes. Behold!
The Hill! The apex of the colossal Pyramid is crowned by a stern silent figure, cut in sharp silhouette against the Orb of the Sun. I cried aloud: Hail unto Thee, O Star that art the Sun, Star that mountest the Height of the Heavens! But my heart answered me, mysteriously, yet so that it availed me to understand it; "He riseth not nor sets! He goeth shining on His way, and before Him the Earth reeleth in the rhythm of her Bacchanal dance!" Then knew I also this: all these poor dead men that lay about me had been slain by their own fear, their fault of faith in deeming that the Sun - or any Star - could die.
And now I, who had only felt the fear of that figure, feel the fascination. I understand that He - whoever, whatever He may be - is He for whom we all so long had waited. As I fix my eyes upon it, I become aware that its blackness against the light of the Star is only relative; and as I gain confidence in my sight, that darkness goes. The figure is a prism of pure crystal - it is the distortion and interference with the Light it transmits which caused those phantoms of terror to dance their Witches' Sabbath on the moving miasma. And now I am drawn swiftly up by some invisible force; sucked by some vortex towards the Hill And now I face Him as He stands above me. HOMO His head is slightly bowed as if he brooded some delight. He wears a helm of ruddy gold, radiant with the light of the Star.
In the midst of his brows is a black diamond in a circlet of ruby and emerald, set in pure mother-of-pearl, so that it seems the eye of some unknown, some unknowable God. This eye has no lid.
But his two human eyes are still half-closed, as if in worship or in wonder of rapture. His arms are folded on his breast: upon his corslet is the golden image of the Sun. In his right hand is a rod of amber, crowned with a ruby; in his left an amethyst lotus with a sapphire corolla. Lo!
from his eyes flow tears of mingled sorrow and joy, of joy that burns up sorrow, and with these tears he smites the barren rock beneath his feet. It melts like wax at the touch; roses spring up and twine about his limbs. Around him are four living creatures, begotten of his will, so that the mountain might glow with the life that flows through him. There is a tawny Lion, from whose mouth drops honey. He roars aloud, and the word thereof is this: The Wrath of the Master is the Energy of Love. There is a buffalo Cow, grey-blue, whose udders overflow with milk, and her lowing means: The Work of the Master is the Nourishment of Life.
There is a Babe, that with his tiny hands presses out blood from his own breast, and smileth: The Way of the Master is the Innocence of Liberty. Also, a Golden Eagle, bearing a Chalice of Wine, crying aloud: The Woe of the Master is the Rapture of Light. Last in their midst, above His head, there whirls a wheel of many-coloured radiance, so that thereby all deeds are harmonized in one. And the whirring of the wheel declares: The Wisdom of the Master is the Justice of Time.
Attend to the Will of the Master! At this there cometh forth from the heart of the Wheel a Serpent with the head of a Sphinx, and toucheth the mouth of the Master, so that His voice breaks into Song: The Word of the law is Thelema (greek letters). Then is all Heaven aflame with a great blast of trumpets; and the world is alight with one flash that sundereth every spirit that liveth, branding this Sign upon them: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. AVES. Now the whole air is thrilled by the voices of birds: A Swan, a Phoenix, a Raven, a Hawk, a Pelican, a Dove, an Ibis and a Vulture: in his turn each one sang praises, even as it was given unto him to understand one part of the Spirit of the Master. THE VOICE OF THE SWAN.