Honore de Balzac
Part 3 out of 3
globe. Have you ever meditated on the masses of nitre deposited by the
snow, have you ever observed a thunderstorm and seen the plants
breathing in from the air about them the metal it contains, without
concluding that the sun has fused and distributed the subtle essence
which nourishes all things here below? Swedenborg has said, 'The earth
is a man.'
"Your Science, which makes you great in your own eyes, is paltry
indeed beside the light which bathes a Seer. Cease, cease to question
me; our languages are different. For a moment I have used yours to
cast, if it be possible, a ray of faith into your soul; to give you,
as it were, the hem of my garment and draw you up into the regions of
Prayer. Can God abase Himself to you? Is it not for you to rise to
Him? If human reason finds the ladder of its own strength too weak to
bring God down to it, is it not evident that you must find some other
path to reach Him? That Path is in ourselves. The Seer and the
Believer find eyes within their souls more piercing far than eyes that
probe the things of earth,--they see the Dawn. Hear this truth: Your
science, let it be never so exact, your meditations, however bold,
your noblest lights are Clouds. Above, above is the Sanctuary whence
the true Light flows."
She sat down and remained silent; her calm face bore no sign of the
agitation which orators betray after their least fervid
Wilfrid bent toward Monsieur Becker and said in a low voice, "Who
taught her that?"
"I do not know," he answered.
"He was gentler on the Falberg," Minna whispered to herself.
Seraphita passed her hand across her eyes and then she said,
"You are very thoughtful to-night, gentlemen. You treat Minna and me
as though we were men to whom you must talk politics or commerce;
whereas we are young girls, and you ought to tell us tales while you
drink your tea. That is what we do, Monsieur Wilfrid, in our long
Norwegian evenings. Come, dear pastor, tell me some Saga that I have
not heard,--that of Frithiof, the chronicle that you believe and have
so often promised me. Tell us the story of the peasant lad who owned
the ship that talked and had a soul. Come! I dream of the frigate
Ellida, the fairy with the sails young girls should navigate!"
"Since we have returned to the regions of Jarvis," said Wilfrid, whose
eyes were fastened on Seraphita as those of a robber, lurking in the
darkness, fasten on the spot where he knows the jewels lie, "tell me
why you do not marry?"
"You are all born widows and widowers," she replied; "but my marriage
was arranged at my birth. I am betrothed."
"To whom?" they cried.
"Ask not my secret," she said; "I will promise, if our father permits
it, to invite you to these mysterious nuptials."
"Will they be soon?"
"I think so."
A long silence followed these words.
"The spring has come!" said Seraphita, suddenly. "The noise of the
waters and the breaking of the ice begins. Come, let us welcome the
first spring of the new century."
She rose, followed by Wilfrid, and together they went to a window
which David had opened. After the long silence of winter, the waters
stirred beneath the ice and resounded through the fiord like music,--
for there are sounds which space refines, so that they reach the ear
in waves of light and freshness.
"Wilfrid, cease to nourish evil thoughts whose triumph would be hard
to bear. Your desires are easily read in the fire of your eyes. Be
kind; take one step forward in well-doing. Advance beyond the love of
man and sacrifice yourself completely to the happiness of her you
love. Obey me; I will lead you in a path where you shall obtain the
distinctions which you crave, and where Love is infinite indeed."
She left him thoughtful.
"That soft creature!" he said within himself; "is she indeed the
prophetess whose eyes have just flashed lightnings, whose voice has
rung through worlds, whose hand has wielded the axe of doubt against
our sciences? Have we been dreaming? Am I awake?"
"Minna," said Seraphita, returning to the young girl, "the eagle
swoops where the carrion lies, but the dove seeks the mountain spring
beneath the peaceful greenery of the glades. The eagle soars to
heaven, the dove descends from it. Cease to venture into regions where
thou canst find no spring of waters, no umbrageous shade. If on the
Falberg thou couldst not gaze into the abyss and live, keep all thy
strength for him who will love thee. Go, poor girl; thou knowest, I am
Minna rose and followed Seraphita to the window where Wilfrid stood.
All three listened to the Sieg bounding out the rush of the upper
waters, which brought down trees uprooted by the ice; the fiord had
regained its voice; all illusions were dispelled! They rejoiced in
Nature as she burst her bonds and seemed to answer with sublime accord
to the Spirit whose breath had wakened her.
When the three guests of this mysterious being left the house, they
were filled with the vague sensation which is neither sleep, nor
torpor, nor astonishment, but partakes of the nature of each,--a state
that is neither dusk nor dawn, but which creates a thirst for light.
All three were thinking.
"I begin to believe that she is indeed a Spirit hidden in human form,"
said Monsieur Becker.
Wilfrid, re-entering his own apartments, calm and convinced, was
unable to struggle against that influence so divinely majestic.
Minna said in her heart, "Why will he not let me love him!"
There is in man an almost hopeless phenomenon for thoughtful minds who
seek a meaning in the march of civilization, and who endeavor to give
laws of progression to the movement of intelligence. However
portentous a fact may be, or even supernatural,--if such facts exist,
--however solemnly a miracle may be done in sight of all, the
lightning of that fact, the thunderbolt of that miracle is quickly
swallowed up in the ocean of life, whose surface, scarcely stirred by
the brief convulsion, returns to the level of its habitual flow.
A Voice is heard from the jaws of an Animal; a Hand writes on the wall
before a feasting Court; an Eye gleams in the slumber of a king, and a
Prophet explains the dream; Death, evoked, rises on the confines of
the luminous sphere were faculties revive; Spirit annihilates Matter
at the foot of that mystic ladder of the Seven Spiritual Worlds, one
resting upon another in space and revealing themselves in shining
waves that break in light upon the steps of the celestial Tabernacle.
But however solemn the inward Revelation, however clear the visible
outward Sign, be sure that on the morrow Balaam doubts both himself
and his ass, Belshazzar and Pharoah call Moses and Daniel to qualify
the Word. The Spirit, descending, bears man above this earth, opens
the seas and lets him see their depths, shows him lost species, wakens
dry bones whose dust is the soil of valleys; the Apostle writes the
Apocalypse, and twenty centuries later human science ratifies his
words and turns his visions into maxims. And what comes of it all? Why
this,--that the peoples live as they have ever lived, as they lived in
the first Olympiad, as they lived on the morrow of Creation, and on
the eve of the great cataclysm. The waves of Doubt have covered all
things. The same floods surge with the same measured motion on the
human granite which serves as a boundary to the ocean of intelligence.
When man has inquired of himself whether he has seen that which he has
seen, whether he has heard the words that entered his ears, whether
the facts were facts and the idea is indeed an idea, then he resumes
his wonted bearing, thinks of his worldly interests, obeys some envoy
of death and of oblivion whose dusky mantle covers like a pall an
ancient Humanity of which the moderns retain no memory. Man never
pauses; he goes his round, he vegetates until the appointed day when
his Axe falls. If this wave force, this pressure of bitter waters
prevents all progress, no doubt it also warns of death. Spirits
prepared by faith among the higher souls of earth can alone perceive
the mystic ladder of Jacob.
After listening to Seraphita's answer in which (being earnestly
questioned) she unrolled before their eyes a Divine Perspective,--as
an organ fills a church with sonorous sound and reveals a musical
universe, its solemn tones rising to the loftiest arches and playing,
like light, upon their foliated capitals,--Wilfrid returned to his own
room, awed by the sight of a world in ruins, and on those ruins the
brilliance of mysterious lights poured forth in torrents by the hand
of a young girl. On the morrow he still thought of these things, but
his awe was gone; he felt he was neither destroyed nor changed; his
passions, his ideas awoke in full force, fresh and vigorous. He went
to breakfast with Monsieur Becker and found the old man absorbed in
the "Treatise on Incantations," which he had searched since early
morning to convince his guest that there was nothing unprecedented in
all that they had seen and heard at the Swedish castle. With the
childlike trustfulness of a true scholar he had folded down the pages
in which Jean Wier related authentic facts which proved the
possibility of the events that had happened the night before,--for to
learned men an idea is a event, just as the greatest events often
present no idea at all to them. By the time they had swallowed their
fifth cup of tea, these philosophers had come to think the mysterious
scene of the preceding evening wholly natural. The celestial truths to
which they had listened were arguments susceptible of examination;
Seraphita was a girl, more or less eloquent; allowance must be made
for the charms of her voice, her seductive beauty, her fascinating
motions, in short, for all those oratorical arts by which an actor
puts a world of sentiment and thought into phrases which are often
"Bah!" said the worthy pastor, making a philosophical grimace as he
spread a layer of salt butter on his slice of bread, "the final word
of all these fine enigmas is six feet under ground."
"But," said Wilfrid, sugaring his tea, "I cannot image how a young
girl of seventeen can know so much; what she said was certainly a
"Read the account of that Italian woman," said Monsieur Becker, "who
at the age of twelve spoke forty-two languages, ancient and modern;
also the history of that monk who could guess thought by smell. I can
give you a thousand such cases from Jean Wier and other writers."
"I admit all that, dear pastor; but to my thinking, Seraphita would
make a perfect wife."
"She is all mind," said Monsieur Becker, dubiously.
Several days went by, during which the snow in the valleys melted
gradually away; the green of the forests and of the grass began to
show; Norwegian Nature made ready her wedding garments for her brief
bridal of a day. During this period, when the softened air invited
every one to leave the house, Seraphita remained at home in solitude.
When at last she admitted Minna the latter saw at once the ravages of
inward fever; Seraphita's voice was hollow, her skin pallid; hitherto
a poet might have compared her lustre to that of diamonds,--now it was
that of a topaz.
"Have you seen her?" asked Wilfrid, who had wandered around the
Swedish dwelling waiting for Minna's return.
"Yes," answered the young girl, weeping; "We must lose him!"
"Mademoiselle," cried Wilfrid, endeavoring to repress the loud tones
of his angry voice, "do not jest with me. You can love Seraphita only
as one young girl can love another, and not with the love which she
inspires in me. You do not know your danger if my jealousy were really
aroused. Why can I not go to her? Is it you who stand in my way?"
"I do not know by what right you probe my heart," said Minna, calm in
appearance, but inwardly terrified. "Yes, I love him," she said,
recovering the courage of her convictions, that she might, for once,
confess the religion of her heart. "But my jealousy, natural as it is
in love, fears no one here below. Alas! I am jealous of a secret
feeling that absorbs him. Between him and me there is a great gulf
fixed which I cannot cross. Would that I knew who loves him best, the
stars or I! which of us would sacrifice our being most eagerly for his
happiness! Why should I not be free to avow my love? In the presence
of death we may declare our feelings,--and Seraphitus is about to
"Minna, you are mistaken; the siren I so love and long for, she, whom
I have seen, feeble and languid, on her couch of furs, is not a young
"Monsieur," answered Minna, distressfully, "the being whose powerful
hand guided me on the Falberg, who led me to the saeter sheltered
beneath the Ice-Cap, there--" she said, pointing to the peak, "is not
a feeble girl. Ah, had you but heard him prophesying! His poem was the
music of thought. A young girl never uttered those solemn tones of a
voice which stirred my soul."
"What certainty have you?" said Wilfrid.
"None but that of the heart," answered Minna.
"And I," cried Wilfrid, casting on his companion the terrible glance
of the earthly desire that kills, "I, too, know how powerful is her
empire over me, and I will undeceive you."
At this moment, while the words were rushing from Wilfrid's lips as
rapidly as the thoughts surged in his brain, they saw Seraphita coming
towards them from the house, followed by David. The apparition calmed
the man's excitement.
"Look," he said, "could any but a woman move with that grace and
"He suffers; he comes forth for the last time," said Minna.
David went back at a sign from his mistress, who advanced towards
Wilfrid and Minna.
"Let us go to the falls of the Sieg," she said, expressing one of
those desires which suddenly possess the sick and which the well
hasten to obey.
A thin white mist covered the valleys around the fiord and the sides
of the mountains, whose icy summits, sparkling like stars, pierced the
vapor and gave it the appearance of a moving milky way. The sun was
visible through the haze like a globe of red fire. Though winter still
lingered, puffs of warm air laden with the scent of the birch-trees,
already adorned with their rosy efflorescence, and of the larches,
whose silken tassels were beginning to appear,--breezes tempered by
the incense and the sighs of earth,--gave token of the glorious
Northern spring, the rapid, fleeting joy of that most melancholy of
Natures. The wind was beginning to lift the veil of mist which half-
obscured the gulf. The birds sang. The bark of the trees where the sun
had not yet dried the clinging hoar-frost shone gayly to the eye in
its fantastic wreathings which trickled away in murmuring rivulets as
the warmth reached them. The three friends walked in silence along the
shore. Wilfrid and Minna alone noticed the magic transformation that
was taking place in the monotonous picture of the winter landscape.
Their companion walked in thought, as though a voice were sounding to
her ears in this concert of Nature.
Presently they reached the ledge of rocks through which the Sieg had
forced its way, after escaping from the long avenue cut by its waters
in an undulating line through the forest,--a fluvial pathway flanked
by aged firs and roofed with strong-ribbed arches like those of a
cathedral. Looking back from that vantage-ground, the whole extent of
the fiord could be seen at a glance, with the open sea sparkling on
the horizon beyond it like a burnished blade.
At this moment the mist, rolling away, left the sky blue and clear.
Among the valleys and around the trees flitted the shining fragments,
--a diamond dust swept by the freshening breeze. The torrent rolled on
toward them; along its length a vapor rose, tinted by the sun with
every color of his light; the decomposing rays flashing prismatic
fires along the many-tinted scarf of waters. The rugged ledge on which
they stood was carpeted by several kinds of lichen, forming a noble
mat variegated by moisture and lustrous like the sheen of a silken
fabric. Shrubs, already in bloom, crowned the rocks with garlands.
Their waving foliage, eager for the freshness of the water, drooped
its tresses above the stream; the larches shook their light fringes
and played with the pines, stiff and motionless as aged men. This
luxuriant beauty was foiled by the solemn colonnades of the forest-
trees, rising in terraces upon the mountains, and by the calm sheet of
the fiord, lying below, where the torrent buried its fury and was
still. Beyond, the sea hemmed in this page of Nature, written by the
greatest of poets, Chance; to whom the wild luxuriance of creation
when apparently abandoned to itself is owing.
The village of Jarvis was a lost point in the landscape, in this
immensity of Nature, sublime at this moment like all things else of
ephemeral life which present a fleeting image of perfection; for, by a
law fatal to no eyes but our own, creations which appear complete--the
love of our heart and the desire of our eyes--have but one spring-tide
here below. Standing on this breast-work of rock these three persons
might well suppose themselves alone in the universe.
"What beauty!" cried Wilfrid.
"Nature sings hymns," said Seraphita. "Is not her music exquisite?
Tell me, Wilfrid, could any of the women you once knew create such a
glorious retreat for herself as this? I am conscious here of a feeling
seldom inspired by the sight of cities, a longing to lie down amid
this quickening verdure. Here, with eyes to heaven and an open heart,
lost in the bosom of immensity, I could hear the sighings of the
flower, scarce budded, which longs for wings, or the cry of the eider
grieving that it can only fly, and remember the desires of man who,
issuing from all, is none the less ever longing. But that, Wilfrid, is
only a woman's thought. You find seductive fancies in the wreathing
mists, the light embroidered veils which Nature dons like a coy
maiden, in this atmosphere where she perfumes for her spousals the
greenery of her tresses. You seek the naiad's form amid the gauzy
vapors, and to your thinking my ears should listen only to the virile
voice of the Torrent."
"But Love is there, like the bee in the calyx of the flower," replied
Wilfrid, perceiving for the first time a trace of earthly sentiment in
her words, and fancying the moment favorable for an expression of his
"Always there?" said Seraphita, smiling. Minna had left them for a
moment to gather the blue saxifrages growing on a rock above.
"Always," repeated Wilfrid. "Hear me," he said, with a masterful
glance which was foiled as by a diamond breast-plate. "You know not
what I am, nor what I can be, nor what I will. Do not reject my last
entreaty. Be mine for the good of that world whose happiness you bear
upon your heart. Be mine that my conscience may be pure; that a voice
divine may sound in my ears and infuse Good into the great enterprise
I have undertaken prompted by my hatred to the nations, but which I
swear to accomplish for their benefit if you will walk beside me. What
higher mission can you ask for love? what nobler part can woman aspire
to? I came to Norway to meditate a grand design."
"And you will sacrifice its grandeur," she said, "to an innocent girl
who loves you, and who will lead you in the paths of peace."
"What matters sacrifice," he cried, "if I have you? Hear my secret. I
have gone from end to end of the North,--that great smithy from whose
anvils new races have spread over the earth, like human tides
appointed to refresh the wornout civilizations. I wished to begin my
work at some Northern point, to win the empire which force and
intellect must ever give over a primitive people; to form that people
for battle, to drive them to wars which should ravage Europe like a
conflagration, crying liberty to some, pillage to others, glory here,
pleasure there!--I, myself, remaining an image of Destiny, cruel,
implacable, advancing like the whirlwind, which sucks from the
atmosphere the particles that make the thunderbolt, and falls like a
devouring scourge upon the nations. Europe is at an epoch when she
awaits the new Messiah who shall destroy society and remake it. She
can no longer believe except in him who crushes her under foot. The
day is at hand when poets and historians will justify me, exalt me,
and borrow my ideas, mine! And all the while my triumph will be a
jest, written in blood, the jest of my vengeance! But not here,
Seraphita; what I see in the North disgusts me. Hers is a mere blind
force; I thirst for the Indies! I would rather fight a selfish,
cowardly, mercantile government. Besides, it is easier to stir the
imagination of the peoples at the feet of the Caucasus than to argue
with the intellect of the icy lands which here surround me. Therefore
am I tempted to cross the Russian steps and pour my triumphant human
tide through Asia to the Ganges, and overthrow the British rule. Seven
men have done this thing before me in other epochs of the world. I
will emulate them. I will spread Art like the Saracens, hurled by
Mohammed upon Europe. Mine shall be no paltry sovereignty like those
that govern to-day the ancient provinces of the Roman empire,
disputing with their subjects about a customs right! No, nothing can
bar my way! Like Genghis Khan, my feet shall tread a third of the
globe, my hand shall grasp the throat of Asia like Aurung-Zeb. Be my
companion! Let me seat thee, beautiful and noble being, on a throne! I
do not doubt success, but live within my heart and I am sure of it."
"I have already reigned," said Seraphita, coldly.
The words fell as the axe of a skilful woodman falls at the root of a
young tree and brings it down at a single blow. Men alone can
comprehend the rage that a woman excites in the soul of a man when,
after showing her his strength, his power, his wisdom, his
superiority, the capricious creature bends her head and says, "All
that is nothing"; when, unmoved, she smiles and says, "Such things are
known to me," as though his power were nought.
"What!" cried Wilfrid, in despair, "can the riches of art, the riches
of worlds, the splendors of a court--"
She stopped him by a single inflexion of her lips, and said, "Beings
more powerful than you have offered me far more."
"Thou hast no soul," he cried,--"no soul, if thou art not persuaded by
the thought of comforting a great man, who is willing now to sacrifice
all things to live beside thee in a little house on the shores of a
"But," she said, "I am loved with a boundless love."
"By whom?" cried Wilfrid, approaching Seraphita with a frenzied
movement, as if to fling her into the foaming basin of the Sieg.
She looked at him and slowly extended her arm, pointing to Minna, who
now sprang towards her, fair and glowing and lovely as the flowers she
held in her hand.
"Child!" said Seraphitus, advancing to meet her.
Wilfrid remained where she left him, motionless as the rock on which
he stood, lost in thought, longing to let himself go into the torrent
of the Sieg, like the fallen trees which hurried past his eyes and
disappeared in the bosom of the gulf.
"I gathered them for you," said Minna, offering the bunch of
saxifrages to the being she adored. "One of them, see, this one," she
added, selecting a flower, "is like that you found on the Falberg."
Seraphitus looked alternately at the flower and at Minna.
"Why question me? Dost thou doubt me?"
"No," said the young girl, "my trust in you is infinite. You are more
beautiful to look upon than this glorious nature, but your mind
surpasses in intellect that of all humanity. When I have been with you
I seem to have prayed to God. I long--"
"For what?" said Seraphitus, with a glance that revealed to the young
girl the vast distance which separated them.
"To suffer in your stead."
"Ah, dangerous being!" cried Seraphitus in his heart. "Is it wrong, oh
my God! to desire to offer her to Thee? Dost thou remember, Minna,
what I said to thee up there?" he added, pointing to the summit of the
"He is terrible again," thought Minna, trembling with fear.
The voice of the Sieg accompanied the thoughts of the three beings
united on this platform of projecting rock, but separated in soul by
the abysses of the Spiritual World.
"Seraphitus! teach me," said Minna in a silvery voice, soft as the
motion of a sensitive plant, "teach me how to cease to love you. Who
could fail to admire you; love is an admiration that never wearies."
"Poor child!" said Seraphitus, turning pale; "there is but one whom
thou canst love in that way."
"Who?" asked Minna.
"Thou shalt know hereafter," he said, in the feeble voice of a man who
lies down to die.
"Help, help! he is dying!" cried Minna.
Wilfrid ran towards them. Seeing Seraphita as she lay on a fragment of
gneiss, where time had cast its velvet mantle of lustrous lichen and
tawny mosses now burnished in the sunlight, he whispered softly, "How
beautiful she is!"
"One other look! the last that I shall ever cast upon this nature in
travail," said Seraphitus, rallying her strength and rising to her
She advanced to the edge of the rocky platform, whence her eyes took
in the scenery of that grand and glorious landscape, so verdant,
flowery, and animated, yet so lately buried in its winding-sheet of
"Farewell," she said, "farewell, home of Earth, warmed by the fires of
Love; where all things press with ardent force from the centre to the
extremities; where the extremities are gathered up, like a woman's
hair, to weave the mysterious braid which binds us in that invisible
ether to the Thought Divine!
"Behold the man bending above that furrow moistened with his tears,
who lifts his head for an instant to question Heaven; behold the woman
gathering her children that she may feed them with her milk; see him
who lashes the ropes in the height of the gale; see her who sits in
the hollow of the rocks, awaiting the father! Behold all they who
stretch their hands in want after a lifetime spent in thankless toil.
To all peace and courage, and to all farewell!
"Hear you the cry of the soldier, dying nameless and unknown? the wail
of the man deceived who weeps in the desert? To them peace and
courage; to all farewell!
"Farewell, you who die for the kings of the earth! Farewell, ye people
without a country and ye countries without a people, each, with a
mutual want. Above all, farewell to Thee who knew not where to lay Thy
head, Exile divine! Farewell, mothers beside your dying sons!
Farewell, ye Little Ones, ye Feeble, ye Suffering, you whose sorrows I
have so often borne! Farewell, all ye who have descended into the
sphere of Instinct that you may suffer there for others!
"Farewell, ye mariners who seek the Orient through the thick darkness
of your abstractions, vast as principles! Farewell, martyrs of
thought, led by thought into the presence of the True Light. Farewell,
regions of study where mine ears can hear the plaint of genius
neglected and insulted, the sigh of the patient scholar to whom
enlightenment comes too late!
"I see the angelic choir, the wafting of perfumes, the incense of the
heart of those who go their way consoling, praying, imparting
celestial balm and living light to suffering souls! Courage, ye choir
of Love! you to whom the peoples cry, 'Comfort us, comfort us, defend
us!' To you courage! and farewell!
"Farewell, ye granite rocks that shall bloom a flower; farewell,
flower that becomes a dove; farewell, dove that shalt be woman;
farewell, woman, who art Suffering, man, who art Belief! Farewell, you
who shall be all love, all prayer!"
Broken with fatigue, this inexplicable being leaned for the first time
on Wilfrid and on Minna to be taken home. Wilfrid and Minna felt the
shock of a mysterious contact in and through the being who thus
connected them. They had scarcely advanced a few steps when David met
them, weeping. "She will die," he said, "why have you brought her
The old man raised her in his arms with the vigor of youth and bore
her to the gate of the Swedish castle like an eagle bearing a white
lamb to his mountain eyrie.
THE PATH TO HEAVEN
The day succeeding that on which Seraphita foresaw her death and bade
farewell to Earth, as a prisoner looks round his dungeon before
leaving it forever, she suffered pains which obliged her to remain in
the helpless immobility of those whose pangs are great. Wilfrid and
Minna went to see her, and found her lying on her couch of furs. Still
veiled in flesh, her soul shone through that veil, which grew more and
more transparent day by day. The progress of the Spirit, piercing the
last obstacle between itself and the Infinite, was called an illness,
the hour of Life went by the name of death. David wept as he watched
her sufferings; unreasonable as a child, he would not listen to his
mistress's consolations. Monsieur Becker wished Seraphita to try
remedies; but all were useless.
One morning she sent for the two beings whom she loved, telling them
that this would be the last of her bad days. Wilfrid and Minna came in
terror, knowing well that they were about to lose her. Seraphita
smiled to them as one departing to a better world; her head drooped
like a flower heavy with dew, which opens its calyx for the last time
to waft its fragrance on the breeze. She looked at these friends with
a sadness that was for them, not for herself; she thought no longer of
herself, and they felt this with a grief mingled with gratitude which
they were unable to express. Wilfrid stood silent and motionless, lost
in thoughts excited by events whose vast bearings enabled him to
conceive of some illimitable immensity.
Emboldened by the weakness of the being lately so powerful, or perhaps
by the fear of losing him forever, Minna bent down over the couch and
said, "Seraphitus, let me follow thee!"
"Can I forbid thee?"
"Why will thou not love me enough to stay with me?"
"I can love nothing here."
"What canst thou love?"
"Is it worthy of heaven to despise the creatures of God?"
"Minna, can we love two beings at once? Would our beloved be indeed
our beloved if he did not fill our hearts? Must he not be the first,
the last, the only one? She who is all love, must she not leave the
world for her beloved? Human ties are but a memory, she has no ties
except to him! Her soul is hers no longer; it is his. If she keeps
within her soul anything that is not his, does she love? No, she loves
not. To love feebly, is that to love at all? The voice of her beloved
makes her joyful; it flows through her veins in a crimson tide more
glowing far than blood; his glance is the light that penetrates her;
her being melts into his being. He is warm to her soul. He is the
light that lightens; near to him there is neither cold nor darkness.
He is never absent, he is always with us; we think in him, to him, by
him! Minna, that is how I love him."
"Love whom?" said Minna, tortured with sudden jealousy.
"God," replied Seraphitus, his voice glowing in their souls like fires
of liberty from peak to peak upon the mountains,--"God, who does not
betray us! God, who will never abandon us! who crowns our wishes; who
satisfies His creatures with joy--joy unalloyed and infinite! God, who
never wearies but ever smiles! God, who pours into the soul fresh
treasures day by day; who purifies and leaves no bitterness; who is
all harmony, all flame! God, who has placed Himself within our hearts
to blossom there; who hearkens to our prayers; who does not stand
aloof when we are His, but gives His presence absolutely! He who
revives us, magnifies us, and multiplies us in Himself; GOD! Minna, I
love thee because thou mayst be His! I love thee because if thou come
to Him thou wilt be mine."
"Lead me to Him," cried Minna, kneeling down; "take me by the hand; I
will not leave thee!"
"Lead us, Seraphita!" cried Wilfrid, coming to Minna's side with an
impetuous movement. "Yes, thou hast given me a thirst for Light, a
thirst for the Word. I am parched with the Love thou hast put into my
heart; I desire to keep thy soul in mine; thy will is mine; I will do
whatsoever thou biddest me. Since I cannot obtain thee, I will keep
thy will and all the thoughts that thou hast given me. If I may not
unite myself with thee except by the power of my spirit, I will cling
to thee in soul as the flame to what it laps. Speak!"
"Angel!" exclaimed the mysterious being, enfolding them both in one
glance, as it were with an azure mantle, "Heaven shall by thine
Silence fell among them after these words, which sounded in the souls
of the man and of the woman like the first notes of some celestial
"If you would teach your feet to tread the Path to heaven, know that
the way is hard at first," said the weary sufferer; "God wills that
you shall seek Him for Himself. In that sense, He is jealous; He
demands your whole self. But when you have given Him yourself, never,
never will He abandon you. I leave with you the keys of the kingdom of
His Light, where evermore you shall dwell in the bosom of the Father,
in the heart of the Bridegroom. No sentinels guard the approaches, you
may enter where you will; His palaces, His treasures, His sceptre, all
are free. 'Take them!' He says. But--you must WILL to go there. Like
one preparing for a journey, a man must leave his home, renounce his
projects, bid farewell to friends, to father, mother, sister, even to
the helpless brother who cries after him,--yes, farewell to them
eternally; you will no more return than did the martyrs on their way
to the stake. You must strip yourself of every sentiment, of
everything to which man clings. Unless you do this you are but half-
hearted in your enterprise.
"Do for God what you do for your ambitious projects, what you do in
consecrating yourself to Art, what you have done when you loved a
human creature or sought some secret of human science. Is not God the
whole of science, the all of love, the source of poetry? Surely His
riches are worthy of being coveted! His treasure is inexhaustible, His
poem infinite, His love immutable, His science sure and darkened by no
mysteries. Be anxious for nothing, He will give you all. Yes, in His
heart are treasures with which the petty joys you lose on earth are
not to be compared. What I tell you is true; you shall possess His
power; you may use it as you would use the gifts of lover or mistress.
Alas! men doubt, they lack faith, and will, and persistence. If some
set their feet in the path, they look behind them and presently turn
back. Few decide between the two extremes,--to go or stay, heaven or
the mire. All hesitate. Weakness leads astray, passion allures into
dangerous paths, vice becomes habitual, man flounders in the mud and
makes no progress towards a better state.
"All human beings go through a previous life in the sphere of
Instinct, where they are brought to see the worthlessness of earthly
treasures, to amass which they gave themselves such untold pains! Who
can tell how many times the human being lives in the sphere of
Instinct before he is prepared to enter the sphere of Abstractions,
where thought expends itself on erring science, where mind wearies at
last of human language? for, when Matter is exhausted, Spirit enters.
Who knows how many fleshly forms the heir of heaven occupies before he
can be brought to understand the value of that silence and solitude
whose starry plains are but the vestibule of Spiritual Worlds? He
feels his way amid the void, makes trial of nothingness, and then at
last his eyes revert upon the Path. Then follow other existences,--all
to be lived to reach the place where Light effulgent shines. Death is
the post-house of the journey. A lifetime may be needed merely to gain
the virtues which annul the errors of man's preceding life. First
comes the life of suffering, whose tortures create a thirst for love.
Next the life of love and devotion to the creature, teaching devotion
to the Creator,--a life where the virtues of love, its martyrdoms, its
joys followed by sorrows, its angelic hopes, its patience, its
resignation, excite an appetite for things divine. Then follows the
life which seeks in silence the traces of the Word; in which the soul
grows humble and charitable. Next the life of longing; and lastly, the
life of prayer. In that is the noonday sun; there are the flowers,
there the harvest!
"The virtues we acquire, which develop slowly within us, are the
invisible links that bind each one of our existences to the others,--
existences which the spirit alone remembers, for Matter has no memory
for spiritual things. Thought alone holds the tradition of the bygone
life. The endless legacy of the past to the present is the secret
source of human genius. Some receive the gift of form, some the gift
of numbers, others the gift of harmony. All these gifts are steps of
progress in the Path of Light. Yes, he who possesses a single one of
them touches at that point the Infinite. Earth has divided the Word--
of which I here reveal some syllables--into particles, she has reduced
it to dust and has scattered it through her works, her dogmas, her
poems. If some impalpable grain shines like a diamond in a human work,
men cry: 'How grand! how true! how glorious!' That fragment vibrates
in their souls and wakes a presentiment of heaven: to some, a melody
that weans from earth; to others, the solitude that draws to God. To
all, whatsoever sends us back upon ourselves, whatsoever strikes us
down and crushes us, lifts or abases us,--THAT is but a syllable of
the Divine Word.
"When a human soul draws its first furrow straight, the rest will
follow surely. One thought borne inward, one prayer uplifted, one
suffering endured, one echo of the Word within us, and our souls are
forever changed. All ends in God; and many are the ways to find Him by
walking straight before us. When the happy day arrives in which you
set your feet upon the Path and begin your pilgrimage, the world will
know nothing of it; earth no longer understands you; you no longer
understand each other. Men who attain a knowledge of these things, who
lisp a few syllables of the Word, often have not where to lay their
head; hunted like beasts they perish on the scaffold, to the joy of
assembled peoples, while Angels open to them the gates of heaven.
Therefore, your destiny is a secret between yourself and God, just as
love is a secret between two hearts. You may be the buried treasure,
trodden under the feet of men thirsting for gold yet all-unknowing
that you are there beneath them.
"Henceforth your existence becomes a thing of ceaseless activity; each
act has a meaning which connects you with God, just as in love your
actions and your thoughts are filled with the loved one. But love and
its joys, love and its pleasures limited by the senses, are but the
imperfect image of the love which unites you to your celestial Spouse.
All earthly joy is mixed with anguish, with discontent. If love ought
not to pall then death should end it while its flame is high, so that
we see no ashes. But in God our wretchedness becomes delight, joy
lives upon itself and multiplies, and grows, and has no limit. In the
Earthly life our fleeting love is ended by tribulation; in the
Spiritual life the tribulations of a day end in joys unending. The
soul is ceaselessly joyful. We feel God with us, in us; He gives a
sacred savor to all things; He shines in the soul; He imparts to us
His sweetness; He stills our interest in the world viewed for
ourselves; He quickens our interest in it viewed for His sake, and
grants us the exercise of His power upon it. In His name we do the
works which He inspires, we act for Him, we have no self except in
Him, we love His creatures with undying love, we dry their tears and
long to bring them unto Him, as a loving woman longs to see the
inhabitants of earth obey her well-beloved.
"The final life, the fruition of all other lives, to which the powers
of the soul have tended, and whose merits open the Sacred Portals to
perfected man, is the life of Prayer. Who can make you comprehend the
grandeur, the majesty, the might of Prayer? May my voice, these words
of mine, ring in your hearts and change them. Be now, here, what you
may be after cruel trial! There are privileged beings, Prophets,
Seers, Messengers, and Martyrs, all those who suffer for the Word and
who proclaim it; such souls spring at a bound across the human sphere
and rise at once to Prayer. So, too, with those whose souls receive
the fire of Faith. Be one of those brave souls! God welcomes boldness.
He loves to be taken by violence; He will never reject those who force
their way to Him. Know this! desire, the torrent of your will, is so
all-powerful that a single emission of it, made with force, can obtain
all; a single cry, uttered under the pressure of Faith, suffices. Be
one of such beings, full of force, of will, of love! Be conquerors on
the earth! Let the hunger and thirst of God possess you. Fly to Him as
the hart panting for the water-brooks. Desire shall lend you its
wings; tears, those blossoms of repentance, shall be the celestial
baptism from which your nature will issue purified. Cast yourself on
the breast of the stream in Prayer! Silence and meditation are the
means of following the Way. God reveals Himself, unfailingly, to the
solitary, thoughtful seeker.
"It is thus that the separation takes place between Matter, which so
long has wrapped its darkness round you, and Spirit, which was in you
from the beginning, the light which lighted you and now brings noon-
day to your soul. Yes, your broken heart shall receive the light; the
light shall bathe it. Then you will no longer feel convictions, they
will have changed to certainties. The Poet utters; the Thinker
meditates; the Righteous acts; but he who stands upon the borders of
the Divine World prays; and his prayer is word, thought, action, in
one! Yes, prayer includes all, contains all; it completes nature, for
it reveals to you the mind within it and its progression. White and
shining virgin of all human virtues, ark of the covenant between earth
and heaven, tender and strong companion partaking of the lion and of
the lamb, Prayer! Prayer will give you the key of heaven! Bold and
pure as innocence, strong, like all that is single and simple, this
glorious, invincible Queen rests, nevertheless, on the material world;
she takes possession of it; like the sun, she clasps it in a circle of
light. The universe belongs to him who wills, who knows, who prays;
but he must will, he must know, he must pray; in a word, he must
possess force, wisdom, and faith.
"Therefore Prayer, issuing from so many trials, is the consummation of
all truths, all powers, all feelings. Fruit of the laborious,
progressive, continued development of natural properties and faculties
vitalized anew by the divine breath of the Word, Prayer has occult
activity; it is the final worship--not the material worship of images,
nor the spiritual worship of formulas, but the worship of the Divine
World. We say no prayers,--prayer forms within us; it is a faculty
which acts of itself; it has attained a way of action which lifts it
outside of forms; it links the soul to God, with whom we unite as the
root of the tree unites with the soil; our veins draw life from the
principle of life, and we live by the life of the universe. Prayer
bestows external conviction by making us penetrate the Material World
through the cohesion of all our faculties with the elementary
substances; it bestows internal conviction by developing our essence
and mingling it with that of the Spiritual Worlds. To be able to pray
thus, you must attain to an utter abandonment of flesh; you must
acquire through the fires of the furnace the purity of the diamond;
for this complete communion with the Divine is obtained only in
absolute repose, where storms and conflicts are at rest.
"Yes, Prayer--the aspiration of the soul freed absolutely from the
body--bears all forces within it, and applies them to the constant and
perseverant union of the Visible and the Invisible. When you possess
the faculty of praying without weariness, with love, with force, with
certainty, with intelligence, your spiritualized nature will presently
be invested with power. Like a rushing wind, like a thunderbolt, it
cuts its way through all things and shares the power of God. The
quickness of the Spirit becomes yours; in an instant you may pass from
region to region; like the Word itself, you are transported from the
ends of the world to other worlds. Harmony exists, and you are part of
it! Light is there and your eyes possess it! Melody is heard and you
echo it! Under such conditions, you feel your perceptions developing,
widening; the eyes of your mind reach to vast distances. There is, in
truth, neither time nor place to the Spirit; space and duration are
proportions created for Matter; spirit and matter have naught in
"Though these things take place in stillness, in silence, without
agitation, without external movement, yet Prayer is all action; but it
is spiritual action, stripped of substantiality, and reduced, like the
motion of the worlds, to an invisible pure force. It penetrates
everywhere like light; it gives vitality to souls that come beneath
its rays, as Nature beneath the sun. It resuscitates virtue, purifies
and sanctifies all actions, peoples solitude, and gives a foretaste of
eternal joys. When you have once felt the delights of the divine
intoxication which comes of this internal travail, then all is yours!
once take the lute on which we sing to God within your hands, and you
will never part with it. Hence the solitude in which Angelic Spirits
live; hence their disdain of human joys. They are withdrawn from those
who must die to live; they hear the language of such beings, but they
no longer understand their ideas; they wonder at their movements, at
what the world terms policies, material laws, societies. For them all
mysteries are over; truth, and truth alone, is theirs. They who have
reached the point where their eyes discern the Sacred Portals, who,
not looking back, not uttering one regret, contemplate worlds and
comprehend their destinies, such as they keep silence, wait, and bear
their final struggles. The worst of all those struggles is the last;
at the zenith of all virtue is Resignation,--to be an exile and not
lament, no longer to delight in earthly things and yet to smile, to
belong to God and yet to stay with men! You hear the voice that cries
to you, 'Advance!' Often celestial visions of descending Angels
compass you about with songs of praise; then, tearless, uncomplaining,
must you watch them as they reascent the skies! To murmur is to
forfeit all. Resignation is a fruit that ripens at the gates of
heaven. How powerful, how glorious the calm smile, the pure brow of
the resigned human creature. Radiant is the light of that brow. They
who live in its atmosphere grow purer. That calm glance penetrates and
softens. More eloquent by silence than the prophet by speech, such
beings triumph by their simple presence. Their ears are quick to hear
as a faithful dog listening for his master. Brighter than hope,
stronger than love, higher than faith, that creature of resignation is
the virgin standing on the earth, who holds for a moment the conquered
palm, then, rising heavenward, leaves behind her the imprint of her
white, pure feet. When she has passed away men flock around and cry,
'See! See!' Sometimes God holds her still in sight,--a figure to whose
feet creep Forms and Species of Animality to be shown their way. She
wafts the light exhaling from her hair, and they see; she speaks, and
they hear. 'A miracle!' they cry. Often she triumphs in the name of
God; frightened men deny her and put her to death; smiling, she lays
down her sword and goes to the stake, having saved the Peoples. How
many a pardoned Angel has passed from martyrdom to heaven! Sinai,
Golgotha are not in this place nor in that; Angels are crucified in
every place, in every sphere. Sighs pierce to God from the whole
universe. This earth on which we live is but a single sheaf of the
great harvest; humanity is but a species in the vast garden where the
flowers of heaven are cultivated. Everywhere God is like unto Himself,
and everywhere, by prayer, it is easy to reach Him."
With these words, which fell from the lips of another Hagar in the
wilderness, burning the souls of the hearers as the live coal of the
word inflamed Isaiah, this mysterious being paused as though to gather
some remaining strength. Wilfrid and Minna dared not speak. Suddenly
HE lifted himself up to die:--
"Soul of all things, oh my God, thou whom I love for Thyself! Thou,
Judge and Father, receive a love which has no limit. Give me of thine
essence and thy faculties that I be wholly thine! Take me, that I no
longer be myself! Am I not purified? then cast me back into the
furnace! If I be not yet proved in the fire, make me some nurturing
ploughshare, or the Sword of victory! Grant me a glorious martyrdom in
which to proclaim thy Word! Rejected, I will bless thy justice. But if
excess of love may win in a moment that which hard and patient labor
cannot attain, then bear me upward in thy chariot of fire! Grant me
triumph, or further trial, still will I bless thee! To suffer for
thee, is not that to triumph? Take me, seize me, bear me away! nay, if
thou wilt, reject me! Thou art He who can do no evil. Ah!" he cried,
after a pause, "the bonds are breaking.
"Spirits of the pure, ye sacred flock, come forth from the hidden
places, come on the surface of the luminous waves! The hour now is;
come, assemble! Let us sing at the gates of the Sanctuary; our songs
shall drive away the final clouds. With one accord let us hail the
Dawn of the Eternal Day. Behold the rising of the one True Light! Ah,
why may I not take with me these my friends! Farewell, poor earth,
The last psalm was uttered neither by word, look, nor gesture, nor by
any of those signs which men employ to communicate their thoughts, but
as the soul speaks to itself; for at the moment when Seraphita
revealed herself in her true nature, her thoughts were no longer
enslaved by human words. The violence of that last prayer had burst
her bonds. Her soul, like a white dove, remained for an instant poised
above the body whose exhausted substances were about to be
The aspiration of the Soul toward heaven was so contagious that
Wilfrid and Minna, beholding those radiant scintillations of Life,
perceived not Death.
They had fallen on their knees when HE had turned toward his Orient,
and they shared his ecstasy.
The fear of the Lord, which creates man a second time, purging away
his dross, mastered their hearts.
Their eyes, veiled to the things of Earth, were opened to the
Brightness of Heaven.
Though, like the Seers of old called Prophets by men, they were filled
with the terror of the Most High, yet like them they continued firm
when they found themselves within the radiance where the Glory of the
The veil of flesh, which, until now, had hidden that glory from their
eyes, dissolved imperceptibly away, and left them free to behold the
They stood in the twilight of the Coming Dawn, whose feeble rays
prepared them to look upon the True Light, to hear the Living Word,
and yet not die.
In this state they began to perceive the immeasurable differences
which separate the things of earth from the things of Heaven.
LIFE, on the borders of which they stood, leaning upon each other,
trembling and illuminated, like two children standing under shelter in
presence of a conflagration, That Life offered no lodgment to the
The ideas they used to interpret their vision to themselves were to
the things seen what the visible senses of a man are to his soul, the
material covering of a divine essence.
The departing SPIRIT was above them, shedding incense without odor,
melody without sound. About them, where they stood, were neither
surfaces, nor angles, nor atmosphere.
They dared neither question him nor contemplate him; they stood in the
shadow of that Presence as beneath the burning rays of a tropical sun,
fearing to raise their eyes lest the light should blast them.
They knew they were beside him, without being able to perceive how it
was that they stood, as in a dream, on the confines of the Visible and
the Invisible, nor how they had lost sight of the Visible and how they
beheld the Invisible.
To each other they said: "If he touches us, we can die!" But the
SPIRIT was now within the Infinite, and they knew not that neither
time, nor space, nor death, existed there, and that a great gulf lay
between them, although they thought themselves beside him.
Their souls were not prepared to receive in its fulness a knowledge of
the faculties of that Life; they could have only faint and confused
perceptions of it, suited to their weakness.
Were it not so, the thunder of the LIVING WORD, whose far-off tones
now reached their ears, and whose meaning entered their souls as life
unites with body,--one echo of that Word would have consumed their
being as a whirlwind of fire laps up a fragile straw.
Therefore they saw only that which their nature, sustained by the
strength of the SPIRIT, permitted them to see; they heard that only
which they were able to hear.
And yet, though thus protected, they shuddered when the Voice of the
anguished soul broke forth above them--the prayer of the SPIRIT
awaiting Life and imploring it with a cry.
That cry froze them to the very marrow of their bones.
The SPIRIT knocked at the SACRED PORTAL. "What wilt thou?" answered a
CHOIR, whose question echoed among the worlds. "To go to God." "Hast
thou conquered?" "I have conquered the flesh through abstinence, I
have conquered false knowledge by humility, I have conquered pride by
charity, I have conquered the earth by love; I have paid my dues by
suffering, I am purified in the fires of faith, I have longed for Life
by prayer: I wait in adoration, and I am resigned."
No answer came.
"God's will be done!" answered the SPIRIT, believing that he was about
to be rejected.
His tears flowed and fell like dew upon the heads of the two kneeling
witnesses, who trembled before the justice of God.
Suddenly the trumpets sounded,--the last trumpets of Victory won by
the ANGEL in this last trial. The reverberation passed through space
as sound through its echo, filling it, and shaking the universe which
Wilfrid and Minna felt like an atom beneath their feet. They trembled
under an anguish caused by the dread of the mystery about to be
A great movement took place, as though the Eternal Legions, putting
themselves in motion, were passing upward in spiral columns. The
worlds revolved like clouds driven by a furious wind. It was all
Suddenly the veils were rent away. They saw on high as it were a star,
incomparably more lustrous than the most luminous of material stars,
which detached itself, and fell like a thunderbolt, dazzling as
lightning. Its passage paled the faces of the pair, who thought it to
be THE LIGHT Itself.
It was the Messenger of good tidings, the plume of whose helmet was a
flame of Life.
Behind him lay the swath of his way gleaming with a flood of the
lights through which he passed.
He bore a palm and a sword. He touched the SPIRIT with the palm, and
the SPIRIT was transfigured. Its white wings noiselessly unfolded.
This communication of THE LIGHT, changing the SPIRIT into a SERAPH and
clothing it with a glorious form, a celestial armor, poured down such
effulgent rays that the two Seers were paralyzed.
Like the three apostles to whom Jesus showed himself, they felt the
dead weight of their bodies which denied them a complete and cloudless
intuition of THE WORD and THE TRUE LIFE.
They comprehended the nakedness of their souls; they were able to
measure the poverty of their light by comparing it--a humbling task--
with the halo of the SERAPH.
A passionate desire to plunge back into the mire of earth and suffer
trial took possession of them,--trial through which they might
victoriously utter at the SACRED GATES the words of that radiant
The Seraph knelt before the SANCTUARY, beholding it, at last, face to
face; and he said, raising his hands thitherward, "Grant that these
two may have further sight; they will love the Lord and proclaim His
At this prayer a veil fell. Whether it were that the hidden force
which held the Seers had momentarily annihilated their physical
bodies, or that it raised their spirits above those bodies, certain it
is that they felt within them a rending of the pure from the impure.
The tears of the Seraph rose about them like a vapor, which hid the
lower worlds from their knowledge, held them in its folds, bore them
upwards, gave them forgetfulness of earthly meanings and the power of
comprehending the meanings of things divine.
The True Light shone; it illumined the Creations, which seemed to them
barren when they saw the source from which all worlds--Terrestrial,
Spiritual, and Divine-derived their Motion.
Each world possessed a centre to which converged all points of its
circumference. These worlds were themselves the points which moved
toward the centre of their system. Each system had its centre in great
celestial regions which communicated with the flaming and quenchless
MOTOR OF ALL THAT IS.
Thus, from the greatest to the smallest of the worlds, and from the
smallest of the worlds to the smallest portion of the beings who
compose it, all was individual, and all was, nevertheless, One and
What was the design of the Being, fixed in His essence and in His
faculties, who transmitted that essence and those faculties without
losing them? who manifested them outside of Himself without separating
them from Himself? who rendered his creations outside of Himself fixed
in their essence and mutable in their form? The pair thus called to
the celestial festival could only see the order and arrangement of
created beings and admire the immediate result. The Angels alone see
more. They know the means; they comprehend the final end.
But what the two Elect were granted power to contemplate, what they
were able to bring back as a testimony which enlightened their minds
forever after, was the proof of the action of the Worlds and of
Beings; the consciousness of the effort with which they all converge
to the Result.
They heard the divers parts of the Infinite forming one living melody;
and each time that the accord made itself felt like a mighty
respiration, the Worlds drawn by the concordant movement inclined
themselves toward the Supreme Being who, from His impenetrable centre,
issued all things and recalled all things to Himself.
This ceaseless alternation of voices and silence seemed the rhythm of
the sacred hymn which resounds and prolongs its sound from age to age.
Wilfrid and Minna were enabled to understand some of the mysterious
sayings of Him who had appeared on earth in the form which to each of
them had rendered him comprehensible,--to one Seraphitus, to the other
Seraphita,--for they saw that all was homogeneous in the sphere where
he now was.
Light gave birth to melody, melody gave birth to light; colors were
light and melody; motion was a Number endowed with Utterance; all
things were at once sonorous, diaphanous, and mobile; so that each
interpenetrated the other, the whole vast area was unobstructed and
the Angels could survey it from the depths of the Infinite.
They perceived the puerility of human sciences, of which he had spoken
The scene was to them a prospect without horizon, a boundless space
into which an all-consuming desire prompted them to plunge. But,
fastened to their miserable bodies, they had the desire without the
power to fulfil it.
The SERAPH, preparing for his flight, no longer looked towards them;
he had nothing now in common with Earth.
Upward he rose; the shadow of his luminous presence covered the two
Seers like a merciful veil, enabling them to raise their eyes and see
him, rising in his glory to Heaven in company with the glad Archangel.
He rose as the sun from the bosom of the Eastern waves; but, more
majestic than the orb and vowed to higher destinies, he could not be
enchained like inferior creations in the spiral movement of the
worlds; he followed the line of the Infinite, pointing without
deviation to the One Centre, there to enter his eternal life,--to
receive there, in his faculties and in his essence, the power to enjoy
through Love, and the gift of comprehending through Wisdom.
The scene which suddenly unveiled itself to the eyes of the two Seers
crushed them with a sense of its vastness; they felt like atoms, whose
minuteness was not to be compared even to the smallest particle which
the infinite of divisibility enabled the mind of man to imagine,
brought into the presence of the infinite of Numbers, which God alone
can comprehend as He alone can comprehend Himself.
Strength and Love! what heights, what depths in those two entities,
whom the Seraph's first prayer placed like two links, as it were, to
unite the immensities of the lower worlds with the immensity of the
They comprehended the invisible ties by which the material worlds are
bound to the spiritual worlds. Remembering the sublime efforts of
human genius, they were able to perceive the principle of all melody
in the songs of heaven which gave sensations of color, of perfume, of
thought, which recalled the innumerable details of all creations, as
the songs of earth revive the infinite memories of love.
Brought by the exaltation of their faculties to a point that cannot be
described in any language, they were able to cast their eyes for an
instant into the Divine World. There all was Rejoicing.
Myriads of angels were flocking together, without confusion; all alike
yet all dissimilar, simple as the flower of the fields, majestic as
Wilfrid and Minna saw neither their coming nor their going; they
appeared suddenly in the Infinite and filled it with their presence,
as the stars shine in the invisible ether.
The scintillations of their united diadems illumined space like the
fires of the sky at dawn upon the mountains. Waves of light flowed
from their hair, and their movements created tremulous undulations in
space like the billows of a phosphorescent sea.
The two Seers beheld the SERAPH dimly in the midst of the immortal
legions. Suddenly, as though all the arrows of a quiver had darted
together, the Spirits swept away with a breath the last vestiges of
the human form; as the SERAPH rose he became yet purer; soon he seemed
to them but a faint outline of what he had been at the moment of his
transfiguration,--lines of fire without shadow.
Higher he rose, receiving from circle to circle some new gift, while
the sign of his election was transmitted to each sphere into which,
more and more purified, he entered.
No voice was silent; the hymn diffused and multiplied itself in all
"Hail to him who enters living! Come, flower of the Worlds! diamond
from the fires of suffering! pearl without spot, desire without flesh,
new link of earth and heaven, be Light! Conquering spirit, Queen of
the world, come for thy crown! Victor of earth, receive thy diadem!
Thou art of us!"
The virtues of the SERAPH shone forth in all their beauty.
His earliest desire for heaven re-appeared, tender as childhood. The
deeds of his life, like constellations, adorned him with their
brightness. His acts of faith shone like the Jacinth of heaven, the
color of sidereal fires. The pearls of Charity were upon him,--a
chaplet of garnered tears! Love divine surrounded him with roses; and
the whiteness of his Resignation obliterated all earthly trace.
Soon, to the eyes of the Seers, he was but a point of flame, growing
brighter and brighter as its motion was lost in the melodious
acclamations which welcomed his entrance into heaven.
The celestial accents made the two exiles weep.
Suddenly a silence as of death spread like a mourning veil from the
first to the highest sphere, throwing Wilfrid and Minna into a state
of intolerable expectation.
At this moment the SERAPH was lost to sight within the SANCTUARY,
receiving there the gift of Life Eternal.
A movement of adoration made by the Host of heaven filled the two
Seers with ecstasy mingled with terror. They felt that all were
prostrate before the Throne, in all the spheres, in the Spheres
Divine, in the Spiritual Spheres, and in the Worlds of Darkness.
The Angels bent the knee to celebrate the SERAPH'S glory; the Spirits
bent the knee in token of their impatience; others bent the knee in
the dark abysses, shuddering with awe.
A mighty cry of joy gushed forth, as the spring gushes forth to its
millions of flowering herbs sparkling with diamond dew-drops in the
sunlight; at that instant the SERAPH reappeared, effulgent, crying,
"ETERNAL! ETERNAL! ETERNAL!"
The universe heard the cry and understood it; it penetrated the
spheres as God penetrates them; it took possession of the infinite;
the Seven Divine Worlds heard the Voice and answered.
A mighty movement was perceptible, as though whole planets, purified,
were rising in dazzling light to become Eternal.
Had the SERAPH obtained, as a first mission, the work of calling to
God the creations permeated by His Word?
But already the sublime HALLELUJAH was sounding in the ear of the
desolate ones as the distant undulations of an ended melody. Already
the celestial lights were fading like the gold and crimson tints of a
setting sun. Death and Impurity recovered their prey.
As the two mortals re-entered the prison of flesh, from which their
spirit had momentarily been delivered by some priceless sleep, they
felt like those who wake after a night of brilliant dreams, the memory
of which still lingers in their soul, though their body retains no
consciousness of them, and human language is unable to give utterance
The deep darkness of the sphere that was now about them was that of
the sun of the visible worlds.
"Let us descend to those lower regions," said Wilfrid.
"Let us do what he told us to do," answered Minna. "We have seen the
worlds on their march to God; we know the Path. Our diadem of stars is
Floating downward through the abysses, they re-entered the dust of the
lesser worlds, and saw the Earth, like a subterranean cavern, suddenly
illuminated to their eyes by the light which their souls brought with
them, and which still environed them in a cloud of the paling
harmonies of heaven. The sight was that which of old struck the inner
eyes of Seers and Prophets. Ministers of all religions, Preachers of
all pretended truths, Kings consecrated by Force and Terror, Warriors
and Mighty men apportioning the Peoples among them, the Learned and
the Rich standing above the suffering, noisy crowd, and noisily
grinding them beneath their feet,--all were there, accompanied by
their wives and servants; all were robed in stuffs of gold and silver
and azure studded with pearls and gems torn from the bowels of Earth,
stolen from the depths of Ocean, for which Humanity had toiled
throughout the centuries, sweating and blaspheming. But these
treasures, these splendors, constructed of blood, seemed worn-out rags
to the eyes of the two Exiles. "What do you there, in motionless
ranks?" cried Wilfrid. They answered not. "What do you there,
motionless?" They answered not. Wilfrid waved his hands over them,
crying in a loud voice, "What do you there, in motionless ranks?" All,
with unanimous action, opened their garments and gave to sight their
withered bodies, eaten with worms, putrefied, crumbling to dust,
rotten with horrible diseases.
"You lead the nations to Death," Wilfrid said to them. "You have
depraved the earth, perverted the Word, prostituted justice. After
devouring the grass of the fields you have killed the lambs of the
fold. Do you think yourself justified because of your sores? I will
warn my brethren who have ears to hear the Voice, and they will come
and drink of the spring of Living Waters which you have hidden."
"Let us save our strength for Prayer," said Minna. "Wilfrid, thy
mission is not that of the Prophets or the Avenger or the Messenger;
we are still on the confines of the lowest sphere; let us endeavor to
rise through space on the wings of Prayer."
"Thou shalt be all my love!"
"Thou shalt be all my strength!"
"We have seen the Mysteries; we are, each to the other, the only being
here below to whom Joy and Sadness are comprehensible; let us pray,
therefore: we know the Path, let us walk in it."
"Give me thy hand," said the Young Girl, "if we walk together, the way
will be to me less hard and long."
"With thee, with thee alone," replied the Man, "can I cross the awful
solitude without complaint."
"Together we will go to Heaven," she said.
The clouds gathered and formed a darksome dais. Suddenly the pair
found themselves kneeling beside a body which old David was guarding
from curious eyes, resolved to bury it himself.
Beyond those walls the first summer of the nineteenth century shone
forth in all its glory. The two lovers believed they heard a Voice in
the sun-rays. They breathed a celestial essence from the new-born
flowers. Holding each other by the hand, they said, "That illimitable
ocean which shines below us is but an image of what we saw above."
"Where are you going?" asked Monsieur Becker.
"To God," they answered. "Come with us, father."
Back to Full Books