Weeks of steady, joyous work.
Boris was writing the first of a series of books which were to present a vast cycle of ideas covering the most significant aspects of human life and of the search for universal truths and fundamental values. He was writing methodically, summoning hour after hour words that would convey forcefully, directly, his lucid vision. Without waste, without undue effort, he was recording facts of the mind-world with which he was conversant, in which his being had been centered since early adolescence. He was recording. He did not claim to invent or imagine. He was a living pen stating coherently, vividly the inner destiny which he was as an Idea. The idea he was had grown through the destiny he had appeared to be; grown by opposition, by contrasts of shadow and light, grown into form, into human manifestation. The idea was eternal, cyclic, as an idea. The destiny was the progressively self-revealing image of the idea in the world of personalities. It was very simple, very explicit — for one who could lift his consciousness from the tumult of bodily chemicalizations, of racial and earthly affinities and repulsions.
So few were able, alas!
While unfolding in his writings that idea which he was, he was telling his companions characteristic phases of the destiny through which he had come to formation. For long moments of quiet beauty they sat against the varnished trees washed clean for the celebration of spring, amidst the adolescent earth throwing out her love to space in multitudes of flowers. The resinous scent of the pines drew to itself the softer, indecisive fragrances of lupins and geraniums and of many wild gestures of the soil. It had power. It rose against the sea winds, salt-heavied and vibrant. And while slowly the green of the hills began to glow into sun browns and yellows, many weeks passed.
Of steady, concentrated, joyous work.
His tumultuous, rich destiny.
He was born in Moscow. His father, an aristocrat claiming descent from the Vikings who came with Rurik the Rodsman before the Tartar invasions — his mother, a woman from southern Russia whose ancestors had come from the old Parsee race. In him was brought to a focus the conflict of spiritual polarities. He was a true Moscovite. His youth had been brilliant and adventurous. He had lived many months on the Crimean estate of his mother. His body was weak and high strung at first. He had queer fevers which puzzled the doctors. He was passionately fond of children and Cossacks. They adored him. But with his relatives and aristocratic friends he was bitingly proud and commandeering. He went to school, but refused to work. He would fly into terrible rages and invented all sorts of things to upset the peace of the institution. His mother's death, soon after followed by his father's departure, came to him as a shock. First, he rebelled. Then a strange passionate mysticism took hold of him. Puberty had come. He fell ill. Physicians diagnosed some complicated internal disease. They operated upon him and to their amazement found nothing wrong. The two or three years that followed were years of intense yearning and distress. He wanted to die. He fell in desperate love with several girls. The girls did not really matter. But something was burning through him, and unable as he was to attune himself to the power of it, it was melting his very soul that rushed into every mold offered to it, like liquid iron. Then the hurts made him recoil in self-defense.
At that time he devoured books. Nietzsche became his god. He sneered at his previous mysticism. Away with all softness and love! He would be a master, master of himself, master of men. He invented subtle ways of proving to himself his mastery over his body and nerves. He inflicted injuries on himself in tense denial of pain. He walked long hours in absolutely dark forests, dominating his fears. He jumped into cold streams, when his body was shivering. Then he dreamt, long endless daydreams in which, rising from his actual position, he would inevitably in wondrous and varied ways conquer large portions of the earth, establish empires, build cities, and die, surrounded by thousands worshiping him, loving him . . . often on the top of some huge Asiatic or African mountain, whence he could feel the vast expanse of the earth which he had submitted and fecundated with power and magnificence.
Then he came to live with an aunt. She was a strong-willed, implacable and ambitious woman, who after having tried to rule her aristocratic circles and met sudden failure after some scandal, had withdrawn into occult studies. He was sent to her and she, sensing at once in him a power she could train for her own aims, had taken great interest in him and had entangled her life very closely with his. She captured his imagination. She was a woman to his taste, a powerful, determined creature. He followed her in her studies, in many more or less "occult" experiments. In Moscow and Petrograd a few secret circles and societies were to be found before the war. They joined one or two; they had strange dealings with people who came from Asia. Mysterious plots and plans were discussed. In the midst of all this the war came. It left him indifferent. He was passionately plunged in studies, in research. He left for Turkestan, partly to avoid the war consciousness, partly to get nearer to the center of Asia.
A series of strange adventures came to him. His aunt had been compromised in a big ammunition scandal. She fled to the Caucasus. He followed her. They both rode through the wild passes flying from men who wanted their death for State reasons. They experienced dreadful hardships; but it was an ecstatic adventure, this flight through snows, unknown valleys, then right into Armenia and Turkey. They were attacked by bandits. He dragged her, wounded, for miles, until he reached a small village. The woman died. As he was wondering whither to go, a Persian who was traveling with a small escort offered to take him along into Persia.
While going on slowly through mountainous and frozen countries, the Persian began to talk to him. Soon he found this man to be a renowned Bahai; once a Sufi teacher belonging to some secret order, he had thrown himself into the Bahai cause and was spreading a gospel of mystic devotion and eager love in the name of Abdul-Baha, with whom he had lived in Akka. An unforgettable trip this had been. Something in Boris had broken, something opened. The Persian was a living fire of love. It burned Boris's pride and harshness. All his tinsel power seemed to fall from him. He was left, naked, shivering in soul. He was twenty-five years old.
For a while he remained with the mystic in Persia. Months of metamorphosis, of rebirth. He suddenly craved humble tasks, service, complete self-abnegation. A passion for suffering, expiation, sacrifice seized him. He felt himself insignificant before his teacher and friend. "Ya Baha el Abba!" he would cry into the night, like the early Bahai martyrs. And the earth flew into him, and distended him; and he became humanity.
The Russian Revolution came. He burned to go. He wanted to fight with the people, to repair wrongs, to raise the great fervent banner of love amongst those who had suffered so desperately from hatred and insolence. His friend smiled, but let him go. He had to follow his destiny.
He found all his fortune and estates gone. When he arrived in the country where he had passed his youth, where he had owned large territories, he found an infuriated mob of peasants claiming revenge. He barely escaped death. A girl, whose life he had saved years before, protected him and fled with him. In Moscow he attempted to see revolutionists he had known. They were caught in the great fury, and the wheels of power smashed all past relations. Like steel girders tense with tremendous pressure, they were raw with work; they laughed at Boris' preachings; they shoveled him into strenuous, exasperating labor. He could not stand the barbaric strain of it. His nerves gave up. He asked to be sent to fight the Whites in Crimea, which he knew so well.
Months of hopeless war, desertion, atrocities on both sides. His soul sickened and he was ready to fall, a wreck. The girl, who had not left him, fell ill with typhoid fever. To help her die, he disobeyed orders, was left by the retreating Reds. Between the two armies death seemed certain. By sheer chance he succeeded in getting through the lines and fought his way to a steamer which lead him to Constantinople.
The months that followed were the darkest he experienced. He was parked with thousands of Russian refugees in wooden barracks exposed to the chilly winds that blew through the straits. The misery of these men and women who had known only luxury and grandeur was appalling. None could leave. They were welcome nowhere. Only women who married foreigners could leave. He saw a beautiful young girl who had been an attendant to the empress give herself in marriage to a French Negro just to escape the horror of these barracks. There was little food. There was disease. Men and women often lay bundled together trying to keep warm, trying to love, for a moment of forgetfulness! And they sang. And they danced; they died too, by the dozens.
He had accepted death. But instead came a man searching for him. He had a letter. It was from his Persian teacher. "Farewell, my son," read the letter. "I hope this will reach you. I am soon to enter the Kingdom of El-Abba. The breezes of peace are around me. I have not forgotten you. Now even, I see you among many sufferers. Come out of this death, my son. Rise into the light that is yours. The bird with bound wings cannot fly. May God the Mighty, the boundless, the compassionate, help you to soar into the heaven of dedication and to enter the Rizwan of certitude!"
Boris had asked in amazement how the messenger had found him. But no answer came. The mysterious man took him to a good hotel. While Boris was taking a bath, he heard the door of the room close. The man had left. On the table he found a large envelope with two thousand pounds and these words: "Do not look for me. Fulfill your destiny. This will help you find the way — if you are wise."
After a few days of rest Boris had decided to go to Egypt and then to India. Of his trip he told many wonderful experiences and how finally he had found in Ceylon his great teacher; a man who had attempted to regenerate Buddhism in the south, through a life of utter purity, nobility and consecration. A great teacher. He had traveled with him along the roads of India for five years, as a Bikkhu, wearing the yellow robe, begging his food. What these years had been could not be told. They had wandered toward the northern regions, to Benares, to the Bo-tree from whose shadow Gautama once had arisen to lead men, during forty years of perfect teaching, "to the other shore." One day, the sage had looked into Boris's eyes deeply for a long time in silence. And he had bid him go to America and help the few who were ready to live, in the way of nobility, the Aryan path of old, the eternal path that leads from ignorance into certainty and peace.
A tumultuous, rich destiny.
Now work was the fulfillment.
Rania and Nadia were swept into the steady rhythm of activity, mental and physical. Ten, twenty letters came every day from the many friends and disciples whom Boris had made in India, in Java where he had tarried for a few months, and during his years of constant traveling through the United States. Long answers were expected; life problems demanded to be solved; little hearts were resting in the hands of one who had faced life and had won. That also was work, even the mere physical act of letter-writing. Most of these letters Boris either dictated or sketched in their general outlines to Rania who was typing them, slowly at first, but with increasing speed and efficiency. Nadia also was learning typing and shorthand during the few hours not taken by household cares, by driving in and out, bringing in people who wanted to see Boris and had no car. Besides there were a couple of hours reserved for study, concentration. Both Rania and Nadia had to read and meditate over certain works, making summaries, annotating, condensing for simpler exposition parts of more abstruse works. Nadia especially had yet little knowledge of philosophy or science. She had shunned the very thought of them when at school. But now they had become alive. She was caught in a powerful mental polarization. The rhythm of work flew into her openness that had become a vessel filled by great ideas growing into living realities.
Through work, fulfillment.
Rania had begun again to draw.
For many months it had seemed useless to her. But a new sense of form had developed in her. Her vehement imagination seemed to have condensed into a clear, Doric vision of being. Numbers and geometrical figures had begun to show their structural function to her essentialized perceptions. She studied everything she could find on Pythagorean ideas, Hambidge's works on Dynamic Symmetry, books on crystals, on plant growth, the laws of form and manifested being, the laws of cosmic development; these became to her fascinating studies. With a new and for the first time fully deliberate assurance — before, she had worked in a more "inspired," passive manner — she tried to produce forms which would be of eternal universal significance, archetypal forms of life. She perceived them in trees, rocks, flowers which she essentialized into their barest rhythms. She watched for them in human faces. She drew them in sharp yet supple outlines. She let herself construct poems of lines and masses and colors that told tragedies of cosmic parturitions. In these works all her passionate soul would flare with chiaroscural intensity; but passion become form and meaning, passion from which the personal vehemence had been purified-passion become cosmic energy, intensely coordinated organic power.
Rania had begun again to draw. From morning to evening, work.
Not a moment wasted, useless. But also relaxation in the sun, short drives in the hills, in the canyons, to escape the sea-fog gliding in with the summer, to release the body from mind-tensions; Nadia dancing in the wind, running wildly to the sea and plunging into the cold gray waters, with the strong power of waves stimulating the body resisting, leaping, using the dumb waters as a lever for rhythmic swaying. Relaxation, but positiveness. From one activity to another; a sense of mastery of functions, using them, but not being used by them; a clear understanding of bodily equilibrium, of mental laws. At the end, efficiency. Not the mechanical, soulless, destructive efficiency of modern experts; but the conquest of inertia and of molecular-emotional chemicalizations for the purpose of soul. The soul came into matter to learn, to order chaos into cosmos, and to lift up lesser lives. It meant purity of causation — with its corollaries, benevolence and compassion. It meant exactitude and thoroughness; it meant punctuality — so had Boris been taught by one whose life was a model of harmonious, benevolent activity. It was the eternal law, the one way of service. Being through doing, but doing illumined by being — made significant, pure, all-encompassing by the flame of soul bringing into every gesture and every deed, knowledge, love, universality.
Life had become a poem of work.
Months were its stanzas.
They passed in vivid procession with a richness that precluded monotony. To break the possible tenseness Boris decided to take a long trip to Yosemite and the Sierras. Nadia had never seen big mountains. It was a revelation. Rania remembered. She had lived beautiful weeks in contemplation of these huge masses with her old Johan. He was dying then; she, bursting with incoherent, sumptuous life. As she faced the same panoramas, she realized more deeply and accurately than she could have in any other way the change that had taken place in her. Johan-Boris. Happiness . . . but how different in substance; the old and the new! She had turned around herself. She had become her hidden self, the changeless face of the moon that looks toward Space, where there is no sun-glamour, where darkness and silence are divinity. She had become that silence and that darkness. Everything in her that had risen or glowed in exuberance had resolved itself into stonelike certitude, into dispassionate work. She had become a work, a destiny. As a destiny she could see, through all forms, into the destinies of these forms. Once the tremendous spectacles of the Sierras had roused in her fervid imagination, colossal visions of stone-dramas; her personality had made all things personal. Now she saw all things through the eyes of a destiny; she saw all things as forms, as equations of energy. Not dramas of personalities, but interplays of cosmic destinies.
Months, years — as stanzas of a destiny.
She was watching Nadia.
The girl's nature was so interestingly different from her own, yet so much the same. After the few moments of exhilaration caused by the eruption of such magnificences into her sensibility, Nadia had made all these terrific earth-visions her own. She had opened herself to them and absorbed them as a matter of fact. Rania had been drunk with them for weeks, when they had burst upon her years ago. They had aroused a glorious personal reaction. Nadia had been stirred nervously at first, then she had accepted the natural intensity as a fact. She did not oppose anything to it, not even that which would be necessary to create joy. She had found it there. The moment a little nervous flurry had subsided, it was all settled. She had added that much of the universal being to herself. She had recognized it. She felt richer from it; and it too was richer from having been recognized. That also was destiny; a meeting of self-equating energies. And Nadia was essentially that, an openness of self-equating energies, a wholeness always in the making, living in impersonal naturalness, with strong nervous reactions almost instantly vanishing because underneath them there was nothing to oppose anything. Only life to recognize and grow into life.
Rania was watching her.
Nadia loved Boris.
But such a love was also of a clear, unopposing, cosmic nature. It reminded her of what she had read of love in ancient Aryan books, love as of the elements, love as a face of fulfillment: "He is Vishnu, she is Shri. She is language, he is thought. He is reason, she is sense. She is duty, he is right. He is patience, she is peace. He is chant, and she is note. She is fuel, he is fire. She is glory, he is sun. She is orbs, he is space. . . " There was nothing to say of such a love, nothing to act out. It was a necessity of being. Rania had come to Boris as a soul-cry that was nearly submerged. She had found in him the link she had lost, that which had cemented her into wholeness. He had shown her the path that is unique, explained to her its uniqueness, upheld her into its strenuous treading. They were companions both, hands within hands; he only farther on. But Nadia and Boris were one in a more cosmic sense. He had adopted her. She was note, he was chant. She was orbs, he was space. They were a uniqueness of destiny.
They all knew it.
Three humans equated into destiny.
The translucent fall came.
It brought perfection to a relation which was total and simple. There was no fog in it, no necessity for words, those masks of reality. Sky, waters, earth united in human significance: star-container and fecundator — the ever-moving, ever-absorbing, ever-cleansing sea — the fruit-bearing earth, a fragment of sky made tangible, made meaningful by limitations and mass. The work of the three had grown to a point of climactic intensity. Boris's first book was nearly finished and he was outlining a broad plan of activities to spread in many countries the basic ideas which he felt constituted the keynotes of the emerging new and global human society. Rania was absorbed by the ever-increasing correspondence connected with the furtherance of this plan. Her creative work filled the balance of the strenuous days. She was working on a series of panels which were to be incorporated some day in a sort of university-temple of which Boris had dreamt and which might become a living center of civilization. She had envisioned for them a new medium, a combination of black-and-white and bas-relief techniques. Transparent surfaces lighted from within were to be incorporated in the panels. It was the ultimate development of Western chiaroscuro revivified by a deeper sense of cosmic harmony.
The translucent fall came.
The seed had matured.
Human nature in harmony with earth-nature; yet not of this earth-hardly even in the earth! — but through the earth. Human nature focused as a channel of materialization, as a vehicle of activity. Equilibrium had been reached, a threefold. Its stem reached to the source of life. It had grown against the darkness, against the decaying emotionality of those who had been instruments of fate to bring about the conjunction; who had been thrown out of the sacred circle by the centrifugal fever of their own cravings and fears. As the seed reached maturity, the leaves which had conditioned its substance were withering. A strange dissatisfaction and morbidity seemed to have pervaded the sensitive existences gathered in Carmel. Two young people had committed suicide. Accidents had occurred. No effort to bring about communal enterprises escaped prompt disintegration. Some individuals had taken refuge in sophistication or sarcastic irony; others had withdrawn into the shade of book reading, in the monotonous routine of an easy but drab existence, bitter at heart in spite of a careless indifference and "Why bother about humanity?" Others were rushing more hectically than ever from this to that novel excitement in politics, religion, or art. The Sarmananda group had grown and deepened its deleterious work.
The seed had matured.
Winter was coming.
There must come a winter for every seed. There must come that which protects. and shields the seed toward spring, that which indeed gives its life and absorbs the hatred of winter for life, that mysterious essence which is the sacrificial aspect of life. It made the seed possible. It keeps the seed growing in the hidden ways of winter. It takes upon its heart the pangs of Christ-birth, the furor of all the Herods who represent that part of the race which bitterly had died, which had become death incarnate. Rania understood. Boris did not speak of such things. They must not be spoken within the seed. But every particle of it must know from within, in the silence. There can be no false sentimentality, no frightened clinging to a static happiness.
Winter was coming.
Centrifugal tensions were crucifying the seed.
A strange nervousness and weariness took hold of Nadia. The walls of the cottage were like huge batteries she did not dare touch, so heavy they felt with electricity. Something beat upon her. She would run out and dash off along the coast, or speed dangerously in the car. The pressure of constant concentration began to show itself. Even Boris became irritable, when people gathering to hear him asked questions. The future was stabbing the present at the heart. It was breaking the One into divergent paths. No rain came. The land was dry, dust overwhelming. A cold, chilly wind blew continuously, that made Rania ache unceasingly. Sciatica, neuritis, insomnia: she fought them desperately, always absorbed in work, typing letters until her arms refused to move, sitting, her face contracted by pain, her nerves knotted and inhibiting the bodily functions. It was a tense year. Unknown diseases, accidents, scandals were crowding in the news of every day. The end of a cycle, Boris explained. The worst might have yet to come.
Tensions breaking asunder the seed.
Nadia looked at her elders with tears.
Things were coming to a head. She felt it. Her love for Rania seemed almost unable to bear it. What? She could not tell. But the wheel was turning, bleeding to death time, whose moments were flowing spasmodically, blood from a deep wound. Oh, the pity of our great loves, when destiny severs the joined units — yet there is no hatred, no indifference, nothing to give an emotional reason to the tragedy, the inescapable fulfillment that is death. Nadia could not bear it. Yet she knew all rebellion to be useless. Something had to happen. A deep fatality was forcing everyone to make some final, awesome because sacred, choice. It involved the whole Carmel group. It might involve some much greater consummation. Somehow it centered around Rania. She was the one who had brought Boris and Nadia together. Thanks to her, financially, they had been able to work all together in comfort and wonderful isolation, yet nearness. In many deeper ways she seemed the pivotal reality, as the sea is the pivotal substance of planetary destiny. Out of it, organized life grows into manhood. It receives the death of continents. It is the balancing rhythm of climates, of winds and telluric destinies.
Nadia looked at her elders with tears.
Toward Christmas the pressure increased.
Hilda had been the center of the Sarmananda group; and she was falling deeper still into the quicksands of her own repressions. The group met secretly at night and tried to carry on the work of "becoming wholeness" by interchange of magnetism, group concentration during long minutes of rapt silence, and calling upon some "center of wholeness" to take possession of the vessel thus built out of their complementary and supposedly harmonized lives. The results were soon quite appalling. They were such as follow mediumship of a certain type, plus all the devouring tensions of sex repression. Sarmananda had taught them to transmute their sex force by such equilibration of magnetisms. What could it do but bring about acute conditions of neurosis and psychic hysteria? Hilda and Robert especially, playing as they did with physical attraction exacerbated by constant proximity and willful concentration on "transmutation" — in their case merely hyper-excitation with no release — had reached a point of near hysteria.
Toward Christmas the pressure increased.
It broke suddenly.
One day Hilda met Nadia on the street. Hilda was with Robert and a couple of girls from out of town. One asked who Nadia was. What Hilda said was so vile, it was such a base calumny about the life of Boris and Rania as well, that Nadia stopped abruptly and in sullen tones asked her to repeat her words. She did, with added sarcasm. Nadia lost her head and struck Hilda so violently that she fell to the street and injured her arm slightly. The incident stirred the whole little town. Nadia rode home in mad despair. She was not going to stay. She could not bear it. There must be an end to it or to her. She would go anywhere, do any job. It was too much.
The pressure had broken.
Rania and Boris had a long talk alone.
The work had to go on in some other way. The incident meant nothing new in itself, but it was a hand pointing out to some necessary decision. Boris had not expected to go away on tour so soon. He was still waiting for some final answer from a group in New York concerning the organization of a center of teaching which would be the first milestone in a general movement for the unification of Eastern and Western thought. That would mean his traveling a great deal, lecturing, meeting, people and rousing interest in big cities, European as well as American. Perhaps the time was ready. Should they leave all three for the east?
But Rania refused to go.
She would stay in Carmel.
Someone had to remain there. Not only to receive and forward mail and attend to many practical details which would be necessary, but above all not to desert the place. She was not one to leave the battlefield as one vanquished. Boris and Nadia would go. Their task was clear. They were one great effort, one great will to serve, one channel. Boris could not go alone. He needed a secretary, a companion, to relieve him of physical and material preoccupation. She had enough money left to finance their trip. She would rent the cottage and take a cabin somewhere near, the upkeep of which would be light. It did not matter how simple it would be. Besides, she was not strong enough to travel. She would make them waste time and energy. And there would not be enough money for the three of them just now. Later perhaps, when things would be settled in the east, she would join them. But at present she saw her duty clear.
She would stay in Carmel.
Thus the sacrifice was consummated.
After a month of preparation and forced work, Boris and Nadia left Carmel for the east. They would carry on the message and mission that were theirs. Rania would take care of the work in Carmel as well as she could, upholding the ideal at the center of an ever-spreading darkness. Yes, she would hold on, tightly, grimly. She was not afraid. They need not be sad for her. She knew how to stand alone at her post of destiny. To them, the great adventure of conquest and fecundation. She, too, had her work. Boris had given her direction and meaning. Through him, she had become poised in destiny, a destiny beyond form, name and utterance. Now she would make to him the gift of self and the gift of love, and thus she would be free, equated. She was giving Nadia to him. Were they not one? Oh, yes, of course she would love to be with him always, travel with him, help him. But was not her broken body the very negation of such a dream? So, why waste sentiment against a destiny for which she was responsible? She had known passion and human love. She had known the earth and its glorious selfhood. Now it was time to forget the earth and become stone — to be the cornerstone deep within the ground upholding in darkness the towering structure. Thus she would pay her debt to life, the debt of passion-torn youth. That she might live, one man had died. Hers now was the gift. Thus harmony would be re-established and she would be "free."
The sacrifice would be consummated to the full.
Go ye, builder and apprentice!
She bid them both success and happiness, with her strong lips and her strong hands. She saw them off in the morning. The crusaders left to reconquer the holy truth that men have crucified and forsaken for countless centuries. They looked at her who stood in stoic firmness, as the train sped on. Nadia fell sobbing into Boris's arms. The roads had opened for them. Great, arduous roads of struggling fervor, of staunch bravery. The roads had closed upon Rania. Alone, she remained, oh, drearily alone, facing hatred or indifference, facing illness that she felt had been but pushed aside by the intensity of harmonious work, facing poverty, and perhaps death. The cottage was rented. She had to move back to Carmel, near the Point; where darkness was greatest, where the black pillar she used to see and had almost forgotten, was staying. At the center of it. How could one wipe out the dark, but by absorbing it in one's own body with smiling heroic soul?
Go ye, builder and apprentice!
The madonna remains, love that is strong, unfaltering; the stone, upon which darkness prevails not; the sea that washes clean the stench of human waste.