The Magic Screen of Time
The Path, April 1889
An old Hindu saying thus runs:
“He who knows that into which Time is resolved, knows all.”
Time, in the Sanscrit, is called Kala. He is a destroyer and also a renovator. Yama, the lord of death, although powerful, is not so much so as Kala, for “until the time has come Yama can do nothing.” The moments as they fly past before us carrying all things with them in long procession, are the atoms of Time, the sons of Kala. Years roll into centuries, centuries into cycles, and cycles become ages; but Time reigns over them all, for they are only his divisions.
Ah, for how many centuries have I seen Time, himself invisible, drawing pictures on his magic screen! When I saw the slimy trail of the serpent in the sacred Island of Destiny I knew not Time, for I thought the coming moment was different from the one I lived in, and both from that gone by. Nor then, either, did I know that that serpent instead of drawing his breath from the eternal ether, lived on the grossest form of matter; I saw not then how the flashing of the diamond set in the mountain was the eternal radiance of truth itself, but childishly fancied it had a beginning.
The tragedy in the temple, in which I was the victim — struck down by the high priest’s axe, — was followed by another, as I found out soon when, freed from my body, I conversed in spirit with my friend the strange monk. He told me that the next day the high priest, upon recovering from the terrible event, went into the temple where my blood still stained the ground. The object of his visit was to gain time to meditate upon new plans for regaining his hold upon the people, which had been weakened by the blackening and disappearance of the mountain diamond. His thoughts dwelt upon the idea of manufacturing a substitute for the beautiful gem, but after remaining for a while plunged in such reveries his eye was attracted by a curious scene. Upon the stand from which he had snatched the axe that let out my life-blood he saw a cloud which seemed to be the end of a stream of vapour, rising up from the floor. Approaching, he perceived that my blood had in some curious way mixed with that which remained of the stains left by the reptile whose death I had accomplished, and from this the vapour arose, depositing itself, or collecting, upon the stand. And there to his amazement, in the centre of the cloud, he saw, slowly forming, a brilliant gem whose radiance filled the place.
“Ah, here” he cried, “is the diamond again. I will wait and see it fully restored, and then my triumph is complete. What seemed a murder will become a miracle.”
As he finished the sentence the cloud disappeared, my blood was all taken up, and the flashing of the jewel filled him with Joy.
Reaching forth his hand he took it from the stand, and then black horror overspread his face. In vain he strove to move or to drop the gem; it seemed fastened to his hand; it grew smaller, and fiery pains shot through his frame. The other priests coming in just then to clear the place, stood fixed upon their steps at the door. The High Priest’s face was toward them, and from his body came a flow of red and glittering light that shed fear over their hearts; nor could they move or speak. This lasted not long — only until the diamond had wholly disappeared from his hand — and then his frame split into a thousand pieces, while his accursed soul sped wailing through space accompanied by demoniacal shapes. The diamond was an illusion; it was my blood “crying from the ground,” which took its shape from his thoughts and ambitions.
“Come then,” said my monk, “come with me to the mountain.”
We ascended the mountain in silence, and once at the top, he turned about fixing upon me a piercing gaze, under which I soon felt a sensation as if I was looking at a screen that hid something from my sight. The mountain and the monk disappeared and in their place I saw a city below me, for I was now upon the inner high tower of a very high building. It was an ancient temple dominating a city of magicians. Not far off was a tall and beautiful man: I knew it was my monk, but oh how changed; and near him stood a younger man from whom there seemed to reach out to me a steam of light, soft yet clear, thin yet plainly defined. I knew it was myself. Addressing my monk I said:
“What is this and why?”
“This is the past and the present,” he replied; “and thou art the future.”
“And he?” pointing to the young man. “That is thyself.”
“How is it that I see this, and what holds it there?”
“Tis the Magic Screen of Time, that holds it for thee and hides it ever. Look around and above thy head.”
Obeying his command, I cast my eyes around the city spread below, and then looking upward I saw at first naught but the sky and the stars. But soon a surface appeared as if in the ether, through it shining still the stars, and then as my gaze grew steadfast the surface grew palpable and the stars went out; yet I knew instinctively that if my thoughts wandered for a moment the sky would once more fill the view. So I remained steady. Then slowly pictures formed upon the surface in the air. The city, its people, with all the colour of life; and a subdued hum appeared to float down from above as if the people were living up there. The scene wavered and floated away, and was succeeded by the thoughts and desires of those who lived below. No acts were there, but only lovely pictures formed by thoughts; living rainbows; flashing gems; pellucid crystals — until soon a dark and sinuous line crept through the dazzling view, with here and there black spots and lines. Then I heard the pleasing, penetrating voice of my monk:
“Time’s screen rolls on; ambition, desire, jealousy, vanity, are defacing it. It will all soon fade. Watch.”
And as I watched, centuries rolled past above me on the screen. Its beauty disappeared. Only a dark background with unpleasing and darker outlines of circumstances that surround contention and greed were offered to my eye. Here and there faint spots and lines of light were visible — the good deeds and thoughts of those still of spiritual mind. Then a question fell into my mind:
What is this screen?”
“It will be called the astral light when next you are born on earth,” said the voice of my monk.
Just then a mighty sound of marching filled the space. The airy screen seemed to palpitate, its substance, if any it had, was pressed together, as if some oncoming force impinged upon it: its motion grew tumultuous; and then the stars once more shone down from the sky, and I hovered in spirit on the dark mountain where the gem had been. No beings were near, but from the distant spaces came a voice that said,
“Listen to the march of the Future.”