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CHAPTER XI

 

OF THE  MOON OF HONEY, AND ITS EVENTS; WITH SUNDRY REMARKS ON MAGICK; THE WHOLE ADORNED WITH MORAL REFLECTIONS USEFUL TO THE YOUNG

 

     THE many-terraced garden of the villa was planted with olive and tamarind, orange and cypress; but in the lowest of them all, a crescent over whose wall one could look down upon one of the paths that threaded the hillside, there was a pavement of white marble. A spring wept from the naked rock, and fell into a circular basin; from this small streamlets issued, and watered the terrace in narrow grooves, between the slabs. This garden was sacred to lilies; and because of its apt symbolism, Cyril Grey had chosen it for the scene of Lisa's dedication to Artemis. He had set up a small triangular altar of silver; and it was upon this that Sister Clara and her disciples came thrice nightly to make their incantations. The ritual of the moon might never be celebrated during daylight.

     Upon the evening of Monday, after the adoration of the setting sun, Sister Clara called Lisa aside, and led her to this garden.

     There she and the hand-maidens unclothed her, and washed her from head to foot in the waters of the sacred spring. Then she put upon her a solemn oath that she would follow out the rules of the ritual, not speaking to any man except her chosen, not leaving the protection of the circle, not communicating with the outer and uninitiated world; but, on the other [145] hand, devoting herself wholly to the invocation of the Moon.

     Then she clothed her in a specially prepared and consecrated garment. It was not of the same pattern as those of the Order; it was a loose vestment of pale blue covered with silver tissue; and the secret sigils of the moon were woven cunningly upon its hem. It was frail, but of great volume; and the effect was that the wearer seemed to be wrapped in a mist of moonlight.

     In a languid and mysterious chant Sister Clara raised her voice, and her acolytes kept accord on their mandolines; it was an incantation of fervour and of madness, the madness of things chaste, remote, and inscrutable. At the conclusion she took Lisa by the hand, and gave her a new name, a mystic name, engraved upon a moonstone, set in a silver ring which she put upon her finger. This name was Iliel. It had been chosen on account of its sympathy of number to the moon; for the name is Hebrew, in which language its characters have the value of 81, the square of 9, the sacred number of the moon. But other considerations helped to determine the choice of this name. The letter L in Hebrew refers to Libra, the sign under which she had been born; and it was surrounded with two letters, I, to indicate her envelopment by the force of creation and chastity which the wise men of old hid in that hieroglyph.

     The final "EL" signified the divinity of her new being; for this is the Hebrew word for God, and is commonly attached by the sages to divers roots, to imply that these ideas have been manifested in individuals of angelic nature.

     This instruction had been given to Lisa in advance; now that it was ceremonially conferred upon her, she was struck to the heart by its great meaning. Her passion for Cyril Grey had been gross and vehement, [146] almost vulgar; he had translated it into terms of hunger after holiness, of awful aspiration, of utter purity. Nor Rhea Silvia, nor Semele, nor any other mortal virgin had ever glowed to inherit more glorious a destiny, to feel such infinite exaltation of chastity. Even the thought of Cyril himself fell from her like a stain. He had become no more than a necessary evil. At that moment she could have shaken off the trammels of humanity itself, and joined Sister Clara in her ecstatic mood, passed on, imperial votaress, in maiden meditation fancy-free. Only the knowledge of her sublime task inured her to its bitter taste. From these meditations she was awakened by the voice of Sister Clara.

     "Oh, Iliel! Oh, Iliel! Oh, Iliel! there is a cloud upon the sea."

     The, two girls chimed in with the music of their mandolins.

     "It is growing dark. I am afraid," cried Sister Clara.

     The girls quavered in their melody.

     "We are alone in the sacred grove. Oh, Artemis, be near us, protect us from all evil!"

     "Protect us from all evil!" echoed the two children.

     "There is a shape in the cloud; there is a stirring in the darkness; there is a stranger in the sacred grove!"

     "Artemis! Artemis! Artemis!" shrilled the girls, their instruments fierce and agitated.

     At that moment a great cry arose from the men, who were in waiting on the upper Terrace. It was a scream of abject fear, inarticulate, save for the one word "Pan!" They fled shrieking in every direction as Cyril Grey, clad in a rough dress of goatskins, bounded from the topmost terrace into their midst. In another moment, leaping down the garden, he [147] reached the parapet that overlooked the little terrace where the girls crouched, moaning.

     He sprang down among them; Sister Clara and her disciples fled with cries like startled sea-birds; but he crushed Iliel to his breast, then flung her over his shoulder, and strode triumphant to the house.

     Such was the magical ceremony devised by the adept, a commemoration or dramatic representation of the legend of the capture of Diana by Pan. It is, of course, from such rites that all dramatic performance developed. The idea is to identify oneself, in thought by means of action, with the deities whom one desires to invoke.

     The idea of presenting a story ceremonially may have preceded the ritual, and the Gods may have been mere sublimations of eponymous heroes or personifications of abstract ideas; but ultimately it is much the same. Admit that the genius of man is divine, and the question "Which is the cart, and which the horse?" becomes as pointless as if one asked it about an automobile.

     The ensuing month, from the middle of November until the week before Christmas, was a honeymoon. But animal appetite was scarce more than an accidental adjunct; the human love of Cyril and Lisa had been raised to inconceivable heights by the backbone of spirituality and love of mankind that hay behind its manifestations. Moreover, everything was attuned to it; nothing detracted from it. The lovers never lost sight of each other for an hour; they had their fill and will of love; but in a way, and with an intensity, of which worldly lovers never dream. Even sleep was to them but as a veil of many colours cast upon their rapture; in their dreams they still pursued each other, and attained each other, beneath bluer skies, upon seas that laughed more [148] melodiously than that which lay between them and Capri, through gardens of more gladness than their own, and upon slopes that stretched eternally to the palaces of the Empyrean.

     For four weeks no word came from outside; with one exception, when Sister Clara brought a telegram to Cyril. It was unsigned, and the message curt. "About August First" was all its purport. "The better the day, the better the deed!" cried Cyril gaily. Iliel questioned him. "Just magick!" he answered. She did not pursue the subject: she divined that the matter did not concern her, and she regretted even that microscopical interruption.

     But although Iliel was kept from all knowledge of external events, it was by dint of steel. The Black Lodge had not been idle; Brother Onofrio, in charge of the garrison, had found his hands full. But his manoeuvres had been successful; the enemy had not even secured their first point of vantage, a material link with the Brotherhood.

     It is a law of magick that causes and effects lie on the same plane. You may be able to send a ghost to frighten someone you dislike, but you must not expect the ghost to use a club, or steal a pocket handkerchief. Also, most practical magick starts on the material plane, and proceeds to create images on other planes. Thus, to evoke a spirit, you first obtain the objects necessary for its manifestation, and create subtler forms of the same nature from them.

     The Butterfly-net was worked on exactly the same lines. Morality enters into magick no more than into art or science. It is only when the effects react upon the moral nature of man that this question arises. The Venus de Medici is neither good nor bad; it is merely beautiful; but its reaction on the mind of an Antony Comstock or a harry Thaw may be disastrous, owing to the nature of such minds. One can settle [149] the details of a murder over the telephone; but one should not blame the telephone.

     The laws of magick are closely related to those of other physical sciences. A century or so ago men were ignorant of a dozen important properties of matter; thermal conductivity, electrical resistance, opacity to the X-ray, spectroscopic reaction, and others even more occult. Magick deals principally with certain physical forces still unrecognized by the vulgar; but those forces are just as real, just as material -- if indeed you can call them so, for all things are ultimately spiritual -- as properties like radio-activity, weight and hardness. The difficulty in defining and measuring them lies principally in the subtlety of their relation to life. Living protoplasm is identical with dead protoplasm in all but the fact of life. The Mass is a magical ceremony performed with the object of endowing a material substance with divine virtue; but there is no material difference between the consecrated and the unconsecrated wafer. Yet there is an enormous difference in the moral reaction upon the communicant. Recognizing that its principal sacrament is only one of an infinite number of possible experiments in talismanic magic, the Church has never denied the reality of that Art, but treated its exponents as rivals. She dare not lop the branch on which she sits.

     On the other hand, the sceptic, finding it impossible to deny the effects of ceremonial consecration, is compelled to refer the cause to "faith"; and sneers that Faith is the real miracle. Whereupon the Church smilingly agrees; but the magician, holding the balance between the disputants, and insisting upon the unity of Nature, asserts that all force is one in origin. He believes in the "miracle," but maintains that it is exactly the same kind of miracle as charging a Leyden Jar with electricity. You must use a moral [150] indicator to test one, an electrical indicator to test the other; the balance and the test-tube will not reveal the change in either.

     The Black Lodge knew well enough that the weak strand in the Butterfly-net was Lisa's untrained mind. Its white-hot flame of enthusiasm, radiating passionate love, was too active to assail directly, even could they have succeeded in communicating with it.

     But they were content to watch and wait for the reaction, should it come, as they knew it must ultimately do. Eros finds Anteros always on his heels; soon or late, he will be supplanted, unless he have the wit to feed his fire with the fuel of Friendship. In the meanwhile, it was the best chance to work upon the mind through the body. Had they been able to procure a drop of Iliel's blood, she might have been as easy a prey as that unlucky engine-driver of the Paris-Rome rapide.

     But Sister Clara saw to it that not so much as a nail-paring of Iliel escaped careful magical destruction; and Brother Onofrio organized a nightly patrol of the garden, so that no physical breach of the circle should be made.

     The man in charge of the mission of the Black Lodge was one Arthwait, a dull and inaccurate pedant without imagination or real magical perception. Like most Black Magicians, he tippled habitually; and his capacity for inflicting damage upon others was limited by his inordinate conceit. He hated Cyril Grey as much as he hated any one, because his books had been reviewed by that bright spirit, in his most bitterly ironical strain, in the Emerald Tablet, the famous literary review edited by Jack Flynn; and Grey had been at particular pains to point out elementary blunders in translation which showed that Arthwait was comically ignorant of the [151] languages in which he boasted scholarship. But he was not the man for the task set him by Douglas; his pomposity always stood in his way; a man fighting for life is exceptionally a fool if he insists on stopping every moment to admire himself. Douglas had chosen him for one of the curious back-handed reasons which so often appeal to people of perverse intelligence: it was because he was harmless that he was selected to work harm. A democracy often chooses its generals on the same principle; a capable man might overthrow the republic. It apparently prefers to be overthrown by a capable enemy.

     But Douglas had backed him with a strong executive.

     Abdul Bey knew no magic, and never would; but he had a desperate passion for Lisa, and a fanatical hatred of Grey, whom he credited, at the suggestion of Balloch, with the death of his father. He had almost unlimited resources, social and financial; there could hardly have been a better man for the external part of the work.

     The third commissioner was the brains of the business. He was a man highly skilled in black magic in his own way. He was a lean, cadaverous Protestant-Irishman named Gates, tall, with the scholar's stoop. He possessed real original talent, with now and then a flash of insight which came close to genius. But though his intellect was keen and fine, it was in some way confused; and there was a lack of virility in his make-up. His hair was long, lank and unkempt; his teeth were neglected; and he had a habit of physical dirt which was so obvious as to be repulsive even to a stranger.

     But there was no harm in him; he had no business in the Black Lodge at all; it was but one of his romantic phantasies to pose as a terribly wicked fellow. Yet he took it seriously enough, and was [152] ready to serve Douglas in any scheme, however atrocious, which would secure his advancement in the Lodge. He was only there through muddle-headedness; so far as he had an object beyond the satisfaction of his vanity, it was innocent in itself -- the acquisition of knowledge and power. He was entirely the dupe of Douglas, who found him a useful stalking-horse, for Gates had a considerable reputation in some of the best circles in England.

     Douglas had chosen him for this business on excellent points of cunning; for he neither hated nor loved his intended victims, and so was likely to interpret their actions without passion or prejudice. It was this interpretation that Douglas most desired. Douglas had seen him personally -- rare privilege -- before he left for Naples and explained his wishes somewhat as follows.

     The fool Arthwait was to blunder pedantically along with the classical methods of magical assault, partly on the chance of a hit, partly to keep Grey busy, and possibly to lead him to believe that the main attack lay there. Meanwhile he, Gates, was to devote himself, on the quiet, to divining the true nature of Grey's purpose. This information was essential; Douglas knew that it must be something tremendous; that the forces which Cyril was working to evoke were cosmic in scope. He knew it not only from his own divinations, but deduced it from the fact of the intervention of Simon Iff. He knew well that the old Master would not have lifted a finger for anything less than a world-war. Douglas therefore judged that if he could defeat Grey's purpose, it would involve the triumph of his own. Such forces, recoiling upon his head who had evoked them, would shatter him into a thousand fragments. Douglas, still weak from the destruction of his "watcher," was particularly clear on this point! [153]

     Arthwait was to be the nominal head of the party in all things, and Abdul Bey was to be urged to support him vigorously in all ways that lay in his power; but if necessary Gates was to thwart Arthwait, and secure the allegiance of the Turk, bound to secrecy on the matter, by showing him a card which Douglas then and there duly inscribed and handed over.

     Louis XV tried a double-cross game of this sort on his ambassadors; but Douglas was not strong on history, and knew nothing of how those experiments resulted.

     Nor, apparently, had he taken to heart the words of the gospel: "If Satan be divided against Satan, how shall his kingdom stand?"

     Still less did he realize that this ingenious plan had been suggested to him by Simon Iff! Yet it was so: this was the head of the counter-attack which the old mystic had agreed to deliver on behalf of Cyril Grey. It was only a quarter of an hour's work; the Way of the Tao is the easiest as it is the surest.

     This is what "Simple Simon" had done. Since all simple motion is one-pointed, and its enemy is inertia, the swordsmith brings his sword to a single sharp edge; the fletcher grinds his arrow-barb to a fine point. Your Dum-Dum bullet will not penetrate as does your nickel tip; and you cannot afford to use the former unless the power of penetration is so great as to reach the soft spots before the bullet expands and stops. This mechanical principle is perfectly applicable in magick. Therefore, when there is need to resist a magical attack, your best method will be to divide your antagonist's forces.

     Douglas had already lost a pawn in the game, Akbar Pasha having gone to his destruction through setting up an idea of his own, apart from, and inconsistent with, the plan of his superior. The defect is inherent in all Black Magic, because that art is itself [154] a thing set up against the Universal Will. If it were not negligibly small, it would destroy the Universe, just as the bomb-throwing Anarchist would succeed in destroying society if he amounted to, say, a third of the population.

     Now Simple Simon, at this time, did not know Douglas for the enemy General; but he was in the closest possible magical touch with him. For he had absorbed the Thing in the garden into himself and that Thing had been a part of Douglas.

     So he set himself to the complete assimilation of that Thing; he made certain that it should be part of himself for ever. His method of doing this was as simple as usual. He went over the Universe in his mind, and set himself to reconcile all contradictions in a higher Unity. Beginning with such gross things as the colours of the spectrum, which are only partialities of white light, he resolved everything that came into his mind until he reached such abstractions as matter and motion, being and form; and by this process worked himself up into a state of mind which was capable of grasping those sublime ideas which unite even these ultimate antinomies. That was all.

     Douglas, still in magical touch with that "watcher," could feel it being slowly digested, so to say, by some other magician. This (incidentally) is the final fate of all black magicians, to be torn piecemeal, for lack of the love which grows by giving itself to the beloved, again and again, until its "I" is continuous with existence itself. "Whoso loveth his life shall lose it" is the corresponding scriptural phrase.

     So Douglas, who might at that moment have saved himself by resignation, was too blind to see the way -- an acquired blindness resulting from repeated acts whose essence was the denial of the unity of himself with the rest of the universe. And so he [155] fought desperately against the assimilation of his "watcher." "It's mine, not yours!" he raged. To the steady and continuous affirmation of true unity in all diversity which Simon Iff was making, he opposed the affirmation of duality. The result was that his whole mind was aflame with the passion of contrasting things, of playing forces off against each other. When it came to practical decisions, he divided his forces, and deliberately created jealousy and hatred where co-operation and loyalty should have been the first and last consideration.

     Yet Simon Iff had used no spell but Love. [156]