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Title: Legends - Autobiographical Sketches
Author: Strindberg, August
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LEGENDS

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES

BY

AUGUST STRINDBERG



LONDON: ANDREW MELROSE

3 YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN


1912



CONTENTS

       I. The Possessed Exorcist
      II. My Wretchedness Increases
     III. My Wretchedness Increases (cont.)
      IV. Miracles
       V. My Incredulous Friend's Troubles
      VI. Miscellanies
     VII. Studies in Swedenborg
    VIII. Canossa
      IX. The Spirit of Contradiction
       X. Extracts from my Diary, 1897
      XI. In Paris
     XII. Wrestling Jacob

Note



I

THE POSSESSED EXORCIST


Hunted by the furies, I found myself finally in December 1896 fixed
fast in the little university town Lund, in Sweden. A conglomeration
of small houses round a cathedral, a palace-like university building
and a library, forming an oasis of civilisation in the great southern
Swedish plain. I must admire the refinement of cruelty which has chosen
this place as my prison. The University of Lund is much prized by the
natives of Schonen, but for a man from the north like myself the fact
that one stays here is a sign that one has come to an inclined plane
and is rolling down. Moreover, for me who am well advanced in the
forties, have been a married man for twenty years and am accustomed
to a regular family life, it is a humiliation to be relegated to
intercourse with students, bachelors who are given to a life of riot
and carousing, and who are all more or less in ill odour with the
fatherly authorities of the university because of their radical way of
thinking.

Of the same age, and formerly a companion of the professors, who now
no longer tolerate me, I am compelled to find my friends among the
students, and so to take upon myself the rôle of an enemy of the
seniors and of the social circles of solid respectability. Come down,
indeed! That is just the right word, and why? Because I scorned to
submit myself to the laws of social life and domestic slavery. I have
regarded the conflict for the upholding of my personality as a sacred
duty, quite irrespective of the fact of its being a good or bad one.

Excommunicated, regarded with suspicion, denounced by fathers and
mothers as a corrupter of youth, I am placed in a situation which
reminds one of a snake in an ant-heap, all the more as I cannot leave
the town through pecuniary embarrassment.

Pecuniary embarrassment! That has now been my lot for three years,
and I cannot explain how all my resources were dried up, as soon as
my profits were exhausted. Four-and-twenty dramas of my composing are
now laid up in a corner, and not a single one performed any more; an
equal number of novels and tales, and not one in a second edition.
All attempts to borrow a loan have failed and continue to fail. After
I had sold all that I possessed, need compelled me at last to sell
the letters which I had received in the course of years, _i.e._ other
people's property.

This constant condition of poverty seems to me so clearly to depend
upon some special purpose of Providence that I finally endure it
willingly as a part of my penance and do not try to resist it any
more. As regards myself, I want of means signifies nothing to me
as an independent author, but it is disgraceful not to have the
wherewithal to support my children. Very well! I make up my mind to
bear the disgrace though it involve pains like hell. I will not yield
to the temptation to pay for false honour with my life. Prepared for
anything, I endure resolutely to the uttermost the most extraordinary
humiliations and observe how my expiatory pangs commence. Well-educated
youths of good family treat me one night to a serenade of caterwauling
in my corridor. I take it as something I have deserved without
disturbing myself. I try to hire a furnished lodging. The landlord
refuses with transparent excuses, and the refusal is flung in my
face. I pay visits and am not received. These are mere trifles. But
what really wounds me is the sublime irony shown in the unconscious
behaviour of my young friends when they try to encourage me by praising
my literary works, "so fruitful in liberating ideas, etc." And this to
me, who have just flung these so-called ideas on the dust-heap, so that
those who entertain these views are now my opponents! I am at war with
my former self, and while I oppose my friends and those once of the
same mind with me, I lay myself prostrate in the dust.

This is irony indeed; and as a dramatist I must admire the composition
of this tragi-comedy. In truth, the scenes are well-arranged.

Meanwhile people, taking into consideration the way in which old and
new views become entangled with each other in a period of transition,
do not reckon too rigidly with a veteran like myself. They do not
prick up their ears so solemnly at my arguments, but rather ask after
novelties in the world of ideas. I open for them the vestibule to the
temple of Isis, and say, by way of preliminary, that occultism is going
to be the vogue. Then they rage, and cut me down with the same weapons
which during twenty years I have been forging against superstition and
mysticism.

Since these debates always take place in garden-restaurants to the
accompaniment of wine-drinking, one avoids violent arguments, and I
confine myself to relating facts and real occurrences, assuming the
mask of an enlightened sceptic. It can certainly not be said that
people are opposed to everything new--quite the contrary; but they
become conservative as regards ideals which have been won by hard
fighting and which one is not inclined to desert. Still less are they
disposed to abjure a faith which has been purchased by a baptism of
blood. It falls to my share to strike out a path between naturalism
and supernaturalism, by expounding the latter as a development of the
former.

For this purpose, I address myself to the problem of giving, as just
indicated, natural and scientific explanation for all the mysterious
phenomena which appear to us. I split up my personality and show to the
world a rationalistic occultist, but I keep my innermost individuality
unimpaired and cherish the germ of a creedless religion. Often my
outer rôle gets the upper hand; my two natures become so intricately
intermixed that I can laugh at my newly won belief. This helps my
theories to find entrance into the most oppositely constituted minds.

The gloomy December days drag on lazily under a dark-grey smoky sky.
Although I have discovered Swedenborg's explanation regarding the
character of my sufferings, I cannot bring myself once for all to
bend under the hand of the Powers. My disposition to make objections
asserts itself, and I continually refer the real causes of my suffering
to external things, especially the malice of men. Attacked day and
night by "electric streams," which compress my chest and stab my
heart, I quit my torture-chamber, and visit the tavern where I find
friends. Fearing sobriety, I drink ceaselessly, as the only way of
procuring sleep at night. Shame and disgust, however, combined with
restlessness, compel me to give this up, and for some evenings I visit
the Temperance Café called the "Blue Band." But the company one meets
with there depresses me,--bluish, pale, and emaciated faces, terrible
and malicious eyes, and a silence which is not the peace of God.

When things go wrong, wine is a benefit, and refraining from it a
punishment. I return to the half-sober tavern, without, however,
transgressing the bounds of moderation, after having disciplined myself
for several evenings by drinking tea.

Christmas is approaching, and I regard the children's festival with a
cool bitterness that I can hardly dignify with the name of resignation.
For six years I have had all kinds of sufferings, and am now prepared
for anything. Loneliness in an hotel! That has long been my nightmare,
and I have become accustomed to it. It seems as though the very thing
that I dislike is forced upon me.

Meanwhile a closer intimacy has sprung up between me and a friendly
circle, so that they begin to make confidences to me. The fact is that
during the last months so many things have happened, so many unusual
unexpected things. "Let me hear them," I say. "They tell me that the
head of the revolutionary students, the freest of freethinkers, after
having come out of a temperance hospital and taking the pledge, has
been now converted, so that he forthwith----"

"Well, what?"

"Sings penitential psalms."

"Incredible!"

In fact the young man, who was unusually gifted, had for the present
spoilt his prospects by attacking the views prevalent at the
university, including the misuse of strong drink. When I arrived in the
town he kept a little aloof from me on the ground of his temperance
principles, but it was he who lent me Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia,
which he had taken from his father's library. I remember that after
I had begun to read the work I gave him an account of Swedenborg's
theories, and suggested to him to read the prophet in order to gain
light, but he interrupted me with a gesture of alarm.

"No! I will not! Not now! Later!"

"Are you afraid?"

"Yes, for the moment."

"But read it merely as a literary curiosity."

"No."

I thought at first he was joking, but later on it became clear to me
that he was quite in earnest. So there seems to be a general awakening
going on through the world, and I need not conceal my own experiences.

"Tell me, old fellow, can you sleep at night?"

"Not much. When I lie awake my whole past life comes in review before
me; all the follies which I have committed, all my sufferings
and unhappiness pass by, but especially the follies. And when the
procession ends, it commences all over again."

"You also?"

"What do you mean by 'also'?"

"That is the disease of our time. They call it 'the mills of God.'"

At the word "God" he makes a grimace and answers, "Yes, it is a queer
age we live in; the world turns round and round."

"Or rather it is the re-entrance of the Powers."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Christmas week is over. In consequence of the holidays my table
companions are scattered over the neighbourhood of Lund. One fine
morning my friend, the doctor and psychologist, comes and shows me
a letter from our friend the poet, containing an invitation to his
parents' house, a country property a few miles from the town. I decline
to go as I dislike travelling.

"But he is unhappy," says the doctor.

"What is the matter with him?"

"Sleeplessness; you know he has lately been keeping Christmas."

I take shelter behind the excuse of having some business to do, and the
question remains undecided. In the afternoon I get another letter, to
say that the poet is ill and wants his friend's medical advice.

"What is he suffering from now?" I ask.

"He suffers from neurasthenia and believes himself persecuted----"

"By demons?"

"Not exactly that, but anyhow----"

An access of grim humour elicited by the fact of having a brother
in misfortune makes me determine to go with him. "Very well then,
let us start," I say; "you see to the medicine and I will see to the
exorcism." When the matter is settled, I pack my portmanteau, and as I
go down the hotel steps I am unexpectedly accosted by an unknown female.

"Excuse me, are you Dr. Norberg?"

"No, I am not," I answer, not exactly politely, for I thought she was a
disreputable person.

"Could you tell me what time it is?" she continued.

"No!"

And I go off.

How unmeaningful this scene was, it did nevertheless leave me with me
an unsettling impression.

In the evening we stay in a village, to pass the night there. I have
just entered my room, on the first floor, and washed up a little, when
the usual sounds reach my ears; someone moves furniture around and I
hear dance-steps.

This time I don't leave it with a suspicion, but run in the company of
my comrades up the servants' stairs, to get certainty. But upstairs
nothing suspicious can be found, because above my room, under the
roofpanes, there's nobody living.

After a bad night with little sleep, we continue our journey and a
couple of hours later we are in the parental home of the Poet, who
almost appears as a prodigal son before religious parents, good and
honest man. The day is spent with walks in a beautiful country-side
and innocent conversations. The evening descends and brings an
indescribable peace in a very homely environment, in which the doctor
and I seem completely lost to ourselves, he even more than I, because
he's an atheist.

Late in the evening we retire to the room that was assigned to the
Doctor and me. When I'm searching for something to read, I lay hands
upon "Magic of the Middle Ages" by Viktor Rydberg. Again this writer,
whom I avoided, as long as he lived, and who keeps pursuing me after
his death!

I page through the book, and my eye is caught by the part about
Incubi and Succubi. The author doesn't believe in such things and
ridiculizes the thought of devils. But I cannot laugh; I'm offended by
what I'm reading, and I console myself with the thought that by now the
author may have altered his views.

In the mean time, reading about things magical and weird isn't very
suitable to induce any sleep, and I experience a certain nervous
restlessness.

Therefore, the proposal to come along to the sanitary rooms is taken as
a welcome distraction and a hygienic preliminary for the night, which I
fear.

Provided with a lantern, we walk over the inner court, where, under a
cloudy sky, the skeletons of frosted trees crash under the playful and
capricious whirlwind.

"I think you're afraid of your own shadows my good fellows," laughs the
doctor contemptuously. We give no answer, for the violence of the wind
nearly throws us down. When we reach the place which is near the stable
and under the hayloft, we are greeted by a noise over our heads, and,
strange to say, it is exactly the noise which has followed me for half
a year.

"Listen!" I said; "don't you hear something?"

"Yes, it is only the farm servants feeding the cattle."

I do not deny the fact, but why must they do it just as I enter the
place? And how comes it that the disturbance always takes an acoustic
form? There must be some unseen agent who arranges these serenades for
me, and it is no mere illusion of my ears, for others hear them too.
When we return to our bedroom, all is still. The poet who has behaved
quietly all day, and who sleeps in an attic begins to look uneasy,
and finally confesses that he cannot sleep alone, as he suffers from
nightmare. I give him up my bed, and go into a large room close by,
where there is an enormous one. This room, unwarmed, without blinds,
and almost unfurnished, makes me feel a depression which is increased
by the damp and cold. In order to distract myself, I look for books,
and find on a small table a Bible illustrated by Gustave Doré, together
with a number of books of devotion. Then I remember that I am an
intruder into a religious home, that I, the friend of the prodigal son,
am regarded as a corrupter of youth. What a humiliating rôle for a man
of eight and forty!

I understand the young man's discomfort at being penned up with
excellent and pious people. He must feel like a devil obliged to attend
mass. And it is to drive out devils with devils that I have been
invited hither. I have come in order to make this rarefied air possible
to breathe by defiling it, since the young man cannot bear it, pure.

With such thoughts I retire to bed. Sleep was formerly my last and
surest refuge whose pity never failed me. But now my comforter has left
me in the lurch and the darkness alarms me. The lamp is lit and there
is stillness after the storm. Then a strange buzzing noise rivets my
attention and rouses me from my drowsiness. I observe an insect flying
hither and thither in the upper part of the room. But I am astonished
to find that I cannot identify it, though I am well up in entomology,
and flatter myself that I know all the winged insects in Sweden. This
is not a butterfly or a moth, but a fly, long and black, which makes a
sound like a wasp. I get up to chase it. Chasing flies at the end of
December! It disappears. I creep again under the bedclothes and resume
my meditations.

But the cursed insect flies out from under my cushion cover, and, after
having rested and warmed itself in my bed, it flies in all directions,
and I let it go, feeling sure that I shall soon catch it by the lamp,
whose flame will attract it. I have not long to wait; as soon as the
fly gets within the lamp-shade a match scorches its wings. It dances
its death-dance and lies lifeless on its back. I convince myself by
ocular demonstration that it is an unknown winged insect, about an
inch long, and of a black colour, with two fiery red spots on its wings.

What is it? I don't know, but in the morning I will give the others the
opportunity of ratifying its existence.

Meanwhile, after accomplishing this auto-da-fé, I go to sleep. In the
middle of the night I am awakened by a sound of whining and chattering
of teeth which comes from the next room. I kindle a light and go in.
My friend the doctor has thrown himself half out of bed, and writhes
in terrible convulsions, with his mouth wide open. In a word, he shows
all the signs of hysteria described in Charcot's treatise, which calls
the stage he is in now "possession." And he a man of conspicuous
intelligence and good heart, not morally worse than others, of full
growth, with regular and pleasant features, now disfigured to such a
degree that he looks like the picture of a mediæval devil.

In alarm, I wake him up, "Have you been dreaming, old fellow?"

"No, it was an attack of nightmare."

"Incubus!"

"Yes, indeed! It squeezed my lungs together, something like angina
pectoris."

I gave him a glass of milk; he lights a cigar, and I return to my
room. But now all my chance of sleep is gone. What I had seen was too
terrible, and till the morning my companions continue their conflict
with the invisible.

We meet at breakfast, and make a joke of the adventures of the night.
But our host does not laugh, a circumstance which I ascribe to his
religious way of thinking, which makes him hold the hidden Powers in
awe. The delicate position in which I find myself between the seniors
whom I admire, and the juniors whom I have no right to blame, makes me
hasten my departure. As we rise from table the master of the house asks
the doctor for a special consultation, and they retire for half an hour.

"What is the matter with the old man?" I ask, when the doctor returns.

"He cannot sleep,--has heart attacks at night."

"He also! That good and pious man! Then it is an epidemic which spares
no one."

I will not deny that this circumstance restored my courage, and the
old spirit of rebellion and scepticism took possession of my soul. To
challenge the demons, to defy the invisible, and finally to subdue
it,--that, was the task I proposed to myself as I left this hospitable
family in order to proceed upon my projected excursion in Schonen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Reaching the town Höganäs the same evening, I take my evening meal
in the large dining-hall of the hotel, and have a journalist for my
companion. As soon as we have sat down to table, the usual noise is
heard overhead. In order to guard against any possibility of illusion
on my part, I let the journalist describe the phenomenon, and find him
convinced of its reality. As we went out after finishing our meal, the
unknown woman who had accosted me before my departure from Lund, stood
motionless before the door, and let me and my companion pass by. I
forget the demons and the invisible, and begin again to suspect that I
am persecuted by visible foes. Terrible doubts gnaw at my brain, fever
my blood, and make me feel disgusted with life.

But the night has a surprise in store for me which alarms me more than
all the last days together. Tired with my journey, I go to bed at
eleven o'clock. All is silent in the hotel, and no noise audible. My
courage rises, and I fall into a deep sleep, but to be awoken in half
an hour by a tremendous noise overhead. There seems to be at least a
score of young people who sing, stamp on the ground, and push chairs
about. The disturbance lasts till morning. Why don't I complain to the
manager? Because never once in my life have I succeeded in obtaining
justice. Being born and predestinated to suffer injustice, I have
ceased to complain.

In the morning I continue my journey in order to visit the coal mines
near Höganäs. At the very moment that I enter the inn, to order a
carriage, the usual witches' Sabbath commences overhead. Under some
pretext or other, I don't remember what, I ascend the stairs, only to
find a large empty room above. Since the mines cannot be visited before
twelve o'clock, I have myself driven to a fishing village some miles
north, where there is a celebrated view over the Sound. As the carriage
drives through the turnpike gate before the village, I feel a violent
compression of the chest, just as though someone pressed his knees into
my back. The illusion is so complete that I turn round to see the enemy
who is sitting behind me. Then a number of crows raise a loud croaking,
and fly over the head of the horse. He is frightened, rears, pricks his
ears, and large drops of sweat roll down his flanks. He champs the bit,
and the driver has to get down to quiet him. I ask why the horse is so
unreasonably nervous, and the answer is legible in the look which the
driver directs towards the crows, who follow us for some minutes. It is
a quite natural occurrence, but of an unfortunate kind, and, according
to popular belief, of evil omen.

After spending two useless hours, because a fog cuts off the view over
the Sound, we drive into the village Mölle. Determined to scale the
summit of the Kulle on foot, I dismiss the driver, and tell him to
await my return in the inn. After my mountain walk I return to the
village to look for him. But I have no knowledge of the place, and
I look for some one to ask the way. Not a living soul is to be seen
on the street or anywhere else. I knock at doors, but get no answer.
Although it is eleven o'clock in the morning, and I am in a village of
two hundred inhabitants, there is not a man, woman, child, or even a
dog to be seen. Driver, horse, and carriage have disappeared. I roam
about the streets, and after half an hour find the inn. Sure of finding
the driver there, I order breakfast, and, after I have eaten it, ask
them to send the driver to me.

"Which driver?"

"My own."

"I haven't seen one."

"Haven't you seen a carriage drawn by a chestnut horse, and driven by a
man with a dark complexion?"

"No, indeed I have not."

"Yet I told him to wait here in the inn."

"Oh, then he will be sitting in the bait-house close by."

The servant girl shows the way and I set off. But I am doomed to be
unfortunate, and mistake my way, so that I cannot find the inn again.
Nor is anyone to be seen. Then I get nervous,--nervous in broad
daylight! The village is bewitched. I cannot walk any more, but stand
still as if spellbound. What is the good of seeking when the devil has
a finger in the pie?

After I have had a great deal of trouble the driver at last turns
up. I am ashamed to tell him of my annoyances or to demand from him
explanations which explain nothing. We drive back to Höganäs and when
we reach the hotel the horse falls suddenly, as though someone were
standing before the door who frightened it.

I now ask the way to the coal-mines, and this time, in order to make no
mistake, I go the "five minutes' walk" which has been pointed out to
me on foot. I walk for ten minutes, quarter of an hour, half an hour,
till I come to an open plain, without a sign of buildings or chimneys
to indicate the presence of a coal-mine. The plain, which is under
cultivation, seems to stretch to infinity; there is not even a hut,
and no one of whom to ask the way. It is the Devil who has played me
this trick! I remain standing as though fast-bound and blinded, without
being able to move a step forwards or backwards. Finally I return to
the village, take a room, and have a good rest on a sofa.

After quarter of an hour I am roused out of my sad thoughts by a
disturbance--a sound like that of hammering nails. Incredulous as to
spirit-rappings, I attribute the phenomenon to malicious people or to
greater ill-luck than usual. I ring, pay my bill, and betake myself to
the station.

I have three hours to wait! That is a great deal when one is impatient,
but there is no help for it. After I have spent two hours on a seat,
a well-dressed female figure passes me, in order to enter into the
first-class waiting-room. In the gait and manner of this lady and in
her whole bearing was something that aroused vague recollections in me.
Anxious to see her aspect from the front I watch the door, waiting
for her reappearance. After waiting a long time I venture into the
waiting-room. There is no one there at all, nor is there any other
exit nor dressing-room. There are double windows, so that there is no
possibility of her having gone out by them.

Do I suffer from optical delusion? Has anyone got the power to tamper
with my faculty of sight? Can one make oneself invisible? These are
unsolved questions which make me feel near despair. Am I mad? No, the
doctors say I am not. There is inducement enough to believe in miracles.

If one may believe Swedenborg, I am a damned soul in hell and the
Powers punish me ceaselessly and mercilessly. The spirits which I
conjure up have no wish to enter the flask which I have unsealed.

I spend the evening of the same day in a good first-class hotel in
the town of Malmö. At half-past ten they begin to split wood in the
corridor without anyone objecting to it, and that in a continental
hotel full of tourists! This is followed by dancing. Later on they
turn a machine with wheel-work. I get up, pay my reckoning, and
determine to continue my journey the whole night. Absolutely alone, in
the cold January night, I drag myself on, with my carpet bag, under a
pitch black sky. For a moment I think the best thing would be to lie
down in the snow, and die. But the next moment I collect my strength,
and turn into a deserted back street where I find an unpretending
hotel. After making sure that I am not watched, I slink in through the
door. Without taking off my clothes I stretch myself upon the bed,
firmly resolved rather to let myself be killed than obliged to get up
again.

There is a death-like silence in the house, and delightful sleep
approaches. Suddenly I hear a sound as though an invisible paw was
scratching in the paper covering of the ceiling immediately over my
head. It cannot be a mouse, for the loosely hanging paper does not
move; besides, it seems to be a fairly large paw, like that of a hare,
or a dog. Till the grey of morning I lie awake, expecting to feel the
claws in my flesh, but in vain, for anxiety is more painful than death.

Why do I not become ill after such tortures as these? Because I have to
empty the cup of suffering to the dregs, in order that the punishments
undergone may be equivalent to the wrongs committed. And it is really
remarkable how I manage to endure the tortures; I swallow them down
with a kind of grim joy in order to get done with them.



II

MY WRETCHEDNESS INCREASES


When the New Year with its numerous holidays has passed, I find myself
one fine day alone. It is as though a hurricane had passed by; all are
scattered, blown away, shipwrecked. My friend the doctor has entered
the hospital as a patient. As a matter of fact, weakened by dipsomania,
hard-pressed by poverty, and worn out by want of sleep, he is suffering
from "neurasthenia." This is pitiful, and, instead of going to the
tavern, I turn my steps to the hospital for an hour's conversation and
society. In the café I am the only one who drinks anything alcoholic,
for my three companions have taken the pledge. The poet has gone away.
The young aesthete, the son of the Professor of Ethics, has been
sent abroad in order to be freed from the evil companionship of the
"seducer of youth," _i.e._ myself.

A doctor of philosophy is laid up through having broken his leg. At the
same time it happens that the young chemist, the standard-bearer of the
party of progress, falls ill and has to be treated for neurasthenia.
He suffers from sleeplessness, attacks of nightmare and giddiness. All
these sad events and others happen in the course of a month and a half.
And what makes my situation insupportable is, that they attribute the
blame more or less to me. I am the Evil One himself and have the evil
eye! It is a good thing that they know nothing about the power of an
evil will and the secret tricks of occultism and reject all ideas of
it, otherwise they kill.

A depressing stagnation has settled down on the intellectual life of
the University. There are no new productive ideas, no ferment and no
movement. The natural sciences have suffered to fall into disuse the
transformistic method which promised progress, and threaten to die of
their common weakness. There is no more discussion, for people are
agreed as to the futility of all efforts at reform. They have seen so
many illusions perish, and in this condition of things the once great
movement for liberty has dissolved or rather decomposed. The younger
generation are waiting for something new without being clear as to what
they want. Novelty at any price, whatever it be, with the exception
of apologies and retreats! Forward to the unknown, no matter what, so
long as it is not old! They want reconciliation with the gods, but they
must be re-created or, rather, developed gods, who are up-to-date,
have broad views, are free from petty prejudices, and intoxicated with
the joy of life. The invisible powers have become all the more morose,
envious of the freedom which mortals have won for themselves. Wine is
poisoned, and causes madness instead of calling up pleasant visions.
Love, regulated by social bonds, proves to be a life-and-death battle,
and free love brings in its train nameless and numberless diseases,
causes misery in homes, and its victims are execrated and outlawed.
The period for experiments has passed away, and the experiments have
produced only negative results. All the better for the men of the
future who can derive wholesome lessons from the defeat of the advance
guard, who have gone astray in the desert, and fallen in hopeless
strife against superior force.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lonely as I am, a wreck on a reef in the ocean, there are moments
when I am seized with giddiness at the sight of the blue and vacant
immensity. Is it the sky which reflects the outspread sea, or the sea
which mirrors the sky? I have fled from men and men fly from me. In the
loneliness which I longed for I am persecuted by a crowd of demons, and
after all I begin to prefer the humblest mortal to the most interesting
phantom. But when I look for a man, during the long evenings through
the whole town, I find no one either at home or in the cafés.

But in the midst of my fated and inevitable need, Providence sends in
my way a man, whose father I had in former times despised, both on
account of his defective education as of his radical views, which had
shut him out from the best social circles. Now came the recompense; I
had rejected the father, although he was a rich man, and I was simply
compelled to put up with the son. It must be added that the young
man had as bad a name in the town as myself, and was doomed to equal
isolation as a "seducer of youth." Our common misfortune causes us to
form a real friendship. He invites me to share his house, he provides
me with means of living, he watches over me as over a patient, and, as
a matter of fact, the persecution to which I have been subjected has
made me cause a scandal in my hotel, where I tried to get into a room
near my own, convinced that I would find the disturbers of my peace
there. If I had stayed another day in that hotel the police would
certainly have interfered, and I should have spent the rest of my days
in a madhouse.

At the same time the appearance of another young man convinces me that
the gods do not cherish an irreconcilable grudge against me. He was a
real youthful prodigy, with a precocious insight into all branches of
human knowledge. His father, a learned man of high moral character,
had brought him up well, but two years ago the young man was seized
with a mysterious illness, the details of which he told me, with a view
of learning my opinion, or rather of confirming his own suspicions.

The young man, who had led a pure life and imbibed the strictest moral
principles, entered the world with favourable auspices, admired by his
contemporaries and popular wherever he came. But one day he committed
an act directly forbidden by his conscience. Since then nothing could
give him peace. After a long period of mental torture his body also
succumbed, while his spiritual crisis was intensified. Every day he
realised the fresh advance of an imaginary disease, and at last he
seemed to undergo death agonies. Then he thought he really was dead,
and heard in all corners of the house the hammering of coffins. When
he read the paper, for his mind remained clear, he expected to see
the report of his own burial. At the same time his body seemed to
suffer dissolution and exhaled a corpse-like odour, which frightened
the attendants away from his bed, and alarmed him himself. Moreover
a change seemed to take place even in his personality, for though he
was formerly religiously minded in his way he was now attacked by
doubts. One of his illusions, which he remembered afterwards, was that
his attendants had wax-like or blue faces. And even when he rose from
his bed to watch the people in the street all the passers-by seemed
to him to have blue faces. What still further alarmed him was that,
in the street below, there seemed to be passing an endless procession
of beggars, ragged vagabonds, decrepit, limping, legless cripples on
crutches, as though they had been summoned to pass in review before
him. During the whole time the sick man had the impression that what he
saw was, beyond all doubt, real, and yet he was obliged to attribute a
symbolical meaning to it. Every book which he opened seemed to contain
direct intimations for him. After he had ended his narrative he asked
what I thought of the matter.

"Something half real," I answered, "a series of visions conjured up by
someone with a special object. A living charade, from which it is for
you to draw the lesson. How were you cured?"

"It is comical, but I will confess it to you. Formerly I had stood in
opposition against my parents, who had surrounded me with unwearied
care for soul and body, but now at last I brought my neck under the
yoke, which had become pleasant and beneficial to me, since it had been
imposed in pure love, and so I was healed."

"And have you had no relapse?"

"Yes, once, but of a very mild kind. A period of insignificant
nervousness and sleeplessness, which yielded to the simplest medical
instructions. But this time I had nothing to reproach myself with."

"And what were your doctor's orders?"

"To live regularly, to sleep at night, and to keep free of excesses."

"Why, that is the way of the Cross."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus I feel no longer lonely and deserted. The young scholar seems to
have come to me as a messenger from the Powers; I can confide all to
him, and while we compare our experiences, we lend each other mutual I
support on the narrow path in the valley of suffering. He also has been
struck in his youth, and all men are violently roused from sleep! There
is a universal awakening proceeding, and what is to be its goal?



III

MY WRETCHEDNESS INCREASES (cont.)


Swedenborg, my guide in the darkness, has finally revealed himself
as an avenger. His Arcana Coelestia speaks only of hell and of
punishments which are executed by evil spirits, _i.e._ devils. Not
a word of comfort or grace. And yet, while I was still young, the
Devil had been got rid of; everyone laughed at him, and now, by the
irony of accident, they are just preparing to keep the jubilee of
the philosopher Bostrom, who did away with hell and annihilated the
Devil. In my youth this thinker was regarded as a reformer, and now the
Devil is preparing a renaissance for himself. He has crept into the
productions of the so-called Satanic literature, into the fine arts by
the side of Christ, and even into trade. Last Christmas I noticed that
the Christmas presents were adorned with little devils and goblins,
both the children's toys and comic objects which elder people buy for
each other, such as spice cakes and almanacks. Is there really a devil,
or is he only a half-real bugbear projected from the unseen in order to
make a strong impression on us, and to drive us to the Cross? I had not
yet succeeded in finding an answer to this question, when, one cold,
wet evening my friends took me to a sculptor, who is a freethinker
and atheist, as are the other members of the theosophical society to
which he belongs. He has a private collection of clay ornaments on
view intended for the Stockholm Exhibition. In these, with repulsive
realism and cynicism, the Devil is represented in different attitudes,
and always with a priest who is terrified at him. People laugh at them,
but I cannot laugh, and think to myself "Wait, and we shall see!" After
an interval of four months I meet the sculptor in the street. He looks
troubled, as though some misfortune had happened to him. "Can you
imagine," he says, "such a piece of infernal bad luck? They have just
broken three of my best figures in unpacking them at the Exhibition." I
feel immensely interested, and simultaneously with my condolence over
his misfortune I ask with almost shameless curiosity, "And which of
your statuettes were they?"

"Three of the Devil, I believe."

I do not laugh, but answer with a smile, "There, you see! Lucifer does
not like to be caricatured."

Some weeks later the sculptor receives another letter, and learns
that the other figures have fallen from their pedestals and been
broken, without the managers being able to say how it has happened.
Consequently the unfortunate artist has lost a year, not counting the
costs of production, and he finds himself struck out of the list of
exhibitors. In his despondency he comforts himself by attributing it to
accident, which means nothing, and yet which saves a man's pride, while
bowing to blind Chance. One stoops one's head before a stone flung at
one, but what of the flinger whom one is not conscious of having seen?

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile I obtain Swedenborg's works, one after another, and always
at some favourable moment. In his "Dreams" I find all the symptoms of
my illness, the nightly attacks and the difficulty in breathing. The
facts which he records in these notes belong to the time before he had
his revelations. That was for Swedenborg the period of "desolation,"
when he was delivered over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.
This helps me to understand the beneficent purposes of the invisible
powers, without, however, bringing me comfort. Not till I read
_Heaven and Hell_ do I begin to get help. There is, then, an object
in these mysterious sufferings--the improvement and development of my
personality to something greater, something like Nietzsche's imaginary
ideal, but differently conceived.

The Devil is not an independent being, equal to God, and His opponent.
The invisible power which plagues us is the Spirit of discipline. A
great step is taken when we see that evil does not exist for evil's
sake, and we conceive a new hope of finding peace through penitence
and conscientious watchfulness over our thoughts and actions. As I
watch the events of daily life, a new method of education begins to
operate upon me, and I learn to recognise, the system of signs which
the invisible powers use. But my difficulties are great because of my
age and the inveteracy of evil habits, and in consequence of a certain
yieldingness of disposition I am all too prone to suit myself to my
surroundings. It is so hard to be the first to quit a merry carouse;
if I try to insist on my own way, my intimate friends call me "a bad
boon-companion." But one has to learn to do everything in this world.

For instance, at dinner, which I take at two o'clock, I had been
accustomed to remain behind for coffee. One day at the beginning of
February I am sitting there with my back against the outer wall, when
my friends begin to discuss whether they shall order a bowl of punch.
Instantly there comes a direct answer in the form of a terrible noise
behind my back, so that the cups of coffee on the tray jump. It can be
imagined what kind of a face I make. The cause of the noise is quite
simple,--a workman is repairing the decoration of the wall outside.

We adjourn to a special room. Immediately there breaks out a noise on
the ceiling over my head. I rise and fly from the battlefield, and from
that hour I never remain for coffee after dinner except on holidays. In
the evening, on the other hand, I can drink a glass with my friends,
since the object is not so much drink as the interchange of thought
with learned people, who represent all branches of science. But often
it happens that mere love of drink gets the upper hand, accompanied by
unbridled hilarity and cynical suggestions. One's lower nature breaks
through and the brutal instincts find free scope. It is so pleasant to
be an animal for a while, one thinks to oneself, and besides life is
not always so cheerful, and so on, to the same effect. One day, after I
have for some time taken part in riotous drinking bouts, I am on the
way to my restaurant. I pass by an undertaker's shop where a coffin is
exposed to view. The street is strewn with fir branches, and the great
bell of the cathedral is tolling a knell. Arrived at the restaurant, I
find my table companion in trouble, as he has come straight from the
hospital, where he has taken leave of a dying friend. As I return home
after dinner by back streets, where I have not been before, I meet two
funeral processions. How everything reeks of death to-day, and the
tolling of the knell recommences!

In the evening, as I am about to enter the tavern, I see an old man
leaning against the wall, obviously drunk and ill. In order not to
meet him, I make a detour and enter the dining-hall. My headache from
yesterday's debauch, combined with the funereal impressions I have
received in the course of the day, inspire me with a secret fear of
alcohol, so that I order milk for my supper.

In the midst of the meal there is a noise in the house mingled with
cries of grief, and after a little while they carry in the old man I
had seen near the entrance, his son leading the procession. His father
was dead. A warning for drinkers!

In the night following I had a terrible attack of nightmare. Some
one hung fast on to my back and shook me by the shoulders. This was
sufficient cause for me to be careful how I prolonged my drinking to a
late hour. But I did not entirely renounce it. At the end of January I
take rooms in a private house, and confront my fate steadfastly without
seeking to find distraction in the presence of a friend. It is a duel,
and there is no possibility of escape. As soon as I come home in the
evening I ascertain at once how it stands with my conscience. A choking
atmosphere, even when the windows are open, gives warning of a bad
night. The terrible fear I feel brings on fever accompanied with a cold
sweat, and when I search my conscience I at once find where the shoe
pinches. But I fly no more, for it is useless.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the lessons which the avenging powers have given me is one which
I dare not forget, that is, the command not to search into hidden
things, because they are to remain hidden.

For instance, in my excursions in Schonen, I had noticed a kind of
stones found in scattered places of peculiar and very characteristic
shapes. They represented either types of living creatures, such as
birds, or hats and helmets. There were also others with furrows which
resembled the tracings on meteoric stones. Without being clear as to
their origin, I received the impression that they were not a mere freak
of nature. Their form showed that they were works of art, produced and
elaborated by human hands. For two years I continued to look for them,
and after I had interested a friend of mine who lived at a distance in
the matter, I told him where some could be found, that he might send
me a photograph of them. But the expedition failed, and a year later
I discovered that I had given him a wrong address. Ever since then,
when I have obstinately set about such investigations, hindrances have
arisen in such an extraordinary way that I could not attribute them to
chance.

Thus, for instance, I had resolved one morning to make an expedition
with an antiquarian in order to solve the question once for all. In
the street before my door a nail came loose in my boot and stuck in
my foot. At first I took no notice of it, but as I approached my
friend's door the pain became so great that I had to stand still. It
was impossible to proceed, or to turn back. In great annoyance I drew
off my boot and flattened the nail with my knife. A vague remembrance
of a passage I had read in Swedenborg came to me simultaneously--
"When the avenging spirits see an evil act, or the intention to commit
a wrong, they punish by inflicting pain in the foot, the hand, or
the neighbourhood of the diaphragm." But I was so spurred on by the
thirst for knowledge, which I regarded as lawful and praiseworthy, that
I resumed my interrupted attempt, and soon joined my companion. We
intended first to investigate a grotto in the park. But the entrance
was blocked up with heaps of abominable filth piled up in such a
challenging or rather ironical way as to make me smile. The other
place, well known to me, where these stones are to be found, is in a
garden, where great blocks of them are grouped round a tree, and they
are easily got at. But this morning the gardener has fenced off the
tree and the antiquities with a row of flower-pots, so that I cannot
get there to show my learned companion anything. A pretty fiasco!
Irritated by all these hindrances, I take my friend, who begins to look
sceptical, right through the town to a courtyard where a whole museum
of these curiosities has been collected. There the matter will be
settled once for all, and I expect to see him startled. On our arrival
we are greeted by the barking of a vile cur; as we endeavour to drive
him off, the occupants of the house come into the courtyard, and we
have to shout what we want in order to drown the noise of the barking
dog. The objects of our search are surrounded by a closed fence, and
the key cannot be found.

"Are there any other places?" asks the antiquarian, who begins to
despise me.

"Yes, there are, but outside the town."

I will not weary the reader with trifles. Suffice it to say, that after
more or less vexatious wanderings, we did at last reach a pile of such
stones. But there was witchcraft at work; I could show the antiquarian
nothing, because he saw nothing, and I myself, as though dazzled, could
not now distinguish in the shapes of the stones anything resembling
living creatures. But on the next day, when I went to the place alone,
I found a whole menagerie.

The account of this adventure may close with a note regarding the
character of these remains of pre-Adamite sculpture. The occultists
attribute their origin to men of the Tertiary period, and place them
in the same category as the colossal stone image found in the Easter
Islands and in the desert of Gobi. Olaus Magnus mentions them also,
and has found them in great numbers on the coast of Braviken in East
Gothland. Swedenborg attributes to them a symbolical significance, and
regards them as artistic products of the silver age.

       *       *       *       *       *

To judge by what takes place in the narrow circle in which I live,
the Powers do not allow me to chose my acquaintances, and still less
to despise any one, whoever it may be. Like everyone else, I have
sympathies and partialities for certain kinds of people. At present I
seek for those seriously disposed, to whom I can impart my thoughts
without being exposed to unpleasant and insulting jests. Providence has
sent me a friend whom I prize highly on account of the pure atmosphere
which surrounds him. Like a spoilt child I begin to despise the other
uncultivated and uninspired souls, who occasionally find pleasure in
coarseness.

But just as I return, I found my friend has gone away. I cannot meet
the others anywhere, and in my isolation I am compelled to humble
myself to the utmost by begging for the society of insignificant
persons, who, as a rule, have nothing to do with the society in which
I move. After a number of experiences in this direction I make my old
discovery again, that the difference between man and man is not so
great as one supposes. As a matter of fact I have found real gentlemen
among the lower classes, and how many saints and heroes may I not have
unconsciously classed with those I despised! On the other hand, people
lay stress on the proverb, "Evil companionship corrupts good manners";
but which is evil society, and which is the good? It might be supposed,
as I have done, that a mission to preach was laid upon me, if I settled
down in a strange town, without knowing why, but what is my business
here? To preach morality? My conscience answers me "Yes; by thy
example." But now no one takes me for an example, and what would be the
use if I tried to preach to young men who have not sinned as much as I
have?

Besides, the period of the prophets seems to have come to an end. The
Powers want to have nothing more to do with priests, but have taken the
direct government of souls upon themselves, and one need not go far to
find examples of this.

One of our poets has recently been summoned before a court because
of a collection of poems, some of which were considered injurious to
morality. He has been acquitted by the jury, but can find no rest.
In one of his poems he has challenged the Eternal to a wrestle, even
though (he said) it should have to be decided in hell. It seems
as though the challenge had been accepted, and the young man were
compelled, like a broken reed, to sue for mercy. One evening, while he
sits in a merry circle of friends, some power, unknown to the exact
sciences, snatches the cigar from his mouth so that it falls to the
ground. A little surprised, he picks up the cigar again, as though
nothing had happened. But the same thing happens three times. Then the
sceptic becomes as pale as death, and quits the place in silence, while
his friends sit mute with astonishment.

But when he reached home the rash man found a new surprise awaiting
him. Without any visible cause, both his hands like those of a
masseur began to chafe or rather to knead his whole body, which too
much drinking had made unnecessarily obese. This involuntary massage
continued without interruption for fourteen days, yet at the end of
this time the wrestler feels himself sufficiently strengthened to
enter the arena again. He hires an hotel and invites his friends to a
Belshazzar's feast, which is to last three days. He means to show the
world how Nietzsche's superman can control the evil spirits of wine.
They drink through the whole of the first day till night falls, and
with it falls the champion. But before he gives up the battle for lost
the demons of wine take possession of the soul of this superman and
fill him with such uncontrollable madness that he flings his guests out
of the doors and windows, and so the feast ends. Whereupon the host is
taken to an asylum.

Thus the adventure was related to me, and I am sorry to have repeated
it without the tears which one owes to misfortune. But the accused has
gained a defender for his case, a young doctor, who offers to assist
him in his conflict with the Eternal. Is it rash to connect these
two facts? The doctor pleads the blasphemer's cause, and the doctor
breaks his leg. Was it a mere chance that frightened his horse so that
he shied and upset the carriage? I only ask the question. And how did
it happen that the doctor, after he had been confined to his bed for
several months, got up with a "sprung thigh sinew," that his formerly
clear and firm look had a strange and wild expression, like that of a
man who is no longer master of himself?

Is it necessary for me to answer? In case one should say "Yes,"
I continue the narrative to the end. This doctor, a good fellow,
intelligent and honest, came to me one day towards the end of summer,
and confided to me that he was plagued with sleeplessness, and that
a strange irritation woke him at night, and allowed him no rest till
he got up. If he obstinately remained lying in bed he began to have
palpitations.

"Well?" he concluded, awaiting my answer with manifest impatience.

"It was just the same with me," I replied.

"And how did you get cured?"

Was it cowardice, or did I obey an inner voice when I answered, "I took
sulphonal."

His face assumed an expression of disappointment, but I could do
nothing for him.



IV

MIRACLES


After three months of very severe winter weather, the first signs of
spring begin to be visible. One's frozen senses begin to thaw, and the
seeds sown under the snow begin to germinate. So much has happened,
and instead of rejecting undeniable facts as fortuitous coincidences,
I observe and collect them, and draw my inferences. At first I laugh
at my own superstition, but later on I cease to smile, and do not know
what to believe. Miracles happen, and that every day, but they do not
happen to order.

One day before noon I cross the market place, which is empty for the
moment. As I have long suffered from "agoraphobia," I dread empty
spaces, and cross it with scarcely concealed anxiety. Just now,
when I am tired by work, and extremely nervous, the aspect of the
deserted market place makes a very painful impression on me, so that I
experience a desire to make myself invisible in order to escape curious
eyes. I lower my head, fasten my eyes on the pavement, and feel as
though I had compressed myself within myself, closed my senses, cut off
communication with the outer world, and ceased to feel the influence of
my surroundings. Almost unconsciously I have crossed over the market
place. The next moment in the street two well-known voices call after
me. I remain standing.

"Which way did you come?"

"Over the market place."

"No! How could you? We stood waiting here to meet you and to have
dinner together."

"I assure you----"

"Oh; then you made yourself invisible?"

"Nothing is impossible."

"For you, at any rate. They tell the most incredible stories about you."

"I suspected something of the kind, as I have been seen near the
Danube, when I was in Paris."

This was really the case, but at this time I believed there were
visions without any substratum of reality, and I let drop the remark,
merely as a happy idea.

The same day I take my evening meal alone, in the smaller dining-room
of the inn. A man, whom I do not know, comes in, apparently to look for
some one. He does not seem to notice me although he looks at all the
tables, and, believing himself alone in the room, he begins to swear
and talk aloud with himself. In order to apprise him of the presence
of some one I knock with my fork against a glass. The stranger starts
and seems surprised to see some one; he becomes suddenly silent, and
hastens away.

From that time I begin to ponder the subject of dematerialisation
which the occultists believe in. And proofs follow rapidly. A week
later, my attention was aroused by another strange occurrence. It was
a Wednesday, when the dining-room of the inn is generally full because
of the weekly market. In order to avoid the crowd and the discomfort,
my usual table companion has ordered a special room, and, as he has
come earlier than myself, he waits for me in the hall, and bids me go
upstairs. But in order to save time, we agree to engage the tea-table
in the dining-room. Unwillingly I march in behind my friend, because I
abominate the drunken farmers and their bad language. Meanwhile we come
through the crowd to the tea-table, where there was only one very quiet
individual. After we had taken something without exchanging a single
word, we retired to our private room, I following him. When we reached
the door, my friend seemed astonished to see me.

"Hullo! Where did you come from?"

"From the tea-table, of course."

"I never saw you; I thought you had remained up here."

"Never saw me! Why, our hands crossed over the dishes. Can I then make
myself invisible?"

"Well, it is funny anyhow."

When I delve in my memory, I bring now forgotten incidents to light,
which were hitherto valueless to a sceptic whose mind had been
sterilised by the study of the exact sciences. Thus I remember the
morning of my first wedding day. It was a winter Sunday, peculiarly
quiet and unnaturally solemn for me who was preparing to quit an
impure bachelor life and to settle down by the domestic hearth with
the woman I loved. I felt I should like to take my breakfast, the last
in my bachelor life, quite alone, and with this object I went down to
an underground café in a low street. It was a basement-room lit with
gas. After ordering breakfast, I noticed that I was being watched by a
number of men who were sitting, obviously in a state of intoxication,
round their bottles, since the previous evening. They looked spectrally
pale, uncouth, shabby; they were hoarse-voiced and disgusting, after a
night spent in debauchery. Among the company I recognised two friends
of my youth, who had so come down in the world that they had neither
house nor home nor occupation, notorious good-for-nothings, not far
from committing some crime. It was not pride which made me shrink
from renewing the acquaintanceship; it was the fear of a relapse in
the mire, the dislike of finding myself placed back in my past,--for
I had gone through a similar stage. At last, when the comparatively
soberest of them, chosen as an envoy, stood up in order to approach my
table, I was seized with terror. Firmly resolved to deny my identity if
necessary, I fix my eyes on my assailant, and without my knowing how it
happened he remained standing for a moment before my table, and then
with a silly expression, which I can never forget, he makes an apology
and returns to his place. He had been prepared to swear that it was I,
and yet he did not recognise me.

Then they began to discuss my alibi.

"It is he certainly."

"Yes, the Devil take me, it is!" I quit the place filled with shame at
myself and pity for the poor fellows, but in the depth of my heart glad
at having escaped such a hateful existence.

Escaped!

Apart from the moral aspect of the question the strange fact remains,
that one can so alter one's physiognomy as to be irrecognisable by an
old acquaintance whom one meets and I salutes all through the year in
the street.

       *       *       *       *       *

In earlier times I used to go hunting alone, without a dog and often
without a rifle. I wandered about at haphazard (it was in Denmark),
and once as I was standing in a glade a fox jumped up suddenly beside
me. He looked me in the face, in full sunlight, at a distance of about
twenty steps. I stood motionless, and the fox continued to search the
ground hunting for mice. I stooped to pick up a stone. Then it was his
turn to make himself invisible, for he vanished in an instant without
my seeing how he did so. When I searched the ground, I found there no
trace of a fox-hole, and not even a bush behind which he might have
hidden. He had vanished without the help of his legs.

Here and there in the marshy meadows on the banks of the Danube herons
often build their nests, and they are extremely shy birds.

In spite of that, I could often surprise them without hiding myself. As
long as I kept motionless, I could stand and watch them. Sometimes they
even flew close over my head. No one would believe me when I related
this, least of all sportsmen, and I concluded therefore that the matter
was something above the ordinary.

When I told this to my friend the theosophist in Lund, he remembered an
occurrence to which he could never find the key. A workman whom he knew
visited him, saying that he had found an antique work of art for sale,
and asked him for an advance of five crowns. After the man had received
the commission to buy it he had disappeared, and could be found nowhere
for three whole months. One Sunday evening the theosophist and his wife
were going down a back street, when he saw the man a little before
him on the same pavement. "Now I have the fellow!" he exclaimed. He
let go of his wife's arm, and hastened his steps, when suddenly the
other disappeared, as if he had evaporated. As usual in such cases,
the theosophist believed he was the victim of a delusion. At the same
time there was no one else in the street, so that the possibility of a
mistaken identity was excluded.

Such is the bare fact. To explain the inexplicable is a contradiction
in terms. There was there no open door nor window nor cellar hole into
which the man might have slipped and hidden himself. When it is said
that some human beings have the power to divert the visible light-rays
from their proper direction, that is to say, to alter the quantity of
refraction,--does this heap of words explain the problem, the stress of
which lies in the Why and the Wherefore?

The only supposition left is, that it was a miracle! Let it pass for
such till we obtain further information, and, while we wait, let us
collect data, and not attempt to refute them.



V

MY INCREDULOUS FRIEND'S TROUBLES


I feel greatly embarrassed in narrating my friend's adventure, but I
have begged his pardon beforehand, and he knows how unselfish my aims
are. Besides, as he has related his troubles to everyone who would
listen to them, without having deposed to the facts under a seal of
secrecy, I have only to play the rôle of an impartial chronicler,
and if I am looked at askance on account of that it is I who pay the
penalty.

My friend is an atheist and materialist, but enjoys the life which he
despises, and fears death, which he does not know. At the beginning
of our acquaintanceship, when he offered me a refuge in his house,
he treated me with friendly brotherliness, and tended me like a
sick person, that is to say, with the considerate sympathy of an
intelligent free-thinker who understands mental disorders, and the
indulgent treatment which they require.

But even a freethinker may have his dark hours of depression, the cause
of which he knows not. Late one evening, when the room was in twilight,
and the lamps, though kindled, did not illuminate the corners where the
shadows fell, my friend confided to me, in answer to my expressions of
gratitude, that the obligation lay on his side. For he had, he said,
a short while ago lost his best friend by death. Since then he was
troubled by uneasy dreams, in which there always mixed the image of his
departed friend.

"You also?" I exclaimed.

"I also! But you understand that I am only speaking of dreams such as
one has at night."

"Yes, certainly."

"Sleeplessness, nightmares, and so forth. You know what it is to be
ridden by a nightmare, which is a disorder of the chest caused by
disturbed digestion following on excesses. Have you never had it?"

"Yes, indeed. One eats crabs for supper, and then one has it! Have you
tried sulphonal for it?"

"Yes. But as to trusting doctors--you know yourself already, perhaps?"

"I should think so! I know them thoroughly. But let us speak of your
dead friend. Does he appear to you in a disturbing way,--I mean in
dreams?"

"I need hardly tell you it isn't he who appears before me. It is his
corpse, and I am sorry to say he died under strange circumstances. Only
think! A young talented man who had made a very promising début in
literature must die of an obscure disease, tuberculosis miliaris, which
caused his body to so decompose that it looked like a heap of millet."

"And now his body appears to you?"

"You don't understand what I mean. Let us drop the subject."

       *       *       *       *       *

With his health shaken and his moods as varying as April weather, my
friend seems to suffer from an acute degree of nervousness. When I part
from him in February, he will never go alone to his house after sunset.

Then he has an important pecuniary loss. There is some talk of
instituting legal proceedings, and we fear that he may commit suicide,
judging by expressions which he has let fall from time to time.
Although recently engaged to be married, he regards the future in the
most gloomy light. But instead of resisting his troubles, he takes a
journey in order to distract his mind, and on his return invites his
friends to a dinner to celebrate the occasion. But in the middle of the
festival he has an attack of indisposition and is ordered to bed.

As soon as I hear of it, on the second day of his illness, I go to him.
A corpse-like odour pervades the house. The patient has grown black in
the face, so that he can be scarcely recognised. He lies stretched out
on the bed, and is watched by a friend and a nurse, whose hands he does
not let go of for a moment. My coming startles him, weakened as he is
by his continuous sufferings.

Later on, when he is somewhat better, he tells me that he has had a
vision of five devils in the shape of red apes with black eyes, which
crept up, sat on the edge of his bed, and moved their tails up and down.

When he has recovered his strength and put his pecuniary affairs in
order, he tells his dream to every one who will listen, and they are
much amused at it.

From time to time he expresses his astonishment that destiny, which has
hitherto favoured him, now begins to persecute him so that nothing will
succeed and everything goes wrong. Amid these gloomy reflections, with
intervals of cheerfulness, the unhappy man, who seems to have fallen
into disfavour with the Powers, receives a fresh and crushing blow. A
tradesman, who belonged to his set, has drowned himself, leaving debts,
so that my friend who had gone surety for him for a considerable sum is
still further embarrassed.

His troubles now recommence in earnest. The body of the dead man
appears in his kitchen, and he persuades a young doctor to pass the
nights with him in order to drive away the phantoms. But the invisible
powers are regardless of everything, and one night my friend wakes up
to see the whole room full of mice. Fully convinced of their reality,
he takes a stick and strikes at them till they disappear. That was an
attack of delirium, but an attack shared by two, for in the morning
his friend, who occupied the adjoining room, says that he heard the
squeaking of mice from my friend's room. How are we to explain a
hallucination which is seen by one and heard by another?

When this adventure is related in sunshine and broad daylight, it is
laughed at. Thereupon my friend begins to give a detailed description
of the body of the suicide which had appeared to him, and he
accompanies it with deliberately cynical remarks, "Cannot you imagine
that it was quite black, and that the white maggots----"

As an eye-witness, I can testify that in the same moment that he
uttered these words he turned pale, stood up from the table, and with
a gesture of disgust pointed to something on his plate. It was a white
maggot crawling along a sardine.

The next day my friend is obliged to break off his evening meal because
he finds a piece of chicken surrounded by white maggots. He cannot eat
although he is ravenously hungry, and becomes alarmed, but only for a
moment.

"What does it mean? What does it mean?" he says.

"One should not speak ill of the dead. They revenge themselves."

"The dead? But they are dead!"

"Exactly. And therefore they are more alive than the living."

My friend had, as a matter of fact, accustomed himself to speak openly
of the weaknesses of the deceased, who, in spite of all, had been a
good friend to him.

Some days later, as we sat at table in the verandah of a
garden-restaurant, one of the guests exclaimed, "Look at that rat! What
a big fellow!"

No one had seen it, and they laughed at the visionary.

"Wait a minute!" he said, "you will soon see. It is there under the
planks!"

A minute passed, and a cat came from under the planks. "I think we have
had enough of rats," my friend exclaimed, apparently much disturbed.

After some time has elapsed, one evening I hear a knock at my door
after I have gone to bed. I open it, and find myself face to face with
my friend, who looks disturbed and excited. He asks to be allowed to
stay and rest on a sofa, because there is a woman who screams the whole
night in the house where he lives.

"Is it a real woman, or a spectre?"

"Oh, it is a woman with cancer, who only wants to be able to die. It is
enough to drive one mad. If I don't end my days in an asylum, it will
be strange."

There is only a short sofa, and to see the tall man stretched out on
such a thing, and two chairs placed by it, is as though one saw a slave
on the rack. Hunted out of his pleasant house, and his comfortable bed,
deprived of the simple pleasure of being able to undress himself, he
rouses my sympathy and I offer him my bed as a sign of my gratitude.
But he refuses. He asks to have the lamp lit, and the light falls
straight on the unfortunate man's face. He fears the dark and I promise
to sit up and watch. He lies and murmurs to himself till sleep has pity
on him. "There is no doubt it is a sick woman, but still it is strange."

For two whole weeks he is obliged to seek rest on other people's sofas.
"This is really hell!" he exclaims.

"Just what I think" is my answer.

Another time when the "white woman" has appeared to him in the night he
himself suggests the possibility that it may be a punishment. True to
my rôle, I confine myself to a sceptical silence. I pass over others of
his adventures and come to the story of the Madonna and the telepathic
vision he had of some one at the moment he died. It is quite short. On
the occasion of an excursion into the country my friend found himself
in a little company gathered on the shore of a lake. In an access of
cheerfulness and forgetfulness of his painful experiences he made the
following suggestion,--

"This, on my faith, is the proper scene for a revelation of the
Blessed Virgin! It would be a good speculation to set up a shrine for
pilgrimages."

At the same moment he turned pale, and to the great astonishment of his
companions he exclaimed almost in an ecstasy,--

"Just now he has died."

"Who?"

"Lieutenant X. I saw him lying in the death struggle, the chamber, the
attendants, and everything!"

His friends laughed at him, but on their return to the town they were
met by the news of Lieutenant X.'s death. It had happened suddenly,
exactly at half-past seven o'clock, at the same moment in which the
visionary received intimation of it. Those who had ridiculed him were
greatly impressed, so that they involuntarily shed tears, not of grief,
for the death of the lieutenant was a matter of indifference to them,
but of emotion at the strange occurrence.

The newspapers made a fuss over the affair. The honest ones did not
deny the fact, while the dishonest ones suggested that the witnesses
were liars. The result was a protest on the part of my friend the
heretic, who acknowledged the real facts of the case, but explained
them as an accidental coincidence.

I grant that a certain apparent modesty would rule out as impossible
all interference of invisible powers in our petty affairs, but this
modesty itself may be an "obstacle cast up by the unrepentant." This
seems to be suggested by the following words of Claude de Saint
Martin:--

"It is perhaps this wrong connection of ideas (that the earth is only
a mere point in the universe) which has led men to the still falser
notion that they are not worthy of the Creator's regard. They have
believed themselves to be obeying the dictates of humility when they
have denied that the earth and all that the universe contains only
exist on man's account, on the ground that the admission of such
an idea would be only conceit. But they have not been afraid of
the laziness and cowardice which are the inevitable results of this
affected modesty. The present-day avoidance of the belief that we are
the highest in the universe is the reason that we have not the courage
to work in order to justify that title, that the duties springing from
it seem too laborious, and that we would rather abdicate our position
and our rights than realise them in all their consequences. Where is
the pilot that will guide us between these hidden reefs of conceit and
false humility?"

Meanwhile I have gained a thorough knowledge of all my friend's
weaknesses, and can predict the troubles he will suffer by day or night
by observing his behaviour. My observations lead me to the conclusion
that all his ailments spring from "moral" grounds. But "moral" is a
word which is nowadays despised and suspected, and I am not the man
to reassert it. Only on one occasion, when the unfortunate man was in
a state of deep depression, I said to him out of sympathy, and by way
of putting up a sign-post for him, "If you had read Swedenborg before
your last attack at night you would have gone into the Salvation Army
or become a hospital attendant!"

"How so?" he asked. "What does this Swedenborg say?"

"He says a great deal, and he it is who has saved me from going mad.
Consider now, he has given me back the power of sleep by a single
sentence of four words."

"Say it, I beg you."

My courage sank, and has failed me every time that the possessed man
has asked for this formula of exorcism.

But here I write down the four words which are worth all the doctors'
regulations, "_Do this no more_."

Everyone's conscience must interpret the word "this" for himself. I,
the undersigned, declare that I have obtained health and quiet sleep by
obeying the above receipt.

                               THE AUTHOR.

This is a confession, not an exhortation.



MISCELLANIES


No one has been so tried by fate as the doctor of whom I spoke in the
first chapter under the sobriquet of leader of the youthful revolters.
After countless changes of opinion he has become sober and almost
morbidly scrupulous. He regards himself as bankrupt in everything, and
distrusts everyone. Deprived of the faculties which render us capable
of enjoyment and of suffering, he is indifferent to everything. He
began his career as an enthusiast for the freedom of the individual,
for the democracy, and for the liberation of women, and has seen his
hopes completely disappointed. He who was an ardent champion of free
love has seen the woman of his choice, for whom he himself had great
respect, sink in the deepest infamy.

He is now thirty years old. During some years' residence abroad
he has lived a painful life as a lonely wanderer; he has worn
threadbare clothing and endured poverty, hunger, and cold, and all the
humiliations of a man laden with debt. He has slept at night in woods
and open parks for want of a dwelling; and has nourished himself with
the gelatine and starch which were used in the laboratory where he
was an assistant. As a result of his privations he had less power to
resist alcohol, and although lie was not a drunkard, the effect of the
small quantity of drink which he could procure was too much for him.
Abandoned to the mercy of fortune by his relatives, he was helped by
a Swedenborgian, whom he hardly knew, to enter an institution for the
cure of nervous diseases. After some months he was healed, and returned
to the university in Sweden. He was told, however, that he would have
to practise total abstinence. It was he who lent me Swedenborg's
_Arcana Coelestia_, and later on his _Apocalypsis Revelata_. He
had not read them himself, but had found them in the library of his
mother, who was a Swedenborgian.

One thing surprises me, that although up to my forty-ninth year I have
never come across the works of Swedenborg, whom the cultivated classes
in Sweden openly despise, yet now he turns up everywhere--in Paris, on
the Danube, in Sweden, and that in the course of a single half year.

Meanwhile my friend, with his destroyed illusions, remains indifferent
in spite of the blows which fate has repeatedly dealt him. He cannot
stoop, and thinks it unworthy of a man to kneel to unknown powers who
might some day reveal themselves as tempters, whose temptations or
tests one should have resisted to the uttermost.

I do not conceal from him my new religious views without, however,
wishing to influence him. "You see," I say to him, "religion is a thing
which one must appropriate for oneself; it is no use preaching it."

Often he listens to me with apparent attention, and often he smiles.
Sometimes he disappears for a fortnight together, as though he were
vexed, but he comes again and looks as if he had been brooding over
some thought. Sometimes, in order to help him, I let drop, as though by
chance, an interrogatory remark, "Something is happening, isn't it?"

"I don't know; it is so absurd that there must be jugglery in it."

"What is it, then?"

"Every morning when I enter the laboratory I find my things in
confusion,--you cannot think what it looks like,--and the table in a
mess. And that although I take the greatest pains to keep the place
clean."

"Is it some one with a spite against you?"

"Impossible, for I am the last to leave the room, and if there were
anyone he would be immediately discovered."

"Then is it----?"

"Well, who?"

"Some one unseen?"

"I don't say so, but latterly it does seem as though some one were
watching me, and could read my most secret thoughts. And if I ever
kick over the traces, I am pulled up at once in a moment."

"Have you ever had similar abnormal experiences before?"

"Not I myself, but my mother and sister, who are Swedenborgians, have.
Wait a minute, though! I did have one, just two years ago, in Berlin."

"Let me hear it."

"It was as follows:--I entered a lavatory near the Linden Avenue one
evening, and saw beside me a bare-headed man of a questionable and
strange appearance. He had a protuberance on the back of his neck,
and to my astonishment he 'yodeled'[1] like a Tyrolese. The painful
impression which this individual with his lugubrious physiognomy made
on me remained with me unconsciously, and in order to shake it off I
continued my walk outside the town, and finally found myself in the
country. Tired and hungry I entered an inn, where I ordered at the
bar a Frankfort sausage and a pint of beer. 'A Frankfort sausage and
a pint--' of beer,' repeated some one at my side, and, as I turned
round, I saw the man with the protuberance on his neck. Thrown into
complete confusion, I went on my way without waiting for what I had
ordered, and, unable to give the reason for my abrupt departure, I have
never thought any more of this insignificant occurrence, but I have a
very vivid impression of it, and it just now recurs to me."

When he had finished he covered his eyes with both hands, as though he
wished to obliterate the picture by rubbing the pupil of his eye. which
still retained the portrait of the man.

While the above narrative with its details is fresh in the reader's
memory, I will introduce another, which, through its connection
with the former, may perhaps bring us a little nearer our goal. On
the first of May I went pretty early through the Park to eat dinner
with a school-master. When we had sat down at a table in the large,
open balcony, which was empty, I suddenly experienced a feeling of
discomfort, and as I turned round on my chair I perceived a man of very
questionable appearance, and with an unsteady, irresolute expression in
his eyes.

"Who is that?" I asked my companion, who was an old inhabitant of Lund,
and knew the whole population.

"A foreigner, certainly."

The stranger, bare-headed and silent, came near, and, when he stood
directly in front of me, he regarded me with such a piercing look that
I felt a burning pain in my breast. We changed our seats. The man
followed us without breaking silence. His looks were neither malicious
nor severe, but rather melancholy and expressionless like those of a
somnambulist. Then I had a recollection, which was too vague to be
conscious, and addressed a question to my companion. "That man there
resembles one of our friends, but which of them?"

"Yes, certainly; he is just like what our friend Martin would be at
forty-five."

At this moment there sprang up from a mass of confused memories the
Berlin Lavatory and "Friend Martin" (as the unfortunate doctor was
called), pursued by this stranger.

Meanwhile the man had taken a seat near us and turned his back. How
great was my astonishment when I noticed a protuberance on his neck!
In order to clear up the matter, I asked my companion, "Can you see a
protuberance on this fellow's neck?"

"Yes, distinctly. What of that?"

I did not answer, because it would have been too long a story. Besides,
the school-master was a declared foe of occultism.

The same evening I saw Friend Martin in the middle of a swarm of
students. Without beating about the bush I asked him directly, "Where
were you to-day between one and two o'clock?"

"Why? Why do you ask that?" And he looked embarrassed as he spoke.

"Only answer my question."

"I was asleep. I am not accustomed to sleep in the day, and therefore
your question embarrassed me."

"And yet you go outside and roam about during your sleep."

"It looks like it, for some days ago, while I slept, I saw the fire
which had broken out in the Museum. That is the simple truth."

After this admission on his part, I described to him the appearance in
the Park, and compared it with what he had seen in Berlin.

But he was in good spirits, and though the protuberance in the neck
made him shudder, he exclaimed, "The description fits to a T. It is my
double!"

And we both laughed.

       *       *       *       *       *

I pause here for a moment in order to expound the possible theories of
the phenomenon known as a man's "double" (_doppelgänger_).

The Theosophists assume it as a fact that the soul, or the "astral
body," has the power to quit the body and to clothe itself in a
quasi-material form which under favourable circumstances can be visible
to many. All so-called telepathic experiences are thus explained. The
creations of the imagination have no reality, but some visions and
hallucinations have a kind of materiality. Similarly, in optics, one
distinguishes between virtual and real images, the latter of which
can be projected on a screen or fixed on a sufficiently sensitive
photographic plate.

Suppose that an absent person thinks of me, by evoking my personality
in his remembrance; he only succeeds in creating a virtual image of
me by a free and conscious effort of his own. But suppose again that
an old aunt of mine in a foreign country sits at the piano without
thinking of me, and sees me then standing in person behind the
instrument; she has _seen_ a virtual image of me.

And this actually happened in the autumn of 1895. I remember that I
was then passing through a dangerous illness in the French capital,
when my longing to be in the bosom of my family overcame me to such
a degree that I saw the inside of my house and for a moment forgot
my surroundings, having lost the consciousness of where I was. I was
really there behind the piano as I appeared, and the imagination of the
old lady had nothing to do with the matter. But since she understood
these kind of apparitions, and knew their significance, she saw in it
a precursor of death and wrote to ask if I were ill.

In order the better to elucidate this problem, I will insert here an
essay of my own printed last year in the Initiation, which has points
of contact with the above-mentioned occurrence.

"OBSERVATIONS ON THE IRRADIATION AND
DILATABILITY OF THE SOUL."

"To be beside oneself" and "to collect oneself" are two phrases in
every-day use, which express well the capacity which the soul possesses
of expanding and contracting. Fear makes it shrink and contract, and
joy, happiness, or success make it expand.

Go alone into a full railway carriage, where no one knows another,
but all are sitting silent. Each feels, according to his degree of
sensibility, an extreme discomfort. There is a manifold crossing of
irradiations from souls in different moods which causes a general
feeling of oppression. It is not warm, but one feels as though one
were stifled; the senses, charged to overflowing with magnetic fluids,
feel as if they must explode; the intensity of the electric streams,
strengthened by influence and condensation, perhaps also by induction,
has reached its maximum.

Then some one begins to speak. A discharge of electricity takes place,
and the various currents neutralise each other when all present enter
upon a trivial conversation to relieve a physical necessity.

The person fond of solitude draws back into his corner, closes his
inner eye and ear, and sinks in himself in order to ward off a new
"influence." Or he looks at the landscape through the window, and lets
his thoughts wander, while he steps outside the magic circle of those
shut up with him, to whom, however, he is indifferent. The secret of
the success of a great actor consists in his inborn capacity of letting
his soul "ray out," and thus enter into touch with the audience. In
great moments there is actually a radiance round an eloquent speaker,
visible even to the incredulous.

The actor with a dreamy nature, who has a keen intelligence, and has
studied much, but not acquired the power of going out of himself, will
never make a great impression on the stage. Shut up in himself, his
mind cannot penetrate the minds of the spectators.

In the great crises of life, when existence itself is threatened, the
soul attains transcendent powers.

It seems sometimes as though the fear of poverty drove the tortured
soul to fly to seek a life somewhere else, where living is easier, and
it is not for nothing that suicide attracts the unhappy by promising to
open the gates of their prison.

Some years ago I had the following experience. One autumn morning I sat
at my writing table before, the window, which looked out on a gloomy
street in a small industrial town of Moravia. In the neighbouring room,
of which the door was on the jar, my wife, who was expecting her first
confinement, was resting.

While I was writing, I imagined myself transplanted to a scene many
hundred miles north, which I well knew. Although where I was, it was
autumn and approaching winter, I found myself in my thoughts under
a green oak in the sunshine. The little garden which I had myself
cultivated in my youth was there; the roses--I could tell them by their
names--the syringas, the jasmines exhaled their scents so that I could
smell them; I picked caterpillars off my cherry-trees, I trimmed the
currant-bushes *** Suddenly I hear a hoarse cry, I find myself standing
on the ground, I feel a kind of cramp in my spine causing intolerable
pain, and fall senseless on my chair.

When I recover consciousness, I find that my wife had come from behind
in order to say good morning, and had quite gently laid her hand upon
my shoulder.

"Where am I?" That was my first question, and I said it in my native
language, which my wife, as a foreigner, did not understand.

The impression which I received from this occurrence was, that my soul
had dilated itself and left the body without breaking the connection
of the invisible threads, and I needed a certain though ever so small
an interval to recollect in some degree that I was conscious and intact
in the room, where I had just been sitting and working. If, according
to the old methods of explanation, my soul had merely sunk in herself
and still remained confined in the limits of the body, it would have
been able to expand itself again with greater readiness and swiftness,
and I would not have suffered so much through being surprised during my
absence.

No. I was absent, "_franvarande_"--that is the Swedish word for
"distracted "--and my soul returned so suddenly as to cause me
suffering. But the pains were felt in the neighbourhood of the spine
and not in the brain, and this reminds me of the important functions
attributed to the "plexus solaris" when I studied medicine in my youth.

Another occurrence, which happened to me three years ago in Berlin, is
to my mind sufficient proof that the exteriorisation or displacement
of the soul can happen under certain extraordinary circumstances.
After soul-shattering crises, troubles, and an irregular life, I
was sitting one night between one and half-past in a wine shop, at a
table which was always reserved for our coterie. We had been eating
and drinking since six o'clock, and I had been obliged the whole time
to carry on the conversation practically alone. The problem was for
me to give sensible advice to a young officer who was on the point of
changing a military career for that of an artist. As he happened to
be at the same time in love, his nerves were in a very over-strained
condition, and after having received in the course of the day a letter
containing reproaches from his father, he was quite beside himself. I
forgot my own wounds while I was tending those of another. The task
was a difficult one, and caused me some mental disturbance. After
arguments and endless appeals, I wished to call up in his memory a
past event which might influence his resolve. He had forgotten the
occurrence in question, and in order to stimulate his memory, I began
to describe it to him. "You remember that evening in the Augustiner
tavern." I continued to describe the table where we had eaten our meal,
the position of the bar, the door through which people entered, the
furniture, the pictures *** All of a sudden I stopped. I had half lost
consciousness without fainting, and still sat in my chair. I was in the
Augustiner tavern and had forgotten to whom I spoke, when I recommenced
as follows: "Wait a minute, I am now in the Augustiner tavern, but I
know very well that I am in some other place. Don't say anything *** I
don't know you any more, but yet I know that I do. Where am I? Don't
say anything; this is very interesting." I made an effort to raise my
eyes--I don't know if they were closed--and I saw a cloud, a background
of indistinct colour, and from the ceiling descended something like a
theatre curtain; it was the dividing wall with shelves and bottles.

"Oh yes!" I said, relieved after feeling a pang pass through me, "I am
in F.'s" (the wine shop).

The officer's face was distorted with alarm, and he wept.

"What is the matter?" I said to him.

"That was dreadful," he answered.

"What?"

When I have related this story to others, they have objected that it
was a fainting fit or an attack of giddiness, words which say little
and explain nothing. First and foremost, fainting fits and giddiness
are accompanied by loss of consciousness. Nor was it a case of
amyosthenia (depression of muscular action), as I remained sitting on
my chair, and spoke consciously about my partial unconsciousness.

At that time I was unaware of the phenomenon itself, and did not know
the expression "exteriorisation of sensibility." Now that I know it,
I am sure that the soul possesses the power of expansion which it
exercises in a very high degree during ordinary sleep, and at death to
such an extent that it leaves the body, and is by no means extinguished.

Some days ago, as I was going along the pavement, I saw an inn-keeper
before his door, loudly abusing a knife-grinder who was standing in the
street. I did not want to cut off the connection between the two, but
it could not be avoided, and I felt a keen feeling of discomfort as I
passed between the two quarrelling men. It was as though I divided a
cord which was stretched between them, or rather as though I crossed a
street which was being sprinkled on both sides with water.

The connection between friends, relatives, and especially between
husband and wife, is a real bond and has a palpable actuality. We begin
to love a woman, and deposit our soul piece-meal, so to speak, with
her. We double our personality, and the loved one, who was formerly
indifferent and neutral, begins to clothe herself in our other "I,"
and becomes our counterpart. When she takes it into her head to depart
with our soul, the pain which it causes us is perhaps the most violent
that there is, only to be compared to that of a mother who has lost
her child. There is a painful sense of emptiness and woe to the man
who has not strength enough to begin to divide himself again and to
find another vessel to fill. Love is an act through which the masculine
blossom attains to fruit, because it is the man who loves, and it is a
sweet illusion to suppose that he is loved by his wife, his other self,
a creation of his own.

Between a married pair the invisible bond often develops itself in a
mediumistic fashion. They can call each other from a distance, read
each other's thoughts, and practise mutual "suggestion" when they
like. They no longer feel the need of speech; the mere presence of the
beloved gives joy, her soul radiates warmth. When they are divided the
bond between them expands; the sense of longing and pining increases
with distance, sometimes to such a degree as to involve the breaking of
the bond, and thereby death.

For many years I have taken notes of all y dreams, and have arrived
at the conviction lat mail leads a double life, that imaginations,
fancies, and dreams possess a kind of reality.

So that we are all of us spiritual somnambulists, and in dreams commit
acts which, according to their varying character, accompany us when we
are awake with feelings of satisfaction or an evil conscience and fears
of the consequences. And from reasons, which I reserve the right to
explain some other time, I believe that the so-called persecution-mania
really springs from pains of conscience after evil deeds which one
has committed in sleep, and of which vague recollections haunt us.
The imaginations of the poet, which prosaic, souls so despise, are
realities.

"And what about death?" you ask.

To the brave man who does not set too great a value on life, I would
at an earlier stage of my experience have recommended the following
experiment, which I have repeatedly made, not without troublesome, but
in all cases easily cured, physical results.

After closing windows, doors, and the stove-flue, I place an open
bottle containing cyan-kalium on the table and lie down on the bed. The
carbonic acid in the air liberates in a little time the cyanic acid
in the bottle, and the well-known physical symptoms follow--a slight
throbbing of the throat, and an indescribable taste in the mouth, which
I might by analogy call "cyanic," paralysis of the biceps-muscle, and
pain in the stomach. The deadly effect of cyanic acid remains still a
mystery. Different authorities ascribe different methods of operation
to this poison. One says, "paralysis of the brain"; another, "paralysis
of the heart"; a third, "suffocation as a secondary consequence of the
medulla oblongata being attacked," etc.

But since the effect may show itself at once, before absorption has
taken place, the method of operation must be regarded much more as
psychical, especially when one has regard to the use of cyanic acid in
medicine as a quieting remedy in so-called nervous diseases.

As regards the condition of the soul under this experiment, I would
say the following: It does not seem to undergo a slow extinction, but
rather a dissolution during which the pleasant sensations far outweigh
the trifling pains. The mental capacities gain in clearness, exactly
contrary to their condition at the approach of sleep; one is in full
possession of one's will, and I can break off the experiment by corking
the bottle, opening the window, and inhaling chlorine or ammonia.

I do not lay much stress upon it, but supposing that we could obtain
satisfactory proofs of the temporary condition of death into which
Indian fakirs can throw themselves, the experiment might be prolonged
without danger. In case of an accident one must proceed with the
various methods which are used to resuscitate a person who has been
choked. The fakirs use warm compresses on the brain, the Chinese warm
the pit of the stomach and cause sneezing. In his remarkable book,
_Positive and Negative_ (1890), Vial relates, following Trousseau and
Piloux: "In the year 1825 Carrero stifled and drowned a large number of
animals, which he afterwards resuscitated a long time after death by
simply inserting needles into their brain."

       *       *       *       *       *

In my book _Inferno_, I have spoken of my brother in misfortune the
German-American painter, and of the quack Francis Schlatter who was
suspected of being his "double." The time has come when I am obliged to
compromise my friend with the sole object of helping the investigation
into the relation between them.

My friend's name was H., whether real or assumed. When I had returned
to Paris in August 1897, I was turning over, one day, the _Revue
Spirite_ for the year 1859. I found there an article, headed "My
Friend H." Under this title a certain Herr H. Lugner had published in
the feuilleton of the _Journal des Débats_ for 26th November 1858 a
narrative which he asserted to be fact, and offered to witness to, if
necessary, as he himself was a friend of the hero of the adventure. The
latter was a young man, aged five and twenty, of irreproachable morals
and thoroughly amiable character.

H. could not keep awake as soon as the sun went down. An irresistible
weariness came over him, and he sank gradually in a deep sleep, from
which nothing could rouse him. In brief, H. lived a double life, so
that at night he committed criminal acts in Melbourne under the name
William Parker. When, later on, Parker was executed, H., in Germany,
was simultaneously found dead in his bed.

Whether the story was true or a product of the imagination, it
interested me, because of the coincidence of names, and also of
some of the circumstances. Modern literature has already dealt with
the phenomenon of the _Doppelgänger_ (double) in the famous romance
_Trilby_, and in another by Paul Lindau. It would be interesting to
know whether the authors have based their narrative on facts or no.

Meanwhile we return to friend Martin. In order to obtain some
distraction, he undertook a cruise to Norrland and Norway, and expected
to derive from it a real feeling of freedom and much pleasure. After
some weeks I meet him in a street in Lund.

"Have you had a pleasant journey?" I ask.

"No; a devil's journey! I don't know what to believe. There is
certainly some one who challenges me, and the fight is unequal. Listen!
I went to Stockholm to amuse myself at the great exhibition, and though
I have hundreds of friends there, I did not meet one. They were all in
the country, and I found myself alone. I only stayed in my room one
day, and was then turned out of it by a stranger to whom my brother,
by mistake, had previously promised it. Ill-luck made me so stupid that
I did not go and see the exhibition, and as I wandered about alone in
the streets, suddenly a heavy hand fell on my shoulder. It was a very
seriously disposed uncle of mine, whom I had not seen twice in my life,
and who was the last man I wished to see. He invited me to spend the
whole evening with him and his wife. I had to swallow everything I
disliked. It was like witchcraft.

Then I went on alone in a railway carriage for hundreds of miles,
through scenery that was deadly dull. At Areskutan, the principal
object of my excursion, there was only one hotel, and in this hotel all
my antipathies had appointed a rendezvous. The Free Church pastor was
feeding his flock there, and they were singing psalms morning, noon,
and evening. It was enough to drive one wild, and yet it seemed quite
natural. There was only one thing which seemed to me somewhat strange,
or with a smack of the occult about it. That was, that in this quiet
and well-kept hotel they were hammering up large boxes at night."

"Over your head?"

"Yes; just over! And, strangely enough, this hammering followed me to
Norway. When I ask the hotel manager for an explanation, he declared he
had heard nothing." "That is just like my own experience."

"Yes."

I would not have related these trivial and in themselves repellent
stories, did not their very absurdity suggest the existence of a
reality, which yet is neither real objectively nor a mere vision, but a
phantasmagoria called up by the invisible powers, to warn, to teach, or
to punish.

This condition, called by the theosophists "Astralplanet," is also
described by Swedenborg in the last part of his _Arcana_, "Visiones et
Visa."

There are two kinds of visionary states which are beyond nature, and
in which I have been placed merely to experience what they are like,
and what is to be understood by the expressions to be "rapt from the
body," and "to be carried by the spirit" to another place.

1. A man is placed in a condition between sleep and waking; when he
is in this state he seems to himself to be fully awake. This is the
condition of being "rapt from the body," when one does not know whether
one is in the body or out of the body.

2. Wandering through the streets of a city and over the fields, and
holding converse with spirits, I seemed to myself to be as much awake
and alert as on ordinary occasions. Thus I wandered without quitting
the road. Yet all the while I was in a vision, and saw woods, rivers,
palaces, houses, men, and other things. But after I had wandered
thus for some hours, I fell suddenly into a state of corporeal
hallucination, and was aware that I was in another place. At this I was
greatly surprised, and saw that I was in such a condition as those are
who are said to be "carried by the Spirit to another place."

       *       *       *       *       *

Friend Martin since his return from his excursion lives alone in
his parents' house, because the family have scattered in different
directions for their summer holiday. I will not say that he is afraid,
but he is uncomfortable. Sometimes he hears steps and other sounds
from the room of his absent sister, sometimes sneezing. Some days ago
he heard in the middle of the night a sharp metallic sound, like that
of a scythe being sharpened. "Taking it all in all," he concluded,
"wonderful things do occur, but if I once began to engage in dealings
with the invisible powers I should be lost."

That was his last word, as autumn approached with great strides.


[1] Gave a peculiar cry.



VII

STUDIES IN SWEDENBORG


While all these occurrences went on in every-day life, I continued my
studies in Swedenborg--that is to say, his works, which are hard to
procure, fell into my hands one after the other, at very long intervals.

In the _Arcana Coelestia_, hell is represented as everlasting,
without any hope of an end, and bare of every word of comfort. The
_Apocalypses Revelata_ expounds a method of systematic penance, and the
result was that I lived under its spell till the spring. Sometimes I
shook it off while I entertained the hope that the Prophet was deceived
in details, and that the Lord of Life and Death would show Himself
more merciful. But what cannot be denied is the startling coincidence
between Swedenborg's visions, and all events great or small which have
happened to me and my friends during this year of terror.

It was not till March that I found in an antiquarian bookseller's shop
_The Wonders of Heaven and Hell_ and _Conjugal Love_. Not till then was
I freed from the spiritual burden that had secretly oppressed me ever
since I first became aware of the Invisible. In them I learned that
God is Love. He does not reign over slaves, and has therefore bestowed
on mortals the gift of free will. Evil has no independent power, but
is a servant of God, fulfilling the functions of a disciplinary force.
Punishments are not endless; every one is free to expiate by patience
the wrongs which he has done. The sufferings which are, imposed upon us
are intended to improve our character. The operations which constitute
the preparation for a spiritual life begin with "Devastation"
(vastatio), and consist in constriction of the chest, difficulty of
breathing, symptoms of suffocation, heart affections, terrible attacks
of fear, sleeplessness, nightmare. This process, which Swedenborg
underwent in the years 1744 and 1745, is described in his book Dreams.

The diagnosis of this kind of illness corresponds in every point to
the ailments which are just now so common, so that I do not shrink
from drawing the conclusion that we are approaching a new era in which
there will be spiritual awakening, and it will be a joy to live. Angina
pectoris, sleeplessness, nightly terrors, all these symptoms which
doctors wish to class as epidemic, are nothing else but the work of
unseen powers. For how can the systematic persecution of healthy men
by unprecedented bizarre occurrences, disturbances and annoyances be
regarded as an epidemic sickness? An epidemic of coincidences? That is
certainly absurd.

       *       *       *       *       *

Swedenborg has become my Virgil, who guides me through hell, and I
follow him blindly. He certainly is a terrible chastiser, but he knows
also how to comfort, and he seems to me less severe than the Protestant
theologians. "A man may amass riches, if he does so honestly and
uses them honestly; he may clothe himself and live according to his
means; he may hold intercourse with people of the same social standing
as himself, enjoy the innocent pleasures of life, look joyful and
contented, and not morose. He can, in a word, live and act like a rich
man in this world, and after he dies go straight to heaven, if only in
his heart he has faith in God and love to Him, and behaves as he should
towards his neighbour."

"I have met several of those who, before they died, had renounced the
world and retired into solitude, in order to devote themselves to
the contemplation of heavenly things, and thereby to make themselves
a surer path to heaven. They nearly all had a gloomy and depressed
appearance, seemed to be annoyed that others were not like them, and
that they themselves were not rewarded with greater honour and a
happier lot. They live in hidden places, like hermits, almost in the
same way as they had lived in our world. Man is created to live in
harmony with others; in society and not in solitude he finds numerous
opportunities of exercising Christian mildness towards his neighbours."

In solitude one only contemplates oneself, forgetting all others.
Consequently one thinks only of oneself, or of the world, in order to
avoid it or to feel the want of it, which is the opposite of Christian
love.

As regards the so-called everlasting punishments, at the last moment,
the seer appears as a deliverer, and allows a ray of hope to dawn on
us. He says, "Those among them, for whose deliverance one may hope, are
set in waste places, which only afford a picture of desolation. They
are left there till their sorrow has darkened into despair, because
this is the only means to conquer the evil and falsehood which rule
them. Arrived at this point, they cry out that they are no better than
animals, that they are full of hate and all kinds of abomination, and
that they are damned. These exclamations are pardoned them, as being
cries of despair, and God softens their mood, so that their expressions
of reproach and abuse do not transgress the assigned limits. When
they have suffered all that can be suffered, so that their bodies
are also dead, they are troubled no more about it, and are prepared
for deliverance. I have seen some of them taken to heaven after they
have been visited with all the sufferings of which I have spoken.
When they were admitted, they displayed such great joy that I was
moved to tears." What the Catholics call "_conscientia scrupulosa_,"
a tender conscience, is caused by malicious spirits, who induce pangs
of conscience for nothing at all. They delight in laying a load on
the conscience, and this state has nothing to do with the improvement
of the sinner. In a similar way there are unwholesome temptations.
Evil spirits evoke in the depth of the soul all the evil it has
committed since childhood, and bring its worst side uppermost. But the
angels discover all the good and true which they can in the exhausted
soul. That is the strife which is revealed under the name, "pangs of
conscience."

I stop here, because I do my Master an injustice by tearing asunder
the web which he has so well woven together, and by exhibiting the
fragments as samples. Swedenborg's work is one of enormous compass, and
he has answered all my questions, however presumptuous they may have
been. Disquiet soul, suffering heart, "_Take up and read_."



VIII

CANOSSA


Exhausted by these mysterious persecutions, I have for a long time
undertaken a careful examination of my conscience, and, true to my new
resolve not to justify myself as against my neighbour, I find my past
life abominable and am disgusted at my own personality.

"It is true that I have incited the younger generation to rebel against
law and order, against religion, authority, morality. That is my
godlessness, for which I am now I punished, and which I now retract."

So I say to myself, and after a pause in the current of my thoughts
I reverse the question, and ask, "And the others, the opposers of my
revolutionary views, the pious defenders of morality, of the State, of
religion, can _they_ sleep at night? and have the Powers prospered
them in their worldly affairs?"

When I pass in review the pillars of society and their various
fortunes, I am compelled to answer, "No!"

The brave champion of the Ideal in poetry and in life, the poet popular
with the steady and respectable bourgeois class, cannot now sleep at
night owing to violent attacks of hysteria. To add to his troubles,
his guardian angel left him in the lurch, so that his affairs became
embarrassed from his engaging in speculations which nearly reduced him
to beggary. It is no joy for me to remember this, for it increases my
depression when I see how the noblest efforts only lead to beggary.

What of my opponent in religion? He who wished to have me imprisoned
for blasphemy has himself been arrested for falsification in the
transfer of property. But don't think, reader, that I make his sin an
excuse for my blasphemies. It is a trouble to me not to be able to keep
my belief in the purifying effect of Christianity, in view of such a
startling example, to the contrary.

Then the lady who took morality under her protection, the friend of
oppressed women, the prophetess who in fiery and candid essays preached
celibacy to young men--what has become of her? No one knows it, but on
her there rests a dark and terrible suspicion. Edifying, is it not? As
to the other pillars of moral and religious order, I pass them over,
whether they have put a bullet through their brains, or decamped to
avoid an ominous investigation. Speaking briefly, judgment seems to
strike the just and unjust alike, and one may prove as good as another.

What is it then that is taking place in the world to-day? Is it the
irrevocable doom pronounced against Sodom? Must all perish? Are there
none righteous? Not one!

May we then be friends and suffer in common as fellow-sinners, without
exalting ourselves, one above another.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have apologised for my culpable actions, and abjure my past. Let me
now say a word in self-defence. It is a common characteristic of youth
in all ages to be in revolt, frivolous, disorderly. Am I the first
inventor of revolt or sin? Formerly I was the youth led astray, the
child of my time, the disciple of my teachers, the victim of seduction.
Whose is the fault, and why have they made me a scapegoat? Suppose that
it was a lie, and that I am not the person for whom men take me?

But here the accusation of "black magic" comes in to turn the scales.

But it was out of ignorance that I had recourse to that.

Well then, what about the revolt against the Invisible?

Yes, I did revolt. But how about the others who spent their lives on
their knees in devotion and self-denial, and who have all been disowned?

Let us acknowledge that the state of affairs is desperate, and that
we are all handed over to the power of the Prince of this world to be
bowed in the dust and humbled till we are disgusted with ourselves,
in order that we may feel homesick for heaven. Self-contempt, anger
at one's own personality, the result of vain endeavours to improve
oneself--that is the way to a higher life.

And remember one thing: the way to Rome, the imperial route lay through
Canossa!



IX

THE SPIRIT OF CONTRADICTION


In spite of all the sufferings which I have endured, the spirit
of rebellion in me is still erect, and suggests doubts as to the
benevolent designs of my invisible guide. An accident (?) has brought
into my hands Schikaneder's text of the opera of the _Magic Flute_. The
sufferings and temptations of the young pair suggest to me the thought
that I have let myself be duped by misleading voices, and that I had
bowed myself and submitted, simply because I could not endure the pains
and difficulties.

Immediately I remember Prometheus who storms at the gods while the
vulture gnaws his liver. And at last the rebel is admitted to the
circle of the Olympians without making an open recantation.

The fire is now kindled, and immediately evil spirits add fuel to it.

An occult magazine, sent by post, encourages my cowardice by
propounding subversive theories, such as the following: "As is well
known, in the old books of the Veda, Creation is represented as a
single act of sacrifice, in which God, both Priest and Victim, offers
Himself by dividing Himself." That is the very idea which I have
expressed in the Mystery Play appended to "Meister Olof."

Further: "All the elements, which conjointly constitute the universe,
are nothing else than fallen divinities, which, through the stone,
plant, animal, human, and angelic kingdoms, climb up to heaven, only to
fall down again." This idea was characterised by the famous Alexander
von Humboldt and the historian Cantu as sublime.

(Yes, it is sublime.)

"As is well known, the Greek and Roman gods were originally men.
Jupiter himself, the greatest of all, was born in Crete, where he was
suckled by the she-goat Amalthea. He thrust his father from the throne,
and took all possible precautions not to be dethroned himself. When
the giants attacked him, and most of the gods left him in the lurch, in
a cowardly way, and hid themselves under the shapes of plants in Egypt,
he had the good luck, with the help of the bravest gods, to remain
victor. But it was not without considerable difficulty."

"In Homer, the gods fight against men and are sometimes wounded. Our
Gallic forefathers also fought against heaven, and shot arrows against
it when they believed themselves threatened by it. The Jews were
animated by the same feelings as the heathen. They had Jehovah (God),
but they also had Elohim (Gods). The Bible begins thus: 'He who is, who
was, and who will be--the One in the many.'"

"When Adam had committed the 'beata culpa,' which, so far from being
a fall, was a sublime step upwards, as the snake had prophesied, God
said, 'Behold, Adam has become as _one of us_, to know good and evil.'
And He added, 'Now, therefore, lest he put forth his hand, and take of
the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.'"

The ancients accordingly saw in the gods men who had elevated
themselves to despotic power, and sought by an overthrow of the
constitution to maintain that power, while preventing others from
raising themselves in their turn. Hence sprang the conflict, men
endeavouring to drive away the usurping deities, and the latter
struggling to maintain the power they had arrogated to themselves.

"Now the flood-gates are opened with a vengeance! Only consider! We are
gods!"

"And the sons of the gods descended to earth and married the daughters
of men, and they brought forth children. From this inter-mixture came
the giants, and all famous men, warriors, statesmen, authors, artists."

This was fine seed to sow in a refractory mind, and the Ego inflated
itself again, "Only think! We are gods!"

The same evening when all in the restaurant were in high spirits, a
circle was formed round a doctor of music. My friend the philosopher,
to whom I had imparted the discovery of our relationship to the gods,
asked to hear Mozart's _Don Juan_, especially the finale of the last
act.

"What is that about?" asked one, who was not at home in the classical
repertory of music.

"The devil comes and carries away the Sybarite."

The abysmal torment, so well described by Mozart--who very likely knew
pangs of conscience of this kind, as the husband of a woman he had
seduced committed suicide on his account--is unrolled in a succession
of melancholy tones like a cutting neuralgia. The laughter stops, the
jests cease, and when the piece is finished there is a painful silence.

"Here's to your health!" says some one.

They drink. But the cheerfulness is at an end, the Olympic mood is
quenched, for the night is coming on and the terrible chromatic
successions of notes echo like innumerable waves which rise and fall,
and hurl human derelicts aloft in the air in order to swallow them the
next moment.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the descendants of the gods make vain attempts to assume a
tone becoming their high birth, night has come, and the restaurant
is closed. The party must break up and go, each to his lonely bed.
As we pass the Cathedral veiled in the shadows of the night, a white
light suddenly flashes on the façade, on which are depicted saints and
sinners kneeling before the throne of the Lamb.

"What is that?" we ask, for there is no thunderstorm. We are startled,
and remain standing, only to find that it is a photographer working in
his shop by the magnesium light. We are annoyed at our nervousness, and
for my part I involuntary think of the theatrical lightning when Don
Juan is carried off.

As I enter my room I feel a kind of alarm, chilly and feverish, at the
same moment. When I have taken off my overcoat, I hear the wardrobe
door open of itself. "Is any one there?"

No answer. My courage sinks, and for a moment I feel inclined to go out
again and spend the night in the dark and dirty streets. But weariness
and despair hamper me, and I prefer to die in a comfortable bed.

While I undress I look forward to a bad night, and once happily in bed
I take up a book to distract my thoughts. Then my toothbrush falls
from the washing-stand on to the ground without any visible cause.
Immediately afterwards the cover of my jug rises and falls again with a
clash before my eyes. Nothing has occurred to shake the room, the night
being perfectly still.

The universe has no secrets veiled from giants and geniuses, and
yet reason is helpless before a jug cover which defies the law of
gravitation. Fear of the unknown makes a man who thought he had solved
the riddle of the Sphinx tremble!

I was nervous, terribly nervous; I would not, however, quit the
battlefield, but continued to read. Then there fell a spark, or a small
will-o'-the-wisp, like a snowflake from the ceiling, and was quenched
on my book. Yet, reader, I did not go mad!

Sleep, sacred sleep, assumes the form of an ambush in which murderers
lurk. I dare not sleep any more, and yet have no power to keep myself
awake. This is really hell! As I feel the torpor of sleep stealing over
me, a galvanic shock like a thunderbolt strikes me, without, however,
killing me.

Hurl thy shafts, proud Gaul, against heaven! Heaven in its turn never
stops hurling.

       *       *       *       *       *

Since all resistance is useless, I lay down my arms although after
relapses into refractoriness. During this last unequal strife I see
will-o'-the-wisps even in broad daylight, but I attribute this to an
affection of the eyes. Then I find in Swedenborg an explanation of the
meaning of these flickering flames which I have never seen since:--

"Other spirits try to convince me of the opposite of what the
instructing spirits have said to me. These spirits of contradiction
were upon earth men who were banished from society for their
criminality. One recognises their approach by a flickering flame which
seems to drop before one's face. They settle on people's backs, and
their presence is felt in the limbs. They preach that one should not
believe what the instructing spirits, together with the angels, have
said, nor behave himself in accordance with their teaching, but live
in licence and liberty as he chooses. These spirits of contradiction
generally come when the others have gone. Men know what they are worth,
and trouble themselves little about them; but through them they learn
to distinguish between good and evil, for the quality of good is learnt
through acquaintance with its opposite."



X

EXTRACTS FROM MY DIARY, 1897


_Feb_. 12_th_.--Pulled out of bed after I have heard a woman's voice.
St. Chrysostom, the misogynist, says: "What is woman? The enemy of
friendship, the punishment that cannot be escaped, the necessary evil,
the natural temptation, the longed for misery, the fountain of tears
which is never dry, the worst masterpiece of creation in white and
dazzling array."

"Since the first woman made an agreement with the Devil, why should her
daughters not do so likewise? Created as she was from a crooked rib,
her whole turn of mind is crooked, and inclined towards evil."

Well said! St. Chrysostom, the Golden mouthed!

_Feb_. 28_th_.--The chaffinches warble, the blue glimpses of the sea
in the distance invite me, but as soon as I reach after my carpet-bag I
am attacked by the invisible powers. Flight is in fact cut off from me.
I am imprisoned here. In order to distract my mind I try to work at my
book _Inferno_, but that is not permitted me. As soon as I take up the
pen my power of recollection seems to be extinguished. I can remember
nothing, or only such events as have no significance.

_April_ 2_nd_.--A German author asks my opinion of Count Bismarck for
a paper which is collecting adverse and favourable opinions of the
Chancellor. My own was this: "I must admire a man who has understood
how to dupe his contemporaries so well as Bismarck. His work was
supposed to be the unification of Germany, and yet he has divided the
great kingdom in two, with one Emperor in Berlin and another in Vienna."

In the evening there is a scent of jasmine blossoms in my room, a
gentle feeling of peace take possession of my mind, and this night I
sleep quietly (Swedenborg says that the presence of a good spirit or
angel is known by a balmy perfume. The theosophists maintain the same,
but call angels "Mahatmas").

_April_ 5_th_.--I hear that a great piece of sculpture by Ebbe,
representing a crucified woman, has been broken during its passage to
the Stockholm Exhibition. On the other hand, my friend H.'s picture
of the crucified woman has been seized for debt, and hung up in a
courtyard over the dustbin.

_April_ 10_th_.--Read a good deal of sorts--Chateaubriand's _Mémoires
d'outre-tombe_; Las Casas' _Diary of St. Helena_. Who was Napoleon? Of
whom was he the re-incarnation?

He was born in Ajaccio, of Greek colonists who derive their name from
Ajax. 1. Ajax, the son of Telamon, was conquered by Odysseus, and
maddened by fury he slaughtered the flocks of the Greeks in the belief
that he was spreading death among his enemies. One day when one of
the patron gods of Troy had enveloped both armies in a cloud in order
to help the flight of the Trojans, he cried, "O Zeus! give us light,
though thou slay us in the light!" 2. Ajax, son of Oileus, suffered
shipwreck on the home voyage from the siege of Troy, but saved himself
by climbing a cliff where he obstinately defied the gods, and was, as a
punishment, drowned in the depths of the sea. "Ajax defying the gods"
has become a proverb. Napoleon was prematurely born on a mat adorned
with scenes from the Iliad. Paola a Porta said one day to the young
Napoleon, "There is nothing modern about thee; thou art a man out of
Plutarch."

Before Napoleon's birth, Rousseau had interested himself in Corsica,
and its inhabitants wished to have him as a ruler. "There is still a
land in Europe," he said, "where it is possible to give laws: that is
the island of Corsica. I have a foreboding that this little island will
fill Europe with wonder."

Nordille Bonaparte in the year 1266 pledged his honour for Konradin von
Schwaben, who was executed by Charles of Anjou. The Franchini branch of
the Bonaparte family bore on its shield of arms three golden lilies,
like the Bourbons.

Napoleon was related to Orsini. Orsini was the name of the assassin
who attempted the life of Napoleon in. On three islands Napoleon spent
his days of adversity,--Corsica, Elba, and St. Helena. In a geography
which he composed in his youth he mentions the last, with the two words
"little island." (Too little indeed he found it afterwards!) During the
war with England, he sent a cruiser without any obvious cause to the
neighbourhood of St. Helena.

The death of Napoleon affords plenty of material to the imagination of
an occultist.

"There was a terrible storm, the rain fell without intermission, and
the wind threatened to sweep everything away. The willow-tree under
which Napoleon had been accustomed to take the air had been broken; the
trees of the plantation had been tom up and scattered about. A single
indiarubber still stood erect, till a whirlwind seized it, tore it up,
and hurled it in the mud. Nothing that the Emperor loved could survive
him."

The patient could not bear the light; he had to be kept in a dark room.
When at the point of death he sprang out of bed in order to go out
into the garden.

"Spasmodic twitchings of the navel and the stomach, deep sighs,
out-cries, convulsive movements which during the death-struggle
terminate in a loud and painful sobbing." Noverrez, who had been ill,
became delirious. "He imagines that the Emperor is threatened, and
calls for help."

After Napoleon had given up the ghost, a smile of peace lay on his
lips, and the corpse retained this look of calm in the funereal vault
for nineteen years. When the grave was opened in 1840, the body
was in a state of perfect preservation. The soles of the feet were
white. (White soles of the feet, according to Swedenborg, signify the
forgiveness of sins.)

The hands were well preserved (the left, however, was not white),
soft, and still retained their beautiful shape. The whole body was
dead-white, as though one saw it through thick lace. In the upper jaw
were only three teeth. (A strange coincidence--the Duke of Enghiem[1]
had only three teeth when he was shot.) And in parenthesis it may be
added the Duke was borne after parturition-pangs of forty-eight hours.
He was dark blue, and without a sign of life. Having been wrapped in
a cloth that had been steeped in spirits, he was held too close to a
light and took fire. Not till then did he begin to live.

Napoleon was placed in a coffin in a green uniform (green clothes are a
favourite dress of wizards).

Chateaubriand writes: "Napoleon's commission as a captain was signed by
Louis xvi. on the 30th of August 1792, and the King abdicated on August
10th.

"Explain this who can. What protector furthered the schemes of this
Corsican? The Eternal."

_April_ 18_th_, Easter day.--On a fire-brand in the oven I saw the
letters I.N.R.I. (Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews).

_May_ 3_rd_.--I begin to work at the Inferno.

I am told that a very well-known journalist has been suddenly attacked
by nightly visitations of the now common nervous disease which I have
described. The occultists connect this with an inconsiderate obituary
notice which he wrote of a worthy man recently dead.

In reading Wagner's _Rheingold_, I discover a great poet, and
understand now why I have not comprehended the greatness of this
musician, whose music is the only proper accompaniment to his words.
Moreover, Rheingold has a special message for me:--

     "_Wellgunde_: Knowest thou not who alone is permitted to
     forge the gold?

     "_Woglinde_: Only he who renounces the might of love and
     drives the joy of it away, obtains the magic power of
     moulding the gold into a ring.

     "_Wellgunde_: Well then, we are safe and free of care, for
     all that live loves. Love none can avoid.

     "_Woglinde_: Least of all he,--the amorous imp.
       *       *       *       *       *
     "_Alberich_ (stretching his hand after the gold): I
     tear the gold from the cleft and forge the avenging ring,
     for--let the stream hear it!--I curse love!"


_May_ 12_th_.--With dull resignation I have for five months drunk
coffee made of chicory without complaining. I wanted to see if there
was any limit to the enterprising spirit of the dishonest woman who
makes my morning coffee. For five months I have suffered, now I will
for once enjoy the divine drink with the intoxicating aroma. For this
purpose I buy a pound of the dearest coffee in the middle of the day.
In the evening I read in Sar Peladan's _L'Androgyn_e, p. 107, the
following anecdote of an old missionary: "At the end of a missionary
journey, during an important sermon, I am struck with powerlessness as
soon as I have pronounced the words 'my brothers,'--not a thought in
my brain, not a word on my lips. 'Holy Virgin!' I prayed secretly, 'I
have only retained one weakness, my cup of coffee, I offer it up to
Thee.' Immediately my elasticity of mind returned, I outdid myself and
benefited many souls."

What a rôle coffee has played in my family as a disturber of domestic
peace! I am ashamed to think of it, all the more as a happy result
does not depend on goodwill or cleverness, but on circumstances out of
our control.

Accordingly to-morrow I shall have the greatest enjoyment or the
greatest chagrin.

_May_ 13_th_.--The woman has made the most horrible coffee imaginable.

I sacrifice it to the Powers, and henceforth drink chocolate without
murmuring.

_May_ 26_th_.--Excursion to the beech-wood. Some hundreds of young
people have collected there. They sing melodies belonging to the time
when I was young, thirty years ago. They play the games and dance the
dances of my youth. Melancholy overcomes me, and suddenly my whole past
life unrolls before the eyes of my spirit. I can survey the path I have
traversed, and feel dazzled. Yes, it will soon end; I am old, and the
path descends to the grave. I cannot restrain my tears,--I am old.

_June_ 1_st_.--A young doctor of a gentle nature, and such a sensitive
disposition that the mere fact of his existence causes him suffering,
spends the evening in my company. He also is plagued by qualms of
conscience; be bewails the past which cannot be altered, though not
worse than that of others. He explains to me the Mystery of Christ. "We
cannot do again what has once been done, we cannot obliterate a single
evil deed; and this thought leads to pure despair. Then it is that
Christ reveals Himself. He alone can wipe out the debt which cannot be
paid, perform a miracle, and lift off the burden of an evil conscience
and of self-reproach. 'Credo quia absurdum' and I am saved.

"But that I cannot, and I prefer to pay my own debts by my sufferings.
There are hours when I long for a cruel death, to be burnt alive at
the stake, and to feel the joy of injuring my own body--this prison
of a soul which strives upwards. The kingdom of heaven for me means
to be freed from material needs, to see enemies again in order to
pardon them and to press their hands. No more enemies! No malice!
That is my kingdom of heaven. Do you know what makes life bearable
for me? The fact that I sometimes imagine it to be only half real, an
evil dream inflicted on us as a punishment, and that in the moment of
death we awake to the real reality and come to see that it was only a
dream,--all the evil that one has done, only a dream! So the pangs of
conscience vanish together with the act that was never committed. That
is redemption and deliverance."

_June_ 25_th_.--I have now finished writing _Inferno_. A lady-bird has
settled on my hand. I await an omen for the journey for which I am
preparing. The lady-bird flies off towards the south. Very well, let us
go south.

From this moment I resolve on going to Paris. But it seems to me
doubtful how far the Powers will agree with me. A prey to inner
conflicts I let July pass, and with the commencement of August I wait
for a sign to determine me. Sometimes it appears to me that the guides
of my destiny are not agreed among themselves, and that I am the object
of a protracted discussion. One urges me on, and another holds me back.
Finally, on the morning of the 24th August, I get out of bed, pull up
the window-blind, and see a crow standing on the chimney of a very high
house. It stands just like the cock on the tower of Nôtre Dame, and
looks as though it were about to fly towards the south.

I open the window. The bird rises, keeps close to the wind, flies
straight towards me, and disappears. I take the omen, and pack my
things.


[1] Executed by Napoleon's orders.



XI

IN PARIS


Once more,--is it for the last time? I get out at the Northern Station.
I do not ask now, "What have I to do here?" as I feel at home in the
chief city of Europe. Gradually a resolve has been ripening in me, not
quite clear I confess, to take refuge in the Benedictine cloister at
Solesmes.

But first I go and visit my old haunts with their painful, and yet such
pleasant, memories,--the garden of the Luxembourg, the Hotel Orfila,
the churchyard of Mont Parnasse, and the Jardin des Plantes. In the Rue
Censier I remain standing a moment in order to cast a stolen look into
the garden of my hotel on the Rue de la Clef. Great is my emotion at
the sight of the pavilion containing the room where I escaped death in
that terrible night when I unconsciously wrestled with it. My feelings
may be imagined as I turned my steps to the Jardin des Plantes and
perceived the traces of the waterspout which devastated my favourite
walk before the bears' and bisons' houses. On my return, in the
street Saint Jacques I discover a spiritualist bookshop and buy Allan
Kardec's _Book of Spirits_, hitherto unknown to me. I read it, and
find it is Swedenborg and Blavatsky over again; and as I find my own
"case" treated of everywhere, I cannot conceal from myself that I am a
spiritualist. I, a spiritualist! Could I have believed I should end as
one when I laughed at my former chief in the royal library at Stockholm
because he was an adherent of spiritualism! One knows not into what
harbour one will finally run.

While I continue my studies in Allan Kardec, I notice a gradual
reappearance of the symptoms which disquieted me before. The noises
over my head recommenced, I am again attacked by compression of the
chest, and feel afraid of everything. I do not, however, succumb, and
continue to read the spiritualistic magazines while I keep a careful
watch over my thoughts and acts. Then, after quite plain warnings, I am
woken up one night exactly at two o'clock by a heart attack.

I understand the hint. It is forbidden to penetrate into the secrets
of the Powers, I throw away the forbidden books, and peace immediately
returns--a sufficient proof for me that I have followed the Higher
Will. On the following Sunday I am present at vespers in Nôtre Dame.
Deeply impressed by the ceremony, although I do not understand a word
of it, I burst into tears, and leave the cathedral with the conviction
that here, in the Mother Church, is the harbour of salvation. But no!
It was not so! For the next day I read in _La Presse_ that the Abbot of
the Solesmes Convent has just been deposed for immorality.

"Am I, then, always to be the plaything and sport of the invisible
Powers?" I exclaimed, struck by so well-aimed a blow. Then I was
silent, and suppressed unseemly criticism, determined to await the end.

The next book which accidentally falls into my hands allows me to catch
a glimpse of the purposes of my Guide. It is Haubert's _Temptation
of St. Anthony_. "All those who are tormented by longing for God I
have devoured," says the Sphinx. This book makes me ill, and I am
alarmed when I recognise in it the thoughts which I have expressed in
my mystery-play mentioned above--regarding the admission of evil into
the kingdom of the good God. After reading it, I threw it away like a
temptation of the Devil, who is the author of it. "Anthony makes the
sign of the cross, and resumes his prayers." So the book ends, and I
follow his example.

After that, and at the propitious moment, I come across Huysmans' _En
route_. Why did not this confession of an occultist fall into my hands
before? Because it was necessary that two analogous destinies should
be developed on parallel lines, so that one might be strengthened by
the other. It is the history of an over-curious man, who challenges
the Sphinx and is devoured by her, that his soul may be delivered at
the foot of the Cross. Well, as far as I am concerned, a Catholic may
go to the Trappists and confess to the priest; for my part, however,
it is enough that my sin be publicly acknowledged in writing. Besides,
the eight weeks which I have spent in Paris writing the present book
may well be the equivalent and more of entering a convent, because I
have lived a thorough hermit's life. A little room, not larger than
a monk's cell, with a barred window high up under the ceiling, has
been my dwelling. Through the bars of the window, which looks into
a deep courtyard, I can see a fragment of the sky and a grey wall
overgrown with ivy which climbs upward to the light. My loneliness,
which I find terrible in itself, is still more oppressive in the
restaurant among a noisy crowd of people twice a-day. Add to this the
cold--a perpetual draught through the room which has given me violent
neuralgia,--pecuniary anxieties with no means of relieving them, the
daily increasing bill, and it may be imagined what the total effect is!

And then the pangs of conscience! Formerly when I regarded myself as
responsible, it was only the remembrance of committed follies that
pained me. Now it is the evil itself, my sinful acts, which constitute
my scourge. To crown all, my past life appears to me merely as a
network of crime, a skein composed of godlessness, wickednesses,
blunders, brutalities in word and act Whole scenes out of my past
unrolled before my gaze. I see myself in this and that situation, and
always a preposterous one. I am astonished that anyone has ever been
able to love me. I accuse myself of every possible crime; there is not
a meanness, not a disagreeable act, which is not marked in black chalk
on a white slate. I am filled with terror at myself, and would like to
die.

There are moments when shame sends the blood to my cheeks and to my
ear-tips. Selfishness, ingratitude, malice, envy, pride--all the
deadly sins weave their ghostly dance before my awakened conscience.

While my mind thus tortures itself, my health deteriorates, my strength
decreases, and, together with the emaciation of the body, the soul
begins to have a presentiment of her deliverance, from the mire.

At present I read Töpffer's Le Presbytere and Dickens's _Christmas
Tales_, and they impart to me an indescribable inward calm and joy. I
return to the ideals of the best period of my youth, and recover the
treasures which I had squandered in the game of life. Faith returns,
and with it, trust in the natural goodness of men; faith in innocence,
unselfishness, virtue.

Virtue! This word has disappeared from modern use; it has been declared
null and void and thoroughly false.

Just now I see in the papers that my drama, _Herr Bengt's Wife_, has
been acted in _Copenhagen_. In this play love and virtue triumph just
as in the _Secret of Gilde_. The drama has not pleased the public any
more than when it was first acted in 1882. Why? Because this fuss about
virtue is considered idle talk.

I have again read Maupassant's _Horla_. That is the finale out of _Don
Juan_ over again. Some one steals unseen into the bedroom in the
middle of the night. He drinks water and milk, and finishes by sucking
the blood of the wretched Don Juan, who, hunted to death, is forced to
lay hands on himself.

That is a real experience. I recognise myself in it, and 1 confess that
my senses are disturbed; but some one has a hand in it.

       *       *       *       *       *

My health constantly gets worse, for there are cracks in the wall so
that smoke penetrates into my room. To-day when I walked in the street
the pavement moved under my feet like the deck of a ship swaying up and
down. Only with considerable difficulty can I make the ascent to the
Garden of the Luxembourg. My appetite grows continually less, and I
only eat in order to still the pangs of hunger.

An occurrence which has often happened since my arrival in Paris has
caused me to make various reflections. Inside my coat, on the left
side, exactly over the heart, there is heard a regular ticking; it
reminds me of the ticking noise in walls produced by the insect called,
in Sweden, "the carpenter" and also the "death-watch," believed to
presage somebody's death. I thought at first it was my watch, but found
it was not so, as the ticking continued after I had laid the watch
aside. It is not the buckle of my suspenders, nor the lining of my
vest. I accept the explanation of the death-watch, as it suits me best.

A few nights ago I had a dream which again aroused my longing to be
able to die, by holding out the hope of a better existence, where there
is no danger of a relapse into the misery of life. Having gone too far
on a projecting ledge bounded by a steep precipice hid in darkness, I
fell head foremost in an abyss. But strangely enough I fell upwards
instead of downwards. I was closely surrounded by a dazzling halo of
light, and I saw----. What I saw gave me two simultaneous ideas, "I am
dead, and I am delivered." A feeling of the greatest happiness overcame
me, together with the consciousness that the other life was now over.
Light, purity, freedom, filled my spirit, and as I cried, "God!" I
obtained the certainty that I had won forgiveness, that hell was behind
me, and that heaven was open. Since that night I feel still more
homeless than before in this world, and like a tired, weary child, I
long to be able to "go home" to rest my heavy head on a mother's bosom,
to sleep on the lap of a mother, the pure spouse of an infinite God,
who calls Himself my Father, and whom I dare not approach.

But this wish is connected with another--to see the Alps, and more
especially the Dent du Midi in the Canton Valais. I love this mountain
more than the other Alps, without being able to say why. Perhaps it is
the remembrance of my residence on the Lake of Geneva, where I wrote
_Real Utopias_, and of the scenery there which reminded me of heaven.
There I have spent the most beautiful hours of my life, there have I
loved,--loved wife, children, humankind, the universe, God. "I lift up
my hands to God's mountain and house."

Paris, _October_ 1897.



XII

WRESTLING JACOB

(A FRAGMENT)


After my return to Paris at the end of August 1897, I found myself
suddenly isolated. My friend the philosopher, whose daily companionship
had been a moral support for me, and who had promised to follow me to
Paris in order to spend the winter there, has delayed in Berlin. He is
not able to explain what detains him in Berlin, as Paris is the goal of
his journey, and he is very eager to see the City of Light.

I have waited for him three months, and receive the impression that
Providence wishes to have me alone, in order to separate me from the
world and to drive me into the desert, that the chastising spirits may
thoroughly shake and sift my soul. In this Providence has done right,
for solitude has educated me by compelling me to hold aloof from my
social pleasures, which had considerably increased, and by depriving
me of every friendly support. I have grown accustomed to speak to the
Lord, to confide only in Him, and have as good as ceased to feel the
need of men; an attitude which has always seemed to me to be the ideal
one of independence and freedom.

I am obliged to renounce even the convent in which I expected to find
the protection of religion and of harmony with one's fellows. The
life of the eremite was imposed upon me, and I have received it as a
chastisement and an education, regardless of the fact that at the age
of forty-eight it is difficult to change one's rooted habits for new
ones.

I live, as mentioned above, in a small room, narrow as a convent cell,
with a barred window high up under the ceiling, which looks out on a
courtyard and a stone wall overgrown with an immense quantity of ivy.

In the evening I go out for my meal, and go straight to the
restaurant, without first taking a liqueur to provoke an appetite,--a
thing I dislike doing now. Why I choose the little restaurant on the
Boulevard St. Germain it would be difficult for me to explain. Perhaps
it is the recollection of the two terrible evenings I spent there last
year with my occultist friend, the German-American, which fascinates
and draws me thither, to such a degree that every attempt to go to
another restaurant results in a degree of discomfort which might be
called unfair, and which drives me back to this one, which I hate. The
reason is that my former friend has left unpaid debts here, and that
I have been recognised as his companion. For this reason, and because
we have been heard speaking German, I am treated as a Prussian, that
is to say, I am served very badly. It is no use for me to make silent
protests by leaving my visiting cards behind, or purposely forgetting
letters bearing the Swedish postmark. I sec myself compelled to
suffer and to pay for the guilty. No one but I sees the logic in this
position, nor that it is an atonement for a crime. It is simply a
piece of justice which cannot be objected to, and for two months I chew
the horribly bad food which reeks of the dissector's knife.

The manageress, who, pale as a corpse, sits installed at the cashier's
desk, greets me with a triumphant air, and I am accustomed to say to
myself, "Poor old woman, she has certainly had to eat rats during the
siege of Paris in 1871!"

But it seems as though she begins to feel sympathy with me when she
sees my dull submission and endurance. There are moments when she seems
to me to look paler,--when she sees me come alone, always alone, and
always thinner. It is the bare truth that after passing two months in
this way, when I buy new collars I must buy them nearly two inches
smaller. My cheeks have become hollow and my clothes hang in folds.

Then all of a sudden they seem disposed to give me better food, and
the manageress smiles at me. At the same time the feeling of being
bewitched ceases, and I go my way without rancour, and as if freed
from a burden, with the assurance that for my part the penance is over,
and perhaps also for my absent friend. If it was mere fancy on my part
that I was badly treated, and if the manageress was quite blameless,
I ask her pardon. In that case it was I who punished myself with a
well-deserved chastisement.

"The chastising spirits take possession of the imagination of the man
who deserves punishment, and effect his moral improvement by letting
him see everything distorted" (Swedenborg).

How often it has happened to me that when I really wished to enjoy a
meal, all the dishes inspired disgust in me as though they were bad,
while my companions were enthusiastically unanimous in praising the
good food. The man "continually discontent" is an unfortunate under the
scourge of the invisible Powers, and it is with very good reason that
people avoid him, for he is condemned to be a disturber of the peace,
who, doomed to solitude and suffering, atones for secret misdoings.

Accordingly I go about alone, and when, after not hearing my own voice
for weeks at a time, I seek any one's company, I so overpower him with
my loquacity that he is bored and retires, and involuntarily gives me
to understand that he does not wish for another meeting. There are
other moments when the longing to see a human being drives me into bad
society. Then it happens that in the midst of conversation a feeling of
discomfort, accompanied by headache, seizes me. I become dumb, unable
to bring out another word. And I find myself compelled to leave the
circle, who always show that they are glad to be rid of an intolerable
person who had no business there.

Condemned to isolation, outlawed among men, I take refuge in the Lord,
who for me has become a personal Friend. He is often angry with me,
and then I suffer; often He seems absent, engaged with some one else,
and then it is much worse. But when He is gracious, then my life is
sweet, especially when I am alone. By a curious accident I have taken
up my abode in the Rue Bonaparte, the Catholic street. I live exactly
opposite the École des Beaux Arts, and when I go out, I walk between
rows of plateglass windows filled with Puvis de Chavanne's Legends,
Botticelli's Madonnas, Raphael's Virgins, which accompany me to the
upper part of the Rue Jacob, whence the Catholic bookshops with their
prayer-books and missals follow me to the church St. Germain des Prés.
From that point the shops with their objects of devotion form a line of
Saviours, Madonnas, Archangels, Demons, and Saints, all the fourteen
stations of the Passion of Christ, and Christmas mangers on the right
hand. On the left there is a series of devotional picture-books,
rosaries, clerical vestments, and altar vessels, as far as the Saint
Sulpice market-place, where the four lions of the church, with Bossuet
at their head, guard the noblest religious edifice in Paris. After
I have passed observantly through this repertory of sacred history,
I often enter the church in order to strengthen myself by looking
at Eugene Delacroix's picture of Jacob wrestling with the angel.
The fact is that this picture always sets me thinking, by rousing
irreligious ideas in me, in spite of the religious character of the
subject. And when I pass out again, through the kneeling worshippers,
I keep remembering the wrestler who holds himself upright although
lamed in the sinew of his thigh. Afterwards I pass by the Seminary of
the Jesuits, a kind of terrible Vatican, from which emanate floods
of psychic force, whose effect may be felt from far, if one may
believe the Theosophists. I have now reached my goal, the Garden of
the Luxembourg. From the time of my first visit to Paris in 1876,
this park has exercised a mysterious influence over me, and it was my
day-dream to be able to live near it. This idea was realised in 1893,
and from that time on, although with interruptions, this garden has
become part of my recollections, and so to speak, of my personality.
Although actually of moderate extent, it seems in my imagination of
immeasurable size. It has twelve gates, just like the Holy City in
the Book of Revelation, and in order to complete the resemblance, "On
the east, three gates; on the north, three gates; on the south, three
gates; on the west, three gates" (Rev. xxi. 13). Every entrance gives
me a different impression, derived from the arrangement of the plants,
buildings, and statues, and perhaps also from personal reminiscences
connected with them.

So I feel quite glad as I enter by the first gate after the Rue de
Luxembourg as one comes from Saint Sulpice. The ivy-grown cottage of
the gatekeeper, with a duckpond close by, seems like an unpublished
idyll. Further on is the building containing pictures, by living
artists, in clear bright colours. The thought that the friends of my
youth, Karl Larsson, the sculptor Ville Vallgren, and Fritz Thaulow,
have there deposited, so to speak, parts of their souls, strengthens
and makes me feel younger, and I seem to feel the irradiation of
their spirit pierce through the walls, and bid me take courage, since
my friends are close by. Further on we have Eugene Delacroix, whose
right to his laurels is questioned by contemporaries, and will be by
posterity. The second gate of the pair which open on the Rue de Fleurus
leads me to the racecourse, which is as broad as a hippodrome, and
ends with a flower-terrace where a marble Victory stands as a boundary
pillar, and from which one sees in the distance the Pantheon surmounted
by a cross. The third gate forms the continuation of the Rue Vanneau,
and leads me to a dusky alley which, on the left, merges itself into
a sort of Elysian field where the children have chosen for themselves
spots to play in and amuse themselves with wooden horses which go in
pairs with lions, elephants, and camels, just as in Paradise; further
on is the tennis ground, the children's theatre among flower-beds, the
Golden Age, Noah's Ark. Here the springtime of life meets me in the
autumn of my own.

On the south side, past the Rue d'Assas, the vegetable and nursery
garden present a picture of midsummer; the blossoming time is over.
It is the season of fruit, and the beehives close by, with their
citizen-like inhabitants who collect gold dust for the winter,
strengthen the impression of maturity which this part of the garden
makes. The second gate, immediately opposite the Lyceum "Louis le
Grand," opens up a paradisal prospect; velvet-like meadows with
ever fresh green; here and there a rose bush and a single peach
tree. I shall never forget how one spring this last, arrayed in its
dawn-coloured blossoms, enticed me to spend a whole half-hour in
contemplation, or rather in adoration, of its slim, youthful, virginal
form.

The Observatory Avenue leads to the gate of the main entrance, which
with its gilded "fasces" looks really majestic. But, as it is really
too majestic for me, I generally remain standing outside--in the
morning admiring the palace, in the evening the bright outline of
Montmartre showing above the roofs, and in clear weather the Great Bear
and the Polar Star circling above the great barred gate, which serves
me in my astrological observations as a mural quadrant.

On the east side the only gate that attracts me is that which opens
on the Rue Soufflot. From that point I discovered my favourite
garden, with the charming outlines of the giant plane trees, and in
the blue distance hinting at mysteries, as I did not yet know the
Rue de Fleurus, which later on became dear to me as the entrance to
a new life. Thence I am accustomed to look back over the path I have
traversed, which is interrupted on one side by the pool, and on the
other by the little statue of David with the broken sword.

One morning in early autumn the fountain presented the spectacle of a
rainbow, which reminded me of the dyer's shop in the Rue de Fleurus
where "my rainbow" expanded as a sign of my covenant with the Eternal
(vide _Inferno_[1]). When I go on to the descent of the terrace I have
to pass by the row of statues of women who were more or less queens or
sinners, and I remain standing at the top of the great flight of stairs
where, in springtime, a hedge of red hawthorn acts as a framework to
the outspread panorama of flowers.

The last gate, that by the museum, makes a mixed impression, with
the vulture that for no apparent cause has swooped down on the head
of the Sphinx, and with Hero kissing Leander, overtaken by an early
death, which might have been easily predicted. Passing it, I increase
my topographical knowledge by skirting the gallery of contemporary
paintings, and burying myself in the rose garden avenue with its
thousands of roses.

This constitutes my morning walk, and I tune my mood to whatever pitch
I like, according to the gate through which I enter. For my return
route I use the Boulevard Saint Michel, and keep the top of the steeple
of the Sainte Chapelle in sight. This serves as a cynosure to guide
me between the vain attractions spread out in the shop windows and
exhibited on the pavement in the shape of _filles de joie_ and children
of the world. Arrived at the Saint Michel market-place, I feel myself
protected by the statue of the noble archangel who kills the dragon.
The feeling that this emblem displays the spirit of evil is not
derived from its lizard-like tail, nor the ram's horns, nor the lifted
eyebrows, but from its mouth, which does not close at the corners,
while the lips are drawn forward so as to hide the four front teeth.
The tusks cannot be hidden, and its hideous sidelong smile displays the
deathless evil, which still grins contempt, with the spearpoint in its
breast.

Three times in my life I have met this mouth, in an actor, a female
painter, and another woman, and I have never been deceived in my
feeling about it.

I have now reached the crowded opening of the Rue Bonaparte. This
narrow road forms a discharge outlet for the Mont Parnasse quarter,
Luxembourg, and part of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. One has to
manoeuvre skilfully to make one's way into the outflowing torrent,
hemmed in as it is by foot-passengers and vehicles, while the firm
ground is represented by a pavement a yard broad.

Meanwhile nothing makes me so nervous as these omnibuses drawn by three
white horses, because I have seen them in dreams, and, moreover, these
white horses remind me, perhaps, of a certain "pale horse" mentioned in
the Book of Revelation. Especially in the evening, when they follow one
another three abreast with the red lantern suspended above, I imagine
that they turn their heads towards me, look at me maliciously, and say,
"Wait a little; we will soon have you."

In brief, this is my "vicious circle" which I traverse twice a day, and
my life is so thoroughly enclosed in the frame of this circuit, that if
I once take the liberty to go another way, I go wrong, as if I had lost
fragments of myself, my recollections, my thoughts, and feelings of
self-coherence.

       *       *       *       *       *

One Sunday afternoon in November I betook myself to the restaurant
to eat alone. Two little tables are set out on the pavement of the
Boulevard St. Germain, flanked by two green oleander pots, and shaded
by two fibre-mats, which form an enclosure. The air is warm and
still; the street lamps, which have been lit, illuminate a vivid
kinematographic picture, as omnibuses, chaises and cabs drive home from
the parks, filled with holiday-makers in their best clothes, who sing,
blow horns, and shout at the passers-by.

As I sit down to eat, both my friends, two cats, come and take their
usual places on both sides of me, waiting till the meat appears.
As I have not heard my own voice for weeks, I make them a short
address without getting any answer. Condemned to this dumb and hungry
companionship, because I have abandoned evil companionship where my ear
was vexed by irreligious and coarse language, I feel rebellious against
such injustice. For I abominate animals, cats as well as dogs, as it is
my right to hate the animal within myself.

Why is it that Providence, which takes the trouble to educate me,
always banishes me to evil companionship when good companionship would
be more adapted to improve me by the power of example?

At this very moment there comes a black poodle with a red collar and
drives my feline friends away. After he has swallowed their portions,
he makes his acknowledgments by defiling the foot of my seat, and then
the ungrateful cynic takes up a sitting position on the asphalt and
turns his back on me. From the frying-pan into the fire! It is no use
complaining, for swine might come instead of him and offer me their
society, as they did to Robert the Devil or Francis of Assissi. One can
ask so little of life: So little! and yet it is too much for me.

A flower-seller offers me pinks. Why must it be pinks, which I dislike
because they resemble raw flesh and smell of a chemist's shop? To
please her I take a handful at my own price, and since it was a
generous one, the old woman rewards me with a "God bless the gentleman
for giving me such a fine douceur to-night!" Although I know the dodge,
the blessing sounds pleasantly in my ears, for I have great need of one
after so many curses.

About half-past eight the news-vendors cry _La Presse_, and that is a
signal for me to go. If I remain sitting to eat some dessert, and to
drink an extra glass of wine, I am certain to be annoyed in some way or
other, either by a troop of cocottes, who sit down exactly opposite me,
or by roaming street urchins, who abuse me. There is no mistake about
it; I am put upon diet, and if I take more than three courses and half
a flask of wine, I am punished. After my first attempts to transgress
the limits at meal-times have been frustrated in this way, I give up
making any more, and finally find myself contented to be put on half
rations. So I get up from table, in order to betake myself to the Rue
Bonaparte and from thence up to the Luxembourg.

At the corner of the Rue Gozlin I buy cigarettes, and pass the "Gold
Pheasant" restaurant. At the corner of the Rue du Four I pause by a
strikingly realistic picture of Christ. The spiritually minded artists
during their campaign against the Zola-literature have not been able
to avoid the contagion of realism, and with the help of one devil seek
to drive out another. It is impossible to pass such pictures without
pausing to contemplate them, drawn as they are after living models and
painted with the glaring colours of the impressionists.

The shop is closed and veiled in shadow, and the Redeemer stands
there in His royal robe lit by the street lamp, showing His bleeding
heart and head crowned with thorns. For more than a year I have been
persecuted and followed by the Redeemer, whom I do not understand and
whose help I should like to dispense with by bearing my own cross if
possible. This is due to a remnant of manly pride which finds something
repulsive in the cowardice of casting one's sins on the shoulders of
the innocent.

I have seen the Crucified everywhere--in the toy shops, at the picture
dealers', at the Art Exhibitions particularly, in the theatre, and in
literature. I have seen Him on the cover of my cushion, in the burning
logs in the oven, in the snow over there in Sweden, on the coast cliffs
of Normandy. Is He preparing for His return, or has He arrived? What
does He want? Here in the shop window in the Rue Bonaparte He is no
longer the Crucified. He comes from heaven as Victor, adorned with gold
and jewels. Is He the "Good Tyrant" which youth dreams of, a Prince of
Peace, a glorious hero?

He has cast away His cross and resumed His sceptre, and, as soon as
His temple on the Mont de Mars (formerly called "Mount of Martyrs")
is ready, He will come and rule the world Himself, and hurl from the
throne the false usurper, who finds the eleven thousand rooms known
as the _infamia Vaticani loca_ too narrow for him, laments over his
luxurious imprisonment, and kills the time with small excursions into
the field of poetry.

Leaving the picture of the Redeemer, as I arrived at the Saint Sulpice
market, I am astonished to find that the Church seems removed to
a great distance. It has gone back at least half a mile, and the
fountains proportionably. Have I then lost the sense for distances? As
I pass along the seminary wall it seems as though it would never end,
so interminable does it appear this evening. I spend half an hour in
traversing this small portion of the Rue Bonaparte, which generally
takes only five minutes. And before me there walks a figure, whose
gait and manner remind me of some one whom I know. I quicken my steps,
I run, but the Unknown presses forward with exactly corresponding
celerity, so that I never succeed in shortening the distance between
us. At last I have reached the trellis-gate of the Luxembourg. The
garden which was closed at sunset is sunk in silence and solitude, the
trees are bare, and the border-beds laid waste by frost and autumn
storms. But there is a good wholesome smell of dry leaves and fresh
earth.

Following the enclosing wall I go up the Rue de Luxembourg, and
always see in front of me the Unknown, who begins to interest me.
Clad in a traveller's mantle, which resembles mine, but is of opaline
whiteness, slight and tall like myself, he goes forward when I do,
remains standing when I remain standing, so that it seems as if I
were his guide and he depended on my movements. But one circumstance
particularly draws my attention to him, viz. that his mantle flutters
in a strong breeze which is quite imperceptible to me. In order to
clear up the matter I light a cigar, and as I perceive the smoke rise
steadily upward without wavering, my conviction that there is no
air-current, is strengthened. Moreover, the trees and bushes in the
garden are motionless. After we have reached the Rue Vavin I turn off
to the right, and at the same moment find myself transported from the
pavement to the middle of the garden without understanding how it has
happened, as the gates are closed.

Before me, at a distance of twenty steps, stands my companion turned
towards me. Round his beardless face of dazzling whiteness spreads
a luminous ring in the shape of an ellipse with the Unknown in the
centre. After he has given me a sign to follow him, he goes further.
The crown of rays accompanies him, so that the gloomy, cold, and
squalid garden is lit up as he goes. Moreover the trees, the bushes,
the plants grow green and blossom just as far as the rays of his
halo reach, but fade again when he has passed. I recognise the
great flowering canes with leaves like elephant's ears hanging over
the statuary group of Adam and his family, also the bed of Salvia
fulgens, the fire-red sage, the peach tree, the roses, the banana
plants, the aloes,--all my old acquaintances, each in his own place.
The only strange thing is that the seasons of the year seem to be
mingled together, so that the spring and autumn flowers are blooming
simultaneously.

But what surprises me more than anything is that nothing of all this
seems strange to me; it all appears quite natural and inevitable. So as
I walk along the bee-garden, a swarm of bees buzzes about the plants
and settles on the flowers, but in such an exactly defined circle
that the insects disappear as soon as they fly into the shadow. The
illuminated part of a sage-plant is covered with leaves and blossoms,
while the part in shadow is withered and blighted with hoar frost.

Under the chestnut trees there is a fascinatingly beautiful sight, as,
under the foliage, an empty dove's nest is suddenly taken possession of
by a cooing pair of doves.

At last we have reached the Fleurus Gate, and my guide signs to me to
remain standing. Within a second he is at the other end of the garden,
at the Gay-Lussac Gate, at a distance which appears to me immense,
although it is only about a quarter of a mile. In spite of the distance
I can see the Unknown surrounded by his oval halo. Without speaking a
word or moving a muscle of his mouth he bids me approach. I seem to
divine his purpose as I traverse the long avenue, the racecourse well
known to me for years bounded at the end by the cross of the Pantheon,
which stands in blood-red relief against the dark sky.

The Way of the Cross and, perhaps, the fourteen Stations, if I
am not mistaken. Before I begin it, I make a sign that I wish to
speak, question, and receive explanation. My guide answers with an
inclination of the head that he is ready to hear what I have to
say. At the same moment the Unknown changes his position without the
slightest perceptible movement or rustle. The only thing I notice is,
that as he approaches me the air is filled with a perfume as of balsam,
which makes my heart and lungs swell, and gives me courage to dare the
contest.

I commence my questioning--

"Thou art he who has followed me for two years. What would'st thou of
me?"

Without opening his mouth the Unknown answered me with a kind of smile
full of super-human kindness, forbearance, and urbanity,--

"Why dost thou ask me since thou knowest the answer thyself?"

And, as if within me, I hear thy voice sound again, "I wish to raise
thee to a higher life, to lift thee out of the mire."

"Born as I am out of mire, created for baseness, feeding on decay,
how shall I be freed from earthly grossness except by death? Take my
life then! Thou wilt not? It must be the infliction of punishment
which is to educate me? But let me assure thee that humiliations make
me proud; being denied the little enjoyments of life produces desire
for them; fasting occasions gluttony, which is not my besetting sin;
chastity whets the edge of lust; enforced loneliness produces love of
the world and its unwholesome delights; poverty gives birth to greed;
and the evil companionship to which I am relegated instils contempt
of humanity into me, and produces unawares the suspicion that justice
is maladministered. Yes, at certain moments it seems to me as though
Providence was not kept sufficiently informed by its satraps to whom it
has intrusted the rule over mankind; that its prefects and sub-prefects
allow themselves to be guilty of malversations, falsifications,
baseless denunciations. Thus it has happened to me, that I have been
punished where others have sinned; suits have been brought against me,
in which I was not only innocent, but actually the defender of right
and the accuser of crime. All the same the punishment has lighted on me
while the guilty triumphed.

"Allow me a plain question: Have women been admitted to a share in
the rule? For the present method of government seems so irritable, so
petty, so unjust, yes,--unjust. Is it not the case that every time
when I have brought a righteous and lawful case against a woman, she,
however unworthy she may have been, has been acquitted, and I have been
condemned?

"Thou wilt not answer? And then thou demandest from me that I should
love criminals, soul-murderers who poison the mind and falsify truth,
and perjurers! No, a thousand times no! 'O Eternal! should I not hate
them that hate thee? Should I not abhor them that rise up against thee.
I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them mine enemies.' So speaks
the Psalmist, and I add, 'I hate the wicked as I hate myself'; and my
prayer is this, 'Punish, O Lord, those who persecute me with lies and
malice as Thou hast punished me when I was false and malicious! Have
I now blasphemed the Eternal, the Father of Jesus Christ, the God of
the Old and New Testament? Of old time He listened to the reproaches
of mortals, and permitted the accused to defend themselves. Listen
to the way in which Moses defended himself before the Lord when the
Israelites were tired of the manna, "Wherefore hast Thou afflicted Thy
servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in Thy sight, that Thou
layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this
people? have I begotten them, that Thou shouldest say unto me, Carry
them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto
the land which Thou swearest unto their fathers? Whence should I have
flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying Give
us flesh, that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone,
because it is too heavy for me."'

"Is not this plain speaking on the part of a mortal? Is it quite
befitting, this speech of an angry servant? Yet consider, the Lord does
not smite the bold speaker with a thunderbolt, but lightens his load by
choosing seventy leaders to share the burden of the people with Moses.
The way in which the Eternal grants the prayer of the people when they
clamour for flesh to eat, is only slightly contemptuous, like that of a
kindly father when he grants the wishes of his unreasonable children.
'Therefore the Lord will give you flesh and ye shall eat. Ye shall not
eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days nor twenty
days, but even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and
it be loathsome to you.'

"That is a God after my ideal, the same God to whom Job cries, 'Oh
that one might plead with God as a man pleadeth with his friend.' But
without waiting for this, the sufferer takes the liberty of demanding
explanations from the Lord regarding the evil treatment to which he is
exposed. 'I will say to God, "Condemn me not; show me wherefore Thou
goest against me in judgment. Doth it please Thee to oppress me, to
overthrow the work of Thine own hands, and to further the devices of
the wicked?"' These are reproaches and imputations which the good God
accepts without anger, and which He answers without using thunderbolts.
Where is He, the Heavenly Father, who can smite at the follies of His
children and pardon after He has punished them? Where does He hide
Himself, the Master of the house who kept it in good order, and watched
the overseers in order to prevent injustice?"

During my disconnected speech the Unknown regarded me with the
same indulgent smile, without betraying impatience. But when I
had finished, he disappeared. I found myself breathing a stifling
atmosphere of carbonic oxide, and standing alone on the gloomy, dirty,
autumnal-looking Rue Medici. While I went down the Boulevard Saint
Michel I felt vexed with myself, that I had neglected the opportunity
of speaking out everything. I had still many shafts in my quiver, if
only the Unknown had waited to answer, or to direct an accusation
against me.

But as soon as the crowd again presses round me in the glaring light
of the gas lamps, and all the exposed wares in the shops remind me
of the trivialities of life, the scene in the garden appears like a
miracle, and I hasten in alarm to my lodging, where meditation plunges
me into an abyss of doubt and anxiety. There is a ferment going on in
the world, and men are waiting for something new, of which a glimmering
has already appeared. France is preparing for a return to the Middle
Ages,--the period of faith and of dogma, to which it has been led
over the downfall of an empire, and of a miniature Augustus, just as
at the time of the decay of the power of Rome and the invasion of the
barbarians. One has seen Paris--Rome in flames, and the Goths crowning
themselves in the capitol, Versailles. The great heathen Taine and
Renan have gone down to perdition, and taken their scepticism with
them, but Joan of Arc has again woken to life. The Christians are
persecuted, their processions dispersed by gens d'armes; saturnalias
are held on carnival days, and shameful orgies take place in the open
streets under the protection of the police, and with the aid of money
grants from the Government, which to satisfy the discontented offers
shows, with or without gladiatorial encounters. "Panem et Circenses"
(Dear)--bread and games. All is readily bought with money, honour,
conscience, fatherland, love, administration of justice,--truly the
infallible and regular symptoms of decay in a community, whence Virtue,
both in name and reality, has been banished for thirty years. Yet for
all that we are in the Middle Ages. Young men assume monkish cowls,
wear the tonsure and dream of convent life. They compose legends and
perform miracle-plays, paint Madonnas and carve images of Christ,
drawing their inspiration from the magician,[2] who has bewitched
them with Tristan and Isolde, Parzival and the Holy Grail. Crusades
against Jews and Turks begin afresh; the Anti-Semites and Philhellenes
see to that. Magic and alchemy have already been re-established, and
they only wait for the first proved case of witchcraft in order to
erect a funeral pile to burn witches on. Middle Ages indeed! Witness
the pilgrimages to Lourdes, Tilli-sur-Seine, Rue Jean Goujon. Heaven
also gives the sleepy world signs to be ready. The Lord speaks through
water-spouts, cyclones, floods, and thunder-storms.

Mediæval also is the leprosy which has just appeared again, and against
which the doctors of Paris and Berlin have combined.

But they were beautiful, the Middle Ages, when men knew how to enjoy
and to suffer, when strength and love and beauty in colour, in
line, and harmony were revealed for the last time, before they were
drowned and sabred by the renaissance of heathenism which is called
Protestantism.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening has come, and I burn with desire to renew my meeting
with the Unknown, well prepared, as I now am, to confess all and to
defend myself before I am condemned. After I have taken my melancholy
meal alone I go up the Via Dolorosa, the Rue Bonaparte. This street
has never appeared to me so monstrous as this evening; the shop
windows yawn like abysses in which Christ is portrayed in many forms
--half-martyred, half-triumphant. I go on and on, while the sweat runs
in great drops down my face, and the soles of my boots burn my feet,
yet I do not seem to advance a step. Am I the Wandering Jew who refused
the Redeemer a drink of water? and am I, now that I wish to follow and
imitate Him, unable to approach Him?

Finally, and without myself knowing how, I find myself before the
Fleurus Gate, and in the next moment within the garden, which lies
there, dark, damp, and still. Immediately a gust of wind sets the
skeletons of the trees in motion, and the Unknown takes up his position
quicker as he approaches in his summer-like garment of light. With the
same smile as before he invites me to speak.

And I speak, "What demandest thou of me, and wherefore plaguest thou me
with thy Christ? A few days ago in some mysterious manner thou placedst
the _Imitation of Christ_ in my hand, and I read it as in my youth when
I learned to despise the world. How can I have the right to despise
the creation of the Eternal and the beautiful earth? And whither has
thy wisdom led me? To neglect my affairs, till I have become a burden
for my fellow-men, and ended as a beggar. This book, which forbids
friendship, which lays worldly intercourse under a ban, which demands
solitude and renunciation, is written for a monk, and I have not the
right to be a monk and expose myself to the danger of letting my
children die of want. See whither the love for a lonely life has led
me. On the one hand thou enjoinest the life of a hermit, and as soon as
I withdraw myself from the world I am attacked by the evil spirits of
madness, my affairs fall into confusion, and in my isolation I do not
possess a single friend from whom I can ask help. On the other hand, as
soon as I seek out men, I meet the worst kind, who annoy me with their
arrogance, and that in proportion to my humility. For I am humble, and
treat all as my equals, till they trample me under their feet, when I
behave like a worm which raises its head but cannot bite.

"What then demandest thou of me? Is it to make me a martyr at all
costs, whether I do thy will or disregard it? Wilt thou make me a
prophet? That is too great an honour for me, and I lack the vocation
to be one. Besides I cannot take up that attitude, for all prophets
which I have known have been finally unmasked as half-charlatans,
half-lunatics, and their prophecies have always failed.

"Moreover, if thou pressest upon me this vocation, I must be favoured
with electing grace, so that I become free from all destructive
passions which are degrading for a preacher; I must have adequate
support for my life instead of being, as I am, besmirched with poverty,
which makes one's character deteriorate and ties one's hands. It is
certainly true, and I grant it, that contempt of the world has led
me to despise myself and to neglect my calling through undervaluing
honour. I confess that I have been a sorry guardian of my own person,
but that is because of the superiority of my better self which despised
the unclean sheath in which thou hast immured my immortal soul. From
my earliest years I have loved purity and virtue--verily I have. Yet my
life has dragged itself dong in filth and wickedness, so that I often
suppose my sins to be punishments inflicted upon me, with the object
of arousing in me a permanent disgust of life. Why hast thou condemned
me to ingratitude, which I hate more than any other sin? Thou hast
entangled me, who am naturally grateful, in snares, in order to compel
me to feel obligation to the first benefactor who came in my way. So
I have become involved in dependence and slavery, since benefactors
demand as compensation control over the thoughts, wishes, inclinations,
and devotion,--in a word, the whole soul, of those whom they benefit.
Always I have been compelled to withdraw myself, laden with debt and
ungrateful, in order to preserve my individuality and manly worth; I
have been forced to tear asunder the bonds which threatened to strangle
my immortal soul. And that, too, with the spiritual torment and
pangs of conscience of a thief who goes his way with some one else's
property.

"As a matter of fact, by choosing the royal road of the Cross I have
entangled myself in the thorny thicket of theology, so that doubts more
terrible than ever have taken possession of me, and whispered plainly
in my ear that all unhappiness, all injustice, and the whole work of
redemption is only an enormous temptation which one must manfully
resist. Often I believe that Swedenborg, with his terrifying hells,
is only a fire and water-ordeal which must be undergone. And although
I owe a debt of gratitude, which I cannot pay to this prophet, who
has saved me from madness, I feel rise again and again in my heart a
burning desire to overthrow him, to defy him as an evil spirit who
always plots to ensnare my soul in order to enslave me, after he has
driven me to despair and suicide. Yes, he has insinuated himself
between me and my God, whose place he has wished to take. It is he who
tyrannises over me with terrors of the night and threatens me with
madness. Though possibly he has only fulfilled his task in drawing me
back to the Lord and making me submit to the Eternal. It may be that
his hells are only a scarecrow; I take them as such, but believe no
more in them, for I cannot believe in them without slandering the good
God who demands that we should forgive, because He can Himself forgive.
If the unhappiness and trouble I meet with are not punishments, then
they are initial tests. I am inclined to explain them in this way, and
it is likely that Christ is the Example, because He has suffered much,
although I do not understand what end such great sufferings serve,
except to throw into relief future blessedness. I have said what I had
to say. Give me now an answer."

But the Unknown, who had listened with wonderful patience, answered
only with a gesture of gentle irony, and vanished.

When I found myself back in the street, I was, as usual, angry at
having forgotten the best arguments, which always turn up when it is
too late. A whole long speech presents itself to me now, while my heart
swells and my courage rises again. The awe-inspiring and sympathetic
Unknown has, at any rate, heard me without crushing me. He has also
waited to hear my grounds of complaint, and he will now consider the
injustice to which I have been a sacrifice. Perhaps I have succeeded in
convincing him, as he stood there and did not answer me.

The old idea that I am Job comes into my mind, I have really lost
my property; they have taken my movable goods and books, means of
existence, wife, and children. Hunted from one land to another, I am
condemned to a lonely life in the desert. Is it I who have written
these lamentations, or is it Job: "My neighbours have forsaken me,
and my friends have forgotten me. My wife makes herself strange to
me, and my prayers reach not the sons of my mother. Little children
also despise me. He has made me a by-word among the people, and I
have become their music. I find only slanderers, and my eye wakes
the whole night while they persecute my soul. My skin breaks and is
dissolved. When I say, 'My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease
my complaint,' then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me
through visions." This fits me exactly; the cracks in the skin, the
dreams and the visions. But there is an over-plus on my side. I have
endured the extremest sufferings, as circumstances brought about by
invisible powers which hemmed me in, in order to compel me to leave
unfulfilled the simplest duty of a man,--to support his children. Job
retired from the game with his honour unaffected; for me all was lost,
even honour, and yet I overcame the temptation to suicide; I possessed
the courage to live without honour.

       *       *       *       *       *

For three months I seek in vain to come into personal connection with
the Swedenborg Society in Paris. For a whole week I go every morning
past the Pantheon to reach the Rue Thouin, where the chapel and the
library of the Swedish prophet are situated. Finally I find some one
who says that the librarian only receives strangers in the afternoon,
just the time when I wish to be alone with my thoughts, and am too
tired to walk. However, time after time I make the attempt to reach
the Rue Thouin. The first time I felt uncomfortably depressed as I wont
out, and at the end of the bridge of Saint Michel this feeling amounted
to a positive fear, which compelled me to return home. A second time
it is Sunday, and they are going to have service in the Swedenborgian
chapel. I arrive an hour too soon, and do not feel strong enough to
wait an hour in the street. The third time I find the pavement taken
up in the Rue Thouin, and workman blocking the way with their planks
and tools. Then I conclude that Swedenborg is not destined to be my
leader on the right path, and under this impression I retrace my steps.
But when I get home, it occurs to me that I have allowed myself to be
deceived by Swedenborgs invisible enemies, and that I must fight them.

My last attempt I make in a carriage. This time the street is
barricaded, as it expressly to frustrate my purpose. I get out of the
carriage and clamber over the obstructions, but when I reach the door
of the Swedenborgian chapel I find the pavement and steps have been
taken away. In spite of all I manage to reach the door, pull the bell,
and am told by a stranger that the librarian is ill.

With a kind of feeling of relief I turn my back on the gloomy, shabby
little chapel with its dark window panes soiled with rain and dust.
This edifice, built in the severe barbaric depressing Methodist
style, had always repelled me. Its want of beauty reminded me of
the Protestantism of the north, and it cost my pride a struggle to
bring myself to seek to enter it. I did it as a pious duty towards
Swedenborg, nothing more.

As I turned round with a light heart, I saw on the pavement a
tin-coated piece of iron, in the shape of a clover-leaf, and
superstitiously picked it up. Simultaneously a recollection sprang
to life in my mind. The year before, on the 2nd November in the
terrible year 1896, as I was walking one morning in Klam in Austria,
the sun disappeared behind a wall of cloud shaped like an arch, with
clover-shaped outlines surrounded by blue and white rays. This cloud
and my tinned iron-plate resembled each other as closely as two drops
of water. My diary, in which I made a sketch of the former, can verify
this fact.

What does that signify? The Trinity, that is clear. And further?--

I leave the Rue Thouin, joyful as a school-boy who has escaped a hard
task because the teacher is ill. As I pass by the Pantheon, I find
the great gate wide open in a sort of challenging way, as if to say,
"Come in!" As a matter of fact, in spite of my long residence in Paris
I have never visited this church, chiefly because people have told me
lies about the wall-paintings, and said that they dealt with certain
modern subjects which I strongly dislike. One may imagine my delight
as I enter and find myself in a shower of radiance falling from the
central dome, and surrounded by a golden legend--the sacred history of
France, which closes immediately before the time of Protestantism. The
ambiguous inscription without--"_Aux grands hommes,_" had also misled
me. There are few kings, still fewer generals, and not a single deputy;
I breathe again. On the other hand, there are St Denis, St Geneviève,
St. Louis, Joan of Arc. Never would I have believed that the Republic
was Catholic to such a degree. There is only wanting the Altar and
Tabernacle. In place of the Crucified and the Virgin is the statue of a
woman of the world, set up here by women who admire her; but I comfort
myself with the thought that this celebrity will finally descend to
the gutter like so many more honoured ones have done before. It is
pleasant and interesting to roam about this temple which is dedicated
to sanctity, but it is sad to see at the same time how the virtuous
and benevolent have been beheaded. Must one not out of reverence to
God believe that all the evil treatment which has fallen to the lot
of the just and merciful is only an apparent wrong, and that, however
discouraging the path of virtue may appear, it leads to some good
end, which is hidden from our view? Otherwise these infernal stakes
and scaffolds, where executioners triumph over saints, must suggest
blasphemous thoughts regarding the goodness of the supreme Judge who
only seems to hate and persecute the saints below, in order to reward
them in a higher world. "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy."
Meanwhile, as I leave the Pantheon, I cast a look at the Rue Thouin
and wonder that the road to Swedenborg has led me to the Church of
St. Geneviève. Swedenborg, my guide and prophet, has hindered me from
going to his modest chapel. Has he then rejected himself and become
better instructed, so that he has been converted to Catholicism. While
I studied the works of the Swedish seer, it has struck me how he sets
himself up as an opponent to Luther, who valued faith alone. In fact,
Swedenborg is more Catholic than he has wished to appear, since he
preaches faith in conjunction with works, just like the Catholic Church.

If it is so, then he is at war with himself, and I, his disciple, will
be crushed between anvil and hammer.

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening, after a day filled with pangs of conscience and doubts, I
betook myself, after I had taken my lonely midday meal, to the garden
which draws me like a Gethsemane where unknown sufferings await me.
I have a foreboding of torments, and cannot escape them; I long for
them almost as a wounded man wishes to subject himself to a cruel
operation, which will bring him cure or death. Reaching the Fleurus
Gate, I find myself at once upon the racecourse which is terminated
by the Pantheon surmounted by the Cross. Two years ago this temple
signified to my worldly mind the honour paid to "great men," now I look
upon it as dedicated to the martyrs and the sufferings which they have
endured; so greatly has my point of view changed. The fact that the
Unknown remains absent causes me to feel an oppression of the chest.
Lonely, and prepared for controversy, I feel myself weary for want of
a visible opponent. To fight with phantoms and shadows is worse than
to contend with dragons and lions. Terror seizes me, and urged on by
the courage of the coward, I go forward with firm steps on the slippery
ground between the plane trees. A close smell of dirty cod-fish mixed
with that of tar and tallow chokes me; I hear the slapping of waves
against the sides of ships and the quay; I am led into the courtyard
of a yellow brick building; I mount upstairs, traverse enormous halls
and countless galleries, passing between showcases and glass cabinets
full of animals stuffed or preserved in tins. Finally, an open door
invites me into a hall of strange appearance; it is dark, but faintly
illuminated by patches of light reflected from a number of coins and
medals in well-arranged showcases. I stop before a glass-covered case
near a window, and my eye is attracted among the gold and silver
medals by one of another metal, which is as dark as lead. It bears
the picture of myself, the type of an ambitious criminal with hollow
cheeks, hair erect, and an ugly mouth. The reverse of the medal bears
the inscription, "Truth is always ruthless".[3] Oh! Truth! which is
so veiled from mortals, and which I was bold enough to believe I had
unveiled, when I despised the Holy Communion, the miracle of which I
now recognise. The medal is a godless memorial to the dishonour of
the godlessness of blasphemous friends. It is true I have always been
ashamed of this glorification of brutality, and not taken the trouble
to keep this memorial. I have thrown it to the children to play with,
and it has disappeared without my missing it. Similarly, by a fateful
"coincidence," the artist who made the medal, went out of his mind
soon afterwards, having deceived his publisher and committed forgery.
Oh, this disgrace, which cannot be wiped out, but must for ever be
preserved in memory, as the law orders this indictment to be kept in
the State museum! Here one sees what "honour" comes to! But what have
I to complain of, since Providence has only granted fulfilment to an
unholy prayer which I addressed to it in my youth?

I was about fifteen years old when, weary of useless conflicts against
the young hot blood that longed to satisfy its passions, exhausted by
the religious doubts which devastated my soul, which was eager to solve
the riddle of existence, surrounded by pietists who worried me under
the plea of winning my soul to love the God-like, I roundly asserted
to an old lady friend who had lectured me to death, "I pitch morality
overboard, provided I can be a great genius and universally admired!"

I was, moreover, strengthened in my views by Thomas Henry Buckle, who
taught us that morality was "a nothing," incapable of development, and
that intelligence was everything. Later on, when I was twenty, I learnt
from Taine that evil and good were indifferent matters, possessed of
unconscious and irresponsible qualities, like the acidity of acids, and
the alkalinity of alkalis. And this phrase, which was quickly caught up
and developed by George Brandes, has stamped an impress of immorality
on Scandinavian literature. A sophism, that is a weak syllogism which
has missed the mark, has seduced a whole generation of freethinkers.

Weak indeed it is! For if we analyse Buckle's epigram, "Morality is
incapable of development, and therefore does not matter," it is easy to
discover that the inference should rather be, "Morality, which remains
invariably the same, thereby proves her divine and everlasting origin."

When my wish was finally attained, I became an acknowledged and admired
genius, and the most despised of all men born in my country in this
century. Banished from the better circles, neglected by the smallest
of the small, disavowed by my friends, I received the visits of my
admirers by night, or in secret. Yes, all do homage to morality,
and a minority reverence talent, a fact which gives rise to various
reflections concerning the essence of morality.

Still worse is the reverse of the medal! Truth! As though I had never
given myself over to the power of falsehood, in spite of my pretence
to be more truthful and sincere than others. I do not dwell on the
petty falsehoods of childhood, which signify so little, occasioned
as they mostly were by fear or the incapacity of distinguishing
between fact and imagination, and because they were counterbalanced by
punishments unjustly inflicted and based upon false accusations of my
schoolfellows. But there are other falsehoods, and more serious ones
because of the injurious consequences which evil example and excuse for
grievous wrongdoing involve. For example, the untrue description in my
autobiography, "The Son of a Servant," with regard to the crisis of
puberty. When I wrote that youthful confession, the liberal tendency of
that period seems to have induced me to use too bright colours with the
pardonable object of freeing from fear young men who have fallen into
precocious sin.

As I bring these bitter reflections to a close, the coin-cabinet
contracts, the medal retreats to a distance, and diminishes to the size
of a lead button,--and I see myself in a dormitory in a school for
boys in the country on the bank of the Malar in 1861. Children born of
unlawful unions, children of parents who had tied from their country,
badly brought-up children who in too many families were in the way,
live here together huddled in a loft, without oversight, tyrannising
over and ill-treating each other, in order to revenge themselves for
the cruelty of life. A hungry herd of little evil-doers, ill-clothed
and ill-nourished, a terror to the country people and especially to
the gardeners.

Pains of conscience follow immediately on a fall, and I see myself in
the twilight of a summer evening sitting at a table in my night-dress
with a prayer-book before me, stung by conscience and shame, although
wholly unacquainted with the nature of sin. Innocent because I was
ignorant, and yet a criminal. Led astray, and afterwards leading
others astray, suffering remorse and relapsing, doubting the justice
of my accusing conscience, and doubting the mercy of God who allows an
innocent child to be exposed to the most terrible temptations. Unhappy
victim without strength to stand first in the unequal strife with
all-powerful Nature 1 Meanwhile the infernal fire is lit which will
burn till the grave.

I burn with desire to accuse myself and to defend myself at the same
time, but there is no judgment-seat and no judge, and I devour myself
here in solitude.

As I cried out in my despair towards all quarters of heaven, I became
enveloped in a dark mist, and when I began to see again clearly I
found myself standing in the Fleurus Avenue with my head leant against
a chestnut tree. It was the third tree counting from the entrance gate,
and the avenue has forty-seven on each side. Nine seats are placed
between the trees to rest on. Thus there are forty-four halting places
for me before I reach the first Station.

For a moment I remain quite depressed, watching the path of tears
stretch before me. Suddenly under the leafless trees a ball of light
approaches, borne along by two birds' wings. It stops before me on a
level with my eyes, and in the clear light which the ball radiates I
see a white sheet of paper ornamented like a menu-card. At the top I
read in smoke-coloured letters, "Eat!" Then in a second the record of
my whole past life is enrolled like a micrographic reproduction on an
enormous placard. Everything is there! All the horrors, the most secret
sins, the most loathsome scenes in which I have played the chief part
Alas! I could die with shame as I see those scenes depicted, which my
eye, which seems to grow in size, takes in at once, without needing to
read and interpret them.

I do not die, however. On the contrary, for a minute which is
forty-eight years long, I review my whole life from early childhood
to this day. My bones are dried up to the marrow, my blood ceases to
circulate, and, consumed by fiery pangs of conscience, I fall to the
ground with the cry, "Mercy! Mercy! I must cease to justify myself
before the Eternal, and I must cease to accuse my neighbours."

When consciousness returned I found myself on the Rue de Luxembourg,
and as I looked through the trellis-gate I saw the garden blooming,
while a choir of little mocking-birds greeted me from the bushes and
trees.

The next evening there was h knock at my door about six o'clock, and
there stepped in the American painter whom, in my book _Inferno_, I
have identified with Francis Schlatter. As we had parted from each
other quite indifferently, without friendship or enmity, our meeting
was quite cordial. I notice that the man is somewhat altered. He seems
physically smaller than I remember him, and I cannot get him as before
to smile at the vexations of life and at sorrows already endured,
which are so easily borne when they are happily over. But he treats
me with a surprising respect which contrasts strongly with his former
cameraderie. Meanwhile this meeting rouses me from my lethargy, partly
because I have some one to speak to who understands every word I say,
partly because he forms a link with a period when the development of my
life, belief, and growth was strongest. I feel as if the clock had been
put back two years, and feel a wish to get free, to spend half a night
on the Boulevard pavement in talk, with our glasses before us.

We agree to have our lunch at Montmartre, and take that direction. The
noise of the street somewhat interrupts the current of conversation,
and I notice in myself an unusual difficulty in hearing and
understanding his words.

At the entrance to the Avenue de l'Opéra the crowd is great, and we
are constantly separated by those who meet us. It happens that a man
carrying some cotton wool stumbles against my companion so that he is
covered over with white. With my head full of Swedenborgs symbols, I
try to remember what this should signify, but can only think of the
opening of the grave at St. Helena, when Napoleon's body looked as
though it were covered with white down.

In the Rue de la Chaussée d'Antin I am already so tired and nervous
that we resolve to take a carriage. Since it is dinner-time the street
is very full, and when we have driven for some minutes the carriage
suddenly stands still. Simultaneously I receive such a blow in the back
that I rise from my seat, and as I turn round there are three horses'
heads opposite me,--an omnibus with a shouting driver on the top of it.
This puts me out of humour, and I ask myself if it is intended for a
warning.

We alight at the Place Pigalle and dine. Here I am reminded of my
residence in Paris in the seventies, when I was young, but it makes me
sad, for the changes are great. My lodging-house in the Rue Douai is
no more. The "Black Cat" which stood there then is closed, and Rodolphe
Salis has been buried this year. The "Café de l'Ermitage" is only a
recollection, and the "Tambourin" has changed its name and title. The
friends of those days are dead, married, scattered, and the Swedish
colony has transferred its quarters to Mont Parnasse. I feel that I
have grown old.

The dinner is not so lively as I expected. The wine is of the bad
kind that puts one out of humour. My having got out of the habit
of listening and speaking makes the conversation disjointed and
exhausting. The hope of recovering our former cheerful mood with the
coffee is not realised, and soon that terrible silence begins which
betrays a desire to get away from each other.

For a long while we struggle against the growing embarrassment, but in
vain. As early as nine o'clock we rise from table, and my companion,
guessing my mood, takes his own way, under the pretext of having an
appointment to keep. As soon as I am alone I feel an indescribable
relief; my discomfort ceases, my headache disappears, and I feel as
though the convolutions of my brain, and the network of my nerves
which had become entangled, were slowly returning to their normal
state. In truth, solitude has made my personality so sensitive that I
cannot bear the contact of a stranger.

Quietly, but with an illusion the less, I return home, glad to be in my
cell again; but I notice that the room has undergone a change; it is
no longer the same, and a sort of domestic discomfort seems to pervade
it. The furniture and small articles are in their places, but give a
strange impression. Some one has been here and left traces of himself
behind. I am undone!

The next day I go out to seek for society, but find none. The third
day I go by appointment to my friend the artist to see his etchings.
He lives in Marais. I ask the porter whether he is at home. "Yes," he
answered, "but he is in the café, with a lady." Since I have nothing to
say to the lady I go away again. The next day I go again to Marais,
and since he is at home I proceed to mount the six flights of stairs,
which wind narrowly like stairs in a tower. When I have ascended
three I begin to remember a dream and a reality. The dream which is
often repeated has to do with just such narrow cork-screw stairs up
which I crawl till I am stifled, as they grow ever narrower. The
first time I remembered this dream was in the tower at Putbus, and I
immediately went down again. Now I stand here squeezed, panting, my
heart palpitating, but determine to ascend. I manage to get up, enter
the studio, and find my friend with a lady. After I have sat for five
minutes I get a severe headache and say, "My good friend, it seems as
though I must renounce your society, for your stairs kill me. Just now
I have a distinct conviction that if I come up here again I shall die."

He answered, "But you lately ascended the Montmartre and the stairs at
the church of the Sacred Heart."

"Yes," I reply, "it is very strange."

"Well," he said, "then I will come to you, and we will dine in the
evening together."

So the next day we actually have our meal together, and fall into the
pleasant mood which is desirable at such times. We treat each other
with respect, avoid saying unpleasant things, put ourselves at each
other's point of view, and obtain the illusion of being of one mind in
all matters. After our meal, since the evening is mild, we continue our
conversation, and cross the river, proceeding to the Boulevards till
we finally reach the Café du Cardinal. It is now midnight, but we are
far from being tired, and now begin those wonderful hours when the soul
gets free from her wrappings, and the spiritual faculties, which would
ordinarily be employed in dreaming, are roused to waking, and clear
conceptions and keen glances into the past and future. During these
night hours, my spirit seems to hover over and outside my body, which
sits there like a stranger. Our drinking is merely a secondary matter
which serves to keep sleep away, perhaps also to open the flood-gates
of memory whence all the occurrences of my life flow forth, so that at
every moment I can call up facts, dates, years, scenes, and pictures.
That is the attraction and power of vinous excitement over me, but a
religious-minded occultist has told me that it is a sin, for it is
wrongfully antedating salvation, which consists in the liberation of
the soul from matter. Therefore this trespass is punished with terrible
subsequent tortures.

Meanwhile they begin to disturb us by giving signs of closing the
Boulevard cafés, but as I do not want to finish, I name the word
"Baratte," and my friend is ready at once. Café Baratte, near the
"Halls," has always had a wonderful attraction for me, without my
exactly knowing why. It may be the proximity of the "Halls." When it is
night on the Boulevard, it is morning in them--all through the night
in fact--which with its enforced want of occupation and dark dreams is
banished. The mind which has become intoxicated in immaterial worlds
descends to eating, sin, and noise. This scent of fish, flesh, and
vegetables, over the refuse of which we step, seems to me an effective
contrast to the lofty themes which we have just been discussing.

That is the stuff out of which we are created and re-created three
times a day, and when one enters from the darkness, dirt, and knots
of seedy figures outside, into the comfortable café, one is greeted
by light, warmth, song, mandolines, and guitars. At this hour of the
day all class distinctions are wiped out. Here sit artists, students,
authors, drinking at long tables, and in a sort of waking trance. Or
have they fled from the sad sleep which, perhaps, has ceased to visit
them? There is no sparkling hilarity, but a kind of stupor broods over
the whole, and it seems to me as if I had entered into a realm of
shadows peopled by half-real phantoms.

I know an author who used to sit there at night and write. I have seen
strangers there dressed as though they came from a brilliant supper
at Parc Monceau. I have seen a public man, with the appearance of a
foreign ambassador, stand up and sing a solo. I have seen people who
looked like disguised princes and princesses drinking champagne, and
I really don't know whether they are real mortals, all these shadows,
or the projected "astral" bodies of sleepers outside who hallucinate
those drunk with sleep who sit there. The remarkable thing is that no
coarseness prevails in the company packed together in the narrow café.
The songs are mostly sentimental, and the melancholy guitars heal the
needle-pricks with which the sharp steel-strung mandoline pricks the
brain.

Now in the night, after my long course of loneliness, I feel happy in
the crowd, which seems to radiate warmth and sympathy. For the first
time after a long interval I am seized with a sentimental pity for the
unhappy women of the night. Near our table sit half a dozen of them
looking depressed, and not having ordered anything. They are most of
them ugly, despised, and probably unable to order anything. I suggest
to my friend, who is as disinterested as myself, to invite two of the
ugliest who sit near us. He agrees; and I invite two, asking if they
will have anything to drink, adding at the same time that they must
have no other designs and behave with propriety.

They seem to understand the part they have to play, and ask first
for food. My friend and I continue our philosophical conversation
in German, now and then speaking a word to the women, who are not
presuming, and who seem more anxious to eat than to be attended to.

For a moment the thought strikes me, "Suppose one of your acquaintances
saw you now?" Yes, I know what he would say, and I know what I would
answer: "You have thrust me out of society, condemned me to solitude,
and I am compelled to purchase the companionship of pariahs, outcasts
like myself, and hungry as I have been. My simple pleasure is to be
able to see these despised ones plume themselves on a conquest which is
no conquest, to sec them eat and drink, and to hear their voices, which
are at any rate those of women. Moreover, I have not paid them in any
way, not even in order to append a moral exhortation."

I simply find a pleasure in sitting together with human beings, and in
being able to give out of my momentary superfluity, for in a month I
may be as poor as they are.

It is now morning; the clock strikes five, and we go. But my companion
demands fifteen francs for having given me her society, a demand which
from her point of view I find quite comprehensible, for my society is
as worthless as my power to protect her against the police. But I do
not believe that will increase my self-respect, rather the opposite.

Meanwhile I go home with a good conscience after a well-spent night,
sleep till ten o'clock, awake well rested, and spend the day in work
and meditation. But the following night I have an attack of the
terrible kind which Swedenborg describes in his _Dreams_. So that was
the punishment! What for? I really don't understand. I thought that
this was a new lesson in the art of life,--that I should learn that
all men alike are good cabbage-eaters, and had actually for a moment
imagined that the part I had played in the night-café was rather
that of a philanthropist than of a sinner, or at any rate morally
indifferent. During the following days I was much depressed, and one
evening I looked forward to passing a night of terror. At nine o'clock
I had Cicero's _Natura Deorum_ before me, and was so pleased with
Aristotle's doctrine that the gods quite ignored our world, and would
pollute themselves if they had anything to do with this filth, that I
determined to copy it out. At the same time I noticed that blood had
broken out on the back of my right hand without any apparent cause.
When I wiped it off, I found no mark of a scratch. But I forgot it, and
went to bed. About half-past twelve I awoke with the fully developed
symptoms of what I have called "the electric girdle." Notwithstanding
that I know its nature and inner significance, I am compelled to seek
the cause of it outside myself. I made an effort and lighted the lamp.
As the Bible lay close by I determined to consult it, and it gave the
answer: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way that thou
shalt go; I will guide thee with Mine eye: be not like to horse and
mule, whose mouths must be drawn with bit and bridle, else they will
not come near thee."

That was an answer, and I went to sleep again, satisfied that it was
not anything evil, but a benignant power that spoke to me, though
somewhat ambiguously.

After I had quieted myself with some days' solitude, I went out again
one evening with the American and a young Frenchman who corrects my
manuscripts. It was somewhat tedious, and I returned home shortly
before midnight with a bad conscience, because, being drawn into a
heated conversation, I had been compelled to speak evil of some one
absent. What I said was in self-defence against a liar, and absolutely
true. About two o'clock I awoke and heard some one stamping in the
room above me, and then come down the stairs and go into the room
by the side of mine. Am I then watched? I had already had the same
experience here in the hotel in September, when I lived on the third
storey. So it cannot be an accident If now, as is probable, my unseen
mentor wishes to punish me, how cunning it is to keep me uncertain
whether they are human beings who persecute me or not! Though I have
convinced myself that no one persecutes me, I am again drawn into
the old circle of the self-torturing belief that some one does. When
once the question is raised, there begins a dance of conjectures kept
up by my conscience, which accuses me even when I have acted in pure
self-defence in rebutting unjust accusations. I feel as though I were
tied backwards to a stake, and that all the passers-by have the right
to spit on me unpunished, but if I spit back, I am scourged, choked,
hunted by furies. The whole world, even the meanest beggar, has rights
against mu. If I only knew why! All the tactics are so feminine that
I cannot get rid of my suspicion. For when a woman for years has done
injury and wrong to a man, and he, out of innate nobility, has not
lifted his hand in return, but at last strikes round him as when one
drives away a fly, the woman raises an outcry, calls the police, and
exclaims, "He defends himself!" Or, when in school an unreasonable
teacher falls on a pupil, who is groundlessly accused, and the latter,
from an injured sense of justice, seeks to defend himself, what does
the teacher do? He proceeds to corporal punishment, exclaiming, "So
you answer back, do you?" I have answered back. And therefore I am
punished. The punishment continues eight days and nights successively.
The consequence is that I become depressed and unfit for social
intercourse. My friend the American, weary of me, quietly withdraws,
and as he has set up a domestic establishment, I find myself again
alone. But it is not entirely a mutual aversion which has a second
time separated us, for we have both noticed that during our last
meeting strange things have happened, which could be only ascribed to
the intervention of conscious powers who intended to arouse aversion
between us. This man, who knows hardly anything of my past life,
seems during our last interview to have had the purpose of wounding
me on all my sore points, and it seemed as though he guessed my most
secret thoughts and intentions, which are yet only known to myself.
As I remarked something of this sort to him, a light seemed to break
upon him, "Is that not the Devil?" he broke out. "I thought there was
something wrong, for the whole evening you could not open your mouth
without wounding me to the quick, but I saw by your quiet face and
friendly expression that you had nothing evil in your mind." We tried
to defy the malefic influence. But for three days in succession my
friend traversed the long road to me in vain. I was not there, nor did
he find me where I usually dine.

Thus loneliness closes round me again like a thick darkness. It is
nearly Christmas-time, and the being without home and family oppresses
me. The whole of life becomes distasteful, and I begin again, in
consequence, to look after what is from above. I buy the _Imitation of
Christ_ and read it.

It is not the first time that this wonderful book has fallen into my
hands, but this time it finds the ground prepared. Its purport is to
die, while yet alive, to the world,--the contemptible, wearisome,
filthy world. The unknown author has the remarkable faculty of
not preaching or reproaching, but he speaks in a friendly way,
convincingly, logically, and invitingly. He regards our sorrows not
as punishments but tests, and thereby arouses in us the ambition
to endure. Now I have Jesus again, not Christ this time, and He
steals softly in to me, as though He came in velvet sandals. And the
Christmas-displays in the Rue Bonaparte help towards the belief: there
is the Christ-child in the manger, the Jesus-child with royal mantle
and crown, the Child-redeemer on the Virgin's arm, the Child playing,
lying, and on the cross. Yes, the Child! Him I can understand. The God
who has so long heard the lamentations of men over the misery of mortal
life that He finally resolved to descend, to let Himself be born and
to live, in order to prove how hard it is to drag oneself about with a
human life. _Him_ I comprehend.

One Sunday morning I passed by the Church Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois.
This building has always exercised a strong influence on me, because
it looks so familiar; the vestibules with their paintings have an
inviting air, and the congregations are so small that one is not
crushed or lost. As I pass in at the door, there are twilight and organ
music, coloured pictures and wax candles. Whenever I enter a Catholic
church I remain standing at the door and feel embarrassed, restless,
and outside the pale. When the gigantic Swiss guard approaches with
his halberd, my conscience feels uneasy, and I expect him to drive
me out as a heretic. Here in Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois I feel a
certain anxiety, for I remember that it was in this tower that the
bell for some unknown reason began to sound at two o'clock in the
night of St. Bartholomew. To-day ray position as a Huguenot makes me
more uncomfortable than usual, for two mornings ago I read in the
_Osservatore Romano_ congratulations sent by the Catholic priests
to the persecutors of the Jews in Russia and Hungary, followed by a
highly coloured comparison with the great days of the St. Bartholomew
massacre, the return of which the writer evidently wished for.

The organ, which was out of sight, plays tunes which I have never heard
before, but which seem to me like memories--memories of the times of
my ancestors, or still further back. When I hear fine music, I always
ask myself, "Where did the composer find it?" Not in nature and in
life, for in music there are no models, as in the other arts. The only
remaining conjecture is, to consider music as the recollection of a
condition, which every man in his best moments longs for. And that very
longing shows a vague consciousness of having lost something which one
has formerly possessed.

There are six lighted candles on the altar. The priest, arrayed in
white, red, and gold, says nothing, but his hand hovers with the
graceful movements of a butterfly over a book. Behind him come two
little children dressed in white, and bend their knees. The priest
washes his hands, and proceeds to do something which I do not
understand. Something rare, beautiful, and wonderful is taking place
there in the distance amid the gold ornaments, incense-smoke, and light
I understand nothing, but feel an easily explicable fear and reverence,
and am convinced that I have gone through the same experience before.

This is succeeded by the feeling of shame of the outcast, the heathen,
who has nothing to do here. And then the whole truth is apparent:
a Protestant has no religion,--for Protestantism is free-thinking,
revolt, separation, dogmatism, theology, heresy. And the Protestant is
under the ban of excommunication. This is the curse which rests over
us and makes us dissatisfied, melancholy, restless. At this hour I
feel the curse, and I understand why the victor at Lützen was cut off,
and why his own daughter contradicted him; why Protestant Germany was
devastated, while Austria remained untouched. And what was won for us?
The freedom to be cast out, the freedom to separate ourselves and to
split off, in order to end finally without a creed.

The surging congregation moves out through the doors, and I remain
alone, enduring, as it seems to me, their looks of disapproval. It
is dark at the door where I stand, but I see all those who pass out
touch the holy water in the stoup and cross themselves, and as I
stand directly in front of it, it seems as though they were crossing
themselves in defence against me. I know what that means, as in Austria
I was exposed to the danger of those who met me on the roads crossing
themselves against the "Protestant."

At last, as I am left alone, I approach the consecrated font out of
curiosity or some other motive. It is made out of yellow marble in
the form of a conch-shell, and over it hangs a winged cherub's head.
The face of the child has a lively and radiant expression such as one
only sees in good, beautiful, and well-cared-for children. The mouth
is open, and the corners of it show a suppressed smile. The large fine
eyes arc cast down, and one sees how the little rogue contemplates his
image in the water, but under the protection of his eyelids, as though
he were conscious of doing something wrong, but yet he is not afraid of
his chastiser, whom he knows he can disarm with a single look. That is
the child, which still keeps the impress of our distant origin, a gleam
of the supernatural, which belongs to heaven. So then it is possible
to smile in heaven, and not only to bear the cross! How often in my
self-reproachful hours, when everlasting punishments have seemed to me
objective realities, have I not put to myself the question which many
would consider irreverent, "Can God smile?"--smile at the folly and
over-daring of human ants? If He can, then He can also forgive.

The cherub's face smiles at me and looks at me under its eyelids, and
open mouth says banteringly, "Try it; the water is not dangerous."
I touch the holy water with two fingers,--a ripple passes over the
surface, as though it were the pool of Bethesda, and then 1 make a
motion with my finger from my forehead to my heart and across from left
to right, as I have seen my daughter do. But in the next moment I am
outside the Church, for the cherub laughed, and I--I will not say I was
ashamed, but I had rather no one had seen it.

Outside, on the church door, there is a notice about something, which
informs me that it is Advent. In front of the church an old woman sits
in the terrible cold and sleeps. I lay gently a silver coin in her
lap without her noticing it, and although I would have gladly seen
her awaking, I go my way. What a noble and real joy to be able to act
as the agent of Providence in hearing a request and to give for once,
after having so long received.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now I read the _Imitation_ and Chateaubriand's _La Genie du
Christianisme_. I have taken the sign of the cross and carry a medal
which I have received at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre.
But the cross is for me the symbol of sufferings patiently borne, and
not the token that Christ has suffered in my stead, for I must do
that for myself. I have, in fact, framed a theory, as follows: When
we unbelievers did not want to hear any more about Christ, He left us
to ourselves, His vicarious satisfaction for sin ceased, and we must
drag ourselves along with our own misery and consciousness of guilt.
Swedenborg says expressly that Christ's suffering on the cross was not
His work of atonement, but a test which God laid upon Himself rather of
shame than of suffering.

At the same time as the _Imitatio Christi_, I get Swedenborg's _Vera
Religio Christiana_ in two thick volumes. With an attractive power that
defies all resistance he drags me into his gigantic mill and begins
to grind me. At first I lay the book aside and say, "This is not for
me." But I take it up again, for there is so much in it that chimes in
with my observations and experiences, and so much worldly wisdom that
interests me. Again I cast it aside, but have no peace till I take it
up again; and the terrible thing about the matter is that when I read,
I have the distinct impression "This is the truth, but I cannot reach
it." Never! for I will not Then I begin to revolt, and say to myself,
"He has deceived himself, and this is the spirit of falsehood." But
then comes the fear that I have made a mistake.

What is it after all in the book, which is to be a word of life to
me? I find the whole arrangement of grace and eternal hell; childish
recollections of the hell of childhood with its everlasting miseries.
But now I have got my head in the noose, and am held fast. The whole
day and half the night my thoughts revolve round this one theme,--I am
damned, for I cannot speak the word "Jesus" without adding "Christ,"
and according to Swedenborg, this is the shibboleth of evil spirits.

Now a whole abyss opens within me, and the gentle Christ of the
_Imitation_ has become the Tormentor. I am keenly conscious that if
this process continues I shall become a "Reader," but that I will not.

Three days have passed since I have put Swedenborg away again, but
one evening, as I am studying the physiology of plants, I remember to
have seen something especially interesting regarding the position of
plants in the _Vera Religio Christiana_. Cautiously I begin to look
for the well-known passage, but cannot find it; on the other hand, I
find everything else, "the call, the enlightenment, sanctification,
conversion," and, as I turn the page and try to hurry on, my eye is
arrested by the most terrible passages which stab and burn. I hunt
through both volumes twice, but what I seek has disappeared. It is an
enchanted book, and I should like to burn it, but dare not, for night
is approaching and two o'clock will come.

I feel myself becoming a hypocrite, and I have resolved to-morrow, if I
can only sleep this night in peace, to commence a battle against this
soul-destroyer.

I will survey his weaknesses with a microscope. I will pluck his stings
out of my heart, even though it should be torn in the process, and I
will forget that be has saved me from one madhouse in order to conduct
me into another.

       *       *       *       *       *

After I had slept in the night, although I had expected to be
tormented, I set to work the following morning, not without scruples,
for to take up weapons against a friend is the saddest of all
enterprises. But it must be; it concerns my immortal soul, whether it
is to be destroyed or not.

So long as Swedenborg in the _Arcana_ and the _Apocalypse_ treats of
revelations, prophecies, interpretations, he has a religious effect
upon me, but when in the _Vera Religio_ he begins to reason about
dogmas, he becomes a freethinker and Protestant. When he draws the
sword of reason, he has himself chosen the weapons, and they are likely
to prove bad ones for himself. I wish to have religion as a quiet
accompaniment to the monotonous music of life, but here it is a matter
of professional religion and pulpit-discussion--in brief, a struggle
for power.

Already, while I read the _Apocalypse_, I came across a passage which
repelled me, by betraying a human vanity, which I do not like to see
in a man of God. But out of respect I passed it by, not, however,
without erasing it. The passage is as follows: In heaven Swedenborg
meets an English king, to whom he complains that English newspapers
have not thought it worth while to notice certain of his writings. He
also expresses his vexation against certain bishops and lords, who had
received his writings but given them no attention. The king (George
II.) is astonished, and turns to the unworthy recipients, saying, "Go
your ways! Woe betide him who can remain so indifferent when he hears
of heaven and eternal life."

I may remark in passing that I do not like the way in which both Dante
and Swedenborg send their enemies and friends to hell, while they
themselves scale the heights; and I praise myself a little like Paul,
were it the proper time to remember the fact that I, in contrast to the
great masters, have placed myself alone in the furnaces of hell,[4] and
have at any rate set the rest above me in Purgatory.

In the _Vera Religio_ the matter is still more uncomfortable, for there
one finds Calvin in a brothel, because he has taught that faith is
everything and works nothing, as in the case of the crucified thief.
Luther and Melanchthon, in spite of their Protestantism, are exposed
to coarse scorn and mockery. But no! it disturbs me to seek out
these flaws in the picture of a noble mind. And I hope it has fared
with Swedenborg in his spiritual experience as he says it fared with
Luther: "When he entered the spirit world he made strenuous efforts to
propagate his dogmas, but as these were not rooted in the innermost
depth of his mind, but only imbibed from his infancy, he soon obtained
greater illumination, so that he finally shared the new heavenly faith."

Is my Teacher angry that I have written this? I cannot believe it:
perhaps he shares my opinions now, and has come to find that there are
no theological disputes over there. His description of life in the
spiritual world, with pulpits and hearers, objectors and answerers, has
prompted in me the irreverent question, "Is God a theologian?"

I had now locked away Swedenborg and taken leave of him with gratitude,
as of one who, although with alarming pictures, had frightened me like
a child back to God. And now the White Christ, the Child who can
smile and play, approaches with the Advent season. At the same time I
can view life with more happiness and confidence, that is, as long as
I keep watch over my acts, words, and even thoughts, which it seems
cannot be kept secret from the Guardian and Avenging Angel who follows
me everywhere.

Enigmatic occurrences continue to happen, but not in such a threatening
way as before. I have abandoned Swedenborg's Christianity because it
was ugly, revengeful, petty, slavish, but I keep to the Imitation with
certain reservations, and a quiet religion of compromise has sprung out
of that ominous condition which accompanies the search for Jesus.

One evening I sit at dinner with a young French poet, who has just
read my _Inferno_, and from the occultist point of view wishes to find
an explanation for the assaults to which I have been exposed and have
endured.

"Have you no talisman against them?" he asked. "You must have a
talisman."

"Yes, I have the _Imitation_" I answered. He looked at me, and I,
somewhat embarrassed because I had just deserted from the ranks of
the freethinkers, took out my watch, in order to have something to
occupy myself with. At the same moment the medal of the Sacred Heart
with the picture of Christ fell from my watchchain. I felt still more
embarrassed, but said nothing.

We soon got up, and went to a café to drink a glass of beer. The hall
was large, and when we entered we took our places at a table exactly
opposite the door. There we sat for a time, and the conversation turned
on Christ and what He signifies.

"He has certainly not suffered for us," I said; "for, if He had, our
sufferings would have been diminished. They have not been lessened,
however, but are as severe as ever."

Just then a waiter made an exclamation, and with a broom and sawdust
began to sweep the ground between us and the door, though no one had
come in since we had entered. On the white inlaid floor there was a
circle of red drops, and as the waiter turned away he looked at us
askance as if we were guilty. I asked my companion what it was.

"It is something red."

"Then we have done it, for no one has stepped there after us, and when
we entered the floor was clean."

"No," answered my friend, "we have not done it, for the mark is not
that of a foot, but as if some one had bled; and we are not bleeding."

This was weird and also uncomfortable, because we were attracting the
attention of the other occupants of the café in an embarrassing way.

The poet read my thoughts, though he had not seen what had happened
with the medal. Therefore, in order to relieve my mind, I said finally,
"Christ persecutes me." He made no answer, although he would have
gladly found a natural explanation of the occurrence, but could not.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before I leave my friend the American, whom I have provisionally
identified with the doctor, Francis Schlatter, I must relate some
incidents which increase the suspicion that this man had a "double."

When we recently renewed our acquaintanceship, I told him exactly all
my opinions on the subject, and showed him the number of the _Revue
Spirite_ in which was the article "My friend H." He appeared undecided,
but inclined to be sceptical.

After some days, when he came to dinner, he was quite disturbed, and
related, with a good deal of emotion, that his mistress had disappeared
without leaving any information, and without bidding him farewell. She
remained some days absent and then returned. On being questioned, she
acknowledged that she was afraid of her master, for whom she acted as
housekeeper. Further questioning elicited the fact that once when she
awoke in the night, and he was asleep, his face appeared as white as
chalk and irrecognisable, and this frightened her indescribably.

Moreover, he said, he did not dare to go to sleep before midnight, for
if he did he was tortured as though he were stuck on a roasting skewer
which turned him slowly round, so that he had to leave his bed.

When he had read my book, _Inferno_, he said--

"You have not had a persecution mania, but have been persecuted, though
not by men."

Stimulated by my related experiences, he began to search in his memory,
and imparted to me some inexplicable incidents of his life during the
last few years. For instance, there was a certain spot on the Pont
Saint-Michel where a rheumatic pain in his leg always obliged him
to stand. This occurred regularly, and he had caused his friends to
witness it He had also noticed many other strange incidents, and had
learnt to say "punished."

"If I smoke, I am punished; and if I drink absinthe, I am punished."

One evening when we had met, but it was not yet midnight, we entered
the Café de la Fregata in the Rue du Bac. Talking energetically,
we took the first place that offered, and asked for absinthe. The
conversation continued, but all of a sudden my companion stopped and,
looking round him, broke out, "Have you ever seen such a collection of
bandits? They are all criminal types."

When I looked round I was startled, for there were not the usual
occupants of the café, but a collection of ruffians, most of whom
seemed disguised and made grimaces. My companion had leant himself
against an iron pillar which looked as though it grew out of his back:
"And you are in the pillory!" I exclaimed.

It seemed to us that they were all watching us; we became morose,
depressed, and stood up, without finishing our drink.

That was the last time that I drank absinthe with my friend. I made
another attempt to drink it alone, but I did not repeat it. Waiting
for some friends to come to dinner I took a seat on the Boulevard
Saint-Germain, exactly opposite Cluny, and ordered a glass of
absinthe. Immediately three figures came forward, I know not from
where, and stood before me. Two fellows with torn clothes, spattered
with dirt, as if they had been dragged out of sewers; beside them a
woman, bareheaded, with unkempt hair and traces of beauty, drunken,
dirty; they all looked at me scornfully and boldly, with a cynical
air as though they knew me and expected to be invited to my table.
I have never seen such types in Paris or Berlin, though I may have
done so near London Bridge, where the people really have a weird
appearance. I try to tire them out by lighting cigarettes, but in vain.
Then the thought strikes me, "These are not real people at all, but
half-visions." I stand up, and since then I have not ventured to touch
absinthe.

       *       *       *       *       *

Amid all my vacillations one thing seems certain to me, and that is
that an invisible hand has undertaken my education, for it is not
the logic of circumstances which is operating here. It is not, for
instance, a natural result that a chimney should take fire, or that
figures previously non-existent should appear when I drink absinthe.
Nor is it natural that I should be taken out of bed at night if I have
spoken evil about any one in the day. But in all these dealings there
is revealed a conscious, planning, all-knowing intelligence with a good
purpose. It is, however, difficult for me to obey it, for my experience
of so-called kindness and disinterestedness have been unfortunate.
Meanwhile it has fashioned a regular system of signalling, which I
begin to understand, and whose correctness I have proved.

Thus, for six weeks I had made no chemical experiments, and there had
been to smoke in the room. One morning I took out my apparatus for
producing gold and prepared the chemical baths. Immediately the room
filled with smoke; it rose from the ground, from behind the mantelpiece
mirror, everywhere. When I summoned the landlord, he declared it was
incomprehensible, because it was coal smoke, and coals were not used
in the house at all! This meant that I was not to make experiments in
alchemy.

The wooden concertina, mentioned above, betokens peace, for I have
noticed when it is absent there is always trouble. A whimpering child's
voice, which is often heard in the chimney and cannot be accounted
for on material grounds, signifies "You must be industrious," and,
in addition, "You must write this book and not occupy yourself with
another."

If I am rebellious in thoughts, words, or writing, or approach improper
subjects, I hear a deep base note as though it came from an organ or
the trunk of an elephant when he trumpets and is angry.

I mention two proofs which show that these are not mere subjective
impressions on my part. The American, the French poet, and I, were
dining at the "Place de la Bastille." The conversation for a couple of
hours had turned upon art and literature, when, during dessert, the
American proceeded to tell some stories of bachelor life. Immediately
there was heard in the wall the trumpeting of an elephant. I made as
though I heard nothing, but my companions noticed it, and changed
the topic of their talk with a certain vexation. Another time I was
breakfasting with a Swede in quite another café. Towards the end of the
dessert he talked about Huysmans' La Bas and was proceeding to describe
the Black Mass. Immediately there was the sound of a trumpet, but this
time in the middle of the hall, which was empty.

"What was that?" he asked, breaking of.

I did not answer, and he continued the terrible description. Again
there was the sound of a trumpet, so powerful this time that the
narrator stopped short, first poured out a wineglass, upset the whole
of the creamjug over his clothes, and quitted the topic which annoyed
me.


[1] An earlier work by Strindberg.

[2] Wagner.

[3] Strindberg had been prosecuted for assailing the doctrine of the
Holy Communion; he was acquitted, and the medal in question seems to
have been struck on the occasion.

[4] One of Strindberg's autobiographical works is called _Inferno_.



NOTE


As the reader has probably perceived, the second part of this
book, called "Wrestling Jacob," is an attempt to give a symbolical
description of the religious struggles of the author, and as such it
is a failure. Therefore it has only remained a fragment, and, like
all religious crises, has ended in a chaos. The inference seems to
be that all investigation of the secrets of Providence, like all
attempts to take heaven by storm, are struck with confusion, and that
every attempt to approach religion by the way of argument leads to
absurdities. The reason is that religion like science begins with
axioms, whose peculiarity is that they do not need to be proved, and
_cannot_ be proved, so that when we try to prove self-evident necessary
pre-suppositions we fall into absurdities.

When the author, in 1894, gave up his scepticism, which threatened to
make havoc of the whole of his intellectual life, and began to place
himself experimentally at the stand-point of a believer, there opened
to him a new spiritual life, which is described in the _Inferno_ and
in these _Legends_. As time went on, and the author had given up all
resistance, he found himself attacked by influences and powers which
threatened to destroy him. Feeling himself sinking, he clutched at
lighter objects which might keep him afloat; but these also began to
give way, and it was only a question of time when he would perish.
At such moments the terror of the drowning man takes a straw for a
support, and then the faith, to which he is compelled, lifts him out of
the waves in which he is sinking, so that he can walk upon the water.
Credo quia absurdum. I believe, because the absurdity which reasoning
leads to, shows me that I was trying to prove an axiom. And thus we are
linked to what is above us.





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