The Detours
Victor Endersby

I quitted this profitless toil, and said, I will seek a guide, a Man of Wisdom: there must be such: that will point the way to the Lost Land. Then I saw a House of dark Red Stone, and a Man arrayed in a Crimson Robe who stood guard upon its door. The Man bore a staff of that sacred wood which My Lost Brothers call Authority; and he raised it high as I spoke to him, and told him of my need. He smiled, and said: “Have hope, my son! Behold thou hast found thy guide, for I hold the pass to the Lost Land of Knowledge, and I guard the Well of Truth.”

He placed a Crimson Veil on my head, and led me into the house, and down a steep stairway deep into the bowels of the earth: and we came into a vast cavern where shadows clustered thickly, and the ground underfoot was a noisome morass overgrown with pale lichens and evil weeds. “This is the Land of Knowledge,” said my guide, “and yonder lieth the Well of Truth.”

I waded out through the dank morass, and drank of the Pool that I found in its midst; but the water was foul with mud and slime, and my thirst was not assuaged.

Then the Voice of my unseen Father spoke clearly in my ear: “Seek with Strong Heart, and seize with Strong Hand, my son,” it said: and I rose up and went forth from the House of Red, and set my face towards the Desert.

Hunger, and thirst, and wariness assailed me as I quested; and I looked for a strong and kindly hand to aid me on my way: and I came to a House of rich Purple Stone, and craved help of the Man that guarded its door. The Man was clad in a Purple Robe, and held on high a tall staff of Authority. “Thou art wise to have sought my aid,” he replied, “for I am the Guardian of Truth and Knowledge.”

He wrapped me around with a Purple Veil, and led me to the door of a darksome vault; then pointed forward with his staff, and commanded my movements, saying: “Take thou seven steps forward, then backward take thee. Take seven steps to thy right hand, and bow at each step thou takest. The Gates of Knowledge are low, very low, so bow thou deeply, very deeply. Retrace thy steps again, and act as thou didst before; then take four steps backward, and kneel upon the floor.”

I did as he commanded, then rose, and gazed around; and I saw though dimly through my Veil, a vast space girt about with trees. The ground was bright with gorgeous flowers, and a sparkling fountain played before me. I rushed to the fountain, and drank a great draught of its waters; then I knew that the draught was not water, but warm spice-charged wine. I cast the Veil from my head, and looked about me again; and I saw that the sword, and the flowers, and the trees were naught but painted pictures.

Then I remembered my Father’s commands, and the Garden, and the Pool, and the trees, and the fruit; and I went out from the House of Purple, and faced the Desert alone.

Again my heart misgave me, and strength deserted my limbs, and I looked for some wise and powerful guide to aid my faltering steps. And I came to a House of Crystal shining with many jewels, and begged the man who stood by its door to help me upon my way. The Man was robed in a gorgeous robe of many splendid colours; and he waved on me with a milk-white want of the sacred Tree, Authority: “My son, come within and rest,” he said, and took me by the hand. “I ask no service but that thou shouldst wear the garments that I shall give thee.”

He clothed me in brilliant robes, and shaded my eyes with strange-hued crystals; then he led me gently forward, and left me alone in a wondrous garden. The place was strange and lovely, and filled with a changeful mystery: endless vistas of trees and flowers extended on every hand. Among the trees were numberless lakes shining in mysty beauty; and I leaped towards one with joyful heart to slake my thirst in its waters.

Then I fell to earth, bruised and stunned, for a cold, hard barrier had risen before my feet, and stayed them in mid-career; the glorious landscape was shattered: nothing appeared about me, but a chaos of shifting colours, and vast mocking forms. I arose, and tore the robe from my body and cast the crystals in wrath from my eyes; and I saw that I stood in a narrow courtyard with walls all hung with mirrors. The lovely vistas of waving trees were naught but tangled sickly weeds. The myriad shining lakes were but some shallow stagnant pools.

Once again my Father’s Voice spoke clearly in my ear: “face the Desert with Strong Heart, my son.” it said. “Seize thou the Lost Kingdom with thy Strong Hand, for thus, and thus only wilt thou gain Kingship.”

Then I went forth into the Desert, and set my Heart to conquer it, asking no longer aid from any man. I turned my face from the ways of men, and my eyes from their foolish works. I traveled the Desert Sands alone until hunger had melted my flesh, and thirst had dried up the springs of my life, and death walked close behind me, his hand outstretched to seize me. But his fingers failed to grasp me, though many times they touched me, for, again and again, though I fainted and fell, yet again and again I did rise. Again and again in the dews of the night, in a trickle amid the burning sands, in the hollow heart of the Desert Flower I found enough pure cold water to send me forward refreshed.

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From Sayings of the Ancient One, P.G. Bowen. Title is ours. [V.E.]

Last Update : January 2009
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