Brother and Sister
Inga Sjostedt

Theosophical Forum, December, 1938.

In an age when men had lost their clear perception of realities and were encompassed by doubt and fear, there lived a brother and sister named Sindbert and Barbara. Descended from a noble line of ancestors they dwelt in the manner of nobles, and from their father they had inherited manifold possessions - a large estate and castle, cattle and horses and fowls and over-full granaries; and both would have been happy in their own way but for one thing, the fear of death. So steeped in shadow were the minds of the nation into which they had been born that the great mystery of death was spoken of in hushed voices and with terror in the eyes. The years glided past, and the seasons were regenerated; the leaves upon the trees died in the winter, and new leaves were born when spring returned - but though the people witnessed these events the fear of death lay heavily upon their hearts.

Sindbert saw the sadness in human lives, and out of the generosity of his being he distributed much of his wealth among the needy and the suffering. He provided for the old and for the orphaned, and to the lonely and despairing he gave wise counsel and kindly words of hope - for he loved his human brothers as though each were another himself.

With bitterness Barbara reproved him for his bountiful actions. Her heart was cold, and for her there was but one god to be worshiped, the self-sufficient `I.' She worshiped this god with all her mind, and in all ways gave him homage. There was no other lady in the city who was better dressed; none had such sparkling jewels, none a fairer countenance. Each day was to her a festival of self-indulgence, and wherever she went she left a record of broken hearts and bitterness. And she hated her brother for the beauty of his soul.

Illness came to Sindbert, and as he lay tossing on his couch his thoughts were troubled, for the fear of death had overtaken him. As his heart grew heavy with sorrow the door to his chamber opened, and a child came in. She was like the dawn, pure and radiant, and in her eyes there was god-like laughter. She took his hand and said, "Come! I walked in loneliness, but now you will be with me, and we shall be happy together." And Sindbert rose and forgot his illness, and followed the child. She took him through green glens and across grass-carpets made odorous with violets and lilies-of-the-valley; and they passed beside a lake, and rested on the shore and watched the tall rushes swaying in the sunlight, and it seemed to him that the world had never yet been so beautiful. He wanted to remain by the lake, but the child said, "Rise, for we must find your thoughts, for they are widely scattered, and are lost among the stars and in the waters of Space." And hand in hand they sought his thoughts, and walked among the stars, and rested in Space, and all he saw he recognised, although he thought these realms were new to his spirit. And then he said, remembering, "Dear child, is this journey not harmful to my fevered body? And if I do not rest, will death not overtake me?" And the child smiled and answered:

"Your body lies mouldering in the family vault, and your friends have dried their tears after your passing. What have you to do with death, when life has claimed you for her very own?"

And Sindbert was silent.

And a pestilence swept through the city where Barbara revelled in her pleasures, and she was seized with dread at the thought of death. And she wrapped a cloak of ermine about her shoulders and ran to an old hermit that lived in the vicinity of the castle. And she said to him, her beautiful face pale with terror:

"Holy father, help me, for I dread the death that comes with stealthy footsteps and brings agony and sleep to the unwary!"

And the hermit looked at her with sadness, and replied:

"Woman, why do you come to me? I cannot help you, for you are already dead, and your spirit has been a corpse these many years."

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