Here is a wonderful story that Vivian Godfrey and Leon Barcynski (Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips) wrote many years ago, though it has remained unpublished save for a brief period when it was available from www.aurumsolis.co.uk in 2002. It is a valuable and entertaining study in working with god-forces and is here reproduced by permission of the copyright holder.
Denning & Phillips
Copyright © 2002 by Osborne Phillips
Most of Ralph Rymer’s hobbies were unusual. One of them was virtually unique. To collect experiences of a particular kind, rather than material objects, is not in itself strange. Many men who have travelled to any extent, have collected experiences of the food, or the drink, or the women of the various lands they have visited; while the spectator’s passion for his favourite sport or entertainment is frequently rooted similarly in the impulse of the collector. Ralph Rymer’s interest was on a different level from any of these. He collected experiences of divinity.
The origins of this hobby lay in his student years, although a simpler concern with experimental religion could be traced back some years further, to an incident in his boyhood. When he was about eleven, it befell one Sunday that both parents were laid up by an epidemic of influenza, and Ralph was made responsible for the safe conduct to church and back of himself and of his young brother Willie. This at once struck Ralph as an excellent chance to escape the mild monotones of the local minister, and to walk three miles over to Blairston to hear the Reverend Charles Murray, of whose fiery preaching and blood-curdling threats of hell fire Ralph’s schoolmates had boasted. The expedition turned out badly.
To begin with, the awe-inspiring thunderer himself lay under the power of the epidemic, and Ralph and Willie had to spend a dreary hour studying the pulpit manner of a nervous and inaudible substitute. Then the boys were recognised by a friend of the family, and were afterwards hauled home in disgrace. Their father took the news badly. The Rymers were by way of being pillars of their own parish: besides, father was feeling thoroughly ill, and perhaps his tongue was loosened by both sickness and medicines to say more than he otherwise would have done. At all events, so as to make Ralph understand the heinousness of his action, his parents charged him with the sin of promiscuous hearing. It was an old-fashioned phrase even then, and Ralph had never previously heard it. He stared at his father in speechless astonishment, and was evidently deeply impressed.
It had, as a matter of fact, sparked off a concealed powder-train in his soul. The sin of promiscuous hearing, conferred upon him for so small a matter as a single visit to another church of his own denomination! He was neither cowed nor resentful: he was silenced by the sheer splendour of the inner vision that opened before him. This deed, which he had not previously considered objectively, had proved to have a name and a place in the adult world, and he perceived he had touched only the fringe of it.
He could pursue it further as he grew older, and as opportunity might serve. He could visit church and chapel, he could promiscuously hear bishop and elder and lay-preacher: he might even — dared it be thought — in some future time step over the threshold into the fragrant gloom of that Roman establishment of the crossed keys, past which he was now always hurried with clutched shoulder and averted face. He was on the whole a docile boy: but those few words had done for him what a glimpse of the sea, or the sound of a bugle, have done for others. His life’s interest began to show its shape.
As the next years passed, he did all that he at first intended, and more. The view widened: before he left school he had avidly read every book he could buy, beg or borrow on every religious belief and practice whose name became known to him. Yet his researches were free from any taint of morbid anxiety, fear or guilt. It did not even occur to him to question why these subjects held such a fascination for him. He read with delight of the blood-sacrifices offered to Kali, and with equal delight he read of the benign austerity of the Buddhist monks. Nevertheless, and perhaps wisely, he regarded this great and absorbing interest in religious matters as a hobby only. When he went up to university his principal subject was the Norman Conquest of England.
During his last year at school, an event of another kind had taken place, whose importance in his life he completely underestimated at the time. A family of Canadian cousins, whom he had never seen and of whom he had only intermittently heard, were coming over on a holiday visit that was to include not only Scotland but also London and Paris. It was tentatively thought that they might wish to take Ralph and Willie back with them for a brief sightseeing tour of Canada. Ralph had little time for daydreaming that year, however, and had scarcely given thought to the prospect when news came that the entire visiting party was lost, with most of the other passengers, in an air crash on the way over.
It shocked him into some precocious reflections on the nature of death, but it was not to be supposed that he would be overcome by grief at the fate of these unknown and unseen relatives. If his elders saw further at that time into the results of the disaster, they held their peace.
A few years later, however, when Ralph had just taken his M.A., the wires hummed again with news. Far away in British Columbia an eighty-year-old bachelor had breathed his last, and Mrs. Rymer, the mother of Ralph and Willie, came into a timber-fortune that she had never desired nor counted upon. There were no doubts or difficulties about the inheritance, and twelve months later the lawyers let her have the money. She and her husband were already enjoying a prosperous retirement; they carved out a fragment of the fortune to provide themselves with a few extra degrees of comfort, then divided the bulk between their sons. To Willie the gift made a great difference, enabling him to fulfil his real ambitions in life, but in Ralph’s career no alteration could immediately be seen. Only, when the bank had notified him that the necessary arrangements were complete and the funds available, Ralph took out his list of wanted books, marked off fifty titles, and handed them in at the university bookshop. In due course the books arrived, some shrouded in unmarked dust jackets, some revealed in glossy cloth and sparkling gold. He surveyed them lovingly, and really began to believe in his fortune. He bought a car, and a good camera.
Ralph took little further advantage of his wealth for the time being, however: he was going on well towards a Ph.D., which he really wanted, and he did not mean to be deflected. He was preparing a thesis on “Bishop and Abbot: their respective rights in the eleventh and twelfth centuries”, and now, for instance, he could travel without hesitation to examine any local records he might need. If he found any problems in the crabbed and often damaged manuscripts that concerned him, he obtained permission to photograph the text. Then, since this was a few years before the coming of transparency film, he had the pictures transferred to slides. These he projected upon a plain wall of his study, so that he could sit looking at the magnified images — sometimes turning over in his mind the circumstances of the writing, sometimes considering merely the pen-strokes — until understanding dawned. Thus he solved several minor puzzles that had hitherto baffled the authorities.
These details are not intended to make up a biography: they merely serve to indicate the force and originality of Ralph’s mind.
Gradually, however, Ralph developed something of a hobby; he began making a small collection of ritual objects. Despite the breadth of the field envisaged, this collection for various reasons did not develop to any great extent. Ralph felt he could spare little leisure to visit auction sales; also, none but the most interesting examples appealed to him; and, again, the pleasure which he would otherwise have felt in possessing these beautiful or strange pieces was sometimes a little marred by the knowledge that he could probably as a last resort outbid any competitor. When the historic Alstead chalice came under the hammer, for example, Ralph found himself bidding against a scholarly-looking man in a clerical collar on the one hand, and, on the other, a bearer of the unmistakeable Alstead nose. He reflected that most likely either of these rivals had a better right to the seventeenth-century cup than he, and withdrew forthwith from the bidding. On another occasion, however, when a magnificent Tibetan prayer-wheel was on the market, he was smitten by no such impulse to give up the quarry.
His attention had been drawn to the sale in Edinburgh of the library and contents of a certain large old house. Looking through a catalogue of the books he came to the conclusion that the late owner had had a deep interest in some aspects of European history that the next-of-kin very evidently did not share. There was nothing that would be of any use with regard to Ralph’s thesis, but there were a number of books on alchemy and on the more arcane aspects of Renaissance thought. He had no real business with such things at the present; still, there might be something of interest for the future. He went along.
In the event, the article of greatest interest to him was none of the books, although he bought two or three antiquarian volumes: it was a curious little rod, which the auctioneer hesitantly called ‘a wand designed perhaps for a Master of Ceremonies’, but which Ralph himself could not ascribe to any function whatsoever. It was less than a foot long and quite slender. The tip was of lustrous gold, shaped to imitate a group of flames: this part was probably hollow, as its weight did not unbalance the whole. The shaft was of burnished copper, its sultry gleam clashing provocatively with the yellow metal. The base of the shaft was set in a rim of gold, whose lower face formed the setting for a superb and unexpected green peridot. The workmanship throughout was simple, direct and impeccable. It was evidently of no great age; but Ralph was at once determined to possess it and to learn if possible its purpose. There was at first quite a sprinkling of bidders for it, but one by one they dropped out, and soon he was engaged in a straight duel with a good-humoured but very resolute gentleman who might, Ralph thought, have been an advocate. When finally Ralph secured the wand, the other admitted defeat with a positively genial smile, and it occurred to Ralph that it might not be amiss to ask this man if he knew anything of the wand’s history or significance. Thus it was that presently he and his new acquaintance were lunching together at a nearby restaurant. The conversation, however, did not go exactly as Ralph had planned.
The other introduced himself as Alan Muir: he was indeed of the legal profession. He asked a few casual questions about the books which Ralph had bought, congratulated him on acquiring the wand, and disclaimed any great regret over it on his own account, saying that, to the contrary, it was a pleasure to meet someone of kindred interests. If he wanted to discover how much Ralph himself knew about the wand, he certainly achieved this without difficulty; but then the topic was suddenly dropped, and without clearly knowing how it had come about, Ralph realised that an exhilarating discussion had developed on his favourite subject: other people’s religious beliefs. Muir took an equally lively part in this. Probably Ralph somewhat outdid him in detailed information; but Muir, without stating his own viewpoint exactly, seemed to have a private philosophy which enabled him to take in, to discuss and even to enlarge upon, the basic principles of all that Ralph put forward. Neither talker could spare unlimited time from his other occupations; but during the next few months, though they met seldom, they established a friendship. When they had known one another for about a year, Ralph heard for the first time of the Order of the Light of Araboth, and learnt that Alan Muir was a member of it.
The Order of the Light of Araboth, although itself successfully avoiding publicity, was of the family and tradition of the Order of the Golden Dawn, that remarkable venture which was inaugurated in the nineteenth century for the practice of ceremonial magic, in which it developed its own distinctive methods. Ralph knew little more of occult matters than could be gleaned from a juvenile reading of Burns, Scott and Tennyson, but he had a belief, or rather an ardent though scarcely-recognised wish to believe, that there was truth behind all the folklore and fable; and this wish Alan Muir now brought out into the daylight.
“There is truth indeed in these things, and behind them stands a greater truth than you have dreamed,” he declared. “Long study makes the brain tired, but does not weary the mind. Have you never sat late at night grappling with some problem, well knowing that if the physical brain were not exhausted, you were on the verge of seeing the answer?”
Ralph acknowledged that he had met with this experience.
“The mind is never exhausted,” his friend continued. “The mind is capable of all knowledge and of all power. It cannot progress, however, as long as it attaches itself wholly to the physical brain and measures its limits thereby; but what if instead it finds and attaches itself to the Divine Spark within? What then shall be the measure of its capacity?”
Ralph pondered upon this, and upon other matters that Muir brought to his attention; and in consequence, he was soon afterwards received as a neophyte into the Order of the Light of Araboth. It was not with this as it had been with other religious or philosophic bodies that he had investigated: he could pledge himself to this Order with entire sincerity. He knew, just as he had known when the possibility of a university career was first broached to him, or just as he had known when he first set eyes upon the little wand, that out of the manifold throngs of tangible and intangible objects of desire in the world, here was something which he most truly coveted as his own.
He had anticipated that his period as a neophyte in the Order would be occupied largely with quite mundane branches of study: he had not anticipated that besides these he would be taught to sit, stand, walk, breathe and speak. He was tall and rather thin, and as regards athletics he had always escaped lightly by reason of being a good natural sprinter: the Brother who was now in charge of him noticed, however, that this had done nothing to combat an incipient scholarly stoop, and gave him the choice between fencing and archery as a further activity. Ralph found that he could in fact pay a useful amount of attention to fencing, which he chose, without impairing either his historical or his occult studies. Moreover, as the latter became progressively less mundane, and certain mental exercises were given to him, he kept careful watch to assure himself that no lessening of his powers of attention, will or memory followed their use. He perceived nothing of the sort; and the Order of the Light of Araboth seemed capable of fulfilling his every aspiration as he rose from grade to grade, until he took one more step forward and was placed under the personal direction of one of the senior members of the Order, Brother Usque Ad Finem.
It took Ralph a little while to realise that something had gone wrong, and to identify the cause of it. Never since he was about fifteen had he found any form of learning tedious, but he was becoming thoroughly bored now, and bored with what must surely be, in its own right, the most interesting and stimulating of all subjects. The fault, he soon saw, lay mainly in Brother Usque’s lack of originality.
In everything Usque was a faithful and meticulous copier of various predecessors, and he was hoping to fashion Ralph into such another. Everything was taught by rote, where possible. If Brother Usque gave a reason for anything, he gave the most pedestrian reason conceivable, and then explained it as fully as if it were strange and obscure.
It was the custom for members of the Light of Araboth, as of some other magical Orders, to choose a word or a phrase in one of the ancient tongues as a motto and name for themselves. Above all such names Brother Usque had admired Aleister Crowley’s famous and superb Perdurabo — ‘I will endure to the end’ — and intended his own name, Usque Ad Finem, as an imitation of it: though ‘Even unto the end’ lacked both the terseness and the scope of Crowley’s original. Everyone shortened the name down to Usque. Ralph caught himself mentally calling the adept ‘Brother Usque Ad Nauseam’, though of course he did not mention this to anyone.
It was clear that Brother Usque would never in his life scale the heights of the arcana, he would never found his own Order nor give his name to any innovation: yet in his measure he was a real adept. Granted, Ralph was not at that time able to see or to comprehend the inward distinction of spirit which truly made his teacher an adept, and which would have been enough to settle the question even had Usque never outwardly done anything remarkable in all his days; but in fact Usque did, to Ralph’s knowledge, do several remarkable things, although that which most impressed the pupil was not the greatest of them.
One night, Ralph had gone to bed as usual and was either on the point of dozing off or had just done so, when he was startled to see Brother Usque come in through the door of the room. If the adept had opened the door and had entered in the normal way, it would still have been startling enough; the rules and customs of the Order would have entirely precluded such a visit, even apart from the fact that Brother Usque was attired in a hooded robe, not in outdoor clothes. And there was the question of ordinary security: how or why had Usque entered the house?
All these points Ralph slowly took in, with, finally, the fact that his visitor had entered literally through the door itself, without opening it, and was undoubtedly an astral presence rather than a physical one. The hood concealed the face rather effectively, but there could be no doubt of the wearer’s identity: the stature, the gait, the very feeling of the presence was Brother Usque’s. The attire, Ralph recognised, was in every detail that prescribed by the Order of the Light of Araboth for projected figures of this sort. Surrounded by an aura of bluish light, the figure glided slowly towards Ralph’s bed, paused, made one of the recognition signs of the Light of Araboth, and then said quite distinctly, “I am he whom in your heart you call Brother Usque Ad Nauseam.” Ralph was abashed, but the other evidently had no wish to say more about this; standing at Ralph’s bedside the figure began speaking at once about other matters.
“A book is about to be published”, it said. “It is a novel, and the title is somewhat melodramatic, so you might overlook it; but it is a notable piece of work, and is particularly suited to you at this present time. If you read it attentively it will give you, by proxy, the sensation of being submerged in the group-mind of an earlier culture than ours.” The figure of Usque then proceeded to give Ralph further details of the work.
Ralph fell into a deep sleep, and could not recall, next morning, whether he had actually seen the figure of Brother Usque take its leave or not; but the essentials of the conversation were fixed in his mind. Had it all been a dream?
On reflection, Ralph felt that the incident had been a real test of his psychic perception, his confidence both in Usque and in himself. He went that day to order the book, and found that, as Usque had said, it was about to be published. Copies had, in fact, not yet arrived. Ralph received one of the first available and read it carefully, taking particular notice of all the points which Usque had indicated.
When, after the next Light of Araboth Lodge meeting, some of the members were talking about various matters, Usque suddenly asked if anyone had read that particular book. Ralph of course replied that he had. A brief discussion of it followed, in which Ralph came off well, and Usque, with a particular emphasis, called him a very perceptive reader. When the other talkers had drifted off, Ralph felt in conscience bound to say to Usque, “I think my knowledge of that book was due not so much to my perception as to yours.”
“Nonsense!” replied the adept gruffly, but his eyes twinkled. “And now I must catch my train.” Ralph knew the subject had been closed for all time.
Nevertheless, such incidents were not enough. Ralph looked back to his schooldays, to see how he had fought off boredom then, whenever it had menaced his ambition to learn. The trick had been, always to go a step ahead of the tedious stuff, or that which was being marred in the teaching, and to find for himself a patch of unsullied splendour in the more advanced work, to make it his own and to revel in it before the hands of pedagogy should be laid upon that too. To apply that method here would not be easy, but he considered it.
To begin with, it was not a matter simply of reading. Ceremonial magic is essentially something to do, not only something to study. For another thing, he was sworn to follow the methods and teachings of a particular system, and thus could not bring in anything extraneous. The possibilities of finding any scope for developing an individual line within this range seemed slender. Before long, however, he found what he was seeking: an open door, standing apparently unexplored, in the procedure known as The Evocation of God-forms.
The theory of this procedure, as explained by Brother Usque in response to Ralph’s questions, was quite interesting in itself. Mankind had in various lands and ages evolved for itself a number of gods and goddesses. To these deities were ascribed, for the most part, clear and definite forms, which the worshipers visualised, deliberately or otherwise, in prayer and meditation: usually, too, there would be images of the deities to aid the imagination and to perpetuate the traditional forms in their prescribed details. The occult teaching further stated that in the single essence of the Divine Mind there existed certain modes, or aspects, of which eight especially could become manifest to the human mind. Each of these eight had a definite character and activity, and the success of any cult had always depended upon the closeness with which its notions of deity had approximated to any of these aspects. The energy of the real aspect of deity then flowed into the imagined form created by the nation or tribe in question, so that a true channel of power was opened for them as long as they upheld their cult. When the cult ceased, the image ceased to have power, and might in time become impossible to revive; but in many cases, where worship had been long-lasting and the god-form corresponded closely to a reality, the restoration of the imagined form might recover the channel of power also. This was the basis of much magical practice of various kinds; but a further development existed, for which Ralph’s training had already largely prepared him.
From ancient times, techniques had existed by which the skilled magician could invoke a deity, not only as an exterior being: he could also invoke it through and upon himself; and while this condition lasted his words and acts would be truly performed in the name and in the power of that deity. This had been done in many lands by the especial priests of the local cults; hence oracles and wonders of all kinds. It was also done now by the adepts of the Light of Araboth, as by those of certain other Orders, to bring additional power into their work. The god-forms they evoked for this purpose were of course exactly prescribed by tradition.
Brother Usque then apprised Ralph of the techniques involved, most of which were already in some measure known to him, and charged him that by the time of their next meeting, Ralph should be able to perform certain simple gestures in the power and person of the Ancient Egyptian god Horus. The session closed with details.
Ralph hurried away to begin his new exercise with an enthusiasm he had not felt for some time. He made some preliminary readings and meditations upon the deity in question, and then followed Usque’s directions exactly. Before very long he met with a measure of success.
Upon the threshold of that success, he passed through a series of unfamiliar sensations which he fought down in rapid succession: he felt much too hot, he would sneeze, he would shout aloud; these impulses passed, and for another horrifying moment he feared that for the first time in his life he was going into a trance of some kind. He fortified himself by a deep breath, and this sensation also passed. He performed the prescribed gestures, but then instead of bringing the exercise at once to an end he paused.
He was the centre of an effulgence of warm light, beyond which he saw nothing. He felt vastly tall: he wondered whether his feet were still touching the ground. He glanced downwards, and his head seemed to give a quick bird-like jerk. Centuries of knowledge seemed present to him. Resolutely he completed the actions with which he was to close the experience. That was quite enough for a beginning.
Thinking it over afterwards, he wondered how it was possible to do such things without sharing the fate of Semele or of Phaethon. He soon saw, however, that besides the safeguards that had been given to him, there was another that was automatic. Until by practice he could bring the invoked power under the control of his will, it would in any case be limited according to his power to invoke it. He must simply take care not to over-develop the ability to invoke, until he was certain of the more difficult art of control. There was no doubt at all, however, but that this particular technique held an especial fascination for him.
In due time he learnt to invest himself in the mantle of each of the Egyptian deities proper to his training. The degree of identification required for Order work was, he found, in fact rather limited. When he had taken his Ph.D., he celebrated it by taking a holiday in Egypt, there to perform, in their native haunts so to speak, an assumption of each of the deities in question. He immediately discovered that this was a very different matter from carrying out the same procedure in the lodge-room of the Light of Araboth. He did not complete the series of assumptions, but that holiday remained an unforgettable splendour.
After this his hobby was in abeyance for some time, because in another part of his brain a book, born of his thesis, was clamouring to be prepared for publication. He kept up his membership of the Light of Araboth, but it was a couple of years before he could again give any great attention to it. He then progressed further and became a full inner member; and before many more years had elapsed the time came when the Order could only give him its blessing and bid him go and found a new Order of his own. This he did, although he never had nor sought for more than four or five members to work with him along his own lines.
No man, probably, can have all that he might wish in this world, and Ralph found in process of time the limits which were set for him; however, he came through well, with a chair at one of the major universities, several books to his credit and a medal or so for fencing. He was a confirmed bachelor, and his holiday travels sometimes amounted to real explorations.
The fascination of the god-forms, nevertheless, remained. They gave point and purpose to many of his expeditions. In Greece, when he visited the great shrines, it seemed to him that the gods were dead indeed; but when he gained the confidence of the people he learned otherwise. He was invited to a village wedding, where after the church ceremony there was a feast, and the feast was regarded as the true solemnisation. The Orthodox priest who had officiated in the morning was at the feast simply as an honoured guest, while the elders of the village called the names and poured the libations to Zeus and Hera, Eros, Hymen, Aphrodite and Dionysus.
A peaceful grotto was shown to him, in which he still found something of the oracular power of Apollo; and once by night he was called out to a strange and secret festival, at which none but men were present, and the flesh of the sacrifice was eaten raw. He uttered their words and was caught up into the ecstasy of the god of the feast, whose name was to him thereafter not a word to be spoken aloud.
Adventure and even danger attended several of his expeditions. To call upon oneself the power of Kali, for instance, is a task for the hardy, even in what may be called the controlled laboratory conditions of an Order temple: to do so in the precincts of one of her shrines in India is altogether another matter. One has to reckon with the possible presence of more than one passer-by who will be quite capable of seeing and proclaiming the astral manifestations of his Goddess, while others will see only an interloping European. Ralph felt he had, indeed, sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind, and was glad to escape with his life.
It was otherwise, however, when he visited Lapland and the Scandinavian countries. There it was speedily seen what manner of man he was, and he was cordially welcomed, but was hardly regarded as a rarity. In all the great snow-lands, he found, occult phenomena of every kind were much more frequent and were accepted accordingly: the astral world seemed closer upon the material world than it is elsewhere, as if, like the physical vapours of the air, it were in the colder regions more condensed. This comparison gave him much food for thought.
Of all the pantheons known to him, one which attracted him particularly was one of which, for many years, he had no opportunity to gain any profound understanding. The gods of Mexico drew him like a magnet, but many years passed before he felt he could give them due attention. At last the time came. He read and reflected deeply once more upon all that he could find concerning the religious systems of that land, and then set out with Brother Evoe, a Spanish-speaking friend who was a member of his own small group, for a month’s holiday there. They arrived at the beginning of April, and Brother Evoe had supposed, without questioning the matter, that Ralph, who to him was Brother Azoth, had chosen this season so as to avoid the midsummer heat; but he found with some dismay that this was not so, and that in fact the sun would reach its zenith towards the end of the month. Ralph had planned thus, in the hope that the ancient sun-festival of the land should form the climax of the holiday.
Meanwhile they travelled to various localities, absorbing the temper of the land, reconstructing the cults of earth mothers and maize goddesses, of moon-gods and rain-gods. With none of these, however, was Ralph’s principal concern, but with the terrible Aztec god of war and of the sun: Huitzilopochtli.
It was a fascination which could not completely be explained, but partly at least it was due to the double image presented by the god; for like Mithras, he was both the conqueror and the victim, both the slayer and the slain; like the Phoenix, he arose continually from the ashes of his dead self. The negative side of his character was little mentioned by the priests and worshippers who wished to see in him above all an invincible champion; but it was always subtly present, a hidden but haunting truth in the cruel Mexican climate which evokes life so richly and slays it so swiftly. It was to the site of one of the great shrines of Huitzilopochtli, therefore, where before the Spanish conquest the sun-festival had been kept with magnificent ritual, supreme acts of adoration and human sacrifice, that Ralph meant to journey for the crowning experience of his holiday.
As it happened, while making the final arrangements for that expedition, he heard of two Mexicans who would be going in the very direction that he had in mind. They lived on the shore of a lake near the site in question, and had been visiting relatives and making some bulk purchases in the city. Thus it came about that a week later, Ralph and his friend were travelling on mule-back along narrow, dusty tracks in a wilderness of rough grass and tangled shrubs, in company with Pedro, a practical and humorous man of about thirty-five, and his eldest son Carlos. Between them they had cheered the journey with songs, but there were long spells when the only sounds were the hoof-beats and the loud buzzing of numberless insects; and increasingly with each day Ralph’s eyes kept wandering to every hill, near or distant, which came into sight, lest it might be the one they sought. Hill after hill, however, proved to be either an entirely natural formation, or to have been terraced merely for agricultural purposes; some few were magnificent pyramids topped with masonry, shaped indeed for bygone cults, but lacking the starkly truncated summit which he knew existed at the shrine which was his goal.
As noon approached on the third day of their journey, the air quivered with the heat and they encamped for a few hours’ siesta; but in the late afternoon when they set out again, soon through the haze upon the horizon there arose the outline of a large hill, the top of which was unmistakably flattened. Pedro discerned it an instant before Ralph, and excitedly pointed out their landmark. Mentally estimating the distance, Ralph feared that the Mexican might feel obliged to offer the hospitality of his home for the night, so, through Brother Evoe, he told Pedro that he intended to camp at the foot of the mount so as to be able to climb to its summit at the first light: if Pedro and Carlos wished to leave them and hurry onward to their home, this would be quite understandable. The Mexicans, however, hesitated: perhaps they wanted to see the end of this mysterious affair. Pedro in any case presently said that if they went home that evening they would assuredly arrive when Maria had already barred the doors for the night. So it was settled: in due course the little party made its encampment in the sudden dusk, at the foot of the sacred mount of Huitzilopochtli.
Ralph slipped out at daybreak to begin his solitary climb to the summit of the rubble-strewn mount. Little as he had wished to disturb the others, they were awakened by his departure and found further rest impossible. Carlos boiled a pot and they breakfasted almost in silence. Afterwards, Pedro led the way to the lake and told Evoe all he could think of, about the animals and plants of the region, and the various creatures in the depths of the water. At an ordinary time it would have been most interesting, but Evoe, who had been told only a hint of what Ralph intended, was continually distracted by wondering what was taking place up there between the cloudless morning sky and the great parched stones of the platform. At last on his suggestion they moved to the foot of the sacred mount. There they waited.
In a sudden moment of insight, Evoe realised the truth of the matter. The evocation of god-forms. Yes, that was it! Brother Azoth had come to this place to call forth the power and presence of Huitzilopochtli, and was undoubtedly even now in mystic communion with the god in the very shrine of that deity’s ancient worship.
An exclamation from Carlos drew their attention to the tall figure silently descending the mount. Evoe’s hands chilled as he gazed. The figure seemed wrapped in the sunlight as in a cloak of shimmering gold, and he could not so much as see the head, so lost was it in dazzling light. For a brief instant, it seemed to Evoe that red and blue lightnings flashed in the radiant aura of the figure, and there was the faintest suggestion of an elaborate headdress of golden plumes. Then all was again enwrapped in a golden splendour.
Brother Azoth had indeed awakened the power of Huitzilopochtli; but although his magical work had evidently been completed, the splendour of the god was still with him as he descended the mount. Evoe kept saying to himself, “It is Brother Azoth, it is Brother Azoth,” until by sheer effort of will he overcame the brilliance and saw that the figure was Brother Azoth indeed. On Pedro, however, the effect was different. Seeming to forget his surroundings, he went forward a few paces towards the returning adept; then, coming to a large rounded boulder which bore vestiges of sculpture, a little to one side of his course, he went over to it and laid his body across it, face uppermost, his head towards the apparition, his arms extended in the universal gesture of those who accept death. Neither the Aztec nor the Spaniard in him would have evaded the sacrifice. What Carlos saw or understood of the scene remained untold: he fell to his knees beside Brother Evoe and uttered no sound although tears ran down his cheeks.
Evoe saw the golden apparition go to Pedro, and by gesture bid him stand. The hands of the glorious figure were raised in benediction. And then it was Brother Azoth, and it was Ralph. And once more the world was quite ordinary.
Ralph came over to Evoe and said simply, “Let us go.”
When the Mexicans had departed, the two companions consulted their map and worked out the first stage of their homeward journey. At last Evoe dared to ask, “How does it feel, to be worshipped as a god?”
Ralph’s smile was indescribable. “It was not I who was worshipped,” he replied.