A Full Moon Tale for the Hunter’s Moon
For many thousands of years of the sun, the people did not fear death. They were not callous or evil. They grieved for lost loves and shed many tears at eternal partings. Nor were they blind. They knew that each breath led on to a last gasp. Death was bound with life and life with death. But there was nothing to fear, save perhaps a mild anxiety for what might be left undone when death came to call. But that was not fear. No, they did not fear death for many thousands of years.
And it was very good.
But one day a woman appeared among them. She was very tall and had fiery eyes. She spoke to the people in a commanding voice, rich and profound as the sea. She told them of a kernel of eternal essence harbored in their mortal flesh. She told them of the spirit world where essence is bred and nurtured. She told them that, being eternal, the essence does not die with the body but lives forever. Therefore, said she, grief should be put away at death, for separation was only seeming. The spirit of loved ones would always be near. She told them all these things. And then she vanished into the crowd.
Such greatness was there in the strange woman’s voice and manner that her words remained graven in many hearts. The people pondered the meaning of this essence, this spirit. They considered the appearance of truth in the tall woman’s fiery eyes. It did, indeed, seem that life was not merely confined to the solid world. Else how was love explained? Grief? Whence came insight or ideas? From what material were words and thoughts molded? The woman’s image of a spirit realm filled up and overflowing with essence did seem to answer those questions.
And, too, their hearts desired that it should be so. For then even the pain of death was removed. There were no eternal partings only those of base flesh. The pure essence of every being would be always and would be always in the exalted realm of the spirit. How entrancing the idea was!
So thus in mind and heart the people found truth in the great woman’s word. The spirit became truth. They knew as surely as they knew the dawn that death did not claim the being, merely the body. Great comfort did they take in this truth. For now death was neither to be feared nor foreboded. True essence would abide forever in bliss at that final breath.
There was much good in this. The people lived in great happiness. No shadow fell on their hearts. They had nothing to lose at death and perfection beyond time to hope against. Perhaps, they can be forgiven if they accorded this bodily existence somewhat less sanctity than had been their wont, so desirous were they to reach the spirit world where all things were pure always.
And it was good.
So life went on anew for many thousands of years of the sun. But one day a strange man came among them. This stranger was reverend and wise, bent and gnarled as an ancient oak on the cliff bare to the ocean’s salt breath. He came down amongst them leaning on a staff and immediately began to declaim in a soft, wavering voice that, nevertheless, held his audience enthralled. He told them that he had seen the spirit world, that it was indeed perfection unimaginable, that it was the eternal home of one vast essence of whom all living things were but a part. Each solitary, isolated being would, at the last, be united, absorbed into this undying whole, this perfect one. This sacred union was the destiny, birthright and completion of every living being. But, he told them, their eyes were clouded.
To be taken into the perfect one a spirit must prove itself ready, he said. He told them that spirits may travel many paths over and over in this solid world before they found the true path to perfection. One test or many, he said, may be laid in the path, and the true way to perfection, he said, was over these obstacles. In this manner, he said, a spirit may live many different lives before leaving this solid world to join the one forever. These many things he said unto them. And then, he, too, vanished into the crowd.
Many people wondered at the old man’s word. Once again, it seemed logical truth. All among them had known one, two, many beings that seemed unfit for eternal perfection. Perhaps, one was too lowly, crawling through life in the dust. Perhaps, another was too evil, coveting what was not due, even harming others willfully. Not a few of them had thought before the old man appeared that it was vaguely unfair that the good and the bad, the noble and the mean should all share the same eternal blessedness. But always before these thoughts had been shut away in their hearts as ungratefulness. Now the inequity was brought out for inspection and explanation. And the old man’s word seemed just to all but a very few.
And, too, the people desired it to be truth in their hearts. To be a separate, solitary being eternally was, at times, onerous. To share thoughts, desires perfectly was the secret unrequited longing of many. They had hoped that in the realm of the spirit whence came thought, desire and dream such longing would be fulfilled. But they saw now that it could as well be eternal singularity that death ushered in . That was such bitterness that it darkened paradise in their hearts were it so. And so they turned with joy to the word of the old man.
But acceptance did not come without cost. For some few the specter arose in their hearts that their spirits might never find the true path to this divine one. Some sank in despair into wretchedness. Without eternal hope they sought pleasure, however vile, in this solid world as they might.
Others saw that the old man’s word entailed much that was left unsaid. In particular, the people wondered what constituted worthy behavior of the spirit. There were obvious acts deemed of low estate. Violence, deception, hate. Certainly, these would never win acceptance into the eternal one. But what of thoughts not acted upon? What of involuntary misfortunes? What of ignorance? What of perpetuating abominable crimes against kin in new incarnation? Indeed, if all beings were part of the one, was it not sin to eat? For all eating entailed some loss of life to sustain life. What if the loss were premature? Nourishing this worldly body could then condemn an innocent spirit to yet another life of struggle. But abstinence from sustenance, was that not a form of violence unto the self?
The longer the people wondered the greater became their alarm. So many irreconcilable prohibitions did they conceive. If this, then that was harm. But if that, then this was as bad. Such was their discomfort that, for the first time in the memory of the people, laws were made. The wisest among them met in seclusion and discussed the old man’s word and all its implications for a long while, while in the world life foundered for mere dread of ignorance. While the law took form in stately white towers, the people wandered witless, neither eating nor drinking part of any living thing, but gathering discarded nuts and drinking water. The people abstained from all industry lest, unknowing, they did violence to the one.
When the wise ones came down from the towers to proclaim the law there was exhalation of relief. Now that the wise ones had deemed the path to eternity, the people were assured of happiness. With joy they took up and followed the law, all difficulties resolved. There were, indeed, new forbidden fruits, acts, thoughts, as had never been before. But the people adhered to this new law without question in their quest for the perfect communion. That law never was in the past was due to ignorance not impropriety, they said, and they saw the perfection of this enlightened path at once. Gaily they took up the yoke of law and resumed life in glory only slightly dimmed. For the law was the path to follow to a perfect end, and even were one to stumble, still, it is but to this world that the spirit will return to try more perfectly to walk to the eternal one. In death was there still naught to fear.
And it was good.
Ah, but now time began to quicken its pace. For each life was now but one walk along the path to eternity. How life was made short by such a notion! And soon enough a man appeared among them, once again. This man, like the great woman who came to them so long ago, was very tall and mighty with burning eyes and a booming voice like a vast bell. His very presence commanded reverence and admiration.
But his words were dark. He told them of the anger of the one. The One, he said. The mighty One was displeased with the world because, he said with flashing eyes, the world was neglectful of the One. But think, he proclaimed, this One is your nourishment and creation, and what honor do you accord the One? What offerings and worship have you laid down? What have you made in gratefulness and awe to give to the very Root of your spirit? Where are your temples? Where are your songs? Where are the freely given fruits of your labor? The One desires worship, he said in the voice of a death knell. The One requires worship. And for those who refuse, eternal punishment awaits. Indeed, said he, I can see at your feet the path to eternal isolation, eternal desolation, eternal misery and destruction for the spirit, that such filth will never contaminate the Great and Pure One. This he proclaimed. Terrible and thunderous were his words. And he vanished.
The people, even the wisest among them, were struck through with fear. They did not want this new truth, but they saw that truth it was. How could the Creator not desire thanks? Even the least work done in this world garnered gratefulness. Was not the honor due to the Great One all that much greater? Oh, how great was their terror!
No, they did not want to know this new truth, but fear seared it in their hearts. The great messenger, himself, embodied truth, great and terrible as truth can be. They deemed him a very savior for shining light on their blackest error. Oh, how many now suffered without hope for all eternity! And the people shuddered; their feet were traveling to that same destination. Only mercy had averted their eternal downfall.
But not all the people trembled. There were very many happy to suffer in some nebulous eternity if pleasure in this world was the price. No, not every spirit hastened to accord the One worship. Though temples and orders sprang out of the earth, out of the very sweat of terror, though great gifts were offered to the One in hopes of expiating the past, there were many who thought to increase their worldly prosperity through this new mania of fear. Yes, thought they, the people will sell their very souls, destroy their brothers, devour their children in this life in order that they are assured happiness in the next. Yes! And they smiled with scorn.
Still others thought the messenger’s word too horridly cruel for truth. Were there not many thousands of years of the sun before he appeared? What of all those innocently ignorant souls? Were they all to suffer eternal damnation merely for the sin of untimely birth? No, perfection, they said, would brook no such vindictiveness, such petty willfulness as to damn millions for not knowing fear of the one’s name. Cruelty could be no part of the perfect union, for what part could revolt against the whole to cause such misery within itself? Was the hand to pluck out and crush the eye?
But then, thought they, then the messenger was untrue. As mighty and assured were his words, they were false. Was he merely lying? No, he gave every appearance of believing his word, truly believing his word was their only salvation. Was he mad? If madness, why did wise men now shudder? Madness is not compelling. No, the logical weight of his word negated madness. And so, these of the people were sorrowfully perplexed.
Some few shrugged and said that such imperfect worldly beings as they were were incapable of comprehending the ineffable eternal spirit. Such apparent deviation would be made straight at the final end. And these few lived lives of humble shrugging. Ignorant we are, they said, ignorant of so much. How are we to understand the One? But most of those who had deemed the messenger false were despondent. His incorrectness clouded so much of the spirit world. Indeed, thought they, if even he was wrong, even he, could not the others have been wrong as well? Could it be that there is no eternal communion, no spirit world at all? Could it be that we are soulless, chance collections of mortal flesh?
And so, with this belief or that, fear of death fell upon the world. Ever anxious were the believers in the Mighty One, hoping they had done good enough in this life to avert damnation. Hoping against inadvertent offense. Praying in tears to be found worthy, or if not worthy, to be judged with grace. Ever the disbelievers who chose worldly pleasure sought to sew discord; lying messengers they became. Leering while taking payments toward salvation. Claiming to be the only true path, so that millions died defending their untruth. Sneering at belief inwardly while presenting the image of devotion to be emulated. And ever those who had questioned the messenger wondered in despair. Wondered if damnation awaited them. Wondered if no salvation was necessary for a world without souls. Wondered if cold chance governed all existence.
Yes, from the first hour that god was created, the people have lived in an enveloping fear of death. For never could their stained hearts revert to the days before words opened their eyes, destroying innocence forever. The days before spirit. Before eternity. Before god. The days when death had been a source of grief. Yes, grief, but never fear. And life was never truly and purely good again.
Author’s Note: I found this while cleaning up old files. Sort of thought it went well with my current mood.
©Elizabeth Anker 2022