So it came to pass that I no longer went out at all from the presence of the goddess, save only to eat and to sleep. And the favour of her was restored to the people, so that all men were glad thereof.
For if any man murmured, he was slain incontinent, the people being mindful of the famine and the disease, and being minded to have no more of such, if it could by any means be avoided. They were therefore exceeding punctual with their gifts.
But I was daily more afraid, being in a great sweat of passion, of which I dared to speak to no man. Nor did I dare to speak even privily in mine own heart thereof, lest I should discover its nature. But I sent my favourite, the virgin Istarah (slim, pallid, and trembling as a young lotus in the West Wind), with my ring of office, to enquire of the old Magus of the well.
And he answered her by pointing upward to the sky and then downward to the earth. And I read this Oracle as if it were spoken "As above, so beneath." This came to me as I had flung myself in despair at the feet of my Lady, covering them with my tears; for by a certain manifest token I now knew that I had done a thing that was so dreadful that even now — these many thousand years hence — I dare hardly write it.
Yea, with the fierce passion of a beast, of a man, of a god, with my whole soul I loved her.
Even as I knew this by the manifest token the Veil burst into a devouring flame; it ate up the robes of my office, lapping them with its tongues of fire like a tigress lapping blood; yet withal it burnt me not, nor singed one hair.
Thus naked I fled away in fear, and in my madness slipped and fell into the pool of liquid silver, splashing it all over the hall; and even as I fled that rosy cataract of flame that wrapt me (from the Veil as it jetted) went out — went out —
The Veil was a dull web of gold, no more.
Then I crept fearfully to the feet of the goddess, and with my tears and kisses sought to wake her into life once more. But the Veil flamed not again; only a mist gathered about it and filled the temple, and hid all things from my eyes.
Now then came Istarah my favourite back with the ring and the message; and thinking that she brought bad news, I slit her lamb's-throat with the magic sickle, and her asp's-tongue I tore out with my hands, and threw it to the dogs and jackals.
Herein I erred sorely, for her news was good. Having reflected thereon, I perceived its import.
For since the Veil flamed always at my assumption, it was sure that I was in sympathy with that holy Veiled One.
If I were troubled, and knew not why; if my long peace were stirred — why then, so She!
"As above, so beneath!" For even as I, being man, sought to grasp godhead and crush it in my arms, so She, the pure essence, sought to manifest in form by love.
Yet I dared not repeat the ceremony at midnight.
Instead I lay prone, my arms outstretched in shame and pain, on the steps at her feet.
And lo! the Veil flamed. Then I knew that She too blamed Herself alike for her ardour and for her abstinence. Thus seven days I lay, never stirring; and all that time the Veil flamed subtly and softly, a steady bluish glow changing to green as my thought changed from melancholy to desire.
Then on the eight day I rose and left the shrine and clad myself in new robes, in robes of scarlet and gold, with a crown of vine and bay and laurel and cypress. Also I purified myself and proclaimed a banquet. And I made the priests and the citizens, exceeding drunken. Then I called the guard, and purged thoroughly the whole temple of all of them, charging the captain on his life to let no man pass within. So that I should be absolutely alone in the whole precincts of the temple.
Then like an old gray wolf I wandered round the outer court, lifting up my voice in a mournful howl. And an ululation as of one hundred thousand wolves answered me, yet deep and muffled, as though it came from the very bowels of the earth.
Then at the hour of midnight I entered again the shrine and performed the ritual.
As I went on I became inflamed with an infinite lust for the Infinite; and now I let it leap unchecked, a very lion. Even so the Veil glowed red as with some infernal fire. Now then I am come to the moment of the Assumption; but instead of sitting calm and cold, remote, aloof, I gather myself together, and spring madly at the Veil, catching it in my two hands. Now the Veil was of woven gold, three thousand twisted wires; a span thick! Yet I put out my whole force to tear it across; and (for she also put out her force) it rent with a roar as of earthquake. Blinded I was with the glory of her face; I should have fallen; but she caught me to her, and fixed her divine mouth on mine, eating me up with the light of her eyes. Her mouth moaned, her throat sobbed with love; her tongue thrust itself into me as a shaft of sunlight smites into the palm-groves; my robes fell shrivelled, and flesh to flesh we clung. Then in some strange way she gripped me body and soul, twining herself about me and within me even as Death that devoureth mortal man.
Still, still my being increased; my consciousness expanded until I was all Nature seen as one, felt as one, apprehended as one, formed by me, part of me, apart from me — all these things at one moment — and at the same time the ecstasy of love grew colossal, a tower to scale the stars, a sea to drown the sun …
I cannot write of this … but in the streets people gathered apples of gold that dropped from invisible boughs, and invisible porters poured out wine for all, strange wine that healed disease and old age, wine that, poured between the teeth of the dead (so long as the embalmer had not begun his work), brought them back from the dark kingdom to perfect health and youth.
As for me, I lay as one dead in the arms of the holy Veiled One — Veiled no more! — while she took her pleasure of me ten times, a thousand times. In that whirlwind of passion all my strength was as a straw in the simoom.
Yet I grew not weaker but stronger. Though my ribs cracked, I held firm. Presently indeed I stirred; it seemed as if her strength had come to me. Thus I forced back her head and thrust myself upon and into her even as a comet that impales the sun upon its horn! And my breath came fast between my lips and hers; her moan now faint, like a dying child, no more like a wild beast in torment.
Even so, wild with the lust of conquest, I urged myself upon her and fought against her. I stretched out her arms and forced them to the ground; then I crossed them on her breast, so that she was powerless. And I became like a mighty serpent of flame, and wrapt her, crushed her in my coils.
Then grew a vast sound about me as of shouting: I grew conscious of the petty universe, the thing that seems apart from oneself, so long as one is oneself apart from it.
Men cried "The temple is on fire! The temple of Asi the Veiled One is burning! The mighty temple that gave its glory to Thebai is aflame!
Then I loosed my coils and gathered myself together into the form of a mighty hawk of gold and spake one last word to her, a word to raise her from the dead!
But lo! not Asi, but Asar!
White was his garment, starred with red and blue and yellow. Green was his Countenance, and in his hands he bore the crook and scourge. Thus he rose, even as the temple fell about us in ruins, and we were left standing there.
And I wist not what to say.
Now then the people of the city crowded in upon us, and for the most part would have slain me.
But Thoth the mighty God, the wise one, with his Ibis-head, and his nemyss of indigo, with his Ateph crown and his Phoenix wand and with his Ankh of emerald, with his magic apron in the Three colours; yea, Thoth, the God of Wisdom, whose skin is of tawny orange as though it burned in a furnace, appeared visibly to all of us. And the old Magus of the Well, whom no man had seen outside his well for nigh threescore years, was found in the midst: and he cried with a loud voice, saying:
"The Equinox of the Gods!"
And he went on to explain how it was that Nature should no longer be the centre of man's worship, but Man himself, man in his suffering and death, man in his purification and perfection. And he recited the Formula of the Osiris as follows, even as it hath been transmitted unto us by the Brethren of the Cross and Rose unto this day:
"For Asar Un-nefer hath said:
He that is found perfect before the Gods hath said:
These are the elements of my body, perfected through suffering, glorified through trial.
For the Scent of the dying rose is the repressed sigh of my suffering;
The Flame-Red fire is the energy of my undaunted Will;
The Cup of Wine is the outpouring of the blood of my heart, sacrificed to regeneration;
And the Bread and Salt are the Foundations of my Body
Which I destroy in order that they may be renewed.
For I am Asar triumphant, even Asar Un-nefer the Justified One!
I am He who is clothed with the body of flesh,
Yet in Whom is the Spirit of the mighty Gods.
I am the Lord of Life, triumphant over death; he who partaketh with me shall arise with me.
I am the manifestor in Matter of those whose abode is in the Invisible.
I am purified: I stand upon the Universe: I am its Reconciler with the eternal Gods: I am the Perfector of Matter; and without me the Universe is not!"
All this he said, and displayed the sacraments of Osiris before them all; and in a certain mystical manner did we all symbolically partake of them. But for me! in the Scent of the dying Rose I beheld rather the perfection of the love of my lady the Veiled One, whom I had won, and slain in the winning!
Now, however, the old Magus clad me (for I was yet naked) in the dress of a Priest of Osiris. He gave me the robes of white Linen, and the leopard's skin, and the wand and ankh. Also he gave me the crook and scourge, and girt me with the royal girdle. On my head he set the holy Uraeus serpent for a crown; and then, turning to the people, cried aloud:
"Behold the Priest of Asar in Thebai!
"He shall proclaim unto ye the worship of Asar; see that ye follow him!"
Then, ere one could cry "Hold!" he had vanished from our sight.
I dismissed the people; I was alone with the dead God; with Osiris, the Lord of Amennti, the slain of Typhon, the devoured of Apophis …
Yea, verily, I was alone!