SLOWLY the sun sank behind the distant mountain range, outlining the high peaks in the late effulgence. The faint spume streaming from the towering pinnacles caught the fading light and reflected a myriad of hues which changed and fluctuated with the vagaries of the soft evening breeze. Deep purple shadows stole from the hollows like creatures of the night coming out to play. Gradually the velvet darkness crept up along the base of the Potala, climbing ever higher, until only the golden roofs reflected a last gleam before they too were submerged in the encroaching darkness. One by one little glimmers of light appeared, like living jewels placed upon blackness for greater display.
The mountainous wall of the Valley stood out hard and austere, with the light behind it diminishing in intensity. Here, in our rocky home, we caught a last glimpse of the declining sun as it illuminated a rocky pass. Then we too were in darkness. No light for us, we were denied all for fear of betraying our sanctuary. For us there was naught but the darkness of the night and the darkness of our thoughts as we gazed upon our treacherously invaded land.
"Brother," said the blind lama, whose presence I had almost forgotten while thinking my own unhappy thoughts. "Brother, shall we go?" Together we sat in the lotus position and meditated upon that which we were going to do. The gentle night wind moaned softly in ecstasy as it played around the crags and pinnacles of rock and whispered in our window. With the not unpleasing jerk which so often accompanies such release, the blind lama—now blind no longer—and I soared from our earthly bodies into the freedom of another plane.
"It is good to see again," said the lama, "for one treasures one's sight only when it is gone." We floated along together, along the familiar path to that place which we termed the Hall of Memories. Entering in silence, we saw that others were engaged in research into the Akashic but what they saw was invisible to us, as our own scenes would be invisible to them.
"Where shall we start, Brother," said the old lama. "We do not want to intrude," I replied, "but we should see what sort of a man with whom we deal."
For a while there was silence between us as pictures sharp and clear formed for us to see. "Eek!" I exclaimed, jumping up in alarm. "He is married. What can I do about that? I am a celibate monk! I am getting out of this." I turned in great alarm and was stopped by the sight of the old man fairly shaking with laughter. For a time his mirth was so great that he simply could not speak.
"Brother, Lobsang," he managed to say at last, "you have greatly enlivened my declining days. I thought at first that the whole hierarchy of devils had bitten you as you sat, you jumped so high. Now, Brother, there is no problem at all, but first let me have a friendly 'dig' at you. You were telling me of the West, and of their strange beliefs. Let me quote you this, from their own Bible:
'Marriage is honourable in all' (Hebrews, Chapter Thirteen, Verse Four)." Once again he was attacked by a fit of laughter, and the more glumly I looked at him, the more he laughed, until in the end he stopped from exhaustion.
"Brother," he continued, when he was able, "those who guide us and help us had that in mind. You and the lady may live together in a state of companionship, for do not our own monks and nuns live at times under the same roof? Let us not see difficulties where none exist. Let us continue with the Record."
With a heart-felt sigh, I nodded dumbly. Words for the moment were quite beyond me. The more I thought of it all, the less I liked any of it. I thought of my Guide, the Lama Mingyar Dondup, sitting in comfort somewhere up in the Land of the Golden Light. My expression must have become blacker and blacker, for the old lama started laughing again.
At last we both calmed down and together watched the living pictures of the Akashic Record. I saw the man whose body it was hoped I would take. With increasing interest I observed that he was doing surgical fitting. To my delight it was obvious that he certainly knew what he was doing, he was a competent technician, and I nodded in involuntary approval as I watched him deal with case after case.
The scene moved on and we were able to see the city of London, in England, just as if we mingled with the crowds there. The huge red buses roared along the streets, weaving in and out of traffic and carrying great loads of people. A hellish shrieking and wailing broke out and we saw people dart for shelter in strange stone buildings erected in the streets. There was the incessant "crumpcrump" of anti-aircraft shells and fighters droned across the sky. Instinctively we ducked as bombs fell from one of the planes and whistled down. For a moment there was a hushed silence, and then whoom! Buildings leaped into the air and came down as dust and rubble.
Down in the deep subways of the underground railways, people were living a strange, troglodytic existence, going to the shelters at night, and emerging like moles in the morning. Whole families apparently lived there, sleeping upon makeshift bunks, and trying to obtain a little privacy by draping blankets from any available protrusion in the smooth tiled walls.
I seemed to be standing on an iron platform high above the roof-tops of London, with a clear view across to the building which people called "The Palace". A lone plane dived from the clouds, and three bombs sped down to the home of the King of England. I looked about me. When seeing through the Akashic Record one "sees" as did the principal character, so the old lama and I both saw as if both of us were the chief figure. It seemed to me that I was standing on a fire escape stretching across the roof-tops of London. I had seen such things before, but I had to explain the use of it to my companion. Then it dawned on me, he—the figure I was watching—was doing aircraft spotting in order to give warning to those below if imminent danger should threaten. The sirens sounded again, the All Clear, and I saw the man climb down and remove his Air Raid Warden's steel helmet.
The old lama turned to me with a smile, "This is most interesting, I have not watched events in the occident, my interests have been confined to our own country. I now understand what you mean when you say that 'one picture is worth a thousand words'. We must look again."
As we sat and watched the Record we saw the streets of London blacked out, with motor cars fitted with special headlamp shields. People bumped into posts and into each other. Inside the subway trains, before they came to the surface, the ordinary lights were switched off, and dismal blue bulbs were switched on. The beams of searchlights probed into the night sky, sometimes illuminating the grey sides of the barrage balloons. The old lama looked at the balloons in absolute fascination. Astral travelling he well understood, but these grey monsters, tethered on high, shifting restlessly in the night wind really amazed him. I confess that I found my companion's expression as interesting as the Akashic Record.
We watched the man get out of the train and walk along the darkened streets until he reached a large block of flats. We watched him enter, but did not enter with him; instead we looked at the busy scene outside. Houses were wrecked by bombs, and men were still digging in order to recover the living and the dead. The wail of the sirens interrupted rescue operations. Far up, like moths fluttering in the lamplight, enemy bombers were caught in a cross-cross of searchlight beams. Glinting light from one of the bombers attracted our curious gaze, and then we saw that the "lights" were the bombs on their way down. One dropped with a "crump" into the side of the big block of flats. There was a vivid flash and a shower of shattered masonry. People came pouring out of the building, came out into the doubtful safety of the streets.
"You have had worse than this, my Brother, in Shanghai?" asked the old lama.
"Much worse," I replied. "We had no defences and scant facilities. As you know, I was buried for a time in a wrecked shelter there, and escaped only with great difficulty."
"Shall we move on a little in time?" asked my companion. "We do not need to watch endlessly for we are both enfeebled in health."
I agreed with the utmost alacrity. I merely needed to know what sort of person it was from whom I was going to take over. For me there was no interest whatever in prying into the affairs of another. We moved along the Record, halted experimentally, and moved on again. The morning light was besmirched by the smoke of many fires. The night hours had been an inferno. It seemed that half London was ablaze. The man walked down the debris-littered street, a street that had been heavily bombed. At a temporary barricade a War Reserve policeman stopped him. "You cannot go any farther, sir, the buildings are dangerous." We saw the Managing Director arrive and speak to the man whose life we were watching. With a word to the policeman, they ducked under the rope and walked together to the shattered building. Water was spraying over all the stock from broken pipes. Plumbing and electric wires were inextricably entwined, like a skein of wool with which a kitten had played. A safe hung at a precarious angle still teetering on the very edge of a large hole. Sodden rags flapped miserably in the breeze, and from adjacent buildings flecks of burnt paper floated down like flakes of coal-black snow. I who had seen more of war and suffering than most, was still sickened by the senseless destruction. The Record went on...
Unemployment, in war-time London! The man tried to enlist as a War Reserve Policeman. Tried in vain. His medical papers were marked Grade Four, unfit for service. Now, with his employment gone, through the dropping of the bomb, he walked the streets in search of work. Firm after firm refused to take him. There seemed to be no hope, nothing to lighten the darkness of his hard times.
At last, through a chance visit to a Correspondence School with whom he had studied—and impressed them with his mental alertness and industry, he was offered employment at their war-time offices outside London. "It is a beautiful place," said the man who made the offer. "Go down on the Green Line bus. See Joe, he should be there by one, but the others will look after you. Take the Missus for the trip. I've been trying to get shifted there myself" The village was indeed a dump! Not the "beautiful place" he had been led to suppose. Aircraft were made there, tested, and flown to other parts of the country.
Life in a Correspondence College was boring indeed. So far as we could see, watching the Akashic Record, it consisted of reading forms and letters from people and then suggesting what Course of postal instruction they should take. My own personal opinion was that correspondence teaching was a waste of money unless one had facilities for practical work as well.
A strange noise like a faulty motor-cycle engine came to our ears. As we watched, a peculiar aeroplane came into view, a plane with no pilot or crew. It gave a spasmodic cough and the engine cut, the plane dived and exploded just above the ground. "That was the German robot plane," I said to the old lama, "The V.1 and the V.2 seem to have been unpleasant affairs." Another robot plane came over near the house in which the man and his wife lived. It blew windows in at one side of the house, and out at the other side and cracked a wall.
"They do not appear to have many friends," said the old lama "I think they have possibilities of the mind which the casual observer would overlook. It seems to me that they live together more as brother and sister than as husband and wife. That should comfort you, my Brother!" the old man said with quite a chuckle.
The Akashic Record went on, portraying a man's life at the speed of thought. We could yet move from one portion to another, ignoring certain parts or seeing other incidents time after time. The man found that a series of coincidences occurred which turned his thoughts more and more to the East. "Dreams" showed him life in Tibet, dreams which, really were astral travelling trips under the control of the old lama. "One of our very minor difficulties," the old man told me, "was that he wanted to use the word 'master' whenever he spoke to one of us."
"Oh!" I replied, "that is one of the common mistakes of the Western people, they love to use any name which implies power over others. What did you tell him?"
The old lama smiled and said, "I gave him a little talk, I also tried to get him to ask less questions. I will tell you what I said, because it is of use in deducing his inner nature. I said: That is a term which is most abhorrent to me and to all Easterners. 'Master' infers that one is seeking domination over others, seeking supremacy over those who have no right to use 'master'. A school master endeavours to inculcate learning in his pupils. To us 'Master' means Master of Knowledge, a source of knowledge, or one who has mastered the temptations of the flesh. We—I told him—prefer the word Guru, or Adept. For no Master, as we know the word, would ever seek to influence a student nor to impose his own opinions. In the West certain little groups and cults there are who think that they alone have the key to the Heavenly Fields. Certain religions used tortures in order to gain converts. I reminded him of a carving over one of our lamaseries—'a thousand monks, a thousand religions'.
"He seemed to follow my talk very well," said the old lama, "so I gave him a little more with the idea of striking while the iron was hot. I said: In India, in China, and in old Japan, the student-to-be will sit at the feet of his Guru seeking information, not asking questions, for the wise student never asks questions lest he be sent away. To ask a question is proof positive to the Guru that the student is not yet ready to receive answers to his questions. Some students have waited as long as seven years for information, for the answer to an unspoken question. During this time the student tends the bodily wants of the Guru, attends to his clothing, to his food, and to the few other needs that he has. All the time his ears are alive for information, because by receiving information, perhaps hearing that which is being given to other people, the wise student can deduce, can infer, and when the Guru in his wisdom sees that the student is making progress, that Guru, in his own good time, and in his own suitable way, questions the student, and if he finds some of the pupil's accumulated store of knowledge is faulty or incomplete, then the Guru, again in his own good time, repairs the omissions and deficiencies.
"In the West people say—'Now, tell me this. Madame Blavatsky said—Bishop Ledbetter says—Billy Graham says—What do you say?—I think you are wrong!' Westerners ask questions for the sake of talk, they ask questions not knowing what they want to say, not knowing what they want to hear, but when perhaps a kindly Guru answers a question, the student immediately argues and says, 'Oh well, I heard so-and-so say this, or that, or something else.'
"If the student asks a Guru a question, it must imply that the student does not know the answer, but considers that the Guru does, and if the student immediately questions the answer of the Guru, it shows that the student is ignorant and has preconceived and utterly erroneous ideas of decorum and of ordinary common decency. I say to you that the only way to obtain answers to your questions is, leave your questions unasked and collect information, deduce and infer, then in the fullness of time, provided you are pure in heart, you will be able to do astral travelling, and the more esoteric forms of meditation, and will thus be enabled to consult the Akashic Record which cannot lie, cannot answer out of context, and cannot give an opinion or information coloured by personal bias. The human sponge suffers from mental indigestion and sadly retards his or her evolution and spiritual development. The only way to progress? That is to wait and see. There is no other way, there is no way of forcing your development except at the express invitation of a Guru who knows you well, and that Guru, knowing you well, would soon speed your development if he thought that you were worthy."
It seemed to me that most Westerners would benefit by being taught that! But we were not here to teach, but to watch the unfolding of vital scenes from a man's life, a man who would shortly vacate his earthly shell.
"This is interesting," said the old lama, drawing my attention to a scene on the Record. "This took much arranging, but when he saw the desirability of it, he made no demur." I looked at the scene in some puzzlement, then it dawned upon me. Yes! That was a solicitor's office. That paper was a Change of Name Deed Poll. Yes, that was correct, I remembered, he had changed his name because that which he had had previously had the wrong vibrations as indicated by our Science of Numbers. I read the document with interest and saw that it was not quite correct, although it was near enough.
Of suffering there was plenty. A visit to a dentist caused much damage, damage which necessitated his removal to a nursing home for an operation. Out of technical interest, I watched the proceedings with considerable care.
He—the man whose life we were watching—felt that the employer was uncaring. We, watching, felt the same, and the old lama and I were glad the man gave notice of the termination of his engagement in the postal training school. The furniture was loaded on a van, some of it was sold, and the man and his wife left the area for an entirely fresh district. For a time they lived in the house of a strange old woman who "told fortunes", and had an amazing idea of her own importance. The man tried and tried to obtain employment. Anything which would enable him to earn money honestly.
The old lama said, "Now we are approaching the crucial part. As you will observe, he rails against fate constantly. He has no patience and I am afraid that he will depart his life violently unless we hurry."
"What do you wish me to do?" I asked.
"You are the senior," said the old man, "but I would like you to meet him in the astral, and see what you think."
"Certainly," was my rejoinder, "We will go together." For a moment I was lost in thought, then I said, "In Lhasa it is two o'clock in the morning. In England it will be eight o'dock in the evening, for their time lags behind ours. We will wait and rest for three hours, and will then draw him over to the astral."
"Yes," said the old lama. He sleeps in a room alone, so we can do it. For the present let us rest, for we are weary."
We returned to our bodies, sitting side by side in the faint starlight. The lights of Lhasa were extinguished now, and the only glimmers came from the habitations of monks and the brighter lights from Chinese Communist guard posts. The tinkling of the little stream outside our walls sounded unnaturally loud against the silence of the night. From high above came the rattling of a small shower of pebbles dislodged by the higher wind. They rattled and bounced by us, jarring loose bigger stones. Down the mountainside they rushed, to end in a noisy heap by a Chinese barracks. Lights flashed on, rifles were discharged into the air, and soldiers ran wildly around, fearing attack from the monks of Lhasa. The commotion soon subsided, and the night was peaceful and still once again.
The old lama laughed softly, and said, "How strange to me that the people beyond our land cannot understand astral travelling! How strange that they think all this is imagination. Could it not be put to them that even changing one's body for that of another is merely like a driver changing from one automobile to another? It seems inconceivable that a people with their technical progress should be so blind to the things of the spirit."
I, with much experience of the West, replied, "But Western people, except for a very small minority, have not the capacity for spiritual things. All they want is war, sex, sadism, and the right to pry into the affairs of others."
The long night wore on, we rested and refreshed ourselves with tea and tsampa. At last the first faint streaks of light shot across the mountain range behind us. As yet the valley at our feet was immersed in darkness. Somewhere a yak began to bellow as if sensing that a new day would soon be upon us. Five in the morning Tibetan time. About eleven o'clock by the time in England, I judged. Gently I nudged the old lama who was dozing lightly. "Time we went into the astral!" I said.
"It will be the last time for me," he replied, "for I shall not return to my body again."
Slowly, not hurrying at all, we again entered the astral state. Leisurely we arrived at that house in England. The man lay there sleeping, tossing a little, on his face there was a look of extreme discontent. His astral form was encompassing his physical body with no sign yet of separation.
"Are you coming?" I asked, in the astral. "Are you coming?" repeated the old lama. Slowly, almost reluctantly, the man's astral form rose above his physical body. Rose, and floated above it, reversed, head of astral to feet of physical, as one does. The astral body swayed and bobbed. The sudden roar of a speeding train nearly sent it back into the physical. Then, as though a sudden decision had been reached, his astral form tilted, and stood before us. Rubbing his eyes as one awakening from sleep, he gazed upon us.
"So you want to leave your body?" I asked.
"I do, I hate it here!" he exclaimed vehemently.
We stood looking at each other. He seemed to me to be much misunderstood man. A man who, in England, would not make his mark on life, but who in Tibet would have his chance. He laughed sourly, "So you want my body! Well, you will find your mistake. It does not matter what you know in England, it is who you know that matters. I cannot get a job, cannot even get unemployment benefit. See if you can do better!"
"Hush, my friend," said the old lama, "for you know not to whom you are speaking. Perhaps your truculence may have impeded you from obtaining employment."
"You will have to grow a beard," I said, "for if I occupy your body, mine will soon be substituted, and I must have a beard to hide the damage to my jaws. Can you grow a beard?"
"Yes, Sir," he replied, "I will grow a beard."
"Very well," I said. "I will return here in one month and will take over your body, giving you release, so that my own body may eventually replace that which I shall have taken. Tell me," I asked, "how were you first approached by my people?"
"For a long time, Sir," he said, "I have hated life in England, the unfairness of it, the favouritism. All my life I have been interested in Tibet and Far East countries. All my life I have had 'dreams' in which I saw, or seemed to see, Tibet, China, and other countries which I did not recognize. Some time ago I had a strong impulse to change my name by legal deed, which I did"
"Yes," I remarked, "I know all about that, but how were you approached recently, and what did you see?"
He thought a bit, and then said, "To tell you that, I should have to do it in my own way, and some of the information I have seems to be incorrect in view of my later knowledge."
"Very well," was my reply, "tell it to me in your own way and we can correct any misconceptions later. I must get to know you better if I am to take your body, and this is one way of so doing."
"Perhaps I may start with the first actual 'contact'. Then I can collect my thoughts better." From the railway station up the road came the braking judder of a train, bringing late-comers back from the City of London. Shortly there came the sound of the train starting off again, and then 'the man' got down to his story while the old lama and I listened carefully.
"Rose Croft, Thames Ditton," he started, "was quite a nice little place. It was a house set back from the road with a garden in front, a small garden, and a much larger garden at the rear. The house itself had a balcony at the back which gave quite a good view across the countryside. I used to spend a lot of time in the garden, particularly in the front garden because for some time it had been neglected and I was trying to put it in order. The grass had been allowed to grow so that it was several feet high and clearing it had become a major problem. I had already cut half of it with an old Indian Gurkha knife. It was hard work because I had to get on my hands and knees and take swipes at the grass and sharpen the knife on a stone at every few strokes. I was interested also in photography, and for some time I had been trying to take a photograph of an owl which lived in an old fir tree nearby, a fir tree well encased in climbing ivy.
My attention was distracted by the sight of something fluttering on a branch not far above my head. I looked up and to my delighted surprise I saw a young owl there, flapping about, clutching at the branch, blinded by the bright sunlight. Quietly I put down the knife which I had been using and made my way indoors to fetch a camera. With that in my hands and with the shutter set, I made my way to the tree and silently, or as silently as I could, I climbed up to the first branch. Stealthily I edged along. The bird, unable to see me in the bright light but sensing me, edged further away out towards the end. I, quite thoughtless of the danger, moved forward and forward, and with each movement of mine, the bird went further forward until it was almost at the end of the branch, which was now bending dangerously beneath my weight.
"Suddenly I made a precipitous movement and there was a sharp crack and the odorous smell of powdered wood. The branch was rotten and it gave beneath me. I catapulted head first towards the earth beneath me. I seemed to take an eternity to fall those few feet. I remember the grass never looked greener, it seemed larger than life, I could see each individual blade with little insects on it. I remember, too, a ladybird took off in fright at my approach, and then there was a blinding pain, and a flash as if of coloured lightning, and all went black. I do not know how long I lay a crumpled inert mass beneath the branches of the old fir tree, but quite suddenly I became aware that I was disengaging myself from the physical body, I was seeing things with a greater perception than ever before. Colours were new and startlingly vivid.
"Gingerly I got to my feet, and looked about me. To my horrified amazement I found that my body was lying prone upon the ground. There was no blood to be seen, but certainly there was evidence of a nasty bump just over the right temple. I was more than a little disconcerted, because the body was breathing stertorously and showing signs of considerable distress. 'Death,' I thought, 'I have died; now I shall never get back.' I saw a thin smoky cord ascending from the body, from the head of the body to me. There was no movement in the cord, no pulsation, and I felt sickening panic. I wondered what I should do. I seemed to be rooted to the spot in fear, or perhaps for some other reason. Then a sudden movement, the only movement in this strange world of mine, attracted my eye, and I nearly screamed, or should have screamed if I had had a voice. Approaching me across the grass was the figure of a Tibetan lama dressed in the saffron robe of the High Order. His feet were several inches from the ground, and yet he was coming to me steadily. I looked at him with utter stupefaction.
"He came towards me, stretching out his hand, and smiled. He said, 'You have nothing to fear. There is nothing here to worry you at all.' I had the impression that his words were in a different tongue from mine, Tibetan maybe, but I understood it, and yet I had heard no sound. There was no sound at all. I could not even hear the sound of the birds, or the whistling of the wind in the trees. 'Yes,' he said, divining my thoughts, 'we do not use speech, but telepathy. I am speaking to you by telepathy.' Together we looked at each other, and then at the body lying on the ground between us. The Tibetan looked up at me again, and smiled, and said, 'You are surprised at my presence? I am here because I was drawn to you. I have left my body at this particular instant and I was drawn to you because your own particular life vibrations are a fundamental harmonic of one for whom I act. So I have come, I have come because I want your body for one who has to continue life in the Western world, for he has a task to do which brooks no interference.'
"I looked at him aghast. The man was mad saying that he wanted my body! So did I, it was my body. I wasn't having anyone take off my property like that. I had been shaken out of the physical vehicle against my wish, and I was going back. But the Tibetan obviously got my thoughts again. He said, 'What have you to look forward to? Unemployment, illness, unhappiness, a mediocre life in mediocre surroundings, and then in the not too distant future death and the start all over again. Have you achieved anything in life? Have you done anything to be proud of? Think it over.'
"I did think it over. I thought of the past, of the frustrations, the misunderstandings, the unhappiness. He broke in on me, 'Would you like the satisfaction of knowing that your Kharma had been wiped away, that you had materially contributed towards a job of the utmost benefit to mankind?' I said, 'Well, I don't know about that, mankind hasn't been too good to me. Why should I bother?'
"He said, 'No, on this Earth you are blinded to the true reality. You do not know what you are saying, but with the passage of time, and in a different sphere, you will become aware of the opportunities you have missed. I want your body for another.' I said, 'Well, what am I going to do about it? I can't wander about as a ghost all the time, and we can't both have the same body.'
"You see, I took all this absolutely literally. There was something compelling about the man, something absolutely genuine. I didn't question for one moment that he could take my body and let me go off somewhere else, but I wanted more information, I wanted to know what I was doing. He smiled at me, and said—reassuringly, 'You, my friend, shall have your reward, you shall escape your Kharma, you shall go to a different sphere of activity, and you shall have your sins erased because of what you are doing. But your body cannot be taken unless you are willing.'
"I really did not like the idea at all. I had had my body some forty years, and I was quite attached to it. I didn't like the idea of anyone else taking my body and walking off with it. Besides, what would my wife say, living with a strange man and knowing nothing about it? He looked at me again, and he said, 'Have you no thought for humanity? Are you not willing to do something to redeem your own mistakes, to put some purpose to your own mediocre life? You will be the gainer. The one for whom I act will take over this hard life of yours.'
"I looked about me. I looked at the body between us, and I thought, 'Well, what does it matter? It's been a hard life. I'm well out of it.' So I said, 'All right, let me see what sort of place I will go to, and if I like it, I'll say yes' Instantly I had a glorious vision, a vision so glorious that no words could describe it. I was well satisfied, and I said I would be willing, very willing, to have my release and go as soon as possible."
The old lama chuckled and said, "We had to tell him that it was not that quick, that you would have to come and see for yourself before you made a final decision. After all, it was a happy release for him, hardship for you."
I looked at them both. "Very well," I finally remarked, "I will come back in a month. If you then have a beard, and if you then are sure beyond all doubt that you want to go through with this, I will release you and send you off on your own journey."
He sighed with satisfaction, and a beatific expression stole over his face as he slowly withdrew into the physical body. The old lama and I rose up, and returned to Tibet.
The sun was shining from a blue cloudless sky. Beside me, as I returned to my physical body, the empty shell of the old lama slumped lifeless to the floor. He, I reflected, had gone to peace after a long and honourable life. I—by the Holy Tooth of Buddha— what had I let myself in for?
Messengers went forth into the high mountain lands to the New Home carrying my written affirmation that I would do the task as requested. Messengers came to me, bringing me as a graceful gesture of friendship some of those Indian cakes, which had so often been my weakness when I was at the Chakpori. To all intents I was a prisoner in my mountain home. My request that I be permitted to steal down, even in disguise, for a last visit to my beloved Chakpori was denied me. "You may fall victim to the invaders, my brother," they told me, "for they are remarkably quick to pull the trigger if they have any suspicion."
"You are sick, Reverend Abbot," said another. "Should you descend the mountain side your health may not permit you to return. If your Silver Cord be severed, then the Task will not be accomplished."
The Task! It was so amazing to me that there was "a task" at all. To see the human aura was to me as simple as for a man with perfect sight to see a person standing a few feet away from him. I mused upon the difference between East and West, thinking how easy it would be to convince a Westerner of a new labour-saving food, and how easy it would be to convince an Easterner of something new in the realms of the mind.
Time slipped by. I rested extensively, more extensively than ever in my life before. Then, shortly before the month was up, shortly before I was to return to England, I had an urgent call to visit again the Land of the Golden Light
Seated in front of all those High Personages, I had the somewhat irreverent thought that this was like a briefing during the war days! My thought was caught by the others, and one of them smiled and said, "Yes, it is a briefing! And the enemy? The Power of Evil which would stop our task from being accomplished."
"You will meet much opposition and very much calumny," said one. 'Your metaphysical powers will not be altered or lost in any way during the change-over," said another.
"This is your last Incarnation," said my beloved Guide, the Lama Mingyar Dondup. "When you have finished this life you are taking over, you will then return Home—to us." How like my Guide, I thought, to end on a happy note. They went on to tell me what was going to happen. Three astral-travelling lamas would accompany me to England and would do the actual operation of severing one free from his Silver Cord, and attaching the other—me! The difficulty was that my own body, still in Tibet, had to remain connected as I wanted my own "flesh molecules" to be eventually transferred. So, I returned to the world and together with three companions journeyed to England in the astral state.
The man was waiting. "I am determined to go through with it," he said.
One of the lamas with me turned to the man and said, "You must allow yourself to full violently by that tree as you did when we first approached you. You must have a severe shake, for your Cord is very securely attached."
The man pulled himself a few feet off the ground and i then let go, falling to the earth with a satisfying 'thud' . For a moment it seemed as if Time itself stood still. A car which had been speeding along halted on the instant, a bird in full flight suddenly stopped motionless—and stayed in the air. A horse drawing a van paused with two feet upraised and did not fall. Then, motion came back into our perception. The car jumped into motion, doing about thirty-five miles an hour. The horse started to trot, and the bird hovering above flashed into full flight. Leaves rustled and twisted and the grass rippled into little waves as the wind swept across it.
Opposite, at the local Cottage Hospital, an ambulance rolled to a stop. Two attendants alighted, walked round to the back, and pulled out a stretcher upon which was an old woman. Leisurely the men manoeuvred into position and carried her into the hospital. "Ah!" said the man. "She is going to the hospital, I am going to freedom." He looked up the road, down the road, and then said "My wife, she knows all about this. I explained it to her and she agrees." He glanced at the house and pointed. "That's her room, yours are there. Now I'm more than ready."
One of the lamas grasped the astral form of the man and slid a hand along the Silver Cord. He seemed to be tying it as one ties the umbilical cord of a baby after its birth. "Ready!" said one of the priests. The man, freed of his connecting Cord, floated away in company with the priest who was assisting him: I felt a searing pain, an utter agony which I never want to feel again, and then the senior lama said, "Lobsang, can you enter that body? We will help you."
The world went black. There was an utterly clammy feeling of black-redness. A sensation of suffocating. I felt that I was being constricted, constrained in something too small for me. I probed about inside the body feeling like a blind pilot in a very complicated aeroplane, wondering how to make this body work. "What if I fail now?" I thought miserably to myself. Desperately I fiddled and fumbled. At last I saw flickers of red, then some green. Reassured, I intensified my efforts, and then it was like a blind being drawn aside. I could see! My sight was precisely the same as before, I could see the auras of people on the road. But I could not move.
The two lamas stood beside, me. From now on, as I was to find, I could always see astral figures as well as physical figures. I could also keep even more in touch with my companions in Tibet. "A consolation prize'," I often told myself, "for being compelled to remain in the West at all."
The two lamas were looking concernedly at my rigidity, at my inability to move. Desperately I strained and strained, blaming myself bitterly for not having tried to find out and master any difference between an Eastern body and a Western. "Lobsang! Your fingers are twitching!" called out one of the lamas. Urgently I explored and experimented. A faulty movement brought temporary blindness. With the help of the lamas I vacated the body again, studied it, and carefully re-entered. This time it was more successful. I could see, could move an arm, a leg. With immense effort I rose to my knees, wavered and tottered, and fell prone again. As if I were lifting the whole weight of the world I rose shakily to my feet.
From the house came a woman running, saying, "Oh, what have you done now? You should come in and lie down." She looked at me and a startled expression came upon her face, and for a moment I thought she was going to scream in hysteria. She controlled herself, and put an arm round my shoulders and helped me across the grass. Over a little gravel path, up one stone step, and through a wooden doorway and into a small hallway. From thence it was difficult indeed, for there were many stairs to climb and I was as yet very uncertain and clumsy in my movements.
The house really consisted of two flats and the one, which I was to occupy, was the upper. It seemed so strange, entering an English home in this manner, climbing up the some-what steep stairs, hanging on to the rail to prevent myself from falling over backwards. My limbs felt rubbery, as if I lacked full control over them—as indeed was the case, for to gain complete mastery of this strange new body took some days. The two lamas hovered round, showing considerable concern, but of course there was nothing they could do. Soon they left me, promising to return in the small hours of the night.
Slowly I entered the bedroom which was mine, stumbling like a sleepwalker, jerking like a mechanical man. Gratefully I toppled over on to the bed. At least, I consoled myself, I cannot fly down now! My windows looked out on to both the front and the back of the house. By turning my head to the right I could gaze across the small front garden, on to the road, across to the small Cottage Hospital, a sight which I did not find comforting in my present state.
At the other side of the room was the window through which, by turning my head to the left, I could see the length of the larger garden. It was unkempt, coarse grass growing in clumps as in a meadow. Bushes divided the garden of one house from the next. At the end of the grassy stretch there was a fringe of straggly trees and a wire fence. Beyond I could see the outlines of farm buildings and a herd of cows grazing nearby.
Outside my windows I could hear voices, but they were such "English" voices that I found it almost impossible to understand what was being said. The English I had heard previously had been mostly American and Canadian, and here the strangely accented syllables of one of the Old School Tie Brigade baffled me. My own speech was difficult, I found. When I tried to speak I produced just a hollow croak. My vocal cords seemed thick, strange'. I learned to speak slowly, and to visualize what I was going to say first. I tended to say "cha" instead of "j", making "chon" for John, and similar errors. Sometimes I could hardly understand what I was saying myself!
That night the astral travelling lamas came again and cheered away my depression by telling me that now I should find astral travelling even easier. They told me, too, of my lonely Tibetan body safely stored in a stone coffin, under the unceasing care of three monks. Research into old literature, they told me, showed that it would be easy to let me have my own body, but that the complete transfer would take a little time.
For three days I stayed in my room, resting, practising movements, and becoming accustomed to the changed life. On the evening of the third day I walked shakily into the garden, under cover of darkness. Now, I found, I was beginning to master the body, although there were unaccountable moments when an arm or a leg would fail to respond to my commands.
The next morning the woman who was now known as my wife said, "You will have to go to the Labour Exchange today to see if they have any job for you yet" Labour Exchange? For some time it conveyed nothing to me, until she used the term "Ministry of Labour" then it dawned on me. I had never been to such a place and had no idea of how to behave or what to do there. I knew, from the conversation, that it was some place near Hampton Court but the name was Molesey.
For some reason which I did not then comprehend, I was not entitled to claim any unemployment benefit. Later I found that if a person left his employment voluntarily, no matter how unpleasant or unreasonable that employment, he was not entitled to claim benefit, not even if he had paid into the fund for twenty years.
Labour Exchange! I said, "Help me get the bicycle, and I will go." Together we walked down the stairs, turned left to the garage now stuffed with old furniture, and there was the bicycle, an instrument of torture which I had used only once before, in Chungking, where I had gone flying down the hill before I could find the brakes. Gingerly I got on the contraption and wobbled off along the road towards the railway bridge, turning left at the forked road. A man waves cheerily, and waving back, I almost fell off. "You don't look at all well," he called. "Go carefully!"
On I pedalled, getting strange pains in the leg. On, and turned right, as previously instructed, into the wide road to Hampton Court. As I rode along, my legs suddenly failed to obey my commands, and I just managed to free-wheel across the road to tumble in a heap, with the bicycle on top of me, on a stretch of grass beside the road. For a moment I lay there, badly shaken, then a woman who had been doing something to her mats outside her front door came storming down the path, yelling, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, drunk at this time of the day. I saw you. I've a mind to ring up the police!" She scowled at me, then turned and dashed back to her house, picked up the mats and slammed the door behind her.
"How little she knows!" I thought. "How little she knows!"
For perhaps twenty minutes I lay there, recovering. People came to their doors and stared out. People came to their windows and peered from behind curtains. Two women came to the end of their gardens and discussed me in loud, raucous voices. Nowhere did I detect the slightest thought that I might be ill or in need of attention.
At last, with immense effort, I staggered to my feet, mounted the bicycle, and rode off in the direction of Hampton Court.