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Brother of the Third Degree, by Will L. Garver, [1894], at

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"There is a principle, proof against all argument, a bat against all progress, and which if persisted in cannot but keep the mind in everlasting ignorance—and that is, contempt prior to examination."—Paley.

"Accept nothing that is unreasonable; discard nothing as unreasonable without proper examination."—Buddha.

My name is Alphonso Colono. I am a Mexican of pure Spanish descent, but was born in the city of Paris. I am the only son, but had a beautiful sister, Esmeralda, three years my junior.

My father, Ferdinand Colono, was a direct descendant of the Colonos of Granada, who traced their ancestry back to the time of the Moors, and who were known throughout the Hispanian peninsula for their skill as physicians. My mother was of the noble Vesta family of Seville, who were likewise most skilled physicians.

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Father and mother first met while they were students in Paris. After ten years of the purest and most studious companionship, and after they had both graduated with the highest honors, they were married; and I am the first offspring of that union. After my birth my parents moved to the City of Mexico, where my father's parents had located early in the nineteenth century.

There had always been a mystery connected with their schooling; a mystery I did not understand until late in life. They were two of the most learned people of their time, and, strange to say, they came from the very center of materialistic thought deeply imbued with mystic ideas.

Upon his return to Mexico, father immediately commenced to practice as a physician, and soon became known far and near for his wonderful success and skill.

In fact, his fame became so great that it was not confined to Mexico alone, but extended throughout the entire west; and he was offered almost fabulous salaries by the governing powers of the South American states.

All these he respectfully declined, and remained in the city administering to the rich and poor alike, never refusing the low or the high. As a result he was known and beloved by all, and exerted a powerful influence both in governmental circles and among the masses.

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Mother, scarcely less learned, and most highly accomplished in art and music, possessed an influence equally as great as father's, but, except on special occasions, spent most of the time at home as the instructor of sister and myself, considering it her special duty to be our tutor.

Our home was beautifully located upon a hill in the suburbs of the city. A two-story building with a classical exterior in stucco, and a large interior court beautifully paved with many-colored pebbles and made pleasant by a sparkling fountain and tropical plants and trees.

Many years have passed away since mother sat here in the cool of the evening and pointed out and explained to sister and I the starry constellations which shine so brightly in the clear sky of all tropical countries.

Still do I remember with most vivid clearness those evening lectures. She did not consider the starry hosts as mere shining lights to dispel the gloom of night, but thought like her ancestors of Moorish times that all were filled with life, the dwelling places of gods and spirits, and had a most intimate relation with the children of earth. Many years have passed away, many vicissitudes have crossed my path since those evening talks,—and the bright sunny days when my beautiful mother would take Esmeralda and me to the neighboring mountain peak, and cultivate our tastes for

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nature's beauty as we gazed out upon the placid mirror of the gulf, and far away to the blue and misty mountains 'round about. I still remember the pleasant lessons in geology and natural history we received upon these journeys, for many were the curious stones, plants and animals we here found joy in studying. I still recall the loving light that shone from mother's dark, bright eyes as she cautioned us not to harm the little creatures, as all life was sacred and from God; that these small insects were in existence for a purpose, and we could learn more by studying them in life than by pulling them to pieces in death.

After frequent journeys to the mountain, even the birds seemed to learn we were not like most beings of our kind, and became kind and friendly, lighting on our shoulders and perching on our hands. Even now I see Esmeralda, with her long, dark curls floating in the wind, laughing and talking to the redbreast on her hand.

Ah! these recollections made me sad for many years. I loved my beautiful mother and sister with a pure and holy love, and I often wished I was a child again to enjoy the unalloyed happiness of those hours. But now I know this was not wise. You see, dear friends, what I have lost, but do you know what I have gained? Great were those joys, but still greater are those that come from the full unfoldment of our spirit

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natures. And then, it is not wise to dwell upon the past beyond recall, except in study that may better guide our footsteps in the future.

Father, while almost constantly administering to the sick, never lost an opportunity to be at home, and frequently accompanied us upon those mountain journeys or talked with us beside the fountain in the court.

Mother and he would talk for hours upon philosophy and science, and Esmeralda and I, though young in years, sat by and took deep interest in their conversations, which, while we did not fully comprehend seemed, by some unknown and interior intuition, strangely familiar. The child knows more than we are wont to give it credit. Knowledge does not come from the intellectual mind alone; the pure, uncontaminated heart dwells close to the spirit wisdom and reflects its light.

In addition to his professional duties, father taught what I at that time thought to be a school of medicine. In his laboratory, on the second floor, he never allowed us to enter; its only door of heavy oak was locked with a peculiar and strange looking lock, and its windows were covered with iron bars. Every Wednesday evening a number of men called and repaired with father and mother to this room. This number I noticed to be almost invariably twelve, and they generally came and went alone. During these Wednesday evening

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meetings sister and I remained with a tried and trusted servant, who saw that we retired at the proper time. Thus things continued for eleven years, and I was fourteen and sister eleven. All was love and kindness, and year in and year out was a constant but pleasant school. Mother was an exceptional linguist, and I, while only fourteen, had become proficient in Spanish, French, English and Italian, and was well along in the natural sciences, philosophy and art. Esmeralda was fully my equal, but music was her forte; and when her voice rose in song, crowds of peons gathered in the street and listened in silent awe to the perfect beauty of her voice. Both of us were accomplished artists upon many instruments, and while she played the harp I would accompany her upon the violin. These family concerts, in which father and mother often joined gave them much pleasure, as also the wonderful resemblance we bore to them, I becoming every day more like my father, while Esmeralda was the perfect picture of her mother.

One evening father returned earlier than usual, and he and mother took seats beside the fountain and were soon very earnestly in conversation. Sister and I were playing with a large collection of fine sea-shells beside the court, and, ordinarily, would not have paid more than passing attention to their conversation; but the absence of father's

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usual kiss and play, together with the sad look upon his kind and handsome face, attracted our attention, and we stopped our play to listen.

"Nina," he said, taking my mother's hands and looking lovingly into her eyes, "do you know that our twenty years are almost up?"

A momentary paleness came over mother's face, but it quickly gave place to an expression of serious calm as she answered:

"Yes, Ferda, I have not overlooked that fact, and for some time past have been preparing for a change which I have a premonition is soon to come; and I hope, my dear husband, you are doing likewise. But, my dear, you look unusually sad this evening; have you anything distressing on your mind? If so, let me share it." And she gave him a fond and loving caress.

"Nina," he answered, kissing her, "I have been thinking that our love-life must soon come to an end and give place to more serious duty. And, while I would not for a moment shirk the task laid down for us, it fills me with unusual sadness to know that we must part."

"You forget, dear husband, that while we may appear to separate, our souls are always one. Our twenty years of pure love and unselfish labor have bound us inseparably together in our interior natures, and unfolded our higher faculties until we are now fitted for a still more noble work.

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[paragraph continues] We love as only pure, unselfish souls can love; but we must not neglect our duty to those who all these years have overshadowed us with their loving protection. Neither should we forget that all things here on earth are fleeting. Nothing but the real endures. We have been instructed in the science which leads to the eternal, and for twenty years have enjoyed the highest happiness of earth to aid us to a dim perception of a still higher and eternal joy. Shall we now, for thoughts of self as separate from the All, renounce our blessed privilege and neglect our higher duties?"

Mother's face was radiant, and a halo of light shone around her head, while her eyes were bright with a wondrous beauty.

"My darling wife," responded my father, "you nobly represent the Masters; you do full justice to the noble Vestas; you recall me to my duty. Truly, how uncertain is this earth's existence! When all is bright, a cloud may be overhanging. To-day we live in peace, happiness and love; to-morrow death may desolate our home, fortune change, and wealth give place to rags. We, truly, by being pledged to Masters, have been overshadowed by their protecting love; and we shall not now allow the joys that are but fleeting to lead us from the path of duty and the bliss that is eternal."

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"Well spoken, husband; now both are strong—what is the news your face bespeaks?"

"I have this day received special news from France; Santos has passed his initiation and will be here before long to relieve me of my charge. He will be accompanied by Albarez, the meaning of which I know not; but we may be sure it portends change."

"True, husband, this is significant; yet use not the word portend. It implies evil; and we may be assured that the presence of one so great can mean naught but good. But, if this is the case, it is time to give our children more advanced instructions."

"Yes," answered father, "their knowledge, together with their intuitions, will enable them to now understand; I will join you and them in a ramble over the mountain to-morrow, when we can speak with freedom on the subject which we have guarded for so long, yet which will be of vast importance in their lives."

With this their conversation drifted into other channels; and by and by, sister and I tiring of our play, got our instruments and all four joined in an evening concert.

The next morning lunch was prepared in anticipation of a whole day on the mountain. The sad look on the face of father the evening before had disappeared, and he joined with lively interest in

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our rambles. All the morning our geological hammers broke the rocks, and many were the flowers and plants we analyzed. The mountain-top was covered with many sea-shells, and father took advantage of our inquiries concerning them to give a talk upon the ancient world, when what is now land was then the bottom of the sea, and what is now sea was then the home of vast and mighty civilizations long since lost to history. After partaking of our noon lunch, and when all were seated upon the great porphyry rock that marked the summit, father commenced the following talk:

"Children," he said, as mother took her seat between us, "the full meaning of what I have to tell you will be made clear as you grow older; and, as it is surrounded with considerable mystery, and what cannot at present be fully explained to you, I must trust to your innate knowledge to make it plain.

"Your mother and I are members of a secret Brotherhood, all of whose members are pledged to devote their lives in labor for mankind. Not only we, but our parents and ancestors for many ages before us were, or are, identified with this secret order."

Esmeralda and I were now paying the closest attention, and father's words had a strange fascination for me.

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"This Fraternity," he continued, "has many degrees or grades of membership, extending from those who work unselfishly in the humblest walks of life, to those who mark the highest possibilities of human development. Each degree has its peculiar duties and obligations, and your mother and I belong to what is called the fourth degree. As members of this degree, and before we can pass on to the exalted 'Third Degree,' we must raise, in pure love and through all the paths of virtue and goodness, two souls to take our places in the world when we pass on.

"You, dear children, testify to the fulfillment of that duty, and we trust and believe that you will be fully competent and willing to do your part as you grow older. In addition to this duty, we must live a loving and unselfish life for twenty years as ordinary members of the world, during which time we are to teach and train you until you are able to proceed by yourselves.

"If these duties are faithfully fulfilled, if for all these years we are a living example of all that is pure and good, it is our privilege to become members of the exalted 'Third Degree,' rise superior to the bonds of death, and live immortal in the purest love.

"Children, our twenty years have now almost expired, and the only unfulfilled condition is that you should be fit to fill our places. We know, for

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our life of study has not been for naught, that this is only a matter of time, and that you both will be our superiors.

"We tell you these things, dear children, because we have reasons to believe changes are soon to call us to new duties, which may necessitate a sundering of the ties of love.

"In explanation of this seeming cruelty, we would say that while the love which has been ours is blissful, it cannot compare with a still higher love which marks a higher life. And remember, children, that whatever may come to pass, if love-bonds are broken and you appear to have no friends, you are, by right of birth and the Brotherhood's adoption, surrounded by protecting powers that defy all opposition.

"So long as you live a life of purity and goodness, and adhere strictly to the path of duty, the Great Ones, called Protectors, will protect you from all harm."

Grand and noble were the words of father as he continued upon this subject which seemed to possess his entire soul, but still more so were the beautiful and eloquent words of mother who followed him with a description of the great souls who were members of the "Third Degree." With full confidence they outlined the possibilities that now lay before them and us, their children, and when they had finished Esmeralda and I, although

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young in years, were filled with an enthusiasm like their own.

"Now, children," said father in conclusion, "we have taken you into our full confidence that you may in the future more fully understand our actions; and while we impose no solemn pledge upon you, you will keep secret all we have spoken until it is permitted you, by proper authority, to reveal."

Mother's description of the members of the Brotherhood, with their great knowledge, powers and wondrous beauty, filled us with desires to be like them and to know more of their relations with our parents.

Evening having now arrived, we returned to our home, Esmeralda and I walking on ahead with the Brothers the sole theme of our conversation.

Nothing unusual occurred until next Wednesday evening, the regular night for the meeting in the laboratory, which meetings we now knew from father's talk were of a Masonic lodge of which father was Grand Preceptor.

Upon this evening father returned accompanied by a stranger.

He was a tall, lithe, agile-looking man, with brown curly hair, rather long, and thin curly whiskers and mustache of the same color. His eyes were of a steel blue, wide open and very penetrating in their look. His features were pale and

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somewhat angular in contour. His form was almost completely enveloped by a long indigo-colored cloak which hung loosely -from his shoulders to his knees. Upon his hands he wore gloves, which I noticed he never removed, and he always spoke in a low, suppressed tone which seemed to have a power unknown, as it sent shivers through us when we heard it. I noticed, also, that the stranger avoided personal contact with any one, and immediately upon his arrival he proceeded to the laboratory from which he never departed, not even for meals, which were prepared especially by mother and delivered in person.

Upon the arrival of this stranger, mother came to us and said that she and father had a very difficult work to perform that night and we must not be alarmed if they did not come down until late the next day. Then kissing us good-night she repaired to the laboratory, father remaining below until the usual time. About eight o'clock the weekly callers arrived, but this time they were all in a body and led by another stranger. Esmeralda and I were now left with Juanita, the maid, and father, with the others, proceeded to the laboratory.

After retiring to my bed the mysteries of the last few days commenced to crowd upon me, and it was only after a long and restless evening that I fell asleep.

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Sleep, strange mystery, who knows thy meaning and the wondrous powers that in thee find full play? I fell asleep to dream I was carried far off into a wild and mountainous country, where, on the steep and rocky side of a lofty range, encompassed around by peaks of snow, was a large, monastic-looking building. Next, by the marvelous transformations which characterize the dream, I found myself in an interior court, surrounded by cyclopean columns and thronged with white-robed priests. Upon a large white cube, which served as a throne, at one end of the court, sat a robed figure in a chair of pearl or ivory. His head was uncovered, and he wore long golden curls; his face was young, his eyes mild and blue. As I looked his form became surrounded with a halo of light, and as I gazed more intently I saw that his form was transparent like crystal, and a golden light emanated through the light blue robe of gauze that enveloped it. Then his features changed, and from the kind and gentle look that had at first marked his face, it became stern and awful; a radiant light shone from his eyes and violet scintillations filled the air around. With eyes fixed in awe and wonder on the scene, I saw the white-robed throng draw back, and twelve figures, transparent, but not golden like the first, robed in gauze of yellow, come forward and stand in a circle around the throne. Then I

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noticed for the first time a golden zodiac upon the white marble floor, around the throne, and each figure stood within a sign. The court was flooded with radiant light from no apparent source, and now, behold! Twelve figures, robed in indigo, lead forward another figure in like garments. A beautiful form of pearly-white shines through its transparent folds, and to! as I gaze I recognize my mother. Upon her broad and noble brow, now ivory-pearl in color, shines with brilliant luster a five-pointed golden star. Oh, how beautiful her face! How calm and grand her features! Her twelve robed conductors separate in front, six take each side and join behind to form a triangle around her. She advances. Then a fog came over the scene and I became lost in deep and dreamless sleep. O soul! untrammeled by the chains of matter, where did you in this sleep wander?

On the following morning I learned from Juanita, that after having been in session the entire night, all had left before dawn except the mysterious stranger who was still with father and mother in the laboratory. " And," whispered the maid, with a scared look upon her face, "the court was full of phantom spirits all night; for, as I started to return to my room, the full moon lighting up the court showed it full of white figures."

I said nothing in reply, but could not help but

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relate her strange statement with my dream, and determined to ask mother concerning it.

Nine o'clock came, and father came down with a pale and careworn look upon his face.

Noon came; father took a light dinner with us, but in answer to our questions only said, "Mother will come down later."

Three o'clock came, and at last mother appeared. Oh, how supremely beautiful was her face, now a pearl-white in color, and radiant with divine love. She came to us, and as she kissed me her touch thrilled my entire being. A delightful fullness filled my heart; I never felt so happy.

In answer to our questions, she said that the stranger was a great Master, and that by his aid she had gone far away and seen many of the mysteries of the higher life. When I told her of my dream she smiled happily, and, kissing me, said:

"My dear son and brother, you are wiser than you know, and will some time know more fully the meaning of your vision."

The stranger did not appear until evening, when he walked into the court where we were all sitting together, and, coming up in front of me, uttered some strange words which had a wonderful effect.

A white mist formed in a cloud before my eyes; the vapor, vibrating rapidly, took form, and a panoramic view spread out before me. I saw a smooth, mirror-like body of water surrounded by

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mountainous hills and containing many islands; a bright blue sky, filled with floating banks of snowy clouds, was reflected on its placid surface; then a vast fleet of ships full of armed men appeared, and the land also became black with a surging mass of shielded warriors. How, I knew not, but I seemed to recognize the scene, and the words Xerxes, Persia, Greece, formed in my mind. Then the mist took new shapes, and I saw a plain covered with hosts of dark-faced, turbaned men, with short, curved swords, mounted upon Arabian steeds. Opposite this swarthy host was an army of men of giant size, with long, yellow hair, immense battle-axes and suits of mail. I saw the turbaned hosts rush forward with loud cries. The two sides met in wild, tumultuous battle, and I saw the words—Martel, Poitiers. Then the mist faded away, and I heard the strange man say: "Brother of yesterday and to-morrow, your course is fixed." Then turning to Esmeralda he gazed at her long and intently. As he gazed her features became fixed, and her eyes took a far-away look; but I could see no mist. Then he uttered the words: "Child-sister of the Orient in western form, thou, too, shalt return." He waved his hand, and sister started up with a look of surprise upon her face as she turned inquiringly to me.

This strange performance had taken only a few

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moments of time, and father and mother had been silent witnesses.

As the stranger stepped back from Esmeralda, he turned, and with a peculiar gesture and knowing look, departed.

We both plied father and mother with questions; but they had seen no mists nor scenes. They had only noticed our steady gaze and heard the words of the stranger, whom they now said was a great adept named Albarez; and that he had the most wonderful powers, such as belong to all exalted men, among which was that of recalling temporarily to others their past existence.

"For," said father, "the soul is eternal and un-created, and passes from life to life and country to country. No doubt what you beheld were scenes in your past existence, and if you join the Brotherhood and pass through its higher courses, the vast knowledge that is concealed within your soul from many lives gone by will be revealed and become a part of your consciousness. This is in reality the secret of the Masters' knowledge of whom we have so often spoken, and it is within your power to become like them, for they are but men passed on to higher planes of being."

"Yes, children," added mother, "you are spirit-souls dwelling in bodies for the time being. When you have purified, trained and perfected your bodies and made them fit instruments for the manifestation

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of spirit, it will bring to you all knowledge, for it is the knowing power in man."

Thus you see my early training. From childhood my life had been full of mystery; and, at the early age of fourteen, I had formed ideals of perfect men called Masters, like whom I wished to be. If my life has been different from most men's, this will help explain it. These mystic teachings of my parents, together with my strange experience with Albarez, made the Brotherhood a constant subject of my thoughts. The presence of the adept, Albarez, had evidently caused a change, for the next Wednesday evening there was no lodge-meeting. In answer to our questions, father said his duty had been performed and his charge had been transferred to others.

Next: Chapter II. Severed Ties