- Passing Over
He knew he had died. The transition was an easy one. One moment, the doctor beside the bed, the room fading and indistinct, the blue sky and the trees of Glenmont beyond the window the focus of his slipping attention, the final sharp and clear image as he muttered his last words, “It is very beautiful out there.” And then he found himself out of his body, alone in a haze of silvery mist, watching as the doctor tenderly pressed the eyelids closed.
Barely noticeable, the gentle voice of his father, hardly more than a whisper but more like a thought in his mind–and his mind, he now realized, was all that mattered, all that he was, ever had been or ever would be–came to him, clearly, unmistakably, almost as a part of him.
“Alva,” the voice said, “I’m here for you, as I never was in life.”
Oddly, he felt no surprise, no confusion, as though he was on a well-traveled road, pausing now on the greater journey for this moment in time, reflecting on the recent life with so much now flooding his consciousness.
He saw it all in this moment, saw the hidden linkages, the relationships, the unfulfilled desires, the dreams of a lifetime, the friends who were enemies and the enemies who had done him well, who had thereby taught him his greatest lessons. All this came to Thomas Alva Edison in that singular moment of contrition and forgiveness before the voice came to him.
And, he saw more. The scene passed before him in what seemed to be an instant. He felt a shifting energy; the mists disappeared. He was standing in his body of light, sensing that the images passing before him were in some way images of a future as yet unmade.
There were two men, one a tall man, powerfully built, with strong features, a lantern jaw jutting from a long, narrow skull, with taut, pale wrinkle-free skin. The man, he intuited, was a member of the United States Senate, and the name that was given to Edison was “Strauch-Bockmistirre.” A shudder passed through Edison, for there was an overpowering sense of evil emanating from this man. He could feel it, alive and threatening and chilling.
Seated before a great stone fireplace in the last sinking light of the sun, Strauch-Bockmistirre fingered a dagger, running his palm along the smooth stone shank and caressing the black ebony handle. A red swastika set in a circle of ivory radiated a power of its own, independent of the malignant radiance of the shank itself. The two together formed a perfect resonance of evil, evident to anyone holding the piece or entering upon its environment.
Edison knew that Senator Strauch-Bockmistirre felt that power, now. “Soon,” Strauch-Bockmistirre said to his companion, a shorter, heavily muscled man with beady black eyes and a shaven head, his aide, Dieter Reimherr who stood, as always, at his side. Reimherr shared a terrible secret with the Senator, and was his link to the Brothers of the Shadows. All this, Edison knew. He could not tell how he knew; it was the product of an interior process he did not, could not, understand in this early after-death visioning. He watched, trembling with a nameless fear.
“Dieter,” Strauch-Bockmistirre said, “I have always known that in my blood lies the sleeping ghost of genius. Often in my earlier years, I would speak to this thing as though it were alive and an entity to my liking, as many children take to an unseen companion.”
Reimherr, a man of few words, nodded, his eyes brightly studying the dagger.
“But my words were never the words of a child, no, not ever,” Strauch-Bockmistirre went on, “They were beyond that, far, far beyond, thoughts of terror and fear, of unknown and terrible chasms of darkness looming before me in the black night, corrupting the lightness of my being and driving me to unspeakable limits of passion.”
Strauch-Bockmistirre sighed deeply, running a hand through his long, coarse black hair, gently caressing the back of his head. Dieter coughed. Still listening, he rose and rummaged in the coals of the fire, placing another log on the hearth. Flecks of flaming embers shot outward like tiny meteors, black before they fell to the stone floor.
“Leaving the warmth of my bed in the chill of winter–ach, German winters can be so cold, Dieter–“
“Jawohl,” his companion grunted, nodding and seating himself beside the senator.
“I would throw open the windows of my room, overlooking the distant rim of blackened forest beyond the meadow, challenging the least I knew was out there, yet knowing with certainty that the beast lay not in the tortured, haunted paths of that dark forest, but within me, Dieter, within my own being, lurking there like some threatening, unspoken promise of evil, suggesting to me that to survive at all, I must free this beast and turn it outward upon a world holding no comfort, no promise, for me.”
“And now–“, Dieter said, “now?”
“Ja, now. Now, I sit in the lair of the enemy, protected by his finest warriors, trusted as an American patriot, and one of the hundred most powerful men in his inner circle. And tomorrow–“
“Tomorrow?” Dieter repeated, ” . . . tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow, I shall–we shall–see the rebirth of the Reich, here in America, Dieter.”
He held the dagger high, silhouetted against the faint light from the window, high, as though pledging.
“The rebirth of the Reich, in America–for I now have the power. I am grateful to you Dieter, to the New Thule Group, and to the Brothers of the Shadows. I am this dagger, and I shall soon plunge myself into the heart of this decadent land and change it forever!”
Witnessing this in his body of Light, Edison shuddered. He knew that this fragment from a distant future was in some way connected to his death and in some way connected to a pledge of his own, now forgotten. He did know, now, who his enemy was. He knew intuitively that Strauch-Bockmistirre was after the secret of his machine, now in three parts, one in the caves beneath Beijing, another within the deepest archives of the Vatican, and the third in the earth beneath an isolated farmhouse in Maine. He knew also that the key to this machine, altered and improved upon by Nicola Tesla, lay in the rugged mountains of Yugoslavia.
Free of his earthly body, he knew he was powerless to intrude upon events taking place on the earth itself in any era of human time. He also knew that only one recourse remained. He had to return to earth life. He knew that, somewhere in time, an earthly body awaited him. Just as the man Jesus had opened his perfected human body to the Christ Spirit so long ago, so Edison knew that there existed on the earth plane a prepared human body, awaiting his return, to challenge the Brothers of the Shadows and their disciple, Senator Strauch-Bockmistirre.
- First Encounter: Samuel Edison
Edison waited, unsure of where he was, or even if he was, trembling from the eerie experience. He had seen each detail, heard each word, smelled the pungent smell of the burning wood, felt the stone floor beneath his feet, just as it was happening, then–when? Yet, here he was in the same peculiar “now,” standing in a gently swirling mist–and alone.
Panic gripped him. He was dead, but he was alive! And alone. And hallucinating strange visions and voices! Shadows moved within the mists like dim ghosts, vaguely human, sounds of wailing and sorrowful moaning. Lost Souls, who did not know they were dead, searching endlessly for a Light they feared and could not tolerate, living and reliving their last moments of earth life, suspended here in an eternal Astral purgatory.
Edison looked around, fearful that he had lost the voice of his father, heard so briefly before the vision came. Instantly, the voice came to him, soothing, whispering of infinite love and compassion:
“I am here, Alva. There is nothing to fear.”
“I know I have died,” Edison said. “I believe I understand, as I long ago dismissed the idea of a Heaven or a Hell. The Theosophists taught me much more than I realized at the time. I suppose I never did give it that much thought, but I realize now that I have been through this many, many times, else I should be terrified of my present state. Am I in Purgatory?”
“No, you are not–but the lost Souls you are seeing are in a Purgatory of their own making. That is not for you. They will remain in that state until one of us can reach them with The Light.”
“What you have experienced is a portion of your life’s review, though the scene you witnessed lies far ahead in human time. Normally, one would not see a probable future as you have, at this early time after the death of the body, but this has been given you by the Brothers of Light to impress upon you the importance of the task you must shortly undertake.. We doubt that you will forget what you have seen, as you forgot so much of your mission pledge during your recent life on earth. Several times we sent emissaries to remind you of what you had sworn to before entering your past life, yet you nevertheless soon let it pass from your hearing.”
Edison squinted. A shape was taking form, glowing in white Light, emitting an aura of what he could only call purest Love. Awed, he turned toward that Light as the last dim vestige of his deathbed finally faded from his consciousness, the doctor beside the body so recently his, now frozen and lifeless, fading, fading . . . and gone.
Free of his earth body, Edison heard the voice clearly and saw to his surprise that somehow, his mind had recombined a new body, an ethereal body, clothed as in physical life. At the same time, with his mind still sharp and highly aware, he knew there was a secret, a revelation that was to be his. He yielded to the voice, to the light before him– his father, yes, but so much beyond the old, familiar features, as though this apparition before him was a being of many realities, of many worlds, beyond human comprehension.
“You have one question as yet unanswered,” the voice told him, “one question from this life now ended.”
“Yes,” Edison said.
Edison’s reply was simple and direct, no more than the one word, “Why?”
“You are about to experience the ‘why,’ ” the voice told him, speaking yet as his father. “You have died, and we have given you a brief hint of your future task. No, you will not remain here as a lost Soul–that you are not–but we cannot free you for your new work until you have seen your so-called ‘why’!
“In a moment you will begin to relive the events of your past lives which have brought you to this point. You will see the consequences of your choices as you passed through many lives, see and feel them as they impacted on the people you knew and lived with over time. Some of this will be experienced as dreams. Others you will actually relive. I must warn you that the experience may be quite painful, at times, even horrifying.
“Strange!,” Edison said. “do all beings go through this at death?”
“Yes, and for a good purpose–to prepare you for your next incarnation. In the normal rule of things, you’d live on here in the Astral after your life review is completed, meeting friends and relatives who passed on before you and receiving teaching and guidance in preparation for your return. But in your case, Alva, and because of the great need of Humanity, you will not experience what’s known as the ‘second death’. We have other plans for you! Of this, you have had but one hint. I can say no more at this time.
“And now, I must take leave of you, Alva, as you thread your way through the after-death maze awaiting you. Remember–fear is not your companion, You walk with the most profound and universal Love. You may appear to be alone, yet you walk in Light, surrounded by Light. We are always at your side!”
The mists grew heavy and thick, swirling with a fierce intensity. The form before him faded. A chill pervaded the Astral atmosphere and Edison shuddered. He stepped forward, into the unknown.
- Second Encounter: The Greek Warrior
The sound of his footsteps emerged from the silence and he realized he was walking on stony, barren ground, where to or why, he did not know. The air was hot, but he felt a salt breeze brushing his face and he smelled salt sea air. The mist slowly dissolved and he began to make out a shore line ahead, a broad sandy beach with white caps whipped by the breeze, a half-dozen gulls wheeling and crying.
The figure, gaunt with hunger and wild-eyed, nearly naked, leaped before him, broadsword held high and ready.
“Aah, yee!” the man cried. “Stop where you are! Who are you, stranger? What brings you here? Why should I not disembowel you where you stand?”
He waved the sword menacingly, inches from Edison’s eyes. Edison flinched, stepped back, and he realized that there was spring in his step, a new youthfulness he had not known in years.
“Now, young man, what kind of whippersnapper accosts an old man on a beautiful day like this? You should be working at a trade, though you do seem to be a warrior of some kind!,” Edison said.
“Warrior?,” the apparition cried, now real and solid as life. “Warrior? I am warrior!”
His gaze fell on his tattered skirt, his scrawny, bony knees, the tattered remnants of his sandals and he slowly brought the sword down. What was left of his tunic was hardly more than shreds of cloth draped over a hairy, sweating chest.
“Warrior? By the gods, I am a starving man, no longer a warrior, a dying man set before a stranger in peculiar raiment, who must himself be of the gods!”
He sank slowly to his knees, the blade of his sword digging into the hard-scrabble soil. One hand on the hilt of the sword, he buried his face in the free hand, sobbing pitifully.
“They told us that if we were defeated in war to make our way north to the ocean, that ships would ply back and forth along the coast to pick up the remnants of the army as they made their way to safety.”
The warrior looked at Edison.
“Have you seen the ships?” he asked, his voice breaking even as he spoke. “The ships, flying the flag of Xenophon of Athens?”
“There are no ships,” Edison said. “There never were any ships.”
“The commander pledged to us–“
“Your commander was in error,” Edison said sharply. “Where are your companions?”
“We made our way here, crossing deserts and tundra, when the jackals defeated us through treachery. There were six–my companions of many battles–and we were starving, as I am starving now, before you.”
The warrior sobbed, sat hunched upon the gravel before Edison. The stench of the man before him revolted Edison, no stranger to sweat and hard work. But this was the stench of a dying man.
“We drew lots,” the warrior said, and my bedmate drew the short straw. Before my eyes, they slew him and fell upon his flesh while I cried and refused to partake of the feast. They drank the blood of my beloved and sang oaths to the gods while I drifted away, sickened to the core of me. Soon they left for the mountains to the west to seek the sails that would return them to the homeland across this accursed sea!”
A chill fell over Edison as the man rose to his haunches, face buried in his hands, the sword swaying, then falling to the ground.
“I am trapped here” the man said. Again and again, I live that horror; there is no escape–until you came. What gift have you brought for me, stranger? What has happened to me? Who are you? Have you the means of my escape? Do you know where the ships can be? You do not appear to be a warrior, so you must be of the gods!”
Edison had noticed the pinpoint of white light forming behind the man as he spoke. He watched the light grow to become an oval of brilliance, a slowly rotating beacon.
“The light,” Edison said. “Have you seen the light?”
The warrior trembled with fear.
“I have–many times! But nothing I have ever witnessed has frightened me so. I flee before it and it leaves, and I begin this horror over again, and again.”
Edison stepped forward, extending his hand to the warrior now kneeling before him.
“Take your sword in hand,” Edison commanded, “and stand with me!”
He drew the warrior upward and they stood for a moment eye to eye. Edison clasped the warrior’s free hand.
“Walk with me to the light,” Edison said. Together they faced the light, now a thin oval, beckoning like a door.
“Are you coming with me?” the warrior asked.
“No,” Edison said. “Like you, I am entrapped here for a time, but I will go on once my work here is done. But you must go. It is your time, Warrior!”
They walked to the portal. The warrior trembled. He turned to Edison. “I am grateful to you, Stranger. I feel no fear, now. You are the god of my heart!”
Edison nudged the warrior toward the light. The light seemed to advance upon them. With one quick move, the warrior stepped into the light and as he did, it was as a nova, a brilliant, silent explosion of light, swallowing the warrior and removing him from his eternal dream.
There was only the sounding surf, the cry of the gulls, the bright yellow sand reflecting the Mediterranean sun. Like the sea, always beyond time, the Light had reclaimed its own. There were no ships.
- Third Encounter: Sarah Bernhardt
The sound of a roll-top desk opening–the rattling of the wooden slats–and the warrior and the light disappeared. He saw before him his old laboratory desk, the surface clear for a change, pigeon holes crammed with notes and scraps of paper and he thought, “Wonderful!” From long habit, he climbed atop the desk and curled up on his side. “A perfect time for a nap,” he muttered, closing his eyes and waiting to drift off into a short, dreamless snooze. Just as his hunger for food was gone, so was his hunger for sleep. But his curiosity was not gone and lying there knowing sleep would not be his, he stared at the wall of the laboratory.
A haze formed. Somewhere, a clock struck four, a distant, fuzzy sound, echoing in his awareness as he squinted at the gathering haze, which now began to glow with a soft violet light, ovoid in form. Rays of golden, and then white light radiated from the heart of the oval, framing what became a pinkish, pulsating ball. Edison sat up, his legs dangling from the desk, hands clenched on the edge of the desktop.
A form appeared in the light, and he saw that the light itself emanated from the form. It was a woman, he saw with no little astonishment, a woman clad in white ermine, a beautiful and familiar woman, the loveliest woman he had known in life, and a woman he loved to this moment. He saw her and he was a youth again. His heart pounded and he felt sweat on his hands and a sweet lust he had quite forgotten pulsed in his brain.
“My God,” he muttered. “It can’t be!”
But as the figure materialized and moved toward him, smiling, familiar, arms outstretched, he cursed beneath his breath. What a damnable trick his imagination was playing, now!
“This cannot be real,” he murmured, repeating the words aloud.
“But I am real,” the angelic figure whispered, now so close before him that when he raised his hand, the light threw a shadow on the cloth of his vest.
“Madame Sarah,” Edison managed–this cannot be so. You are dead! Long dead!”
“So you say, Mr. Edison, so you say–but so are you, my dearest! How sweet to know you in this way. How strange that we meet, now, in these humble surroundings, after so long.”
“You are a ghost!” Edison cried suddenly.
“And so are you, my dear one!” Bernhardt whispered, “a spook–just like me! But, oh so wonderful a spook! Let’s stay like this through all time, shall we?”
“We can’t,” Edison said, controlling his rising awe. He reached out and touched her shoulder. It was real. Can it be? he wondered, did he detect a faint blush on the face this lovely spectre? Yes, and a smile, a sweetly coquettish smile, a teasing, loving invitation.
“This is the miracle of death,” Bernhardt said, ever so tenderly, a hand brushing his sleeve.
“We met but once in this past life,” Edison said–
“But we knew forever after that we were linked, and so it was, through all the years, as I waited on this side for you to join me,” Bernhardt said. “We have been together before, and we will be together again and again–“
“Goddamn!” Edison muttered. He reached into his vest pocket and found a chaw of ‘baccy. It was bittersweet and softened quickly in his mouth. He felt forgotten impulses awakening and tried to back away, but was blocked by the desk. This was insane!, he thought. I am a spook, a damned spook, but everything is like it was in life!
Bernhardt seemed slightly amused to see the great inventor frustrated and flabbergasted before her.
“Perhaps it would help if we could go back to that night” she said, “that wonderful night in December of 1881. You remember, of course?”
Edison spat a plug on the floor, an old habit from life. Bernhardt pretended not to notice. She knew he did this in emotional moments, when he needed to think, to have a moment of introspection. When he looked up, Bernhardt was fading and he was seeing her as she was on that unforgettable evening. He saw it all, and he saw it as she had seen it.
- Superstar, Superman: December 4-5, 1881
The performance of La Dame aux Camelias at New York’s Booth Theater on Saturday, December 4, signaled the end of the first leg of Sarah Bernhardt’s first American tour. She made the long journey from her native land aboard the steamer l’Amerique along with her personal entourage of two maids, two cooks, a waiter, her maitre d’hotel and Madame Guerand, her ma petite dame.
New York went wild. Lines of ticket buyers stretched around the block. Standees eagerly sought space for any performance available.. Bernhardt played Marguerite Gauthier with a tenderness and a sensitivity that brought even Commodore Vanderbilt, who attended every performance, to tears. The spectacle of the great financier, alone in his box, weeping copiously into a huge white handkerchief was as much of a show as that transpiring on the stage itself.
Under a contract with her impresario, Henry C. Jarrett, for a hundred American engagements, Bernhardt earned a thousand dollars for each performance, plus fifty percent of each day’s gross over four thousand dollars–and two hundred dollars a week for her hotel expenses. Twenty-five performances in New York from November 8 to December 4 brought the Gallic Superstar close to thirty-thousand dollars from a gross of almost a hundred thousand, a huge sum in 1881.
The last performance was a heart-stopper. There were seventeen curtain calls after the third act and when the play ended, twenty-nine curtain calls delayed the evening’s end by more than an hour. Even then, she was unable to leave the theater because of the crowds outside, cheering and calling for her appearance, even in the mixture of snow and freezing rain now falling.
She was mobbed when she tried to leave the theater, mostly by cheering, near-hysterical women who wanted a word from her or a touch of her deified person. One autograph seeker, finding her pen out of ink, bit her own wrist and dipped her pen in her blood. This, finally, was too much and Bernhardt retreated to the theater to send a decoy, Jeanne Bernhardt, wearing her chinchilla coat and her distinctive chapeau, into the mob, while she and her manager, Jarrett, and Edison’s man, Robert Fulton Cutting, made their way through a fire exit to a waiting brougham, their breaths fogging in the humid air.
Inside, a mohair blanket covering her lap, Bernhardt sighed. She slouched back against the tufted leather seat.
“Mon Dieu!” she uttered softly, “how they love me here! Twenty-nine curtain calls! It is pure sacrilege that one woman should be so worshipped! And so many of them women! Such wonderful women, here in America! Did you see the one who wanted my autograph written in her blood? Mon Dieu! Ah, but I love it, I love it so! What would I do if I had been born a poor peasant girl? Can you imagine–a hundred thousand dollars, to see me?”
“Ninety-eight thousand, nine-hundred and forty-two,” Jarrett corrected. “And now, the most famous man in America will have the inestimable pleasure of meeting the most famous woman of France!”
Cutting looked across the way at Jarrett, who wore a grin bordering on disdain.
“Ah, Cutting,” Bernhardt said, leaning provocatively toward the exhausted executive, “would they love me so much were I to wear the culottes of a poor peasant?”
Jarrett, looking for all the world like a man charged with an unpleasant duty, replied mechanically. “Madame,” he said, “all the world loves you!” He spoke as if reading from a script.
Cutting’s mind was not on the conversation. His thoughts were on the laboratory at Menlo Park, their destination at this late hour. Edison had given him a hundred details for arranging for this bizarre evening and the coming midnight visit from Bernhardt. A special train awaited across the Hudson–a locomotive and two passenger cars, one for Bernhardt, Jarrett and Cutting, the other for members of the press.
But Cutting could not ignore the astonishing beauty of the woman who sat opposite him. He was totally distracted from his list of details by her looks but even more so by the pungent fragrance of her perfume and of her body. It was a sweet, sensual mix of intoxicating woman-ness. He was unnerved by the power of her slightest movement.
Even at this late hour, her beauty was impressive. Her silks were woven to order in Lyon, her velvets imported from Italy, and her furs from the depths of Russia. Before contracting with Jarrett, she customarily spent $50,000 a year on an income of $20,000.
Despite the enormous outpouring of admiration from women following her performance, in the outraged eyes of some late Victorian women, her life was a scandal. At the conclusion of her American tour, she appeared on the hurricane deck of the ship of the TransAtlantic Line moored at the Morton Street pier. There, she waved gaily to the huge throng gathered to see her off. Crones in the crowd were heard to remark, reported one newspaper, “Ain’t she horrid-looking!”, “And how! She’s a perfect fright!”, and “Look how she’s all painted up!”
Bernhardt, of course, heard none of this, nor did she care. If she had heard, her response would have been a brief toss of her curls, an upturned nose and a hearty Gallic oath delivered behind a polite smile and tightly clenched teeth.
As the carriage pulled away from the theater, eager gallants ran beside it for an enervating block or two, until Jarrett derisively yanked the curtain down. Bernhardt did not hide her disappointment.
“Yes, Madame, the world loves you, indeed!” Cutting repeated. His voice was tired, now, and edged with sarcasm. Bernhardt did not notice and would not have cared, for far more charming and vital men were her constant tease. But she touched his knee briefly, as she would a favored puppy, as she talked aloud of the coming banquet with Edison and his wife and the tour to follow. Boston was the next stop. She seemed utterly inexhaustible.
Despite his air of boredom, the touch livened Cutting. It reassured him and he felt a tightness in his chest and elsewhere. Embarrassed, he clenched his knees together and reddened. Could it be her exotic perfume, her earthy fragrance, a musky, womanly presence stirring him so? He was not used to this and he grew even more confounded, scrambling the details he was charged with even more profoundly.
The coach lurched as they turned into the ferry loading dock. Bernhardt’s shoulder brushed his arm. “Oh,” she cried, “this lovely city! So like Paris! Have you been to Paris, Mr. Cutting?”
Before he could respond, the coach slowed and swayed to a stop. Bernhardt swept back the curtain. With delighted, almost childlike “Oooh!” she turned back to Cutting. “The ferry! It’s the ferry!”
She herself opened the door as the coach stopped. The coachman gaped in surprise at this usurpation of his duty. He had hardly touched the ground before the door was open and Bernhardt was on the ground before him, leading Cutting and Jarrett to the wooden deck of the boat and leaving the coach where it stood. Before Cutting could stop her, she was at the rail, gazing at the panorama of the city, the darkly murmuring slapping of the water against the dock and the ferry’s prow. She moved quickly, like an alert cat, from one end of the boat to the other. The stars were brilliant on this night of the new moon. No one recognized her, and for once, she was glad. The sane people, Cutting thought, were seated cozily in the warm cabin, dozing or reading newspapers, the narrow windows of the ferry frosted over, the well-lighted seats inside inviting.
But Bernhardt would have none of that.
“How lovely!” she cried as the throbbing engine of the ferry carried them swiftly toward midstream. The Hudson had never looked more threatening than it did at this moment; chunk of river ice scraped the hull. The churning of the water seemed to bode ill. Cutting’s heart leaped as Bernhardt leaned far over the rail, fascinated by the churning, frothing water and the ice floes. She could be gone in a moment, he thought. He wondered what he would do if she fell. She’d be gone in a moment! Would he have the courage to attempt a rescue? Looking at the foaming wake and the thick, restless ice, he dismissed the idea, but not before he saw the headlines trumpeting his brave deed in his mind’s eye.
He found it more than difficult not to warm to this energetic, dynamic woman, so unlike his own wife, Natalie, dead now six years, who had possessed not one tenth, not one-hundredth of the grace or the sweet insouciance of Bernhardt. He mind spun an idle scenario, no mean feast for the humorless, unimaginative Cutting. The headlines, yes, and an international affair, a second marriage, an idyllic new life, perhaps even a more challenging position far beyond his present status as one of Edison’s directors. Then the long arm of guilt slipped in, grasping for his throat. He fought hard to dismiss these thoughts, yet the more he fought them, the stronger they returned to his numbed mind.
Bernhardt squealed in childlike delight when the boat’s engines reversed, throwing a great tide of backwash ahead to slow their entry into the dock. With virtually no sound, the boat met the dock. The reversed vertical beam engine throbbed long enough for the deckhands to make the mooring lines fast, shoving the bow of the boat against the dock. There was only the slightest lurch as their journey ended and Cutting’s daydream ended. “God,” he muttered softly to himself, “am I insane with such delusions?” He moved toward Bernhardt, to help her step ashore.
The special trained awaited them in the trainshed beyond the ferry building. The keystone emblem of the Pennsylvania Railroad had been burnished clean and shone in the dim light of the station. They were hustled aboard their private car with no fanfare, past the admiring gaze of the newsmen who had boarded the last car well before their arrival.
Bernhardt was seated at a window, facing forward, Cutting beside her and Jarrett across the aisle, facing to the rear. No sooner were they seated when the locomotive gave a great sigh, the coach lurched and they began to move quickly from the shed into the blackness of a Jersey City night. The window was steamed over. With the enthusiasm of a child, Bernhardt brushed away the moisture so that she could see all there was to see of the Meadowlands and the Jersey countryside. Within minutes the tiny consist was rocketing toward Menlo Park.
The journey was a brief one, hardly more than twenty minutes of rocking and swaying at speeds approaching and sometimes exceeding seventy miles an hour. The special consist subordinated other trains on the line, for the great Bernhardt moved even those who did not see her to do things that might otherwise not be done. It was more than her reputation, more than her notoriety. Would the fact that she slept in a knockoff of an Egyptian sarcophagus, in a backyard filled with stage props mirroring an Egyptian courtyard make anyone the least bit reluctant to extend limitless and gracious favors to the charming gamin of a dozen continents?
The train came to a shuddering stop at Menlo Park. Perfect silence greeted them, broken only by the muted sounds of the panting air brake compressor.
They stepped from their coach to the graveled path. They were in a pitch black world; the glow from the lights of the car showed them the dim way to Edison’s waiting horsedrawn carriage. The “Light-House” boarding house upstairs from the station stood dark and silent. Even the saloon bar kept by the Scotsman named Davis was shuttered at this late hour.
Snow had fallen; they walked cautiously, Cutting on one arm, Jarrett on the other. Together they helped the great actress into the brougham. She stumbled in the dim light; Jarrett muttered a curse. He was not pleased. Here he was, somewhere in the loathsome countryside of a land he detested, freezing his balls and about to meet a mad inventor who insisted that he had something to show the Madame.
The electric light? A toy; a plaything. And everyone knew that the idea came from the mind of a Frenchman, that Edison, the impostor, had stolen the electric light as he had so much else, from the design of a French genius, unheralded by the world.
“Damn!” Cutting thought as the coach lurched along the graveled, icy main highway, eastward toward Christie Street, the laboratory and the small group of homes for the Edisons and their employees, wheels slipping on the frozen ruts, jostling them as no pothole could. He stared past Bernhardt at the total blackness outside. How could the coachman see the road?
“Ooooh, it is so dark, how do you say it?” Bernhardt exclaimed. “It is black as the pillars of hell, no?”
Having no knowledge of the pillars of hell, Cutting accepted his fate generously. Soon enough, they would be in the warmth of the laboratory and his task would be largely complete.
The coach slowed, lurching gently leftward into Christie Street, wheels skidding in frozen ruts.
The laboratory at Menlo Park had seen its share of famous visitors; they came from every corner of the globe to the clutch of frame buildings just north of the railroad tracks. Statesmen, princes, royalty of every kind, investors, celebrities, newspapermen (Edison was a keen publicist and knew well the value of a friendly press)–all seeking, aside from whatever self-interest they brought with them–the childlike delight of wandering among the wonders which Edison and his men had created here in the Jersey countryside.
Lesser known visitors entered the two-story red brick building serving as the complex office and located at the corner of Woodbridge Avenue and Christie Street. Upstairs was the library, while at a desk on the first floor, the unwary unknowns encountered William Carman, Edison’s bookkeeper, who adroitly kept gatecrashers away.
There was nothing like it in the world at that time. Modest and almost toy-like by modern standards, it would not even compare with a modern used-car lot, yet without doubt it was the eighth wonder of the world in 1880. And of all the visitors who came to meet Edison, curious, excited, charmed by the courtly but homey inventor, only one managed to out-dazzle Edison and his sideshow. That was Bernhardt, the great Bernhardt, at age 36 approaching the zenith of her career as an actress and singer, the living symbol of the elegance of the velvet age. Bathed in exquisite perfumes, she moved in yards of the finest silks and brocade.
The coach began its approach to the office-library. The buildings of the complex huddled in the darkness. The ground was blanketed with fresh snow.
Grinding to a stop outside the office, the carriage creaked and grew silent. Not a sound broke the stillness. Impatient, Bernhardt shuddered. “Are we to walk the rest of the way?” she demanded.
She had barely spoken when Edison, hidden at his laboratory window, threw a switch. Instantly, hundreds of brilliant lights burst forth in the blackness of the night–the laboratory, the machine shop, the glass house, the carbon shed, the roadway all the way to Middlesex Avenue, lights suspended on poles planted in the fields–exploded in a wondrously brilliant display of light. Lights bulbs were strung everywhere; their path was clearer than daylight! Dim figures scurried about, outside the laboratory. The explosion of beauty stunned Bernhardt. Cutting, too, was impressed. It was a stunning, breathtaking, unforgettable moment.
“Such a hello!” Bernhardt cried, “what a darling man!”
The evening was one neither the inventor nor his guest ever forgot. It was not simply that Bernhardt charmed Edison; she captivated him knowingly and deliberately during the hours she spent with him at Menlo Park.
The laboratory workers had never seen such a pliable Edison, so easily turned by a gesture or a glancing smile. She stirred his heart; he knew it, they knew it, and Madame Bernhardt, slyly aware and enjoying every subtle moment, played the delightful game for all she was worth. Mrs. Edison was nowhere to be seen until the party adjourned to Edison’s home at the end of the tour for an early morning dinner party.
Edison did not particularly care for Cutting, but his antagonism seldom surfaced, nor did it mar their business relationship; no sign of it appeared on that memorable evening. How could it, in the aura of the exotic Bernhardt?
After Edison greeted her at the door of the library and escorted her along the wooden walkway to the laboratory, Bernhardt found herself awed to be in the presence of the man they called the “Wizard of Menlo Park.” Like the queen she was, she took Edison’s hand as he guided her to and through the door, a welcome that was barely more than a whisper, his eyes twinkling with a mischief that told more than words.
Moving through the laboratory, with Edison in the lead, they stopped again and again while he elaborated upon a device or an idea, or described a line of current or proposed research. Cutting translated from the French and back again. He was fully aware of Edison’s changed demeanor, of how Edison’s eyes warmed, of how thoroughly Edison studied Bernhardt’s unblemished skin, the structure of her fine features and the flow of her lovely body whenever she paused to marvel at what he offered her.
At one point, he took Edison aside and whispered in his ear, “on the way down, she asked me if you were married!”
Edison blushed a deep red and smiled warmly.
“Is that so?” he said. “Well, well!”
Charmed beyond measure, he cast a sideward glance at the beautiful actress, wishing in that moment that he could in
some way, recapture the essence of that grace, that beauty, within the confines of a test tube. What a marvelous formula!, he thought.
In her own way, Bernhardt was very much aware of Edison’s attention. It was, of course, nothing new to her; she felt it from every man who came near her, and from many who did not so much as approach her. It was an unspoken, telepathic kind of communication, immediately known to giver and receiver, responded to in a hundred secret ways, a source of subtle pleasure to her, a game with no beginning and no ending, a joyous and pleasantly selfish celebration of her womanhood, without the slightest hint of seriousness or carnal intent. She was, as so many had said to her, a flirt, always a flirt.
Yet, she saw much more in Edison, a second level, or multiples of levels of sensitivity and kindness, a compassion and a wholesome maleness that was one-tenth ego and nine-tenths gentleness; she saw the boy in Edison, the boy he had never been, and she saw the man. What stunned her so, what took her breath away, was the total unexpectedness of it all.
Where she had expected a lifeless drone of a technical genius, she instead found herself confronted with a kind and gentle man, a man who seemed interested in her in ways she could not imagine. There were no leers, no double-entendres, not even the most delicate flirtations, only a simple, basic, honest human being who wore stains of tobacco juice proudly on his shirt and lapels.
She wished she could spend more time with him, alone, to explore what was now unsaid between them, to touch the finely molded chin, the massive head with its full head of hair. There was such a magnetism about this man, she thought; she felt it; her body sensed it. There were several times when he stood close beside her that she felt the warmth of his body, so that at one time, she reached out her hand and touched his arm. He did not draw away, but he looked at her curiously. Their eyes met for that instant, and she knew he understood, and that was enough to make her forget Cutting’s droning, nasal voice, forget that she had never seen this man before.
She felt she had known him in times past, in places long forgotten; now she struggled, recounting scenes, meetings in Europe, her girlhood, scenes in a hundred plays, yet the memory remained elusive. She thought of Egypt, of the Pharonic days, and of continents, whole nations, disappeared from the face of the earth. Somewhere, in the halls of time, she felt, there had been a connection. The more she pursued the strange feeling, the more the distant recall eluded her. She withdrew her hand. All the laboratory had seen.
Covert but proud glances passed among the men. Here was Edison, himself, the man who sat with them, hour after weary hour, sleeves rolled, demanding the impossible, cursing and spitting tobacco juice on the floor, jamming his dead stogies against the legs of the tables, trading homey off-color jokes, farting and wiping his nose on his sleeves, the man who with a word could keep them working in a locked laboratory for a week at a time in quest of some arcane secret of nature, the man who often curled on a desk or a laboratory table for ten minutes of fitful sleep four or five times in the course of 24 hours, who smelled of his own sweat and tobacco, and whose clothes were often stained of his own juices and fluids–not that he was an unclean man, but in the heady quest for the new, the unique, the undiscovered, all else was forgotten–here he was, slyly seducing the most glamorous woman in the world–and succeeding!
The workers nudged one another; elbows jammed ribs; their knowing grins, their quickly averted eyes caught Edison’s attention. He knew these men. He knew full well what was in their minds, but he did not care. Let them have their fun. He felt, rather, a warm and impish smudginess, a childlike glee, and he felt it without a touch of guilt or regret. He felt powerful, dazzled, omnipotent.
Something in the great Bernhardt responded; a synchronous sensitivity that later led her to compare Edison with Napoleon himself. It was a feeling that remained with her for the rest of her life. She never forgot.
Many years later, after she had lost a leg from the complications following an on-stage fall, her mind often wandered back to the meeting with Edison, remembering, fantasizing, musing, as though she had lived a lifetime in those few brief hours at Menlo Park, as, perhaps, she had.
In the filthy trenches of the western front during the World War almost 40 years later, as she was carried on a stretcher to entertain and cheer the exhausted poilus of the French army, her stump hidden beneath the folds an army overcoat, she caught sight of a young soldier, a man with a large head and tousled hair, a man-with Edison’s engaging grin. Her heart leaped. In that moment, the world stopped in its course and time stood still. Bernhardt felt giddiness, a heady, whirling sensation. She came close to fainting.
Though she did not know it, at that moment, Edison, an ocean apart, was in conversation with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the bright, youthful assistant secretary of the American Navy, discussing the first meeting of the “Inventors’ Board,” Edison’s idea for a brain trust of scientists and inventors to help the war effort.
Present were Frank Sprague, Elmer Sperry and Hudson Maxim. Edison stopped speaking in mid-sentence. His eyes had a vacant, distant look that alarmed his colleagues.
“Are you all right, Mr. Edison?” Roosevelt asked him with genuine concern. Edison did not reply. Sprague caught Roosevelt’s eye. He rose from his chair and moved quickly to Edison’s side. At that moment, the aging inventor started.
Blinking furiously, he looked around, clearly confused. His eyes were moist.
“It’s all right, ” he said. “I am all right.” He looked around the room.
“It’s just that I had a ringing, an annoying buzzing sound in my ears. I suppose I drifted away for a moment, only a moment, you see.” He pulled gently on one ear. “It comes on me, sometimes, like that–“
What he did not tell them was that, in the moment of his distraction, his mind carried him back to that cold December night at Menlo Park, and he was again at the door of his laboratory, Bernhardt’s warm, perfumed hand in his, her admiring eyes on him as Cutting, now no more than an instrument translating unneeded words, shuffled anxiously on his feet, wanting only to get back to New York and his matters of consequence, following this sleepless night and the sumptuous banquet that ended with the first streaks of dawn in the eastern sky.
Turning to go, Bernhardt followed her impulse, as she always did. She drew close to Edison, tipping toward him, her face brushing his as she kissed him ever so lightly, letting the warmth of her body and the fragrance of her perfume touch him in such a gentle way that he was deeply, instantly moved. The inventor was stunned, but pleased. He looked at Cutting, Cutting frowning in a spoilsport way and shifting his feet impatiently, averting Edison’s eyes.
Cutting took Bernhardt’s arm and led her gingerly along the frozen path. As they moved to the waiting coach the actress stopped short.
“Jeoublie,” she said, turning back to Edison and digging in her purse, bringing out a dog-eared envelope and giving it to him. Translating her words, Cutting said, “Madame says that sometime ago, when she was performing in Lyon, a stranger appeared to her in her dressing room at a most inopportune moment, a very unusual man.”
Cutting stared curiously at Bernhardt; he questioned her briefly in French, to clarify what she was saying. Somewhat disturbed, he continued.
“She says that he told her she would someday meet you, Mr. Edison, that is, meet you, in person, and that when she did, she was to deliver this note to you when the meeting took place.”
Cutting looked nervously at Bernhardt, then to Edison, as though what he had to say was in some way distasteful to his Victorian sensibilities.
“Madame says that she looked at the envelope, read your name, Sir, and then looked back to the man. As she did, she says, the bloody fellow disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” Edison asked.
“Yes, Sir. Quite so. That’s what she said. I asked her twice. You heard me, I’m sure. There’s no doubt in her mind but that was so.”
“Nonsense,” Edison said, but softly, gently, kindly. “It must have been a delusion of some kind. Showmen are that way, you know.”
He took Bernhardt’s hand again, raising it to his lips in a gesture of affection and respect, kissing it, savoring its fragrance. He smiled. “Tell her, Cutting, that I hope to see her, to see her again and again and again,” he said. Cutting repeated the words to her, his French a bit uneven, considering the hour and his exhaustion.
Bernhardt brightened. She was very pleased. The diamonds she wore sparkled in the electric glow of Edison’s lamps, now challenged by the lightening eastern sky.
Bernhardt turned, mounted the coach, and was gone. Edison breathed deeply. The air was refreshingly cold. Bernhardt’s fragrance lingered everywhere, in the air, on his clothes, on his hands; warm pleasure moved him deeply. Enjoying the brief moment, he smiled and walked back inside.
As the door closed behind him, he remembered the envelope. He took it from his pocket. It bore the marks of many months among Bernhardt’s personal effects: smudges of cosmetics, heady perfumes, wrinkles and creases and folds. He could see that she had carried this close to her in the time since Lyon.
The envelope was addressed in a finely articulate hand, to Mr. Thos. Edison. Opening it, he withdrew a single sheet of parchment-like paper. The familiar ringing sound echoed in his mind. Suddenly alert, he scanned the note in the light of a single unshaded electric bulb:
On the evening of December 16, 1881, you must proceed alone to number 23 Vesey Street, in the city of New York. Go to the third floor, rear, arriving no later than nine o’clock. There you are to receive valuable information bearing on your future and vital to your work, from someone who knows you better than you know yourself.
Remember–you must go alone.
Edison read the message a second time, committing it to memory. It was strange, he thought, remembering that day so long ago in Milan, Ohio, remembering the lost hours after his friend had drowned, remembering all of it, as a dream is remembered., In his mind, he clearly saw the man who spoke of so much he could not now recall, the Master, Morya.
Even as he thought of that experience, he began to remember more. Morya had said something, then, about an actress, and a letter, and a meeting of some kind. But that was all he could bring to mind.
Frowning from the effort, he walked back to the door, opening it and standing once more in the cold, fresh air of morning, uneasy in the bright light, staring off into the diminishing darkness beyond, trying to recapture the divine presence of the lovely actress.
She was gone. No sound came from the darkness beyond the circle of light at his feet. He knew she could tell him no more of her meeting with the bearer of the note, nor could she shed any light whatever on the strange message.
Stepping from the porch, walking a short distance into the darkness, he heard, even in his deafness, the sound of the train leaving the depot, the golden lights of the coach glimmering on the snow.
Overhead, the stars were still bright in the sky. The moon bathed the snow-covered ground in a cold, eerie light. He resolved to go to New York as the note instructed. He did not know it, but on the sixteenth of December at precisely nine o’clock, New York City would bask in the shine of a full moon at its maximum intensity.
- Fourth Encounter: Cagliostro
He had known no tears since childhood, no tears during his years of poverty. But as the scene with Bernhardt faded, he felt warm wetness on his cheeks, his damned spook cheeks, he thought, wiping away the moisture with his sleeve. His baccy was gone, the taste as well. Had that, too, been a figment of his imagination? It seemed that whatever he thought about instantly appeared before him, a strange magic that both astounded and alarmed him, here in this after-death world.
The baccy was gone–and so was Bernhardt! Where was she, for the love of God? Was she a spook, too? What monstrous world was this he now inhabited? Yet the memory of Bernhardt’s touch, the sweet subtle impress of her perfumed lips, the teasing look of yet unborn passion in her eyes, it was all too real! If only he had been shown the elephant he electrocuted before the press, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the current in ridding the world of criminals, how different he would be feeling, now, in this moment! And where was his desk, his laboratory?
He looked around him in alarm. The damned mist again! But then he was seated in an 18th century garden, in a chair of gilded cast iron. Before him was a puffed-face gentleman, obviously of noble stature, seated comfortably with one leg crossed over the other. He wore a golden embroidered jacket and an elaborate, curled wig, and he smoked an opium pipe, breathing the drug into his lungs and exhaling with a deep sigh of pleasure. The freckles on his ruddy face seemed like tiny golden jewels, reflecting the light in a most charming manner.
“Ah, Mr. Edison! Here at last! I have watched you ere these many years, hoping to see you once again. After our brief meeting at Vesey Street, it was most difficult to reach into your mind and I must confess that I was less than successful in accomplishing my work with you! You can be a stubborn mule, you know!”
“I go my way” he said,”and I seldom listen to strangers, particularly to strangers who are spooks! And I have no recall of you at Vesey Street. Indeed, it was a very different person as I recall!”
“Aha! A good point, my dear sir! You are a jolly one. But of course, watching you in your laboratory with your men was a genuine entertainment, something I’ve had little of in this life.”
He gestured around the garden, to the palatial walled townhouse. “My refuge here in Tuscany is sometimes, shall we say, a bit dull– except for this sweet drug which I inhale so copiously!
He slipped a kerchief from his sleeve and pressed it firmly against his cheeks.
“Dear me! So hot, these days! Would you care to share my pipe, Mr. Edison?”
“No. Thank you”, Edison said. “I’ll light a stogie.” He pulled a cigar from his vest pocket, a match from his watch pocket and carefully lighted the stogie, clouds of blue smoke shrouding his head and curling past his ears, carried quickly away by the slight, steady breeze. The tobacco soothed him as he wondered at this new venture. Who was this man? He perhaps had been a fop in his earlier years, but his presence was regal and his personhood strong, as though there lay within his rather stodgy frame an undefinable power that could by its nature transcend anything human.
“You are curious, Mr. Edison. I know by your very demeanor. You do not suffer fools gladly, as the saying goes, and of course you see, I am not a fool! As a matter of fact, Sir, I happen to hold among my many skills, that of the alchemist. I shall gladly, while you are with me and if you desire, provide you with all the gold you may need for your ventures here, from my storehouse of common lead.”
“I should have come upon you,” Edison said,”when my iron ore extraction plant in New Jersey failed and almost took me down to an unrecoverable position!”
“A sad venture, indeed,” the fellow said, nodding his head in understanding. “But the thing is, you were involved in something you had no business doing–and we warned you again and again through various mechanisms, not to venture forth as an entrepreneur and industrialist, but to keep your skills focused on the invention of new and useful devices for the betterment of humanity and the electrification of the planet!”
“You needn’t scold me,” Edison said. “I see that all too clearly now. But I am a stubborn critter and I must continually prove to myself that nothing is impossible if you have the gumption to stick to it with hard work and sweat and a little genius now and then for the mix!”
Edison looked curiously at his companion, whose eyes now reflected a jolly bit of fun.
“Who are you, anyway?”, Edison asked, leaning forward and ignoring the stogie which had now gone out. He lifted the dead cigar to his lips and chewed as he sat back, watching the man and frowning. “And how did you know of the task I was given, to electrify the planet?”
Merriment played over the round features of the man facing him. His brow furrowed and his lips pursed in a tightly amused smile. He had perfect teeth. Edison saw that the man, perhaps, fifty or so years of age, but of an age truly indefinable, meant to play with him for a bit, but he minded not as he enjoyed the company and the presence of his companion.
“My name is Cagliostro,” Count Cagliostro, much maligned and persecuted by the Roman Church and their cursed Popes who would have my perfumed head if they could entrap me. I am Cagliostro, viewed by many of your time as a scoundrel and a pompous ass who supposedly was well-disposed of by the regent’s soldiers and the Pope’s wrastrels. But as you will see, and as you well know, my buffoonery covered a hidden purpose and a hidden life of service to the great Hierarchy of Advanced Beings and thus to the race of humanity. Healing the sick, counseling the tormented, teaching the race the proper way of life, changing lead to gold–ah yes, the lead of the common man into nothing less than an angelic being–that was my task.”
“You knew the one named Morya”, he said, remembering now so much.
Cagliostro nodded vigorously. “Yes, yes,” he said, impatiently. “I am their agent–Morya and the Venetian and the one beyond the seas in Tibet, Koot Humi and the two companions who have given so much to the world, the man Jesus and the Buddha–I have known and walked with them all and I can tell you that they are here, now–whatever and wherever now is, to you in your present state. Let’s say they are all with Humanity, until this long struggle against ignorance, hatred, jealousy, cruelty and bigotry is done with.”
Edison mulled the words, thinking of certain of the revivals he had experienced as a young man in the season when the itinerant preachers of Ohio would appear with their hellfire and damnation and promises of eternal fire in a hell without redemption. He had dismissed this bosh early on, to the chagrin of his mother and her friends.
“Are there others working with you, now?”
“Oh, yes, we are a charming few. The Compte de St.Germaine–who appears today in the late years of this century as a young man still, and who was present at every royal court in Europe, counseling rulers and their ministers, and who shortly will assist in the rise and the eventual fall of the one called Napoleon, the one who will doom the crowned heads of the continent! He stands close by and you may yet have the opportunity to meet with him, as you are one with us, Mr. Edison, though this is still not a certainty in your mind, faced as it is in this period with so many astounding events and revelations!”
“And why am I with you, now? You have something to show to me?”
“Aha! I see you are wise to the game, already. Not many of the newly-dead catch on so quickly, but I should know that your extraordinary mind would see through our machinations! But I assure you, our intent is your well-being and education, in preparation for your next life to come, which will be in the 21st century, when you will be born as a woman!”
“A woman?” Edison cried. “An Arabic curse, perhaps the most vicious of all Arabic curses, says,”May you be reborn as a woman!”
“That is so,” Cagliostro said. “But by that time, womanhood will have moved from the bonds of near-slavery and you will exist in a world vastly different from this! You can believe me. And you must not be shocked at this news, Mr. Edison, as you knew me as a woman in the life which I lived in your time! As a matter of fact, I do recall that I shocked you greatly at a time when you were questioning every aspect of your life and well-being!”
Cagliostro broke into a great howl of laughter.
“No, no, Mr. Edison! No! I was not–nor am I to be–your beloved Bernhardt, our messenger and co-worker and the twin of your soul! Oh, that is so amusing! I was someone quite different. How different, you are shortly to know! Oh, ho-ho-ho!”
Cagliostro sat there, nodding his head. As the Cheshire cat, he faded from sight, slowly, slowly, nodding, smiling, rocking back and forth in his chair and puffing on his pipe of opium, tapping one foot and having a merry old time as Edison watched in awe.
Edison felt the cobblestones beneath his feet. They were wet from the real mist that had fallen with dusk. He was back in the 19th century, following the mandate in Morya’s note, conveyed by the beautiful Sarah Bernhardt.
- Fifth Encounter: Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Vesey Street was not far from the Pearl Street station site. The air was cold. Edison walked, alone, wondering if what was happening was real. All of it, the people he passed on the street, the horses, the carriages, even the sounds of the city seemed dream-like, yet he knew he was awake and that this bizarre venture was real.
The neighborhood where he found himself was not the most attractive, but in his new-found wealth and prominence he remained in close touch with and in clear memory of the days when he had walked these streets, penniless and hungry, seeking work and prepared to take anything at any wage in his desperation.
He thought of how far a dollar could take a man in those days. There was a time when he had lived in New York for almost a week on a single dollar. A few cents would buy apple dumplings and milk, or hot tea or coffee. That was when he had gained his life-long fondness for apple dumplings, though there was a time, he recalled with a smile, when he wished he’d never see another one.
Then, with more money, he’d given himself the luxury of eating apple dumplings at one of the finest restaurants in town, in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on 34th Street. His first visit there had been triumphal; the dumplings were delicious. But part-way through the meal, the strange ringing began in his ears; he ignored it for a time, but it grew stronger, and an odd thing happened: a name came to his mind, of someone he did not know: K. C. Farral.
It troubled him so much that he rose from the table and stumbled from the dining room. Each time he returned to the hotel, the ringing recurred, and the name, Farral, resounded in his brain.
He searched directories, to no avail. And then, one evening when he visited the hotel restaurant on 34th Street the ringing began, dizzying, electrifying, stronger than ever. The room seemed to swim before his eyes. He leaned forward, propping his head in his hands. It was as though he were at a great height above the city, as though he were suspended on a rope of some kind, swinging, swinging, the streets below filled with a strange traffic.
In his ears an odd metallic voice sounded, crying,”Farral, Farral!” The experience so unnerved him that he rose from the room and fled, never again returning to the Waldorf-Astoria.
The red brick sidewalk was uneven. He caught his toe on a loose brick and he stumbled, but did not fall. The shock brought him back to the here and now.
“What can a man be,” he wondered, “who lets his mind wander as I do, to the most abstract and impossible ramblings, at times when concentration should be his one fixed goal, contemplation and exactitude more than all else?
“These ideas, these living wonderments that crowd my mind, even now on this dank, cobblestoned street, where have they come from and who or what has sent them to me?
“The query has occupied me more steadfastly than even the working through of the inventions which seem to flow more smoothly than all else and certainly more smoothly than these ridiculous ramblings which have occupied my thoughts even since the days of my childhood!
“Other men seem to dismiss these ideas, if they have them at all, with no more than a simple shrug. On rare occasions, I have raised the topic with Ford, who is perhaps my closest confidant anent the metaphysical and yet I cannot call him in any sense a metaphysician. The man is a mechanical genius and much too practical to consider the source of inspiration beyond a simple acknowledgment of a universal fount from which springs all that men use to bring forth a new and usable idea. Ford? What is this? Ford is in my future! What is this madness?
“And there is so much that I have forgotten, and yet I am recalling things from my future! Am I mad? It’s as if I stand before a gauze curtain; behind it are subdued lights, figures, formulae, unseen–my past and my future– and now and then, it is as though certain of these begin to come into focus. When examined, they fade or twist or drift off into their own sad infinity and I am more frustrated than ever, a conscious dreamer who knows not his dream! It is as thought I have known, but have forgotten, some monstrously meaningful truth, some central theme that is vital to my being and to my future work.
“My shop men are of no help. Their stories and boasts are entertaining and we share many a bawdy joke and their talk reflects the common theme of workmen and artisans; I work them hard and pay them well for what they do but they do not sit well with the world of ideas, nor do my aides and assistants I call my administrators. These fellows are all notes and scribbling and numbers–well and good for my businesses, but of no good whatever within the world of ideas. Perhaps I should hire a philosopher and pay him as a sounding board. Ludicrous thought!
“And why am I here, tonight, searching out an address, walking alone through a neighborhood I do not know, for a purpose as unclear to me now as my gauze curtain, when I should be at the substation, monitoring the work and making certain my instructions are being followed. Were the newspaper fellows who talked to me earlier to know of this fool’s errand I have taken upon myself, I am sure my name would appear in tomorrow’s editions! I can see it: ‘Mr. Edison Wanders On a Fool’s Mission: Seen Late at Night Pondering the Empty Streets of Manhattan!'”
Recovering from his musings quickly, he glanced up, noticing he’d passed the house he sought. Muttering a gentle oath, he pulled out the note and in the glow of a gas lamp saw that the number was 49. He was somewhere past 39; few of the buildings were at all adequately marked in this part of town, and this was a continuous source of annoyance to him and to his workers.
Presently he found number 23, a narrow three story walkup with an iron gate and a slate entrance way. The vestibule was neat and very clean; a kerosene lamp burned, set on a lace doily on a polished mahogany table, a fitting welcome on a bleak night such as this.
Edison labored up three flights of stairs, his way illumined by gas burners at each landing. The jets burned low, with a steady blue flame. Pausing at the third floor landing, he recalled that the note read, “rear.” He was on time; it was not yet nine. The atmosphere here had a keen vitality. Entering the building, he felt it, a quality heightening his senses; he was never more alert or aware of his surroundings than he was at this moment.
A shiver of quiet excitement enveloped him. Turning to the door at the end of the hall, he felt the fine hairs on his arms and his neck flare, a familiar sensation from when he had known fear before. Now, it was not fear, but anticipation thrilling him.
To his surprise, the door was open some six or eight inches. His breath grew labored from the climb to the third floor, the echo of his steps muffled by the carpeting beneath his feet.
For a moment, he considered knocking; it seemed rather rude, yet the opened door was obviously an invitation for him to enter. He pushed against the varnished wood. It yielded easily, swinging wide before him. The room inside was dark. He felt the tension rising. The damned buzzing in his skull began again, and with it the now-familiar ringing in his ears, stronger in intensity as he stepped toward the center of the room.
The first thing he saw was a window open to the cold night air, a fine lace curtain rippling in the slight breeze. The moving air touched a small lighted candle burning in a brass holder set on a table beside a chair at the window. The candle fluttered, but the flame held tenuously to life. A woman was seated in a high Boston rocker facing the window. Without turning, she spoke to him. The ringing sound faded and stopped.
“Come in, Mr. Edison, come in. I see you are right on time,” she said with a heavy Russian accent, a voice of unexpected depth and power. “Come in and sit down.”
She turned toward him, but not far enough to see him clearly as yet. “Leave your things, your coat, on the chesterfield and come, sit here by the window. The night air will do you well,” she said, gesturing toward a comfortable armchair to the left of the window, facing her rocker and providing a profile view of the woman’s face, whom he now recognized as Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society.
Edison placed his hat and coat on the chesterfield as she had instructed. He felt terribly ill at ease, and angry at himself for coming here, yet the limitless curiosity so much a part of his creative success would not have permitted otherwise.
The bombastic personality before him was familiar to him, although he had never met her in person. He had joined her Society in 1878, in the spring of the year, partly out of curiosity, partly out of a yearning for a philosophy of being that made some sense in an otherwise senseless existence. His involvement had, however, been a peripheral one, and in no way had he made his membership public, nor had the Society trumpeted his involvement.
Blavatsky’s voice was deep. With her heavy accent, she could easily have been taken for a man; with no gainsaying could she be taken for anything but female with her enormous bulky body, a rounded mountain of flesh, a full face with sensuous lips and large, deeply soulful eyes, filled with a softness and a gentleness that belied her harsh, authoritative manner.
As he had so often in the past, by coming here against his better judgment, Edison had yielded once more to his intense desire to know, to seek out answers, to unravel the nagging mystery of life. His public life was known to one and all; no one, not one single soul, knew of his inner life, or his progress toward the ultimate answers of existence.
This was his secret, the one inner impulse fueling his work, his every waking moment. Like an enormous compacted onion, each unveiled layer led only to yet another, each a riddle, a puzzle challenging the greatest minds of history. It was long ago, when he realized this and to himself pledged, I will not rest, I will not sleep, until I have unraveled these mysteries. It was all so logical, and logic was his god.
There had to be a first cause, just as, behind his electric light, behind the carbon and the glass and the vacuum and the wire, lay the hidden mystery of electricity, which, in itself, had to be as much of the divine as any god in any framework. If god existed at all, god had to be electrical in nature. God was electricity. This much, he felt, he knew with certainty.
Since opening the invitation conveyed by Bernhardt, Edison knew that there were strange and mighty currents working in his support; the note and its manner of delivery was continuing proof of that. But why? What–and who–was behind all this?
Again and again in the earlier years he had attempted to open his mind to the childhood tragedy in Milan. So much was obscure in his mind about that day, so many questions unanswered. Now, they seemed to be resolving themselves as his wisdom grew.
He remembered clearly enough the anger and the rumors from the villagers when he professed to know nothing of how his friend had died, simply that he had stepped backwards out of life, but how could anyone express this in any way that seemed rational? The gossip was enough to figure in his family’s move from Milan, not too long after the incident.
Despite his insights, it remained an agony for him, a man whose mind catalogued, remembered, overlooked no detail, reasoned with an almost inhuman precision. He recalled the most complex events of his childhood and his youth in vivid detail; intricate formulae, chemical combinations, electrical circuitry and power flows, long-forgotten experiments that his co-workers could not remember–yet that day, that one day, remained to frustrate him to the point of anger, bringing him at times to pound his fist upon the wood of his desk. He never felt so helpless, so utterly powerless, as when he attempted to reconstruct the details of his encounter with the strange man beside the creek.
He had never seen the man again, never heard about him in any way. The only clue to his identity–if he had been the writer of the note, was the scribbled letter,”M.” Flashes, now and then, brink-like revelations as from a half-remembered dream, as quickly lost as they came.
In the thirty-fourth year of his life, he knew as he had known since Milan, that in some way the buzzing sounds, the ringing in his ears, was connected in some way to the stranger at the creek, and to his friend’s death.
He knew, too, that something was changing, that something of importance was taking place in his mind. There was the name, K. C. Farral, impinging on his consciousness again and again, and the terrible experience at the Waldorf on 34th Street.
There had been no improvement in his hearing over the past year, but there had been a curious development in his eyesight, one which was not, apparently, shared by others he knew. The change dated from the previous spring, when he began to see colors around people. With most it was nothing more than a faint haze, tinged only with a hint of color; with those he was close to, or who aroused strong emotions of anger or other emotion, the colors were much more vivid; they seemed to flow and change in tune with the mood or feeling of the moment.
He was immensely curious about this development. For some time, he said nothing to anyone, simply studying the phenomena, sensing its electrical nature and noting over time that the colors seemed to intensify in the presence of certain strong magnetic fields, while other fields seemed to diminish the color and drain the strength of those near the field.
The Society led him to the idea of the human aura, to the concept of Karma and the idea of reincarnation; interesting as this was, it offered rational solutions to the matters of concern to him. As to the dead, he was convinced that life–consciousness–continued beyond the door from this world.
Beyond this, the Society offered a stunning cosmology at first baffling to him, but now emerging as a logical framework for the explanation of creation itself. Still, his mind demanded proof and not phenomena. Here, before him, was perhaps the world’s leading practitioner of phenomena, who had weathered and survived storms of skeptics and nay-sayers, not to mention the legions of dogmatic theologians who could not speak of Blavatsky without foaming at the mouth.
This, perhaps, was the one reason why he admired this woman, whom he had not met until this night. She stood against the blows of an insensitive and ignorant world, and survived to give that same world the key to life itself.
The patient voice brought him back to the present. He felt dismay, so totally had he been absorbed in his own thoughts. He realized that a man of greater social grace would have been deeply apologetic, would probably not have permitted himself such a digression. He also noticed with some surprise that despite his deafness, he was having no trouble whatever hearing the woman’s voice. How strange this was, he mused. Edison apologized as well as he could.
“I’m sorry,” he said, settling stiffly in the arm chair, seeing his hostess clearly for the first time. She wore a long navy blue skirt with no pattern. A knitted shawl covered her shoulders, shielding a blouse of rich Indian silk, woven in an intricate oriental pattern. What he had taken for fine perfume he realized now was actually an exotic incense. The fragrance did not intrude; rather, it seemed to soothe his mind and his body. For the first time, he inhaled deeply and felt the tension in his muscles beginning to relax.
“That is good, Mr. Edison,” his hostess remarked. “You are growing perhaps a bit more comfortable, no?”
Edison nodded, studying the features of her face with impolite intensity. The woman was no Bernhardt, he thought, noticing her grimace as the thought came to his mind, but not making the connection. Her face was not a handsome one, aside from the texture of her skin, which was perfectly smooth and unblemished, almost waxy in its perfection.
Looking at her, he could swear that her skin glowed, but he quickly wrote that off to the candle light and to his own state of mental agitation. Yet the quality persisted as time passed, seeming to grow even more intense. What’s more, he noted, her color–not of the skin itself, but her body’s color, her electrical color, her field–radiated from her, blending in changing tones from a pale and indescribably beautiful violet to a delicate pink-rose tone, to a white and then to gold and back again. Though her features were plain enough, her colors were awesome.
As they talked, at several times she faded from sight in a pure silver-white light bright enough to illuminate the room itself. Extraordinary, he thought.
Aside from this phenomenon which Edison had yet to see so dramatically intense in anyone else, her eyes were her most remarkable physical feature.
Like magnets of enormous drawing power they fastened on him with an intensity so severe as to be frightening to anyone but the great inventor. As it was, a part of him wished desperately to run from the room, to escape the penetrating gaze glaring at him from the dawn of time itself, searching the depth of all that he was, noting in its sublime wisdom whence he had come and where yet he had to go.
This, he felt, she had seen in the first moment that their eyes had met, locked, and moved on.
“Will you have some tea, Mr. Edison? It is the finest of India tea, fresh from the wharf.”
Edison shook his head, appearing much more gruff than he actually felt.
“Thank you for taking the trouble to come here tonight. I know that you are a busy man and have many responsibilities to look after. I also know that jackasses take up too much of your valuable time, but that is what those like you must suffer in payment for your notoriety.”
Edison nodded, the edge of his impatience showing. Blavatsky regarded him deliberately, soberly.
“It is well that you responded to Morya’s note,” she said, mildly amused at his discomfort. As if to deny her words, he peered off into the shadows of the room, seeing a great cluttered desk very much like his own. He saw, too, strange oriental statuary and what looked like a small stone obelisk; wall hangings of silk, embroidered with signs and symbols seeming to move in the dark with a life of their own. Intrigued, he was sorry now that he could not see this in daylight.
Not at all interested in the history or in the mystery surrounding the artifacts, he was nonetheless filled with intense and insatiable curiosity, knowing that when he learned the purpose of the objects and the symbols what interest he did have would quickly fade, unless he could find some way for them to serve the ends of his life’s work. That was the man: single-minded, intensely dedicated, fanatically practical, and inexhaustible in his work.
“My, your mind is very busy tonight,” Blavatsky said with the first hint of a smile. Her tone was not mocking. It carried a sympathy and an understanding. Somehow, he thought, this woman knew–she knew! How rare this was to experience in another.
Plagued incessantly with favor-seekers, financiers, capitalists, men with schemes for wealth and more wealth, mad inventors with devices and gadgets of every kind, wild-eyed professors like Keely, fawned on by society matrons and foolish school girls, comfortable only with bearded men who sweated with him through endless hours in the laboratories, and who smelled of tobacco and cigars and sometimes of whiskey, he felt a sudden welling of emotion, a rush of tears, quite unlike anything he had ever known.
The emotion drained him as he struggled with it. His body trembled. He fought to hold back what he was feeling, knowing that if this woman were to touch him, if she gave one hand to his arm, he would collapse, the dam would burst, and that, somehow, through this, he would be restored. He called up a wall of steel from within him, held it fast with the cement of his resolve. It was an effort of supreme will.
The moment passed. With a shudder, he looked toward the woman. Who was she? She looked like Blavatsky. She spoke as he supposed Blavatsky would. But Blavatsky, he knew, had sailed for India months ago. Who, then, was this? An impostor? What did she want of him? What act of sheer lunacy was he now engaged in? Lunacy? Idiocy!
He felt his helpless rage rising. He wanted to get up from the chair and pound the woman out of her senses. He wanted to tear the hangings from the walls, kick over the obelisk, overturn the desk, scatter the papers–and, he thought, his eyes searching wildly about the room–bring light to this damned darkness.
This woman was a damned spook! Yes, that was it! Bring light to this damned darkness!
No sooner was the thought in his mind when the room brightened until its walls seemed to be glowing. Suspicious and more than a little frightened, he clutched the arms of the chair and stared around the room. The woman’s eyes were closed. She sat at ease with her ankles crossed, each hand resting on a knee, palms upward, a model of perfect serenity.
Every detail of the room stood out in sharply defined clarity. There was no mystery left. It was gone, dispelled Not a shadow remained. All was light and growing still lighter!
Edison stared, incredulous. There were no gas fixtures here, there were no electrical devices, only the one candle, fluttering feebly on the table.
The light grew brighter, obscuring the woman who called herself Blavatsky, consuming all, fierce, intense, powerful beyond description. Within the greater light he saw, or thought he saw, lesser lights golden within the glorious white, shaped dimly like the bodies of men or women, but without form or substance.
He gaped around the room; counted seven of the lesser lights. Beyond, above them and still within the greater light, he saw myriad forms, reaching beyond time and beyond space.
Edison was speechless, awed beyond words. With the sight, he heard a music beyond what he dreamed music could be, subtle notes, tones, shadings of planets and golden spheres and unseen stars without number, all of them alive and fully conscious, living beings in a synchronous rapture beyond belief.
What was happening to him, he wondered. He felt an insane joy; felt even the bones of his bodily form, felt the blood coursing in his veins and arteries; he was his blood; he knew each organ of his form as intimately as he could know and love any living being. Holding his hands before him in wonder, seeing streams of light and life pouring from his fingers, realizing a power unrecognized until now, he felt himself moving out, expanding, filling the room, the building, the city, the planet, the universe itself. He was All, he was One, and this, all of this, the light, the music, the unimaginable vastness, was in him and of him. He was dying, he thought. This was what it was to die! If this was his death and his work was done, then let it be, let me die, let me go, let me stay forever where I am now, where it is so beautiful–but wait! I am dead, he realized. And yet, I live in retrospection, so strange, indeed!
As he thought this, the light disappeared, the music, the golden forms, gone. He sat in the dark room, sweat pouring from his skin, feeling the blessed cold breeze from the open window, alive once again!
The woman was looking at him with a hint of amusement in her penetrating eyes. Her gaze was not unkind, but once again, he saw, she knew, she understood, she comprehended.
He realized then that she had been with him throughout his experience; she was at his side, clothed in a golden light, and she had spoken with the golden forms that surrounded them, not in words, but in a kind of music transcending words.
Edison shook his head. The woman simply smiled, gently, patiently, knowingly.
“Mr. Edison,” she said,”why don’t you light a cigar? Isn’t it time for a good Havana?
Numb, Edison fumbled in his pocket; the woman leaned toward him. “I think this will do,” she said, offering him a rare and very expensive cigar,”will it not?”
The great inventor stammered, then gave up and nodded, speechless. His hands trembled as he brought the cigar to his lips, moistening the tip by sucking and turning it in his mouth. He found a match, struck it, aware of the unsteadiness of his hands. He began to speak, stammered, and stopped. The woman nodded.
“Do you mind if I join you?” she asked, amused eyes watching him closely. She took a cigar, duplicated Edison’s motions, lighting it with a skill equal to any man. Sitting back and breathing out lingering clouds of rich, pungent blue smoke, she sighed deeply and contentedly.
Edison was speechless. Sitting with his hands limp at his sides, ignoring the pleasure of his cigar, clenching it tightly between his teeth, he listened.
“I do believe you have lost your light, Mr. Edison,” she said, waving her own cigar at him. Following her gesture, he raised his cigar to her, this time gaining and holding his light. The smoke eased him, relaxed his mind and his body, though he was still clearly shaken by what had happened.
When he found his voice, he said, “I’m afraid, I’m concerned, that I may be working too hard, and a little too intensely. That is–“
“No, Mr. Edison,” the woman said, “you are exactly where you planned to be, and as fit as a–what do you call it in America–a violin–yes, a fiddle. You are as fit as a fiddle!”
Edison knew she was correct. He settled back. His mind was already racing back over the past hour, analyzing, searching, studying, dissecting, aware also of the present, yet numbed each time the woman drew on her cigar. More than all else about her, the cigar charmed him, alarmed him, mystified him, enchanted him.
As much as anything else, it was bizarre, beyond belief, beyond any logical analysis. For once, he felt completely unsure of himself. But with this, he sensed the return of his objective nature, growing stronger with each moment. He began to judge the extraordinary experience as a temporary aberration of some kind, yet at the same time, he knew very well it was no illusion. By no means had it been legerdemain, no crude, mediumistic, magical display.
What had happened, had happened to him. It had begun, it had transpired, it had ended, within him. In some peculiar way, the experience was incapable of description; no words he brought to mind could possibly convey what it was that he had known and felt. He knew it was something he could never describe to another human being.
“If you will take notice, Mr. Edison,” the woman said, you now have full recall of the events of that day long ago in Milan; you can recall each detail, every word of what was told to you by your Teacher, the Master Morya.”
Even as she spoke, Edison knew that what she said was so.
His mind raced back to that day; in an instant, recaptured all he had forgotten for these past twenty-eight years.
Just as the man had said it would, it had happened, right down to this, the mid-life meeting with the woman in New York.
He recalled that it was this woman who was to relay to him the direction his work would take during the later years of his life. But this was madness! His eyes saw, his ears, for once, heard, his brain registered–but his mind rebelled.
“Who are you?” he demanded abruptly, leaning forward, closer to her now, placing his cigar in the ash tray on the table.
“My name is Helena Petrovna Blavatsky,” she said.
“Damn it, woman! Blavatsky is in India,” he said. “I know she’s in India, at this very moment!”
Amused, the woman nodded.
“So she is, Mr. Edison, so she is. And I am here, am I not?” She paused. “Am I a vision, a creation of your mind, a spook, as you thought before? A projection of the ethers? Some medium’s ectoplasmic ghost? How can you be sure?”
She reached for his hand, drew it to her. The flesh was warm and soft and very much alive. She placed his hand against her cheek, drew it gently down her jaw. Edison jerked it back, alarmed. The spook was real!
“Yes, Mr. Edison–I am quite real, as you see. The Society is real. The crazy judge and the mad colonel, as the press would have them, are also quite real. My Society may succeed; it may fail. But the ideas will not fail. We are working with some very headstrong people–including that fellow, Edison!
“If we fail, it will be because the people who have been drawn to us will not be able to deal with the changes which the concepts demand. Many will simply choose to exchange one stifling orthodoxy, the doctrine and dogma of organized religion, for another, if that is what our philosophy is to become.
“Simply because a person reaches out and grasps for new meaning to life and religion and begins to touch on Truth, does not mean that he is no longer strangled in the personal need for a comforting structure of ideas or the security of conservative thought.
There is great comfort in pointing to a page of information and saying,”See–this must be so, for it is here written! That is what it must be, so that is what YOU must believe!
“So tyrants are born, Mr. Edison; so dies the will to discriminate, to find Truth, to know the Absolute. It is the human condition, responsible for all the misery of the world. And it will remain so for some time to come, I am afraid.”
She paused, observing Edison’s reaction.
“If my organization should fail, if it does not accomplish what I have set out to do by the end of the first decade of the next century, then there will be another, a woman who will carry on the work through a Tibetan teacher. She will recast the spirit of Christianity as an esoteric Truth, taking the great themes and expanding upon them, presenting them to a weary orthodoxy in a language appropriate to her time. Her books will form the core teachings for the new age to come, and will carry humanity into the twenty-first century.
“Her approach will be different from mine. It will be appropriate for her time and will be welcomed by an enlightened public much more in tune with the spirit of the work–in large part to the success of your efforts in the electrification of the planet, Mr. Edison!
“We, today, have come upon an empty beach. We must work with the encrustation of the ages; we are weighted beyond measure with the barnacles of a dying priesthood and an outmoded theology, yet no man–and certainly no woman!–dares say so without bringing down upon his head the wrath of a thousand fools and scoundrels who will not take the time to question the pap of their own beliefs!
“This is the mind-set concerning me more than anything else. I find it to be universal; it is here, in this country, it is in Britain, among the French, throughout the continent and in my own native land. I have found it as well in India and in the Moslem world and throughout the Orient. Wherever mankind lives, the poison of prejudice lives. More than anything else, this divisiveness is a danger to the world.
“I have been attacked and I will continue to be attacked. This will never end for me. They will not rest until I am painted in the public mind as a wild eccentric, a devil incarnate from the East, a charlatan and madwoman bent on the destruction of all that is thought to be proper and good in western theology, thought and life.”
Her anger was unmistakable, but she quickly shifted from her own perspective to one of concern for Edison.
“And so it also is with the scientists and inventors of the world, Mr. Edison, and no one knows that more thoroughly than do you. So let us turn our attention to you and to your future work as seen from the viewpoint of Hierarchy.
“You came into this life, Mr. Edison, with no memory of the long and arduous preparation you had in the finer worlds beforehand, and no conscious memory whatever of the numberless past lives you have experienced, which, in their sum, have contributed to your present level of genius. This is normal for all human beings, to enter with the slate of history wiped clean.
“But you have come here, to life in this time and this place, to accomplish certain great and lasting ends. Because of the critical importance of your task, it has been necessary to bring you to the actual physical recognition of our existence, the existence of The Plan for Humanity, and the responsibility which you bear–voluntarily, I might add.”
“Voluntarily? Me?” Edison blurted.
“Yes–your Higher Self, that part of you creating and guiding you as a personality from birth to death, your Soul, if you may, agreed to send its representative–your personhood, or personality–into form life for this task, and you have done this willingly or you would never have succeeded in your chosen work, though you seem from time to time to lose the vision.
“The truth of the matter is that from now on, your primary effort will lie in a totally new and highly controversial direction. But before we discuss this, a word of warning, Mr. Edison.
“There are forces in the world which work against the Light of the World; opposing principles which will work ceaselessly to keep the race in darkness and to promote disunion, competition, greed, hatred and anger amongst peoples and amongst nations.
“A great effort will be made to distract you from your purpose, tempting you to emulate the great capitalists of the world, the financiers and industrialists, directing your God-given energies and your time toward building capital and creating an industrial empire bearing your name, rather than inventing the processes and the devices needed by the capitalists to free the flow of energy necessary to create livelihoods for millions of workers.”
Leaning forward, Blavatsky peered out the window, speaking with intensity and emphasizing each word. A pigeon fluttered by in the dark, briefly punctuating her testimony.
“This is not your role in this incarnation, Mr. Edison. Let me make it clear to you so that there can be no mistake. There are men in the world–men of the First Ray–whose task it is to work with the energy of capital.
“Money, as all else in the world of matter, is merely one form of concretized energy. Those who accumulate money draw it to them. Those who amass fortunes are subconsciously skilled in attracting, manipulating and directing that flow of energy manifesting in the physical world as money and the money consciousness.
“Through this ability, they serve a purpose by creating industries and jobs for the millions who do not possess this highly specialized gift. Let me say it once again: you will be tempted time and time again to move in this direction, to work less with the creative and inspirational aspects of your energies, and more toward the ego-centered pleasure of developing an industrial empire bearing the Edison name.
“Let me warn you: never should a factory bear your name! Never should you become involved in raw commerce, except indirectly, for this will seriously deflect your energies and your attention, and more importantly, distract you from the crucial work to be done later in your life.
“Let the products of the factories bear your name, let the industrialists work with what you create–and be certain to insure that some portion of their profit always comes to you.
“You will have a choice between remaining creative and innovative and thereby accomplishing your greatest work, supporting your research and providing your resources from your inventions, or becoming an industrialist.
“Your free will is yours to use as you wish. We cannot interfere with that. But I will tell you one last time: you are NOT a capitalist, NOT an industrialist, Mr. Edison! You must not attempt to become what you are not!
“Regardless of the direction you choose to take, you will always remain successful. You will garner riches, for you have fulfilled the first part of your mandate to electrify the world. The second part, the crown of your achievements, is yet to be, and can only manifest if you choose the correct path.
“In terms of this incarnation, Sir, there is one direction and one direction alone that you must take, though of your own free will, you may choose to turn your back on it. That would bring about serious Karmic repercussions, but it remains your decision to make. Am I clear on this?
Edison nodded. This was hardly what he had expected to hear on this evening. He was not comfortable with the message. He understood the Law of Karma well enough to comprehend what Blavatsky was telling him.
His discomfort was real. His ego was a strong one; he did not take well to such firm direction, particularly from a woman who smoked cigars and spoke like a man. He was a strong-willed and purposeful man, accustomed to having his way with things and capable of great anger when frustrated or thwarted. That anger was rising, now, but dampened as Blavatsky continued.
“Your greatest work, as I have said, is yet to come. Once again, you will forget much of what we have discussed tonight, but you will remember every word on the higher levels of mind where your creative nature works freely, unhindered by the limitations of the body and the distractions of the world.
“If you are to gain the knowledge of the work you are to do, I suggest that you meditate each month at the time of the full moon. Begin in January and continue through the full moon of June in 1882. These are periods when you–and all mankind–are most sensitive to our presence and can easily receive guidance for good, more so than in the waning months of the year.
“Simply take your naps as you always have. Be certain to maintain a journal of your dreams, a complete record of all that comes to you. The insights, the instructions for the device you will create will be given in your dreams. You must faithfully record these events. Recognize their importance as they come to you immediately before, during, or immediately following the peak of each full moon.
“Be certain to record what you see and hear, what you are told, as soon as you awaken. Do not hesitate or you will forget much, if not all, very quickly. Just as we forget our life before birth as we enter this world, so we forget our dream life as we return each morning from sleep.
“If you do not record your impressions immediately, it may mean that only partial information will be yours and this could complicate the research you must do. Don’t judge the information. Write it down. Immediately! Do you understand? The clues to the work to be done will come to you. Am I clear?”
Edison bristled. The anger crept back. His whole nature rebelled at this school-marmish discipline imposed by the woman before him. He was capable of enormous bursts of activity, prolonged periods of disciplined study, testing, trying, failing, and then trying again–but that was what he chose, when he chose to do it. It was the pattern of a lifetime of work. Blavatsky felt his emotion as she continued.
“As to the details of your task during the second half of your life, I can give you only a hint at this time. What I choose to tell you is only a shadow of what your true work will be, beyond this immediate step.
“If you choose to proceed, you will have the opportunity to prove beyond any doubt whatever the truth of a question that has baffled and troubled mankind since the beginning of time, a question that has mystified, terrorized, bedeviled men and women since the race was created.
“If you fail, a hundred years must pass before the opportunity may be presented again for a human being to unlock the great secret. And then, it will come about as an outgrowth of the work in the human sciences by a female physician from Chicago, who will be connected with the psychological preparation for the work, and also through those who at that time will be associated directly or indirectly with one of the first of the human race to fly to and to walk on the surface of the moon.”
Edison sat straight up at this. His heart pounded. What was this woman saying? She must be mad!
“Your work, Mr. Edison, will be to devise a means, through the application of electrical relationships within certain materials of the physical world, to speak with and communicate with those who live on the other side of life, the next world, the world of the so-called dead!”
“Madness!” Edison cried, the anger, the fierce resistance now surfacing. “You are a mad woman! Insane!”
Madame Blavatsky glared at Edison. She fixed him rigidly in her gaze. The two massive wills fought for no more than a brief moment, the silent encounter fought eye-to-eye. The overwhelming energy of conviction flowed from the woman, the equally powerful energy of doubt and anger flowed from the man. Not a word passed.
Finally, Blavatsky’s eyes moved, not surrendering, but slowly and deliberately resting upon the burned-out cigar in the ash tray beside Edison. Her eyes focused on the cigar with an intensity that he knew she had withheld as her eyes locked with his. The cigar began to smolder under her gaze; suddenly, it burst into brilliant flame and was consumed almost instantly in a kind of intense, soundless explosion. Only a heap of fine ash remained.
Edison knew then that if the awesome power this woman possessed had been directed at him in the confrontation, he would have lost his life as abruptly as the cigar had flamed and died.
The woman turned back to him, shouting as she turned.
“Impossible? What is impossible, Mr. Edison? What is insane?”
She seemed to grow in size and stature. His head spun dizzily.
“Watch your place, Mr. Edison,” she said, cuttingly. “Do your work wisely and well. Much rests on your shoulders, Sir! The fact that I, who was once Cagliostro, appear to be in a human body now means nothing! There is a reason for that, as there is a reason for everything–even for your continued presence on Earth! Armageddon, Edison! Armageddon! You must forestall Armageddon! That is your task, Mr. Edison!
“Your device will do far more than open the door of communication between this and the next dimension; the very process by which it will function will of necessity create conditions of energy modification which will end wars, riots, chaotic human behavior, if carried beyond the mere first step of communication.
“With further modification, the device will be able to create conditions which may throw the human race back to savagery or initiate a new age of peace and harmony among all men!
“So, you see, Edison, why you anger me with your myopic vision, you whom the world sees as a great genius, but whom I now see as a sniveling, doubting insect! Oh, Edison, Edison, how you try my soul!”
As she spoke, her form seemed to change, becoming fluid and formless as Edison gaped, his heart pounding. Before his eyes the woman manifested in the robes of a Tibetan monk, a Buddhist monk, a succession of Egyptian forms, pharonic and priestly, and as the god, Anubis, male, female and sexless, and yet more, through civilizations so ancient that no record exists, back through time, through forms and shapes unknown to history or to anthropology, culminating in a point of purest Light hovering brilliantly before his astonished eyes, yet carrying in its minuscule intensity all of the power, the incomprehensible beauty and wisdom of the strange and unworldly woman who had been in his presence for this moment of time.
The Light winked out. Edison was alone, shivering wildly, tears streaming down his cheeks, sobbing uncontrollably, unable to bring himself to balance.
The curtains fluttered in the window. The candle flame guttered. His trembling eased. Outside, the sky showed a faint glow in the east. He rose from his seat, forgetting his hat and coat, stumbling from the room, down the stairs, out into the desolate night. His footsteps echoed on the slate pavement. Only the eyes of a stray cat, frightened by his intrusion, witnessed the flight of the great inventor.
- Sixth Encounter: Sri Rama Arwan Chelligood
Even in his new state of being, Edison trembled from the power of his meeting with Blavatsky. The emotion held him riveted to the point where the differences between the world he had left and the world he now occupied became nil. The mist was gone, the mystery of the afterlife no longer commanding his attention. He seemed back in his body, back at the Pearl Street Station, reliving the day following the meeting.
Cutting fussed until well past noon. Distracted with the endless prattling about city politics, franchises and corporation law, Edison, still deeply moved by the events of the previous evening, finally tossed aside the sheaf of papers Cutting had laid on his desk. He punched out his stogie.
“Come on, Cutting, we need some fresh air!” he said.
Cutting trailed Edison into the midday sunlight. Coatless and hatless despite the chill, Edison moved too quickly for his companion, dashing into the street and hailing a passing hansom. Seated, confused, Cutting’s mind raced.
“Where are we going?” he cried in alarm. The sudden change in Edison alarmed him. Edison was no longer the tired, frazzled, and drawn man he’d seen through the morning hours. Instead, he was vitalized, awake, alert as he always was when pursuing the answer to a seemingly unsolvable problem.
“We are going to see a strange woman,” Edison said. “I spent time with her in a visit last evening.” His magnetic gaze rested on Cutting, coolly, rational, objective. “I trust your judgment, Cutting, and I want an opinion from you, when you have had the time to meet this woman.”
He lapsed into a brooding silence until the cab halted at the Vesey Street address while Cutting pondered his shirt-sleeved superior. This behavior was more than odd and it troubled him deeply.
The cab driver opened the door. Cutting peered at Edison, thoroughly perplexed. After a moment, he spoke.
Distant, intensely preoccupied, Edison failed to respond. Cutting touched his sleeve.
“Mr. Edison–we are here, Sir,” he said. Edison started. Awakened from his deep reverie, he swung around to Cutting.
“Here? What? What’s that, Cutting, what’s that you say?”
“We are here, Mr. Edison, we have arrived,” Cutting said loudly, shaping his words with his lips so that the inventor could see each word. “You said number 23 Vesey Street–” He gestured toward the iron fencing outside. Edison leaned forward and peered past him, recognizing the building.
“Oh, yes,” he said, leading the way. “Come, follow me, Cutting.” He brushed past his companion, descending to the curbside, the hansom swaying and creaking from his weight. Cutting followed him, his bewilderment growing with each step.
The neighborhood was nondescript. The buildings were neat and well-kept, some with empty flower boxes at the windows. Cutting could not understand Edison’s preoccupation. He followed the inventor warily, feeling a growing sense of foreboding.
They entered the building and mounted three floors, turning to the right to the rear apartment, pausing short of breath for only a brief moment. Edison was at the door, pounding impatiently when Cutting caught up with him. There was no response from inside the flat. Edison pounded again. Shortly, the door yielded, opening slowly.
Cutting strained to see beyond Edison, completely blocking the door in the narrow hallway. Standing in the doorway before Edison was a short, thin, brown-skinned, youngish-looking man, his dark hair shining and combed neatly on both sides of his part, wearing western trousers, a shirt, and a blue silken ascot. He seemed not the least bit alarmed by Edison’s pounding, nor by his abrupt manner. He smiled and bowed with cool courtesy.
“I am Sri Rama Arwan Chelligood,” he said. “May I be of some service to you, Sir?”
Edison peered intently past the man into the apartment, his anxiety growing. The furnishings were the same. Nothing had changed. The chairs were set by the window. The ash tray .was still in place, the ashes of the cigar untouched.
“I am Edison,” the inventor said. “I wish to see Madame Blavatsky.”
The small man seemed genuinely puzzled.
“Madame?” he asked with unfeigned surprise. “Why, Madame is not here, Sire.” He stepped back, bowing them inside with a charming act of Eastern grace.
“Where is she? Where has she gone?” Edison demanded.
“Sire, she has been away from this country since the
Christmas-time of 1878. She sailed on the ship, Canada, with Colonel Olcott and the architect, Mr. Winbridge, in December, three years ago, to London.
“Where is she now?” Edison cried.
“She is in Madras, my homeland, in India, at Breach-Candy, the Crow’s Nest, as it is called, on the seacoast. Did you not know that, Sire?”
Edison looked about wildly, his mind reeling. Cutting had never seen him so distraught.
“Then who was here, in this flat, last night, claiming to be her? Who was the woman I spoke with until dawn this morning? She said she was Blavatsky!”
Chelligood nodded with great patience, shaking his head slowly, a slight frown crowding his features. He spoke gently, courteously, but emphatically.
“Oh, no, Sire,” he said,”there was no one here last night. This is my own humble residence. I spent the night elsewhere, with friends newly arrived from India.”
A look of triumph swept Edison’s face; he swung his arm toward the window and the two chairs.
“Then how do you account for the cigar ashes in the ash tray?” he demanded.
Sri Rama Arwan Chelligood led them to the window. Edison took a few steps, then stopped, sweat on his brow, his eyes gaping. There was no sign of the ash tray, no sign of cigar ashes. He grew greatly agitated. Alarmed, Cutting showed his concern, close to outright panic. He had never seen Edison behave like this. Contrary, yes, but never without logic.
“This is madness!” Edison shouted. His eyes flashing, he waved his arms wildly in abject, hopeless frustration.
“You are a charlatan of the first order!” he shouted, “a charlatan or a fool!” He lunged toward the small, lithe Indian, who stepped easily to one side. Cutting restrained Edison physically, keenly aware of the anger moving the powerful man. Edison’s breath came heavily; his chest heaving, his heart pounding from the emotion. Finally, subdued, he spoke softly.
“I assure you, I was here at this place last night, and I remained here until dawn this very morning, talking all the while with a brilliant woman who said she was Blavatsky.”
He described the woman in every detail, her dress, her manner, the cigar she smoked, the words she used, even the sensations he felt from the power of her eyes. Sri Rama smiled ingenuously. He nodded.
“Yes, Sire–that was Madame. That is she. There is no question but that you did talk with her.”
Edison appeared immensely relieved.
“See, Cutting? I told you so!” he said. Turning to Sri Rama, he said,”Ah, then, let me see her, let me talk with her, at once. I want her to meet this gentleman, Mr. Cutting.”
Cutting bowed slightly, curious as to why he felt the need to do so in the presence of the dark-skinned Indian. Sri Rama breathed deeply, fixing his warm eyes on the inventor.
“Ah, I should like very much to present Madame Blavatsky to you and to your gentleman friend,” he said,”but as I have stated, the Madame is at the present moment at Madras.”
Edison stood there, shaking his head, gazing around the room incredulously, hands on hips, muttering, utter frustration tempering his anger. An idea came to him, then, in that moment. He stared at the small brown man.
“My hat–my coat–I left them here–,” he said, turning to the sofa, where two finely embroidered silk pillows rested. “Now where have you taken my hat and my coat?” he demanded of Sri Rama.
The little man shrugged.
“Sire, I do not have your hat nor your coat. I deeply regret what has happened, but I can say no more than I have said before. The Madame remains at this moment in Madras, in India, where she has been for almost three years.
“I cannot explain to you in your present state, nor can I explain to Mr. Cutting, but nevertheless, she is there at this very moment. You may search every corner of my humble home for your hat and for your coat, if you wish, but I can assure you, you will not find them.”
At last admitting defeat, Edison turned to Cutting, the pain and the frustration he felt etched in his eyes and in the set of his jaw. He stomped by Cutting and out the door without another word. Embarrassed, Cutting muttered a courteous,”Thank you,” to Sri Rama Arwan Chelligood. He hurried out after Edison, confused and alarmed at this bizarre episode. The hansom waited at the curb. Edison was inside, glowering and deeply disturbed. As Cutting entered, Edison said, bitingly,”God damn it, Cutting–not a word about this to anyone, at any time–do you understand?”
“Yes, Sir,” Cutting muttered. They rode in quiet back to the offices. Edison said nothing, and never again mentioned the events of this day to Cutting, or to anyone else, though he did note what took place in his dream journal as an addendum.
Nine weeks later, a package arrived at Edison’s laboratory, addressed to him personally and bearing postage from India. It was tightly wrapped. Extensive seals and sandalwood perfumed sealing wax precluded enroute examination of the contents.
Even before he opened the package, Edison knew what he would find. Postmarked,”Madras,” and dated “December 17, 1881” by the postal officials there, the package contained his hat and his coat, neatly folded, and a brief but cordial note, signed HPB, acknowledging a delightful conversation and a fine cigar.
Astonished, distraught, Edison immediately burned the hat, the coat, and the note.
- Seventh Encounter: Tesla and the Dream Journal
Vesey Street, Cutting, and the Blavatsky episode faded. The transition was like stepping from a suit of clothes. One moment he was before the furnace at Glenmont, the flames devouring the hat, the coat and the note and in the next moment he was at his desk in the laboratory, holding in his hands the journal he had begun at Blavatsky’s insistence. It was a lined accounts register with a gray linen cover on which he had inked, “Thomas A. Edison, Private.”
He was not foolish enough, he remembered, to keep such an intimate journal in his working desk. Instead, he secured it in a narrow compartment within oak desk in his private quarters at the laboratory, safely sequestered beneath a drawer he had built himself.
Seeing the diary again, Edison felt a deep sense of remorse. “This was my one greatest mistake”, he mumbled, recognizing clearly what he could not and did not while in life. He was thinking of the entry for March 21, 1885. He opened the diary and read what he had written that day so long ago:
Journal Entry: March 21, 1885
This A.M. treated myself to dumplings and milk and Tesla. The dumplings were agreeable; Tesla was not. I do not know what I shall do with this one; he is brilliant and I should keep him working for me forever, though it is a doubtful possibility as he is so damnably headstrong. There are many out there with the funds to back his work and he would be a formidable competitor with his knowledge of my dynamos and, now, the new machine.
Showed him Room #5 at about seven; it was his first visit and he appeared impressed, though with Tesla one cannot be certain. He has a knack, I have noticed, for polishing the apple with those with whom he seeks favor. It was quite obvious to Ott and to me that, as usual, Mr. Tesla was not pleased with the disorder of my special secret laboratory; since he joined me last year he has had his nose in the air with my way of doing things. Perhaps the fact that he had entry to my secret laboratory kept him from saying anything about what appeared to him as disorder.
I get a jolly time watching his face when I spit my bacca juice on the floor, and to see him stepping daintily aside from the brown pools is worth a trip to Miner’s! He dances like a pretty woman here and there, and I must admit I spit maybe a bit more than otherwise when I am with him, which has not been often as I have kept him on a long rope since he solved my problem with the Oregon!
Since this is my private journal, I can also add that my farts positively disgust the man, who is more fop than fieldhand. But he is a master electrician; let’s give the devil his due! There is none finer, other than me, in this universe.
I had the scheme of the device mapped out on the chalkboard, and in my drawings. He seemed hardly impressed when I told him that this was a device for communicating with the other world; my suspicion is that he may have been thinking along the same lines, as he has at one time or another made comments I’ve seen in the press about the clumsiness of the Spiritualist’s apparatus, and that better ways may be at hand as we learn more of the miracle of electricity. His only comment was,”Does it work?”
When I told him it did and he examined the scheme he agreed that it should. His mind is such that he needed but a glance; nor did he ask for a demonstration.
“As you have it now,” he had the effrontery to tell me, “it’s vastly underpowered.” As the device draws upon the universal energies rather than a simple direct current electrical circuit, one would think that the power of the universe itself would be sufficient for one man’s needs, but no, the Serbian genius would make that one better! Thank heaven I gave no hint of the nature or complexity of the materials making up the machine; he would, I am sure, have done God Himself one better by devising a new and previously unheard of element, one that the Supreme Being had forgotten to include in his offerings to mankind!
This man, Tesla, then, dear Journal, so help me, advised me that I should use a principle similar to his alternating current to enhance the machine’s power so that it could do far more than merely open a channel to the other world! on reflection, he knew, positively, that the term “alternating current” would light my fuse, and so it did!
“I do not mean applying an actual alternating current, Mr. Edison,” he told me in his nicest manner, stroking his finely waxed mustache as he does when he is being duplicitous. “I mean by applying the principles of resonance,” he said. “As you have it, there is only the single simple flow entering here he pointed at the proper spot on the scheme I had drawn-gland, rather than direct it immediately to the internal circuit, include a series of cone-shaped appurtenances (yes, that was the word he used)–at this spot, and here–I–” he said, indicating precisely where these additions should be made to my machine!
“The principle of resonance has always intrigued me,” he said. “When I was a young man, I was out with some chums, high in the mountains in the wintertime. We made snowballs and I threw one into the snowpack overhead. That one snowball, no more than four or five inches wide, triggered an avalanche that could have killed us all if we had been fifty feet farther along the way! That, Mr. Edison, opened my mind to what can be done with a small force magnified many times over!
“Then I noticed that a heavy man, perhaps 200 pounds, may sit in a child’s swing and be pushed by a mere stripling of 75 pounds or so. The youth may push the swing with no more than a pound of force, but if he times his push with the turn of the swing from him and adds a pound, or even a half-pound each time, he will eventually have to stop, ere he hurls his 200 pound companion into outer space! I submit that by using the same principle with electricity–or with the universal energies–anyone can multiply even the slightest impulse by a thousand-fold or more!”
Of course, I was skeptical–who would not be? But Tesla knew he had my interest–as well as my skepticism, and he continued.
“I would place your machine atop the coil which have designed for generating high-frequency power–I have a design that can produce 4,000,000 volts, and the wherewithal for multiplying that by a factor of 10 or more! Tied with a two-turn primary circuit and the proper circuit interrupters, we could theoretically–and practically–we could create from your simple beginning device a resonant transformer which would yield sinusoidal and continuous oscilla like those of an alternator. Accurately proportioned to fit the globe and its electrical constants and properties, there is no limit to what this device could accomplish!”
“This is consistent with my idea,” I told him. “It has been clear from the beginning of my experiments that, with higher and higher frequencies, the potential of this machine will be multiplied a thousandfold.”
“Mr. Edison,” Tesla said,”if you will permit me to experiment with this idea, using what you have here, I can promise you that in months, I can make this device change the world! The world, Mr. Edison! This machine, as I can build it, will end wars forever, will make the human race complaisant and submissive! The man who makes this come about will become rich beyond measure, will absolutely own and control the world! Don’t you see? Communicate with the dead? Yes! But, beyond that–“
Tesla was speaking wildly, now, his great dark eyes flashing and somewhat frightening. His hands–he used his hands extravagantly–waved about in great sweeping arcs, so that I wondered if perhaps I had here a madman on my payroll. He actually frothed at the mouth at one point, so exceedingly emotional did he become. He mopped the spittle with the handkerchief from his lapel, barely glancing at it as he threw it into the trash can.
When finally I could speak, I said that I hardly felt that such a venture could succeed when built on a principle that so closely resembled his ideas on the alternating current, and that rather than building on the principle of resonance, we should, perhaps, do what we could to stay with the tried and true model, that of the direct current idea.
This was like a slap in the face to him, though I thought at the time that what he needed was a slap on the you-know-what, yes, a good hard slap on the arse. My father would have been a good one for that, as I learned early in my life whenever I tried to tell him what was best!
Tesla simply stopped talking in mid-sentence. He stared at me as if I had gone mad. “You don’t see it, do you!” he fairly shouted. “Why can’t you see what I see in my mind? You, of all people, Mr. Edison!”
I looked back at him and he could see that my mind was made up. I have my way of doing things and thus far my way has done well by me. I see no reason for listening to a young man new to electricity, who has some fine but fantastic ideas!
“Next thing you’ll be telling me, Tesla,” I said to him, “is that we should be working on communicating with the beings on Mars!”
“Yes–yes!” he said, almost jumping out of his skin. “Yes, that is the next step! And then to journey there! Now, I have this idea, Mr. Edison,” he fairly shouted as I led him to the door and escorted him outside.
“Later, my dear Tesla, sometime later, when we are a little more down to earth–“
He seemed to take offense at this. The fellow had a frail ego and easily responded badly to even the slightest bit of humor. He wouldn’t last ten minutes in my shop–Charles Dean and the Ott brothers would have him mince-meat in minutes! That’s why I put him by himself. The last I saw of him today, he was stomping through the laboratory, gone to feed his pigeons, I suppose!
P.S. The next day, Tesla was back, telling me he had been with me for a year, and that his salary should be raised from $18 to $25 dollars a week! of course, I said,”No!” if quite loudly! Tesla then suggested that I buy all of his inventions for $50,000! Ho! Ho! Ho! “You are the poet of science,” I told the raving maniac,”your ideas are splendid, but they are utterly impractical!” And that was the last we saw of the mad Serb. A good riddance, I would say!
Yes, the rejection of Tesla had been a grave mistake, Edison thought as the script of the journal faded. If he had given Tesla free reign, he would never have joined George Westinghouse. The unhindered genius of the Serb, combined with my own resources and abilities would have greatly enhanced my own work and its eventual impact on humanity, he mused.
The thought spawned a series of images spun from the mists around him, images of a free humanity, of nations as yet unborn, of mankind graced with a technology almost beyond imagination. He saw a new race of children coming into being. He tried to focus his mind on these startling transformations but he could not hold what he wanted to hold.
The children were of a blue cast–not white, not yellow, not brown or red, but a new race, a blue race, with eyes of cold fire and wills of steel. He saw that they were brilliant human beings, so that the most child-like and simple of the lot were in intellect to the power of ten beyond the most advanced of 20th century humanity. And what was it that he was seeing, he wondered, what was so very different about this new race, and how far in advance of this age were they in time?
And then it came to him–these people, these children of the new world to come, were radioactive! Radioactive! This strange new word had been in his mind since he passed over. And this was the eventual result of the electrification of the planet, as he saw now, and the even more powerful advent of the power of the atom, freed to play on the most subtle nature of the human nervous system.
First came the hundred-year immersion in the electrical fields, the lighting networks, the generating stations, the power lines embracing the world, the electric transportation lines, the homes and commercial buildings, the schools and universities, the street lights, universal even in the most remote and isolated lands.
A hundred years of this exposure, and then, as he saw the immediate future within ten years of his death, the development of atomic power and the thousands of tests of machines of destruction, stepping up the radioactivity in the atmosphere and itself empowering the human race so that ten years of radioactive exposure fully equaled a hundred years of electric current.
His mind raced with the import of these ideas. And underlying it all was the realization that by rejecting Tesla, the arrival of the new world had been postponed by–how many years, how many centuries?
Pondering on this, a great sadness enveloped him as the magnitude of his failure began to sink in. How many lives were changed, how many destinies altered, because of his ego, the need of his personality to show up the young upstart! And yet, Tesla himself was enormously self-centered, a man who claimed that through the principle of resonance, he could blow the planet apart! What ego! This demi-god surely deserved what he had received. But the logic of this would not hold, and in his heart Edison knew it not to be true.
“No, it is not true, Edison?” the voice of Tesla sounded. He felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he made out the ethereal form of the great Serb, appearing much as he did in the early years. The grip on his shoulder tightened. How utterly strange, Edison thought, two spooks–but wait, Tesla was not yet a spook! His death was not to come until the year 1943–and yet here he was in a timeless world–standing beside him and as real as in life!
Edison was baffled.
“You are still in earthlife, Tesla?” he asked.
“My physical body is in earthlife,” Tesla said, “and I have just retired in my room at the Hotel New Yorker, having fed my beloved pigeons their evening meal. My physical form sleeps, but my ethereal form inhabits both worlds and I am in constant touch with our guides and Masters who have indeed taught me all that I know.”
“I should know that by now, Tesla,” Edison said. “I am still adjusting to this new form of being, though my guides tell me I have been through this journey many times before.”
“So it is, so it has been, and so it will be until the end of time,” Tesla said. “Why are you here? Why have you come, now, to visit me in this state?” Edison asked.
“You might say it was my ego, demanding to see you in such a confused and befuddled state,” Tesla said, an edge to his voice. “But we are both beyond ego in this world, for we see into and through the many dimensions of being and time no longer exists for us. I have come to make certain that the full import of your error remains imprinted on your consciousness, so that when the opportunity arises again, as it surely will, your choices will be different.”
“Well, for God’s sake!” Edison said. “I find it difficult to say ‘I’m sorry,’ but I understand full well what could have been between us if I had opened my heart to you, a young man newly arrived in the United States and eager to associate with me and to share the discoveries and the work to be done, so I will say, ‘Tesla, I am sorry, I am sorry for what I did to you and for what happened–or failed to happen–in the human race, because of my temper!”
“Your apology is noted,” Tesla said, “and appreciated. But apologies are personality issues and we stand together as two disciples on the Path of World Service and I am sure you understand that as you progress through your life review!”
Edison nodded, with Tesla now in full view, seated before him in a comfortable armchair–the same armchair, he realized, used by Madame Blavatsky on that nefarious evening at Vesey Street.
“Oh, God,” Edison mumbled. “I wish this was over and done with! I am growing so tired of revisiting my mistakes, of reliving my errors and my foolishness! I wish I had listened to my spooks while I still had life! It seems now that the best part of my life was enjoying my stogies and the good apple dumplings. Nothing satisfied me so as a young lad! A few pennies, and paradise on earth! Apple dumplings and milk! Ah, a real treat! All the rest, the success and the acclaim, the heady adoration of the people and the newsmen, the mingling with the royalty of Europe, the hullabaloo–I’d trade it all now for a freshly baked dumpling and a glass of icy cold milk!
“You know,” he said, leaning toward Tesla,”they say there’s something known as ‘the second death’, that in time this endless review of a life just past ends and there is a life that goes on in this dimension once the dross has been burned through, as the dross of my past life is now, and that you live a comfortable, happy, fulfilled life along with souls in the same state, until the bliss of seeing and living with your loved ones wears through–and you die again, though in a different way! Would that I can enter this state, soon–though, Tesla, I will tell you that I am mightily intrigued by what is happening.
“Each venture into the past, as I live and re-live what I have said and done raises new perspectives, new questions, new insights into the things I could have done, should have done–and yet I also see that it was not all bad, all evil, all error! It may be that our souls are too harsh upon us, the personalities who have passed over and early on regret so much!”
“Indeed!” Tesla said,”you know the world held you in the highest esteem as the greatest inventor of all time! My own great ego had–and still has–trouble with that when I am fully in my personality! And for the years following your death, I strove to be your equal in the eyes of the world. That was not to be. But I did make improvements on your machine that you will see as your life review progresses.”
“Must it progress?” Edison asked. “Why am I being kept here, like this? What more is there to learn?”
“My teachers tell me, Edison, that even as the review of your past life continues, you will be held in this state to experience the aftermath of your work, the events and the personalities that took up your work and your ambitions–as well as the journey of the human race as it moved on in the long road to perfection!”
“There are three more events you must relive before you will enter the Hall of Future Knowing, to experience the consequences of your work, following the death of the physical body. There’s no escaping this, and you will find it indeed to be a most interesting venture!”
Edison’s eyes closed as he meditated on Tesla’s words. When he opened them again, Tesla and the arm chair were gone. Edison was again on familiar territory, back in West Orange, back in the laboratory building, back with John and Fred Ott, the great experiment about to begin.
To be continued…