Page 23

The Magician Haddo looked round at the others. Though his gaze preserved its fixity, his lips broke into a queer, sardonic smile. 'It must be plain even to the feeblest intelligence that a man can only command the elementary spirits if he is without fear. A capricious mind can never rule the sylphs, nor a fickle disposition the undines.' Arthur stared at him with amazement. He did not know what on earth the man was talking about. Haddo paid no heed. 'But if the adept is active, pliant, and strong, the whole world will be at his command. He will pass through the storm and no rain shall fall upon his head. The wind will not displace a single fold of his garment. He will go through fire and not be burned.' Dr Porhoet ventured upon an explanation of these cryptic utterances. 'These ladies are unacquainted with the mysterious beings of whom you speak, cher ami. They should know that during the Middle Ages imagination peopled the four elements with intelligences, normally unseen, some of which were friendly to man and others hostile. They were thought to be powerful and conscious of their power, though at the same time they were profoundly aware that they possessed no soul. Their life depended upon the continuance of some natural object, and hence for them there could be no immortality. They must return eventually to the abyss of unending night, and the darkness of death afflicted them always. But it was thought that in the same manner as man by his union with God had won a spark of divinity, so might the sylphs, gnomes, undines, and salamanders by an alliance with man partake of his immortality. And many of their women, whose beauty was more than human, gained a human soul by loving one of the race of men. But the reverse occurred also, and often a love−sick youth lost his immortality because he left the haunts of his kind to dwell with the fair, soulless denizens of the running streams or of the forest airs.' 'I didn't know that you spoke figuratively,' said Arthur to Oliver Haddo. The other shrugged his shoulders. 'What else is the world than a figure? Life itself is but a symbol. You must be a wise man if you can tell us what is reality.' 'When you begin to talk of magic and mysticism I confess that I am out of my depth.' 'Yet magic is no more than the art of employing consciously invisible means to produce visible effects. Will, love, and imagination are magic powers that everyone possesses; and whoever knows how to develop them to their fullest extent is a magician. Magic has but one dogma, namely, that the seen is the measure of the unseen.' 'Will you tell us what the powers are that the adept possesses?' 'They are enumerated in a Hebrew manuscript of the sixteenth century, which is in my possession. The privileges of him who holds in his right hand the Keys of Solomon and in his left the Branch of the Blossoming Almond are twenty−one. He beholds God face to face without dying, and converses intimately with the Seven Genii who command the celestial army. He is superior to every affliction and to every fear. He reigns with all heaven and is served by all hell. He holds the secret of the resurrection of the dead, and the key of immortality.' 'If you possess even these you have evidently the most varied attainments,' said Arthur ironically. 3


The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham