CHAPTER XIII — THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT.
“Probably,” said Esmo, when, apparently at a sign from him, our host left us for some minutes alone, “much through which you are about to pass will seem to you childish or unmeaning. Ceremonial rendered impressive to us by immemorial antiquity, and cherished the more because so contrary to the absence of form and ceremony in the life around us—symbolism which is really the more useful, the more valuable, because it contains much deeper meaning than is ever apparent at first sight—have proved their use by experience; and, as they are generally witnessed for the first time in early youth, make a sharper impression than they are likely to effect upon a mind like yours. But they may seem strangely inconsistent with a belief which is in itself so limited, and founded so absolutely upon logical proof or practical evidence. The best testimony to the soundness of our policy in this respect is the fact that our vows, and the rites by which they are sanctioned, are never broken, that our symbols are regarded with an awe which no threats, no penalties, can attach to the highest of civil authorities or the most solemn legal sanctions. The language of symbol, moreover, has for us two great advantages—one dependent upon the depth of thought and knowledge with which the symbols themselves were selected by our Founder, owing to which each generation finds in them some new truth of which we never dreamed before; the other arising from the fact that we are a small select body in the midst of a hostile and jealous race, from whom it is most important to keep the key of communications which, without the appearance, have all the effect of ciphers.”
“I find,” I replied, “in my own world that every religion and every form of occult mysticism, nay, every science, in its own way and within its own range, attaches great importance to symbols in themselves apparently arbitrary. Experience shows that these, symbols often contain a clue to more than they were originally meant to convey, and can be employed in reasonings far beyond the grasp of those who first invented or adopted them. That a body like the Zinta could be held together without ceremonial and without formalities, which, if they had no other value, would have the attraction of secresy and exclusiveness, seems obviously impossible.”