FACE TO THE STARS
In the middle of the night, somewhere along the desert track between Mashed and Zahedan, the bus had halted: it needed repair; and it would take quite an hour or two before it could start again. The passengers were requested to get down and wait. They were told that, less than two hundred yards away, there was a cluster of huts, where water was available.
Many started walking in that direction, because they were thirsty; most of the others followed, because they had nothing to do and thought a little exercise would do them no harm, after their long immobility upon the hard seats. One or two men and women, with little children, who had brought food and drink with them, remained near the bus, opened their parcels, and began eating, seated in a circle.
After wandering about for a while, and getting accustomed to the darkness, Heliodora went and chose herself a place sufficiently near the bus for her to be able to hear when it would start, and sufficiently far away for her to be alone. And she lay upon her back in the warm sand, face to the starry sky.
It was a moonless night. And the landscape was rugged. Dark mountain ranges could be seen at the horizon, in all directions but one, and the peculiar light of the sky, that did not shine upon them, made them appear darker and more compact than ever. And one could not distinguish any shades in them. The land was also covered with darkness; one could hardly differentiate sand from rock, save through touch. And although the distance that separated her from them was short, and the land in between, flat, Heliodora could not see the huts from the place where she was lying. But, above black hills and dark earth, the night sky hung and shone in all its glory, each side of the Milky Way. And the dedicated woman let her soul merge into that luminous Infinity, while her body relaxed in the warm sand, like a tired child in its bed. She worshipped the splendour of the Cosmos, aspiring to put herself in tune with it. And in it and through it, she sought the Unattainable
One: the Soul of the Dance of the milliards of nebulae, that no finite being can conceive.
* * *
She was on her way from Mashed, the sacred city of Iran, to Zahedan, on the border of Baluchistan, where she was to take the train to Quetta, from where she would reach Lahore, Delhi, Calcutta.
Would she, at last, manage to have her books printed? She needed money, in order to do so, but had none. Would she find work, in India? An Indian official in Egypt had told her it was “practically impossible.” How would she live, then, and what would she do? In fact, although the country was familiar to her, she did not know where she was going.
But the majesty of the starry sky pervaded her, and she did not care. She forgot the bus, and the passengers, and the journey, and space and time — as though she were to remain forever upon that bed of sand, under the divine light of the galaxies. The thought of the cat that had died in her arms in Teheran, over a fortnight before, crossed her mind. “And even if I never can have my writings printed, it does not matter,” felt she. “That cat, at least, has not died unloved and alone. To comfort him was worth the long strenuous journey. Pasupati, Lord of Creatures, I bless Thee for having guided me in time to the spot; and I adore Thee!” She knew — and the sight of the sky full of stars only helped her to become once more aware of the elation this knowledge gave her — that the same eternal Life that had purred to her in the dying beast, flourished invincibly in countless far-away worlds as on this earth; that death was but a passage to new life; and that, at the root of life, there was Light: Light that had always sprung, always shone, from distance to distance, out of the abysmal womb of shoreless Night, like this dust of stars in the dark sky.
And she recalled the earthly Faith for which she lived . . . In that resplendent sky, there were stars millions and milliards of light years away from our little planet, and away from one another; stars of which the rays, that she now perceived, had started their journey through space at the time this earth was a swamp out of which emerged forests of gigantic ferns, under torrential downpours of warm water, or even long, long before, when it was but a whirling mass of lava — a world in the making. What was this earth — and what was Germany, and all the pride of militant National Socialism, — to that staggering, impersonal
Infinity? Less than a speck of dust! And yet . . . wherever divine Light had given birth to Life within those endless expanses; wherever there were living races of thinking or unthinking creatures upon any planet, born of any Sun, the principles at the basis of the struggle for survival, the divine laws of racial selection proclaimed by the greatest of all Germans, Adolf Hitler, held good, as they did here; as they always had done, in the history of our tiny Earth. And the implacable ethics that express those eternal Laws of life, were the divine ethics of fathomless Space, forever and ever. Glory to Him who proclaimed them — be He, in his latest manifestation as in all others, but a flash in Time without end! — and to those of his disciples, they too, creatures of a second, who lived and died, faithful to his spirit! For He is the One-who-comes-back: the Soul of the starry Dance that takes on, again and again, the garb of mortal frailty, to teach finite beings the Rule of all the worlds.
And Heliodora felt even happier and more certain of victory than she would have at the sight of the most gorgeous display of her comrades’ conquering power. “Our definitive defeat would mean the defeat and end of Life itself, here,” thought she, “it is clearly said so in Mein Kampf!1 But even then our struggle carried on by other beings, would continue, wherever Life exists.” And she felt invincible, along with all her persecuted comrades. Once more she had integrated the Hitler faith and the cult of Aryan aristocracy into the worship of the starry Sky, Light and Life eternal.
“Lord who art the Essence of this radiant immensity,” she prayed, “it is Thee, Thee alone that I have always worshipped, be it in the loveliness of dumb creatures, be it in the pride, intelligence and conquering will-power of my Leader and of those who are nearer to him than I. For Thou shinest in them; Thou art they. Guide me wherever I am to go, Everlasting One! And help me to contribute to bind our glorious faith ever more with love and protection of all beautiful, innocent life.” And she repeated in German, to the milliards of Suns in space and to the great Soul of them all the sacred invocation of the European Aryans of old to our Sun: “Heil Dir, Lichtvater allwaltende!”
She closed her eyes for a second, as though even the vision of the glorious Sky would distract her from something invisible, after which she yearned. And suddenly it seemed to her as though the Cat was there, at her side. She heard (or thought she heard) his purr, and felt the
1 Edit. 1935, p. 316.
touch of his glossy head against her face. Was the poor animal’s soul the messenger of the Soul of starry Space? Why not?
But there was noise in the distance; it sounded as though people were gathering; a horn was heard, calling the passengers who were late. The bus was about to start.
Heliodora got up and walked back to her seat, beaming with unearthly joy.
Joda, near Barajamda, in Orissa (India)
Hanover (Germany) — 10th of July, 1961