TREE AND TEMPLE – a synthesis of the Golden Legend & the Temple Legend

Posted by in Stories, Storytelling on Mar 3, 2015

Introductory story:- THE CREATION ACCORDING TO MANI

 

In the beginning of all things, the Father of Greatness dwelt with His twelve sons in the bright regions of light, strength, wisdom, and His divine attributes are reason, mind, intelligence, thought and understanding. The divine brother of the Father of Greatness is the Great Spirit, whose breath feeds them with light and life. At first, all was harmony and peace.

 

Below, to the south of the regions of greatness was a realm of darkness, chaos, confusion, noise and stink. The spirits who dwelt there were in permanent warfare one with another. The two realms were separate, and this was the First Great Moment.

 

But those who dwelled in the regions of darkness were never still, and in their raging, some of them came close to the borders with the realm of light, and a yearning for it arose in them. They came to invade the realm of light. Thus began the Second Great Moment.

 

The Father of Greatness in His bright dwellings was obliged to meet this invasion. He can do no evil, and thus he called into being the Mother of Life, and she called into being the Primal Man.

 

The Primal Man was clothed and armed with the Five Bright Elements, which are ether, wind, light, water and fire, and these are all the gifts of the world of light. He went down to meet the demons, but they stole away the bright elements, leaving the Primal Man swooning in the abyss, alone and naked, surrounded by monstrous creatures, while the demons went away satisfied with what they had taken.

 

The gifts of the Realm of Light were now scattered throughout the regions of the Dark, and they acted on those realms like a poison.

 

The Primal Man lay in the abyss, exposed to all dangers, but he spoke a sevenfold prayer to the Mother of Life. She heard his prayer, and beseeched the Father of Greatness to help him.

 

The Father of Light sent a mighty ally, the Friend of All Luminaries, who called into being the Great Ban, who was the builder. He in turn called forth the Living Spirit and his five sons, and together they went forth into the darkness of the abyss. The Living Spirit called to the Primal Man in the darkness, ‘The Peace be with thee, Thou whose excellence shineth among the evil ones and is a light in the darkness.’ So saying, he reached forth his hand and drew the Primal Man out of the abyss. He came forth rejoicing, and rested on the bosom of the Mother of Life.

 

Then the Living Spirit went among the demons and cut the five roots of the tree in the realm of the archons of the darkness so that it could not thrive. He punished the archons of the Dark, chaining them to the five elements, and the Great Ban enclosed the realms of the darkness in a mighty wall. The King of Glory, son of the Living Spirit, held the ten regions of the heavens in the heights, while the Living Spirit flayed the demons and made of their substance the world of matter. Of their skin he made the sky; of their bones the mountains and the earth from the rest of their remains. Another of his sons, Atlas the Supporter held up the eight layers of the earth, and the sun and moon were made of the uncontaminated light set free from the grip of the demons, while the stars were made of light only a little soiled.

 

Now there came from the Father of Greatness the Third Messenger, who set the world and all the bodies of the heavens in motion, so that the earth knew day, night and seasons each in their turn. He caused to be made the Column of Glory, three mighty wheels of wind, water and fire, whose task was to draw to them particles of light freed from the darkness, to fill the moon in the first half of each month, and to be led to the sun through the second half, and from the sun to the New Paradise of Light.

 

The Maiden of Light appeared in all her glory with her twelve servants and handmaidens. She was to be seen traversing the heavens in the moon. When the demons saw her in all her beauty and nakedness, they spilled their spirit seed on to the earth, and this gave rise to five kinds of trees and plants. The Third Messenger moved through the heavens in the sun, and the sight of him caused the female demons to give birth to five kinds of animals, that ate the fruit of the trees. The seed of the demons that fell into the sea became a mighty dragon, but Adamas-Michael, son of the Living Spirit, transfixed it with his spear.

 

The demons were now dismayed that they were losing what they had taken from the Primal Man, and a chief among them, Az, whose nature is lust and greed, called to him a female demon, and together they devoured the demons in whom still shone the captured light. Then they coupled, and brought forth Adam and Eve, but Adam was made in the image of the Third Messenger, and Eve was made in the likeness of the Maiden of Light. They were set sleeping in the Garden, all ignorant of the light that was within them, or of the darkness that would breed all the sinfulness that plagues humankind. Demons were set to guard them as they slept, but Jesus the Splendour came to them, drove back the demons and tethered them, and awoke the sleeping Adam. He raised him up from the ground and showed him a vision of the Father of Greatness and the realms of light wherein He dwells. Jesus also gave Adam to eat of the Tree of Life, and instructed him of the things that were, those that are, and those that are to come, which we call the Third Great Moment of future time.

 

Jesus warned Adam against taking Eve to him as wife, and Adam kept his lustfulness in check, remaining continent. But Az the archon of the dark realm came and coupled with Eve, and she bore Cain. Cain then coupled with his mother, and she bore Abel. Cain and Abel both then had daughters with Eve.

 

A demon came to Abel’s wife, and she bore two children. Abel accused Cain before Eve of fathering these two children, and so Cain slew Abel in anger.

 

This same demon now showed Eve how to entice Adam, and they bore Seth. The demon approached Eve again to entice Adam, but Seth counselled his father to go eastwards towards the rising sun, towards light and wisdom.

 

Thus the light-filled spirit of Adam could enter again the realms of light on the death of his body, as one untainted, but Eve and her offspring would have to labour to transform themselves, freeing themselves and the world-all from the darkness, and turning all to light, before they could re-enter the realms of the Father of Greatness.

(Mani)

 

THE GARDEN

 

There is a stream of life that flows for all humankind.  Some men may dig ditches, ponds and canals to shape it, fence it and call it their own; for they do not understand that it is for all people of goodwill. The water may grow stale, and the surface freeze hard in those ditches and ponds, but the stream still runs deep for those who would seek it or have need of it.

 

The source of this stream was in a beautiful garden, called Eden where it sprang up in a great fountain and ran to the four corners of the Earth. Not far from the fountain of the Stream of Life there grew two trees. One was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which was white as the nerves that spread their branches throughout the body, and the other was the Tree of Life, which was red as blood.

 

The god who looked over this garden was called Adonai Jahve. He was of the gods called Elohim, who, with the higher and lower gods, attend the Throne of the Lord Most High, and sing His praises. The dwelling of Adonai Jahve was all the spaces where the moon travels, while the rest of the Elohim dwelled in the realm of the sun. Adonai Jahve and the Elohim had created the world and the garden in it. They placed two people in the garden, a man and a woman. The woman was called Havah, and the man, Adam. They were forbidden by Adonai Jahve to eat of the fruit of the trees, but Havah, who saw deep into the mind of Elohim, saw that it was unavoidable that, sooner or later, Adam would eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, for he lived as in a dream, and the voice of the Serpent who dwelled in the garden was so persuasive. This Serpent spoke with the voice of a bright archangel who had rebelled against the Throne on High, and had been thrust out of the Heavenly Heights.

 

Havah took counsel with herself and allowed pictures to form in her mind of what would befall. She saw that great unhappiness would follow from eating the fruit, but that if the unhappiness came through her act, it would not be as disastrous as it would be if Adam ate first of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. If Adam ate of the fruit first, as he was in danger of doing, he would lose all sight of the Heavenly Heights and think of himself as godlike. He would weigh and measure all things in the garden and divide them into what was useful to him and what was not, and those things he deemed of no use he would heap up and destroy, even though they were of divine creation.

 

And so Havah approached the Serpent, and allowed him to break some of the fruit from the tree and give it to her to eat. What a change came over her then! The Heavenly Heights became no more than a distant brightness and dull echoes. All the beautiful things in the garden now appeared to her as if another light than the sun shone upon them. She called in sadness to the Elohim, and cried, “What is this that has come over me? The light of the Heavenly Heights has faded and the music of Heaven is no more than a far away echo.”

 

The Elohim answered her and said, “Havah, it is a noble thing that you have done, to take the sin of the fruit of the Tree upon you. You must now share the fruit with your husband Adam, but first, we shall father upon you your first child, and you shall name him Cain. The cunning of his hand shall be of service to all of humankind for ever.”

 

Havah fell into a deep sleep, but when she awoke, she knew that a child was growing in her womb. She kept this knowledge a secret treasure in her heart. Then she went to Adam.

 

“See the fruit of this Tree,” she said, showing him the fruit: “I have tasted it, and now I am changed. You must do likewise.”

 

“Have we not been forbidden the fruit of the Tree?” Adam asked.

 

“I have looked into the heart of the Elohim,” she replied, “and it is better thus. Take it and eat.”

 

Adam looked at Havah, and wondered that she was still standing and talking to him, though she had tasted the fruit of the Tree. But he took it from her, and tasted it.

 

“Ah, what is this that has befallen me?” he cried, dropping the fruit on the ground. “My very soul is overthrown! Look, you and I are changed beyond all helping! Ah, I should never have tasted the fruit!”

 

Just then, there was a rushing in the branches of the trees, and a wind blew through the garden.

 

“It is Adonai Jahve,” said Adam, “and see, we are naked! Come, we must hide our shame!”

 

They took leaves from the trees and covered their nakedness. Then Adam walked out into the clear meadow.

 

“You heard me coming, yet you hid away from me,” said Adonai Jahve. “Why did you do so?”

 

“We wished to hide our nakedness before You,” said Adam.

 

“Who told you that you were naked?” demanded Adonai Jahve, “Have you eaten of the fruit of the Tree that was forbidden to you?”

 

Adam admitted that he had done so.

 

“Who was it told you that you should eat it?” demanded Adonai Jahve.

 

“Havah, my wife. I saw her taking counsel with the Serpent,” said Adam. Adonai Jahve called Havah forth.

 

“Is this true, as Adam has said?” he asked.

 

“It is even so, just as he said,” Havah replied.

 

“Then the Serpent shall go for ever on his belly and eat the dust of the Earth,” said Adonai Jahve, “and there shall be enmity between the Serpent and all womankind for ever.”

 

“What must become of us?” asked Havah?”

 

“The garden closed to you for ever,” commanded Adonai Jahve, and in the distance, the gates of Eden opened, and Adam and Havah made their way out.

 

When the gates had closed behind them, a mighty angel stood at the gates with a flaming sword, which he waved three times above their heads, and they were aflame all over their bodies.

 

“Ah, Gods, forsake me not, I pray!” called Havah to the Heavens. The voice of the Elohim spoke in her heart and told her to put all fear away. The sojourn beyond Eden would be long, and the work of the world hard, but her faith in the Gods would bring the forgiveness of Adonai Jahve.

 

And Adonai Jahve spoke in the heart of Adam, and said that the Highest Gods had ordained that the Oil of Grace would be granted to Adam, Havah and all their children and children’s children at the turning point of time.

 

Then Adam and Havah ran, and their flaming feet burned the earth where they ran, so that no plants grew where their feet had trodden, and all was sand and grit in the place of their footsteps.

 

But the flames that were on them died away, and they began to work and toil to make their living, where before, all was given to them by the garden’s bounty.

 

In the garden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life twined together, and formed one great tree, but it looked dead, though its roots spread deep down and its branches reached to the heavens.

 

TWO BROTHERS

 

Havah gave birth to her first son, Cain, who was fathered on her by the Elohim. Her second son, Abel, was her son by Adam.

 

Abel grew up to be a shepherd, taking the world as he found it, and tending his flocks, bringing a sacrifice from his flock to Adonai Jahve when it fell due. Cain worked the land and worked with the fruits of the soil. He transformed what he found.

 

But when Cain brought his offering to the altar of Adonai Jahve, it was rejected, for Adonai Jahve had created the world, and He did not recognize what had been changed and transformed.

 

“How is this,” Cain wondered, with bitterness in his heart, “that I work the land and bring forth the fruits of my labours as a sacrifice, and it is not pleasing to Adonai Jahve, whereas my brother Abel follows his flocks and his sacrifice is received gladly?”

 

The voice of Adonai Jahve spoke in his heart and said, “Why are you angry? If you do well, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.”

 

But the bitterness in Cain’s heart grew and made sour all his days, until at last, he felt hatred for his brother kindling in his soul.

 

Then one day, Cain met his brother Abel in the fields, and a quarrel grew up between them, and Cain slew Abel, and hid his body in the ground.

 

Adonai Jahve called to Cain, saying, “where is your brother Abel? His blood cries to me from the ground.”

 

Cain answered, “I know not where he is. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

 

“You have lifted your hand against your brother,” said Adonai Jahve, “and you have opened the ground to receive his blood, and the virgin earth is no longer chaste. Henceforth you shall be a vagabond and a fugitive. The earth shall no longer yield her riches to you without a struggle.”

 

Cain cried aloud, saying, “This punishment is more than I can bear! You have driven me from the face of the earth to wander and hide. All men shall lift their hands against me. Every man who finds me shall take and slay me.”

 

“If any man shall slay you,” said Adonai Jahve, “vengeance shall follow him sevenfold. I shall put my mark upon you so that all men know that vengeance shall be upon him who lifts his hand to slay you.”

 

So Cain went away from that country, into the Land of Nod, east of Eden. He took a wife, and their firstborn son was called Enoch. Among their descendants was born Jubal, who was the first to make instruments and play music. His cousin was Tubal Cain, the first artificer in brass and iron. But it was so that with all that the tribe of Cain fathered, the work became harder with each passing generation, and new ways had to be found to solve the puzzles of life on Earth beyond the Gates of Eden.

 

THE THIRD BROTHER

 

Adam and Havah had a third son, who was called Seth. Now when Adam was far stricken in years and close to death, he called Seth to him and asked that he go to the Garden of Eden to ask for the Oil of Grace.

 

“How shall I know the way?” asked Seth, “for I have never been there.”

 

“On our flight from Eden,” said Adam, “our feet burned the ground where the touched the earth, and the way is sand and grit where we trod. You have only to follow the path.”

 

Seth gathered those things necessary for the journey, and set off.

 

The path to the Garden was long and arduous, but always plainly to be seen, the marks where Adam and Havah’s feet had trod clearly marked; sand and grit among the lush green grass.

 

At last he stood marvelling before the gates of Eden.  He took a step towards them, but there came a mighty rushing wind, though the grass did not bow before it and the treetops around were not stirred. Seth bowed down, for he knew that he was in the presence of a mighty angel, who spoke in his heart.

 

“What do you seek here, Seth, son of Adam?” the angel asked.

 

“I come on behalf of my father Adam,” Seth replied. “He is sick unto death, and has asked for the Oil of Grace in his last moments of earthly breath.”

 

“It cannot be that your father Adam can be saved from death,” said the angel, “but look, Seth, son of Adam. Look through the chink between the gates and say what you see.”

 

Seth went and did as the angel told him.

 

“I see a beautiful garden,” he said, “more beautiful than anything I have ever seen. There is a great fountain in the midst and four streams flow out from it.”

 

“Look again,” said the angel,” for you must tell all that you see.”

 

Seth put his eye to the chink between the gates again.

 

“I see a mighty tree,” said Seth, “but it has no leaves, and there is no bark on the trunk or the bole. A serpent of deadly aspect winds himself around it. It is a fearsome sight.”

 

“Look once more,” said the angel, “for you must tell all that you see.”

 

Seth looked a third time, and said, “I see where the roots of the tree go down into Hell, and my brother Abel lies there among the shadows. But high in the branches of the tree I see a wondrous child. If my father Adam had not sinned, I think he may have looked as this child does, though it is a child of rare beauty.”

 

“That child is called the Oil of Grace,” said the angel, “and in the fullness of time the stream of life that flows from the fountain shall be for all people. Now step back from the gates.”

 

Seth stepped back as he was bid, and the angel told him to hold out his hands. Seth did so, and when he looked, there was in one hand a little crystal cruse with drops of sacred oil in it, and in the other there were three seeds in the palm of his hand. They resembled the seed of a cypress, a cedar and a pine.

 

“You must anoint your father Adam’s brow, heart and hands with the oil before he breathes his last,” said the angel.”

 

“What must I do with these seeds?” Seth asked.

 

“These seeds are from the Tree,” said the angel: “Take them to your father Adam, and place them under his tongue when he breathes his last breath. But you must tell him all you have seen here.”

 

Seth, following the footsteps of his parents, made his way back to his father, and when he came to him again, he told him all that had befallen. Adam laughed for joy at the words of the angel, and with a great sigh, breathed his spirit out across the threshold of death.

 

Seth anointed his father’s brow, heart and hands with the oil, and placed the three seeds under Adam’s tongue. Then he buried him in a secret place, where many generations later, after the Great Flood of Noah, Father Abraham met the Priest King Melchizedek. The hill where Adam lay buried was called the Place of the Skull.

 

In time, three saplings grew from the grave. They grew to the height of an ell, or, what is the same thing, a cubit, which is the length from a man’s elbow to the tip of his middle finger. They were green through all seasons, but they grew no higher until they were found by Moses.

 

MOSES AND THE THREE SAPLINGS

 

After many generations, long after the Great Flood that Adonai Jahve sent against a lawless generation, and after Joseph was a lord in Egypt, the Hebrew people were taken into slavery to serve masters in Egypt.

 

Moses was of the Hebrew people, but had been raised among the great ones of Egypt. One day, he saw a Hebrew slave chastised severely by an Egyptian overseer, and Moses, full of wrath, slew the overseer, and fled from the country to escape death himself.

 

Before Moses had returned to Egypt to lead his people out of servitude, he had served the wise shepherd Jethro, and tended his sheep. While about his business as a shepherd, the voice of his God, the great I AM had spoken to him from a bush that seemed all ablaze, but was unconsumed by the flames.

 

Moses, who knew the ways of Egypt, returned to demand the release from captivity of the Hebrew people. He understood Egypt’s mysteries, and was well able to contend with Pharaoh and his counsellors and magicians. But Pharaoh was stiff necked, and refused to give the Hebrews their liberty. So Moses led them out of Egypt, though Pharaoh pursued them with a mighty army. When they came to the shores of the sea, Adonai Jahve showed favour to the Hebrew people.

 

The winds and the tides at God’s behest allowed the Children of Israel, the Hebrew people to cross dry shod where the sea was wont to be, but when Pharaoh’s army tried to cross the same stretch of sea bed, the tide turned, and the pursuing soldiers of Pharaoh were swept away by the rushing incoming waters.

 

Safe on the far side, the Hebrew people thanked their God. Moses commanded that an ark be built according to instructions that he heard in his heart from his God, and this ark should contain the Covenant made between God and His people. This ark was built of acacia wood two and a half cubits by one and a half broad and one and a half cubits high. It was richly fashioned of wood and covered with gold, and two gold covered cherubim were made to stand at either end. Moses also caused to be built a tabernacle for the ark, and an altar to stand within the tabernacle. Even the colours of the curtains were to be just as ordained, and these commands were all carried out according to the instructions that Moses gave.

 

But as the time of their wandering in the wilderness lengthened, some began to mutter and speak out against this God who had led them from captivity, where at least there was food for the enslaved people, to this desert, where food was scarce and the water salt or stale.

 

Once, Moses had struck a rock with his staff, and fresh water had flowed from the rock, but his staff he had now passed to his brother Aaron, in honour of his priestly task. But Aaron had heard the mutterings of the Hebrews and to still their complaining, he was persuaded to collect golden earrings, bracelets and rings, and all the gold he could gather, and he made of it a golden calf, in honour of the sign of the Bull, where the sun rose in the Heavens, according to the star wisdom of the prophets of the Chaldees, for, they argued, was not Father Abraham a great man among the Chaldees with his flocks and riches?

 

Moses had gone up into Mount Sinai to commune with his God, unaware that below in the plain, Aaron had set up the golden calf for the people to worship. While in communion with his God, Moses learned of the laws that would keep the Children of Israel in the paths of righteousness. Tenfold was the counsel of God for the Hebrew people and all was ordained in the manner of the Tree of Tradition, whose roots are in the Heavens and whose branches spread throughout the Heavens and reach down even unto the Earth. And these laws are the counsel of God:

 

Right it is that you shall make no graven image or likeness of anything in the heavens or the earth or under the sea, nor bow down and worship it. All your worship shall be unto the Lord Most High say the Seraphim at the Crown of the Tree.

 

Better it is not to take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for such as do so are not guiltless, say the Cherubim of the branch of the Tree called Wisdom.

 

Right it is to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it apart and holy, say the mighty angels called the Thrones of the branch of the Tree called Understanding, and when you see the star Sabbetay (Saturn) in the heavens, it shall call this commandment to your mind.

 

Right it is to work six days, and perform no labour on the seventh, to remember the six days of Creation, say the mighty angels called the Dominions on the branch of the Tree called Mercy, and when you see the star called Sedeq (Jupiter) you shall call this law to mind.

 

Better it is to honour your father and mother, and thus shall the days of your life on the land be long, say the mighty angels called the Virtues, on the branch of the Tree called Severity, and when you see the star in the Heavens called Ma’adin (Mars) you shall remember this counsel.

 

Right it is not to kill, say the mighty angels called the Powers on the branch of the Tree called Beauty, and Hammah (the Sun) in the Heavens shall call this law ever to mind.

 

Better it is not to commit adultery, say the mighty angels called the Principalities on the branch of the Tree called Eternity, and when you see the star in the Heavens called Kokab Nogah (Venus) you shall remember this law.

 

Right it is not to steal, say the mighty Archangels on the branch of the Tree called Splendour, and when you see the star in the Heavens called Kokab (Mercury) you shall call this law to mind.

 

Right it is not to bear false witness or say the thing that is not, say the Angels, on the branch of the Tree called Foundation, and Lebanah (the Moon) shining in the Heavens shall ever call this law to mind.

 

Right it is not to covet your neighbour’s house, his wife, servant or maidservant, nor his ox nor his ass, nor anything that it is his, and this is the law of your better self that lives not yet within your soul, but the way to give him a dwelling in your soul is to follow the counsels of the Lord, so that the Kingdom of Mankind may at last be the Kingdom of the Lord.

 

While Moses was in Sinai in communion with his God, Adonai Jahve spoke to him in his heart and told him that the people were worshipping a graven image. He came down from the mountain with the stone tablets on which were engraved the laws, and met Joshua, who said that there was a noise of war in the camp. But the noise was not of war. Many were singing wild songs and dancing naked round the image of the golden calf.

 

Moses lifted up the stone tablets and dashed them to the ground where they broke into pieces. Then he summoned those who remained faithful to him and his God, demanding who would stand by him. The men of the tribe of Levi came to him and they took their swords. Then a terrible punishment was inflicted on those who had worshipped the golden calf.

 

Moses now led his people onwards until they came to Hebron. There he went apart from the people to make anew the laws on stone tablets. There, in a retired place, he found the three saplings an ell in height. These he knew at once to be blessed, and he plucked them from the ground.

 

Now the people at this time were thirsty, for they had found no clean, sweet water. Moses took the three wands and stirred the briny and bitter waters with them, and the waters became sweet, and the people’s thirst was at last assuaged.

 

“See the virtue that lives in these wands,” he said to his closest companions.

 

The virtue of the three saplings was further shown when Joshua came in having been bitten in the heel by a viper, and there was no hope for him. Moses demanded of him whether he truly believed in the Lord Most High. Joshua said that he did so, and with all his heart. Moses then held out the three wands to him, and bade him kiss them. Joshua did so, and the venom left his body and he was healed.

 

When they came as far as Mount Tabor, Moses went apart from the people again, and asked how long he and his people should be wandering in the desert. The Lord answered, saying that because the people had turned aside from the laws given by Adonai Jahve, that that stiff-necked generation of people would not see the Promised Land, but that Joshua and Caleb would lead the children of Israel to their appointed land. Moses praised the Lord Most High, and planted the three sapling wands there on Mount Tabor, bidding them grow as a sign of the greatness of God. Then, committing his soul to the Lord Most High, he breathed out his spirit and died.

 

DAVID AND THE TREE

 

King David was a shepherd boy who had slain the champion of the Philistine army, the giant Goliath. Never a plate of armour was on him when he went out to fight, and no sword, spear or shield. He took the weapon of the shepherd boys that they use to drive off wolves from their flocks, and that was a simple sling. He took five smooth pebbles from a stream, and with one of these laid the giant dead on the ground in spite of his great strength, his armour and his weapons.

 

The courage and the cunning of the boy were plain to be seen, and when Saul the king of the Children of Israel died, David became king.

 

One night, David dreamed of the three saplings that Moses had planted in Mount Tabor, and he journeyed there and discovered them in a place where their fragrance and savour filled all the air. He plucked them out of the ground and returned to Jerusalem. The sapling wands he placed in an earthen cistern, until such time as he should decide where they might be planted permanently.

 

The following day, a servant came to him to say that the sapling wands had burst the cistern and taken root, but were now so woven together that they formed a single tree. David ordered that a silver circlet be placed round the tree so that its girth might be measured each year.

 

Now it happened one day that David saw a woman of surpassing beauty washing her clothes in the stream, and at once his heart was kindled to her.

 

He approached her and spoke of his great love for her.

 

“Never have I seen a woman who pleases me more than you do,” he told her, “and I shall give you all that I have if you come to me.”

 

“To be your love would be the greatest pleasure a woman could wish for,” she replied, “and as you are my king, I can do no other than to lay all my treasure before you.”

 

Now this woman’s name was Bathsheba, and she was the wife of a mighty warrior called Uriah, who served David’s great general Joab.

 

David gave orders through Joab that, in battle, those in the front line with Uriah should take a step back, leaving Uriah alone and exposed to mortal danger in the thick of the strife.

 

It was not long before the news came that Uriah had been slain on the battlefield.

 

David and Bathsheba were thus free to express their love, but David’s conscience began to assail him more and more. But as he slept, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him and said, “Tell me, O great king; say a man had a hundred sheep, and his neighbour only one, and the rich man stole his poorer neighbour’s lamb, what punishment should the rich man suffer?”

 

David answered, “The man who did such a pitiless thing should die, but not before he restored the lamb fourfold.”

 

The said Gabriel, “You are the man. You caused Uriah to be slain, and you have taken his wife to be yours. Therefore your wives shall also be taken and given to your neighbour, and the sword shall never depart from your house.”

 

 

Finally, he went with his harp and sat beneath the tree, and began to compose the beautiful songs that we call the Psalms.

 

Remorse filled his soul with bitterness, and he asked a most trusted counsellor what he should do to atone for what he had done. The counsellor advised him to build a great temple to God. David thought this advice good, and he sent to gather men whom he believed had the knowledge of building. But God spoke in his heart, and told him that he would never bring about the building of the temple, as his sin made him unworthy to do so.

 

However, He said also that it would be his son, Solomon, who was his son with Bathsheba, who would accomplish the task.

 

SOLOMON AND THE TEMPLE

 

King David died; full of years and sorrow, but his people reckoned him a mighty king indeed, and a pattern for kingship for all Israel. Nevertheless, his great wish to build a temple remained unfulfilled, for this was to be his son Solomon’s task.

 

David, like Moses, like Abraham the father of the children of Israel, and like Abel the son of Adam, had been a shepherd in his youth, and those who were of Abel’s kind were no artificers of metal or projectors of mighty works in the world. Thus there were none among the children of Israel who had the skill to build a temple.

 

Now, there was a man living in the city of Tyre who was of the seed of Cain, and his name was Hiram Abiff. He was the son of a widow, and a servant to the King of Tyre, who was also called Hiram. Solomon therefore sent to Hiram of Tyre to ask for the help of Hiram Abiff in building a temple to the Lord Most High.

 

Hiram Abiff came and called to his aid the most able and skilled masters of their crafts, their journeymen and apprentices, and the great work commenced. Solomon came to oversee the work, and was astonished at the skill of the workmen, and of the authority that Hiram had over them.

 

It came to pass that a strong pillar was needed for the centre of the temple. The carpenters searched for a tree that would suffice for the work, and saw the tree, which was now grown mighty, and many silver circlets were bound about the bole.

 

The tree was thus cut down, and wood from it shaped and trimmed to stand as the central pillar. But when the carpenters came to bring the tree into the temple, they found it was too short. They took it away and made sure it was the correct length and breadth, but now they found it was too long, though the measuring had been sure.

 

No matter what the carpenters did, the wood from the tree could not be made to fit the task. Thus it was laid on the floor of the building and another tree cut and shaped to the purpose. This one was placed in the temple with no error.

 

There was a woman in that country who was upright and pious. Her name was Maximilla. She came into the temple one day while it was still being built, and, being fatigued by her journey, she sat on the great beam cut from the tree.

 

At once, her dress caught fire, and she rose in great distress. The workers took her outside, beating out the flames as they went, and at last the fire was put out, though Maximilla was herself not hurt by the fire. They praised her for her lucky escape from injury.

 

Maximilla said in answer, “I saw in the midst of the flames a vision of the Son of Man being led out to execution at the behest of the priests of the temple. This temple shall be forty years in the building, but He shall build it up in three days.” This was told to the priests, who counted it as madness, or worse, blasphemy, and Maximilla was sentenced to be stoned to death, though she had ever been a pious and upright woman. Even in her death throes, she refused to deny the truth of her vision.

 

After this, workmen dragged the great beam of the tree to the Pool of Bethesda, and threw it in. It caused a great stir in the water as it fell, and a crippled man who had come to cool his afflicted limbs in the waters found that they came out of the water straight and strong. Others came and found the waters healing of all kinds of sickness and affliction.

 

This began to prey on the minds of the priests, who wondered whether Maximilla had been killed unlawfully, or whether the Devil was in the wood of the beam, for in Paradise, the Serpent had coiled round the trunk of the Tree of Knowledge, and it was from a seed of the Tree of Knowledge and a seed of the Tree of Life that this tree had grown.

 

Men were sent therefore to heave the great beam out of the Pool of Bethesda.

 

“Leave it as a bridge over the stream of Kedron,” said the Chief Priest, “so that it may ever be muddied by the shoes of those that pass over it.”

 

So it was that the great beam made of the tree was placed over the stream of Kedron as a bridge, with the intention that it might thus be dishonoured as a devilish thing.

 

THE COMING OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA

 

Solomon grew ever greater, as the work on the temple continued, and the news of the building of the temple spread far and wide through those lands.

 

There was a queen in the land of Saba, also called Sheba, and her name was Balkis. She heard of the temple, and wished to see the work. She set out with her royal bodyguard and train of servants and her handmaiden Sarahil, and journeyed north.

 

When they reached the stream of Kedron, her servants told her that the bridge was too narrow, and each should cross on foot over it. She stepped down from her carriage, and walked to the bridge, but she stopped as she reached it.

 

“I will not set my foot here,” she said, “for it is a holy thing. Upon the wood of this great beam shall hang the Son of Man, so that death shall be overcome.”

 

The servants looked at one another in surprise, but their astonishment was the greater when the queen took off her shoes, girded up her skirts and waded through the stream to the other side. Her servants and all her train followed her across the water, and they made their way to Solomon’s palace.

 

When Balkis the queen was led into the presence of Solomon, she thought he was a wonderful statue made of gold and ivory, so still he sat, and so richly was he found.

 

They spent much time in conversation, and she tested him with riddles. Solomon was able to answer her riddles to her satisfaction, and found that she was as wise as he himself was said to be, and his heart kindled towards her.

 

Then one morning, she asked to see the work on the temple, and Solomon led her to the site where the temple was being built, and introduced her to Hiram, the architect.

 

“This is indeed a mighty work,” she said; “May I see all the men who work here together in one assembly?”

 

“Nay,” said Solomon, “for they are too many, and it is not a simple matter to call them all together.”

 

But Hiram bowed, and said, “I can call them together, O king, and if the queen wishes it to be done, then it were a pity that it were not done.”

 

Solomon held his peace, and Balkis watched as Hiram went to a small hill overlooking the work, and held up the golden Tau, a figure made in gold like the letter T. The workers saw it, all stopped their labours and assembled in one place.

 

“Behold,” said Hiram, “the Queen of Sheba is come from afar to see the work and the men who labour upon it.”

 

The men all gave a mighty cheer for the queen, and she looked at Hiram with lively interest, and Solomon saw this, and it was bitter in his heart. He muttered that he would not stand in the way of any who would rid him of the architect, and there were present three who overheard him.

 

THE MOLTEN SEA

 

There was a mighty work toward in the courtyard of the temple, called the Molten Sea. It was to be made of many metals, and was made to stand on the backs of four bulls of bronze. The work was to be finished in the morning, and it was a delicate and difficult thing to achieve, for the metals all had to be melted and cast at the right time to the right amounts, and a small thing could make the casting go awry and be spoiled.

 

Now, there were fifteen journeymen who thought that the time was ripe for them to receive the Master Word and be made up to be full masters of their crafts. Hiram had the Word engraved on a golden triangle that he wore on a chain round his neck at all times.

 

To the fifteen he said, “The time is not yet accomplished that you should receive the Master Word. Yet all things come in their season, and you shall all receive the Word when you are ripe for it. Therefore be contented and go your ways. All men shall be masters in due time.”

 

Twelve of the journeymen were content, and went away, but three remained who were impatient and felt slighted. Their names were Fanor the Syrian mason, Amru the Phoenician joiner and Methusael, the Hebrew miner. These were the three who overheard Solomon mutter against Hiram. They took counsel one with another to see what they could do to be revenged on the master of the work. They agreed that they would spoil the work of the Molten Sea, for this would humiliate Hiram before all the royal company.

 

The next morning, Solomon and all his royal household, and Queen Balkis and her retinue, and the priests and all their servants came to witness the casting of the Molten Sea.

 

At the moment when it should all be done, the molten metal overflowed the mould, and people cried out in terror as it flowed towards them. Hiram quickly ordered that water be poured on it to stop it going further, but the water boiled on touching the molten metal, and fiery rain fell on the crowd, who ran for shelter. This disaster was because the three journeymen had indeed interfered with the work. Now all was smoke and flames and ruin. Hiram stood staring into the fiery wreckage, and at that moment, he heard a voice speaking in his heart, telling him to dive deep into the flames.

 

“Who are you who speaks thus to me?” he demanded.

 

“I am your forefather Tubal Cain. Dive deep into the flames, and at the centre of the earth you will meet your forefathers, out of sight of Adonai Jahve.”

 

Hiram, in his dream, dived into the flames, and in the centre of the earth, he met his ancestor, Tubal Cain, who led him into the presence of Cain, the father of all who work as artificers, all those who transform what they find and make the lot of mankind better.

 

Many were the secrets that Cain told Hiram, and most of them may not be told, but among the things he said was that Hiram would have a son, but that he would not live to see him. He was given a golden hammer with which to put right all that had failed and gone to ruin.

 

In the early light of the next morning, Hiram was to be seen alone with his great work, and he had made all right alone with no help. Balkis the queen saw this, and already her heart was turning to Hiram.

 

Some days later, the queen and her handmaiden Sarahil were walking near the temple building, and they saw Hiram go to the hillock and hold out the golden Tau. Now, Balkis had a pet hoopoe called Had-Had, which sat on the wrist of a servant who accompanied her. When Hiram held out the Tau to summon the workers, Had-Had flew up and circled three times round his head, and perched on his outstretched arm.

 

“It is a sign!” said Sarahil, “It is the sign from the Djinn of Fire that this is the man who shall be the father of our lady queen’s child.”

 

The heart of Balkis was now all in the hands of Hiram, but she had already plighted her troth to Solomon, and he now wore a ring that she had given him in earnest of it. And so that night, she went to Solomon, and made sure that he drank wine to the extent that he soon fell asleep. While he slept, she took the ring from his finger so that she and Hiram might freely come together in love.

 

When Solomon awoke, he found himself alone, and the ring gone from his finger, and he knew what had taken place. He was now full of anger when a young apprentice called Benoni asked to be admitted to the royal presence.

 

THE DEATH OF HIRAM

 

Benoni had been nearby when he heard Amru, Fanor and Methusael plotting together to take the life of Hiram. They were still enraged against him because he had refused them the Master Word. Benoni felt powerless against the three, and so took what he had overheard to the king. Solomon thanked Benoni, but decided to keep the knowledge to himself.

 

Now, it was the habit of Hiram to make his way to the temple before the work began every morning, and make his prayers to Elohim. As he came out into the courtyard and approached the gate called Beauty, he was accosted by Amru, who demanded the Master Word.

 

“I have told you that you shall have it when the time is ripe,” said Hiram, and Amru struck him on the left side of the head with a mason’s maul, and Hiram fell to his left knee. He arose and ran to the gate called Wisdom, where Fanor awaited him with the same demand.

 

“I have told you,” said Hiram, “that it shall be when the time is ripe and you are ready to receive it.”

 

Fanor struck Hiram on the right side of the head with a joiner’s hammer, and Hiram fell to his right knee, but struggled up and ran to the gate called Strength, but stopped at a well on his way to drop the triangle engraved with the Master Word down into the water.

 

Methusael met him with the same demand as the first two, and Hiram, who knew his life was now at an end, still refused to pass on the Word. Methusael struck him with a miner’s axe, and Hiram fell lifeless to the ground.

 

The three took his body and hid it in a shallow grave, and disguised the grave by planting acacia branches in the ground over it. Then they fled.

 

After several days had passed, the masters of the craftsmen came to Solomon in a body and told him that Hiram was nowhere to be found, and that they were afraid that something had happened to him. Solomon was now beginning to feel remorse for having ignored the warning of Benoni, and gave the order to search for Hiram.

 

“But he has the Master Word,” said one, “and it is lost without him.”

 

“Who can give a new Master Word?” asked Solomon.

 

“Only the king can bestow a new one,” said one of the masters.

 

“Then let the new Master Word be the first word spoken when Hiram is found,” said Solomon, and the search began.

 

After a while, the apprentice Benoni saw where the ground had been loosened, and acacia branches planted over it. The men came and dug, and found the body of Hiram. One went to pull him from the grave, but the flesh of his arm came loose, for he had lain in the earth long enough.

 

“Macbenach,” cried one among them, which is to say, “The flesh is off the bones.” Thus was the new Master Word spoken for the first time.

 

Others had sought diligently for signs of where Hiram might be, and one had seen the triangle with the Master Word shining in the water at the bottom of the well. It was taken out, and, in the most retired part of the temple vaults, it was placed upon a triangular altar that stood on a cube of stone on which the Ten Laws of Moses were inscribed. Twenty-seven masters of their craft stood in memory of Hiram and made that place sanctified in his memory. There were three men for each of the ranks of angels according to their craft, and the greatest of these were the Masons, for they lift up the substance of the earth and create a temple for God, just as all men must raise their fleshly substance to be a temple for the god that dwells within.

 

Solomon now approached the queen, wishing her to become his lover. She refused him.

 

“What if I take you by force?” said Solomon, for there was still bitterness in his heart that she had loved Hiram and not him.

 

“I hope O king, that you will remain as hospitable to me as you were in the beginning.”

 

“Very well,” said Solomon, “but if I find that you have taken from me anything of value, I shall claim you as my lover.”

 

Balkis was affronted that Solomon should think she were a thief, and she drew herself up haughtily, and said, “If you find me taking anything of yours of great value, you may use me as you will.”

 

That night, she awoke feeling thirsty, and she poured herself a drink of water. At that moment, Solomon entered, and said, “Behold, you are taking from me a most valuable thing, for what is more valuable than water?”

 

And thus Balkis yielded herself to Solomon, but she did not stay a day longer. She returned to Saba as soon as day dawned and never set foot in Solomon’s kingdom thereafter, and there was none wiser, or more beautiful than Balkis, the Queen of Sheba.

In the fullness of time, she gave birth to her son, but he was not the son of Solomon. The prophecy spoken to Hiram in the depths of the earth by his forefather Cain proved true.

 

The son of Balkis was called The Son of the Widow, and there was one of his seed many generations later who was among the wisest of men, and men knew him as Mani.

 

KING DARIUS AND HIS THREE BODYGUARDS

 

David came to be the pattern for kingship in Judea, and Solomon was known in his later years for his wisdom. But some of the kings that followed them were weak or impetuous or wicked. King Josias joined battle with the Egyptian Pharaoh when Egypt made war on the people of the Euphrates Valley.  Pharaoh berated him for joining in a war that had nothing to do with him, but Josias took to his war chariot and entered the fray. But he was too weak to sustain the battle rage, and he died exhausted after the battle of Megiddo.

 

Pharaoh deposed Joachaz, the son of Josias, whom the people of Judea had made king, and made his brother Joachim king in his place, and taxed the people of Judea heavily.

 

It was in the days of Zedechias that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came down and took away the treasures of the Kings of Israel and of the temple, and led the children of Israel into slavery in Babylon. It was in Babylon that the seers and priests of Israel first learned of Marduk, whom they named Micha-el, the Countenance of God, and they knew him for a mighty archangel. But the time of travail in Babylon was so hard on the Hebrews that only those who had been carried into bondage in Babylon, and their seed, were deemed to be truly the children of Israel.

 

When King Cyrus followed Nebuchadnezzar, he made the intention to return the treasures of the Hebrew kings and of the temple to Jerusalem, and all was gathered together, ready to return to Judea. But in the time of Artaxerxes, this was countermanded, and the treasures remained in Babylon, and the Hebrews were still slaves.

 

Then came the great king Darius. Among his household, and close to him, were his three bodyguards. To them he set a riddle, which was, who should say the wisest thing, and defend it in the council of the great ones of Babylon.

 

The three took counsel with each other, and went apart and wrote down on a piece of parchment their wisdom. These pieces of parchment they placed under the pillow of the sleeping king Darius.

 

In the morning, Darius awoke, and taking the pieces of parchment, summoned the council of the wise ones of Babylon, so that the three could defend their wisdom. The one whose wisdom seemed greatest would have what he desired, if it lay in the king’s power to grant it.

 

The king rose before the council and read what the three had written and placed under his pillow. The first had written: “Wine is the strongest.” The second had written: “The King is strongest.” The third, who was a Hebrew by the name of Zerubabel, had written: “Women are the strongest, but truth bears all away.”

 

THE THREE DEFEND THEIR WISDOM

 

Darius called all the princes and wise men of Persia and Media who were in the court, and he sat himself in the judgment seat. Then the three bodyguards were called upon to say, before that gathering, what was the meaning of their answers to the king’s riddle.

 

The first stepped forward, and said:

 

“I say that wine is the strongest. Here is my reasoning. It causes all men to err who drink it. Even the mind of the king is at one with that of the lowest born child. Every man, be he bondman or freeman, rich or poor, all are made equal by wine.

 

“All thought becomes mirthful and merry, and none remembers his sorrow, or his debts. A man in his cups can forget his king, or his governor. And the mirth of wine can turn to wrath, and each man to bare his sword over a trifle.

 

“Yet when they are again in their wits, they do not remember what befell them when they had taken wine.

 

“Therefore, I say to you, O my masters, and all ye wise men, is not wine the strongest that makes men do thus?”

 

So saying, the first stepped down to make way for the second, who spoke in this fashion:

 

“O my lords and wise and powerful men, do ye not excel in strength, all ye who rule over sea and land and all that therein is? But the king is yet more mighty, for he is lord of all such men, and whatever he commands them to do, they do it.

 

 

“He might say, ‘Make war one with another,’ and they do it. He may send them out against enemies, and they go. They break down walls and towers, yes, even mountains, if he wills it.

 

“They slay and are slain, they bear back the victory, and lay all at the feet of the king. But those that use plough and harrow, or are shepherds, or own great herds of cattle; do they not bring the richness of their labours to the king? And the king is one man. If he gives the command to smite, or to slay, or to break down or to build up, they do it. If he gives the command to sow or to reap, they do it.

 

“Those who keep watch and ward over him, they cannot come or go as they please, but must do as he wills, even when he is dressed for his bed, and they alone have a sword. Yet they obey him.

 

“So, my lords, I say the king is mightiest. Who shall gainsay me?”

 

So saying, he held his peace and stepped down. Now it was the turn of the last man, the Hebrew bodyguard, Zerubabel. He arose before them, and addressed them thus:

 

“My lord king, and all you noble lords and wise men and counsellors, it is not the king, or mighty armies of men, nor is it wine that is the mightiest. Who then can be judged mightier than these? Who rules them and has lordship over them? Is it not women?

 

“It was a woman that bore the king, and each man here was born of woman, and all the mighty lords of the earth. All were born of a woman, who nourished them and brought them up. Those who planted the vineyards too, they were born of women. There is no wine without the work of women. Who made your bright clothes, my lords? Was it not women?

 

“And each man here has gathered together gold and silver and goodly things to please a woman, comely and beautiful. And they prize her more than those rich and goodly things, gaping in awe at her beauty.

 

“Men leave their own fathers and stay beside their wives, whom they prize more than any other thing. Do you not work and toil and labour and bring all to a woman? Does a man not take a sword and go forth to rob and steal, or sail on mighty seas, or face lions, or go into deepest darkness for a woman, and bring all his spoils to her?

 

“Some have run out of their wits for a woman, and become servants for her sake, or erred, sinned and perished for the sake of a woman.

 

“And, yes, who is mightier than the king, and who does not bow down before him? Yet I saw Apame, the daughter of the most admirable Bartacus, take the crown from the king’s head and set it upon her own head. I have seen her strike the king, yes, even with her left hand! Yet the king watched her open-mouthed, and gazed upon her in awe. If she laughed, he laughed with her. If she showed displeasure, the king, yes, even the king, did all to flatter her and win back her affection.

 

“So I say to you, my lords, what else can you say but that women are mightier.”

 

The king and the wise counsellors and the lords looked one to another, and muttered among themselves, and Zerubabel spoke again.

 

“So we can say that women are strong. But great is the earth, high is the heaven, swift is the sun in his course, for it travels the heavens round about, and appears again every day to shine in his glory. Is He not great that makes these things? Therefore I say to you, that great is truth, and stronger than all things. All the earth calls upon the truth and heaven blesses it.

 

“Wine is wicked, the king is wicked, women are wicked, all the children of men are wicked, and so are all their works, and there is no truth in them, and all unrighteousness shall perish. But the truth endures and is always strong. It lives and conquers for evermore. The truth is ever righteous. Blessed be the God of truth.”

 

When Zerubabel stopped speaking and stepped down, there was a mighty shout from all that great company, saying, “Great is truth and mighty above all things.”

 

Darius called Zerubabel to him and said, “What shall I give you as a reward for your wisdom?”

 

Zerubabel replied, “Remember the vow made by your forefather to build up Jerusalem again, and restore the treasures of Jerusalem. Remember your vow to rebuild the temple that the Edomites burned when Judea was made desolate by the Chaldees. This is what I request, O king, that I might lead the children of Israel back to Jerusalem to rebuild her and the temple that was laid waste.”

 

Then Darius arose and kissed Zerubabel, and sent for scribes and parchment, and wrote that all should be restored as promised by Cyrus, and that Zerubabel should lead his people back to Jerusalem to build it up again, and to rebuild the temple.

 

So it was that a great procession went out of Babylon, and they sang and made joyful music as they went, and once arrived at Jerusalem, they began the great work of restoration, for Zerubabel had spoken the truth and praised the truth above all things before the mightiest of Babylon.

 

THE TEMPLE REBUILT IN THREE DAYS

 

All in all, it took forty years to build the temple. When Zerubabel and those who had been carried into bondage in Babylon returned, owing to the quickness of mind of Zerubabel and the generosity of Darius, they followed the plans and directions that had been given by Hiram Abiff, the widow’s son, the first architect of the temple.

 

When the work was accomplished, it became again the chief place of worship of the children of Israel, the heart of their yearning and the centre of their lives.

 

After many generations, a descendant of the line of King David, whose name was Joseph, was living in Bethlehem when his wife, Mary, gave birth to a son. Not long after the birth of the boy, there came three priests, one from Persia and two from Saba.

 

They arrived at the house where Joseph and his wife were living, and offered rich gifts to the child.

 

“Who are you, and where do you come from?” asked Joseph of the three.

 

“We are priests of Ahura Mazdao,” said one, dressed in a red gown, “and we have read in the stars that our great prophet Zarathustra is born again in this child. Therefore we come to pay homage to him.”

 

“This child, born of the House of David and therefore King of the people of Judea, is worthy to receive our offerings,” said the youngest of the three, a dark skinned man in a green cloak. The oldest of the three, whose habit was all of royal blue, indicated that they should make their offerings.

 

“You must keep these things in honour of the child, whose destiny is to be a king without a country, whose spirit can overthrow even the Prince of This World, if men will allow that spirit into their hearts,” said this venerable priest.

 

“You do us great honour,” said Joseph, “but we are of the House of David, and our god is Adonai Jahve.  You worship Ahura Mazdao, who is of the Elohim, but we worship the God of Abraham, and there can be no mixing of the streams of light.”

 

“Was it not spoken in the court of Darius by a mighty man of Israel,” said the old man, “that the truth bears all away? And did not the counsellors and wise men of Babylon praise him for a man of wisdom?

 

“If all the people in the world are gathered together in one place,” he went on, “and their worship spoken in their several tongues, do not the great gods know what is theirs, though the tongues are many and the songs they sing of divers kinds? Truly I say that the spirit of this child can live in all hearts and make fruitful the worship in all tongues and in all places under the sun.”

 

Joseph stood apart, and tried to reconcile these things in his mind, but his wife Mary treasured them in her heart, and said nothing.

 

The priest all in red made his offering, which was gold, in honour of the royal line to which the child belonged. The old man in blue offered frankincense, whose sweet savour carries the worship of the great gods to the heavens. But the young man all in green offered a gift of myrrh, which is used for preparation in the burial of the dead.

 

“He shall overcome death itself,” he said, but this was a mystery of which he spoke no more.

 

It was some time later, when Caesar Augustus decreed that there should be a census of all within the Roman Empire, that a poor man and his young wife arrived in Bethlehem, which was the poor man’s place of birth. So many were those who came for the sake of the great counting that there was no room for them in any inn, and the best accommodation that they could find was in a cave in the rocks that served as a stable. It was here that the poor man’s young wife gave birth to her first-born son.

 

In the hillsides beyond Bethlehem, there were shepherds, themselves also poor men, poor in worldly goods and poor in spirit, for the heavens had become cloudy to them, as to most men of the time, and they received no bright revelations. Therefore they were unprepared and mightily afraid when each man dreamed the same dream of angels, and the Archangel Gabriel among them, telling them of the birth of a child in a stable in Bethlehem, though the archangel spoke of ‘good news to men of goodwill’.

 

They made their way through the darkness, singing songs to Adonai Jahve on their way, to give them courage, and came to the stable, where, indeed, the child lay in a manger, with oxen and an ass nearby for company, and his parents who did all they could to keep the child warm.

 

The shepherds went on their way full of joy, and told others of their journey to Bethlehem and what they found there. Some thought them mad, others thought them drunk. Still others thought them wicked men, spreading heresy. But some of good will believed them and felt their hearts enriched by what the shepherds told them.

 

After some time, the old man whose wife had given birth in the stable died. The woman whose son had been worshipped by the priests of Ahura Mazdao also died, and it came to pass that the widow of the old man and the bereaved Joseph of Bethlehem were married, and their sons became brothers.

 

There was a third who died, and this was the boy whose coming was celebrated by the priests of Ahura Mazdao. But the spirit of his life passed into his step-brother, the boy born in the stable, and he soon astonished the priests and elders of the temple with his wisdom, for he had been a simple child, showing no signs of growing to be wise.

 

Now, when the Romans first came to Judea, bringing with them their skills in building roads, bridges and sewers, the old wooden beam that served as a footbridge over the stream of Kedron was taken away and left in a lumber yard, where none knew its origins or history.

 

Later, it was as Maximilla had prophesied, and Balkis had known in her inmost heart, that this great beam of wood was put to a grim purpose, and the boy who was born in a stable hewn out of the rock in Bethlehem, and who, at the age of twelve, suddenly surprised the teachers and rabbis of Jerusalem with his wisdom, was, as a man of thirty three years of age, sentenced to death by a Roman governor who wanted no part in the execution. The young man’s name was Jehoshua bar Joseph.

 

He had once said, while standing in the lee of the temple, that ‘if this temple were destroyed, he would build it up again in three days’. Some present scoffed, and said that the temple had been forty years in the building, and that no man could rebuild it in three days. But it was another temple that Jehoshua had in mind: the temple of his body.

 

The cross that was the instrument of torture and death was made from the old piece of timber thrown into the lumber yard, but which had come from the seeds of the Tree in Eden.

 

It was the habit of the executioners in those days to break the leg bones of those crucified to hasten their death. But it had been said of the man on the cross that ‘not a bone of his shall be broken’.

 

Among those present at his crucifixion was a soldier, a centurion named Longinus, who was secretly a follower of the teachings of the young rabbi. When he saw the men coming with their clubs and cudgels, he thrust his spear into the side of Jehoshua, though he was already lifeless. This was to show that breaking his limbs would be unnecessary. Blood flowed down the cross and gathered at the foot of it in a pool, where a merchant named Joseph, from Arimathea, gathered some in a cruse, and sealed the lid.

 

It was said that, three days later, Jehoshua was no longer to be found in the tomb that Joseph, the merchant of Arimathea had provided for him. Indeed, the great stone in front of it had been rolled away.

 

Some said that he had reappeared to his closest friends, while others dismissed such tales as fantasy. But Joseph maintained that it was true. He told how he had been imprisoned at the behest of the priests, and the door sealed, but that Jehoshua had come to him in prison, baptised him with water and anointed him with sweet smelling oils and freed him from the prison, though the seal on the door of his cell remained unbroken. He further told him to remain in his house for forty days. During these forty days Jehoshua appeared to his closest friends and talked with them as though in a fleshly body, though his material body had been swallowed up into the earth.

 

Joseph later travelled the world that he knew in his merchant days, going ever westwards, letting fall a few drops of the blood of Jehoshua as he went, in places where the human spirit could thrive and grow.

 

Eventually, he came to the island of Britain, and ended his life in a place sacred to the people of Britain. His blackthorn staff was planted in the ground there, and grew into a tree near a well whose waters are still held to be holy. In that place, too, Joseph let fall some of the drops of the blood that remained full of life, and this place is still a place of pilgrimage.