List Of Contents | Contents of The Garden of Survival, by Algernon Blackwood
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there was, though of a few hours only; and this delay was caused by
my uncomfortable new habit--pausing for the guidance and the
"thrill." Intuition, waiting upon the thrill of Beauty that guided it,
at first lay inactive.

My behaviour seemed scarcely of the orthodox, official kind, soldierly
least of all.  There was uneasiness, there was cursing, probably;
there were certainly remarks not complimentary. Prompt, decisive
action was the obvious and only course. . .  while I sat quietly in the
Headquarters Bungalow, a sensitive youth again, a dreamer, a poet,
hungry for the inspiration of Beauty that the gorgeous tropical night
concealed with her excess of smothering abundance.

This incongruity between my procedure and the time-honoured methods of
"strong" Governors must have seemed exasperating to those who waited,
respectful, but with nerves on edge, in the canvassed and tented
regions behind the Headquarters clearing. Indeed, the Foreign Office,
could it have witnessed my unpardonable hesitation, might well have
dismissed me on the spot, I think. For I sat there, dreaming in my
deck-chair on the verandah, smoking a cigarette, safe within my net
from the countless poisonous mosquitoes, and listening to the wind in
the palms that fringed the heavy jungle round the building.

Smoking quietly, dreaming, listening, waiting, I sat there in this
mood of inner attention and expectancy, knowing that the guidance I
anticipated must surely come.

A few clouds sprawled in their beds of silver across the sky; the
heat, the perfume, were, as always, painfully, excessive; the
moonlight bathed the huge trees and giant leaves with that habitual
extravagance which made it seem ordinary, almost cheap and
wonderless. Very silent the wooden house lay all about me, there were
no footsteps, there was no human voice. I heard only the wash of the
heavy-scented wind through the colossal foliage that hardly stirred,
and watched, as a hundred times before, the immense heated sky,
drenched in its brilliant and intolerable moonlight. All seemed a
riot of excess, an orgy.

Then, suddenly, the shameless night drew on some exquisite veil, as
the moon, between three-quarters and the full, slid out of sight
behind a streaky cloud. A breath, it seemed, of lighter wind woke all
the perfume of the burdened forest leaves. The shouting splendour
hushed; there came a whisper and, at last--a hint.

I watched with relief and gratitude the momentary eclipse, for in the
half-light I was aware of that sharp and tender mood which was
preparatory to the thrill. Slowly sailing into view again from behind
that gracious veil of cloud--

"The moon put forth a little diamond peak, No bigger than an
unobserved star, Or tiny point of fairy scimitar; Bright signal that
she only stooped to tie Her silver sandals, ere deliciously She bowed
into the heavens her timid head."

And then it came. The Thrill stole forth and touched me, passing like
a meteor through my heart, but in that lightning passage, cleaving it
open to some wisdom that seemed most near to love. For power flowed
in along the path that Beauty cleft for it, and with the beauty came
that intuitive guidance I had waited for.

The inspiration operated like a flash. There was no reasoning; I was
aware immediately that another and a better way of dealing with the
situation was given me.

I need not weary you with details. It seemed contrary to precedent,
advice, against experience too, yet it was the right, the only way.
It threatened, I admit, to destroy the prestige so long and
laboriously established, since it seemed a dangerous yielding to the
natives that must menace the white life everywhere and render trade in
the Colony unsafe. Yet I did not hesitate. . . . There was bustle at
once within that Bungalow; the orders went forth; I saw the way and
chose it--to the dismay, outspoken, of every white man whose welfare
lay in my official hands.

And the results, I may tell you now without pride, since, as we both
admit, no credit attaches to myself--the results astonished the
entire Colony. . . . The Chiefs came to me, in due course, bringing
fruit and flowers and presents enough to bury all Headquarters, and
with a reverential obedience that proved the rising scotched to
death--because its subtle psychological causes had been marvellously

Full comprehension, as I mentioned earlier in this narrative, we
cannot expect to have. Its origin, I may believe, lies hid in the
nature of that Beauty which is truth and love--in the source of our
very life, perhaps, which lies hid again with beauty very far
away. . . . But I may say this much at least: that it seemed, my inspired
action had co-operated with the instinctive beliefs of these
mysterious tribes--cooperated with their primitive and ancient sense
of Beauty. It had, inexplicably to myself, fulfilled their sense of
right, which my subordinates would have outraged. I had acted with,
instead of against, them.

More I cannot tell you. You have the "crude instance," and you have
the method. The instances multiplied, the method became habit. There
grew in me this personal attitude towards an impersonal power I
hardly understood, and this attitude included an emotion--love. With
faith and love I consequently obeyed it. I loved the source of my
guidance and assistance, though I dared attach no name to it. Simple
enough the matter might have been, could I have referred its origin
to some name--to our mother or to you, to my Chief in London, to an
impersonal Foreign Office that has since honoured me with money and a
complicated address upon my envelopes, or even, by a stretch of
imagination, to that semi-abstract portion of my being some men call
a Higher Self.

To none of these, however, could I honestly or dishonestly ascribe it.
Yet, as in the case of those congratulatory telegrams from our mother
and yourself, I was aware--and this feeling never failed with each
separate occurrence--aware that somebody, other than ourselves
individually or collectively--was pleased.


WHAT I have told you so far concerns a growth chiefly of my inner life
that was almost a new birth. My outer life, of event and action, was
sufficiently described in those monthly letters you had from me
during the ten years, broken by three periods of long-leave at home,
I spent in that sinister and afflicted land. This record, however,
deals principally with the essential facts of my life, the inner; the
outer events and actions are of importance only in so far as they
interpret these, since that which a man feels and thinks alone is
real, and thought and feeling, of course, precede all action.

I have told you of the Thrill, of its genesis and development; and I
chose an obvious and rather banal instance, first of all to make
myself quite clear, and, secondly, because the majority were of so
delicate a nature as to render their description extremely difficult.
The point is that the emotion was, for me, a new one. I may honestly
describe it as a birth.

I must now tell you that it first stirred in me some five years after
I left England, and that during those years I had felt nothing but
what most other men feel out here.  Whether its sudden birth was due
to the violent country, or to some process of gradual preparation
that had been going forward in me secretly all that time, I cannot
tell. No proof, at any rate, offered itself of either. It came
suddenly. I do know, however, that from its first occurrence it has
strengthened and developed until it has now become a dominating
influence of a distinctly personal kind.

My character has been affected, perhaps improved. You have mentioned
on several occasions that you noted in my letters a new tenderness, a
new kindness towards my fellow-creatures, less of criticism and more
of sympathy, a new love; the "birth of my poetic sense" you also
spoke of once; and I myself have long been aware of a thousand fresh
impulses towards charity and tolerance that had, hitherto, at any
rate, lain inactive in my being.

I need not flatter myself complacently, yet a change there is, and it
may be an improvement. Whether big or small, however, I am sure of
one tiling: I ascribe it entirely to this sharper and more extended
sensitiveness to Beauty, this new and exquisite receptiveness that
has established itself as a motive-power in my life. I have changed
the poet's line, using prose of course: There is beauty everywhere
and therefore joy.

And I will explain briefly, too, how it is that this copybook maxim is
now for me a practical reality. For at first, with my growing
perception, I was distressed at what seemed to me the lavish waste,
the reckless, spendthrift beauty, not in nature merely but in human
nature, that passed unrecognized and unacknowledged. The loss seemed
so extravagant. Not only that a million flowers waste their sweetness
on the desert air, but that such prodigal stores of human love and
tenderness remain unemployed, their rich harvest all
ungathered--because, misdirected and misunderstood, they find no
receptacle into which they may discharge.

It has now come to me, though only by & slow and almost imperceptible
advance, that these stores of apparently unremunerative beauty, this
harvest so thickly sown about the world, unused, ungathered--prepare
yourself, please, for an imaginative leap--ore used, are gathered,
are employed. By Whom?

I can only answer: By some one who is pleased; and probably by many
such. How, why, and wherefore--I catch your crowd of questions in
advance--we need not seek exactly to discover, although the answer
of no uncertain kind, I hear within the stillness of a heart that has
learned to beat to a deeper, sweeter rhythm than before.

Those who loved beauty and lived it in their lives, follow that same
ideal with increasing power and passion afterwards--and for ever.

The shutter of black iron we call Death hides the truth with terror
and resentment; but what if that shutter were, after all,

A glorious dream, I hear you cry. Now listen to my answer. It is, for
me, a definite assurance and belief, because--I know.

Long before you have reached this point you will, I know, have reached
also the conclusion (with a sigh) that I am embarked upon some
commonplace experience of ghostly return, or, at least, of posthumous
communication. Perhaps I wrong you here, but in any case I would at
once correct the inference, if it has been drawn. You remember our
adventures with the seance-mongers years ago? . . .  I have not changed
my view so far as their evidential value is concerned. Be sure of

The dead, I am of opinion, do not return; for, while individuals may
claim startling experiences that seem to them of an authentic and
convincing kind, there has been no instance that can persuade us
all--in the sense that thunderstorm convinces us all. Such individual
experiences I have always likened to the auto-suggestion of those few
who believe the advertisements of the hair-restorers--you will forgive
the unpoetic simile for the sake of its exactitude--as against the
verdict of the world that a genuine discovery of such a remedy would
leave no single doubter in Europe or America, nor even in the London
Clubs! Yet each time I read the cunning article (I have less hair
than when I ran away from Sandhurst that exciting July night and met
you in the Strand!), and look upon the picture of the man, John Henry
Smith, "before and after using," I admit the birth of an unreasonable
belief that there may be something in it after all.

Of such indubitable proof, however, there is, alas, as yet no sign.

And so with the other matter--the dead do not "return." My story,
therefore, be comforted, has no individual instance to record. It
may, on the other hand, be held to involve a thread of what might be
called--at a stretch --posthumous communication, yet a thread so
tenuous that the question of personal direction behind it need hardly
be considered at all. For let me confess at once that, the habit of
the "thrill" once established, I was not long in asking myself point
blank this definite question: Dared I trace its origin to my own
unfruitful experience of some years before?--and, discovering no
shred of evidence, I found this positive answer: Honestly I could

That "somebody was pleased" each time Beauty offered a wisdom I
accepted, became an unanswerable conviction I could not argue about;
but that the guidance--waking a responsive emotion in myself of
love--was referable to any particular name I could not, by any
stretch of desire or imagination, bring myself to believe.

Marion, I must emphasise, had been gone from me five years at least
before the new emotion gave the smallest hint of its new birth; and
my feeling, once the first keen shame and remorse subsided--I confess
to the dishonouring truth--was one of looking back upon a painful
problem that had found an unexpected solution. It was chiefly relief,
although a sad relief, I felt. . . . And with the absorbing work of the
next following years (I took up my appointment within six months of
her death) her memory, already swiftly fading, entered an oblivion
whence rarely, and at long intervals only, it emerged at all. In the
ordinary meaning of the phrase, I had forgotten her. You will see,
therefore, that there was no desire in me to revive an unhappy
memory, least of all to establish any fancied communication with one
before whose generous love I had felt myself dishonoured, if not
actually disgraced. Even the remorse and regret had long since failed
to disturb my peace of mind, causing me no anxiety, much less pain.
Sic transit was the epitaph, if any. Acute sensation I had none at
all. This, then, plainly argues against the slightest predisposition
on my part to imagine that the loving guidance so strangely given
owned a personal origin I could recognize. That it involved a
"personal emotion" is quite another matter.

The more remarkable, therefore, is the statement truth now compels me
to confess to you--namely, that this origin is recognizable, and that
I have traced in part the name it owns to. My next sentence you
divine already; you at once suspect the name I mean. I hear you say
to yourself with a smile--"So, after all. . .  !"

Please, wait a moment, and listen closely now; for, in reply to your
suspicion, I can give neither full affirmation or full denial. Yet an
answer of a certain kind is ready: I have stated my firm conviction
that the dead do not return; I do not modify it one iota; but I
mentioned a moment ago another conviction that is mine because I know.
So now let me supplement these two statements with a third: the dead,
though they do not return, are active; and those who lived beauty in
their lives are--benevolently active.

This may prepare you for a further assurance, yet one less easy to
express intelligibly. Be patient while I make the difficult attempt.

The origin of the wisdom that now seeks to shape and guide my life
through Beauty is, indeed, not Marion, but a power that stands behind
her, and through which, with which, the energy of her being acts. It

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