There is a certain risk in misunderstanding a text by commenting on it half way through. Nevertheless, like sending a postcard on a trip, a could time could be had even before reaching the final destination. In the most recent comment to The Scent of a Woman, some readers may have noticed the strong similarity to Julius Evola’s First Trial.
It is clear that Gustav Meyrink has some sort of training in an esoteric school. In esoteric writing, the main point is often expressed midway through the work. Almost precisely at the 50% mark, we get a monologue by Dr. Sephardi, a Sephardic Jew, describing a path he calls the “Bridge of Life”. He claims an ancestor was murdered in the eleventh century for publicly revealing it. He calls it a “dangerous” path, but no one can understand it without certain keys.
Dr. Sephardi claims it has reached the West from the East, although it is mostly swindlers or charlatans, who don’t understand it, yet are promoting it. Here is where it gets dicey from Guenon’s point of view. The Doctor claims that Westerners are flocking to India and Tibet, although the secret has been lost there for some time. Instead, the path they find in the East is a path of weakness. He suggests that the secret has been preserved by the Rosicrucians who left Europe centuries before for point unknown in the East. Obviously, Guenon rejects this, as he claims the full Tradition is still known in the East. Although he also repeats that story about the Rosicrucians, he never claimed it is still active in any way.
The first part of the path is mastery of thought. The Doctor says:
Mastery over thought is an ancient heathen path to truly transcending humanity. Not to become the Uebermensche the German philosopher Nietzsche spoke of …
An important point made is that few men understand the source of their thoughts, since most men falsely believe they are the authors of their own thoughts. This has been part of Gornahoor’s message from the beginning. Dr. Sephardi points out that certain ideas take hold almost simultaneously among a group of people. In reality, thoughts are more like perceptions, although their sources are not from physical objects, but from the subtle realms.
Some men think in words, others in images. When there is yet no word to express an idea, images may impinge on a man’s mind, sometimes haunting images, that are just beyond the word. Regarding the Green Face, which three characters have experienced in different ways, the Doctor speculates:
The agreement which I am supposed to explain seems to me to prove that it is the same new idea which tried to force itself on all three of you, to explain itself to you or, perhaps, is still trying. The fact that the phantom appeared in the mask of an ancient wanderer through the years means, I think, nothing less that that some knowledge, some insight, perhaps even some exceptional spiritual gift, which existed in a long-departed age of the human race, was known and then forgotten, wishes to renew itself and is revealing its arrival in the world in a vision granted to a few chosen ones. Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that the phantom could not be some independently-existing being; on the contrary, I maintain that every idea is such a being.
Yet the mastery of thought is insufficient to cross the Bridge of Life. Dr. Sephardi continues:
Only there is one thing that is essential: he cannot reach the goal alone, he needs a … female companion. It is only possible, if at all, by a combination of male and female forces. Therein lies the secret meaning of marriage which has been lost to mankind for thousands of years.
Clearly, he is referring to the alchemical marriage, although he is suggesting that it is more than merely symbolic. Meyrink is bringing into play the old teachings about “soul mates” or “polar beings”, that crossing the Bridge of Life requires the fulfillment of the longing to become whole again. A man who can master his thoughts may seem cold and impersonal to those people he reveals that characteristic, since he no longer reacts like the mass of men. In a sense, he is no longer a “person”, it by that, we mean the psychological or empirical ego. By mastering thoughts, a man creates a space in consciousness which used to be filled with a flood of thoughts. Apparently, the Doctor is saying that such a space needs to be filled by another, not anyone, but a specific partner. We’ll see how the protagonists in the novel attempt that task.
From a practical point of view, such a path is exceedingly difficult. It is difficult enough alone, but trickier in tandem, as differences in development are usually inevitable. Some few women will find themselves attracted to such a man, even if they are not quite sure why. They will balk, however, and stop short of the bridge. Rather than being passive to the idea, they invoke active tactics. Such tactics may involve attempts to “change” him into something they are more comfortable with. Often, they are satisfied with a sentimental New Age type of teaching, which has the appearance of a “path”, but without the inner exertion required for genuine progress. Even when they do get a glimpse of what is really happening, often there will be an emotional outburst, a counter-reaction and a disvaluing of the man.