Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Seventh Voice

A Light from the Darkness of Memory

I woke to feel myself stretched long, my arms above my head, nailed through the wrists; hands numb with cold and pain throbbing down into my arms and shoulders. My ankles were shattered, broken, the splinters of bone protruding through my skin. My breath came in ever shortening gasps as the blood filled up my lungs. I understood, dimly, even in those earliest days, that the swiftness of my death was a gift from one who had nothing else to give.

The first time I watched the holes in my wrists heal within seconds, leaving the bed splattered with blood. I washed the sheets and said nothing. Three days later it happened again. It happened over and over again.

I lived a divided life, the one drew me into a past I could not face, the other was no longer my own. I was changed.

I knew without knowing, saw, felt and sensed. I accepted the impossible, saying nothing to my family and friends. In this way I died again and again, at first frightened and alone and then eventually, with the fullness of time, filled with gladness.

While my life drained from me as if I was a cup being sipped, my eyes sought the figure which filled my mind and my spirit, who sustained and comforted me even in the moment of my death by His acceptance, His Gift, and His absolute Love.

In dying I wept with joy.

The visions started in small spurts, lengthening and strengthening in clarity until I could smell the stale bodies of the Roman soldiers, their leather armor, well worn, burnished with time and use, and feel their hands on me. I felt myself becoming someone else, knowing pain that was not mine and yet part of me.

Over and over I returned to experience that time; not understanding; afraid to discuss it with my family and friends, most of who were atheists. In secret I washed the blood from the sheets. The marks on my body, the stigmata of death and hope, healed within the span of a few breaths each time. I first feared I was insane, and then hoped it.

But with the passage of months I came to accept what was happening to me; to know that I was not losing my mind, but finding a precious, forgotten part of myself. The pain was not a punishment but a promise and surety of my identity and immortality.

The words and images of a time long gone became more real than my own life. I knew them as truth, they were the history of my people, The Children of God.

So much is distorted now, by time and by that change of perspective I have undergone. At first it was only in the quiet times, the early morning and in the dark abyss of the night's womb when I could remember that past in more than tiny flashes, impressions and images superimposed on my present life. But then I came to know that what was essential to me had never died and never could die. I accepted the Master I had served, discovering that I had never stopped serving Him. I found myself in that distant time, in the work that had engulfed my life and in the Love which had lit the world, for all time to come, from a place within. It was a work still undone and was now passing into other hands.

Something of what I had thought to be myself was gone. But I found that what was lost was not me but my illusions. What was found turned me towards a wholeness that I had not imagined possible.

This is our story. This is what I remembered. It flowed out of my mind life like a spring of remembering I could not stop. The woman who remembered merged with the person I was and there was no longer a division.

I knew what it was to be known and loved absolutely. I knew myself.

The darkened centuries have been filled and known. This is the telling. All that was remembered and forgotten; the sustaining of hope through the abyss of despair, the joining of wills that creation, love and humanity might have a continuing, all of these are here. It is the testament of Judeth, Jeremiah, John, Jeptha, Joab, Jacob and Jesus. The Seven, Voiced and speaking into the Light.

Judeth, Voiced

The Book of the Captivity

The Voice of Ezekial

They were carried away into a captivity that was to own them and their children and their children's children. With them they took nothing but the skills they had learned and the word of God, which were inscribed in their minds and in the deepest parts of their beings for they knew themselves to be the people of God. Their old, who they venerated, died and were left along the way. They were like the cattle which borne the booty and no time was given for their grief or for their weakness.

Their children sickened and died, still clasped in the arms of their mothers. The bodies were ripped from their arms and left as food for the vultures and other carrion eaters. Mothers looked behind them, past the mighty caravan and the soldiers who bore them away, and saw the vermin gathering to eat. The keening filled the air with a tangible grief which deadened their limbs and made breathing almost impossible. The air around them was overhung always by the haze of dust thrown up by their passing. They coughed it up from their lungs, wiped it from their eyes with their clothes, and tasted it on their tongues when they ate the scant rations apportioned to them.

Their ears were filled with the sounds and the smells of their grief. The hours of the day were filled with the trembling of the earth, which was never still while the caravan moved. The air was choked with a confusion of voices shouting and the groans of men in pain; the sobs of children and the infirm were an undertone to this. And always the rumble of men moving, driving animals that ached with the weight of booty. The smell of men and animals, straining against the heaviness of their lives, lay like a pall over them and there was no relief from it. They smelled of sweat and death and of their despair. They were broken one from another and were lost and did not know their past or their future. With them was taken their king and also his mother but they and their servants were kept separate. The rest were bound together in their servitude.

Babylon rose up in front of them, looming over their lives as a portent that was to mark them down through the generations. They felt this and mothers clutched their children and wept. Men clenched their fists against their helplessness.

In this way they entered into the city which their captors called Babylon but which they called the place of dying. Their eyes were assaulted with the blasphemy of dragons and lions standing, frozen in stone. It was a city that filled the world with a cacophony of voices and the creaking of wheels and rumble of mankind in commerce and all the acts of living. They were nothing,. The eyes of the curious told them this was so. Jerusalem had been a village set beside Babylon; they were peasants to the aristocracy that lived within these walls. They shuddered and cast their eyes down. To walk with eyes open was to see blasphemy. Idols were set up in rows, standing taller than any man and vivid with color. They stood as if frozen in the act of killing.

Their king and those about him were lodged in a place which was raised up into the very clouds and still it was a prison. He had been powerful in the trappings of royalty. Now he was shamed and reduced and brought low, and with him they all were forced to make obeisance to those who would now be their masters. The others were shared out and given to the labor for which they were suited.

There was one among these whose name was Ezekial and he remembered the greatness that was Israel and the promise that had made them the Children of God. Even in the desolation of his shackles he remembered. It had been given into his hands to renew the Covenant with God where others hadn't the strength to endure or the eyes to see. He was touched by God, chosen in the womb to sustain them. It was he who was to give them back their past and affirm their future and the work which was still to be done. For what they remembered dimly as fading words he made real to them even in their captivity.

He was of the House of David, descended from the same root as the king who was carried into captivity. But still he had been made a slave. He stood taller than most men and his eyes held the surety that is left when all agony has been burned out through a suffering too terrible for a man to bear.

He was alone, for all others of his family had been slain. He had seen them die; His father standing at the door of the Temple, his eyes burning with anger and righteousness. Ezekial was the youngest of four brothers, not yet a man when the Temple fell. Yet he knew that it was in him to be a chalice for the Word of God. He had always known this. Along with the earliest memories of suckling, the softness of his mother's breast, he saw the times which would come and the captivity of his people. Once he had cried, standing in front of the temple, saying that it burned and was falling. His father had punished him, whipping him until his back ran with blood, shocked at the disrespect Ezekial showed. Ezekial soon learned to still the visions, keeping them to himself.

When he was six he found that he could see into the minds and thoughts of those around him and while he lazed one hot afternoon in the cool of the kitchen, watching his mother with the maid servants, he saw her death, carried in her womb, like darkness. He cried and ran to her clinging and weeping, for his mother was a bright sun in his life. She held him, surprised and troubled. His body trembled and he told her of what he saw. Cradling him against her shoulder she bade the maids to their work and carried him out into the sun. As they came out of the dimness of the kitchen, the sun fell on them like a benediction, binding them close.

Here she had held him when he took his first steps, catching him when he fell as they both laughed. The place was aromatic with herbs blending to a rare perfume in the sun. A pigeon cote exuded the trilling and fluttering sounds of birds. Sitting on a low stone bench she looked into his face. Gently, she stroked a tear from his cheek and traced the line it had left on his face and tasting its saltiness by kissing it from her finger.

She was quiet for a long moment, stroking his hair and combing the tendrils with her fingertips. ``Little lamb, there is nothing random in the ways of God with those who are like us. You know what I mean," Ezekial tried to look away, ``No, look at me. Little man, you do know. Your dreams are not just dreams; they are like the visions of the Prophets." He looked up into her face, afraid to have her say it. ``I know because I also See. But not like you. When you were inside me still I knew what you would be. That bound us. I know that you were born to do some wonderful thing." She pressed him close to her, breathing deeply. ``Do not grieve for me. The end will not be more than I can bear." She sat silent for a moment. She had already suspected what was to come. They sat there, locked in a moment of time, bound by love.

This was a time out of time for Ezekial and in the days and weeks that followed his mother poured out into him the visions what she had kept to herself. Hearing them, Ezekial knew that his own were true for he had known before. When she died she carried him with her to the Place of Cleansing and he returned to know that life was only a mantle assumed for a while and was at peace.

His life after that was lonely and he turned to the animals of the stable for comfort, finding comfort in healing their small injuries. In this way he found within him the Gift of Healing. The shepherd brought in a lamb, half dead. It had been a twin and rejected by its mother. It teetered on its legs, shaking like a flurry of leaves raised by the wind. Rohrab, the shepherd, was a quiet man who had often seen Ezekial watching the flock from a distance. He pitied the boy who was left to the inattention of his father and brothers.

``Here, boy. The lamb needs milk and warmth."

The lamb grew through the hot months until Horsea ordered Ezekial to take the animal back to the flock. But after, Ezekial visited the animal there and was with her for her first birthing.

The visions that were within Ezekial grew to be an ever larger part of his life. But, with time, be found the strength to control them and to understand them in the ways that his mother has taught him. But he said nothing of this to his father. Not even on the day the temple fell.

Ezekial grew towards manhood watching his father send his praises up to heaven in the temple. The prayers and the word of the Torah were as familiar to him as the inside of his own mouth or the skin of his hands.

Ezekial could not open his mouth to warn his father and brothers of the future. Even when they stood at the door of the temple and were consumed in fear he could not tell them, for he had seen that they would die and was bound by his visions to say nothing. He had seen that this must be if the Covenant was to endure.

The soldiers came. Like a wave washing over the lower court and then spilling into the temple, his father and brothers could not even slow their rush into the interior. So they died, defending the Holy Place of the People of God; all died. They were cut down in less than the time it took to draw air into his lungs. His father standing with hands raised in defiance had not uttered a single word. His sons died, their heads struck from their bodies before his body had fallen to the ground. They were not warriors but died as men.

They had given their blood to be spilled upon the stones. Ezekial had been taken although he struggled. He was a young man, just past his thirteenth year. He was made a slave but a slave who came to be highly valued. In those first days he was kept as a pawn, easily controlled. But later he was valued for what he was.

This came about after the captives were shared out in Babylon. He had fallen to the lot of one close to the King, a man named Rachinazzus who was ambitious and eager to rule some part of the empire in the name of its King. He took Ezekial for his kinship with the priests of the Temple but also because of his healing touch with animals.

Ezekial could enter the mind of an animal and so know the maladies that otherwise could not be healed. He said this to no one, but during the long march back had delivered a mare of foal, turning the colt in the womb so that it and its dam lived. The handler who watched him deferred to him in the care of the horses after that. The horses which were in his charge were rare and valuable and he trembled to think what his fate would have been if the mare had died.

The animal was tended every night; even when there was no water for the people, she drank. She was of the lightest grey with touches of black on her muzzle and deep brown eyes. Her price was set in chests of gold and jewels because when she ran it was as if she had taken flight, not touching the ground. She was called Swallow’s Flight.

So Ezekial was sought as a handler of horses and was taken to the place of Rachinazzus, to his stable.

Ezekial refused to sleep in the place of the slaves saying that by morning it would be blackened and filled with death. He cried aloud when they tried to force him for his nose smelled the bodies already blackened and his eyes saw the hideousness of their fate; their faces twisted in pain and mouths caught gaping and straining for breath. For refusing he was thrown into a pit and left there to die. But in the blackest hours of the night a fire took the building that held the slaves and also a part of the house. In the morning Ezekial still lived and his master walked among the blackened bodies and remembered what he had said. Ezekial was taken from the pit. The Master, whose name was Rachinazzus, had him brought to him and he questioned Ezekial and asked him about the Sight which allowed him to know the future. Ezekial answered him saying that this Gift had been his as long as he could remember. This he told Rachinazzus but he reserved from telling that which was given him by God. Instead he told Rachinazzus of the death which was harbored in the womb of his mother as she ripened with child when Ezekial was in his sixth year. This was true, but it was the smaller truth for Ezekial had seen the coming of the Captivity in his twelfth year although he had said nothing. God had spoken to him then saying that this was to be a time of trial and proving, and that from the fire which was the captivity would arise those people who were invested with the Covenant of God. For the People of the Promise had defiled the trust of God and so would be delivered up to judgment. Ezekial would be the Voice of God and bring to Him those in whom the Word of God still lived. Ezekial had pledged the days and the years of his life to accomplish this before he was even a man.

Rachinazzus asked him to See for him and this Ezekial did. The Gift of Ezekial made Rachinazzus a man among men in Babylon.

So Ezekial traded the use of his Sight in these things but did not then tell them of all that he saw. With time they came to respect and fear him. This gave him the freedom that he needed and he drew to him the children of Israel by the ones and by the tens until all who were held in captivity might hear the words of hope and prophecy he spoke. He was as a light out of the darkness for these and gave them hope. They acted covertly for to move openly would have brought their deaths.

He who was their king, called Jehoichin, was in high favor with their captors and was well treated. But they who were not of his birth were cast down utterly. While they were in captivity sons and daughters were born to the king. These grew to adulthood in a foreign world and were tempted to move away from the ways of their people. Ezekial had a vision which was given him by God and he was told that it was God's will that he take to wife the daughter of Jehoichin. That from her womb would come forth that which was the fulfillment of the Covenant. Ezekial went to the king and the king was frightened, for he had also heard the words of the Lord and the name of Ezekial had caused murmurings to simmer and seep through Babylon. The king feared Ezekial. But he was loath to give his daughter to him in marriage for to do so would diminish his kinghood in his own eyes.

So the king refused, even though he feared Ezekial. Soon after this his eldest daughter, whose name was Miriem, came to him, saying that she has been given a vision which filled her and ran over into the night which was the captivity. She told the king, her father, that she was the wife of Ezekial and that she must go to him.

Miriem was in her fifteenth year when she was given in marriage to Ezekial.

And with the marriage of Miriem came the peace between the Breathe of the Sacred, unspoken Rites of Woman, and the Image of God. For it was on the turning away that the Covenant had been broken utterly, and only in its restoration would it be made whole.

Miriem was the first child born in the captivity, and she was named Cup of Bitterness. But this was a bitterness that was like that of the fruit which is not yet ripe. For from her womb would spring that which was the fulfillment of the Covenant.

Miriem was fertile and she brought forth three daughters, which had also been foretold. These daughters were called Miriem Zabedda, Miriem Rabena, and Miriem Elizabeth. Ezekial had been given to know by God that the mother of the Messiah would be called for Miriem and have the name Mary, and from that time all daughters and grand-daughters of Ezekial and Miriem were given the name even if it was not used for the Vision had showed that it was from the unbroken line of the daughters that held the seed which was the fulfillment. And the families knew this, although it was never spoken.

Ezekiel’s words became the beacon that sustained them. They were the promise which became the buttress and the foundation for their return to their homeland. He was the living Voice and was the first to be called Voice. His words were true and all who heard them knew them to be true. He saw that they would return to the land that had cast them out and would again be free. He hungered for this all of the days of his life and died without having known it even as Moses had struggled and died without having tasted the light and the breath of the Promised Land. Ezekial was touched by God and he spoke and gave them the future which would be theirs.

The Children of God carried these words within their minds and gave them to the children who were born in bondage and these in turn gave them to their children.

They labored under the oppression of masters and knew the bitterness of men who are less than men. In the grinding misery of their servitude they remembered the words of Ezekial. Ezekial had called them to forget that they were cut off from that which had been their Tribes and gave them in its stead the House which was the House of Ezekial and was from the root which was the House of David. And in this way he gathered them together and made them one. When he died he left them with the promise that was from God that they would be restored and made whole. To achieve this they were to remember what he had taught them.

At the time of the death of Ezekial there were thirty-six families which were from the root of David through the womb of Miriem.

Before his death he showed them this and offered the means by which it might be done. He also promised them that from their suffering would blossom a greatness that would shine before the nations of the world. This had been his Vision which had unfolded and become clear to him in the years of the captivity. He told them that another would come to them in the time after the Return and give them that means which it was not his to give. And these were the last words he spoke before he died in his seventy-third year.

From the fifth year of the captivity there arose those who were pledged to remember the words which Ezekial spoke and who gave the captive people the comfort of the Spirit and who could Speak in the Spirit with that which was from God. Ezekial himself had taken those who had these Gifts from God into his training. Ezekial gave them the words and they heard and remembered. With time the words were also heard by their conquerors. For the Voices spoke and with the Sight they saw the people of Babylon brought low by the God of the people they held. The conquerors laughed at first and then they grew uneasy.

Ezekial had given them a vision of the sacred city, Jerusalem. For God bore him there in the Spirit and he saw and told them what he had seen, and hearing what he had said they were gladdened and lifted up and also cast down into the abyss of despair. He saw the Temple which was the Temple of God and held the Ark cast down utterly. But then Ezekial saw it rise again. And he knew that he was looking into those ages yet to come and saw the Temple rebuilt to suffer destruction at the hands of many nations. But always it was rebuilt and rose like the phoenix, brilliant in its beauty. Then the city which was Jerusalem was abandoned and none of the Children of God were within it. The winds howled through the empty streets and over the bodies which lay unburied. It was a place of the dead and smelled of a charnel house. Ezekial wept to see this. But this was by the hand of God, and Ezekial bowed to the will of God for he had seen the future and heard the words of the Lord. What he saw made him fear for his soul and also for the souls of the Children of the Promise. But in the Spirit Ezekial found that peace within himself that also was a harbinger of what was to come. It was given to Ezekial to see the Promise of the Messiah. The children of the Light did as Ezekial had bid them and kept themselves clean and pure, permitting no daughters to marry into the people who held them or with any who were not descended from the issue of Miriem and Ezekial. They did not eat what was forbidden for the Children of God to eat and kept the word in all ways.

Although they had been taken from their homes and lives they remembered the words of Ezekial. The Law of Moses was inscribed on their hearts and in their minds. They had held on to their faith as their greatest jewel and it was more precious than their lives or the air they breathed.

The increase of Miriem multiplied with the generations. But the promise of the child of Mary was withheld from all who were not of the House of Ezekial.

Miriem was the vessel and also the wisdom which is in the Mother. While still a child she had been visited by God and she was greatly gifted and saw the future He had given to them. She bowed her head to God willingly seeing the greatness which she might nurture. Miriem was moved by the Spirit and was taught to know the Truth and this she passed on to the children of her womb. So with Miriem started the Rites of Women which returned to them the dignity they had lost.

They remembered. The image of their old, grandmothers and grandfathers dying under the burden, used up like cattle. They brought children into this world trusting always in the words of Ezekial and they passed their faith on to them and these had died in their turn, used up and exhausted in the body and in the spirit. Their faith was all they had had to give them. They had nothing and were nothing but what they carried within themselves and the Promise of the Spirit which came to them through the Voiced. For in the darkness that was their captivity their voices intoned the words which they had committed to memory. The voice might crack with fatigue or with age, but still it filled them with the word and changed the night of their degradation into Light. And, in the end, this was enough.

After the passing of generations the fear of the visions of the Voiced penetrated into the heart of Babylon and they were vomited up from the belly of the beast and allowed to return to the country of the Promise.

In returning, they had thought to find the homeland which had been, for generations, a dream of salvation. But instead they found depravity and sloth. When they carried back to the homeland that precious faith that had sustained them they found that all had changed. They met those who had not been burned in the furnace of the captivity and pounded on the anvil of despair and they did not know them. These were not within the Covenant and were cut off. The words of Ezekial had sustained them during the generations of the captivity. Now they found themselves shackled to a people who denied them. The words of Ezekial gave them the strength to endure. They remembered the promise of Ezekial and there was a will forged in them to find the means to fulfill the vision he had given them. They found the seeds of this in the teachings of Ezekial. For he had told them that from them would arise that which would become the New Ark of the Covenant of the Faith, the Vehicle of the Messiah. From that time they knew that in them the Promise of God continued.

They were few in numbers. But they were the issue of the thirty-six families and so of the root of David and of the House of Ezekial. Their daughters were called Mary and their sons were given names which marked them as the keepers of the Covenant, carrying in their pronunciation the sound of God. They gave themselves and their lives to the vision that came to them from Ezekial. They permitted no owning of slaves or trading in slaves, for this was a shameful thing. When it became known that one among them had traded in slaves he was cut off from them and denied henceforth.

They permitted no intermarriage for those who were without the Families were not of the Covenant. They gave themselves to the work of Ezekial and continued the training of those among them who were Gifted with that which might, in time, be the Voice and so could give them the vision and strength that Ezekial had offered them as his gift.

Then came the generations of the Return. Judea and Israel were rent with war. There was no nation, no union of nations, for the people were ruled over by foreign princes. None stood against them. The people had either turned away from the covenant of God or turned inside themselves, fearing to see their infamy. But the Families endured. They reached into themselves and found the means to prosper so that the vision might not be lost. They did what Ezekial had asked of them.

It was not a time of prophecy. No Voice arose to guide them. They clung to the vision of Ezekial and endured and grew stronger. They did as they had done in their captivity. They passed the vision to their children; teaching them to love and honor the words of Moses, the Prophets and of Ezekial even as the women breathed the Sacred Breathe of the Most Revered into the days and acts of their lives. They bent the hours of life given to them to this end and did not look aside.

They had changed. They became a people of trade. Establishing them in every port they traded and sold, bartered and worked. They grew rich, creating a far flung net of commerce which sent wealth back to their home, which would always be Jerusalem.

With the fullness of time the Community, called for by Ezekial, was established and the growing wealth of the Houses of the Families were spent to accomplish all that was to be done. But it was a house empty of the Spirit, for none among the first dedicated to service were Voiced.

It was in this time that they were first called Essene. This name marked them as the spiritual branch of the word of Ezekial and of the root of David, born into the Breathe of the Sacred. For God had said that through them would the spirit of man be healed and made whole. They were practiced in the arts of healing. So they were marked as tempered by the fire of the Captivity. They used all of what they had become to forge the Cradle of Him Who was Promised.

There was only one Community, but there were many communities of those who were called Essene. The Community was as a mother is to many daughters, and within the Community was the essence of Ezekial. For only the Community was Voiced, and so only the Community was the Voice of God, cradle of the Sacred Breath. During the years when the Community worked to create the Design which would sustain the work of the Messiah their line stretched to eight generations. From the time of Ezekial the line had been numbered in twenty-three generations.

The Community existed for a generation without finding a Voice to speak. For it had been foretold that there would arise a line of Voices who would be more and greater than even Ezekial, and that there would be not one Voice, but many. But the Community waited the advent of the Voiced and some grew fearful and others despaired.

Then one came as if out of the darkness and the Gift was in him. From that time the Community was as Ezekial had said it would be. Of the first Voice of the Community little was known before his teaching began. But the vision and the memory and the promise of Ezekial had been fulfilled. None living then were told from what House he arose. But now it may be known that he was of the house of Judas of Maccabees and was the eldest son. He escaped the death that overtook his father. He saw both the futility and the promise of what Judas of Maccabees had done. He grieved for the father he had lost and for what was still to be lost. For he was Gifted with that which is from God and Saw. But he turned his back and walked away from the battle in which his brothers and uncles and cousins still fought. He was Called by the Lord and he gave to the Lord his entire life. His name was Jaboaz, and he was called Boaz before he was Voiced. It was said that in him Ezekial was reborn. But this he denied. He was a tall man with eyes of cobalt blue that saw into the soul of a man and a fire burned in him and he could not be denied. He gathered to him disciples who undertook the Study. He moved swiftly and with utter surety to find those who were Gifted. He knew them before meeting them in the flesh and Called them to serve and be dedicated. And this was accomplished before he had entered his twenty-third year. Around these few grew up the Community and many were added and gave themselves to the service of what was to be. But no other who was Voiced arose until the coming of Jachin.

Jachin was of the Families, of the House of Jacob, and came to the Community already giving full weight to the Gift which was his. He was also tall, as tall as Jaboaz. But where Jaboaz burned with a fire that seemed to have consumed his flesh, Jachin was muscled. He moved with the strength and weight of a lion. Jachin needed no training in the ways of the Spirit. These two became as two pillars and there were three others who were trained between them. This was the first generation dedicated to the Community who were Voiced. But they were the second generation dedicated to the service. And in that generation there were five Voices.

In was in this time that the Ritual was begun from that which was left them from Ezekial. The Voiced spoke the words and were joined by the discipled. Their words and voices and movements defined the Covenant and were forbidden to any who were not of the Covenant.

In the second generation, while Jaboaz was an old man and Jachin was a man in his prime, having entered his forty-first year, a man came to them. He was not of the Families or even of any House or of the people of Israel. He was called Ornibas and was from the country and people of Babylon. Knowing this caused some to shrink from him and others to threaten him.

He had been born a prince in that country and had come to his manhood and married and had two wives. But in his thirty-second year he was taken by a vision and heard the voice of God which commanded him to go from his people and his nation and do the work which was set for him by God. The voice of God had entered into him and Illuminated him. He saw where others were blind and knew the weight of the Spirit and felt the joy of serving the Lord. The Lord spoke to him and the future was opened to him as if it was painted as a mural. He understood who he was.

Ornibas had been born hungry in the spirit. And in the Sacred Breath of the Holy he was fed. He made himself ready, abdicating all claim of Royalty and divorcing his wives. His family and those who owed him allegiance were shaken and rent their clothes and begged him to stay. But he could not for he had heard the word of the Lord. He took with him, from the life that he left, only the Cup of Righteousness. This had been shown him by the Lord and he had taken it from the place where it lay in the temple of the Egyptians, buying it for four times its weight in gold.

The Cup had rested in the Temple and been taken when it was razed. It had passed through many hands to come to Babylon. It was beautifully wrought. The cup was six sided and delicately fluted. It was old, older than the memory of any man, and carried within its making the forgotten promises of a world which had given birth to all humankind. The cup had come with Moses from Egypt and from there it had rested in the Temple of Isis. But it was old when it came to Egypt. None remembered this, but in its time one would drink from the cup and speak out its mystery.

It was of the white metal which is more precious than gold and it was chased with gold threads which made an intricate pattern on the outer sides. In these could be seen the words of the Covenant which was given by God, disguised in the work. He kept the cup near to him for so he had been commanded by God.

He came among the Called of the Community and neither Jaboaz or Jachin could deny him but welcomed him for they had seen his coming and knew that this was the man who had been foretold by Ezekial in the days of the Captivity. He was called the Teacher of Righteousness or the Teacher of Truth. He recalled to them the sayings of Ezekial which he knew even as if he had been one with them in the time of the Captivity. For God had given him the words of Ezekial. He was like a man and a master to their childhood. And he became one among the Voiced.

With his coming much was changed. The Community became larger in that age, and the number of those discipled to the Teaching grew. In that time the division between the Gifted and the dedicated began. Before there was an openness and all knew of the Work. But after that the Work and the Design of the Work was kept by the Voiced.

The work became the Great Work and it was broken and made whole and more than whole, for it was now larger than the life of any man. The Houses of the Families had prospered in the generations since the Return and they sent their young men to the service of the Community and there grew a place for the study of the scripture and their history as a people. The Families sent their sons from every part of the world, for they had spread themselves across the world like the stars that shine in the night sky. Their wealth also grew and many who were of the Families were powerful in the cities where they had settled.

But in the core of the Community was the foundation of the Work, and this was the Voiced and the work that they kept only to themselves. Those who were not Called never knew of the great reach of the Design or the power of they who worked in the Spirit.

There were thirty-two generations from Ezekial until the end. And in those generations there were thirty-five Voices, and a thirty sixth.

It had been foretold by Ezekial that he who would come forth from the beast to become the fount of truth would go forth into the precincts of the Great Temple and speak the Truth in the hearing of all of Israel and Judea and the tribes. So in the twenty-second year after his Mantling Ornibas went into Jerusalem and fulfilled the word of Ezekial.

The death of the Teacher of Righteousness came about by murder, and he was murdered by a Priest against whom he spoke. Ornibas had spoken in the confines of the Temple and the priests were offended at what he said and threatened him, shaking their fists and shouting to drown out his words. But they could not prevail, for Ornibas spoke with authority and was heard. One among the priests was caught up in his anger and hate. His name was Saul and he was determined that the Speaker of Truth must die. The Priest did not kill the Teacher himself but had him set on by paid assassins while he was returning from Jerusalem whence he had gone. The Teacher had spoken against the priest, whose name was Saul, saying that the man was corrupt and exposing the dealings of Saul with the Romans. This threatened Saul and he acted. The Teacher was struck again and again by the assassins when he left the greater road for the lesser and was alone. Yet he rose up and fought against them. But in the end he was killed. When they found him and brought him back his body was riddled with wounds and his body was drained of blood, for his blood was splattered and had soaked the earth for great distances around him. With him laid the bodies of two men who had died by his hands. After the Teacher's death Jachin opened the scroll which was left in his keeping and found that Ornibas had left a full accounting of his life and Work and it was complete even to the manner and time of his death.

The cup of Righteousness was given into the keeping of the Voiced. From it they were to drink when they broke the bread that was the symbol of unity and the Covenant between them and God. The Teacher left the cup to be passed to him who had this Design within his keeping. So the cup remained with the Voiced until, with time, it was passed to the One who followed them and took up their Work.

Jachin was like a man taken by death. His hands gripped the scroll and grew white with the pain which he kept within. For he had loved Ornibas who had given him clarity and vision in the Spirit and the understanding he had not known from any other man. Ornibas thus became the first of the Voiced to die and also the first to give the accounting. In the accounting was also the prophecy of what was to come. From that time all of the Voiced gave this recounting to the ages to come. When the time of their death was upon them, they knew and they called a scribe to them if they were too weakened to write themselves. Those who were left read in this the lesson which the death of Ornibas taught them. They understood that the Sight was not given to use for the self but to further the Work and the Design. And this became a part of the pledge they made at their Mantling.

Jachin read the accounting and was angered by the manner in which the Teacher had died. He was sickened by what the Teacher had endured. Jachin was not bid to act for vengeance but to do what was right. So in choosing to become the Sword of Righteousness he acted in accordance with his views alone. The assassin did not benefit from what he had done. For in a month the killer of the Teacher of Righteousness was dead in his own bed, having been killed by a growth in the stomach which ate out his liver.

From that time there were Priests in the Great Temple who understood the power that was invested in the Voiced. And from that time they went in awe of those who wore the Mantle. Saul had confessed his act to some among his fellows and although they did nothing they knew that the death was an act of vengeance. The Teacher had left one who was trained to replace him and on the first Sabbath after his dying the Ceremony of Cloaking was performed and the man took the name of Jesse when he assumed the Mantle.

Soon after this Jaboaz also died and was replaced in his turn by Isaac of the House of Jacob who took the name of Jacob. The Work grew and endured and as each Voice died it became their trust to leave one who was trained to continue the Work. When they came to know that their death was upon them they gave Testimony and left the body that had held them having given a fair and objective accounting of their life and work.

Every year disciples came among them and from these arose those who were then Voiced in their turn if they gained the use of their Gift and were Illuminated. Those who were Voiced gave themselves to the training and the Searching and to the Great Work which was the Design which was like clay upon the wheel of the potter.

When Jachin died in his turn in the fifth generation he chose to replace him Joab, who became in his stead the Sword of Righteousness. So it fell to Joab to do that which was needful but which was hid from the eyes of all but the Voiced.

In each generation there was one or two who overshadowed the years and one such was Jeptha. Jeptha who was born into the forth generation and lived until the Community was no more, and died with the Community. For the Community was but the Voiced although many did not know this since it was large and complex in its later days.

In the days of the sixth generation it came to be within the Design that there should be established in the far-flung places where the Houses of the Families had settled, copies of the Library, called daughter libraries. There were to be six of these and they were to go out in the time of the Coming of the Promised One and at his bidding. So there was built a great library and scriptorium and many came to give themselves to this work which was a part of the Great Work. In this time those who were of the laity came into their own, having a thing which was theirs to rule.

In those days there were two who lived past the time of most men and who marked the generations which passed in their sight. These two, Joab and Jeptha, were to the later years as Jachin and Jaboaz had been to the early days, and it was given to them to witness the Coming of the Promised One. In the time of the Promised One there were four others who were Voiced and the most skilled of these was Judeth. The Mantling of Judeth had sent tremors into the fabric of the Order for Judeth was a woman. The fact of her Mantling was hid from the sight of all who were not within the Community for the Mantling of Judeth had been foreseen in the time of the Teacher of Righteousness and it was a foreshadowing of the Coming of the Promised one. The three others who were then numbered among the Voiced were Jacob and Jeremiah and John. All were greatly Gifted and trained by the Teaching of Ezekial and also of the Teacher of Righteousness.

Then in the time of the Fulfillment all was brought down and also made whole, and they died all in the same day. But their deaths were within the Fabric of the Design which was the product of the Great Work and this lived after them.

For 200 years the Brotherhood, which was the Community, awaited the Coming. Then, in the space of one generation, they were gone and none were to remember their passing. And this was as it was meant to be. For the Design called for a silence to be drawn over their lives and work. So they did not Testify and give their accounting. For that which is written is not safe from the eyes of the profane.

But the time has now come and this can be accomplished. This is their history as it was taught by those who lived in that time. Now the ages have passed and the time is come that the history might be known for the time is now upon us that was foretold. That which was promised will bring forth the fruit of the Promise. For what was started in those days is now whole, and in this time will we taste the sweetness of the fruit. So they have come to Testify in the way of those who are Voiced. For what has been carried in the Spirit may now be said in the hearing of all humankind. What will now be made known is both their Testament and the precious Truth of the time which is past and the time which is yet to come.

The Testament of Judeth

It was a rich life; Rich in the Spirit. I knew, having left a life rich in things of the world, that to those who observed it my life was austere, even by the simple standards of that age. My family had not approved of my dedication to the Brotherhood. They had supported the Order financially for generations, for they were one of the original Sacred Numbered, one of the thirty-six.

It had been expected that I would marry and that my husband would take the name and the work of our House. This fell instead to my cousin, Rebnac, who held it for my children, should I have them.

The family had traded in fine cloth of all kinds. Then, when Uncle took the trade from my Grandfather, Uncle experienced problems with shipping and so went into partnership with a man who was of another of the Families and whose trade had been in fishing. They bought more ships and this was the foundation of the fleet that was to carry their goods to every port of size on the Sea. His partner's name was Arabas. Together they had forged a powerful presence in the world of commerce. From this partnership among others sprang the practice to send the younger sons to establish homes and shops in foreign ports and cities. This had been true since the Return. All among the Families were easy and familiar with the ways and speech of foreign nations, having dwelt among them. This inclined them to use this skill and so they went forth and established outposts, daughter Houses. The pattern arose from necessity but it served our purposes so well that soon it was an accepted part of our identity. Such Houses were maintained in almost every port city along the sea. Samuel continued the practice in his time.

I often went with my Uncle to the port to watch the unloading of the ships. Anything I wanted was mine for the asking, and I did not hesitate to ask if I saw something that interested me. The port was exciting when the ships docked. There was a din of voices blended with the clash and groaning of the movement of goods. It was all color and conflict, and I loved it.

On one of these occasions, when I was in my eighth year, I saw something that shocked me. It was a small child, younger than I, who was chained and dragged from my Uncle's ship. She was being sold, and her new owner was examining her there in front of my eyes, exposing her to the curious even as she lay seemingly numb under their handling. She seemed to have drawn back into herself, trembling and yet somehow distant. I was stunned and for a moment said nothing, and then I found voice and screamed for my uncle to stop this. He came to me then and took me up in his arms. He saw what was happening and then his face grew red and, still holding me, he strode over to the two men who knelt with the child between them like two dogs worrying a piece of meat.

One of the men was the agent of Uncle's partner. Uncle grabbed his arm and swung him around to face him. ``What can you mean by defiling this ship with a trade in human flesh?" The man, named Kameral, looked at him, defiant and yet frightened. Slavery was a fact of life in the world but those of the Essene persuasion took oath not to own or trade in the lives of men. He said nothing, but his face worked as if trying to find answer. The second man grew impatient and spoke. ``You make too much of this. Trade is trade. The girl isn't worth what I paid for her. I paid for a virgin and she's plainly been broached. If you object, I'll sell the slut to you cheap." Uncle looked at him and his face frightened even me, who had never known a harsh word from him. The man quailed at the threat he felt, but stood firm, eager for his money.

The child was bought and freed in the same day. And I had acquired a maid and a friend. Her name was Ruth and she was the only female friend of my childhood, and one of the few for the length of my life.

As a result of that day the Kameral lost his place with Arabas, who had known nothing about the trade he was establishing. Kameral was of the Families and was ostracized for what he had done. This angered him and both Uncle and Arabas came to know that they had made an enemy. Kameral went into the employ of a seller of slaves and rose in this trade until, at the death of the Moabite who owned it, he was able to have it for himself.

I was raised in a house run by my distant cousin, Gobertha, the daughter of my mother's mother's brother, who took service with Uncle when she was left undowered and unmarried. The house was on the outskirts of Jerusalem and was built in the roman fashion. It was a series of courtyards and rooms around a central court and it held baths and all amenities. I loved the mosaics best. Those in the central entry were especially lovely, inlaid with colored marble in muted tones. Most mosaics were in black and white and so this made it especially fascinating to me.

Many of the roman-style villas were gaudy with color and this offended me. But our home was subtle in its beauty. I would lie with my face upon the cold stone in the summer and look at the pattern from every possible angle. The marble was polished so that it shined and I could scarcely feel the joints that held the stones together. I imagined that I was a part of the pattern; that I could sink into the stone.

Gobertha was a bustling soul, busy with the day to day minutiae of the household, never noticing aught else. But her rigorous industry concealed a loving heart and she did love me, as I did her though two people could not have been more different. She was a soft pillow of a woman, strong but richly plumped with the generosity of the kitchen - and the warmth of her spirit. Her laugh was vigorous as was her outrage when she uncovered my many acts of naughtiness.

Gobertha was shocked at the condition of my new maid and took her straight away into the baths to be cleansed. After she was clean and fed we two retired to my rooms to find her some cast-off clothes to wear. She spoke my tongue, although with an odd accent. Ruth scarcely remembered her parents, but Uncle thought they must have been Hebrew for she spoke nothing else. Ruth was quiet and, for a long time, uneasy among us. I don't think she believed that she was truly free and could have left if she chose. But with time and love her spirit was healed.

Ruth acted as my maid for a time but soon I came to consider her a sister. She was my accomplice in crime. For I was not a child to be ruled easily, and Ruth quaked with fear at the things she was bullied to do with me.

I did not confine myself to the kitchen and the home. I snuck out to play with the children in the street, mostly boys, taking Ruth with me when I could bully her into it. We made a nuisance of ourselves. This was doubly naughty for I was born of wealth and was also a girl. There was a covered passage over the street nearby and we would hide and throw mud balls and dung on those passing below. The dung must not be too fresh, was the rule, for if it was it broke up too easily and did not arrive at its target intact. We carried it in some rag - or once a heavy piece of linen which crime cost me dearly when the heinousness of my act was discovered.

Swift escape was a necessary skill, and one for which I was well endowed, for I was never caught, being supple and quick. And I was careful to know all avenues of escape well before time. Several of my comrades were captured though, and on one occasion, Malchi, the little snitch, told his father I was among them.

He would have been beaten twice as a liar as well as a rowdy if I had not admitted the prank, for confronted by Malachi’s father, Uncle would not admit I was anyplace but at home that afternoon. I was confined for a month as Uncle would not have me beaten, and after that I limited my activities to those that did not render me liable to such consequences.

Ruth did not enjoy this at first, but later came to laugh and, sometimes, devise pranks of her own. I had a cousin named Sarah, who lived nearby. Sarah was often brought over by her maids and when this happened we were forced to confine ourselves within the house. Sarah was everything a daughter should be. She was eager for the coming of her womanhood and marriage and had already planned the weddings of her yet unborn children. She spent her time also wondering who would be chosen as her husband. This choice would certainly be among one of the Families, and most likely a family in Jerusalem. Sarah made sure to know all who her father might consider and schemed to see them when she could. Gobertha often opined to herself aloud wishing I was more like her. And I would in return say that I thanked God I was not.

For a time Ruth was entirely taken with Sarah, imitating her mincing ways and graces, and I confess this hurt me. But Sarah, who was a genuinely good person, still was uncomfortable with Ruth because she knew the circumstances surrounding her coming to us. Sarah never said an unkind word, but Ruth felt her coolness and, hurt, she turned to me and Gobertha for comfort.

I was whippy thin, exuding energy and restless movement, never still. My hair was brown with a crown of red-gold and my eyes were dark. In the way of a child I was discontent with this, envious of the cobalt blue eyes of my cousin, Sarah. Ruth was plain as a child but when she came to approach her womanhood this changed, and her face filled out to a nubile beauty and her body developed, shooting up to top me by a head. Her eyes were black and almond shaped, and her coloring gave the appearance of the use of expensive cosmetics, although she used nothing.

She came to her first bleeding a full two years before me, although she could not have been more than a year older, and we had thought her to be younger at first. My uncle bid me to come to him one evening without Ruth and, when I entered his study, he asked me to sit and then showed me the dowry he had prepared for her and the marriage he had found. I could hardly swallow. I knew that this was generous of him, and done for her benefit. But I grieved to think our time together, almost as sisters, was to end. I insisted that Ruth be called and asked if this was her wish, and this he did immediately.

Ruth was entirely delighted. The young man was of a good family, although not well off, and he was a younger brother. The dowry had, of course, made the match. But he seemed taken with her. He was of the Families, a poor branch of the House of Jacob. And although I thought I was losing my friend, and we wept together before she left, I later found that this was not so.

Ruth was married from our house as a daughter of our House. Uncle would have it no other way. This was also for Ruth; To establish her relationship with us. The wedding was attended by most of the Families in Judea, and all who were resident in Jerusalem. This was a measure of the respect that my Uncle merited with them. Arabas was among them and gave the couple a gift of furnishings for their home. We gathered after at the house and all were served from the generosity of Uncle's hospitality. There was a surfeit of food and also flowers strewn upon the floors and couches.

There I first had inkling of what awaited me. For among those gathered was Jacob. He was a two years younger than I, and spent his time with the other boys of his age. I was thirteen and full of my new womanhood, for I had not bled but I had been the mistress of the House since my thirteenth birthday. I caught them pilfering the wine while passing by the entrance to the cellar on my way to the kitchen. Forgetting my dignity I grabbed him by the hair, threw him to the floor and sat on him. This finished the unauthorized debauchery, for the rest scattered to the winds. Jacob looked up at me and groaned. He was actually larger than me but I had learned to fight while still throwing dungballs and he stayed down until I gave him leave to rise.

He did apologize for the predations visited on the wine, and forgave me my vigor in defending it. We agreed that this matter was best left private since it would trouble our elders to know of it. I was startled by something I saw in him then. It was as if a window had opened for a moment and I had seen a familiar face. Then it was closed and I was left staring, open mouthed, at him. I recovered my composure and abruptly left him standing there. I had not met him before and was not to meet him again for some years.

There were several cousins there from the Houses of Samuel and Jeptha and Jachim and all from our House who lived in Jerusalem attended. Some I had known all of my life, and others for only that day. But the celebration lingered on into the night long after the new couple had been seen to their chamber.

We were a gathering of cousins. All among the Order were related and we normally had little intercourse with others. The family, divided and multiplied for well on to nine generations, offered a wealth of cousins, first, second, third, fourth, with first and fourth together in one person. Every mixture you can imagine. We contented ourselves with `cousin' at most times. But the complexities of our relationships were not forgotten.

I think after the marriage of Ruth from our home that Gobertha started planning for my marriage. But I was not to be married from my Uncle's home. I had always been different from other children, and more different that they, my family, imagined.

Sometimes while the bread was rising in the kitchen in the calm of morning lifted into full light, Gobertha would take me up in her arms to hold and cuddle, even when I was close to my womanhood. This time was for just us two, and Ruth would absent herself for those moments, knowing that I loved my cousin, no matter how I tormented her. I loved the warmth of her, and the smell of her reminded me of the bread she baked, and the small yellow flowers that she loved, and grew always in the kitchen garden between the house and shop. The smell of the bread, rising and baking, always spoke to me of love because of her. I think now she held me in her heart as the child she would never have and I wish that I had been kinder, more loving, and that I had seen her love then and answered it as an adult when she was feeble. For I went off into the intensity of my life and forgot her entirely, remembering only when Sarah mentioned her passing at the end of a letter. She had gone into the service of another cousin at my uncle's death, and so I had lost track of her. Her dying was, ironically, the event that taught me my own mortality, for although I had by then guided many through this passage, her death was the first that moved me so. She left me all her small portion, the chief value of which was a copper anklet set with garnets. It had been given her by her mother and was beautifully made. I wore it ever after as my only ornament in memory of her and of my failing in forgetting her.

I was the first child of the house Called to serve - a daughter - and an only child at that! To be Called was looked on as both a blessing and a curse. The family gave up a child to the Brotherhood and took back a patina of holiness and merit. But the child was then dedicated to that service and although some returned home, having failed, they that were truly Called were known to be changed utterly by their disciplehood. Stories of the Voiced were a source of both pride and fear for those of the Families. The work of the Community was not truly understood but the stories carried back were used to terrify children into obedience on occasion. But more than that there was a pride that such holiness and trust from God resided within us. The men of the Families kept the religion of our Fathers but kept apart in their practice from those who were not of the Families. For these were less than us.

I came upon my Illumination all unknowing. I had not yet reached the age of womanhood, though this was to happen within months. The Light came on me when I slept and suddenly I knew that I was not alone but there were with me two others who watched with me, and I soared. It was as if I had lived my life behind a fence never suspecting that it was even there and suddenly I was raised to see over it and what I saw was beautiful and more than beautiful because I saw how all was One and yet less simple than it had seemed. I found that I could move in the Spirit and I cherished the spirits of those I loved and saw within them and also saw within those things I had thought to be like rock. For a wall was no longer a surface but all those things of which and all it would ever be. This was also with me when I woke and I found I could not only See and Hear and Speak but that I could move within the physical and change what was. It was power and it was intoxicating. Those who Watched were with me strongly then and warned me and taught me things which I had not thought to know, having not realized they could be. I understood then the hunger I had known all of my life, even as a small child, to know the Truth in all things; More, to find myself in the Truth. I had been chastised for my curiosity over and over and had taken to hiding this hunger from my family. I had not quenched it though.

Women were not permitted to read. But I had hungered for this and taught myself a little when I was still small. When my uncle found this he was troubled but then undertook my teaching himself. I discovered a world I had not dreamed of. This led me to question and search further. I took to questioning the Family's Elders on points of religion and philosophy and this also caused comment. I had determined to discover the entire Truth of God and the world and Gobertha forbade me to speak of it in her hearing. But with my Illumination I understood for what I hungered and was able to feed this need.

I did not speak of it to Ruth. She was puzzled and troubled by this need in me. She was then betrothed and so was less conscious of my every movement, but she was curious, and once frightened.

While this was new upon me I went into the kitchen garden where animals and foodstuffs were brought. The butcher was there preparing a lamb for the slaughter. It was white and bleated loudly, panicking at being lifted by its hind quarters. It struggled in his grasp and almost leapt free, but he throttled it again. Before I even thought about it I had reached into the beast's mind and stilled it. Ruth was beside me and saw it. She knew that I had done this and sprang back away from me. It hung limp before the knife touched it, and this disturbed the butcher as well. He looked at me with fear in his eyes, the knife in his hand, and I turned and ran back in the house. I hated the killing of lambs, for they were all trust and innocence. I gave it a peaceful death without pain or more fear.

The actual Illumination continued for three days as I surged with the power and lapsed into exhaustion and sleep. And then it was finished and I was left with that and the knowledge that I would never be alone again. They Who Watched were with me, and I could always find them. Shortly after the close of the third day Jeptha Found me in the Spirit and I knew him. It was then that I learned of the Gifted and that my place was among them.

My family and Ruth knew I had changed and this bothered them. Ruth had said nothing about the lamb, but she changed towards me after that. She had started to fear me. I no longer ran with the children but kept quiet within. That which had drawn me to games and mischief was gone. They came to believe this was my womanhood and were cheered by the change in me.

It was not usual for a woman to be among the Gifted, but my Gift was strong. It owned me. Even my Uncle, who raised me after the early death of my parents, could not deny it. Always before the Gift had fruited on other branches, leaving our family barren.

Our Lineage was inscribed in the bright metal which is precious to men and that does not decay or tarnish with time. All of our most precious records were set in this form. The plates of gold were linked, one to another when there was need. I saw one Lineage which had no less than five linkings. The careful marks were both a record and a talisman and remained always in the House of the Family, who represented the family in all its branches, although with time what this was for any one of us became confusing. Cousins married cousins and, in those last days, it was said from the many we had become One Family and should, perhaps, have One Voice. But this was said in jest, and the irony and truth of it was lost on us.

So it came to some few of us, man or woman, it mattered not how it came or when, only those given the Gift were Called. They, it was said, were Called by God, and this could not be denied. But it was a terrible shock to him, my Uncle, good and gentle as he was.

I remember him, sitting there at table when I first ventured to speak of this matter. I told him of my Illumination and of what I had Seen. Then I said that I was Called and must go. He did not move for so long that, if I had not, even unschooled as I was, been able to see his spirit in turmoil and thus unconscious of the body, I would have feared for his life. He had seen the signs and ignored them. To give a child to the Order gave the Family the patina of holiness and great honor, but the child was lost to the Family and lost to those who loved them. Most who were dedicated did not marry and so the line died with them. Those who did marry were lost in the sense that they were changed utterly. The Families were given to the things of the world. And the Order was given to the things of the Spirit.

I saw these things in his mind but did not answer them then. Instead I went to him and took his hand and sat silently with him.

In the summer of my 14th year, when I was full a woman he came to accept, not with recriminations and bitterness, but as a gift, that I would go. This happened in way that is worth telling, perhaps. My Uncle loved beautiful things, and used his wealth for this purpose among others. He had bought a statue which was from Athens and it was consummately beautiful; A thing of grace and perfection. He wondered idly one night about the man who had carved it, and since I loved him, I told him of the man. I spoke to him in the flesh, since he was blind in the spirit, and showed him the passion of the man for beauty and for his craft and also his anger and grief brought on by the circumstances surrounding its making. For the pleasure and triumph of its carving had been tainted for him. The statue was not perfect. I showed my Uncle the flaw. Then I told him that it was carved in the form of he who the carver loved more than his life. He had thought to make his lover, who was perfect in the body, thus immortal. But before the statue was finished the lover was gone to the arms of another, and the craftsman built the flaw into the statue and sold it. He had thought to destroy it but could not. Too much of himself was also in it. I showed him the grief of the man who was an artist among artists and who could not have the only thing he wanted. Uncle was quiet after that. He knew this was not the product of my imagination, but the Truth. And when he looked into my eyes saying, ``If you want it you have my leave to go, although I know now that this permit was never mine to withhold." After that it was changed between us, and I wondered at this for I knew he had suspected for some time. It seemed the speaking of a fact or the demonstration of it changed something for those unsighted when for those such as myself, the saying meant far less.

Gobertha grieved as if to die when she was told I was to leave. She came to call it, `this solemn yammering' when I told her I tried to explain how I was Called. She believed it to be a product of a fevered mind and was bewildered and grieved with my leaving. I could see her grief and the loss she felt for my children who she would not hold and care for in the years to come. She would not embrace me that last day, but turned her back on me and ordered me to go from her. I started out the door and found myself engulfed in her arms and I clung to her and cried. Then she turned away and, speaking low, bid me to go. I went without another word. That I would have children I could not tell her, for how was she to believe when the world of the Spirit was nothing to her?

But I had Seen and could not be turned from my course. And I also knew that my life ran beside that of He Who was Promised, ending on the same day. Although this troubled me as the Promised One should live long since he is not bound by the Law of the Dance. I had first seen and known of the Dance when I experienced Illumination. The Dance was accomplished within the body of the woman when the seed of the father found that of the mother. There, in that close protected place, which pulsed with life, the Spirit came and the stuff from which life is molded took its form. This appeared, to those who Watched, like a dance and so it came to be called.

My uncle arranged to take me himself to the Community. And although I told him, which he already knew, that it was not permitted to take wealth into the Community, still he insisted that I go with the best he was allowed to give me. The garments worn by men and women were simple and of white linen. But the first Uncle had made for me were of silk and in all of the colors in the rainbow. I begged him to understand, and he had them made anew.

Lineage was counted through the mother's womb. My mother had been an only sister to him, and he her only brother. There were cousins from both my father and mother, but they those closest in blood were not close in the spirit. The fear was with my Uncle, himself childless, that with me, if I remained childless, would end his line. But I knew because I had seen in the radiance of the future, that I would twice bring forth young. I told him this and it seemed to bring him some comfort.

We were allowed a chest and all that the chest might hold. He had it built for me and it came almost to my breasts. The top opened on chastened hinges in several parts. All of the metal work was silver. The chest itself was carved from a dark wood and was a work of art. On the top was engraved the return from the Captivity, and on the sides, the founding of the Order and the image of Jachin and Jaboaz standing like two pillars holding the world of the Spirit and the Earth in their grasps. Also portrayed were the entire Houses of the Families gathered. The inside was lined with cedar and had trays that set in and could be lifted out. These held ointments in ivory and glass bottles and casks, enough to last for years. And the garments; They were of the finest linen I had even seen, almost sheer to the touch. Others were thicker and warming. The lower part hid two drawers that slid out and these held linen for bedding. The pulls of these were disguised in the carving, and the drawers were secured during travel with dowels of wood set in on the side. He gave me also a rug brought from the east into which was woven flowers and birds in rose and blue and green and white. The chest could be taken apart and the bottom was then the platform for a bed. The top became a table. Moving it took ten strong men. I thanked him inadequately, in the way of youth.

Before I left I visited the new home of Ruth and bid her farewell. I told her then of my Calling. She also was upset and disbelieving. She was just filled with a child and I wished her an easy birth without thinking. She paused; she had hoped but was not yet known she was filled. She then asked me if the child would be a boy and I told her no, it would be a daughter this time. It was some moments before either of us spoke. She looked long and earnestly into my eyes and then she said that I had chosen rightly and embraced me.

Those within the Community had awaited my coming for many months and I was welcomed gladly by the Voiced and especially Jeptha. My uncle stayed with us for two weeks, putting off his departure twice in that time. Just before he left me he took my hand, seeming against his will, and held it tight. He had brought me there with servants and trappings; for he was wealthy and this was his custom. His eyes glazed with tears and spoke to my heart and my Spirit knew him to be my Father, in the spirit if not in the body. I called him Father then and he wept and I also wept and clung to him. Parentage was for us, as it will even be with mankind, a thing bound up between the Spirit and the flesh. For to be a father in the flesh is a thing that counts little, but to be a Father in the Spirit, is to give of the Spirit, and this is the greater gift, always. I grieved for him that night as I never had thought to. I never saw him again in life for within the year he was dead. I watched with him in the Spirit through his passage and cried only when he was safe in the Place of Rest.

Jeptha had said nothing about the size of the chest, but others did and I suffered for my Uncle's generosity. Some laughed and some sneered, but almost all commented. One scribe asked if he had meant to make it a house in the shape of a chest. I ignored them. But those early days in the Community I was both joyful beyond bounds and cast down entirely. The Work went quickly and I was easy in that part, but the day to day speaking and customs annoyed and hurt me. I was barely a woman, and yet I was Discipled and already broaching on the Higher Mysteries. I had no close family here, but Jeptha, Elder of the Voiced, sponsored me. Jeptha was a Teacher to me and told me of the hierarchy among the Gifted. He would not have done this if I had been male, but he was concerned that my sex not be a cause of dissension. So I learned almost immediately that the six Voices each oversaw the Teaching of six Disciples. And these were ranked. There was, generally, a first degree of attainment, with three rankings within it, and a second degree which was further defined in the same way. All progression was marked by heightened development. I was formally in the Teaching of another Voice, whose name was Jarek, but Jeptha worked with me more often. I stayed with a woman of whom I will later tell you, who I came to care for. She was a distant relation of both my House and Jeptha's. But always I wanted more freedom and more latitude to do as I pleased. Learning to curtail this was hard.

I came to live within the Rule, but taming my will to this was harder for me that anything of the Spirit. I would rise late in the morning, as I had done in my Uncle's house. I would laugh out loud and dance with the overabundance of my energy. This was one of the causes that brought the Counsel of Elders to find me a husband before I had entered my 15th year.