May 24: The Golden Cycle
We seem to have worked our way through the world religions, said Arthur. I mean, with Judith's story about Judaism, my own about Christianity, and Roland's about the Norse religion.
We haven't done Buddhism, Judith objected.
Isn't that something to do with reincarnation? asked Eve.
Not really, said Roland pedagogically. Samsara rather represents the spirit's cycle in nature
One thing I never understood, said Judith, is what we need all those lives for. A person who has gained nothing from being alive will hardly profit from a second chance.
You are wrong there, my dear girl, Leon moralised. Despite his orthodoxy he had never ceased to surprise us. Reincarnation is an absolute necessity.
I shall attempt to explain. Aeons ago, before Atlantis sunk and Ikhnaton conversed with flying saucers, man experienced a Golden Age, described in detail by Hesiod and Swami An-Other-Dollarami.
Nobody worked, as the fruit could be picked directly from the trees. Idleness however is the root of all evil. Therefore a certain Opulentus, who was a good man, was troubled by this state of affairs.
This man was endowed with no less initiative than goodness, so he immediately built a wall around himself and those fruit trees which he regarded as his. In so doing he was of course merely protecting his property.
His fellows wondered, but since there were fruit trees enough, they were not concerned. The next day however, the following statement was to be read on the wall: OPULENTUS' FRUIT TASTES BETTER.
Naturally, everybody wished to test this claim. And Opulentus was all too eager to hand out samples: for every tree his fellows picked for him they could keep one fruit for themselves. So it was that this pioneer within a few days transformed a sluggish and phlegmatic race into a model of enterprise and ambition.
Unfortunately this meant that more fruit was picked than Opulentus could possibly eat. He was then inspired to pay his employees to improve and extend the wall, which ended up encompassing all the trees of the country, securing full employment.
It so happened that on one of his inspections he found a little shiny stone lying on the ground. By digging with his foot he soon uncovered one more. He eagerly ordered his employees to start digging. And soon they had found veritable mountains of the pretty metal for their employer.
This of course meant that from then on most of their time had to be spent underground. However this made them appreciate their spare time so much more, in which they would sit in the sun for half an hour enjoying their weekly fruit.
Now there have always been individuals who cannot stand the sight of other people's success. There came a time when one of these started agitating the masses to pull down the wall and let everyone take as much fruit as he could eat. If Opulentus was so interested in stones he could dig for them himself.
All this would undoubtedly have resulted in uprising and outrage had not Providence herself stepped in. It so happened that during one of his eager agitations the rebel leader was unlucky enough to be struck down by a tree which Opulentus had started to fell and then by accident happened to lean his weight against.
'My dear children,' he said to the angry crowd. 'Indeed, you will forgive me for addressing you thus. To me, Opulentus Enterprises has always been a big family.
As you see, God has judged this ungodly rebel. Did He not say: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat fruit?'
'What an unpleasant God,' mumbled one of the crowd discreetly casting sideways glances at the trees close by.
'Not at all,' assured Opulentus. 'Life is but a brief trial. And he who passes it will after his death be relocated to a lovely garden in which no one works, and where the fruit can be picked directly from the trees.' This, it was generally agreed, was reasonable enough. Thus was the birth of religion.
What a religious scholar, mumbled Lydekker impressed, has not been lost in this man!
Now, continued Spencer unruffled, nobody lives forever, and the day came when Opulentus himself was about to die, and had entrusted the firm to his sons. 'Take good care of it!' he said and closed his eyes.
Hardly had he done so though before God Himself came to meet him. 'Well,' He said, 'I have done my utmost to arrange the hereafter as close as possible to the guidelines you set out while still alive. But now that you are here yourself I hope you will take over.'
Opulentus found there all his former employees, who smiled and waved to him. No one worked as the fruit could be picked directly off the trees as Opulentus had promised.
This he pondered over for a while. Then he pulled God to one side. 'Have you not heard,' he said, 'that idleness is the root of all evil?'
'Ye-es,' said God hesitantly. 'But what shall we do?'
'I have an idea,' said Opulentus, for these he never lacked. 'We build a wall ' It didn't take long before he with God's help had done for Heaven what he had once done for earth.
But here too were subversive elements with anarchistic ideas of removing the wall and sharing the fruit. One would have thought that at least the Kingdom of God would be able to safeguard democracy. But as you know it is characteristic of the Communists that they want to conquer everything.
Nobody would have been able to blame Opulentus if he had dispatched a corps of angels to keep the peace. But since he was by nature a parliamentarian he said instead: 'My dear friends! You understand of course that this place represents only a short trial period until you are born into the lovely world, that is so full of fruit trees that no-one needs to starve!'
'But,' said God a little worried. 'Will they not take harm from the idleness of earth?'
'You forget, said Opulentus calmly, 'that I left my sons down there. They will make sure that everything happens according to Thy will, Lord!'
And so it was. Now, dear children, Leon concluded his theological discourse, I hope you understand why reincarnation is absolutely necessary.
This text is an extract from the novel "2000".