The Garden of Vision - Elizabeth Louisa Moresby - ebook

The Garden of Vision ebook

Elizabeth Louisa Moresby



The Garden of Vision” (1929) is a story of Japanese Zen Buddhism and martial arts situated in Britain and Japan in the 1920’s. The chief character is an English woman who joins the school. „L. Adams Beck” was one of the pen-names of Elizabeth Louisa Moresby, a Canadian writer who wrote most of her 30 books in the last 10 years of her life. She was also known as Eliza Louisa Moresby Beck and Lily Moresby Adams. She was a staunch Buddhist and strict vegetarian, highly critical of the materialism of the West. Her works include „The Ninth Vibration” (1922), „Dreams and Delights” (1922), „The Perfume of the Rainbow” (1923) and others.

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Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four


A part of the debt of Japan to Zen Buddhism (one aspect of that all-embracing faith) is treated in this book. So far as I know and believe there is no exaggeration of that debt and there is certainly none in my statement of the coincidence of its teachings with those of Western Science. The Nō play in Chapter XI of which Lady Murasaki is the heroine is my own and is on the old Japanese model. Since, after the publication of “The House of Fulfilment,” countless readers wrote to ask for lists of books in which they could learn more of the subjects there treated I think I may give a very few names of the books which I have found extremely useful and some of which I have quoted.

ESSAYS IN ZEN BUDDHISM, by Professor D. Suzuki. (Luzac, London).

THE NŌ PLAYS OF JAPAN, by Arthur Waley. (Allen & Unwin).

THE FIGHTING SPIRIT OF JAPAN, by E. J. Harrison. (Allen & Unwin).

THE CREATIVE EAST, by T. W. Mason.–Wisdom of the East Series.

A LUTE OF JADE, by L. Cranmer Byng.–Wisdom of the East Series.

THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD, by Professor A. S. Eddington. (The Cambridge Press).

L. ADAMS BECK (E. Barrington)

Japan, 1929.

Chapter One

This is the story of certain things which befell in that strange and little-known country Japan–known indeed to many Western people, but only as one may know a beautiful woman passed in the street. A moment one looks and speculates on what may underlie the heart-hiding smile, the mysterious sweetness of the eyes which brush yours and are gone. But the meeting brings no knowledge. She has taken her own way and you remember but do not understand.

Indeed, it is true that one may be a long time in her presence and yet fail to understand. That man, Lafcadio Hearn, who of all Western men drew nearest to her, proclaimed her manifold charms in exquisite words, studied her, besought her grace with longing, was yet compelled to own when he left her forever that her mysteries were more inscrutable at the end of many years spent at her feet than at the beginning. Perhaps it was because one may recognize a beautiful body, a crystalline keen brain, and yet miss all in missing the secret of the spirit that is the life of both. Therefore this book is an attempt to give what I know of the third of that strange trinity, and since I myself 2 share the deepest faith of Japan it may give wind-driven glimpses of the moon of thought which shines on a world so lovely that it is easier to dwell on what is illumined than on the remote splendor by which it is seen. But glimpses only. What is there that can be wholly loved unless the essence of its being is shared?

This story is strange in its beginning, its present and future, and yet must be told because its bright light may illumine devious ways for others as it did for those happy lovers whom the world might count unhappy because it could not pluck out the heart of their mystery.

It began in London, in a flat in Camborne Road, large and sunny, overlooking the trees of Kensington Gardens, where many Asiatic people felt themselves at home, English though it was. Its mistress knew not only Japan but many countries of Asia, and her knowledge and sympathy gave her a position apart from that of other Europeans. It was said of her that her windows opened to all the lands of the sunrise, and that was certainly her desire. Her name was Eleanor Ascham.

Many Japanese came, Indians, many Chinese and others, glad of a friend who could understand them, who knew their philosophies, faiths, and the influences which had shaped them into what they were, however strange their shaping might seem to Western minds. Strange indeed, as the Western mind must seem to them. She was one who could calculate the exact width of the gulf, wide or narrow, where the dangerous leap must be made before East and West can join hands.

They called her the Builder of Bridges, because each of the Asiatic countries knows that gulf well, and knows how in the attempt to overleap it many 3 explorers, Eastern and Western, have either shied or missed step and fallen into the boiling torrent of misunderstanding beneath.

A bridge, however slender, however quivering in the wind, is better than a leap in the dark, and though no one had less opinion of her own importance than herself she knew that she held hands on either side. This story does not concern her, however, except that many of its flying tints and rainbows were reflected through her mind and could not have been caught without it.

Japanese men and women from diplomatic circles, students of scientific and literary subjects, artists, business men, all came and went in that drawing-room where the ends of the earth met as surely as the mapped Equator girdles it.

But this story turns upon one who came there oftener than others, profoundly needing at the moment the atmosphere of comprehension it offered. His name, reversed Western fashion, was Yasujiro Ito. A man with powers restrained and chastened in the Japanese manner, which insists that with well-bred persons unseen qualifications should be more sensitively beautiful and valuable than those inevitably displayed for general notice.

A deep-eyed, black-browed man of thirty whose face had a masked beauty and fire hidden under reserve so intense, covered with such skill in listening, that his reputation as a delightful talker was great among English people unqualified to recognize “the perfect artist who plays impeccably upon the wide and subtle registers of Japanese silence.” Tributes to his charm often reached Eleanor Ascham. As thus:

“I don’t like the Japanese. All surface. No real feeling. But I always except that nice Ito. The most sympathetic talker and always says the right thing. 4 He really might be an English gentleman. But of course he’s been here for years, and they know what to pick up.”

Eleanor Ascham smiled and let it pass. London likes to consider itself a University of Manners, and how could people whose horizon was bounded by London and its fashionable resorts understand the aristocratic type dear to great Japanese artists or the intellectual value of Ito’s black-browed beauty smooth as a polished sword and ready also to glitter into swordplay at a moment’s notice? How could these people understand his life-deep passion for loveliness, worn as silently as a man hides a woman’s face in his heart, an unchanging inspiration working behind all he says and does, unconsciously swaying every word, thought and deed, whether spiritual or material?

She herself knew a very different man in him–one of grave thought and introspection, contemplating the Western World through very calm and disillusioned eyes, the Buddhist indifference to the Mirror of the Passing Show strong upon him. She knew and sympathized with that attitude, but even to her his purpose remained uncertain. Then he had gone suddenly to Japan and had returned a few months ago. She felt sure that that visit had crystallized some resolve; but though he came to see her as often and with the most trustful friendship, nothing definite had been said. To her he talked freely,–good talk embracing all interests, iridescent with romance and poetry held in check by ironic humor–but behind all she recognized a deep slowly maturing purpose, silent as a taut harp-string waiting the sweeping finger.

They came nearer and nearer to it on those happy evenings when the fire burned bright in the lamp-lit room and two chairs only were drawn up beside it. Then, in his beautiful almost overeducated English, 5 he would hover on the edge of revelation, his face pale in shifting lights and glooms. That was the time he counted upon, and then, too often, just as the good minute dawned, the door would open and another guest set up a new chemical combination that spoiled his hopes.

Yet he always felt his was the first claim. He had known her for some years–ever since his mother, dying with the silent heroism of a Japanese lady, had sent him first to an English tutor and then to Oxford, depriving herself of precious years together because she believed it would be for his good. Eleanor understood as he did the agony of that sacrifice, and this and another deep mutual understanding of shared faith made them friends.

But it had grown much less easy to find her alone since he had come back from his last visit to Japan. A girl–repellent to him from every point of view except that of good looks which no one could deny–had established a kind of right to come and go as she pleased in that happy haven where so much of his life and thought in England had developed. He could never reckon on her absence, and under the strain even his iron Japanese courtesy had shown a tendency to–let us say–rust! Eleanor was quick to observe the signs of disintegration.

“You don’t like Yasoma Brandon. You would like her better if you knew her story. Ask me to tell it some day.”

“I would not waste one of your words on it,” he answered with brevity. “She is the sort of modern young woman–But, no. Why should I criticize your friend? I beg your pardon for what I have said.”

“Certainly my friends mustn’t be criticized to me. Do you suppose I would let anyone criticize you?”

A transfiguring smile lit his eyes and mouth with 6 sunshine. At once he looked a boy and a happy one, full of trust and gaiety.

“If you order it I shall be her knight and defend her always against all comers. But she has so many friends that she has no need of the samurai sword, and I shall only say “Mrs. Ascham’s friend’... That is sufficient.”

Eleanor laughed:

“I won’t go so far as to ask you not to quarrel with her when you meet her here, because I know you can’t help it, and I can leash you both when the cut and thrust is too dangerous. But I wish you’d tell me what you said about us in Japan this time. Things move so quickly here and I have often wanted to ask you. Sometimes I’ve seen in your face–”

Now he was grave and on his guard again. He looked much older; between his knitted black brows was a line of thought.

“Then it is my ill manners if you have,” he said seriously. “Shall a guest criticize a host?”

“But if the host said, “The house I live in is imperfect. It could be made better. Help me to think how’–what would you say?”

“That his welcome had made it so pleasant that all else escaped me.” Ito answered with serenity.

“Yes–and when you returned to your own home you would speak freely! Is that quite honest?”

He was silent a moment. Then:

“No, not quite honest. We must criticize. But you are you and I would not wound you. Though indeed nothing I could say would have any effect in comparison with an ironically honest letter I have just had from a Frenchman–a friend of my two years in Paris who has fled to Saigon from Europe. The West may criticize the West.”

“May I see it? Can honesty harm anyone?”

“Perhaps not. I shall mark certain passages for you to read. Parts are foolish and prejudiced. In some I think he is right. In any case the whole world depends upon the relations between men and women.”

“Thank you. Describe him, please. I want to understand. Then read the beginning as far as you will.”

“A good man,” he said reflectively, “and wise–in patches. But injured by an unworthy wife.”

He began reading the French with the same ease as English. His voice was delightful, a male sonority with the shifting quality of music and indescribable sensitiveness to the meanings of words–an expressive instrument indeed for thought! Eleanor had always been able to detach it by its beauty from the voices of any group of people who were speaking.

“My life here would be called dull by many, but to me its inexpressive peace is the first repose I have known since I realized the truth of the life to which I was chained in France. Will you think it strange if I say that much of this is due to my observation of the women here as contrasted with those of Europe and America? Of yours I dare not speak, since Japan is an unknown country for me. What do these Western women give us? Never repose. Stimulation rooted in cold hearts and therefore the freer to practice all the lures, driven to excess which goads the senses to the apathy in which Delilah may ask and take all from Samson. Puerilities of intellect, which we admire because the ages have taught us how little is to be expected and which we dare not confront with an empty flourish and compliment such as our wiser ancestors used. The instincts of the vulgar shown in their prodigality of luxury, their violence of jealousy, the ape-like avidity and cruelty with which women snatch from each other and from man the commodities that alone satisfy their petty souls.

“And these are the creatures that some great countries have enfranchised and entrusted with a voice in the deliberation of their affairs! On them we stake our future as empires and nations. To their verdict we commit the future of the arts–at the very portals of whose temples they are unworthy to enter! Yes, they paint–and not only their faces. They write, and not only their love-letters. You are aware that I read English as my own tongue. I have studied the literary expression of the English-speaking exponents of this situation with profound amazement. The genius of the French language debars us from the obscenities commingled with sentiment in which the Anglo-Saxon genius is preeminent, though I admit that certain continental stocks grafted into an Anglo-Saxon setting across the water run them close.”

Ito paused and took out a pencil, drawing it lightly down certain pages, and gave the letter to Eleanor. She took it and read on.

“As a result of reading many of these writers, male and female, I declare that only woman has the power to corrupt the heart and pen of man and that if she had not led the way he would never have followed. I own his occasional brutalities in former ages, but they were neither decadent nor diseased. Nor did men and women gesticulate together in public over their emotions to urge a jaded passion. Now all is changed. Woman, alone of animals, had made pursuit dull, for we were never able to convince her that enough surpassed any feast–but it has now been reserved to her to make it supremely ridiculous. Permit me to offer a few modern instances.”

“I think,” said Ito with a gravity very grateful to Eleanor’s sense of humor, “that here you will pass on and begin lower down where it is unmarked.”

She agreed with a Mona Lisa smile imperceptible 9 in flickering firelight and the glimmer of a little silver lamp at his elbow and resumed:

“Could fatuity go further? Dear friend, let us vomit and pass on relieved. To what? To those books where male writers also, having eaten the apple tendered by Eve and rendered incoherent by passion, seize the dictionary in quivering fingers and scatter its golden showers Jove-like to impregnate their panting pages with the energies of a god worshiped in all nations. One remarkable sign I observe is a literary interest in the internal organs reserved until lately for the inspection of the medical press. Others spare us no single intimacy of obstetrics and all the collateral issues. I am told that in the West intelligent men do not read novels though many write them. Is this true? If so, we have the measure of feminine appreciation. In the West none have the courage to affront the Bacchæ in their orgies and to meet the fate of the man who dared. My flight declares my own terrors.

“My friend, you will return before long from the senile follies of the West–I congratulate you! The male spirit of Europe has resolved itself into the type of the dotard who concedes all to the scornful hands of women who even in taking his gifts despise him for yielding them. Its habit of mind is incurably amorous. I believe this type is known in America as the sugar daddy; correct me if I err. I see the manhood of Europe and America as the sugar daddy, too senile to contest the domination of the feminine ferment of destruction in their midst. Women and democracy–in both cases organized ignorance and therefore correlated–have already written the doom of the proud civilizations of the West. If the Far Eastern nations can profit by this lesson the future is their own.”

“Will you read more?” asked Ito. “I think better not!”

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