The round temple was tiny, dwarfed by the great library beside which it stood. The library was so grand and impressive it demanded attention; caught and held the focus as one walked through the courtyard towards it. But if one dragged one’s gaze away from the great library for a moment and looked, properly, at the round temple beside it, one would see that the temple’s beauty was captivating. But though many were charmed by the round temple’s beauty, few deviated from their destination or altered the direction of their steps to go and look inside it. You see, the library was not just grand of stature, it was grand of purpose. Most people thought the round temple had no purpose and so many, whilst noting its beauty, paid it no heed beyond that. The round temple did not mind. While its purpose was seemingly non-existent against that of the library, and certainly not anywhere as grand, in truth, its purpose was very special and highly sacred. Only a select and special few knew of the round temple’s true purpose. So only those select and special few deigned to enter its inner sanctum. For the round temple, the sheer and unadulterated pleasure it took in the homage of those special few was so great it had no need, no need at all, of the recognition of grandeur that was accorded the great library. For the round temple, the silent communion, companionship and connection offered it by those select and special few was the fulfilment of its purpose . . . all the round temple would ever need . . . .
The moon was full this night and so its luminous light lit the ground at her feet as she walked through the courtyard. She needed no lantern, as well she knew, for she had navigated this path many, many times under the light of the full moon. The great library loomed in the darkness as a darker mass against the dark of night. But the round temple was lit by the moon’s light and shone like a pearl against black velvet. She paid the library no heed as she walked towards the round temple, for tonight she longed for the peace and tranquillity, and the silent communion of the temple’s ambience. ‘Twas a soothing balm even when one did not know one’s soul was troubled. But when one did know . . . well, there was no greater comfort that could be found or offered, for the temple’s silent communication did not bother the ear but, instead, wrapped itself around the heart and communed directly with the soul.
Few knew of the temple’s power and its purpose so it did not occur to her that she would be anything but alone in the temple’s inner sanctum. But when she gently pushed open the doors of its entrance, she stopped in startled surprise. There was someone there before her. A tall, cloaked figure stood with its back to her in the centre of the temple under the glass opening at the top of the dome so that the moon’s light bathed the figure and its cloak. She hesitated on the threshold. Those who came here knew what the temple had to offer and so should be left alone to their silent contemplation. She turned to go, disappointed, but a male voice stopped her in the act.
“Please, do not leave.”
“I feel I must.”
“Please,” he said, “I would not have you leave on my account. There is no reason why we both cannot seek our answers now that we are here.”
“You seek answers?”
“You do not?”
“Nay, I do not. I seek . . . communion.”
He turned then to look at her. The hood of his cloak kept his face in shadow.
“Then perhaps you will be so kind as to allow me to share that.”
Still she hesitated but then she smiled. “As you wish.”
She released the handle of the door and moved towards the centre of the temple and the moon’s light that covered the temple’s floor in a circle of white light. When she reached it, and him, she sat and he followed suit, lowering the hood of the cloak as he did. They sat, bathed in light, facing each other in the middle of the temple – two strangers intimately bound by the silence and sanctity of their surrounds.
“Will you tell me about the answers you seek?” she asked gently. “Or, rather, which questions you hold within you? ’Tis not my wish to pry but if the temple has brought us here together then it just may be I can help you find those answers.”
“Actually,” he said, “’tis only one answer I seek. And tomorrow I must give that answer to my father’s council. Yea or nay. That is all. So simple does it sound and yet the one word – whichever I choose – will set the course and direction of my life.”
She was puzzled, not comprehending, and the silence reflected it.
He was leaning on one hand, his other arm resting on his raised knee. But as the silence lengthened he ran his free hand through his hair – a gesture she recognised as one of distress even though she knew him not.
“My father is negotiating a treaty of peace with our neighbours – neighbours, I might add, with an impressive and mighty army. He, my father, wishes to seal the treaty with a marriage . . . his son, me, and King Collan’s daughter – a son of our people united with a daughter of theirs. And he is right, is my father. The marriage would ensure our two peoples a peace well into the future.”
“I see,” she said softly, knowing now why his face seemed familiar, though she had only ever seen him from a distance. “And you do not know her, this princess?”
“I do not. I know nothing about her.”
“Well,” she said, sitting up straighter, “if I was in your shoes, the way would be clear to me and my choice made easy by what I know and by what I believe. But I feel not the pull of duty and responsibility as you obviously do.”
“But do you not see that the future of our people rests on my shoulders?”
“Does it?” She hesitated and then added, “Nay, I do not see that.”
He shifted restlessly, annoyed.
“And what of your father?” she asked him. “Will you not fail him if you bring his treaty of peace into disrepute by refusing the hand of the daughter of the man he wishes to make peace with?”
“Yes,” he answered her, restless again, “and then there’s that.”
“What do you fear more? Failing your father, displeasing him and earning his disapproval and his ire, or bringing upon yourself the condemnation of your people, or your father’s council?”
He considered her question for a long moment. “Both,” he answered finally. “Though I think the two are intrinsically linked, for one will naturally follow the other.”
She nodded, understanding. “You wear the robes of a prince,” she said. “And one day you will swap the robes of a prince for those of a king. Is that so?”
“Aye, that is so.”
“Well then, there is something I must ask you, something important. Are you a prince first and a man second, or are you a man first and a prince second? For whichever you are, so, too, will you be as a king.”
“Surely in my position I do not have the luxury of that choice, for must not the two be one and the same? And more so when I am king.”
“The roles and titles of prince and king are like that cloak you wear. The cloak cannot walk around by itself, for it needs a shoulder to hang upon. It serves a valuable purpose and holds a great responsibility, for without it you would suffer the cold. But cloak it is. And when you wear it, perhaps you do not realise how much you give it its height and shape. You do not wear it all the time though. In the privacy of your own bedchamber, for example, it will not be needed.”
He did not respond but sat looking at her in silence. She leaned towards him in the moonlight. “So what will it be for you, my lord? Will the kind of man you are determine what kind of king you will be? Or will the kind of king you are determine what kind of man you will be?”
This time, as she spoke, he bowed his head as the full force of realisation struck.
“You are one who has been initiated, are you not?” she asked him. “For is not the king priest as well? Then you must know that as a man your first duty is to yourself. Honour thine heart. Your heart says no to this marriage, for how can one enter the sanctity of marriage with a stranger and for such physical reasons, honourable though those reasons be. But your head urges you a different way. It whispers to you of duty – the duty of a prince to his people and of a son to his father. For why else would you be here if not for the inner conflict that arises when heart and head are at odds?”
He raised his head and looked upon her again. “Aye, my heart and head are at odds. And everyone I speak to seems to have a different opinion as to which way I should go. ‘Twas those different opinions that finally led me to the realisation I was seeking the answer in every place I should not, avoiding the one place that does actually hold all of one’s answers. And so I came here.”
She smiled again. “Then those different opinions served you well.”
“Aye, they did.” He sighed, or was it a moan? “In trying so hard to do right by everyone else I forgot to stop and listen to my own inner guidance, to pay it heed. ‘Tis one’s own inner guidance that knows the true purpose of the path one treads and, therefore, the outcome that serves that purpose. Once you remember that, the whisperings of the head lose their potency. I thank you for reminding me. Really, I have only to find the courage and strength to do and to be what I know in my heart to be right and true. The answer was there all along.”
“Indeed, it was,” she said. “What a magnificent king you will be if you honour the urging of your own heart. Our people will be in the very best of hands. Surely there is no greater security for our future than that.”
He stood before the council and took a deep, steadying, measured breath.
“Father,” he greeted his father with a slight bow. “Members of the council,” he repeated the action, bowing first left and then right to include all the men seated on both sides of his father. “I have made my decision and I would have you know it was not done lightly. It was, in fact, made very difficult by the fact of my being torn both ways. If I could have become two people, perhaps I would have taken that option. Duty and responsibility weigh heavily upon me, for I, more than anyone, would see our people at peace. But though the reasons for marriage be compelling in this instance, I have a duty to myself that I would be foolish to ignore. Upon reflection, I realised that I cannot in all conscience and good grace enter into such a sacred union with a stranger, one who is not a companion of my soul. Thus I must inform you that I will not take the hand of Collan’s daughter in marriage. If we are to seal a treaty of peace between our two peoples, we must find another way.”
There was a shuffle of movement and a soft murmur, like a hum, all around him. But he stood straight with his eyes on those of his father.
The king stood.
“As king of this our land and its people, I placed the decision on this marriage in your hands my son. I promised you I would accept your decision and honour it, and so I will, as will the members of my council. So speaketh I as king. Now I will speak as a father, for I must needs tell you, my son, that you have, this day, made me proud, most proud. No more can a king or a father ask of his son than that he recognise the duty to honour what is within him. You have, this day, proved yourself ready to wear the mantle of a king.”
The silence that settled on the chamber was absolute as all waited, with held breath, for the son’s response. His expression was, at first, one of profound shock. But then his features softened and slowly spread into a brilliant smile. The king responded in kind so that both, father and son, looked upon each other, each seeing reflected in the other the same inner radiance.
(Please note: for a wider context and more of the story surrounding this dialogue, please see the 6th dialogue, or story, in The Messiah Perspective entitled The Right of Exclusion.)