So it was at that time that a King was plagued by worry about the love of his wife. They had been married for a long time, but the King had loved many women besides her. Some of those others had come and gone, a handful had taken residence in a house nearby. Silence had always reigned between the King and his wife regarding what they desired. His wife, the Queen, had also always been silent about what she desired from the men surrounding her. In the city rumour had it that the King and Queen kept their love solely for the young people who were invited to their banquets from abroad. But on being asked no one could explain what happened at court, so that the rumours had never become more than the gossip of the elderly.
But the King himself knew what he had done and he knew what he had concealed. He did not dare to ask his wife what she desired of him, out of fear that she would give an answer that would cause him pain. He also did not dare to ask her what she wanted for herself, out of fear that he would not be among the things she desired.
One day the King saw a play in town, which featured a very beautiful girl. He said to his aide: Bring me that girl. And the aide invited the theater company at court. The actors were happily surprised, especially because they knew that the King and Queen were patrons of the arts.
The girl, who was named Sophia but generally called Anubis, was aware of her beauty, but she did not care for it. By virtue of her profession she beautified herself on the stage, but outside of it she was not vain or ostentatious. When she was told by the aide, days before the visit, that the King wished to receive her in his personal chambers, she worried for some time as to what etiquette required of her. Finally she decided when she was not on the stage it was useless to present herself as something she knew she was not.
She did however, talk to her fellow actors about the King’s request, whereupon she was warned by all. It is said that he usually receives the young women entirely without dress, they laughed. At this Anubis shrugged and said: What do I care for the King’s dress?
When the day had come, she was brought to the King’s offices by the aide. He was sat there at a large desk. He was dressed in a resplendent black jacket, adorned with golden stitching. He told Anubis that her beauty had excited him from the moment he lay eyes on her. Anubis was not pleased to hear this, but she smiled and kept her peace. Then the King said to her: The years have sullied my heart, I know what the people say about me. Not everything they say is untrue, but neither is all of it based on truth. If you are willing to do what I will ask of you, I shall reward you. If you cannot fulfil my request, I will not take offence. Be aware that I have no desire for cruelties, so you need not worry about that.
And he asked Anubis: My wife was once a beautiful young girl like you and she had many lovers. After we were married I did not speak to her of those lovers. I have always wished only for her to have everything she desired. But now I wish to know whether she has loved many others in equal measure, or that I have been her greatest love. That is why I want to ask you to draw her into a conversation and elicit words from her to show how much she loves me.
Anubis nodded at this, indicating she would honour the request. The King then allowed her to leave the room. But neither of them knew that Eleima, hidden behind a folding screen, had listened in on the conversation.
Shortly after Anubis had rejoined the company, she was approached by the Queen. The Queen took the girl aside and said: It is said that man has no actual form, and that he can choose any place and take any form according to what he deems right, so that every judgement and every decision is the consequence of those gifts he has willingly accepted. The other animals are not free in this way, they must obey the shape they have been endowed with in the beginning. What do you think of this, Sophia Anubis? Are the people truly free?
The beautiful Anubis had been trained in her profession to distinguish the moods of her companions and although the Queen had spoken casually, as if this was only idle chitchat, Anubis heard in her voice a desire she had not heard in any other person before. The Queen’s voice was heavy, her choice of words was very precise and even her friendly smile was the result of a great sorrow. Instead of speaking, Anubis smiled, and she bowed her head as though she was not qualified to answer this question.
Oh, come! the Queen now spoke. You know how it is said that man was placed in the middle of the universe, that he is part of neither heaven nor earth, that he is neither mortal nor immortal, so that he is the architect of his own destiny, the designer of his own Heart? Man can choose to behave like the lowest, most brutish lifeforms do, but he can also decide to choose his own path as it is also shown to him by the god Kelaino. Do you not seek for yourself the freedom to be many shapes and does your search not prove that you are a human being amongst human beings? So I ask you, if man is free, is he not also free to seek the company of others at any time?
From a distance, the leader of the actors had seen how the Queen was addressing his favourite actress, and he worried greatly. He feared that the Queen was jealous and was only looking for an excuse to punish the girl. That’s why he said: Forgive me for joining you, but was it not Evantes the Persian who wrote that man is a many-shaped creature with no inborn qualities, but with many qualities that are added and learned? And out of all this learned knowledge it is science that brings man most joy. By seeking knowledge and renouncing the urge to follow our passions, by alleviating the darkness of ignorance and in doing so, washing it clean of the filth of stupidity and violence, that is how we purify our hearts. This is so that we do not follow our passionate desires too much yet also do not allow our cold reasoning to push love aside. Man by himself is perhaps both everything and nothing, a sparkling jewel as weightless as the wind, yet he has the power to elevate himself above his own level through this perpetual desire for knowledge. The freedom that everyone has can only show its true beauty in the marriage of love and reason. Those who truly love will therefore always try to understand man through reason, and love must always be found within that reason.
The leader of the company was a handsome young man desired by many. His clear eyes, his beautiful teeth and his cordial behaviour towards all allowed him to take liberties in his relationships that many less charming people would not have gotten away with. The Queen widened her gaze and looked at him with interest.
It was now up to the King to intervene. He had blended into the background all this time, but he was worried. He feared that the handsome actor would put thoughts into the Queen’s head and stir desires in her.
He rushed to the group and said: Man is many things, that much is true. He is continually torn between the desire to vanish into divine purity and the insane desire to battle friends and enemies, to throw himself into destructive passions and get as far away from the Gods as he can. I therefore say that man is a saddening creature, continually requiring our forgiveness. We should not deny man our love.
The Queen laughed and said: Everyone talks of love, but what is love, really? If it is so easy to get swept up by a breeze, sometimes following exact science, sometimes waging deranged war and sometimes loving, does it not follow that man can only be truly human upon understanding his limitations? Is it not the logical conclusion that love can only blossom when man freely sees himself and the others as they truly are? And then, upon accepting people as they truly are and not loving them for what they are not, would not true love be demonstrated by choosing not to burden them, not even by the burden of loving or not-loving?
Anubis still had not spoken, and now the Goddess had appeared behind her. Without being overheard by the others, she spoke to the girl of certain doctrines that teach that divinity has descended into the bodies of the people like a bird that has lost its wings. During their lifetime the people must bade in moralities, the arts, reason and love for nature, so that this divine bird will grow strong enough to fly back to the Eternal when the body has gone. Yet this and the love people bear for each other are no reason to think a hierarchy in the world and to place people at its summit. And while Anubis listened, Eleima presented to her the idea that perhaps romantic love is a human invention, one of which they are ashamed; and that the people are knowingly blind and fail to realise that it is exactly the freedom to love which raises them above the brutish creatures and that it is not morality, nor is it art, nor is it reason.
When all were silent, Anubis finally spoke: Love comes from the Unity, and through Love the Unity is present in all people. That is the bond that ties the people to the divine, and it is this bond that we musth cherish in our lives when we succumb to exalted thought and when we devote ourselves to the practical demands of daily existence. Because we are tied to the earth and the bird of Love will not fly freely until we leave our bodies, it is not given to us to fathom the mystery of this divine bond. Vulnerable and fallible as we are, we can only accept the mystery and honour it.
She bowed a little and pointed out to the leader of the company that they still had a play to perform in town later that evening. She expressed her wish that the King and Queen would have many more years of radiant health and bowed again. Then she and the leader rejoined their troupe.
Some days later she received a letter from the King’s aide. He wrote that it was his pleasure to gift a considerable sum to the theatre troupe on behalf of the King and Queen. He hoped that the leader of the eminent theatre troupe would accept the gift. The King and Queen desired nothing in return because it was their privilege to support the arts.