Demophon returned from war. He had achieved the goals he had set for himself. His kingdom was greater than any man had ever seen, his riches were immeasurable. Everyone in his entourage wanted to serve and please him, they did not contradict him and faithfully carried out his orders. He had no further wishes, but although he knew that he was a blessed man, the battle had not left him untouched. His body was young and strong, yet he felt that another lived within him, one who was old and tired of life.
He had seen the suffering of many and knew that he had caused this suffering. All those years he had thought he was carrying out the will of the Gods and that he was fulfilling his destiny, but now that he had fought his final battle, he was in doubt. He then decided to ask the Goddess for council in the temple. He washed himself, put on a simple garment and went on his way.
It was a beautiful summer’s day and many people were sat around the tree on the field in front of the temple. Some were in an intimate embrace, others were engaged in animated conversation. But as soon as Demophon approached, they all went silent. They dared not meet his eye for fear of displeasing him. Only the priestess Arethusa saw his plight and she preceded him inside.
Arrived there, she placed herself in the priest’s chair and she asked: Oh, king of the people, conquerer of many tribes, you who made yourself a world of gold, what is your question?
And Demophon said: I have done what I desired, not for myself but for the glory of my people. Many have gone before me and equally many have disappeared, only I have remained and have completed my journey. My father had a great kingdom, but mine is greater; my father loved many men and women, but I loved more. I have not just brought destruction, I have also built up cities. I have not humiliated my enemies, I have not enslaved the conquered tribes. I have killed those who meant to kill me, that much is true; but I have not rejoiced in their deaths and I have not looked on their suffering with pleasure. My scribes have designed new laws for the people, that are not unjust. When I convene the representatives of my people, I am inclined to believe that they have no reason to try to mislead me.
But now that all of this is done, it is as though I was no more than a device of my own desires. I no longer know whether I have done what was right or that I have been the bringer of an era that will end together with my life. At night I cannot sleep, what I deemed necessary seems meaningless and all I think is: Have I turned my fortune into small change?
And he fell down on his knees in front of the priestess and bowed his head. Arethusa beheld him, and she spoke:
All people strive for freedom, and they are free, but this pursuit of freedom is evil if it is used to take liberty away from someone else;
People strive for a good life for themselves and their families, this pursuit is greedy. This greed is not wrong, but it is wrong if it leads to deprivation for another;
All people make sounds and this noise can be joyful; but these sounds are to be avoided if they drown out the voice of another;
The desire to eat of everything the earth has to offer is also allowed to all people, for they shall not scorn the good that is shown. But they must avoid the gluttony that disgraces the body and their gluttony shall not destroy the land.
And she asked Demophon: Have you done this?
Demophon looked up at her and said: I cannot say that I have always respected the happiness of others, nor have I avoided greed at all times. When my armies lit their bonfires in victory and many musicians sang their glory, I have not heeded the grief of the conquered. I can only say that I myself did not take part in the feasts and that I ate no more food than I needed. I cherished my body without vanity and thought I did my duty. I see now that my pursuits were chaotic and violent and I ask you, what can I teach my people before I go, so that they shall not walk the path I have shown them in my ignorance?
The wind made the leaves on the surrounding trees rustle, and in this rustling Arethusa spoke with the voice of Eleima, and she said: These are the laws that good people will let themselves be led by:
Learn what can be learned, and in this learning lies the reward. Do not fear the things that cannot be learned but come only with experience. Seek the experience, investigate everything.
Undertake all your endeavours without effort. Do not fight for that which can be given willingly.
Be one with the people and seek no desires that harm them, because all harm shall be harm to the self.
Seek the company of righteous people, do not battle the ignorant.
Treat all that lives and all that is as equal. Treat what is smaller as that which is greater, and treat that which is greater as a loved one. Treat a loved one as a friend, and an enemy as a lost friend.
Cherish the good, avoid evil. Do not hold a grudge, for grudges obscure the sincere desires and cause the Heart to grow bitter.
Give charity if you can and do not borrow money from the rich. Do not do business with greedy people and do not entrust leadership to them.
Do not be worrisome, because a person is not determined by their worries. Worries merely take the color out of life and make all days tasteless.
Covet what you need and avoid that which is no better than what you already have.
Seek the Unity in everything you do. Create order in the outer world, strive for emptiness in the inner world.
The wind died down, and Eleima was silent. Demophon had heard everything and knew what he had to do. But knowing that, he also knew that there will always be people who refuse to follow these commandments. They ignore the laws and do not care for the evil they cause. He turned once more to Arethusa, and asked: But what must I do if my enemy is upon me?
And the Priestess answered: See your enemies in their anger and do not turn your face away, so that you may know who your enemies are. Anger is not the enemy, except when it is without Love. Anger that turns on someone else, anger that denies the other, that kind of anger is reprehensible. Therefore: If one turns against you, consider your anger. Do what needs to be done to keep evil at bay and use no more violence than the violent do.
And thereupon the king expressed his gratitude, and he hastened back to the palace. There he convened his scribes and made them write down what the Goddess had told him. And finally he said to them: spread this word among the people, so that they know what the right path is. After he had done so, he lay himself down to rest and closed his eyes forever.