October 20, 2002 - Halloween Story

Love teaches love by its nature.

Aaron: Good evening and my love to you all. I am Aaron. I'm happy to welcome you, new friends and old. I won't go into any lengthy introductions for new friends; simply to remind you: take what is useful to you here and leave the rest. If you find yourself wondering am I real, don't give in to that intellectual question. Please know it doesn't really matter. Words are being spoken. They convey an idea. Whether there actually is a discarnate being sharing this idea or whether this is pure fantasy, is irrelevant. If the idea itself is useful to you, use it. If not, put it aside.

Aaron: I rarely speak at length about my own past lives. You've heard me speak of that lifetime when the man I was, was a shepherd during Jesus's lifetime and how that great Master taught me so much, but beyond that lifetime I have spoken little of my extended past.

Love teaches love by its nature. Love models love. Love is in everything, although perhaps not always immediately apparent, and one can learn about love and compassion in many different kinds of settings.

I'm going to begin with this Halloween story, which touches on a very different past life. The being that I was lived in a small village. We hunted. We raised small crops and gathered wild food. Animal skins were our clothing. There was a very deep reverence for the natural world around us. We did not feel that we plundered from that world but, rather, that the universe co-created the forests, the lakes, the animals and ourselves, and we were all part of this great dance of existence.

My village and the neighboring villages lived in peace. We lived as if we were all brothers, even with those in a village a day's walk from us. We supported each other. when a man or woman had a certain skill, it was shared freely for the good of all.

Thus it was very strange when one night I was awakened from a sound sleep by a bloodcurdling scream. The whole village turned out, racing toward the hut at the furthest edge of our village from which that cry had come. There we found the dear friend who lived there, with his throat cut.

Some small tools were missing, some food seemed to have been pulled from its storage place. That is, meat that was drying was pulled down from the ceiling. But we had no gold or silver; we had no jewels and would have had no use for such. There was really nothing to steal.

In the morning we attempted to follow the tracks that led from that house into the forest. They ended at the river. Perhaps our marauder had come by boat. Several of us took our boats and went a day or two up and down the river. In another village quite a ways down the river, we heard a similar story: a sudden death in the night. Food stolen; nothing else. Who would kill for food, food that would be given freely if requested?

We had never set a night guard in our village but we began to do so, a changing shift of men walking the perimeter of the village, alert for any movement. A fortnight later, we heard a tale of another identical death from a village ten miles south of us. Again, food was the only thing that had been taken.

In each case, there seemed to have been signs of struggle, as if the murderer snuck in to steal and killed only when the family awoke. Several months passed with no more such tragedies. Then one terrible night I awakened to see a faint shadow through my own home! My wife was in bed beside me; I knew it was not her. Our only child was a baby.

Remember, we had no electric lights or battery torches. The last coals of the fire cast a very soft light. Beyond that light I could hear movement. In retrospect, perhaps it would have been wisdom to just remain silent as that figure approached the place where we lay. I'm not sure what prompted me to speak. I said, "Friend, take what you need to eat. We mean you no harm."

At that, the figure turned around and I could see the knife he carried. As he turned toward us, my wife screamed.

She was closer to him than I was and he grabbed at her, dragged her from the bed. So I leaped up to try to protect her. But his knife was faster than I was. He dropped her; she fell in a heap on the floor. And he ran out.

Miraculously she was not dead. Her sudden movement had pushed his knife aside enough that while she was wounded, she still lived.

Neighbors came; torches were lit. The village healer attended to her wound. We did not know for a while if she would live or die. It was a very long night but toward morning her breathing began to be stronger, and it seemed that she would live. I was filled with rage and hatred.

At dawn several men joined me to track this stranger with the intention to capture and kill him, to put an end to his rein of terror. We tracked him for three days, going ever further into the wilderness. One by one my comrades turned aside. They were uneasy to go so far from their home and their families. As I said, we were a peaceful people, never seeking trouble, although willing to address it if it came to us. But this was my wife, and the first one attacked and murdered in the village had been my dear friend, and I was outraged.

My wife and child were safe in the home of a friend. Others would see to my crops, to any need in my home, so I determined to keep going. The days turned into a week and then a second week, far away from any known territory into very rugged mountainous country covered with dark forest.

I was an able hunter. I had no trouble feeding myself. I could tell as I tracked that I was getting closer and closer. I wasn't sure what I would do if I finally caught this, what I saw as a villain. Like all in our village, I was skilled in the use of a knife and spear. I had never used these to protect myself, though, only reverently to bring down game to feed us. The idea to kill a man in cold blood was repugnant to me, and yet my hatred fed my searching him out. Now I was pushed by a very different emotion, one I had never known before: a seeking of revenge.

Then the rain started. For two days it poured, thunder and lightning filled the sky, and still I tracked the stranger and could see that I came closer. I was now almost a three weeks' walk from my home in a very unknown country.

One morning I was moved to rise before dawn. The sky was heavy with rain; there was scant light. But something drew me on. Then I smelled the fire. My sense of smell was very keen. I approached cautiously, knife drawn. And then in a clearing in the distance, just in front of a steep hill, I saw the man and his fire. I was perhaps 50 yards distant when he looked up suddenly. He must have heard me approaching. I knew my step was soft and to his ears I could have been an animal, but he was alert. I'm sure he knew he was being followed.

He looked around. He quenched the fire, stomped it out. In that very dim pre-dawn light, he suddenly disappeared , just like that, he was gone. I approached cautiously to where he had been and saw that behind a large rock there was a small cave opening. Perhaps he waited just inside, ready to kill me. At first I thought to simply sit there, but I knew that I would fall asleep at some point. I could not sit day and night. And he could sleep at leisure and then wait, hidden in the dark, until he saw me asleep, and kill me. So it seemed that I needed to go after him.

I made a small torch; that is, I took some small bits of animal skin and wrapped them around a stick, covered it with some grease that I carried, and lit it with the remaining coal from his fire. It was a smoky light and dim, but enough to offer both some vision and also some protection.

Thrusting the torch in front of me, I entered the cave. The door was low so I had to squat to come through. The small doorway made me think of a small space, so I was astonished as I came inside and held up my small torch to find that I could not see the walls of the large cavern in which I stood, only space and small sounds. There was no idea which direction to go in. Instead of walking straight ahead, I chose to stay close to one wall following it to see where it would lead me.

And then I heard a sound in front of me. Perhaps an animal; perhaps a human. I had no other lead so I followed it. I'm hearing what seemed like a dragging step: step, draaaag, step, draaaag.

I followed it. Always the step, draaag, leading me on. Whatever was there remained out of my visual field. I walked that way for perhaps half an hour. It was black except for the small light my torch gave so I knew the one in front of me was going in darkness. Perhaps he knew this cave. Even so, to walk in a black cave is a treacherous undertaking. I paused frequently and made scratches on the rock floor so that I should be able to find my way back, for there was no way to know how many side passages there might be.

Ahead of me was the step, draaag, step, draaag. I dared not quicken my pace, and knew I must continue to mark the floor of the cave well or I would die in there. As I squatted, scratching another mark on the floor, suddenly the sound changed. There was the sound of sliding and a scream, and silence.

I approached cautiously, the torch and knife held in front of me, watchful for any movement to the sides, any deviousness on the part of the one I followed. I walked perhaps 50 more steps and came to a narrow passageway. It appeared almost a dead end but I could see by the light of my torch that the passageway curved to the left. As I stepped into that curved area, I heard a low moan, not coming from ahead but below me. Perhaps that sound is what saved me; had I taken another step I would have followed him down a steep slide, a hole into a cavern below. There by the light of the torch I could just barely see his body. Certainly he was injured. How injured I could not tell from where I stood.

I held my torch down into the hole, lay on my belly, and then I could see by the way he lay that his leg was broken. A very strong voice within me said, "That's it. He will die there, you can leave." I began to withdraw my torch, to withdraw myself, to follow my scratches, walk back out of the cave and go home, knowing we were safe from this killer. Just as I began to pull back, pulling the torch, lifting myself from my belly, he rolled over and I saw his eyes, his desperate plea, and I knew in that moment I could not leave him to die such a terrible death, that I either had to climb down there and kill him or I had to save him.

The vision of my friend's slit throat, the vision of my terror-stricken wife, came to me strongly and filled me again with rage and hatred, and as balance to that there was the look in his eyes, his terror, his pain and silent plea.

I carried a pack on my back , not your modern kind of pack but one very well made of skins, in which I had some dry food, a rolled skin that served as a blanket, some kinds of tools for the wilderness, and a rope. This is not your modern rope but the kind of rope we made in those days from vines and fibers. I anchored the rope around a large rock, tied the other end around my waist, and lowered myself down the chute to where he lay. As I approached I could see by the look in his eyes that he expected no mercy.

He was in agony. Part of his shinbone protruded the skin. As with all my people, I had some knowledge of healing. One could not call an ambulance in those days. One's survival in the wilderness depended on one's own and one's comrades' knowledge. First, I looked at him to make sure he had no weapon. I saw his knife , a sharpened stone, razor sharp. It had fallen quite a ways away from him as he fell, and he had no other weapon on him. I put the torch between two rocks that would hold it and indicated to him what I intended to do. He nodded but did not seem to comprehend.

There is a technique here I won't describe in detail. Using rope, I literally tied his body to a rock and then grabbed hold of the lower leg and pulled, pulling the bones straight. Of course, he screamed and fainted. That allowed me to finish my work, to use some water I carried to wash the wound, to loosely bind it.

Leaving him there unconscious, I went back up with my rope. I knew he could not move from that spot. I followed my path out. I found herbs to make a poultice for the wound. I found sticks to splint the leg.

I knew he thought I had abandoned him and that he was to die alone in this dark cavern. When he saw me coming down the rope, I could see the disbelief in his face. Again I grounded the torch, looked at the leg. I applied poultice to it, splinted it and wrapped it firmly. I had also carried some wood with me in my pack. Cautiously I built a small fire , cautious to make sure our small chamber would not fill with smoke, but the smoke easily rose up through the opening. And so we sat there silent through the day. He fell asleep. I was watching and wondering at myself , what had driven me to make this decision? And now it was made, what would I do? For certainly it would be many weeks before he could walk on this leg.

And once he could walk, what would I do with him? Bring him back with me to my village where they would kill him?

He awoke in a fever, delirious. I made some broth and fed it to him. I offered him water. I washed his face, which was broken out in sweat. I did not feel safe to sleep down there with him. I climbed up my rope and pulled it after me and slept above. He was awake when I came down in the morning. Again weeping, this time silently, in pain and in fear.

Again I went out, gathered food and fresh water and then returned. Mostly he slept. When I tried to talk to him, he looked at me, confused. He had a very wild look about him. His clothes were entirely of animal skins. Mine were too, but his were very crude where mine were more carefully sewed and even beaded with some small ornament. While I was used to eating with a container to hold my food, when I handed him food on a small flat rock that might serve as a plate, the concept seemed alien to him. He just grabbed the food and put it in his mouth. He looked with some awe at the beadwork on my shirt and my jacket. He did not seem to be able to speak except in grunting noises.

Slowly the days passed. They were not easy days. I would go out and hunt, and come back. He began to trust that I would return. We tried to talk. I tried to talk. He could only answer in strange grunts, and yet it was clear to me that he could hear, in fact his hearing was keener than mine. He was the first to hear the snake slithering across the floor and warn me. When I took the torch and went to look, there was a poisonous snake that dwelt in our parts.

Another day, the air was suddenly filled with a very strange noise and I became afraid, but his face expressed no fear. He raised his hand as if to say, "It's OK." Then for a brief moment the air was filled with the passage of bats moving through that small room where we sat. So he could hear but he couldn't speak. I realized that it was not that he spoke another language but that he had no language other than his grunts.

One day I drew a picture on the floor , myself, my wife, just a simple picture drawn on the dirt floor of a man, a woman and a baby. He looked at it. He drew crudely with his finger, a hut like our huts and I nodded yes. He pointed to me, pointed to the baby. I thought he was asking me if this was my baby, and I said yes. Then he drew some pictures, a baby held by its mother. A toddler. A pre-adolescent, and so forth, indicating the phases of growth, and he connected those to the parents and he pointed to me. And I realized he was asking me, is this what my life had been? Had I grown up in that way? And I said yes. And tears came to his eyes. He wept until he fell asleep.

We had been here for perhaps ten days now and something strange was happening. These last two or three days, as there had been more communication between us, I found that it was hard to maintain my hatred of him. Constantly, in the quiet times as he slept I had asked myself, what will I do with him? Can I heal him and then kill him? And then the thought of my wife and my friend came back. There were many times while he slept when I stood over him with my knife thinking I should just slit his throat and go. But I couldn't bring myself to do it.

When he next awoke, he pointed again to these pictures, the boy-child growing into a man in the village, simple pictures in the dirt. And then he pointed to himself. Baby, and he drew a picture that looked like a wolf. Through his pictures it seemed that he was telling me that the wolf pack had attacked and killed his mother, and some wolf had carried him, an infant, off in her teeth.

He had grown up with the wolves, been part of the pack. This has been heard of in your day but to me it was unheard of. And yet everything in his demeanor seemed to say that this was true. He had no human speech. His body was filthy, his hair matted. He ate the meat I cooked but seemed very happy to eat raw meat, even to prefer it.

The days passed. While his eyes tracked me, followed me, he did not seem to depend on his vision so much as his hearing. The weeks passed. The wound healed. The swelling diminished. At last came the day when he was ready to put weight on this leg. I tied the rope around his waist. I had brought in some long sticks and fashioned some crutches for him. I climbed up the steep slope and then halfdragged him up behind me. We made very slow progress through the passage that was familiar to me by now, and out into the daylight.

As we came out into the morning, he let out a sound that was much more like a wolf's howl than a human voice, held his hands up to the heavens and howled! He smiled at me, and I could see the joy in his face. What was I to do with him?

I had not been able to find the means to ask him why he had killed my friend, and those in other villages, and attacked my wife. Now I felt I must do so. And so we sat with our sticks and dirt, and I attempted to communicate with him. I drew a hut. I drew a man sleeping. I pointed at him and indicated how he had come in and slit the man's throat. To my astonishment he merely nodded. I pointed to his mouth, eat? Eat?

I realized then that he had never known another human being, that he had never had a friend, that he did not know the nature of human relationship. Out of curiosity I drew a wolf family sleeping in a safe place, adult wolves and cubs. Then I pointed to him and used the sign and word we had established between us for hunger. If you were hungry, drew him there, with a knife, a picture of him, and asked him, would you kill the cubs? He was horrified! No! My family! And so I saw he truly did not understand what he had done.

I pointed to the picture of the hut and the wife and baby, and said, my family. He was intelligent and suddenly he understood and began to weep. He suddenly understood these were not animals he had killed: these were beings like himself. He looked at me; he looked at himself. I offered him the word human: me, you, human. Again he wept.

Then he reached toward me, quickly, suddenly. I was surprised and did not react quickly and he snatched my knife. I had a moment of fear and then I saw him hold the knife, not toward me but toward himself, ready to slit his own throat, so deep was his shame and horror when he understood what he had done. No! No! You must not do that! Stop!

I looked at him. Stop! And I held out my hand for the knife. He handed it to me and pointed to himself: you kill me! You! And I realized I had come to love this man, truly to love him. As I had tended to him for all those weeks, he had ceased to be a monster and become a brother.

I put the knife down and held out my arms to him, he who had never known a human embrace. I invited him into my arms and we wept together. This murderer, then, taught me compassion and forgiveness, which are so difficult to learn. He taught me that there can be rage, fear, and even hatred, and that the power of human kindness can soften these emotions. Love and forgiveness can come if one allows the heart to open.

Then I made a decision to invite him home with me. Our way was very slow, he using a crutch and leaning on me. With each day his leg got a bit stronger. I had tracked him to the cave for over two weeks but by a roundabout path, so our path home was less than a week with strong legs, perhaps ten days for us. What would happen when I brought him into my village?

People saw me coming and that I did not have a tied captive with me but, rather, walked supporting another man. At first they didn't know. They thought perhaps he was someone else who was a victim of this murderer. I had to tell them, this was the one. He did not know what he did. Although this was before Jesus's time, I can only remember that master's words here, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

I was proud of my fellow villagers, then, that although there was some muttering and dissension, most people embraced this man and were truly ready to forgive him. As for the man he had killed, that man had had a wife and children. This man dedicated himself to their welfare, hunted and brought them back food, made sure they were well cared for. Of course he kept his distance from them, respectfully, realizing he was the one who had brought them such pain.

It was very beautiful to see his delight in human companionship. As he learned our language, the stories he shared of his childhood were fascinating. And thus he became a brother. I was older than he. As I aged, he took care of me as a brother would. He taught my sons to hunt, for he was even more skilled at that than I was. I think how easily I could have lost these riches if I had given in to that first expression of hatred and left him lying to die alone in agony in the dark cave. This heart of compassion will open if you will only give it a chance. No matter how terrible the circumstances, this heart of compassion will open.

This has been a long story. I thank you for your attention. No ghosts or ghouls or monsters, just the monster of human hatred and the power of compassion. That is all.

Copyright © 2004 by Barbara Brodsky