Hermetic story: The Slave and the King
There is a story of a slave called Ayaz, who was brought before a king with nine others, and the king had to select one to be his personal attendant, The wise king gave into the hands of each of the ten a wineglass and commanded him to throw it down. Each one obeyed the command. Then the king asked each one of them, ‘Why did you do such a thing?’
The first nine answered ‘Because your Majesty gave me the order’; the plain truth cut and dried. And then came the tenth slave, Ayaz. He said, ‘Pardon, sire, I am sorry,’ for he realized that the king already knew it was his command; by replying, ‘Because you told me,’ nothing new was said to the king. This beauty of expression enchanted the king so much that he selected him to be his attendant.
It was not long before Ayaz won the trust and confidence of the king, who gave him the charge of his treasury, the treasury in which precious jewels were kept. This made many jealous, this sudden rise from a slave to a treasurer of the king, a position which many envied.
No sooner did people know that Ayaz had become a favorite of the king than they began to tell numerous stories about him in order to bring him into disfavor with the king. One of the stories was that Ayaz went every day into the room where the jewels were locked in the safe, and that he was stealing them every day, little by little. The king answered, ‘No, I cannot believe such a thing; you have to show me.’
So they brought the king as Ayaz entered this room, and made him stand in a place where there was a hole, looking into the room. And the king saw what was going on there. Ayaz entered the room and opened the door of the safe. And what did he take out from it? His old ragged clothes which he had worn as a slave. He kissed them and pressed them to his eyes, and put them on the table. There, incense was burning, and this that he was doing was something sacred to him. He then put on these clothes and looked at himself in the mirror, and said, as one might be saying a prayer,
‘Listen, O Ayaz, see what you used to be before. It is the king who has made you, who has given you the charge of this treasure. So regard this duty as your most sacred trust, and this honor as your privilege and as a token of the love and kindness of the king. Know that it is not your worthiness that has brought you to this position. Know that it is his greatness, his goodness, his generosity which has overlooked your faults, and which has bestowed that rank and position upon you by which you are now being honored. Never forget, therefore, your first day, the day when you came to this town; for it is the remembering of that day which will keep you in your proper place.’
He then took off the clothes and put them in the same place of safety, and came out. As he stepped out, what did he see? He saw that the king before whom he bowed was waiting eagerly to embrace him; and the king said to him, ‘What a lesson you have given me Ayaz!
This story presents an important hermetic lesson. One we can easily learn when we have the key. For this we need to see who the persons in the story represent, namely the King is God and the Slave Ayaz is our soul.
We are all “slaves” of the Divine, but we can earn Its trust. We do this by recognizing why we are here. The answer Ayaz gave to the King shows that he knew about Providence, Necessity and Fate. And not only knew about them, and the power they have over his life, but also accepted this. Because of this acceptance we can be elevated above our fellow humans. We also can become treasurers or vice-regents of the King.
But this trust brings with it pitfalls. It can increase our ego and it can make other people resentful and jealous. The other slaves distrusted Ayaz because he was more near and dear to the King. Their distrust was aimed at the treasures Ayaz had access to. The other slaves could not fathom that somebody would not think and act the same as them. In their greed and lust they would have misused the trust and their new authority by robbing the King from his treasures. So, Ayaz would probably also do this.
But Ayaz knew his role and function and was content with it. Not only content but deeply thankful. Ayaz had no interest in earthly treasures. His most prized possession were his ragged old clothes. Our body is the greatest gift the Divine gave us. Because of our body, our soul can be embodied, experience and interact with sensible reality, and correctly fulfil its role and function.
After our clothes are removed, after we shed our material body, Ayaz received his final and greatest gift, an embrace by the King.