Chapter Two: At the Gates
Falling on my knees, I bowed my head and said a prayer of thanksgiving. Then I rose up and looked upon the gates once more. Wonderingly, I watched a curious change take place in them. Each rail of which the gates were composed, began to shine still more brightly, and then to glow with many rainbow colours. At first the rails seemed all alive with the darting vibrating fires, and then the colours became paler and the vibration ceased, so that the rails appeared to be made of mother-of-pearl. Gradually this beauty spread across the whole of the gates, linking rail to rail, and forming, as it were, a vast colourful exquisitely lovely screen.
Scarcely had I begun to wonder and admire, than I felt a spasm of pain as a huge, ugly stain appeared on the surface of the screen. At once I recognised it—it was the mark of a sharp word I had uttered to another on earth, only the day before. How sad this spectacle made me! Oh, that I had never uttered that word, never felt the stirrings of pride and resentment! And then began a scene of tragedy, for upon the screen rolled the ugly marks, stains and blots of all my unrepented faults. In vain for me to comfort myself with the thought that I had forgotten them. There they were in all their misery, and my remembrance or non-remembrance had no effect now. Sadly I saw those marks of pride, of impatience, of resentment that had lain half-hidden in the later years, and the desire to be separate from my brother-man. The awful spectacle rolled on, revealing marks of sin that the world condoned, revealing as soul-staining acts that earth taught and encouraged. So the years rolled back, and now the screen was mutilated by great blemishes like bruises. These, too, passed, and as the years rolled further and further back, the marks grew fainter until they began to disappear; and at last the screen was clear, pure and beautiful. . .
I prostrated myself in sorrow on the ground. Long since my companions were forgotten, but now they drew near, one on either side of me.
“You have understood much of what you have seen,” one of them said soberly; “but do you recognise the nature of the screen?” I looked up, mutely questioning.
“It is the beautiful robe the Holy Mother gave you at the dawning of your life. It is the robe you must wear, before you can enter the gates. . . your own robe.” And then I groaned, and cast myself upon the ground once more, and my tears flowed. In those bitter moments all my bright dreams faded; it was as though the gates were fast-locked against me, and yet I knew they still were open wide. Silently, my two companions sat beside me, telling me their sympathy and gentleness, their patience and desire to assist me in my grief. At last I whispered, “Can we go away from here, away from the gates, a long, long way?”
“Of course.” And in a moment, opening my eyes I found myself in the Hall of Reception again, where I had first seen the climbing hills and the shady valleys of Heaven.
“Why is this called a ‘Hall ’?” I asked, eager for momentary forgetfulness.
“Each part of this plane of Heaven is called a Hall. There are no houses here, except natural ones, formed of sheltering glades of trees, and cool, rocky caves by the sea.” For a long time after that I lay musing. The thought of that stained robe was very bitter, but I no longer wanted to enter the bright gates.
“Suppose I had wanted to enter, even then?” I asked, at last; and one of my companions, as usual swiftly understanding me, said, “You would have been allowed to enter if you desired. Some do enter, even with robes more stained than yours, but then the Holy Ones are only partially discerned, as though clothed in many veils, for purity is the only perfect vision there is. Gradually, these come to realise their blindness, and then, making enquiries of the guides, they learn the cause. It is not long before they, too, want to leave the gates.”
“And what of those who have many desires when they come here? You mentioned the Hall of Wishes.”
“Each desire has its own Hall. Those who have always longed for children go to the Hall of Children, often doing most useful work in the educating of the little ones, or in organising their games. Those who have been deprived of the friendship of animals, and still feel they cannot be happy without them, go to the Hall of Animals, where the little creatures live after their earth-life. Some find here the pets that they have lost, and everyone is allowed to take an animal with them on their journey through the lower Heaven-planes. Those who have valued books go to the Hall of Books, if they will, and spend their time in reading and studying, or writing, and it is the same with artists and musicians.”
“How long do people remain in these Halls?”
“Until their desire is fully satisfied and fulfilled.”
“But suppose, after being there for a long time, and leaving, they afterwards wished to return?”
“Once a man has donned his robe and entered the gates, he may come and go as he wills among the Halls. These are Halls, first of learning, and then of recreation.” At this mention of the gates, my heart was wounded afresh. “Is there no place for me at all?” I groaned.
“Of course there is! Would you not like to work on the cleansing of your robe?”
Could this be true? I searched their faces eagerly. Almost breathless with joy, I gasped out, “Can I? Is it possible after all those terrible stains?”
“With God, nothing is impossible.” They said this in unison, very solemnly, and at once all doubt left me. I felt only an eager desire to begin! “Tell me,” I begged.