The Hall of Audience
The return journey was very different from that on which I had come. This time I knew where I was and the reason for it. Also, I had the company of Janet, Stephen and James. As we raced along through the void, soothed by its strange blue light, I felt as though we were on the couches again, in the house of Stephen and James, for there was no sense of effort or movement. Sometimes we would fall into long silences when we would just enjoy the companionship of each other.
It seemed, in one way, that Janet and I had only just parted, so natural was our meeting, yet in other ways, measuring by all that I had seen and done since I met her last, it seemed as though ages rolled between. We talked a great deal of our experiences and I discovered that hers had been very similar to mine, except that she had been a longer time in the Hall of Friends, giving her services there. She had even met my friend of Browning Walk quite recently, whose name, she told me, was Anna. She described the joy that was there. How Anna and many like her declared that this was their Heaven and that they never wanted any other. At that we smiled, for we knew that fulfilment would bring a new desire, later, which would draw them on to another Hall, to new growth. Even in Heaven, nobody stands still. . .
We spoke a little of earth. Janet had left it before I did and so I was able to give her some news, but there was not much to say, for earth seemed very far away, curiously small and unimportant in comparison with this vast, eternal Realm. Janet said that when we had progressed a little further, we should receive the power to visit earth at times. This was to gain information to use in the service of some of the people in the Halls.
Stephen and James also had long conversations, and then for a while we would all speak together, making plans for the future. I told them about my arrangement for future meetings with Rainbow, and Janet said she had a cat-friend there—so dainty, serene and wise, she said he was. Stephen confessed to having a monkey who followed him everywhere in the Hall of Animals, but James said he had never been there at all. We promptly fixed up a meeting there, the first arrival to wait if the others were delayed. I looked forward to watching James’ first reactions there. He was the kind of man who always seemed deep, as though much more were hidden than he allowed to appear, even in the clear-seeing of Heaven’s realm. Whether this was true or not, I could not say, but it certainly added immensely to his interest as a new acquaintance.
As soon as we drew near to the fringe of the Hall of Reception—which, I discovered, is the outer Hall, we were met by messages from many directions. Marie was calling me excitedly and so was Arthur. Janet, Stephen and James each spoke of similar invitations. Everybody seemed to be fired with joy, as though each, if on earth, had come into a large fortune! I could not help smiling at this reflection, for I knew that joy does not always mean a personal gain here, but quite often the gain of another. So great is the spirit of brotherly love that everyone celebrates for the favoured one.
“Do you know what it is all about?” Janet asked Stephen.
“Not yet, except that it is something big!” We all remained silent for a while, and gradually, as the Hall of Reception was almost under our feet, the news filtered in. We knew it simultaneously, and each turned to pass it on to the others, which caused a good deal of laughter. And then, without spoken agreement, we all wheeled, avoiding the Hall of Reception, and set off in the opposite direction, for our summons was to the heart of Heaven’s realm—the Hall of Audience.
As we journeyed on we met other groups hurrying in the same direction. Everyone was smiling, and the news flashed from mind to mind, “Richard is to receive the First Star!” It was the first time I had been in the Hall of Audience—indeed, it was a great privilege for which many waited a long time—and as we drew near to its centre, I looked about eagerly. It proved to be quite different from my own ideas of it. I had imagined gorgeous scenery and the sight of hills or valleys. Instead, it was rounded, like the top of a globe, so that anyone walking from you would quickly drop out of sight. No scenery of the usual kind was to be seen, and as to colour—there seemed scarcely anything else! It was like a spring mist on an early morning on earth, but instead of the filmy, drifting white, all was glowing rainbow hues. It was an extraordinary sight, most awe-inspiring, and reminded me of an evening I had once spent in an old church when the setting sun had sent its rays through a stained-glass window to drop its beauty in a patch on the stone floor.