In Search of Wisdom: Part II – Chapter 12
THE INNER CIRCLE
Presently we alighted in the very heart of the Plane Between and we knew we had reached at last the Circle of Prayer. My first impression brought to my mind the Hall of Audience, for the Circle was lit with that colourful light I had seen there. I reflected at once that that had been caused by the wings of higher angels which later on I had been able to see. Why, then, the colourful mist?
As we stood together, silently observing our surroundings, James and Stephen loomed out of the haze and came forward with outstretched hands.
“Welcome, my dear friends,” Stephen greeted us, speaking low. “We have been here some time and you are almost the last to arrive.”
“Have we delayed you?” Janet asked.
“No. Prayer is continually rising from here, even to the foot of the eternal Throne.”
“No wonder there is such a reverent atmosphere,” Elizabeth whispered.
“And a happy one,” amended James.
“We have wanted to visit here very much,” I said as we all began to walk across the grass.
Immediately our steps took us through a wood and steeply down into a valley. I suppose I had been unconsciously comparing this Circle with the Hall of Audience, for I expected the ground to cure outwards in the form of a vast dome. Instead of this I found that it formed a deep valley and that on every side the ground rose steeply to meet the fringes of surrounding woodland. As we descended into the mist, we experienced a sensation of peaceful security, as of being enfolded with invisible, protecting wings. Stephen spoke in an under tone beside me, answering my thought.
“There are wings. The colourful mist is formed by the wings of higher angels whom we still cannot see. They are guardians of this Circle and are called ‘The Protectors’.”
Presently we came into the valley and began to mingle with the crowds. They all seemed to be making their way to the centre where a great throng gathered about a huge, white tower. We joined them, eagerly and were soon reunited to those we had left in our little house now so long ago.
“Oh, the vastness of time in this eternity,” I pressed into Janet’s mind, and she answered:
“Our vacation must have been an immensely long one.”
As soon as we reached the tower we began to examine it more closely. It was something of the shape of a bee-hive’, but having flat surfaces all round its sides. Its surface was opaque, but not made of a substance I knew or could define. It seemed to be a blend between stone and glass and was most restful to the eyes.
We all settled down on the yielding grass, facing one of the flat sides, and Stephen told me that there were similar crowds all round so that what we saw would be seen by all.
“What will we see?” Janet asked.
“Presently the Prayer-Master will come,” Stephen explained. “He is an angel and is in charge of this Circle. This that you see before you is called the Prayer-Screen.”
We were all silent for a while, absorbing this, and then James spoke:
“We come here to pray for those we know, who are still on earth. We simply approach the Prayer-Master and speak the name to him. Then he causes to appear on the Screen an incident from the life of the person.”
“Why?” I asked, greatly astonished at this.
“So that all the people can know him for whom they pray,” said James.
“Is it a scene of the present?” Elizabeth asked (for she still wondered, sometimes, what was happening in the world she had left.)
“No,” James said quickly. “The incident chosen is one that is characteristic of the person – that is all that is required.”
Janet, who had been deep in thought, suddenly asked:
“If every one of this multitude desire us to pray for somebody they know, will it not take a very long time ?”
Stephen looked at her and smiled. “What is time?”
While we waited for the Prayer-Master, we had low-toned conversations with our friends, comparing notes on our “expedition” through the Plane Between. What they told us of some of the other Circles and what we told them, made us all resolve to return later on and explore it more thoroughly.
“How strange,” Reg whispered, “that we remained so long on the beach and in the little houses, not knowing that there was any more of the Plane to explore!”
“I suppose that is true of all life,” I answered. “We see when we are ready to see.”
Presently our conversation was interrupted by the sound of trumpets. We all stood up, watching the tall angel who was the Prayer-Master, take his place beside the Prayer-Screen. He was evidently of a high order. His gown was of the glowing ruby of our guide in the Haven of Prayer, but there were many ornaments on it and a great shining. As soon as he was in his place he made a signal with his hand. Immediately a multitude of angels came to take their stand, rank on rank behind us.
“They come to strengthen the power of our prayers with their own,” Stephen whispered.
At another signal, we all sat down, but the angels remained standing behind us. One of them acted as a guide, apparently, for he beckoned a man who was seated in the front rank. The man rose and approached the Prayer-Master to murmur the name of the one for whom we were to pray. Then returning to his place, he sat with his eyes on the Screen. We all followed his example. For a moment the Prayer-Master covered his face with his hand. Then, looking up, he fixed his gaze searchingly upon the Screen.
At once it began to glow as though lit up from within. Then a scene began to be revealed upon it. We all watched with great interest.
We saw the smooth green of a sports ground surrounded by many people, with, in the distance, a glimpse of a high building (which instinctively we knew to be a school). A man walked toward a group of small children and shepherded them into a line at one side. As they poised, we saw it was to be a race. The children were about six or seven years, both boys and girls. The man turned toward the crowd.
“Now this is to be a race,” he announced, “between the small brothers and sisters of our pupils who have honoured us with their presence on this great day.”
Amid the ‘applause which followed he gave the signal and the race began. The children ran keenly, their young faces bright. They followed a course round the entire field and there was a general increase of speed toward the end. One small girl seemed to be outstripping them all. She was taller than the others and her legs flashed as she raced toward the tape. All the way round we had watched her progress, and by this we knew she was the one for whom we were asked to pray. A final burst of speed won her the race and she stopped with dancing eyes and bobbing, burnished curls.
At once the applause broke out. A small boy came in second, wiping his glistening face on a crumpled handkerchief. He was followed by a tiny mite who had put up a very good performance.
As the man called out the result some of the children gathered round the little prize-winner. One of them danced before her, jumping up to try to reach her head.
“I’ve made a daisy crown for the winner!” she cried, “Let us make her queen.”
This met with general approval and the “crowning” would have taken place then and there, but the child smilingly refused.
“Look how tall I am,” she exclaimed “And John is a boy; but Rosie. . .” She drew forward the dimpling infant. “Rosie has such short legs and yet she came in third. Crown her!”
Amid the laughter of this “crowning” the scene faded out.
Now the Prayer-Master raised his hand and the people all fell on their knees. There was a breathless pause and then he cried out “Let us pray!”
At once the air seemed charged with power. I drew deeply of it and so did Janet beside me. We all concentrated on the little one whom we had just seen on the Prayer-Screen and then our prayers seemed to be lifted up on the prayer-force of the angels.
I glanced at the angels within view and saw that their faces glowed with light. Their hands were lifted up in blessing and from their palms beams of light poured forth.
“Why, this is the angelic benediction,” I thought in surprise. “My angel mentioned it when I first came to Heaven’s realm.”
When the wordless prayer was ended, we all sat on the grass again. Another name was spoken to the Prayer- Master and another unfolding began ….
I do not know how long we remained in this delightful valley. We were all in a dream as we watched scene after scene unfold, and prayed our many prayers. There was a comradeship and loving kindness about it all that thrilled us. I thought of all the people of earth, going about their daily life, utterly unconscious of the prayer lifted up for them. How surprised and grateful they would he
“Why, this must be the communion of saints,” I whispered to Janet.
A very long time afterwards we were walking slowly out of the valley when an angel in a ruby gown approached us.
“Bernard … Janet,” she said smilingly, “The angel who guided you in the Angels’ Playground and the Haven of Prayer has sent me. Would you like to be my students now?”