One Step Higher: Part II: Chapter 12
THE GARDEN OF BREATH
Far into the void we continued our adventurous way. Now we had a vast array of stars to look down upon. Some appeared mere specks in the darkness, others were nearer and their brilliance lit up the surroundings in a blinding radiance. Here and there we passed swift-moving chariots of angels, or single guides conducting two or three visitors on a ‘courtesy-tour’ among the spheres. There was an immensity about this void that entranced me. I recalled how, many times on earth, I had gazed up at the sky, delighting in the stars, wondering about them, filled with the thrill of the night-glamour of it all. How weak my imaginings now appeared, compared to this reality! I looked around at the millions of star-lights within view, and reflected that each represented something to the inhabitants of Heaven, each a place of meeting, learning, refreshing, or having some purpose far beyond my understanding as yet. The vastness of it all set my heart singing. Janet felt it, too. She leaned forward with radiant face to smile at me.
‘Do not think. I cannot understand,’ he said suddenly. ‘I, too, find constant delight in the vast grandeur. That is one of Heaven’s joys. No-one ever grows tired, or loses the early zest of wonder. It is ever-new. Our very life-strength is being constantly renewed.’
‘How?’ I asked. ‘Do you mean that you are conscious of it?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Just as creation is by breath, so is re-creation. We angels who constantly pour out our benediction-ray need to be continually renewed with the Father’s power. I am on my way now to the place of renewing.’
‘May we come, too?’ Janet asked in. surprise.
‘Yes, but you will only be able to rest on the fringe of it, even in your doubled power. I shall leave you there while I go to renew my strength.’
‘Is this place of renewing only for angels?’
‘No for some of the Holy Ones are among men also. When they rise to great heights, they begin to pour out a mighty power when they pray for men. Many of them spend untold ages in this work alone. Oh, if the world but knew the prayer-power that pours down from Heaven upon them! This power is so great that it would quickly be expended if these Holy Ones did not continually renew their strength. There are wise men on earth, too, who have learned a little of this great secret. These withdraw often into the closet of the silence of the heart. Such men have a wonderful uplifting power as they move inconspicuously among their fellows.’
As our angel taught us, we continued to cleave upward through the darkness, sometimes passing close to a brilliant star, at other times travelling great distances when only a faint glow here and there could be seen. At last we turned in the direction of a sphere that was not so bright as the others. Indeed, as we drew near we saw that it was more like twilight, and this was further suggested. by the perfume that stole forth from it.
‘It is like a garden at eventide,’ I commented.
‘It is a garden,’ our guide explained. ‘It is called the Garden of Breath.’
Smoothly we alighted on a lawn flanked on all sides with flower-beds. Janet cried out in delight at this.
‘I did not know flowers could grow on these spheres!’
‘You are thinking of atmosphere again,’ our angel smiled. ‘Have I not said that earth-people could not come, here, nor earth-flowers grow? Why, if it were possible for men in physical bodies to approach to these heights they would see nothing at all of this garden-nor of you, for your bodies are composed of a substance finer than all the imaginings of earth-people.’
This filled us with wonder again, as though the angel had taught us nothing of the bodies of men! Janet and I reached out to feel the substance of each other. It was incredible that men could not have seen us, solid as we were!
‘It is hard to realise,’ our teacher smiled. ‘How many times I have seen men do just what you have done! Nevertheless, solid as you are, earth-bodies are far more earthly and earth eyes are far too dim to see you now.’
He led us on to the lawn where we found comfortable seats set beneath some flowering bushes at one end. The fragrance of this garden was such that we continually drew deep breaths of joy, and our angel, perceiving this, said:
‘Even here, on the fringe of the Garden of Breath, you will receive something of the Father’s power. Remember, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” Rest here, then, until I return.’
He gave us a swift blessing, parted the bushes and disappeared from sight. Janet and I, sitting at ease in the garden, felt that we should not mind in the least if we remained here forever! Every moment and every breath was a joy. People on earth who are recovering strength after an illness, do so slowly. being almost unaware of the process. Here, though we were in perfect health before, a zest and alertness poured into us with such power that we were conscious of it all the time.
Unable to contain my ecstasy, I burst into a psalm and Janet joined with me. As we sang, we inhaled deeply of the fragrance and the very flowers seemed to bow in sympathy.
‘I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever! With my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness… And the heavens shall praise Thy wonders, 0 Lord, Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of Thy saints. For who in the Heaven can be compared unto the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?’
As we sang we became aware that a third voice had joined with ours and as our last notes died away, the bushes parted and a man appeared. He was so majestic in his attitude and so shining with inward light that we leapt up and fell on our knees before him.
‘Children!’ he chided us. To my amazement, he put his hands upon us, raising us up. His touch sent a thrill through me. I ventured to look up into his face. What beauty I beheld! His glance was keen, but deep in its tenderness. His lips curled into a smile. All around his head and indeed, his whole outline, shone a mellow light.
‘Children’ he said again. ‘You must not kneel to me. Have I not but newly knelt to Him?’
‘But-the light,’ I stammered.
‘Ah, it is His light! Now I constantly dwell within it, but once, on earth, I was covered with His shadow.
‘Tell us,’ Janet pleaded.
‘I was one of the crowd when the King of Love passed by. They were striking Him, driving Him along to the place of execution. I had never seen Him before, but I knew Him. As He passed, I fell on my knees, praying that His shadow might fall on my head… My life was changed from that hour. I sought them out at last – His followers, and they made me one with them. Then, when I passed through the gates of death, the King remembered me. On earth, He had covered me with His shadow. In Heaven, He covered me with His light.’
As he spoke, we had gazed up into his face. Now, despite our reverent awe, we felt we could not let him go. We laid hold of his robe and drew him to the seat. Smiling, he suffered it. And then we plied him with questions. Ah, how much we wanted to know! He had seen the King on earth…
Long after, when all our questioning was stilled, he sat silently between us, bathing us in his benediction-ray. Thus our angel found us and one glance told him all. The Great One rose, then, and clasped us each by the shoulder in farewell. Very soon we were winging our way through the velvet darkness of the void.