One Step Higher: Part II: Chapter 14
THE PLACE OF VISION
Janet had been looking at the houses with interest as we went on our way. ‘I notice that every one is different,’ she said at last. ‘Why is that?’
‘It is for two reasons – and for both the classes of people. These babes have often longed for a house different from all others. Here they choose their own and take great delight in it. Then, those who are here to learn or renew their clarity of vision need only one house of each kind.’
‘Do the people build the houses for themselves?’ I asked.
‘No, for they have not the skill. These houses are built by those who have always worked at that trade on earth and whose Heaven it is to do so here. Once more, you see, each unconsciously serves the other.’
I had been seeking an elusive thought for some time and at last it came to me.
‘What purpose is served by people looking at houses and seeing clearly, as you have explained? Of course, I realise that it must be interesting but how is the knowledge used afterward?’
‘Ah,’ cried our angel, ‘I see you realise that nothing is wasted in Heaven’s realm.! These people are of great value to mankind on earth.’
‘How is that? Do they go there?’
‘No, but the guardian angels do! These men become advisers to the angels. Remember that angels have no experience of earth-life except in what they observe. Without the consultations with these clear-seeing ones they would be handicapped on earth. Now suppose there is an architect earnestly labouring in the world, with a good dream in his heart. His guardian angel may come here to observe and also to consult the men who understand these matters. Then, fully armed with the necessary knowledge, he will return to his charge on earth. That architect will succeed beyond his dreams and when questioned will probably say, “It just came to me.”‘
‘How lovely it all is,’ Janet said. ‘There is no end to the Father’s thought for men.’
While we talked, we had passed into a broad road where there were smaller houses than we had seen before. Almost all of them had a perambulator at the door. Some of them had washing hanging on lines just glimpsed at the back. Janet and I could not restrain our laughter at this and our guide smiled with us.
‘It is amusing to you, I know, but it is not in the least so to these people. It is what they have secretly expected Heaven to be. They could conceive of no greater bliss and, since Heaven is fulfilment, it gives to each the highest joy which they are capable of conceiving. Think of the meaning of the word “conceive” and all will become clear. It means both to “become pregnant” and “to imagine, to visualise the meaning of something.” Now the word “pregnant” itself means both “to be with child” or “to be full of meaning.” Do you see the connection?’
‘These babes have formed a mental picture of Heaven, while on earth. They have “conceived” it in the mind. It has become “pregnant” with meaning for them. Their expectation of Heaven has been the “child” of their brain. Now what happens? When they pass through death’s door and come to eternal life this “child” also “comes to life”. They see outwardly the very picture they have built up inwardly. Thus every man is a creator in his imagination. This is why he himself forms his own Heaven or hell.’
‘It is wonderful, yet so obvious when you are shown,’ Janet said.
‘There again, a dictionary on earth could have unveiled the wisdom,’ our teacher pointed out. ‘Most of the great truths are there all the time, but men do not look with seeing eyes.’
As he spoke, we passed a house where people were chatting together. When they saw us approaching they instantly darted inside and closed the door.
‘Why did they do that?’ I asked in astonishment. Our guide smiled.
‘Angels did not form a part of their mental picture! Thus they resent our presence and will not speak with us. However, they “grow out” of that after a time and then we teach them.’
Another door opened and this time a little family came out. A young man and woman with two children clinging to their hands. They were laughing and when they caught sight of us, greeted us gaily.
‘Good day, sir!’ The man touched his forehead in a quick salute, the woman dropped a little curtsey. The two children smiled placidly at us. When they had passed by Janet said:
‘Do they always call you “sir”?’
‘Mostly. We are merely teachers or advisers to these people. We take the place of official ministers of earth in their eyes. You will come across many of these babes when you begin to collect material for your book! Then you will understand more fully.’
‘How interesting it will be,’ Janet cried. ‘We will see the Heaven that is fulfilment to them all – we will see the “children” of their mind-pictures of earth. It will take a long time, though.’
‘You could spend all eternity and still not see the “mansions” of their dreams.’
By now we have left the streets behind and had followed a narrow pathway into a wood. Soon our guide halted in a little glade.
‘This will do nicely for the receiving of your power.’
‘I had almost forgotten it,’ Janet confessed. ‘Those people interested me so much that I wanted to begin on our book right away!’
‘This power will be indispensable to you nevertheless.’ ‘You will be able to observe, then, instead of merely forming an impression.’
As we stood before him he lifted up his hands as though in blessing and began to breathe deeply. Immediately that drowsiness I had known before began to steal over me. I sank down on the grass beside Janet, looking at the light reflected in a pond nearby. This light, I dimly realised, poured from our angel’s uplifted hands. I too, began to breathe deeply and slowly.
Presently we came to ourselves. Our teacher was sitting on the grass with his back against a tree. He was watching us smiling.
‘So you are awake! Well, now you must try out your new power.’
‘What shall we practise on?’ Janet asked, looking around with interest.
‘Why not choose?’
‘Well I would like to take up a drop of water in the palm of my hand and look at that.’ She went over to the pond and our teacher followed.
‘Then you will love its life-story,’ he assured her. ‘It will have much to reveal to you. You will be carried for miles in your mental-vision, gushing over rocks, joining up with little streams, then flowing into a river and out to sea. You will be drawn up into the clouds and look down upon the darkening earth.’
I remembered the story that was being told in the Hall of Orators, and asked: ‘Is that how “A Drop of Water” came to be written?’
‘Yes, one came here to receive the power and later practised on a drop of water.’
Janet was kneeling by the pond, gazing with a rapt expression at the water in her palm. The angel turned to me.
‘What will you choose?’
I pulled off a sliver of wood from a nearby trunk. ‘This.’
Immediately I began to look at it I fell into a kind of absorption of spirit. Sinking down on the grass I bent my gaze on to the atom of wood. It seemed to expand, to reveal itself as a fast-moving mass of cells. Then I saw in its depths, as though it were a living illustration, a tiny seed deep down in the soil. I watched the vital forces alive within the tiny ‘womb’, saw them moving, striving the one with the other, finally bursting from restraint so that a slender shoot appeared. Fascinated, I watched both root and shoot creep out, displacing the soil. The mechanism of it all thrilled me. So small, and yet having more organisation that the mightiest machine of earth!
Presently the little plant rose above the ground but still I could see its activity beneath the surface. In addition, I saw as in a mist-picture the whole outline of the full-grown tree. I watched its exploring shoots spread out, gradually filling up the ‘mist-pattern’. Taller it grew, and taller, putting forth leaves, then fruit, then seed. I saw season after season go by, while the tree filled out to the girth of its pattern. At long last I saw a man approach the now broad trunk. He seemed vaguely familiar, Then in a flash I recognised myself! I watched the sliver of wood detached… and glancing up, beheld Janet and my angel beside me.
‘Have I been here an immeasurable length of time?’ I asked.
‘What is time?’ said our angel, exactly as Stephen had said it in the Circle of Prayer long ago.
‘Can we see everything in this way now?’ Janet asked.
‘You can see all things like this at will,’ our teacher assured us. ‘Henceforth you have this power at your command. Look!’ He pointed to our robes.
At first I saw that an intricate design had appeared on the edges of them. Then, on closer inspection I perceived that the central motif was a tiny, opened eye!
‘Even the designs on the robes speak, you see,’ smiled our teacher, ‘Thus we know the exact progress of all. Come now!’ he said suddenly, ‘our tour among the spheres is ended.’
With one movement he caught us to his sides and a moment later we were wheeling above the houses. Very soon we had left the sphere behind and then we began to cleave downward through the void.
‘Are we going back to the Broad Field?’ I asked as we watched star after star flash upward.
‘Then where?’ Janet asked.
The angel smiled down at us.
‘You will see!’