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Chapter VII: The Door of Hope Ajar
The multitude had departed, the hall was nearly empty, the still bewildered initiates had received the congratulations of personal friends and retired to the home from which they had been so recently carried, the three chiefs remaining the sole occupants of the arena; but I lingered in my seat, cherishing a hope I would not breathe to my companion on account of its audacity, yet wildly thinking that it might be gratified by some fortuitous circumstance or unimaginable coincidence. I could not hold myself responsible for its presence, since it came upon me unsolicited, unexpected and unprepared – one of those sudden incursions of desire, which, coming on with a flood, carries the heart away upon its torrent before resistance is possible, even were such advisable; but when it came, and I realised the pleasure of its anticipation, I had no wish to think of opposition, but rather clung tenaciously to the idea as if it were the secret and the key of life. It also resembled a flood in a secondary manner – its force was spent in its first wild rush; but as the moments flew by its current subsided, down, down, and down, until the tiny stream trembled upon the point of stagnation, and the eddy of reaction whispered all was over. I rose to take my reluctant departure, when a tongue of light darted towards us from the little group, and my companion said:
“Myhanene would be pleased to speak with you.”
My expiring hope – my wild desire was granted.
I was glad that I had risen when the message came: it lessened the delay with which I answered it. He came to meet me at the instant, and side by side, his arm around me, and his hand affectionately laid upon my shoulder, we approached Cushna and the Assyrian. As we met, and his arms encircled me, he spoke but two words: “My brother!” but when he had finished there was nothing more to say – language had been exhausted, and comprehension was incapable of grasping a wider expanse.
Had there been a discord in my past experience? If so, it was obliterated from my memory by the music of his voice; if I had suffered heartache, it was eradicated, and the wound healed under the influence of that balm of greeting; if my hopes had felt a blighting frost of disappointment, a rich harvest of fruition sprang into existence under the warmth of that embrace. The words are not new to earth, but men pronounce them with a sharp metallic sound; the resonant fullness can only be estimated when heard in conjunction with the perfect rendering of the music to which I listened. It was a chord that, once struck, can never die away. It fell into my soul like a plummet into the ocean, waking in its first plunge a deep and, lingering monotone, but as it sank a chime of melody arose whose virgin song must echo and re-echo till every fathom in that shoreless of sea of life is filled with the harmony which has been born of sympathy. Myhanene was silent, as if listening to the reverberations rolling around us; I was overwhelmed with the stupendous vistas of the possibility of feeling, the flood-gates of which he threw wide open by the utterance of those two words.
Had I the power, I would not have dared to speak, and thus assassinate such melody as his voice produced. So brief in its delivery, it was yet the longest and most eloquent discourse to which I had ever listened. Even now I am but just able to comprehend its outline; to fully assimilate it will be the study of eternity. Its echoes are still ringing through the corridors of my being, sounding the keynote of my every joy, and will so continue until I bear the still sweeter music of the voice of Him in whose utterance lies the full chorus of the eternal psalm whose lip on earth gave form such sounds no other has had the power to imitate, and who in heaven has skill to wake the strains divine.
The Assyrian put an end to my contemplation by asking me if I had enjoyed the Chorale.
“I am scarcely a condition to express an intelligent opinion on anything,” I replied. I am in a maze of bewilderment, to which every feature and development of this life contributes, rendering me unable to find words, thoughts, or emotions capable of adequately expressing my feelings.”
“I quite understand your position,” he responded. “Fortunately, you are not expected at present to systematically appropriate all you see; but you will acquire the ability to do so as you proceed. This ceremony affords an illustration as to the methods we employ for correcting one of the injustices of earth, as well as the compensation which results to those who have nobly tried to do their duty even when their effects have been frustrated.”
“Duty would be an easy task,” I said, “if a brief vision of such a consummation could be granted in a lull of the battle or during the time of the disappointed warrior’s weeping. But I would like to ask if you generally receive such visible responses to your prayers in this life as that cloud which fell upon you after the invocation?”
“My brother!” – it was Myhanene who replied – “No fervent prayer should be possible either here or on the earth without its definite and visible reply. When, in the other life you preferred a request to your father or a friend, did you not expect such an answer?”
“Undoubtedly, from our fellow-man; but then we each occupied a similar condition; God being a spirit, we have looked for His reply in a spiritual sense.”
“You forget that your petition was offered for your benefit, and that your being material necessitated a material reply. For instance, when you prayed for food to relieve a famine-stricken district, you would require wheaten bread for the sustenance of the body, not spiritual food to strengthen the soul.”
“Certainly! and God would answer that prayer by putting it into the hearts of His people to contribute towards the purchase of such food.”
“Do you think you honour God by calling those His people who refrain from doing a simple act of humanity until He puts pressure upon them; should not a fellow-feeling have prompted it without appealing to God for assistance in the matter?”
“I agree with you in that, but as every good gift proceeds from Him, such a result would be considered an answer to our request.”
“But you have no direct evidence that your prayer rose higher than the roof of the room in which it was breathed. What you consider an answer from God was nothing more than an act of humanity on the part of your fellow-creatures. The Jews would not have been satisfied without an oral authoritative and unequivocal reply.”
“That was in the days of the oracle, but you must be cognizant of the fact that such has long since ceased, and its revival would be regarded as unnatural and contrary to the present Divine method of procedure.”
“Not so! Say rather that it has ceased because of the unnatural and erroneous teachings which have gained the ascendancy. God is ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and forever,’ and so long as He is God, the thing which hath been, is that which shall be.’ The position which the Church in every age should occupy is, to demonstrate this truth, showing that the recorded facts of the past are presumptively true by the evidence of the corresponding powers manifested to-day; and this because God lives and is unchangeable, whose works are not for a special people, time, and place, but like Himself are for all and for ever. A contrary position is false and illogical, and exposes the man who holds it, while contending for an unchangeable God, to the ridicule and contempt of his adversary.”
“But where is the necessity for such visible signs since the complete revelation was made by Jesus? I am asking not for controversy but with a desire to know the truth as you see it from your higher condition and long experience.”
“Fear not to push your enquiries, my brother; it is always a pleasure to remove a doubt, or expose an error. As to the necessity of visible signs on the earth, we are not called upon to decide; it is sufficient for us that they were ordained in the beginning and have never yet been abrogated. In the revelation made by Jesus – the question of its completeness we must be content to waive for the present – visible signs formed a prominent feature to which He appealed for confirmation of His mission. He promised also they should follow those who believed, for a similar attestation; His promise was redeemed in the history of the early Church; such visible signs were intended, and ought to be the witness of the same to-day.”
“Wherein lies the root of these erroneous ideas and misconceptions so far as you understand them?”
“They have various origins, the first of which is due to the false position into which the Bible has been forced by claiming it to be the Word of God, a finished and perfect revelation, instead of taking it at its own value: as containing the Word of God to a specific people, designed for guidance under certain conditions, and but a fragment of that revelation which began in the beginning of man’s existence, and will be carried on to its close. Jesus wrote no law which was handed to His disciples with a command to keep, neither did He commission anyone else to do so after His departure. His injunction was to preach, and that only as the Spirit should give them utterance – that voice of the Spirit being the continuance of revelation until time should cease, leading His followers into all mysteries.
“Another source of error arises from the interpretation and re-interpretation of this most unsatisfactory authority, that it may be made to meet the oft-recurring difficuities due to scientific and intellectual advancement. Truth, as perceived in one century, has naturally been outgrown, and become an error in the next, while the struggle to maintain the authority of the book and adapt its interpretations to the new conditions, caused divisions and dissensions without number, each of which has expelled the error and engrafted its own idea of truth, propagated from an undue emphasis of some passage upon which it is founded, without reference to the many, which others construe into an entirely opposite claim. Gradually these innumerable dogmas have received a wider sanction – at the same time the idea that signs and prophecy have ceased has been taught a necessity – until at length the tradition and authority of the Church has usurped the living word and lively oracles of God, with the unavoidable result of error and confusion.
“Admitting your position for the sake of the argument, and allowing the probability of self-interested teachers promulgating error, by concealing certain aspects of truth for base and unworthy motives, can you doubt that there are many faithful among the people – earnest hearts who are seeking and waiting for the consolation of the Lord – or explain why visible tokens of a Divine presence are withheld from such?
“God has never been left without a witness; faithful watchers in the temple have always kept the lamp of revelation burning, and the oracle alive. History and biography are well illustrated by such examples – the salt of the earth who maintain the standard and show the possibilities from which the Church has degenerated – these only emphasise the truth I am declaring to you, since their experiences are capable of universal extension.
“But where do you find such exceptions to the general rule? They are men and women who think for themselves – who, catching a glimpse of celestial visions, do not turn away and consult the opinion of any teacher as to the legitimacy or otherwise of listening to the voice which calls to them from the cloud of glory, but following the dictates of their own souls they answer ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth,’ and thus are drawn into that communion of saints which needs no mediator, seeks the aid of no priest, and is rewarded by a vision of the true shekinah from which the rended veil of doubt is torn away, bringing them into the hallowed presence of the Lord.
“With the great mass of religionists, such saints are accounted imaginative, superstitious, the victims of Satanic delusions, or slightly deficient in mental responsibility. Some few of the more charitable minded in the Church good-naturedly pity their credulity, and kindly endeavour to persuade them to relinquish their folly, but the majority of people, and the teachers, hold themselves aloof from the blasphemy they speak, and thunder the guns of warning from the fortresses of tradition against all who lend an ear to the gospel such oracles proclaim. The faith of the Church is in these traditions of men, not in the living, ever-speaking God, hence it is no wonder that the days of miracles are past, and men laugh at the idea of removing hillocks, much less mountains.”
“Surely you do not believe in the literal fulfilment of that promise?”
“There are mountains physical, mental and spiritual,” he replied, “and the latter are quite as difficult to remove as the former, perhaps even more so – and require equally the power of God, but it can be done. Have you not just witnessed the removal of mountains of deformity?”
“I have indeed.”
“How was it accomplished?” he asked. “Not by the assembling together of the great congregation and singing ‘We can do nothing, nothing!’ as our brethren on earth are taught to do; they came to work, and that every soul did its utmost was attested by the result. Before Siamedes offered the invocation, which secured that visible response, he had assured himself that his and their unaided powers were put forth and exhausted; and being confident that of himself he could do no more, he invoked the strength which was beyond and above; and God would have broken troth if He had not honoured such faith. He had not to detail his desires, elaborate his wish, or discourse on the benefits and glory to accrue; his cry was a prophetic thanksgiving for the strength he and every soul knew would be given to them – he was conscious of the fact that his requirements were already known. Everything which could be done in this hall was completed. and there was a pause in the service – an interval only to be terminated by Divine action; and the waiting faith of the multitude captured that action by storm. God had not power to tarry when assailed by such a force, therefore that sign descended and with it the necessary energy to continue the work they had so confidently undertaken. It might and should be so on earth, but instead of healing they inflict most grievous wounds and then send the sufferers here for remedy.”
“They have not the opportunity even if they had the power to do what I have witnessed here,” I ventured to remark.
“God is too wise and just,” he answered, “to require or expect any man to perform an impossibility. But in those things which are well within their capacity do men work according to that rule of faith which you have seem exemplified? Nay verily! Rather, forgetting that they are called to the high privilege of being workers together with God, as you have seen illustrated, they have been educated into the practice of doing nothing but asking God to do it all. When God works for man it is always in conjunction with man; it is no canon of Divine law that the master shall do all the labour while the servant gives the orders. When you ask God to lay the corner-stone, you may rest assured that He will wait for you to get the foundations ready. But the earth idea of the matter is that a man has nothing to do but to tell God what he wants and then wait for it to be done, and the reference I have already made to prayer for food in case of famine, will enable me to show you how many difficulties they place in the way, even if God did determine to do it all.
“Suppose that £10,000 is prayed for to relieve a local distress how is the money to be provided? We have no gold here; it is evident therefore that it must be acquired by an overruling providence in connection with the commercial life of one of the petitioners. Well, the Divine interposition takes place, an abandoned scheme or an unsuccessful transaction is revived upon improved prospects, and £10,000 more than was originally anticipated is gained. What is the result? In his commercial circle the chosen agent is congratulated as a ‘lucky dog,’ a ‘remarkably shrewd fellow,’ or something of the kind; the money is banked, the recipient pats himself upon the shoulder, and when he happens to think about the famine fund, consults with himself, and finally decides to contribute £20. It is very evident that both God and the poverty-stricken will be robbed by any system of answer in that direction.
“Now let me suggest another. Suppose our Father determines the money shall reach the poor direct, and for that purpose commissions some messenger from this life to bear the gold to the treasurer in propria persona; if, when asked for the name of the donor, he was to speak the truth, it would not be long before they would be ready to repeat the tragedy of Calvary for his blasphemy. So you see that God is powerless to intervene, and reveal Himself to the multitudes, owing to the erroneous ideas which have been fostered and promulgated by teachers whose authority depends upon the discontinuance of visible signs.”
“I am sorry to say your argument is only too true; but seeing that this error is the gradual accumulation of ages, how far are individuals held responsible?”
“Every circumstance influencing an individual, either one, way or the other, is righteously taken into consideration in the judgment of the mists; but every man is held responsible for the full and right use of the intelligence with which he is endowed. When one declares his belief in an unchangeable God who will reward every man according to the deeds done in the body, he is expected to order his conduct according to that rule, not to say that faith or belief is everything and works have no influence in salvation; or, again, to affirm that did God at one time communicate with men by visible and oral signs, but now has ceased to do so because He has completed His revelations. Such contradictions in word and practice are not flattering to intelligence, and by no means serviceable in the time of judgment. Spiritual manhood can only be attained by work which is alike honouring to God and beneficial to your fellow-man, and that religion alone is recognised that gains the commendation – ‘He hath done what he could.’
“All beliefs and forms of creed have been left behind before you reach the judgment, and no man will ever be asked a question respecting them, but the record of your life must show that your love to God has been manifested by your love and devotion to man before you will have the right or power to enter into the rest which remains. Siamedes and Cushna will show you some instances of harvests which have to be gathered here. And afterwards I shall be pleased to accompany you to some of the homes of peace. May the rich blessings of our Father rest upon you in your endeavours to acquire the truth. Till we meet again – Peace.”
We had reached the outside of the hall by this time, where this noble messenger imparted his blessing to each of us and then departed to continue his mission in other scenes. The Assyrian also took his leave at the same time, first inviting us to visit his home when Cushna found a convenient opportunity.
Myhanene had contributed considerably to my store of information; his indictment was heavy – but true – as regards the earth, while the emphasis he gave to it made me sad but for one fact – the position assumed in his argument opened a door of hope before me, and now he was gone I could see the door was still ajar.