The Gate of Heaven, Chapter 17

Chapter XVII: A Fearful Awakening

I have been glancing at the record I made of my standing on that Mount of God in the company of Eusemos, and comparing the different aspect it assumed on the occasion of my visit in the company of Rael. And yet the scene itself was practically the same the remarkable change that had been wrought was entirely in the condition of the beholder. Aforetime my strong desire was to move backward in the direction of the mists, which Helen told me was due to the attraction of the body; now, I was anxious to move in a contrary way, and cross the rubicon into the spiritual. Then, I viewed the varied roads of what I called the prismatic landscape artistically, indicating the way to some vague condition or destination; now, every individual tint in that symphonic harmony throbbed with life, inspiration and revelation. Then, I wondered at the seeming lack of law, order and organization which I observed in relation to new arrivals; now, I saw not only the wisdom, but also the loving-kindness that was manifested in the arrangement.

In drawing my attention to this my conductor brought home to me some consciousness of the progress I had made under the direction of Myhanene’s ministry, and, in reviewing this first scene of this discarnate life, I was enabled to revive the memory of my first impressions which were only superficial, and also to read the deeper lessons which had since been opened to my spiritual vision.

“What a commentary on the value of retrospection,” I said to my companion, after leisurely surveying and comparing the many details of the scene.

“Yes; there is a way of looking back by which we may add to our zest to press forward, and in this review you may find a most emphatic example of it. Calling the stronger, clearer vision you now have acquired to your aid, you are able to penetrate the depths of certain mysteries in this scene which were insoluble to you before; and in coming back again, with a yet increased insight, you will be able to look yet deeper and deeper still. Thus are all the works and ways of God ever throbbing with new and deeper revelation to him who boldly dives into the depths.”

“If that is so, then does not every step, scene and place we pass on the pilgrimage become instinct with a similar attraction to that you speak of in relation to the Court of the Voices?”

“In a sense—yes! But every spot possesses its own peculiar charm. The surpassing attraction of the Court and its precincts is, that it is to every soul who has passed it what the Mount of Olives is to the Master Himself – the spot from which He ascended into the glory after He had shaken off the last of the shackles of the flesh. It is there that mortality is finally swallowed up in victory.”

“Now I begin to realize something of its stupendous significance,” I answered, amazed that I had so far failed fully to appreciate the fact before. “Oh Myhanene, how wonderfully apt is your familiar aphorism – ‘Great issues turn on diamond points.’”

“Might we not ask whether there is such a comparison as great and small in the light of the Kingdom?” enquired Rael, and then—“But what have we here?”

As he spoke, with a slight gesture of his hand, he drew my attention to two who were approaching from the busy scene in the valley below us. The one was at once identified as one of the ministering attendants engaged as Eusemos, who so kindly came to my assistance; the other—I needed not to be told—was a new arrival who, by his manner and bearing, was suffering under the sense of some injustice which he strenuously resisted. He was still some distance from us when he curtly addressed himself to Rael:

“Am I correctly informed that you are one in authority here?”

“If I can be of any service, it will be a pleasure to render it,” replied my companion.

“I am looking for someone who can correct a most serious grievance, or to direct me to where I can get it corrected.”

“May I enquire as to the nature of your trouble?”

“Will you tell me whether you have authority to deal with it? I wish to reach someone in a responsible position.”

If the irate questioner had not been so blinded by his passion surely the look of pitiful compassion with which Rael regarded him would have softened his acerbity.

“We are all not only responsible for, but also pleased to render whatever service may come in our way,” he replied.

“But is your service authoritative?”

“Won’t you tell me your need?” he enquired with kindly persuasion, “then, if I am not in a position to assist you, I can readily bring you to someone who will instantly do so.”

“Is it necessary for me to state my grievance? Look at me,” and he spread his arms in most dramatic disgust. “Look at my filthy condition. Does it not declare itself?”

“Poor soul! Yes, it all too sorrowfully declares itself. Who are you?”

“I am not asking for commiseration, young man,” he replied with haughty scorn. “What I am seeking for is the respect and attention due to my position.”

“And I ask again: Who are you?”

“I am the Dean—”

Rael interrupted him.

“You mean you were the Dean.”

“I am still the Dean, until I have rendered an account of my stewardship,” he insisted.

“But have you not been removed from that office by an act of God?”

“By an act of God I rest from my labours, but that is only to enter into my reward. But is this vile parody of attire the only reward I am considered to be worthy of?”

Rael did not hasten to reply, but looked upon his disconsolate appellant with a tender, brotherly commiseration I shall never forget. It was such a look as, I think, must have rested on the face of Christ as he uttered that heart-breaking lamentation over Jerusalem from the brow of Olivet. When he spoke it was to ask another question in return, like a groan of helplessness from the cavern of regret.

“Is not the reward commensurate with your expectations?”

The tone of the enquiry surprised—seemed to disarm the pugnacity of the suppliant, who was at a loss for a reply; then in a chastened mood made answer:

“I had not built so much on personal expectations as on the promises.”

“What promises?” The searching query was put in the same spirit of tender consideration. “And did you always plead them as a miserable offender, with a truly penitent heart, or was it merely a part of a general verbal confession without any reference to a true repentance and anxiety for remission?”

The old rebellious spirit lifted its head again as Rael pressed his enquiry.

“What authority have you for this cross-examination?”

“The authority of an elder brother who, having been appealed to, is most sympathetically desirous to clear up a painful misunderstanding,” he replied.

“But I fail to see the relevancy of your question.”

“Do you not? I think I can readily enable you to do so. I am with yourself grieved to find you attired in these filthy garments, and on your appeal to me am anxious to show you that no mistake or injustice has been done in this respect.”

“But I insist that it is monstrous; and I demand to see someone who has authority to act in the matter.”

“You will see no one who will be more able or willing to assist you than myself, if you will allow me to do so.”

“Will you, then, see that I am supplied with decent clothing? Then, I will be prepared to listen to what more you have to say.”

As I heard this peremptory demand I recalled the well-worn saying: “You would try the patience of an angel,” an operation I was witnessing in a very literal sense. But Rael seemed to grow more calm, self-collected, and, if possible, more pitifully patient as demand increased.

“Have you not been here long enough to discover that the clothing you wear, miserable as it is, is a part of yourself—woven, provided and adjusted to yourself, and that no one but yourself has power to change or remove it?” he replied with great persuasiveness.

The declaration was met with an incredulous and disdainful ejaculation, and in a rashly irate determination to discredit it a violent effort was made to cast the loathsome clothing aside. The effort proved to be of more effect than any argument. In the condition of the sufferer—attempting to discard the base that he might don the noble—it was like tearing himself asunder, and with a cry of agony he ceased to torture himself, turning his crestfallen face to Rael in mute appeal for an explanation.

“My poor, unfortunate brother,” Rael began, “for however sad your condition now is, you are still a member of the family in which I am more happily circumstanced. I wish you would try to grasp this and remember that I shall always he ready to help or advise you whenever you may need my assistance. You may scarcely be able to accept this as freely and fully, as I offer it, because it is difficult for you to understand such an offer being made, on so short an acquaintance, without it being a cover to some ulterior motive. You will not be here long before you discover that these sinister undercurrents of pretence and deception cannot be concealed amongst us. We are each and all known and read of all men. Had you known this you would have understood me differently from the beginning—you would have understood why you are wearing the garments you are so anxious to get rid of—you would have felt the force of my enquiry when I asked you whether you had been in the habit of pleading the promises with a truly penitent heart, or as a verbal confession without a thought of true repentance. I needed not to ask—I could read it all too plainly in your vesture. I wanted to bring to your own remembrance your usual confession so perfunctorily made when you said, ‘we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,’ but you would not hear me.”

“Do you forget our sacraments—are they of no avail? If not—then what is true or effectual?”

“When any gift or creature of God is legitimately, faithfully and reverently used it becomes a sacrament—outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace, but the most sacred sign, symbol or ceremony which heaven can devise, sacrilegiously employed, or lightly misrepresented, becomes riot only of non-effect but an active agent in turning the truth of God into a lie, and an instrument in turning the flock of Christ out of the way into the by-paths of folly and countless sins. The one sacrament God has instituted for observance on earth is that of Love, shining from heaven as the Pole-star to guide humanity homeward; then to be reflected from man to man, each individual commanded to communicate the sacred flame to his brother’s torch, for the enlightenment of the whole world; and finally, the earth having been baptized with the glory of the Divine Splendour, shall return its bounteous harvest to fill the garner of the Father’s house with a race of children who were begotten, nourished, trained and perfected in the image of the Love from which they sprang.

“But this simple, natural and all-sufficient sacrament of God did not commend itself to the minds of the wise men in the University of Babel, who for the aggrandizement of their cult have invented a group of fictitious and counterfeit sacraments—ecclesiastical, ritualistic and theological—through the labyrinthian mystery of which even the greatest authorities fail to discover a clear and definite path. The system brought upon them the denunciation of the Christ: ‘Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.’ This specious fallacy of a theology built on the philosophy of men, instead of the revelation of God, has not only survived the anathema of Christ, but it has since branched out into a multitude of contending schools until confusion has become more confounded, and the name of the Prince of Peace is used as the battlecry for inhuman slaughter.

“So successfully have the Magi reproduced the specious allegorical tragedy of Eden in the hypnotic temple of Babel, where the tares have been so ingeniously sown among the wheat, that it has become a vain task to separate them before the scythe of Death makes the task a sad but easy one. Then comes the rude awakening as the hand of Truth arouses the sleeper to ‘Arise and see!’ This is the startling revelation under the staggering influence of which you have appealed to me. And now”—here Rael’s voice took a deeper and if possible more tender tone than ever—“what is it possible for me to say, for me to do to help you? Why were you so blind and deaf? Why did you so deceive yourself as not to know that the Master was speaking equally to yourself as to those to whom you spake when you read His words: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness’? Now your house is left unto you, not only desolate, but grievously dilapidated. You all too lightly took upon yourself to occupy a sacredly responsible position you did not understand—to discharge a spiritual duty to which you were not called – to declare the counsels of God which had not been revealed to you—to direct the souls of men in a way of which you yourself were ignorant—to declare a way of salvation the first principles of which you were a stranger to, and now you must needs reap the harvest of your audacity – now you have to pay the penalty of your incompetence to the last farthing of the just demand that is made upon you. And there is no escape.”

As Rael delivered himself with calm and sympathetic consideration the haughty spirit of the cleric gradually gave place to a rising sense of serious apprehension, and as Rael concluded, with a very chastened mien the enquiry was made:

“But though I may be all the offender you point out, am I not also something of a victim? I am not the originator of the system you declaim, but accepted and embraced it at the value my forefathers had placed upon it—am I not entitled to any mitigating consideration for this?”

“Yes, my hitherto misguided brother, you are entitled to, and will receive consideration now that you have fallen into the hands of God—not the God you have been authorized to set before your fellow-men as the central figure in a man-made system of theology, but the God who was made manifest in the life, the teaching and the works of His anointed, who ‘will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth,’ the power of whose irresistible love you will be no longer be able to escape, when, once, like the wretched prodigal, you awake and come to yourself.

“Let us sit down for a moment while I tell you something of the lovingkindness of the Father with whom you have now to do,” and the four of us threw ourselves on the crest of the slope while Rael poured out his soul in a setting of the gospel that was old and yet entrancingly new by the way in which it was declared.

“The epitome of every life the world has known—ever can know”—he began— “is to be found in connection with the records of the life of Jesus; the commentary and details, so far as are essential, are set forth in the other parts of scripture. The law and the prophets are not doctrinal, philosophical and scientific codes, placed in the hands of priests for the government of the people; they are allegories, given to children that the older may teach the younger the simple love-stories the Father has written to excite and stimulate the love of His beloved ones. But as the variety of time, place, circumstance, position, mental ability and inherited gilt will be combined in producing an innumerable diversity of personality, while frequently large groups will be more closely held together by one or another of distinctive traits, so interblended as to retain the union of the whole family, the stories are not told in consecutive chapters and complete volumes, but the allegories are set, like jewels in the histories of men, families or nations, that the child playing at ‘hide-and-seek’ may search and find, and, learning to piece each lesson in accordance with its own conception of its Father’s image, may present its own idea of its unseen Father’s portrait in the life it builds.

“Perhaps it will be of some service if I place before you your own story in accordance with this arrangement, as I see it portrayed in the scriptures—as I should present it if I were preaching the gospel from the point of view where we are now beholding. The Christ outline of it I should find in the beautiful story displaying the ministry of the good Samaritan. You occupy the place of the victim who, attracted by some unspecified advantages offered by Jericho, and oblivious of the royal curse which had been anciently pronounced upon the city (Josh. vi, 26), not being superstitious, turned his back upon the city of the great King, walked in the way of sinners, and fell a victim to robbers who beat and stripped him.

“The terse description, ‘leaving him half dead,’ together with the rest of the allegory, shows the eloquent masterstroke of the speaker in revealing so much in the silences for those whose spiritual ears and eyes are open—the avenues down which God makes His significant revelations. How could the position in which I find you be more graphically described than in the words, ‘leaving him half dead’? Stripped of all the accessories of your proudly boasted profession, even to the body you adorned with the insignia that vaunted your exalted office, so that even a casual glance of the priest and Levite passing by do not recognize your dignity, surely no more brief and noncommittal phrase could be employed to express the situation?

“And yet it is but the half of death that you have endured—the way from Jerusalem to Jericho is the way of death, but the city of the allegory was destroyed, so that whosoever could escape the robbers who infest the road and reach the site would find no city there—the eternal King hath declared that ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’—when now you reach the uttermost of the extremity of wandering you reach the extremity of all but the eternal, and the sweep of the circumference takes an upward turn. You cannot suffocate in the filth of the swine-trough, since there is an everlasting arm even underneath the mire to lift up the head until the vilest prodigal awakes with the latent determination to escape.

“I am not saying that you have to meet this limit—far be that from me. You are now in the realm of law and justice, not administered as in the earthly court, but in accordance with the inviolable righteousness of God. You will be neither dragged nor escorted to any place for which you have prepared yourself, but when we leave you, our brother Eldare may save you much trouble—perhaps also sorrow—by pointing out the way in which your own place lies, then you will be left to find it for yourself, and when you select it, no one will attempt to dispute your choice.

“But though you will be free from outward restraint in selecting your first abode, it is quite certain to me where your choice will fall.”

“Will you be kind enough to tell me?” he entreated in a still more chastened spirit. “Will it be with other clerics, since you say we each go to our own place?”

Rael met the half-expectant gaze with which the entreaty was made with a look of pitiful commiseration. and did not hasten to reply. Then with a marked deliberation he said:

“There are no clerics here. Such distinctions, with all such like accessories of Vanity Fair, lie yonder,” pointing away to the great banks of mists. “All the pomps and vanities of the seductive revelries of the flesh lie buried with the body. These cannot rise again. For you that Fair is over; its attractive drama is ended; the plaudits of the entertained have ceased; the curtain has fallen; the robes in which you elected to strut the stage have been doffed; and I have before me not the popular hero of the footlights, but the miserable actor who is seeking for a shelter where he can lay his head—for some friend who will break and give him the bread for which he is starving. How gladly would I give you to eat, but in your infatuation for your art you have so weakened your constitution that to give you solid food would only be to increase your suffering. You need the most skilled and careful treatment to secure your recovery. It will be painful to begin with—due to your neglect to take precaution in the past. You aspired to fame, and won it; but in your victory you lost your soul’s health; now you have to fight a sterner battle to recover it. But you need not despair. However drastic your treatment may have to be, let this help you to bear it—it cannot end fatally. Nor will you be left to bear it unattended. You may have to pass through a Babylonian furnace on your way; but fear not, the fire is only an agent for purification, to carry away and get rid of the filth, it cannot destroy life; and though in the pains of the ordeal you may not be conscious of the fact, there will be with you, in the midst of the furnace, one like unto the Son of Man, to watch and deliver you when the purifying effect is secured. It may be that the crucible may be necessary to remove the dross that is poisoning your life; if so, the refiner will be in constant attendance; and when, at length, he can clearly see his own image reflected in your depths he will bring you forth back to the spot on which we are standing now.

“When, in the providence of God, you are able to do this, you will be altogether another man—your eyes will be opened, your understanding enlarged, and taking a review of your whole career, you will be filled with wonder and surprise at the tender loving-kindness of the Father which has been made manifest to you. I would that I could save you from all that lies between now and then in the pain of the purifying process, but the seed has been sown, and the harvest must be reaped, but in the reaping you will find the blessing that maketh rich, and when we meet again you will tell me that the gain has been far in excess of the cost.”

With this we left him.

It may be that I am wrong in my estimates of the comparison, but as I look back upon this incident, I cannot recall an experience that filled me with a greater yearning to do something to alleviate its consequences than the case we were then leaving behind us. Several times did I turn my head and cast a look of melancholy desire upon that suffering soul. At length my sympathy grew too strong for resistance, and I entreated Rael:

“Is it not possible for us to do something in some way to help him?”

“Nothing more,” he replied laconically, but there was a volume of eloquent meaning in the sympathetic shake of the head by which it was accompanied.

“It seems to me to be almost criminal to leave him alone just as he is,” I responded.

“His case is not exactly as it seems to your inexperienced eyes,” he replied. “For us to attempt to do more, at present, will not only be ill advised, but detrimental. Eldare is far more competent to render the aid he needs than either you or I, and much as either of us would be glad to assist him, after what has been accomplished we must be content to leave him until such time as further treatment will be helpful rather than otherwise.”

“Pardon the presumption of my ignorance, Rael,” I pleaded in my importunity, “but if we remained at hand, could we not the more readily assist him when he really needed it?”

There was more of commendation than reproof in the look he gave me as he asked:

“And would you suggest our neglect of other legitimate duties while we waited until he should appeal for assistance, then to discover that others had been appointed who were better qualified for the purpose than ourselves?”

“Ah, my friend, forgive me, I am admonished indeed. In my ignorance I knew not what I asked, but in my sympathy with suffering I wanted to stretch out a hand to help.

“There is nothing to repent of or be forgiven in anything you have done, my brother,” he replied, his face brightening into a beam of commendation. “So far as I am permitted to read it, this whole incident has had for one of its purposes the presentation of this test to you: to ascertain whether at the instant when you might put your newly found power of ‘thereth’ into operation, you would be willing, at the call of duty, to waive your personal gratification in order to perform a doubtful ministry. Your response has been the equivalent of having successfully rendered the service for which you pleaded, and the reward of it will be yours.”

“Oh Rael,” I cried, almost trembling with gratitude at the protecting power which had been afforded to me in the trial, “what manner of men we ought to be as we move to and fro among these interblended opportunities of Providence!”

“Now you are approaching that attitude of soul that it is necessary to attain on earth in order to prevent such catastrophes as the one we have just encountered.”

“Should I be wrong,” I carefully ventured to enquire, “if I asked the nature of the sin to which his downfall was due?”

“No, I could read his record as in an open book from the motley character of his apparel, and you will presently be equally able to do the same, but it is neither necessary nor advisable to practise too close a scrutiny. We are not judges, but rather ministers. It is no part of our work to examine and discover whether ‘the last farthing’ of the penalty has been paid, but rather to try to anticipate the redemption by imparting what strength we may to leave the bondage at the earliest available instant. But of the general aspects and symptoms of a case it is well for those who are brought into contact with it to be familiar in order to become the more efficient in its treatment. In those main features this case is a very common one; it is one of spiritual petrifaction arising from a mechanical and insincere formalism without any approach to real spiritual life to control it.”

“Is not much of that due first of all to taints we receive from our parents, then as children from observation, and finally from the spiritual teachers who claim authority to teach us?”

“We recognize that perhaps more clearly than you may he inclined to admit. That is why I have said, ‘we are not judges.’ At the same time, I can refer to yourself in support of my claim that a man has power, if he chooses to use it, in most cases, to break away from these restrictive influences, and worship God in the beauty of holiness, in spite of any and every spider’s web, whether of science, philosophy or theology, which any organization or combination may seek to throw around him. The standard of judgment by which a soul is judged on his arrival here is not perfection—no man is perfect, or can be so, until he is lost in his union with God—but by that approach towards perfection which he, personally, had been able to attain. An exemplary instance of that was given by the Master Himself in the case of the woman who had broken the box of costly ointment over his head. He expressed no opinion in respect to the act in itself, whether it was discreet or otherwise—that He left as it may or may not have been—but of the motive which had prompted it He said ‘She hath done what she could.’ Such is the standard of the judgment here delivered, not by the verdict of any individual, but by the revelation of the life which has passed through the searching ordeal. God demands to know how the balance of our stewardship stands concerning the soul He has entrusted to our care. We have to meet Him with the reward of our trading with our fellow men in our hands; if we have been slothful or buried our talents in the earth, there is no admission to His presence until we have corrected our folly—unless we wish to be condemned. But having discovered this fact on arrival here, it is demanded that we set about correcting our error at once that we may all be found ready to present ourselves in the day when He shall make up His jewels.”

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