Chapter XXII: A Talk with Eilele
After that never-to-be-forgotten episode in the cave—that strange interblending of sorrow and joy—that daybreak burst from midnight gloom—I returned alone to the garden. Zisvené suddenly left us as we were nearing the open—she was awakening from her sleep and must needs take charge of her body for its daily round of duties. Cushna, well accustomed to administering to such requirements as Clarice immediately stood in need of, preferred to be left alone with his charge. Clarice tearfully entreated me not to leave her, fearful, from her knowledge of the past, that my going presaged another long and agonizing reparation. But Cushna solaced her fears, persuading her to trust him, and with promises that I would soon see her again we parted.
Thus left alone I was free to reflect on the ever-increasing wonder and diversified fulness of the life upon which I had entered. I was for the third time standing in view of that entrancing prismatic landscape, and I was instantly busy comparing, and contrasting the special incident in connection with each visit. In reference to the first and third, what a contrast was presented for my study between my first experience of that poor woman’s entrance and Clarice’s escape. Then my own change of view-point, due to the light I had received since my own arrival. Standing there in the glory of that light which affords true light I was impressed with the thought: “What a providence it would be if the ignorantly blinded eye could always be united with a dumb tongue.” How much better would mankind be circumstanced if such a union could be enforced. I looked, and thanked the Father for the light of knowledge that had dawned on me, and for the restraining hands that had led me so carefully through the gloom of ignorance.
Then I wondered: I was alone. Should I, unaccompanied, venture to try the new power with which I had been endowed? I hesitated—waited, if so be the Voice would speak and counsel me. But all was silent. Still I waited. Was it an encouragement or a temptation that doubtfully flickered an inaudible “Try it”? I was not certain. The balance swung with delicate indecision. As I stood waiting a new experience befell me – for the first time that I could recall I felt the passing of a gentle breeze. It lifted me up, carried me away. I stood on a mount beside the sea and in the plain at the foot of the hill a nation stood in breathless indecision. Near me on the mountain side were two altars, round one of which a crowd of frantic priests were dancing in bleeding fury, howling for a sign of recognition from their deaf, absent, or mythical God. Beside the other altar stood a calm, travel-stained, roughly clad pilgrim, uncouth in manner as he was unofficial in dress, with a scornful smile upon his rugged face, and his eyes aflame with the confidence of his purpose. He had waited from morn till sundown for the answer of Baal which did not come, and, his patience weary. he turned to the multitude, spread his hands and cried:
“How long halt ye between two opinions?”
The challenge awoke me. Was not that the answer for which I had waited? They who are God’s serve Him in honouring Him. And instantly I was back again in the Garden, beside Eilele, who also seemed to be lost in one of her flights of meditation.
“Ah! Astroel,” was her calm waking greeting. “I hope I have not kept you waiting; but I was far away, wandering with Israel’s shepherd King through the poetic fields of his twenty-third psalm.”
“Were you,” I enquired. “How strange if we had met, for I have but just come away from Elijah on Carmel.”
“Then we were not very far apart, were we? You heard the people cry: ‘The Lord He is God,’ and I made the solemn declaration: ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’ Shall we go on to talk of Him, for I have long looked forward to the time when I should meet you here? You have met with many experiences, you have learned many truths, have seen many developments of the Father’s loving kindness since I first saw you.”
“I have indeed,” I answered her, “and the last has been the strangest and most wonderful of all.”
Her whole being—not her face only—seemed to be suffused with a soft radiance of glory, as she listened to my words.
“So it will always be—it must always be,” she replied, as her eyes travelled into the familiar far away. “Always more and more, ever higher and higher, glory on glory, and yet we can never get beyond the threshold of the Evermore. Tell me what this new wonder has been.”
There is something so irresistibly charming in the calm confidence of Eilele—her outreach is so far, and her hold on the invisible is so firm, that whenever I am in her company, I seem at once to be carried into the very bosom of the inner heaven where God Himself is, and the atmosphere is that of the vast primeval Peace. She knows and leads me into the secret habitat of Confidence, across the azure skies of which no cloud of Doubt has yet been known to pass—the Rest that has not yet been broken or shaken—where Omnipotence is gentle and tender, and the Wonderful is natural, naive and ingenuous. I can speak to her with more ease and freedom than I can to Myhanene, with the perfect assurance that, with her, I cannot possibly be misunderstood or doubtfully interpreted. So in reply to her invitation I flung the floodgates of my soul wide open and poured out my pent-up feelings in the full story of my visit to Clarice and the success with which it had been crowned.
She listened with that calm, meditative abstraction I am getting to know so well, without asking a question or making a word of comment until I had finished. Then, without the least token of surprise or animation disturbing her attitude, she placidly replied:
“Yes! that is just how I should expect the Father to respond to your aspiration. ‘He giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not,’ even though the petition be made on behalf of one in hell. Even there the soul is still lying in the domain where ‘all things are possible,’ being yet within the boundary of the uttermost. In that paroxysm of penitential weeping you saw one of the most glorious providences of God at work – if there is such a thing as one providence being greater than another – you saw where, in the Divine wisdom and justice, a single stab or spasm of remorse is capable of liquidating the penalty of certain great sins – where an instant of intensity is accepted as the equivalent to a period of duration. The just weight of suffering has been secured, and at the same time, the petition granted. Yet the law of God is perfect, because the prayer of faith had the effect of calling into operation a provision of providence that had been arranged to meet the contingency. ‘The prayer of faith shall save the sick (Jas. v, 17); hence you brought Clarice away with you.”
“But Eilele!—think of the wonder of it!” I cried, marvelling at the placidity with which she spoke of it.
“God Himself is wonderful, why then should I be disturbed and surprised when I see the quality displayed? I might rather be moved to enquire if I did not see it; while, at the same time, I can feel the deepest sympathy for the—shall I say consternation you experience at your first beholding the varied demonstrations? Your eyes are now being opened to understand what you were so surprised to hear me say when first we met—that you were then standing on the threshold of the vestibule of heaven, and just as you are now discovering how true my words were then, so you will yet come to recognize that now your eyes are only opening to the beginning of the revelations that eternity still holds in store.”
“Yes, I am now, and only now, beginning to understand what you meant when you said:
Oh, the vision would o’erpower us
if it suddenly were given,
So we wait in preparation
In the vestibule of heaven.
But if all that I have seen, heard and learned is only the, beginning, what will the fulness, the glory, the extent, and the knowledge of the ending be?”
“God! In all the perfection of the splendour which began to be revealed to us in Jesus Christ,” she replied, as her face shone with the reflection of the vision on which her soul was gazing in the far away.
“But was not the Christ the ‘fullness of the Godhead bodily’?” I enquired.
“Yes, bodily. Not the fullness of the perfect Godhead, but the measure of the fullness that could be manifested through the limited capacity of the earthly body. He was one with God, as a word is one with the speaker who gives expression to it; but as the speaker is greater than the word, so He said, ‘My Father is greater than I.’ What the extent of that greatness is only eternity will reveal, and to arrive at the knowledge of it we have to ascend from height to height, from holiness to holiness, from purification to purification, until by a sevenfold sanctification we are able to reflect His undimmed lustre, and can bear the brightness of seeing Him as He is.”
“And is such a goal really attainable? The prospect you open up rises to such a height as to appear an impossibility for me ever to reach it.”
She turned a benevolent smile upon me as she quietly replied.
“Just so impossible does it appear to the child that he can ever be as his father. If you had brought Clarice here, directly, from her dark abode, she would have said the same in relation to her ever reaching this point where we meet, but you would shatter her doubt by telling her how you yourself have actually made the journey, step by step, from where you have now left her; and by the same way you will lead and guide her, not only to where we stand, but onward still through and beyond the gate, up the celestial staircase where Myhanene pointed you towards Omra home, to glory upon glory which you have not yet beheld. The heaven of God, like every other attainment, whether it be of body, soul or spirit – cannot be reached by a single and sudden bound, but by the patiently ordained process of ‘line upon line.’ As drops of water aggregating will fill the bed of an ocean, or atoms of matter will eventually build up a continent, so holy aspiration will enable us to reach the pinnacle of divine perfection to which we are called, and we have an eternity before us in which to reach the goal.”
“Divine perfection?” I dubiously enquired, thinking she had made an unintentional slip. But Eilele met my somewhat anxious reminder with a ripple of real laughter.
“My dear Astroel,” she replied, “if mortals arrogate the right to call themselves ‘divines,’ surely it is not presumptuous to apply the term to the highest rank in the hierarchy of heaven—the position held by the sons of God, to which dignity we are all called—which goal we must all ultimately reach by virtue of that call.”
“When you open up to me such vistas of that which lies beyond us, it reminds me of what—was it not Paul who said, ‘ It doth not yet appear what we shall be”?
“No; it was the beloved John who said that—he who beheld the door opened in heaven allowing him to behold something of the glory of the kingdom into which you are now about to enter—a kingdom that was set up on earth, but the earth, by man’s disobedience, has been temporarily placed under the dominion of sin. But, even on earth the kingdom shall be restored, for there shall be a ‘new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth’—she paused as with uncertainty for a moment, and then added—rightness.’ Yes, I like that better than righteousness under the circumstances. The meaning is the same, but the less familiar word gives it an emphasis we do not notice in the older form. One pauses over the innovation to enquire as to its correctness: ‘Rightness’? Is it really so? A new heaven and earth, wherein dwelleth rightness. Curious idea; yet when you come to think of it, it is nothing more than a new setting of an old idea. Still, the abbreviation carries a suggestion which does not sit quite so comfortable as the word we are used to. Therein lies the value of the change: men have grown so familiar with the confession that ‘all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,’ that it has emptied itself of all meaning in its mechanical automatism until the soul awakens with surprise to find that those ‘filthy rags’ of unrighteous indifference have become an impassable gulf yawning between itself and the kingdom. The crystal sea is a tideless sea; nor has it any current or favouring breeze that will carry listless, dreamy souls to the foot of the throne.”
“It is always more than a pleasure to me to hear you talk,” I took the opportunity of saying, as she paused for a moment in her reverie. “Every sentence you utter suggests a new string of questions I would like to hear you answer; but may I just ask you this one: Do you think there will really be a new heaven and a new earth, or is it to be regarded as a metaphor only?”
“So far as it has been revealed unto me,” she replied with cautious deliberation, “it partakes of both the literal and the metaphorical, something as the twilight is an interblending of light with darkness—it is of both, and yet is neither. In the olden life it was not an uncommon event for us to renovate and turn an old garment and, as we used to say ‘make quite a new one’ by the process. It is some such change as this that I anticipate when the dear Master shall re-establish His Kingdom upon the earth. And just as the time for the renovation and reconstruction of a garment rests with the determination of the owner, so does the time for the setting up of the Kingdom rest with the decision of God, since the ‘earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.’ When the Chosen of the Lord went to establish the Kingdom by the preaching of rightness, His own received Him not- Rome mocked and crucified Him, and the nations cried: ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ He will not return in such simple guise the second time; the circumstances of His advent will be in accordance with the second Psalm: ‘He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them (the kings of the earth) in derision. … He shall break them with a rod of iron; He shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’
“It will then no longer be a question of free-will—He will subdue the nations and bring them into subjection unto His rule. ‘Then [when he has accomplished this] shall the Son also himself be subject to Him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.’ With this the whole world will awaken to the discovery that the Sermon on the Mount is not an impossible idealism, but that it has become an actual living force in the new Kingdom, in which the golden rule will be seen in operation and the will of God will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. The various experiences you have met with here, Astroel, should help you to understand how feasible it is for this to be accomplished by Divine decree, and the result would be, practically, a new earth wherein dwelleth rightness.”
“Yes, the advantages I have already derived from the view-point of this higher life are almost incalculable, but where the prospects are so vast – so infinite in every direction, I have not yet grown sufficiently confident to trust in the reliability of my novel power of vision, so I fall back upon maturer knowledge, and gather strength and encouragement as I hear you discourse on the wonderful revelations of God. Is it not better for me to do so?”
“Far better, my brother; if men would make sure of their ground, their feet would more seldom slip.”
“Thank you; then may I ask you yet another question?”
“Yes; ten if you desire it.”
“Having now obtained the key to your idea of a new earth—for which I desire to thank you—I should be glad to know why a new heaven should be considered necessary. Is not heaven itself the perfection of holiness?”
Eilele seemed to have anticipated the nature of my enquiry, and I had scarcely begun to formulate my request before I saw her pass into that realm of reverie where I so fervently wished for the power to follow her, and gaze upon the visions which her enraptured eyes beheld as her tongue gave a semi-conscious utterance to its interpretation of the inspiration.
“It would be an absolute impossibility,” she began in her dreamy indecision, “for one whose life had been spent in an Alpine valley to conceive any correct idea of what an American prairie looks like; or for the lad, whose conception of a lake has been modelled on the dimensions of a village pond, to imagine the outline of the Atlantic Ocean. Just so would the mortal, limited by the environment of the finite, fail to comprehend the true beauty and perfection of the Infinite. Few, indeed, are they who are privileged to have their ears so attuned as Isaiah, who was permitted to hear and record the music of the Voice that said: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’
“He, being ‘Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods, perfect in all His works and ways’. It is in the glory light of this supreme perfection where our eyes are blinded as we try to look upon it, and we are lost in a greater splendour than that of the midday sun. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,’” —and her eyes were lifted, climbing, climbing, higher and higher still, until her soul’s flight wearied and she reluctantly shook her head as she added: “Who can attain to it? ‘Perfect in all His ways.’ And so, knowing the end from the beginning, when He created the earth He provided it with every requirement, to the minutest detail, that would be necessary to accomplish all His perfect purpose. In the strength of His omnipotence He might have commanded and a perfected earth would have sprang into orderly being at His word. But He was building a schoolroom for a race of sons who were to bear His own image—to be in His own likeness—to come into the inheritance of His own perfection, into which they must needs be brought by the discipline of suffering (Heb. ii, 10).”
“Why needs be?” I enquired.
“In order that they should be proved, tested, tried, purified, sanctified and be found worthy to occupy the high and holy position to which they would be called as sons of God. For this they had to be fitted by a course of subjection and obedience to parental authority. But while the prospective inheritance demanded a purity without spot or wrinkle, taint or stain, as a qualification, God knew the weakness and frailty of the flesh in which the spiritual germ had first to strike its roots. Knew also and remembered that He had established this law by which the earth should bring forth its fruit, ‘first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.’ If such duration of time, and succession of seasons, were necessary for the production of the bread that should nourish the flesh, could love and wisdom demand that the soul should reach its divine standard at a single bound? Therefore, in the beginning, when God created the earth, equipped in all respects for the sustenance and requirements of the flesh, according to His own riches in glory, He also created a heaven annexed to earth (Gen. i, 1-8), equally provided as might be required, as nursery, schoolroom, hospital or convalescent wards, for all and every soul that stood in need of its varied ministries. You have in yourself experienced, with wonder and surprise, how beautifully and perfectly several of its departments are adapted to the particular necessities of the individual; you have also been permitted to see the unexpected outreach of love which assists in the reclamation and restoration of those who have erred and strayed; and at length you have discovered how absolutely impossible it is for any soul to cross that great divide while yet a taint of stain or sin contaminates it. Think of this, and then you will understand the need for the purification by suffering.
“When, however, the new earth comes into existence by the establishment of the kingdom, and righteousness covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, then the need for the lower heaven will be at an end, and the Paradise of God will again touch the earth. Oh, that we might see it now, that God might in very truth be all in all.
“But here comes our sister Dracine with the Gardener, and he is sure to want to show you some of the beauty spots that surround us.”