Audio recording of Chapter 20:
Study group for Chapter 20 with Mary and Jesus:
Audio of study group for Chapter 20:
Outline of topics in Chapter 20 (pdf):
Chapter XX: Beulah Land
When the visitors, whom I can only describe as being from the hill country and beyond, had retired, they who were left behind on the plain – instead of giving expression to useless regrets and disagreements with the selection made, as is so generally the custom on earth – embraced, congratulated and rejoiced with each other that they had been permitted to partake of the pleasures I had witnessed. I did not speak to any of them, though many passed near to me from time to time, as I felt an inward consciousness that though with them, I could not consider myself of them – I was, in reality, only a kind of visitor to whom an unwonted courtesy was being extended in making acquaintance with the many phases of the heavenly life, for although I was a citizen of immortality, I was by no means sure what my status and position would prove to be when my complimentary wanderings were over. I gathered, however, from the observations I made and the expressions heard, that if the great majority had not been translated they had all been benefited and elevated by the service. Every soul had been drawn nearer, and further prepared for the change which must ultimately come to all. If they had not yet reached the standard they had grown towards it; if in the sanctuary of silence they had not actually heard the voice of the Omnipotent, they had at least listened to the awful hush which precedes sound. Therefore they were stronger, holier, happier, for the experience they had shared, while they returned homeward filled with a hope in which there was no room for disappointment.
When Myhanene came back to me, after having bidden his friends adieu, I began to ask the volume of queries which the events had suggested.
“Who was the angel chief of that bright company?” I asked.
“His name is Omra,” he answered, “and I think that is all you can understand about him at present; if I were to try to explain his rank, station and duties, I should only be speaking in enigmas, so I am afraid you must be content with his name only.”
“Have the friends who were – promoted – I can find no other word to express my meaning – gone to be with him?”
“No; they have passed into the vicinity of the home of our sister, the poetess – where I found you.”
“And I should like to ask, if I may, where does Omra live?”
“That you can never know except by sight, and I am not sure that I could lend you strength enough to catch even a distant glimpse of his home; you have seen the power of his glory when subdued in accommodation to the surroundings of this festival, but the brightness of his estate is the native purity which radiates from the holiness which is part of those who dwell so much nearer to God. But while I cannot hope that you will be able to define his home, if I can only succeed in pointing out its splendour, it will be another revelation to further stimulate your aspirations, and furnish food for reflection by and by.”
“My soul thirsts for the knowledge,” I replied; “but I have seen so much that I almost fear to tax my recollection farther; still you know what is best, and I am content for you to decide.”
“Come then, with me; every cup in heaven is filled to overflowing. You remember the promise of Christ – you must realise it here – ‘to him that hath shall be given,’ yea, even ‘good measure, pressed down and running over,’ neither is there any need to be anxious, for the overflow cannot be lost; your memory may not recall it at once, but when the need arises it will be forthcoming; therefore, come on, and look as far as possible along the pathway of your future unfoldment.”
I must confess that I was timorously glad to hear his decision. I longed to behold the glory which should be revealed, but I was conscious of my own weakness and inability even as he spoke of it, and questioned myself as to what the effect would be when I stood in its presence. Nevertheless, I had confidence in my guide, as well as an inward assurance that I was beyond the possibility of injury, so with nervous reliance I took his proffered hand and we started on our new journey.
How long our companionship would last I had not the slightest means of knowing, but I was ever increasingly aware that the longer I spent with any one of these friends the more hopelessly I fell in arrears with the queries suggested by their presence. Therefore, though the scenes through which we passed were more than sufficient to call forth all my powers of admiration and observation, my thirst for information was still greater, and I speedily began to tax his generosity further.
“In my intercourse with our sister,” I said, “she seemed to give expression to opinions which differed considerably from those I have heard expressed by others; was I correct in my conclusions, or do you think I misunderstood her?”
“I have no doubt you are quite correct,” he replied “we have very marked differences of opinion on some points.”
“How is that? I surely expected to find all such divisions at an end here.”
“There is a vast distinction, my brother, between differences and divisions. I know that on earth differences of opinion frequently cause very painful divisions, but it is not so here, where we have learned that ‘the truth but makes us free.’ Below it is held as a cardinal principle in practice that the geologist shall appraise a dogma at exactly the same value and according to the estimate of the theologian, or he is regarded as an atheist, and is rightfully shut out from the company of the faithful; and the same rule is more or less stringently applied to every other branch of learning. How absurd. Did not the same God Who inspired the pen inspire the rocks; did He infuse ink with the whole revelation and leave the rest of chemistry a blank; was His will bequeathed entirely to the printing press, and the other manufactures left in pauperism; were the confines of His love left to the discrimination of a bookbinder, and the artistic world ignored; has the Illimitable and Infinite submitted to absorption by a Jewish nation and left no possible record for astronomy to read?”
“As the macrocosm, so you will find the microcosm has its arrangement in order to produce the natural harmony for which it has been designed. We have arrived at the knowledge that no man can grasp – much less monopolise – the whole of truth, but every mind appropriates its own congenial molecule; by and by the whole of this variety of thought will be gathered together us a florist arranges his flowers into a choice bouquet – every individual mind will then give utterance to its natural tone, and the volume of the whole will create and produce the perfect harmony of truth’s full chord. In accordance with this you will find there is still a variety of opinions upon minor matters – preference for shades of thought regulated by the conditions of different individuals – but you will never meet with anyone who will call blue pink, or black amber.”
There was no room, neither was I in any mood for argument to my questions he simply made a pronouncement in reply, which for the present I received, intending to make it the subject of reflection first, then discussion afterwards if necessary, when suitable opportunity should occur. There was also another reason which prevented me from pursuing our conversation further for the present. For some time, while listening with close attention to my friend, I had become aware that as we sped onward the atmosphere became lighter, until, as he concluded, I found I had quite lost the power of speech. I was overwhelmed with sensations strange and indefinable – not unpleasant, but rather the contrary; – I had entered the domain of some invigorating, irresistible happiness, which buoyed me up and carried me forward with an increasing impetus which overpowered and silenced me. The sense of weight, of fear, of doubt, of everything save an inexpressible joy, had left me.
I looked at my companion and then realised that the buoyancy and impelling power was due to the effort he was putting forth to give me of his strength to ascend. But I presently became conscious that even he was growing limited in this respect, there was for an instant a perceptible waver in our flight, but he threw his arm around me and drew me so close to himself that I became irradiated with his own brightness, which thrilled through me, seeming to bid defiance to all weakness; then, by a single effort of his will, like a lightning flash, he bore me across the intervening space, and we alighted upon the peak of some azure-tinted, celestial mountain. How far we travelled upon that flash of will I shall perhaps never know, but it gave mean illustration of the speed at which it is possible for Myhanene to journey, and the method by which he reached the home of the Assyrian, which had previously caused me so much astonishment.
Heaven lay unrolled before me. I can find no other word to convey even a crude suggestion of the scene – its purity, its beauty, and its peace – in its presence all that I had before beheld paled into insignificance. From our feet a mighty plain stretched into the far away, bathed in a soft, unchanging, pulseless light, that by some miracle may once have kissed the pearl and made it blush with all its modest loveliness. Then, in the distance – however far the eye might travel – undimmed, distinct and vivid as the foreground, there rose to view chain on chain, and tier on tier, the heavenly mountains – countless hills on which equally countless terraces were spread – terraces large as plateaus, each vieing with the other in mansions, parks and flowers, like models of angel cities standing in galleries Divine, all canopied with the smile of God. Each terrace was bathed in its own distinctive glory, the brilliance increasing with the ascent. The sight conveyed to my mind the idea of a grand celestial staircase leading to the throne-room of the Infinite. At either extremity of those steps, as though to preserve the balance and complete the design of the heavenly architecture, rose the peaks of intersecting ranges, like regal janitors, bathed in atmospheric hues, changing in their ascent into tintless glory where unsullied crystal pillars formed the background of the vision, bearing upon their shoulders a structure that blazed and flashed like a diamond reflecting the light of some eternal sun.
Myhanene, when he had given me time to drink in the rapture of the scene, called my attention to that home of indescribable magnificence in the distance, and simply said: “That is Omra’s home.”
But this, I was told, was not heaven upon which my eyes were feasting; it was but the Beulah Land or link between the lower and a higher condition of the soul’s development. My friend had crossed that almost illimitable plain – in the near foreground of which he pointed out his own home to me – ascended that divine staircase, and with Omra stood, as I was then standing, to look upon scenes more glorious yet beyond; Omra had gazed upon others purer still; but how many lay between that point and God I cannot learn, yet up these successive galleries of holiness each soul must climb before it can be satisfied, and see Him as He is.
Myhanene would now have carried me to see his home, but such an ocean of bewildering majesty overpowered my sense of comprehension that I prayed him to take me back.