The Gate of Heaven, Chapter 4

Chapter IV: Omra Explains My Position

Rael was already proving himself to be a provokingly fascinating teacher. He had the rare skill of creating a thirst for knowledge by sketching bare outlines of subjects drawn in attractive forms and colours that excited interest expectation, and desire, then quietly turning aside, for a time, without satisfying the appetite he had created. In this lay the great beauty and fertility of his design. A coveted treasure, discovered, out of reach, lost, sought for, and finally found, is far more precious than if it had been a plaything of our nursery.

I had been told that I was approaching the most momentous step in the soul’s pilgrimage. How calmly, even cursorily, Rael had seemed to deal with it. Just a passing reference, then he turned abruptly to another subject equally engrossing, which he dismissed with similar brevity, then the door of opportunity was closed, and I had to stifle the flood of questions that rose to my lips and wait for some more convenient season—if I might meet with one—at Rael’s suggestion that we should go forward to meet Omra.

Such was my introduction to the method my newly-found instructor intended to pursue.

My companion seemed disinclined for further conversation as we leisurely passed along the Court, nor had I any regret to find him so. He had already said enough to give me food for thought, and my active mind was not slow to accept the opportunity of digesting it. I could not hope clearly and definitely to solve the mysterious problem of the second birth which had been so cryptically referred to, but in trying to review Rael’s declaration in the light of my previous experiences and attainments, might I not prepare myself in some measure to anticipate something that was in process of revelation?

The whole environment was suggestive of contemplation. The atmosphere was fragrant with peace; the silence musical with rest; the soft light liquid with a sense of communion too deep to find expression in language. Why disturb it by any attempt to continue our conversation?

My mind again reverted to the condition in which I found and now had left Vaone—the langour and listlessness experienced by such as her as they reach that Valley of Content after battling and struggling through the earth conditions, and the desire they feel to rest their overwearied souls. For some reason I could not explain, in the mercy and by the grace of God, I had escaped this retaining influence, to all appearance, and when reaching what I have spoken of as the still water between life’s ebb and flow, some benign current had carried me across the stagnancy into the rising flow of the eternal stream.

I hesitated, almost trembled, as I found myself arriving at such a conclusion, which appeared to be the only logical interpretation of my condition in the light of what Rael had said. Had he been more explicit about the second birth, I might have had more confidence; but did not his reference to its momentous nature warrant my surmise? Was I not conscious of an unfolding within me of new faculties, capacities and powers which appeared to be carrying me into some enchanted land of being which already thrilled me with a hyper-susceptibility to which I had been hitherto absolutely oblivious?

How I wished I were alone.

Rael caught my thought almost before I was conscious of it myself.

“It may be,” he said with soothing impressiveness, “that in your pilgrimage through the ages, you will not find another spot that will make such an ineffaceable impression on you as this hallowed Court of the Voices. It would be useless for me now to attempt to explain all that I mean by this—you are not yet in a position to understand what I tell you. Look, for instance, at the variation in the colouring and the decoration of the robes worn by those around us. When you are able to understand the meaning and significance of this variety, you will be able to appreciate the far-reaching attraction which will take root in your own soul in your present passing. It will never be lost—never lose the freshness of its first charm. It is your unconscious outreach after this benediction that makes you wish to be alone, and now I must leave you for a while, that you may experience its sacred baptism, that you may hear the voices in which this sanctuary will speak with you through every avenue of your being, that the eyes of your understanding may be opened to catch some glimpses of the infinity into which you are about to enter; that you may take your first plunge into the rapture of life’s great and unspeakable glory. I will come back again presently, but while you listen to the first strains of this eternal music—while you breathe the first breath of its fragrant spiritual atmosphere, I will go to meet Omra.”

As he finished he turned away, and I had my wish.

It was a master-stroke on his part, to select the obvious lesson of the styles and colouring of the robes around us, as an illustration of the inability to understand the development I was experiencing. It was one of the first explanations I had heard after my arrival, that each colour bears its own significance, in their simplicity the darker denoting the lower and the lighter the higher conditions; but I had not yet been initiated into the meaning of the combinations and multiple variations which were represented around me. These denoted mysteries beyond my skill to fathom, they spoke of ranks and conditions of being, of which my comprehension had not at present heard, nor the heart of my imagination dreamed. They were suggestions of worlds of revelation lying deep within still unsuspected worlds to me, the beauties and glories of which would have blinded my vision with their radiance had not mine eyes been mercifully held that their light might fall as darkness on my virgin ignorance.

But though my untrained faculties were not able to appreciate all the subtilities of the majestic music that rolled around me, I was permitted to partake thereof to a rich overflowing of my soul’s content. I was conscious of sweet and strengthening influences playing, around me; in the calm deaths of my being were echoes of music—if not actual voices – rhythmical and captivating sounds I hungered to hear more fully; from hidden depths within me shadowy angelic forms arose, crowned with an aureole of promise, beckoned me to follow, and I was saturated with a sense of life to which I was unable to find any satisfactory analogy.

How I longed to grasp and understand every detail and item of the overpowering experience, to master each separate feature in a lingering analysis until had I made the whole part of my very self. Vain, covetous desire! As well might I have attempted to single out a solitary voice in that grand chorus of the Magnetic Chorale and balance its effect. The parts were so beautifully adjusted and interblended with the whole, that it became an absolute unit, before which I bowed my head in reverent adoration, while the silence breathed its benediction of peace.

After the silence “a still small voice” came to me—an echo from the distant past-carrying me back again to that little Zion Mission Room, where I met Helen and other over—burdened souls. It caused me to turn my eyes towards the gate, and I listened once more to the pathetic enquiry of one of their favourite hymns:

When my final farewell to the world I have said,
And gladly lie down to my rest;
When softly the watchers shall say: “He is dead,”
And fold my pale hands o’er my breast;
And when, with my glorified vision, at last
The Walls of “That City” I see,
Will anyone then, at the beautiful gate,
Be waiting and watching for me?

I could see no city—no wall—but the gate stood only a little distance away, and my feet were moving towards it. Were the influences and harmonies that were enthralling, enwrapping me, part of the accessories of the ‘Welcome Home’ those outcasts so confidently believed would await us there? Would their anticipation be realized after all? The possibility did not seem to be so incongruous now as once it appeared to be. Shall I find anyone there “watching and waiting for me?” What a question to ask. How could I expect it? I had been met, or rather found, on the slopes by Helen, but my mother was not there; and, in turn, I had come away and left her somewhere behind me, and probably should not know when she would reach the gate, and it was possible that I might not come to meet her. What had I done at any time – anywhere—to secure any such recognition? And yet had not Rael told me that even a greater than Myhanene—Omra—was even now on his way to meet me? Had not Rael gone away in order to meet him?

I should not only find someone waiting for me at the gate—it was evident they were not content to abide my coming till I arrived at the portal, but others than those I had known in the flesh were already on their way to give me welcome! There might be a readjustment in some details of the perspective—I had not found the gate to be standing on the margin of the river, as I had been promised, but it was evident that I had lost nothing in the rearrangement. How many times had I already discovered that God only delays in order to increase His blessings.

Just then I noticed Rael and Omra approaching, not from the direction of the gate, but from the opposite side of the Court. I took a step in my desire to meet them, when a musical whisper counselled me:

“Wait patiently for him.”

I stood still. “Who was it spoke to me?” From above me came another silvern chime:

O life! how blessed! how divine;
High life. the earnest of a higher!

Surely this must be a vibration from the storehouse of my memory. But I failed to trace it. Then I recalled the name by which Rael had spoken of the place, and, awestruck, marvelled at the thought of what might be before me.

Neither Rael nor Omra betrayed the slightest indication that they had as yet seen me, as they came in leisurely communion across the Court. I was somewhat relieved to find it so. since it gave me an opportunity of preparing to meet with one of whom, as I had told Rael, I felt a certain sense of awe, having only seen him in his official capacity at that baptism in the Sanctuary of Silence. My disquietude, however, proved to be groundless, as Rael had foretold me. Omra was another instance of the condescension in which greatness is lost in service. I only had to see him to desire his closer friendship—to recognize another Myhanene in him, at whose feet I would only be too happy to sit. In his figure and movement he was wonderfully like my better-known friend, but his simple pink robe spoke of another condition, as his light bronze complexion proclaimed another nationality.

They were drawing near, and still there was no visible sign of their knowledge of my presence, while I was wishing that more time had been at my disposal in which to study one to whom I was feeling an additional attraction at every step he took towards me; but that opportunity had now passed by.

Recalling the only occasion on which I had seen Omra, and coupling therewith what Rael had said of the importance of the step I was about to take, I had naturally associated the idea of our present meeting with some kind of formality. I think it was such an idea that had, nervously disturbed my anticipation. What a mistake. There was not even the formality of introduction as we met. Rael held his friend’s attention by some explanation he was making, in which Omra was deeply interested, as they came to a stand, then the laughing, liquid eyes were turned on me, a friendly hand gripped my shoulder and I was greeted with:

“Ah, my brother Aphraar, let me offer you a thousand welcomes on reaching such a stage in your journey!”

“I thank you for the generosity of your welcome,” I replied. “I can readily understand and appreciate that, but I am afraid my ignorance as to where I am just now prevents my understanding the remainder of your greeting.”

“We can easily excuse you in that respect. Let it satisfy you to know that we do not expect—even when the presence of genius is assured—to find scientific accuracy in the infant during its birth-throes.” Omra playfully returned with mystic reference to the second birth Rael had already spoken of.

“Your veiled simile piques my curiosity,” I replied, “but since I am able to detect the mystical nature of your allusion, should I be out of place in asking for some clearer explanation?”

“Not at all. It is one of the most natural requests you could make at this point. It is the anticipated response we hope the occasion will produce. It is the declaration of your readiness to go forward. All that you ask in elucidation of this mystery—for such it is, even beyond your expectation – shall be granted you, as in the case of every other gift of God. But let me assure you, you will find it to be a subject of deeper import, greater complexity, and wider study than you have yet been given to understand, and it will be placed before you in its varied aspects and stages, by demonstrative illustration confirming what will be verbally explained.”

Here Omra came to a deliberate pause upon which I was about to question him further, when he resumed, as if under the influence of an afterthought. “Man, the climax and crown of creation, as far as his physical nature is concerned, is a member of the animal kingdom. ‘The Lord God formed (him) of the dust of the ground’ (Gen. ii, 7), as a potter fashioneth his vessel from the clay, and of this physical part God afterwards declared “dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. iii, 19). But our continued existence after our dust has returned to that from which it was taken, forms an object lesson as to the incapacity of the physical to adjudicate in the domain of the spirit. It is when the potter has formed his vessel that he employs it as a receptacle. So God, having formed man, said, ‘Let us make him the receptacle of our own image,’ and ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’ (Gen. ii, 7). Thenceforward man is a physical vessel filled with a spiritual content—‘there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.’ Now, while the foundation of the vessel is dust, which has to be wrought into shape by the hand and artifice of the potter before it is available for service, the germ of the soul is breath—invisible and intangible—which is enshrined in the secret place of the physical, to germinate and to be brought to the birth in the fulness of the appointed time.

“The physical carrier, possessing none of the attributes of the contents it has temporarily protected, breaks and returns to the dust as the soul bursts its prison-house and enters upon its great enfranchisement. ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,’ which is spirit, a fact the Christ proclaimed when he said, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ To give this illustration a personal application, the pitcher has been broken—or perhaps better still, the chrysalis has escaped from the cocoon, and, bewildered at its newly discovered self, instinctively proceeds to adapting itself to its new environment, faculties and duties which are but in process of unfolding. You have been subject to this adaptation since your discarnation, being prepared for and are now about to shake off the last trace of the dust of the physical and enter upon the active spiritual life.”

“Of course, I am not unfamiliar with the idea of a second birth, but it has never been more to me than a verbal assent to it as to any other theological dogma,” I replied, hoping to draw a yet further exposition.

“You are in no way peculiar in that respect,” Omra responded. “Well spake the Master when He said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hidden in a field.’ It is the same figure as I have spoken of—the spiritual treasure in the earthen vessel, and all the artifice and acumen of the earth is directed to uphold the authority of the flesh as being the teacher, rather than the servant, of the spirit. This necessitates the whole system of correction which you have seen established here, since it is an immutable law of the kingdom that ‘there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life’ (Rev. xxi, 27).

“Will you pardon my persistence,” I asked with some degree of hesitation, as I realized the deliberate emphasis with which he uttered this rejoinder. “I am not enquiring from any captious motive, but how is the question of elegibility determined?”

“Absolutely and entirely by the fact whether a man has experienced the second birth.” He delivered this with even an added emphasis. Then paused before he said, “These are the words of the Master upon the point: ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John iii, 5, 6). In other words, the physical is a procreation by the animal man, the spiritual is a germination from the breath of God. They are as distinct from each other as the water is from the pitcher. You are already aware of this in several ways, but the full beauty and extent of it you cannot appreciate until the change you are now experiencing has been completed. The soul is unable to sit down and feast upon the fruits of Paradise before it has passed the gate.”

I had to be content to allow the mysticism of his concluding remarks to pass, and it was some time before I could trace therein an instance of the patient freedom they are willing to allow in the acceptance of an unapprehended truth. Omra was breaking new ground for me, and the force with which he accomplished it brought to my mind Paul’s words: “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” (Heb. iv, 12); and like Moses on the mount, when he saw the lightning and heard the thunder and the trumpets, I said, “I exceedingly fear and quake” (Heb. xii, 21).

“How am I to know that I shall attain to such a consummation?” I presently enquired.

“You need have no fear on that point,” he instantly replied. “You have the assurance of that in your presence here. God does not bring His children to the birth and then withhold the strength for delivery.”

“And may I go on to know and understand this wonderful mystery?” I asked with returning confidence.

“It is not so much a question now of ‘may’ as ‘must,’ and that, not because your free will is interfered with, but time and circumstance have brought you into the clearer knowledge of God, whose everlasting and unchanging love has gained such an irresistible hold upon you that you must yield to its influences and follow where it leads. Your spiritual eyes are opening to see the beauty of the true light, the darkness caused by the glamour of reason is being superseded by the glory of revelation, which will shine more and more unto the perfect day, where your feet shall neither stumble nor turn aside. By the aid of that light you will be guided into all truth, all mysteries shall be made known to you, until you know even as you are known. The voices of this Court invite you to enter upon this course here and now, and we place ourselves at your disposal to lend you what assistance you may require in that direction.”

I had been so engrossed with Omra’s conversation that I had not noticed that Rael had left us, until Omra indicated his wish for us to take a seat, and we threw ourselves on one of the fragrant divans near at hand.