Chapter VII: Omra’s First Lesson
We had been moving leisurely hither and thither about the Court and its precincts while Omra had been thus discoursing. The beautiful balance of harmony which existed between the scene, the companionship and our communion, so fascinated me that more than once did I find myself wondering whether heaven itself could possess a more restful peace than I was then enjoying. I recalled Rael’s assurance that the subtle charm of the Court would remain and draw me back again and again, even from the distant ages. I did not appreciate his meaning then much as I felt the soothing influence of its initial caress, but I was beginning to understand what he meant more fully now. God does not display His court regalia in the unprotected windows of earth’s marketplace to attract the cupidity of passing adventurers. He hides it deep in the secret of His presence where thieves do not break through and steal.
Omra knew well enough where the attractions lay, and we came across them one by one just as their lights were needed to illustrate some particular point he wished to make.
And as with the Court, so it was with my companion. It needed acquaintance to be able to appreciate his value. On first impressions, I spoke of him as another Myhanene. That was my ideal of an angel so far as my experience had carried me at the time; nor would I say that the comparison would fail me even now, had Myhanene’s ministry continued through the scenes where Omra led me.
It would, perhaps, be helpful here for me to point out in what respect the ministry of Myhanene and his friends differed from that which Omra rendered, and in doing so I do not think I can do better than state my position in Paul’s familiar allegory:
“We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. for in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (2 Cor. v, 1–4)
The Myhanene group of ministers discovered me just as the old tenement had fallen away. With wonderful kindness, and infinite patience, they set to work to clear the site of all unnecessary, undesirable and foreign debris in anticipation of the new tabernacle that was to be erected under we superintendence of Omra Many of the old foundations had to be removed, false limitations swept away, enlarged boundaries had to be ascertained, disqualifying conditions to be revised, and the new outlook to be determined in accordance with the true laws of life.
Omra’s ministry commenced by ascertaining how far these drastic requirements had been complied with, the result being declared in accordance with the critical decision of the vision that had just been afforded me. That the result was found to be so far satisfactory as to allow Omra to proceed, scarcely needs to be recorded here.
Rael, the pioneer of my advanced teachers, had found me standing in uncertain wonder on the threshold of the Court, and with fraternal welcome led me to await the coming of his chief. Omra, at once—even in his approach—inspired me with a sense of homeliness exceeding that which I experienced when I met Vaone. He led me at once into his rich treasury of knowledge, and proceeded to set before me a refreshing feast of good things for which I had long hungered. Shall I ever forget or cease to appreciate the delicate caution with which he began his ministry? How unostentatiously he broke a seal here, unlocked a mystery there, or, by some subtle magic, cleared some distant cloud away, as he wished me to catch a glimpse of problems I had to solve under his guidance, each as occasion arose.
He drew me nearer and nearer to him at each step as he led me down the soul-transforming corridor of the revelations he had to make. Like a super-physician, he foresaw an incipient need, aroused a hunger for the remedy and then supplied a superabundant feast.
It is impossible for me to speak of the pleasure with which I looked forward to the term I hoped to spend under such coveted tutelage.
But great as were the ever-increasing beauties of the Court—delightful as were the prospects of my association with Omra and his friends—I had before me a rising promise of something far surpassing either or both combined, if only the promise blossomed into fruition.
This consciousness of the hope dawned upon me during the watching of a very curious and mysterious coincidence. Usually, concentration of thought is necessary to trace a logical sequence or arrive at a clear understanding of such a matter as Omra had been expounding; but while he had been so engaged, I had not only been able to follow him with close attention, but at the same time to critically observe, admire and appreciate the numerous surprising beauties of our surroundings.
Below the horizon of this divided, though strangely complete consciousness, the superior light of another and more far-reaching dawn gave signs of rising. Another, an interior eye, was first awakening to discover that a new and yet unknown universe was in existence eastward in the boundless expanse of the soul’s domain. As yet I could neither see the orb, nor the new creation it was destined to illumine, but the opening eye could catch the herald rays that darted in ever increasing brightness to break the long, lingering gloom of the region that is yet to be. A little longer, and those rays of glory would form a royal road over which my soul would pass and reach its rightful heritage as a son of God.
I knew it. I needed not that Omra should tell me. That awakening organ of vision was more than an eye—it was more than all the rudimentary faculties of sense combined—it was the true mirror of revelation that was to enable the oneship with the Christ, that had just been born in me, to catch and reflect the image of our Father-God. A little while, a brief period of Omra’s instructions as to how to use my newly-found faculty (for from hence all the senses are now merged and comprehended in one), a period of superintendence while I throw aside the hindrances that even now beset me—while the scars I have sustained in my battles and struggles are effaced—while I am being made ready for the position I have to fill—and then I shall be able to play my part in the grand orchestra of life, and thus glorify the God who created and called me into being.
“Omra,” I gasped, “are you aware—do you understand?”
“I know,” he quickly responded, drawing me just a little closer to himself. “Be not afraid. All is well.”
“I am not afraid—except that in my ignorance I may be guilty of some inadvertence.”
“Even those are excusable until the twilight has passed, and the unclouded light bathes your soul in its wonderful fullness.”
His calmly sympathetic but unobtrusive presence was like a mountain of repose on which I rested in that eventful crisis.
We seated ourselves on the basin of the fountain, and while I fell into a reverie over the lilies, Omra held communion with one and another of the friends who found him there. It was soon evident that I was not singular in valuing his companionship. Who, having once feasted at the table of his angelic generosity, as I was now permitted to do, would lightly wish to pass him by without a look, a smile, a word, a benediction? Ah! happy state indeed where the azure skies of love are never shadowed by a passing cloud of doubt, and the sun of lovingkindness marks the eternal noon of truth that is incorruptible!
Take heart, poor, weary, fainting, struggling, tempted, outcast soul. There is such a haven of repose awaiting thee on before. With your eyes blinded by tears, you may not now be able to behold it—with your heart grown callous with the storms of deceit and betrayal through which you have fought your way, you may find it hard to believe it—soul-sick and faint by the vanishing of a thousand hopes, each but the mocking laughter of a mirage, you may feel that you have not strength to travel further- but take heart and make another effort.
I have travelled through the self-same wilderness—I have hungered and thirsted, limped, friendless, with bleeding feet, fainted and fallen by the way, been the sport of mocking cruelty, the jest of heartless buffoons, and the distracted shuttlecock of fate—but the night for me has ended. The morning breaks. The dark, black, wilderness lies behind me now, and on before I see the land flowing with milk and honey—the homeland – the Father’s house—the ring, the robe, the welcome that awaits thee also, only a little further on before. Take heart—dry your tears—just one more effort. Take heart!
In the course of my reverie I presently found myself wondering what the next step in my career would be. I am not conscious of its being more than a thought passing through my mind, and yet my lips may have responded to my thought and involuntarily uttered the words, since Omra turned at once to reply.
“When you are quite ready,” he said with a significant gesture of leisurely consideration, as if anxious not to disturb me unnecessarily. “When you are quite ready. I am absolutely at your disposal to assist you in getting into alignment with your new vocation.”
In my eagerness to ascertain what my new duties were, I was on my feet before Omra had finished speaking.
“Shall we proceed at once?” I asked.
Omra smiled indulgently.
“Yes, there is no reason why we should not,” but the deliberation with which he signified his acquiescence was in marked contrast to the vigorous verve of my suggestion. It contained no trace of a reproof—the half-veiled humour I caught in his askant look assured me of that—it was more an experiment to test how far I was able to use one of my newly-acquired powers by reading his mind as he had so recently given me an example of reading mine. Under similar circumstances, Myhanene would have laid a gently restraining hand on my arm, and said, “My brother, God never hurries.” Omra gave the same intimation by his own significant code.
It was my first attempt to decipher such a message, but I evidently accomplished it with some degree of success.
“We will now turn our faces towards the gate,” he suggested, and in an instant my impulsiveness would have cried, “And shall we go through?” but I was able to repress the enquiry just in time.
“We may approach, but you will find that you are not able to pass through the gate just yet.”
“May I know wherein lies the inability?” I enquired. “The way is open and unobstructed—is it not?”
“Yes, the way is open and unobstructed, but you will discover that, for the present, you will lack the power and confidence to walk in the way. You are not yet master of the new powers you have received. You are not yet acquainted with their nature, purport and possibilities. How, then, can you be expected to use them with that conscious familiarity which is demanded of all who pass that gate.”
“Do you wish me to understand that heaven is not so accessible as I have been led to believe?” I enquired, perhaps, with a suggestion of anxiety.
Omra answered me with a glance of eloquent reassurance even before I had finished speaking.
“Not inaccessible—the Homeland can never be inaccessible,” he replied; “but it is inviolably safe-guarded against the admission of all that is unworthy or unprepared. So absolutely is this enforced, that though you have been found worthy of admission you must needs tarry while you gain such command of your newly-acquired faculties as to enable you to make the entrance. That is why, when you asked me whether we were going through the gate—”
“The idea simply passed through my mind as you suggested turning in that direction,” I ventured to suggest.
“I am fully aware of it, my brother,” and the tone and look with which he replied assured me that I had rather pleased him than otherwise by my interruption. “I am fully aware of it, but you have now to discover that henceforth thought and speech are equally audible—it is one of the multitude of revelations you have now to become conscious of, and effectively learn to employ in the new sphere of life to which you are about to be introduced.
“When you raised the question of the gate, it at once became necessary that I should indicate the existence of reasons for some delay in reaching the consummation of your hope. In doing so, I had no design of exciting the very natural doubt you experienced, and I can easily make my reply to it the point from which I may proceed to introduce you to the studies you have now to undertake in order to equip you for your new mission.”
“For my new mission?” I enquired.
“Yes. You have already elected to associate yourself with Myhanene’s mission to earth. So far you have done this under certain restrictions owing to your lack of certain knowledge you will now be in a condition to acquire, and thereby widen the sphere of your influence. It is to this end that I am hoping to be of assistance to you. It was in relation to this work where the doubt arose in your mind while I spoke of the searching scrutiny in front of you before passing the gate. So we will begin with the consideration of the question of accessibility of heaven.
“Bearing in mind the object Myhanene has in view in his ministry, it would be well to take a brief glance backward in order to pick up and connect the idea of the continuity of life. The approach to heaven is made through the vestibule of mortality. ‘There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body …. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.’ The mortal stage in comparison with the everlastingness of life is Biblically compared (and when interpreted by its own key the Bible is the only authority by which we may safely proceed), the mortal span is compared to the infancy stage of existence, the similes used to indicate its duration are a ‘vapour,’ or man’s entrance and exit are likened to coming ‘forth like a flower … he fleeth as a shadow’; the one lesson he is expected to learn and apply during the mortal span is that which is peculiarly natural to infancy—‘Thou shalt love’; and when he is old enough to enter school and begin to study the alphabet of being, the curriculum is strictly confined to allegories and parables.”
“I do not wish to break the thread of your discourse,” I ventured to say, but, if I may, I would like to ask a question in relation to the allegories you have several times referred to.”
“I can well understand the thousand queries that are bubbling up in your active mind,” Omra returned with a very pleasant touch of sympathetic forbearance. “You are like an enquiring child, fresh from the playroom, catching his first glimpse of a manufacturing hive—you wish to ask, all at once, the ‘How?’ ‘Why?’ ‘Where?’ and ‘What?’ of everything. But if we are to understand anything, we must confine our attention to one thing at a time and go slowly. The allegories will be reached presently, and will then be explained and interpreted so that their purpose and scope will be clearly understood, but for the moment I have another reference to make to the infancy stage of existence.
“So far I have spoken of the compass of the mortal span of existence – life in the physical—in its comparative contrast with immortality. I have now to hint at—it is impossible to do more than offer a mere suggestion – the nature of the surroundings in which that nursery stage of existence is passed.
“In his physical aspect, man is the capstone and crown of creation—a thinking and reasoning animal—the instinct of the brute has evolved into a moral consciousness. But still, the physical man formed of dust of the ground, is of the earth earthy. ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,’ because ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ But before this superb organism, so fearfully and wonderfully made, was dispensed with, the all-wise Creator had another and higher purpose for it to fulfil. The invisible, complex and mysterious forces which had been unfolding in and operating through this crowning glory of creation, were to be interblended with the breath, the spirit of the Divine—the mortal casket was to become the matrix in which a new race of sons of God should be moulded; and in the mortal man became enshrined a living eternal soul.
“For the production, nuturing, and protecting of this race of immortals through the primary stage of their existence, God, in His foreknowledge, had already fashioned and called into existence an earth and surrounding heaven, fitted and in every respect arranged to meet with and supply every requirement to ensure the purpose He had in mind. The earth and surrounding heaven were provided with every necessity and qualification for producing and conducting through its initial phase a race of beings who shall be worthy of its high calling.
“It is impossible for me here and now to do more than take this most cursory glance at the way by which you have approached the stage of life on which you are about to enter. You will have ample means and time at your disposal to make an exhaustive study of the whole subject presently, when you have finally broken away from the last effects and influences of the physical condition.”
“The last effects of the physical condition!” I gasped in utter amazement. “Why, surely, I did that long, long ago.”
“No—that is where some of the greatest mistakes concerning the nature of the spiritual life are made,” Omra made answer; “and the great object I have had in taking this retrospective view has been to remove this misconception.
“Let me now, as far as possible, drop the use of metaphor and try to make you understand something of the position in which you at present stand. But in attempting to do this, I shall be driven to the use of illustration in order that you may grasp my meaning. I will take a common case that will reduce my difficulty to a minimum. In the physical, a person suffering from a zymotic disease, after the malady has been combated and conquered, the patient has to be most carefully isolated to avoid spreading the contagion.”
“That I perfectly understand,” I answered, as Omra made a significant pause.
“Sin, disobedience, and wrong-doing are among what I may call the zymotic diseases of the soul, and if mankind, who at best are only in an infantile stage of being, find the necessity of isolation in such cases, should it surprise you that a state of quarantine should be established here?
“That precaution is rigorously taken where you are now standing. Convalescents from the flesh may come so far—then comes the analytical examination to which you have been subjected. Yonder is the gate admitting to the confines of the city of life eternal; but,”—and here Omra spoke with a deliberate and measured emphasis—“‘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). ‘Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city; for without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers and idolators, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie’ (Rev. xxii, 14-15). The great line of demarcation is not drawn at the laying down of the physical body at the barrier beyond which neither medical nor theological practitioner can be of further avail. But the loving-kindness and tender mercy of God are still available through the regime—of correction, it may be—certainly through convalescence and quarantine the more effectual ministrations of God’s truly ordained assistants are available—as you yourself have experienced—to guide and direct you hither.
“Thus far but no farther. Here all that is of the earth must be laid down – ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ Now, in order to pass, ‘Ye must be born again.’ The in-breathed God can no longer lie concealed in its casket—the angel must be divorced from the human – then, and then only, when your name has been recorded in the Lamb’s book of life will you have the right—the power—to pass through the gate into the kingdom.
“The period you are now closing, with all its irksome limitations, futilities, mysteries and incapacities, has not been life as you imagined; it was only the gestatory period of the life everlasting upon which you are now about to enter as you reach the precincts of the gate.”