On our way we talked together. I asked Janet if she had been to the Hall of Sleep before, and she said she had served there for some time. Of course, I wanted details.
“How is it that some newcomers need sleep when they arrive and others do not?”
“Some have laboured for many years on earth and are weary.”
“Do you mean that only those who have worked hard go to this Hall?”
“No indeed. Some people who have worked very hard quickly throw off their weariness and so they do not need to go to this Hall. Others who have worked but a short time need a long rest there.”
“Then how is it arranged?”
“Bernard,” she laughed, “you do like asking questions.”
“I do like people to explain things to me, and much prefer it to reaching out for information for myself. It is a legacy from earth, I expect.”
“Well, theirs is a legacy from earth.”
“How do you mean?”
“People who have always thought of Heaven as a place where they can rest, would not be happy if they were taken at once to one of the other Halls. Of course, as soon as they shed their physical bodies they shed their weariness also, but nevertheless the memory of it remains. They feel it would be perfect bliss to sink down into a long sleep, so—as Heaven is fulfilment—this is given them first of all.”
“I love that expression, ‘Heaven is fulfilment’.” We journeyed for a while in silence, and then I asked, “Is the sleep in the Hall similar to earth sleep?” Janet considered a moment.
“No, it is more than that. Here, there is nothing to distract, for here all of the person sleeps.”
“Does not all the person sleep on earth?”
“Now Bernard, you must know the answer to that!”
“I suppose I do”, I confessed after reflection. “You mean that on earth a man’s body sleeps while his spirit goes out to the Plane Between, and is busy there.”
“Yes. On earth, each time of sleep is like a miniature death. During his sleep-time a man learns his way about the Plane-Between, learns to travel through the void. Sleep is a merciful plan of the Father’s for it makes men familiar with death although they are not conscious of it. If it were not for sleep, the ordeal of death would be scarcely endurable.”
“Now it is just like a familiar friend,” I finished. When we reached the Hall I was immediately struck by the subdued light. It was like a summer twilight, and into the air stole a profusion of flower-scents, now one, now another, coming to caress the nostrils and made glad the heart. Silently reaching out for the information (for here, as little talking is done as possible and that only in a low tone, that those who sleep may not be disturbed) I knew that the ‘twilight’ was always here. How soothing to tired senses, I reflected, and how familiar to those who fall asleep in their beds on earth and awake—here.
As soon as I began to walk, the extraordinary nature of the ground drew my attention. It was soft and springy, yet amazingly light to walk upon. Indeed, although it was possible to press the hand down so that the wrist, too, was covered, every step was aided as though taken from a springboard. I saw at once the double advantage of this for not only could weary ones find walking easy but they could lie down anywhere and discover a couch with a natural spring.
In the subdued light, we saw many sleeping forms. I was particularly struck with the relaxed position of their bodies—quite unlike the sometimes rigid attitudes of adults in sleep on earth. Here, they resembled young children or animals. They might have been dragonflies drifting on a leaf down a lazily-flowing stream. Some had a smile just curving the lips as though in enjoyment of a happy dream.
“These are the ones who will soon awake,” Janet told my mind, “for here the sleep is dreamless.”
“Yes. They do not have to both rest and learn in Heaven’s sleep.”
“So much more is taught in sleep on earth than people realise,” Janet continued to think into my mind as we walked on. “When awake, men often reject wisdom. They like to have a reason for everything, to grasp things with the intellect on which they pride themselves. Some things can never be seen clearly on earth, but only with the extended Heaven-sight. There, they must accept things on trust at times. That is why, when man’s intellect is sleeping, wisdom often comes.”
“How does that text go?” I thought back. “That should tell man why he is sometimes wiser for ‘sleeping on’ a problem! ‘God speaketh once. . . by a dream, in a vision by night, when deep sleep falleth upon men and they are sleeping in their beds. Then He openeth the ears of men, and teaching, instructeth them. . .’ ”
Close beside us, as we walked, there was a movement, and instantly Janet stopped to kneel beside the awakening one. It was a man. He was stretching like a sleepy kitten.
“Stay with him,” Janet instructed me, “until I bring some fruit. We never let them awake in loneliness—we must welcome our visitors.” She travelled with incredible swiftness, her step more like a flight than a walk, and with all her speed there was not a sound. I turned my attention to the sleeper. He had finished stretching and his glance was casting lazily about. At last it rested on me. We smiled.
“Not morning yet?”
“It is always like this here,” I explained.
“What, always drawn curtains? How odd! Though I must say it is very restful.” I saw that he did not realise where he was, so remained silent beside him. After a while he said musingly, “Strange I feel so well. When I went to bed last night I was ill. In fact, I was not sure I would wake again on earth. Thought I might just snuff out in my sleep, you know.”
“You did,” I said quietly.
“I did—what?” Then he began to stare at me, at first startled, then slowly returning my smile. We did not say a word for a time after that. I just sat smiling casually, as though it was the most natural thing for us to be here, as indeed it was. At last he just said, “Well!” and a joyous look flashed over his face. A moment later Janet came back.
She met my eyes and learned that he knew his whereabouts. Dropping down on the other side of him, she said gaily, “Let us have a picnic!” and she tumbled out of her arms a pile of grapes and three of Stephen’s peaches. Beside these, she laid some thick stems that she had evidently snapped off from a bush.
“What are those?” I asked, picking up one. It was light and spongy, and had that delicious smell that steals forth from a bakehouse at midnight.
“Oh, they grow everywhere. They are bread-stems and go beautifully with fruit.” Our companion, who introduced himself as Henry, was delighted with the feast. We all sat eating heartily and I was able to demonstrate the correct way to eat the peaches. They were new to Janet and she declared that they would henceforth be her favourite fruit. During the meal Henry plied us with questions and we explained all that we possibly could. He was enthralled by our description of the Halls and decided to visit the Hall of Gardens immediately.
“I feel so strong and well, I can hardly wait to choose a plot and begin work!” What a joy it gave us, to hand him over to an angel-guide to see him start on his journey! “You must come to see my garden later on,” he insisted, and of course we promised. After that we welcomed many waking ones. One of them—a woman—could not be interested in any of the Halls because she thought her little girl would be pining for her on earth.
“She only had me,” the mother explained. “How can I be happy, knowing that she is not?” Janet and I looked at each other and we decided that this necessitated a visit to the Plane Between. When we told the mother our plans to show her a place of meeting for herself and the child, she was almost overcome with joy.
“To think such things can be!” she marvelled, and Janet answered,
“Heaven is fulfilment.”