We passed on, and now our steps took us into the valley. As we drew near I experienced a strange sensation. All my senses became more alert and more acute. Everything came to me more clearly, more vividly or more deeply. My hearing became so sensitive that I could distinguish separate sounds that had been but a faint murmur until now.
“Bernard,” Janet whispered suddenly. “Is it like this with you?”
Before she could explain, I answered: ‘Yes.”
Silently we continued our way. I reached out and gripped her hand as we entered the valley. The first thing we saw was a gleam of yellow light between some trees. Without a word we made our way towards it. It led us into a wood, deep and cool, where flowers stood tall among the grasses, and the trees rose up high above us. Just ahead was a clearing, carpeted with flowers. Some of the boughs drooped over it, dropping their scented blossoms. It was like a very lovely room. Soon, the meaning of the rainbow-hued light was revealed, for we caught a glimpse of angels’ wings.
Janet and I paused, uncertain what to do, but the angels, who had apparently been having a conference, beckoned us.
“Welcome!” one said smilingly.
“Are we intruding?” I asked.
“No. We like visitors.”
There was a moment of silence, and then Janet asked: “Why is there this unusual atmosphere?”
“A keen-ness of the senses,” I added.
“It is because this is the Touchstone of the Circle,” one of the angels explained, motioning us to be seated. There was a movement among them as each angel found a comfortable place to sit. I looked around the clearing in wonder. The mingled colours of their robes and wings against the brown background of the tree-trunks, the brilliant carpet of flowers among the grasses and the blue of the sky laced with dark twigs overhead made an exquisite picture. A squirrel scurried to a place of vantage, I noticed, looking at us intently and chewing a nut. When we were all seated, I asked eagerly:
“What is a Touchstone?”
“It is the touchstone of truth,” one of the angels said. He was a tall, dark fellow who sat leaning against a tree at my side. He glanced at me keenly. “There is a touchstone of truth in all things.”
“In all things?” Janet whispered.
“Including the human heart.”
We were silent after that while Janet and I, with our keener senses, absorbed this knowledge. Gradually it was borne in upon me that this was indeed so, that, now I came to think of it, I had always been conscious of something in my heart. Sometimes, in my early years on earth, I had not wanted to accept a truth, and so I had said I did not know whether it were true or not. Later, I put all things against this “something” and, even though I knew I would lose some pleasure by it, I had said, “I know this is true.” So this was the Touchstone
I linked my mind with Janet’s and found that she had reached the same point. Then another of the angels spoke:
“There is no plane where Truth does not dwell. It may be veiled, it may be misunderstood, misrepresented by some, rejected by others, but it is there.”
“And here?” I asked.
“Here we cherish the Truth of the Love of the Father who created us all, including the lesser brethren. From here we go among them giving to them such truth as they are able to bear, or understand.”
“At first when they come here,” another explained, “they have all the intolerant instincts of earth. We have to teach them that the Father made them, loves them, knows them all-even to the humblest sparrow.”
“I always wondered about that text,” Janet said quickly. She quoted: ” ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father knowing’.”
“Or ‘without the life of the Father’,” amended the angel, “for His life is in all things.”
“What happens when the animals have learned what you have to teach?” I asked. Janet gave me a quick smile for she, too, had wondered.
“They go up higher to the Hall of Animals.”
“Oh!” We were delighted, for it seemed so reasonable, as though we had always known.
“It is the touchstone in your hearts,” one of them answered our thoughts.
“What of my puppy, Rainbow?” I asked suddenly. “He was only just born and yet he was there.”
“That is the very reason-he was but a babe. He had learned nothing of the hatred of earth.”
“How lovely it is,” Janet mused. “Somehow, it always seemed such a waste for the Father to love them and keep them in His hand and for them not to know!”
“Of course they know!” one of the angels cried. “Only they do not know that they know. Listen to the song of the birds when a gentle rain is falling. Are they not singing to the Maker of Rain?”
We went on musing for a while. The angels sat very still, relaxed and withdrawn into some blissful inner consciousness. The squirrel finished his nut and scampered off for another. The peace of the scene entered into our hearts delightfully.
At last I said, musing half-aloud: “What is a touchstone on earth?”
One of the angels immediately answered:
“It is a stone for testing gold or silver. In our hearts we can test all things against the stone-the gold of His Love, the silver of His justice … Our own innate knowledge of these, His two attributes, form the touchstone against which we can test all things.”
“Can anyone?” Janet asked. “On earth, I mean.”
“They could,” the angel agreed, “if they knew where the stone was hidden. It is deep in the heart where Truth is, but some have covered it all their lives with many veils.”
He paused, and at my enquiring glance, added, “Some do not wish to venture in the search for Truth. They like to stay in the same place, to accept their parents’ opinions without question, even though they may suspect they have not the truth. Others fear the truth lest it restricts their freedom or forces upon them higher standards . . . . Yes, there are many veils. When these are drawn aside, all may find the touchstone of truth
in the heart.”