One Step Higher: Chapter 7


It was a strange experience. The scenes were the old, familiar ones I remembered so well-streets and houses, parks, hills, isolated moors and downland, thickly populated tenements, the interiors of great meeting-places and churches. Yet what a difference! For now I saw, not only what people did, but why they did these things. I saw the motives that were hidden from the eyes of men.

Some of these motives were evil. I saw a man-cultured, handsome and wealthy, popular with all his friends. He went about visiting the houses of the people he employed, smiling and distributing gifts, asking solicitiously after the welfare of their children… Yet this man had a great shadow following him wherever he went, and there was a lurid, flame-coloured mist close to his head which only partially penetrated the shadow. This puzzled me very much until I saw the motive in his heart. I perceived that all his ‘acts of kindness’ were intended to gain power for himself, that he wanted to gain ascendancy over these people and would then use this to exploit them, reducing their wages, increasing their hours of labour, counting upon his popularity to carry him through.

Another man I saw was a worker. He went about among his fellows in a great factory telling them that he would watch their interests if they would allow him to lead them. This man also professed great love for his fellow-men, but in reality he desired to gain power over the owner of the factory. He envied the other’s wealth and thought he could claim some of it on the plea of his influence with the workers. This man was also followed by a shadow, and the light about his head was a murky green.

During one of the pauses which followed the ending of each record, our guide explained that the light around the head of men is a replica of their hearts. If a man has evil in his heart-greed, envy, malice, cruelty and the like, his head is surrounded by the colours of these vices. If he has a pure heart, his head is surrounded by glowing fires of great beauty.

These evil people were most ugly to look upon, although many were outwardly most handsome, and I was glad when these faded from the Observation Screen and more records began.

One of the scenes was the interior of a small house. Here a mother lived with her two children. The house was scrupulously clean, the children healthy and well clothed although it was obvious that the family were very poor.  All could have been happy in this house had not the mother continually scolded the children. Her grating voice was constantly raised in rebuke and her rough hands often swept out in a hearty blow. The children cringed from her, their hearts often clouded with fear. To my surprise, this woman had no dark shadow following her, although her light was by no means pure. I was still pondering on this, when the scene changed to a bedroom where a lamp burned. The door slowly opened and the woman entered with dragging step. Wearily she drew the blinds, removed her shoes and then went to kneel beside the bed.

‘Father,’ I heard her pray, ‘help me to be a good mother to my children. I had so little chance! No-one bothered to educate me, to correct me or tell me how to live. Is it any wonder that I fell into sin and brought these fatherless children into the world? Help me to wipe out my sin by being a good, firm mother to my children.

The scene faded out and I wondered no more.

Another record shown upon the Screen was enacted inside a church. It was bare and ugly, with white walls, plain windows and rows of wooden benches. In the pulpit, a man leant upon the rail, shouting excitedly. His face was shadowed with passion as he thumped one fist into the other, crying out to the cringing congregation such words as ‘Death’ and ‘Pain’ and ‘Doom’ and ‘Punishment’. All the people sat in awe, their eyes fixed unwaveringly upon him, except for one woman at the side. She turned constantly, gazing around the building, listening to the song of the birds outside the window, shuffling her feet. When the people rose to sing a hymn, she did not even open her book, but stood mute, with stony face. I saw that those about her made judgment in their hearts. They thought she had no care for anything.. Then I looked at the ‘within’ and I saw her thoughts.

‘What an ugly place this is, yet I have known no other since childhood. .. those birds! They are beautiful. How sweetly they sing… There he goes-all about ‘doom’ again. Is there nothing else? No tenderness? No understanding nor love? Those birds! They seem happy, anyway… God is Love. Yes, we are told that. Where is He, then? Doom, punishment, pain, fear. . . oh, where is love?’

Thus scene after scene came before our eyes. As I watched, I was filled with a great amaze. The holiness of life! Yes, despite all the mistakes and confusion, people’s motive were very often good – so often that I was pleasantly astonished and found myself smiling. How they judged one another, these little, groping, men of earth! Yet how much was true and good in their hearts… They did try. Oh, how could they be helped to see the way?

As usual, our dear angel answered our thoughts (for Janet had been thinking on these lines, too.)

‘The angel does not only observe,’ she whispered. ‘Into each place he visits, he pours a great power of blessing, enlightening it with the knowledge and wisdom they most need. That mother will learn to be more gentle with her children; that preacher will learn to speak of Love; those leaders in the great parliament will be strengthened to hold to the right; those afflicted ones in the hospital will have a new patience dawning in their lives.’

‘And the evil ones?’ I asked.

‘Ah, those who are followed by the black shadow make little progress,’ she said sadly. ‘It is a barrier they put up between their hearts and the light of truth; but it will be pierced. .

‘Ah, how holy the world is!’ Janet cried, voicing the thought for both.

Our guide smiled. ‘Do you wonder any longer that we angels labour so hopefully for men? You see, we see their inmost hearts. Yes, the world has much more good in it than the world itself knows.’

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