THE PARADISE OF SAINTS
Presently were aware that our movement had ceased. Our angel was poised a little above the sphere, holding us to his sides. He gazed steadily into the great light without anything to veil his eyes and I thought that angels’ sight must be adapted for such radiance. True, our eyes were covered with a portion of our guide’s robe but even then we seemed to be so bathed in flaming splendour that every pore and cell and vein was saturated with it. There was a curious quality about it, too. At first I could not define it and then Janet pressed it into my mind. It was the quality of bliss.
Such joy, contentment and satisfaction poured from the sphere that my heart thrilled to it. I seemed to break forth into a great singing that went ringing through the void, but whether this was so or not I cannot say.
‘Heaven is fulfilment,’ our angel reminded us. ‘That is the theme of this great happiness. Heaven fulfils the highest aspirations of all. The saints differ from men in that they have higher aspirations – hence greater fulfilment.’
‘Is that all the difference between saints and ordinary men?’ I asked in amazement.
‘Yes,’ our guide assured us. ‘The saints aimed higher from the moment of their dawning reason on earth. True, there are many who have exalted wishes, but this is like a man who drives a carriage and hopes that the horse will take the right path. The wise man takes a firm hold of the reins and so guides the horse into the road he himself chooses. This is the way of saints as compared with the ways of men.’
‘Do the saints always remain here?’ Janet asked.
‘Oh no. They have the freedom of all the planes of Heaven’s realm. Some of them remain on the higher planes, others veil themselves and mingle with the men of the lower planes in order to teach them. All live a life of great power and happiness, but inevitably there comes a time when their highest aspirations draw them to fulfilment which can alone be accomplished in this paradise.’
As the angel spoke, the light that had come to rest behind the sphere began gradually to enter into it. We watched the Great Shining withdraw from the void so that the sphere began to glow with even greater splendour. When the light had entered wholly into the sphere, there burst forth. such a power of joy that my heart could scarcely contain it. A strong fragrance stole up to us like the incense of a million flowers at eventide. Simultaneously came the rolling notes of a great organ, throbbing in ecstasy, filling the outermost regions of the void.
Then, while we gazed spellbound, a mighty Figure appeared within the radiance. It filled all that we could see of the great sphere, the outstretched hands touching east and west, the head and feet reaching to north and south. So luminous was this mighty Figure that it threw a shadow behind it and this shadow was the shadow of the Cross. Upon the palms of the hands, the insteps of the feet and over the region of the heart were gaping wounds, but these wounds were most beautiful to look upon. Like rivers cleaving the tree-clothed valleys, they gleamed in surpassing splendour and from them poured out torrents of sweetness, of wisdom and comfort beyond all comprehension. Around the forehead was a crown of crimson roses… And then I knew that the fragrance had stolen forth from this mighty crown and the beauty of the organ was the music of His voice.
‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’
Oh, the tenderness, the drawing-power of those glorious words! My whole being answered them. I dared to look into His eyes and what I saw there thrilled me with rapture.
‘Master, my Lord, my King, my God?’ I cried in my spirit, and I drew nearer and nearer to Him until His arms enfolded me and I leant upon that mighty heart of Love…
Never have I known such bliss, such glory, such an absorbing of knowledge; for now I knew that when He spoke of
‘labour’ He meant all that striving toward perfection from the earliest day on earth to the highest attainment in eternity,
and when He spoke of the ‘heavy-laden’ He referred to all the burdens of ignorance, of ‘not-knowing’ that men held and gradually discarded on their way toward the Heights.
‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’
Then I knew that Heaven-life was but a continuation of earth-life in its growth, that to grow in knowing was the meaning of all life from its humblest form to its highest achievement.
‘Come unto Me!’
Ah, so this was Heaven. To come to our King, to grow in a knowing of His Love, to come nearer and nearer to that which He is…
Strongly the angel held us to his sides. All at once I found myself looking down on the splendour of the sphere. Janet’s mind, reaching out to mine, told me that she also had seen Him and had answered His invitation of Love. She was afire with exultation and reverent joy. Our angel, too, showed forth his bliss and he whispered into our ears:
‘Such is the Paradise of Saints, as far as you can comprehend it now, for thus all find Him, even to the fulfilment of their highest aspirations. His voice died away. He turned and wheeled off into the great void, cleaving upward toward a distant glow which we knew to be another sphere.