DEGREE OF DIGNITY
“Let us go now to the Place of Trees,” the Ruby Angel suggested. “It is time you attained to the Degree of Dignity.”
“Oh, what is that?” I asked, while Janet turned her face to his. Our angel smiled.
“I cannot help seeing the picture in you minds! You think of gowns and mortar-boards and solemn gatherings and massive books-”
“You are right,” Janet laughed, “and I must say the picture somewhat daunted me. I never was very desirous of such things-”
“Nor ever would sit still long enough to study,” our angel interrupted in his turn.
“Where is the Place of Trees?” I asked as we began to move away. “I thought we had been there already.”
“No, you saw some trees, but this is not the same thing at all. This is a place where newcomers receive a definite power.”
Janet and I could not repress a shared smile. Newcomers! It seemed that we had been here for untold ages. Our angel, however, only walked on, saying composedly:
“Yes, newcomers. For if you could glimpse the great ones who have climbed beyond you and who have travelled this way before you, you would be blinded by their glory! One of the strangest things we angels notice in men, and which always excites our wonder is the way in which, no sooner is a little knowledge or power gained, they instantly think themselves progressed and preen themselves as old hands.”
These last two words the Ruby Angel said with much emphasis, twinkling at us the while. He knew his use of this homely phrase would amuse us and would take away from the sternness of his previous words. True, we had begun to feel somewhat humbled and subdued by the gentle rebuke and so we welcomed his tactful way with us all the more. We had often noticed this. Angels were always so gentle in their dealings with men, so courteous and patient, too.
Very soon we found ourselves in a great square smoothly cloaked with velvet lawns. All over this square, growing in orderly rows, were many trees. Some of the trees in the far distance were immense, as though they had stood there for centuries. Others were smaller and younger. Some, near to where we were standing, were very small indeed, hardly more than saplings.
Moving among these trees were little angels. These were not the babies, but little angels about the size of an earth-child of seven or eight. They had curly, silken hair falling to their shoulders and a single robe of a shade of shimmering grey. They were tending small gardens around the base of each tree and after watching them awhile we looked questioningly at our angel.
“Every one of these trees represents a man or woman,” our angel explained. “Each has reached a certain stage of consciousness, or awareness, and as the angels tend these gardens, so do they plant prayer-power into the soul of each man to whom the tree ‘belongs.’ This prayer-power is necessary for when a man begins to be aware of his real self he must be helped toward the Degree of Dignity.”
“What is this Degree of Dignity?” I asked.
“When men saw the Lord walking upon earth,” the angel said solemnly, “and met the loving or stern look in His eyes, how little they realised the veneration in which He held them.”
“Veneration?” Janet and I queried together.
“Yes. For He saw each one as the tabernacle of the Most High, He saw the spirit of His Father within each, He felt the pulsing of the Divine Life deep down in every human heart…. And so, in worshipping His Father, He could do nought else but venerate the God in man also. This realisation – of the God in himself and the God in all others – is the Degree of Dignity. No man is quite the same after having once glimpsed this reality. At first the realisation is faint and so the trees are small, but as it grows in power, so do the trees grow because the growth in man is the direct result of the prayer power of the angels. These little ones love to tend the flower-gardens and to pray, for to them, praying is as happy an expression as singing, dancing or playing upon a flute.”
“What a lovely service,” Janet breathed.
She and I seemed to have grown in stature since we had come here. We were conscious of strength, of an up-springing from within. Our hearts were singing and within us were sounding solemn, intimate, almost caressing words: “My son, thou art always with Me and all that I have is thine.”
We wanted to kneel down, to speak to this Father within us, to commune, to whisper to His Heart, at last as sons… but we knew we would have all of time in which to do it.
“Father, Father, Father!” sang our hearts, and the words of the apostle came back to us, Glorify and bear God in your body.” There was a long silence and then I asked: “Is our tree here? ”
“You have one each,” said the angel, but I will not ask you to look for them. They are so small that you would pass them by.”
He moved a few paces away. There two little angels knelt low, tending gardens so small that we too had to stoop to see them! They surrounded trees scarcely more than four inches high. The flowers blossoming in the gardens were the tiniest we had ever seen, but in perfect detail, fragrance and colouring. As we watched, the little angels looked up smilingly.
“Thank you, thank you, for your prayer-power,” Janet whispered. We are so grateful.” The little ones gave us a soft kiss on the cheek and then, hand in hand, skipped away.
So these are our trees,” I marvelled. “And those-” I pointed mutely to the huge trees growing in the far distance. “Those are the trees of the Great Ones.”