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Chapter Four: The Hall of Animals

IN JUST a moment, it seemed, we were standing on a level, grassy field. It was gently lit, but the atmosphere was cool and fresh. Here and there were clumps of long grasses, and away to my right I glimpsed a swiftly-running stream. To the left, was a wood and the whole scene was one of peaceful beauty. I took a great breath of the sparkling air.

“Where are we?”

“In the Hall of Animals.” At this I looked round in keen enjoyment.

“Why, it is the very place I should have chosen to see first—and I thought the ‘Term of Reparation’ was a kind of punishment.”

“How little you earth-people know of Love. The ways of the Mighty God are all Love. It is when men oppose His ways that sorrow comes upon them. Why should one who is sorry for sin, and wishes to make reparation be made more unhappy? There are only two kinds of misery here.”

“And they are—?”

“The misery of unrepented fault and sin, when man, though wishing to have forgiveness for himself, still cannot bring himself to make amends. Thus he lives in opposition to the Laws of Love, wandering from place to place with no right of admission to any of the Halls, no guides, no friends. Ah, it is a great misery! And the second”, she added sadly,” is the misery of remorse.”

“Yes,” I mourned, “I know that misery even now.”

“But you have a consolation,” she added quickly. “One of your guides has already started on the earth-reparation and we are just starting here. You see, in Heaven, motives count so very much. To desire to make reparation immediately links a man to all who have made it, and are free.”

“That is a great thought.” I was much relieved. For a moment we remained in silence, and then she said, “Come now! There is a woman here whom you have to meet. Once you did her a great wrong—quite unconsciously. I will tell you the circumstances as we go to her.” Rapidly she gave me the details, and I was amazed to see how easily we can misjudge our fellowmen. We may appear to see every point, every fact, every motive, and it does not even occur to us that we are ‘judging’ for to us it appears that we are ‘seeing’; but how often we are wrong! My guide showed me that beneath every known fact of earth-life there is so much hidden that even the actors themselves are often unaware of it. At times they are inwardly urged to certain actions, at times an instinct almost compels them. My guide gave me an instance of this. She said that, on earth, a man may suddenly collect as much money as he can and give it away to a beggar, leaving impoverished his wife and children. This, she explained, had happened many times. “Now the world, seeing these facts only, is loud in its blame. Some say, ‘The man is mad’, others that he is being ‘put upon’ by one who is stronger than himself. Some say ‘he is cruel’ and others that he hates his wife and children. Even the man may be able to give no clear account of his actions. Now what has happened is this. In the depths of this man’s mind is a confused memory. Once he refused help to a brother-man in need! The stain of that memory remained though the details were blurred. This prompts his action which has been inspired by his hidden desire to be rid of the stain. In this case his action has been most unwise, for in trying to make amends he has robbed those who are dependent upon him and thus incurred further debts. But all the same, no man on earth knew his hidden motive though it is duly noted and recorded in Heaven. Thus, despite his foolishness the debt is not a serious one for his motive is good.”

“Yes, I am beginning to understand,” I said. “In the case of this woman I knew all the facts; there was no chance of mistake; I saw that she was harming somebody else. Yet, you say, it was a sin to judge her, to blame her in my heart?”

“Yes,” agreed my guide. “You see, although she was bringing harm to another, yet she did not fully realise it. Her main thought was an effort to be friendly to others because she had a hidden stain of unfriendliness within. This prompted her action and, wrong though it was, she thought she was doing well. You see, motives are very important and, although the actions on earth are often wrong, the reason for them is recorded in Heaven. How much softer is the judgement of Heaven than the judgement of earth! If we would but cease to judge others, how little reparation they would have to make in Heaven!”

“Let us go to her quickly,” I said eagerly. “Is she also on the Term of Reparation here?”

“Oh no. She has newly arrived and, having lost her dog a few weeks before her death, she longed to see him. Her desire for him drew her to the Hall of Animals, and it is not until she has fully satisfied her desires in the various Halls that she will be drawn to the gates where He is—unless, of course, this is her only remaining wish.” We journeyed on in silence for a while, and then I asked for my instructions.

“Do I tell this woman of my sinful judgement and ask her forgiveness?”

“No indeed. She had no knowledge of it and it would only pain her to tell her now. You must greet her as a friend and then offer your services. When you can perform some act of kindness for her, your stain in her regard is gone.”

“But will she have any use for me?” I asked doubtfully. “Suppose—”

“Do not ‘suppose’ anything,” my companion interrupted laughingly, “but do as I ask, for here she is!”