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One Step Higher: Chapter 2

THE PLACE OF MEETING

‘I must confess I have a destination in view,’ our angel said. ‘I think it will please you. It certainly will surprise you. It may even startle you!’

‘What can it be?’ Janet and I spoke together and leaned forward to exchange a sudden glance.

‘It is the Place of Meeting.’

For a moment we were disappointed. After all, it did not sound so very startling compared with the wonders we had seen and heard. However, before we could speak, our guide continued:
‘It is not the title of this place, but its nature and position that makes up the surprise.’

At once we were all attention. In the short silence that followed I was dimly aware that our angel had turned swiftly and was cleaving upward.

‘Tell us,’ Janet pleaded.

‘You are going to visit a place that no man can visit-alone.’

‘Then how can we?’ I began. ‘Do you mean because you are with us-’

‘Yes,’ she interrupted. ‘Men can only come to this place through the invitation and by the power of an angel.’

‘I understand the first part,’ Janet said, ‘but what does “by the power of an angel” mean?’

‘Do you not perceive that I am holding you closely to my sides? You are travelling on my power.’

‘Oh!’ This was surprising, and something of the awe we had felt at first returned to us, but the angel continued:
‘If it were not for this you could not enter into this zone at all. You would have been forced to remain in the Lower Void.’

‘Is not this the Void?’ I asked in astonishment, looking round at the blue light. And now I perceived that it had darkened considerably and that the air was much colder.

‘This is the Higher Void,’ our guide explained. ‘Only angels can travel in it or men who come on an angel’s power.’
‘Where does it lead?’ Janet asked eagerly.

The angel’s arms tightened around us as though in reassurance.
‘To another sphere.’

‘Another sphere!’ I exclaimed with a sudden recollection of science lessons of earth. ‘But I thought there was no atmosphere for men?’

‘For men of earth,’ the angel corrected. ‘And remember, even you must travel on my power.’

This information caused us so much surprise that we were silent for a long time. Vainly I extended my sight, trying to pierce the blue haze. It was now the colour of the sky on a summer evening, with here and there a brilliant light far above us which I took to be a star. The cold air did not cause us any discomfort. Indeed, it was most enjoyable, having a bracing effect which made our journey a grand adventure. We were still soaring upward and must have covered a vast distance by now. Once we streaked by something that moved like light and was the colour of flame.

‘There goes your chariot,’ said our angel (and by her voice I knew that she smiled.)

‘Angels?’ I asked.

‘Angels and men. From time to time we angels act as messengers or vehicles, bringing men to this Place of Meeting or taking them back again. Those we passed were taking under their power two of the Great Ones.’

‘Could they not travel alone?’ Janet asked.

‘No, for they are men, however exalted.’

‘Why do men come to this place?’
‘They come for two purposes. (I speak of the Great Ones.) To have communion with the angels and to receive some of their lesser brethren.’

‘The animals!’ I gasped.

At this our angel laughed outright.

‘No, no! You are the lesser brethren of the Great Ones. You are almost as low in the scale of development compared to their height as the animals are, compared to your height.’

‘Well!’ said Janet. ‘What a stupendous thought.’

This occupied us for a very long time. I thought of that squirrel, sitting eating his nut in the Touchstone and watching us from his place in the tree. How little and backward – how uncomprehending he seemed. Yet how dear! What did he know of the meaning of the Father’s Love, of Truth and Justice, of all the wisdom the angels had imparted to us? He had looked and listened in the presence of the wisdom. Yet what did he know of it? Could it be that the Great Ones saw us like this? That they poured out their wisdom before us, and we could not even recognise it? At this point the angel answered my thoughts.

‘It is, even so, like this. Even on earth the deepest wisdom is poured out before the eyes of men. They look about them; they look up and down and they say, “Where is the truth? How can we know unless wisdom is given to us?” Yet it is there.’

‘How can we fail to see?’ I demanded. ‘It seems incredible.’

‘The snail, crawling up the roadside-does it know of the sun and the moon and the stars?’ our angel queried. ‘The fly, crawling up the hillside-does it know the beauty of the distant mountains? Yet they have eyes and these things are open to them.’

At last we were beginning to see!

‘No wonder the Great Ones call us their lesser brethren!’ I commented.