One of the main complaints against religious systems uttered by those of a rational, intellectual bent is their promise of heavenly rewards for enduring our trials on Earth. Whether they issue from the Classical Era or the much lauded Age of Enlightenment they cast aspersion on the very idea of heavenly rewards, insisting that man’s liberation from servitude to ignorance and oppressive elites lies in his very present abilities to overcome all obstacles to growth and achievement, solving all problems which emerge on his evolutionary path with analysis, reasoning and effort astutely applied. Devotions to deities and imprecations to the angelic hosts are deemed pointless and ineffective, rituals from the childhood of man, when fear of sickness and sudden, brutal extinction ruled both tribe and individual, and produced in their wake priestly classes who, through methods both devious and mesmerising, convinced the common man to submit to their imposing mythologies.
While such enlightened rationalism from the “I think therefore I am” crowd was useful in attaining our freedom from the “sole guardians of the divine” crowd, the end result was our enslavement to yet another special interest group whose unimpeachable establishment in all fields of learning imposed yet another roadblock on our evolutionary path to transcendence of limitation. Their worship of cool rationality, logical analysis and the scientific method, with its holy myth of objectivity, has grounded us in the overwhelming gravity of skepticism, leading us to doubt the many intuitions which are the very fabric of our consciousness, and from whom our divine destinies will inevitably be woven.
Unfortunately the entire debate around heavenly rewards and earthly trials, whatever one’s prejudice or preference, is rather putting the cart before the horse, as it based on a perceptual illusion. Despite the recent resurgence of the ancient Gnostic bias, suggesting we shun this illusory matrix and its persuasively fleshy fears and pleasures, we assume, all of us, whether believers or doubters, that our life on this plane is the main point of the game, that’s the life-on-Earth game. We’re either here once and need to cram it all in, accumulating toys and merit badges, or we’re here to prepare for a wonderful afterlife that is some kind of paradisical add-on to the main event.
Our life here is not the main event, it is but one existence in a series of existences in various environments mysteriously keyed to our developing needs. Ancient Egypt was one environment; Atlantis was another, pre-Christian Europe another, South America before the white man, Animist Africa, Hindu India, the hells, paradises and heavens of the almost endless worlds of spirit another, the radiant void beyond the formless energy planes yet another. None are ultimately home, but actual and useful stages on the reincarnation cycle of the maturing soul. The soul, that’s one of those divine sparks issued by the Monad during its earthly residence, a multi-millenial stay after whatever its previous one was, maybe Sirius, maybe Andromeda, maybe who knows? But such extensions of the argument will lead us astray, so for now, I shall concentrate on Earth experience.
Heaven is not a reward, hell is not a punishment and Earth is not our base. Our life in spirit, before and after this one in flesh, is part of a continuum, the endless extension known as eternity, where the residue of character and personality is expended on whatever patterns, habits and tasks were begun in flesh. And as we know from ghost stories and mediumistic communications, that can take mere seconds or a century of Earth time, depending on the soul’s state of progress. A holy man can virtually evaporate into the radiant void in the blink of an eye should he so choose, while a man weighted with anger, ambition or hate can spend what can seem like another eternity lightening his load before moving up the spiritual ladder to light and love and ultimate dissolution. Most of us, of course, fall somewhere in between, first relieved at the seeming reality of the afterlife and relaxing into its rhythms, then maybe partying it up in this or that paradise without the familiar antidote of shame, then maybe helping out those burdened with issues as their less-than-lovely lives are revealed to us, then maybe realigning ourselves with divinity through reading, ritual, meditation or devotion, then maybe learning to create matter out of thought and building. Building what? Leaves, trees, rocks, meadows, mountains, homes, museums, little chunks of baby planets, the list goes on.
There’s no lack of activity in the spirit realms, though none of it is coercive, or pre-approved by some smug central committee. The soul, in its post-mortem state, is certainly free to waste what it thinks of as time, and as we all know, that in itself can be a delightful activity. When we are there it can seem very much like home, such is our comfort level with family, friends and cultural norms. Paradise is, without doubt, paradise, and as much as we may wish it, for the joy of its endless blessed moments, it is not, ultimately, home. But no question, it is a really cool place to be, just the best. Some souls feel so comfortable there they never leave. Even though the challenges are less and progress slow, they prefer the sedate pace and the strong base it provides for spirit guide activities.
Heaven is, not surprisingly, heavenly. All the religions have one, some cutting across ethnic lines, some not. And with all the sectarianism we produce so effortlessly on this planet, it is perhaps not surprising that the heavens are conveniently subdivided to suit the various brands and shades of belief. You need not step out of your comfort zone, unless curiosity begins to niggle your certainty. You can rest assured for as long as you may need to. The practices of praise, worship and devotion have a way of eroding the personality and its needs. Eventually, and entirely at your own pace, you will feel yourself being erased and slowly merging with your surroundings. As the habitual attachments to what you thought was you fade, so does your concept of self and other. You are visited by blendings and mergings that are blissful beyond the heavenly bliss you already know. Your companions cannot see you and you cannot see yourself. Perhaps you are a cloud of light in an ocean of light? You have heard of such things but wondered at their purpose. Surely your prophets and God are still there to be served? But the bliss of being light surrounded by light, all of it knowing and loving, seems to be more than enough. Maybe you have become a tiny part of God? And maybe not. Yet you seem to be beyond caring. Perhaps this is your heavenly reward?
The radiant void, the ocean of light, the all-knowing, all-loving bliss of beyond, these are but names, but not names of home, for there is no home, no final resting place, there are only stages on an endless journey, cycles of change, each of which has its perspectives, its truths and its attachments to answers. It all depends on your point of view. Where you are doing the perceiving from, and what you think is the perception.
When passing through the radiant void, as light within light, there is no perceiver or perception. There is, however, omnipresence and omniscience. When one questions one knows and there is no computational gap. When passing through the physical plane with all its apparent limitations, defining perceptions and truths, one can experience such a state from time to time. It has been called ‘cosmic consciousness’ and in those brief exhilirating glimpses, a smidgen of one’s consciousness rockets up to that transcendent level, attains and reports back to what you assume is base. But of course it is not. It is merely a refreshing pause on the endless journey, from divinity to ignorance and back again, each circuit replete with freshly polished experience, adding to the Monad’s already crammed data banks, bringing it ever closer to the minor deity it aims to be, perhaps ensouling a baby planet as Gaia does for us, here, on this third stone from the sun.