Still One with the Universe
[Due to illness, herewith a reprint of a column from 3 years ago.]
When you die, will you go ‘up,’ or ‘down’? It’s an archaic question, but one that still drives the behavior of many. In a worldview that’s a carryover from earlier times, if we misbehave we risk having God the Cosmic Enforcer toss us into Hell forever. If we play nice, though, St. Peter is sure to welcome us in at the Pearly Gates of Heaven.
Many of us were taught in Sunday School - or simply absorbed from the culture - the notion that Heaven and Hell are real places we would be sent to after we die. Heaven was up, Hell was down, and it was made quite plain by the tales of leisurely strolling on streets paved with gold or being forever dipped in unquenchable fire how we ought to behave and which direction we ought to aspire to go.
We hear many variations on these themes from elements in our culture because fear is so often the tool of choice to keep people in line and cleaving to the straight-and-narrow. Our own religious traditions long ago rejected the use of the fear of eternal damnation. Over the decades we also left behind the promise of eternal bliss as the sort of carrot to use to keep us civil with each other. And still, the language of Heaven and Hell, up and down, may not be as far from our own internalized views as we would like to believe.
Now some reflections on what it is I believe about such things:
First of all, I believe Heaven and Hell are real in the sense that the experiences of our lives can be wonderful or horrible. In other words, I think our reactions to the world and to the events of our lives put us in the states of mind of ecstasy or turmoil. Or both.
I have been in heaven, and I have been in hell, and I know which one I like better.
I also believe that, when the time comes, I will go both “up” and “down.” Some of ‘me’ will go down, I think, in the sense that the elemental materials that make up the cells of my physical body will return down into the earth to be recycled into other entities. Some of ‘me’ will go up, I think, in the sense that the energy that motivates my cells and feelings and activities will exit my physical body and return out into the universe from whence they came.
I don’t believe the entity that I think of as ‘me’ will continue as a separate consciousness, but I do believe that all of that ‘me’ entity will be differently infused out into the universe and in the process, remain one with all Creation.
I don’t know about you, but I am comforted by that thought.
You may agree with me in whole or in part or not at all, but I hope that your own reflections on these subjects may (eventually) bring you peace and comfort – whichever direction you’re ultimately headed.
See you in church,