“And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love”
– William Blake
I believe that heaven and hell are the same place. In both, God is present. What makes it good or bad is how it feels to you.
(A lot like life here.)
On first glance, that might sound like a neat, easy way out of the concepts of heaven and hell, but I think it actually makes it more daunting to think about.
It wasn’t until I went to write this that it occurred to me to wonder whether other people had thought about it this way. It turns out that John Henry Newman agreed.
“[W]e all come to be in the presence of God, but for the person who has lived in faith, coming into the presence of God is tremendously fulfilling and happy. And for the one who lived for self, power, and material things, it’s hell.” “For those who love only themselves, heaven (being in the presence of God and others) is hell. ”
Day to day, here on earth, it can be hard to be near love. When you aren’t used to it. When you feel like you don’t deserve it. When you’re surrounded by it but feel separate from it. It can be uncomfortable and scary and painful and lonely. And that’s just here, just with regular people. Can you imagine how much worse that feels on so much bigger a scale? That sounds an awful lot like hell to me.
So if you believe in this idea, the conclusion must be that the way to heaven is to get ourselves ready for that kind of closeness. Meaning that we’re here to practice.
And if that isn’t daunting, I’m not sure what is.