But here’s another consideration.
In Falling Upward, Father Richard Rohr writes…
“When you do not know who you are, you push all enlightenment off into a possible future reward and punishment system, within which hardly anyone wins. Only the True Self knows that heaven is now and that its loss is hell–now. The false self makes religion into the old ‘evacuation plan for the next world,’ ” (p. 100-101 Fr. R. Rohr, Falling Upward).
For me, Rohr has stated it well…quite well, in fact.
“Heaven is now…”
“Hell is now…”
We create these realities now. Very likely, we have experienced both in varying degrees.
“The true self knows this.”
“The false self does not.”
What Rohr calls the “false self” is the ego. But do not think that by “false self” he means a “bad self.” Think instead, not the best self. Or, “true self,” “higher self,” or even the “soul,” as religious folks typically refer to it.
It is the ego, or the “false self,” in you and me that “makes religion into the old evacuation plan for the next world.” The “false self” pushes away both heaven and hell into some imaginary, make-believe future. It takes Jesus’ words, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14) too literally and misapplies it to some fictitious place somewhere in the universe and of course sometime in the future.
When Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am, you will be” (John 14:1-3) that “place” he has prepared is the Eternal Timeless Presence Now. You are never nearer to Jesus than when you are present now. In fact, you might say that yet another name for God is “Now!”
For me, now is heaven. Anything less is just some degree of hell.
“Heaven,” or “Enlightenment,” or “Salvation” or, if you prefer, “life lived at its optimal level”…is not a reward you receive in some future world anymore than hell is the “bad place” people are sent who deserve punishment.
Heaven and hell are realities people know, or do not know, NOW.
Permit me to put it this way: there is NO such thing as “tomorrow.” The future is a figment of the imagination. Certainly, the likelihood that tomorrow will come is pretty certain. Your experience has taught you, just as my life has taught me, tomorrow is a pretty certain uncertainty.
Not surprisingly, however, and this is the point, when tomorrow shows up, guess how it does?
If the ego in you is attached to a belief system that includes a literal hell or heaven as actual places somewhere in space and time, when they show up, you can be pretty certain they’ll show up as yet another today.
Believe in heaven or hell if you wish.
For me, however, it make much more sense to practice making heaven a reality in my life today; it makes infinitely more sense to see what heaven I can make of someone else’s hell…today.
In other words, the goal of my life has little to do with my plans for tomorrow; everything instead with my presence today.
So, you ask, “How do I know if I’m living in the present?”
When you ask the question.