I was re-reading this morning Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Haven’t read it? I suggest you do.
Here are some of his words…
“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,’ as my friend Brian McLaren puts it.
“If you go to heaven alone, wrapped in your private worthiness, it is by definition not heaven. If your notion of heaven is based on exclusion of anybody else, then it is by definition not heaven. The more you exclude, the more hellish and longly your existence always is. How could anyone enjoy the ‘perfect happiness’ of any heaven if she knew her loved ones were not there, or were being tortured for all eternity? It would be impossible. Remember our Christian prayer, ‘on earth as it is in heaven?’ As now, so then; as here, so there.
“If you accept a punitive notion of God, who punishes or even eternally tortures those who do not love him, then you have an absurd universe where most people on this earth end up being more loving than God. God excludes no one from union, but must allow us to exclude ourselves in order for us to maintain our freedom. Our word for that exclusion is hell, and it must be maintained as a logical possibility.
“Jesus touched and healed anybody who desired it and asked for it, and there were no other prerequisites for his healing. Check it out for yourself. Why would Jesus’ love be so unconditional while he was in this world, and suddenly become totally conditional after death? Is it the same Jesus? Or does Jesus change his policy after his resurrection? The belief in heaven and hell is meant to maintain freedom on all sides, with God being the most free of all, to forgive and include, to heal and to bless even God’s seeming ‘enemies’.” (Fr. Richard Rohr, pp. 102ff)
“Even Pope John Paul II said that heaven and hell were primarily
eternal states of consciousness
more than geographical places of later reward and punishment”
— (Pope John Paul II, June 28, 1999) – p. 104
I’m at a place in my journey where I’m coming to believe that learning to live most deeply in this present moment is not only the greatest challenge facing human maturation but also the grandest place to experience heaven. The more grounded I am in the present, the more aware I am of the Ground of all Being, as Paul Tillich put it.
If this is not what heaven really is, what is it? If the opposite is not what hell really is, what is it?
Live in the eternal now. Observe the increasing dis-interest you have in either the past or the future…
And, the joy and inclusiveness you experience in this present moment. This is…