Monday, December 5, 2011

Heaven & Hell

"'I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God.'"

Ever since i was little, i have struggled with the idea that God created a Hell. If God truly was love, how could he ever send his beloved creations to hell? Especially those, who to us, appear undeserving of such a fate. I recently read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis and i think that what it has to say is important, albeit the fact that it is fiction. Obviously, C.S. Lewis being human, has the same limitations as us in understanding eternity but the proposal of the idea that people choose hell & are not simply damned is an intriguing one. In the book, a young man is walking the abandoned streets of the "grey town" until he finds himself in line for a bus made of light. He meets a great many interesting characters on his way "up". When he arrives, he finds that it is excruciating to walk on the "diamond hard grass" or even to carry a leaf and that he is really an insubstantial being, little more than a ghost. As he explores his new surroundings he witnesses several of his companions on the bus (who are also ghosts) speaking with spirits, or more substantial beings who actually inhabit this beautiful, yet to the ghosts; hurtful land. In almost every case, the ghost and spirit are arguing. The spirit attempts to convince the ghost to stay, while the ghost gives any number of excuses to why he wishes to return to the dreary "grey town". Most of them do return on the bus. After wandering for a great while the main character meets up with the spirit George MacDonald (famous author). George explains to him that for those ghosts who decide to stay, the grey town (or hell) was simply a purgatory; while for those who wish to return, this country was not heaven but simply a Valley of the Shadow of Life. Eventually the main character chooses to remain and with the help of George MacDonald makes the difficult journey to the mountains where he looks upon the face of God. This land is no longer the Valley of the Shadow of Life, but heaven.

Some quotes from the book that impacted me:

Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit.

( The spirit's response to a ghost who says he came on the bus simply to inquire, not for answers because life would be stale if he actually found all the answers)

'Listen!' said the White Spirit. 'Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad you had found them. Become that child again.'

    "Well," says the ghostly ex-cleric, "really, you know, I am not aware of a thirst for some ready-made truth which puts an end to intellectual activity in the way you seem to be describing. Will it leave me the free play of Mind, Dick? I must insist on that, you know."

    "You have gone far wrong," Dick replies, "Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you than masturbation has to do with marriage".

Matthew 18:3

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

'Don't you remember on earth- there were things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will accept it-if you will drink the cup to the bottom-you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds.'

'Both processes (process of eternal life) begin even before death. The good man's past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man's past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there. the Blessed will say "We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven," and the Lost, "We were always in Hell." and both will speak truly'

"Hell is a state of mind-you never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind-is, in the end, Hell. But heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakable remains"