These days, the words heaven and hell are quite often thought of as descriptors or metaphors for a life experience rather than actual abodes in the spirit realm. Although the terms are used lightly, some, especially fundamentalists, take these words quite seriously and feel certain they play an integral part in the ‘afterlife.’ Even those who scoff at the idea can’t be certain and may wonder from time to time if there is any truth in the idea that we could receive eternal bliss or everlasting torment as a reward or recompense for the life we’re living now. Where can we find answers? While many religions stick to the literal interpretations of these words, science has something quite different to show us.
The concepts of heaven and hell as specific places where reward and punishment are meted out were derived from the ancient belief that a cosmic war between good and evil is raging inside and outside the universe. This theme has been central throughout man’s history, and continues to take center stage in our thoughts today. We see our world in terms of opposites since out though system is based on a dualistic perspective. Looking at what takes place in our world, and seeing though a dualistic perspective, it’s no surprise that we came to the conclusion that the universe is divided between good and evil. This perspective is so ingrained, we assume it’s accurate, but we rarely ask ourselves whether it’s true.
Although humans have focused on a division between good and evil far longer, the modern English word heaven came into use around the 12th century and originally meant ‘sky’ or ‘firmament.’ Christians began associating the sky with the throne or abode of God. Working from a description of a symbolic ‘heavenly Jerusalem’ in the Bible book of Revelation, heaven was eventually thought of as a city that included pearly gates, fluffy clouds, streets of gold and angelic harpists.
Since our dualistic thought system demands an opposite, God’s dwelling place, the bastion of good, required that God’s opposite, Satan, also had to have an abode that was the epitome of evil. Angels and demons round out the populations that fill these spirit realms and carry out the work of their respective leader. The word hell originated around the 8th century and referred to ‘something covered over’ or the ‘nether world of the dead.’ In Norse religion, there was no thought of punishment involved; instead, ‘hel’ was a being that presided over a ‘misty place’ where the dead resided.
Eventually it became popular to think that if God resided in the sky, Satan must be luring underground. Somewhere along the line it was decided (with no proof whatsoever) that the way we live our life on earth would determine whether we were rewarded in heaven after we died, or were tormented in hell. As a result, so-called ‘holy’ books are filled with rules that must be followed and ‘belief systems’ that must be embraced if we want to go to heaven instead of hell. The rules and beliefs are never clear-cut, and make success impossible to predict, keeping believers in a constant state of anxiety and fear.
The concepts of heaven and hell, as well as the idea that a cosmic war between good and evil is raging, present some impossible paradoxes that religion regularly tries to dodge. It would be impossible to list all these issues in a short blog, but we’ve included a couple of the most compelling. Most religions teach that God is love, but as the creator of everything in existence, this would mean that God would also be responsible for evil. If we assume that Satan has the power to challenge God, we must conclude that evil is more powerful than good since God is too weak to control his evil creation. But if God punishes as well as rewards, then Satan is the warden of God’s prison and his right-hand-man who doles out punishments on his behalf. One must also question the math that says a few years lived on earth deserves either an eternity of reward or punishment. Many have rightfully walked away from religion based on these ridiculous ideas. We don’t blame them; we walked away too, but we still wanted some answers. Instead of throwing God out with the filthy religious bathwater, we looked at the subject from a scientific perspective.
Our ancestors based their views on what they saw happening in the world. We aren’t that limited. As science looks into the quantum universe, we see that nothing is as it seems to be. We have imagined that the universe is locked in a struggle between good and evil only because we haven’t understood what the universe actually is. Our misperceptions are built on the faulty concept that a separation exists between the material and spiritual realms. We see the Divine as something separate from ourselves, but quantum physics paints a very different picture.
From a quantum perspective, everything in existence is one thing: one interconnected, indivisible life, one shared consciousness. The so-called ‘material’ and ‘spiritual’ are one, and cannot be separated. Physicists tell us that everything in existence came from one Source. Spiritual sages (and many physicists) say that Source is the Divine. Since there can be no separation within this oneness, everything that exists is the Divine. Since our Source permeates and gives life to everything is existence, a separate dwelling place apart from creation would be impossible and unnecessary. But, you may ask, what accounts for the evil we see every day?
Physics has also discovered something that spiritual sages have been teaching for centuries: the material world is a dream, an illusion, Maya, a virtual reality. In comparison, the material world is as real to quantum reality as a movie or a dream is real to us. We experience the movie or the dream, but we know that the action only appears to take place. You exist as pure consciousness, not a physical body. However, consciousness has the ability to project the material world and the drama that plays out here. Since that’s the case, it begs the question: why we would choose to project a world that appears to be locked in a struggle between good and evil. Why would we purposely set up our own suffering and continue to endure it? Actually that was not our original intent. Instead, we were rebelling against the oneness of All That Is. We wanted to prove that separation, and the opportunity to become special, could work as well as equality within oneness. Obviously the experiment has failed, but in the process we’ve forgotten that we can stop the drama anytime we wish and wake up to oneness.
The world we construct through consciousness is experiment, nothing more, nothing less. We are not trying to pass a test, and nothing we do here is worthy of either a reward or a punishment. The point of this existence is to experience separation and specialness and decide for ourselves if the experience is worth the suffering in inevitably causes. We can choose individually, at any time, to stop the experiment. The Divine has allowed us to dream up whatever we would like. As we can see, some have chosen to take the experiment to the extremes of what we might label ‘evil,’ but that evil arose from their own desires. Nonetheless, while we continue to project the material world and try every possible scheme, our dreaming minds (the true Self) are safe and we are loved and protected. It’s impossible for us to leave oneness, and there is no ‘place’ to go after we die. In fact, the whole idea of death is yet another misperception that keeps us imprisoned in fear. Since consciousness is immortal, we have the choice of continuing to project this miserable dream during one lifetime after another, or let it go and wake up again to oneness. Heaven and Hell are constructs of minds that forgot who they were. They have never been real, and they never will be. We have made a mistake in judgment, but mistakes can be corrected.