in the Spirit World: Part Two
Heaven and Hell: Places or States of Mind?
Rev. Simeon Stefanidakis
Would it surprise you to hear that there
are many people who would prefer NOT to believe in an afterlife? For many,
the prospect of what they may face after death can be quite horrifying.
"When you're dead, you're
dead" is a way of looking at life, grounded totally in the physical
world and its body; but, for many, this concept of life offers great
comfort. Why? Because believing this way allows the individual to do
whatever he or she wishes to whomever he or she wishes, without having to
worry about "paying the price" at some later time, in some other
realm of life.
But, alas, this profoundly sad
way of looking at life is not based on fact, and eventually, the reality of
life after death stands before us all, face-to-face.
The issue of life's
consequences is fundamental to religious thought and persuasion. Most
religions of the earth accept this basic concept of life: we all have to
face our mistakes, at some point or another. For aeons of time, people have
been "whipped into shape" by church leaders and their threats of
eternal damnation and fire. Satan plays a very important role in religion,
especially Christianity; unfortunately, to the point where it often seems
as if Satan is given more credence and power than God, Himself.
So many people believe: Live a
good life, and you go to Heaven. Sin, and you go to Hell. Accept Jesus
Christ as Lord and Savior, and you will find that special seat next to the
throne of God. Do not accept Jesus as Savior, and you will never sit at the
right hand of the Father, no matter how good, how loving, or how charitable
a life you may have lived on earth.
How can this be? Would God
discriminate for some and against others? Would God open His arms to
die-hard Christians, while turning His back to those of other faiths, or
those Christians who may not utter that special formula of salvation? I
remember, several years ago, hearing, with utter horror, Jerry Falwell,
founder of the Moral Majority, state that Mother Teresa would never go to
Heaven, because she was not born again, according to the Christian Fundamentalist's
view of rebirth. What a horrid and ignorant statement!
So, what is the truth
regarding Heaven and Hell? How do we deal with life's injustices; those
perpetrated by ourselves and those perpetrated against us by others?
Ancient teaching states that
we must all deal with life's errors, first by facing those mistakes, then
by learning from those mistakes, then by forgiving ourselves and others,
and, finally, by not repeating those mistakes. The Lord's Prayer asks God
to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against
Obviously, it would be far
better to begin this process of forgiveness, healing, and transformation
sooner than later; that is, while on the Earth plane. But, so often we pass
into the Spirit world without even having begun this process.
Wonder of the Spirit World
Life is life is life is life.
And Spirit is Spirit is Spirit is Spirit. There is no beginning and no end
to life's journey. It is a continuous experience, sometimes here and
sometimes there; sometimes within a physical body, but most often without a
physical body. We are not alive at certain times and dead at others. We are
always alive. Therefore, there is always the opportunity to grow and expand
in our awareness. Likewise, there is always the opportunity to be healed
and transformed of our transgressions.
In the Spirit world, we are
given greater opportunity to correct the errors of the past because, in the
Spirit world, we tend to see things from a greater perspective. We are able
to perceive a greater part of the whole. We are not quite so blinded by the
earthly personality and its multitude of passions. But, even in Spirit, we
will change ONLY to the degree that we are willing and able to do so.
Nothing in life is ever forced upon the Spirit, except the consequence of
his or her actions, according to the Great Law of Karma, or Cause and
Grace and salvation are not
handed to us on a silver platter. Jesus Christ did not come to earth,
suffer as he did, experience the horror of crucifixion, and reveal the
wonder and mystery of resurrection, so that we would be given an excuse to
sin our lives away and, upon reciting a few words, be let off the hook, so
to speak. That type of belief cheapens and denigrates everything that Jesus
stood for. Furthermore, it minimizes God's Grace.
Without going into too much
detail, the Spirit world can be divided into two basic areas or levels of
experience: the Astral plane and the Mental plane. Actually, there are
more, but for our intents and purposes, let us leave it at these two.
The Astral plane is where we
all go, immediately upon departing this earthly life, through physical
death. Everyone goes there and spends a certain amount of time within this
area of the Spirit world. It is within the Astral plane that we deal, to a
great degree, with those areas of healing, transformation, and forgiveness
mentioned above. It is here where we gather with those loved ones with whom
we shared the recent earth life and determine, amongst ourselves, what we
all need to deal with and how we shall go about correcting the mistakes of
the past. In this, there are special Spirit emissaries or angels who help
us in this process of assessment. We look at the successes and the failures
of our recent earth life and its many relationships, and we determine what
needs to be changed, what needs to be forgiven, what needs to be healed,
and what needs to be transformed.
Because the Astral plane is
where we deal with some of the more negative elements of ourselves, many
refer to it as a place of evil and negativity. This could not be further
from the truth. It is a world of confrontation, assessment, evaluation, and
looking at ourselves face-to-face. Indeed, for some these processes may be
difficult, but the results can be summed up in two words: HEALING and
Some spirits may consider this
aspect of life -- looking at one's self honestly and face-to-face -- as a
kind of Hell. But, then again, there are those who consider any aspect of
life which is challenging and confronting as Hell. Thus, for some,
"Hell on Earth" is a very real state of mind and consciousness.
Now, this brings us to the
question of Hell. Is there a specific place, known as Hell, where all the
sinners are doomed to eternal fire and damnation? Absolutely not!
Hell is more a state of mind
rather than a place of condemnation. God condemns no person to a life of
pain and suffering. God gives us all freedom of choice, but demands that we
be accountable to Him, to ourselves, and to each other for the choices
which we make.
Eventually, after many earthly
incarnations, little by little, we begin to see the Light, so to speak. We
recognize that, as Spirit, we are all created in God's image as Spirit. We
recognize that we were born out of love and should live life in this love.
For some, these lessons come
painfully slow, while others learn a bit more quickly. Does this make one
spirit better than another? No. It simply means that one spirit may be further
along the pathway to Heaven than another. God is a Respecter of no person,
in that He favors no one of His children above another. One of the hymns in
our hymnal states: "In His eyes there is no great nor small."
Now, what about Heaven? Unlike
Hell, Heaven IS a place to which we will all eventually travel. Once we
deal with as many of the negative aspects of the self as we can, while in
the Astral plane, we experience what can be considered a second death. We
enter a very brief period of slumber and we step across yet another doorway
of life and enter the Mental plane.
It is within the higher levels
of the Mental plane -- we will not discuss the various levels of the great
Mental plane -- that we experience what can be termed a state of Heaven. In
fact, Hindu texts refer to this level of the Spirit world as Devachan,
Devachan is not the ultimate
state of oneness, nor is it the final "resting place" of the
Spirit, but it is a place where we can truly experience the wonder,
majesty, beauty, and joy of the Human experience, to the degree that each
person is capable of so doing.
It is here where we finally
reap the rewards of our efforts, to the degree that we have worked at
transformation and healing. Therefore, within this level of the Spirit
world, the individual experiences the Light of God's Love and Creation to
the degree that he or she is able to do so. And how is that degree
measured? It is measured by the degree of honesty, love, charity, and
kindness which that individual is capable of manifesting outwardly in his
or her life.
Devachan, although a place of
immense beauty, love, and joy, does have its limitations. Therefore,
Devachan is not the true Heaven or the final resting place of the spirit.
But, it is a place where the human spirit can experience total joy and
oneness, to the degree that he or she can do so. And every spirit goes to
this place, within the Spirit world, no matter what kind of life he or she
may have conducted while on the Earth plane. In fact, it is from here where
the next earthly incarnation is planned and set into motion.
It is as if God allows each
and every one of us to touch the best and the greatest that we are, in
order to inspire us to become even better and more great, as we prepare to
move onto a new earthly life.
This is not ultimate Heaven,
but it is as good as it gets, at least for the time being. That Heaven will
come to us when we are finally capable of experiencing our oneness with God
and with each other. That Heaven is the ultimate home from which all
emerged and to which we shall all return at some timeless point in time.
That Heaven is truly cosmic in nature and beyond any human's comprehension.
The Heaven that we are talking
about -- Devachan -- is about as close to that state of ultimate joy that
we can experience at this point in our travels. To the individual in
Devachan, there is total joy and wholeness, even though on a grander
scheme, it is limited.
Life is like traveling from A
to Z, with Z as the destination. If an individual has traveled only as far
as K, then, to him, K will seem like Z, because K is the limit to what he
can consciously experience. The beauty of life is that, as we learn and
evolve, we expand our current limitations - K - and recognize that there is
an L, looming at the distance. We, then, strive to move onto to L; then
onto M, etc.
Thus, life -- in and out of
physical form -- becomes a process of continuously extending beyond what we
perceive as our limitations, that we may experience wider and more
expansive limitations. Eventually, all limitation will be gone and we will
all be one with God. The one will become the One. Etched within the
cornerstone of our original Church building are the Alpha and Omega
-- the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, representing the
beginning at the end -- superimposed, one over the other. This indicates
that the beginning is the end, and the end is the beginning. Both have
communed and become one.
Therefore, there is but one
time that is of essence; that point in time where past and future meet: the
PRESENT. Thus, the importance of living the moment -- the present -- to its
fullest. Remember: you are, today, the result of what you have been
yesterday; and you shall be, tomorrow, the result of what you are today.
Three of this series on Life in Spirit will deal with how the
spirit integrates the experiences of the recent earth life with those
experiences from previous earthly incarnation.
If you would like further
information on the journey of your Spirit and Soul, through life and the
Spirit life, we suggest you consider purchasing our very informative and
very complete Journey of the Soul. You will be
hard pressed to come up with a question concerning your Spirit and its
journey through creation that is not addressed somewhere in this study
course. It is an excellent and truthful course of study and experience.
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