Posted by: samandal | March 2, 2010

Heaven and Hell, and Alle Shalle Be Wele

Díyáfat-i-‘Alá’, the Feast of Loftiness

“Religion is an illness, remembrance is its cure.”                                    (Anonymous)

God is utterly unique and unknowable: no aspect of God can be fully or definitively expressed in any concept or collection of concepts, much less in any word. Therefore, positive statements about God are counterbalanced by negative statements in order to emphasize that God bears no similitude to any concepts conveyed by words; God is above every name and attribute ascribed to God. The Divine multiplies and divides itself in its uncreated energies undividedly among divided things; God is both present by act and absent by nature to each individual creature, everywhere present and absent at the same time.

Bahá’u’lláh taught that heaven and hell are states of the soul (an emanation from God that comprises the essential inner reality of each person). God is, in a sense, both heaven and hell: God loves all souls equally and indiscriminately, but whether God will be heaven or hell, reward or punishment, depends on the soul’s response to God’s love. The purpose of human existence is to know and love God; after death those who are near to God rejoice, while those who are distant from God lament. Acceptance of God’s messenger is equivalent to heaven, rejection to hell. The fires of hell and the outer darkness are the uncreated Glory of God as seen by those who refuse to love.

Our disposition determines how our souls will be affected by the unimpeded presence of God; the grace of God shines on the just and the unjust alike, even in the depths of hell. We experience that grace as paradise if we return love with love, and as hellfire if we return love with hatred. God chastises in mercy only to correct and rehabilitate, and only within the narrow bounds of our earthly life. Divine justice is corrective and rehabilitative, not arbitrary or retributive. The grace of God enlightens and warms those who love, but burns and consumes those who hate. God plays no part in this: it is we who choose heaven or hell for ourselves. However, the soul is immortal, and spiritual progress in the afterlife is without limit; thus, the possibility of repentance always remains open.

“Synne is behouely, but alle shalle be wele, and alle shalle be wele, and alle maner of thynge shalle be wele.”                                                                                  (Julian of Norwich: Book of Shewings, xxvii. 13–14)