Best of Spirits

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Best of Spirits

Imagine Only Heaven

What in Heaven do you mean by no Hell?

Lennon profile after Imagine sleeve art

Imagine there's no Heaven above us, no Hell below us. When John Lennon released his cry of confusion, many religionists took it as a dismissal of religious belief, among other criticism:

Interpretations of these lyrics abound, with some claiming Lennon was saying he was an atheist and other claiming that it was merely a condemnation of organized religion. However, if there is no hell below us and above us is only sky, it would seem as if Lennon is saying that some of the most important theological aspects of Christianity simply don’t exist! In short–I say atheist.

Wikipedia: Imagine: Recognition and Criticism
IxQuick web search: Criticism of John Lennon's Imagine

Whatever the song's author's beliefs or intent, I've always thought the religious critics missed the point about Heaven and, more especially to my thinking, Hell.

In the pre-scientific age of flat earth, where the sky and the heavens were synonymous, God and the angels sat among the clouds above, literally raining or hailing down munificence or punishment. Meanwhile, volcanic activity and geysers of hot water certainly lent credence to the belief in a fiery underworld.

Fresco of Heaven, Earth, Hell
W Wikipedia

The idea of good and bad spirits was always around, but Zoroastrianism chiefly influenced higher religions with the concept of dualism, so I've read. The teaching parable of the Book of Job is a classic consequence. And there was that unpleasantness with a local senior administrator and his followers. But wherever we got the idea that the Evil One had power on a par with Deity, and held independent sway over his realm like a separate but equal Mirror Universe of Heaven, that's not monotheism. [Link unavailable 2019-04-30. Here's a dialog-free short version.]

UFO Comes the Age of Space. We travel in the clouds and find only... clouds. We turn our telescopes to the farthest regions of Creation and see only... more stuff. We probe and explore the center of our globe and find.. only a remnant of the sun.

Old ideas of "where" Heaven and Hell exist could not stand. Quite naturally, their very reality therefore comes into question. That's why we sang, with John, "No Hell below us, Above us only sky." (Further apologetic for Imagine's lyrics awaits some other article.)

Moderns have managed to push the dual realms into some kind of science-fiction-like other-dimensions, but otherwise have not really upgraded the concepts.

Mirror Universe Spock as Devil in Bosch Hell



Let's start over, with God.

God creates universes. There really is a perfect, eternal universe centered around Paradise, home of the eternal Trinity, home of the immortals of that divine universe, and true home of survivors from time and space. Physically, from our perspective, it isn't "in" time and space, but the time-space creation circles that gravitational focus.

Star Trek 5: Staring Heavenward
Just like in Star Trek V — Not!

That perfect creation is the pattern, the nucleus of all reality. We in evolutionary space are the mitochondria in one of the cells of the still-developing replications.

The kingdom, the government, really, the family of the Gods thus create life in abundance. Squishy, evolving, fallible life like they can't grow in the perfect place. They make children of God out of... dirt! out of... meat! Believing creatures who have to learn to be spiritual! From the perspective of those never-erring Eternals, who never grew up or sinned, our partiality of perfection must be astonishing.

Theistic Evolution

They put in place mechanisms for the continuation of mortal personality beyond material death, an accumulated real thing which reflects the spirit's efforts to bring animalistic thinking into harmony with divine values - a soul by which you can be reconstituted in the mansions of resurrection. It's taken care of. They even sent us that message, in the most powerful possible Way.

Empty tomb

The true dualism is, a soul survives, or there is nothing of survival value. Much breath and ink has been expended debating whether all are saved, whether judgment comes soon after death or at the end of an age, what one must do to be saved, and whether every soul arrives already perfected and saved, or some (most, it looks like from here) need a purgatorial extension before being able to make the fully-informed free-will choice to join the eternal family. All these weighty matters lie beyond our present scope, because the question at hand is not the way of Heavenly salvation, but the consequences of the Other Choice.

Goal thermometerDualism is an illusion, merely a subjective binary interpretation of the quantity of water in a glass; fullness is the reality by which less than full is considered, emptiness being a total lack. Cold is lack of heat, but unless you're at absolute 0°K, there is some "heat." Darkness is absence of light. Ignorance is the absence of knowledge. Immorality is the absence of a heart guided by wise fellowship. The absences, lacks, and emptinesses are not "real" as much as they are defined by lack of that which is real - heat, light, wisdom, love.

Those who reject the light do not go to a fiery pit and burn in eternal torment. It pleases our animal thirst for vengeance, for old-fashioned, Old Testament justice, to imagine the worst souls writhing in agony eternally for their iniquities. But in mercy, the iniquitous simply cease. They are, in Pythonian, ex-souls. There is no longer anyone there. Personality disruption is complete. Is that not heartbreaking enough for the family of souls to endure?

Kneeling, grieving woman

Jesus spoke of those who rejected the truth as being cast upon Gehenna. Some take that to mean the Hell of their own concept, but Gehenna was the perpetually-burning trash heap (tire fire of its day) outside Jerusalem. He was saying, my way or the trash heap.

This only concerns Hell as a location in reality. There is a need in some folks for fear of eternal torment; for them, until the carrot of love of God, fellowkind, and values replaces the stick of fear, avoiding eternal torment is a positive motivator that understanding of mere eternal cessation may not provide. Then there is the metaphorical living Hell of separation from God, the burning torment of divided loyalty, a life of sin. And there was, likely still is, a real Devil, walking this world, who brought a kind of Hell to our world, not yet repaired. But again, all these are beyond the current scope. In practical terms, a soul has a simple, root choice:

Survival or not. You might say, Join or Die.

Heavens, yeah.

Now go forth, enlightened, believing firmly in the Heaven you get around you every day, the Lord you find in the eyes of every struggling fellow mortal, while assured that, although there is no Hell, the cartoons about the guy with the horns and hooves and the jokes about who's there or not can still be funny.




AC/DC and Led Zep fans see choice of Stairway to Heaven or Highway to Hell
Al Bondigas, Deviant Art

Video playlist accompaniment for this article
includes videos linked above, and more.

Best of Spirits

Rampaging Nutcases and Other Disasters

Despite blots on the canvas, the big picture matters

Bridge collapseTornado strikes church during services.
Earthquake-tsunami wipes out coastal towns.
Cars fly off collapsed bridge.
Airplane flies off the end of the icy runway.
Gunman opens fire on campus/ theater/ crowd.
Tyrants torture.
Armies conquer.
Famine spreads.
Economies collapse.

We can learn from hard experience.
We can plan better, build stronger,
act more wisely, strive for peace.
We can have more
armed people,
security guards,
everyday citizens packing,
balanced self-government,
fortified defenses,
wise diplomacy.
We may even find a kind of international peace and unity.
The degree of disaster can be tempered, but
murder and disaster can not be prevented.
Not entirely.

Hitler Storm over NYCThe unspeakable horror that is too common,
the psychopath, the sociopath, the unhinged mind,
devoid of all social, moral, spiritual self-governance,
a conduit for catastrophe beyond comprehension.

Our hearts go numb with shock at first.
Anger and disgust may pass through our minds.
We imagine the horror endured as if we were there.
Then the kindred spirit takes over.

We mourn with the living.

The dead will be comforted beyond.
The wounded need mighty care and prayer.
The families and communities need to heal,
as much as healing and recovery is possible.
We mourn, we weep, we cry out to the Almighty.
We bury our dead, grieve deeply.

World in a CellOur connection with one another has grown exponentially.
Even as we become five, six, seven billions,
we are as close to each other as the nearest cell.

Every caring person is affected.
Some rush with chainsaws to help
the tornado-ravaged city.
Some donate blood and goods, cash and time.
If nothing else can be done,
we mourn and pray with the affected.
So we appreciate the information.
It's hard to bear the news.
But we appreciate the news.

Chatting online and suddenly someone says, it's an earthquake!
An earnest radio voice reports on the horror,
with passion, with sympathy, without exaggeration.
A neighbor asks, have you heard about the explosion?
These messengers are respectful.

Bat ChildIn the old pop news media,
so often, the presentation
is distasteful.
The bad news is bad enough.
The frame they put upon it doesn't help.

Pop news celebrates the aberration,
because aberrance is sensational.
Man bites dog, they call it in the news biz.

After the plane crashes, after the terrorist attacks,
the tabloids scream with fear-inducing details,
fat headlines and frightening photos.
Watch our channel!
Buy our paper!
Read our website!
Be afraid!
The politicians and newcasters consort
to rush to capitalize on tragedy,
get their faces associated with the madman's,
their names among the headlines,
their propaganda entangled with the tragedy.

Clinton Alien BabyThey don't recall the absolutely incredible
record of airplane safety,
how many peacefully attended the theater,
how well the infrastructure held up today,
how many people do not want to kill you,
or the magnificent stories of everyday heroes.
That isn't sexed-up. That doesn't sell.

The relatively small event
is framed as if it were all-encompassing.
You are doomed.
All is lost.
Live in fear, despair, depression.
This is a vale of tears.
The Devil wants you to think no one's in charge.

News shock / OMG cat
Someone is in charge.
Kneeling before JesusYou are blessed.
Live in hope, with sincere faith.
Appreciate the everyday miracle.
that joy and fellowship can be found.
This is the big picture.

Millions of the gregarious and civilized
enjoy common pleasures, public treasures.
Then, despite all precaution,
every now and then,
a madman can rush past the guard
and slash the honored canvas.
We haul the madman off,
we repair the canvas as best we can.
Ultimately, the madman
has no lasting value,
is just another thing.
The big picture matters eternally.
Humanity helping each other in true fellowship,
reaching out more than ever
in consequence of disaster.

Long after his murderer's
very existence is forgotten,
the musician will be honored,
his music inspire.

Brian Ross of ABC takes heat for another blunder (Politico)
“I would emphatically say its not a left-right thing. I’ve never discerned in his reporting any ideological movement,” one ABC News source told POLITICO. “It’s the big sensational story that he’s after, and he’ll do the same on either side.”

Bomb squads disarm traps at Colo. suspect's apt (AP/MyWay)
The Colorado shooting suspect… [rigged] his apartment with explosives aimed at killing first responders. "You think we're angry? We sure as hell are angry," Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.

Aurora shooting suspect jailed in solitary: ‘All the inmates were talking about killing him’ (NY Daily News)
“Let’s just say he hasn’t shown any remorse,” a jail employee told the Daily News. “He thinks he’s acting in a movie.” A released inmate said Holmes’ behavior behind bars was increasingly irrational.

The stories of the victims, and the ultimate heroism (Daily Mail)
[Three] died trying to save their girlfriends… a very delightful, lively little girl… excited about life… He saved me and gave me the opportunity to live and he would have done it for anyone that day… threw himself in front of his girlfriend… and her brother… always had a smile, always made you laugh… I hope this evil act... doesn't shake people's faith in God… He was an outstanding shipmate… valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him… a man who loved God, loved his country, loved the outdoors but most of all loved his family….


Best of Spirits

Jesus Stands There

Crossing all barriers of culture and language and time

One day long ago, at the beginning of a break from college, I sat down in my mom's back yard with the practically untouched Bible she'd given me years before for my catechism, and I read the four gospels for myself, really for the first time.

Answered many questions, raised many more.

I was persuaded by nothing more than those records — and have never had cause to be dissuaded since — of Jesus' historic reality, and indeed the general accuracy of what he was reported to have said and done. Miracles and all.

Mark Gospel fragmentI'm no inerrantist. (I always say every word of the Judeo-Christian scripture may be divinely perfect, but that doesn't necessarily mean every passage means what we think it means.) However, I find the gospels all the more persuasive in that despite seeming contradictions and some general confusion of sequence (how many times did he do the mass feedings?), despite intervening centuries, and recopying glitches and translation problems known and unknown...

Jesus stands there, confounding the 'wise' while both amusing and uplifting the commoners, and readers centuries later,

replacing crippling ceremony with liberating simplicity a child can understand (good Samaritan),

forgiving his 'enemies' even as they're nailing him to the cross,

living his teachings magnificently, through all trials, to the horrifying glorious end,

concerned even to the last about others, his mother, his followers, the thief the next cross over,

and when it was finally at an end, when his mortal brain was expiring, going down reciting Psalms.

Then coming back like a Boss.

Among other immortal highlights from his saga.

You know the saying, you can't make stuff like this up? I am persuaded that nobody alive then could have made this up.

Which leaves this reader confronted with a personal call across two thousand years that I still strive to answer.

Best of Spirits

The Romans Were Good at Dead

Everybody knew no man could possibly survive.

Jesus pierced,origJesus pierced,flipped L-RThis was the saddest day on earth.

Jesus was dead. There was no question about it.

The Romans were experts, and everybody knew it. He was dead, thoroughly dead, in the most public possible way.

Absolutely everyone knew without question that he was dead.

The crucified might take lingering days to die. Because of the objections of the Jews to leaving the crucified lingering over the holidays, the Romans in this case dispatched the three crucified early, two by breaking their legs, which quickly caused suffocation.

Except one of the crucified, unusually, was already dead. With typical Roman skill, they put a spear up under the ribs into the heart, anyway, to be absolutely sure. We know they pieced his heart by report of the draining from the sword wound of blood and pericardial effusion.

You don't get deader than Romans made you.

Jesus was dead, that one thing was certain.

Searching for an image for this article, I found the depictions shown (depending on your display) on the left and right side. The images on the right are the originals.

Which side is your heart on?

"But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out." -John 19:34

"When these soldiers arrived at Golgotha, they did accordingly to the two thieves, but they found Jesus already dead, much to their surprise. However, in order to make sure of his death, one of the soldiers pierced his left side with his spear. Though it was common for the victims of crucifixion to linger alive upon the cross for even two or three days, the overwhelming emotional agony and the acute spiritual anguish of Jesus brought an end to his mortal life in the flesh in a little less than five and one-half hours." —Urantia Paper 187

Best of Spirits

Revelation and Heresy

Dangers of opposing the entrenched dangerous error

One man's enlightened truth is another's heresy. As Jesus' arrest, trial, & execution most eternally, vividly demonstrated, you buck the Powers That Be at risk of your very life.

Jesus was born into the greatest monotheism on earth, no question. Almost like it was planned. @@ But he found it woven with both truth and error. He sought to dramatize, amplify, glorify the truths. He didn't waste time correcting the error, but was not reticent to condemn it and show the better way. For this heresy, he paid the full price.

Spike through the wristChristianity today is like Judaism of Jesus' day, the mightiest truth encumbered with innumerable superstitious and philosophical flaws. Considering the wildly conflicting variety of what is called or considered Christian, this seems undeniable.

Error has a range, from harmless misconception which might actually transiently strengthen belief, to the inversion of truth which undermines faith.

The harmless really should not be corrected precipitously: the young-earth believer who comes to understand geology may, lacking good counsel, throw out the baby of faith with the bathwater of misinterpretation. (Apologies to all young-earthers, especially any whose weak, belief-based faith I've just crushed.)

Grievous error, however, is inimical to one's spiritual progress, and to promulgation of the gospel. That which Jesus cited were the potential, and eventual, doom of his people: nationalistic pride, false messianic beliefs, basically the problem as old as the prophets, subversion of their spiritual value to mere worldly things.

Evil won in the small when the leadership in Jerusalem, and the masses who can be fooled most of the time, chose to reject their greatest prophet. Good won in the large, naturally, as "the stone which the builders rejected became the cornerstone" of a new religion. That was only the backup plan, though, and it had some problems of its own.

Besides their theological readiness for Jesus' uplifting truth, Judaism's strengths, as a people, were their unity through Jerusalem while yet being threaded through all the world; from Britain to East Asia there were Jews. They traveled; they kept in touch. Had Jesus' preachment been accepted, this ready network would have been the means of proliferation of the new truth, peacefully infiltrating the world's peoples.

The Greeks, the Romans, and the raggedy bunch of ex-pat Jews who took up Christ did not have the same kind of central temple, tribal loyalty, nor theological and philosophical foundation as a group, as basis for the most faithful representation of Jesus' actual gospel, as free as possible from superstitious barnacles.

Needless to say, the new religion also suffered from a lack of the continuing presence of the Teacher, at least in the flesh, to guide new understanding and weed out error, as he might have done for decades if he had been permitted to live, accepted and appreciated by his people.

What errors of Christianity are relatively harmless and which are dangerous surely varies from Christian order to Christian order, from congregation to congregation, from Christian to Christian. Some have flotsam of belief which are not required for faith, but which keep their faith afloat for now, and to take that away can only be done by showing first that one is safely on dry land. Some have exclusivist ideas which I deem Jesus would disapprove, and which they will cling to, unto death; not their death, but maybe yours if you try to correct them, depending on the century and location.

What if there is a flaw in Christianity that is so fundamental it must be addressed, for the sake of Christianity's very survival as the messenger of Jesus' gospel? What if teachers of a better way, not the many who think they have a better way when they really only bring more old baggage, but a true new and better way, what if such teachers came to Christianity today? Would Christianity learn from history? repeat it?

What if the prime error of Christianity is its purported prime tenet? What if Christianity is in effect two religions, admixed, the teaching of Jesus, and the beliefs of men, and the time has come for purification, enhancement of truth and disavowal of faith- and gospel-encumbering error?

Would the preponderance of Christian authority conspire with state authority to effect the annihilation of the new truth and its adherents?

Nawww. That kind of thing never happens.