Sunday 10 June 2018

Metaphors of Heaven: nation or family?

In yesterday's post, I argued that the Fourth Gospel tells us that our salvation is straightforward (quick, simple - believe, love, follow Jesus); and the difficult thing for us to do in mortal life, is to struggle for higher consciousness; more specifically to struggle for a divine consciousness - that is, a consciousness aligned with God's motivations.

It may be asked why? It may be asked - what is the effect our our struggling for higher consciousness - how does it cash-out in an eternal timescale? What difference does it make whether I attain a higher consciousness or not?

Crudely: what's in it for me?

It is a fair question that needs answering. We need some idea of how this struggle in mortal life relates to what happens in life everlasting. On Earth and in Heaven.

What, then, is Heaven like - how can we begin to understand it?

Heaven is more like a family than a nation.

There is a tendency to regard post-mortal life as being structured on the lines of a traditional society; as a hierarchy, as a formal-structure with appointed duties... Something like the societies of Medieval Western Europe - with a King, Princes, Earls, and Nobles; gentry such as merchants and professionals, craftsmen and peasants... Or, the idea may be more like the medieval Roman church, with Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests and monks...

The idea implicit is that in Heaven there are certain, relatively few, jobs - roles; and we are each appointed to serve in one or another of them; and these jobs are linked hierarchically and as specialised functions.

But if Heaven is more like a family, an ideal-imagined extended family that occupies its own world - a family that coheres by love and is motivated by participation in God's work of creation - then each child born into the family has an unique, unpredictable destiny. Nobody knows how the child will 'turn-out', and the grown-up child will 'contribute' to the family in some unique way.

The child is not shaped-into a predetermined job; in a family ideally the child and the family interact to take account and benefit from what the child is and what he becomes. Each niche is unique (or, can be).

By this account of the nature of Heaven, mortal life is meant to make us each become more our-selves - not to fit-into pre-determined niches.

Salvation corresponds to the basic orientation, the desire to be in the family, to live for the family, to pursue the goals of the family... and beyond that, the striving for higher consciousness is like growing-up, becoming more adult; which is more aware, more conscious, more purposive more free - because one who is unconscious and passive is not free.

Note: Back beyond the above account is a further layer, or depth - which is that we each begin as an unique being. There is an assumption that all people begin as spiritually-identical; but I am suggesting that the opposite is true. In the beginning there were no two the same. This universe is one in which every person (probably, every entity) is unique, ultimately - and the Christian principle of cohesion, is love between non-identical, un-like things; which develop to become more themselves... Since we are to be gods (Sons and Daughters of God) the entire dynamic process being 'powered' by the fundamental and structuring complementarity of man and woman. We should set-aside ideas of sameness of origin, or sameness as a goal; we never were nor can be nor are meant-to-be the same as anybody or anything else - and glory entails the development of individuality within that power of love and directed by the eternal delight of participation in creation .



Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I am reminded of Aquinas's doctrine (derived, of course, from assumptions very different from your own) that each individual angel is the only one of its kind, essentially different from every other angel.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - These are, of course, assumptions - but it is striking how we can make them without realising that *that* is what we are doing.