Saturday 16 October 2021

What is Heaven like?... A place of uniqueness of nature and creativity, harmonized by love

One of the difficulties of describing Heaven in detail is that people are so different. 

Heaven is the resurrection of actual individual people - and since these people remain their original selves (but elevated to the divine) then Heaven cannot be summarized any more easily than people. 

Consider the question: What are people like? Any accurate answer you gave to that question would fail to capture the specifics of actual people, and would necessarily be very generalized indeed - and probably very abstract. 

Because all people are different - so much so, that (except with respect to specific traits - like differences between men and women, younger and older) no two people are alike

Consider the people you know best - probably your family. All my grandparents were different characters, each an individual, each distinct from each other - and add-in my mother, father, brother, sister, son and daughter and there is a collection of unique individuals. There are some family and social resemblances of course; but fundamentally and very clearly, each is absolutely unique. 

Add-in those who have been intense or close friends across my life, and consider them as well. Each friend was a distinct person - had an unique 'flavour'; and for none of them could I think of anybody else in the world who he or she was really 'like'. 

Heaven is populated by people - and people who are more themselves in Heaven than on earth - because divinity raises up the real self while discarding the passively absorbed or expediently inculcated social 'personality' aspects. 

And it is only in these 'personality' aspects - the product of socialization, environment, propaganda, fashion etc - that Men appear to be superficially similar. When we get to know somebody, we see past these temporary common traits - and that is the case in Heaven.   

So your Heaven will be different from my Heaven according to our different fundamental nature - just as your life is fundamentally different from mine, here on earth. 

Indeed, I know of nobody, have heard of nobody, who lives as I do (or thinks as I do) - even in this mortal life! How much more this will be the case in Heaven, when the necessities of mortality are gone. 

Heaven differs according to those with whom we are most associated - and/ including those whom we most love; because although Heaven is the place of love - that does not mean 'equality' of love, since love is of its nature unique between persons. 

We do not love any two people in The Same way, nor to the same degree - because love is two unique divine souls in relationship. Each love is unique in quality, as well as varying in strength. 

Your life and work in Heaven will be even-more-different from others people's lives and works than it is here on earth; because all that generic stuff about jobs, sustaining the body, dealing with bureaucracy, the effects of mass media etc will be gone. 

Presumably; in Heaven my life will be shaped, but even more so than now, by the nature of my creativity - and this is extremely different from the creativity of nearly everybody I have met or heard of (and identical with none). 

By 'my creativity' I mean what I actively want to participate in, and which is a never failing source of satisfaction: the only never failing source of satisfaction in this mortal life. 

Creativity by this meaning is a word for the distinctive engagement of our real selves with God's creation. In this sense: creativity is the only activity that never palls

Hence: creativity is the only activity fit for eternity

I know enough to see that what absolutely fascinates me in this respect is of near indifference to nearly everybody else (nearly- but not every- body else - which sharing is what makes creativity valuable). Also, what other people find endlessly (eternally) absorbing often leaves me pretty indifferent. 

In other words; in Heaven our lives will be more different from each other than they are on earth - because we will be more different, because our lives will be shaped by those who (most) love; and because we will be expressing our individual creative nature. 

In Heaven there will be no homogeneity at all! 

It is only on earth that cohesion is imposed by making people 'the same'; whereas in Heaven all coheres by love.

So in Heaven we can and shall be as different from each other, and do such different things from each other, as might be imagined to happen in the largest and most (wholly) loving extended family, village, college or workplace. 


David Earle said...

This rings very true to me, and is the most thorough description of Heaven I've read, and has given me much to think about. Thank you

Bruce Charlton said...

@Islanti - Thanks. It struck me that as I had been advocating that people talk more explicitly about Heaven, 'describing life in Heaven', it needs to be clear what kind of information this might (in principle) lead to. If we compare the task with that of 'describing life on earth'; we can see what kind of answer may be possible, and what would not be possible.

Lucinda said...

This is good.

I have found it very helpful indeed to think about these things, because it changes the way I discern. I have a better grasp on the temporary versus the longer-lasting, and I can understand people better, because I recognize the need to translate, not just words, but people, their behaviors, etc.

And there really is not much to be afraid of. I mean it's easier to get on with living eternal life today. Mortality, as you say, is different from Heaven because there are certain lessons we need to learn that we can only learn in this setting. There may be times of forgetting the thought-progress we've made, for instance. But cultivating a way of seeing things that fits in with our idea of Heaven is so very important-- one of the most important things for a Christian. Otherwise we cannot be sufficiently interested in the gift Christ is offering us.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda. Thanks.

Mormons seem to have been by far the most willing of major churches to consider Heaven - although up to now it seems rather collectivist in the accounts (those are the aspects which have been emphasized).

I personally feel that the three Heavens (celestial, terrestrial and telestial - sometimes with described subdivisions) is really 'meant' (based on the deepest metaphysical theology) to be understood in terms of there being many, Many 'Heavens'; or rather each Heavenly life lovingly-fitted to each individual resurrected soul and its continued potential for development through eternity; rather than a predetermined and structured set of three, or nine (or whatever) possibilities, into-which people are 'slotted' permanently and only on the basis of their mortal experience.

Lucinda said...

I get the impression that the menfolk talk more about such delineations. From what I've gathered, which is more based on observing the conversations of men rather than reading, the lower kingdoms are more like 'slotting into' but the higher kingdom is a place of many mansions. I haven't heard 9, but more like the highest is divided into 3, then again the highest there is divided into 3, and so on. Men often thrive with that hierarchical aspiration, but I admit I'm not super drawn to it. It's enough for me to want to be where relationships can be good and lasting.

I like CS Lewis' Last Battle idea, with increasing possibilities the further on you go. I love my children as babies, even though they are fairly predictable, it's fun and sweet. But the real joy is in the blossoming of their individuality, not simply encountering novelty, but holding onto what they are attracted to and developing with it. And I hope that eternity will be more like that.

Karl said...

Thanks for this post, Dr Charlton.

I find it very cheering, as one of the things that always out me off Christianity is the apparent mass homogeneity, both of denominational worship, the usual concepts of Heaven and so on.

In terms of the latter, I sometimes say that "There are certain people I never want to see again in any circumstances, celestial, terrestrial or otherwise."

I suppose a more traditional Christian might accuse me or the ideas expressed in the post of being guilty of the sin of pride, and maybe there is something to that, but the thought of some sort of collective group for eternity doesn't hold much appeal to me.

My partner is a very devout independent Christian whose idea of Heaven is something along the lines of travelling through endless beautiful landscapes without too much company! I intuitively go along with this.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Karl - "something along the lines of travelling through endless beautiful landscapes without too much company" I think that God will enable anybody who wants this kind of tying to have as much of it as they want!

But I think it very likely that over a timescale of eternity, such a life would eventually (or rapidly!) pall; and nearly everybody would want a life of creative participation and/or relationships with others; and then that would become possible.

From what little I think I know on such matters; my impression is that some individuals do have some such period of solitary assimilation of mortal life and its implications, and contemplation, immediately after death; before returning to a life of more 'active engagement' in Heaven and with Earth.

Lucinda said...

I occurred to me that this kind of thinking is so far beyond the bickering about grace versus works. I've experienced this from the side of being accused of not being a real Christian because I think there is more to it than accepting Christ as my Savior, that there is some content that we are accepting from Christ, but I've also been disparaged by hoop-jumping do-gooders that think I'm not sufficiently 'obedient' to consider myself a good Christian.

But in this post, an idea of Heaven is put forward that is so simple. What would we personally be doing in Heaven, and why not start that now? And if we don't know, why not begin to find out? Christ is offering to us a chance to be more fully ourselves, all that we would want if only we had eyes to see. Not only deliverance from death and bondage, but the ability to make true our desires for beauty and good.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I think this is the special task of these times in which apparently all the institutions and organizations have become corrupted and gone over to support the Satanic globalist totalitarian agenda; anyone who does not wish to be made into a collaborator is compelled to exercise individual discernment as was never before necessary (or probably desirable).

On the plus side, and probably for the first time, we are perhaps at last able to appreciate the full individuality of Christ's promises - that his message and gifts are primarily directed at each of us as an unique person.