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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

"Heaven, Hell and Purgatory"

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Heaven and Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, places up there, down there, or in between. Reincarnation, Karma, Free Will, and Predestination. Oh what tangled webs we mortals weave when first we practice to deceive.

Some theologians say that before we can enter heaven we spend time in an intermediary place where we have a chance to cleanse away the last of our sins before being admitted to heavenly paradise. There is some disagreement as to whether purgatory will be individualized to best meet the needs of the person or whether it will be a more communal burning in painful fires. Since no one has actually been there and come back (that we know of) we can’t say for sure whether there is or there isn’t, or even what it will be like when we get there, if we get there, everything the Bible says and the Theologians say is pure speculation.

I have two questions for those Theologians. How will we know if we are in Purgatory? AND how do we know this life we are now living, this earth we now inhabit isn’t IT?

When I go to sleep at night, I don’t KNOW when I fall asleep, or that I am asleep, until I wake up. I am amazed at my dreams, such a magnificent imagination, such wonderful creativity. I am also fully aware that what I see isn’t necessarily what is out there, my brain along with the collaboration of my senses plays tricks on me. I am also fully aware of my fears and worries and how they are the driving forces behind many of my actions, voluntary and involuntary.

I have loved the arguments by the Great Philosophers about whether this world is real or just an illusion and us with it. I think Descartes got it backwards it isn’t “I think therefore I am”, it is “I am therefore I think.” Unlike Descartes I know that I exist and that this world I inhabit exists because of what I call the “Ouch factor”. The “ouch factor” is that if something can cause me to say ouch, voluntary or involuntary, it and I exist. But where am I?

I love the arguments about FREE WILL, and Karma, and Predestination, and when you add those to the arguments above it makes me wonder.

What IF this world we now find ourselves in IS Purgatory? It looks a lot like the “real” world, the world we came from, fact I can’t tell the difference, although there does seem to be an awful lot of hate, and war, and ill will, and hunger, and disease, and people acting and talking as though they have lost all hope. Turn on the TV talk shows, read the abundance of self-help books, read your daily newspaper, watch the nightly news and primetime shows. The world and the people here are in trouble.

So if this IS Purgatory how do we get ourselves out of it? Do we honestly think that just sitting around praising God, telling him he/she is the greatest, begging for forgiveness, telling him we are sorry over and over and over again will cut it? Why on earth, would God believe us? If you believe that God is ALL KNOWING, don’t you think he can SEE through our lies? Just how dumb do you think that God, if there is a God, is?

Don’t you think that THIS time, God will demand some proof of our repentance, some proof that we have REALLY changed our sinful ways, some proof that we really MEAN it this time? What form might that proof take? I  KNOW, because I have figured it out by reading the Bible AND the Upanishads, the Tao teh Ching, the Buddhist Sutras, Black Elk Speaks, Walden, Siddhartha, the writings of many of our greatest Thinkers, the great books of our time AND because I have studied Science, and History, Psychology and Religion, AND because I THINK, I observe and I ask questions.

What have I come up with, “It isn’t what religion you follow or whether you follow any, ALL that matters are your every day actions, how you treat your fellow man, ALL of them especially those that are different from you. If you REALLY want to get out of this Purgatory we call planet earth and find your way to God or Nirvana or follow the Tao or ….whatever it is you seek, start by treating all others as you would want them to treat you and you will find that what you are looking for (the key to release from Purgatory) has been within you all along, your attitudes and the actions they spawn.

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Originally posted: 2009-JAN-02
Latest update and review: 2009-JAN-02
Author: Susan Humphreys

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