Or the 77th heaven. In his letter to Corinthians, Paul of Tarsus writes that he once knew a man, “Caught up in third heaven…” The number seems of little importance. What is important is that there are various degrees of heavenly states, more precisely states of consciousness, which may, one day, be accessible to us. We begin in the heaven of our own creation, the direct result of our lives here, on Earth, and gradually advance to higher states of consciousness. Perhaps those, too, we must devise by our own efforts. I strongly suspect that this is so.
Ultimately we experience merging with the Whole, both potential and manifested Universe, and our individualized journey is over. Perhaps this is what Buddha meant by nirvana—the complete loss of self-awareness, of individuality, of ego.
On Earth, in the dualistic reality, we need ego to assure our physical survival. Later, once we become more aware of higher realities, it seems to drop off as an encumbrance.
This may take us a few billion years, for some longer. Those who succeed will make room for new individualizations of consciousness, which will go on, and on, and on well beyond any eons human mind is capable of imagining.
World without end.
Or beginning, for that matter.
Of course, few of us are aware when we actually began our journey. As embryonic-egos we begin early, perhaps at the level of an amoeba. It, the mono-cellular entity, is probably aware of its physical boundaries, thus defining itself as separate from “the other”, even as we do. The difference is, however, that we tend to add to our “self” all our accoutrements, our knickknacks that we consider as necessary to sate our need of self-importance.
All such paraphernalia are strictly illusory, and serve only to indicate to us the transiency of the present awareness we experience on Earth. The less attached we become, the less suffering we shall experience when such accoutrements dissolve in the Maya of time.
No matter how many times we travel the wheel of Awagawan, the cycle of rebirth, we shall continue to do so until we learn the lessons necessary to free us from our attachments. Then, and only then, we shall advance to “first heaven”, which is usually the only heaven available to practitioners of most if not all religions. Probably the most important lesson, or at the first one we must adopt is that the present reality, the dualistic reality of the material world is an illusion. The nearest most people will get to the foretaste, the antechamber of first heaven is in their dreams.
Another versions of heaven are discussed in my collection of essays, Beyond Religion II. Take your pick.
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