WILL Take It With You:
We are appropriately indignant at "hell and brimstone" preachers who have no direct experience of a Greater Reality and simply use such notions to terrify and manipulate their congregations. But quite distinct from this is the question of whether notions such as "heavens", "hells", and "bardos" do have a basis in spiritual reality. As it turns out, they appear prominently in the reports of every religious and spiritual tradition. We rightly understand them as experiences generated by our own psyche, rather than “rewards” or “punishments” imposed from without.
A simple check on the dreams we have at night will confirm that our (spiritually immature) psyche spontaneously generates a full range of experiences, from the very positive (the pleasant dreams) to the very negative (the nightmares). That same psyche survives the death of our physical body and, set free from the anchor of the physical body and physical brain, starts freely generating experiences over which we (in our immaturity) have relatively little control. Unlike when we dream at night, we will not be able to wake up from the nightmares that our own psyche creates, after the physical body has died.
There are endless lifetimes, an endless wheel of births and deaths, until we Wake Up. Between lives there is an extended process of purification that we go through before reincarnate. We don’t simply go straight to some fixed place called “heaven”, “hell”, or “purgatory”. We go through a series of dreamlike events, some positive (even the Vision of God) and some negative (even very hellish experiences). What determines these events is the reactive patterning of our psyche; and what determines the reactive patterning of our psyche is how we have lived our lives. There is no external judgement, reward, or punishment. When I suffer fear (while living or after I die), it is because of my unconscious, psychic patterning, not because someone is forcing fear upon me as a punishment for "not being good".
Being conventionally “good” will not get us into “heaven”. (Which is not to say that you can be conventionally “bad” and get into "heaven", either!) The full expression of the great Spiritual law (summarized by Jesus and other great Spiritual Masters) is to love God, then love all others. If we do (or rather, try to to do) the second without doing the first (which requires first finding God for real; otherwise to speak of “loving God” is meaningless), we are not fulfilling that fundamental law. Finding and communing with God, who is Love, allows us to be Love, in turn, and fulfill the second part of the law.
If we do not learn how to find and commune with God while alive, then we will not be able to stay in communion with God, when the Vision of God appears (fairly early on in the after-death sequence). We will then go through a series of dreams determined by what was our “unconscious” in life, but which is now our environment (as when we are in a dream); the physical body has dropped off, and we are now in a realm of pure mind.
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