I recently had the pleasure of reading “Discovering Heaven: How our ideas about the afterlife shape how we live today,” by Lisa Miller, a Time publication. In this booklet, Miller goes on to chronicle the various and numerous practices and beliefs mankind has had when it comes to their view of an afterlife: heaven, in particular. Miller starts out by saying, “There are a million disagreements about heaven, starting with the most obvious one: Does it exist?” But, before we begin to analyse why there are so many views of heaven, why can’t we come to an understanding of what heaven is–if, as Miller says, it even exists?
Could it be that heaven is just a contrived, collective state of human consciousness no different than a flock of starlings flying in unison , or a school of fish performing complex maneuvers to avoid a predator, heaven might also be of our own collective creation to ensure our survival? Like the endless stories about people who have ‘died’ and came back with great stories about heaven, angels, and even having talked to Jesus, heaven might be a feeling–a place where our very deep survival instinct is a catalyst–the resuscitation from having suffered an otherwise permanent death. Every story that I’ve read, the person reported having had good feelings. They had to be good–a positive feeling, or they wouldn’t have survived the trauma. As Eben Alexander, in his book, “The Map of Heaven” (p. xxxiv) noted “I felt that all was well for mankind” after his near-death ordeal.
So, mental thoughts of heaven, as is commonly understood, would be a place that we go to, like starlings massing together in huge flocks for protection and security. A Tibetan Monk finds peace in his meditation. A Christian finds solace on his knees in prayer to his God. All accessing the source: heaven. Rejuvenation. Survival.
Of course, if heaven is no more than our collective imagination, then the atheist is correct in his assumption that when we die; permanently loose consciousness–that’s it: there is no afterlife.
But, like the starling’s instinct is embedded in its collective consciousness, our concept of heaven is also embedded in each and every individual human consciousness, which is part of the Universal consciousness. We know that collective consciousness is more than its parts. This collective consciousness, also being timeless, has existed in the universe since the big bang, and most likely, before that, so our individual and collective ideas about heaven embedded in our consciousness is real, universal, and eternal. That means that the person experiencing a near-death experience has actually drawn resuscitation from the larger, collective consciousness that we call Heaven.
John Searle, in a TED Talk, titled “Our shared condition–consciousness” further adds by saying, “Consciousness is not a part of the physical world … Science is objective, consciousness is subjective, therefore there cannot be a science of consciousness…Consciousness creates an observer: independent reality“.
Finally, because a starling senses danger and its limitations when on its own, it seeks security in the flock, we find our comfort by accessing our eternal “heaven” consciousness, this independent reality, where our comfort, strength and help comes from.
Consciousness is a complex topic that I won’t discuss here in this short article because I don’t wish to take up that much room, other than to say that consciousness is basically divided into three categories: unconsciousness, consciousness and self-consciousness. The four elements: wind, air, fire and water, are considered unconscious. All living plant life, whether its in a state of growth or decay, is conscious. Self-consciousness is all animal, insect, bird and reptile life, including humankind.
My concern here is to discuss the higher state of self-consciousness, or self awareness, as it’s found in human beings, and especially in the collective state of human self-awareness, for it is here that our concepts of heaven exist. Because our concept of heaven–opposite to our concept of hell–has to a positive, a survival state, love has to be its key element. It also has to possess intelligence to be effective. And since its expression is infinite in diversity, this means that the Christian who looks to a spiritual Jesus for his strength is every bit as correct as the Muslim who worships Allah, or the Atheist who puts his faith only in science and the material world. Everyone–ever thing–has to be covered and nourished under the loving umbrella–heaven— of Universal Conscious Creation!