Thursday, August 30, 2007

Heaven is a place on earth?

The things of earth are symbols of the things of Heaven: the sun corresponds to the deity. There is no time in Heaven. Things' appearances change to correspond to states of emotion; each Angel's clothing shines in proportion to its intelligence. In Heaven, the rich continue to be richer than the poor, since they are accustomed to wealth. In Heaven, objects, furniture, and cities are more concrete and complex than they are on our earth; colors are more varied and more vivid. Angels of English descent are drawn toward politics; Jews, to the jewel trade; Germans carry books about with them that they consult before answering a question. Since Muslims are in the habit of worshipping Mohammed, God has provided them with an Angel who pretends to be the Prophet. The pleasures of Paradise are withheld from the poor in spirit and all ascetics, because they would not understand them.

- Jorge Luis Borges, from "Swedenborg's Angels" in The Book of Imaginary Beings, p. 8-9

Borges is describing the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), an English philosopher and scientist. What I love about his Heaven, apart from the complex furniture (and who doesn't want some more varied and vivid colors?) is the way it manages to accommodate everyone else's ideas of Heaven as well.

With so many different ideas floating around, you'd think someone is bound to be disillusioned and disappointed. Or even realize their whole belief system was flat-out wrong. Unless, of course, it's all been worked out so that people can keep their illusions, their presumptions, and maybe even their portfolios intact.

So maybe it's a big, jumbled, messy place with no fundamental truth that everyone can agree on - sort of like the pre-afterlife, actually. You didn't think you'd escape politics that easily, did you?

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