Wednesday 28 June 2017

Can Good Deeds and Right Thoughts get you to Heaven?

Short answer no, not on their own.

Whether we are talking about the Christian heaven or Buddhist enlightenment or any other serious spiritual tradition most agree that, when it comes to the post-mortem state or destination, what you are matters more than what you think or what you have done in your earthly life.  At the same time, what you think or do should be an expression of what you are, and an absence of good deeds implies that what you are is not what it should be. A fruit tree without fruit is not much use (though, of course, you need a healthy tree to get good fruit).

So, putting this in traditional terms, can we say it is both faith and works that get you to heaven? Not really. Faith and works are certainly a big step in the right direction but good works are purely an external thing. Whatever their nature they are actions and actions relate to this world and outer behaviour. They may come from a good place but in themselves they don’t necessarily have to do so. 

That’s fairly obvious. What is perhaps not so obvious is that faith also is, or certainly can be, an external thing. If your faith goes no deeper than your mind as in your thoughts you cannot say it is part of the fabric of your being. Besides, faith in what? God? What God?  In human terms there are many and they are not all the same as regards their spiritual reality. Jesus? Even the Biblical Jesus has been reinterpreted and reconfigured to suit multiple agendas. He is often seen according to the person seeing him and through the lens of that person’s own mind. Even if, inevitably, few of us see him as he truly is we should still get as close to that as possible, and not distort what we see through our own mental prejudices, preferences, opinions and conditioning.

What I am saying here is that if you want to get to heaven, the real heaven and not some celestial ante-chamber, God or Jesus must be known in the heart not the head. Only thus will you know the real (as opposed to imagined) God or Jesus and start to become like the real God or Jesus which is the prerequisite for entrance to the Kingdom of God. No mere humans allowed! You must have begun the transformation into a heavenly being here, in this world, and that takes place in the heart from where it will spread out to the rest of one’s being like fire on a piece of paper. But the spark that sets off this transformation is in the heart not the mind.

What all this comes down to is that you will only get to heaven if you love God because it is this that effects the change in consciousness which takes you from a horizontal awareness of reality to a vertical one in which all horizontal reality, our normal experience, is rooted and from which it derives. Loving God is being aware of causes and putting them first. Good deeds and right thoughts belong to the world of effects. They are external to what you are and so, while necessary, are not in themselves sufficient.

Not faith, not works, not beliefs, not actions. Only love of God, and the true God who is known in the spiritual heart not an idol of your own making, will get you to heaven. But this love must be, to borrow a phrase from Buddhism, right love and that means it is not an emotion or even a feeling, both of which are transitory things centred on yourself. So what we normally call love is not the thing at all. Nor should it be confused with compassion or empathy which are, as it were, love's reflection in the waters of our emotional nature. Rather this spiritual love is a sensed state of being and knowledge which engenders deep humility and gratitude and, most of all, the desire to live by God's laws. 

In the spiritual world love is inseparable from law, as law is from love,  and really knowing this truth is the key that will eventually unlock the door to heaven.


David Balfour said...

Based on the above there must surely be very few souls in heaven? I don't know anybody who consistently meets the criteria described above. Certainly not myself nor anyone I have ever met (at least not knowingly). Also, it is one thing to recognise that a way of being or law is better or more ideal, it is quite another thing to be able to live by it. I can often see what the right thing to do is but frustratingly I often end up doing the wrong thing because it is too tempting for me not to do it. I often frankly just enjoy it and find it deeply satisfying to do something impulsively that on reflection is entirely indefensible! As Oscar Wilde said: "I can resist anything except temptation!" And then I will go to enormous lengths to excuse myself to myself for the bad behaviour. I am not defending myself here of course but I imagine I am certainly not alone in having this troublesome vice. I can only hope that God can forgive me and help me to change for the better. I would be lying if I said that I had made much progress with this since becoming a 'Christian' except that now I feel terribly guilty and ask for forgiveness when I fail to live up to higher standards, whereas before, it didn't make any difference because I was an atheist anyway, so what difference could giving in to 'trivial' temptations matter to such a person?! Why not just do what you want as long as it does't hurt anyone else?! Or so the self-deception goes. I still struggle with this. Heaven seems very very far away, so far I am tempted to despair also at times. I hope I can get there. Certainly overcoming these deep-seated human vices seems impossible in this life mortal alone and so I am compelled to imagine that acknowledging higher ideals and repenting regularly is the best I can do. I certainly wont get v far based on good behaviour or thoughts. I am inconsistent with that at best.

A thought provoking read as usual William! I will try and remain hopeful. Of course, that is what we are instructed to do anyway.

William Wildblood said...

When I talk of heaven here what I mean is our spiritual goal so I suppose I should have distinguished between salvation and theosis. It's the latter I am talking about here, the attainment of the beatific vision. I'm sure souls who are'good enough' receive their just reward but ultimately we are called upon to be saints. If there are many mansions in God's house then perhaps there are many heavens but I am talking about the one true and eternal heaven here.

David Balfour said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Balfour said...

And so, a destination that lies far beyond this life, under this scheme dying would appear to be merely the start of another long journey towards full theosis. At this stage we truely are spiritual infants.

William Wildblood said...

Yes but that's a cause for hope. We've been assured that the wonders God has in store for his children exceed anything we can possibly imagine. Perhaps I should re-emphasise the many mansions aspect of the higher worlds and the fact that true believers would still receive their reward. But to be a full member of the kingdom of God requires this love.