Unity views on ... Heaven
When I was a child a most vivid description of heaven was given to me. I was told that if I was good I would go to heaven after I died. When I arrived I would be met at the gates of pearl by none other than St. Peter himself. I would then be ushered to a personal audience with God. As near as I could determine, God would have an accounting sheet on me. He would carefully weigh the good things I had done against the bad. If the balance sheet was in my favor, I would gain admission into the kingdom of heaven.
Upon entering, I was told, I would be dazzled. The streets of heaven would be paved with gold. All the people would be angels. I was not told what all the angels would be doing to occupy themselves, other than harp-playing. Apparently, eternity would be spent either listening to or playing harp music.
I was also told that this kingdom was located somewhere in the sky. When I questioned where in the sky this location might be, no one could ever give me a clear answer. I was simply told that just as hell was "down", heaven was "up". This was my orientation concerning heaven. It was given to me not only in a serious manner, but as an absolute.
The thing that really bothered me about this was that the only way I could enjoy the ultimate ecstasy of God was by dying. I remember that I used to wish that there were some way to experience heaven without having to get old and die first. I even recall an old country-western song that said, in part,"Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die".
How did we human beings come into this concept of heaven? It is a concept built altogether upon the "fact" that heaven is above. We usually think that what is above is higher in dignity that what is beneath; therefore, heaven must be somewhere above us! It was natural that our thinking should go in this direction.
Also, we find it unbearable to think that life ends in a grave. That seems to be such an unfitting finish for a person, even though it is only the person's body that is buried. We want to think that some part of us lives on. We want to feel that the quality which we call life is so great that it cannot be limited to the relatively few years that most of us express on earth. We have a right to want to believe this.
But there is an alternative concept to the heaven traditionally taught, and this alternative is contained in the very words of Jesus Christ. Granted, it is written that when Jesus prayed, He lifted His eyes to heaven. But where did Jesus say heaven is located?
He was specific in this regard; He said,"The kingdom of heaven is at hand," and "The kingdom of God is in the midst of (within) you". This is an exciting concept. It means that heaven is here and now. It is not something to be experienced only after the death of the body.
But if the kingdom of God is within us, what is it? The insight given to us by Charles Fillmore in the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary is this:"The kingdom of heaven, or of the heavens, is a state of consciousness in which the soul and the body are in harmony with Divine Mind". This means that heaven is a state of consciousness in which we have so elevated our thoughts and feelings that they are in complete harmony with the Spirit of God within us. "Entering" the kingdom of heaven is an experience that any one of us can have here and now.
If it is true (and it is) that we are created in the image and likeness of God, then the Spirit of God dwells within us. Where God dwells, there is heaven. Therefore, logic tells us that heaven is within us. The kingdom of heaven in us is the estate of perfect spiritual consciousness. It is that part of us where the supreme qualities of Spirit lie in waiting -waiting for us to allow them to find expression through us. These are the qualities of perfect love, peace, joy, health, courage, and all other expressions that represent the truly spiritual life. But these qualities are dormant until we consent to express them in our personal, spiritual character. How is this done?
It is accomplished through prayer. There is a specific technique that consists of denial - the removal of mental obstructions so that we may pray an effectual prayer - and the use of affirmation - to consciously establish divine qualities in our consciousness. In addition to the verbal aspects of our prayer, there is the matter of attitude.
One of the attitudes that must be removed is doubt. If there is even a shadow of doubt in our minds that any one of these divine qualities can well up within us and find expression through us, it is not likely that we will be elevated to a heavenly state of consciousness. There must be total faith in order to have a total experience.
What then is the most important attitude to hold in order to lift our personal consciousness into a heavenly state? It is receptivity. We must be so receptive to the idea that God-qualities are coming to awareness in our personal consciousness that we find it impossible to harbor any doubt or fear to the contrary. Such an attitude may be called preparation of the individual consciousness for the advent of a personal experience of Spirit.
This spiritual experience is the sowing of the seed of divine ideas in the soil of our minds. Under the favorable climate of our attitude, these idea germinate; then they sprout and come into fruition. The fruit of this process is experience. Since the seeds planted are love, peace, joy, health, courage, and so forth, experiences in keeping with these qualities come into our lives. We begin to give and receive truly spiritual qualities of life.
So the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It is yours to enjoy now! It is a truly heavenly experience to have divine qualities evidenced in your life. You do not have to wait until you die to know heaven. It is yours to know and experience now ! This is what Jesus Christ wanted us to know.
This item is an excerpt from the book "Alternatives" by William L. Fisher, and reproduced with the express permission of Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, MO.