Saturday, 14 January 2017

Are All Saved?

At the end of a previous post I pondered on what might happen to souls who reject the truth of God, and speculated that they might be given another opportunity to embrace reality elsewhere, though it would probably involve a tougher journey for them since they had proved recalcitrant this time around. I thought it might be interesting to explore the idea of spiritual refusal further because there is clearly such a thing and it has consequences, serious ones, which we should try to understand.

It has become almost 'unspiritual' to believe in hell because we think that a God of love could not possibly have made such an environment. The only problem is that the place where we learn most about a God of love, which is the Gospels, is the same place where there is the most emphasis on hell. Jesus, the incarnation of love, speaks many times, and in no uncertain terms, about the reality of hell and how those who reject his message may end up there. How can we resolve this apparent contradiction?

Perhaps we can start by saying that God did not create hell. Hell was created by the rejection of God, firstly by fallen angels and then by those humans who joined them in that rejection. A reasonable definition of hell is a place or state where God is not so how can we blame God for it? We can perhaps blame God for the possibility of it but only because he gave creatures free will to accept or reject him but we cannot blame him for the fact of it. It exists because it has been created by the created not by the Creator.

If it does exist then what is it? What form does it take? Biblical descriptions were probably intended to convey symbolically something of its nature to people at the time, but they may also be external manifestations of internal states since the idea is that in the afterlife outer and inner become one so our environment is, to a degree, a reflection of what is in our mind. However I think the key element of hell is separation. Hell is the state of egotism carried to its ultimate degree where the person is so centred on himself that he is separated from everything else. It is a state where the 'I' has become all there is in the sense that nothing else has any intrinsic reality or value of its own. Everything other than the 'I' is perceived only in terms of its usefulness to that 'I'. And this tells us that not only did God not create hell he does not send us there either. We send ourselves there by our rejection of him and our refusal to let go of our own separate egos. It may even be that we go there in full knowledge of what we are doing.

But do we stay there? The answer must be that it depends on what we mean by hell. I would say that there are places in the non-physical worlds where souls closed to God go who are not past redemption and for whom there is a way back if they chose to take it. It may be that the great majority of erring souls follow this path. But there is also the possibility of spiritual destruction for if free will means anything it must mean that a definitive choice can be made from which there is no turning back. It is this spiritual destruction that is the true hell. The lesser or more relative hells are not eternal in that even here a soul can repent and turn its face to the light. Whether it will or not is entirely down to it but the possibility is there.

The thoughts on this post were prompted by a question I was asked elsewhere about how heaven could be heaven if those we love are not there. That is to say, in hell. This is a very profound question and I am certainly not qualified to answer it fully but I do have some thoughts on the matter.

First of all, it is axiomatic that nothing impure can get into heaven. So sinners by definition cannot do so whether they are those we love or not. But then nor can any of us without God's grace. So there is always hope even for the most obdurate of souls. Secondly, we have to ask what is hell? Heaven is surely supreme reality and that implies that hell is actually unreal. How can it be real if it is outside God who is reality itself? So maybe it is only the unreal part of us that goes there. Inside every human being there is something of God and it is that which gives us our reality. This cannot go to hell so maybe this part of us is always salvaged and somehow made new while the dross is burnt away.

Does this mean that somehow everyone will be saved? That would seem to go against justice and free will. But maybe in the next world opportunities exist for every soul to turn round, though the way back will be longer and harder. If these opportunities are still ignored then maybe the seeds that have not blossomed as they should, or the spiritual essence of these seeds, are gathered up and resown and that might happen until everyone is indeed saved. So the crop that's not grown properly is burnt (in hell) but the essence of it, the essence of the person, is preserved and given another chance to grow correctly, and so on until the spiritual essence of the soul is indeed saved though the form it takes will not be the same as it originally appeared. This idea seems to reconcile the demands of free will, of justice and of love. We, as individuals, must take the consequences of our actions and if we choose not to be saved that is our right. But that part of us which is God himself cannot be destroyed. So this could come back in a new form until eventually it finds its true being in heaven.

This means Hitler as Hitler may have gone to spiritual destruction but the spiritual essence of Hitler, which cannot be destroyed because it is of God himself, will have a new chance somewhere further down the line. It is a fresh start and a new outer person but it is the same divine reality behind that outer person. You might say that this is no longer Hitler because he is gone and you would be correct, but the inner truth that anyone who may ever have loved in him is still there and would be known albeit in a quite different form.

These reflections lead me to think that our notions of hell may refer to two different things. The first is a place (or state) of darkened consciousness where those go who have not accepted God in this lifetime, or those things that God stands for, but who still have a chance of redemption if they will but receive it. They have created this hell for themselves but there is a way out. (Note that this is different to the idea of purgatory because that is for souls who acknowledge the light but are not yet sufficiently pure enough to be worthy of it). But the second hell is spiritual destruction of the individual and that is eternal in that it is final. However it may be that, saved from that destruction, is the divine essence of that soul and this does have a new chance of salvation.

But, as I say, all this is speculation. It is certainly no reason not to seek salvation here and now.


Bruce Charlton said...

You make a lot of good points, William - and I certainly agree with the general tenor of this discussion.

Just one point, which I don't think you would disagree with. When you say: "First of all, it is axiomatic that nothing impure can get into heaven. So sinners by definition cannot do so whether they are those we love or not." I would say 'unrepentant sinners' rather than 'sinners' - because I regard it as the essence of Christ's forgiveness that all sins (no matter how many or how bad) are washed-away by repentance - so it is the repentance that matters, not some threshold degree of relative sinlessness.

Thus all are sinners and Heaven is for the repentant, not for those free of sin.

As I say, I don't suppose you would disagree, but just a clarification.

William Wildblood said...

Well, Bruce, I think I would stand by that remark though I could qualify it by saying that those in whom any trace of sin remains cannot get into heaven. Of course, it's full of ex-sinners! I believe in something like purgatory where those who have repented are cleansed of residual sin before they go through the pearly gates proper. I think it's only the greatest saints who can bypass that after death, and that's because they have done the needed work during this life.

Bruce Charlton said...

Yes - I think it is necessary to suppose that quite a lot of development - and decisions - happen after death --- I find the attitude that we are fixed for eternity by our state at the moment of death to be ludicrous (although I think I understand that this doctrine is trying to emphasize that this mortal life really is vitally important in some way, and it is wrong to 'defer' vital decisions).

William Wildblood said...

Yes, I would agree with that.

Bruce Charlton said...

"those in whom any trace of sin remains cannot get into heaven. "

This isn't a thoroughly considered view, but I often tend to assume that this is dealt with at the time of resurrection - thta we are resurrected purified and perfected, ready for eternal life.

This does not at all mean we are finished in our spiritual development (theosis/ divinisation) but that by resurrection we are made pure albeit incomplete.

This would seem to imply that the denizens of hell are not resurrected; but discarnate spirits. I'm unsure about this, but it seems possible.

How do your beliefs about reincarnation fit with resurrection - do you envisage it as delayed until after the final incarnation?

David Balfour said...

Perhaps of interest. I found this mans account of his near death experience and subsequent conversion moving and credible. I am sure there are countless other examples. Anyway, I just found this 'by chance' (but of course no such thing really exists) or rather it was sent to me by forces I dimly understand but that I percieve were intended for me to see. In particular this mans experience of the hellish state of separation from/denial of God felt like a disturbing but necessary jolt of awareness for me, to remind me to remain always mindful of heavenly father. Is this hellish state permanent? I dont know but it impresses upon me firmly that salvation need only be requested or acknowledged conditionsl upon a state of inner change and repentance and an opening of ones heart to God. Once this has occurred then hell can hold no place for us and we can no longer 'belong' their through error, sin and self-willed separation from the creator. Ultimately, it seems we should fear the peril of hell but that fear is just to protect us from spiritual danger and for our own good. Love cannot survive in such a state and if we embrace Gods love then we need not fear hell, rather pity the state of those in it and pray for their returning to God. Perhaps their even, albeit remotely, the salvation of Christ may still be requested. My sense is that the problem is not so much that Christ has rejected these souls, rather they fear and reject him volitionally and so dwell in the dark where their spiritual state can only survive by 'feeding' off the sorrows of their equally ego bound and deluded/trapped souls:

William Wildblood said...

In answer to your question, Bruce, my personal feeling is that human spiritual development is symbolically represented in the life of Jesus, and that resurrection means the raising up of the spiritual man after the crucifixion of the earthly man. I think this happens at the end of our cycle of spiritual development whether that is the conclusion of a series of lifetimes or just one with purgatory to follow or whatever else it might be. My teachers did not give me much theological or metaphysical information, focusing on everyday spiritual training, so I can't say what their attitude to this subject was.

I also believe that on a wider scale this whole world is moving towards the spiritualisation of matter as was demonstrated by Jesus at the ascension. So our task is to spiritualise the matter that is in us through repentance and turning to God followed by spiritual practice and concluding in grace when the lower vessel (basically us as we are in this world) has been purified sufficiently to receive that.

At the end of the cycle (and there is time limit to this I think) any matter not fully purified and ready to be transmuted will be held back for a new cycle, possibly having to start afresh.

William Wildblood said...

In the last paragraph above I'm referring to a world cycle, not an individual one. So the 'matter' there would be human souls.

William Wildblood said...

You're right, David, that Christ rejects nobody. But we can reject him. Once we have accepted him we are on the right path and facing the sun even if there is still a lot of work to be done before we can take our place beside him. However there is one thing to add and that is that accepting Christ is not a one off but a continuous process. It is perfectly possible to accept him outwardly and then fall away into self concern. The acceptance must be far more than in name only and must be constantly renewed.