A fading concept

A visit to Italy this summer included admiring the art in a 13th-century church in Florence. Inside, I stood beneath a striking domed ceiling split in two—one side filled with gilded images of people who’d made it into heaven, and the other side filled with those unfortunates trapped in purgatory with hell just below them. It occurred to me that just like the fading images on the frescoes, the concept of heaven and hell as physical places we are destined for is also fading—like that 13th-century paint! 

Associating states of thought with heaven and hell isn’t that unusual. The phrases, “I’m in heaven” or “That was hell,” are common when describing things we really like or really detest. So you could say heaven and hell as conditions of thought are already part of public discourse. Aren’t we living them now? And if so, isn’t it possible to include more heaven in our lives today—and rid ourselves of hellish conditions? 

The contributors to this issue put a collective yes! on these questions, and on Jesus’ teaching that the kingdom of God, of heaven, is within each one of us. In our cover story, Elise Moore asks the question, “How can we make the character change that lifts us out of hellish conditions and brings us to understand our relation to God, divine Spirit?” Her answer? “Humility is the key” (p. 14). Victoria Gaines discovered this key. In her article “Through the fire,” she writes: “I had become a prisoner of my own horrific theological and philosophical beliefs. Finally, I had a desire to become a part of something greater, a better way of life” (p. 16).

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Items of Interest
Healing: choosing an approach
August 22, 2011

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