I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.
—Emily Dickinson (edited version)
More than fifty years ago I decided I wanted to see an English moor. I saw a road sign that said something like “Aylesbury Moor 40 km.” I took a bus from London to what I imagined would be a wilderness spot covered with heather. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at Aylesbury Moor and discovered that it was a town!
Will we likewise be surprised when we make the journey to Heaven? Heaven is often imagined as a place where we share the mind of God and intuitively, passively understand everything there is to know about the Universe; but what if Heaven is a more dynamic place or—more accurately—a dynamic, changing state of Being? What if we continue striving and learning even after entering the Celestial Realm?
Perhaps we would have to learn Calculus to better comprehend a Heaven in constant change. Maybe some celestial computer uses heavenly software to monitor and direct that change. I do want to learn how to program computers. I believe an Old Chatham Friend would be available—at some point—to tutor me in coding although I have no idea what system Heaven uses. It must be more complicated than Python or the various AI languages. And I could use someone with a doctorate in Physics to explain dark matter and energy. That person could also confirm or disconfirm the reality of String Theory and help me navigate Quantum Mechanics.
Even though I’d now be a free spirit “floating” around in Heaven, I’d like to acquire a thorough knowledge of the world’s religions, especially Buddhism. There are several Old Chatham Friends, future residents of Heaven, who could teach me Buddhist fundamentals. Who knows? Eventually, I might qualify for a master class under Siddhartha Gautama himself. And I’d like to explore Christianity in depth. I can imagine studying Christian Ethics under Jesus of Nazareth. The very thought gives me chills. I’d also like a tete-a-tete with Moses about the Burning Bush and the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, not to mention the plagues of Egypt.
Of course, it’s possible that Emily Dickinson is wrong. Maybe Heaven’s not on any map. Maybe it doesn’t exist. Maybe our consciousness doesn’t survive death. Belief in Heaven requires belief in God and God’s power. I remember what the father of an epileptic son said in the Gospel of Mark. When Jesus remarked that anything was possible for someone with faith, the man replied, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (NKJV) I pray for that kind of trust in God’s power. With such a faith, I can look forward to one day arriving in Heaven in spite of the crude earthly maps at our disposal!
~ Richard Russell
This blog was set up to post content of interest to Old Chatham Quaker members and attenders. Posts related to one's own personal spiritual journey, reports based on interviews with others, and reflections on Quaker-related topics are welcome. Posts by individuals are personal expressions and do not necessarily reflect those of the Meeting as a whole.
Guidelines for posting on website blog:
Submit to member of Communications committee; committee has editorial oversight over all content posted on the Meeting website.
Be respectful of the nature of vocal ministry given in Meeting for Worship or other settings and any private conversations about spiritual matters.
Cite source of any image or other external content submitted.