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Are hell and heaven real?

William Stillman
Health Education

Each one of us is unique in our station as human beings, and the question of whether hell and heaven are real is entirely open to individual interpretation based on religious upbringing and beliefs; personal experience(s); or spiritual ideologies stemming from the dictates of a self-governing system for penultimate punishment and reward.

Personally, I am of the opinion---garnered over time through what I've read, discussed, and experienced---that, indeed, hell and heaven are "real" but with qualifications. I don't foresee a hell of fire and brimstone and infinite, punitive agony for "sinners." Instead, I believe that human beings create their own interpretation of hell by feeding the very concept through negative thoughts, deeds, abuse, addictions, and mistreatment of others. Remember, the concept of hell is a fearful place of retribution; and it is human fear and rage and selfishness that gave rise to it and continues to feed it power so long as human beings resist altruism and compassion. Hell is not authentic but, instead, is a man-made illusion (i.e. if you think you're going to be punished for your misdeeds, then the self-fulfilling prophecy is that you will "go to hell" because you have decreed it so).

Conversely, the concept of heaven is authentic and need not necessarily require a belief in God or other benevolent creator; one need only to witness its earthly glimmers to appreciate our heavenly potential through great natural beauty, acts of heroism and kindness, and loving sacrifices committed selflessly. Heaven can be considered the template for all things that we should seek to reflect here on earth, each one of us, every day. Heaven is a realm of inclusion for all---not a segregated, exclusive space reserved for "do-gooders" or the elite. Everyone is welcome. One need only confront and illuminate one's own truths (good, bad and indifferent) with careful contemplation and clarity to access "heaven," hence the phrase, "The truth shall set you free." 

In the end, all will be revealed to each of us when we migrate from the physical world, in which we presently exist, to what lies beyond. Only then will we have the true answer to your question.

Lisa Oz
Health Education

Swedenborg says that these are not places but states. Heaven is made up of people who share a common love for God and their neighbors, while hell is home to those who prefer the world and themselves. Living in one or the other is neither a punishment nor a reward, but a reflection of who we are as an expression of what we love. He also explains that we are there right now.

According to Swedenborg, we exist on both the physical and spiritual planes simultaneously. Even now, when we indulge our evil inclinations, our spirits are in a hellish state, and are subject to hellish influence. When we act from compassion and truth, we open ourselves to heavenly influx. After death, we continue in the state we have chosen while on earth. We live on as either angels or evil spirits, based on where our affections lie. In effect, we become what we love.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.