Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
The Blessed Place
I was recently asked by a Christian friend about the Pagan version of Paradise. This question was posed in the context of an ongoing series of conversations and questions as a genuine effort on their part to understand my path. I joked with my friend that often their questions are hard to answer because they are so far afield from my sense of being Pagan, and I told them that this question was a prime example of this difficulty.
I also reminded them that I cannot speak with authority on an official Pagan position on the nature of Paradise. I can only share what my thoughts and opinions are on the nature of Paradise, and that perhaps there will be some overlap in perspective with other Pagans. For the sake of clarity, I asked them if what they really meant was some sort of blissful afterlife or did they mean Eden? That did make them laugh and they said afterlife, since Eden was part of their belief structure not mine. I continued in my joking with them and reminded them that I've been raised Catholic and that often the descriptions I've heard of their Heaven closely approximated my idea of Hell. After dismissing from my mind the horrific images of harp toting angels, endless choirs singing praises, and the sheer boredom that would ensue I started my answer.
If I define Paradise, for the sake of discussion, as a place in the afterlife that I would find desirable above all others, then it would have to have some of the following qualities and attributes. My first thought when I think of this sort of Paradise is of a milieu where there is an immediacy and richness of meaning. The Paradise I think of is not without conflict, pain, or sorrow, but it is a place wherein those things have clear meanings and purposes in the moment of their experience rather than after long pondering or perhaps never acquiring clarity. The now in Paradise is not an ever fading dot, but an area of action. Paradise is where synchronicity is just as palpable as causality.
At this point in conversation I paused and said that I couldn't continue to use the word Paradise. The word Paradise for me is too strongly associated with the idea of the place where the righteous go, or the place where you await resurrection. I am not awaiting judgment. I do believe in reincarnation, and that after enough lives that perhaps we continue to grow and develop but not in the dense matter of the earth plane. I told them that some Pagans call this good place by many, many names such as the Summerland or the Elysian Fields or Valhalla. My version of the good afterlife still involves work and spiritual development and is not primarily a place of rest though it may be a place of healing.
This blessed place in the world beyond Earth also has the quality of clear and fully conscious communication between all beings. It is a place where our senses show other beings’ essence and history as plainly as we see each others’ faces and hear each other’s voices on this plane. This is a place where imperfection is seen as the happily paid price for the boon of evolution. It is the place where force-evolves-a-form-that-becomes-a-function with only the minimum requirement of distortions caused by fear and resistance.
Often the first place that we encounter after the death of our bodies is not the blessed place beyond the world, it is a place of illusions of our own creation. The early stages after death mirror the early stages after birth. It takes time for a child to learn to see, to learn to hear, and to learn how to move and how to navigate in their new environment. Only after truly awakening in the world beyond, does it becomes possible to be present in the blessed place. I will not hazard a guess at what lies beyond the blessed place, in a place closer to the true nature of things. It is enough for me at this moment in my evolution to strive to be ready to reach the blessed place. Then to engage fully there until I am ready to return to the green fields of Earth.
This seemed to be as good an answer as any to their question, and they appeared to take it in and to truly listen. Of course, I found that I could not end the conversation on that note, still focused on the afterlife. The last thing I said to them was that it was also one of my goals to make the earth plane more like the blessed place that I had described. This too is part of the process of re-enchanting the world.
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