Going up...

With Ascension Day approaching (quick now — what date is it this year?) we are left to reflect on the story of Jesus entering the celestial elevator and being whisked away up to the top floor. He ascended — that is, he went up. Like a rocket, if what we're sometimes led to believe is true.

Of course, this was all very sensible for people who believed that the universe was made up of heaven up there, earth down here and hell down below, but a little trickier to fit into our current view of the universe where concepts like "up" and "down" have little meaning in places without much gravity, which is nearly everywhere. To be sure, below our feet the earth is full of molten rock, but so far the Hubble Space Telescope has failed to locate the exact whereabouts of heaven. (A British newspaper did once publish photographs of what it claimed were Hubble photos of heaven, complete with people walking around in white robes; but this was the same newspaper that reported the discovery of a London double-decker bus on the moon and is not generally well known for the accuracy of its reporting.)

According to Luke, Jesus was taken "up" into heaven. In Acts (which is Luke II), he qualifies this by saying that Jesus was hidden from sight by a cloud. Basically, he vanished in a vaguely upwards direction, but this doesn't imply he zoomed around the solar system like Voyager I. Rather, I think we are to understand heaven (and hell) not as places you could go to, but as different modes of existence. In our day and age, we might talk of a "higher plane of existence" or "a higher dimension".

Be that as it may: the point about the Ascension story is not that heaven is a place "up there somewhere", but that death is a transition from physical to spiritual, not the end.

If Hubble does indeed locate heaven, I shall be extremely embarrassed.

Andrew has his own website: Visit rewboss.port5.com for articles on a wide range of subjects
By: Andrew Bossom, e-mail: rewboss@hotmail.com, website: http://rewboss.port5.com
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May 2003: Contents | Accepting one another | Going up… | May I… | Lag B'Omer
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