Heaven, the heavens or seven heavens, is a common religious, cosmological, or transcendent place where heavenly beings such as gods, angels, jinn, saints, or venerated ancestors originate, are enthroned, or live. It is commonly believed that heavenly beings can descend to earth or incarnate and that earthly beings can ascend to heaven in the afterlife or in exceptional cases, enter heaven alive.
Heaven is often described as a "higher place", the holiest place, a Paradise, in contrast to Hell or the Underworld or the "low places", and universally or conditionally accessible by earthly beings according to various standards of divinity, goodness, piety, faith, or other virtues or right beliefs or simply the will of God. Some believe in the possibility of a heaven on earth in a World to Come.
In many mythological, folklore and religious traditions, hell is a place of eternal torment in an afterlife, often after resurrection. It is viewed by most Abrahamic traditions as a place of punishment. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as eternal destinations. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations. Typically these traditions locate hell in another dimension or under the Earth's surface and often include entrances to Hell from the land of the living. Other afterlife destinations include Heaven, Purgatory, Paradise, and Limbo.
Other traditions, which do not conceive of the afterlife as a place of punishment or reward, merely describe hell as an abode of the dead, a neutral place located under the surface of Earth (for example, see sheol and Hades). Modern understandings of hells often depict them abstractly, as a state of loss rather than as fiery torture literally underground, but this view of the concept of a hell can, in fact, be traced back into the ancient and medieval periods as well. Hell is sometimes portrayed as populated with demons who torment those dwelling there. Many are ruled by a death god such as Nergal, Hades, Hel, Enma or the Devil. (Wikipedia)
#1: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest heavens
from Gustave Doré's illustrations to the Divine Comedy.
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#3: Islamic hell
A Persian depiction of Muhammad visiting Hell during the Isra and Mi'raj (Night Journey) and seeing a demon punishing "shameless women" who had exposed their hair to strangers. For this crime of inciting lust in men, the women are strung up by their hair and burned for eternity. Muhammad is depicted riding Buraq and being accompanied by Gabriel.
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Image source: en.wikipedia.org
#7: "How will you spend eternity - Smoking or Nonsmoking?"
Sign at the Floral City United Methodist Church in Florida
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A 12th-century icon described by John Climacus. Monastery of St Catherine, Mount Sinai. St John Climacusrungs described the Christian life as a ladder with thirty rungs.
The monks are tempted by demons and encouraged by angels, while Christ welcomes them at the summit.
The Ladder of Divine Ascent, or Ladder of Paradise (Scala or Climax Paradisi), is an important ascetical treatise for monasticism in Eastern Christianity written by John Climacus in ca. AD 600 at the request of John, Abbot of Raithu, a monastery situated on the shores of the Red Sea
The Scala, which obtained an immense popularity and has made its author famous in the Church, is addressed to anchorites and cenobites and treats of the means by which the highest degree of religious perfection may be attained.
Divided into thirty parts, or "steps", in memory of the thirty years of the life of Christ, the Divine model of the religious, it presents a picture of all the virtues and contains a great many parables and historical touches, drawn principally from the monastic life, and exhibiting the practical application of the precepts.
At the same time, as the work is mostly written in a concise, sententious form, with the aid of aphorisms, and as the reasonings are not sufficiently closely connected, it is at times somewhat obscure.
This explains its having been the subject of various commentaries, even in very early times.
The most ancient of the manuscripts containing the Scala is found in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and was probably brought from Florence by Catherine de' Medici. In some of these manuscripts, the work bears the title of "Spiritual Tables" (Plakes pneumatikai).
(from a lecture by Masao Yokota)
The Buddha was in a lotus-filled garden when he perceived a man named “Kandata” who was squirming in the depths of Hell. He had been a murderer, an arsonist, and thief. A lifetime of these causes had put him in hell. He was in the company of others like him.
The Buddha looked further into Kandata’s life and saw an incident where Kandata came upon a spider. He raised his foot to stomp on it. Suddenly, he reconsidered, thinking, "There is no doubt that this spider is also a living being and it is a shame to take its life for no reason." In the end he spared the spider.
Knowing this, the Buddha took a spider thread and lowered it to into depths of Hell with the intention of saving Kandata.
Kandata reached for the thread and found it strong enough to hold his weight. Using all his strength he began lifting himself from Hell.
After some progress, he looked down and saw hundreds of others behind him climbing on the same spider thread.
He shouted back at them: “Get off! This is mine!” Just then, the thread broke and Kandata fell back into Hell.
According to Buddhist tradition there are six places
of life: the worlds of the gods, of the asuras, or demons,
of human beings, of spirits, of animals, and finally, of
the damned. "If someone, monks, is burdened with
three things, then he will go, as he deserves, to hell."
With these words the Buddha commences his description of the numerous hells and of the tortures that
there await sinners.
In the first hell, Samjiva, the damned are suspended head downward by the infernal watchmen of King Yama, who proceed to hack them to pieces with axes. Some unfortunates even grow claws of iron and inflict havoc on one another in their struggle.
Whoever is able to escape from this hell falls into the next one, called Kukkula. Here the torment consists of incessant beatings, and the sinners are hounded from one end to the other until finally they pass on to Kunapa. Here they are flayed alive by black monsters, then devoured by ravenous eagles, crows, and vultures. When nothing is left of them but bones, the flesh grows back and the torture begins anew. Seeking rescue the sinners come to the fourth hell, Vaitarani. To cool their wounds they leap into pools of water, only to discover that it is acid that eats away their limbs. In the Kalasutra hell demons dismember them with plumb line and ax, as one might fell a tree. Nor do the sinners find relief in the next hell, Samghata, for there the mountains move and shift, crushing the damned between the walls of ravines. Tortures by fire follow in Raurava, and in the Tapana hell the unfortunates are forced to eat molten iron, and are then boiled and thrown to the dogs. In Avici, the last of the main hells, the sinners are transformed into pillars of fire in expiation for their misdeeds.
Buddhish Hell Buddhish Hell
Wall painting, 50.x260 cm. Kizil, Cave of the Devils A, ca. 600
This Wall painting was found on the right wall of the Cave of the Devils A.
Museum fur Indische Kunst (MIK III 8432)
Six such scenes have survived in this wall painting,
that on the far left only partially. The second scene
from the left shows a fiend about to crush his victims
in a huge mortar, while another brings a new load of
sufferers, or their heads, to a blue caldron which already is overflowing. Fires burn under both vessels,
indicating that this is probably a depiction of the Raurava hell.
In the center of the next scene, a flaming inferno, kneels a dusky, naked man. He has been tighdy bound, and a grayish brown demon seems to be forcing him to drink from a blue vessel. Two naked white figures flank this scene; the left one carries a monk's begging bowl with flames licking out of its mouth, the other a flat dish out of which flames also flare. Is this the Tapana hell?
The next scene, on a red ground, shows a white, boar-headed demon attacking a prostrate sinner with his lance. A similar blue figure approaches them from the left, and a fair-skinned man seems to be trying to escape.
Two demons are engaged in torturing their two victims in the following scene. The first, his ruffled hair flaming horribly, is about to behead the dark-skinned, chained sinner, while the other demon has grabbed his victim by the hair and is about to punish him. Possibly this is an illustration of the Kalasutra hell.
The last scene certainly illustrates the Samghata hell. Against the red background two mountains, a green one and a blue, are visible, both engulfed in flame. The ravine between them is filled with sinners who will be crushed when the mountains collide. According to von Le Coq, the rams' heads on top of the mountain peaks symbolize the frequent repetition of this event.
The selfishness of man is Satan and the actual satisfaction of selfishness is Hell.
This reminds us of one of Leander's Märchen, in which we are told that once a man died and awoke in the other world.
There St. Peter appeared before him and asked him what he wanted.
He then ordered breakfast, the daily papers, and all the comforts he was accustomed to in life,
and this kind of life lasted for many centuries until he got sick of it and began to swear at St. Peter and to complain of how monotonous it was in Heaven,
whereupon St. Peter informed him that he was in Hell, for hell is where everybody has his own sweet will, and heaven is where everybody follows God's will alone.
Similarly, according to the Buddhist conception, the heaven of sensual delight is hell, the habitation of the Evil One.
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