re: That other place ...


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The following story is, in its entirety, based upon a radio-broadcast sermon to which I listened way back in 1987, titled “A Bird’s Eye View of Hell,” that was given by a still-renowned moderately conservative preacher. As far as conventional theological concepts are concerned regarding comeuppance or the like in the hereafter for corporeal misdeeds, I don’t recall mention of any such punishment, let alone hellfire, mentioned during the aforementioned sermon. Perhaps the following hypothetical version of Hell—and it’s one that’s very rarely held—is based upon a fairly revolutionary idea of victims who have crossed-over not perceiving or feeling any relevance of or personal need for such or any post-death penance to be suffered by their corporeal-realm perpetrators. (Another notable theological alternative to a traditional Hell is held by some members of Church of Latter Day Saints, who believe that hellfire is actually applied in the form of “burning guilt”.) Lastly, maybe that personal need for ‘justice’ is intrinsically linked to the same aspect of bodily humankind that enables the most horrible acts of violent cruelty to readily occur on this planet.


“This isn’t the way it was supposed to be,” Randall mumbled to himself. He had spent his lifetime believing—as his parent-enforced, religious thought process had dictated—that Hell was a fire-and-brimstone existence; he had believed that Hell was the Devil’s domain, consisting of lost souls weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth; he had believed that Hell was basically unrelenting pain, utmost misery and being there would be nothing short of sheer hell.

When his Ford pick-up truck ran head-on, at 176 kilometers per hour, into that concrete meridian—a direct result of the thirteen beer he had recklessly consumed just twenty minutes prior—smashing face-first through the windshield and into that cement structure, Randall was dashed into eternity so instantaneously that he did not realize he’d been killed. Or at least he didn’t immediately realize the fact. It took him a portion of physical-universe time (perhaps even centuries—who knows? he considered), in the sense that time passage is noticeable only in the physical universe. For in the hereafter, an extra-dimensional reality, time does not exist, nor the anxiousness often caused by the passage of time. To him, the dead Randall, one second might as well be one day, one year, one millennium—or a million millenniums, for that matter; he didn’t notice the passage of physical time at all. Thus, perhaps the phrase ‘for an eternity’ would be much more accurately and plausibly referenced to if replaced with plain ‘timelessness,’ he figured, albeit timelessness is also a state of existence to which physical and psychological humankind cannot truly relate.

“This place is not at all what I had expected!” he emphatically proclaimed.

Not only was it not fire-hot there, but it was actually quite comfortable temperature-wise. However, it then occurred to him that there seemed to be an indescribable absence of temperature—no warmth, no coolness, no nothing—a sort of meteorological neutrality. And not only was this place not a cavernous pit of molten lava with condemned souls screaming in agony, but everything seemed to be elevated, almost like being at the peak of a mountain. Although it appeared to be surrounded by an overcast sky, this peak had a rather flat surface (about two square kilometers) covered with dry, light-brown dirt and sharp-edged pebbles. Looking up, it seemed to Randall that there wasn’t a sky; rather, it was like a bright-gray translucent dome.

Randall often felt an urge to go to the edge of this place and look down. However, an instinctive cognizance that he should not dare go look overwhelmed him each and every time, and he was filled with anxiety such as he’d never experienced, and never thought possible, when he was alive. Immediately following this punishing rush of intense anxiety—an anxiety that left behind a burning sensation—Randall would decide to never again entertain the notion of looking down off of the edge. Yet, without failure, he would again and again allow the thought to lead him to consider what he obviously wasn’t supposed to consider—the proverbial forbidden fruit into which he was not to bite.

Likely nor were the others supposed to look down over the edge, he figured. The others with Randall at that place were a countless multitude; but he could not understand how the universal laws of time and space familiar to him in his lifetime were fantastically defied in this place. For all of the entities surrounding him actually fit onto the relatively-small surface, which was that place called Hell. He was quite sure that so many fitting into so little had to do with their, what he thought of as, ‘variable realities’. (Randall impressed himself with his utilization of such advanced notions, his lifetime experience including but a Grade 12 education and some years of Star Trek watching.) Each of these souls, he observed, seemed to exist in its own reality or dimension, since every soul appeared to be slightly more or less visibly clear than the other souls. Although every one of them was to some degree translucent and hazy, each (including himself) had its own, what Randall called, ‘phase of existence’; and every soul, though aware of its fellow souls (he noticed how each noticed all of the others), was thus consciously confined to its own reality or universe. Randall found these two observations to be rather paradoxical, because how, he questioned, could each soul be aware of all the other entities when each was in its own reality? Nonetheless, he found his inability to communicate with his fellow spirits to be quite unbearable at times, particularly since the semi-transparent specters numbered so very many yet were all completely unreachable.

But then it came. A disembodied voice, which telling from the others’ sudden reaction must have been audible, perhaps through mental telepathy, to every soul there. A voice, which told the occupants of Hell, including Randall, that they were all to take part in a profound “field trip”. All of the souls confined to Hell were going to “visit Heaven”.

My God, Randall thought excitedly, we’re actually going to experience Heaven! “Furthermore,” continued the voice, “those of you who choose to do so may remain in Heaven for eternity.”

Randall could not believe what he’d heard; we can actually stay there—forever?!

“But understand this,” the voice resumed, “those of you who wish to come back to Hell must be ready to do so by the designated returning time, or else you will have to remain in Heaven. For eternity.”

Is he joking? Randall thought. We’ll “have to” remain in Heaven? Who in the hell in his right mind would not want to stay in Heaven, forever? “You drive a hard bargain!” Randall called out, quite sarcastically. He chuckled to himself at his clever retort.

A rumble of considerable anger then reverberated throughout Hell; he’d obviously pissed off someone big there with his ridicule. Not intimidated, though, Randall mocked the source of the voice: “Whenever you’re ready.”

As the rumbling ceased, Randall, along with all of the other souls, experienced a great change in their Hell-bound status. They had indeed left for another reality—a heavenly one. And not surprising, because in the afterlife time and space are non-existent, the ‘trip’ from Hell to Heaven was literally instantaneous.

The trip from Hell to Heaven was instantaneous in the most literal sense of the term—as it indeed should be, Randall felt—even though Hell and Heaven are an infinite distance apart. Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, that an infinite amount of energy is required to achieve the finite speed of light (a perceived contradiction of sorts), never did make sense to Randall; what did make sense to him was that the speed of light was not an infinite speed—contrarily, an infinity from being infinite—but rather only too limited when considering that it takes light years just to reach our closest, neighboring star (while also keeping readily in mind that, according to a German supercomputer simulation, there are about 500 billion galaxies in the universe and within that, astrophysicists believe that there’s an atom of matter for every eighty-eight gallons of space). Therefore, Randall figured, to travel an infinite distance requiring an infinite speed, thus literally doing so instantaneously, would truly require an “infinite amount of energy”—contrary to the finite amount of energy required, one might logically conclude, to achieve the relatively sluggish and obviously quite finite speed of light (186,282 miles per second).

Randall made the infinite trip. There, he felt that the change that had occurred was nothing short of uniquely incredible: the difference in the entire environment and a soul’s new condition—or more accurate, the suddenly unbearably more-noticeable condition. For though the ‘trip’ from the Dwelling of the Damned to the House of God was basically unnoticeable, Randall and the others who’d come with him unexpectedly found themselves at the point of an extreme discomfort. There they were, surrounded by a countless quantity of ‘Blessed’ souls, who had all arrived in Paradise at the moment of their corporeal death, all of whom existed in a state of, for lack of more accurate terms of reference, the very purest of gold. It was a gold that was far beyond the purest gold found in the physical universe—a gold almost radiant white. Indeed, this gold did not tolerate even the tiniest hint of the foul dirt or impurity of sin; thus was the state of being in and of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. So pure was this place of gold, this place of eternal euphoria, that the visiting unfortunate souls—in their mud-covered, sinful condition, from that other place called Hell—stood out like pitch-black sheep amongst those of the purest of white.

Randall and his dirty ilk each felt about as comfortable in Heaven as would a drop of ice-cold water released into scorching-hot oil in the corporeal realm. And they did not want anything more than to leave the House of God, and immediately so. “I want to get the hell out of here!” Randall asserted, with all of the other dirty souls in total agreement.

“And I want to go right now—back to that other place!”

“Whenever you’re ready,” the voice then responded, mockingly repeating word-for-word what Randall had earlier sarcastically, arrogantly said to it.

Just as before, the ‘trip’ was instantaneous—they were back in Hell and feeling quite at home, like a well-fitting leather glove on a very familiar hand.

However, he then noticed what was up to that point unnoticeable, at least to him—not a single, tiny spot on his spiritual self was free of this sin-induced filth of Evermore. He also noticed that his dirty state of being, in fact, actually blended-in quite well with the filthy, sin-smeared environment of Hell. One might say that Randall’s situation resembled that of a chameleon damned to one eternal, ugly color.

Yes, obviously if Randall had been of a different nature in corporeal life and was destined for Heaven—though in a purest, sinless state of being—he’d have willingly went there; for, while very briefly in Heaven he had sensed that for those who truly belonged, there was a far better state of existence in Paradise than there is in Hell, regardless of total timelessness. But as one already belonging in Hell he realized that, I would not have believed it had I not gone there for myself. He was convinced that, because of his sin-stained soul, there was a worse place than Hell for him. Randall, forever stained with non-forgiven sin (though ‘forever’ did not really mean anything there), actually literally preferred to spend an eternity in Hell, had corporeal-realm linear-time applied, than a moment in Heaven.

Frank G Sterle Jr