Two articles appear below:
1The Cosmography of Heaven
2 Where Is Heaven?
The Cosmography of Heaven
(Investigator 189, 2019 November)
Heaven and the afterlife can be different things to different people.
Generally speaking, however, heaven is considered the abode of
supernatural beings such as gods and angels, and commonly the
destination of the soul after death. For example, the ancient Greeks
had their Elysium which, according to Homer was a faultless land of
bliss located on the banks of the Oceanus — the river that girded the
Earth. According to the Greek poet Hesiod Elysium was the abode of the
blessed dead and during the time of the lyricist Pindar was thought to
be gained by leading a virtuous life. (1)
Contemporary Hinduism has a more abstract concept of heaven and the afterlife:
According to Hinduism,
heaven is not a physical place where a person goes after death to enjoy
pleasures as a reward for living a virtuous life on this earth. In
Hinduism, the heaven, called Svarga, is a state of super consciousness,
blessedness and bliss that exists within the human body. It can be
experienced by a spiritually matured person during the heightened
intensity of meditation. Heaven is also an invisible, subtle world
where a soul rests and learns between births. But a soul that has
attained Moksha remains there to evolve and merge with its source of
origin, the Supreme Soul. (2)
The Baha'i religion, which grew out of the Shi'ite branch of the Muslim
faith, also has a rather abstract concept of the afterlife:
Baha'is believe in an
afterlife in which the soul is separated from the body. At death,
according to the Baha'i faith, the soul begins a spiritual journey
towards God through many planes of existence.
Progress on this journey towards God is likened to the
idea of "heaven." If the soul fails to develop, one remains distant
from God. This condition of remoteness from God can in some sense be
understood as "hell."
Thus Baha'is do not regard heaven and hell as literal
places but as different states of being during one's spiritual journey
toward or away from God.
Baha'is understand the spiritual world to be a timeless
and placeless extension of our own universe—and not some physically
remote or removed place.
But beyond this, the exact nature of the afterlife
remains a mystery. Baha'u'llah [the founder of the Baha'i religion]
wrote, "The nature of the soul after death can never be described." (3)
From these examples it can be seen that there are two basic concepts of
what the afterlife and Heaven will be like. The first is a material
existence with the embodied soul of the deceased living a life much
like that on Earth (as was the case with the ancient Greeks), while the
other is quite abstract in nature.
The location of Heaven is generally held to be above the Earth (the
ascension of Christ as described in Acts 1:9-11 for example). Ancient
Hebrew cosmography conceived of the universe as a flat disc with the
sky being a solid vault — an idea common to the cultures of the region
at that time. (4). According to the Talmud, the central text of
Rabbinic Judaism, the universe is composed of seven heavens:
1. Vilon (Isa 40:22)
2. Raki'a (Gen 1:17)
3. Shehaqim (Ps 78:23)
4. Zebul (Isa 63:15)
5. Ma'on (Deut 26:15, Ps 42:9)
6. Machon (1 Kings 8:39, Deut 28:12)
7. Araboth The seventh Heaven where
ophanim (the wheel-shaped beings in Ezekiel's vision), the hayyoth (the
beings described in chapters 1 and 10 of Ezekiel's vision), the
seraphim (beings with six wings as described in Isaiah 6:1-8), and the
throne of the God are located. (5)
The science of astronomy has discredited these ancient
ideas as to the location of Heaven. The rather naive view found in the
religious art of earlier times such as The Last Judgment — a triptych
by Hieronymus Bosch, created after 1482 — is no longer tenable. (6)
If Heaven is not located within the physical universe then where is it
and how is it reached? One view is that the souls of the deceased are
carried there by angels, an idea captured in Ascent of the Blessed,
which is another painting by Hieronymus Bosch made between 1505 and
1515 (7). At the top of the painting is a tunnel that serves as a
conduit to Heaven, and thus connects the natural realm with the abode
of God. It is a clever artistic solution and no doubt was a credible
possibility to the people of Bosch's time.
To the people of Western civilization in past ages the idea that Heaven
was corporeal and inhabited by corporeal beings not too dissimilar in
appearance from the human form was generally accepted without question,
but our knowledge of the structure of matter and the nature of the
universe has advanced considerably since those times.
The biological sciences have not found any evidence that the soul
exists, or that we have need of one to function as we do. Physics has
discovered that matter obeys strict laws and is circumscribed by those
laws. Angels with corporeal bodies would be limited by those laws. They
could not survive in the airless void of space nor use their wings to
fly through it. Astronomy has disclosed the vastness of the universe as
an immense natural system bereft of supernatural elements. If Heaven is
corporeal then it must exist in some form of universe and, like the
unicorn, we have no evidence that it does.
Contemporary theologians may attempt to make Heaven seem more plausible
by appealing to science. They might cite the 10 dimensions postulated
by string theory (whose aim is to unify all of the particles and
fundamental forces of nature into one single theory), and claim that
the abode of God is located in one of these other dimensions. The
problem is that these dimensions are microscopic (10-33 cm) and pertain
only to the natural world (8). Corporeal angels and embodied souls
could not exist within them.
The theologians may also argue that supernatural beings and the
environment they inhabit are not composed of ordinary matter, but some
other substance — dark matter, for example. Dark matter is thought to
consist of unknown subatomic particles that do not interact with
electromagnetic radiation and hence are invisible. The existence of
dark matter is inferred from gravitational calculations showing that if
galaxies did not contain a large amount of imperceptible matter that
they would fly apart. (9)
Is it possible that dark matter consists of a diverse range of
particles that can form dark matter stars, worlds and beings — a Shadow
Universe superimposed on our own? Physicist Lisa Randall has speculated
that there might be such things. However, can such speculations give
credence to the idea that supernatural entities such as the soul,
angels and God actually exist in an invisible realm?
It might be tempting to
use this hypothesis [of a Shadow Universe] to explain away everyday
mysteries or even paranormal claims that science cannot confirm. What
if "ghosts" or inexplicable "lights in the sky" are these dark
creatures making their presence felt in our realm?
Though this might make for a fun science fiction
storyline, the dark creatures would live in the shadow universe that is
wholly incompatible with ordinary matter. Their particles and forces
would have no impact on our universe. I could be typing this article
deep in a dark matter rainforest filled with creatures in a roaring
dark matter ecosystem, but I'd have no clue.
But as we coexist with this shadow universe in the same
space-time — no extra dimensions or multiple universes required — there
is one signal that could be transferred.
Gravitational waves were discovered only in 2016 and
the first detection of these ripples in space-time were caused by the
collision of black holes. It seems plausible that gravitational waves
would be detected in the dark sector as well as our universe, but only
the most powerful cosmic events in the dark sector would be detectable
In short, we'll almost certainly never prove the
existence of cute dark matter creatures, but Randall makes an important
point. When imagining the source of dark matter, we would be wise to
move beyond our prejudice that dark matter is a simple particle; it
could represent a complex family of dark matter particles and forces
that are beyond what we can possibly imagine. (10)
Currently, we have no sound evidence that Heaven exists, either in this
universe or some other reality. The idea of Heaven arose in a distant
age that lacked a true understanding of the nature of the universe. It
is a concept developed by pre-scientific people to explain the mystery
of existence as best as they could. The idea of Heaven, when examined
dispassionately, is no longer tenable in the light of contemporary
scientific knowledge. That the idea persists is no doubt due to the
comfort it offers people.
6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Judgment_(Bosch triptych)
WHERE IS HEAVEN?
(Investigator 192, 2020 May)
Mr Straughen (#189) wants to know where "heaven" is that "souls" go to in the after life.
He dismissed heaven as being a physical place and asked, "If heaven is
not located in the physical universe then where is it and how is it
Straughen dismissed the ten dimensions of string theory as the location
of a supernatural heaven because "these dimensions are microscopic".
However string theory remains an area of debate and some theoreticians
postulate the existence of one or more "large" extra dimensions —
beyond the three (or four if we include time) that we experience —
either as part of string theory or separate from it.
Afshordi et al (2014) explain:
The basic idea of a
brane world is that our three-dimensional universe is embedded in a
larger space of four or more spatial dimensions. The three-dimensional
universe is called a brane, and the larger universe is called the bulk.
All known forms of matter and energy are stuck to our three dimensional
brane like a movie projected on a screen.... The exception is gravity,
which permeates all the higher-dimensional bulk.
Michio Kaku, author of Hyperspace (1994), says on YouTube: "In
three dimensions there's not enough room to put all the laws of
physics. But ... in hyperspace all the laws of physics fit together
like a jigsaw puzzle."
Kaku says that the ten dimensions of String Theory are "too small to be
observed" but "are all around us...everywhere." String theory became "M
Theory" in the 1990s with the addition of an 11th dimension and it
followed that "perhaps our Universe is a membrane in which case perhaps
some of those dimensions can be large, perhaps even infinite...
Maybe dark matter is just another galaxy hovering in a parallel
universe above us."
A lot of information and speculation about such topics can be found by
searching Google on "Large Hadron Collider extra dimensions" and "Large
In Investigator 121/123/125
and 159-161 I suggested that the "supernatural" realm might consist of
extra dimensions. I preferred this idea instead of dark matter because
it explained how entities in the supernatural could appear in our
natural realm in different shapes, sizes and appearances. By reasoning
from the "Flatland" analogy I noted that a three-dimensional entity
could reveal himself in Flatland in any number of different shapes. He
can even pretend to be multiple entities by producing multiple
finger-tip impressions simultaneously. A hypothetical Flatland observer
would see multiple entities instead of one, and be none-the-wiser.
Similarly, a higher-dimensional entity might be able to do the same to
us in our three spatial dimensions — appear in any number of ways such
as an "angel" with wings or without wings, or as a man, a snake, or a
multitude, almost anything.
It's too early to be dogmatic on whether or not equating the
supernatural realm with a higher dimension can be a scientific
hypothesis. If not, then some other idea could be tried. New ideas in
cosmology are coming and going, almost like customers in a restaurant.
A recent New Scientist magazine speculates, "Mysterious particles uncovered in the Antarctic could be evidence of a mind-bending mirror universe."
Straughen also considered whether heaven and "supernatural entities"
could be composed of "dark matter" which, although invisible to us and
does not "interact with electromagnetic radiation", is accepted by
astronomers because its gravity influences the shape of galaxies.
Physicists calculate that 95% of the matter in the Universe is
invisible Dark Matter.
Straughen (or a quote he quoted) conceded that dark matter might not
consist of just one type of particle but "a complex family of dark
matter particles and forces" so that the supernatural realm might be a
"Shadow Universe superimposed on our own".
The objection is that, "Their particles would have no impact on our
universe." Straughen concluded that there is no interaction between the
two realms other than gravitational and therefore, "Currently we have
no sound evidence that heaven exists."
However, connections between different phenomena and different realms
could exist although unknown to science or current technology. A few
centuries ago no one saw any connection between velocity and time
dilation, or matter and energy, or even magnetism and electricity:
The first person to
prove a connection between magnetism and electricity was a Dane,
Oersted: he found in 1820 that when an electric current was passed along a
wire, the needle of a compass lying close to the wire was deflected.
Five years later a Lancashire shoemaker, William Sturgeon, constructed
an electro-magnet. He surrounded a core of iron with a coil of copper
wire, and passed an electric current through the coil. It magnetized
the iron for so long as the current was maintained. Thus it was shown
that electricity has a magnetic effect. Faraday, meanwhile, was trying
to achieve the opposite—to produce an electrical effect from a magnet.
For years he puzzled over the problem, carrying round in his pocket a
magnet and an electrical conductor. In 1831 he triumphed. The secret was
that the conductor (e.g. a piece of wire) and the magnet had to move in
a special relation to one another. Faraday fitted a large copper disc
edgeways between the poles of a magnet and rotated it. Electricity was
generated—and a metal strip that scraped the side of the disc conducted
away the electricity. Thus was made the first generator. (Richards
& Quick 1961)
Nature is probably full of yet-to-be-discovered influences (including laws) that connect seemingly distinct phenomena.
Delay in confirmation does not necessarily prove a concept erroneous.
Hundreds of biblical claims have been confirmed scientifically, some of
them after two or three thousand years. Also, more things doubtless
remain undiscovered by science than are already discovered. Therefore,
regarding whether a supernatural realm exists I suggest that humility
is wiser than hubris.
Afshordi, N. et al The Black Hole at the Beginning of Time, Scientific American, August 2014, pp 27-33
Kaku, M. YouTube: Are there extra dimensions?; Parallel universes populated by parallel twins
Richards, D. & Quick, A. 1961 Britain 1714-1851, Longmans, p. 339
Straughen, K. The Cosmography of Heaven, Investigator No.189