why heaven above and hell below? do the dead know they are dead? for that matter, do the living know they live? or are we just putting in time, until, well, the end of time, at least the end of time for us? does a virus know it’s alive (is it?)? a nematode? an ant? a dog? an elephant?
seen and unseen walking among us. david abram writes ‘most indigenous tribal peoples have no such ready recourse to an immaterial realm outside earthly nature. our strictly human heaven and hells have only recently been abstracted from the sensuous world that surrounds us, from this more-than-human realm that abounds in its winged intelligences and cloven-hoofed powers. for almost all oral cultures, the enveloping and sensuous earth remains the dwelling place of both the living and the dead. the “body”–whether human or otherwise–is not yet a mechanical object in such cultures, but is a magical entity, the mind’s own sensuous aspect, and at death the body’s decomposition into soil, worms, and dust can only signify the gradual reintegration of one’s ancestors and elders into the living landscape’ (‘the ecology of magic’, the nature reader, 126-127).
perhaps separating heaven above and hell below from earth here and now contributes to cartesian duality, to mind over matter, to matter as mere mechanical plaything. it makes the dead, having them elsewhere, less scary, less magical, that’s for sure. but what if the reality is that the kingdom is within us, and the only way to escape death and rebirth–samsara–is to truly die–not in some mystical, airy-fairy, nebulous sense, but to kill one’s illusions and cravings, one of which is the individual ego, the notion of separation from the unity of all, both the living and the dead?