Standing on Heaven’s mountain with my guide Michael, my ears pick up a sound that is familiar yet unexpected in this setting. “Surely I’m not hearing the clink of cutlery?”
Michael smiles ironically. “As the Solar Boat dips below the horizon, all the stars switch on to light up our celestial realm … and it’s time for dinner. Of course there is no time in heaven, nor does the astral body require food, but the illusion of a daily cycle breaks up the monotony provides the comfort of familiarity.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven. Rupert Brooke
Here I am, standing on the summit of Heaven’s mountain with my guide Michael. We are surveying a vast plain stretching away into the distance.
“Who are all those people, looks like angels on horseback?”
“These are the Heavenly Hosts in training. We are now in Heroes’ Heaven, home to all heroes from the greatest leaders to the humblest foot soldiers. Those who were warriors on Earth, by role or profession, often volunteer for the Heavenly Hosts. Our crack troops wear russet, but the rest of them weren’t giving up their fine uniforms. It’s all ceremonial nowadays so they may as well look gorgeous.”Continue reading →
It is easy to go down to hell; night and day the gates of Dark Death stand wide; but to climb back up again, to retrace one’s steps to the open air, there lies the problem, the difficult task. Virgil
“You will need a passport for your next destination,” says Morgana, my gracious guide to Hell. She hands me a familiar looking document with a gold embossed cover. “Here it is, personally issued by Sir Francis Walsingham, who decides who gets a passport.” I open it, scrutinize the flourishing Elizabethan signature admiringly and slip the passport into my pocket.
Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate. (Abandon hope all ye who enter here.) Dante
The darkness thickens as Morgana and I descend even further into the depths of Hell. We halt in a claustrophobic stone chamber lit only by a dim yet lurid phosphorescence on the clammy walls. The temperature drops perceptibly and I shiver as Morgana gazes at me sternly, stonily. “Souls you would call serious sinners go to the Dungeons. Please be clear we are not talking about the natural enjoyment of sensual and worldly pleasures, nor even about being rude to your parents or mean to your best friend. Such minor peccadilloes are part of the rough and tumble of life in which we are all sometimes unkind, angry, lazy, vain and all the other myriad faults and failings that human nature is prone to. Taken too far these actions may incur karma…”
I desire to go to Hell, not to Heaven. In Hell I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, but in Heaven are only beggars, monks, hermits and apostles. Machiavelli
“Do you have any questions?” asks Morgana, formerly Merlin’s apprentice and now my guide in Hell.
“Well, you’ve reassured me that there have been major improvements since I was frightened half to death with stories about this place. Even so, I’m curious. You say that people come here of their own free will, but why would anyone choose to go to Hell? I’ve heard people joke about how in the great hereafter they’d rather have fun with the sinners than sing hymns with the saints, but I’ve never taken it seriously.”
How can I describe my vision, the air of Hell is too thick for hymns! Arthur Rimbaud
“And now I’m gonna get medieval on yo’ ass,” says Morgana, my guide in Hell. She laughs uproariously at my look of alarm. “Not really, things have moved on a lot since the Dark Ages, when nobody cracked jokes about the Spanish Inquisition because you did expect them to come knocking at your door. Such excesses helped cause a backlash of unbelief that has frankly lifted a great burden from the hearts and souls of suffering humanity. At one stage we were almost closed down as numbers were diminishing so rapidly. Indeed, your compatriots ‘dismissed hell with costs’ two centuries ago in earthly time.
We’re gonna take a little ride on the Solar Boat
Bring your scepter, bring your thunderbolt
We’ll see the eye in the canopy, the morning star
The edge of the void, it’s not too far…
Fascinated by the vivid colour, complexity and power of the ancient Egyptian bardo, as depicted on papyrus and stone, I did further research into this lost world. My most astonishing revelation was that the Egyptian paradise was not a fixed location but had undergone a radical transformation over the course of history.
Since Pharaoh is the Son of God, his exalted status must be recognized in the afterlife as in life. Instead of toiling with the peasants in the Field of Reeds, surely a more fitting destination is the abode of the Gods in the Stellar Realms. Of course he needs a suitable mode of transport and the most magnificent vehicle in existence is the barque of the Sun God Ra, who sails it every day on a round trip through the known universe.
Homage to thee, O RA… Thou art adored. Thou goest to thy setting in the Solar Boat with fair winds, and thy heart is glad… Thou stridest over the heavens in peace, all thy foes being cast down. The stars which never rest hymn thee, and the stars which never vanish glorify thee as thou sinkest to rest… Thou art beautiful at morn and at eve, O thou Living Lord, the Unchanging One, my Lord. (“Papyrus of Ani”, A Hymn to Ra when he rises on the horizon and when he sets in the Land of Life)
It begins in Egypt.
The first voyage was up the river Nile. We were a group of four friends in search of artistic and spiritual inspiration, and winter sun. It was the Arab Spring, a time of great hope but also unrest in Egypt. The resulting dearth of visitors was tough on the tourist industry but fortunate for us, allowing us access to the sites without queues or crowds; a rare opportunity to tune into the spirit of Ancient Egypt, where it all began.Continue reading →