Heaven and Hell are other people?

Those who like to see other people smile should fit right into Heaven, and people will pray to meet them again.

The French playwright and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre famously wrote a screenplay called No Exit where the most famous phrase is “Hell is other people”.  (In fact, I keep thinking that it is the name of the play.) This phrase has become probably his most famous, and even the most famous in existentialist philosophy. Sartre said the phrase was misunderstood, that it did not mean that other people were always hell. And indeed, there are people who claim that other people are Heaven. In fact, solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual exactly because to most, the absence of other people is Hell.

Without the feedback from other people, most of us would begin to unravel or dissolve. I am not sure whether that would happen to me, but I assume so. I cannot remember ever having felt lonely when alone, but I am human, so probably at some point it would happen.

Today’s point, however, is from a lecture (Beyond This World) by Master Ryuho Okawa, founder of the Japanese sect Happy Science. It is broadcast in this weeks “Happy Science on Air”. Here Mr Okawa formulates a quick test on who is bound for Heaven and who is bound for Hell:  Those who think other people exist for their benefit, are headed for Hell. Those who believe that they exist for other people, are headed for Heaven.

I have, years ago, sketched out an imaginary scenario in which those who want to rule over others are deported, all of them, to a parallel Earth similar to ours, and left alone together. By necessity, their world would develop into a hell, because they would no longer have helpful people to exploit, only each other. Conversely you could take those who want to serve others, and put them together on a parallel Earth, and it would begin to develop into a Heaven. This is the exact same thinking.

Actually, I suppose I did not need to drag Okawa into this, but I liked his concise way of contrasting these two attitudes. Just because he thinks he is a god does not mean he is wrong about everything, you know. Although it is generally not an endearing trait in people.

Even those of us who are allowed to commune with a Presence not of this world,  were once babies and needed the love of a (m)other, not just to survive physically, but to become human. Even baby Jesus needed a Mary! A baby is fully human in potential, but to become an actual human it must “download” humanity from someone who has it: Language, obviously, but also gestures and habits and likes and dislikes and many other traits. Over time the individual child develops its own traits, but it takes years of mostly downloading from parents, siblings, teachers and friends. Only gradually do we become able to take control of this complex being that is our mind, and for some it never quite happens. Life continues to happen to them, rather than them happening to life and to the world.

We all have a great deal of other people inside us, and it is much harder for someone who had a poisonous childhood to commune with the Heavenly world. Growing up in hate or scorn fills a child with dangerous mind parasites which takes a lot to get rid of. The inner light must be very bright for such a person to banish his or her mind parasites and begin to glow with a bright light from within.  Even neglect is enough for most people to experience many years, if not a lifetime, of darkness.

So Heaven is other people in that sense, and Hell also.

But for those who eventually have an encounter with the Truth, or the Light, there is a new dimension. Now comes the opportunity to look at ourselves and think: Do I live for the benefit of others, or do I live to harvest from them? Am I a predator who sees other people as “food” – not literally, I hope, but you know what I mean: Other people should praise me, other people should help me, other people should be there for me, it is other people’s fault that I am not happy, that I am not rich, that I don’t do my job to the best of my ability. If only they…

But people who love to see others smile are sure to fit right into Heaven if they come that way. The various religions have different ideas of how to get to Heaven, but it is disturbingly few who ask themselves: “If I come to the gates of Heaven, do I fit in there? Will Heaven still be heavenly if I am around?”

I am reasonably optimistic: Even if I am a very solitary person, I don’t have any enemies anymore (that I know of), and I cannot think of anyone I would rather not see happy. But my ability to actually initiate happiness where there is none, that needs work. Lots and lots of work. I mean, happiness in other people. If I am alone, happiness is not hard to come by. But for most people, it is! If they are alone, happiness is hard to come by. And I am not confident in my ability to change that simply by my presence.  Then again, I don’t claim to be a god. Just a superhuman like you. ^_^

In any case, the ability of self-reflection is also a responsibility. Only we who have this ability can possibly make the choice to initiate happiness, to summon it where it was not. Only we can choose whether to be Heaven or Hell to other people.


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