Heaven and Hell (and Earth for that matter) are just states of mind. Three people sitting on the same bench in a park can be living in three different worlds. As I described in From Heaven to Hell, you are in Heaven when you experience the world as a trinity, in Earth when you experience it as a duality and you’re in Hell when you experience it monistically.
The Kashmir Shaivism doctrine of “Parashiva”, “Shiva”, “Shakti” I think expresses the trinitarian idea most clearly. Shakti is energy. It is also the whole manifest universe, which is basically energy expressed in a bewildering variety of forms. Shiva is consciousness. It is that which experiences form. So Shiva and Shakti always go together. Any phenomena presupposes a conscious mind experiencing it. Wherever there is Shakti, there also is Shiva. Try it out for yourself. Can you experience Shakti without Shiva? It’s obviously impossible.
However, it is possible to withdraw Shiva from Shakti. You can sit down, close your eyes and clear your mind, withdrawing your awareness as much as possible from all objects of consciousness. Even better, you can lie down in a floatation tank, and enjoy almost perfect sensory deprivation. It’s like floating in the infinite void. Then you can withdraw from all bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings. If you are lucky, or if you are an experienced meditator, you will eventually enter a state of absorption in pure consciousness, called “samadhi”.
Spend long enough in samadhi and you will realise that your consciousness is co-extensive with a greater, universal consciousness. You will touch the pure transcendent consciousness, “Parashiva”. Shiva depends on Shakti just as Shakti depends on Shiva, but Parashiva doesn’t depend on anything. It is the Absolute. In deep meditation, you realise the identity of Shiva with Parashiva (“Atman” with “Paramatman” or the Soul with God).
When you return from this state of pure consciousness, you return to Shakti. Shiva and Shakti are re-united in a joyful, loving embrace. This is why they are depicted as lovers. Just like mortal lovers, so with the archetypal lovers of creation: absence makes the heart grow fonder. Shakti shines with a greater radiance and a greater beauty. The world is renewed, made fresh, born again. This is the elixir of life. It is how creation achieves immortality – through the eternal cycle of the trinity.
Earth beings are mortal because they do not or cannot access pure consciousness, Parashiva. They live in the dualistic world of Shiva and Shakti, not in the close embrace they enjoy in the non-dual trinitarian vision, but slightly apart, like an estranged couple. If we think of it as a marriage, we can see that over time the partners become more like companions than lovers. Then, at the tail end of the relationship, they grow old and die.
Earth is not a bad place to live. There is no God and there is no immortality, but life is definitely worth living. There are good times as well as bad. There is joy and wonder and beauty. There is art and music and magic. There is pleasure as well as pain. There is romance as well as estrangement. This is the world celebrated by the Romantics, who passionately urge us to love Shakti with all our Souls.
But there are dark, sinister forces at play in our little corner of the universe, which the Romantics vainly struggled against. These are the forces bent on making Hell on Earth. They are determined to tear the Soul out of the World. They are determined to banish Shiva from the world forever, leaving Shakti alone and bereft.
I mentioned the ascendant ideology called “scientific materialism” in the last post. Since the dawn of the Modern period, with the great advances in science and technology ushered in by the Scientific Revolution in the seventeenth century, scientific materialism has taken over the hearts and minds of people in the West and all over the world. There is no God. But more than that, there is no Soul. There is nothing but material processes. Nothing but energy. Nothing but quantum oscillations in the void.
This is the first horseman of the apocalypse. The second horseman is a product of the first. Because scientism (the belief that the whole Reality is ultimately explicable by the natural sciences and reducible to material processes) directly challenges religion, religion must fight back. So religion fights back. But in doing so, it incorporates the scientistic paradigm. It treats religion as a science instead of an art. Nuanced interpretations of scripture are clearly not strong enough to deal with the powerful threat posed by materialist science. We must fight fire with fire!
The second horseman is religious fundamentalism. It is the literal interpretation of ancient texts in a desperate scramble for certainty and safety in the face of the oncoming charge of the terrible horseman of science. The first two horsemen of the apocalypse are locked in a demonic embrace, each strengthening the other while pretending that they are enemies. They are like two heads if one Beast with long necks intertwined.
The third and fourth horsemen are also intertwined. The third has many variants and goes by many names. Probably the most easily recognisable umbrella term for it is “postmodernism”. Like the first two horsemen, it rip the Soul out of reality by reducing everything to an inter-texual relativistic world of pure Shakti. There is only the play of Shakti endlessly and narcissistically pointing at itself. In literary theory the “death of the author” basically stands for the “death of the soul”. There is no intentional mind behind the surface appearances of the text, and there is nothing outside the text. Shiva is banished to the dustbin of philosophy.
The fourth horseman comes to re-create the world as a perfect utopia where all individual Souls are subjugated under the iron rule of the collective will. Where the third horseman tries to dissolve the Soul in the acid of deconstruction, the fourth horseman tries to stamp it out with the boot of totalitarianism. Like the first two horsemen, who pretend to be enemies, but are in fact in league together, so the two sworn enemies, fascism and communism, are actually two versions of the same thing.
The totalitarian projects having seemingly failed, the fourth horseman has taken a more indirect line of attack, by joining forces with the third horseman. The result is “neo-marxist postmodernism”, “neo-progressivism” or “liberal fascism”. It is the same project through the medium of culture rather than politics. The aim is the same: the annihilation of the Soul in the name of social justice.
We are allowing the four horsemen of the apocalypse to make Hell on Earth. We are selling our Souls for material gain, and it’s slowly turning us into muppets and demons. Is resistance futile? That’s up to you.