Where is heaven? A response to Sam Harris & Jonathan Pageau

An audio version of this talk is at my podcast, Talks and Thoughts, available via podcast feeds.

Sam Harris raised the question of the location of heaven, not least in the space age, when “up there” is not straightforwardly a good answer.

Jonathan Pageau responded eloquently, noting that up is, of course, an analogy that might guide us towards the way in which earth and heaven are different dimensions of participation in divine reality. The ancients knew earth and heaven phenomenologically rather than just physically.

Here, I offer a different conception again, that I think is useful now – taking a lead from Jesus’s remarks that the kingdom is within, that praying is best done in secret, and that withdrawal and reflection are key to discerning the divine, heavenly presence.

I consider how the Platonic notion of ascent, from The Symposium, is actually an mistaken gloss on what Diotima actually explains to Socrates. Love’s path to Beauty is, in fact, one of subtly, awakening and understanding.

And then I consider Dante’s journey through the planetary spheres in Paradiso. Again, whilst metaphors of movement are present, the dynamic that Dante tracks is one of perception: the more he understands of the divine light within himself, the more he understands and knows how he is closer to heaven than he ever suspected.