A stimulating inquiry into one of the great religious mysteries – and what theologians, artists, writers, psychologists, priests, historians and people from all religions and walks of life have thought of heaven, where many of us still hope to go one day.
The author writes: ‘While images of hell are firmly fixed in the human psyche, no parallel standard vision exists for heaven either within the Christian Church or more widely in the world’s various religious traditions… it has somehow been judged indecent or presumptuous to contemplate the better end of the post-mortem destination market. This book will break that taboo.’
Heaven’s mysteriousness has lent it a discreet but powerful allure. There are two basic views: first, the afterlife will involve a vaguely defined spiritual peace – eternal solitude with God alone; the second allows for some overlap between heaven and earth, and hence relationships outside the central bond with God. Or is heaven religion’s biggest con-trick but one that is impossible to debunk?
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Prompted by the death of his mother, Peter Stanford began to research the neglected idea of heaven. His journey takes us through the beliefs of the major world religions and philosophies to explore the "undiscovered country" of heaven. As a tour guide through the afterlife, Stanford not only shows us how the Christian idea of heaven developed from Judaism, which may have been cross-fertilised with Zoroastrianism, but also takes us into Eastern religions to explain re-incarnation. He goes on to explore the Islamic view of heaven and trace the medieval vision of paradise through the glories of gothic architecture and scholastic theology. He winds up with a whirlwind tour of modern sects, fundamentalism, the occult and modernist theology.
Stanford has produced and excellent and absorbing study. He writes with a sharp, readable style and, generally speaking, maintains an objective and fashionably skeptical tone throughout. It is easy for this "comparative religions" approach to become bland and slightly lofty, as if the author is confiding to his dinner party hostess, "Of course darling, we're not so ignorant as to actually believe any of this fascinating stuff." Stanford is wise, therefore, to interrupt his study with five juicy and totally different experiences of near death or contact between the living and the dead. These delightfully bizarre stories introduce just the right element of authenticity and put the rest of his book into context. They subvert the objective tone and help explain why the unknown world continues to mystify and fascinate us mortals. --Dwight LongeneckerReview:
"In this valuable study, Peter Stanford explores the idea of heaven, which, like the notion of God itself, tells us something crucial about the human condition. From the very dawn of history, men and women have been convinced that there is something that transcends our mundane existence, which supports it and gives it ultimate value. Stanford's history of the ways in which people have conceived this 'other' world shows that, however we struggle to express this sense of the sacred dimension, it has been a fact of human life. But Stanford does something more. His account is witty, engaging and inclusive, but in the most charming way possible, it compels us to face up to our own mortality. Unless we do that, we will fail to make the most of our present life, never mind whatever may await us in the future."--Karen Armstrong, author of "The Battle for God" "["Heaven"] may be as close to Paradise as we get." -- "Sunday Telegraph" "[A]n engaging narrative...it is worth reading [Stanford's] book for its elegant catalogue of the various future opportunities which may -- or may not -- be on offer." -- Antonia Fraser, "New Statesman"
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Book Description HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS LTD, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0002571013