Tuesday, May 22, 2007

SEEING JOHN LENNON IN HELL (A question in assessing some modern visions) PART 2

(In last month's Part 1 of this feature I traced to source claims to have seen a Beatle in perdition and I used this as a model to establish some rules to examine the growing phenomenon of otherworldly visions especially those of the less treated hell zone. In Part 2 I consider the implications if one is to take these visions seriously).


Even if under traditional rules there might be grounds for the Colombian visionaries to have seen the likes of John Lennon in hell, the larger question for us today would still seem to be should anyone have to go there, especially eternally? Is God a cosmic sadist if he leaves people to roast for eternity? If God is love? As Jung pointed out: on one side a sea of grace and on the other a lake of fire. Whatever is this about?

A traditional, rather pat, “shut you up” kind of answer is, God is love but he’s also holy, his holiness can’t stand sin and so his “justice” against the rebellion sin represents must be satisfied. Sin destroys the fabric of life so God must destroy who and whatever destroys life….. But, Please! God may indeed require holiness and some sins can wreak terrible havoc, and most us probably wouldn't mind if Hitler went to hell and/or that there was some kind of judgement rather than none to make justice. But what about the many ethically and spiritually middling cases ? Do you seriously mean God can’t stand souls falling short to the point he would have you tortured beyond anything people have ever tortured anybody, would want to, or even could do? And anyway, most of the time the theological line runs that God is your parent, your Father (though the Bible never affirms that as absolutely as some claim – one could, like the Pharisees, be “children of your father the devil”). What sort of parent if, say, a child broke a toy in a rage would throw the child out of the house forever and never let the child learn from its mistakes? Isn’t this what in effect is being claimed for God if, despite the reports of overwhelming love, deity can’t tolerate your errors even one instant. Even granted holiness means something and can be an imperative for us the religious reasoning has got to be somewhere inadequate here.


In effect the matter is more complex than popular either/ors make it and one must at least try to grasp the logic and also the background to what is involved no matter what one concludes in the matter.

One point much overlooked in the theology of recent centuries (which seems to put responsibility for just about everything onto God) is how much rather than God the increasingly ignored and disbelieved in devil along with evil generally could be responsible for the nature of any hell that exists within any free will universe. Even an “all powerful” God is necessarily somewhat self-limited in power by the very existence of the free will which must allow evil some degree of scope. Because God is scripturally portrayed as having the last word at a Last Judgement a common, and surely false, idea is that God must therefore want, (or even sit around inventing!) punishments for offences to his being. Yet it’s specifically stated that God wants no one to suffer perdition (2 Pet 3:9) and hell was only reserved/made for the devil and fallen angels (Matt 25:41), not humanity. One of the Colombians makes the point in her own words: “Many of us on Earth think there is a God up there, just waiting for us to commit a sin, so He can punish us and send us to hell. But that is not the reality”. Yet if the hell the Colombians visited exists, what then is the reality?

The more subtle truth, the subtext, seems to be that while God may pronounce the final doom (formalizing it, so to speak, since God has the last word in everything), what is also happening is that within a free will universe the forces of evil can still pretty much take and do what they like with whoever doesn’t choose God. If God is Life and heaven, the Satan (the accuser) is Death and hell. It must always be recalled that the picture Christianity inherits and develops from Judaism is of a Satan (the accuser), a Satan rather as depicted in the Book of Job, claiming rights against the individual. He/she is only freed from the death principle (which sin/evil most essentially represents and invokes) by death itself (of sacrificial animals under one dispensation, of the Christ under another).

Especially if the Satan has/makes claims, then, as numbers of thinkers and theologians have periodically maintained, to that extent people can simply damn themselves by explicit or just implicit refusal of whatever God represents. This would also mean that once the individual passes from the divine sphere to its opposite no further protection, (such as even the half way house of present life affords) is possible. While any pain of hell is obviously never desired the place/state of no God is nevertheless where the lost soul “wants” to be, in some instances perhaps imaginatively too. (Oddly enough I see from the official Lennon website that Lennon said he loved to sleep because it gave him opportunity to visit the worlds of Hieronymos Bosch and Dali that his dreams were mainly composed of. Especially Bosch is not just surrealistic but quite hellish, so is this where Lennon truly liked to visit? Cauldron Valley where he disintegrates and reforms like a Dali image in that case sounds as though it would almost suit him. “Where your treasure is there will you heart be also” as the gospels tell us (Mt.6:21) ).

Moreover in this place/state the devil would have a free hand, at least until such time as he is himself overcome/destroyed and perhaps by his own derivative nature and hence self contradictions. (The devil according to Catholic seeress, Jeane Dixon, is involved with “a dynamic withdrawal into nothingness”). The satanic pleasure is to be revenged on God through what reflects the divine image which is humanity. So instead of love hell presents you the torments devised by hate. Such at any rate would be stage one of a perdition process visionaries claim to be seeing in their hell inside the earth and then the visionary picture of a divided Christ, at once pitying the damned yet accepting that they must be so (because at some deep level it is effectively their choice) becomes consistent and plausible in its way.


However, once the devil and hell are destroyed there’s said to be only Gehenna, the lake of fire. What might this, the truer hell, the “second death” mean? Arguably it’s linked to the fact that the eternal God himself is portrayed as “a consuming fire”(Heb 12:29). He’s also portrayed as other things including refreshing rains but water is what no one gets in hell. To exist at all beings must exist through God and to that extent they are always part of God; even not wanting God they must experience God somewhat, somewhere.

If one thing is certain it is that God would not suicide over evil in the universe nor, if humanity is a total species with a soul whose intrinsic nature is to be immortal, can God annihilate some individuals while he saves others. Being what it is the human species must remain in existence somewhere. Hell therefore sounds like experiencing God negatively, experiencing the eternal God as fire eternally but not as anything else, especially not water – hence perhaps the reports of constant thirst and the unmitigated nature of the fire. The devil and hell are always going to be the precise opposite, or absence, of whatever God is. So if God is light, the devil’s realm is darkness, if God is life, hell is death, if God is love, the devil is hate, if heaven is communion, hell is solitary confinement, if heaven is peaceful and super fragrant (as the Colombian visionaries report) hell is a shrieking bedlam and stinks and so it goes.


This play of opposites perhaps explains why we are presented with reports of such extremes of bliss and torment. Hell sounds so ghastly one asks couldn’t God possibly tone it down? But perhaps not, because that would require God modify the divine qualities themselves that heaven contains and if God is fire, fire is what you will have to feel. Moreover once outside the body into the infinite it seems that the soul (or subtle body/aura/ body electric or whatever one calls it), will experience each sensation, every pleasure and pain more strongly. The point has been made by individuals with no interest in Christian heavens or hells like Rosleen Norton, Sydney ’s notorious witch, who described her alleged astral travelling outside the body to a psychologist as an experience greatly magnifying whatever we normally experience.

Numbers of contemporary hell visions supply rather standard information about who’s stuck there, information that may have come out of the last sermon or undue absorption with the vice lists of St Paul’s epistles themselves modelled on the work of moralists of his period. This is not to say that under the rules such as drunkards and thieves and seducers wouldn’t qualify to be where they are reported to be. All the same, I think careful reading of enough visions might leave one with the impression it is especially vice with attitude that insures the perdition. It’s not just what people do but what they intend and think that is involved – indeed even St Paul mentions regarding the Gentiles who know nothing of Christ that their confused thoughts may condemn or perhaps excuse them on the last day (Rom 2:13). This in turn reflects the parable of the sheep and the goats which appears to suggest there is always an implicit acceptance or refusal of Christ through attitude even in those quite ignorant of him. So, one notices it is especially those who deny, defy or challenge God or conscience in some way who are especially at risk. Again, not perhaps because God seeks vengeance upon them but because the attitude has aligned their soul more closely with the dark side that claims it for itself. I have also noticed that in the case of at least one Christian visionary otherwise completely orthodox/traditional in their approach to the subject of “last things” it is declared that “selfishness” of attitude is the royal route to hell


Finally I have this idea. Our dualistic thought patterns which separate thought and action imagine God to his discredit as sitting down and over time working out punishments for the wicked with specific vengeance for lack of belief or holiness themselves to be worked out over time. This however is wrongly to assume that within infinity God acts or functions at all in terms of our finite experience of time. Also God doesn’t so much "think" as simply act in accordance with the divine nature immediately and automatically. In short, any divine thought is like a reflex action and part of a larger whole which would mean that heaven/hell for souls would simply spring into existence as a sort of indivisible recto/verso of a single page. Accordingly God does not so much invent hell bit by cruel bit over time as that certain attitudes towards God invoke divine action and the infinite negatively. In their production they trigger the creation of hell which is the experience of God negatively. “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). One just doesn’t stand in the way of a hurricane nor does one, if one is sensible, call a hurricane :”evil” simply because it can do you harm.

God is simply not measurable by human standards - therefore neither are heaven and hell. You maybe just need to count on such incommensurables and negotiate accordingly. Someone like John Lennon who “imagined” no heaven or hell and told society so to imagine failed to do that, blocking his own spiritual development and perhaps that of others for which he must take some measure of responsibility.

May God rest John Lennon’s soul. We hope it isn’t in a bad place and we can, if we want to be generous, assume some of his most ungodly attitudes resulted from various childhood traumas that made his world seem godless. Still, we must allow the visionaries could just have seen right. The more one thinks about it, the more one has to concede Lennon could qualify under the rules for where they maintain he exists. And, practically, and my starting point was merely practical, if we want to assess visions we must start with tests for consistency. So I find an element of troubling consistency here. Meanwhile, whatever we believe or conclude, people continue to have N.D.E s which they appear to be dragged down to some hell zone that Lennon singingly advised everyone to imagine like heaven doesn’t exist.


While the following data can’t be proof against individual and incidental distortions to the visionaries’ record if the time of a vision is given and the experience was not pure invention its main themes should be present and described in the stellar pattern that oversees it. As it happens the time given by the Colombians doesn’t disappoint. It only raises further questions.

The season, let alone the day and moment, was ripe for revelations. If one follows culture historian, Richard Tarnas’s tracing of religious movements against planetary cycles (in Cosmos and Psyche, 2006) then aspects of Pluto to Uranus are explosive. In April 95, Uranus (anything to do with the Spirit) has recently entered its natural sign of surprising Aquarius at 0 degrees from where it exactly aspects a similarly strong Pluto in religion sign, Sagittarius. At the moment the vision begins, the moon has recently entered Virgo setting up tension square aspect to Pluto which could trigger the waiting aspect.

Just before Jesus appears and the journey begins the group had started to speak in tongues. Suitably, the sign of youth (we’re dealing with a youth group) and the sign of languages, Gemini, is rising at 10am.

This means the event’s ruling planet is communicating Mercury. Appropriately it is in degree perfect trine aspect to asteroid Beatles. So we shall not be surprised if one of the more memorable communications of the hell vision will concern the Beatles and negatively since Beatles also closely squares the restricting (and sometimes Satanic) Saturn.

Behind the rising Gemini in the hidden mystical twelfth house the basis of a remarkable pattern has formed that bespeaks what will happen. Asteroid Paradise, (itself conjunct Joya and the joys of Paradise will also be revealed) is exact to the degree challengingly opposite asteroid Isa (Arabic for Jesus) and making exact trine to the hell asteroid, Hella. And since the event ruling Gemini/Mercury factor is associated with two of anything this group can visit both heaven and hell. Interestingly too since the group will report a golden cross in the sky of heaven as a reminder of how and why they can enter paradise, I note that asteroid Paradise is in the same degree as the degree of Saturn at the time of Christ’s crucifixion so we’re looking at a crucifixion degree.

Jesus tells the group their experience is for the world. Mars at the time is merely two minutes of one degree off the 15 Leo world point. We are not surprised that it is Jesus and not some angel who appears and in order to take the group first to hell. The destiny angle at the time invokes the era conjunction of Christ’s own birth placing painful Saturn there and in opposition to the also painful Chiron, the wounded healer, itself often Christ associated and involved, like hell, with wounds that don’t heal. I have already noted the Paradise/Crucifixion connection.

However, clinching for the pattern and its most controversial, bone chilling feature is this. The Christ asteroid, Christa (asteroids were traditionally named in the feminine form) is closely conjunct asteroid, Lennon. It is so in the house (the eighth) that's hell associated if such a theme is in question and it's this house contains The Part of Revelation in this chart besides. This is why the company "reveal" and would believe Jesus met Lennon that day. They also believed he turned away from Lennon. Why? Because Lennon is in extremely close denial square to the Sun (21.17 Cap to 21.16 Aries) and in this pattern the sun, besides generally signifying light and life, is ruler of the 3rd of walking and talking. So Christ will refuse to talk and will walk away. By implication too forever….ominously, asteroid Semper (Lat:always/forever) makes denying square to Lennon and Sun from Cancer.

Did Jesus so refuse? No matter how one takes this vision and feels it can and should be literally believed I can’t help seeing the vision as almost an enacted parable denying the Lennon worldview “no hell beneath, above us only sky”. The Colombians fall into a hell temporarily in the centre of the earth and rise up into a heaven wherever spiritually located within or beyond the universe. The core message of the vision is surely to stop “imagining” and get real to the life of the soul which moreover is not about “all the people living for today” but rather people living for eternity.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I am not a major reader or judge of fiction and religious fiction has never usually grabbed me. Where especially Jesus is concerned I do want history and the facts so that imaginative reconstructions, though they can be helpful, are problematic for me and I inevitably disliked Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ which I couldn’t get through. If need be, in absence of facts I’ll opt for the distanced and mysterious approach of Ben Hur, the novel or film, where Jesus’ character is more suggested, a sort of miracle amid the stream of worldly events. Getting Jesus right or even credible is almost a grail for the fiction writer as it is for certain scholars of the historical Jesus quests.

In recent times I was puzzled by my mixed reactions to Anne Rice’s much praised Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt which I wanted to like (and which had an afterword about historical Jesus studies which I thought quite marvellous and worth the whole book for its insights). Then I realized it wasn’t just the style with its short sentences, influenced as it is by telling the story through the words of a very youthful Jesus, that was hard for me but something to do with implicit Catholic assumptions, the easy acceptance of apocryphal sources etc. I gave the book to a Catholic friend and was unsurprised they read it with passion and thought it excellent.

In contrast to this and published only this year we have Kittredge Cherry’s controversial Jesus in Love which is more Protestant even if some would say Protestant heretical. Due to reports of the novel that screamingly preceded its publication from sections of the religious press (basically that it was blasphemous and refers to a multi-gendered Holy Spirit, something many of us don’t believe in) I thought I might dislike the book, but taking it on its own terms I didn’t. It may seem an odd comparison but one reads it rather as one sees the film, Marie Antoinette, which mixes history and the authentic with disco, hot rock and the modern and somehow has great success holding them together. In short one is dealing with something truly post-modern.


That could however mean the book is just an aesthetic success, which I would say it was, but is it more? Especially in one way it succeeds and even possibly beats all its rivals so far. It does so by giving its Jesus, who realizes himself in his own individual way to be divine, a genuine interior life which unfolds within a rather dream sequence life that is poetic and quite compelling. (Ms Cherry is incidentally a descendant of English poet, John Donne, in whom the religious and erotic are linked as in a rather different way they are in his descendant’s fiction). Instead of looking at Jesus the reader can actually live through him somewhat. Unexpectedly the very post-modernism helps the enterprise because as a trend/theory it is allied to queer theory which dissolves boundaries and favours the multifarious. And as it happens this is a story of a queer rather than the gay inclined Jesus that readers might have expected from a former pastor of the MCC (gay) church and that some scholarly trends presently favour.

This Jesus is overwhelmingly in love with people, so in love that he can scarcely see, and keeps forgetting, gender for the pure person beyond it while he himself can feel wholly male or female. He does not so much suffer sexual temptations as tensions, (temptation is more what people have in relation to him and some readers will baulk at). The essential imbalance of feeling and energies between Jesus and others is so great he can really only give himself and be married to a Holy Spirit imagined (as in some Jewish traditions, though not in the given N.T source ) as feminine – or frequently so. Anyway the reader can get the feel of the meaning of elements within Christ’s life when historically and culturally the story is not being, nor I think aiming to be, exact. At times this Jesus and his disciples sound a bit like Californian Jesus people of the sixties and seventies or people more recent for some of their jargon, including of course terms like “gay” and “bi” and “consensual sex”. Undeniably this can be quirky but you either accept that as part of the total effect or you don’t.


It’s not possible to separate author and story in this case, nor should we try. The surprising and moving introduction sets the whole enterprise in the light of certain autobiographical considerations. Ms Cherry suffered debilitating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for years, was abandoned by many associates and had to re-think her beliefs and values including the American attachment to positive thought and a shallow compulsory optimism. Helped by a deeply devout physician with whom she had recourse to alternative therapies and medicine Cherry made a journey from a very liberal, rationalist Christianity to a more traditional, esoteric and symbol laden one where everything from demons to the blood of Christ and miracles which feature in the novel began to assume new meaning. Then too, more imaginatively or spiritually depending on one’s view, the author also felt Jesus presented himself to her in visionary ways so that she learned his story directly from him and wrote it down, at times sometimes only a sentence a day due to the weakness she was suffering. The suffering was acute and the social dismissals, including not least from publishing, all added to it. I empathize hugely with the author here having years ago come close to CFS myself and known both for myself and others enough of the ruthlessness and insensitivity of many within publishing where sensitivity should be at a premium but isn’t. The route to acceptance, even basic acknowledgement of Cherry’s work has been slow but is now assured. Translations into German and Portuguese are due.

Even though the reader may not agree with many of the opinions and/or implications of ideas presented in the narrative they will always be challenged to think. For example I do not personally believe that Jesus loved the demons he exorcized and in fact there is an anger in Jesus which “rebukes” illness and the demonic. The novel however presents a Jesus so full of love that the demons have to leave the possessed because they cannot stand in the presence of that love. It’s a thought provoking and ingenious idea like many others including on sex. Sex is always taken seriously in this novel and assessed basically from the esoteric viewpoint that the individual is soul marked by sexual encounters so that one should beware just who and what one takes on since always more than the body is involved. Again, while I don’t believe, and I don’t think the author intends us to believe, that Jesus discussed sex in the way reported with a Mary Magdalene he converted from prostitution ( which historically she is unlikely to have practiced), but there are meanings in what gets said all the same. (My greatest fear with this book is that many today who don’t know the gospels well might mistake some of these stories, like the disciple Andrew’s affair with the Magdalene, for the original record).


There is something that connects both Rice’s and Cherry’s treatment of Jesus and if it weren’t for the fact I see a similar trait emerging in Mel Gibson’s Passion film I would be tempted to say it is a woman’s treatment of the Christ theme rather as some feminist theologians contrariwise maintain our understanding of Jesus is biased towards male understanding.

What I notice is that neither author is fictionally challenged by the problem, which perhaps shouldn’t be one, of the perfection of Jesus required under Virgin Birth doctrine ( which neither authors deny though Cherry’s references to it are inevitably a bit different). Given this doctrine which makes him free of the effects of Original Sin strictly speaking one can’t have a Jesus who has ailments (headaches and nausea) or memory lapses or who, as in the Gibson film, as a child falls about so that his mother needs to catch him. Some people would protest the perfectly healthy and capable Jesus couldn’t exist or wouldn’t be truly human if he did. I disagree and among other things because I am aware that even among we normally imperfect people those born under Virgo (and I believe there are solid historical and astrological reasons to assume Jesus was born under this sign) can sometimes demonstrate unusual levels of perfection under this sign of perfection. And this can make its own fiction.

Virgo Irish short story writer, Frank O’Connor, has a marvellous story “The Saint” built around the problems of being a wonder child at school and being just so consistently perfect that the difficulty would almost seem to be how to be bad or being accepted for who one is. And here would be the substance of drama for the Christ story just as it is: acceptance and being understood in an imperfect world. And maybe too the fact that one was never ill, would increase one’s compassion and insight as a healer. However, it’s a fact that especially feminist theologians would maintain that perfection is an obsession of the abstractions of male thought and the privilege of men who could traditionally demand that women deal with the dirt and mess of life while they live above it. As said, I question this, I think it’s a superficial view and I still think the “perfect” Jesus has potential for the fiction writer even if he/she is obliged to present a lot of conflicts from outside the person rather than inside.

It’s just terribly difficult to write good Jesus fiction. It’s a quest all its own that parallels more scholarly exercises in New Testament studies but Kittredge Cherry’s work marks an important stage in its development.

You can read more about Kittredge Cherry’s work and order any of her books at