The closer you get to the meaning
The sooner you'll know that you're dreaming
(from Heaven and Hell by Black Sabbath)
Let me tell you about a couple of dreams I have had. The first was when I had a bad reaction to Prozac, following the death of my parents. In one nightmare night, punctuated by frequent violent awakenings that felt like electric shocks, I dreamt I went to Hell.
I felt myself being dragged at speed by an unseen hand across a black scorched landscape towards a precipice. At the last moment I was roughly pulled back from the edge and I was shown what lay beyond. I saw, far, far down, another even darker plain, a land of infinite blackness, a land from which there could be no return. I was permitted only a few moments to take this in before being forcibly taken back the way I came. I awoke with another wrenching spasm, cold and perspiring.
The other dream was a few years ago, after my first career had hit the rocks, and my second was about to crash. It was a three-part dream. In the first part I was killed while trying to escape urban warfare. In the second, I was making contact with something that looked rather like one of a number of distant moving dots. In the final part I awoke to find myself on a bench positioned on what seemed to be a quay which curved gently out to sea, although the sea was only guessed at. When I stood up I saw that someone had been quietly waiting for me. All I could see in the middle and far distance was suffused in white light, which gave everything a misty appearance, and I realised I was in Heaven. "Ah" I said to the other, "so it's true, there really is a heaven". It's hard to describe the scene because I experienced it in ways beyond my five senses. There was an infinite peace, but not a dead silence, more a matrix of infinite possibilities. Night no longer followed day; day would last as long as I wanted it to. The peace was all around and the peace was in me.
I didn't know what to say next, so I started to thank my host, but at that point the dream dissolved.
What do I make of all this? Do I believe in Heaven and Hell? I have often pondered this question, but I still can't bring myself to believe in Hell, even having seen it with my own dreaming eyes. I think on both occasions I was shown what I needed to see. I had needed to confront the depth of my despair in order to overcome it. I had needed to be reminded that there was more to life than just my career.
My own view is that, if there is an afterlife, it will be in the place we have prepared in this life. So it won't be a shock; it will be exactly what we expected. I think the Kingdom of Heaven starts here and now, it is within touching distance as Jesus said.