I don’t believe that once we do something negative, we are always that negative thing. That belief is a judgemental view, and it stifles people’s growth. If we are eternal and we incarnate infinite times, then we’ve all been everything good or bad already. But the goal is not to wallow in a deficient self-identity. I believe it’s to transcend and grow into the beings of pure love and wisdom we are truly meant to be, who we essentially already are.
Once we achieve that milestone of unconditional love for all beings, I think we can reach a higher heaven in the afterlife, assuming that the third heaven concept in Christianity or the infinite layers of progressively better or worse heavens and hells in the Sikh faith is true. I like the Sikh view and believe that we incarnate to explore different worlds for the valuable lessons they provide in helping us reach those higher levels, like in a video game, but where greater feelings of love, not shooting and destruction, are the objectives.
I love the rags to riches stories where an impoverished soul, maybe mentally ill or homeless or a person with an addiction, goes on to become a millionaire—or even a billionaire—or becomes highly successful in some other domain. Similarly, I love the stories where people who lived tough lives become monks, saints, reverends, or enlightened beings. And what’s even better is combining the two stories. However, the spiritual stories are the only ones that truly matter in the end unless the wealth stories evolve into using those riches for the betterment of all others (and never for harming any being in the process).
That’s the whole point of life, I think: to get from point A to point B, where point B is pure, unconditional love for all beings, and the more significant the gap from point A to B, the more triumphant the climb. That’s why I feel Reverend Howard Storm, who had a near-death experience where he went from hell to heaven, is such a triumphant, noble story. And if we all saw his stunning spiritual paintings and read his brilliant books on Jesus and the afterlife, we’d get a greater feel of the profound depth of his climb.
We don’t need to receive love to achieve that higher state of love, either. We only need to give it in greater and greater magnitudes from the heart to more and more people until everyone is the subject of our love! When we offer that great love, we feel it. We become it. That’s the most extraordinary self-love–that inner love that arises from loving everything in the world. It’s not truly a love directed to self; it’s a love directed at others that we feel within ourselves as a natural consequence of expressing it, according to the theory of author Paul Friedman. And everyone benefits from every expression of love we put out in the universe, and each act or thought of love goes on for all eternity. Truly, no act of love is ever wasted. It’s all an expression of who we essentially are and who we are meant to become: pure, blissful, unconditional love. Once we do something negative, it’s not an indicator that we are essentially bad. Instead, it’s a signal that we face a beautiful climb to that euphoric state of pure, unconditional love that we exist to realize.