An Interfaith Approach to Reclaiming the Divine World

by Rev. John C. Robinson, Ph.D., D.Min.

December 2008

Rev. Dr. John Robinson

Interfaith research on the existence and nature of “Heaven on Earth” has been my passion for over a decade. Why? Because I have seen the Divine World since childhood and never understood how formal religion could ignore this infinitely precious, constantly flowing, everyday miracle.

Part of our culture’s collective blindness arises from the still-persisting “Sin and Redemption” model of western religion, which made pantheism both a dirty word and a heretical theology. Yet as I dug deeper, I discovered something far more amazing: the mystics from every religion and era speak of “Heaven on Earth”, calling it the Garden of Eden, the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land, the Garden of Shiva, and countless other names. For them, it was as obvious as sunrise.

So it is time for us and our troubled world to finally declare, witness and celebrate what the mystics have known for millennia: Heaven is already here, when you are awake enough to see it—and seeing it changes everything.

What do the mystics say about Heaven on Earth? Consider this interfaith chorus of answers, selected from over 100 references in Finding Heaven Here (o-books, 1/09):

Jesus, Christianity’s founder, said, “The father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth and people do not see it…What you look for has come, but you do not know it.”

Ramana Maharshi, the famous Hindu sage, elaborated, “This is the Kingdom of Heaven. The realized being sees this as the Kingdom of Heaven whereas the others see it as ‘this world.’

Thich Nhat Hanh, the beloved Buddhist monk, says, “You don’t have to die in order to enter the Kingdom of God. It is better to do it now when you are fully alive. In fact, you can do it only when you are fully alive.” Elsewhere he confides, “There is not one day when I do not walk in the kingdom of God.”

Rabbi Faitel Levin, in his book Heaven on Earth, tells us, “The ‘ultimate communion with G-d’ takes place here…in relating to G-d as found in the physical itself – This world is not an antechamber: it is the palace itself.”

Listen to the wisdom of Rumi, the great Sufi mystic poet: “Wherever the rainbow of your face alights / Be it the dank gorge of a well, it’s paradise. With your presence in hell a heaven is discerned / The rigour of prison to a lover’s garden is turned.”

From Li Po, the Chinese Taoist poet:“If you were to ask me why I dwell among green mountains, I should laugh silently; my soul is serene. The peach blossom follows the moving water; There is another heaven and earth beyond the world of men.”

Finally, Native American Chief Seattle describes it this way:“Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every clearing and wood, is holy in the memory and experience of my people.”

In short, Heaven on Earth is everywhere the mystics dwell.

Why don’t we see Heaven on Earth? Describing the mind’s effect on perception, Buddha taught us, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”

When one examines the collective thought world that is generated in our culture (the “biggest cult of all”), the cause of our blindness becomes readily apparent: we see only what we think. It happens that what we think is polluted with invidious comparisons, rigid patriarchal beliefs, and the toxic mix of fear, hatred, and greed.

The world we construct with our thoughts and superimpose on the Divine World is certainly not Heaven on Earth! As a mystic intent on transcending the terrible cost of humankind’s confusing and destructive thought processes, my mantra for the past decade has simply been, “Who you think you are is what separates you from God, and where you think you are is what separates you from Heaven on Earth.” It’s that simple: Stop thinking, wake up, come into the Presence, and discover who and where you really are!

In my forthcoming book, Finding Heaven Here, I present a model of the religious psyche explaining where Heaven on Earth is, why we fail to see it, and how we can. If there is a single message I would wish to convey from this work, it can be found in this verse from the first song I wrote, two years ago:

“This is it. This is the Garden.
We’ve been here all the time.
It is we who make it ugly.
It is we who make it shine, make it shine.
Let it shine.”