Hell and Heaven according to Blessed John Henry Newman

"…Supposing a man of unholy life were suffered to enter heaven, he would not be happy there…We are apt to deceive ourselves, and to consider heaven a place like this earth…For heaven, it is plain from Scripture, is not a place where many different and discordant pursuits can be carried on at once, as is the case in this world. Here every man can do his own pleasure, but there he must do God’s pleasure. It would be presumption to attempt to determine the employments of that eternal life which good men are to pass in God’s presence, or to deny that that state which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived, may comprise an infinite variety of pursuits and occupations. Still so far we are distinctly told, that that future life will be spent in God’s presence, in a sense which does not apply to our present life; so that it may be best described as an endless and uninterrupted worship of the Eternal Father, Son, and Spirit…Heaven then is not like this world…We see, then, that holiness, or inward separation from the world, is necessary to our admission into heaven, because heaven is not heaven, is not a place of happiness except to the holy. There are bodily indispositions which affect the taste, so that the sweetest flavours become ungrateful to the palate; and indispositions which impair the sight, tinging the fair face of nature with some sickly hue. In like manner, there is a moral malady which disorders the inward sight and taste; and no man labouring under it is in a condition to enjoy what Scripture calls "the fulness of joy in God’s presence, and pleasures at His right hand for evermore.

Nay, I will venture to say more than this;—it is fearful, but it is right to say it;—that if we wished to imagine a punishment for an unholy, reprobate soul, we perhaps could not fancy a greater than to summon it to heaven. Heaven would be hell to an irreligious man. We know how unhappy we are apt to feel at present, when alone in the midst of strangers, or of men of different tastes and habits from ourselves. How miserable, for example, would it be to have to live in a foreign land, among a people whose faces we never saw before, and whose language we could not learn. And this is but a faint illustration of the loneliness of a man of earthly dispositions and tastes, thrust into the society of saints and angels. How forlorn would he wander through the courts of heaven! He would find no one like himself; he would see in every direction the marks of God’s holiness, and these would make him shudder. He would feel himself always in His presence. He could no longer turn his thoughts another way, as he does now, when conscience reproaches him. He would know that the Eternal Eye was ever upon him; and that Eye of holiness, which is joy and life to holy creatures, would seem to him an Eye of wrath and punishment. God cannot change His nature. Holy He must ever be. But while He is holy, no unholy soul can be happy in heaven. Fire does not inflame iron, but it inflames straw. It would cease to be fire if it did not. And so heaven itself would be fire to those, who would fain escape across the great gulf from the torments of hell. The finger of Lazarus would but increase their thirst. The very “heaven that is over their head” will be “brass” to them…"

- Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1845 (1801 – 1890)

Father Daley said that the above was one of his favorite presentations on heaven and hell. “Newman has this idea, which is very fascinating, that heaven and hell are in the same place, that we all come to be in the presence of God, but for the person who has lived in faith, coming into the presence of God is tremendously fulfilling and happy. And for the one who lived for self, power, and material things, it’s hell.”

As Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, heaven and hell may be the same place. For those who love only themselves, heaven (being in the presence of God and others) is hell. For those who love God in others, heaven is already known. We cannot choose the time in which we live, but we must choose between heaven and hell in this life.

—David Carlson, Peace Be With You: Monastic Wisdom for a Terror-Filled World

This suggests that Hell is not the absence of God. The presence of God is Heaven. Now if you go unholy to the presence of the Holy One, that will be Hell and it will be necessary and it will be one’s own fault.

What are your thoughts?

These are the definitions – from JPII – that I prefer in terms of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell, but I don’t think that Newman’s interpretations are necessarily incompatible, considering that the state of our eternal life is a complete mystery, and we can only muse.

Newman’s interpretation is relatively metaphorical, too – I don’t think he means it literally, completely – and it is rather incompatible with visions and descriptions from our mystics.

Pax Christi!

Thank you Safia

An excellent reply

I also know of Blessed John Paul II’s statements

I believe that what Newman refers to as “loneliness” is what John Paul refers to as “separation” and I don’t think that they are incompatible.

“…The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy…[It is] a condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life…The thought of hell — and even less the improper use of biblical images — must not create anxiety or despair…”

  • Blessed Pope John Paul II (General Audience, July 28, 1999)

I don’t think that John Paul II ever said that hell was the “absence of God”. But hell is separation from God in heart and soul even if one is still in God’s Presence; for the mind and soul are far from Him, if that makes sense.

There has been debate throughout Church history as too whether hell is a “place” or a “state” with various high profile figures falling down on either camp. Saint Augustine took it for granted that hell was a “place”, somewhere down in the depths of the earth. This is of course ludricrous. Jesus never described hell as being under the earth, and many disagreed with Augustine at the time, although some still regarded hell as a “place” - somewhere, out there although not under the ground. The consensus seemed to be then that hell was a ‘place’ outside space and time

The whole issue was though, if heaven and hell are outside time and space, which are merely created things, then how could hell be a “a place”? You cannot have places in the placeless infinity of eternity, nor is there ‘time’; heaven and hell both exist in the eternal ’
NOW’, in a timeless, placelessness. To this end Pope Saint Pius X (1835 – 1914) in his Catechism of 1908, firmly taught that hell was a “state”. He makes no mention of it even possibly being a place in this important Catechism. Following on from this, theologians such as Hans Von Balthasar and subsequent popes such as Blessed Pope John Paul II, have agreed with Pope St Pius in that hell is a “state”. I also support this affirmation.

St Pius X wrote in his 1908 Catechism:

“Hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned…”

Similarly, Pope Benedict XVI has taught that heaven is not a place:

“…Heaven is not a place and cannot be found on a map; rather it is where God’s will is done…”

- Pope Benedict XVI

The idea that hell is a state, has corroboration in the Bible.

Jesus taught that, “The Kingdom of God is within you”. Now some dispute this nowadays and interpret it to mean, “amongst” or “in your midst” however the consensus of the Early Church Fathers (who could read and understand Koine Greek and are closer to it us than us moderns) understood Jesus as meaning within, a reading which is corroborated by the Peshitta and other ancient Syriac translations of the NT. I believe that the Catholic scholar Ilaria Ramelli, of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, has definetly settled this issue and conclusively proven from ancient sources that Jesus clearly meant “within” and not “among” or “in your midst”. You can read this here:


Now if we know that heaven is a state of “mind and soul” within us, at this moment in time, right here and now, and which after our death extends into infinity, determining whether we experience oneness with God or a state of perpetual suffering and regret, then it figures that hell must be too - and scripture seems to confirm it, as does the First Secret of Fatima.

“…By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade, you profaned your sanctuaries. So [size=]I brought out fire from within you; it consumed you[/size]…you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever…”

- Ezekiel 18:18

“I am a god…” said the wicked King of Tye, exalting Himself above his fellow human beings and the Lord.

Significantly, it was fire from within the king of Tyre himself that devoured him. There is no judicial God condemning Him to a place called Hell; rather by his own sins he is damning himself into the state of hell, from which, now that he has died, he will never be realeased from. This is the way it is with the vast majority of sinful men; it is the fires of ambition, pride, and lust from within themselves which eventually issues forth in their destruction.

Hell is thus a state of mind and soul which people can and are most likely are falling into in the here and now. There is hope - for the living. Through Christ’s love, we can be realeased from this mental hell we have created for ourselves. However, if we die without repentence, then we are beyond hope - we are in the state of hell for all eternity outside time and space.

The Vision of Hell which constititutes the First Secret of Fatima confirms this understanding:

"…[size=]Plunged in this fire[/size], we saw the demons and the souls [of damned humans]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke…"

YESSS! Just as in the Ezekiel passage above, the fire of hell comes from within the souls of the damned themselves. Hell is thus not a place but a state, which one places oneself in.


And yet I also agree with the Easterners. In heart and mind, the damned have eternally separated themselves from God. And yet in hell, they are still in his Presence. This is because God is being Itself. All other beings only have being in so much as they participate in his being. Without him, nothing can exist. Only through Him, can anything have being. And so the damned cannot be existentially separate from God, although in mind they are far from Him. Again, it is on our end that hell is created. In my humble understanding, Hell is an invasion of God’s love into a soul that does not want that love, a soul that has separated itself from that love. Its an eternity spent by a God loving the soul and the soul being far from God in mind.

This is confirmed by the same Ezekiel passage, although slightly earlier on in the narrative. Again describing the wicked King of Tyre, who was consumed by the fires within his own soul, the prophet writes:

"…I set thee, [so that] thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire


  • Ezekiel 28:14,16

In the earlier symbols of the presence of God found in Ezekiel, the appearance of the Lord’s feet as though heated to a glorying brightness in a furnace, the lightnings, etc. fit this mention of the stones of fire. The Lord is also, “fire” indeed he is a “consuming fire” according to the Book of Hebrews in the NT.

And we must remember the words of Psalm 139:

“…Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there…”

We can never flee from the presence of God. For the Book of Sirach tells us that, “God is the All”.

“…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love…”

  • 1 John 4:18

Hell is not a “place”. There is no spatial place in time and space were dwell “damned people”. That is a figment of cultural myth and popular folklore rather than of dedicated theology. Hell is considered by Catholicism to be a “state of being”, a mental and spiritual state. It can occur both in this temporal life and in the afterlife for eternity.

“…We must see that hell is not an object that is ‘full’ or ‘empty’ of human individuals, but a possibility that is not ‘created’ by God but in any case by the free individuals who choose it…”

- Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), Catholic theologian

One could think of the medeival Church art based upon Dante’s “Inferno” with its terrifying depiction of the various spheres of hell.

However, none of this is derived from the Bible or even Sacred Tradition.

Its popular folklore, although prevailing in the cultural imagimnation and very deep-set.

Rather its based upon two sources: the apochryphal “Apocalypse of Peter” from the third century AD and the depictions of hell in the Qur’an, which was translated into Latin near the beginning of the Second Millenium.

The Bible speaks seldom of “hell” compared with the Qur’an - in which it is mentioned nearly on every page - and when it does so, like with heaven, it is never spoken of in the literalistic manner of the Islamic hell (a real, literal place of torture wherew people drink poisonous water, have their skin burned off and various other horrors).

Much of the understanding of “hell” is not biblical but seems to be part of the cultural imagination of the Western world.

*(continued…) *

“…But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous…”

  • Jesus Christ (Gospel of Matthew 5:44-48)

*God makes his sun rise on evil and good without partiality and with equal love and care? And furthermore this selfless, impartial, open-ended, universally applicable love is the justification for the need of Christians to love their enemies? I ask, is this the kind of God who would send his children to a “place” of eternal torment? *

I say no. We create hell. Its a state of mind and soul we fall into in this life, many without being aware of it. If we don’t repent, then we may find ourselves trapped in this state for all eternity after we die, and we come into the Presence of God and see how horrible and evil we truly are, how unworthy, and how far we strayed. As someone once said, it will be like a person emerging from a pitch black cave after 20 years into the full light of day: he will be blinded and cower in fear, trying to shield his eyes, whilst those who have lived in the light for those 20 years will rejoice in and suck in the warmth of the very same light. In the same way, the damned will experience God’s presence and love as an agony, their souls being wounded by darkness, while the glorified will experience it as pure joy and bliss.

“Hell” is not a state in which the person is deprived of God’s love. When we die, we are all engulfed by the same flame of Divine Love. It is the state of our soul that will determine how we experience that flame.

This was explained by Saint Isaac the Syrian:

“…Those tormented in hell are tormented by the invasion of love. What is there more bitter and violent than the pains of love? Those who feel they have sinned against love bear in themselves a damnation much heavier than the most dreaded punishments. The suffering with which sinning against love afflicts the heart is more keenly felt than any other torment. It is absurd to assume that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is offered impartially. But by its very power it acts in two ways. It torments sinners, as happens here on earth when we are tormented by the presence of a friend to whom we have been unfaithful. And it gives joy to those who have been faithful…”

  • Saint Isaac the Syrian (died 700 AD)

Hell is not something that God “does” to a person. Jesus told us that heaven is “within us” and so naturally hell is too. Rather hell is a state of mind into which a person wilfully chooses to become immersed in. God’s love offers that person a release from the agony of trying to separate Himself from the love of God. If reject God’s grace in this life, we may never be free of hell.

God is not a dictator. The person must freely choose to embrace the love of God.

Hell is a self-willed desire to be separate from God. It is the result of a deliberate, clear-sighted rejection of our Creator by those who choose to live for themselves in “splendid” isolation. There is great pleasure and satisfaction in being absolute master of oneself and having total independence - and yet there is a terrible consequence. To worship oneself is lunacy because the self is never satisfied with itself. In St. Augustine’s words “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

And so this obsession with Self, this idol-worship of oneself to the detriment of others, forgetting that humanity is one and made in the Image of the One God and that we all rise and fall as a unity, has the inevitable consequence of being unsatisfactory. We can never be satisfied wholly with ourself, because this is of course an illusion. No human being is sufficient unto Himself. He lives for others, he lives to move beyond Himself, to deny Himself and become one with God in the unity of the human family.

And so this state of mind, this egoism and exaltation of oneself, this neglect of God and of other people, ultimately leads to dissatisfaction, to “restlessness” because man never be at rest or at peace so long as he does not find Himself - his true self - in God. When we find God and become one with Him, when we allow his Divine Light to envelope our whole being and rise again to our true, original nature and source in the divine - then we find peace. This is heaven - theosis - complete oneness with God.

As Pope Pius XII explained in 1939: “In the light of this unity of all mankind, which exists in law and in fact, individuals do not feel themselves isolated units, like grains of sand, but united by the very force of their nature and by their internal destiny, into an organic, harmonious mutual relationship which varies with the changing of times”.

And so man is not satisfied with Himself and the attempt to separate and deprive Himself of the love of God. There is no satisfaction in this. He will be restless and unsatisfied because the only satisfaction and rest that can be found is in God.

Hell and Heaven are not different places nor places at all. People will not be sent one way and others another. There is no time or space in the infinite, eternal, unfamothable emptiness of God. Hell and Heaven are both experiences of the same single reality: God. It is one’s state of mind/soul which determines how one experiences God’s love in the afterlife, as a hell or a heaven, just as in this life.

I also believe that when the damned come into the Presence of God, they will see their true Image and self in him, for they are made in his Image, and they will realize how far from their true “selves” they have gone, how dark they have become, how fractured and broken.

Much love :thumbsup:

What troubles me about these descriptions of hell (i.e. Newmans or C.S.Lewis) who paint a portrait of hell being a state of mind in a place of internal torment perhaps, as opposed to fire and brimstone, is that it is not the same as other visions of hell that are fire and brimstone.

Assumimg a hell must exist, of course, we would prefer the hell to be the hell as described by Newman and Lewis over the fire and brimstone hell as described by (for example) the seers of Fatima and Sister Faustina. But they are counter to one another. It doesn’t seem it can be both. Augustin also paints a picture of a fire and brimstone or lake of fire image of hell.

I wonder why a doctrine seeming so important, is left so terribly vague to us.

Ahhh but look at my posts above dear brother/sister and you will see that Fatima agrees with Newman and John Paul - THE FLAMES OF HELL COME FROM WITHIN ACCORDING TO THE THIRD SECRET AND THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL!

Check above for this quote and read my surrounding commentary:

“…Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of damned humans]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke…”

- First Secret of Fatima

Thus Fatima if properly understood, with its metaphorical language not being taken out of context just like the Bible as John Paul II warned, does not lend its support to literal “fire and brimstone”.


Thank you Vouthon, I see much wisdom in what you have written here.

Of course there are still many questions that remain. For example, I understand (to an extent) the concept of heaven being a state as opposed to a place. And this state, we helped put ourselves in, or perhaps better stated, we chose for ourselves.

However this may leave the impression that one is alone in this state of mind. Much like a dream. Perhaps a good dream, but still, a dream. It would seem we would require time and space to commune. If I am to enjoy another’s company, we have to co-exist in both time and space, to shake one anothers hand or to give a hug or to tip a glass. Does this theory on heaven and hell support this? I welcome your comment.

By the way, I also see puratory in this concept of heaven and hell.

A person may in fact be in a state of grace when he dies. However he may still be deeply regretful of his past sin and may still be struggling with sin. he may want to love his neighbor but struggles with this in reality. This renders him unable to “enjoy” (for lackof a better word) his state. For this he needs help, or purging of his residual troubles.

howz that for weekend theologian? :o

honestly, i hope that cardinal neuman is wrong. if heaven were truly a place where you would only do God’s will and you wouldnt be allowed to pursue your own desires and passions, then that would essentially be slavery. i would ratrher go to limbo than relinquish my freedom.
another thing is that theres a good chance that heaven will be on this earth. in the book of revelation it says that jesus will come down and he will reign here. think about it, this earth could be heaven right now if it werent for disease, poverty, and death. God originally designed this place to be our dwelling. besides, in the bible it does refer to heaven and hell as being separate places. so its not purely subjective. since cardinal neuman forgot the other essential things that are required for happiness. such as health, power, glory and freedom. those in heaven will have all these things, but those in hell will not. so heaven and hell cant be purely states of being.

“**Thy Will **be done on earth as it is in heaven” - Jesus

Thy Will be done not mine” - Jesus


what i meant to say, is that simply doing God’s will cannot be all there is to heaven. since a person suffering with horrible cancer can also do God’s will, but he is still not happy. if heaven is truly a place of eternal joy, then it is to be expected that people in heaven will have other pleasures too. this is why people in hell and people in heaven cannot be in the same place. in heaven there is no sickness, no poverty, no death. it is a place of indescribable beauty (yes, physical beauty too since we will have our bodies, there will also be physical matter in heaven) but hell on the other hand is described as eternal death, torment, misery, etc. therefore its impossible that the damned and the saved will be able to coexist without one’s state affecting the other.
i for one would be very dissapointed if i would arrive in heaven to find that all people do is sing hallelujahs.

Hmm…I feel that you are confusing the New Heaves and Earth after the Last Judgement with the purely spiritual state after our death…that aside…

“…All for you and nothing for me…”

- Saint John of the Cross

Heaven is simply the Presence of God; the joy of Heaven is the Beatific Vision, seeing God face to face; and the only pleasure of Heaven is the supreme pleasure of Theosis complete Oneness with God.

Heaven is not a place - its the Presence of God.

All I want is God, my Divine Beloved and Saviour, not a “place of indescribable beauty”, which I can get any time I want simply by driving down to my local country park and watching the sunset while reclining under the trees and listening to the river run :stuck_out_tongue:

God is the reward in Heaven. We all come from Him, and we all go to Him again. He Himself is the joy we all seek. He Himself is all pleasure, joy, health, beauty etc.

The only joy I seek is the joy of being wrapped in the loving embrace of the Holy Trinity as one Body in Christ along with the Virgin Mary and the Communion of Saints.

'Simply doing God’s will", is all or more than what I could ever hope for. IF I could simply be the Lord’s dishwasher, or gardener or chaffeur, that would satisfy me. I know that in addition to whatever duties, I am assigned, there will be plenty of time for me to pursue whatever else I may want to do.

Being able to live eternally with the Lord is enough in itself. I find no need to be independant or self serving. I trust that God will satisfy whatever desires I may have in way of leisure or work. For some strange reason some folks think Heaven will be a dull or boring place, where everyone just sings and prays all day long.

I’m sure some of that will be available too, but only if that is what you want. I suspect you will be able to hear whatever type of music or enterainment that makes you happy. I doubt anyone will be greatly disappointed in Heaven, and IF they are, there is an alternative place to go !! :eek::eek:

Hell is still going to be hell no matter if it is a state or a place. It is always described as ugly as ugly gets. Whether it is a mystic description, or a thologic description, or a humanitarian description, hell is hell, and that’s a good enough description anywhy it is put. I’m a hell of a believer.

It seems that the best way we and others are kept from it is thru prayer and especially the prayer of the Mass which the Father would accept since it is his only beloved Son’s offering of Himself for us.

Just a thought.

So if Hell is just a state and not a place, what happens at the Ressurection? I mean we get a new Heaven and a New Earth. We get glorified or cursed bodies. So whwre do the ressurected damned go? If we are walking around Heaven and find the damned?

“Oh, look Steve. You see that corpse looking thing huddled in a corner writhing in emotional pain? That’s my brother, Al. Al is a damned person”

It just doenst seem to fit. I mean yes, the evidence is there. Hell is a state I do believe. But stil, where do the damned go at the Ressurection?

I have my own peculiar theory on that one.

Christ painted a picture of the rich man appealing to Abraham from Hell for deliverance. Abraham pointed out there was a huge barrier preventing passage from either side.

So there is some sort of state that is hell, and it apparently can be seen in some way by the blessed.

At least until the final judgment. When Christ used the above parable it was obvious he was talking about pre-judgement times, as the rich man still had some living brothers who hadn’t even died yet.

My own theory uses the black hole as the example. Anything that gets sucked in just vanishes to all intents and purposes and is squeezed down to a pin head or less.

I think at the end of time, or when the final judgment is announced, Hell will disappear into a spiritual black hole. Otherwise the blessed would forever be reminded of the terrible fate of the damned. Within this vanished Hell, complete with it’s lake of fire, will be the devil and his crew, along with the damned.

Yet from the point of view of heaven, they’ll be out of sight and out of mind.

That’s my peculiar take on it - not a very pleasant one - a bit terrifying actually - but then all the images given of Hell so far are unpleasant anyway, whether we refer to Christ Himself, or the Marian image given at Fatima, or that of various saints who claim to have seen Hell in visions etc.

“…Heaven is untouched by time and place. Corporeal things have no place there, and whoever is able to read the scriptures aright is well aware that heaven contains no place. Nor is it in time…Nothing hinders the soul from knowing God as time and place. Time and place are fractions, and God is one…Whatever I know to be God’s will - the longer, the better, and the greater the pain, the greater the joy. For to do God’s will is heaven, so the longer the will lasts, the longer the heaven, and the greater the pain from God’s will, the greater the blessedness…”

***- Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), Catholic mystic, theologian and Dominican priest ***

“…Incorporeal things [ie spirits] are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us…”

- Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), Summa Theologiae, Supplement, Q69, a1, reply 1, Doctor of the Catholic Church

“…We speak of hell, of purgatory, and of heaven…God is in all things and all things are in God…Hell is nothing but a state. Whatever is anyone’s state of being [here on earth] remains their being for all eternity, if they are found in this state [when they die]…The people who adhere to their creatureliness must remain in that mode of being which is called hell. In the same manner the ones who do not let anything else but God reside in their being retain their being as it is. God becomes their being…One says of Judgement Day that God will preside over it. One also says that he will give judgement. That is true. But it is not the way people envision it. Every human being judges himself; as he appears there in his being, so will he remain. Now many people say that the body will rise with the soul. That is true. But it is not the way people understand it…The being of the body joins the being of the soul which then becomes one being…You should know that their misery lasts eternally…Yet the people who stand in the divine presence remain untouched. When their souls separate from the bodies they remain in the being of the divine presence to the extent to which they have known and loved God. After Judgement Day the being of the body and the being of the soul become one being in the divine presence…[Of Mary whose body went to heaven with her soul, it says:] God let happen [to her] what should happen [to her] on Judgement Day. He did it out of fitting love…Thus, with divine help the soul’s being took with it the being of the body and was elevated…the being of the body which would have followed the soul on Judgement Day…”

- The Sister Catherine Treatise (written 1300s AD), Catholic mystic [of Eckhart School]

There is a clear, coherent thread of Catholic doctrine running throughout all of this and it is quite clear to me that heaven and hell are eternal states of being and not places :slight_smile:

Reflect on this from the Sister Catherine treatise of the 1300s:

“…Nothing can be in God but God. There is neither mouth, nor nose, nor hand, nor foot, nor any created parts that belong to the body…God let happen [to Mary] what should happen [to her] on Judgement Day. He did it out of fitting love…Thus, with divine help the soul’s being took with it the being of the body and was elevated…The body which should have died on earth was carried away in the air [that is]…the being of the body which would have followed the soul on Judgement Day…”

Jesus’ Body and Blood are fully present in the Eucharist - and yet he doesn’t appear to us there with eyes, a nose, hands, feet etc. because glorified bodies although real bodies are not bound by physical limitations. So although they are capable of having noses, eyes, ears and visible body parts defined by physical limitations within time-space - they don’t have to if they don’t want too.

Now reflect on this in view of this sublime and excellent post by JReduction on another thread and you will understand how the Resurrection of the Body is understood in the context of heaven and hell viewed as eternal states of being and not places:

By literal, do you mean a place?

It’s not a place, because it exists outside of space and time. You can’t have a physical place where there is no physical space.

But there is a hell. It’s eternal darkness, due to the absence of God through man’s own choice. That’s creepy enough for me.

To the best of my knowledge, no Christian tradition has ever said that hell is a place like NYC or London, where there is physical space and time. That’s why it’s eternal, because there is no time. There is only the present. There is no hope for a better tomorrow or opportunity to regret what we did yesterday. Tomorrow and yesterday do not exist outside of space and time.

If you’re in hell, you only exist in the present darkness and suffering.

If you’re in heaven, you only exist in the present light of the beatific vision.

Until Bl. John Paul and now Pope Benedict XVI no pope had ever taught that heaven, purgatory or hell were physical places. The point was never truly addressed by the Holy See, though it was written about by many theologians and spiritual writers. Popes have spoken about the three, but no one has attempted to explain it until now. To quote John Henry Newman, this is how doctrine develops. You begin with the seed, but inside the seed, there is a tree that will be fully visible with the passage of time. There is nothing new when you see the oak years later. It was always there, inside the seed.

When the pope, using the ordinary magisterium states that these are states not places, these require an assent of faith. The ordinary magisterium is the authoritative voice of the Church.

We know that there there is no time in heaven, because we know that God lives in an eternal present. All things are seen to him. There are many references to this in the Torah and in the Psalms. “A thousand years are but a day in your presence.” For this reason God can see what has been, what is and what will be. They are all present to him and to those who share eternity with him. The term eternity itself implies no time. If there were time, there would have to be a beginning. Time is measured from a starting point. We know that there is not beginning to God’s existence.

As to the physical states of Jesus and Mary in heaven, we must remember the Church’s teaching. They exist in their glorified bodies. These bodies do not need physical space. They can pass through walls, appear and disappear at will, change their appearance. Yet, they can eat, as did Jesus after the resurrection. But they need not eat. They do not experience hunger. We’re not talking about bodies like our own. The glorified body is just that, glorified. It is free of all limitations allowing it to exist without the need for a physical place or even a physical appearance.

Look at the different apparitions of Our Lady. It’s truly her body, yet she looks different in each apparition. Our Lady of Guadalupe looks nothing like Our Lady of Fatima. Our Lady of Fatima is European looking, dressed in white. Our Lady of Guadalupe is an Aztec Princess, dressed in Aztec clothing. It would be silly to believe that she has a change of wardrobe or that she uses makeup to change her appearance. The logical conclusion is that her body does not have the limitations that our bodies still have.

Look at Jesus on the way to Emaus. The disciples did not recognize him. It was truly his physical body. Mary Magdala did not recognized him when she met him in the garden. It’s a body that has an ability to change its appearance or even disguise it without the use of any physical aids such as wardrobe or makeup. Why? Because it has been liberated from the physical world. It exists outside of the space and time. It never grows old, because there is no time and it can live outside of physical space, because it does not need it.

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