Heaven & Hell

“Once a wise and holy old hermit was favored, for his piousness, with the visit of an angel who said it was sent to offer him a boon. The man thought and replied, “I have tried my life to know my Creator through his Creation. I hope that I have been worthy of going to Heaven, but fear as a sinner I merit only Hell. It bothers me that either way, I shall know one but not the other, and my knowledge of Creation will be forever incomplete. I would like to see both Heaven and Hell before I die, so that I will know the fullness of Creation.”

Very well, said the angel, who in a rush of winds seized the hermit up and transported him through the air.

The hermit found himself in a fine hall filled with people seated at a banquet. The hall was hung with the finest tapestries; the silver candlesticks held the finest candles. The people were dressed in clothes of silk, brocaded and jeweled, wearing gold jewelry and gems. They sat in carved chairs, seated at a great table with a feast set for them beyond imagining, with every delicious thing to eat or drink heaped before them. But their eyes were hollow and their hands gaunt, and they wept and moaned. The hermit looked more closely and saw that amidst their fine clothes, bands of iron held them in their chairs, and manacles of iron were on their wrists. And as he watched, he saw an astonishing thing: when any one reached for a morsel or a chalice, it could be grasped, but the moment it was brought to one’s lips, the chains to the manacles abruptly shortened, slamming their hands to the table, yanking their relief from their lips. All the host sat in utmost luxury before the great feast, and starved.

This, said the angel, is Hell.

The angel again seized him and bore him through the air. Again he found himself in a fine hall. It might have been a twin for the first: the tapestries and candelsticks, the fine clothes and gems, the magnificent banquet. But here, the rafters rang with laughter and song. Their eyes sparkled in flushed cheeks. The hermit looked more closely and saw, to his surprise, the same iron bands about their bodies, and on their wrists the same iron manacles. And as he watched, their hands reached out to the feast, pouring wine into chalices, spearing meat on their knifes, and grasping handfuls of bread and fruits, and they all turned to their neighbors, and raised the morsels each to their neighbor’s lips.

This, said the angel, is Heaven.

-siderea, “The Difference Between Heaven and Hell.” siderea.dreamwidth.org. August 13, 2021.

This version give me medieval vibes. The version I first heard was the Chinese version, i.e., hell is where there is only 6 foot chopsticks and no one can feed themselves; and heaven is where there is only 6 foot chopsticks and everyone feeds one another. Not as flowery (or Christian), but preferred.