I have been to a few mountainous places over the years, some flat, broad highland plateaux, some conic, some bare and whistling, some forested, some wildly vertiginous and some volcanic; they fascinate me. Mountain men know how the view from the top looks different every morning, and how her winds, whether stroking, whispering or howling – seem to speak of her mood that day.
And yet mountains, just as they fascinate, can also terrify, worse, they can deceive. The Greeks were convinced that their gods resided at the summit of their own Mount Olympus, and the Japanese thought the same thing about Mount Fuji, and the biblical Arameans thought of the Kingdom of Israel that “their god is a god of the mountains” (I Kings 20:23).
But God does not reside in the mountains, any more than he has a home in the desert, or the stars. For millennia, men looked upwards, believing that the stars were small imperfections in the firmament, through which the glory of ‘heaven’ shone.
I do not know ‘where’ heaven is, because I don’t know ‘what’ it is. A friend is writing a book about heaven. Were I to write the same book, my perceptions or imaginings would be more abstract and mathematical than his. Were the ancients to picture the place where God is, they would have seen him in terms perhaps of the unfathomable power of the elements, in lightning, driving rain, the terror of earthquake or volcano.
I have often held – lightly – the dangerously heretical, almost Gnostic worldview that as a species we have yet to discover the essence of being and interacting which, like growing dawn, overcomes the twilight of ignorance and slowly, delicately introduces us to a higher, purer thought. Perhaps God is Thought as Heaven is the Expression of Thought, complete, precise and finished. John saw a ‘sea of glass, clear as crystal’ a metaphor for full proof, not conjecture.
Perhaps we spend our entire lives like moles, reaching for – even accidentally finding – the strands of light which speak to us, illuminating the next few steps toward Heaven.
The image is of K2, the most dangerous peak on the planet. I flew over it once in a light aircraft.