A Parable

Once a man returned from the dead and began to tell his friends what had befallen him.

“I rose from my body,” he said, “and I was grateful to be free finally of the suffering of life. I could see you all standing over my body, stricken with what seemed to be grief, but I felt nothing but gratitude.

“I did not move. I did not go towards a light. There did not seem to be a light. On the contrary, as I hovered in the room, everything seemed to fade away. I cannot say how long it took, whether it were a long time or short, but eventually the room was gone and I found myself in a vast darkness that was nonetheless bathed in light.

“I felt no fear. There were with me countless others, suspended in the great void. There may have been a sound of singing, or music of some kind. I cannot tell now. I do not remember silence.

“All were moving towards what appeared to be a boundary of some kind. As we moved, I began to see what transpired as the souls reached that line.

“Some began to rise, slowly at first, but then more and more rapidly, to a great city that shone above us, from which a great light streamed and into which those souls entered. Others upon reaching the boundary gave a tremor and before our eyes seemed to unwind like great sheets of fabric twisted after washing in the river, their bodies changing in an instant into great swaths of gossamer, which then dissipated into the void and vanished with a whisper.

“Still I did not fear, but slowly approached the line and awaited my fate: the beautiful city, or nothingness?”

The man’s friends broke in excitedly. “Clearly we see your fate! You were elected to the city, to the beautiful city, for if you had suffered dissolution you would not now be here.”

The man replied, “It is as you say. I am in the beautiful city, I and all the other elect, where we live for ever.”

His friends rejoiced. “Praise be to those who made us and taught us to worship correctly! We see now the right path to eternal bliss. If we follow the teachings of our prophets and the writings of our scribes, we too shall join you in heaven after we die!”

But the man cried out, “No, my brothers, do not rejoice for me, for I am in hell.”

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