Who has not found the Heaven--below

by Emily Dickinson


Original Language English

Who has not found the Heaven--below--
Will fail it above--
For Angels rent the House next ours,
Wherever we remove--

-- from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Edited by Jane Hirshfield

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

These four lines by that reclusive American mystic, Emily Dickinson, proclaim a deep truth:

Who has not found the Heaven--below--
Will fail it above--

This statement keeps getting mystics in trouble with orthodox religious authorities throughout the centuries. It is the assertion that heaven is not found somewhere 'out there' -- not in the future, not after death, not (only) in celestial realms. Heaven is here, now, within us and surrounding us always! And -- the most dangerous part of this insight -- if we don't discover it here "below," it won't be found elsewhere "above."

A statement like this shatters the religious waiting game, waiting for death, waiting for the Second Coming (or for the Maitreya Buddha, or for a better rebirth, or whatever...) If the presence of Christ/Buddha-mind/fana'/liberation is not found right here, the passive expectation of That coming upon us elsewhere "will fail."

Another way of saying this is that, as we discover heaven below, we find ourselves already dwelling in heaven above. But, on the other hand, if we continue to deny heaven below, we'll fail at discovering how to enter heaven above.

Dickinson says, "For Angels rent the House next ours, / Wherever we remove--" No matter where we go, the Divine Presence is right there with us. We just have to knock on the neighboring reality and introduce ourselves...



Recommended Books: Emily Dickinson

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, and Adrienne Rich Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
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Who has not found