Heaven and Immortality

heaven and immortalityThe idea of heaven is bound up with that of eternal life. Descriptions of many heavens make a special point of mentioning immortality, whether of the gods or of human souls. In the Norse Asgard, for example, the gods guard a precious treasure—the golden apples of immortality.

The apples of eternal life also grow on the Celtic island of Avalon, a name that means “apple isle.” In Penglai, one of the 108 different heavens in the Chinese Taoist tradition, the Dew of Eternal Life flows through streams and fountains, offering immortality to anyone who drinks it—but only insects, birds, and the gods can ever reach Penglai.

Islamic View. Building on earlier Jewish and Christian traditions, Islamic mythology also envisioned a multilayered paradise. Heaven was a pyramid, cone, or mountain rising from the lowest level to the highest. Some interpretations include eight levels, some seven. The phrase “seventh heaven,” meaning the highest happiness, comes from this image. The Muslim heavens are garden paradises of shade trees, flowing streams, and abundant pleasure. The various levels are associated with precious substances such as gold, silver, and pearls, but the highest level is made of pure, divine light and is devoted to the ceaseless, joyous praise of God.

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