In every culture, in every epoch, human beings have yearned for heaven-the kingdom of God, abode of the elect, fount of enlightment, mirror of hopes and disires. Now, in The Book of Heaven, Carol and Philip Zaleski provide the first wide- ranging anthology of writings about heaven, drawing from scriptures, myths, epics, poems, prayers, sermons, novels, hymns and spells, to illuminate a vast spectrum of beliefs about the world beyond.
In every culture, in every epoch, human beings have yearned for heaven--the kingdom of God, abode of the elect, fount of enlightenment, mirror of hopes and desires. Now, in The Book of Heaven, Carol and Philip Zaleski provide the first wide-ranging anthology of writings about heaven, drawing from scriptures, myths, epics, poems, prayers, sermons, novels, hymns and spells, to illuminate a vast spectrum of beliefs about the world beyond.
The Zaleskis present a fascinating array of ancient and modern, solemn and comic meditations, as they explore such topics as the often treacherous journey to heaven, heaven's colorful inhabitants, its topographic features, and its moral architecture. The emphasis is on great literature, with substantial excerpts taken from classic works such as The Iliad, St. Augustine's Confessions, The Prose Edda, The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, and The Pilgrim's Progress; from sacred texts such as the Bible, the Upanishads, the Qu'ran, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Bhagavata Purana; and from diverse writers such as Plato, Cicero, Thomas Traherne, Henry Fielding, Emanuel Swedenborg, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Hans Christian Andersen, William James, G. K. Chesterton, C. G. Jung, Rupert Brooke, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Selections highlight both the diversity and the universality of reflection on heaven: the sacred chants of the Buddhist Pure Land sutras reverberate alongside John Donne's holy sonnets, and Shaker songs complement Jewish mystical hymns.
From the words of Sioux holy man Black Elk, to a sermon by Jonathan Edwards, to humorous musings by Mark Twain and fantastical passages from The Chronicles of Narnia, this rich anthology will deepen our understanding of the myriad ways in which human beings have envisioned heaven.
Carol Zaleski is Professor of Religion at Smith College. She is the author of Otherworld Journeys and The Life of the World to Come (both OUP). Philip Zaleski is Lecturer in Religion at Smith College and Senior Editor of Parabola. He is the author of The Recollected Heart and Gifts of the Spirit, and editor of the annual Best Spiritual Writing series. They live in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Professors of religion at Smith College and authors of long experience, the
Zaleskis have assembled a beautiful anthology reflecting an extraordinary
diversity of opinion on the reality and experience of the blessed state of the
afterlife, from the Bible to Pygmy hymns. The delights are perhaps the
unexpected testimonies--e.g., Robert Hare's "Experimental Investigations of the
Spirit Manifestations" and an extract from one of Julian Barnes's novels.
Highly recommended; essential for most collections. Copyright 2000 Cahners
Carol Zaleski, a professor of religion at Smith College, and husband Philip,
editor of Harper San Francisco's Best Spiritual Writing series, have compiled a
remarkable collection of writings about heaven. Heaven, the Zaleskis tell us,
has belonged to theologians and priests; the Bible, ancient Greco-Roman myths
and other sacred texts all tell the faithful something about what happens after
death. But artists and literati have shaped our picture of heaven no less than
the clergy, with Botticelli, Donne and others painting pictures and writing
poems about the pearly gates. Nor is heaven just a Western fixation--Hindus,
Confucians and Buddhists have also written, painted and sung about the
afterlife. The editors draw on all these traditions, taking the reader from the
opening of Dante's Paradise to Carl Jung's description of a near-death
experience, from Cardinal Newman's discussion of the Virgin Mary's ascension
into heaven to the Sutra of the Land of Bliss. Readers who find the likes of
Newman too serious will enjoy Mark Twain's mocking Extract from Captain
Stormfield's Visit to Heaven. If those selections are somewhat predictable,
other readings are less familiar. Among the Zaleskis' more unusual finds is an
excerpt from the chemist Robert Hare's 1858 book Experimental Investigation of
the Spirit Manifestations, Demonstrating the Existence of Spirits and Their
Communion with Mortals, in which Hare, assisted by a medium, summoned the
spirits of George and Martha Washington and Henry Clay; the spirits then gave
Hare an insider's view of the heavens. Regardless of how readers envision the
hereafter, they are sure to enjoy this delightful collection in the here and
now. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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