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.