Brian Cleeve 2001
It seems strange, even perverse, to call our physical, tangible world the “Image World”, while the spirit world is to be known as the “Real World”. Surely it should be the other way round? But our world lies between the two extremes, of Heaven and Hell. The Real World is Hell, with its many levels and dimensions, and it is Real because evil makes it so.
In our world idealists are frequently told to see the world as it really is, with its miseries, wars, famines, diseases, cruelties. In other words to see those aspects of our world that belong to Hell, that are ruled by evil. But the idealist sees our world as an image, or containing images of Heaven; our world’s beauty, that evil is fast destroying with man’s greed as evil’s instrument.
That destruction is also an image, the image of the victory of evil over good, darkness over light. Evil has an image in its collective mind of that tremendous victory, the defeat of God, the triumph of darkness. An image of all Creation becoming “Real”; even the stars, the galaxies dying, vanishing into ever growing black holes that swallow light. And our world becoming a desert, in which nothing lives, frozen beneath a dead and darkened sun.
This “war of evil against God” takes place within us, as well as in the external universe. Within each of us there are the two worlds, the idealistic image, and the “reality” of evil. If we are ever indiscreet enough to give voice to idealism, someone will be sure to tell us to recognise that reality and to accept that it is reality; that this world is an evil place, always has been and always will be.
Beauty is a childish dream that we should discard as we grow up. Reality is cruelty, not kindness; lust, not love. Man is a brutal animal born to eat or be eaten in the jungle of real life. There is no after life, no loving God. If there is a God, he is a monster of cruelty. Look at the Holocaust, at the suffering of children, the greed of international business.
This reality has always existed, although it has been argued that our time is even worse than previous times. But the image also exists and it is far greater, far more significant than the evil reality. Good is always greater than evil, as light is always greater then darkness. Our world, that aspect of it that is free of evil, is an image. Of God. Of Beauty. Of Goodness. Of Life and Light.
Each of us who strives to see and grasp such an image may have a different one in our mind’s eye, just as a dozen chefs will have a dozen different visions of the perfect banquet. But what we are all seeking to visualise and understand is Heaven. There will of course be those who in their idea of Heaven, despise and reject earthly beauty in favour of absolute abstraction, removed from every trace of physical perfection.
They may be right. There may be no flowers in Heaven, no sunsets, no trees, no mountain valleys, no golden sands fringing “wine dark seas”. No equivalent of the beauty of a kitten, the charm of a puppy, the grace of a young woman dancing, the sound of a perfect voice singing in praise of God. God may be invisible, unknowable. It may be childish to expect or hope otherwise.
But whatever your idea of Heaven, the beauty of this world must surely provide the image from which your idea grows. God made this world, and however far evil has succeeded in destroying its beauty, that beauty must be an image of God and for that reason, it is right to call it the Image World.
Does that image exist elsewhere, beyond this world? A world of perfect beauty, the true Heaven? Or an ante-chamber to Heaven? Surely that at least, an ante-chamber of pure joy, before the saint goes deeper into the Infinite Beauty of God.