In Heaven As On Earth: A Vision Of The Afterlife, by M. Scott Peck
This is clearly a book of fiction, literary fiction of the sort that seeks to present the author’s own viewpoints as reality through a story where the plot of is far less importance than the conveyance of the author’s worldview on the subject. As such, it does not make for the most enjoyable of fiction, but the author has enough humorous details that it makes for a compelling read even for those whose vision of the afterlife is far different from that of the reader. Indeed, I even feel a bit bad for the author in having to engage in that notorious lie that writers of fiction often engage in that claims that the characters in this book are not intended to resemble anyone in real life. That claim is bogus, as the protagonist of the story is very much meant to resemble the author himself, as such a figure is necessary in any work which seeks to be a vehicle for the author’s own ideas and concepts and speculations as this one is. If the protagonist of the novel is not identical to that of the author, and he is not, he is at least as similar to the author as either of the Philip Roths in Roth’s Operation Shylock, neither of whom is identical to the author, sadly.
In this story of about 200 pages of large print, we find ourselves in the company of Daniel, a stand-in for the author who dies as an old man of cancer who finds himself in a green room. Somewhat impatient with the fact that the greeters he has cannot answer his questions, he wanders about the hospital ward where he comes to in heaven, finds himself talking to a person who died who is upset that she is still fat and undesirable and bored, meets an inhabitant of hell who lives in a trash can, and seeks to uncover some of the mysteries of his new existence. He finds that his living children are doing alright and that he can leave them be, meets his wife, who predeceased him and who is part of a council that helps souls enter physical life, and finds himself talking to higher ranked angels, finding new tasks to engage in, and being tempted by Satan through his sexual urges. Finally, the book ends with him engaged in one of heaven’s innumerable committees on cultural change, content with having the sort of work that would help make life better as well as the afterlife.
It goes without saying that my own vision of the Kingdom of God is very distinct from that of the author’s. When we write about the afterlife we reveal far more about ourselves than we do about the things that we write about, not least because the Bible is not full of a lot of details on the matter and we as living people are not very well equipped to do more than speculate on areas where we have no expertise or experience. The result here is not a bad book by any means. The author focuses on the need to accept reality, to deal gracefully with the process of moral reformation, and to get along with others given the higher degree of intimacy that spirit beings have over physical ones. These are worthwhile achievements. The author at least has a vivid imagination of the afterlife that if doctrinally defective is at least mildly amusing at parts, and makes for a pleasant way to spend an hour or so of reading. If this is not a definitive book on the subject, there are many worse ways to spend time than in Peck’s charming view of the afterlife.