This essay assumes:
a) God exists
b) God loves
Why are we here? By that question, I mean, “Why do we exist in the physical realm we are familiar with?” If we hold the assumptions above (commonly attributed by all with Near Death Experiences of a “Heavenly” nature), then why don’t we just exist in that Heavenly realm? If God really loves us, why do we end up here on Earth where making contact with God often seems impossible? Why don’t we just while away the eons in Heaven where all answers are available as soon as we ask the question, and all things are possible? As described by those who claim to have experienced it, that realm is richer and more intense in every possible way than this one. Why then are we exiled to a hard scrabble life on this planet?
If God really loves us, the decision to put us here cannot be arbitrary. So what is it about the physical realm that matters? And why does it matter? While I can’t claim to know everything, I do have a few ideas that I present in this essay.
First, whatever it is that matters must be something different from Heaven. If it were the same, there would be no reason for us to be elsewhere than Heaven. If that is the case, then an examination of differences should yield clues.
There are, at least, the following differences:
1) We as humans are much more limited than spiritual beings in Heaven.
All references to Heaven that I’m aware of describe spiritual beings in Heaven as powerful. Spiritual beings are able to learn by simply asking the question - answers are revealed instantaneously. Spiritual beings are able to truly experience each other - to live the sequence of experiences of another as though they were that being. Spiritual beings can move effortlessly or instantaneously from place to place.
On Earth, we humans experience powerlessness in many forms. We work hard to learn. We struggle to connect with others on any meaningful level. We live with the frustration and indignity of things big and small - from the horrid of war and rape to the mundate of traffic jams or worse - spending our precious hours doing many things less than fulfilling from just trying to survive to trying to get from place to place.
2) The physical realm is not overwhelmed by the Presence of God like Heaven is.
Descriptions of Heaven typically say that all experiences there are vastly more intense in every possible sense. Every part of Heaven radiates the presence of God.
So why would these differences matter? The key is to look at their effect.
There are at least 2 significant effects of living with limitations - we must think hard and work hard if we are to get around those limitations. This forces us to be creative - something that living with constant abundance does not require. While those who have abundance can be creative, they aren’t required to be. Creativity that comes from inspiration can be incidental, temperamental, unreliable. Creativity that comes from a lifetime of learning how to adapt to the world around you - and adapt it to you - is consistent and much more thorough. You really only get this kind of creativity when you’re motivated by survival. I seriously doubt you could get this from a being without that drive.
In addition to creativity, the hard work results in a different kind of satisfaction. As my son Zachary pointed out to me when we discussed this, while we all can enjoy that which we create on a whim, there is a deeper satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a goal - seeing the result of our blood, sweat and tears is more long lasting than the buzz we get when we see the result of a whimsical creation.
These two results
a) consistent, deeper creativity and
b) deeper, longer satisfaction at our efforts
do not appear to be something that can be achieved without the pressure of living with limitations.
What about the Presence of God? Surely that would be beneficial to us all … so why would we be removed from it?
Again, what is the effect? Without the overwhelming Presence of God we are forced to make our own decisions. We are forced to solve our own problems. We are forced to grow up.
“Growing up” when surrounded by the Presence of God is problematic. God’s presence is inherently overwhelming. Were we to live in it constantly, it would be very easy to end up with learned helplessness. After all, compared to God, we are nothing.
Maturation requires becoming independent. Failure to achieve independence is one of the core problems that keep our psychologists and psychiatrists employed. Constant overwhelming exposure to the Presence of God would make this impossible. It is only after we mature that we can find an appropriate balance between our selves and God. God, like any good parent, must push us away in order to teach us to crawl, walk, and then run.
I believe God chooses to start that process at the beginning by placing us in a physical world where the Presence is toned down enough to allow us to grow.
There may be other reasons for this physical realm, but these 3 outcomes (creativity, satisfaction, maturation) are enough to justify its existence.