We are what our actions are, because acts are the expression of inward states, the manifestation of character. Every man acts in accordance with his nature at the time being, and every act of a man expresses some portion of his character. I refer, of course, to the real acts of a man as prompted by his motives, and not to outward appearances as they are seen and judged by others. Behind every action there is an impelling motive which is an integral portion of the man's being, and which constitutes the very substance of the action; all the effects, therefore, of a man's actions are bound up in himself and constitute experience. Suffering and sorrow, happiness and bliss are experiences resulting from acts, sometimes purely mental acts, and both the present and future of every being are determined by its actions.
People commonly speak of "going to Heaven" in the future, and this is true, for every being will "go to Heaven" (reach the state of wisdom and felicity) at last, in the progress of the ages, but it will be reached only by the pathway of right actions, and not by theological beliefs. The good man, he who has transmuted the selfish elements of his nature into unalloyed and unalterable kindness and compassion, has already "gone to Heaven" whilst living in the body and on this earth. Living only in pure thoughts and acts, he lives in unbroken bliss. To be heavenly-minded, to think heavenly thoughts, and do heavenly actions, this it is to be in Heaven.
Men are shut out from Heaven, not by the Earth on which they live, not by the body in which they dwell, and not by "the limitations of matter," but by the dark desires which they foster, by the contracted thoughts to which they cling, and by the self-imposed limitations of their own actions.
Heaven is not "beyond" either in time or space, it is "beyond" only in the sense that it is beyond the region of selfish action. It is not actually in the future, but is so to the majority because the conditions which guard the knowledge of it are not complied with. It is like a beautiful temple set in the midst of the people, which can only be entered by those who will undertake to do certain difficult tasks; and these tasks being, by the majority, indefinitely postponed, they look forward to entering the temple at some future time, and by some easier way. And in some future time they will enter, but not by some easier way, for, for every man the day will at last come, however long it may be postponed, when he will have to cast off all his delusions, and come back to the cleansing of his heart, to the thinking of holy thoughts, and the doing of pure and righteous actions, for no other conditions than these can admit to Heaven.
Nor can it be possible for any man, when he leaves his present body, to go to any place which is not in accordance with his nature. The man of gross and selfish desires could not live in a pure and ethereal atmosphere. He will still find himself where his grossness can thrive and be gratified, where his nature can manifest itself in action; for every man's future, as his present, is determined by what he is and does.
Man cannot flee from himself; he cannot escape his actions with the totality of their results, but he can alter those actions, and so produce better, and ever better, results. Present actions are the seeds of future woe and bliss, and as a man continues to live, so will be his future. Every present modification of his thoughts and actions, modifies his future, and he who is persistent in kindness,
And greed and wrath.
will, in the measure that he succeeds, realize the golden future toward which the whole race looks, for the Future is embodied in the Now, and we are already in Eternity; and wherever we are, or wheresoever we may go, there will be our Heaven or hell; and whatsoever deeds we do, there where we do them shall we reap our unrest or our repose.
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.