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The Devil’s Interview and the Judgment

October 2, 2009
The Dream Hospice

The Dream Hospice

I had an amazing dream last night…and if I were of a mind to call it a “vision,” then all of a sudden I could say I were a prophet.

But I am not a visionary man, and I don’t necessarily view this dream as much more than entertaining philosophical candy.

This dream was different, but it concerned a familiar subject. The familiar subject: the judgment. The Afterlife. The sorting. Who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell? The distinction? It was the devil who interviews…and Christianity and Mormonism were nowhere overt to speak of.

So, about 80% of you will probably leave now because you can be sure that whatever follows must be so heretical as to have no impact on how you live your life, but for the rest of you, my dear 20% of fearless readers…I think we can learn something, even if it is just a dream.

The dream started out with a car trip. My mom, one brother, and I were driving on the highway, and went in a tunnel. Somehow, my family lost control…perhaps it was an icy or rainy road, because we hydroplaned…we got completely turned around so that we were facing the other way.

Fortunately, we didn’t seem to hit anything — or so I thought — and the only other car that came behind us stopped before hitting us…or so I thought.

But now that I look back, we probably didn’t stop in time. We probably did hit something, because our car refused to start, the other person’s car refused to start, and the tunnel was now blocked off by a misted wall. I didn’t realize it, but now I realize that we were dead and in a moment we had been translated from physical to spiritual forms into the spiritual realm — which to us, looked like a nearly exact “overlay” on the real world — except for the aforementioned wall and the wonkiness of electronic devices. We could go back from where we came (as my brother and mother tried to do — so, they actually did not factor into the dream until later), or we could go forward to the misted wall. I know…I know…the WORST thing to do is to separate — especially from your family and especially when you’re going into a misted wall…but I guess for the sake of the plot, I went toward the misted wall.

I didn’t know then, but I suspected even in my dream, that the misted wall was the veil. But the spirit world was different…it wasn’t like anything I had heard from church. And so, I guess that’s why this dream is more fascinating (even though I recognize it is just a dream…so don’t worry — I won’t try to create my own religion).

When I went through the misted wall, I found myself in a kind of rich suburb…the kind of clean, “family-friendly” environment everyone classically aspires to. But I realized throughout the dream that this suburb more mimicked the great and spacious building (in a way) than paradise or the tree of life. I never looked back, but if I had, I would have known that the misted wall was unavailable to me.

Was I in paradise or was I in spirit prison? I cannot say this place was constrained to either — it was just so different from the LDS view of the pre-judgment afterlife.

But I can say in hindsight that I would probably view this as an adjusted spirit prison. For in this clean suburban environment, down a clean cul-de-sac, was a beautiful mansion (read: spacious building)…a kind of boarding house for travellers. I went in and quickly found that I was expected, so I had a room preared. (My mother and brother, though they visited later, didn’t have a room…perhaps that is the difference between spirit prison and paradise?)

It didn’t seem like the people were overtly bad or overtly good — so I still didn’t think I was dead (in the dream). I just thought I was in a weird boarding house. But eventually, we heard rumors about the nature and purpose of the house. The boarding house was the Devil’s Hospice…and this was our eventual proving grounds.

Eventually I met Mr. Satan…or at least…a relative or part of him. Mr. Satan was very cordial, always playing with his daughter. And he told us the plan. After one year, Mr. Satan (his more judgmental twin/relative/other half) would interview and judge us to be worthy of our final staying: heaven or hell. Mr. Satan gave us slim details (although he did give a specific list…I’ll put that up later) on what we might be interviewed for, so even though the interview never came in the dream, what was interesting was how the hundreds of tenants in this great and spacious hospice tried to figure it out.

At first, I was upset and angry. I felt that there was no way I could win and remain integrated to myself. Because I believed that the interview was based on Christian precepts and that if I were not religious (even here — notice that Jesus and God are nowhere to be seen or heard from in this dream), I had no chance. I became somewhat resentful and nihilistic, and just waited for the day.

But Mr. Satan (the good, cordial one) was frequently available, and even though he always said he couldn’t tell us everything, he frequently told us more that we could think about and then realize things were different. For example, I realized eventually (something most people did not, though I tried to tell them) that based on the meager requirements we had…what Mr. Satan (the mean, judgmental one) was looking for was not orthodoxy. Not a particular religion. But rather, rightness of action and rightness of heart. Obviously, even with this Satanic, heretical context, “salvation” was not earned, but the simple act of seeking and humbling oneself was enough. I remember Mr. Satan giving a follow-up presentation — by powerpoint, no less — trying to clarify to all of us what he had originally stated. It was funny, because he was trying to keep it metaphoric and parabolic (because he couldn’t outright tell us). So, he described two groups — two groups were OBVIOUSLY metaphors for people who would go to heaven and people who would go to hell. And he described each group as having incredible, although quite unexpected, diversity. His conduit for heaven was, interestingly enough, a club people historically viewed as racially and sexually unaccepting — white, Christian, straight, male. But this “club,” though heritage remained “white-only, homophobic, anti-segregation” heritage, accepted PLENTY of the “minorities.”

I became confident after that presentation. I understood the deeper meaning, and now I could do this. I became mindful of what I did and what my attitude was. I was always uncertain that this would work, but I wasn’t in it for me. If after the interview, I failed and went to hell, that wouldn’t matter. Even as some others eventually gave in to the worst things (things to make even Mr. Satan [nice] blush), I tried to stay principled…whatever principles are.

By the time the dream was winding down, preparations were being made for the interview. My mother and brother found a way to get the car working, so they and a few others came through to me…but I didn’t even try to leave with them (firstly, because I doubt it would’ve worked…but secondly, because I wanted to resolve this). The atmosphere was changing — people combed through notecards, notebooks and resumes to prepare for the interview. Some people clung desperately to the list of bright-line rules Mr. Satan had originally given us as if that would save them…so, they were confident that they could escape hell if only they could:

  • Never look Mr. Satan (judge) in the eye. His eyes contained the depths of hell, and looking too far in them would call hell to reach too far back in you.
  • Never smile in Mr. Satan’s (judge) presence. He viewed a smile as an absolute confession of guiltiness.
  • Have the right beliefs. People believed that if they were Christian or Muslim or whatever, then they could easily sidestep the interview with a kind of “pleading of the 5th.”

Aren’t these kind of crazy, in hindsight?

One day, Mr. Satan (nice) asked for someone in the hospice to reserve three rows of parking in the nearby parking garage. How incriminating that I should say this, but since no one else would, I decided to help Mr. Satan out — he had a lot on his plate; his daughter had gotten sick. And what I realized then was that…this was obedience. But it wasn’t obedience because I felt obedience was required and expected. Rather, obedience came as a result of wanting to help and wanting to be a humble servant. The attitude preceded.

Even though I did not interview in the dream, I saw a memo in the parking garage, in Mr. Satan’s administrative office there (he had so many offices -_-)…and therein I saw files on people with his guess of how likely they were to make it to heaven. So many names had merely one line: “Not a chance in hell” or “Astronomically unlikely,” and I was disheartened…but when I saw my tab…I saw a narrative. He had written so much about me, my thought process, my agonizing and coming to peace, and at the end, although he had questions on if the judge would relate, he wrote for my chances: “Nearly certain?”

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  1. FireTag permalink

    Got to take some time to study the content here after I get back from an appointment, but I find the fact that you’re talking about a dream fascinating in itself.

    I’ve always regarded dreams as potentially meaningful, and would do so even if I were not a believer. The scientist in me asks why I should regard only the computations going on in my conscious mind as more accurate than the computations going on in my sub-conscious. In fact, I’ve often found professional problems to yield insight by “sleeping on them>”


  2. The problem with dreams is that even if they do have meaning, we have no reliable, repeatable, predictable way to tease out the meanings from them. We have no way to distinguish when our dreams have meaning and when they are shallow and immaterial. So, trying to analyze dreams can perhaps show our biases, but we are doing ourselves great disservice to think that is saying something about external reality.

    This is more the case when fantastic things occur in dreams. How can we trust our senses in this case, when we KNOW (as soon as we wake up) that what we just perceived didn’t happen due to an external world and with external constraints, but happened internally under “dream” physics.

    • FireTag permalink

      Evolution works, Andrew. (That you can check with your cerebral cortex!) Almost everything that goes on in our brains happens at a sub-conscious level. And the brain moderates all connections to external reality.

      Reproducibility is no guarantee. There are, for example, forms of string theory that are completely self-consistent, reproducible, etc., and just as applicable to the real world as our “standard mental” picture — but say we live in an infinitesmally small spacetime that is shrinking.

      At least listen to your dreams for what they may be telling you about you, and trust them enough to check them consciously about insights they MIGHT hold about the real world.

      It sounds like your dream is helping you make conscious some ideas you already have internalized about the difference between orthodoxy and, for lack of a better term, “righteousness”.

      • Oh Firetag, you’re just so much more science-optimistic than I am…

        I do not believe that evolution’s success means that all adaptions are understandable in a certain way. So, again…I have to point out that you don’t know if the subconscious’s adaptation for dreams is meaningful in and of itself or if it is a side effect of some other adaptation. For a different example, take the research that shows people are biologically inclined to believe in persisting consciousness (e.g. Afterlife). This adaptation doesn’t suggest that there is an afterlife, because we actually know that this belief is evolutionary efficiency or laziness. Because humans analyze and perceieve data in consciousness, it’s an easy shortcut to assume consciousness (because how can we use our consciousnesses to think about the termination of that tool?) So, again, you have to be careful about WHAT in external reality it is referring. Dreams could be a sorting out of things considered for a long time – a kind of defragmenting. This would not mean we are intuiting things about reality…

        Saying reproducibility is no guarantee is fair, but it does nothing to suggest that something unreliable and unreproducible should be elevated…

        I agree with applying to myself and keeping my eyes peeled for external world significance. For example, I KNOW it confirms some things about my belief (as you pointed out).

      • FireTag permalink

        I didn’t make as strong a statement as you imply. Of course, dreams about an afterlife don’t imply an afterlife must exist. I am making a more general statement about how the conscious and sub-conscious are an integrated system (well past beta testing).

        Our “senses” present us with a worldview of data that has been sub-consciously integrated to a shocking degree — subroutines within subroutines. For example, part of your vision field is obscured by tissue; the brain guesses what ought to be there and presents you with an image you didn’t actually see.

        It’s not that I’m too much of a science-optimist, Andrew. It’s that I’ve lived with a musician for more than 30 years who keeps hammering into me that logic is NOT the only way to understand truth. She often knows before I figure it out, even if she can’t tell me why she knows. It’s maddening!

      • As a musician too, I recognize there is more than logic. I’m not arguing otherwise…rather, the aesthetics of things like beauty ad music are qualitatively different than other sense data. That IS what makes them special.

        Remember, for example, that the mental guesswork done by the mind isn’t always correct. But we LIKE this inaccuracy, because it gives us the beauty of optical illusions and sleight of hand

      • FireTag permalink

        I sense a post coming from you on aesthetics and logic at some point. All I know on the subject is that physics is beautiful.

      • eventually, although first I’d have to clear up what “logic” is. Because I don’t think it is quite as expansive as what you use it to mean. So, I really think the post would to be on subjectivity and objectivity, which I have written about before, but I could probably write about it again.

        Aesthetics are distinctly subjective. Physics is beautiful to you because of your subjective experiencing of their beauty. The fact that they may not be beautiful to someone else is telling (but it is also completely 100% ok), because it shows that physics is not “objectively” beautiful and doesn’t need to be.

        On the other hand, a particular physics equation yields a certain answer no matter what, because it is objectively true. We simply discover the rules for these equations (sometimes, we discover incorrectly and have to correct…but the idea is that these rules hold constant for whatever relevant range we are using).

        Discovering the rule for an equation is different than discovering an aesthetic masterpiece. The former should hold to everything in the relevant range (so, with the same information, same constraints, both you and I should agree 2+2 = 4)…while the latter only holds to ourselves and likeminded individuals (2+2 = 4 may be perceived as beautiful to you, but I may have other subjective reactions that tells me that I don’t even “like” even numbers. This doesn’t mean even numbers are “unlikable” and “ugly” though.)

      • FireTag permalink

        Well, we may be coming full circle, because I’ve seen somewhere in the past year a paper that shows that there are deep mathematical connections between aesthetically pleasing equations and aesthetically pleasing music and art. (Marital “harmony” demanded that I notice things like that, even though I don’t think I saved the article.)

        So, subjective in this case may at least be “intra-species” general, and suggests an evolutionary connection in itself.

        A similar example may lie in the aesthetic connections of “phi”, the so-called golden ratio, which is famous in art and shows up in all sorts of natural symmetries important in biology and physics.

        Anyway, on to your newer posts.

  3. Andrew,

    Excellent post and a heck of a dream (no pun). I found you on WordPress Tag Surfer. You have a great writing style and voice. I’ll be visitng your blog again.


  4. So, what were the items Mr. Satan was judging you on, to determine whether you would go to heaven or hell? I don’t know that you made that very clear, although you did say you would list them. Just curious.

  5. The list that he gave at the original meeting (of stuff that turned out to be not important) was the things like 1) No smiling. Smiling = confession of guilt. 2) No looking @ eyes. 3) Believe in the right thing (no specific religion was mentioned as being “right,” but it seemed like Mr. Satan had to “give up” those people who had qualifying beliefs.) There were actually more things in the list, but I’ve forgotten them over the day (they were all similarly ridiculous and arbitrary, and very ‘game-able’)

    But as I found out later (and wrote about), this list was fallacious. Of course, while I thought I was on the right track (treat people correctly, cultivate proper ATTITUDES of peace and humility), I never got to the final interview. I only had a “likelihood” of “nearly certain?” (with the question mark)

  6. XD This was quite a dream, Andrew. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Sleeping in on Friday mornings is pretty awesome becayse of dreams like these.

  8. Janet Smith permalink

    Andrew, I loved your dream. I find all kinds of meaning in it. I am Chris’s mom by the way. May I print it and possibly use it in a book I’m writing?

  9. Ja…Ms. Smith:

    At this point I was thinking about using it for a novel that’s been in the works (I’ve actually had a different afterlife-centric dream…although it was a different focus, location, etc.,…but the “novel world” seems to be coming together), so while I wouldn’t be opposed if you printed this out and used it, could I ask what kind of book it would be for?

  10. george permalink

    Very fascinating!! Dad

  11. Interesting dream. It has many similarities to an important dream I had when I was 19:
    – dying, but not realizing until later that I had died (although in my dream, my dad killed me with a shotgun)
    – ending up in a great & spacious building that was very different from the version I would have constructed in my waking mind
    – a charismatic leader type (in my case a professor) who I eventually realized was Satan who was conducting scientific experiments that were interesting

    Anyway, some parallels. I had that dream at a point in my life when I was atheist. Later, partly because of my dream’s personal significance to me, I decided to give the BOM another try, and despite its obvious flaws I had a true personal BOM spiritual experience.

  12. The interesting thing is that I dream, there were a few noticeable departures from LDS expectations.

    Firstly, the great and spacious building, as well as Satan, weren’t necessarily bad. Rather, it depended on individuals (e.g., some of the individuals *in* the hospice) and actually, Satan had a sympathetic side (if not split with his more wrathful other side/alter ego/brother/whatever). So, there was a lot of instances of things not being what they would seem (e.g., great and spacious building not what it seemed…either in appearance or “impact.” Satan not being what scriptures would say, in appearance, impact, etc., Heaven not being what people would expect…the rules to getting to heaven not what people would expect etc.,)

    I have been reading through the scriptures in depth (not as a result of this dream, but since a while ago), and the thing I’m really finding is that it doesn’t resonate. Many scriptures actually seem antithetical and harmful against my experiences and well-being. Yet there still is something to learn from even this, I feel…because there are plenty of antithetical and harmful things that I must learn to work with and glean something good from them. In the process, I have to learn to filter out the bad.

  13. FireTag permalink

    Well, is this thread now open for the discussion of personally meaningful dreams?

  14. I suppose so! Especially since I have a new post for addressing what I think about the implications and applications of dreams.

  15. Interesting. Well, if we are going to discuss potentially meaningful dreams….

    I had one dream where I was going through the temple – except it wasn’t the temple. The outside looked like the temple, and many of the ordinances were similar, but it wasn’t exactly the same. I’m not remembering all of the details because this was several years ago, but I do remember that I was going through the fake temple’s “endowment ceremony,” and that I was going through with a trusted friend. It was just the two of us.

    Anyway, I had made all of the covenants, and had finally reached the point in the endowment where one would typically go to the veil, except in the dream, I was standing before the movie screen. The room was suddenly very, very dark and I was standing before the altar. I was then asked as my final covenant to profess Pres. Hinckley as my master. I was terrified. I replied, “No, no one is my master but Christ”.

    At that point, I was thrust out of the room, and my friend came and asked me, “What have you done? You can’t go through the ceremony and then not make the last covenant. You made death oaths, and you will have to be subjected to death now.” (Note that at this point in my life, I was unaware of the death oaths, which were taken out long long before I went through the temple). Anyway, I was still really scared, but told her, “So be it. I would rather that I be killed than profess allegiance to anyone but Jesus.”

    That’s basically where the dream ended. The weird thing is that this wasn’t at a point in my life of particular trial or tribulation, I didn’t question the temple in any way, and I wasn’t looking or searching for anything specific in my spiritual journey. In other words, I was a happy TBM. But, the fear and terror inspired in the dream stuck with me. Actually, I still feel scared thinking about it, and its been over 5 years since I had that dream…

  16. One other thing I want to note with the above dream is that I had always had generally positive experiences associated with the temple, so it wasn’t as though my brain was trying to “work through” my antagonistic temple feelings. I genuinely enjoyed attending the temple at that time and the endowment (although I preferred initiatories).

  17. FireTag permalink

    I had a dream last December that had the clear feel of sub-conscious analysis crystallizing and pushing me toward action.

    I found myself entering a large building on the ground floor. I did not see what was above or behind me, but the building as laid out before me was circular in floor plan, and absolutely devoid of any furniture. I had the impression of a great many people present, with a milling around and general party or crowd level noise and conversation. I had even more fleeting impressions that among the crowd were many (most?) of the people who had been important to my past spiritual and religious development (excepting my family). From that I deduced that I was at some kind of church function. Upon that awareness, in turn, I realized that the walls around the room were actually formed by the base of a spiral walkway that opened from floor level and climbed around the entire circular floor counter-clockwise. The inner side of the walkway had a standard railing to keep people from falling, but there was plenty of room between the vertical bars holding up the railing. I did not look beyond the first loop of the spiral, but simply presumed it went upward several times until it reached the building’s ceiling somewhere far above me – and so I consciously identified the building from that point in the dream with the spiral shape of the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, and perceived myself within the dream as participating in a church function in our Temple.

    I next became aware that we were all there for the “roll-out” of the Church’s program for the future as it was presented to congregational leaders from throughout the church. Since there was no furniture to sit on, we all calmly walked up the walkway and sat down side by side with our feet dangling over the rail and looking at each other across this great open circle as if this was the most natural way in the world to hold a church meeting.

    Program materials were distributed to all of us in the form of a book, with a shiny cover entitled “Something Something Peace” (I read the entire 3-word title clearly at the time, but had forgotten it by the time I woke up.)The “peace program” book I was holding in my dream was a book of supplements and fragments, but it was being presented as an entire program on which the church would build its future. Perhaps 5% of what I was looking at had any substance at all.

    With that the spell was broken, and I was suddenly aware of much more about my surroundings.

    Sitting with my legs hanging over the edge of the walkway, I had been idly kicking my heels against the wall below me. I suddenly realized that my motions were crushing that wall, and as I looked more closely across the circle, I realized that the entire wall holding up the walkway was nothing but empty cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other. There was no strength to them, and jostling any box slightly out of its place could bring them and everyone on them tumbling down. They certainly could not stand the weight of many more people on them, nor support the higher loops of the spiral I had assumed must be there.

    I looked upward and to my left (to the area above the place where I had entered the building), and indeed saw that the spiral did not continue. It dead ended, with the end also blocked off by a railing that ran diagonally from some point below the intersection of the spiral with it and continued upward beyond the wall of the temple structure opposite to me. The temple was thus revealed to me as opening into a larger structure.

    The railing separating us from the larger structure was only like the railing setting off one section of bleachers in a sports arena from the adjacent section on the same level. And, in fact, on the other side of that railing were the bleachers of an arena, much, much larger than the temple-like part of the structure I was in. There was nothing between the spiral and the arena except that railing, and nothing actually kept anyone from crossing it except social inhibition. I also realized that most of the commotion and impressions of multitudes of people present that I had gained at the beginning of the dream were coming from that arena, not the temple.

    More strange was the behavior of those in the arena. They were not seated watching some event; they were in gangs chasing each other up and down the bleachers, screaming at the tops of their lungs (a noise only muted by the very large size of the arena and the distance most of the gangs were from me). It was a scene of total chaos, and I believe the distance hid from my view violence as well as noise.

    But even stranger was the behavior of my co-religionists in the Temple part of the structure. Even those in a position to be looking directly into the chaos of the arena did not see it, just as they did not see that the walls supporting them were made of cardboard, or that the spiral did not and could not continue upward (because it was blocked by the arena), or that the railing could not restrain the gangs from coming into the temple as soon as they were finished with each other. They continued poring over the church peace program book without noticing that it had so little substance. I got the impression that many of them were intent on not noticing those things, lest it break the spell holding them as it had broken the spell holding me.

    Realizing our peril from both the gangs and the collapse of the cardboard, I reached up to grab the railing in front of me to swing myself down the few feet to the floor. I think I wanted to warn the people they had to get out now, but I may only have been intent on getting to safety myself. However, my weight on the railing began to crumple the walkway even more. Then people around the circle began to notice what I was doing and to become angry at me for the damage I was doing to the walkway.

    I had only a second to be amazed at seeing anger in their reaction instead of fear about the collapsing walkway.

    I found myself standing outside the building, with many of the church people dispersing to their cars, some of them still mocking me. I had a quick impression of standing on grey, hard-packed dirt paths or splotches of grey dirt among small hillocks and perhaps trees, when the morning alarm woke me, and I saw no more.

    I had a strong sense that church people in the building found the illusion comforting. The railing kept them from stepping through to the arena of chaos or tumbling to the floor from a high place, and I felt compassion for them, as if that was all most of them could summon themselves to do, and I should just leave them alone. But illusion of safety the walkway was, and if they didn’t move out of that illusion, it must soon give way. Their only escape was to come back down the walkway and exit the building. I didn’t feel there was much hope either for those that left the building for their cars still mocking. But I would have liked to have stayed in the dream long enough to see if hope lay among those paths and hillocks.

    Sorry for the comment length.

  18. FireTag – Very fascinating dream! As you started telling it, I immediately recognized it as the CoC temple.

    Did you regard the temple to represent your church alone, or all churches? The distinction is pretty vital to understanding the overall message.

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