In my vacations, as I tried winding down, leaving all the complexities of student life behind before it was time to get stuck in the loop again, watching the series Lucifer, I entered a new realm of realizations I did not see coming.
The series is widely popular because of its unique mix of genres including crime, drama, and fantasy with elements of comedy, romance, and supernatural themes.
And while Tom Ellis ate, what I really felt gripping was how the writers touched upon self-actualization, the concept of heaven and hell, and the power of manifesting.
If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t worry, I won’t be giving you (m)any spoilers.
In Season 5 of the show, it was revealed that Lucifer, the fallen angel, perceived himself as evil for raising a rebellion and acquired a devil face all on his own before he even became one. We also see that in Season 3, Lucifer reveals his true identity to his love interest, Chloe Decker, and also saves the life of his mother, the Goddess of all creation, which leads him to accept and forgive himself. This is why he loses his devil face and gets his angel wings back. The fallen angel rises again.
What the writers tried to convey was the power of self-actualization which, in the most basic sense, refers to the power of a soul to manifest one’s self-perception into reality.
The concept was originally introduced by Kurt Goldstein, a physician specializing in neuroanatomy and psychiatry in the early half of the 20th century but it was popularised by the American psychologist Abraham H. Maslow.
According to him, it refers to the complete realization of one’s potential and finds the top position in his hierarchy of needs. He argued that, to be truly happy, painters need to paint, writers need to write and musicians need to play.
According to the show, in humans, self-actualization manifests itself by determining where a human being spends his or her afterlife. Humans inevitably make sinful decisions that bring them guilt and that guilt makes them send themselves down to hell for the punishment they subconsciously believe they deserve.
But is there really a heaven and a hell?
If yes, then where do they exist?
Who decides who goes to which?
Is it God?
If yes, then is free will a myth?
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is not something lying ‘above the earth’ or coming ‘after death.’ It does not have a yesterday or a day after tomorrow, and it will not arrive in a ‘thousand years.’ It is an experience of the heart. It is everywhere, and it is nowhere. Thus, I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth and do not
believe those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes.”
In other words, what Nietzsche was saying is that the ideal and potential that heaven represents is not something that is located in some particular afterlife place but within the human heart and is meant to be manifested in the here and now on earth.
The essence lies in acknowledging the reality and existence of heaven as a potentiality, with its core residing within each individual. Heaven represents the paradise of Eden—a realm characterized by peace, harmony, a sense of belonging, well-being, and prosperity, where hostility and suffering cease to exist. It is a potentiality that we possess the capacity to bring into actuality.
Let’s understand this with the help of Carl Rogers concept of self. He divided the self into two distinct classifications: the ideal self and the real self. The ideal self represents the person we aspire to become, while the real self embodies our actual identity. Rogers emphasized the importance of attaining harmony between these two aspects. When our perceptions of our real self, align closely with our ideal self, a state of congruence is achieved. In essence, congruence denotes an accurate and harmonious self-concept, where our internal thoughts about who we are align with our desired self. This helps us operate with kindness, love, and compassion.
However, we must keep in mind the cautionary aspect of this notion which is that hell, too, exists as a potentiality. When we are unable to find congruence between our ideal self and true self and commit ‘sins’, we stray from the path to heaven. The ability to generate anguish, suffering, and torment, synonymous with hell, also resides within us. This capacity for creating hellish conditions has been witnessed throughout history as evidenced by Adam and Eve, in their discovery, and persists even today. Till the time we do not self-actualize, we live in pain and suffering no different from hell.
In other words, heaven and hell are not ready-made places you go to but a reality that you and I create and produce depending on our actions and choices. We do not go to heaven, we make it within our minds, and till the time we don’t, we live in hellish conditions.
But how do we create it?
What role does religion play?
Has God already decided our fate or is there free will for you and I to decide which one we manifest for ourselves?
Here, I shall restrict myself from delving into the whole free will versus fate debate that surrounds us. However, what we need to understand is that God is indeed the creator of the universe but he is not going to swoop down to Earth to help us make decisions about our lives. There is no divine intervention. God has already gifted us a conscience. She has given us the capability of consciously guiding our life in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling to us. We alone are responsible for our life. But, to shield ourselves from the scary realization that our life depends on our actions alone and nothing else, we place faith in the notion that God has a plan for all of us and it is our only fate.
In the series Lucifer, in an episode called ‘Once upon a type’ it was portrayed that Ella, the Forensic Scientist, is dealt a different hand at life. She becomes a black-market mechanic and car thief; however, she is still geeky and being an inherently good person, helps solve a murder. What this essentially conveys is that we will make the same choices no matter what circumstances we are in because our conscience is what guides us in life. It helps us in every choice that we make in our personal life, in our interactions with others, what we care about, what matters to us and the beliefs, views, and mindsets that govern our lives. These decisions are what create either Hell or Heaven in our minds while God sits back and watches over us.
Our conscience is God-gifted and comes naturally. It is not a social construct.
Till the time we do not realize that, we will never get in touch with our true selves.
People put faith in religion and align their actions according to the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ established by it. This simplifies decision-making for them and provides them a respite from the realities of life.
Mikhail Bakunin said-“People go to church for the same reasons they go to a tavern: to stupefy themselves, to forget their misery, to imagine themselves, for a few minutes anyway, free and happy.”
But for this respite, there is a cost that we pay.
Abraham Maslow’s concept of hierarchy of needs uses a triangle to explain the levels of fundamental needs of human beings. At the base of the hierarchy are the physiological needs, which include basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, and sleep. These needs must be met for survival. Moving up the pyramid, the next level consists of safety and security needs. Maslow next identified the needs of love, belonging, and stable self-respect and self-esteem. The highest level of the hierarchy is self-actualization needs. This refers to the need for personal growth, self-fulfilment, realizing one’s full potential, and meaningful engagement with a reality greater than oneself.
To fulfil these fundamental needs, individuals must possess a strong sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-dependence. However, religion often undermines these qualities. Throughout history, religions have discouraged independent thinking, discouraged questioning, and undermined people’s capacity to guide their own lives. Religion weakens individuals’ connection with themselves, replacing it with a reliance on a belief system and the institutions that represent it. Seeking other people’s approval has the same effect.
The essence here is that the closer we move to meeting societal expectations, the further we stray from getting in touch with our true selves.
All our life, we strive to somehow live longer. To cease all pain and suffering. To transcend to heaven.
But do we even want it?
In the series Lucifer, we see Marcus Pierce who is actually Cain, the World’s first murderer condemned to walk the Earth for all eternity, do everything in his power to lift the curse of immortality so that he is finally able to enjoy life.
Ludwig Feuerbach, in a series of lectures on religion, said the following,
“Man has many wishes that he does not really wish to fulfil, and it would be a misunderstanding to suppose the contrary. He wants them to remain wishes, they have value only in his imagination; their fulfilment would be a bitter disappointment to him. Such a desire is the desire for eternal life. If it were fulfilled, man would become thoroughly sick of living eternally, and yearn for death. In the end, we weary of everything, even of life; a time comes when Man desires death.”
But why don’t we wish to go there?
Because all our desires are based on the Earth. This is why.
It’s not because it’s not accessible to us. It’s accessible, provided our desires are not related to the earth. But in the grand scheme of things, people want to get married, fall in love, have children and everything here. How then, can we go?
This article has been written by Samika Verma (3rd Year).