So, essentially, proposes Noah Millman.
The dead approach the Garden, housed in the body of their life, their deeds made flesh, and face the angel and the sword.
And with a burning stroke, he cuts out the blemishes of their transgressions, and leaves their flesh gaping. For we are told, that none with a blemish may approach the Lord…, and none with a blemish may be offered…
But their flesh gapes, for there is no Experience in the Garden, no way for souls to heal the gashes made by holy flame.
And this, perhaps, is what the four saw there: the maimed and crippled souls stumbling in Paradise.
The tongues that gossiped, the lips that spoke falsely, the eyes that coveted — cut out.
The hands that struck in anger, the fingers that stole, the legs that ran to do evil — lopped off.
And the poor souls who huddled in the dark, who buried themselves in their caves, so fearful of evil that they hesitated to do good; pale souls who pass almost unnoticed through the byways of the Garden, they live in the poor houses that their deeds built while they lived.
One in four? There is not one in a thousand who would not die, go mad, or lose his faith, gazing on the cauterized stumps of the saved.
Millman apparently became an atheist since writing this passage which at the time he considered a “parable of repentance,” and now, only a “horror story.”
But it raises a curious question about not so much our sins and vices but even our virtues.
C.S. Lewis argued:
Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions.
Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it — made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.
The body, as it ages, becomes disgusting, but where is the guarantee that our souls become beautiful during the same process?
In reality, in battling ourselves, and the flesh, the world, and the devil, as it were, do we not become irreparably weird, freaks? Of what use to God are these twisted pathetic excuses for rational animals? Is heaven a menagerie of curious oddities, fantastic aberrations? If the key is so misshapen, the lock must be an ugly place, indeed.