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Escape from Heaven cover

Escape from Heaven
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 6

“Hi, I’m God,” said God, extending his hand to me.

I didn’t faint, though I think I had every right to. I was also completely tongue-tied for the first time I could remember.

I could see Sophia and Estella enjoying my predicament, but they managed to contain themselves.

“Uh, pleased to meet you,” I managed to croak, my radio voice gone for the moment. I managed to stay on my feet, took his hand, and shook it.

“Make yourself comfortable,” God said. “Mi casa es su casa. I had my angels bring you here a little early so we could chat a bit privately before my wife and son join us for breakfast.”

“You’re … married?” I asked.

God nodded. “I had the Hebrews start their calendar on my wedding day so I’d never forget an anniversary.”

God noticed the expression on my face. “What?” he said.

“Uh, aside from the idea that God has a human body and a wife, I’m just a bit thrown off by the idea that you need a calendar to remember anything,” I said. “I didn’t know you could forget.”

God opened a bottle of juice and poured it over two glasses of ice, handing me one. “It’s the same nectar Jesus gave you that you liked so much,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said, taking the glass.

“You’re welcome,” God said. He motioned me to a recliner facing an outside view of the city, and sat down in one right next to it, leaning back and putting his feet up. “You’re right. I can’t really forget anything,” he said. “But I can get so focused on a project that I might need a reminder to widen my perspective again. You were married. You remember how that annoyed your wife.” God took a sip of his drink and put the glass down on the armrest of his chair. “Ask your burning question,” he said.

“Since you’re God, who am I?”

“Who, indeed?” said God. “Yesterday, while sitting in a restaurant on earth, you remembered that you are God and experienced godlike powers of cognition. Just now you learned that you look and sound exactly like God, too. You’ve dreamt of living here. Two of my best angels have been treating you like you’re God. Yet, you haven’t felt much like God since you drowned—in fact you’re quite frightened. The only continuity of identity you have is Duj Pepperman. You’re self-conscious about all your ungodly imperfections. You feel powerless. You take notice that I live here in this magnificent palace at the center of Heaven and you don’t. Does that about sum up the paradox of your question?”

“Oh, yes,” I said. “Can I add the observation that, like me, you also have a fondness for long monologues?”

God grinned. “And, you have my chutzpah,” he said, sipping his nectar again. “What I’m about to tell you is unrecorded in any earthly scripture. You can find clues in the Christian gospels, many more in Gnostic texts, but any religious scholar on earth, clerical or lay, would regard a clear statement of the purpose for your very existence as the foulest heresy, the sort of blasphemy they still execute people over, in some quarters. This had to be kept secret from everybody on earth, including you.”

I didn’t say anything. God was right. I was now too frightened to talk.

“You’re my back-up copy, Duj,” God said. “Heaven is about to fall into civil war and I cloned you in case I’m captured by the enemy.”
I hope nectar doesn’t stain. I dropped my glass on the carpet.


The human drama starts with the words, “In the beginning,” but the first thing you have to understand about God is that he always was, he is now, and he always will be. When Moses asked God for his name, God identified himself as, “I Am that Will Be”—which is about as close as God could come to describing the unconditional fact of his existence to a brilliant but pre-scientific revolutionary.

From the cradle of philosophy in ancient Athens to modern rationalist thinkers such as Ayn Rand, the axiom that “existence exists” is the starting point for all philosophical examination. Yet, many secular philosophers thought the existence of God impossible because their logic told them that God couldn’t come into existence out of nothingness and any consciousness that arose out of existing nature would be subject to natural laws like we are and therefore neither unconditional nor godlike.

What they failed to consider is that existence itself is conscious: self-aware, contemplative, volitional. The words “existence” and “God” are two words identifying the same axiomatic fact. Existence itself is the body and mind of God.

For unfathomable eons, God’s experience of himself was whole and contented. He enjoyed thickening and thinning his body into distinct universes, blowing bubbles that exploded into universes bound by time and space, creating galaxies, stars and planets, watching them do their cosmic dances, then either dissipate back into his body or crunch back together for another explosion and a new dance.

Then God had a philosophical thought, a “what if” speculation, a fantasy, if you prefer. It was a thought that was to change everything, including God’s own experience of himself.

“What if,” God thought, “I could want something I couldn’t have?”

It was an intriguing idea. Since everything that existed was part of God’s body and obeyed his every command, how could anything fail to yield to his will? It was like the classic child’s question, could God make a mountain so big that he couldn’t move it?

Many times had God composed universes the way we would think of a musical composer writing a symphony. God found pleasure in the dialectic of tension and release, dissonance resolving into consonance. There was always a small thrill as God felt a universe crunching to maximum tension, then exploding. God wondered what the thrill of release would be like if there could be an even more intense build up of tension, one he couldn’t launch at will.

The new thought was exquisite in the variety of possibilities it raised.

God contemplated the new thought for what even he considered a long time. After contemplating a lot of different possibilities, and even creating and destroying a number of different universes as experiments to verify his thinking, God decided that the only thing that could possibly create the sort of dynamic he was looking for, the only thing that could build up a tension great enough for the sort of thrill he was seeking, would be to split off part of himself into a separate consciousness, independent of himself, a separate consciousness that could say to him, “No.”

With the possibility of the first “no” would also be created the possibility of the first “yes.”

Thus did the Lord trade his omnipotence, his omniscience, and his omnipresence for the possibility of finding love.

All that followed—the creation of other conscious spirits, the creation of life, the creation of angels and of men, and the even more fabulous opportunity that God offered himself, that he could merge his consciousness into one of his own lesser bodies and live for a time among his own creatures—was an adventure for God. He had given himself the gift of love, but with it came the gift of grief.
Never did God regret his decision. Not for an instant, he told me.


Start with Helen of Troy’s beauty but add in Goldie Hawn’s smile. Go next with the body of Rita Hayworth. Mix well with Kathleen Turner’s voice, Ayn Rand’s intellect, and Audrey Hepburn’s charm. Season lightly with the sass of Sandra Bullock or Jenna Elfman and this might come close to adequately describing my first impression of God’s wife, Maryse.

Breakfast was at a round table in the family room. The table floated without any pedestals to bump knees into and the chairs floated automatically to the right height and distance. Around the table were the holy Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son, Maryse the Holy Spirit … and me.

Food service seemed to be via teleportation or some technology unfamiliar to me; either that or God was just creating a smorgasbord off the cuff. Being distracted by the company and the conversation, I don’t remember everything I was eating, but I do remember portions of a gingerbread frittata, smoked salmon blintzes with Cointreau sauce, and some fresh fruit that looked like a mango but had the texture and taste of crème brulet.

It wasn’t my plan to become the center of conversation, but Maryse had other plans. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the name ‘Duj’ before,” she said. “How did you end up being called that?”

I smiled wryly. “It’s my own fault,” I explained. “My first job out of college was on a small AM station in Riverside during evening drive time. I ran the board, spun records, read news, did a little commentary now and then, and took calls. I was fielding an obnoxious caller who disagreed with one of my commentaries, and he said I was nothing but a stupid disk jockey. I shot back—clever me—that I wasn’t a stupid disk jockey, I was a stupid dusk jockey, and before too long, ‘DJ’ became ‘Duj’ and I was stuck with it.”

“That’s interesting,” she said, smiling warmly, “because my name came about almost the same way. “Before I was incarnate my name was Yse.” She pronounced it to rhyme with Leesa. “I was named Mary when I was on earth. I couldn’t decide which name I wanted to use when I crossed back to the celestial realm so I put them together as Maryse.”

God saw that I was still holding my tongue and gave me a look.

I leaned back slightly and shrugged. “It’s not that I don’t want to ask all three of you questions,” I said. “It’s that I want to ask everything and I don’t know where to start.”

“Ask anything, Duj,” God said. “That’s why you’re sitting at this table now. Even though this is new to you, you’re family.”

“Here goes,” I said, turning back to Maryse. “Do you just call your husband ‘God’ all the time or do you have a nickname for him?”

She grinned at me. “It depends on what sort of mood I’m in. If I feel he’s really being pig-headed about something, I call him ‘Joe,’ because I know it annoys him so much.”

I cocked my head to the side. “Joe?”

“Diminutive of ‘Joseph,’” she said. “That was God’s name when he incarnated on earth.”

“Okay, now I’m really getting confused,” I said. “I thought you,” I said indicating God, “incarnated on earth as you,” I said, gesturing toward Jesus.

“Mmm-hmm,” Jesus said, taking half a bagel and shmeering cream cheese on it. “You can blame the Nicene Council in the early fourth century for that one,” he said. “You ready for the real story?”

I leaned back and listened to The Gospel According to Jesus.


Next in Escape from Heaven is Chapter VII.

Escape from Heaven is
Copyright © 2002 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

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