The Origins of Heaven and Hell
Plato’s Myth of Er greatly influenced subsequent religious and philosophical thought, up to and including our very idea of heaven and hell.
Er was slain in battle but came back to life 12 days later to tell the living of that which he had seen. During these 12 days, his soul went on a journey to a meadow with four openings, two into the heavens above and two into the earth below.
Judges sat in this meadow and ordered the good souls up through one of the openings into the heavens and the bad ones down through one of the openings into the earth. Meanwhile, clean and bright souls floated down to the meadow from the other opening into the heavens, and dusty and worn out souls rose up to the meadow from the other opening into the earth.
Each soul had returned from a thousand year journey, but whereas the clean and bright souls spoke merrily of that which they had enjoyed in the heavens, the dusty and worn out souls wept at that which they had endured in the underground. Souls that had committed heinous crimes, such as those of tyrants or murderers, were not permitted to rise up into the meadow, and were condemned to an eternity in the underground.