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Heaven or Hell?

Vassula Rydén has written a book called Heaven is Real But So is Hell about the conversations she has had with God, Jesus, and Daniel, her guardian angel since 1985. Remarkably, it has sold 50,000 copies in the USA, so in preparation for our interview I read her book, researched her life, learned about her True Life in God Foundation, all the usual groundwork that journalists do. I even called my father, a psychiatrist, to inquire about the latest thinking on people with auditory hallucinations. Despite all this, I could not think of a serious question to ask Vassula.

So as we sat down together in an Earls Court hotel lobby, I explained my situation to her stating that I was a true non-believer, not religious, not spiritual, sceptical about her story, and that I had spoken to my father (hearing voices is no longer automatically considered a sign of schizophrenia or some psychosis).

When Vassula began to get messages she too went off to seek help to find out what the explanation could be, wondering if it was her subconscious. Although she was Greek Orthodox and was baptized in 1985, religion hadn’t shaped her childhood and while she  didn’t think she was crazy, she also didn’t think God was trying to talk to her.

“God who spoke to Adam and Eve,” she said, “can’t be speaking to me”, doubting for months that the voices she was hearing really were from another world until she was convinced that Daniel was preparing the path for her to meet God.

Eventually, she accepted that she was communicating with the Divine, and she began recording those messages, which had been revealed to her to help heal the division in the church and bring mankind back to God. “The Father” wanted Vassula to have the world understand that they should be grateful for everything He had done for them.

Of course, the only obvious question that I could think of was: why you?

When she first received the message from Daniel, and he told her God loves her, she responded with, “well, yeah, that’s not news”. There were many more chats before God finally revealed himself to her, attracted, she says, by her wretchedness, and when she called him “Dad”, He said that was like a jewel to him.

Vassula was engaging and the hour we spent chatting passed quickly. She’s married to a Swedish diplomat, they live in Rhodes and have grown up children.

We had some things in common having both travelled around the world, I had visited Bangladesh, where she had lived, and she is thinking of having her next pilgrimage in Ethiopia, where she had also lived, leaving in 1969. I told her about a remarkable Australian woman named Dr. Catherin Hamlin, a pioneer in fistula surgery, who has transformed the terrible lives of tens of thousands of Ethiopian women.

What I took away from our conversation is how important it is to listen to each other, especially in the light of the religious wars destroying the Middle East, and manifesting themselves on the streets of European capitals like Paris. For non-believers, Vassula’s book won’t make it on the Christmas wish-list, but I enjoyed meeting her and hope to catch her again perhaps on the way to Lalibela.

Heaven is Real But So is Hell” by Vassula Rydén is published by Alexian in the UK at £16.99 HB