...You don't 'know' where the Promised Land of the Ancients is. You search and travel, until you feel it. Like you just know, ...this is the Promised Land.Aerith Gainsborough
The promised land (約束の地, Yakusoku no Chi?) in the world of Final Fantasy VII is a quasi-mythical location believed to hold infinite amounts of mako deposits. The promised land is part of the Cetra legend, a race who traveled the planet, healing and cultivating it, and at the end of their journey would find the promised land, a land of supreme happiness.
The Shinra Electric Power Company, having found a way to harness lifestream's power by condensing it into mako energy, became attracted to the Cetra legend. A land of such fertility, to Shinra, meant a land full of mako energy, where President Shinra envisioned to build a new city, the Neo Midgar. To find the mythical promised land, Shinra needed a Cetra.
Shinra's head scientist, Professor Gast Faremis, led Shinra's research on the Cetra. He discovered a live organism in a 2,000-year-old geological structure and misidentified it as as a Cetra and named it Jenova. Shinra took the body and began vigorous scientific experiments on it, but sometime later Professor Gast left Shinra. He went to Cosmo Canyon, the center of the study of the planet and the lifestream, and spoke to the local elders who were knowledgeable to the legend of the promised land. Gast had started thinking he had made a terrible mistake. Shinra had discovered Ifalna, a true Cetra, and the race's last survivor, whom Gast helped escape Shinra when he left the company. Ifalna told him what he had found was no Cetra, but an extra-terrestrial being. Gast and Ifalna went into hiding and stayed in Icicle Inn where they had a daughter, Aerith.
Jenova Project continued under Professor Hojo, but they were unable to produce a specimen with the powers of the Cetra who could lead them to the promised land. Hojo tracked Gast down and killed him, taking Ifalna and Aerith hostage, delighted to discover Gast had unwittingly provided Shinra with another test subject, to use them to find the promised land. Ifalna refused to cooperate and their efforts were fruitless. Years later Ifalna escaped with Aerith, but passed away soon after, and Aerith was adopted by Elmyra Gainsborough, a woman living in the Midgar Slums. At this time Shinra was at war with Wutai and the Neo Midgar plans were put on hold and they stopped pursuing Aerith though they knew of her whereabouts.
After many years, Avalanche is terrorizing Midgar after the city has been completed. President Shinra decides to restart the Neo Midgar project and abducts Aerith to use her powers to find the promised land, but Sephiroth resurfaces and Jenova goes missing from the Shinra Building. The night President Shinra is murdered, Sephiroth appears at the headquarters and is said to have spoken of the promised land, saying Shinra should never get it. The company's new president, Rufus Shinra, under the false suspicion that Sephiroth is a Cetra, suspects he is heading for the promised land with Jenova, and sets out to hunt him out.
At the Temple of the Ancients Aerith tells Tseng the promised land is not what Shinra imagines it to be, and when the party suspects Sephiroth is traveling the world looking for the promised land to find the best location to summon the Meteor, Aerith says Sephiroth can never find it. Sephiroth appears and claims he has already done so and later elaborates the promised land awaits across the snowy fields.
Shinra and Cloud's party find Sephiroth at the North Crater, a place where the planet's Spirit Energy concentrates, and a place full of crystallized materia. Rufus is awed at the findings saying the place really is the promised land, to which Professor Hojo retorts the promised land is a legend and does not exist. Their joy is short-lived as Sephiroth summons the Meteor which unleashes the Weapons and Shinra is forced to flee. This marks the end of Shinra's search for the promised land, as their efforts are spent trying to prevent the Meteor's collision and fighting the Weapons until the company's collapse in the wake of the Raid on Midgar. After the Meteorfall the world stops using mako energy and Neo Midgar is never built.
The true nature of the promised land
At first Aerith claims she doesn't know what the promised land is, and whether it even exists.
All I know is... The Cetra were born from the Planet, speak with the Planet, and unlock the Planet. And....... then...... The Cetra will return to the Promised Land. A land that promises supreme happiness. Someday I'll get out of Midgar... Speak with the Planet and find my Promised Land. ...That's what mom said.Aeris in Shinra Headquarters
However, she appears to have come to a conclusion after the party's visit to Cosmo Canyon where she spoke with the elders.
...The Promised Land. So you want to know...? There is no one place called the Promised Land. That's what I believe. No no, it does exist. Hmmm...... you can say that too. In other words, it doesn't exist for us, but it did for the Ancients. The Promised Land is the resting place of the Ancients. The life of the Ancients is one continuous journey. A journey to grow trees and plants, produce animals, and to raise Mako energy. Their harsh journeys continued throughout their lives... The place they returned to after their long journey... Their burial land is the Promised Land. Huh? Supreme Happiness? I believe that, for the Ancients, it was the moment that they were able to return to their Planet. At that moment they were released from their fate, and gained their supreme happiness... At least that's what I believe. I really don't know whether or not it's the truth now.Elder Hargo at Cosmo Canyon
It appears the Cetra's promised land isn't a physical location, but what the Cetra called the act of returning to the planet at the life's end. Joining the lifestream and becoming one with the planet was viewed as a state of supreme happiness. After defeating Sephiroth in North Crater, Cloud has also made up his mind of the promised land's nature; after having seen a vision of Aerith in the lifestream, he tells Tifa he finally understands and that he can meet "her" in the promised land.
It is also speculated the promised land means something different to each person. Described as a land of happiness means each person would have their own interpretation of its location. As told from Aerith's perspective in Hoshi o Meguru Otome, Sephiroth's promised land is the North Crater because he could become a god there, while the Cetra who worshiped the planet saw the lifestream as the promised land. Thus, the promised land may not be a specific location, but a state of mind to find "eternal happiness" wherever possible.
A music piece in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is titled "The Promised Land", and plays during the film's opening narration, and near the end of the film when Aerith calls down healing rain, reinforcing the interpretation that the promised land is the lifestream.
Behind the scenes
If the player visits the Honey Bee Inn in the original Final Fantasy VII and peeps through the keyhole of one of the rooms, they can witness a role-play that mentions the promised land: A legend has been passed on through generations... the sought after Promised Land... One with Blue Eyes... and a Great White Sword on his back... Will not lead to the Promised Land...
Promised Land is a location promised by God to the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible.The