William Blake: Dante’s Hell
I don’t think it is possible to have an original thought, aside from the fields of physics, cosmology, and advanced mathematics. I’m sure this has all been said before, and better. But it is what I have been pondering this Holy Week…
We have been talking about Hell.
No, not gleefully, like our Calvinist and neo-Jansenist friends do.
What we have been pondering, in the combox reaction to my last post, is the conflict between the notion that if humans have free will some will end up in ‘the outer darkness’, that state of utterly rejecting the Being that gives us all being, which seems to contradict the promise of the eventual healing of the cosmos in Christ. Especially if, as I have always intuited and the 20th century Polish visionary St. Faustina confirmed, the soul at death is shown the Reality of that mystery we call ‘God’, whose nature is pure love. But if humans are indeed free I don’t see how we can hold that rejecting even an Absolute revealed as eternal love, offered freely, is not a possibility.
It is certainly obvious that the god of the Calvinists and the True Catholic Remnant is a false one. No god worthy of the name creates the vast majority of human souls for a predestined eternity of torment. And a god who created humans for eternal life but lost a majority of them would seem a failure.
But, as one commenter asked, isn’t the loss of any soul a defeat for a good God?
And it has always seemed to me that the existence, in any corner of the omniverse, of a black hole containing tormented persons seems to undo the promise that the messianic religions make of an eventual divine and universal conquest of evil and pain. It is like an open wound on the cosmos, after it had been declared healed. Doesn’t even an almost-universalism, which seems the consensus of Catholic theologians these days, have this problem? And isn’t the promise of all things being reconciled in Christ betrayed by the torment of even one single person? Isn’t it a defeat for God, for goodness?
But what if the souls in torment do not know they are in torment? What if they are having the time of their (eternal) lives?
When I was young, in the 70s or so, I probably heard the cliche a thousand times when talking with friends. These were 70s metal kids, hard drinkers and smokers and sometimes worse. But I think one can substitute any genre of a certain type of hard-living human and you would hear the same. They would say that they did not want to go to heaven, but to hell, where all their friends would be partying.
So maybe their hell is exactly what they want: ugly music and shouted drunken conversations, groping in the dark. Or whatever is the correspondent reality in that state of being.
And maybe it is like that for other kinds of the quieter types, ones counting up their useless assets, or the ones that prefer angry solitude to communion, or the rest.
Like Dante, except they don’t even know that they are miserable, or what they are missing, aside from a sense of relief at escaping a Presence that is perceived as painful. Maybe to them, everything is great, as they have been given exactly what they wanted. Maybe, subjectively, they are not, if exactly happy, content in their way, ‘like pigs in shit’, as the saying goes.
I think it hard to conceive that human freedom does not imply that certain souls will always choose to be assholes, no matter how many chances they are given to change, even if given a revelation of God as he is, beyond human concepts and constructs, offering them Love. Maybe to them, the divine light is annoying, painful, even.
Maybe at that point all God can do is say “All right; be an asshole.”
Maybe ‘hell’ is just the Asshole Corner of the cosmos.
To me, the concept of hell is a lot easier to take if it just means leaving the assholes alone.
Wouldn’t a Redeemer who only succeeded in redeeming half of humanity be seen as a pretty ineffectual redeemer? Surely, redeeming the world is not baseball; a .500 average does not seem impressive.