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May 26 2012

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On Hell. Part I.

My heart skips a beat as I think of the Last Day. His kingdom will have no end… And I can’t breathe.

But what of hell? If no soul is lost, if all things, all joy and suffering, every struggle and resentment, every death and birth are part of Creation coming into perfection—part of the process, perhaps, as pain and blood accompany birth of a child—then what of hell? Is there? Can there be? Why would there be anything cast out of the Kingdom of Heaven?

The answer is, Nothing will.

Does this mean there is no hell?

The answer is, No, it does not.

In my gut and in my mind convinced of the infinite goodness of God, I used to believe there could be no hell. How can the Parent, the Artisan, the Breath of the World sentence any of His creatures to eternal damnation and turn a deaf ear? Forever and ever listen to the cries of agony from below? Forever and ever? The Word of compassion, forgiveness, and love? What temporal sin can be so grave as to deserve eternal punishment?

The answer is, None. He cannot. He will not. I used to believe there was no hell, and I still can’t believe in a hell like that.

I lived asking. Newly filled with the smile of God, I took every step through my days ecstatically, all things new in the soft light of faith, but one gnawing question kept tugging at my heart, and I lived every minute asking, turning my face up and begging for a glimpse of understanding: What of hell?

The answer that came to me is not entirely new: Hell, if there is such a state, is of the hell’s own making. The complete, final, and willing rejection of God’s eternal reality. As the artist shapes his clay, some specs may fall away, for they don’t belong.

But it’s not punishment. It is profound and undoable incompatibility in the nature of spiritual matter.

If any of those “specs” do exist, they are simply not of the same matter. Contamination. The word “evil” would have to apply to a substance sort of spiritually foreign to the final product, the final perfect Creation. And it’s not about the count of deeds or the quality of thoughts accumulated through our lifetimes. It’s not about the score. Any soul that wants to belong, belongs by definition. Are there any that will not? I do not know.

Is there evil? Perhaps. I used to believe there was not, but recent research in psychology began to seed doubt in my mind. I will pick up this topic again at a later date.

Still, even if true evil exists, it is certainly not what we often mean by the casual word we throw around. What the lost, resentful, angry souls do to each other out of pain, rage, and confusion is not the ontological evil we so easily presume behind our actions and temptations. That is imperfection of human nature. Imperfection of this still-developing world. Suffering that causes more suffering. But not an independent force the opposite of Good—opposite of God. Is this not giving the devil too much power? This world is not profoundly dual. It is profoundly monist. It is profoundly God. And hell, if indeed such a thing is to exist beside the Kingdom of Heaven, is the darkness of God’s absence, the terra incognita outside of Eternity, the fallen-away matter that refused to belong, that chipped off rather than smoothed into as the hand of the Creator shaped the curves of His masterpiece.

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2 comments

  1. Jules

    What of those who wontonly cast themselves away from God? Can there be no deliberate act of man which separates him, once and for all from God?

    1. River Adams

      That is a good question, which has tortured human minds for millennia. If we have free will, we must have the choice to reject God, mustn’t we? I’ll be developing my view on this subject in more detail in what will probably be two future blogposts. Maybe more.
      But to answer you now the best I can — no, I don’t think so. Not exactly. As I mentioned, I do allow for the possibility that some “people” are permanently separated from God — that is, evil. It’s just that, although there is a mutuality there, I think of our actions more as consequences of our relationship with God than causes of it. Because our actions flow out of our nature, and our nature flows from God. At least, for most of us. We are woven into the fabric of reality with each other through Love by this nature. So yes, we have free will, and it lets us stumble around quite a bit, but I don’t think it extends to a denial of ourselves. Can a human simply choose to stop being human? Those of us who “are of God” — that’s what we are. What one act can nullify the very pillar on which the idea of existence stands? And who could concieve of such an act?
      Now. Are there those who are by nature NOT of God? As I said, I don’t know. But I’ll be talking about that when I come to this topic in a post. Soon.

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