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Jun 21 2012

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On Hell. Part III: repentance and oblivion.

Continued from “On Hell. Part II.”

Human beings—and the rest of Creation—are not perfect. Not at this point. But what makes us belong to each other, to humanity, to Creation, to its Source, is our basic need for and ability to love. We struggle with the balance of giving and taking, we lash out in anger, we give up and harden ourselves against love in fear of loss, but our deepest foundational nature built on love is always there if we are human. Maybe even if we are animal or plant. It is there if we are part of this world, woven into its fabric. That is why we are “social animals.” That is why there are certain universal moral laws, certain things all human societies naturally recognize as right and wrong. That is why we are sorry—at least in the quiet of our minds, in the deep of the night—for the pain we cause the beings that share this Creation with us. We are connected to them through the Love that creates the world.

That is why repentance—even once, on deathbed—in traditional monotheistic religions is enough to ensure for the community that the departed has been forgiven and earned a place in Heaven. I am citing here the “traditional monotheistic” religions as the ones with a conception of eternal life but without a conception of reincarnation. Many outsiders to such religions protest this “easy way out,” and indeed it might seem like an avoidance of having to take responsibility for one’s actions, but it is important to understand that reward or punishment is not actually the point of what practitioners of such religions call “afterlife.” We must move beyond the view of God’s justice as retribution. Eternity is not a substitute for a prize cruise or a prison sentence. Some traditional religions have understood through intuition and revelation that what they term the “mercy of God” is infinite—it is not about “measured” justice the way a human court is designed to understand it. Grace is not deserved; Christianity has known this for a long time. Eternity is not about payback.

That is why repentance—even once, on deathbed—is enough. It’s not an entrance fee for Pearly Gates. It’s a sign of the presence of humanity—the presence of conscience. One capable of repentance is capable of love and empathy. This person, no matter how lost he or she might have gotten along the way, can be loved and give love. This soul belongs in the eternity of God. Everyone who wants to belong, belongs by definition. That is why true, sincere repentance or a perfectly unselfish act signals to the rest of us that the person having repented belongs in Heaven. And traditional religions also realize that only the person and God really know if repentance is sincere. Because the Liar lies.

And we are back to those actual or hypothetical others who are disconnected from the great Art of God that is Creation, from the all-interpenetrating spiritual flow of Good as Love. They are incapable of remorse and completely self-centered. They do not see others as feeling beings akin to themselves but only as objects to be used. They play the game of power and acquisition to satisfy whatever desires and needs they happen to have, and they cannot feel pity or affection for another; they can only fake it to get what they want. We spoke about them in Part II. They can never, never understand what is good about love. They wouldn’t want Heaven. It would be for them an unbearable, nauseous, sugary love fest with no one to swindle. That is if Heaven—always a code word for a reality we cannot fathom beyond the existence of the temporal universe—allows for the perception of individual differentiation. And if the reality of atemporal existence is such that all consciousness merges even to some degree, with the seats of Love becoming the hubs of this connective framework, then psychopaths would simply not be able to become part of the network. On the Last Day, those with dark holes where conscience should be would find themselves outside of the now-unified eternal world, completely incompatible with it because its basis is Love. Incompatibility of spiritual matter.

Essentially, there would form a world outside the World, populated only by psychopaths. It would be deprived of everything that comes from God, Whose qualities would now be gathered into the Eternal Kingdom. It would be devoid of love (read: of any goodness), of any empathy or interpersonal connection. It would have no trusting souls to seek out as prey. Perhaps, if this world retained individuation of personalities (since they lack the ability to connect), it would offer an opportunity to interact somehow, in which case this world would probably be filled with a constant struggle for survival of strong over weak. Whatever it looks like, this will be Hell.

 

There is, however, another possibility—more intriguing and, I think, in a way more realistic. Another possibility is that Love is actually what we call “soul.” The spiritual matter itself is the fabric of existence. It is not a connective tissue. It’s just…tissue. Everything I have been saying so far leads me to lean in this direction: if Love is the dynamic form of the Good, the protrusion into the temporal universe of the nature of God, then it is the very animating spirit we are discussing. It is the foundation of reality and the defining aspect of each being issuing from the common Source. It is possible, then, that “resurrection” on the Last Day is only the coming together, the pulling together of the time-stretched spiritual matter of the universe into its final form to pass into eternity. And what we call “soul,” then, is a unique hub—confluence, intersection, fluid profile—of that spiritual matter each of us represents. And then, formulated that way, within this particular framework, what makes a psychopath a psychopath—what produces this mind-boggling phenomenon of a remorseless, loveless, pitiless creature—is the absence of a soul.

I don’t know how or why a child would be born soulless. I am certainly not yet ready to talk about demonology translated into the language of the 21st century. However, if what a psychopath lacks is the actual Substance of Creation and is essentially a walking clump of physical matter with no underlying Spirit, then on the Last Day, psychopaths might not be there for the event. Following the internal logic of this framework, when a soulless creature dies, his or her body would decompose like any other, but no spiritual imprint would be left, no layer in the onion, nothing to resurrect. The love that flows and fills and interconnects all others keeps flowing when a body is stopped and changed, carrying the spirit on, with nothing lost. An empty body would be lost by definition. Moved on to feed other life and become its bodies. Gone without a trace. It is therefore possible that in that sense, there is no Hell. There is only the Kingdom of God and the absolute nothingness of oblivion for those who don’t belong in the Kingdom.

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