Hell

Dante Alighieri had an idea that hell was a place where the devil frolicked in flames and tormented the souls of those who had lived as the worst of the worst in the world. In some ways, Alighieri’s vision of hell seeped into modern thought to become the standard belief of many religions.

The lake of fire
The lake of fire

The trouble with Alighieri’s truth is that there is no truth to his vision. Dante Alighieri wrote The Devine Comedy, a poem not based on anything true or factual.

In other words, hell does not exist, at least, not the way everyone might imagine.

Today’s Monday Mayhem post is all about hell. What is it? Where is it?

Hell has different meanings to different people.

To Catholics, much like Dante’s poem, it is a place of eternal damnation where demons, under the rulership of Satan the devil, torture those who were the absolute wretched of the earth. According to their beliefs, Satan, the fallen angel of light formerly known as Lucifer, roams back and forth through fire and brimstone, delivering pain to the unjust.

To Buddhists, hell is more of a practical concept. Karma, the essence of balance in the universe, repays evil for evil and good for good. If something bad happens to a person, Karma has exacted vengeance for a past act of wrong. Karma sets things straight by restoring balance to where there once was unbalance.

Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri

To many, hell is a lake of fire, which will one day consume the unrepentant.

Then, to others, however, hell is more real than anyone could know. To these people, hell has become substance addiction, pornography, the psychological prison of mental illness, such as depression. To these people, their minds have become their jail cells where light does not penetrate the darkness surrounding them.

Hell follows them wherever they go.

The point being, whether your belief is that of a devil tormenting the wicked in a place reserved especially for them, or your belief is that of universal balance where Karma deals with the unjust with the same brush they use to judge, or your belief is that of a lake of fire waiting for the fulfillment of days to consume the evil ones among the righteous, or you suffer from the psychological prison of mental disease, everyone has a concept of hell and what it encompasses.

It is the view of this writer that hell, however defined, is the worst thing that could happen to a person either before or after death.

That is why this writer asks: what is your idea of hell?

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What is your concept of hell?

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20 thoughts on “Hell

  1. I don’t believe hell exists, at least not in a literal sense, but if I were going to conjure up my own personal hell, I’d be trapped in a video arcade, lights and sounds blasting, with a phone ringing loudly in the background. I so hope it doesn’t come to that!

  2. Thought provoking post. Come to think of it, I’ve never really thought of hell in a lot of depth, since there isn’t really a lot to go on from what’s described in the Bible. I don’t think the devil is a little red man with a pointed tail, though.

      • The Koran has a passage that implies that Hell can be taken from one place to another – Almost literally ” Bring Hell “, if memory serves correctly.
        To ancient Egyptians, the heart was weighed before Osiris & a group of other gods. If it was too weighed – down by evil deeds, it was fed to a crocodile / lion / dog creature who was perpetually hungry. If that happened, a person effectively ceased to exist altogether or else became a transient phantom who was fated to wander between this world & Paradise for eternity. Worse than Hell ?

  3. “Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
    In one self place, for where we are is hell,
    And where hell is must we ever be.
    And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
    And every creature shall be purified,
    All places shall be hell that is not heaven.”
    -Mephistopheles

    I always liked the discussions about hell that we’d get into in my Renaissance classes when we were reading Christopher Marlowe’s Faustus play…about the idea that hell is a state of being instead of a physical location.

    • I think the saying, ” we create our own hells ” is very true. We have the capacity, if we REALLY TRIED, to create Utopia on Earth – if not Heaven – but instead we apply the bulk of that energy towards amassing wealth for its own sake, being greedy, despoiling Earth & generally making life miserable / Hellish for people we don’t like or agree with or who don’t fit our narrow definitions of ” normal ” ( whatever ” normal ” is ).

      • The sad part is that we COULD create Utopia / Paradise / the best of all possible worlds, where humans could improve themselves & the welfare of our brothers & sisters, not to mention the environment if we were really driven to.
        We’re still too greedy, hateful, small – minded, & well, ” human ” to apply ourselves as a species re. : ” repairing the world ” / ” tikkun olam ” to use a Kabbalistic term.

  4. I don’t believe in the concept of Hell as a place, although I see how it works for games, religion and fiction. I equate the idea with ultimate suffering though, so to me, conceptually, its unrelenting, unfathomable pain. If we can put it into measurable words, its not truly hell – so no pain scale or anything of that sort.

    But suffering isn’t purely physical pain. So anything that makes us feel fear, regret or diminished to a degree that we can’t cope with would also work – reliving the loss of family at its deepest points, feelings of worthlessness when we’re truly at rock bottom, really the height of any negative emptions we’ve ever experienced. Its probably all of that, wrapped together.

    But then, I think I approach the concept from a perspective of psychosocial effect and physical pain. Whatever it ultimately is, is has to be overwhelming and relentless, with no hope for reprieve or freedom and no ability to escape feeling and experiencing it in its totality.

    Oh, and Happy Halloween. 😉

  5. I believe in life for its own sake. We breathe, eat and other activities for the pleasure of it. But there is more, joy in knowing something is right, ethical and moral choices based on what is right. Family and friends. A complex relationship with the world. And then the ultimate, a person who you share life with, create life with and grow old with. I was lucky I found that in a woman who I have been married to for forty five years. Some downs but mostly ups, three children, two grandchildren, and about fifteen cats. Life. Hell to me is what a person thinks it is. He believes in it to stay on his path of goodness. But in reality it is a myth, like Peter Pan and fairy dust. Captain Hook is not real, nor is Snead, nor the alligator. It is a myth made up by man.

  6. Actually my most immediate concept of hell is sitting in front of my computer with nothing to say!!! AAAGGGHHH! As for eternity? I’ll wait for the movie.

  7. Hell would be, for me, a place where every bad & unpleasant / upsetting / sad experience I had had in life would be relived over & over like an endless loop, including every thoughtless hurtful word or deed, every childish, selfish, spiteful thing I ever said in haste, meanness of spirit & thoughtless anger. Even someone with thick skin would be brought to their breaking point by that, I believe.

  8. In the Divine Comedy Lucifer lives at the base of an inverted cone, half trapped in ice. Dante’s descriptions of the seven levels of the cone seemed to be more pertinent to what was going on in his part of the world at the time of writing. I don’t remember it being a fiery place and, having been brought up Catholic, I was never taught where the idea comes from of Hell being an inferno. Knowing the Catholic church it’ll have been pilfered from some other religion.

    My idea of Hell takes many forms. An infinitely long train journey sat opposite a noisy eater comes to mind before all others. It reminds me of the joke about the man who goes to Hell. Everyone is stood up to their necks in horse manure and he turns to the man next to him and says, ‘It’s not so bad once you get used to the smell.’ And the other man says, ‘True, but wait until Fridays when the Devil comes by in a speedboat.’

  9. Not sure how to answer that because I grew up without the concept of Hell. Not sure Jews have anything like that and there’s very little focus on the afterlife. So it’s a difficult question. I’d have to go with the ‘Hell on Earth’ concept. For me that could be a lot of things. First one that comes to mind is losing my memories and creative ideas while being aware that they disappeared. Think I’m talking about Alzheimer’s there, but I do think having a weakening mind with full awareness of that or having a sharp mind with degrading body would be a nightmare. Both have this sense of being trapped with no way out.

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