Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Nature of Hell

Since we are on the topic, and since today is Pretty Lady's ad hoc Day Off (unless the phone should happen to ring, which, strangely, it never seems to do on Thursdays), Pretty Lady has decided to explain What She Means by Hell. In the spirit of serious debate, she has even come up with some Biblical support for her assertions, by the efficient means of hanging out in her spare time with a Bible-thumper or two, who obligingly gave her the quote.

However, to please the Humanist contingent, she will not start with Biblical rhetoric; instead she will hark back to the hectic days of her Freshman year, when she and a group of hyperintellectual companions went, on a lark, to see Sartre's 'No Exit.'

(For those one or two of you who were thankfully spared a sophomoric infatuation with Jean-Paul & Co., let me summarize the plot: Three people find themselves in Hell. Hell is a room with three people in it. These three people are an Intellectual, an Adultress, and a Lesbian. ((The reasons for these people being committed to Hell are taken as read.)) They all proceed to attempt to seduce, impress, and scorn the others, with circular degrees of success and failure. In short, they are all trying to prove their own validity at the expense of the others.

They all fail at this; once the Intellectual seduces the Adultress, he despises her, and only wishes for validation from the Lesbian. The Lesbian despises the Intellectual, and only wishes for validation from the Adultress, who despises her forthwith; the Adultress wishes for validation from the Intellectual, who despises her, having seduced her.

Thus the French.)

At any rate, once Pretty Lady and her hyperintellectual friends had left the theatre, Pretty Lady's Greenwich Village friend laughed, with knowing cynicism, and declared, "Hell is other people." Proving by this casual comment that intellectuals are, all too often, petty narcissists who utterly fail to grasp the point.

Indeed, Pretty Lady is not entirely sure that J.P. himself grasped the point which he so elegantly illustrated; posthumous publication of his much-vaunted correspondence with S. de B.V. has proven that these two superior minds spent the vast majority of their private lives in despising everyone around them. Ipso facto, creating a lovely little Hell of their very own, on this very earth which, they purported to believe, was the only thing allotted to them.

For the point, as Pretty Lady understands it, is that Hell is NOT Other People; it is the natural consequence of treating other people as though they were the mining grounds for the aggrandizement of Self. This process does not ever work as intended. Other people have this pesky habit of failing to submit to cannibalistic agendas; they continually exhibit symptoms of having Minds of their Own. So troublesome of them.

However, if a person instead chooses to accept for all time the notion that the validity of Self is bestowed by a loving Creator, and that all others are equally valid and complete, all this mutual scrabbling and cannibalism simply ceases. There is no reason for it. One's Self stands revealed as a manifestation of the Divine, and all one's brothers equally so. Thus there is nothing to do but dance around and celebrate.

As a case study of what happens when one applies the principles of Sartre on a large scale, Pretty Lady would now like to present the example of Lagos, Nigeria. Astute readers will recall that the primary export of this African 'megacity' is the 419 scam, which is too familiar by now to anyone with an email account, to require explanation. Pretty Lady was saddened, but not surprised, to learn that the entire city is run upon 419 principles. Very little honest, paid employment is available; this does not stop 600,000 eager individuals from streaming in from the countryside every year, in the hopes of Making it Big. It is one vast, filthy, sprawling slum, whose inhabitants steal, cheat, lie, manipulate and control one another in the vague hopes of attaining the supreme role of Lord High Kleptocrat.

For this, indeed, is the template that all denizens of Hell Lagos are following. In the 1980's, the corrupt Nigerian government first gained control of All Industry; then the government sold All Industry, and absconded with the proceeds. It is no wonder that their only lasting cultural Myth is of millions of dollars' worth of ill-gotten gains, sitting in a bank somewhere, waiting for someone to come and claim it.

What most struck Pretty Lady about this tragic history is that, although life in Lagos is one of unremitting misery, nobody ever leaves. When the author asked them why, the answer seemed to be, 'because then we'd have to admit to the folks back in the village that we weren't such big-shots after all.' In other words, Pride.

All this is a very long-winded explanation of why Pretty Lady cannot understand why people are so all-fired worried that God will send them to Hell. Darlings, here we are. As soon as we forget to love God, accept Grace, and scratch for some personal validation at the expense of our gorgeous Neighbor, here we are. God has nothing to do with it. God is merely sitting there, loving us, and patiently explaining that we are doing this to ourselves. He has many methods of explanation; He may exhort, command, threaten, suggest, illustrate, plead, nudge, whisper, coax, tease, cajole, wheedle, sing, poeticize, and dictate long books of instructions in different languages. But he cannot force us, because he cannot force a piece of Himself to be anything other than what it is.

Which brings Pretty Lady, at last, to that Biblical quote she promised you.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." And he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
If we are divided against one another, darlings, we cannot stand. If we wish to see our brother in Hell, there we go with him. If we love and forgive him, we are loved and forgiven.

Any questions?


Anonymous said...

This is not hell. Hell is a prison to hold certian fallen angels who are particualry nasty, and if they really mad God mad. It is also to hold all humans who didn't recieve salvation.

The final destiny is the Lake Of Fire. Now that one is truely scary.

Anonymous said...

made God mad.

ugh.. fumbly fingers.

Pretty Lady said...

Okay, Starbuck, answer me these questions.

1) Where is this Lake of Fire?

2) How could God get mad, if Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins? Would God then have to send Himself to Hell?

3) What does 'salvation' consist of? I.e. where is Heaven?

4) If a divided kingdom cannot stand, how can God divide His kingdom by sending some of his Angels to Hell, and still have the Kingdom standing?

These are merely preliminary.

Anonymous said...

Waving a bunch of red flags around, are we?

But I'm not going to play, I tried that over at Astro's, and it was a huge waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Must. Not. Answer. (grits teeth)

Damnit. I will restrain myself to one answer since it's Starbuck's question.

"How could God get mad, if Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins?

The sin is not anger, it is wrath, and I agree with Pope Gregory the Great's definition of wrath which in so many words would be "vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger." In addition, the concept of the Sins are a Catholic construct invented in the 14th century and are not found in the Bible. The SDS are another example of Dante Alighieri's lasting influence on Christian mythology.

I have, of course, a much longer and exhaustively detailed answer but it is Starbuck's question, after all.

Anonymous said...

prettylady said...

Okay, Starbuck, answer me these questions.

1) Where is this Lake of Fire?

2) How could God get mad, if Anger is one of the Seven Deadly Sins? Would God then have to send Himself to Hell?

3) What does 'salvation' consist of? I.e. where is Heaven?

4) If a divided kingdom cannot stand, how can God divide His kingdom by sending some of his Angels to Hell, and still have the Kingdom standing?

These are merely preliminary.

uh oh.. Me thinks I miffed PL. But here goes.

1.) I have no idea where the lake of fire is. No one is in there yet. But the first 2 people to be thrown into the lake of fire is the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet. They will be thrown in there alive and will be there forever. (Revelations)
2.)God doesn't sin. People on earth during the tribulation will suffer God's wrath. That is when he puts an end to mankind ruling himself. I like croms definition, but Holy Anger and Wrath are not sin. You can be angry and not sin. I don't think the seven deadly sins are in the Bible. I believe they are just Christian dogma. God says all sins are deadly.
3.)Where is Heaven? I don't know. but salvation is accepting Jesus's blood was shed and he died for our sins. All of the, past, present, future. And he rose again, because he was innocent. (This is all in the Bible)
4.)God sent some angels to hell. Hell is a prision. A holding tank if you will. If those fallen angels were let loose (as they will during the tribulation) they would tear mankind apart in short order. God's kindom is not divided. Lucifer rebelled and took 1/3 of the angels with him. Those are fallen angels. Not all of the fallen angles are in hell at this time. Just the ones that really messed with God.

Pretty Lady said...

Me thinks I miffed PL.

No indeed, Starbuck, you did NOT miff PL, you merely missed the entire point of her discussion; but that is perfectly fine. Thank you for your splendid answers; you have been much more clear and concise than PL was.

A great deal of Pretty Lady's thinking is influenced by the fact that she studied the art of Poetry, quite intensively, in college; it gave her the abiding habit of looking for Layers of Meaning in everything around her. It also helped her to understand how statements can be both literally descriptive, metaphorical, and illustrative of a point, all at the same time.

It is certainly possible that a Creator God could be arbitrary in both his rules and his punishments, but it can do no harm to speculate upon the notion that, on some level, His pronouncements could function on illustrative, technical and metaphorical levels as well. Particularly when so many seemingly non-arbitrary patterns can be observed within their context.

Anonymous said...

No indeed, Starbuck, you did NOT miff PL

You very gracious. I have been on a feminist web site, sheeesh. They seem to ready anything and everything you say on there and then POUNCE.

Sorry, I never intend to compare you to a feminist. I don't even know if they are feminsts, they claim. But all I can see is they are always angry and are always so mad they could puke.

So, thanks for being gracious and patient with me.

If you wanted to argue Christian Theology, you would win. I am not good at debating.

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that "feminism" can be boiled down to a couple of concepts:

1) Women are not second-class people. They are fully people.
2) So are men.

I am sure I could go online right now and find reams of appalling, contemptible garbage written under the guise of "Christianity." This does not mean that people who follow Christ are jerks. Just that some people are jerks, and among those, some of them identify as Christians. This is probably not news to most churchgoers. :-)

Much harm is done in the world by judging a school of thought by its most damaged and angry adherents. Almost as much as is done by the damaged and angry people in the first place.


Desert Cat said...

I'm not so pessimistic about this world. There is far too much beauty (for those with eyes to see) for this to be hell. And there is far too much of pain and injustice for this to be heaven.

You are familiar with C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce?

And alas, I cannot buy the notion that it is entirely illusory. Because if so, then we are part of the same illusion and are no more and no less real than the illusion itself.

Am I the dreamer, or the dreamed? And if I am the dreamed, who is doing the dreaming?

Pretty Lady said...

If you wanted to argue Christian Theology, you would win.

No, I wouldn't. I'm too lazy to study Christian Theology with a view toward winning debates; I just like to speculate irresponsibly.

1) Women are not second-class people. They are fully people.
2) So are men.

Words to live by. Beyond this, the study of 'feminism' interests me about as deeply as the study of Christian Theology, and I am equally irresponsible in my speculations regarding it.

I'm not so pessimistic about this world.

Thank you, Desert Cat, for yanking the discussion back toward the Topic at Hand.

I am not, either; my speculations about this world are more along the lines of poetry, as well, with the salient difference that perspective is what makes this world a Heaven or a Hell. All spiritual practice, whether it be Christian Theology, Zen Buddhism, Tao, or shamanism, aims at altering our perspective on how we both view and interact with the world.

It's like that joke that our Own Personal Priest used to tell:

'Hell is a banquet hall full of the most splendid food and drink; the people sitting around the table, however, have arms that are four feet long. They cannot reach their own mouths to get any of the food or drink into them, so they are all sitting around this table starving.'

'Heaven is a banquet hall, full of the most splendid food and drink; the people sitting around the table have arms that are four feet long. They feed one another.'

Pretty Lady said...

Am I the dreamer, or the dreamed?

Both. We poets are completely comfortable with paradox; it's all about layers upon layers upon layers...

k said...


My much beloved Pops, blogdad Desert Cat. Poetry, yes. He's one of the few who, from the start, perceived the irrepressible layering my thinking and writing takes upon itself, whether I wish it to or not.

And now I'm overcome with the sense that you, Pretty Lady, are another.

How very nice.