Brief meditation on hell

As I have written before, hell is a little understood or accepted doctrine even among Christians. But I would argue that it is crucially influential to understand how the hyper-civilized see the world today. This is not only among people who were forced to read the Bible or Dante or Milton in school, but also among people who have any eschatological view of the world, no matter how secular. Put more simply, those who dream of a better world, a heaven, always do so in the context of a hell, the failure to achieve that better world. And also as I have argued previously, those who seek to herd the great masses of people need hell to coax the rabble into action, just as the fiery preacher needs the flames of hell to exhort the faithful to virtue from his pulpit. In both cases, there is a need to augment human power and agency: humans can totally save or totally damn themselves, they can totally destroy the world or build a new one.

The choice is always up to us, in our minds, but the choice itself is really damnation. It is the valuing of human life above what it actually is; it is anthropocentric and idealistic. It is the worship of man as an idol that is destroying the human world (for nature will continue regardless one way or another.) The human world is not man but the Idea of Humanity, not human existence but Human Power – though at this point these cannot be separated from each other. The only way to “save” oneself is to refuse the idea of salvation or damnation, and to recognize randomness and chaos as constituting our deepest “self”, if we can even speak in those terms.

First, a little bit of theology. Again, we are using the Catholic model, as that is what we are used to. According to the Fathers and Doctors, ultimately human beings either go to Heaven or Hell when they die, even though there is some dispute about intermediary places to which humans go for “purification”. In Heaven after the Resurrection from the Dead, when man gets back his own body, he not only rises with his mortal body, but it is glorified. The “light of glory” (lumen gloriae) allows human beings to become divinized: as one of the old Latin liturgical texts states: ejus divinitátis esse consórtes, qui humanitátis nostræ fíeri dignátus est párticeps ( “…grant us to have part in the Godhead of Him Who hath deigned to become a partaker of our humanity.”) Thus, not only does man have the same joy that he has on Earth at beholding God and the transfigured creation, but his senses and mind are also elevated to see all of creation in the light of God. St. Benedict saw in his vision the whole world caught in one of the rays of light of God’s glory. Not only does man enjoy, he enjoys infinitely better; not only is he happy, he is divinely happy.

Similarly, a man who is damned to Hell also experiences a super-human, supernatural suffering. Not only is Hell forever, but one is resurrected in a “glorified” body just as the Blessed only to be tormented with one’s augmented senses and mind. As the Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes: “Just as the blessed in heaven are free from all pain, so, on the other hand, the damned never experience even the least real pleasure.” According to the theologians, the pains of hell are separated into two categories, the poena damni and poena sensus, the pain of loss and the pain of the sense.  The pain of loss is psychological and spiritual pain, the pain at having lost God as the Source of all Beatitude: it is the pain of hopelessness and of absolute hatred. In comparison with that, the pain of the sense, not just fire but also a host of other pains (as Dante’s Inferno painstakingly describes) is sort of a secondary but real pain. Damnation in this system of belief is absolute, irreversible, and irredeemable. It never lets up and it never ceases as a manifestation of God’s justice, and of the absolute freedom of the human will.

Here I have to intrude and state that this is the reason why I could never accept the Catholic system of belief, or rather, I accepted it but it never really made much sense to me. For are human beings really that competent in this life to make an absolute decision that lasts for an eternity? Is the nature of human existence, of happiness and sadness, joy and loss, tragedy and victory, even close to absolute in this life to be a shadow of what happens in the next? In the end, as in the Calvinist or Jansenist (that is, the Augustinian absolutist) school of theology, the absolute power of God dwarfs the fickleness and transitory nature of human action. It’s as if one has to inflate to divine proportions human virtue, human love, human solidarity, as well as human vice, human hatred, and human selfishness, beyond what they actually are: passing moods of animals who may be exceptionally clever but who rot in the end all the same. Enter here the ideas of grace and divine aid, sure, if you believe in those things. It’s like pouring new wine into old wine skins (to use the Biblical parable): it never goes according to plan.

Even though modern man cast off the sweet yoke of Holy Mother Church (in both its Catholic and heretical forms), the smoke of Hell still pervaded his thinking. For while the secular anarchist can balk and the leftist shake his head at the “superstition” discussed above, he is still haunted by the Ghost of Yahweh and the imprint of Jesus’ un-resurrected corpse. For they too have to augment Human Power, they have to bestow upon it the Light of Glory of the Enlightenment, of pure reason and unsullied will, in order to realize their fantasies of Paradise on Earth for the Blessed Proletariat and the Eternal Damnation of the Forces of Reaction. The Good, the Oppressed, are always Very Good, and the Evil, the Cop, the Politician, and the Banker, are always very, very Bad. All Human Action in the Struggle against Domination is absolute and unquestioning, for in the Class Struggle or the Struggle Against Domination, there is never room for nuance. Just like the Blessed or the Damned, the Moral Weight of their actions is definitive, as are their punishments.

How does one deserve damnation or salvation under the Enlightenment Faith? Through fostering virtue and shunning vice, or as the secular Christians like to call it, the Battle for Progress, Against Domination, Against Capitalism, etc. That is why they refuse to tell you HOW they will be able to build the New World without oppression, where things are contributed from each according to their ability and distributed to each according to their need. The Struggle will transform the ordinary oppressed Sinner into the Militant Saint, alienation melts away through building new spaces opposed to Domination, and the New Revolutionary Person emerges from the ashes of the old society. All through what is arduous, as Dante’s guide through the Inferno, Virgil, wrote so many centuries ago:

…facilis descensus Averno; noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis; sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras, hoc opus, hic labor est.

(The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies.)

But of course, the reason why Paradise on Earth never descends from Proletarian Heaven is because, just like the fictitious theology discussed above, these ideas have little foundation in reality. All human beings are the same, they all have reasons why they do what they do, they are all justified in their own eyes and in the eyes of the Great Church of Humanity (as they perceive it). They are all “innocent”. But if we wanted to go by the numbers, it is far, far more likely that the Forces of Order, the Cop, the Banker, and the Politician, are in the right because the vast majority of people think that the order that they oversee is more or less acceptable, even if it needs tweaking here and there. But to be honest, most people are too distracted with sex, money, drugs, or their cellphones to notice or care about things like “society” or the “future”. That is, there will be no “resurrection” or “glorified” body of the revolutionary that will have the empathy and intelligence to create a better future. “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,” but his soul will not march on.

There is thus no Heaven and no Hell, or rather, Heaven or Hell are what we make of them here. So, say, a group of people decide to kill someone and hang their body from a phone booth, what difference does it make? What is a human life anyway, who will notice it or grieve it eternally? Who will return it from the grave, or raise it up with a martyr’s crown? No one, for the life of the mortal is but grass, they flourish like the flower of the field and then they wither and die. The premise of Christian civilization is that human life means more than what it does, but as the Calusa of what is now southern Florida believed:

In the midst of this they obstinately affirm that human souls do not survive their bodies, swallowing the absurdity of their not being any better than the beasts, laughing at the strongest of arguments, and turning their backs [to us] when they were confounded by having their own erroneous practices thrown up to them.

So the individualist when he or she acts does not believe in a “society” or a “future” that will succeed their action like the Victory of Heaven or Defeat of Hell. Their action is both heaven and hell, pleasure and pain, victory and defeat, at a human (animal) level, and that is all. He puts no faith in the Church of the Left or the Church of Anarchy or even the Church of Humanity to triumph over the Powers of Evil (or domination or what have you). They only have their egoic pleasure of striking at the target, their hatred of Order, and love of Chaos. Damnation and salvation lose meaning here, there is only the act, the blood spilled in honor of their chthonic guardian spirits, the Joy of Vengeance against those who attack all that is beautiful and inhuman. And they will rot and fade away like any animal. That is neither a cause for grief nor particularly tragic. That just is what is.

Of course, the secular Christian can go on believing in the Church of Humanity, but he or she has no foundation for it. It is irrational belief, as is the belief in Ajajema, Cachiripa, Anhanga, or other spirits. But while an individualist can accept spirits knowing his or her own limitations as a merely animal intellect, the secular Christian (conservative, liberal, progressive, Marxist, anarchist, egoist, etc.) continues to have absolute certainty in his own lack of gods, which is merely the worship of himself as a member of the Mystical Body of Humanity. But like all civilized idols, the Unknowable will topple this one as well, it is only a matter of time. The Heaven of the Unknowable will be Hell for Civilization and for Humanity itself, not because it “merits” it, but because it believes it “deserves” better. It is sadly mistaken.

 

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