Hell is the result of free will of those beings who are created by God. Many “apocryphal” sources attest its existence outside “official” Christian revelation and Church teachings. I tend to blur the distinctions between hell and what western Catholicism calls purgatory. Many lost souls will remain forever in hell because they refuse the light of God, but many will accept the help of those (called angels, guides, helpers, etc.) sent to guide and heal them. There is a way out for those who want it.
I came across a terrifying description of the fate of those who kill people and then commit suicide or get themselves killed by the police or the army. France has lived through the horror of what happened in New York in September 2001. The terrorists believe they will go to some kind of paradise for doing these heinous deeds. What is this “paradise”?
What Happens To a Suicide Bomber On The Other Side. Take it with a pinch of salt. It is not Church teaching or Revelation, maybe somewhat “new age”, but the experience of this person reveals something horrifying, and it corresponds with experiences of others including the children of the Fatima apparitions in 1917. Some saw the souls of Nazi war criminals spiralling down whirlpools to total annihilation (see this and its mention of Irma Grese), or an existence where they would “live” to experience their retribution.
The imagery is horrifying.
I could see severed arms and legs, heads with their jaws missing and blood and burned cadavers everywhere. The acrid stench of burned human flesh was everywhere. Right in the middle of the pile was a man wriggling, trying to free himself from the mess, but however hard he tried he sank back into the pile without the possibility of escape. Every so often he would sound out calling for his God and pleading for mercy but his prayer had no power. Instead, every time he uttered the name of his Lord he was confronted with the truth of his deed and how it was in opposition to what his religion had decreed. And now as soon as his prayer left his lips it was reeled back in almost instantly by the agony of his suffering victims which screamed back at him, and every time it did so he felt their pain and the consequences of his act. The image of a mother holding her mutilated child rising out of the pile and then sinking back again, a child clinging on to the dead body of its parents, the horror that consumed their whole being, a horse lying dying in the street, a young man staring in disbelief at his mangled body. All this played back in a feedback loop from which there was no apparent escape. It was an unending replay, made worse by the realisation there was nothing on Earth or under Heaven that could make this heinous crime undone.
A benevolent person would not wish such horror and suffering on his worst enemy. The damned brought it upon themselves, but yet the person who visited that “place” was stricken with compassion.
I looked at the miserable soul who was trapped in the pile of wriggling and smouldering limbs and felt a wave of sorrow and sincere compassion and then directed my love towards him. I was surprised by the light emanating from my hand and lighting the region. In the light I could see faces emerging from many more piles such as this. Lost anguished souls turning towards me with their hands outstretched, reaching for the light. That was all I could do, but I hoped with all my heart that in some way it would break the horrific loop and free these people, who in the end were victims themselves.
I walked through the vast killing field of misery, sending waves of light and hoping that through some mysterious way they would do some good and relieve some of this monstrous misery. While I was doing so I was praying inside my heart that people would learn and understand the key tenet of their religions, which was love and not hate.
No one escapes from karma (the law of acts and consequences, action and reaction). We are all accountable for what we do in this world, and we do not escape God’s judgement, or rather our own judgement on ourselves which will be that much more severe. We reap what we sow. Our salvation begins not only with faith and recognition of truth in Christ but love, compassion, altruism, goodness and everything that is beautiful and filled with light.
What is hell in the absolute? It may be a parallel universe or an Nth dimension. It also invades this life and is seen through any kind of hatred and lack of empathy. It was not created by God, but is the result of our own refusal of love, hatred and sin, of our own freedom to refuse goodness, beauty and love. I don’t believe it is eternal for all its “inmates” but can be for those who continue in their refusal. I blur the distinction between purgatory and hell, and have every confidence that there is always hope of salvation, perhaps even of the Devil itself and the wicked angels as Origen surmised, perhaps, if there is a change of heart, repentance and loving approach to God. I cannot believe that anyone is beyond all hope of grace, even someone like Hitler or Vlad the Impaler, or the terrorists in Paris who blew themselves up, killing others.
Christianity isn’t about “avoiding” hell (as if God would throw someone into hell for any reason) but about love, compassion, being filled with light and beauty. Grace is given freely and we give freely to God and other people, to our planet and all the life it contains. Many deluded Christians paint a picture of our life being a matter of obedience to authorities, books and codes in order to avoid hell (as if it were the “normal” fate of most).
Our world once again experiences the hell of war and terrorism. Hell is a matter of people refusing the humanity of other human beings, destroying and mutilating. Those who have chosen hell in this world will suffer it after their bodily death. They wanted it and chose it, not God.
Some readers might ask me why I look to such “unorthodox” sources on this subject rather than rely purely on Scripture and Church teaching. Catholicism remains profoundly marked by the Augustinian legacy in Calvinism and Jansenism: hell is the “default” fate of all humans unless one is arbitrarily predestined and elected by God. If that is so, we can only knuckle up to a vision of the Church that is no better than Islam with its laws and its book. We need a different picture, and actually one that can be even more terrifying, but one that is yet more radiant when love reigns. We are even brought to the idea that sin is not some kind of “black mark” that can be forgiven cheaply and for the asking. It has to be atoned for and expiated in full – and that goes for us all to differing degrees.
I read something in Bonhöffer about “cheap grace”. Indeed it is the bane of modern Christianity!