Friday, April 03, 2015

If I make my bed in hell

The Bible depicts hell as a place (and condition) to be avoided at all cost. But aside from terrifying imagery, it leaves many of the details unstated.

Pious imagination has attempted to pencil in the details. Most famously or infamously in the case of Dante.

Although Scripture is clear on the eternal duration and unmitigated dreadfulness of hell, the lack of greater specificity leaves us free to speculate on possible scenarios. This can also be useful when rebutting calumnies against the alleged injustice of everlasting damnation.

In a Star Trek episode ("Shore Leave"), the landing party beams down an alien amusement park where "you have to only imagine your fondest wishes, either old ones you wish to relive or new ones, anything at all. Battle, fear, love, triumph. Anything that pleases you can be made to happen."

Sounds like fun. However, the landing party doesn't know that when it first beams down. It's fine if they are thinking about an old flame or the talking rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. If, however, they are thinking about a tiger or samurai warrior, then it's dangerous.

The episode fudges at the end by saying the crew will have a marvelous time so long as they guard their thoughts. Problem is, that's impractical advice. We have limited ability to control our thoughts. Our imagination is a storehouse of memories and associations. Spontaneous thoughts pop into our consciousness throughout the day. It's not something we can consistently suppress.

In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis has a more realistic treatment of this theme: the Dark Island or "The Island where Dreams Come True." That sounds tantalizing, but it quickly devolves into a never-ending nightmare. 

In principle, that's how God could set up hell. Each of the damned might create his own private hell out of his very own, lurid imagination. His evil mind and evil memories become the source of hellish landscape and hellish creatures which bedevil it. He is self-tormented as hidden replicators objectify the contents of his twisted mind and subconsciousness. 

The more evil you are, the more you suffer–and your evil is the raw material for what you suffer. Poetic justice. 

No comments:

Post a Comment