Meditations on Hell

There is always togetherness in hell. On old icons we see crowds of people in chains. The opposite of this is heaven: a free, solitary flight and the growth of wings. Sin is linked with sin, hatred, self-loathing, and loathing of others — all chained together.


Hell. The spiritual sensation of hell can be compared to what a prostitute feels upon meeting her loved one. This is the way it will be after death: self-pity and self-disgust. The sense of guilt and the question: Why had you no faith? You were nowhere to be found, I waited . . . for a little while. . . . But why had you no faith? That’s what is really important. Hell.


Perhaps my life has been made hell so that I may avoid hell in eternity?


From Matthew (13-50, 22-13): “There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth . . . there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In hell there are no teeth, but there is eternal self-loathing. And even a share of that self-loathing causes gnashing of teeth here on earth. Hell is really incomparably more frightening than the way it was described in the Middle Ages.


Suicide is a graver sin than murder. A murderer kills someone else’s body, whereas a “self-murderer” destroys not only his own body, but also his soul.


There are two kinds of suffering: elevating and degrading. Christ’s suffering, and Judas’s suffering which led him to suicide.


Without faith, God cannot be discussed. If God for us is merely a theoretical riddle, then any discussion of Him is irrelevant.


Does God exist? In order to answer, we need personal experience and not knowledge. When in pain, when happy, or suffering, no scientist can persuade me that my pain and suffering do not exist, that they are merely subjective, a product of my imagination. I have the experience and not the knowledge of pain. And so it is with God: “experts” are no help.


A Hungarian philosopher said: “I see God as I see my own eyes.” Although I don’t see my own eyes, without them I can’t see the visible world. If there is no God, there is nothing.


How great it would be to know that some kind of almighty power of good exists. It takes care of me and helps me find happiness; it never makes me suffer or carry a burden that I cannot bear. A power that punishes and forgives me, and revives my soul. What should I be afraid of? The laws of nature? Illness? Accidents? But reason objects: Is it possible that someone could care about millions and millions of people? And about me as well? Yet, that’s the way it is. Is it really less surprising that the brain has nervous centers which care about the well-being of millions of cells in the human body?


“Pati, Domini, aut mori” (Suffering, Oh Lord, or death), said St. Theresa. In fact, if suffering exists, then so does God, and therefore there is hope for happiness. There is nothing worse than insensitivity and complete abandonment. Dante places the inability to love at the very bottom of hell.


The greatest miracle of all is the possibility of repentance, if only before death. This actually is the first step back to heaven. And the fact that he who followed God’s path his whole life receives the same pay as he who came late (see Matthew 20:1-16), is the greatest mystery.


Death is no dream. It is probably a great awakening. Have you ever seen the eyes of a dying person? There is fear and often terror in his eyes. Perhaps for the first time in his life, he sees the whole truth. No, death is not a dream — anything but that.


Would fear of death really exist if we saw death as a final end, or as eternal bliss, or as a dream? Certainly not. This means that fear of death is not the fear of the extinction of life or the absence of eternity, but . . . a fear of suffering. Yet, it is not the fear of physical suffering, but rather of that which awaits us after death. Brave men not afraid of physical suffering tremble in the face of death, even when they know that death will be instantaneous.


If our ego, our human soul, would disappear together with our body, there would be no fear of death. Thus fear of death does confirm the immortality of the soul. Overcoming this fear (remember the Christian martyrs in the Coliseum) means that we believe that immortality will not be hell.


Death came into the world through one man and was conquered by one man as well — Christ (Romans 5:17). These words may sound strange. Yet when the plague or cholera is brought into the world by a single carrier, that doesn’t seem strange.


There is but one life. But only here on earth can one attain eternal salvation. How then, does one attain it? Through law? No. Reason? No. That’s all too mundane. Only through faithfulness to one’s inner voice. Abram Tertz (Andrei Siniavsky) was right in saying that one must follow God as a dog follows his master, no questions asked.

  • Mihajlo Mihajlov

    Mihajlo Mihajlov (1934 — 2010) was a Yugoslav scholar of modern Russian literature. He spent seven years in prison under the regime of Marshall Tito for disseminating "hostile propaganda."

tagged as: happiness Heaven Hell sin

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