I have had the concept of hell come up in conversation more times, than I care to count this week. Since Hell, seems to be a hot topic, I thought I’d comment on it. I am not in expert in anything, but this is my opinion as it stands this week. I in no way, shape, or form wish to debate religious beliefs or cause offense to anyone. These are just rough outlines of different beliefs.
When I think of hell, all I can picture is an underground cavern full of fire and boiling lava, surrounded by ugly men in red satin suits and giant tridents. Too many Hollywood “B” movie images have tarnished by brain I think. I have compiled more information on hell than you might want to know about. But try reading it, it could cure your insomnia.
The English word "hell" comes from the Germanic word "hel", which originally meant "to cover". The Teutonic Goddess of the Dead and daughter of Loki was named Hel. She was a Norse god of the underworld and responsible for torture, and punishment. Loki was the God of mischief.
In Hinduism people who sin go to hell and are punished according to the sins they have committed. Some Hindus believe that hell is metaphor for having a conscious. The god of death, known as Yama is the king of hell. Chitragupta is like a secretary or record keeper who keeps a tally of all the sins you have committed. King Yama decides the punishments to be given including being dipped in boiling oil, burning in fire, tortured with weapons and so on. People who have been punished are then reborn according to their karma.
Buddhists believe that there are several hells. Hell is also believed to be a state of mind. The hell realms of scriptures are taken as a metaphor rather than a literal. It is a place of temporary suffering and there is no reason for those spirits to suffer there forever. There are heavens and hells in other dimensions but heavens and hells on earth too. People who suffer in the mindset of hell can move out of ‘hell’ by sending themselves love and kindness and forgiving themselves of their deeds. They believe there are no locks on the gates of hell.
Zoroastrianism is an ancient Persian religion that influenced Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity. They believe that humans bear responsibility for all situations they are in, and the way they treat one another. The word hell means bad existence. The damned descend the into the three levels of Bad Thought, Bad Word, and Bad Deed where they are forced suffer misery and they will have poison for food. In Hell darkness is so thick that it can be held in one's hand, the stench is so strong that it can be cut by a knife, and loneliness is absolute. Personal judgment is not final. At the end of time when all evil has been defeated souls are reunited with God.
In Judaism Gehenna is translated as hell like. The term Gehenna is taken from the name of a valley in Jerusalem. The valley served as a reservoir for temples where offerings of poor quality were thrown. They believe that you go into a sort of a purgatory for about a year. Your soul is purged of wrong for eventual acceptance into heaven. They believe that prior to birth your soul exists a divine spiritual state before it descends into the world. In its pre-physical existence, the soul is prepared with the wisdom and knowledge of God that empowers it in its fight to rise above and convert into the physical body.
Most Christians see hell as a place for sinners, who will be tortured by demons until the end of time. Some different branches of Christianity believe non-believers, unbaptized babies, and believers of different Christian faiths will suffer this torture upon death. Purgatory is a place of judgment with a chance of redemption on Judgment Day. Hell however is a place without redemption.
The Bahá'í Faith believes hell and heaven as a specific place as a symbolic description. They believe hell is a spiritual condition caused by an isolation from God. Heaven is seen as a state unity with God. They believe a soul in the afterlife is beyond comprehension in our human minds and feel that a soul will retain its consciousness, individuality, and memories of their life on earth. The spirit will be able to remember other spirits and communicate with them.
Muslims see hell as a punishment being given dependent on the level of evil done in life, and that works of good are separated into other levels depending on how well one followed Allah. The Qur'an also says that some of those who are sent to hell are not damned forever, but instead for an unknown period of time. When the Judgement Day comes, the spirits in hell will be reviewed and it will then be decided if they are allowed to enter Paradise. So there is a chance that your spirit can be redeemed.
You may have questions about murders, rapists, and criminals, as you should. It is not my wish to turn this blog into a philosophical debate on the issues of religion or consequences for doing harm. I have found through doing numerous readings that many people really need the concept of hell to make themselves feel whole and healed.
Hell is a convenient way for us to deal with our personal pain when we suffer. It gives us permission to feel that things will work out in the end when people hurt us. We know they will suffer for harming others or ourselves. Hell is the idea that a person’s soul will be tortured unbearably.
Hell ironically keeps us rooted to the perpetrator or 'evil doer'. The person responsible for our pain ironically still has control over our life. When we hate, because our hurting is so deep, and we hope our perpetrator will be tortured for eternity, we unwillingly let the wrongdoer have power over our feelings, and allow him to tarnish our spirit. A part of us then becomes the essence of their crime. That essence is hate. Hell is just another tool that causes a victim to suffer even more.
Hell has been explained as feeling every feeling that you have ever had, as well as every feeling that you have caused someone else to feel. You experience every blissful, wonderful, experience, you have had, and every horrible, terrible, experience you have had as well. You go through every feeling that you have caused some one else to feel, good and bad. You experience the joy and suffering through their eyes.
If I am a rapist, and I rape you, I get to experience the rape through your eyes. I will experience all of your pain, all of your violation, and all of your suffering, just as it happened to you. That, I believe, is hell.
Hell does not always have to be a place we visit after death, nor does it have to involve brutal crimes against humanity. How many of us relive situations and feelings from our past on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? How many times do we punish ourselves for our mistakes? I, personally, have, punished myself repeatedly for things I have done. I have lived in hell. I became my own judge, jury, and executioner. I alone created my own hell, and believed I deserved it on a very conscious level.
The thought of forgiving myself never even crossed my mind. I needed to punish myself for being an ass. I never stopped to think what was causing me to be an ass. I didn’t think it was important. I thought I was the only problem. I hated myself at times. Suffering was the real problem. I did not realize that if I had not suffered, I never would have hurt another person with my actions.
So is hell a state of mind and a kind of temporary existence on the other side? I don’t have any concrete answers. I just thought it would be a topic that makes you think. It probably creates more questions than answers. I found a great website from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Heaven and Hell. Peruse it if you are so inclined at: