~ Dr. Frederick Leboyer
When I was an Evangelical Christian, I remember contemplating the notion of 'eternal conscious punishment' and agonizing over the countless millions who were going to the Lake of Fire . When attending a Christian College , I would go to the local town and spend my weekends passing out gospel literature and sharing Christ with all who would listen. I took their doctrine of Hell seriously, afterall, why have a doctrine if you don't take it seriously?
One day I had a great idea. I would put together a gospel band to stand on the back of a flatbed truck. We would drive into town on Friday night, park the truck on main street, let the band attract a crowd and then preach the life saving gospel to those listening in order to save them from eternal, conscious punishment. I decided to ask the President of the college to do the preaching. He was a man in his mid fifties, always neatly coiffed, and an incredibly articulate speaker. When he heard my plan, he turned pale and declined. I was dumbfounded by his tongue-tied backpedaling to extricate himself from what he clearly perceived to be a humiliating situation.
As the years went by, this sort of duplicity showed itself all around me. I met scores of Christians who routinely spoke of the eternally damned in the most nonchalant manner. I had never seen such calloused disregard and inexplicable apathy in the face of such dire consequences.
More recently, Televangelist Carlton Pearson has severed his ties with traditional evangelical teaching on the doctrine of Hell and saw his large conservative church dwindle from 6,000 members down to about 200. Evidently, evangelicals like their religion to include what Rob Zombie calls the 'the woes of an everlasting fiery hell.'
It is time to 'raze hell'. The word 'raze' means to destroy, demolish and annihilate. This unfounded and inhumane doctrine of a literal Hell must be assailed with logic, scripture and every means available to revalue human life and restore the Universe to a place of purposeful soul-making, rather than being a cosmic slaughter house rife with retributive justice. That being said, Hell will never go away. Hell, like all mythological constructs, arises in the fertile human Psyche, the universal imaginative garden which has grown Hebrew Sheol, Greek Hades, European Valhalla, Mayan Mitnal and the Aztec Mictlantecuhtli - various permutations of the ubiquitous underworld theme. If resisted, it will persist until heeded. There are no 'enemies' of the Psyche, only aspects that are either integrated into the ego or resisted. Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
Hell originates in the Universal Psyche, and is a part of each soul. Everyone of us knows that at some level there is a deep, dark, terrifying, lonely place inside of us. It rises up, or pulls us down in times of despair, depression and failure. If recognized as being a necessary part of Psyche, we can respect it as the place we go when we need to reflect, purge, correct and take a reading on our life course. The Christian gospel tells us that Jesus went to Hell after his death, signifying that the soulful life is comprised of both Heaven and Hell. The Hebrew Psalmist tells us that the LORD God lives in Sheol as much as He does in the Heavens (Psalm 139:8). The poet William Blake spent his life advocating for the marriage of Heaven and Hell in order to produce souls of depth and character.
We all have periods when we realize it is time to purge behaviors, eliminate modes of thinking, expunge habits and reduce old useless attitudes to ashes. Romantic poet Algernon Swineburne wrote a poem dedicated to the Queen of Hades, Persephone, about the need for a place where the disastrous and dead things go:
There go the loves that wither,
The old loves with wearier wings;
And all dead years draw thither,
And all disastrous things;
Dead dreams of days forsaken,
Blind buds that snows have shaken,
Wild leaves that winds have taken,
Red strays of ruined springs.
Algernon Charles Swinburne 1837-1909, The Garden of Proserpine
We all experience such periods, calling them, 'down times', that 'sinking feeling', 'feeling low' and say we are feeling a bit 'under the weather.' We say things like 'to hell with it', 'I feel like hell' and that 'things are going to hell in a hand basket.'
I suggest that we honor those times, take care of our selves, asks the gods of the psychic underworld to purge away the old useless stuff in preparation for the abundance that is sure to follow, just as the Phoenix rose from the purging flames. Hell is not literal, but it is a real human soul-making condition. In a Universe which many of us see as God-Expressing in All Things, even Hell serves us when we can see how.
Michael Bogar, MDiv. ThM