On this melancholy subject I myself have nothing to say: the mere thought fills me with horror. The point of this note, then, is simply to report, that certain keen and orderly minds do have something of value to say about the matter, contrary to what one might naively suppose.
(1) One such is C.S. Lewis. Those who know him only as a Christian apologist will not be surprised to hear that he treats of this; but I first knew him only as a historian of literature and ideas, and a semanticist (The Discarded Image; Studies in Words), well before I knew he was a Christian, or became one myself.
CSL seems temperamentally somewhat uncomfortable tackling the dogma of eternal damnation. He is not of those who, in former times, maintained that among the delights of the saved was beholding (as at a dogfight; with popcorn, peering over the clouds) the writhings of the damned in the bottomless pit. His allegory on the subject, The Great Divorce, lacks the gusto of the Screwtape Letters, or the steel certainty of the essays. (The title is also unfortunate. I took it along to read on a family vacation, at a time when connubial bliss was at a rather low ebb, and fear it may have been misinterpreted by a frowning spouse as a peppy self-help book.) But nor does he go all mealy-mouthed, taking refuge in such contemporary side-steppings as calling Hell merely a metaphor, or a bogey with which to frighten the Wesleyans, or (in a pinch) to maintain that, while, yes, strictly speaking Hell does exist, but, God being all-merciful, it is empty, save for the very devils themselves. (And even they ! Vide the meditations of Murphy: Can Satan repent and be saved?) Rather, Lewis carefully -- gingerly -- assembles a narrative in which the Free Will that we are undoubtedly granted in this life -- and which crucially includes the liberty to serve the Dark Prince instead of the Lord (though as Dylan pointed out, you’ve got to serve someone) -- extends as well into the next: the grim fate of the reprobate being likewise chosen.
The notion seems fantastic at first, yet we do observe something very like this in this life, where an individual may mount the Seven Deadlies, and ride them again, and again, and again. At what point, were their mortal life extended, would they suddenly turn round? Perhaps never. Whence the eternity.
(2) Another such is Father Schall, S.J., who in his calm and orderly volume, The Order of Things (2007), devotes an entire chapter (ordered between “The Order of Mind” and “The Order of Redemption”) to “The Order of Hell”. And indeed, it is one of the better chapters.
The hope for an ever-empty Hell he calls “desperate, though not totally heretical” -- indeed, if a hope rather than a counter-doctrine, heresy would seem not to be on the menu. His argument for Hell in the traditional sense is extended and subtle, and I’ll not attempt to summarize; but his conclusion -- startlingly unapologetic and even upbeat -- is that the doctrine of Hell is part of “the drama on which our dignity is based”. And he agrees with -- indeed, exceeds -- C.S. Lewis on the key role that free will plays in all this: "The only way to eliminate the doctrine of hell would be to eliminate the doctrine of the freedom of the will."
[Note: The paperback edition of his book has one of the loveliest covers ever. I have borrowed the artwork here.]
One chooses perdition, one seeks salvation.
Witness the chilling story here:
[Advisory: Graphic images.]
* * *
What the reality may be as regards Hell itself, I have no inkling. But as to Hell-on-Earth … It is manifest. Open your shutters and look out upon the streets.
A particularly fine depiction of this is the episode in the TV series “Angel”, where the eponymous hero steps into the Elevator to Hell; and after a jolting ride (like a test-pilot, he must absorb the g’s) he winds up… back in Los Angeles.
The Satanic infects our culture in myriad ways. Consult this:
Incidentally … The culmination of the Murphy saga, as yet unpublished, involves increasingly direct confrontations between the dogged two-fisted private detective, and His Dark Majesty. A hint of what is to come is available here.
So far the sales figures haven’t justified publishing anything else. You yourself can rectify this sad situation by purchasing a thousand copies and sending them to everyone you know.