Last week we discussed our concept of Heaven. This week, we examine the next logical topic: Hell.
This week’s quote reminds us, come what may, we always have a choice.
“Whatever comes our way…
Whatever battle rages within us…
We always have a choice.
It’s our choices that make us who we are.
We can always choose what’s right.”
Last week we talked about concepts that we’ve been raised with – and that have been ingrained in our thinking and our faith. Just as we’ve been taught that if we’re “good” we go to heaven, we’ve been taught that if we don’t measure up we are sentenced to an eternity of fiery punishment. However, just as heaven is a spiritual state of consciousness, so is Hell.
Errors in Translation
Let’s look first at some of the errors in translation that have occurred over time. Did you know that in 1631 A.D. a Bible was printed giving the commandment, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”? (They forgot the word “not,” and thus the translation became known as The Sinner’s Bible.) There’s also a version that changed “no” to “on” and reads, “Go and sin on more.” Obviously, when humans get involved, mistakes are made.
Even the words we have used can be mistranslated or misinterpreted. For instance, the original word used in the Old Testament was Sheol. Sheol was a place all people went upon death. There was no fire or torment associated with Sheol. It was a shadowy and dim place without the Spirit of Life. Mr. Fischer says, “The terms spirit and soul are not used in connection with Sheol. Since we can also conclude that the body did not go to Sheol, it is difficult to know just what part of the person made this journey. In the original concept of Sheol, those who were there had no activity at all and could feel neither pain nor pleasure. Existence there was a dreamlike sort of thing.”
In the New Testament, one of the words used was Gehenna – referring to the Valley of Hinnom. This was a deep ravine used to burn garbage, refuse, and dead animals. It also became the site where infants were sacrificed in the worship of a god known as Molech. Because the fires burned constantly, it was sometimes referred to as “eternal fire.” Another word used was Hades. Hades, in Greek, literally means an unseen place; covered, concealed, or hidden. So, Hades is, quite simply, someplace we can’t see, touch, smell, taste, or hear. In its original form, Hades never meant “Hell” as formulated in our minds today.
Power and Control
Augustine lived from 354-430 A.D. It is thanks to him that the concept Hell took on its present picture in our minds. Augustine, before his conversion to Christianity, was a Manichaean. Manichaeans believed in a dualistic theology – everything had two sides: good and evil, light and darkness. There was no supreme, all-loving God. They believed that all non-Manichaeans were condemned to an eternity of torment and anguish until the end of the world when they would be thrown into “hell.” When Augustine converted to Christianity, his view of hell and torment for non-believers was so ingrained that he superimposed that believe onto the Christian teachings.
As man came to power within the church, and human ego being what it is, it’s easy to see how the concept of condemning people to Hell could be used to keep people in submission. With time, this became the standard teaching that still exists today.
Another mistranslation is “everlasting.” The original word in Greek was “aion,” from which our English word eon is derived. Eon simply means an indeterminate, but finite, length of time. It has a beginning and an end – we just don’t know how long the time in between the beginning and the end is going to be. So, the concept of an eternal torment in Hell is entirely of man’s construct, a product of our ego, our limited language, and is based on our own mistranslations and misinterpretations.
Hell on Earth
As with Heaven, rather than a “place” or a “destination,” Hell is an experience of life. We’ve all “been through hell and back.” Like Heaven, hell is a state of consciousness. As Mr. Fischer says when he quotes Dr. James Fischer, “The tortures of hell are not in the core of the earth, but in the very core of life.” When we allow our thoughts and emotions to degenerate enough, our experiences reflect the degredation of our true spiritual nature.
In the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Charles Fillmore writes:
“One does not have to die in order to go to hell, any more than one has to die to go to heaven. Both are states of mind, and conditions, which people experience as a direct outworking of their thoughts, beliefs, words, and acts. If one’s mental processes are out of harmony with the law of man’s being, they result in trouble and sorrow; mental as well as bodily anguish overtakes one, and this is hell.”
Continuing with Mr. Fischer, “We have all been taught that through our behavior we choose whether we shall experience heaven or hell. This is true; but this refers to now, not to some afterlife. It is a contemporary experience. If any one of us is going to experience hell, we can be sure that it will be during his or her earthly lifetime. When the Old Testament writers referred to Sheol, it was to a grave rather than to an eternal destination. Likewise, when we experience hell now, it is as if we have buried ourselves with trouble. We have shut ourselves out from all the light and beauty that life is. Somehow, we have made the choice not to express the mystical qualities of God. This is to lie in the grave of negation. It is our right to do this, since God has given us free will. But it is also our right not to. It is our right, through our divine heritage, to let ourselves be the free and open channels through which divine qualities of Spirit may express beauty. This is to refuse hell on earth.”
Yes, we have all been given free will. And, as our quote says, whatever happens, whatever battles are raging within us, we always have a choice. We can choose the path to Heaven – focusing on love, kindness, compassion, beauty, forgiveness, etc. Or, we can choose the path to Hell – focusing on hate, anger, vengeance, darkness, revenge, violence, etc. The choice is ours alone. Our future is one of our making. Our thoughts and our actions determine who we are, and who we will become. Can others commit heinous acts that involve and impact us? Yes! And, in so doing, they manifest Hell on Earth. But, no matter what happens, we always have the choice in how to respond, how we’re going to let those actions impact us and affect the rest of our lives. It’s those choices that determine who we are – and we can always choose to do what’s right.
There are so many Scriptures that one can turn to, instead of trying to list them all, I’m referencing a few websites that go into this subject in much greater detail:
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