Friday, April 29, 2011

Hells, uppercase and lowercase...

I left the comment below on a stranger's blog I came across early this year.  Best as I can recall, this blogger is a conservative Catholic young man living and studying theology in Italy or something to that effect.

He does seem genial and reasonable, but his post “Argument for why Hell must be Eternal” offended me back in February when I stumbled upon it while going through a very turbulent, trying period.

I posted as “Anonymous” and attempted to argue from a very visceral and worldly point-of-view that the claim or threat of there being an everlasting “Hell” in the afterlife was almost laughably irrelevant to people who have struggled mightily with “lowercase hells” while in this realm of existence.

Unfortunately, my tone was a touch belligerent and condescending.

I hope I don't come across as too holier-than-thou here.

* * *

Greetings.  I am back as a guest visiting your provocative religion blog.  Previously I signed myself as “M, female, mid-30s, east coast, USA” on a mini-diatribe or two about “lowercase hells;” not sure if you remember that exchange.  Today I'm surfacing as a fellow blogger (link below).


I decided to look up my original comments / mini-essays written in response to your February Hell-as-eternal post because I have been tested mightily over the past year.  I needed to better understand my earlier positions and arguments on hell and other terrible mysteries.

(Re this past year, I have been through:

January - severe depression, suicidal ideation
February/March - depression, severe mania / schiz symptoms
April - rapid-cycling/mixed-state bipolar states, suicidality, severe depression)

I am trying to return peacefully from the “lowercase” hell of madness (bipolar disorder + schizoaffective disorder).

Over these past months I have been institutionalized multiple times and was even involuntarily committed briefly this time around (for erratic behavior due to schiz-like delusions) in a cold, vaguely forbidding Catholic hospital in Washington, D.C. which I shall not name.

After living through these spirit-heightening euphorias and soul-thrashing phantasmagoric nightmares, I can say without qualification that the assessment that “Hell” must be eternal amounts to a most terrifying thought, particularly for people with certain mental disorders.

Instead I choose the loving and inclusive teachings of people like Pastor Bell:

“Pastor Rob Bell: What if Hell Doesn't Exist?” [link]
Apr. 14, 2011 / Jon Meacham / Time

I know that this belief is at the core heretical to your Church.

However, I have finally found my God, and He is a kind, loving, forgiving personal sort of being of a distinctly Protestant stripe.

He has hinted to me, a lifelong unbeliever and denier (by answering small prayers in wondrously creative and beautiful ways), that the small hells I have experienced here on Earth will not be eternal, even if I ultimately succumb to madness or suicide after all.  (I pray that I do not, and that others I know who suffer such torments find peace and comfort in embracing life, self-knowledge, and a higher power as well.)

It pains me that many theologians doggedly insist (1) that there is a Hell in the afterlife, and (2) that it is everlasting.

I grew up in the state of Maryland where there are many powerful and influential Catholic leaders and institutions and I am grateful that I was not brought up Catholic and contemplating those peculiarly Catholic spectres of Hell.  The Catholic imagination can be a formiddable one.

Life can be torment enough without religion piling on to the suffering.

Sign me,
A rebellious madwoman

P.S. During my mania I had a splendid vision of a beautiful blooming blue cathedral rose window that looked like it came from a Middle-ages illuminated manuscript; while this vision confused me at first (since I then feared and distrusted Catholicism), I now see that it was a sweet intimation of the divine and not necessarily a sign to seek salvation in the Catholic faith specifically.

After all, why wouldn't God reveal His grace to somebody in this way?  Especially since much Catholic art is unparalleled in its power to inspire humankind, especially hapless wildly hallucinating madwomen.

There is another dimension to this vision; it also symbolizes the blue rose of Romantic yearning and seeking:

“The Blue Flower (German: Blaue Blume) is a central symbol of Romanticism. It stands for desire, love, and the metaphysical striving for the infinite and unreachable.”
—from “Blue Flower” (Wikipedia)

1 comment:

  1. This is very poignant & evocative, and wonderfully written.