Nothing is Real Unless it Lasts Forever
I believe I just finished Canto 29 of Dante’s Inferno. Sorry for not using Roman numerals, but then Dante was from Florence, not Rome.
I left Mr. Alighieri in the ninth circle of hell, where they were putting up a banner reading, “WELCOME, OSAMA” and everyone was being forced to sign up for Obamacare 700 years early. They were toasting with New Coke, and all the refreshments came from Weight Watchers. Needless to say, all concealed weapons had been confiscated, so no one was carrying, and the ones who showed up in vehicles were pushing Smart Cars and Priuses.
Humorousness aside, I must admit that I’m deriving some benefit from going back over Columbia College’s Lit. Hum. reading.
Is it opening my mind to the possibility that Judaism and Christianity are just rehashes of older myths? Is it showing me that man has invented a variety of “gods,” many derived from their predecessors, and that I shouldn’t take the Bible seriously as an authoritative reference regarding the supernatural? Should I recant, go out and buy weed, and start fornicating as much as humanly possible?
Of course not. Don’t be stupid.
It’s showing me that various types of Old World pantheism which I thought to be distinct are actually different versions of the same thing, and it’s showing me that the game we play here on earth is more serious than I realized.
It’s also renewing my lack of respect for Catholic doctrine, much of which comes from pantheism.
Dante is an interesting character. He’s a partisan Catholic fanatic, yet he believes mythology is true. He calls God “Jove,” which means “Zeus.” His hell is full of mythological characters, and he takes their myths at face value; he believes them. Chiron is in hell, ferrying people back and forth. Cerberus is in hell. Jason, Hercules, gorgons, furies…they’re in hell. That means they’re real.
Obviously, Dante’s doctrine is way off. Calling Zeus God is probably his worst offense. That’s what Antiochus did to upset the Jews; he sacrificed a pig to Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem. Dante is guilty of the same thing.
Zeus is nothing like God. Zeus is a rapist, for one thing. He’s also uncaring and unjust; he kills people simply because he’s mad, not because they’ve sinned. He helps filthy, immoral people commit wrongs. How Dante could confuse him with Yahweh is beyond me, but then he belonged to a faith that says God has a mother, so you can’t expect a lot.
I’m pretty sure modern Catholics don’t believe Zeus is God, and that they don’t believe the Greek myths. Nonetheless, they have incorporated mythological figures in their doctrine, calling them “saints” and giving them new names. Human beings can’t seem to be content with the one real God.
In one respect, Dante’s conception of hell is probably correct. In his scheme, many of the damned do little things to try to reduce their suffering temporarily. Here’s one example that caught my attention: people who are forced to live submerged in boiling tar sneak their way to the surface and expose their backs to the air, so that one part of their bodies will be cool for a few seconds. If the demons catch them, they get additional torment, so they have to be quick. Accounts of hell related by modern Christians indicate that the damned don’t suffer constantly; they experience tortures over and over, separated by brief lulls. Presumably, they do whatever they can to feel as comfortable as possible.
Things like that made me think about the similarities between hell and earth.
The earth is a rotten place. Things don’t work right here. Life is unjust. Bad people and spirits torment and abuse their betters. Terrible things happen to us, even when we try to do things right. We get awful diseases. Criminals do unspeakable things to us. We even get hit by lighting and meteors. Our bodies fall apart and die. This is not a safe planet, by any means. We are surrounded by suffering, all the time.
Our lives, like the lives of people in hell, are sessions of torment separated by lulls of relative ease. Earth is not as bad as hell, so the ratio of ease to torment is higher here, and we are able to delude ourselves and believe life is good.
Yesterday I realized we’re just like the people in the boiling pitch. We live in rebellion, so we don’t have as much peace or protection as we should. To compensate, we do what Dante’s tar-swimmers do; we take temporary steps to provide ourselves with comfort for as long as we can. We try to amass money and power. We look for sex partners. We look for entertainment. We dodge our responsibilities. In the end, there is always a reckoning, and whatever punishment you avoid early in life will be visited on you later, or in hell.
It’s stupid to focus on temporary measures, because they carry interest, just like loans. They don’t pay off in the end. They make us slaves, just as the Bible says: “The borrower is the slave of the lender.”
Earth is just a nicer version of hell, with an escape hatch. Heaven is completely different. There is no rot there. There is no disease. There is no failure. There is no aging. There is no disagreement or fighting. We are here for a short time, in this ruined world, and we don’t have the power to build anything that will last. We should focus on preparing for the next life, in a realm where things work the way they should.
We’re always looking for secular miracles, to make earthly life perfect. You can see it in the diet industry; that’s a good example of how we think. We say, “We are sick all the time. We must be doing something wrong. At some point in the past, we must have had a diet appropriate to our physiology, so if we can duplicate it, things will be fine.” We don’t understand that things have never worked correctly here. There is no magic diet. Some diets are better than others, but the body is a cursed machine, and we feed it cursed food, so there’s a limit to the results we can get. Eat the best food there is, and you will still die.
The stem cell people provide another example of spiritual immaturity. If you have an incurable disease, they believe, you should be able to take cells from a murdered baby, to help you feel better during this lifetime. An innocent person should have his or her life taken away, so your temporary, relatively worthless life can be prolonged. Better to die and receive a perfect body that can’t have a disease than to murder someone else so you can circle the drain a little longer.
Some idiots are talking about uploading our minds to machines, so we can live forever. Can you imagine anything worse? It’s probably impossible to move a spirit into a machine, but if it were possible, what would you have? A spirit trapped here in hell’s penthouse. A spirit that can’t graduate to heaven. We would be like breech-delivery babies, digging our heels in, refusing to move on to the next stage in life.
Imagine dying, going to heaven, living in a glorified body, and then going back to earth to visit some fool whose mind was trapped in a machine. What could be more pathetic and contemptible?
Holding onto this place is a big mistake. People who live that way are like unborn babies who, instead of being born and growing to adulthood, choose to have TV’s and refrigerators installed in their mothers’ wombs so they can stay there forever. Fear of death is really fear of life.
Here’s something preachers don’t talk about much: dying to self, or, as the Bible also calls it, the crufixion of the flesh. We seem to get three bad teachings about it:
1. No teaching at all, because it gives people frowny faces.
2. It means you have to be really nice to people all the time, with no selfishness.
3. You have to be an ascetic and live in a hole.
Dying to the flesh isn’t what we think it is. It means giving up on deriving satisfaction and fulfillment from earthly achievement and gratification. It means realizing, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that this place is worthless, and that our job here is to prepare for the next place.
There is self-denial in it, because you will have to give up things like gluttony and sexual excess, but you probably won’t have to put on a loincloth and live on bugs.
Dying to the flesh is a Holy-Spirit-driven process. You can’t do it using willpower. If you could, you wouldn’t need God. Gradually, the Holy Spirit changes your desires and motivations. I feel that this is happening to me now. I asked God for it, and I see it taking place. It can be a little disturbing, but it’s the only correct path.
Human beings love money, glory, power, and pleasure. We think ambition is a good thing. We applaud workaholics; we think a man who never sees his kids because he works 80 hours a week is a hero to his family. We think our goal should be to make lots of money and receive financial security and admiration. We’re just like the Pharisees Jesus laid into. In reality, we should be focusing on inner change.
We think money and power will bring security. They just bring new problems. We don’t realize we’re seeking a state that only comes from the presence of God. He IS security. He is peace. He is love and provision. He is protection and victory. The sensations we’re clawing to get are found in him, but we’re digging in all the wrong places.
You have to give up on this world. The devil is its god. It’s rigged against you. You’re never going to win on any terms other than God’s. If you can develop a good relationship with God, you’ll get the peace and help you couldn’t get by your own effort.
Charismatics do not teach this stuff, because they’re obsessed with money. They love money more than the Jews ever did; no comparison. T.D. Jakes and Rod Parsley and the rest are big, fat obstacles, sitting in the path between you and happiness.
The more I know about God, the less respect I have for human beings and the worse the world seems to me. We are very near the edge of disaster. We are not just a little bit off the mark; we are nowhere near it. God isn’t rewarding us for doing things right; he is showing us limited mercy while we do nearly everything wrong. The world belongs to Satan; no doubt about it. He won (temporarily). All we can do is look for escape routes for an individual here and there.
We’ve been clinging to the rim of the toilet ever since the third page of Genesis.
The more I turn from the nonsense, the better things get for me. On the other hand, it makes me feel more isolated, because I see how few people are going to make it. I was caked with thick layers of filth when I turned back to God, and peeling that stronghold off is taking a long time. When I see people who haven’t even started, I feel hopeless on their behalf. They’re not likely to try, and they’re even less likely to stick with it.
You can’t take the world with you, but you can escape. That’s the message. There is a way out. You have to walk alone, but you can help others find their paths.
I am looking forward to seeing the other side. It has to be better than a sexually perverted, sleazy, socialist America, with no privacy and no liberty, ruled by Hillary Clinton.