A History of Hell By Ralph Monday World Literature I The Judeo-Christian Tradition • Probably most individuals reared in this cultural mythos think of a burning, eternal Hell, ruled over by the fallen rebellious angel, Lucifer, or Satan, the most beautiful of angels turned, by his prideful sin, into the most hideous of supernatural creatures. The typical image of Hell— a smoldering underground world of eternal flame and unending torment. Michelangelo's vision of the torments of Hell. Unrepentant sinners are punished here for their crimes in life. A horrific Satan rules this underground kingdom. More beast than human, he revels in the torments of the human soul. He is the Fallen One. No longer able to glory in God’s light, his purpose is to rule over human souls in the pits of Hell. SATAN EXULTING OVER EVE William Blake Tim Curry in the movie Legend (doesn’t look much like a “sweet transvestite” here, does he?) The common Halloween image of the dread, dark lord. • However, Hell has a long history that is not just confined to the Christian conception. • Hell—or the underworld—is an ancient archetype, a cultural mythos that can be found all over the world, in all times, all places, all environments. • Indeed, the Sumerian/Babylonian conception is the proper place to begin an examination of this horrid, yet fascinating “world” that awaits human beings after death. The mysterious place where the sun settled into the Western Sea was the Underworld for ancient people. THE GREAT BELOW In the Babylonian/Sumerian conception, the war of dark and light, good and evil, an archetype that we have inherited and incorporated into our own psychological mythos, is a powerful reminder of our own frail humanity. When the sun emerged triumphant in the east each day, this event symbolically reinforced the archetypal concept of the LIGHT overcoming the DARK. In this belief, ancient peoples, tied to the natural environment, LITERALLY believed that the sun might not rise in the east, that the dark forces had triumphed. Here, the sun rising each morning from the horizon, reiterated the power of Light over Darkness. Land Of The Dead • The first account that we have of this mysterious abode originates in the land of Sumer. • This is modern day Iraq, as we have seen. • Inanna, the Great Goddess, journeys to the underworld to visit her sister Ereshkigal, for obscure reasons. • Inanna passes through six succeeding gates, and at each one she is stripped of an article of clothing. • Finally, she is naked and must confront her sister. • Three days and nights pass, and in this time no fertility takes place in the above world. When the goddess is trapped in the Netherworld, no procreation can take place, for she is the symbol of all Re–Creation. (pun intended) Osiris, Egyptian god of the Dead Believe it or not, he has parallels to Christianity. Nice hat The Egyptian Book Of The Dead •Osiris was an Egyptian god who represented the dead pharaoh. •He was the god of dying and resurrecting nature, the judge of the dead, and was represented as a mummy. •Like Jesus Christ, he was the product of a virgin birth. Osiris (not Mylie Cyrus) •Like Jesus Christ, he was the sacrificed and resurrected god. •His divine son Horus ruled the living. Zoroastrianism •Named after Zoroaster, a Persian middle east prophet. •The Avesta, the sacred book of the religion was not written down until the fifth century A.D. •Zoroastrianism had an ENORMOUS influence on Christian thinking, especially in regard to the conception of Hell. Zoroastrianism (continued) •Zoroaster taught a dualistic religion: the divine force of good, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), lives above with his seven angels. •Ahriman (Evil Spirit), the Lord of Lies, dwells in the darkness of Hell under the earth, and sends out his daevas (devils) to torment the world. Zoroastrianism (continued) •Law, order, and light oppose darkness, filth, and death. •Their conflict is the history of the world, and the object of the conflict is the soul of man. (continued) • After death the soul goes to the Underworld where it is judged. • Good deeds are entered in a great ledger as credits; bad deeds as debts. • If the deeds are positive, a beautiful maiden escorts the soul across a bridge to the House of Song. Zoroastrianism (continued) • If negative, the soul falls into hell. • If even, the soul passes into a kind of limbo where it will stay until the Apocalypse. • Finally, a great cosmic battle between Good and Evil takes place— with Evil being conquered forever. Zoroastrianism (continued) • A savior named Soshyans, born of a virgin impregnated with the seed of Zoroaster, will harrow hell. • Penitent sinners will be forgiven and there will be a universal resurrection of the body. (continued) • The body will reunite with the soul. • Hell will be destroyed, burned clean by molten metal—and the Kingdom of God on earth will begin. • This concept is typical of apocalyptic ideas concerning an end time and the coming Messiah. Classical Hades • For more than a thousand years, until the Western world changed in the fifth century A.D., the ancient religions of Greece and Rome had many gods and goddesses capable of good or vindictive behavior. • They had no particular religious system that punished “evil” behavior. • However, Hesiod relates that Erebus and Tartarus, the upper and lower realms of Hades, were born, together with Night and Earth, from the primeval chasm. Hall of Hades Where Odysseus And His Men Traveled •One of the classical journeys to the Underworld Hades and Persephone •King and Queen of Hell. •Hey Hades, why so stiff? •Notice the mutant puppy dog. ORPHEUS (don’t get excited, this isn’t Morpheus. This isn’t The Matrix. Another important cult was based on Orpheus the Harper; he went to the Underworld down a passage of the Taenarus Cave to win back his wife, Eurydice. This cult lasted for centuries and influenced both the Greek and Christian religions. Two other pictorial versions of the Orpheus mythos. CROSS CULTURAL MYTHOLOGICAL SHARING • Artists in the Hellenistic period frequently • Fire insurance? borrowed the attributes • However, Orpheusof Orpheus for Jesus. Christos, the Good • Patrons who wanted to Shepherd and Harrower hedge their bets with the of Hell, eventually gods, also borrowed became the most from the Egyptian Horus powerful and popular of the Dying and and from the Persian Resurrected gods Mithras. archetype. A TYPICAL VIEW OF THE UNDERWORLD THE ROMAN EMPIRE AND VIRGIL •The illustration in the next slide represents the moment in the Aeneid when Aeneas seeks to cross the Styx to embrace his father Anchises in the Underworld, holding out to Charon the boatman the Golden Bough that he has to present to Proserpine. •The Cumaen Sibyl stands beside him, telling him the descent to Avernus is not hard: “But to retrace the steps and escape to upper airs, that is the task and that is the toil” (Aeneid, VI, 123 ff). Aeneas waiting to cross the Styx. Aeneas in the Underworld with the prophetic Sibyl. • The Romans, of course, • However, Virgil gives us borrowed the majority the first graphic description of their mythology of Hell. from the Greeks. • Although the images were • The underworld of known to his era, Virgil’s Aeneas is the same influence was enormous, shadowy, ill-defined not only for later poets like underworld of the Dante, but also for men Greeks, where who created the early everyone went except Christian cosmology: for a favored few who Clement of Alexandria, go to the Elysian Fields Origen, Tertullian, and like Menelaus and other most especially Augustine, favored individuals of who quoted Virgil the ancient world. frequently. AENEAS AND THE SIBYL: LAKE AVERNUS MAP OF VIRGIL’S UNDERWORLD AENEAS AND SIBYL IN THE UNDERWORLD SHEOL •This is the cosmology of the Old Testament. •This universal view is an inheritance of the Babylonian/Su merian cosmos. The Jewish Afterlife • The ancient Jews, as evidenced by the Old Testament, were either the least morbid or the least imaginative of the Mediterranean peoples. • Unlike other countries, they had no relationship with the dead. • They did not worship them, sacrifice to them, visit them, or hope to reunite with them in an afterlife. • Neither did they expect any interaction with Yahweh after death. • The dead, to the Jewish people, were unclean. • Sheol occurs often in the O.T., sometimes translated as “hell,” “the grave,” or “the pit.” • Nowhere does it indicate anything other than where a body was laid to rest. The Jewish Afterlife •Sometimes Sheol is compared to a prison. •A second word usually translated as Hell is Gehenna, which means the Valley of Hinnom. •This was an “unclean” place, a garbage heap or town dump where trash, the bodies of criminals and animals were thrown into a perpetually burning fire. •Gehenna was used as a metaphor for an unpleasant place and as a curse. The Jewish Afterlife • Death in a place like this would have demonstrated a life far removed from the laws of Yahweh. • Apparently the ancient Jews did not envision the Underworld as a place for living souls, but merely the final resting place of the body. Gehenna today, located southwest of Jerusalem. Pagan sacrifices were reported to have also taken place there. GNOSTICISM •Gnostic Christianity held one of the stranger views of Hell during late antiquity. •The ancient church effectively wiped out this radical religious view until the discoveries of the Gnostic Gospels in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. •The most common Gnostic myth: an aeon or angel named Sophia (wisdom) admired the “High Unknown” or Alien God (a Platonic idea). •Sophia tried to imitate the self-sufficient asexual creativity of the High God. •This delusion caused her to fall from the clear, light, and pure upper heavens. •In agony and despair she brought forth a shapeless abortion, the Demiurge, Lower God, the creator of the • The Demiurge made all of this in ignorance of the High God and Sophia. • He believed that he was the only god. • Thus, our world was conceived in ignorance and folly, and so were humans. • We are created in the image of the Demiurge. • Sophia, attempting to atone for her mistake, breathed into us whatever good or spiritual in nature that we have. • Sophia has been reincarnated in a series of famous women: • Eve, Noah’s wife, Helen of Troy, and Mary Magdalene. • However, where the Gnostic myth fired the imagination was in its interpretation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. • The Gnostics believed that the world was hell, or at least a type of Hades or Limbo • Ruled over by an ignorant and ignoble Devil. • Christ’s descent from purity into the world was a plunge into the material hell. • His purpose was to harrow or plunder the • Unhappy domain of the Demiurge in order to save human souls • By bringing them gnosis or secret knowledge. • This philosophy did influence Christianity in the idea of a fallen, • Corrupt, imperfect world. • Hell was on earth. MEDIEVAL HELL • The richest period in the history of Hell is the millennium that followed the fall of Rome— • A middle period between the classical world and the one born with the Renaissance or rebirth of the classical approach to learning. • All the foundations of Hell were already in place when Rome fell, but the Middle ages vastly elaborated on the project. • Medieval theologians continued to refine doctrine made by the church fathers— • Except for one crucial event: the formal advancement of the doctrine of Purgatory in 1253. • Thomas Aquinas, in particular, followed Augustine in insisting on a real fiery Hell with physical torments added to those of the mind and spirit. Of course, Christ Was the antithesis Of Hell. Baptism of Christ. From the medieval Paintings of The three Limbourg Brothers (1416)—the Tres Riches Heures (Book of Hours) Made for the Duke Of Berry. FALL OF THE REBEL ANGELS A Defining Moment For the Medieval Period. Brueghel the Elder— 1569. Limbourg Brothers— Hell. 1416 Luca Signorelli The Damned. 1441-1523. Memling Hell. 1485.