A Dialogue on Hell

    • You told me hell is a terrible doctrine. Indeed it is. Why did you say this?
      • Because no one would be evil forever.
    • So what are you doing about the future?
      • I’ve left Christianity. If they believe in hell, in evil forever, to hell with them.
    • Any higher hopes?
      • No. I’m making my way. Trying to be decent.
    • What if someone wants something more from you. Your wife?
      • Look, I bring home enough money. I treat her with respect. I have my own time then. I need some space.
    • What if you were for more?
      • Damn it! I’ve got myself and it’s enough that I’ve done things for my wife and kids. Get out of it. Get out of it. Get out of here.
    • You, good Sir, have opened this abode of yours – forever. A man cannot decide just for the here and now. You thought he could. That is necessarily to decide “only for this and now.” You have chosen your time. Since you however carry on, for a man’s soul cannot be killed, that snippet of time you seized as yours: This shall be yours. And this alone. And as it does not correspond to the aspirations of your heart, it shall tire you out, relentlessly. Day in. Day out. Always yearning for the Real, you shall have – yourself! Relentless time beating ever the same dismal note upon pained ears. Relentless pushing of the ground upon your sense of touch, as you lay supine, weary, rolling, tossing in your bed of pain. Relentless dim light upon eyes both straining and strained. The stench of fetid flesh rising. The deadening silence wailing.
      • This is nonsense. I shall not live. I shall not live; I shall die! I am a mortal man. Nothing survives after death. I take great solace in this, in the face of your dire warnings about meaning and transcendence. All nonsense! I am but dust, and unto dust shall I return.
    • Tell me, good Sir. Do you know what a “circle” is?
      • What? I have had little interest in circles since high school. What has this to do with the topic at hand?
    • We shall see in a moment.
      • Well, then, if you must: Yes, I know what a circle is. It is a line equidistant from a point.
    • And what is a line?
      • Length without breadth.
    • Without any breadth?
      • None.
    • Have you seen such a thing?
      • Never. Couldn’t. No drawn or constructed circle could be perfectly circular.
    • Then, it strikes me as a fancy of your imagination.
      • No it is no fancy. For I could not imagine a circle.
    • Why not?
      • I would point out, first, that a circle could not be visible to my eyes, for the line tracing a circle is breadthless. And that which is breadthless admits no light, being without surface. But a thing is visible only through light.
      • Then, I would note that my imagination as it were “piggy-backs” on my senses. I can imagine only that which I can picture. And I can picture that which has dimensive spread, for I picture a thing as colored, but that which has no dimensive spread has no color. Therefore, everything I picture has dimensive spread, but a circle’s line has no such dimensive spread. For by dimensive spread I mean not simply extension but extension with breadth. But the line is breadthless. If everything I picture has dimensive spread but a circle’s line has none, I cannot imagine the circle – that is, the line tracing the circle’s figure.
    • Indeed. You have saved me time and labor. Now, how can what cannot be pictured by known?
      • It is conceived, not pictured.
    • So you can conceive what you cannot picture?
      • I just have.
    • You have a power, then, that transcends the limits of imagination, a power whose object cannot be represented adequately in any physical medium?
      • What of it?
    • Let us call this a pure power.
      • A what?
    • A pure power. By contrast, a mixed power is a power the existence of which consists in a corporeal instrument; further, the exercise of such a power is the act of said instrument. My eye requires matter, and in the right disposition. My heart likewise. I cannot see without that matter. Should the eye be plucked out, I could not see. Should the matter dissolve, I should be blind.
    • By contrast, a pure power has an existence distinct from any corporeal instrument. And its act is not the act of a corporeal instrument. It is a sheer power, if you will.
      • Then, yes. If I can know a circle the way I take it that I do know it, then I know by a power that is a pure power.
    • We have, then, a refutation of your earlier thesis. For that which can fall apart is that which is composed. That which is not composed cannot fall part. For to fall apart is for elements ingredient to a whole to fall away from unity. The eye is composed of matter in a certain arrangement. So, too, the heart. The eye can decompose into its constituents. So too, the heart. These are composed; these can decay.
    • But say there was something that just was a certain form. Say there were a sheer “form”. For instance, not a circle in clay or steel or wood. Just “circularity itself”. Not a heart in this matter (my chest) or that matter (your chest) but just a “heart itself”. Of course, it is impossible for there to be a “pure heart” but just say there were. Better to suppose: Think of pure circularity. Not the circularity of this wood or that clay; just circularity itself. You can separate circularity from this clay, by molding the clay if it is wet or breaking it if it is dry. You can separate bricks and lumber in a house, thus ‘dissolving’ the form. Why? Because the form of a house, the form of a circle in clay, is just the shape of matter. Hence, such forms depend on matter to be. But could you separate “circularity” from “circularity”?
      • Of course not. What would it mean?
    • Indeed, that which is a sheer form cannot be separated from itself.
      • Yes.
    • You, then, my friend, are a deep mystery. For you have a capacity which transcends the physical world. A capacity to conceive. You can act cognitively in a way that no corporeal instrument could possibly act. Now, nothing can act beyond its essence. So, if you have a power to achieve an act that no corporeal instrument can accomplish, there is something about your essence that transcends the limits of the corporeal. Your essence involves a principle of being that is not merely the “arrangement” of matter. Your essence involves a principle of being which is in-corporeal. A principle of being that yields a “pure power”. In short, a pure form.
    • Now, how can we separate such a form from itself? How can it decompose? It cannot. It simply is if it is. It will not fall into nothingness. It is immortal. You shall not die. You shall die; you shall live! Despair not O Wicked Man; There is yet hope of God’s grace and your conversion