"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

Dante  (from the INFERNO

Divine Comedy)


"Hell was born just outside the walls of Jerusalem, in the Valley of Ben Hinnom. The prophet Jeremiah dubbed this "The Valley of Slaughter" (Jeremiah 19:6) because so many children were immolated here in a deep pit know as the Tophet-"Place of Fire." Even Kings of Judah burned their sons and daughters at this Tophet. Eventually, the sacrifices ceased. But the memory remained, as the valley of Ben Hinnom turned into Gehenna, the Hebrew word for "hell", where sinners suffered the eternal torment of fire.

Having heard so much about hell in Catholic grade school-and seen frightening pictures of children consumed in these flames-I wanted to see the actual spot where the dreadful notion began. I expected something awful in "The Valley of Slaughter", so I was taken aback by its beautiful, deep ravines and verdant olive groves, just outside the white, turreted walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. It looked more like paradise than hell."

Patrick Tierney

The Highest Altar


" most dark and stinking, most fearful and thankless, most evil-the place and lair of the demons and lies. In it there is neither pleasure nor joy; all is stench and pollution, pain and punishment, affliction, suffering, misery, and discomfort-all this, too, to an infinite degree so that there can be no comparison with earthly pain; and whereas, on earth, the fear of some future evil is usually worse than the evil itself, in hell the reality far exceeds the dread."

(Zoroastrian view of hell)

The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism by R.C. Zaehner


"You who are fond of spectacles, expect the greatest of all spectacles, the last and eternal judgment of the universe. How shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs and fancied gods, groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates who persecuted the name of the Lord, liquefying in fiercer fires than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing in red hot flames with their deluded scholars, so many celebrated poets  trembling before the tribunal, not of Minos, but of Christ; so many tragedians, more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers..."

Tertullian (2nd Century A.D.)


" I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final results. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern."

C.S. Lewis


"Hell is the most dreadful of inventions, and it is hard to understand how one can expect any good of people after this invention. Will they not always have to invent hells?"

Elias Canetti

The Human Province


"I think I am in hell; therefore I am there."

-Arthur Rimbaud


"In all discussions of hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends....but of ourselves."

C.S. Lewis

The Problem of Pain


"We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment."

C.S. Lewis

The Screw Tape Letters


"For the Shin Buddhists, our understanding is that this is hell."

Plump, pleasant Dennis Yoshikawa did not look like a person residing in hell. Born in Denver around forty years ago, he has been a Shin Buddhist priest in Kyoto for many years, originally attracted to the faith-an offshoot of Pure Land Buddhism-as philosophy rather than religion. "But I'm working on it," he said, for now Shin Buddhism is both in his life.

   If I understand him correctly, this is hell because:

 A. Human beings suffer in hell.

B. All human beings are suffering.

C. All human beings are in hell.

   We all suffer because we are ignorant. We are ignorant because we are deluded. What we see and what we think are true are not true, because our ego taints our senses and sense. Our ego so dominates our lives, in fact, that there is no difference between suffering and joy. They are both ego-driven. There fore they are both deluded perceptions that keep us from the real joy of truth."

Greg Palmer

Death: The Trip of A Lifetime


"The woman unstopped the jar and let it all out, and brought grim cares upon mankind."

Hesiod, Works and Days

(The gods create Pandora on Zeus' orders, as a trap for Prometheus, the Titan who made man from clay but then stole fire from Zeus as a gift to mankind. Pandora is beautiful, has great charm, wonderful clothes and jewelry. Unfortunately, the first woman has a "bitch's mind and a knavish nature." She is Zeus' punishment to all mortals who unwittingly accepted the gift of fire)

(from: The Quest For John Ashton and Tom Whyte)



"One cannot walk through a mass-production factory and not feel that one is in Hell."

W.H. Auden


"Hell is other people-"

John Paul Sartre



"The most frightful idea that has ever corroded human nature-the idea of eternal punishment."

John Morly 1886


"Hell is oneself. Hell is alone, the other figures in it merely projections."

T.S. Eliot "The Cocktail party"


"Bad" people don’t go to hell; they are already in hell; that’s why they act so badly."

Dan Millman


"I can believe anything, but the justice of this world does not give me a very reassuring idea of the justice in the next. I am very much afraid that God will go on blundering: he will receive the wicked in Paradise and hurl the good into Hell."

Jules Renard 



"The religion of Hell is patriotism, and the government is an enlightened democracy."

James Cabell (1879)


"There , in Tartarus, the immortal Titans are hidden under darkness invisible, as Zeus of the Storm Cloud wills them to be, down in that place of decay at huge earth’s outermost limits. To them is left no escape, for Poseidon has set there a bronze door…..

There, farther on, stands the echoing house of the God of the underworld, and a frightening dog is on guard in front of its entrance, one who is pitiless and knows a terrible trick: he welcomes everyone entering by wagging his tail and putting his ears down, but he allows no one to escape."

(First description of Hell-Hesiod 8th Century B.C.)


"It is easy to go down into hell; Night and Day the Gates of Dark Death stand wide; but to climb back up again, to retrace one’s steps to the open air, there lies the problem, the difficult task."


The Aeneid (70-19 B.C.)


"Long is the way

and hard, that out of hell

leads up to light.

John Milton

Paradise Lost


"Hell is not just God’s vengeance on humanity, nor is it only , in Sartre’s phrase, other people…..hell is the nightmarish world which each of us constructs, unconsciously in the sweat of unconfessed, unconfessible fantasies. Hell is that private world of shame, fear and terror, that we have all sometimes felt, and have hoped to forget in the public daily world of post-breakfast conventionality. Hell….is the vulnerable undercurrent behind the mask of respectability."

Keith Hopkins (London Review, 11/10/94)


"Self-love and the love of the world constitute hell."



"One cannot walk through a mass-production factory and not feel that one is in hell."

W.H. Auden


"Hell is truth seen too late."

Thomas Hobbes



…What is Hell thought to be like? How did it come to be thought of in that way? And how did its topography change with the centuries? The pull of the Pit on the creative mind has been extraordinary. Poets and artists have always taken an immoderate interest in Hell, and have explored it in some curious ways. Theologically, Hell is out of favor now, but it still seems more "real" to most people than Fairyland or Atlantis or Valhalla or other much imagined places. This is because of the sheer mass and weight and breadth of ancient tradition, inventive fantasy , analytic argument, dictatorial dogma, and both simple and complex faith employed over a very long time-thousands of years- in the ongoing attempt to map the netherworld. The Landscape of Hell is the largest shared construction project in imaginative history, and its chief architects have been creative giants-Homer, Virgil, Plato, Augustine, Dante, Bosch, Michelangelo, Milton, Goethe, Blake, and more."

Alice K. Turner

"The History of Hell


"The widespread Hellenistic mystery cults heavily influenced early Christianity. For example, the Seven Deadly Sins, which Christians appropriated both iconographically and geographically in their own views of Hell, were a Mithraic formulation which looked back to Zoroastrianism, which game mystic significance to the number seven. As the dead soul rises through the gate of Capricorn, the Mithraic story went, it passes through the seven heavenly spheres, shedding in each the appropriate vice: the Sun-Pride, the Moon-Envy,Mars-Anger,Mercury-Greed,Jupiter-Ambition.Venus-Lust

,Saturn-Sloth. Mithra also gave us December twenty-fifth as God’s birthday, the Chi-Rhom sign which Christians appropriated, and, together with other cults, a persisting interest in astrology and numerology."

Latin poets embellished the old Greek stories and contributed a few additions to the underworld anthology: the spectacular set piece from Virgil’s Aeneid, Virgil’s and Ovid’s Orpheus stories. Psyche’s girlish adventure in Apuleius’s Golden Ass, Cicero’s Scipios dream, which deals more with the positive than the negative afterlife, and Plutarch’s Vision of Thespesius, which looks backward to Plato’s Er and forward to medieval dream visions. The Romans changed a few names Plouton or Pluto was sometimes called Dis Paater. Dis being a contraction of Dives-hence "Father Rich Man."…





"And those two men (angels) led me up the north slope and showed me a terrible place. It had all manner of tortures: cruel darkness, dim gloom. There was no light but that of murky fire. It had a fiery river and the whole place is everywhere fire, everywhere frost and ice, thirst and shivering, while the fetters are cruel, and the angels fearful and merciless bearing sharp weapons and merciless tortures. I said. " How terrible is this place." (2 Enoch 12)



"The Jesuit Hell was unbearably, suffocatingly, repulsively crowded (possibly because of its millions of new Protestant immigrants). In a dank, claustrophobic amalgam of dungeon and cesspool, dainty aristocrats and prosperous merchants jostled, cheek to jowl, buttock to belly, mouth to mount, with coarse, foul-smelling, verminous peasants, lepers, and slum-dwellers. Just as the bodies of the saved were to be glorified at the resurrection, those of the damned would be deformed, bloated, flabby, diseased, repugnant, "pressed together like grapes in a wine-press" (a favorite image). There were no latrines. The infernal stench was human stench, and it was disgusting and everlasting and composed of filth and feces and pestilence and running sores and bad breath and everything else creative Jesuits came up with to make their wealthy clients resolve to men their ways…….





John Miltons Hell…."It certainly is not in the center of our own earth, the traditional site. Earth had not yet been created when Milton’s rebel angels fell. It is not a claustaphobic Jesuit prison but a vast world, unpopulated (yet) except for the rebels, Sin, Death, and a few prodigious monsters. It seems to be located on, or rather inside another planet altogether. When Sin unlocks the gates it is as though Satan were about to step out into space, though here it is Chaos. And Chaos is outside the universe, as the universe was generally understood."




"The unhappy wretch will be surrounded by fire like wood in a furnace. He will find an abyss of fire below, an abyss above, and an abyss on every side. It he touches, if he sees, if he breathes, he touches, sees, breathes only fire. He will be in fire like a fish in water. This fire will not only surround the damned, but it will enter into his bowels to torment him. His body will become all fire, so that the bowels with him will burn, his heart will burn in his bosom, his brains in his head, his blood in his veins, even the marrow in his bones; each reprobate will in himself become a furnace of fire"

The Eternal Truths…17th century Alphonso de’ Liguori.founder of Redemptorists…..specifically to send hellfire preachers to Catholic pulpits…..


"Long as you’re not afraid, nobody can run your life for you. Remember that. Hell is being scared of things. Heaven is refusing to be scared. I mean that literally."

Tom Robbins

Skinny Legs and All


"On thinking about Hell, I gather/my brother Shelley found it was a place/Much like London/Find on thinking about Hell, that it must be/still more like Los Angeles,/In Hell too/ These are I’ve no doubt, these luxuriant gardens/with flowers as big as trees, which of course wither/ Unhesitatingly if not nourished with very expensive water…./And endless processions of cars/Lighter than their own shadows, faster than/Mad thoughts, gleaming vehicles in which/Jolly-looking people come from nowhere and are nowhere bound/. And houses, built for happy people, therefore standing empty/Even when lived in."



"There will be nothing left standing, stone upon stone"

(about LA) Thornton Wilder



Book: "After Life…The complete Guide to Life After Death" by Carol Neiman & Emily Goldman

Book: "The Hierarchy of Hell" by Lauran Paine

Book: "The Encyclopedia of Hell" by Miriam Van Scott

Book: "The Problem of Hell" by Jonathan L. Kvanvig


© 2001




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