“Human, have you ever been to hell? I think not. Did you know that once hell was nothing more than the absence of God? And if you’ve ever been in His presence, you’d realize that’s punishment enough. But then your kind came along… and made it so much worse”.
This quote of the demon Azrael was supposed to be in the movie Dogma, directed by Kevin Smith, but it’s just a deleted scene. Even if the movie is a surreal comedy, this sentence can lead to interesting reflections. According to Azrael, infact, mankind changed hell in a damnation place, because was unable to forgive itself. And ended up creating a psychodrama, in the idea that neither God would have forgive our sins.
The Azrael description of hell sounds similar with the concept that the Ancient Greeks had. Of course they didn’t call it hell, just underworld. Their word, ade, comes from id, to see, with the privative alpha. So, this physical place, although hard to reach, was without light, as Omero described it in the Odyssey. A spot filled with wandering souls, sad for the absence of the sun, which was a deity source of life. For the Greeks, the idea of punishment, as we conceive it now, was valid until you were alive, not after death.
The Latins regained, from Ancient Egypt and other middle eastern societies, of a destiny marked by the behavior on Earth. Virgil in the Aeneid writes about rewards and penalties and the underworld, originally with no difference between good and evil, starts to differ in the bright Elysian fields and the dark Tartar.
Egyptians had the Amenti, kingdom of Seth and other wicked, monstrous creatures, such as Apep, the snake which attacked the sun to forbid it to rise. There were 42 judges in Osiris court, charged to evaluate the dead conduct. His heart had to be lighter than a feather.
In eastern Asia, hell is the lack of balance, still there are judgment and punishment, though. In Buddhism karma intervenes, in Hinduism there is the reign of Taraka, bearer of hatred and doubt. Taoism, almost like Dante’s hell, figured out a maze inside Fengdu mountain, divided in rooms related to the faults committed. But this condition was not definitive, prayers of alive people had the power to help the dearly departed to better their state. Kind of Christian purgatory.
Judaism changed the battle between good and evil. Satan and the demons, unlike other entities, have divine nature, kicked out from Heaven. This influenced monotheistic religions and also Islam believes in flames torturing not-so-good souls, a Hell organized in circles and retaliation. According to the Qur’an, anyway, Allah decides how long would be the stay in jahannam, which therefore is not eternal.
Somehow, disputes on religion are too often taken too seriously. That’s why View Askew, the company that produced Dogma, used a very funny disclaimer.
“Though it’ll go without saying ten minutes or so into these proceedings, View Askew would like to state that this film is – from start to finish – a work of comedic fantasy, not to be taken seriously. To insist that any of what follows is incendiary or inflammatory is to miss our intention and pass undue judgment; and passing judgment is reserved for God and God alone (this goes for you film critics too…just kidding).
So please – before you think about hurting someone over this trifle of a film, remember: even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the Platypus. Thank you and enjoy the show. P.S. We sincerely apologize to all Platypus enthusiasts out there who are offended by that thoughtless comment about the Platypi. We at View Askew respect the noble Platypus, and it is not our intention to slight these stupid creatures in any way. Thank you again and enjoy the show”.
That goes for our blog too.