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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Letters from Hell

You must know, then, that each wretched being here [in Hell] is moved by an irresistible impulse to imitate his life on earth, to continue what in sinful folly he worked in that life. And, strange to say, as I have already hinted, we can all obtain here what we like; one need but think of anything, and there it is. Passion and wrongful desires rule here as they do in the world, only the more horribly, being void of substance. In the world they are clothed—clothed in a semblance of beauty even; lawless and pernicious though they are, they at least own the garment of nature. But here they are mere skeletons, unclothed of the flesh, an insult to nature, continuing in the evil bent of former habit, yet incapable of aught but showing their miserable nakedness. For the imaginings of hell are hollow and empty, void of truth and reality, bereft of all means of satisfaction. And yet the very punishment of hell consists in this, that we are driven to conform to this maddening unreality, this death-breathing nothingness. No matter how deeply conscious we are of the vanity of our doings—no matter how we loathe them—they have come to be our masters; we are driven, helplessly driven, to be forever trying to be what we were on earth.

Supposing, then, that a number of spirits agree we will have a town here, that town straightway appears on the scene; or if others say, let us have a church here and a theatre and a public park, or woods and a lake and mountains, it is all there as soon as imagined. And not only that each one sees for himself what he has called up in vain desire—it is seen by all with whom he comes into contact. But everything is shadowy—nay, less than shadowyit is empty conceit. Such a state naturally includes change upon change, incessant unrest; this also is vanity.

Neither is there any lack of assisting spirits to carry into effect any desired show. Does anyone here wish to set up an establishment, to live in style, as the phrase went on earth, he is straightway surrounded by faithless stewards, drunken butlers, thieving servants of all kinds. If you imagine that no one would care to be a servant here, you are mistaken, for the inhabitants of hell, in a mere outward way also, carry on the habits of life. Is there anyone here who likes to general an army, he will find plenty of bloodthirsty ruffians to obey his behests, provided indeed he was a general in his days gone by; for, mind you, without a name a man even here could not make his way.


LETTERS FROM HELL, L. W. J. S., RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, 1889