“We need to go to hell by entering that place where our longings and desires are trapped. What particular hell do we need to confront? What or who in us is lost and crying out for help? James Hillman implies that going to hell is vital for the soul because 'the cure for the shadow is a problem of love'. How far can our love extend to the broken and ruined parts of ourself, the disgusting and perverse? How much charity and compassion have we for our own weakness and sickness?’ What can help me take on the spiritual task of confronting my deep sense of shame?; Is it possible to really love oneself? What about those unworthy and unacceptable parts? Must we love them too?”
For me, the moral of this passage is that it is OK to tell people to go to hell, but first you must visit yourself and find out a few things – what you can reconcile, what you can forgive, and what you can heal. Hell can be a place where we regain our vitality, remembering the parts of ourself that have been shut off, shut down, and ridiculed. Hell is where we regain our fight, our delight in fantasy, our memory of long lost desires. But hell is not all wine and roses. The price for wholeness is a good deal of discomfort. If you go to hell, leave a note for yourself that the most frightening parts are temporary and have a way of preparing the soul for a richer and fuller life.
Alan Jones says that visits to hell are critical because the good is so easily corrupted. Evil is always most appealing when it is served up with a high ideal, a faux moral value, a fantasy of purity and holiness. Hell teaches us to be aware of such things, in others and ourselves. Not long ago, I listened to an Iranian gentleman who was imprisoned and tortured under the Khomeini regime. He said he once asked his guards why they tortured their own people. They answered if was for the prisoners’ own good, so that their souls would be purified for the next life.
If we cannot tolerate the inner journey to hell, we will create it outside. So tell people to go to hell, and don’t skip the trip for yourself.