HELL vs. PURGATORY:
the Literal Sense of Each (in the Afterlife) & then Mapped onto this Life

On the literal level, the ancients & medievals invented Purgatory as a possible solution to this problem:

    Consider a saint -- perhaps a St. Francis in the middle ages or a Mother Teresa in our own age. Grant that such persons have lived lives of great goodness.

    Consider an evil person -- perhaps a cruel tyrant in the middle ages or Hitler in our own age.  Grant that such persons have lived lives of great destruction and have caused much suffering.

        Now suppose that Hitler repents just before he dies. He confesses that what he did was wrong and admits he was responsible. He is contrite. He feels remorse. He takes in emotionally the pain he has unjustly caused. He grieves and asks forgiveness. He is willing to put things right -- so far as he is able. He is willing to take steps to do this and to change his life so that he never again falls back into his horrendous ways. Just then an allied bomber drops a bomb and Hitler is killed. At the same time a young Mother Teresa -- having contracted a disease from those she has been tending -- also dies. She dies while praying -- with the other sisters of her order all about her.

Both are repentant at the moment of death. Both die turned to God. Neither goes to Hell. Both go to Heaven. The Medievals thought that there was something not right about the above scenario.
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Now consider people such as us. We are not saints like Mother Teresa. We are not monsters of evil like Hitler. Do we all go straight to God? Somehow that hardly seemed fair and just. So the Medieval thinkers worker out a hypothesis -- Purgatory.

        Repentance is sufficient to win persons heaven. Yet such persons still may have some payment to make for their actions. This is to be done in Purgatory. Purgatory is not Hell. Hell is for those who have died while still choosing serious sin. For the Medieval Catholics, how you were "facing" (towards or away from God) at the moment of death determined your state in the afterlife. In serious sin and unrepentant, you go to Hell. Repentant, you are insured that you will go to heaven.

        If you live as you are meant to live and do so joyfully, gratefully, willingly -- i.e. you live as a saint -- at death, you go directly to God. If you are less than a saint -- if you see and believe and act with a mix of truth and delusion -- you have to spend a certain amount of time in Purgatory. You are not the person God intended you to be -- not in your behavior and not in your thinking and speaking. Yet, in Purgatory you can begin to see more clearly and vividly the harm you have caused in full or partial consciousness. So you are ready and willing and eager to atone for what you did -- for however long it takes until it is "enough." [satis-facere] This is Purgatory on the literal level.
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Now -- to read the Comedy as Dante intends, we must shift from Purgatory as a state of the afterlife to Purgatory as a process we can undergo in this life.

Literal sense ---        Hell                        Purgatory                            Heaven
     in afterlife

                                                   map onto                      map onto                            map onto

    this Life                    __________                     ____________                             ____________

                                    Phase One                     Phase Two                         Phase Three

Questions:         How do we, through our         How do we, through our        How can we, through higher
                       actions of the types in           thinking-feeling-speaking,        states of consciousness,
                        circles 2-9, create                  either feed the roots of           begin to see and be more
                       Hell on earth in this life?          sinfulness or reverse our         in ways that bring more
                                                               tendencies to surplus suffering      of heaven into this life?
                                                               and diminished possibilities?

                       Moral point of view        Moral/ Psychological/ Therapeutic         Mystical point of view
                                                                         point of view

        Most of us are not raping, pillaging and burning like barbarians. Yet we do have, within us, the roots of destructive behavior.

        Consider the man or woman who cannot control abusive behavior to a child or spouse. First, we try to get them to stop (or bring the criminal law in to force them to stop). But are they cured? Or is their lack of abusive behavior merely an absence of symptoms, while the disease is still present?

        Outward physical behavior isnít everything. There are other ways in which we abuse, diminish, and demean others and ourselves and the conditions for partnership. Think of our attitudes, feelings, rationalizations, modes of speaking, body language. If these manifest abusive tendencies, then -- even if these more subtle forms of abuse do not kill the relationship -- still they take the life out of it. So . . . we might ask a person to enter therapy. We ourselves might voluntarily enter therapy. Because so long as the tendencies in us are largely unconscious, they are ruling us rather than we directing them.

        This is Purgatory as Inner Work -- as a day-by-day therapy -- to become aware of what we are not presently aware of.

            To see what increases unnecessary suffering and reduces possibilities and
               to see what reduces unnecessary suffering and enhances possibilities.

        Thus, we acknowledge the "S-factor" -- the false self-centeredness by which we, like a 5 year old, see ourself as center of the world. We acknowledge that when we are in this self-centered mode of thinking and feeling and speaking, we cannot see others as having worth in their own right. Instead we will see everything in relation to us and place ourselves ABOVE others (through pride with a small "p") or BENEATH others (through envy and jealousy) or OPPOSED to others (in an oppositional or -- "I win; you lose; Iím justified; youíre invalidated" mode of seeing and being).

        When we are in small mind, then we will more easily see even good things such as -- energy -- wealth/ power -- food/ drink/consumables -- sexuality -- in an unreal, ego-centric way.

The Inner Work is to let go of the 7 roots of disorder-in-loving (or let them let go of you):

                   Pride         Envy      Anger       Sloth        Avarice            Gluttony             Lust
                                                                                      &
                                                                                 Prodigality
and
cultivate

             Humility     Generosity   Peace  Enthusiasm   Liberality     Temperance    True Intimacy
          sense of our                                                  or a Making true
            true size                                                       Large- minded
             & power                                                     relation to wealth
 

To recognize the roots of unloving attitudes -- feelings -- thinkings -- speakings,
        to make ourselves aware of these half-hidden ways of seeing and being and talking,
                    and to let them go -- acknowledging them without repressing them and without
                                                                                                compulsive acting them out

opens the space for large-minded recognition of our worth, generosity and peacefulness,

opens the space for enthusiasm for life and liberality, temperateness, and true intimacy.

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