Inhabitants of Hell live long distances from each other because they quarrel so frequently, according to C.S. Lewis version of the lower region which is depicted in Lou Markos recent masterpiece entitled Heaven and Hell: Vision of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic Tradition. Of course only people whose zip code is actually in Hell can testify from personal experience as to the actual conditions there.
Markos wide-ranging book includes Dante's and Milton's versions of Hell before he tells readers about Lewis version which is depicted in a different manner from the earlier epic poets. On p. 177 of his book, Markos quotes from C.S. Lewis book "The Great Divorce" when he writes, "Aside from the bus stop where people await their ride to Heaven, the town is empty. The reason for this, Lewis later learns, is that as soon as people arrive in the town (Hell), they quarrel with their neighbors and move elsewhere; a move facillitated by the fact that the inhabitatns of the town need only imagine a house and it appears. Shortly after the move, however, they quarrel again with their new set of neighbors, and move even further out. Because of these frequent moves, the majority of the inhabitants now live so far from the town (and fom each other) that it would take them a thousand years to travel back to the bus stop."
Markos tells his readers that the great British author believed that Hell is a place that people choose, "that it is in fact, a place where the damned want to go, for it promises to give them their sin for eternity without the threat of intervention by God." Hell's absolute and total separation from the love and presence of God is punishment enough.
Markos, a distinguished literature professor at Houston Baptist University, tells readers that when Lewis first arrives in Hell in his book he wonders if any of the people in Hell get to visit famous tyrants who left their mark on history. Markos writes, "One of his fellow passengers on the bus replies that two enterprising residents once decided to travel out to see Napoleon, a journey that took them 15,000 Hell years to complete."
When they peeked in the window of his house they saw only a tired-looking little man pacing back and forth endlessly blaming each of his generals for his defeat at Waterloo. Markos writes that, "Like most of the sinners, Napoleon is so self-absorbed that he doesn't even know he's in Hell."
For Lewis, Hell is not so much a pit that we are thrown into on account of a single, heinous sin such as a pre-meditated murder. It is more of a marsh that one slides into one "peccadillo at a time. Each time we choose ourselves over God, each time we reject God's offer of grace, we gradually surrender another piece of our soul. And with each loss we become less and less the kind of being who desires to spend eternity in the presence of God, and more and more the type of being who desires only to be left alone to cling to himself." This sort of intense self-absorption causes to us de-humanize ourselves.
In his Screwtape Letters, a senior devil named Screwtape advises his newphew Wormwood ( a junior devil) not to be deceived by his youthful desire to catch up the human he is tempting with a giant sin of biblical proportions. No, it is much simpler to temp mortals with a long series of dull little sins. That way the human won't even know what is happening to him until it is too late.
Every little wrong decision he's made has drawn him further away from God and toward the darkness which will eventually devour his soul.
Markos excellent book should be of interest to anyone contemplating what their longterm future will be like.
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