How could Hell be an actual, physcial place if it is only occupied by Spiritual beings? If Hell is "in" the elusive Spiritual world, it exists beyond the physical universe. In that case, much the way one can say, "God is everywhere," Hell could be anywhere and everywhere.
So, I personally believe it is possible to “be in Hell” at any time or place. I believe many people find themselves “in Hell” right now, as they walk the Earth.
I don't mean people who have, say, lost a child or are suffering great physical pain through cancer or are right now dodging fire in the front lines of a war. While it may feel desperate to be in this world, dealing with physical and emotional pain,to me that isn’t Hell. It's awful, horrible, sickening, excrutiatin, but even in the worst pain imaginable, we can still have something which does not exist in Hell.
At my darkest moments, it was the loss of hope that most terrified me, and what I most was afraid of losing was not my life or health or that of another - it was connection.
Even with nourishment and shelter, a child will fail to thrive without a sense of connection. It is a fundamental need. When that sense of connection is threatened, panic drives people to desperate acts. Some people spend their entire lives in that desperation, searching for the connection they desperately need.
Imagine a man who has flirted with the very edge of this desperation all his life. As a young child, his mother threatened to take her love away over the smallest disruptions as a way of controlling his behavior. He was a sickly child, one who required surgery when he was only three months old, to save his life. He died on the operating table, but was revived. Later, he was told he had almost died because he hadn't been a good boy.
- He learned that he had to work very hard, to be good so he wouldn't die.
- He learned that his own behavior was what controlled whether he lived or died AND whether he was loved or not.
- What he wanted more than anything was connection, and he learned that the way to get what he wanted was through force and manipulation.
As this man went through life, the fear of the loss of connection was his obsession. Even when he thought he was in control, this obsession ruled him. He spent every moment devising ways to manipulate the world into a place which would feed his overwhelming hunger.
Of course, he was unaware of why he behaved as he did. If you were to ask him, he would tell you that he didn't need anyone. He was fine on his own. He couldn't admit, even to himself, that he needed this connection because it was unbearable to face the possibility that he might never have it.
He married young, searching for that connection in a way that society expected, but his fears and mistrust prevented him from finding what he needed most in that relationship. When the marriage ended, the church he’d grown up in told him he could never marry again. This felt like a rejection from not only the institution of the Catholic Church, but also from God.
The man said he didn't care. “Religion is fake and God doesn't exist!” he proclaimed, thus cutting himself off completely from an already tenuous Spiritual connection, as well.
He took his next wife hostage. He carefully chose one who had already been abandoned. She feared the loss of connection as much as he did.
He played the game very carefully, charming and thus convincing her that he was the answer to her great need to feel loved. When he had her firmly within his grasp, he began to use a ploy he’d learned very early on – he threatened to take his love away if she didn't do everything he wanted.
For decades, these two lived in this way, one completely engulfed in the shadow of the other. Despite the anniversaries ticking away, beyond the silver, beyond the gold, they both still felt a desperate need for connection because their relationship was felt as empty as a child suckling a stone.
They tried to pull others into the vacuum of their lives, but anyone who could break free did so, and ran as far as they could. The more people ran from them, the harder they tried to hold on and the more desperate they became.
And still, even today, this man is just a frightened little boy, sitting on the edge of hopelessness. His life is waning away, minute by minute. In his complete denial of any power greater than himself – a denial he feels he must keep up in a warped attempt at self-protection – he can’t acknowledge even the possibility of a life beyond the one he knows. He lives in the hell of disconnection with no hope of redemption; a hell of his own making.
The man is my father.
It may be that his being gone for the first year of my life allowed my mother to form a deep connection with me, when I was an infant. It may be this connection that drove him to hurt me. Not only was he jealous of my connection with my mother – something he still craved with a vengeance – but also I was threatening his hold on her. If she had me, possibly she wouldn't need him.
He did everything in his power to isolate me, and when that didn't work, he tried to own me. He told me there was no God and that anyone who thought there was, was a foolish sheep, following liars and in denial of the truth – that we would all die and that was the end of it. He told me, many times, that when people found out what I was really like, they would turn against me. He told me I couldn't trust anyone, and then he proved it to me, in ugly and hurtful ways.
Was that hell?
Not for me. It was terribly painful and at times it seemed unbearable, but somehow there was some glimmer of hope that there would be a way out. I just had to make it through… and I'm finding my way.
Hell is where my father lives, and where he has been for as long as I've known him and for a long time before. He is terrified of death, which he still portrays as the end of everything, but I feel that it is only in death that he will be released from Hell.
We can’t know what comes next. We are physical beings and can only understand what our physical brains can comprehend. However, when we die, I believe the Spirit within is freed of this body and all its limitations. Even though I can’t know “where” we go after that, I am convinced that when we get “there”, the connection we all seek is going to be as limitless and constant as the universe… and that is Heaven.