The origin and ultimate realization of hellfire

Hell has many depictons, some have manifesyed on earth.

This flow of lava is used as a depiction of the lake of fire in hell.
This flow of lava is used as a depiction of the lake of fire in hell.
In medieval times, people were "put on the wheel" as a form of torture meant to terrify the observers.
In medieval times, people were "put on the wheel" as a form of torture meant to terrify the observers.
The Romans used crucifixion as a form of torture and one of Rome's victims was Jesus Christ.
The Romans used crucifixion as a form of torture and one of Rome's victims was Jesus Christ.
Water torture, a.k.a. water boarding is an ancient form of torture carried forward into today's world and identified as intensive interrogation.
Water torture, a.k.a. water boarding is an ancient form of torture carried forward into today's world and identified as intensive interrogation.
Hell on earth was visited upon Hiroshima in the close of WWII and this building remains as a monument to that moment in history and co9ntinues to hang over our collective heads.
Hell on earth was visited upon Hiroshima in the close of WWII and this building remains as a monument to that moment in history and co9ntinues to hang over our collective heads.
After many thousands of years, humanity has managed to create hell on earth. We also have the potential to create heaven on earth. The choice is ours!
After many thousands of years, humanity has managed to create hell on earth. We also have the potential to create heaven on earth. The choice is ours!

Hell has been on our minds for a long time and today, we have managed to create it.

There is a saying that has deep roots in history: "Get 'em young, treat 'em rough and tell 'em nothing". The concept of hellfire has deep roots in history and can be found in various forms in many cultures. Hellfire was initially inspired from the awe inspiring and destructive side of nature, from fire in the sky, flowing masses of lava, fire storms, ground splitting earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, prolonged drought, freak winds, deep freezes, pestilence and disease. In short, hell became variously identified with any deadly extreme of nature. In these days of extreme climate, it can be stated, that we are entering a hell state. As humanity had no control over such massive destruction, they had to have a reason and a cause. Since the inception of civilization, those who knew a little more about cycles were able to convince the ignorant of their power and connection to superior forces. These forces became identified with the various gods, angels and demons. All cosmogonies have a universe divided between the heavenly realm, the earthly and the underworld. Hell and fire is usually found in the underworld.

For millennium, people have been terrorized from the threat of hellfire as an eternal punishment for a sinful or wrongful life as defined by the religious authorities of the various periods and locations. Hellfire has many myths behind it and has evolved over the ages into our modern myths and ideas. Now as then, it is used to inspire fear based compliance. Every concept of the tortures of hell have been applied to the here in now against those deemed "worthy" of such treatment, and it runs the gamut of minorities of all kinds and all times including now. Hellfire was the idea that came first before being put into practices such as burning at the stake, tarring and feathering and a host of other tortures including modern electrocution.

The etymology of Hell can be described as follows and gives us some idea where hellfire originates.

"Hel" (1889) by Johannes Gehrts.The modern English word Hell is derived from Old English hel, helle written about 725 AD to refer to a nether world of the dead reaching into the Anglo-Saxon pagan period, and ultimately from Proto-Germanic *halja, meaning "one who covers up or hides something". Thus Hell cam be seen as a place where sin is covered up and hidden from a perfect sinless God. The word has cognates in related Germanic languages such as Old Frisian helle, hille, Old Saxon hellja, Middle Dutch helle and modern Dutch hel, Old High German helle and Modern German Hölle, and Gothic halja. Subsequently, the word was used to transfer a pagan concept to Christian theology and its vocabulary however the Judeo-Christian origin of the concept Hell originates with the Jewish word Gehenna, the fiery pit, that had an actual location outside of Jerusalem in Jesus' time. It is equivalent to our modern day trash burning as an alternative energy creation.

The English word hell has been theorized as being derived from Old Norse Hel. Among other sources, the Poetic Edda, compiled from earlier traditional sources in the 13th century, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, provide information regarding the beliefs of the Norse pagans, including a being named Hel, who is described as ruling over an underworld location of the same name.

The hell of the Egyptian cosmogony is contained in the ideas of death they had that were linked to the chief myth of the journey of Ra (the Sun) through the underworld every night. In order to survive in the afterlife, the body of the deceased had to be mummified and interred in a crypt with supplies to live on in the afterlife. They had to have an understanding of various protective chants, spells and answers in order to pass by the various demons they would encounter in the underworld. These were often written on the walls of the crypt. The Egyptian underworld or hell was inhabited by crocodile and jackal headed demons as well as snakes and scorpions.

The hell of Mayan cosmogony was more in human form and the demons here were beings like the decapitator, the demon of disease and the blood gatherer. The demons in Mayan mythology were defeated by the Hero Twins who tricked the demons into killing themselves. The Mayan underworld has nine levels according to descriptions obtained from the Popol Vuh. The road into and out of it is said to be steep, thorny and very forbidding. Metnal is the lowest and most horrible of the nine Hells of the underworld, ruled by Ah Puch.

The hell of East Indian cosmogony is expressed in the curse of an evil reincarnation for the ill deeds of a former life. Hindus are strong believers in reincarnation, so hell is acted out on the Earth plane of everyday existence. If one was evil in their life, they would reincarnate into the untouchables. Some beliefs in Hinduism hold that a person’s soul could transmigrate into an animal form. There is no burning hell in Hinduism save the burning funerary pyre when the body is cremated. Hell and heaven are acted out in the Earthly plane.

Eskimo concepts of hell are of a freezing, super cold place of utter desolation and darkness. In their understanding, warmth would be welcome.

The hell of the Buddhists consisted of the suffering that we all go through one way or another in life. Buddha had a remedy to escape the inevitable suffering of life and that is through meditation, enlightenment and detachment. To attain Nirvana, one had to be diligent in their practice. Nirvana is not a place so much as a condition of the cessation of suffering.

The Jews developed their ideas of hell early in their ideas around the time of Daniel the prophet. Daniel 12:2 proclaims "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt." Judaism does not have a specific doctrine about the afterlife, but it does have a mystical and Orthodox tradition of describing Gehenna. Gehenna is not Hell, but rather a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on his or her life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. However, this idea of Gehenna was not universally accepted and other ideas prevailed and predominated into Jesus' time.

Christian hell has its roots in the Greek and Jewish concepts, which grew out of prior Egyptian concepts and was later embellished by the Catholics and people like Dante, William Blake and James Joyce. Fundamentalists have made a lot of progress based on hell in the hereafter and the dishing of hell out to those they target in this life.


The Greeks, Romans and Jews had several words that we translate into hell today: Hades, Tartarus, Sheol, Abbadon, Infernus and Gehenna. Variously they are translated to English and roughly into;

Hades: the Greek for the pit or grave of death or the underworld.

Sheol: the holding place, which variously evolved into purgatory, gaol and the jail or prison of real life. It is also translated into hell and the grave. Hell of course is the inescapable prison where sin and sinners are banished forever and hidden from the sight of a perfect sinless God.

Ghenna: the lake of fire or the burning rubbish pile. Sometimes this is seen as purgatory depending on the translator. In the KJV Bible, this word is always translated into Hell and it is the main source of our fiery hell.

Tartarus Appears only in II Peter 2:4 in the New Testament and is translated into hell. The original and exact meaning of the word is not clear due to its infrequent use.

Infernus comes from the Latin and means “being underneath”. It can also be seen as the inspiration for our word inferno, which is what we see in buring buildings and wild-fires.

Abbadon is the Hebrew word for destruction and is sometime used to refer to hell, a place of destrution for the damned. This is the source of contemporary Christian ideas of the second death. A derivative Apollyon is the name given the anti-christ in Revelation and refers to the idea of the destroyer. It can even be seen as a root for our word abandonment. In Hindu mythology, the destroyer, Kali, is one of the essential triad of beings that regulate the cosmos. The destroyer is essential for in order to create something, another thing has to be altered or destroyed.

The Catholics, with influence from the Greeks and Romans, evolved the concept of the seven deadly sins and the seven blessed virtues that each has a reward in hell or heaven. Bear in mind there are ten commandments, so there are potentially ten ways to go foul of the law.

1. Pride and its opposites Humility and Modesty are aspects of the Sun in their planetary inclination and is the ruler of Leo in the tropical system of cosmogony. Pride is considered the chief sin of Lucifer (the Morning star) who declared "I will make myself like unto the Most High". This is a sin of usurpation where one thinks they can dispense with and replace God. Pride is said to come before a fall; and what a fall, into the lowest pit of hell that is actually freezing, where Satan dwells and devours souls.

2. Envy is countered by Kindness and Charity. Charity is often translated from the Greek into love as are three other words. But charity, according to 1st Cor. 13 is the highest virtue. Within the context of the letter, we learn that charity envies not nor is vain.

3. Lust and its opposites chastity or purity are characteristics originally derived from Venus. This is often interpreted in the context of sexual license that is condemned de facto if it is performed outside of Church sanctioned wedlock for the purposes of procreation. Anything at all that breaks this chain of wedlock and procreative sex is a sin of lust. Venereal (from Venus) disease is often seen as a punishment from God for sinful sex. But lust can also be for money or power and though these are condemned in the Bible as well, they are often ignored in contemporary times.

4. Wrath and its opposites, patience and meekness are aspects of the Martian temperament with influence of Venus. The wrath of God can come from acts of anger that result in breaking the taboo against murder. We all are subject to fits of anger and must learn patience and understanding.

5. Gluttony and its counterpart, self control, abstinence, moderation can be seen either as Saturnine or Jupitarian by planetary allocation. Gluttony, though not specifically indicated in the Ten Commandments, is something that occurs in every field of endeavor of the western world in its quest for more of everything at the expense of others.

6. Greed/Avarice and the opposite, generosity and liberality are opposing characteristics of Saturn and Jupiter. Greed has led to catastrophes of all sorts in history, the current of which is the collapse of the world economy. This collapse has lead to fear for most people.

7. Sloth or Acedia and its opposite in virtue is diligence or zeal. Laziness versus diligence, activity and movement can be considered either as Mercurial or Lunar traits as both planets are the fastest moving in the tropical zodiac. The sin here results in a few being indolent in luxury while most suffer want. The resulting zeal created by want often topples whole countries and powers.

Any one of the deadly sins can warrant a condemnation to hell in the hereafter. Regardless of other virtues, according to the law given in the Bible, they who are guilty in one point of the law are guilty of all. The result to the unrepentant soul is a condemnation to hell, usually depicted in Christendom as a place of darkness, loneliness, agonies and burning.

James Joyce in his work "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man" describes a sermon given on hell. Hell is the abode of the dead, stinking with sulfurous fumes, the rot of death and excrement. The walls of this close prison where souls are jammed together, are said to be 4,000 miles thick. The fire that burns is not the kind we are familiar with that gives off light and consumes what is burned, but is instead, dark and burns without consuming. The screams of the everlasting burning damned souls are constant and there is no respite nor drop of water to quench thirst and alleviate burning. The account goes on to describe eternity in terms that parishioners can grasp in the context of time. The context of this description is in Catholicism as it stands today after a long history of evolution. Priests have the power to intercede between souls and God, with the power of taking confession and granting forgiveness. Last rites become important in this context, as do the ideas of purgatory and attaining heaven and sainthood. For the souls that die in sin, there is no escape. There is but one life in order to "get it right"; no reincarnation as in Hinduism or Buddhism. Born in ignorance and sin, a soul has to "learn" from God's appointed servants how to get it right.

William Blake, Hieronymus Bosch, Dante and James Joyce were all influenced by teachings and concepts of Catholic hellfire. Each wrote and/or painted hellish scenes. Hieronymus Bosch in particular depicts hellfire in many of his panels. In one series of three panels, Bosch depicts the original creation, the development of civilization and the final destruction through fire. Other artists to the current day do likewise.

Hellfire according to the various descriptions is an intense fire that gives the pain of the third degree burning, but does not consume. A good analogy would be irradiated by an atomic blast that would inflict permanent injury and pain, but not the escape of death. So the sufferer endures such pain for all eternity because of sin and rejection by God at the Day of Judgment. The sufferer writhes in ceaseless agony from the burning in complete isolation from God and is tortured continually by demons under the direction of Satan.

Today, we have actualized hell in the world by all the methods of torture that have also evolved through various civilizations and culminated in the sum of what we can chose to do to other human beings for reasons of coercion and pain compliance. We have honed an excruciating, knife edged ability to cause hellish states in others of our choosing in a wide variety of ways from the physical to the psychological for whatever ends we desire. The methods we use can be thousands of years old, or as new as the latest technology allows. But, must we continue down this path of hellish terror here and now on earth? Can we overcome our desire to control everything and everyone on judgment of eternal agony? Can we instead bring the world into a heavenly state?

More by this Author


Comments 7 comments

thevoice profile image

thevoice 6 years ago from carthage ill

fabulous great terrific hub reading thanks


Marliza Gunter profile image

Marliza Gunter 6 years ago from South Africa

Sjoe!...yes...what a detailed and interesting setup you've got here...it was really nice to see how every religion sees one and the same thing...this was a well put together hub, so much so that even I found it gripping...


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

This is a very interest hub. I have always been fascinated with the concept and history of Hell. One interesting book on the topic is The History of Hell by Alice Turner which is a fascinating read. There are also History Channel DVDs on this topic e.g. The Gates of Hell and Hell, the Devil's Domain. One of my favorite books regarding the subject of Hell is Dante's Divine Comedy which I have in the book form and on CDs.


SwordofManticorE profile image

SwordofManticorE 4 years ago from Burlington

Well, I have had the fear of hell scared out of me about three years ago. This false belief at first only motivated me to worship God only to avoid going there. Now I can worship Him without this nonsense to distract me.


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

Hell is a device to inspire fear and this is a pain compliance technique. What we do to one another is enough of a hell for anyone that experiences it by any means.


SwordofManticorE profile image

SwordofManticorE 4 years ago from Burlington

Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is it for men.


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

The hell of war on earth magnifies these fears of the unknown. As a result, people will cling to life, even under horrendous torture.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working