The Nature of Hell

By Neel Krishnaswami (neelk@MIT.EDU)


Emily Dresner's[*] writeup of infernal politics has prompted me to dig up my notes on the metaphysical nature of Hell from the perspective of Heaven. It probably won't be useful for you IN-backwards types, since it is so heavily slanted towards an "omnipotent God" outlook, but hopefully it will be food for thought.

[*] I hope I got the name spelled correctly. If not, apologies.


The Existence of Hell

Many young angels and souls new-come to Heaven ask about the existence of Hell. How, they ask, can a benevolent God permit the existence of a place of eternal suffering?

The answer (according to Heaven) is that Hell's existence is a necessary consequence of free will. Free will isn't simply the ability to decide what you will do independent of all else; it is the ability to freely accept or reject divine Grace. In order for this to be a meaningful choice, God must honor the decision of the individual.

And this is what Hell is: a rejection of the divine. The nature of the celestial plane is to turn metaphysical condition into geography, and Hell is simply what happens when God ceases to intervene. This is not necessarily eternal torture; Hell is exactly what its inhabitants make of it. They lack the possibility of divine transcendence, but that is their choice; Dominic is the first to note that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside.

(I more or less stole this whole from C.S. Lewis. Good stuff.)

It is because Hell's current rulers have turned to rapine and slaughter that it is so bad -- there are tales that in Lucifer's first great council after the Fall, there was a faction of demons that argued that Infernal legions should seek to turn Hell into a new Paradise, better than God's Creation, so as to to prove His error to Him. They lost that debate, and instead Kobal convinced the Prince of Darkness to mock and curse God. (Kobal is one of the most frightening Demon Princes in my game -- his is the laughter of despair.)

(This is a distorted borrowing from _Paradise Lost_; Mammon was the architect of Heaven, who rebelled in order to build great new cities. In my game, he is rather upset at the way things have worked out, and stopped actively fighting the War around the turn of the 19th century. Marc and David are former Servitors of his, and have spent the last two hundred years working to get their one-time boss to Redeem. The writeup in H&H is nothing like the way I see him. Not that it matters; like Mephistopheles he's background -- the 26 superiors in the main book are as much as I can handle.)

Angelic Attitudes

Most of the archangels acknowledge the need for Hell's existence, but after that things get confused. The main faction is led by Yves while a few dissenters are led by Michael.

The faction led by Yves claims that while the existence of Hell is required, it is not necessary that Hell contain any souls. These angels seek the ultimate salvation of absolutely everyone, and are generally the most sympathetic towards demons trying to Redeem. They also tend to be some of the most active angels in trying to influence the course of human affairs. (Novalis, Marc, Laurence, and Blandine are the other major members of this faction.)

The other group is lead by Michael. Actually, it's just Michael, Eli and Janus; and Michael is usually the only one who shows up for Seraphim Council meetings. These three archangels have a much more limited set of aims. They hold that it's foolish to believe that humans can have free will while simultaneously believing that no human will ever honestly choose Hell. In their view, this contradicts the entire history of the species. As a result, their preferred strategy is to stop the demons from corrupting mankind and otherwise letting humans find their fates and destinies for themselves.

Actually, this implies more ideological uniformity among the three dissenters than is warranted. Michael wants to kill all the demons and then bring the Host back to Heaven, so that the Symphony will be completely free of all celestial interference. Janus prefers a stalemate between Heaven and Hell, and Eli just doesn't care anymore. (Ask if you want to know why.)

Game Consequences (this is different from H&H)

One of the results of this explanation is that when a divine intervention is rolled in Hell, no divine action occurs. Instead, the roll is treated as an ordinary roll of 2 with a check digit of 1. The only weirdness to the roll is that the character who rolled the intervention will, for a brief instant, get the impression that God is silently witnessing the proceedings.

Angels in Hell automatically gain a note of dissonance upon entry. They are forcing themselves away from God, and this violates their natures. They also lose the ability to use their natural resonances, and the intervention rule above applies to them.

Neel Krishnaswami


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