There is some confusion about what it is exactly the otherworld and fog world (and the night, or intermediary world) are supposed to represent. "Obviously," most would say, "it's hell... because of on account of all the spooks." This is the most shallow interpretation, but there is evidence for it, especially outside of Silent Hill 2 where it can get... ambiguous... as to whether the characters are being tortured by their own guilt or by some external force, like a psychic witch child or a cult trying to summon an outer god. Ugh, just writing that last sentence made me throw up a little bit in my mouth.

It is far more in-line with the evidence given that the world created by the Silent Hill protagonists is their own personal purgatory, where they are punishing themselves for their own deed, unable to let go of their guilt and self-loathing. Of course I also would like to mention that Claudia actually calls the otherworld "Paradise," and, as we'll soon see, she's not wrong.

But what is Purgatory? In modern times, Purgatory has become a tool for writers with their heads up their own asses to pull a "it was all a dream!" while still trying to look cool and symbolic. Since everyone is Jesus in Purgatory, the place has become more or less identical to the world we live in now, just with no people in it. Consider the eternal summer of Ed, Edd, 'n Eddy. While there are certain oddities in this strange, lonely world, it is for the most part indistinguishable from the real world, a fact so confusing that even the writers of what is probably the worst television show in history don't seem to realize that the series took place in it (just to recap, before the series ended they said "they're not Jesus in Purgatory," then in the finale they were, and after the show ended they made up a story about "buffers" to try and quell criticism of how PROMETHEUS' Damon Lindelof is probably the worst screenwriter in history). In addition to this, characters in modern Purgatory can apparently go for all of eternity without ever having this realization, trapped in a perpetual state of ignorance, regret, sadness, and disbelief.

But in medieval Christian theology, Purgatory was the one kingdom of the afterlife that wasn't eternal. While everyone there was clearly aware of their situation, Purgatory was a means of actually getting over themselves, you purge your sins and then you get the fuck out. There's plenty of time for self-pity while you're there, but you're always keenly aware of how you can move on with your un-life. For this reason, as in Silent Hill 2, Purgatory only appears to be Hell when you don't understand why you're being punished, but at the same time, once you see Purgatory for what it is - not a facade of a real world place but an extension of Hell run by angels - the conditions aren't eternal torments but obstacles to overcome. The power of a personal hell can either lead people into a perpetual feedback loop of regret, or it can make them stronger.

In this universe I've built up, people living in the aftermath of the demonic invasions fear the theological Hell as a real, physical place, and the possibility they could end up in it. But Purgatory? There's nothing to be afraid of, we already live there, we're all Jesus in Purgatory. And thus, right under their noses, does the truth of the afterlife lie. But there are still people who end up in the Inferno and Heaven? How does that work?

As mentioned last time, the division between the Abyssals and the Empyreans isn't based on human morality, but more along the law/chaos axis. While the old gods still ruled Antichthon, the underworld was the default location where souls would end up, with various subdivisions catering to all kinds, while the blessed isles were reserved for exceptional people, great famous warriors and poets, that sort of thing. Being a good person didn't mean you got to hang out with Ladon in the garden of the Hesperides, the dead still default to the gloomy caves even if you were a nice family man. By comparison, if you're an irredeemable monster, you go straight into the pit of Tartarus. The godhead (Yahweh, Christ, and Yldabaoth or the Demiurge) isn't concerned with and doesn't really understand morality, it's criteria for heaven and hell are whether or not you follow the rules. While certainly he's made a valiant effort to attempt a reconstruction of good and evil, all of it is predicated along the lines of  "do what I say," so that we end up with some rather... disturbing discrepancies.

Although there was resistance from the old gods, in all the war in heaven was a relatively short skirmish. Had the chthonian gods managed to convince the Abyssals to help them, things might have gone differently, but they were simply too selfish and self-absorbed, worried about saving themselves. Like the previous wars between the gods, the victors were not merely content to banish or even kill the conquered, and turned their bodies into the spheres, and the ruins of the once great city of the gods was relocated to the former king's space-borne corpse. There was also rebellion from within, as the angel Lucifer was shocked by this display of wanton destruction, and attempted to defend the old gods, and for his trouble God cast him and his followers deep into the core of the underworld, creating a massive impact crater which, of course, became Hell.

The universe was completely restructured, and a completely new set of rules would determine where souls would end up. The surface of Antichthon was totally abandoned and sterilized, with only rogue, aimless phantasms to stock the empty, fog-shrouded ruins. Below the surface lies the Inferno, subdivided into Fore-Hell, for those who have not offended God but failed to meet the requirements of repentance or salvation, and Hell, for anyone who broke the rules. Hell is further divided into the Lesser and Nether portions, based on the three-fold division of evil by Aristotle. Lesser Hell (circles 2-5) is for sins of incontinence, with each focusing on a deadly sin except for the fifth circle which contains both the wrathful and the sullen. Pride and envy are not covered, and perhaps there were additional levels or this was the previous function of the city of Dis. Dis, as it stands now, serves a redundant violent sin though it is not considered part of the "violent sins" in the three-fold division, but rather a counterpart and bookend to Limbo. Where Limbo is concerned with those who didn't  believe (or so), Dis is the city for blasphemers and heretics. Also reserved for blasphemy? The third round of the seventh circle in the burning sands. In Nether Hell (circles 6-9), then, the first is the bookend of Limbo, the seventh is for sins of violence, and the last two are for fraudulent sins.

The impact of Lucifer shoved an equal amount of earth upwards from the displacement, creating an enormous mountain as tall as the Inferno is deep, and on it are pieces of land formerly apart of the underworld and the Herperides mashed up together to fit the God's plan. The moutain's foot is surrounded by an immense wall, Araf, on one side of which are those who repented but were excommunicated, and on the other is those who weren't, but still repented "not fast enough" and who wait outside the dual gates of the kingdom of Heaven for various reasons, this waiting room of Heaven at the foot of Mt. Purgatory is called "Ante-Purgatory." Past the gates of either Ivory or Horn (only one of them won't deceive you) is Purgatory proper, in seven cornices, divided into Lower and Upper. Lower Purgatory is for those dwelling on the actions of perverted love, those who in life were proud, envious, or wrathful, but now hang on the lower steppes of Purgatory in states of - probably - perpetual guilt, regret, and apathy. Above them are the four cornices (4-7) of Upper Purgatory, where those who had disordered love in life undergo a torrent of torments on the high rocks as a manifestation of their own self-hatred. Finally at the top of the mountain is the garden of Eden, the best Earthly life can offer, neither a place of punishment, repentance, nor reward, but a pure and pristine garden were those who have scaled Mt. Purgatory can drink from the Lethe and forget all of the woes of their past life and frolic in innocence and blissful ignorance for... ever?

Dante's Inferno and Purgatory are amazing epics, and they still hold up today, 700 years later. They are truly the medieval versions of DOOM and Silent Hill, and the praise given to them by various ivory tower monocle-wearing scholars isn't unjustified. This is kind of amazing when you consider who wrote them, why, and the time they lived in, but then again that's why it's looked back on as a major milestone for the Florentine Renaissance, something of a front-runner of the more widespread Renaissance of the following centuries. Paradise, though, shows the weaknesses in the source, the poet, as it fails to hold onto any sense of wonder, emotion, or logic. Rather than the glorious rewards of Paradise to counterbalance the hellish tortures and bittersweet pity of the other cantiches, all you can look forward to in space-heaven is... looking up at God's face. That's it, that's all you get. No vast coliseums for the martyrs, no guilt free sex for the chaste, no planet-sized libraries for the wise, and no personal kingdoms for the great rulers. All you get is to stare at a thing. Furthermore, the souls aren't even in their respective spheres, what Dante sees on his journey upwards are mere reflections, psychic projection of the spirits who are actually, again, sitting in a giant rose staring at a thing. And you know the vivid descriptions of each circle, cornice, and terrace of the preceding cantiches? I sure do, it's why I started this endeavor in the first place! The horrible bolgias, the creepy marble gallery, the chaotic marsh, and the black smog of wrath, none of these kinds of images appear in Dante's Paradise, so if you're expecting, like I was, a uniquely medieval take on exploring alien worlds, then don't look there. In fact, the only images in the poem happen either in the Empyrean or are a direct result of strange formations made by the souls themselves who, again, are not even really there.

Dante's Paradise is nothing more than a religious diatribe. In Inferno and Purgatory, there is a steady plot thread regarding the horrible injustice imparted to souls, condemning people who made simple human mistakes to an eternity of impossible tortures, or throwing the same disturbing sadistic mechanisms at those who are already harder on themselves than anyone else could ever be - anyone but God that is - and of course there is the ever present question of how it makes any kind of sense at all to condemn someone to the Inferno before Jesus was even born. The is NO way you can tell me that God seriously expects you to predict the future, especially since in Dante's mind Virgil had already done exactly that. In Paradise? Hand-waved. "Don't question God" the giant eagle made of souls that aren't actually there says, "look, to shut you up here is a minor character from an epic poem you read who we allowed up here because he, uh... he just had this feeling that Jesus would exist, you know?" We are expected, as Dante did, to accept this as a perfectly reasonable answer, but this is where all semblance of hope for the poem shatters into a million pieces, as now Dante's religion has taken the reigns and the logical thinking, well-read poet we knew who buddied around with Virgil is now completely gone. Replaced, no doubt, with something put there by God after gazing into his eyes. The signs were there from the beginning when Beatrice suggests an experiment that doesn't actually give the result she thinks it does in an attempt to say that light doesn't diminish over distance, completely ignoring the part where the term "footcandles" exists and also how the sun isn't literally blinding the entire universe or how a flashlight can't be seen from space... but you know, what the fuck ever. "No craters on the moon," says Beatrice, "so keep drinking the water, it's totally safe!"

Given all this, I'm of course rewriting Paradise almost from scratch. In this world, the layout is essentially the same, with the Inner Spheres devoted to the theological virtues, the Outer Spheres to the cardinal virtues. The first major change is, of course, that the souls in Paradise are actually where they are sent, no god with such a tyrannically strict set of rules is going to opt for a "you're all special, beautiful snowflakes" policy, it's totally antithetical to everything in the Comedy and the bible. Instead, you'll have your reward based on the category you belong to, and that's what you get. This isn't a paradise of playing with all your dead pets in the clouds, but one of arbitrary categorization which is woefully unprepared to deal with the real complexities of human life, just like, you know, the entire rest of the Comedy. While these things are certainly nice, it does lead to a very important point, that there is such a thing as "want" in Paradise, and therefore restless souls. God's solution to this, of course, is to brainwash anyone who challenges his judgement into becoming his pawn.

Beyond these is the starry heaven of the fixed stars, the eighth sphere, and the crystalline heaven which is the bedrock of the Ptolemaic physical universe, which in Dante's poem both contain absolutely nothing. This is, for a schema of where your soul is supposed to go in the afterlife, is very troublesome, so I've had to come up with something else. In the original, the eighth sphere is nominally for "perfected theological virtues" as opposed to the Inner Spheres which are the homes of defective ones, inconstant faith, selfish hope, and romantic love. What really kills this is, although Dante meets and speaks with three great saints while he is there, no one actually lives there, and no souls are classed as belonging to this sphere at all. In the new scheme, the perfect-imperfect dichotomy which sounds more like something from Purgatory is replaces by a simple-complex dichotomy. Regardless of the perfection of your love, hope, or faith, you end up in the third, second, or first sphere. The eighth sphere is for complex virtue, split into 12 categories, one for each constellation, broken down by cardinal virtue (which if you recall from the last article make up the basic elements of Paradise) and theological virtue, corresponding to the three "kinds" of zodiac signs of which there is one of each element. So you end up with sections for faithful judges, loving scholars, hopeful deniers, etc. These souls, those closest to the angels, are those who specifically furthered the cause of God's conquest of Earth in some manner. While the saints, martyrs, and prophets all seem to fit into this category as well, that's not exactly what I mean. Consider "faithful judges" again. For example, the sign of Leo contains the souls of Pro-Life protesters and terrorists, while Scorpio contains the souls of quiverfulls. The eighth sphere isn't just for religious luminaries, it's for religious complete headcases, those who followed God's word to the letter without question or hesitation. Think of it as Paradise's version of the Malebolge.

In the Primum Mobile, Dante finds... nothing. No souls, no angels, no stars, no nothing. Of course, he can see the angels in the Empyrean as the Primum Mobile itself is completely transparent, but they aren't actually there, and all he sees is their reflection. To fix this, and the Empyrean as well, both are dedicated to virtues which... aren't understood, known, or perhaps even possible for a human to achieve. As such, the ninth sphere is populated only with angels and no human souls at all. It does, however, contain special bodies invisible to the medieval world which are "perfect" for the specific choirs of angels to call their home, being nine in all, each corresponding to a planet unknown in ancient times since, as I just mentioned, they weren't really visible in those days. This includes Uranus, Neptune, Triton (which appears to have been a dwarf planet of its own accord and was pulled into Neptune's orbit later), Pluto, Quaoar, Haumea, Makemake, Eris, and Sedna, where the Seraphims watch over all of creation. Unlike the Primum Mobile, however, there are human souls allowed into the Empyrean, two of them to be precise, both named Mary. One the consort of Yahweh, the other Christ's wife. As you can imagine, a heaven reserved for only those human souls which have had physical relationships with the godhead is a... pretty lonely place. The giant white rose of heaven in which Dante observed the actual souls and not their reflections, is empty as well. In the new version, this rose is reserved for after the events of Revelation, where the 144,000 non-damned souls (from all of human history, I might add) will sit in their specially numbered seat. Efforts have been made to cull the number of entrants to Paradise, and while there are certainly more than 144,000 in there now, none of them are guaranteed this placement for an extended period of time, and almost no one actually gets in anymore, leaving the other two kingdoms of the afterlife unreasonably crowded.

And that's where I'll stop for this article. Maybe next time (if there is one) I'll get into the denizens of these strange worlds, the demons, angels, and other things.

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