26 December 2006

Further reflections on hellfire

I always tend to ascribe New Testament references to condemnation, fiery furnaces etc. to some source other than the higher level one, but on reflection it is possible to suppose that the passage about hands/eyes etc [see preceding post], which is preceded by references to the seriousness of offending little ones, might be based not too remotely on reminiscences of the attitudes of a higher level person to his upbringing.

I am certainly capable of sounding quite vehement about what should be done to all those who were responsible for ruining my education and torturing my father into the breakdown of his health. I don’t talk about throwing them into the sea with millstones, only beating them severely and publicly. I can certainly see the point of wanting that to happen, but I usually go on to say that it would be more use to me in recovering from the position in which they have placed me if they gave me all their assets and came to supply my need for useful institutional staff in menial capacities.

This is not, of course, exactly a higher level point of view, at least the idea of beating them isn’t, and I know that I wouldn’t, in practice, want it to happen. But one certainly says things of that kind in an informal context, where one is not expecting it to be taken too seriously. Similarly, of course, supposing it to be the case that Christ was deprived of the sort of career to which he was superlatively suited and thrown out into the equivalent of the non-academic world – well, I don’t describe the world outside of the best sort of university career as hell-fire; I am more likely to refer to it as a shit-heap or a pit with spikes at the bottom, but I have quite an urgent drive to escape from it (as one would have from fire).

Hellfire (in this sense) and getting a higher level are not exactly mutually exclusive alternatives; the higher level did not prevent it happening. Only if I had been exiled from a career without having got a higher level, it would certainly have been far more difficult to tolerate, and to proceed in a purposeful, even if highly frustrated, way, as I have done.

Of course the New Testament version makes it sound like an alternative to getting a higher level, but you can’t expect accurate transmission of the ideas of someone with a high IQ and higher level psychology. And since the alternative to getting a higher level is to be cast into hellfire (exiled from a suitable career) with your belief in society intact, that clearly implies being exiled without having had a higher level.

So suppose that the person who got the higher level was very precocious and brought up (in the Temple?) with expectations of a spectacular career in the hierarchy, only they took against him because he was too exceptional, and contrived to throw him out. Not being able to envisage life as a statusless and functionless outcast, but having had the sort of centralisation possible to the (temporarily) successful child prodigy, he was forced to give up on any belief he had in society as a source of significance, and that, as we know, leads to a higher level. (The stone that the builders rejected becomes the cornerstone of the temple.)