Hell´s concept is fully rooted in the collective unconscious. It´s a space of suffering, often physical, other times emotional, in which those who have seriously violated the norms, commandments or recommendations that the corresponding culture defines as necessary or correct receive what they deserve.

The word hell originates from the Latin terms Infernum or Inferus, an underground or lower place, the underworld.

In Hebrew there was another space, Seol or Sheol, a place of darkness in which the dead went without distinction, a place that was also defined as an insatiable space, always claiming, or asking without limit, although that space did not seem to be associated with pain, suffering or a conviction. Something similar happened with Hades, the land of the dead of the Greeks.

Death, that great mystery, that country in which we will all end up going, is an enigma that has intrigued humanity since its origins. Explanations have been given about its characteristics and, according to the cultures, qualities have been attributed to constitute the reward or the punishment to earthly life.

Greeks’ Hades is an underworld like that of the living, where the dead come, although for them there is a space, Tartarus, which is rather a dungeon of suffering and prison for the Titans, being even lower than the underworld.

Nordic cultures’ Niflheim is the deepest and darkest world of all composed of ice where a gigantic serpent feeds on the dead.

In Egyptian culture the Duat ruled by Osiris was a space where humans would pass the judgment of weighing their hearts in front of a feather and if it were heavier, it would be devoured by Ammit

The Naraka or Niraya of Hindu or Buddhist cultures, is also a space dedicated to punishment and based on the virtue of the judged soul, The Naraka was a space of temporary stay from where souls that had been little virtuous could be reborn, a kind of reformatory.

Diyu is another version of hell in traditional Chinese culture where there were also levels each with poetic names, such as forest of copper columns, mountain of knives, hill of ice, with the lowest level Avici, which was a final level of irreversibility, in which the souls would remain forever while in the others there was the possibility of return.

The Christian culture generated the hell that we know best, a space of eternal punishment for transgressors, a cursed place, in which the wicked, the sinners, were punished for all eternity.

The need for transcendence and justice of humanity seeks to explain what lies beyond death as compensation for the merits or demerits of life. Eternal compensation that is probably worth striving for in this early phase of our existence.

I wanted to talk about hell this time. It seems that hell is something from the realm of beliefs, unreal, somewhat literary, and of course the problem of others. However, there are many, for multiple reasons, and many people due to diseases and life’s work, who suffer a situation very similar to hell.

The severe, continuous, excruciating, burning, electric, heart breaking, unbearable chronic pain that many of our patients feel makes them feel closer to hell than to life.

The most detailed description of this Christian hell was made by the writer and poet Dante Alighieri who, in his nine circles, was delving into the severity of the punishment towards the condemned.

That hell whose entrance could be read «abandon all hope» and that in its deepest circle had Satan submerged in an icy abyss by the worst sin, that of betrayal of God, that hell also inspired Dante to say another of his famous aphorisms: “he who knows pain, knows everything”.

For many, life is a permanent hell due to its limitations, its sufferings, the lack of sensitivity or collaboration of the environments in which they live, truly condemned to forced labour, preferring in many cases the fate of the dead to that of death. of that life in agony.

Pain and the suffering that accompanies it, need a response of knowledge, understanding and, why not say it, of love, as in the most classical tradition of literature, love not necessarily romantic, love of your fellow men, disinterested, it´s usually the first step in solving this problem.

The second step, the use of sufficient means and resources. In this dark period in which we live, where the already scarce resources have become clearly insufficient as we´ve to allocate them to the health and social emergencies that have come our way, a further effort is needed to help those most in need.

If there´s that hell that the Christian religion talks about … we will know when our time comes, but until then we can make this world more liveable, more humane and extinguish or mitigate the flames in which many of our fellow men groan every day.

Publicado por Dr. Alfonso Vidal

Director de las Unidades del Dolor del Hospital LA LUZ (Madrid) y del Hospital SUR (Alcorcón, Madrid). Grupo QUIRÓNSALUD Profesor de Dolor en la Univ. Complutense Madrileña

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