sermon by Reverend Levity
Ladies, and Gentlemen,
Welcome…to hell. Or, do I even need to welcome you to a party you’ve already been at for years? Is it hot and smoky in here? Or is it just July in Reno?
What is hell – if there even is such a place? And how did we get here? Did we sin? Do we need to pay the price, or, do we just need to wake up? What if the worst part of hell is that you don’t even realize you’re in it?
Dante’s Inferno is the first chapter of The Divine Comedy, where our protagonist finds himself on a journey to the center of the Earth, into the depths of hell. He’s scared but he knows his journey is being divinely guided, and so he surrenders to it.
The first people he meets just outside the gates of hell are the fence-sitters—the people who are condemned to pace the shores of hell for eternity, ever-unclassified, poetic justice for their life of indecision. Spiritual stagnation. Most of the time we feel we can’t make a decision in our life because we’re scared, but in reality, our inability to make a decision is a form of selfishness, a need to blend in, a need to be liked, a need to be in control. A sin whose own punishment is that we may never know who we truly are and what we’re actually capable of.
Finally, Dante, lead by Virgil, enters the gates of hell as he passes under a sign that reads “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”. A bit dramatic, don’t you think? Fitting, though, for hell is certainly a place for people who love drama.
In Dante’s Inferno, hell is made up of 9 concentric circles, each a level of hell corresponding to the greatest sins of the patrons who find themselves there. There are 3 major categories of sin, each with further categories, that match to a particular circle of hell. The 3 main categories of sin, which later break down into what we know as the 7 Deadly Sins, are: 1) Lack of Discipline, like gluttony and lust (these are considered the lesser sins); 2) Anger and Violence; and 3) Fraud and Lying (the most demonic of sins, as they include a conscious choice to act against ethics of what you know to be right).
The tricky thing about our modern day Inferno is that NONE of our problems, or “sins”, are actually what they appear to be. Am I really addicted Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Envy, Anger, Greed, and Laziness...
Am I really just addicted to hating myself? And these “7 Deadly Sins” are just how I take my hit.
God loves all sinners, even me, even me, even me. Well, HA! Joke’s on God, because I don’t love myself and ain’t no amount of grace getting around that.
Ya’ll wanna play a drinking game? What are we having tonight…Vodka? Tequila? High Fructose Corn Syrup (my favorite)?
Here’s the game. I’m going to elucidate these “deadly sins”, and if I come across one that resonates with a cycle you currently find yourself in, take a shot:
9 centuries later and the human condition is still suffering in the same hell with the same sins that brought us here.
Despite the archaic, fire and brimstone imagery of Dante, what I love most about this allegory is the punishment for each sin is a poetic match to the sin itself. For example, the punishment for fortunetellers in the Inferno is an eternity where they are forced to walk forward with their heads on backward – a perfect opposition to a life where they attempted to forecast a future they weren’t meant to know.
As Alchemists, though, we don’t believe much in “sin and punishment”. In fact, we believe “sin” is its own punishment. God doesn’t need to punish you for being gluttonous, as gluttony comes with its own punishment when your blood-pressure skyrockets and you’re paying more for doctor’s bills than you are to take another hit of that drug you love so much.
If anything, God isn’t trying to punish us for sinning against him, He’s trying to warn us that these “Deadly Sins” are deadly because they stop the flow of our life toward a greater good when we become slaves to them.
We’re all human, and thus we wage a daily battle to learn control, moderation, and how to love ourselves enough to not need to take hits of these false idols that only fill our void temporarily. Imitation love –it’s never enough. We are trying our best, right? But, still, we’re human, and therefore we’re all “sinners”, metaphorically or otherwise.
The most interesting thing about Dante’s sinners is this: the only difference between the sinners in Purgatory and those in Hell is that the ones in Purgatory have admitted their flaws and are asking to better themselves; whereas those in Hell stand firmly behind their actions, going as far to justify them, to blame others for them, or to outright deny them. THAT…is the biggest sin of all.
It’s a matter of honesty, awareness, and consciousness. Hell is only hell because you’ve been refusing to the see role you’re playing in keeping yourself there. Wanting to make a change is the first step, then honestly reflecting on the areas you need work is next. Finally comes the time where you take responsibility to do something differently.
Hell is just a place full of perpetrators who think they’re victims.
It’s an illusion.
You’re doing it to yourself. You just need to wake up.
And now that you know this…and I know you know this because I just told you, you are no longer in hell. You’re beginning to see.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Purgatory.
What kind of life would you lead if you had no fear? #AlchemistMovement