Thursday, 15 November 2012

Into The Dark

"God, how he missed Rufinus, and Maeloch, and Amreth, and more and more gone down before him into the dark!" (Poul and Karen Anderson, The Dog And The Wolf (London, 1989), p. 413)

Gratillonius is not thinking like a Christian yet. According to his belief, he and his co-religionists will go up and those who go down will not go to mere oblivion which is what "the dark" means here.

A curate in the South of Ireland said that people in his parish simultaneously entertained three mutually incompatible ideas of death:

what the Church teaches;
the pre-Christian idea that the dead persist in an underworld, resent the living and can return to harm us.

The pre-Christian idea was logical. In dreams, we seem to leave our bodies and to enter a realm where we can meet the dead. Death would be the mere absence of life, not a positive state.

Many people who do not question their received beliefs accept that there is a hereafter but do they really believe it? Are they as confident that they will still exist after death as they are that they will arrive in New York if they fly across the Atlantic? The mind seems to have different layers of belief. I like Alan Moore's description of religions as "higher fictions" - stories that people live inside of while still knowing that they are stories?

Wittgenstein questioned whether someone really believed in a Day of Judgement if he was not bothered about it. Is it so far in the future that it is thought of as more like a remote future event in the history of humanity rather than as a future experience of each individual? In a letter to a friend, Wittgenstein wrote, "I am afraid that the Devil will come to take me away." I thought, "This is Wittgenstein. He does not mean that literally." The very next sentence was "I mean this quite literally!"

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