Slipping into Darkness
The last two are for the truly malicious who not only hurt others, but sin against God and goad others into doing so. How many demons has Karl Marx converted? The figure is incalculable, but he might be Satan's greatest recruiter.
Note that many of our elite universities forbid recruitment by the United States military, one of the greatest forces of good in human history. But it is unthinkable that these leftist seminaries would ever forbid their Marxists, neo-Marxists, pseudo-Marxists, and crypto-Marxists from recruiting fresh demons into their ranks, since this is their central mission. This tells you all you need to know about the moral perversion -- and inversion -- of academia.
I don't know how many literature departments still discuss Dante, but if they do, it can only be in a faux-sophisticated spirit of withering irony, narcissistic temporo-centrism, and narrowly childish superiority -- or the usual combination we see on the left of cynical contempt and credulous gullibility. It's what makes their intellectual world go 'round and then flat.
The three levels of hell reminds me of three levels of psychological illness: the neurotic, the personality disorder, and the sociopath. As we have mentioned before, the neurotic mostly suffers from internal conflicts, and in many ways is just a "normal" human being. We all have conflicts, but only when they seriously interfere with happiness do we generally seek treatment for them.
The personality disorders are much more serious and much more difficult to treat, the reason being that they generally involve damage to the container as opposed to conflictual "content." It's like the difference between a house in need of routine repairs vs. one with a seriously compromised foundation. In order to repair the foundation, you might have to tear down much of the structure and rebuild from the bottom up.
If you don't appreciate the pervasiveness of personality disorders, then you cannot understand Man. You might think that these are relatively rare, but they are quite common. These people are generally quite resistant to change, because they have no insight into their condition. This is because insight requires critical distance in order to see how one part of the self is in conflict with another.
But in the case of the personality disorder, you might say that the pathological part has taken over, so they are often aware of no internal conflict at all. Instead of understanding their conflicts, they act them out with others (or with society, as in the case of certain political activists). People with personality disorders not only live in hell, but inevitably make the lives of people around them a living hell (at least the "extroverted" types).
Over the last couple of decades, the Narcissistic Personality Disorder has gotten a lot of attention, but there are actually about ten varieties of personality disorder. Furthermore, these may be subdivided into levels of intensity. In my view, what is called the Borderline Personality Disorder is not so much a distinct entity as a more primitive level of development, so that, say, a narcissistic personalty can be closer to neurotic or to borderline, along a continuum, depending upon the health of the underlying structure. (Keith Olbermann, for example, would be a prime example of a borderline narcissist, in that no matter where he goes, he cannot help inducting others into his psychodrama and making those around him miserable.)
One of the classics of psychoanalytic literature is Neurotic Styles, by David Shapiro. For example, the impulsive style has a distinct mode of cognition and behavior which may superficially appear to be "active," but is in fact quite passive. Specifically, they are passive in the face of their own impulses, like a child. An immature child is not necessarily "willful," just unable to suppress impulses and resist temptations.
Subjectively, the passive/impulsive person has the experience "of having executed a significant action, not a trivial one, without a clear and complete sense of motivation, decision, and sustained wish." Thus there is action, but not "completely deliberate or fully intended." "These varieties of experience -- whim, urge or impulse, and giving in -- are essentially similar from the standpoint of their formal qualities."
It is critical to note that these people may appear to be self-confident and uninhibited, especially to the inhibited and unconfident. They can radiate a kind of infectious charisma, often on a very primitive level. They can be charming and playful, until one realizes that they cannot be sober or deliberative.
I think this is the secret of certain gifted actors who are completely crazy in their personal lives, e.g., Marlon Brando. Now, there was a man with no boundaries. You might say that he was a saint of the lower vertical. Lower than that would be an Adolf Hitler, whose primitive aggression was completely uninhibited. I suppose this is why men on death row are never without love letters from adoring females, or why Yasser Arafat was such a heartslob on the left.
But this is getting a little academic. Back to the Inferno. Upton notes that the first souls Dante meets in Limbo are similar to the neurotics described above, in that they are capable of insight and self-understanding: "They are better than all others in Hell because they alone understand what spiritual loss really is." While it is a sightless realm, "In this particular circle of the 'blind world,' however, the inmates are conscious of their blindness." And because they are aware of their blindness, they can ultimately be helped.
As I have mentioned before, there are three types of atheists (similar to the above schematic): the lazy/indifferent, the willful, and the obligatory. The obligatory atheist has thoroughly cut himself off from spiritual reality, in such a way that there is no helping him outside a serious implosion of grace (and even then, he will probably reject it). Their spiritual foundation is so compromised that nothing can be built upon it. Such a person is "spiritually insane" or autistic.
Note also that these are the activists who feel compelled to recruit and enlist others into their condition, à la PZ Myers and all the rest. They are anything but passive and indifferent, like those in the first circle of atheism. They cannot leave God alone.
Which, ironically, can, in a few cases, result in an eventual breakthrough, as in the case of Anthony Flew. One must be careful about spending one's life pondering God's absence, because one might accidentally run into him. This is somewhat how it happened with me. ʘO¶s!
The souls in limbo can progress spiritually, but it is a rather slow struggle, since they cannot actively participate in the process. This is not much different from psychotherapy, which is difficult enough to conduct with someone who seeks it, but impossible to impose upon someone who doesn't want to be there. It is not like performing an operation on an unconscious individual. Rather, you need full conscious participation, because ultimately the person is learning how to operate upon himself. You can't do it for him.
Note that there is a portion of salvation even for those atheists who nevertheless have lived their lives in service to truth, to those who honor every art and science. These are upright and dignified souls who speak rarely, and in quiet tones. One might say that they have ascended as close to God as it is possible to do in the absence of a conscious participation in Christ (and Dante understands Christ in a deeply meta-cosmic and even meta-Christian way).
The One Cosmos waiting room: