I think I have seen from afar something of the final prison of all, and I will endeavor to convey what I think it may be. It is the ghastly dark beyond the gates of the city of which God is the light—where the evil dogs go ranging, silent as the dark, for there is no sound any more than sight. The man wakes from the final struggle of death in absolute loneliness. Not a hint, not a shadow of anything outside his consciousness reaches him. All is dark and dumb; no motion—not the breath of a wind, nothing to suggest being or thing besides the man himself, no sign of God anywhere. In the midst of the live world he cared for nothing but himself; now in the dead world he is in God’s prison, his own separated self. He would not believe in God because he never saw God; now he doubts if there be such a thing as the face of a man. Next after doubt comes reasoning on the doubt: “The only one must be God! I know no one but myself: I must myself be God!” Soon, misery will beget on imagination a thousand shapes of woe, which he will not be able to rule—a whole world of miserable contradictions and cold-fever dreams. In such evil case, I believe the man would be glad to come in contact with the worst-loathed insect; his enemy, could he but be aware of him, he would be ready to worship. For the misery would be not merely the absence of all other beings, but the fearful, endless, unavoidable presence of his own self. It is the lovely creatures God has made all around us, in them giving us himself, that, until we know him, save us from the frenzy of aloneness. The man who minds only himself must at last go mad if God did not interfere.
Maybe That's What Hell Is
Some quotes that George MacDonald would have appreciated.
Maybe that's what Hell is. You go mad. And all your demons come and get you just as fast as you can think them up.
--Anne Rice, Memnoch the Devil
Personally I didn't believe God had a private torture chamber. Hell was being cut off from God, cut off from his power, his energy, Him.
--Laurell K. Hamilton, Burnt Offerings
What is hell? Hell is oneself. Hell is alone, the other figures in it Merely projections.
--T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
Each lost soul will be a hell unto itself, the boundless fire raging in its very vitals.
--James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.
--C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.
--John Milton, Paradise Lost
The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.