The whole of every man's struggle for spirituality is a process of mental refinement. Hourly the dross of mortal mind is applied to the touchstone of demonstration, and by the result the individual is able to estimate his progress. The Bible makes this clear in a particularly well-known passage, though it must be admitted that the meaning is almost ingeniously hidden in all English translations. It is in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, where the Authorized Version says of the former, "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments." Now, in the first place, the Greek does not say in hell, but in Hades, and, in the second, it does not say in torments, but on the touchstone; two differences vital to an understanding of the meaning.

Hell is a theological term invented to fulfill the requirements of dogma, and is connected with the adjective eternal, which is itself a mistranslation of a Greek word meaning agelong; again quite a different thing. What Jesus said was, then, not in hell, but in Hades, a phrase the meaning of which would be perfectly comprehensible to his audience. There was nothing final or eternal about Hades. It was simply the plane of existence to which all the dead passed to await the last judgment; it might be a place of torment, but there was no necessity for it to be. It was not exactly what Mrs. Eddy means by probation, when she writes, on page 291 of Science and Health, "As death findeth mortal man, so shall he be after death, until probation and growth shall effect the needed change." It was something more final than that. It was a place, as it were, of anticipatory heaven or hell for the minds of the dead. As for the word torment, the gospel is very explicit. What it says is, "on the touchstone." Now the touchstone was the slab of marble or black granite to which the refiner applied the quartz, after he had removed it from the fire, to test it for gold. The expression was a common enough one to the translators of the authorized revision; no reader of Shakespeare could avoid acquaintance with it.

For the Beginner
February 19, 1921

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