我的“地狱”之旅(寓言) – My tour of hell (a fable)

一个基督徒问我:“你信有地狱吗”?我回答:“当然信”。这话刚一出口,我就陷入了反思。对于《圣经》中说的那个“火湖”,我显然是没有见过的。而来自民间水陆画上的那些个阎罗殿里刀山火海般的景象是真实场景的再现吗?我心里实在没谱。正中思忖,我脚底一软,世界仿佛塌陷了,我跌进了一个地下的孔洞。

当我停止下跌的时候,我眼前出现了一间有着文艺复兴时代装修风格的屋子,我推开了那门,看见一个意大利人正坐在他的书房里看书。我的造访,显然让这位意大利人很吃惊,他好奇地盯着我看。

“对不起,您能告诉我这是什么地方吗?”我一边问,一边打量着这间屋子,我看见桌子上堆满了手稿,而手稿的标题写着“神曲”二字。

“您是中国人吧?欢迎光临”。意大利人起身做了一个拥抱的姿势。“让我自我介绍一下吧,我名叫但丁”。

“哦,我知道您,我读过您的书,”我惊呼道,“据我所知,在维吉尔的带领下,您去地狱旅行过。敢问,这里就是地狱吗?”

“这里不是地狱,有人把这里叫做‘炼狱’,您如果读过我的书的话,就应该知道,这里是专门为哲学家们安排的去处”

“哦,我想起来了,柏拉图,苏格拉底都住这儿吧?”

“还有你们中国的老子、孔子、庄子”。但丁说。

“嗯,好玩。我以为他们应该是在天堂的。我听那些个基督徒说,不信基督的都要下地狱,原来,那些不信基督的哲学家、思想家们虽然没能上天堂,也未必下地狱啊”。

“您知道你们那个世界和我们的世界的本质差别在哪儿吗?”但丁问道。没等我回答,他继续说:“你们的世界是用词语做的。把词语抽离出来,你们的世界就垮了。就拿‘天堂’与‘地狱’这两个词来说吧,你们的世界发明了这两个词,用来指代你们所臆想的某种地方,但这种指代其实毫无意义,因为真正的天堂与地狱和你们对‘天堂’和‘地狱’这两个词的理解错得天远”。

但丁的话激起了我的好奇心,我问道:“那么,真正的天堂与地狱是什么样的呢?”

“这样吧,我带你去看看真正的地狱,你就明白了。”

听了这话,我很兴奋,忙去找扇子,因为我认为地狱一定很热。“别找了,地狱并不热,而是很紧。”但丁说。

“很紧,什么意思”?

不知不觉间,我们来到了一个类乎基督教家庭教会的地方,我看见许多基督徒在唱赞美诗。一个女基督徒看见我们,便热情洋溢地迎了上来,边说“主爱你们”,边把一本《教义问答》塞在了我们手里。她忽然看见我手上戴着佛珠,便收敛了笑容、皱起了眉头,现出诧异的神情,“原来你不是弟兄”。随即,她把我们领到一间小屋子里,屋子的门上写着“慕道者”的字样。我看见一个很像是幼儿园阿姨的妇女证严肃地教导这里的人:“圣经的每一个字都准确无误,信,就罪得赦免,不信,就下地狱••••••”女基督徒向这位阿姨似的妇女耳语几句,阿姨便把我拉到一边,劈头盖脑地问我:“你信创造天地的主吗?”随后,便机关枪似的滔滔不绝地向我传起“福音”来。仿佛要把我吞了一般。她那令人焦虑的急速的语调就像是一只刺进人脑子的钢针,搅得人头疼欲裂。我仓惶地逃了出来,冲着但丁嚷道:“你不是带我去看地狱吗?怎么把我领到这个地方来了”。但丁笑了笑,说,“你不是要看真正的地狱吗?地狱并不热,而是很紧”。

我正疑惑着,我们又来到一个供着佛像的地方,桌子上堆放着供养上来的大把大把的钞票。一位大师正唾沫芯子四溅地“讲法”。他嘴里满是一些个深奥的佛教名词,并抨击着某些教派并非佛法、某些大师并未开悟,云云。他强调,只有他说的,才是正统的佛法,才能引导人成佛。他要人们不要怀疑他所说的一切。 他的言语,显然赢得了许多带着满足感的目光。这时,角落里传来一声鼾声,一个人似乎已经听睡着了。大师见状,勃然大怒,吼道:“这种痴愚的人,怎么也配来听我讲法,把他给我轰出去”。人们也纷纷用一种愤怒的眼神回头盯着着打鼾者。打鼾者醒了,伸了伸懒腰,说了一句:“众生所知一切法,皆是遍计所执”,起身便走了。

我低头琢磨着这位大师所讲的那些个理论是否是真理,但丁拍了拍我的肩膀,说:“不用求真,但须息见”

“那位大师说的道理是真的吗?”我问。

“你不觉得,只要是一种说法,一旦被绝对化,就已经不真实了吗”?

“好像是这样的。但为什么那位大师要把相对的说法绝对化、而人们为什么又那么热衷于执着于一种被绝对化的说法呢?”我问。

不知不觉,我们又来到一个搞传销的课堂,一个带领人正在激情四射地讲成功学:“只要你相信自己会成功,就一定会成功,一定会赚到大把大把的钞票••••••”我皱起了眉头,忙退了出来。我觉得这类成功学最大的漏洞,就是把一个人生命的成功置换成他人眼里的、经济上的成功,并把这样的成功绝对化。我感到如果我再不走开的话,绝对化的“胶水”就会把我的灵魂黏住。

“你好像害怕了”但丁说。

“我现在明白为什么佛说这世界是五浊恶世了。浊,就是粘稠的意思。这世界很粘稠,满是绝对化的‘胶水’,一旦被它粘住,就只有死路一条。”

“其实,粘稠不过是一个表象。人生活在一个相对的、不确定的世界里,世界的相对性不确定性是人们焦虑的根源,它让人们感到自己很难把握他们身处的这个世界。所以,人们拼死要去抓住那些个被认为是绝对的东西并向其投射自己对绝对性的渴求。这样会让他们好受一些。为什么人们最恨的恰恰也是自己最爱的人呢?因为在人们看来,最爱的人应该是最可把握、最确定的人,一旦最爱的人都表现得不可把握,人们心中最深层次的焦虑感也就被触动了,他们因此会生出极大的恨意来。这世界上太多的爱恨情仇以及所由此产生的杀戮,无不源于此。而世界以及他人其实注定是不可把握的,于是乎,某些极其聪明的人抓住了人性的这一弱点,他们向人们兜售‘绝对’,这‘绝对’可以是某种宗教信念、也可以说某种世俗信念。总之,因为这些‘绝对’的东西给人提供了稳定性的许诺,它大大地缓解了人们的焦虑,而人们也乐于用大把大把的钱,来购买这种‘绝对’”。

我忽然有所领悟,问道:“您说,‘地狱很紧’,是不是就是说,地狱其实就是一个用非此即彼的思维方式,将某种东西绝对化,并用这种绝对化将自己与他者胶结起来、通过相互牢牢地紧抓在一起,而求得某种安全感的地方?地狱因而其实就是一种强迫性神经症?”

“你有些悟性”。

“可地狱不是一个满是刀山火海、让人饱受煎熬的地方吗?而你带我来的地方似乎并不那么痛苦啊”?我问。

“耶稣说:天国就像芥菜子。其实,真正的地狱也像芥菜子。它并不显眼,它甚至是看不见的。但它会长大。传说中的地狱,不过是那个‘芥菜子’长到极致的表现形式。其实,地狱的‘芥菜子’就潜伏在我们的生命中,但你能够感受到它。地狱就是某种试图把你和被绝对化的东西牢牢绑在一起、让你失去静观、思考与选择的自由的思维状态。地狱就是‘罪’的牢笼和陷阱,地狱就是捆绑,地狱就是‘非如此不可’”。

“你这是相对主义,这世界需要某种绝对的东西,比如道德,”我反驳道,“难道人不应该受道德的捆绑?如果人受到道德的捆绑,您也把这叫做地狱吗?”

“道德不是命令,道德来自良知,是人知道不道德的各种可能性后对生活方式所作出的自由选择。所以,道德并不捆绑人,捆绑人的,恰恰是对道德的无知。所以,道德的反义词不是不道德,而是无知。无知带来焦虑,焦虑让人强迫性地去抓取确定性,而当人抓不住确定性的时候,也就产生了敌意,一切发生在人与人之间的迫害与敌对,莫不根源于此。而人类心中那深刻的敌意,恰恰就是构筑地狱的砖石”。

“但丁先生,您不愧去过地狱,所以您真懂地狱,”我赞叹道。

“其实,当初在维吉尔的带领下,我并没有看懂地狱的本质。后来,在‘炼狱’中,我认识了庄子,是他的一句话,让我明白了我曾经看到的东西的本质。”

“庄子也懂地狱?可他在他的书中似乎没有提到过地狱啊”。我很惊诧。

“那我就把他的一句话送给你,作为此次地狱之行的注脚吧———相濡以沫,不如相忘于江湖”。

我正思忖这话的意思,但丁消失了,我又回到了地上的世界。

 

Source: 1510, 30 July 2012

A Christian once asked me ‘Do you believe in hell?’ I answered ‘Of course I do.’ Yet as soon as these words had left my mouth, I sank into reflection. I had clearly never seen anything like the burning lakes of sulphur described in the Bible. And could the scenes of Yama’s palace and mountains of daggers and seas of flames seen in paintings from the world of men ever really be recreated in reality? I really did not know. Amid such thoughts, the ground beneath my feet went soft, the world seemed to sink around me and I fell into a subterranean pit.

When I stopped falling, before my eyes appeared a room decorated in the style of the Renaissance. I pushed open the door and saw an Italian sitting in his studio, reading. My arrival evidently startled the Italian, for he stared curiously at me.

‘I’m sorry, could you tell me what place this is?’ I asked, whilst simultaneously taking measure of the room. I saw the table was piled high with manuscripts, the title ‘The Divine Comedy’ written on them.

‘Are you Chinese? Welcome.’ The Italian stood up to embrace me. ‘Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Dante Aligheri.’

‘Ah, I know you, I’ve read your book!’ I cried out in alarm. ‘As far as I know, you travelled through hell under the guidance of Virgil. Dare I ask, is this hell?’

‘This is not hell. Some call it purgatory. If you’ve read my book, you should know that this place was arranged specially for philosophers.’

‘Ah, I remember – Plato, Socrates both are here?’

‘And also China’s Lao-tze, Confucius and Chuang Tzu.’ Dante said.

‘Interesting. I’d thought they would be in paradise. I’ve heard some Christians say that all those who don’t believe in Christ will go to hell, yet instead it is that those philosophers and thinkers who don’t believe in Christ although they can’t go to heaven, they don’t necessarily go to hell either.’

‘Do you know where the difference in nature between your world and mine is? Dante asked. Not waiting for my reply, he continued to speak, ‘Your world is made from words. Were those words to be pulled out, your world would collapse. Take those two words, ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, for example: your world created those words, and used them to refer to a place you imagined. But in reality, those words have no meaning: what you understand by the words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ is as distant from the real heaven and hell as the skies are far.’

Dante’s speech aroused my curiosity, and I asked: ‘So what are the real heaven and hell like?’

‘Let’s do it like this – I’ll take you to see the real hell. Then you’ll understand.’

Hearing these words, I was very excited and hurriedly found my fan, as I thought hell must certainly be very hot. ‘Don’t bother. Hell is not at all hot, but it’s very tight.’

‘Tight, what does that mean?’

Unwittingly time had passed, and we came to place rather like a family Christian church, and I saw many Christians singing psalms. A woman saw us and, brimming with enthusiasm, invited us to come over, saying ‘God loves you’ as she stuffed books of catechism into our hands. She suddenly saw that I had in my hand prayer beads, and at once her smile vanished and her brows puckered, showing an expression of surprise. ‘So you aren’t brothers after all.’ Following which, she led us into a small room, on the door of which was inscribed ‘Admire those who follow the Way’. I saw a woman who looked a like a kindergarten teacher solemnly instructing those inside ‘Every word of the Bible is accurate and unmistaken. With faith, sins an be forgiven, without faith, you will go to hell…’ The first woman whispered a few sentences in the teacher’s ear. The teacher then pulled me to one side, and asked right in my face ‘Do you believe in God, creator of heaven and earth?’ Following this, she spewed forth an unceasing torrent of machine gun-like gospel in my direction, as though she wanted me to swallow it. Her worrying, hurried intonation was like a steel needle that pierced into the brain, and caused head-splitting headaches. I panicked and fled, rushing back to Dante shouting ‘Weren’t you going to take me to hell?’ Why did we end up in this place?’ But Dante just laughed, and said ‘Didn’t you want to see the real hell? Hell is not at all hot, it is very tight.’

I still doubted him. We now came to a place full of Buddhist statues, the table stacked high with great piles of paper money offerings. A great master was presently lecturing on the correct path, spittle flying off his forked tongue in all directions. His speech was full of profound Buddhist terms, as he attacked certain sects for not really following the Buddhist doctrine and certain masters for their lack of true understanding, and so on and so forth. He emphasized that only his teachings were fully orthodox, and only he could lead people to enlightenment. He wanted people not to doubt a thing of what he said. His words clearly won many satisfied onlookers. At this moment, from a corner came the sound of snoring. Apparently a man had already drifted off to sleep as he listened. Seeing this, the master flew into a violent rage, and bellowed ‘How does this kind of idiot deserve to listen to my lecture, throw him out!’ The crowds all turned to stare indignantly at the snorer. The snorer awoke, stretched himself, said one single sentence ‘All things living know the way, everyone, everything, everywhere’, then stood up and left.

I pondered whether the master’s theories had merit with lowered head, but Dante patted my shoulder and said ‘No need to seek the truth, but observe with interest.’

‘But are the master’s arguments true?’ I asked.

‘Do you not feel that as soon as a theory presents itself as absolute, then it is necessarily untrue?’

‘So it seems. But then why does the master champion such an unconditional theory, and why are people so stubbornly committed to such absolutism?’ I asked.

Unwittingly, we had once again arrived in another place, a classroom teaching pyramid schemes, where a guide, radiating enthusiasm, was lecturing on the science of success: ‘If only you believe that you can succeed, then you will most certainly succeed, certainly earn yourself stacks of cash…’ I frowned, and hurriedly backed away. I felt that the greatest flaw in this science of success was that it saw the success of a man’s life only as success in the eyes of others, as economic success, and made this the only kind of success. I felt that if I did not get out fast enough, such absolutist ‘glue’ would adhere to my soul itself.

‘You seem afraid.’ Dante said.

‘I now understand why Buddha said this was the world of the five turbid evils. Turbid, though, really means viscous, clinging. This world is clinging, full of absolutist ‘glue’, and once you are stuck in it, you are on the road to death.’

‘In reality, that ‘viscosity’ is no more than an idea. We exist in a relative, uncertain world. The relative, uncertain nature of the world is the origin of people’s anxiety. It makes people feel as though only with great difficulty can they grasp their place in the world. Thus, they desperately wish to grab hold of anything considered absolute, and launch themselves towards the certainty they crave. This makes them feel more at ease. Why is it that the people people hate most are precisely the people they also love the most? Because as people see it, the people they love the most should be the people they have the best grasp of, those they are most certain of. As soon as a loved one shows that they cannot be grasped, the anxiety that lies in the deepest layer of people’s hearts is also awoken, and this then causes them to feel great bitterness. In this world there is too much love and hate, too much feeling, and this produces massacres, all of which have their origins in this. And in reality, the world and other people are destined to be ungraspable. Therefore, some extremely intelligent people have grasped this weak point of the human character, and hawk the ‘absolute’ to people. This absolute can be some kind of religious belief, or it can also be some secular conviction. In brief, as such ‘absolutes’ give people the promise of stability, they blunt people’s anxiety. People put their happiness in money, so that they can buy ‘certainty.”

All of a sudden, I understood a little, and asked, ‘So what you are saying is that ‘hell is tight’ really means that hell is a form of ‘either-or’ thinking that turns all things into absolutes, and uses absolutism to bind yourself and others together, and so through that mutual, tight binding searches for a place with a feeling of safety? Hell thus is really a kind of obsessive mental illness?’

‘You have some perception of it.’

‘But then hell is not a place full of mountains of daggers and seas of fires, where people endure torment? This place you have brought me to seems to have little suffering in it?’ I asked.

‘Jesus said: Heaven is like mustard. Actually, the real hell is also like mustard. It is not eye-catching, so much so that it cannot be seen. But it can grow. The hell of the legends is no more than a ‘mustard seed’ grown to its ultimate form. Hell’s ‘mustard seed’ is in latent form in our lives, but you can live with it. Hell attempts to bind you to absolutes, to cause you to lose the ability to calmly observe, consider and choose freely. Hell is both the cage of sin, and its trap, hell is being bound, and hell is saying ‘this is the way it must be’.

‘Your relativism is all very good, but the world needs some absolutes, like morality.’ I retorted. ‘You can’t be telling me that people shouldn’t be subject to moral bindings, surely? If men are subject to morals, would you still call it hell?’

‘Morality does not command. It comes from an innate sense of right and wrong. Only when people know the possibility of all kinds of non-moral behaviors can they make free choices for their life. Morality does not bind people, what binds people is precisely ignorance about morality. And so, the contradictions of morality are not immoral, but ignorance is. The opposite of morality is not immorality, it is ignorance. Ignorance brings anxiety, and anxiety leads people to compulsively chase certainty. But when people find they cannot catch such certainty, this produces enmity. Of all the hostility and persecution that happens between people, there is none that does not have its origin in this. The profound enmities in people’s hearts are the bricks from which hell is built.’

‘Dante, sir, you didn’t deserve to go to hell, and so you truly understand it.’ I sighed admiringly.

‘Truthfully, when Virgil led me down, I absolutely did not understand the nature of hell. Later, in purgatory, I met Chuang Tzu, and it was a sentence of his that led me to understand the nature of what I had seen.’

‘Chuang Tzu also understands hell? But in his works he practically never mentions hell!’ I was stunned.

‘In that case, I’ll give his words to you, to serve as a footnote to these travels through hell – When a spring dries up, the fish gather on the land. Rather than keeping each other moist there by the damp around them,and keeping each other wet by their slime, it would be better for them to forget each other in new rivers and lakes.

Whilst I was considering the meaning of these words, Dante vanished and I returned to the earthly realm.

4 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

shenguireply
August 29, 2012 at 1:57 am

I found this quite a challenge to translate, and its currently pretty dry – editing/revisions/ideas much welcomed.

julien.leyrereply
August 29, 2012 at 7:39 am

You did an amazing job! I just went through it and did a few changes – you can see them by clicking the revision at the end. This is quite an intriguing text, I found – I love cross-continental (Eurasian?) intellectual dialogue.

Philipreply
August 29, 2012 at 11:16 am

A beautiful and thought-provoking text – thanks for translating this.

shenguireply
August 30, 2012 at 1:35 am

Thanks – I got quite wrapped up in the translation whilst doing it, couldn’t quite see the text for trying to think of the right way to phrase it, if that makes sense… Having reread it, I agree – fascinating piece of writing and very much not what I was expecting when I began translating. I’d never heard of Li Yehang, but now feel a need to go away and find out a little bit more about the writer himself.

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