(Caution: Exposure to this post could be hazardous to your health, particularly if you were raised Catholic with a taste of Buddhist and Kabalistic ingredients thrown in the mix.)
Indulgences are some things I never thought I’d think about once I finished with my Catholic upbringing and moved onto Eastern Studies and the spiritual advice from the Kabbalah. But, there I was reading how someone could limit their time in purgatory by performing certain acts and saying prayers.
Purgatory, for those not indoctrinated by nuns rapping knuckles for rapt attention, is the place all souls go to “purge” the ethereal beings of sins. Not ordinary sins that may have been “forgiven” with absolution following a sincere act of contrition and a penance to fit the crime one confessed. You get absolved of those sins, but there is something called a “residual” substance that remains. This can only be “burned out” (my words) by years and years of suffering in a place akin to Hell but with a shorter life span than all eternity. You need to purge this scum on the soul before entering the Kingdom.
Of course, if you die under circumstances that only a saint could prevail — such as being martyred for your faith — then you get your ticket punched for immediate entrance into Heaven.
Indulgences, or rather, the sale of indulgences led to something called the Protestant Reformation, and reforms soon-to-be-ex-Catholics wanted in the Church where some people were abusing their powers. (Can we say “Spanish Inquisition” or a plenary indulgence for 1,000 gold coins needed to build a pope’s cathedral?) Indulgences helped to decrease the amount of time one’s soul would be committed to Purgatory. We’re talking thousands and thousands of years, according to some sources. Some indulgences could knock off a week here, a month there, and it could and up when you’re dealing with millenniums.
I started to wonder what an indulgence could be like from another viewpoint, say one which believed in not just one life, but many lives, one after another through a process of reincarnation, suggested by students of Buddhism as well as the Kabbalah. Let’s say that Purgatory is not some place where a soul is roasted over some spit on a fire, but a “prison-like” sentence that one must serve life after life because of past misdeeds.
This is where the idea of Karma would enter. You could not escape the suffering from one life through another until or unless you’ve “paid for” your previous bad dealings. You’d get merit for good acts, and “demerits” or time in Purgatory for bad ones.
Buddhists believe that our actions cause something called an “imprint” within us. We can remove anger, ignorance, greed and pride, but the “imprint” of such emotions or states of mind remains. Like a piece of garlic that is removed from a jar, the smell or imprint of the garlic remains. One must dig and dig some more to remove it. Perhaps acts or prayers for indulgences are needed to ease such residual clinging.
Purgatory then would not end until one is completely enlightened or “corrected” as Kabbalah says, and every other sentient being is on the same path back to the Perfection of our first incarnation.
Thank you for this indulgence. See you purging in our next life together.
Meditation is such a powerful practice. It can lead to spiritual, physical and mental benefits. It is amazing how many of us simply don’t meditate because we think it is weird. We should all open our minds and realize this can be one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves and it is completely free to do at any time!
Great post! 🙂
If you are interested I have some articles regarding meditation in my blogging community I have developed.
Check it out if you are interested!
And then there’s the path of Love and eternal evolutionary magnificence. On that path there is no purgatory, but we do have the opportunity to review all hurts we’ve caused. Not only those who we have directly hurt, but those who suffered due to our indirect influence.
Then we get to decide if we want to come back and which life will give us the best experience to overcome some major hurts.
I was told I’m on my last life and I truly want to believe that. I feel very, very excited about a whole new dimension.
I can understand the direct hurts, but not the ripple effects. They could be enormous, I think, if one is not careful.
On your last life, Amy? You sure have lighted a candle for many of us to see in this sometimes dark place with or without a purgatory.
I like to think that we can “purge” ourselves every time we ask for forgiveness and sincerely grant it during the act of meditation.
Try it. You’ll like it.
If not, see if someone else — not a priest — will forgive you and then try purging yourself . . .
I grew up in th Catholic Church and well recall the teachings on purgatory. So much so that I remember thinking, at age 12, that I hoped God would see fit to kill me right after receiving absolution after Confession. I figured that forgiveness had a shelf life of 10 minutes, tops. Death after that would mean an extensive “down time” in the fires of purgatory.
A time in evangelical Protestant Christian religions relieved me of that dynamic but continued the monstrous outrage of a belief that most actions and thoughts were sinful.
It was only after leaving religion behind (while retain a theist belief system) that I came to the conclusion that all of us are human and were built to be human. And that much of which we refer to as “sin” – especially when it comes to such fundamental things as sex – was something we were built for. Something we were created for, if you like. I also concluded that humankind was made with God’s DNA (I.e “made in His image), which if true means that much of what we think or do reflects our creator. And that this is true even of those who don’t believe in him, or who believe differently about Him.
I can’t help thinking that the idea of karma is a true deal, at least on a visceral level. At least I hope it is, because I think we need the hope that whoever causes suffering without regret should somehow receive some sort of universal recognition for it.
Your thoughts might just have created a great karmic effect on someone who needed to read your words, my Wolf friend. Maybe we both will get a little more time off for good behavior outside of our old Church.