The mariner apologizes for the long absence. Winter has been distracting.

The mariner has been pondering purgatory; a strange phenomenon traced to several religions and cultures and, as if in self application, sits in a position of purgatory in modern theology. This post is entered under the “Musings” category because it is an inquiry of interest and not an exposition of doctrine. What follows is a direct, unchanged copy on purgatory from Wikipedia. It serves as the scholarly background for those who want to pursue purgatory more deeply. Footnotes are retained for your reference.

While use of the word “Purgatory” (in Latin purgatorium) as a noun appeared perhaps only between 1160 and 1180, giving rise to the idea of purgatory as a place[7] (what Jacques Le Goff called the “birth” of purgatory),[8] the Roman Catholic tradition of Purgatory as a transitional condition has a history that dates back, even before Jesus Christ, to the worldwide practice of caring for the dead and praying for them, and to the belief, found also in Judaism,[9] which is considered the precursor of Christianity, that prayer for the dead contributed to their afterlife purification. The same practice appears in other traditions, such as the medieval Chinese Buddhist practice of making offerings on behalf of the dead, who are said to suffer numerous trials.[2] Roman Catholic belief in Purgatory is based, among other reasons, on the previous Jewish practice of prayer for the dead,[10] a practice that presupposes that the dead are thereby assisted between death and their entry into their final abode.[2] It is also based on various passages of Scripture and on the Sacred Tradition of the Church.

Belief in after-life “temporary punishments agreeable to every one’s behaviour and manners” was expressed in the early Christian work in Greek known as Josephus’s Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades, which was once attributed to Josephus (37 – c. 100) but is now believed to be by Hippolytus of Rome (170–235).[11]

Shortly before becoming a Roman Catholic,[12] the English scholar John Henry Newman argued that the essence of the doctrine is locatable in ancient tradition, and that the core consistency of such beliefs is evidence that Christianity was “originally given to us from heaven”.[13

The mariner adds to this list the ancient Egyptian “Book of the Dead”, that not only stated there was a purgatory but that it was composed of demons and fire. Unless excused by Osiris, one would live there forever.

We all know about the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century using indulgences as a fund raiser to build Saint Peter’s Basilica. Martin Luther did not agree with the idea of buying release from purgatory, thinking release ought to be free. So began protestant thought.

Let us assume, given the human politics and abuse of purgatory, that purgatory is a state of being unaffected by us once a person dies and, we assume, enters a condition of transition. It seems to the mariner that all assumptions and opinions about the condition of transition are speculations by those who have yet to pass on. Are we simply judging the character of the deceased? Expressing our biasness or our doctrinal assumptions?

Humanists, existentialists, and spiritualists may have a different definition of purgatory. These believers, part of the spectrum of Christian believers, believe Grace, Divine Love, Heaven, Hell and purgatory are human experiences felt while still alive. What is the definition of purgatory if it is a living experience?

Is purgatory an unsatisfied life? An end of life filled with pain and illness? Feeling bereft of a “normal life?” How does Forgiveness fit into this experience?

Just the mariner musing. Your speculations are welcome.

Ancient Mariner


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