Apokatastasis of the Damned

All things have their being by and from God. This is a restatement of the doctrine of omnipotence.

All things have their being in and by way of God: in him we live, move and have being. This is a restatement of the doctrine of ubiquity.

All things have their being for and toward God; he is the end toward which they tend, and that end is the reason of and for their being. This is a restatement of the doctrine of pronoia.

God is then the origin, ground and end of all things; and all things are therefore integral to his life, and partake therein, whether or not they wish to do so, or realize that they do. This participation in the life of God is the mode of their existence, for God is the being of beings. By this participation are they known to him, as aspects of his own life; by that knowledge are their acts of existence completed, for no act of existence is fully complete until it is known and reckoned by God. So the inception of creatures by God and their completion in him are aspects in the singular, integral act of their creation, of which their inception, evolution and completion are phases.

The integration of all things in the life of God is a restatement of the doctrine of omniscience.

By omniscience, all things are in their truest nature integrated into the being and life of God, and are thus – in their truest natures, mind, albeit not necessarily in the relatively defective natures of their creaturely actualities – rendered consubstantial with him.

What then is the nature of the defect in defective creaturely actuality? It is an error about our consubstantiality with God – about the fact that we begin, proceed and end in, from, by, and toward him. It is the illusion that we and our fellow creatures each subsist independently, and are therefore our own creation, beholden only to ourselves. Because it errs in regard to the true order of things, such vanity generates acts that disagree with reality, and thus inflict harm upon the world – sinful acts.

Conversion of the heart – known also as samadhi, moksha, metanoia, enlightenment, awakening – is liberation from our illusion of independent subsistence.[1] It is our recognition of our fundamental epistemological error about our ontological dependence on God, and our agreement with reality.

Our participation in God is by way of our participation as creaturely actualities in his understanding of our truest nature. We participate in God by being wholly our truest selves – which, they being found realized only in him, we can do only by participating in him. And when we do thus participate, we do so by making the nature of our substance indistinguishable, and thus identical, with the nature of our truest substance sub specie aeternitatis. This is just to say that we participate in the Divine life by making our own life his – such is the motion of our sacrifice at the Mass – and surrender the determination of our own substantial being to his Will, so that our substantial being is consubstantial with that portion of his substantial being that is about us.

Spatiosissimus is accession to the Beatific Vision, by which in seeing God we shall see in and through him all things, sub specie aeternitatis. It is the apprehension of the ubiquitous reality of supersubstantiation – which if ever real, is real eternally.

Apokatastasis is then just the doctrine of omniscience restated in terms of the creaturely perspective.

The difference between the blessed and the damned is simply that the latter do not see – refuse to see – that they are at all only insofar as they are in God, and that they are therefore saved. Hell is slavery to the sin of pride – or rather, properly speaking, of vainglory. And the vainglorious prefer their vanity to the alternative.

So in Truth the redemption of the world covers all things; for Truth covers all things. But the damned, while beloved of God and preserved in being by him, do not choose to recognize him in and all around themselves, as the source and substance of their being, the being in whom alone they themselves have being.

The apokatastasis is then realized already. Hell is a department of the life of God, a mansion of Heaven; and since in Truth they are actually saved, the damned are such only in and for and by themselves, on account of their errors about the Truth and Fact of their salvation. They sit forever at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and count its wonders horrible, and themselves lucky to be potent to fast therefrom.

There is then no conflict between the doctrine of apokatastasis and the doctrine of Hell.


[1] “Independent subsistence” is actually a contradiction in terms, for “subsist” is “under, up, to” + “stand.” You can’t be both under or toward something and independent from it. “Independent subsistence” is thus “insubsistent subsistence.”

12 thoughts on “Apokatastasis of the Damned

  1. Thank you for these reflections, Kristor. The position you describe here sounds a lot like the ‘River of Fire’ theology of Alexander Kalomiros, where a comparison is made between the damned in Hell and the older brother in the prodigal son parable — the older brother is offered all that the prodigal son had and more, but he refuses to enjoy the most important thing. I think I mentioned being a bit wary of this scheme, but…

    Hell is a department of the life of God, a mansion of Heaven; and since in Truth they are actually saved, the damned are such only in and for and by themselves, on account of their errors about the Truth and Fact of their salvation. They sit forever at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and count its wonders horrible, and themselves lucky to be potent to fast therefrom.

    … these words seem to me a particularly excellent picture of the situation from the original post that raised this discussion, about people who refuse to have children, take great care to avoid doing so, whose entire view of sex is oriented around this refusal. The fundamental disagreement over whether the creation of new life is wonderful, or just such a ‘horrible wonder’ (because it comes with responsibilities), seems to be an anticipation of this kind of division.

    [Below, I sadly have nothing to contribute except for rambling, but hopefully you will be able to glean a thought or two that illuminates why I thought this question worth raising in the first place.]

    So perhaps there is something to this subjective analysis, but a point I’d make is that the subjective perception of Heaven, informs a person’s objective behaviour therein; so a geographic separation of the saved and damned still seems plausible (as the damned self-segregate, seeking to flee from the new Earth and from one another into outer and eternal darkness)… which introduces a definite room for improvement into the Heavenly order. I will not say ‘imperfection’ because, as long as there is no definite doctrine that the damned will remain damned eternally, we can hardly begin to guess how God and the saints might be able to respond, to try and reconcile the damned back into the fold. It’s shaky speculation even thus far….

    My preoccupation with universalism specifically has to do with figuring out whether a given Church will even allow me to hope that such may be the case. The key name in universalism seems to be the anathematized Origen, which is a pity; my impression is that Origen’s universalism is situated in a thoroughly unChristian (intellectual) framework of speculations with all kinds of kooky stuff: spherical — non-fleshy — spiritual bodies at the resurrection, heaven as a static (nihilistic) contemplation of God, with contemplation of any other thing whatsoever being the original sin, and (a natural consequence) the downright pagan notion of a cyclical universe with repeated falls and restorations — ultimately nullifying the whole Christian hope.

    I’d like to hope that the anathema was against this entire system, lock stock and barrel, rather than certain parts of it in isolation. (i.e. the problem is not in universalism, or pre-existence of souls, but the way they were used to build a theology that panders to pagan philosophical tastes at the cost of nullifying most of the Gospel.) Sure, in Origen’s scheme all will be saved (to a very sterile-sounding Heaven) — but then it’s time for another ride on the roller coaster of suffering; just like before. Whereas a crucial ‘good news’ of the Gospel is in the revelation that the universe is still in its one-time labour pains, and once those are over the saved will forever be in a qualitatively better state.

    Compare Sts. Gregory of Nyssa and Isaac the Syrian, whose universalist statements, while more cautious, seem to be rooted in a genuine and personal experience of God’s love. Thus Origen is miles away from the canonized saints of the Church, the latter of whose writings additionally seem to have been reiterated by Dostoyevski in ‘Brothers Karamazov’. The fictional Fr. Zosima seems fairly clear on the answers in his posthumous notes: his teaching boils down to ‘repent, and all will be well’; he even affirms that you will not miss anyone in Heaven — even the entirely damned might be there, raised up to a ‘semblance of love’ (although that part is particularly unclear — obviously Dostoyevski is a novelist more than a theologian); intellectual schemes don’t serve to give any certain answers of how this might be the case; only the experience of Christian love can produce certainty.

    The reason I want to be allowed to hope for the (to me) invisible salvation of all those who have fallen away from God in this life is that the visible Church — the Church, at least, that actually respects God, by taking His commandments seriously (even if that boils down to sorrowing over the inability to obey!) — is small and shrinking, which makes it clear that the visible and sacramental means offered to salvation nowadays are not sufficient to save most people I know or encounter, knew or encountered, on a daily basis. My ability to love is not strong, and a requirement to believe that most people I encounter are damned would weaken it further, to the point that I would seek to see the worst in people that I encounter to justify the perception that they are all doomed to Hell — precisely the opposite of any kind of spiritual health, so from that alone I can tell the logic has something wrong in it.

    If you consider seriously jurisdictional squabbles (of the kind that Orthodoxy in particular is sadly riven with), where people believe that (say) a Church whose hierarchy is being infiltrated by hostile entryists (take your pick of: KGB agents, CIA agents, Marxists, freemasons, and all kinds of other creepy crawlies) is no longer effective for salvation, no matter what the laity or individual parishes do or think (unless they switch to a bishop who is out of communion with most of the hierarchy…), then the problem is even worse. But my last comment was written when I was near the depths of despair on this question, and in between then and today’s post I concluded with disgust that I was being suckered in by a fairly disgusting form of neo-Donatism or sedevacantism, particularly disgusting since it subsists by covertly metabolizing genuine religious feeling into poisonous byproducts — i.e. more bluntly, it destroys love. Partaking of it even hypothetically is like staring into a Basilisk thinking that you are actually contemplating zealous piety.

    Actually, it occurs to me that a Basilisk is the perfect image of evil, that which ultimately has no power. Yes, those who gaze in it are frozen by their own fear, but that just means that if you have no fear whatsoever, you won’t need to fear accidentally being frozen by any Basilisks. You may still have to watch out for the fangs, though….

      • What led me to believe that you intended your argument as a defeater for Kristor’s argument elucidated above was that you posted it in response to his original posting, and the link you included referenced a composite god. Mea culpa.

  2. Pingback: This is Hell | The Orthosphere

  3. Very enjoyable and thrilling intellectual ascent. it is very reminiscent to me of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce and the depiction and rationalization of the damned found therein. In fact in it, there the essentially self damned leap into hell because they are wholly unfitted and unsuited for the blessedness of heaven, as the final conclusion to the evolutionary progression of their choices which make them disfigured for heaven, in a spiritual way. I have sometimes contemplated the idea that God has saved everyone already and provided the banquet hall for the meeting place and sent out the invitations and that is the Good News. I have considered it because of the verses in the bible which talk about how the sin of Adam brought death to us all, and the righteousness of the Last Adam, speaking of Jesus, brought life from the dead to us all in a sweeping graceful reversal. Now this has been done, it is fact and Jesus sits at the right hand of God, waiting the Scriptures say for his enemies to be made his footstool. But my point is that if that verse is to be understood in its most plain and immediate sense, Christ by becoming a partaker of flesh and blood, has taken on us all and redeemed us all objectively but not subjectively, some are still enemies in our minds and need to hear the good news. This would also mean that the gift of eternal life results in our resurrection and our lives being eternal either unto condemnation or unto blessedness dependent on how we choose to live, with hope believing it is true and right to deny ungodly lusts in light of our future resurrection, the kindness of God and the judgment or unbelief which thinks there is no point(no hope) to living a “godly life” and so accumulates wrath upon his gift of eternal life. It is just an idea.

    Scripture references:

    2 Timothy 1
    10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

    Titus 2
    11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,…

    Acts 17
    Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”…

  4. Pingback: Apokatastasis of the Damned | andrestefen's Blog

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