Can Souls Be Eternally Lost? Do All Paths Lead to the Same Place?

(And why does it matter?)

Ben: Can a soul die?
Spirit: Yes.
Ben: How, if a soul is immortal?
Spirit: By inertia. A dead soul is as a sleeping soul, inert. But the sleeping soul can be revived. The dead cannot.

The above statements (from Ben Swett's "Conversations in Silence" (used with permission)) are actually far more profound than they may at first seem. Though different from traditional Christian teachings on souls (that the lost will burn eternally in Hell, or whatnot), the resulting conclusion is the same:

Some souls are lost eternally, never to be saved/never to reach the Light(God).

This is one of the fundamental axes on which Christian spirituality points away from New Age theology. I have gotten into more arguments on this topic with New Age-influenced people than any other topic!

Why does it matter to us whether souls can be lost eternally or not?

Consider this: if souls cannot die or perish eternally, then odds are that many more will find their way home to God. The New Age phrase "All paths lead to the same place (the Light)" becomes much more likely to be true. But, if souls can be eternally lost, then "All paths lead to the same place (the Light)" suddenly collapses. All possible paths will then logically include those that lead to destruction, not to God. And suddenly we have to start paying attention to what paths we and others are on! No more can we assume that eventually, no matter what detours we take, we'll arrive home safe and sound.

Why could it be that souls can be lost eternally, if God is supposedly so loving?

I find Ben's notes to be quite profound on this point. Let's look at this exchange (from the same page mentioned above):

Spirit: God established the way that leads to life and the way that leads to death. Every soul is free to choose which he will follow.
Ben: Doesn't God care which way a soul goes?
Spirit: Of course. But He loves each one too much to take away the freedom.
Ben: Even if they are about to die? Spiritually?
Spirit: Even then. Life and heaven would both be meaningless without the freedom. Souls would be no more than inanimate machines.

"Life and Heaven would both be meaningless without the freedom" .... Look at it this way: If every path led to the same place, what choice do we souls have about where we go? None! We are all stuck on a pre-set divine track that will definitely take us to God, no matter what we do or think or say. Maybe we can make ourselves some wiggle room, but at the end, we'll all get to the same place whether we want to or not ... because presumably all of us will want to be there by then. Pre-destination. Where is then free will?

Either our God loves us by giving us free will and the option to destroy ourselves, or our God loves us by giving us guaranteed safety and denies us free will. Which love is higher? Perhaps no one but God can say for sure, but it seems to me that the latter is not real love. As the spirit quoted above says, that kind of love makes us into mere machines, set to run on a cute little track like a toy train.

In what ways can a spirit be eternally lost?

Traditional Christianity, as most people know, speaks of fire and brimstone where the wicked suffer eternally. Now that seems definitely to paint God in a sinister, unpleasant light, and it's no surprise a lot of people don't believe it. But what are other versions of eternal death?

Many people argue that we are on reincarnation cycles, which, as we learn more and more and overcome our karma, will eventually lead us up to God. Well, OK, I don't have a big problem with that model until the statement is made that all people will be led up to God this way. What of people who go around in circles, over and over? What if they don't learn? What of those who learn to like violence, hatred, or who become addicted to food, drugs, sex, luxury, political power? How likely are they to proceed upward? Perhaps eventually many of them would ... unless you happen to believe that souls can burn out:

Christian writer C. S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, writes of ghosts who have so long let their selfishness or irritability overwhelm them, that nothing is left of the original soul. While his work is fictitious, it bears some thought.

Spiritualist/medium W. Stainton Moses' was told: "The miserable, abandoned spirits who sink down deeper and deeper, who become unable to rise, and who gradually lose their personality.... undergo what your sacred records name the second death. They do not emerge from the hell they have created. They are lost." (More Spirit Teachings, Part II.)

Ben's page speaks of souls that have burned out like cinders, and he will tell you himself of how souls can be drained of energy and grow increasingly apathetic ... to the point where some lapse into eternal apathy. These souls care less and less about everything, until they care about nothing. Chemically, such a soul would be considered non-reactive, inert. Spiritually, such a soul is dead.

Near Death Experiencer Howard Storm in his book My Descent into Death also writes of souls that, after an eternity spent avoiding God, burn out and die: "the ultimate annihilation of being." Such souls are in such torment they crave annihilation, but for whatever reason they turn further and further from love.

Astral travelers report finding areas where destructive spirits literally feed on each other, tormenting each other and draining the energy from each other. This would seem to confirm some of the above theories.

And what can make a soul care less and less, or lose all its energy? Consider addicts - to what they are addicted doesn't matter - who care only about enjoying whatever it is they are addicted to, and even their enjoyment starts becoming harder and harder to achieve with time. They only care about a fleeting pleasure: what a tiny, narrow field of interest! No wonder they become literally less and less alive.

Or consider the deeply depressed, who lack so much energy that they can hardly care whether they live or die. Consider the hypocrites, who are hemorrhaging within; they spend all their energy keeping up pretenses and protecting their egos from the truth. And all of these people may be the victim of discarnate or incarnate "psychic vampires" or parasites who are bleeding them dry, taking advantage of their weaknesses to siphon off energy. And of course, these "parasites" themselves are frequently those who are gradually dying, spiritually.

And if they will not listen -- refuse to listen -- to rescuers who tell them their ways need to change, will God force them to do so?

An unpleasant picture, but one that many will testify is true.

Personal Responsibility and the Reality of Danger

Those who believe that souls can be lost forever necessarily enter a world where they know that what they do and think, here and now, can mean the difference in whether they and their neighbors can reach the Light of God.

The dangers of sinking into selfishness, addiction, hatred, anger, pride, arrogance, hypocrisy, and so on, become that much more real. These vices aren't just illusionary: they can really kill, spiritually as well as physically. They can bring a true Second Death to those who let themselves be so ruled by destructive impulses that they cease to care ... and eventually cease to be.

Implications for Spirit Rescue and the Worth of Souls

Perhaps the most important result of assuming that spirits can perish is a new sense of urgency about helping people who are lost or suffering. No longer can we sit back and assume that a person will be "all right in the end." The person may never be "all right"; the person may be doomed without help. Whether or not the person "chose to be where he is now," the fact remains: the person could be in real, serious trouble. And so help becomes all the more precious. Souls become all the more precious: endowed with the free will to destroy themselves, they are no longer automata who are guaranteed salvation; they are individuals who may well one day cease to exist for all intents and purposes, for all eternity. How fragile existence becomes, if we know it can be destroyed! How much more precious it seems, and rare! And how much more it means to reach out to help someone!

No, you don't have to believe this.

It's not necessary to believe this idea that souls can somehow become eternally doomed. But it may be wise to at least consider it. After all, if it's true that "salvation" is not guaranteed everyone - even in the long run - then this has lasting, profound effects on our beliefs and our attitude towards other people, the universe, and God.

Oh, and finally, I would prefer it if we did all return to God safely - I just am not sure that it is true.