160. What do the sufferings of the soul consist of after death? Are guilty souls tortured in material flames?
The church nowadays realizes perfectly well that the fire of hell is mental and not physical; however, it does not define the nature of the sufferings. Spirit communications have brought them before our eyes. Through them, we can determine what these sufferings are, and we can be convinced that even though they are not the result of material fire - which in effect could not burn non-material souls - they are no less horrifying in certain cases. Such sufferings are not uniform and vary infinitely according to the nature and degree of the wrongs committed, and it is nearly always these very wrongs that serve as punishment. It is thus that certain murderers are forced to remain at the place of their crime and to see their victims continuously in front of them; that persons of sensualistic and materialistic tastes retain these same tastes, and the impossibility of physically satisfying them is true torture; that misers believe they are suffering from the cold and the privations they endured while alive because of their miserliness; that other misers remain close to the hoards they buried and experience unending anxiety out of the fear that they might get stolen; in other words, there is not one wrong, one moral imperfection, one evil act that does not have its counterpart and natural consequences in the world of spirits; hence, there is no need for a determined and circumscribed place: everywhere the wicked spirit goes, it carries its own hell with it.
Besides spiritual punishments, there are physical punishments and trials that the not-yet-purified spirit must endure in new incarnations, where it is placed in a position to bear what it made others bear: being humiliated if it had been proud, poverty stricken if it had misused its wealth, made unhappy by its child if it had been a bad child itself, etc. As we have stated, the earth is a place of exile and expiation - a purgatory — for spirits of that nature. It will depend on each one not to have to return, seeking to improve itself enough to deserve going to a better world.