1. In all ages, human beings have intuitively believed that their future lives will be happy or unhappy according to the good or the evil done by them in the earthly life; but the idea they form to themselves of that future state of existence is always in keeping with the development of their moral sense and with more or less enlightened views of right and wrong at which they have arrived. Thus their idea of the rewards and punishments of the future is always the reflex of their predominant tendencies. Warlike nations make the supreme felicity to consist in the honors done to valor; tribes who live by hunting, in an abundance of game; peoples addicted to sensuality, in voluptuous pleasures. While human beings remain under the domination of materiality, they can have only an imperfect comprehension of spirit life; they suppose that they will eat and drink, in the other world, as they do in this one, but of better quality. * At a later period, we find in the beliefs of humankind concerning the future a mixture of spirituality and materiality; and accordingly, juxtaposed with a heaven of contemplative beatitude, humans then place a hell with its array of physical tortures.
* A little Savoyard, to whom the village priest was describing the delights of the future life, asked him whether everybody “eat white bread there, as they do in Paris?”
2. Being unable to conceive of anything that they do not see, the humans of the primitive period naturally formed their notion of the future based on the present; in order to comprehend the possibility of other modes of existence than those which they saw around them, they would have needed an intellectual development which they could only have acquired in the course of ages. The picture that they imagined to themselves of the chastisements of the future life was, therefore, only a reflex of the ills of human existence, but deepened and intensified. They brought together, into that picture, all the tortures, all the sufferings, all the afflictions that they saw upon the Earth; in hot climates, they imagined a hell of fire, and, in the cold ones, a hell of ice. The special sense which, at a later period, enabled them to comprehend the spiritual world, not being yet developed, they could only conceive of physical penalties; and for this reason, with the exception of some slight differences of form, the “hell” of all religions is the same.