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After purgatory was officially defined by the Catholic Church in the thirteenth century, its location became a topic of heated debate and philosophical speculation: Was purgatory located on the earth, or within it? Were its fires real or figurative? Diana Walsh Pasulka offers a groundbreaking historical exploration of spatial and material concepts of purgatory, beginning with scholastic theologians William of Auvergne and Thomas Aquinas, who wrote about the location of purgatory and questioned whether its torments were physical or solely spiritual. In the same period, writers of devotional literature located purgatory within the earth, near hell, and even in Ireland. In the early modern era, a counter-movement of theologians downplayed purgatory's spatial dimensions, preferring to depict it in abstract terms-a view strengthened during the French Enlightenment, when references to purgatory as a terrestrial location or a place of real fire were ridiculed by anti-Catholic polemicists and discouraged by the Church.The debate surrounding purgatory's materiality has never ended: even today members of post-millennial "purgatory apostolates" maintain that purgatory is an actual, physical place. Heaven Can Wait provides crucial insight into the theological problem of purgatory's materiality (or lack thereof) over the past seven hundred years.
Oxford University Press Inc
January 8, 2015
About the author
Diana Walsh Pasulka earned her B.A. degree from the University of California at Davis, her M.A. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Syracuse University. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has published on the subject of conceptions of the afterlife and Catholic history. She is the chair of the American Academy of Religion group Death and Dying.
Purgatory is one of those key devotional topics that everyone in the Catholic world knows about, but almost no one knows how to talk about. Diana Walsh Pasulka knows how to talk about it: historically, sympathetically, and critically. What she gives us here is an eloquent history of purgatory that is sensitive to both the lived, often eccentric, religious and visionary experiences of the believers and the wider public debates and institutional politics that have defined and disciplined the official doctrine down through the centuries. It turns out that there is not one but many purgatories, and that these are even more interesting, and more eerie, than anyone imagined. - Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred.