In previous retreat notes we have seen that when Eugene was using the Ignatian retreat method, he used to refuse to do the set meditations on hell, which required him to conjure up pictures of horror. He judged it as a conjuring up of a fantasy world that revolted him.
12. I will gladly include too that of hell which figured little in my other retreats, but if I want to make effective use of it where I am concerned, my approach must be quite the opposite of that indicated in some books. No “representation of place,” no pictures of demons or of the damned, no going into the details of torments, for it is my experience that all that fantasy-world usually conjured up, far from frightening my mind, revolts me and damages my conviction which cannot be based on things it can refuse to believe, or at least that it can look on as exaggerations, or as the produce of someone’s imagination.
Hell for Eugene was “being deprived of God” – the worst imaginable punishment for someone who loved God passionately and to whom he had made the oblation of his life:
So I will stay with what is of faith, and above all with the consideration of being deprived of God, as opposed to the beatitude of the elect in heaven.
In this way I will reach a conviction of the futility of things the search for which can cause one to lose the unique good that is God.
Retreat resolutions, October 1831, EO XV n 162