Purification by pain

Self-flagellation is reckoned by many here on Earth to be, literally, good for the soul.History is full of examples of ritualization pain in exchange for the purification of our sins.
This self-flagellation exists in many religions, and festivals of sacrifice and repentance.

Pope John Paul II used to beat himself with a belt and sleep on a bare floor to bring himself closer to Christ. “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption ,” says his letter Salvifici Doloris

New research shows that some form of “mortification of the flesh” — the old-fashioned term for inflicting physical discomfort for spiritual growth — can in fact alleviate feelings of guilt.

“One reason may be that the experience of physical pain alleviates feelings of guilt associated with immoral behavior,” Brock Bastian writes in an article titled “Cleansing the Soul by Hurting the Flesh,”.

In short, Bastian argues, we want to give meaning to pain, to portray it as a comprehensible part of a cosmic balance sheet or a means of achieving justice so that suffering is not pointless; indeed, the Latin word for pain is poena, which means “penalty.”

“Understood this way, pain may be perceived as repayment for sin in three ways,” he writes.

First, pain is the embodiment of atonement. Just as physical cleansing washes away sin…physical pain is experienced as a penalty, and paying that penalty reestablishes moral purity.
Second, subjecting oneself to pain communicates remorse to others (including God) and signals that one has paid for one’s sins, and this removes the threat of external punishment.
Third, tolerating the punishment of pain is a test of one’s virtue, reaffirming one’s positive identity to oneself and others.”

Read more: The Economist The masochism tango
David Gibson: Ash Wednesday Idea: Beat Guilt This Lent — Literally
CNN: Pope John Paul II self-flagellated to get closer to Jesus


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  2. Yoseph Kuncorojati says:

    Yep, but he came to that conclusion (the good end-result), after years of self-flagellation (the process). Too many come to good end-results without experiencing the process, thus rendering it somewhat worthless :)

  3. just pain says:

    must be why i like pain so much :)

  4. Fredy Schoch says:

    Amazingly Martin Luther did self-flagellation for years before realizing that this did not bring him closer to God or salvation. Then he read Paul’s epistle to Romans 1:17 “The righteous will live by faith”. And he stopped trying to reach justification by his own efforts and started relying on God.

  5. e publishers says:

    alot of pain in this world

  6. e publishers says:

    interesting post……….like it

  7. elisabeth says:

    Jésus s’est sacrifié, Dieu a donné son fils unique engendré pour nous sauver tous, pour racheter le péché originel…
    lequel d’entre nous pourrait un jour atteindre ce niveau de sacrifice…si ce n’est des fous kamikazes qui pensent pouvoir juger et pardonner ou encore expier mieux que jésus…non du plus profond de mon í¢me au plus profond de mon coeur et de ma chair je sais que dieu est amour…et qu’il est príªt í  nous accueillir comme nous sommes pour peu que nous faisions preuve d’un peu d’humanité et d’amour( d’empathie) envers notre prochain…..pour peu que nous soyions capable de pardonner í  notre prochain, í  notre frère, í  notre ennemi, í  nous míªme aussi…..

  8. Izabel says:

    God would not create such a wonderfully miraculous vessel in which to house the soul if it were meant to be punished as a means of returning to him.

  9. Catherine E. A. says:

    quoting today on Facebook, from Paulo’s page:

    Let the beauty we love become what we do.


  10. Catherine E. A. says:

    “don’t beat yourself up over it”

    this is a common phrase we use in the UK.

    but the pain inflicted on the flesh is never quite as painful as that of the soul.

    in the case of the soul, however, we have a chance for transformation.

    and with that brings
    “mind over matter”

    1. katie says:

      nice seeing you <3

    2. Catherine E. A. says:

      Thanks Katie xxxxx

    3. somashree says:

      wow, thats really inspirational..

  11. HECTOR says:


  12. There are many ways of being. So many beliefs throughout the ages. Perceptions, perspectives.

    If suffering is necessary, how is it that many of us feel sad when seeing others suffer and want to do something to alleviate it? Even little children naturally respond to injured or distressed playmates with kisses and hugs.

    As well, Athena in The Witch of Portobello, whose trances led her to a place of joy? (A great read, thankyou!)

    Personally, I do not believe that to inflict suffering is necessary. God loves us. As the nursery rhyme says ‘No more monkeys jumping on the bed.’

    Sometimes there is suffering in life, and pain. When I was really small, did not believe it was necessary to impose suffering.
    Then since teen years, wondered that maybe I was a mistake. Needed to find out if it was so. That took a lot of courage.

    Now? Through personal trances and living (so far), I know that life is a miracle, each person is a wonderous miracle. That includes me. Precious.

    I thank my friends, family, this Blog, your books Paulo, and Christina’s artworks for having a calming effect on me.

    Gratitude and Love,
    Jane xo

  13. Petra Jonsson says:

    I really have troubles understanding this post even after reading the links.

    Isn’t it a lack of trust in God if you want to take your punishment into your own hands? When do you reach the point where you try to take God’s place? I believe repentance is enough. The sincerity of your heart is important not the amount of violence in your action.

    Wounds, a breach in my protective wall, can make it possible for light to enter into my life. But when the disciples after Jesus’ death were hiding in fear behind locked doors, Jesus did not break through the door. No violence was necessary, instead he came with love and a message of peace to the scared disciples.

    Many things in life bring you pain and it can be necessary to do them anyhow. It is not pain that brings you forward and closer towards God but your focus on whatever lies behind the pain. Pain and suffering do not have a value in themselves. Pain is the price you pay but not the means to achieve your goal.

    Through darkness to the light makes you stronger – sometimes it is necessary to cross darkness in order to reach to the light but you do not actively search for darkness so that you can overcome it.

    Jesus gave Life to humankind through his suffering. Are there many women practicing religious self-flagellation or is it mainly a male phenomenon? Are mothers among them, women who already went through a lot of pain in order to give birth to a new life?

    For me, body and life are sacred gifts. By using violence against your body you show disrespect for that gift and at the same time you are hurting your soul in two ways: As a victim and as a perpetrator.

    With Love,

  14. Breda says:

    THE Catholic schools I attended ,some of the nuns,who were our teachers stood before us -in front of the class,telling us with pride in theirs voices about the Saints who had suffered and used Self-flagellation.Making us all feel ‘guilty’
    Some of these nuns made US suffer depending on how we answered the Q’s:
    Do you have a TV in your home? If you were honest and answered ‘Yes’ you were made kneel on one knee on a rounded nail on the timber floor boards..
    Are you wearing two petti-coats?
    Answer SHOULD be ‘Yes’
    If answer was ‘No’ ..stand on the main desk and be beaten with a ruler in front of the class.
    Of couse many individual nuns were kind but they didn’t stop the beatings..Pain was ok ?? Maybe even good for us little sinners.
    Of couse we were the lucky one ,at least we weren’t sexually abused -psysically http://www.smh.com.au/…/irelands-catholic-church-hid-sex-abuse-for-decades- 20091127-jw32.html

  15. Breda says:

    Johns Pauls Self-flagellation seems sad and misguided .

    It shows he believed suffering was good…

    The suffering of women (and men and children ) with large families WHEN in many cases it reduced the quality of life for those families.

    Bottom line its about having choices.

    Meanwhile he wasn’t listening to the real issues bothering some of his female faithful in his community.

    What did he do for the progression of women within the Catholic Church in this day and age…where are the women priests already?

    Nor ‘allowing women’ control over their sexuality.

    He was out of touch..excuse the pun.

    Handling Temptation and Sexuality:

    See: John Paul 2nd on Contracception and Sexual ethics;

    http://www.catholicsagainstcontraception.com/statements_by_john_paul_ii_1978_ 1996.htm ethics

    ‘One important feature of John Paul’s “culture of death” rhetoric was the general moral equivalency he saw. There seemed to be, for example, little more distinction between contraception and abortion, a position more extreme than that held by even the most vociferous anti-abortion activists ..

    The reason for this can be traced to his basic (mis)understanding of human love and sexuality. That understanding could best be described as “mystical,” as could his views on many other things.
    Sex, for example, is discussed in terms of being a mystical experience while physical pleasures (not to mention disappointments) are ignored

    As John Cornwell explains in The Pontiff in Winter,John Paul believed that
    “” contraception, divorce, sexual perversions, or homosexuality “” necessarily degrades our very humanity (as defined by our Creator.

    At best it’s a highly abstract vision of human love; as such, it desperately lacks sufficient recognition of the real human experiences that inform real human relationships..
    Of course, we are talking about arguments being made by an elderly, celibate man.

    It’s not without just cause that people complain that advice or theorizing about the nature of sexuality shouldn’t be left to those who have dedicated their lives to being celibate.

    In his 1981 Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II connected the themes of femininity, sexuality, motherhood, and the family in ways that be seen over and over through his reign:

    What is John Paul talking about here? Temptation. Women must learn to resist the temptation to use birth control and take it upon themselves to regulate the birth of children; instead, they should accept however many children God wants them to have’

  16. Nafiseh says:

    let`s this topic from another view:
    do we feel dirty inside?
    and because of that do purification?

    is there any reason to feel dirty?

    do we feel the clean, the higher? and see ourselves dirty because of this vision?

    so we`d better wash it, wash ourselves,
    not hurt ourselves.

  17. Annie says:

    I ve been very interested in this cleansing part…for so many years…how to achieve this purging and purifying feeling.. how to begin with a clean slate..
    the answer came two years ago somewhere in this blog when the Forum discussing the books started..
    Paulo said -in not exact words- “Following your dreams is purifying”
    That was a revelation..
    i think what most do (not excluding myself) is trying to be purified by pain.. We are all living with pain,sometime in our lives, so whether or not it is purifying, we all do that at some point in our lives..
    For example,
    -not following our dreams is pain in the heart, which ends up to manifest in the body and soul with disease ..
    so ‘consciously’ we inflict pain to ourselves..
    -any feeling we don’t accept resonates with emotion of disease (stress, fear, sadness, apathy, anger, etc..)
    SO when we feel that, we consciouly inflict pain to ourselves..
    I know that guilt has a whip in her hand and she does not let you free easily.. you ve got to do that consciously..
    A friend told me we ‘seek’ pain to make more meaningful the moments we feel joyful..
    but then again i ve learnt to find joy in pain too..
    but then again, some pains are important for us to grow, like the growing pains, till you find your right ‘size’…

    Love and Gratitude

  18. Barbara says:

    There is enough pain in this world. In my opinion we should NOT try and create any more pain, neither to ourselves.

  19. Yilmaz says:

    Totally against self pain infliction when it causes serious damage to the body! The body is sacred in this life.

    But also consider people who enjoy slight physical pain though, which does not cause lasting harm to the body. Some might identify oneself with reaching a different level of climax during a tense sexual act. “Eleven Minutes” from Mr. Coelho also deals with this controversial theme. As for me, imagine getting bitten on your neck or getting your back scratched. Sometimes this can be another form of purification, for example to free oneself from all non-sense thought and serve as a catapult into a haven of pure lust. The question you have to answer is if pure lust is a way to converse with god or if it is sin and where on draws the line? :)

    However, using pain in order to be able to continue one’s faith or wash away ones sins, is absolutely wrong. I assume, that only a weak will needs to use pain in order to be able to obey the good in a spartan way.

    Love and Peace,

  20. Olta Canka says:

    I read the links now.

    All I can say is that I see this method as a drogue.
    It might wash away for a certain time the guilt(the consequence of our weakness) but the real problem will still remain there.
    Instead of that feeling of relief, ask your heart.
    Do that when you decide go for “the easy way”.

    Your body(the temple of your soul) is a mirror to your soul. There are wounds in there to be healed, and parts of it which you need to know and learn to deal with.
    One thing that I know well is that a wound means DEATH, which is the opposite of Jesus, who is light, life and love.
    Learn to deal and heal the wounds of your body, which need so much of your love and than you will know how to purify yourself.

    “The way to the Havens starts for the Earth!”