The Creation of the Angels

In Canto 29, Dante describes the origins of the Angelic Beings, as Beatrice can see in the Eternal Mind that the Pilgrim has some questions.

Firstly, the argument is that the Angels were created in order to reflect and “resplendor” the Divine Glory throughout all of Being and Existence (“Subsisto”), in their different natures. Therefore “new loves blossomed from the Eternal Love”.

Secondly, as for the “when”, Beatrice explains that the Angels, the Heavens and the Earthly were all created at the same time, like “three arrows from a three-stringed bow.” This threefold creation was “rayed into existence all at once, without beginning, with no interval.” Continue reading “The Creation of the Angels”

The Examination of Virtues for the Pilgrim

The threefold examination of the Pilgrim at the boundary between the material Cosmos and the eternal mind of the Divine is in many ways making a crucial argument about which insights are needed – to open up this Divine Realm within yourself. The key is to expand on the ideas of Faith, Hope and Love in your mind and heart – as a process of “finding” this Realm.

Crucial elements are first, that Faith is “the substance of those hoped-for things, and argument for things we have not seen.” Meaning things like the Good, the Heavens, the Divine – which by definition would be beyond our comprehension, and thus only reachable by a conviction or belief.
Continue reading “The Examination of Virtues for the Pilgrim”

The Mystery of Beatrice’s Prophecy

Towards the end of the Garden of Eden there is a Prophecy given from Beatrice, which until this day still is an unsolved mystery as to what it means, 700 years later.

Beatrice is prophesying in verses 40-51 that “God’s Emissary” eventually shall come and it will be as “five hundred, ten and five”, or the number 515. Some scholarly guesses have been that 515 could be the Roman numbers DXV, which could give us DVX or “Dux”, a “leader” in Latin. And thus pointing to f.ex. the historical leader of Emperor Henry VII.

But we’d like to propose another directional hypothesis for this number in this article. Continue reading “The Mystery of Beatrice’s Prophecy”

The Illusion of the Sirens

The Pilgrim’s Second Dream.

At the ending of the Fourth Terrace on Mount Purgatory, the Slothful, the Pilgrim has a new dream which is prophesizing for the last part of the climb and its deeper symbolism. The terraces of misdirected Love and too little Love are now behind us, and the last three terraces will be about temptations and the excessive Love for Earthly Goods. And as Dante and Virgil have spend over six hours after sunset discussing the nature of Good and Bad Love, we are now past midnight, and the Pilgrim finally falls asleep.

The dream opens with a fascinating scene of a monster that suddenly starts changing into a seductive Siren right before our eyes, but only from the moment that the Pilgrim’s gaze has fallen upon it. The transformation of the monster is actively feeding upon and directly created by the eyes of the onlooker – symbolically meaning how some of the damaging and destructive temptations in life might appear glittering and shining when we turn our gazes upon them, but only as an illusion.

Dante is through this scene showing us the deeper nature of the temptations of Lust, Gluttony and Avarice/Greed. They might appear very different from their true and long term nature to us. And as the monster turned into a Siren says to him in the dream, the one “who dwells with me seldom departs, I satisfy so well”.

The dream ends with Virgil suddenly appearing in the dream, and ripping off the garments of the Siren, exposing the monster within. The suggestion from Dante the Writer is partly the same as in the previous Terrace of Wrath – that the way to manage these impulses in life is through developing your own Reason. It is the Reason that can cut through the alluring temptations and expose them for what they really are. So once again we see the role of Virgil in the symbolic sense; that which can guide and help us through life and should be built up as the threshold of consent for the impulses.

Once the Pilgrim wakes up, Virgil says to him that he had already tried to wake him up three times. Meaning that the forces of the Sirens can be very hard to break loose from, as the Pilgrim will witness in the last three terraces of the climb, of Mount Purgatory.

 

Marco Lombardo, on the Third Terrace

The Good Shepherd.

In one of the more constructive criticisms of the Institution of the Church in the Divine Comedy, the Pilgrim is discussing the causes of Evil with Marco Lombardo on the third Terrace in Purgatory. The Lombard then goes onto a long tirade about the Church of Rome and its decay and corruption, but it ties into a much larger philosophical point, that of the Free Will and peoples’ ability and capacity to make good choices in life.

This topic arises right after they had discussed how the Free Will is a Gift, but one that has to be gradually developed through learning and understanding the world better, in order to make more helpful and constructive choices for oneself. And this is then tied into the problem of the widespread evil that Dante the writer saw in his contemporary times – he sees a major root of the problem to be the failure of the Church of Rome to spiritually guide and educate people, and thus creating a healthy and constructive people and culture. And as an aside; this is where Dante is promoting a good and constructive Church, whereas other and later figures promoted abandoning the institution altogether as the solution.

But the larger point is also an intriguing one, that even though the individual has a free will to choose and to use its reason to overcome the various individual inclinations and shortcomings, there is still a necessity for guidance and education, and managing this within a culture, is Dante’s claim. The repeated imagery of aiming the bow and hitting the targets in life indicates the difficulty of navigating and orienting oneself in a sea of opportunities and pathways to choose from. And this again points to the overall aspiration of the Comedy, to help with this personal and spiritual growth as a map and compass, towards a better life for oneself, and for a culture on a larger scale.

 

 

The Free Will as a Gift

The Freedom to Choose.

One of the main overall intentions of Dante’s Comedy is to show the resulting rewards and punishments according to our exercise of our own Free Will. The concept of Freedom to Choose our actions is central to the whole cosmology of Dante and the Medieval Theology. We are born with certain individual inclinations, but how we relate to these impulses and choose to rationally manage them, is something we can choose – and better so through increased knowledge and education within the intellectual and spiritual domains. In many ways this is Dante’s explicit Project with the Comedy, to provide this education to better equip us how to exercise our Free Will more aligned with our higher aspirations, and also to help us towards the common goal – of Happiness.

In some ways the freedom to deliberate and choose an action might also be seen as what actually constitutes ourselves, that which deepest seen is our soul actively “being” something. And the claim in Dante is that this ability can be nuanced, grown, and guided towards a better understanding – as a crucial element of good life and in a wider sense good communities and cultures. This is in parts also largely motivated by his contemporary times and the fall and corruption of his home town Florence in the late 12 and early 13 hundreds. His efforts to mitigate this downfall is partly aimed at the culture itself, and partly indirectly through the individuals as building blocks of the culture.

The concept and inquiries into the nature of the Free Will is spread throughout the three Realms of the Comedy, but the insistence we meet on the Third Terrace of Mount Purgatory blinded by a thick, black cloud of smoke (symbolic of Wrath), is that the Freedom to Choose is a gift to be cherished and cultivated. And as this learning sinks into the Pilgrim, the black cloud is gradually becoming lighter with sun rays slowly penetrating through it. Without the Will, an Inferno or a Paradiso would not make sense or exist. They represent states of consequences, embedded in the fabric of reality, that we ourselves can freely choose between once we have gained a certain level of understanding of this fabric. And thus the motivation to climb and ascend, might grow even stronger.

 

Dante’s Glimpse of a Divine Union

The Dream in Chapter 9.

In the ninth canto of the Purgatory there is a prophetic passage where Dante is having his first dream during the first night, of being hunted down from above by an Eagle and lifted up into The Fire. There they both burn and the intensity makes the Pilgrim wake up, partly in fear.

The literal explanation that is then given by Virgil is that the Pilgrim has been lifted up from the Valley of Princes and up to the Gate of Purgatory by St. Lucia while he was sleeping, but there is also a much deeper symbolism in this passage, one which has been interpreted in several different ways in the various commentaries of the Divine Comedy.

After a correspondence with Professor Raffaele Giglio at the Department of Italian Literature at the University of Napoli, Federico II – the interpretation seems more clear: that the fire is a symbol of the Divine itself, with references to how this is portrayed in the Biblical Stories of Moses, which also connects the Purgatory once again to the Book of Exodus. This theme is also explicitly introduced in Chapter 2 when the souls are arriving at the beach singing “In Exitu Israel de Aegypto” in one single harmonious voice.

The theme of fire and unification is thus prophesizing the very ending and aim for the whole Comedy, to reach up to the Divine in the Highest Sphere of the Heavens and experience a mystical union with the help of the Grace of the Virgin Mary, after the prayers of the great Mystic St. Bernard.

From the correspondence with Prof. Raffaele Giglio, translated from Italian:

The presence of the “Fire” and the motif of the kidnapping, even though in the dream, makes us able to anticipate that which was the aspiration of Dante; to reach the Divine, which in the Biblical Stories was represented in general as the burning bush, as vivid and living Fire.

Dante in his proceedings has had to confront and surpass many barriers of fire to continue his journey. The fire, in my interpretation, symbolizes the burning desire of the pilgrim towards that biblical image of the Divine. The fire is an expression of strong desire; and in the dream Dante has brought to completion that which burns inside of him: unifying himself with the Divine Fire. The image is symbolic, and could signify the aspiration towards this Fire-Divinity, which now in a dream seems to him to have happened.

Through this dream at the transition point between Ante-Purgatory and the real Purgatory, Dante as a writer is stretching out the full canvas for the story, and in many ways his whole purpose for writing the Comedy – to show a Journey towards the Divine through a personal example, as inspiration and for imitation for us as Readers. The first idea and experience of this is felt through the burning image – which the Pilgrim is not ready for yet as his spiritual growth is in the beginner stages, and thus it snaps him out of his dream. But the feeling lingers after he wakes up, and a little seed is planted in him for the further climb, and for the ascent into the Heavens.

 

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References:
Professor Raffaele Giglio, Dante Course.
Canto 9, Purgatorio, Original and Modern Italian.

The Good that Multiplies, like Mirrors

The Source of Envy, and Nature of the Good.

At the end of the second Terrace the Pilgrim has one of his biggest new understandings of the nature and roots of Envy, which leads to an even bigger and more joyful discovery; that Love and the Good only multiplies like mirrors, the more people that participate in it.

The argument is that the material goods will create a kind of possessiveness and fear of loss, whilst a greater understanding of the Heavenly Good, and spending your time and actions towards the spiritually good things – will only increase the motivation for sharing this Good with others, and having more people finding the same joyful source of Good Life. In some ways Envy could be seen a direct result of aiming at the wrong things as the higher value in life.

As the Pilgrim absorbs this deeper new insight, Virgil points out that they should move on to erase the five wounds left on Dante’s forehead. Symbolically meaning that through understanding this nature of Envy, and the mutually amplifying nature of the Good, the “scar” of Envy has already healed completely from the Pilgrim’s soul. A change of mind has occurred. And this, according to Dante’s writings, is a part of the path to happiness and ascent towards the Good in the widest sense possible. We are learning both substance and process at the same time. And like the Pilgrim, it’s very easy to yearn for more learning, and more understanding!

 

The Four Stars at Purgatory Mountain

As the Pilgrim and Virgil come out from the rocks and onto the shores on the Island of Mount Purgatory, they see four bright stars in the night sky above them – symbolic of the four Cardinal Virtues:

  • Temperance
  • Prudence
  • Fortitude
  • Being Just

From Canto I:

Then to my right I turned to contemplate
the other pole, and there saw those four stars
the first man saw, and no man after him

The Garden of Eden is on top of Mount Purgatory and therefore these four Virtues/Stars are again visible for Virgil and the Pilgrim, as they have now emerged in the Southern Hemisphere.