Reading the Paradiso for the third, and now the fourth time, has been a fully different experience from the first journey through the spheres up to the Empyrean. The narrative seems even less structured than in the other two books, which is partly suggested by the idea that all the souls are living in the Empyrean, but things are reflected into nine spheres to accommodate the nature of the Pilgrim’s intellect and capability for comprehension. But what stands out after the reading of the first 8 spheres, is how deep and rich the Sun and the Fixed Stars are on theology, and in a blend with philosophy. They are also the two biggest spheres in the book, with 4,5 Cantos for the Sun, and 5 full Cantos (mid 22 to mid 27) for the Fixed Stars.
While the 4th Sphere (the Sun) is in many ways an overview of 24 thinkers and historical people to illuminate Dante’s beliefs and sources of theology, the 8th sphere is a deep meditation on the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. Plus some final words from the symbolically first human, Adam, and St. Peter’s final words on the contemporary Church in Dante’s times. And these two spheres forms a rich outline of Dante the Writer’s ideas about the Heavens and Paradise, before the last two spheres of Primo Mobile and the Empyrean itself. In some ways the 4th and the 8th sphere form the foundation within the material part of the Cosmos for Dante, at the cusp of Motion itself, and then the Mystery and Beyond.
In general – the Paradiso keeps growing as perhaps the biggest of the three books in the trilogy by far, as a different kind of portal into something more eternally growing and more evasive in the beginning. But it takes time, introspection, patience, and sometimes a calm peace of mind to apprehend the substance of the book.
And now, we’re curious as to how the last two spheres, and the remaining 6,5 cantos, will be experienced this time in the fourth reading. So far, there are always great new discoveries from re-reading the Divine Comedy by Dante.