Dante Alighieri was early in recognising that our age has a problem. This character realised that awareness of divine reality was shifting, and if it were lost, dire consequences would follow.
His masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, was born in a time of troubling transition, which is why this cosmic vision of reality — 700 years on — continues to open minds and change lives.
It not only tells of a man’s journey, from the Gates of Hell, up the Mountain of Purgatory, to the Empyrean of Paradiso, but presents an entire world order and our place in that order.
As we journey through the dark waters of uncertainty during this time of great transition, what important lessons can we learn from this epic tale? How can we, too, find the light?
THE PURPOSE OF THIS PIECE
You may have never read a single line of The Divine Comedy, and yet, you may have been influenced by it.
One of the most important works in Western literature and undisputedly the most important poetic text of the so-called ‘European Middle Ages’, is the great poem called ‘Comedy’, or Commedia.
The poem has spoken to readers all over the world for hundreds of years, and current readers still find much to admire in the poem through the various contemporary editions.
The Divine Comedy is considered one of the most important pieces of world literature. Many writers and artists were so greatly inspired by it that in turn, they have created their own masterpieces.
“Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” which is the epigraph for Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, hangs as a warning above the entrance to the Disney theme park ride Pirates of the Caribbean, appears in the videogame World of Warcraft, and as a lyric by The Gaslight Anthem.
The Divine Comedy is a three-part epic poem reportedly published in 1320 by Florentine bureaucrat, turned visionary storyteller, Dante Alighieri.
The subject matter of the poem details the journey of a lost pilgrim, who must trek through the three realms of the afterlife on a journey back to his true home.
I hope to argue in this piece, from my own perspective, that the story of this pilgrim parallels that of the exiled soul in a COVID world. The journey is an allegory of the soul’s journey to the light.
Perhaps it is with the old, that we can come to better understand the new. We can come to a new perspective on the world, to guide us through the continued inversion of reality currently witnessed.
What can Dante’s powerful story of the journey through Hell teach us?
DIVINE COMEDY: AN INTRODUCTION
To begin, let’s give an important brief overview of this poem, including one example of why I think this piece of work is an important philosophical work we should all get familiar with:
The poem, from a broader perspective, recounts the journey of the soul of everyman – travelling towards moral perfection and ultimate salvation. Dante is the personification of the human soul.
The journey begins on Good Friday in the year 1300, and the pilgrim arrives on the shores of Purgatory on the morning of Easter Sunday of that year. He spends three nights on Mount Purgatory and then ascends into Heaven, from which he returns in the end to his life in Florence.
During this journey, many obstacles and deep moral challenges are presented to the pilgrim, to which we will explore, in addition to the various numerological and occult coding spread within.
Hell, in this poem, is famously conceived as a funnel-shaped cavern descending to the center of the earth. Many would be familiar with this analogy, taken from the ‘Inferno’ section of the text:
Here is the interesting thing:
Purgatory is depicted as a mountain emerging from the ocean of the Southern Hemisphere — a mountain formed from the land displaced when Lucifer fell from Heaven and created the great pit:
“This was the side on which he fell from Heaven;
for fear of him, the land that once loomed here
made of the sea a veil and rose into
our hemisphere; and that land which appears
upon this side perhaps to flee from him
left here this hollow space and hurried upward.”
– Canto 34, lines 121–126
If you think this is a ‘coincidence’, that’s fine.
However, to myself, this is not something that should be taken lightly.
More than the authors of the Bible itself, Dante provided us with the vision of the underworld that remains with humanity and has been painted by Botticelli and Blake, Delacroix and Dalí, turned into sculpture by Rodin, and even illustrated in the pages of X-Men comics by John Romita.
This is not a trivial piece of work, whoever wrote it.
Dante’s vision re-defined the imagining of Hell for an entire species. It allowed the words of the established Bible to have powerful imagery attached to it in a way not yet experienced.
How can WE survive our own modern-day journey through Purgatorio, as the pilgrim did?
What can we learn about the old perception of ‘humour’, to see our own ‘Divine Comedy’?
Let’s begin to dive deep down the rabbit hole.
THE JOURNEY EXPLORED
Jorge Luis Borges said The Divine Comedy is “the best book literature has ever achieved”, while T.S. Eliot commented: “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third.”
Indeed, these authors – or the real people behind the characters – have had a profound influence on the literary and greater world. Huxley named Brave New World after a Shakespeare line in The Tempest, after all. We will come to Shakespeare one day, but for today, Dante is the focus.
Perhaps the epigraph to The Divine Comedy itself should be:
“Gather inspiration all ye who enter here.”
Because, as we will explore, a plethora of messages can be taken by the reader.
The Comedy should be read in the same way that scholars interpret the Bible, so that the reader of the Comedy should perceive three different allegorical senses in addition to the historical sense.
On the surface level, if one focuses on the literal and historical characters, the Comedy can be read as a political statement, reinforcing Dante’s arguments against the secular power of popes.
On the moral level of the allegory, however, the Comedy demonstrates the development of the pilgrim everyman from a very limited spiritual understanding in the beginning, to a true confirmation to the will of God by the end. On a typological level, the pilgrim’s moral development mirrors the salvation history revealed in the Scriptures, and the repeating rise and transformation of societies.
The Divine Comedy is divided into three sections, one for hell, one for purgatory, one for heaven.
Each of the three parts comprises 33 cantos, which contains an additional, introductory canto. The verse of each canto is divided into three lines with a separate, single line, to conclude each canto.
This poem provides readers with a spiritual map and a moral compass, through each journey
The first section of this journey begins with Hell. The title is ‘Inferno’.
Many would argue the world is currently experiencing Hell on Earth, as a new era of transhumanism seeks total control over the human being through scientific (religious) anti-human warfare.
When detailing Dante’s allegorical descent into hell, it is important to note that Inferno is both strikingly timeless, as well as a clear product of our time.
The punishments which Dante envisions for the myriad of sinners who have been confined to the underworld are fitting images which highlight the blight upon our souls and the spread of evil.
This can be highlighted in the description of just who is found in this realm the pilgrim enters.
The First Circle of Hell is Limbo and is inhabited by the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans.
Before entering the formal divisions of hell, the writer provides a space to note the virtuous and those who had died unbaptised, to show mercy to those who, through no fault of their own, could not know the ultimate good — yet still sought virtue and justice throughout their lives.
The writer makes clear that their ignorance of Christ (in this analogy) warrants them neither damnation nor salvation, trapped on the border of hell, neither scorned nor sanctified.
While the virtuous (but ignorant) find themselves spared the rigors of damnation, as we begin to make our way through Dante’s next layers of Hell, the inhabitants aren’t so lucky in their experience.
Dante is not reticent to show to his reader the punishments awaiting those given over to vice. While many of these mechanisms may be obscured to the modern reader, they nonetheless serve as useful catalysts for exploring why certain vices damn someone to a particular section of Dante’s vision.
Those who gave themselves over to the primitive appetites of lust, gluttony, greed and wrath, suffer in the various levels of hell. Some sins are born from active attempt to harm others, while some stem from weaknesses of character and perversions of natural desires.
All those who have actively sought to bring misfortune to others and to rebuke in full the commandments of Christ suffer severe punishments. Each level more intense than the last.
In the Second Circle of Hell, Dante and his companion Virgil find people who were overcome by lust.
The Third Circle of Hell is reserved for the Gluttonous.
In the Fourth Circle of Hell, Dante and Virgil see the souls of people who are punished for greed.
The Fifth Circle of Hell is where the wrathful and sullen are punished for their sins.
It is here, we reach the demonic city of Dis — the capital city setting of Dante’s vision of Hell.
This represents the Sixth through the Ninth Circles of Hell.
Inside this dolorous municipality are found the egregious sinners — those who not only actively conspired to harm their fellow brethren, but also to do harm against God and his creation.
First are the heretics, then the violent and murderous, followed by the fraudulent and scheming
None are spared from fires which rain from darkened skies above — vipers biting at their heels, or arrows and swords which strike with glee at any lost soul in sight.
Lastly, at the very bottom of the Inferno are the traitorous — those who have joined Lucifer in partaking of the first sin of all creation, conspiring against friends and more egregiously, against God.
Frustrated and dismayed by his own sinful ways and the growing corruption that he saw around him, Dante hoped that his visions of Hell would prompt readers to return to a righteous path — just as Beatrice had hoped that Dante’s journey would deliver him from sin.
However, it goes much deeper than the biblical analogies that are being used.
Dante’s idea of Hell draws from Aristotle’s view that reason is the most important thing in life.
Beyond Dante’s suggestion that faith in Christ through reason is the key to salvation, not the sacraments of the Church, it’s hard to think of a literary work so powerfully condemnatory of so many aspects of Roman Catholicism that exists before The Divine Comedy.
He deplores the Church’s sale of indulgences and imagines many popes damned to Hell, with an entire line of 13th and early 14th century pontiffs doomed to burn in an eternal flame for the crime of simony (the buying or selling of ecclesiastical privileges), until the pope following them dies.
Dante has a surprising outlook for his time — one quite fair to non-Christians.
This is important to remember as Dante leaves Hell and continues his journey to the light.
Dante and Virgil spent the next day ascending from Hell to see the stars (70–139). They arrive at the shore of the Mountain of Purgatory – the only land in the Southern Hemisphere – on Easter Sunday.
Dante describes Hell as existing underneath Jerusalem, having been created by the impact of Lucifer’s fall. Mountain of Purgatory, on the other hand, was created by a displacement of rock caused by the same event.
Your city, which was planted by that one
who was the first to turn against his Maker,
the one whose envy cost us many tears
produces and distributes the damned flower
that turns both sheep and lambs from the true course,
for of the shepherd it has made a wolf.
For this the Gospel and the great Church Fathers
are set aside and only the Decretals
are studied as their margins clearly show.
On these the pope and cardinals are intent..
Their thoughts are never bent on Nazareth,
where Gabriel’s open wings were reverent
that turns both sheep and lambs from the true course,
for of the shepherd it has made a wolf.
are set aside and only the Decretals
are studied as their margins clearly show.
Their thoughts are never bent on Nazareth,
where Gabriel’s open wings were reverent
The Purgatorio picks up where the Inferno left off, describing Dante’s three-and-one-quarter-day trip up the mountain that ends with Dante in the Earthly Paradise at the time on March 30.
At the shores of Purgatory, Dante and Virgil meet Cato, a pagan who was placed by God as the general guardian of the approach to the mountain.
The classification of sin in Purgatorio more psychological than that of the Inferno, being based on motives, rather than actions. During the first stage of this domain (Ante-Purgatory), Dante and Virgil encounter two main categories of souls whose penitent life was delayed or deficient:
The excommunicate and the late repentant.
The former are detained at the base of the cliff for a period thirty times as long as their period of contumacy. It is explained that prayer from those currently alive and in the grace of God may reduce the amount of time a soul spends in purgatory.
The late repentant includes those too lazy or too preoccupied to repent (the Indolent), and those who repented at the last minute without formally receiving last rites, as a result of violent deaths, and the Negligent Rulers. These souls will be admitted to Purgatory thanks to their genuine repentance, but must wait outside for an amount of time equal to their lives on earth.
Beyond Ante-Purgatory, we enter the first three terraces of Purgatory.
The core of the classification is based on love:
The first three terraces relate to perverted love. The fourth terrace relates to deficient love (i.e. sloth or acedia), and the last three terraces relate to excessive or disordered love of good things.
Each terrace purges a particular sin in an appropriate manner.
Those in Purgatory can leave their circle voluntarily, but may only do so when they have corrected the flaw within themselves that led to committing that sin.
The Gate of Purgatory, Peter’s Gate, is guarded by an angel bearing a naked sword, and his countenance too bright for Dante’s sight to sustain.
On Virgil’s advice, Dante mounts the steps and pleads humbly for admission by the angel, who uses the point of his sword to draw the letter “P” (signifying peccatum, sin) seven times on Dante’s forehead, bidding him “take heed that thou wash / These wounds, when thou shalt be within.”
The angel at Peter’s Gate uses two keys, silver (remorse) and gold (reconciliation) to open the gate – both are necessary for redemption and salvation.
Once again, we see the twin pillar symbolism associated with ascension; initiation.
Just like we have experienced on our own journey with the 9/11 Millennium Key.
As the poets are about to enter, they are warned not to look back.
Much like finally discovering the Black Pills of this reality, one is advised to never attempt to fight the knowledge that has been discovered – by fear of ending up in a Purple Pill mentality (trap).
Could we be seeing something deeper being described to us on this journey?
LESSONS OF THE DAMNED
Through the questions that Dante poses to his guides and the spirits that he meets in Hell and Purgatory, readers can find answers to many of life’s most difficult moral and spiritual questions.
It is not easy to watch what is happening to the world.
I have argued on this website that we must learn to disconnect ourselves from the NPC masses who, by their own vices, lead themselves down towards spiritual pits resembling this story.
Even then, this can be a hard thing to do.
However, we are not alone in this feeling, ladies and gentlemen.
The great works of history recount this struggle over and over.
Even the pilgrim in The Divine Comedy faces the same mental hurdles as he encounters his Hell.
In this journey, Dante displays the kinds of fears that anyone would show.
For example, entering Hell, or riding on the back of the monster Geryon in Inferno 17, he often weeps or shows pity for the sufferings of sinners in Hell (notably in Inferno 5).
This is until his guide, Virgil, convinces him that to do so is to question God’s justice.
Truthers are very apathetic individuals, to this end.
‘We must awaken the masses’, they cry.
But what if there is a far bigger destiny in store for us – those with the ‘eyes to see’.
Dante also displays a certain vanity when he is welcomed among the great poets of antiquity in Inferno 4, and righteous anger when he sees Pope Nicholas among the simonists in Inferno 19.
It is a profound thing to understand Dante is learning the truth through his journey in Hell.
He is shocked to see some of these characters here, because this breaks the pilgrim’s original perceived notion of these ‘noble’ individuals on Earth.
I was also angry when I discovered ‘Popes’ were nothing but front men, too.
Here is another particularly important lesson I take from this journey.
When Dante travels through Purgatory, having seen the traits that constitute Hell, the pilgrim begins to accept that he will have to spend some time on the terraces of pride, anger and lust, when he returns upon his death. Dante pushes forward despite this personal insight gained.
This is very powerful, in my eyes.
I’m sure we all have a personal thought on this one.
For myself, I have accepted that my once ‘free’ participation in this sick society – even in the slightest of ways; vices, emotions, etc – has sealed some of my fate to these realms.
Total freedom also comes at the cost of lack of discipline and overindulgence.
Perhaps this is a real place – perhaps Hell is in the mind.
Perhaps, as is potentially hinted, we are already located in Purgatory.
Either way, despite these revelations, I still push forward.
Hoping to do good, despite my potential fate.
Dante’s lessons are both personal and tailored for the collective in this journey.
Sometimes, he participates through sympathy. Occasionally through displaying the given sin itself.
He expresses anger at Filippo Argenti (Inferno 8) and breaks his word to Friar Alberigo (Inferno 33).
Even his pride is tested when asked to join a group of classical poets in Inferno 4.
However, to take pride in his position among them would be to trust in human intellect rather than divine guidance for salvation — and to end in Limbo, rather than Paradise.
Later, he displays a very human eagerness to see again his beloved Beatrice after 10 years, and a very human humiliation when she dismisses him at their first meeting in Purgatorio 30.
Dante is like you or me. He is someone struggling with what he is learning during his journey.
These actions, too, can be read as part of the pilgrim’s education.
He is learning to see the potential of all sins within himself, and thus the need for contrition and penance as demonstrated throughout the Purgatorio.
The pilgrim must first recognise the nature of sin (as he does in the Inferno), make satisfaction for his sin (as he does in the Purgatorio), and increase in wisdom, joy, and love through holy living.
In this way, the pilgrim Dante is a dynamic character, moving from sin to salvation, from ignorance to wisdom, from despair to joy, through his journey toward the light.
His wandering into the dark wood of sin and his desire to overcome his sin and find his way to God are universal human traits, and so the pilgrim Dante becomes, allegorically, an Everyman figure.
These first two instalments are timely reading, not only because it is in the mood of the season when the frightening and morbid are in vogue (October), but also because it is a reminder both of our mortality and a message to not squander our fleeting mortal days. Make them mean something.
Dante’s construction of Hell testifies to the truth that even in sin, there is a righteous mercy to bestow upon us all. Likewise, however, justice is severe for those who rebuke divine mercy.
Tribulations of Hell – what we are experiencing in our own world/minds — are reserved for none in particular, because the greater good sees us only by the lives that we lead. They may be rich in virtue, or tormented by vice, or in the case of most people, walking an uneasy path between both.
DO NOT neglect your spiritual duties during this time, because even those who feel they are repentant, may also spend thousands of years in Purgatory.
“Let young Charles not think the Lord
Will change his eagle-bearing coat of arms
For sprays of lilies, nor that a toy sword
And putty shield will work like lucky charms”.
Now, this may seem very heavy.
Indeed, it can be a big burden to bear at times. This knowledge of the world.
However, in order to reach Paradiso, one must not only learn these lessons as they navigate their own personal Hell — but must also learn to find the humility in everything that is happening.
HUMOUR: AN EXAMINATION
Finding Something to Laugh At
Many look at the title ‘The Divine Comedy’ and are puzzled.
Since the poem begins in sorrow (the dark wood of sin) and ends in joy (the vision of God), one can easily argue that the poem’s movement parallels the plot of a comedy.
This seems an odd title for most modern readers, who see little humour in the poem.
However, what is ‘comedy’? Was the meaning of ‘humour’ once different to what it is today?
Laughter, even if ironically, is one of the only things many people have during times of crisis.
In fact, the very structure of what humans found as ‘humour’ was once very different.
The custom was rooted in the musings of early church theologians, like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom. At this time, the homily was permitted to contain a humorous story.
A famous joke proclaims God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead.
I asked the question in our Moon Landing investigation, when looking at the ship that supposedly transported these men on their mission, do you see the joke?
Why do all major events in history have a comical falsehood to them?
Remember, the NPC masses will believe whatever is put before them. Thus, media fakery doesn’t have to be sophisticated to fool them every moment of the day.
If this is the case, why are ‘we’ exposed to the humorous side of these things?
It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Do YOU see the joke?
What is this laughter all about, I wonder? Is it superficial, blasé comedy? Is it naive optimism in the face of tragedy? Or is it bedewed in rich spiritual symbolism relevant to us today?
My research relates Easter laughter to the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. In fact, there are various interpretations of the name Isaac, which contain the root “laughter.”
Isaac’s name means “he will laugh”, reflecting the laughter, in disbelief, of Abraham and Sarah, when told by God that they would have a child. Now think of how this story develops.
Did he not have cause to laugh when the sad and gruesome drama — the ascent of the mountain, his father binding him — suddenly had an almost comic conclusion, when he was spared?
This was a moment when Isaac was spared at the last possible second, in which it was shown that the history of the world is not tragedy, the inescapable tragedy of opposing forces, but ‘divine comedy.’ The man who thought he had breathed his last was able to laugh.
This is the true meaning behind ‘comedy’. It seems almost ironic that the Easter laughter appears to be the only answer to the manifold “tragedies” of life.
Many times in life we too feel like Isaac, about to be conquered by evil, about to be slain.
Yet, like Isaac, we also will laugh. Once we reach the summit, we can look back down at all the apparent tragedy and see that what appeared tragic was ultimately not so.
It was all part of OUR divine comedy.
Focus on YOU. Focus on the lessons for YOU.
It seems that Isaiah needs to remind this generation as well:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
– Isaiah 55:8-9.
As the liturgy of the Easter vigil begins in darkness and ushers in light, so too we are encouraged to illuminate the darkness of our minds in Dante’s epic take.
We are assured, as Isaac was many years ago, that we will be rescued, and then we will laugh.
It is with this confidence and with this hope we turn to the paschal Lamb, singing “Alleluia!”.
Dante’s work is regarded as a comedy because, in a classical context, as opposed to a contemporary one, a comedy is a work that deals with explaining the beliefs of an ordered universe.
It should come as no surprise that many numerological harmonies are found in the text themselves.
THE PERFECT HARMONY
Dante’s writings are considered by many to be in the category of “dream-vision poems”— poems that are purported to relate an enigmatic dream whose symbols need interpretation by the reader.
The Comedy’s allegory challenged the reader to unlock its various levels of meaning.
As we have said on many occasions, numerology serves as a secret language encoded inside the realm of reality that can be used to decipher meaning in ways not apparent to the naked mind.
“I see man’s mind cannot be satisfied
unless it be illumined by that truth
beyond which there exists no other truth.”
– Paradiso IV.124-126.
Throughout the three poems, Dante takes great care to identify stars and astrological signs that place Hell below Jerusalem and Purgatory in the middle of the ocean below the equator.
The organisation of the poem makes extensive use of the numbers 3 (reflecting the Trinity) and 1 (reflecting essential unity).
Each canticle contains 33 chapters, or cantos, but the Inferno has one additional canto that introduces the entire poem, making the total number of cantos the perfect number 100.
The verse form that Dante created specifically for his poem is called terza rima (rhyming aba bcb cdc and so forth). The three-line stanzas are also interlocked, suggesting unity as well.
Dante uses the standard Italian hendecasyllabic (or 11 syllable) line, so that each tercet contains 33 syllables — the same as the number of cantos appearing in each canticle.
Probably not coincidentally, that is also the age of Christ at the time of his crucifixion and the Master number for Freemasonry across the world.
The number 9 (3 times 3) is also significant in the poem’s structure.
Dante divides his Inferno into nine circles and follows standard medieval astronomy by including nine spheres in his Heaven. Purgatory contains seven terraces corresponding to the seven deadly sins. The same number is found in Ante-Purgatory and the top of the mountain.
Furthermore, the nine sections of each canticle are arranged into larger three-part structures: In the Inferno, the sins are grouped into three kinds—incontinence, violence, and malicious fraud, represented symbolically by the three beasts (the she-wolf, lion, and leopard) of Canto 1.
Purgatory, as Dante’s guide Virgil explains in Canto 17 of that text, is structured according to three kinds of defects in love: Love, which motivates all human actions — even sin — can be misdirected, insufficient or perverted, and these defects provide the bases for the organisation of Purgatory.
This entire sequence reflects the three-step process of the sacrament of penance, which involves confession, penance and absolution. The overall three-part organisation is one aspect of a remarkably detailed symbolic structure that stands as one of the noteworthy aspects of the Comedy.
As a Gothic cathedral does, the Comedy reflects in its structure the perfect harmony of God’s creation and, at the same time, the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Paradiso is the holy living that follows a life of true grace and harmony.
I tend to see ‘holy living’ as a rejection of the transhumanist agenda, personally.
The anti-human agenda that strips the human being of the natural for the artificial.
Will we reach it?
By taking the lessons of the journey, the humility of the situation and the coded affirmation that is contained inside of the events, I believe we have as good a shot as anyone else.
The Paradiso begins at the top of Mount Purgatory, called The Earthly Paradise (or Garden of Eden). Allegorically, it represents the state of innocence that existed before Adam and Eve fell from grace – the state which Dante’s journey up Mount Purgatory has been recapturing.
After ascending through the sphere of fire believed to exist in the earth’s upper atmosphere (Canto I), Beatrice guides Dante through the nine celestial spheres of Heaven, to the Empyrean.
This is the abode of the Light.
The nine spheres are identified by medieval astronomers — the seven planets, the fixed stars, and the Primum Mobile or First Mover. This is conventional medieval geography and cosmography.
During the course of his journey, Dante meets and converses with several blessed souls. He is careful to say that these all actually live in bliss with God in the Empyrean:
But all those souls grace the Empyrean;
and each of them has gentle life though some
sense the Eternal Spirit more, some less.
Beatrice, who sends Virgil to guide Dante on his way, represents divine grace and, in her role as Dante’s guide, divine wisdom as well. Virgil represents human reason, the faculty by which human beings may recognise sin and move forward.
Since salvation can be attained only through grace, it is Beatrice, not Virgil, who must guide Dante into Heaven. It is reason that ultimately discerns the lessons meant during these times.
Even in Paradiso, we see the souls of the blessed are arranged according to their own capacities for experiencing grace. Thus, even while safe, their vision might be limited or incomplete.
This is the case of the souls in the lower spheres; it might be attained through the cardinal virtues; or it might be the perfect vision of the angels. Not everyone gets to sit down with the Creator.
Dante does, however.
Understanding all of this, HE is one of the very few chosen to complete this journey.
THE MATILDA SYNC
In Paradiso, Dante meets Matilda, a woman whose literal and allegorical identity is perhaps the most tantalizing problem in the Comedy. Matilda prepares Dante for his meeting with Beatrice.
Remember, Beatrice is the woman to whom (historically) Dante dedicated his previous poetry, the woman at whose request (in the story) Virgil was commissioned to bring Dante on his journey, and the woman who (allegorically) symbolises the path to God (Canto XXVIII).
Matilda. Come on, now.
After passing through the Southern Land, Purgatory, Matilda sets up the final meeting?
Perhaps Dante was ‘waltzing’ as he passed through this place?
With Matilda, Dante witnesses a procession which forms an allegory within the allegory, somewhat like Shakespeare’s play within a play. It has a very different style from the Purgatorio as a whole, having the form of a masque, where the characters are walking symbols rather than real people.
The procession consists of (Canto XXIX):
- “Twenty-four elders” (a reference to Revelation 4:4), representing the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, as classified by Jerome.
- “Four animals” with “six wings as plumage” (a reference to Revelation 4:6–8), a traditional representation of the four Evangelists.
- “A chariot triumphal on two wheels,” bearing Beatrice, which is drawn by..
- A griffin, representing the conjoined divinity and humanity of Christ.
- “Three circling women” coloured red, green, and white, representing the three theological virtues: Love, Hope, and Faith, respectively.
- “Four other women” dressed in purple, representing the four cardinal virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude.
- “Two elders, different in their dress,” representing the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles.
- “Four of humble aspect,” representing the general epistles.
- “When all the rest had passed, a lone old man,” representing the Book of Revelation.
Much like we have explored in the physical realm, there is a hyper-symbolic relationship between reality and the digital realm, which is causing an impending era of hyperreality.
A play within a play, you could say. One where the hive mind, through technology, is exposed to all those with access to the related gadgets. Our exposure, like Dante, to the lessons of the world.
Will we take these lessons on board? Can we learn to ‘accept’ this time of transition?
Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is undeniably a timeless classic. Its grand adventure through the nine gates of hell sparks readers with life and interest.
It seems like an out-of-place work for a description of our chaotic times, but I believe it is a lot more relatable to us than we might think in the most unlikely of ways.
Reading this work in your own vernacular means that you could give it your own individual understanding, undermining the idea that salvation is possible only through the Roman Church.
This is something Dante himself had already done by outright inventing elements of the cosmology he presents in The Divine Comedy, and as the Protestants would follow.
So, what can readers take from this classic besides grand allusions to the past?
The Divine Comedy is a fulcrum in Western history. It brings together literary and theological expression, pagan and Christian, while also containing the DNA of the modern world to come. It may not hold the meaning of life, but it is Western literature’s very own theory of everything.
Perhaps, it is with the old, that we can come to better understand the new.
Maybe we can come to a new perspective on the world.
Much like we are now, venturing alone except through the cyberways of technological communication or daily filial visits, Dante with his guide Virgil treaded a path of darkness to the center of Hell to understand and experience the dark side of the world.
We too, traverse a pathway of “Hell” — not a literal one, of course, but rather a figurative pathway of undiscovered and problematic turmoil for the human condition.
There are striking moments of peril throughout Dante’s journey during which we are left to wonder if his fate is to be trapped in hell for eternity.
In a way, this sense of entrapment mirrors our own reality. While I stare at my screen to watch a movie, to be entertained or distracted, I cannot help but wonder what demons of laziness, of greed, or of desire, are just waiting to keep me locked into this habit routine.
Many find themselves trapped in a cyber, foreign world. Inferno teaches us this may come as a never-ending habitual response to our interaction with unnatural communities.
Despite the tense state of affairs, I believe there is also a scene in this epic that can possibly relieve us of our own form of Dante’s peril, and it is in his encounter with the devil himself.
In the presence of the iconic three-faced nightmarish creature, Dante is hesitant and frozen with fear. But it is Virgil, his guide, that breaks his paralysis as they both escape from hell to head onwards to their journey’s end. Remember, Virgil represents reason.
In our world, the devil has trapped humanity in his gaze – attempting to change us (and potentially destroys us) because we have lost a sense of importance for the time.
However, Virgil will always be there as our guide on our path back to life.
Dante’s presents an echo of assurance that our guide — our own mental devices — may free us from this techno-paralysis, because it is precisely through them that we can remind ourselves that the real world is waiting for us. This is the most important lesson to take from The Divine Comedy.
After we understand these things, it is only then we can have the opportunity to re-emerge into the world not necessarily unscathed, but experienced enough to not go back.
Everyone must ask themselves:
Will they heed the words of Virgil or continue to stare in the eyes of the devil?
We will see some distressing things along this divine journey.
But those of us who choose the right path will make it through to the other side.
One day, like Dante, we can look back on this time with a smile on our face.
Sit back and enjoy the Comedy, ladies and gentlemen.