Monday, August 27, 2007

Dante's wisdom ~ Inferno (part III)

Monday, August 27, 2007
{find part I here, if you want}

{find part II here, if you want}


Having crossed the sixth circle of Hell, I have arrived upon round one of the seventh circle ~ eternal residence for those who have rendered violence against their neighbours ~ Canto XII. I had failed the consider the metaphorical significance of the structure of Hell, as presented in circle six of the Inferno. Recall, everything means something here. Dante spends two Cantos at the circle of the Heretics, the entrance and the first circle of Lower Hell. Still, the full significance of it all eluded me prior to falling asleep last night (Saturday night). And then, the last words I recall hearing in the dusk of my slumber, just prior to awaking this morning: "...the insurmountable wall of Hell..." What does this mean?



Well, having pondered these words since Saturday (its now Monday evening as I write this particular added line here), it seems to indicate that reason doubts itself ~ knows its limits wrt abyssmal darkness. Evil - the darkest of evils - can seem quite simple, until one stares into its depths, and sees there, its frighteningly intricate structure and detail. Believe me, dear reader, I have felt this very sentiment. What do I mean? Despair wears many faces. And ... we must learn to recognize them all ~ lest we come upon an imposter, whom we allow to dupe us with her easy words.



The suffering of the damned souls increases dramatically as Hell descends into itself. The Wall - the Gate of Dis - denotes that we, along with the poets - have passed into the part of Hell reserved for those whom rejection of God and goodness underlie their offenses. We see, for the first time, Virgil's anxiety at the increasing insidiousness of the Evil which resides here, in the pits of Hell. Dante seems a rather impotent figure ~ fearful of wandering the underworld alone, without the guidance of Human Reason. The suffering souls of the damned present, to the poets, the most powerful expression of sin's repugnant nature.



Dante and his guide, Human Reason, face the Furies and the Gorgon. Symbolic reminders that the soul will suffer insurmountable paralysis in the face of remorse and despair, without the intervention of divine grace ~ here represented as the Divine Messenger who descends to disperse the remorse and despair, unlock the Gates of Dis to allow Dante's passage, and then ascends without a word. As we descend lower into Hell, we witness a transformation in Dante's perception of the suffering sinners. Where, at the start of his descent into Hell, Dante expresses sorrow ~ almost pity ~ for the damnation he witnesses, now he expresses rising indignation. Once again, this draws me back to my earlier point ~ that one must remain guarded against Evil, particularly the most insidious types, which perhaps, we may fail to see. Fail to see, in the darkest of darkness ... without aid of the light.



I fear I may have lost some of the meaning in this sixth circle ... for, it feels to me like there's more to tell you ... however, words fail to get what I intuitively feel across. Or perhaps, its that I have made my point, in fewer words than anticipated. Expand the post to see some snippets that emphasize concepts and sentiments which stood out for me. My next post will discuss the seventh circle of Hell ~ all three rounds: eternal damnation for those who commit violence.





on patience ~ waiting in trust

"...'Yet surely we were meant to pass these tombs,"

he said aloud, 'If not ... so much was promised ...

Oh how time hangs and drags til our aid comes!'..."


on facing the darkest despair

"...'Turn your back and keep your eyes shut tight;

for should the Gorgon come and you look at her,

neer again would you return to the light,' ..."


on replacing God's will with our own

"Why do you set yourselves against the Throne

whose Will none can deny, and which, times past,

has added to your pain for each rebellion?"


on lacking sight/self-absorption in the darkness of suffering and despair

"When things draw near, or happen, we perceive

nothing of them. Except what others bring to us

we have no news of those who are alive."


7 comments:

Aunty Belle said...

Despair is a sin against hope---never let despair slip up on ya'_-meaning of course, nurture HOPe always!

the.red.mantissa said...

So aptly and simply put. If one thinks of hope as the beloved flowering plant in one's garden ~ with so much potential to bear fruit ~ then, despair becomes the weed - virulent and adaptable to the most inhabitable of soil conditions. Despair can live where hope cannot.

We must always take care to weed the garden, mustn't we, Aunty? If we don't, hope becomes lost ... with all its fruit.

One only need face monumental despair in order to see the profound truth in this simple statement.

Lady Prism said...

I've always wondered about hell..

Like..how real it is really..

or is it nothing but a myth..

Why would a God create such a place?..

and yes..." we must always take care to weed the garden"....

Aunty Belle said...

Ah Luxie, a good question!


In a sense God did not create hell--he simply put aside a "place" or state of being-ness that is separate from Him...a place for those who do not wish to be with God.

We are free beings-we are free to choose to love God, or not. If we reject God, we would not want to spend eternity with him--therefore, it never God who "sends" anyone to hell--they freely choose it.

Those who choose to reject God then
reject His love and that love is the source of the goos that we do.

Hell is full ( not proposing an actual number of people here) of those who deliberately reject goodness (As defined by God), hence you have Dante vividly portraying
life among the proud, lying, greedy, jealous, revengeful, etc.

But Luxie--you ain't goin' thar' darlin'...youse good hearted, ya' chooses beauty, love and laughter... (slip ups happen--but they doan consign ya' to hell).

the.red.mantissa said...

A good question, luxie. And a reasonable answer, AB. Dante appears to imply, through his Inferno, that Hell originally existed as a punishment for rebellious angels, and not necessarily for man. However, God knew, in his all-knowing way (because he resides outside of time, the universe's 4th dimension) that man would sin, and therefore experience Hell, as well.

The existence of Hell, then, we should not doubt, for them we are actually doubting the power of God and the Universe. If we have the freedom of intellect, then we must also have the responsibility of balancing good versus evil. Hence, Hell.

Its worthy to note that, having sinned, man now lives his corporeal existence on the rind of Hell, with damnation just below his feet. That's quite the metaphor, ain't it?

Aunty Belle said...

Yep, Sugar, that IS quite a methaphor.

About the angels in rebellion--some ast, "How Come It IS that God doan offer no redemption ter the Angles?"

Well, the deep theologians opine that angels have angelic vision and intelligence...

"duh," ya' say?

But wait--what do that mean anyhow?
Means that angles can in fact "see" the consequences of they choices. Man cain't.

A man who sins is disobedient to the good God who warned him not to do such 'n such....but the man doan KNOW what all will happen down the generations from his one sin. The angels knew exactly what the consequences was gonna be and even seein' all that hell and mayhem, they CHOSE it anyway.

An, as ya say Red, God will not undo our free choices....

Thinkin' on Pinocchio, an' it is quite a Christological story. I mean, the wooden puppet wants to be a real boy--but he doan know what he is askin'. He is askin' to enter another plane of being--from wooden automaton to a real human wif' free will--and as Pinocchio goes through his story, he experiences "sin" of choosin' the wrong way....but that is how he becomes "real" sufferin' his consequences, an' then choosin' better...

Man wants to somehow be divine--to be "real" as it were. God honors our desire by NOT overturnin' our choices--other wise we'd jes' be puppets. But God offers His grace to all who ask--so as to sin less, and less seriously.

Red, yore readin' material is impressive!!

the.red.mantissa said...

Wow. Oh, wow ... about the pinnochio story. I love that interpretation, and had never thought of it that way ... despite so much exposure to it!

I can agree with the notion that angels, and all other creatures that exist outside of time have a vision that we do not ~ that's a function of the fact that they reside outside of the time continuum ~ their existence does not lay contingent on the expansion of the universe (i.e. passage of time) as does ours.

Yet, how profound that they should still falter, or choose the sinful option. Its almost as though, perhaps they doubted their vision ... doubted the will of the universe/God?

It seems so much ... rides on the notion of man as a rational being, and thus, as a being with a free will. and thus, as having to bear the enormous burden of responsibility of those choices, despite, as you say, not fully realizing the consequences of said decision.

Perhaps that's why we'd all rather just tell ourselves things such as: 'the devil made me do it,' .... 'i couldn't help it,' .... 'i had no choice,' .... y'know? it occurs to me, more and more each day how failure to really assume responsibility for one's choices and actions can and does lead to so much turmoil that becomes infective.

i so admire your wisdom and all the knowledge you've got in you, AB. really. as for me, i feel like i'm getting somewhere. noam sayin'?