Unity, Duality, Trinity
the scientific and moral background in the schematic of Dantes "Divine
Comedy," and how allegory is used to reveal the continuous unfolding
of natural levels and lines of energy describing a harmonious universe, in three
parallel dimensionsof geological, human, and astronomical history.
by Johnes Ruta
What is "dualism," and what are the things it contrasts as different?
Simply, dualism is a contrast of Light and Darkness, defining and personifying each to the extreme view where all things are polarized into a conflict between one side and the other. To the philosopher Descartes, dualism had to do with the differences between something being a subject or an object, and while this idea is today more than ever highlighted in modern issues of gender politics and psychology, it still implies the contrast between what is known, the self, and what is unknown, the other.
In religious thought, however, dualism is the belief, on one side, that the world and mans form were created by a dark Nature, dwelling at the center of the world ... On the other side of this coin is the idea that the human Soul is generated from the Light of a God higher than this worlds creator, who dwells outside the entire universe.
When optimism lapses -- in a society or in the individual -- the three-way balance of Mind, Soul, and Body, represented in Christianity by the Trinity, is often replaced by this pessimistic interpretation of life. The possible result is personal depression, civil war, or the blithe acceptance of totalitarianism. The invention of a literary, artistic, or scientific model of the prevailing worldview, such as Dantes "Divine Comedy," can at this time serve to restore optimism, balance, and conscience.
In medieval cosmology, the moral universe and the astronomical universe were visualized and identified as the same framework with the Earth at its center. The moral notion here follows the Aristotelian system that behavior is motivated from one of two distinct sources, "Nature" or "Rationality," so that Goodness is not seen at the core of the human world but brought from outside by Apollo or Jehovah. Since the "deepest" motives therefore only spring from evil, romantic courting customs in medieval societies were closely regulated : in terms of arranged marriage contracts, legitimate subject and object represented the "self " and "other."
The impact of Copernicus discoveries would produce an unknown moral perspective : With the scientific center of the universe shifted to the Sun , the moral center of the universe could not simply be relocated and suddenly repainted as great warmth and energy without calling into question the "solid foundation" of existing moral codes.
A system which sets up an opposition of organized thought to natural thought, morally anticipates the potential evils of Nature, and advocates the potential benefits of Faith and Reason. The "organized" and the "natural" -- historically and psychologically parallel courses of action -- were visualized in a diagram where the spiritual Conscience protectively encloses an unpredictable inner soul, tainted by the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. In this worldview, it was understood that Divine Light is released by God over the Earth to be circulated through dark matter, so that all souls will be illuminated with the Enlightenment of Goodness. [Plotinus, The Enneads, I.8, "The Source and Nature of Evil" 3, 4,5; IV.3 "Problems of the Soul;" IV.4, "The Soul's Descent Into the Body;" translated by Stephen McKenna; St. Augustine; Da Civita Dei, Book XIV, 3]
Negative energy, inherent in the center of the Earth, creates a suction, as powerful as gravity, to the temptation of all souls living on the surface of the Earth, drawing down the weak and those defiant of the divine Will. But this energy to do evil is recirculated, percolating back upwards through cracks in the Earth, being gradually purified by passing through the realm of penitence and sorrow, a conduit of forgiveness and atonement, which finally leads back up to the source of creative power.
This scenario is the setting of Dantes Commedia, (retitled "The Divine Comedy" by publishers in the 16th century) a guided journey through the afterworlds of Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise, where the flow of divine energy traces a kind of electrical circuit from the positive pole to the negative and back to the positive; it is called a "comedy" in the classical sense as a cycle coming to a favorable conclusion. Dante recounts a physical journey which, in Aristotelian terms, penetrates the atom of the Earth, and in Platonic terms is an exposition of ideal forms.
The metaphor of a modern electric radio schematic illustrates the different categories of these energies : drawn down by Gravity, Dante passes figurative human entities of "resistors" (the condemned) trapped in successive circles built like electron shells, down into the axial magnetic core of the planet around which dwell the Weak Forces. Through an outlet leading out from the pit, Dante crosses upward and, above the Earth, through a bank of "conductor coils" (penitents).
Across a gap in outer space into the spheres of magnetic "capacitors" (blessed souls) who conduct the Magnetic current closer into the radiant Light, circling it back into the field of a Strong nuclear core, the "Absolute" Godhead itself -- around which "condensers", embodied by the innermost angels, focus through themselves to transmit and radiate the Light of God (the signal).
Plato and Aristotle had both concluded with philosophic logic that the Absolute -- the Will to which all moral conscience was subordinated -- could never be an utterly formless power, but must be one which could only have been created out of its own self-revelation. With this rationale, those who spread Christianity in its early days preached that believers must look to a Savior whose essence and Will was to reveal Himself, and to reveal the universe to mankind. The faithful would thus look constantly for the signals of revelation, watching for recognized symbols in the unfolding of events, that salvation from the hardships of life was finally at hand. [Harris, Wm. Torrey, The Spiritual Sense of Dantes Divine Commedia, 1921; pp. 5-8]
In Il Convivio ("The Banquet"), Dante suggests that one should understand a book in four different ways: "litterale, allegorico, morale, anagogico cioe sovra senso," (the literal, the allegorical, the moral, and the mystical senses), and that each understanding, is contained within the other, from the literal inward to the unified mystical. "The allegorical," says Dante, "is a truth concealed within a beautiful untruth; the moral sense of a book is its practical wisdom. Allegory is a figurative or symbolic expression describing a subsumed aspect of human existence. [Dante, Il Convivio, Chap. I]
Dante Alighieri (1267-1321), as a profound believer in Christian teaching, accepted the stark dualism of power held by the Old Testament God -- that the harsh conditions of life would not be remedied simply, but that in the composition of God there was encoded the ancient prophecy of a messianic Savior : despite the Negative energy inherent in the diversity of Creation (which had also resulted in the Fall of the Angels, and the exile of Adam and Eve from the Earthly Paradise of Eden), mankind could be redeemed by a Mission of self-sacrifice.
Such a possible mediation on behalf of mankind had been identified by young Jesus of Nazareth in his intuitive reading of Scripture in the books of Isaiah, Michah, and Jeremiah, and in his realization of a course of action which would fulfill the prophecies of the "new covenant" -- "a nobler and greater relation between the people of Israel and God," "to be universal over all nations." Just as a carpenter apprentice must learn the properties of physical Matter in his wood, Jesus must learn the still unperformed enactment of God's prophecies, and their fatal hazards, in the means of a transformation of all Creation. The process which passes down knowledge from father to son is the same as the circuit of Light from the creative Source.
In the early development of Christianity, this prophetic phase had reached its culmination with the wide popularization of two texts written in the 2nd century: The Revelation of St. John, and The Apocalypse of Peter. [Cavendish & Corp., Encyclopedia of Man,Myth, &Magic, article: "Hell".] In the Revelation there is described in bizarre symbolism the tribulations and final triumph of the Redeemer. The Apocalypse, also beginning with the image of the Day of Judgment when Hell's "bars of steel" will be opened, visualizes with authoritarian impact the retributions for sinners and the glorious rewards for the righteous and obedient which should be expected in the afterlife. Both texts were well-known in the late Roman and medieval periods, and the descriptions of their settings led their readers to the anticipation of the "end of the world," and of the real places to which the individual soul must travel at death. [The Nag Hammadi Library: The Apocalypse of Peter.]
Where the fissures of previous dualisms still persist, the unhealed wounds of tragedy, horror, and war add their residues like sediment to the geologic strata beneath the surface of the land. While previous dilemmas of moral and spiritual Reason -- left unresolved or forgotten by the onrush of events -- have metamorphosized over time into compressed layers of structural bedrock, a new buildup of detritus is affected by heat and pressure to soon form yet another layer of flawed bedrock masking crevices of folly and sin, and an inner core of evil :
That inward burns, shows them with ruddy flame
Illumed; as in this nether Hell thou seest.
(Inferno, Canto VIII, 72)
Born in 1267, Dante lived more than a millennium after the astronomer Claudius Ptolemy had defined the world order as a system of nine heavens composed of Moon, Sun, the five known planets, the fixed constellations, and the Crystalline Heaven, all with their center at the core of the Earth, itself turning around a fixed axis. [J.L.E., A History of the Planetary Systems from Thales to Kepler, 1906; pp. 192-3] By the basis of this Aristotelian world view, the Neoplatonists, such as Plotinus and Proclus, had later elaborated the system of the all-encompassing universe as a series of vertical chains: the Visible Cosmos, consisting of Matter, the Earth, the Seven Planets, and the Fixed Stars; and, above, the Invisible Cosmos, consisting of the World Soul, the Divine Mind of God (or Forms as Platonic ideas), and the One(ness). [Plotinus, The Enneads, II.1, II.2, II.4, "Matter"]
To Dantes intuition, expressed through philosophy, understanding, and creative allusion, the vertical correspondences of these concentric realms were echoes of the parallel forces of a triune reality of universal Mind, Body, and Spirit.
Dionysius Exiguus, the 6th century Church father who had also realigned the calendar and (inaccurately) set the Year One as that of Christ's birth, restated this scenario as mankind's own situation in his Doctrine of Celestial Hierarchy, rising from deeper to higher levels from that inner core of the Earth, outward through all the evenly harmonized spheres of moral reason where are found, respectively: the demonic, the human, and the angelic orders.[Harris, p. 165 ] "In the Ptolemaic world-picture," says Titus Burkhardt, "the wider the heavenly sphere in which a star moves, the purer it is, the less conditioned, and the nearer the divine origin is the degree of existence and the level of consciousness to which it corresponds." [Burkhardt, Titus, Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul, 1971; p. 46]
The underworld of Hades -- no longer the simple, idyllic or dreary afterlife as in the stories of Orpheus and Aeneas, described by Ovid and Virgil -- later writers such as Matthew and Peter, Valentinius in the 2nd century, and Origen in the 4th century, would hearken back from Isaiah, Daniel, and Enoch, to draw the picture of regions of monstrous torments as the various punishments for faithlessness, transgression, corruption, and violence.
Before coming to write the Commedia, Dantes political life in late 13th century Florence is devoted to preserving the autonomy of his city-state amidst the conflicting edicts and the rival factions supporting either the Church or the Holy Roman Emperors to the north. Two categorically different schools of religious teaching also compete in Florence at this time, the Dominican and the Franciscan. Dante is non-committal to both, reading the thinkers of the former such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and taking the ascetic and naturalist sentiments of the latter, influenced by St. Augustine, and (Saints) Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis of Assisi. [Wilkins, Ernest Hatch, A History of Italian Literature, 1974; p.45]
But Dante is a man of self-defined chivalry awe-struck before the vision of a Platonic ideal. His point of view is that of a social traditionalist against the increasing chaos of his age, and his rational method is based on the virtue of Hope as the catalyst to the rebirth of a former civilization. He espouses mediation and poetic enlightenment,
and intends through his writings to plant the seeds of poetry, brotherhood, balance of imperial and church powers, and the acceptance of a common language -- But these seeds will remain more than another century under the wheels of social strife before they can begin to blossom.
The ideal of young Dantes heart is Beatrice Portinari, a member of his own social class, but an unapproachable fixation. Her untimely demise leads him to look into the realm beyond death. The events leading up to banishment from his native city a dozen years later, and the bitter exile of the rest of his life, strengthen his inherited political affiliations and convictions into philosophy. Dantes continued hopes for union with Beatrice and for restoration to his home transfigure his concept of Hope from personal beatitude into an apotheosis of Philosophy.
His later vision of the Inferno designs to complete Ptolemy's 2nd Century geocentric celestial system by inverting the Gnostic image of the ziggurat to point to the deepest level. Like Orpheus, his verses are a personal bridge to cross down into Hades, to find and be reunited with his departed ideal Eurydice, composing songs to travail the hazards of the underworld. Guided by the spirit of the ancient Roman poet Virgil, Dante moves down through the circles of Hell and then up through the circles of Purgatory, and, finally introduced personally to his beloved Beatrice, is conveyed through the concentric realms of Paradise where he ascends the orbital spheres of Moon, Sun, planets, and constellations circling the Earth. Carried up to the highest level, he sees in the center of a Rose hovering in clear space the unconditioned entity of God .
Dante built his literary idea for The Comedy upon his earlier La Vita Nuova in which he had recorded in poetry his emotions for Beatrice. He describes their first meeting when both were at the age of nine years, (she being eight months younger,) on the occasion when his parents visited hers socially. His description of that first meeting pictures an innocent presence who looks at him demurely in the seeming recognition of another soul of gentleness.
But the social contacts of their families were few and far between, and Dante describes their next encounter nine years later when they passed on the street and their eyes met in the recognition of mutual hearts. While he was walking alone, she walked by between two aunts. For days afterward he composed stanzas, overwhelmed by the possible meaning of her salutation.
For a period of years, Dante managed to keep unknown from his fellow young people of Florence his special admiration for Beatrice, and it was at first believed that his distant gaze during a town celebration had been fixed upon another beautiful woman who happened to be seated between them. Dante abided and employed this ruse as a discretion and a tribute to both the public respect of the woman of beauty with chivalric public stanzas, and to the innocence of his beloved Beatrice for whom his private stanzas were composed.
After later encounters with Beatrice in the company of her circle of young women, it became a wonder among them why this young man became pale at her approach, when he had before conversed naturally with their group, taunting to him later on the street, "What is the aim of your love, since you cannot endure your ladys presence?" [Dante, La VitaNuova, XVIII]
To Dante, as elaborated in the commentaries to his stanzas which compose La Vita Nuova, Beatrice represented the number nine, that is, the number of cosmic unity, representing access to the Ninth Heaven. Beatrice is to him the embodiment of all that is perfect and gently integrated in the universe. In a public stanza in which he lists the most beautiful women of Florence, Beatrice discretely occupies the ninth place. [Wilkins, p. 45]
Not long after these episodes, Beatrice is married to Simone di Bardi, a young man selected by her family. Upon the death of her father in December, 1289, whom Dante describes as her example in gentleness, the grieving of the young Dante, a social stranger, is viewed by her friends with compassion and understanding. [Dante, La Vita Nuova, XXII]
But it is evident that this personal loss has overwhelmed her spirit.
In the spring, Dante himself suffers a severe and life-threatening fever, in the depths of which, as he records in his Second Canzone, that he calls for Death to take him. In a clear vision of the world with the sun darkened and the stars coloured as if they would weep, a friend comes to him to say, "What! Has no one said? Your miraculous lady has left this world." He witnesses Beatrice carried upon a bier by a flight of angels, who cover her with a wine veil. [Dante, La Vita Nuova, XXIII]
Though this vision opens a view for him into the spiritual realm of heaven, it is a sad premonition he understands. Though he neglects giving specific details, he then writes of her death, at the age of 24, in June, 1290.
* * * *
In the following ten years, Dante gradually assimilates into a courtly interest in certain other young women of Florence, then into its civic affairs, the political difficulties of which stem from the long standing feud between the Guelff Party, supportive of the Papacy, and the Ghibelline Party, followers of the Holy Roman Emperors. Dantes family, highly visible socially, had long been affiliated with the Guelffs which had come to prominence following open civil wars in 1276. Most Ghibelline families, once members of the local aristocracy, now languished in exile in neighboring strong-hold towns, and the Guelffs were so well in dominance of the city government, that they now split into the factions of the so-called Neri ("Blacks") and Bianchi ("Whites,"), respectively the zealots of Pope Boniface VII (including the populist guilds), and the more moderately-religious bureaucrats and merchants. [Brucker, Gene Adam, Florence: The Golden Age 1138-1737, 1983; p. 118] Boniface hopes eventually to incorporate Tuscany into his league of Papal States. [Brucker, p. 121]
Dantes sympathies are with the moderate Bianchi, now often accused of being neo-Ghibelline. In 1296, Dante is finally married to Gemma Donati the daughter of a leading Neri family, to whom he had been betrothed by his family since 1276, and he is soon elected to the Council of the Captain of the People, then to the Council of One Hundred, while street fighting between the two factions becomes more distempered and sporadic. [Dinsmore, Charles Allen, The Life of Dante Aleghieri, 1919; p. 132]
Boniface, pope since 1295, often appears not in papal but imperial robes, pronouncing, "I am Caesar, I am Emperor." When he speaks the edict, "We pronounce that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the pontiff," he fully incurs the wrath of King Philip the Fair of France. [Eimerl, Sarel, The World of Giotto, 1967; p. 104] Boniface also demands, and spells out in his 1302 papal bull Unam Sanctum, exemption of the Church from all taxation as well as liturgical supremacy, and sovereignty from secular authority. [Salvatorelli, Luigi, A Concise History of Italy, 1940; p. 257]
As Boniface comes more into a power struggle with King Philip, the Bianchi and the Neri factions become more divisive. In 1301, Dante advises the Council against sending Florentine soldiers to aid the papal armies against Sicily, and further, now as appointed Prior, confirms the sentences of three Florentines arrested and condemned in April, 1300 as agents of the Pope plotting against the autonomy of the city, creating an issue that erupts into a civil riot at the May Day celebration. The Popes Cardinal, sent as peacemaker, returns to Rome humiliated that the Pope's demand to have the three remanded to him, ostensibly for trial, has been refused. [Sismondi, J.C.L., A History of Italy in the Middle Ages, 1913; pp. 286-290] Florence is excommunicate, and finally, Dante, with two others of the Council, is sent to Rome to a papal audience to appeal for restraint from bringing his military allies against Florence. [Dinsmore, p. 136]
But Boniface, now at the culmination of his disputes with the French king, in turn will not entertain their pleas unless they are willing to humble their city before his authority. Dante is delayed by the popes council much later than his colleagues, questioned at length in personal audiences with Boniface, who is displeased with Dantes stern countenance and independent discourse. He finally returns to Florence in a condition of dejection and great apprehension. [Gardner, Edmund, Introduction & Chronological Table in Dante "Divine Comedy", 1913; p. 11; same in Dinsmore, p. 138]
In November 1301, Charles de Valois, rival brother of the French king, arrives with his troops and invokes Neri control of Florence. But coming to Rome to seek payment for his services, Valois is rebuffed by Boniface that he has already "placed him in a fountain of gold" and that Valois should take his payment by confiscating the property of the Popes enemies. [Wilkins, p. 51]
As one of the leading Bianchi, Dantes house is attacked by a Neri contingent; he is accused of the expropriation of civic funds. Again in Rome as ambassador, he refuses to answer these charges and in abstentia his property is confiscated and he exiled from all of Tuscany for life under threat of being burned at the stake. [Dinsmore, p. 138]
On September 7, 1303, the day before Philip is to be publicly excommunicated, the French king finally confronts Boniface, accusing him of heresy and trafficking with demons, and sending the French army to enter the Vatican and break into the personal chambers of the Pope, placing him under house arrest. Terrorized, Boniface refuses to eat or drink, in fear of being poisoned, nor will allow anyone to come near him, and by October 11 he has died of self-starvation or poisoning. [Sismondi, p. 290] Under Philips pressure, a meek Dominican priest named Benedict is elected Pope, and within eight months it appears that agents of Philip have also poisoned him. In 1305, under the pretense of providing security, the king brings the papal college of electors to Avignon, France for the installation of a Frenchman as the new Pope Clement. Prevented from returning, the Papal See itself remains in Avignon for some seventy years. [Salvatorelli, p. 237-8]
Although Dante is gratified by the end of Bonifaces autocratic rule, his wife and children have returned to her fathers house, and he lives the life of a solitary exile, alienated from his fellow Bianchis in Arezzo plotting with exiled Ghibbelines to attack Florence. [Dinsmore, p. 141] Moving from place to place, he visits his friends in the nobility of Padua and Verona. The wide recognition Dante has already received as a poet does not soften his enemies at home, though he does receive the solace of certain fellow Florentines, such as his friend Giotto di Bondone, who has also by now achieved recognition as a painter of innovative and aesthetic genius.
During the first decade of the new century, Dante works on writing Il Convivio, and Vulgaria Eloquentia, treatises applying his scholastic and semantic values to an ethical system for mankind. In the Monarchia, he writes his political and spiritual speculations of a just balance-of-powers between the institutions of Empire and Church. Now he can also focus on the literary seed of his vision of Heaven, recorded after his delirium in the spring of 1290.
When Giottos family accompany the painter out of Florence during work on any long commission, Dante is invited to stay with them as well. From the artistic and theological conversations between them, both painter and poet would retain the visual and verbal images and figures of religious revelations. [Eimerl, p. 104]
On the walls of the Arena chapel in Padua, Giotto's great fresco The Last Judgment, consecrated in 1305, would manifest the incipient use of the principle of perspective in the convergence into a vortex at the bottom, the implied lines aligned to the edges of galleries of saints on either side of the throne of God overlooking the panorama of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus the placement of background forms would be employed to construct the optical illusion of a 3-dimensional field.
Lining the side walls of the Arena chapel, Giotto's smaller narrative series of paintings The Life of Mary, The Life of Christ, and The Passion of Christ display a more developed notion of perspective in the structures of cornices and buildings employing the clearly deliberate tech-niques of alignment and delineation into 3-dimensional spaces that also are described in Dante's explanation of the wedge-shaped boundaries of the walls extending down into the vortex-like depth of the Inferno, to its pit at the core of the Earth. Dante sees in Giotto's paintings the visual interpretation of their discussions: the souls of all those held there are the total body of the medieval world itself, in the details of its corruption. Into this lower center of concentric circles all divergent lines converge inward into the abyss.
Upon the utmost
verge of a high bank,
By craggy rocks environ'd round, we came.
Where woes beneath, more cruel yet, we stow'd.
And here, to shun the horrible excess
Of fetid exhalation upward cast
From the profound abyss...
(Inferno, Canto XI, 1-6)
With Dantes literary description and Giottos examples of implied convergence lines depicting recessive ceilings, Giottos artistic successors such as Taddeo Gaddi, Simone Martini, and the Lorenzettis, combined with principles found in the reappearance of the text of Euclid's Optics would eventually bring a recognition of convergence into the conscious principle of the "vanishing point" in the Perspective drawings of such Renaissance architects as Brunelleschi and Alberti in the early 15th century, thus disseminating the concept to their students Massaccio, Donatello, Paolo Uccello, and Piero della Francesca.
Back in the fifth century B.C., at the prestigious school of Pythagoras, first in Samos and later at Croton in southern Italy, the essential principle of harmony had been derived from the discovery of the mathematical ratio of consonant notes, when played on lengths of stretched string measured proportionally in even fractions, such as 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, and 1:5. This discovery was correlated to the cycles of all the planets in their orbits. Since Babylonian times, the astrological characteristics of all earthly experience and the fate of events was accepted as cyclic and harmonic, and was interpolated by the comparison of the individual phases of planets in their orbits, coming up in the sky each evening. An individual tone is produced electrically in each planet by the friction of its movement in its orbit, and the harmonies of their combined forward motions in phase drew forth sweetly the underlying musical tones in a progressive pattern of time.
That which was unconscious was accompanied by that which was subliminal.
Since sound was demonstrated to have an harmonic organization, Pythagoras then sought the same structure of nature in physical vision: He observed that in a world of natural forms, (i.e. rocks, trees, the sea), the two constants which can be determined are the horizon, apparently flat on a calm sea, and vertical gravity, detected by a plumb string. These forces operate at right angles to one another and constitute the basis of plane and solid geometry, later elaborated by Euclid, and the basis of the four cardinal directions. Above the visible horizon, Pythagoras then asserts, are the higher parallel horizons of the celestial worlds: the planets in their geocentric orbits, each generating harmonic musical tones in chords relative to the Earth's center. [Bronowski, Jacob, The Ascent of Man, 1973;p.157 *]
Gravity, as the unifying force, is visualized in this schematic by vertical meridians of force, converging in a central core, which as they radiate inwards, possess threshold effects of strength at precise intervals of wavelengths. As metaphor, these construct the scenario of the concentric circles of the Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradiso. As allegory, the interpretation of physical law, this whole pattern describes the principal and subtle effects of the gravitational field as the attraction of one particle upon another.
The 2nd Century Roman geocentric system of Ptolemy was modeled after the Babylonian system handed down through Eudoxus, Hipparchus, and Aristotle, rather than on the heliocentric hypotheses of Aristarchus and Plato, which were also backed up with fully detailed night sky observations. [Dryer, pp. 112-117, 192-196] Dante draws continually on Aristotles Meterologica, especially from Book II.ix, to explain the circuitous flow of energy between the macrocosm and microcosm. To Aristotle, an analytical scientist, the Sun represents the organizing principle of logic, still strongly connected with the image of Phoebus Apollo, the God of Reason, racing his chariot across the sky each day.
In Timaeus, Plato had described the soul as being "the only originating source of motion, the only self-mover, and the only force which keeps the heavenly bodies in motion." [Plato, Timaeus, Introduction by Sir Desmond Lee, 1965; p. 13]
"The Father of the Universe turned again to the same bowl in which he had mixed the soul of the universe and poured into it what was left of the ingredients: ... he divided it up into as many souls as there are stars, and allotted each soul to a star. And mounting them up on their stars, as if on chariots, he showed them the nature of the universe and told them the laws of their destiny." (Plato, Timaeus, 41D)
spirits to the stars, as Plato deem'd, Returned....
The judgment of Timaeus, who affirms
Each soul restored to its particular star;
Believing it to have been taken thence...
(Paradiso, Canto IV, 24, 49-51)
With Ptolemy, a scrupulous observer in his own right, the Earth globe is pictured as the center of the universe with each of the other five known planets describing their orbits respective to the central Earth and Moon: Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; then the Fixed Stars, and the crystalline heaven -- the Primum Mobile.
In Dantes journey, he must first descend to the most central knowable vortex, the central "navel" of Hell of the inner Earth -- traversing inward through deeper and deeper concentric circles, each representative of a particular circumstance of human life, each *inhabited by crowds of sinners of successively greater and greater vice, the violents, the fraudulents, and the traitors, until he arrives at the very pit of Hell where he finds Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius, each stuck upside down with his head in a maw of monstrous death.
Outward from the navel/womb, each concentric perimeter leads us up to higher planes of human and anthropomorphic development -- from the pit of Hell up to the Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem, hovering above which is the first step into the mountain of Purgatory --- and finally to the level of Empyrean space, which is the matrix of the globe.
The Virgin Mother encompasses both the outer realm and the inner mystery of the birth of the universe. She is at once the inner nucleus of the Divine Origin, producing and predating the Father Image, as well as the navel/womb from which the monad of Jesus Christ is born into history. The core and the circumference, she is the mother of all earthly spheres. "If streams, the galleries of mines, and caves, are compared to the vagina of the Earth-Mother, every thing that lies in the belly of the earth is alive, albeit in the state of gestation." [Eliade, Mircea, The Forge & the Crucibel, 1962; p. 42] The Eastern symbolic connection of the planetary core as the figurative womb of humanity is an evident influence, as anthropologist Mircea Eliade notes in The Forge and the Crucible: "In the Vedic mythos, the sacrificial altar was compared to the navel of the earth, the symbol of the centre; the navel is the womb of the Goddess. It is from a centre (navel) that the creation of the world starts, every 'fabrication' [of the smith, oracle, or physician] must operate from a starting centre." [Eliade, p. 39]
* * * *
Completing the Inferno and the Purgatorio, Dante migrates in 1317 to Ravenna on the Adriatic coast where he discovers a living city of architecture preserved like a Phoenix egg from the Roman Period, spared the ravages of the barbarian looters. The Holy Roman Empire, Dante had written years before in Monarchia was the revival in the West of the divinely ordained institution which had had its continuity in the East under the Byzantines.
Dante ventures into Hades, like Virgil's Aeneas, who founded Rome itself. Instructed by Mercury of the gods' commands, Aeneas had abandoned his lover Dido, Queen and founder of Carthage, and sailed off to battle the Latin tribes for Italy. Dido has died of her broken heart. Journeying into Hades at the behest of the Sibyl to search the Golden Bough, Aeneas tries to speak to her. Dido can only stare at the ground, then turns her face away to rejoin the embraces of her first husband, previously slain by her royal brother in Tyre. -- Dante will instead be greeted favorably by Beatrice in the Earthly Paradise, the highest plateau of Purgatory, who acknowledges his love for her, even rebuking him for his forgetfulness of her.
As a student of the Roman senator/philosopher Boethius who personified Wisdom as the stately matron Philosophy, descended of the Greek Athena and the Roman Minerva, Dante moves instead closer to the gnostic figure of Sophia, desirous of consolation by "a maiden beautiful and rare who is sought by her votaries with passion, and wooed in the language of the lover who adores an earthly mistress." [Gardner, Edmund G. Dante & the Mystics, 1913; pp. 14-5] The youthful essence of Beatrice now transcends to become that same personification of Philosophy, leading him to ascend all the circles of Heaven.
Reaching the Fixed Stars, Beatrice bids Dante turn to look behind from where they have climbed, and he sees below the entire celestial clockwork mechanism with the Earth at its hub.
and contemplate, what a world
Already stretch'd under our feet there lies : ...
Through all the seven spheres, [I] saw this globe
So pitiful of semblance, that perforce, it moved my smiles...
And how near with their circles [these planet orbs]
Change their various aspects. Nor might I not descry
Of all seven, how bulky each, how swift;
Nor, of their several distances, not learn.
(Paradiso, Canto XXII, 122-123, 128-130, 140-143)
The Empyrean plane, the ethereal void surrounding the known universe where Christ sits enthroned, seems to impart its movement to the firmament of fixed stars below. This Christ figure represents the all-embracing Divine Intellect of our own geocentric sphere, and by descriptive implication, of any other planetary world containing life forms created by God.. The ceiling of the starry sky is at the same time the floor of Heaven, where the condensation of the life-giving waters -- Christ's tears and the eddies of the primal sea -- pass down as through the membrane of a cell to fall like rain into the world. [Burkhardt, p. 46]
Beyond this empty void, the Father of the Trinity (the Divine Origin) manifests itself within its own concentric pattern. Dante pictures the upward crossing through the Empyrean as the in-volution of a complete reversal of viewpoint -- by confronting the geocentric spheres with another center, the Rose of Heaven of which the petals are The Nine Orders of Angels, and the central pistil of which is the Figure of God. The nine choirs of angels revolve around the centriole in ever-widening circles, fastest when nearest the Father, in contrast to the cosmic spheres whose apparent movement grows in proportion to their distance from the earthly center. [Burkhardt, p. 49] The center of the Divine Origin can be imagined as the terminal pole of an energy source, generating or transmitting power to each earthly or planetary pole.
by whose might all things are moved,
Pierces the universe, and in one part
Sheds more resplendence, elsewhere less.
(Paradiso, Canto I, 1-3)
The "Absolute" was shown visually in examples of artwork of the time, respectively as a vortex, or an arrangement of vortices, in physical "space". Such a vortex would represent a divine or evil presence. In Giottos Last Judgment, a focal point is implied for heaven, and a multiplicity of focal points implied in hell. In Ambrogio Lorenzettis Allegory of Good Government in the City, a panorama of focal points are displayed, implying an advocacy of a decentralized democratic society in a classical sense. In Pollaiuolos Martyrdom of St. Sebastian the specific vertical axis of this well-known painting reveals a tree-like aggregation of space-time with the branching organization of fractal vortices, and the arrows piercing Sebastian's body, suggesting deeper and deeper realities.
In the fourth century, St. Augustine compared the Trinity with a threefold division of all philosophy, given by Plato, into the separate fields of physics, logic, and ethics. God was at once the author of nature, the giver of wisdom, and the inspirer of love. [St. Augustine, Da Civita Dei, Book XI.25] The controversy at this time, whether the Holy Spirit comes forth from only the Father, only the Son, independently, or from both, was eventually settled with the doctrine that the Spirit emanated concurrently from both, but that Its substance was the guiding Light of divinity itself, and was therefore both an influence on creation, and wisdom and advisor in the balance of Justice and Forgiveness. [Augustine, Book XI.24]
We can understand the Trinity and the three-part system of the Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise : with Jesus Christ as the advocate for the physical realm of Earth and mankind; with the Godhead as the ultimate representation of the state of bliss of Paradise; and with the Holy Spirit as the circuit of Light, most condensed in its path through Purgatory.
In the external of celestial space there is ultimately one center, which is relative to the origin of the physical universe. Internally, there are a multitude of weak centers, such as are shown in diagrams of the human soul or in pictures depicting tragic or catastrophic events happening to people and humankind : prototypic and archetypal forces then appear to well-up or swirl out from an energy reservoir which is an axial center of gravity and to be in circulation outwards into patterns of recognizable circumstance.
In terms of psychological consciousness, these planes are spheres representative of major categories of circumstance, archetypes of experience and behavior, maps of the subconscious. The skin of each sphere would appear to the eye as a molecule of liquid light, inside each of which dwell the persons of souls in their lives. But equating this field of coherent photons with the essential Mission of Christ would necessarily illuminate the empty void with an iridescence of irrefutable energy : presumably the same energy which when brought down to the Earth's surface in an earthly life, would attract upon itself all the free floating negative particles of electrical resistance in the active form of human corruption and prophetic fulfillment.
So Christ, placed into time as a human ego, becomes an implosion of circumstances upon the ego-molecule: the force of Fate. The world of reality appears as continually to be flowing into the vortex, from one macrocosm into many microcosms. The fabric of the universe becomes apparent as an aggregation of vortices, each fitted within the schematic of an energized solid-circuit. Matter -- in the form of planets, particles, whatever -- is held in suspension, as if on spiral strings radiating from a center, balanced between centrifugal and gravitational forces.
Dante experiences all of the same types of energy with which we in the 20th century are aware : As a particle pulled in by Gravity, he is generated as an Electrical current which is con- ducted to the interior axis of the Weak Force, turning out as an infinitesimal Magnetic stream which, affected by Charm, namely Beatrice, trickles back into the Strong Nuclear core, there to be retransmitted as a photon of Light.
Our hidden Unconscious, that part of us which seems always unknown to our waking rational selves, we consider an inner dimension simply reflecting our Conscious attention at rest; but I suggest that simply to learn language and hear the internal voice of our rational thoughts, we are conditioned in infancy to ignore the audible electrical signals that accompany our perception and physical motions with the same consonance as "the harmony of the spheres." These electrical functions consist, firstly, of neuron synapses and spinal cortex signals which move the limbs and muscles; secondly, the sub-electrical cosmic flow affected by all of Earth's sidereal planetary movements; and thirdly, the interplay of sympathetic vibrations between the bodily (figurative) and the emotive receptors. All of these streams of energies, taken together or alternately, activate the cells of memories and emotional response. The process of regeneration is the transmutation of matter from opacity to radiance. Physically, an opaque body must first become translucent, it must acquire the capacity of being penetrated by the light of another body. [Collins, Rodney, The Theory of Celestial Influence, 1954; p. 200]
The positive energy of love and its hopes surpass beyond the borders of death -- Dante's for Beatrice, that of Orpheus for Eurydice, even that of Christ's Passion itself -- coming all the way around the relative breadth of the universe to atone with God, so that the Consciousness and Conscience of God must atone with attention and consolation, and with fondness. It is these qualities of Passion and Consolation which compose the being of the Holy Spirit itself, the forces to which the Creator himself must atone, the same generative electricity -- Above and Below -- to which the very act of creation is responsible and must bear Hope. Hope itself is the continuous power in return for which God perseveres the universe He has generated out of Nothing...
Through all of Dantes cantos the continuity of the narrative is provided only by the sequence of individual stories of the souls in the afterlife, but his own primum mobile is his desire for eventual union with Beatrice, and the bliss that this would mean to his own soul. In the Second Circle of Paradise, Beatrice asks Solomon to describe the condition of the body after the Resurrection, who explains,
as the joy of Paradise shall last,
Our love shall shine round that raiment, bright
As fervent; fervent as, in vision, blest...
Our shape, regarmented with glorious weeds
Of saintly flesh, must being thus entire show yet more gracious."
(Paradiso, Canto XIV 34-39)
As a visionary descendant of Dante, John Milton, in Paradise Lost, [VIII 588-92] describes, in the voice of the Angel Raphael, the principle of lovemaking in heaven :
pure thou in the body enjoyst
And pure thou wert created) we enjoy
In eminence, and obstacle find none
Of membrane, joint, or limb, exclusive bars:
Easier than air with air, if spirits embrace,
Total they mix, Union of Pure with Pure
Desiring; nor restraind conveyance need
As Flesh to mix with Flesh, or Soul with Soul.
Hope, a weak influence of motivation, nonetheless forms a continuum of itself and acts as the catalyst and subtle guide of transformation; freedom is the dimension of love beyond even the relations of responsibility, where the soul can travel across the Empyrean field to any of the unexplored multiplicity of planetary centers. Intuition provides the perspective overview to unity.
The Absolute is the first principle of the Will, each being in acting acts upon itself, thereby becomes its own fate. The responsibility of the free agent is infinite, whether single soul or God. If it acts so to make an environment of deeds in harmony with its own freedom, it lives in Paradiso, if to contradict its own nature, it makes for itself an Inferno. Since the Absolute is Free Will, it energizes to form a universe of free wills. [Harris, p. 8]
Dante's love for Beatrice is sincere and hopeful of reunion beyond the confines of Earthly society where he is free to address her and she him. As the writer, Dante stresses the egalitarian freedom at this level with the occasion of her initial rebuke at their long awaited meeting. With one singular purpose, he has resolved his own dualistsic dilemma and set an ethical example for his philosophical descendants, persistent to his soul's intention, thus :
And lively hope, with violence assail
The Kingdom of the Heavens, and overcome
The will of the Most High; not in such sort
As man prevails over man; but conquers it,
Because tis willing to be conquerd; still
Though conquer'd, by its mercy, conquering...
(Paradiso, Canto XX, 92-98)
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