Today, the thoughts considered come both from the sophomore class and their work on Dante’s Paradiso and from a “parent-seminar” on Dante’s Purgatorio. Help yourselves to what is good below.
The following reasoning takes for granted Dante’s acceptance of Plato’s tri-partite soul into the (1) rational soul/charioteer, (2) the spirited soul/noble horse, and (3) the desirous/appetitive part or ignoble horse/hydra.
Desire, or one’s appetitive soul, shares in the nature of the sensible because of their shared sensible or temporal/material nature. As desire passes with the passing of the body and memory, so does one’s “desire” for material and temporary things because both that which desires (one’s desirous soul) and that which is desired (material things) partake of material and temporary things. So, one’s desire as both temporary and material causes one “to want” more temporary and material things. One therefore sees how desire is never satisfied: as one’s desire is a part of the soul, but a temporary part, it desires that which partakes of its temporary nature, sensible objects, but also can never possess them because the very act of desire is “to want what one does not have”. Therefore, whenever one fulfills a desire, the object desired, as it is then possessed, is no longer desired, and something else will then become the object of one’s desire until it is acquired or moved on from. A conversion, therefore, is a turning from one’s temporary and material desires towards eternal things, or that which the rational intellect partakes of, the eternal intelligibles or that which partakes of the nature or essence or form of God. One’s rational intellect, therefore, as capable of understanding or partaking in that which is eternal, is eternal in nature, whereas one’s desire, as it partakes in that which is temporary, is itself temporary and subject to material constraint in this world. And with the passing of the body, so does it pass as well.
An Eastern parallel to this thought exists within The Shvetashvetara Upanishad which says:
“Forgetting our divine origin,
We become ensnared in the world of change
And bewail our helplessness. But when
We see the Lord of Love in all his glory,
Adored by all, we go beyond sorrow.”
(The Shvetashvatara Upanishad. Easwaran tr. Pp. 170-171)
(Herakles fighting the Lernaean Hydra, a classical image of one fighting one’s own desires.)
When one says one’s memories are one’s treasures, one is pursuing fool’s goal if one sees the memory itself as valuable. As discussed yesterday, memory, like the body, is purged from one’s soul at the end of one’s journey up the mountain of Purgatory. Memory, thus, has relative rather than absolute value. For memories, in terms of being used as the material of reflection, has value for being two divergent pieces of information or experiences which one’s rational intellect may abstract or deduce a universal principle from. But the true gold is realizing or understanding the unity of man’s nature with the divine, and therefore reflecting it, like a drop of water reflects the light of the sun. One’s memories, therefore, as the material or matter which one uses “to think” through, must be expurgated or rather washed away as well before one enters Paradise, just as is mirrored in The Shvetashvatara Upanishad:
“As a dusty mirror shines bright when cleansed,
So shine those who realize the Self,
Attain life’s goal, and pass beyond all sorrow.
In the supreme climax of samadhi
They realize the presence of the Lord
Within their heart. Freed from impurities,
They pass forever beyond birth and death.”
(The Shvetashvatara Upanishad. Easwaran tr. Pp. 164-165)
The next thought shared involves continuing to compare the process of a shades ascension on Mount Purgatory to the action of a flame which burns and is then extinguished by water. A human’s journey is like a fire, as has been argued, in that one enters Purgatory with one’s matter and form or body and soul supremely “mixed up” or seemingly inextricably intertwined, like the interwoven Olive trees beneath which Odysseus sleeps in Scheria. As one ascends, one purges (or fires) one’s self in order to burn through one’s bodily sensations and bodily memories. When one ascends to the top of Mt. Purgatory, one is purged in a flame and then washed with the River Lethe. If we compare this action to a fire, which is an immaterial or energic substance, which gives off heat, and though it strives towards the heavens, it is bound to the earth, we see that fire and a human correlate squarely. How, then, does one put out a fire but with cleansing water? And when one drops the water onto the fire what then rises up, free from the material, but steam or rising air? Such is the nature of man to be like steam rather than smoke.
Another question which we engaged with was the following: what causes anxiety or worrying, by Dante’s reasoning? Well, worry or anxiety is reflecting the same thought over and over again without consideration for the real situation at hand and without the goal of solving the problem but rather desiring simply to create guilt in one’s self as a substitute for working it through. One therefore becomes trapped in an infinite loop, like the avaricious and prodigal in Inferno, constantly bouncing from one thought to another without making a choice and breaking free from one’s own thoughts. This process, which also causes one to waver, or be suspended between thoughts, essentially creates a bookmark with one’s consciousness to remind one’s self about the existence of the issue by never allowing one’s self to escape or move past it. Worry, therefore, maintains one is a perpetual state of wavering or suspension between thoughts at the expense of observing or reflecting on current circumstances, and therefore imagining at the expense of being (which is the same as reflecting).
Memory, therefore, and the Pandaemonium which one can create within, just as Lucifer does in Milton’s Paradiso can be a self-created world which entraps one within it. Thinking back to The Fall of Man, then, the rift between man and god occurred due to man’s developing memories and therefore knowledge (or a representative/image world within himself, which represents the images of the world as shades without truly reflecting the world as it is at any current moment). With that knowledge man created his own world within himself where he could exist outside of God’s law. Or so he thought. He simply blinded himself to God’s law while remaining subject to it–just as Lucifer has done at the bottom of Dante’s Inferno. This idea is almost perfectly paralleled in a brief passage from the father of Taoism Lao-Tsu’s later work the Hua Hu Ching:
“The relationship between the universal soul and
the individual soul is just like the relationship
between the moon and the lake. Spiritual security
is always present, but the clouds of the mind (=memory (author ed.)
create the phenomena of apparent separation. The true
nature of the universe is always self-existent, never
failing to respond to an individual’s straight and direct
awareness. If an individual is aware enough, he realizes that
the Integral One does not come only at the time of awareness.
(Lao-Tse, Hua Hu Ching, Hua-Ching Ni tr. Pp. 36-37)
And just as man turned to the world of darkness and shadow within he left the light of truth at his back. For why Dante’s shadow keeps being noticed by shades is conveying precisely the same message as Plato’s cave. What casts the shadow upon the wall which a person calls his world but him and his material nature with back to the sun–not even realizing that even one’s sad little shadow world is still caused by a blending of one’s body with the light of the sun. Much better would be to leave the shadow, or past, behind one, and use the light of the sun to see the real world. If one really thinks this through, one then observes how the hosts in Westworld, unburdened by memory, are truly free, whereas the humans are completely trapped by the knowledge or memory that they are in a simulation.
(Orpheus and Eurydice: One can never catch the past, ethereal as it is–as it only exists within one’s mind and nowhere else.)
Now let us consider some of the thoughts from the parent-seminar on Dante’s Purgatorio.
Why are P’s inscribed on Dante’s forehead but to represent that he, like us as readers, is experiencing the sins he will see expurgated by representation. And yet, in understanding their representations he will be cleansed of the representations of sins in his mind. The representations of sin (peccatum) on his head therefore represent the sins which blind his third eye, or his understanding, from seeing what is true. Rather, while the p’s keep one’s third eye blind, one can only see through one’s two eyes–the ever-changing world of sense experience. Once one has freed or opened one’s mind or third eye, then one sees what is invisible to one’s eyes and yet always there.
Next, Purgatory is located in the opposite hemisphere from Hell to show that in hell, or the world of sense experience, one does not even realize that one sees things opposite from how they are: upside down. Remember that Hell is an upside down cone and that while Dante is climbing Lucifer his perspective “flips”. He then constantly notices the differing positions of the stars in Purgatory. This is because one who is saved on Purgatory has also had his perspective completely flipped, or converted from looking at that which seems but is not to that which does not seem but is.
If the world or the Divine were once one, and it was arbitrarily, or by Will, split into two, why would that be but to allow for mutual recognition of the sameness shared between the two which are actually one? Would then the Father and the Son (or God and Man) be joined by a same nature or spirit represented by mutual recognition of each other? One, therefore, in choosing to be two, becomes one again, by recognizing what its nature is, which is shared. One and Two, Father and Son, and God and Man, in recognizing their shared nature share a connection based on mutual understanding, and in sharing that connection two become three (through the added connection), and in being connected, become one again. One therefore equals three.
“He is the One who presides over all
And rules over everyone from within.
He sows the golden seed of life when time begins
And helps us know its unity.
(The Shvetashvatara Upanishad. Easwaran tr. P. 173)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
(The Gospel of John 1:5. NIV tr.)