Dante Misquote

sojourners-american-individualism-2017

“I am very mindful of Dante’s words: ‘The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.’

“Coming together from all streams of American Christianity to speak in opposition to cuts on the safety-net programs is no minor achievement. We have a widespread consensus on the priority of providing essential life saving support to poor people in our country. We also agree in that the ultimate goal is to create a just society in which everyone live an abundant life that includes meaningful work with fair salaries, affordable health care and education, and time for leisure and recreation.

“In order to achieve this, our political leaders must renounce rigid political ideologies. These ideologies are destroying the fabric of our nation and the hopes of our people. As disciples of Jesus, we will continually call our elected leaders to reject all allegiances to groups or corporations that do not advocate and serve the majority of Americans.” [. . .]    –Carlos Malavé, SOJOURNERS, June 28, 2017.

“How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think”

“Our ancestors developed their ideas of Hell by drawing on the pains and the deprivations that they knew on earth. Those imaginings shaped our understanding of life before death, too. They still do.

[. . .]

“The great poetic example of the blurriness between the everyday and the ever after is Dante’s Inferno, which begins with the narrator ‘midway upon the journey of our life,’ having wandered away from the life of God and into a ‘forest dark.’ That wood, full of untamed animals and fears set loose, leads the unwitting pilgrim to Virgil, who acts as his guide through the ensuing ordeal, and whose Aeneid, itself a recapitulation of the Odyssey, acts as a pagan forerunner to the Inferno. This first canto of the poem, regrettably absent from the ‘Book of Hell,’ reads as a kind of psychological-metaphysical map, marking the strange route along which one person’s private trouble leads both outward and downward, toward the trouble of the rest of the world.

[. . .]

“Dante, writing in the early fourteenth century, drew on a bounty of hellish material, from Greek, Roman, and, of course, Christian literature, which is rife with horrible visions of Hell.”   –Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 2019

Read the full article here.

“Maybe Hell on Earth Looks Like the Australian Wildfires”

“LET’S TALK ABOUT HELL. In David Bentley Hart’s remarkably important book That All Shall Be Saved, he outlines the reasons that we should not fear an afterlife of unending torment in a Dantesque lake of flame. ‘It makes no more sense, then, to say that God allows creatures to damn themselves out of his love for them or out of his respect for their freedom than to say a father might reasonably allow his deranged child to thrust her face into a fire out of a tender regard for her moral autonomy.’ Read the book—really, read it. It will inoculate you against some of the ideas about God that can’t help but edge their way into your psyche.”   –Bill McKibben, Sojourners, 2020

View the full article here.

“Where Did Our Ideas About Hell Originate?”

“The recent dispute over whether Pope Francis denied the existence of hell in an interview attracted wide attention. This isn’t surprising, since the belief in an afterlife, where the virtuous are rewarded with a place in heaven and the wicked are punished in hell, is a core teaching of Christianity.

“So what is the Christian idea of hell?

[. . .]

“Perhaps the most fulsome description of hell was offered by the Italian poet Dante at the beginning of the 14th century in the first section of his ‘Divine Comedy.’ Here the souls of the damned are punished with tortures matching their sins. Gluttons lie in freezing pools of garbage, while murderers thrash in a river of boiling blood.”   –Joanne M. Pierce, Sojourners, 2018

Read the full article here.

“Protestant Theologians Reconsider Purgatory”

“This Nov. 2, on what is known as All Souls’ Day, Roman Catholics around the world will be praying for loved ones who have died and for all those who have passed from this life to the next. They will be joined by Jerry Walls.

“‘I got no problem praying for the dead,’ Walls says without hesitation — which is unusual for a United Methodist who attends an Anglican church and teaches Christian philosophy at Houston Baptist University.

“Most Protestant traditions forcefully rejected the ‘Romish doctrine’ of purgatory after the Reformation nearly 500 years ago. The Protestant discomfort with purgatory hasn’t eased much since: You still can’t find the word in the Bible, critics say, and the idea that you can pray anyone who has died into paradise smacks of salvation by good works.

[. . .]

“‘I would often get negative reactions,’ Walls said about his early efforts, starting more than a decade ago, to pitch purgatory to Protestants. ‘But when I started explaining it, it didn’t cause a lot of shock.’

“Walls’ major work on the topic, ‘Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation,’ was published in 2012 and completes a trilogy on heaven, hell and the afterlife. He also has a popular, one-volume book synthesizing his ideas coming out from Brazos Press, which targets evangelical readers, and is writing an essay on purgatory for a collection about hell from the evangelical publisher Zondervan.”   –David Gibson, Sojourners, 2014

Read the full article here.

Daniel Berrigan, The Discipline of the Mountain: Dante’s Purgatorio in a Nuclear World (1979)

“In The Discipline of the Mountain Daniel Berrigan offers ‘ways of imagining our plight’ through the poetic vision of Dante’s Purgatorio. There can be found ‘a faithful vision, an alternative, a truthful image of God, of ourselves, of history.’ Berrigan employs free, poetic adaptation of the original–its themes, moods, discourses, encounters–with a prose commentary relating the text to political-moral issues of the present day. With its themes of lust and hatred, religious strife and ecclesiastical corruption, military power and oppression, the Purgatorio is an apt allegory of modern society. Thirteenth-century kings and princes shade into twentieth-century colonels and shahs and juntas.”   —Description from Wipf and Stock Publishers

In a review published in the magazine Sojourners, Lionel Basney writes, “Berrigan writes that he went to the Purgatorio in search of “ways of imagining our plight.” Looking for new vision in an old work is a familiar activity; but when it means reforging that work to make a new vision, it becomes complicated for both writer and reader. Unlike translation, an ‘imitation’ does not replace the original text. Instead it offers a new work through which the old text is still visible; to read it is to read two texts. Its author writes in the confidence, or hope, that the vision of the older text is still valid, assuming that for his readers as for himself the vision’s fundamental values remain true and compelling.

“But are we close enough to Dante to make this complicated process work? That depends on what we need from him. Berrigan needs terms in which to grasp the barrenness and violence of a way of life that constantly threatens war. Wanting Christian terms for this, terms powerful to Christian consciences, he naturally turns to Dante as the great poet of the Christian vision. And certainly Dante’s world was no less violent than ours.”   –Lionel Basney, “Berrigan’s Reawakening of Vision” (Review), Sojourners, August 1980

Darrell Falconburg, “Overcoming Lust With Dante’s Divine Comedy

overcoming-lust-with-dantes-divine-comedy-darrell-falconburg-2020“’Midway along the journey of our life / I woke to find myself in a dark wood, / for I had wandered off from the straight path.'[1] So begins the Divine Comedy, the story of Dante’s journey into Hell, up the mountain of Purgatory, and through Heaven. In the poem, Dante finds himself in a dark forest that is tangled, wild, and miserable. Having wandered off from the straight path, he is blocked by three beasts: a leopard, a lion, and a wolf. These three beasts embody the three sins that caused Dante to become lost in the first place: The leopard represents lust, the lion pride, and the wolf avarice.

“Here I will focus on the capital sin of lust as it is presented in the poem. Dante’s journey, as many readers may already know, is the journey of the human person’s pilgrimage to God. As a result, we can take away from the Divine Comedy timeless wisdom about the human person and the devastating consequences of sin. In the Divine Comedy, Dante descends into Inferno to see the sin of lust for the ugly whirlwind that it truly is. He then struggles up the mountain of Purgatory to overcome his lust and finally ascends into the purity and joy of Heaven.” [. . .]    –Darrell Falconburg, The Imaginative Conservative, September 5, 2020.

Christina Hale, “3 Ways Dante Influenced C.S. Lewis”

christina-hale-three-ways-dante-influenced-cs-lewis“C.S. Lewis’s love for Dante Alighieri and The Divine Comedy was no great secret. Lewis first read Dante’s Inferno in the original Italian when he was in his teens and later read Purgatorio while he was in the hospital recovering from wounds received in World War I. He finally read Paradiso for the first time in 1930, before he became a Christian, but after he had reluctantly decided that there was a God. At this point, he was still very much conflicted as to the nature of God and whether or not there was an afterlife.

“After finishing Paradiso, he told a dear friend, Arthur Greeves, that ‘it reaches heights of poetry which you get nowhere else; an ether almost too fine to breathe. It is a pity I can give you no notion what it is like. Can you imagine Shelley at his most ecstatic combined with Milton at his most solemn & rigid? It sounds impossible I know, but that is what Dante has done.’ He thought that it felt “more important” than any poetry he had ever read. The year after reading Paradiso, Lewis became a believing Christian. While we might never know just how large a role Dante played in his actual conversion, it is clear that Dante had an incredible effect on Lewis’s life and writings.

“The influence of The Divine Comedy can be clearly seen in one of Lewis’s finest, and yet frequently overlooked, works—the Ransom Trilogy (commonly but erroneously called the Space Trilogy). In this post I will outline three ways in which Dante’s influence can be seen in the Ransom Trilogy.” [. . .]   –Christina Hale, Roman Roads, 2020.

Check out more of Christina Hale’s work here.

Jennifer D. Upton, The Ordeal of Mercy (2015)

jennifer-d-upton-the-ordeal-of-mercy-2020“The Ordeal of Mercy is a book of wide erudition and simple style; its goal is to present the Purgatorio, according to the science of spiritual psychology, as a practical guide to travelers on the Spiritual Path. The author draws upon many sources: the Greek Fathers, notably Maximos the Confessor; St. John Climacus; Fathers and Doctors of the Latin Church, including St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas; John Donne, William Blake and other metaphysical poets; the doctrines of Dante’s own initiatory lineage, the Fedeli d’Amore; the modern Eastern Orthodox writers Pavel Florensky and Jean-Claude Larchet; and the writings of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School, including René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, Leo Schaya, and Titus Burckhardt. Other exegetes of Dante have dealt with the overall architecture of the Divine Comedy, its astronomical and numerical symbolisms, its philosophical underpinnings, and its historical context. Jennifer Doane Upton, however—while preserving the narrative flow of the Purgatorio and making many cogent observations about its metaphysics—directs our attention instead to many of its ‘minute particulars,’ unveiling their depth and symbolic resonance. She presents the ascent of the Mountain of Purgatory as a series of timeless steps, each of which must be plumbed to its depths before the next step arrives; in so doing she demonstrates how the center of this journey of purgation is everywhere, and its circumference nowhere. In the words of the author, ‘The soul in its journey must divest itself of extraneous tendencies and desires in order to become the ‘simple’ soul of theology — the soul of one essence, of one will, of one mind. If it can do this it will reach Paradise, its true homeland.'” [. . .]    –Jennifer D. Upton, Angelico Press

Check out the Angelico Press website to read praise for The Ordeal of Mercy.

“You Have Seven Mountains to Climb to Find Your True Self”

“When I think of life as climbing mountains, the Purgatorio of Dante Alighieri comes to mind, the second part of the Divine Comedy.

In grand poetic style, Dante says the struggle a person faces to find his true self involves not one but seven mountains. And each mountain represents a type of suffering we must go through to rid ourselves of the sin, vices, peccadillos, the falsity that keeps us confined.

Like the Desert Fathers, he called those barriers-to-selfhood ‘seven deadly sins,’ each an attitude-cum-behavior that turns us against ourselves.

Among them are: being envious of what other people have or do (envy); acting with rage in our interactions with others (wrath); seeking more than we need in life (greed); and using power like a god to protect our possessions (pride).

[. . .]

And Dante said that, when a person faces up to the transformations purgatory exacts, he becomes a spiritual being, that is, he lives with an equanimity close to happiness.

And ‘spiritual’ does not mean something wispy and ethereal but the life of a body grounded in purpose, a body in communion with others, when political and economic realities align with justice.

In the third part of his trilogy, the Paradiso, Dante says no one gets to heaven who’s at odds with himself; heaven is for those who answer their calling. Such people treat others like they want to be treated, what Christians call being ‘Christ-like.'”    –Dennis Sullivan, The Altamont Enterprise, July 2, 2020