“A Dantean reflection on the ecological disaster of isolation (and why this is not Hell).” Essay by Filippo Gianferrari (UC-Santa Cruz) for Breaking Ground, July 27, 2020
“Join Father Paul Pearson of the Oratory as he guides you on a spiritual journey through one of the great classics of Christian literature, Dante’s Purgatorio. Purgatory is the least understood of the three possible “destinations” when we die (though unlike heaven or hell it is not an eternal one) and is mysterious to many Christians and even to many Catholics today. As he did in his first volume in the Spiritual Direction from Dante trilogy, Avoiding the Inferno, Father Pearson adroitly draws out the great spiritual insights hidden in The Divine Comedy.” [. . .] –Fr. Paul Pearson, Amazon, 2020.
“In this essay, I will flesh out that suggestion; I will show how Dante and aspects of the medieval Catholic theology that shaped his views had more in common with libertarian beliefs than the beliefs of many modern-day Christians, who have been infused with a puritanical—and even Manichaean—attitude about the natural world and its bounty and beauty. Indeed, the perceptions about the natural world shared by the theologian Thomas Aquinas and some of today’s libertarians may help explain why libertarianism resonates so deeply with Catholics, Jews, and other minorities—including Native Americans and members of the gay community. All of these groups instinctively understand that the inner state of a human being—one’s humanity and status as an individual—is more important than superficial differences that only appear to distinguish one person from another. In this sense, they mirror Dante’s understanding that the deeper, less visible ‘sins’ of humanity are far more destructive than outwardly observable behaviors and conditions. And while this may appear to gloss over instances where outward manifestations of ‘sinful’ behavior reflect an evil root within the inner man—it is nonetheless important to understand how inner states of being such as pride, envy, and wrath cause more harm than the outwardly visible manifestations of greed, gluttony, and lust.” [. . .] –Lawrence M. Ludlow, The Future of Freedom Foundation, July 11, 2014.
Of his composition, Cheng writes: “This small movement, which is only around six-and-a-half minutes long, was incredibly difficult to complete despite its length. I returned to it many times over quarantine though I could not seem to find any musical ideas that would stick with me. That changed for the better when I returned to the work in late August and decided to shift my approach. Instead of specifically cataloguing the tale of Dante, I decided to use music to describe the general environment of the Mountain of Purgatory. This ended up giving me more musical freedom. I also shifted the orchestration from a traditional orchestra towards something I am much more familiar with, that being the wind ensemble. The specific movement here encapsulates the base of the mountain (Canto I) up to just before the Valley of Princes (Canto VII).”
The DeMatha Wind Ensemble (pictured) recorded a performance of Scenes from the Mountain in April 2021.
Many thanks to Zachary Cheng and his teacher, Mr. Homer Twigg of the Department of Theology at DeMatha Catholic High School, for permission to share the composition.
“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.