Perpetual Astonishment Blog

“Join the journey, canto by canto, through Dante’s universe. This is a world of beauty, terror, holiness, humor and wisdom that is one of the world’s greatest creations.

[. . .]

This website/blogsite is a response to requests from some that we study and journey together. It will slowly expand through the weeks, months and years… or it will disappear all together. Several of us will begin walking through the entire Divine Comedy by Dante, not with me doing all the work, but with all of us involved in reading a canto a week or so, and then sharing insights, discoveries, etc. I will add other posts as I study in other areas.”    —Perpetual Astonishment, February 17, 2014

 

Spiritual Direction from Dante: Avoiding the Inferno (2019) by Fr. Paul Pearson

“Hell and how to avoid it are perennial topics of interest for believing Christians and others. With good reason. Entire libraries have been written on the subject. Most people, even those familiar with his classic, do not realize that Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy, chock-full as it is of history and politics, is a masterpiece of spiritual writing. The most famous of his three volumes is the Inferno, an account of Dante’s journey through the underworld, where he sees the horror of sin firsthand. [. . .]

“A reading experience like no other, Spiritual Direction from Dante, will educate and entertain you, but most importantly, will help you avoid the inferno!”    —Amazon

Spiritual Direction from Dante was written by Father Paul Pearson and published by TAN Books February 4th, 2019.

“What Western Civilisation Owes to Islamic Cultures”

“While there is debate about the extent to which the Italian writer Dante was exposed to Islamic influences, it is very likely he knew The Book of Mohammed’s Ladder (translated into Castilian, French and Latin), which describes the Prophet’s ascent to heaven. The Divine Comedy, with its account of Dante’s imagined journey from Inferno to Paradise, was following in this tradition.

“Dante very likely heard lectures from Riccoldo da Monte di Monte Croce, a learned Dominican who spent many years studying Arabic in Baghdad before returning to Florence around 1300 and writing about his travels in the lands of Islam. Dante may have criticised Muslim teaching, but he was aware of its vast influence.”    —Constant Mews, The Conversation, July 14, 2019

Real Places on Earth That Lead to the Gates of Hell

“Hell on Earth: A concept that has fascinated many for millennia, an attempt to place divine punishment on the same plane of existence humans live in. [. . .] Religions across the world speak of portals that connect the living with the dead and the terrible creatures that guard this fiery pit. Where are these gates to Hell?

[. . .]

“Along the road of Lake Averno in Italy, we find one of the oldest roads that lead to the underworld. Over two thousand years ago, Grotto della Sibilla was once a Roman military tunnel connecting Lake Averno to Lake Lucrino. Here, Aeneas with Sibyl at his side embarked on a journey into Hades.    —Eduardo Limón, Cultura Colectiva, August 2, 2016

Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno

“I’ve seen several references to various social media apps and the Seven Deadly Sins, but as I consider the darkness that seems to breed in social media circles — from teen bullying on Snapchat and Instagram, to Twitter trolls threatening female reporters in India with rape and abuse, to child pornography on the Dark Web and the children who suffer miserably, literally living in hell for predators’ public pleasure — Dante’s Inferno comes to mind, and how this ancient story from 1300 might actually describe our reality right now, as we enter the Information Age of our human development.

[. . .]

“Unfortunately our technology is held hostage by the worst of us. Until we can turn the technology around and use it against those who commit such evil, we can’t get out of the woods. However, Dante and Virgil do make it out of Hell. Interestingly the poets cross through the barren wasteland and to the river of forgetfulness, emerging from Hell on Easter morning.

“I find it interesting that they must forget the darkness in order to leave Hell and make their way to Heaven, where true connection, love and solidarity await. What must we forget in order to fulfill the promise of the Internet and the idea of a globally connected world?

“Our hate? Our jealousy? Our anger? Our fear? Our ignorance? Our greed? Our lust? Our mistrust?

“I imagine so. In the meantime, our experiences online seem to be on one hand accelerating and enabling those who wish to sow the seeds of discontent and on the other hand bringing us together, enabling the collection and sharing of information and knowledge, and making us aware of those places and people in our community who are in need. If we can rid ourselves of our lower natures and focus on the fact that when we’re online, we’re actively creating a world together, perhaps someday we will hold Beatrice in our embrace, and finally find human connection at the deepest, most satisfying level.”    –Nicole Sallak Anderson, “Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno,” Medium, October 25, 2017

“On the Road with Dante” – Dante and Protestantism

“What might medieval Catholic poet Dante Alighieri teach Protestants today? A lot, actually. ” [. . .]

“While The Divine Comedy most clearly reflects the Catholic faith of the poet and his medieval world, it hints at some principles the Reformation would bring to bear on the church two centuries later. Dante purposely wrote in a low style that would have popular appeal despite its highly spiritual subject matter. While the church produced works in Latin, Dante wrote in the vernacular. His choice was revolutionary, ensuring the work could and would be read by common men as well as by women and children (who still study the work extensively in Italian schools today).

“Despite its loftiness, The Divine Comedy is firmly grounded in the gritty and the mundane. In fact, Dante didn’t use the word divine in his title. He simply titled it Commedia, which at the time meant a work with a happy ending as opposed to a tragic one. (The word ‘divine’ was added by a later editor and has stuck through the years.) In casting a fictional version of himself as the central figure, The Divine Comedy is prophetically personal, confessional, and autobiographical. In this way it emphasizes a surprisingly modern sense of self-determination, one that foreshadows the famous ‘Protestant work ethic.’ Moreover, in its accent on the salvation and purification of the individual soul, this work of the Catholic Dante anticipates the spiritual autobiographies of Puritans such as John Bunyan. The Divine Comedy is a story of someone seeking salvation. In Dante’s own words, the poem’s purpose is to lead readers from ‘a state of wretchedness to a state of happiness.’ And while depicting salvation in the afterlife, it’s clear Dante intends readers to find abundant life in the here and now.” [. . .]    –Karen Swallow Prior, The Gospel Coalition, October 21, 2015.

Joseph Pearce, Catholic Literary Giants (2005)

Pearce-Catholic-Literary-Giants-Dante“Taken as a whole, one can see Eliot’s major work as paralleling that of his master, Dante. The Waste Land and ‘The Hollow Man,” were his Inferno, ‘Ash Wednesday’ and The Rock were his Purgatorio, and Four Quartets were his vision of Paradise. What a legacy he has bequeathed to posterity!” (176) — Joseph Pearce, Catholic Literary Giants: A Field Guide to the Catholic Literary Landscape

Contributed by Ellie Augustine (University of Kansas, 2020)

Pascal’s Wager 2.0

28stoneWeb-blog480-v2“[…] But the ethical value is a matter of my own judgment, independent of religious authority. And the understanding may be only a partial illumination that does not establish the ultimate truth of the ideas that provide it, as, for example, both Dante and Proust help us understand the human condition, despite their conflicting intellectual frameworks. None of this will interfere with a commitment to intellectual honesty. […]”    –Gary Gutting, The New York Times, September 28, 2015

“Lumen Fidei” Encyclical

popes-benedict-and-francis“In the first papal encyclical co-written by two popes — one more conversational, the other more intellectual — Pope Francis on Friday issued a rich meditation on faith and love, calling on believers and seekers alike to explore how their lives could be enriched by God. […] In addition to citing the Old Testament and the Gospel, the text refers to Dante and the philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Friedrich Nietzsche; for the latter, faith was associated with darkness, not light. It also refers to T.S. Eliot and the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber’s exploration of idolatry. […]”    –Rachel Donadio, The New York Times, July 5, 2013

Paul Thigpen, “My Visit to Hell” (2007)

paul-thigpen-my-visit-to-hell-2007“My novel ‘My Visit to Hell‘ (rev. ed, Realms, 2007, originally appeared in 1992 under the title ‘Gehenna’) explicitly borrows the basic story line and what might be called the ‘moral topography of hell’ from Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ but the story begins in 21st-century Atlanta. For an analysis of the book and an author interview, see ‘Eschatology: Paul Thigpen’s ‘My Visit to Hell” (chapter 5) and ‘An Interview With Paul Thigpen’ (Appendix I) in Darren J. N. Middleton, ‘Theology After Reading: Christian Imagination and the Power of Fiction‘ (Baylor University Press, 2008).”    –Paul Thigpen

Contributed by Paul Thigpen