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

DeseretNews, “We are living in Dante’s Inferno: Here’s Our Way Out”

desert-news-we-are-living-in-an-inferno-heres-our-way-out-2021

“Many of us who face the start of 2021 are experiencing political and personal crises analogous to what Dante confronted seven centuries earlier. Families are split according to political alliances. Homes are being lost to foreclosures. More walls are going up than doors are being opened. Pride leads us to blame others rather than accept any personal responsibility. We prefer to react rather than act in ways that lead to positive, forward motion. Dante’s epic, if read to the end, teaches that there is a better and more hopeful way.

“To follow Dante’s example, we must read widely and be open to more than one news source or a single viewpoint. We must recognize how breaking the law, whether God’s or man’s, easily leads to corruption, no matter how smart or rich the person is. We must take responsibility for our own actions, acknowledge when we are wrong, and engage in honest efforts to make amends. We must adopt long-term views and prioritize what matters most. Dante would argue that only then can one find the wisdom and the fortitude to endure to the end.” [. . .]    –Madison Sowell, DeseretNews, January 18, 2021.

 

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.

Fr. Paul Pearson, Spiritual Direction From Dante: Ascending Mount Purgatory (2020)

2020-spiritual-direction-from-dante-ascending-mount-purgatory

“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.

 

Vision Magazine’s, “Dante Alighieri and The Divine Comedy

vision-magazine-on-dante“The Comedy demonstrates the significant influence of Greek philosophy. Dante didn’t read Greek; it seems his philosophical grounding came from religious convent schools founded by Dominican or Franciscan monks. Scholars suggest that the Dominicans would have instilled in their pupil the methodology of Thomas Aquinas’s magnum opus, Summa Theologica. They would likewise have grounded him in the writings of Aristotle and the church Fathers. The logic of Aristotle, which had been out of vogue for centuries, regained popularity in the decades preceding Dante’s birth, giving rise to Christian rationalism. Thus, even though the Bible is by far the most dominant source for the Comedy, in Dante’s hands Scripture became materia poetica, reshaped through an Aristotelian moral system.

“In terms of the idea of the human soul, for example, Dante ‘follows the dominant Western tradition,’ namely ‘that each human soul is created by God, destined for union with a particular human body, and infused by God into the embryo before birth’ (The Cambridge Companion to Dante. This Western tradition owes much not only to Aristotle’s ideas but to his mentor Plato’s concept of the eternal soul, denying only its preexistence. Yet Dante was not a dualist in the Cartesian or Neoplatonic sense. According to Dante scholar Robin Kirkpatrick, ‘his very conception of a human soul denies that he could be. For Dante—as for Aristotle—the soul, or (in Italian) anima, is neither more nor less than the animating form of the body.'” [. . .]    –Daniel Tompsett and Donald Winchester, Vision Magazine, 2013.

“Writing/Righting Your Life the Dante Way,” a Coffee & Cocktails podcast episode (2020)

Podcast-Writing-Righting-your-life-the-Dante-Way“‘Writing/Righting Your Life the Dante Way,’ Or ‘How to awaken your potential, pin-point your goals, and discover a way forward in tough times’ with Dr. Kristin Stasiowski of Kent State University.

“This incredible talk by Dr. Stasiowski speaks to the importance of learning from our past and how historical literature can be a source of inspiration and motivation especially during dark times.”   —The Coffee & Cocktails Podcast with Dr. Ann Wand (November 23, 2020)

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.

The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet

“Cyberspace may seem an unlikely gateway for the soul. But as science commentator Margaret Wertheim argues in this ‘marvelously provocative’ (Kirkus Reviews) book, cyberspace has in recent years become a repository for immense spiritual yearning. Wertheim explores the mapping of spiritual desire onto digitized space and suggests that the modem today has become a metaphysical escape-hatch from a materialism that many people find increasingly dissatisfying. Cyberspace opens up a collective space beyond the laws of physics–a space where mind rather than matter reigns. This strange refuge returns us to an almost medieval dualism between a physical space of body and an immaterial space of mind and psyche.”   —Amazon, 2000

Margaret Wertheim on Science and God

“Centuries after Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, contemplated the relationship between science and religion, and decades after Carl Sagan did the same in his exquisite Varieties of Scientific Experience, physicist-turned-science-writer Margaret Wertheim offers perhaps the most elegant and emboldening reconciliation of these two frequently contrasted approaches to the human longing for truth and meaning.

“Wertheim is the creator of the PBS documentary Faith and Reason, author of deeply thoughtful books like Pythagoras’s Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender War and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, and cofounder of The Institute for Figuring — ‘an organization dedicated to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and engineering’.”

“[Wertheim:] ‘I don’t know that I believe in the existence of God in the Catholic sense. But my favorite book is the Divine Comedy. And at the end of the Divine Comedy, Dante pierces the skin of the universe and comes face-to-face with the love that moves the sun and the other stars. I believe that there is a love that moves the sun and the other stars. I believe in Dante’s vision.'”   –Maria Popova, “Dante and the Eternal Quest for Nonreligious Divinity,” Brainpickings, 2015

See the full article here.

Andrew Frisardi, Love’s Scribe: Reading Dante in the Book of Creation (2020)

frisardi-loves-scribe-reading-dante-in-the-book-of-creation-2020“In a few passages of his writings, Dante identifies himself as ‘Love’s scribe’—the scribe, that is, of all love, from natural and human love to the “Love that moves the sun and the other stars.” Another fundamental notion in Dante, and in medieval thought in general, is that the manifold things of the creation are like pages bound together by divine love into a unified book, a series of successive analogies of God—a book written by God, in which can be discerned images and resemblances of divinity. As the current volume shows, this way of reading the creation also opens a vista into Dante’s or any traditional metaphysical-symbolist author’s works as an analogia entis—as a series of signs corresponding to multiple levels of reality, each resonating with others in the hierarchical chain of being.” [. . .]    –Andrew Frisardi, Angelico Press, 2020

Check out the Angelico Press website to read praise for Love’s Scribe.