Rod Dreher, “The Ultimate Self-Help Book”


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“Everybody knows that The Divine Comedy is one of the greatest literary works of all time. What everybody does not know is that it is also the most astonishing self-help book ever written. [ . . . ]

“The practical applications of Dante’s wisdom cannot be separated from the pleasure of reading his verse, and this accounts for much of the life-changing power of the Comedy. For Dante, beauty provides signposts on the seeker’s road to truth. The wandering Florentine’s experiences with beauty, especially that of the angelic Beatrice, taught him that our loves lead us to heaven or to hell, depending on whether we are able to satisfy them within the divine order.

“This is why The Divine Comedy is an icon, not an idol: Its beauty belongs to heaven. But it may also be taken into the hearts and minds of those woebegone wayfarers who read it as a guidebook and hold it high as a lantern, sent across the centuries from one lost soul to another, illuminating the way out of the dark wood that, sooner or later, ensnares us all.”

Rod Dreher, “The Ultimate Self-Help Book: Dante’s Divine Comedy“, Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2014

Contributed by Allen Wong (Bowdoin ’14)