“In European mythology, this specific process of self-discovery (meeting the shadow) is usually depicted as the hero literally descending into the underworld and meeting the dead. Whether it’s in The Odyssey or The Divine Comedy or the Harry Potter tales (in which Harry frequently visits past events), the first part of the process involves going into a netherworld that allows the traveler (and the reader) to think differently about the nature of the everyday world.
“Dante’s message is clear, though: he asks us to observe what the tendencies are that keep these poor souls stuck in Hell. When we see these failings in others, we can know them, avoid them, and as we learn from them we will grow in compassion. For we will see that these faults lies within each of us, too. Only then can we move beyond these ego-longings that will stop us from experiencing synchronicity.
[. . .]
“As Dante proceeds, he leaves the realm of men and sin far behind, and under the care of Beatrice he finds his way toward Heaven and the Virgin Mary. Whether we believe in a Christian worldview or not, the psychic process Dante describes is important. Dante, we notice, is now in a more female world. Virgil, the male poet, has guided Dante, the male poet, through Hell and through Purgatory, but Virgil cannot take Dante all the way on this spiritual journey: the pure saintly Beatrice, a woman, is the only one who can guide Dante forward now.
“To spell this out simply: the idealized virginal Beatrice leads the poet to the ideal female, the pure mother symbol of the Virgin Mary.
“What Dante learns after understanding the destructive part of himself and rejecting it, leaving it behind in Hell, is that only then can his real salvation befound, in this opposite-sex world of gentleness and love. [. . .]” — Dr. Allan G. Hunter, “Meeting the Shadow: From Dante’s Inferno to a World of Compassion,” InnerSelf, June 1, 2011
Excerpted from Allan G. Hunter’s book The Path of Synchronicity: Align Yourself with Your Life’s Flow (Findhorn Press, 2011).
An actor declaims verses from Paradiso (33.108-111) in front of the Museo del Vino Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The video was captured by contributor Gerald Cloud on September 30, 2011.
Contributed by Gerald Cloud
For more on Dante and Vernaccia (the treasured Tuscan wine he cites in Purg. 24.24), see here.
“American post-hardcore band Alesana’s fourth album, A Place Where the Sun Is Silent, is primarily based on the Inferno.” —Wikipedia
“The literary appropriation of Dante over the last century has been enormous. His influence has been front and center in all major modern literary traditions—from T.S. Eliot to William Butler Yeats, from Albert Camus to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Jorge Luis Borges to Derek Walcott, from Giorgio Bassani to Giuseppe Ungaretti. Why such fascination? What are the textual characteristics of Dante’s Commedia that make it an ideal vehicle for literary appropriation, thereby allowing it to enjoy a sustained cultural afterlife? What, moreover, are the more accidental factors (e.g., taste, world view, political agenda, religious, and mystical convictions) which account for the popularity of Dante—after 300 years of neglect during which the Florentine poet was relegated to the shadows of Petrarch and his works—among artists, novelists, poets, playwrights, and cinematographers? This symposium, co-organized by Professor Massimo Ciavolella (Italian, UCLA), Professor Efraín Kristal (Comparative Literature, UCLA), and Heather Sottong (Italian, UCLA), considers these questions, concentrating on Dante’s influence in North America and especially in Latin America.” —UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, 2011