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This includes the invisible, spiritual world as well as the visible, corporeal one. It embraces the human and the divine, the natural and the supernatural.


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The cosmos for him is the Community of communities. This Community affirms, rather than negates, the human individual and all the smaller, local groups to which we belong: our cities, towns, and neighbourhoods. The Comedy is a first person epic that tells, or rather sings, of a journey through the three regions of the spiritual cosmos: Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.

Dante appears in two guises, as both the pilgrim who makes the journey and the poet who artfully recounts it. Dante begins by recalling how he was lost in a dark wood and close to spiritual, perhaps also physical, suicide. Heaven takes pity on Dante, and Beatrice, now enthroned in Paradise, descends into Hell for his sake—into Limbo, the home of virtuous pagans. Virgil leads Dante through Hell and Purgatory. Beatrice, his higher guide, then takes over and leads him through Paradise. At the end of the poem, Dante reaches the end of all desire: He sees God.

I have chosen three cantos, one from each canticle: from the Inferno , the canto on lust; from the Purgatorio , a canto on envy; and from the Paradiso , a canto on faithfulness marred by inconstancy. A form of seeing and being seen is at work at each level. I realize that many of you have not read the Comedy , or perhaps are familiar only with the Inferno. I hope that my remarks will inspire you to read the whole poem and to regard it not as a book for class but as a book for life.

Before we begin, I want to make three observations. The first is that the Comedy is not a literal report on the afterlife, but rather an allegorical depiction of the whole from the perspective of eternity, a revelation in images of the way things are. It is what the ancient Greeks called a kosmos —a term that means ornament.

Central to this idea is hierarchy or rank, an order of higher and lower. Hierarchically arranged, it is an enormous funnel that reaches to the center of the earth.


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Lesser sins are punished higher up, in the less constrictive circles; graver sins are punished lower down, in the more constrictive. The funnel was made when Satan, now a prisoner trapped in ice at the center of the earth, was defeated in his war against God and hurled from Heaven. It means that these souls, with the exception of the virtuous pagans in Limbo, have lost the proper functioning of the intellect and are demented.

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It also means that all these souls, those in Limbo included, have lost all hope of experiencing the vision of God, who is the end of all desire and the source of truth, being, and good order. The second circle of Hell, the one just below that of the virtuous pagans, contains the souls of those who gave themselves unconditionally to lust. Its relatively high placement suggests that lust is the least damnable of sins.

The lustful are hot-blooded rather than cold-hearted and are fittingly placed far from the ice of Hell Central, which contains the souls of the treacherous. The souls here are blown about in a chaotic storm that torments them for eternity. The storm objectifies the violent, disordered passion to which these lovebirds freely succumbed.

It is their sin made visible. Virgil identifies the many famous people here including Semiramis, the Assyrian Queen who legalized incest so that she might indulge in it and at the same time be validated. She made lust into law. All are connected in one way or another with betrayal and war. The lovers are Paolo and Francesca, whose tragic romance is one of the most celebrated moments in the Comedy.

Dante obeys, and bids the lovers speak, but only one, Francesca, replies. The other, consumed with grief, is wordless and in the end can only weep. When Dante calls to the lovers, again we have the image of birds. Dante is no easy moralist. It is hard to believe we are in Hell. Francesca first tells Dante about her lovely home in Ravenna, then about how Love compelled Paolo and her to do what they did. Her story begins with the eyes. Then Love makes his next move—it, too, involves the eyes.

Caina waits for him who quenched our life. Francesca begins three tercets in a row with the word Love, Amor. She blinded herself to the larger communities to which she and Paolo belonged. One might counter this nostalgia with another saying: Nothing is more horrible than recalling a time we thought was happy, but was in fact the beginning of our doom. We were alone and had no misgiving.

Many times that reading drew our eyes together and changed the colour in our faces, but one point alone it was that mastered us; when we read that the longed-for smile was kissed by so great a lover, he who never shall be parted from me, all trembling, kissed my mouth. A Galeotto was the book and he that wrote it; that day we read in it no further. In Italian, the word came to mean pimp. In this fatal moment Francesca became Guinevere and her lover Lancelot. The line between story and life vanished, as Love cast a veil over her eyes. In this dream-state, she left reality, or rather reshaped it to make it conform to her romantic ideal.

Here in Hell her delusion endures forever: Hell is the place of those who have lost the good of intellect. As Francesca reveals, it is also the cosmic repository of perverse ideologies that distort reality or nature and replace it with an artifice. Lancelot and Guinevere are the romanticized traitors of a good and noble king. Their affair played a major role in the downfall of Arthur and Camelot. Their story brought the modern lovers together like a trusty pimp and encouraged them to yield to their conspiracy of the eyes.

The book was their prompt and their validation. Here, Dante signals the danger of these sorts of love stories, which, by ennobling illicit love, invite the destruction of all trust, fellowship, and the good order on which society depends. Such stories, like Semiramis, make lust into law. They can make us blind, not in our eyes but in our minds. At issue here, we must note, is not pornography, whose corrupting effects are obvious, but a literary work belonging to high culture. The opera is far more dangerous than the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, since it combines the power of music with nihilism made sweet.

With this Liebestod or love-in-death, the canto of Francesca reaches its end.

What is Dante's Inferno? - Overview & Summary!

We now go from the seductive beauty of transgressive love to the ugliness of envy. Anger, too—think of Achilles, beautiful in his youthful rage. Sloth in French, ennui has its lazy, languorous charm. Lust, as we have seen, can all too easily be romanticized. Gluttony can take on the attractive look of fastidious, opulent dining.

There is something cringing, shrivelled, and mean-spirited about it that defies beautification. We do not want to look at it, let alone acknowledge it in ourselves. What, then, is envy? This is Schadenfreude , a word that has passed into English usage. The Italian word for envy, invidia , is cognate with the verb videre , to see.

Its opposite consists in charity, kindness, and mercy. As I mentioned earlier, Purgatory is the mountain where reason searches us. It is where penitent souls engage in the clear-sighted, unflinching scrutiny of their past lives. It is a penal colony where souls serve time and endure the corrective torments that restore the soul to its original integrity and health. Souls here are not confined to a circle, as they are in Hell, but spiral up the mountain as they ascend to moral perfection and rational freedom.

At the top of Mount Purgatory is the Garden of Eden, the place of earthly bliss. Once there, purified souls ascend higher, as they go to the celestial Paradise, the primal home of souls. At the first level or terrace, Dante witnesses the purgation of pride. The proud carry enormous stones on their backs.

The heavy burden subdues pride and teaches humility. Stein, G. Stevenson, R. Wells, H. The Divine Comedy. The Harvard Classics. Manfredi, King of Naples, who is one of these spirits, bids Dante inform his daughter Costanza, Queen of Arragon, of the manner in which he had died. Nor thou. Note 1. Note 2. Note 3. He was lively and agreeable in his manners, delighted in poetry, music, and dancing. Although they have not developed proper samadhi, their minds are pure to the point that they are not moved by outflows. Those in the world who cultivate their minds but do not avail themselves of dhyana and so have no wisdom, can only control their bodies so as to not engage in sexual desire.

Whether walking or sitting, or in their thoughts, they are totally devoid of it.

Dante’s Global Vision: Seeing & Being Seen in the "Divine Comedy" ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Since they do not give rise to defiling love, they do not remain in the realm of desire. These people can, in response to their thought, take on the bodies of Brahma beings. They are among those in the Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma. Those whose hearts of desire have already been cast aside, the mind apart from desire manifests. They have a fond regard for the rules of discipline and delight in being in accord with them.

These people can practice the Brahma virtue at all times, and they are among those in the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma. Those whose bodies and minds are wonderfully perfect, and whose awesome deportment is not in the least deficient, are pure in the prohibitive precepts and have a thorough understanding of them as well. At all times these people can govern the Brahma multitudes as great Brahma lords, and they are among those in the Great Brahma Heaven. Those who flow to these levels will not be oppressed by worries or vexations. Although they have not developed proper samadhi, their minds are pure to the point that they have subdued their coarser outflows.

Those beyond the Brahma heavens gather in and govern the Brahma beings, for their Brahma conduct is perfect and fulfilled. Unmoving and with settled minds, they produce light in profound stillness, and they are among those in the Heaven of Lesser Light. Those whose lights illumine each other in an endless dazzling blaze shine throughout the realms of the ten directions so that everything becomes like crystal.

They are among those in the Heaven of Limitless Light. Those who take in and hold the light to perfection accomplish the substance of the teaching. Creating and transforming the purity into endless responses and functions, they are among those in the Light-Sound Heaven. The heavenly beings for whom the perfection of light has become sound and who further open out the sound to disclose its wonder discover a subtler level of practice.

They penetrate to the bliss of still extinction and are among those in the Heaven of Lesser Purity. Those in whom the emptiness of purity manifests are led to discover its boundlessness. Their bodies and minds experience light ease, and they accomplish the bliss of still extinction. They are among those in the Heaven of Limitless Purity. Those for whom the world, the body, and the mind are all perfectly pure have accomplished the virtue of purity, and a superior level emerges.

They return to the bliss of still extinction, and they are among those in the Heaven of Pervasive Purity. Attaining heaven is not the final pursuit in Hinduism as heaven itself is ephemeral and related to physical body. Only being tied by the bhoot-tatvas, heaven cannot be perfect either and is just another name for pleasurable and mundane material life. According to Hindu cosmology , above the earthly plane, are other planes: 1 Bhuva Loka , 2 Swarga Loka, meaning Good Kingdom, is the general name for heaven in Hinduism, a heavenly paradise of pleasure, where most of the Hindu Devatas Deva reside along with the king of Devas, Indra, and beatified mortals.

Since heavenly abodes are also tied to the cycle of birth and death, any dweller of heaven or hell will again be recycled to a different plane and in a different form per the karma and "maya" i. This cycle is broken only by self-realization by the Jivatma. This self-realization is Moksha Turiya, Kaivalya.

The concept of moksha is unique to Hinduism and is unparalleled. Moksha stands for liberation from the cycle of birth and death and final communion with Brahman. With moksha, a liberated soul attains the stature and oneness with Brahman or Paramatma. Different schools such as Vedanta, Mimansa, Sankhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, and Yoga offer subtle differences in the concept of Brahman, obvious Universe, its genesis and regular destruction, Jivatma, Nature Prakriti and also the right way in attaining perfect bliss or moksha.

In the Vaishnava traditions the highest heaven is Vaikuntha , which exists above the six heavenly lokas and outside of the mahat- tattva or mundane world. It's where eternally liberated souls who have attained moksha reside in eternal sublime beauty with Lakshmi and Narayana a manifestation of Vishnu. However, the Nasadiya Sukta questions the omniscience of this overseer.

The shape of the Universe as described in Jainism is shown alongside. Unlike the current convention of using North direction as the top of map, this uses South as the top. The shape is similar to a part of human form standing upright. The Deva Loka heavens are at the symbolic "chest", where all souls enjoying the positive karmic effects reside. The heavenly beings are referred to as devas masculine form and devis feminine form.

According to Jainism, there is not one heavenly abode, but several layers to reward appropriately the souls of varying degree of karmic merits. Similarly, beneath the "waist" are the Narka Loka hell. Human, animal, insect, plant and microscopic life forms reside on the middle. The pure souls who reached Siddha status reside at the very south end top of the Universe. As per Sikh thought, heaven and hell are not places for living hereafter, they are part of spiritual topography of man and do not exist otherwise. They refer to good and evil stages of life respectively and can be lived now and here during our earthly existence.

He claims to know the Lord, who is beyond measure and beyond thought; By mere words, he plans to enter heaven. I do not know where heaven is. Everyone claims that he plans to go there. By mere talk, the mind is not appeased. The mind is only appeased, when egotism is conquered. As long as the mind is filled with the desire for heaven, He does not dwell at the Lord's Feet. Says Kabeer, unto whom should I tell this? The Company of the Holy is heaven. The Nahua people such as the Aztecs , Chichimecs and the Toltecs believed that the heavens were constructed and separated into 13 levels.

Each level had from one to many Lords living in and ruling these heavens. Most important of these heavens was Omeyocan Place of Two. In the creation myths of Polynesian mythology are found various concepts of the heavens and the underworld. These differ from one island to another. What they share is the view of the universe as an egg or coconut that is divided between the world of humans earth , the upper world of heavenly gods, and the underworld. Each of these is subdivided in a manner reminiscent of Dante 's Divine Comedy , but the number of divisions and their names differs from one Polynesian culture to another.

Different tribes number the heaven differently, with as few as two and as many as fourteen levels. One of the more common versions divides heaven thus:. Other Polynesian peoples see them being supported by gods as in Hawaii. In one Tahitian legend, heaven is supported by an octopus. The Polynesian conception of the universe and its division is nicely illustrated by a famous drawing made by a Tuomotuan chief in Here, the nine heavens are further divided into left and right, and each stage is associated with a stage in the evolution of the earth that is portrayed below.

The lowest division represents a period when the heavens hung low over the earth, which was inhabited by animals that were not known to the islanders. In the third division is shown the first murder, the first burials, and the first canoes, built by Rata. In the fourth division, the first coconut tree and other significant plants are born. It is believed in Theosophy of Helena Blavatsky that each religion including Theosophy has its own individual heaven in various regions of the upper astral plane that fits the description of that heaven that is given in each religion, which a soul that has been good in their previous life on Earth will go to.

The area of the upper astral plane of Earth in the upper atmosphere where the various heavens are located is called Summerland Theosophists believe hell is located in the lower astral plane of Earth which extends downward from the surface of the earth down to its center.

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However, Theosophists believe that the soul is recalled back to Earth after an average of about years by the Lords of Karma to incarnate again. The final heaven that souls go to billions of years in the future after they finish their cycle of incarnations is called Devachan.


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Anarchist Emma Goldman expressed this view when she wrote, "Consciously or unconsciously, most theists see in gods and devils, heaven and hell; reward and punishment, a whip to lash the people into obedience, meekness and contentment. Many people consider George Orwell 's use of Sugarcandy Mountain in his novel Animal Farm to be a literary expression of this view. In the book, the animals were told that after their miserable lives were over they would go to a place in which "it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges".

Dante’s Global Vision: Seeing & Being Seen in the “Divine Comedy”

Some have argued that a belief in a reward after death is poor motivation for moral behavior while alive. The problem with this linkage between religion and morality is that it gives people bad reasons to help other human beings when good reasons are available. In Inside the Neolithic Mind , Lewis-Williams and Pearce argue that many cultures around the world and through history neurally perceive a tiered structure of heaven, along with similarly structured circles of hell.

The reports match so similarly across time and space that Lewis-Williams and Pearce argue for a neuroscientific explanation, accepting the percepts as real neural activations and subjective percepts during particular altered states of consciousness. Many people who come close to death and have near-death experiences report meeting relatives or entering "the Light" in an otherworldly dimension, which shares similarities with the religious concept of heaven. Even though there are also reports of distressing experiences and negative life-reviews, which share some similarities with the concept of hell, the positive experience of meeting or entering "the Light" is reported as an immensely intense feeling of a state of love, peace and joy beyond human comprehension.

Together with this intensely positive-feeling state, people who have near-death experiences also report that consciousness or a heightened state of awareness seems as if it is at the heart of experiencing a taste of "heaven". Works of fiction have included numerous different conceptions of heaven and hell. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the metaphysical term "heaven" and the astral dimension it denotes.