The demons who guard the gates refuse to open them for Virgil, and an angelic messenger arrives from Heaven to force the gates open before Dante. A deep valley leads into the First Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, where those who were violent toward others spend eternity in a river of boiling blood. Virgil and Dante meet a group of Centaurs, creatures who are half man, half horse.
Valley of the Dead: The Truth Behind Dante's Inferno
One of them, Nessus, takes them into the Second Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, where they encounter those who were violent toward themselves the Suicides. These souls must endure eternity in the form of trees.
Dante there speaks with Pier della Vigna. Going deeper into the Seventh Circle of Hell, the travelers find those who were violent toward God the Blasphemers ; Dante meets his old patron, Brunetto Latini, walking among the souls of those who were violent toward Nature the Sodomites on a desert of burning sand. They also encounter the Usurers, those who were violent toward Art. In the First Pouch, the Panderers and the Seducers receive lashings from whips; in the second, the Flatterers must lie in a river of human feces.
The Simoniacs in the Third Pouch hang upside down in baptismal fonts while their feet burn with fire. In the Fourth Pouch are the Astrologists or Diviners, forced to walk with their heads on backward, a sight that moves Dante to great pity. In the Fifth Pouch, the Barrators those who accepted bribes steep in pitch while demons tear them apart. The Hypocrites in the Sixth Pouch must forever walk in circles, wearing heavy robes made of lead.
In the horrifying Seventh Pouch, the Thieves sit trapped in a pit of vipers, becoming vipers themselves when bitten; to regain their form, they must bite another thief in turn. In the Ninth Pouch, the souls of Sowers of Scandal and Schism walk in a circle, constantly afflicted by wounds that open and close repeatedly.
Satanic Physics and the Point of Transition
In the Tenth Pouch, the Falsifiers suffer from horrible plagues and diseases. The giant Antaeus picks Virgil and Dante up and sets them down at the bottom of the well, in the lowest region of Hell. In Antenora, the Second Ring, those who betrayed their country and party stand frozen up to their heads; here Dante meets Count Ugolino, who spends eternity gnawing on the head of the man who imprisoned him in life.
In Ptolomea, the Third Ring, those who betrayed their guests spend eternity lying on their backs in the frozen lake, their tears making blocks of ice over their eyes. Here, those who betrayed their benefactors spend eternity in complete icy submersion. A huge, mist-shrouded form lurks ahead, and Dante approaches it. It is the three-headed giant Lucifer, plunged waist-deep into the ice.
His body pierces the center of the Earth, where he fell when God hurled him down from Heaven.
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Eventually, the poets reach the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and travel from there out of Hell and back onto Earth. Souls that are repentant of their sins against God and man go to Purgatory and become free of temptation, and know that they will eventually be with God. Purgatory is a Mountain with seven ledges or cornices, one for each of the seven deadly sins pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. The renunciation of sin occurs in Purgatory, as one begins his ascent to Purity by practicing virtue.
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A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good Philippians For each cornice, Dante first offers biblical and classical examples of the particular virtue to encourage the penitents, and after they are reformed, examples of the sin to remind them of its destructive nature. On the first cornice just above Hell one is purified of pride, inordinate self-love or conceit, by learning the contrasting virtue, Humility. When one is cured of pride, he moves up to the second cornice, envy, resentful awareness of another's good fortune and the desire to obtain the same advantage.
Envy is purified by the virtue of Caritas, love of others. Anger is offset by Meekness and Patience, which leads one to become a peacemaker. Sloth, spiritual apathy and inactivity, is cured by Zeal and Diligence. Generosity is the virtue that overcomes greed. Gluttony, an excessive appetite for food and drink, is controlled by Temperance through Fasting and Abstinence. On the seventh and last cornice, lust is overcome by the virtue of Temperance through Chastity. Dante offers many Biblical examples of the Virtues that offset the seven deadly sins as well as the sins themselves:.
Virgil, the voice of Reason, takes Dante step-by-step up the mountain of Purgatory to the Garden of Eden, where man resided before his fall, and releases him in Canto XXVII 27 to himself, as he is now purged from sin. Repentant souls, even those with great sin, and even if they repent just prior to death, still go to Purgatory, as we learn from Canto V:.
Thus from the brink of death, repenting all our sins, forgiving those who sinned against us, with our final breath we offered up our souls at peace with Him who saddens us with longing to behold His glory on the throne of Seraphim. Paradiso is Dante's imaginative conception of Heaven. The more one loves on earth, the closer in Heaven one is to God, who is All-Love.
Bernard, who leads him to the Beatific Vision of God. The vision passes and Dante is once more mortal and fallible. Yet the truth is stamped upon his soul, which he now knows will return to be one with God's love. The Love that was rekindled in Thy womb sends for the warmth of the eternal peace within whose ray this flower has come to bloom. Here to us, thou art the noon and scope of Love revealed; and among mortal men, the living fountain of eternal hope. Lady, thou art so near God's reckonings that who seeks grace and does not first seek thee would have his wish fly upward without wings.
Not only does thy sweet benignity flow out to all who beg, but oftentimes thy charity arrives before the plea. In thee is pity, in thee munificence, in thee the tenderest heart, in thee unites all that creation knows of excellence! Now comes this man who from the final pit of the universe up to this height has seen, one by one, the three lives of the spirit.
He prays to thee in fervent supplication for grace and strength, that he may raise his eyes to the all-healing final revelation. And I, who never more desired to see the vision myself that I do that he may see It, add my own prayer, and pray that it may be enough to move you to dispel the trace of every mortal shadow by thy prayers and let him see revealed the Sum of Grace. I pray the further, all-persuading Queen, keep whole the natural bent of his affections and of his powers after his eyes have seen. Protect him from the stirrings of man's clay; see how Beatrice and the blessed host clasp reverent hands to join me as I pray.
Those eyes turned then to the Eternal Ray, through which, we must indeed believe, the eyes of others do not find such ready way. And I, who neared the goal of all my nature, felt my soul, at the climax of its yearning, suddenly, as it ought, grow calm with rapture. Bernard then, smiling sweetly, gestured to me to look up, but I had already become within myself all he would have me be.
DANTE ALIGHIERI - THE DIVINE COMEDY
Little by little as my vision grew it penetrated faintly through the aura of the high lamp which in Itself is true. What then I saw is more than tongue can say. Our human speech is dark before the vision. The ravished memory swoons and falls away. As one who sees in dreams and wakes to find the emotional impression of his vision still powerful while its parts fade from his mind - just such am I, having lost nearly all the vision itself, while in my heart I feel the sweetness of it yet distill and fall.
So, in the sun, the footprints fade from snow. On the wild wind that bore the tumbling leaves the Sybil's oracles were scattered so. O Light Supreme who doth Thyself withdraw so far above man's mortal understanding, lend me again some glimpse of what I saw; make Thou my tongue so eloquent it may of all Thy glory speak a single clue to those who follow me in the world's day; for by returning to my memory somewhat, and somewhat sounding in these verses, Thou shalt show man more of Thy victory.
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