Thursday, April 07, 2011

Lucy in the Sky with Dante

In Canto VIII Dante breaks out of the poem in order to provide a little clue for us all: Here, reader, sharpen your eyes to truth.

Why? Because in what he is about to describe, the veil is surely so transparent / That passing through it is an easy thing.

Reality is always here -- where else? -- just a few psychrons away in the space of your own pneurology. The distance between one world and another cannot be measured with the crude instruments of science. To attempt to do so is like looking for the boundary between the Dreamer and the dream. The two are distinct but inseparable.

Dante sees a "company of noble spirits," facing east with palms lifted upwards, and with "eyes intent upon the heavenly spheres." Clearly they are actively oriented to the vertical; the open hands signify an attitude of (o). Then,

Emerging and descending from above / I saw two angels bearing flaming swords. One of them descends all the way down, settling on the embankment across the way. Woo hoo! Vertical I-AMissaries!

Dante looks at the girl with the sun in her eyes, and is "dazzled by [the] excessive light" -- which immediately calls to mind the Transfiguration, in which Jesus' face "shone like the sun."

Sordello says that they are sent by Mother Mary, speaking words of wisdom and protecting against the serpents that surely come out at nightfall. Just like here, coldblooded reptiles emerge from the brush to warm themselves with the remains of the day.

Dante sees another familiar face and explains the situation to him: he has arrived here "by way of the sad regions"; he is not actually dead, but "still within the first life." However, "by this journeying, I earn the other."

Here again, Dante is giving us a BIG HINT of what this poem is all about. But his interlocutors are astonished to hear this.

Just then Dante is distracted by three flaming torches located in the southern sky. But just this morning, in that very same spot, were four brilliant stars that are now below the horizon. What gives?

Before we can find out, everyone does a spit take (remember, it's a comedy), because right over THERE is the serpent! And not just any serpent, but one that looks suspiciously similar to the one who "offered Eve the bitter food."

Now we're really in the thick of it. The cosmic veil has been lifted, behind which we see a celestial spark in the park in the dark, and now that rake of a snake who spake is awake!

But then a couple of celestial hawks -- i.e., the angels -- move across the sky, causing the serpent to flee. Of note, the snake only hears the rustling of wings, and this is sufficient to send him back under cover of darkness.

Surely the angel/birds represent the higher consciousness through which we are vigilant, and with which we "watch and pray." For there are beasts hiding within our garden, and which require a kind of night vision in order to see them. But once seen, they scatter. They are unable to endure the glance -- the glancing blow -- from on high.

After this episode, Dante is able to safely fall off to sleep and even to dream, where free to wander farther from the flesh / and less held fast by cares, our intellect's / envisionings become almost divine.

The dream is an obvious transformation of the events of the evening, involving an eagle patrolling the sky, ready to swoop down on its prey. Note that this eagle can only descend not ascend, for its claws refuse to carry upward any prey.

But it then snatches up Dante himself -- who is not prey -- lifting him toward the sun. Both he and the eagle are scorched by the flames, to such an extent that he is awakened from his slumber, terrified and "cold as ice."

Clearly, as much as Vanderleun protests, Dante cannot just skip purgatory and go straight to paradise. Many things remain to be burned and purified, but this is a controlled burn, not an uncontrolled forest fire -- not a raging inferno, as it were.

It is like the difference between undergoing psychotherapy in order to patiently process unconscious material, vs. dropping acid and being swallowed up into the unconscious, winner take all.

But in an interesting plot twist, it turns out that Dante was visited in his sleep by an angel, "Lucia," who took him up toward the entrance of purgatory proper. Luc-ia is Light, of course, but now I am out of time, so you figure it out. Hint: the Walrus was Paul.

Climb in the back with your head in the clouds, and you're gone.

11 Comments:

Blogger ge said...

lucky in the sky

wv Aminta
lotsa diff things

4/07/2011 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I'll just ride in the back with my tail in the clouds. Carryon..

4/07/2011 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Haven't read yet, but had to share this. I was curious about the girl; her video is here, and worth a watch all on its own.

4/07/2011 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

RE: Dante's shortcut and bum trips

There's an old "Twilight Zone" where John Astin plays a stoned hippie who dies suddenly and goes to hell. He's kind of excited about it, picturing all the snakes, fire and torture stuff from medieval woodcuts.

Instead he winds up in a room with a square who looks like the man in "American Gothic" discussing potato bugs. There is, in the room, a record player -- a changer, in fact -- with a ridiculously huge stack of records on it. The desperate hippie thinks he can at least listen to some music and starts the player that then can't be stopped. It's all Guy Lombardo records.

He begins to weep concluding, "This is hell!" and screaming, "Bummer! Bummer! Bummer!"

4/07/2011 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>>Dante is able to safely fall off to sleep and even to dream, where free to wander farther from the flesh / and less held fast by cares, our intellect's / envisionings become almost divine<<

Purgatory itself being a dream, Dante's dream is a dream within a dream. By "dream" I don't mean something unreal, albeit it might be phantasmagoric. I think when we sleep and dream, our souls leave the body to an extent, though we are still tethered to the body. In a very real sense,we do enter another place that is populated with our own projections - there can be times, however, when that place is open to visitors, I believe, that are not purely our own projections.

One thing I think marks the "other place-ness" of dreams is the quality of emotions and feelings that we are subject to in dreams. We can get a small taste of paradise in dreams, one that is not really accessable in waking consciousness. As for nightmares, that is a small taste of hell/purgatory, and is again one we can't experience in waking life. Dreams have a quality of emotion all their own.

Dreams also tend to be either quite blissful or quite nightmarish, which is to say dreams really cut to the meta-chase.

Imagine leaving the body all together - if we think the emotions and feelings in our dreams are intense, imagine the intensity of purgatorial/heavenly dreams.

4/07/2011 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Indeed I have seen from extremely unrelated sources, from the Orthodox to the Buddhist, that there is a connection between dreams and the afterlife.

I guess that makes sense, in so far as the dreams give us a good look at the content of our souls, some of which we otherwise go out of our way not to see. We may one day shrug off the body, but the accumulated thoughts and feelings may be harder to slough off. Especially if we have no idea where we are, as will probably happen to a large number of people.

But what do I know, I have a hard time remembering most of my dreams, and I don't remember the otherworld at all.

4/07/2011 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

As for nightmares, that is a small taste of hell/purgatory, and is again one we can't experience in waking life. Dreams have a quality of emotion all their own.

Finally catching up today, indeed they do. Interesting point about the taste of hell/ purgatory. I hadn't thought of them that way, but of course you're right.

Much food for thought today.

4/07/2011 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger philmon said...

"I told you 'bout Strawberry Hill
You know the place where nothing is real"

So 'es dead, is 'e?

A dream within a dream.

4/07/2011 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Surely the angel/birds represent the higher consciousness through which we are vigilant, and with which we "watch and pray." For there are beasts hiding within our garden, and which require a kind of night vision in order to see them. But once seen, they scatter. They are unable to endure the glance -- the glancing blow -- from on high."

It's not enough to be Sitting in an English Garden Waiting for the Sun, seek it, and you shall be found, dei or knight.

4/08/2011 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Will said "if we think the emotions and feelings in our dreams are intense, imagine the intensity of purgatorial/heavenly dreams."

Careful of which side of the bed you wake up on.

Philmon, did you link to Alan Parsons Project of Poe's "Dream within a dream"? I can't run the link here... if not, a fun one to hunt up.

4/08/2011 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Brazentide said...

Lucy? Why not Lucid?

4/18/2011 08:52:00 AM  

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