Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When You Go to Hell, Be Sure and Bring a Loved One

I guess we're going to be fighting through the Inferno canto-a-canto. Upton sets the scene in Canto II, noting that "In the face of Hell, Dante's courage begins to fail."

Technically we haven't yet crossed the threshold of the nether world, so there's still time to back out and leave it alone. You know what they say -- the devil you know is preferable to the one you don't. (Although for New Jersey Devils fans, it's getting close.)

Here again, this reminds me of why I don't recommend this blog to anyone. Rather, I only offer it. It's certainly here if people want to come in, but you're not going to get anything out of it if you think you can avoid the heat of the lower vertical. People who try to develop spiritually while ignoring the dark side are generally two things: 1) annoying and 2) shallow. And often dangerous, because they only project into others what they deny in themselves.

Anyway, just when Dante is wondering whether this is such a great idea, in pops Virgil, who lets him know that "he has been sent to help him by Beatrice, acting as an emissary of Divine Grace" (Upton), thus bolstering his flagging courage.

"Eh paisano, don't sneak up on'a me like'a that!"

By now we all know about the various nonlocal operators who are standing by, ready to assist you. Virgil is just such an operator. Did Dante attract Virgil, or vice versa?

I mention this because this phenomenon clearly operates within a field of attraction, fundamentally no different than the way attraction operates, say, in the field of terrestrial love. When it all works out, the loving couple exist within in a pregnant space of attractor-to-attractor. It is a very specific feeling to be in this vibrant space, where the two attractors become one.

As I mentioned on page the 224th, it is only because we have this "divine attractor" within that we are drawn to God, and vice versa: "Being that we are made in the image of O, perhaps it is no surprise that we have our own 'magnetic center,' that is, an internal faculty that draws us like a magnet toward inner truth." While this can "take the form of uncanny synchronicities and meetings with mysterious helpers at just the right time," it can also "produce major tensions and upheavals in the soul" (Smoley) -- we refer to these as birthquakes -- most especially when its higher needs are not acknowledged.

I don't know how to reproduce the symbol, but an operator such as Virgil is an example of what I mean on p. 228, with the ↑ inside O. According to me, such individuals "have ascended the ladder of consciousness from our side of manifestation, and can therefore show the hidden passageway that leads out." Such fleshlights are qualified to teach, because they are "instructed by O," so to speak. They are Men of Achievement, quite the opposite of a tenured ass bearing a load of books.

I like how Franklin Merrill-Wolff describes it: the presence of such an individual tends to "produce a condition such that the latent and indigenous Inner Light of the individual is aroused sympathetically into pulsation and thus, ultimately, 'catches on,' as it were, for Itself."

The whole point of this verticalisthenic is to experience a shift in one's consciousness, so that one inhabits a new "center of gravity," so to speak. Please bear in mind that this is not remotely abstract, but rather, a straightforward and literal description of something that should be very experience-near. This shift is critical. It is what the words "repent" and "metanoia" are referring to. The Raccoon calls it the center of levity, which is the true source of divine comedy.

In the final analysis, Virgil actually represents a projection of Dante's own deeper self. He is attracted to the projection because it is his own unborn self, which can only be accessed via encounter with an external model.

Please note that this is no different than in any other human endeavor. I know that for me, my life can be seen as the gradual actualization of traits and capacities that I first encountered in others.

Assuming that this attraction is rooted in love and truth -- as opposed to the many dark currents that can crapsize our boat, such as narcissism or a lust for power -- then the field will be "fruitful" and result in the assimilation of the exterior ideal. We will become what we love. So be careful!

Note that this is precisely what animates Dante's relationship to Virgil: May my long faithful study of your book / And my great love for it, avail me now! / You are my master, and my very author: / It is from you alone that I have taken / The lofty style for which men honor me.

Note also the words of Lucia to Beatrice: O Beatrice, true praise of God, / Why not assist this man whose love for you / Is such that he has left the vulgar throng?

As we have discussed many times, man inhabits the "middle world" between the upper and lower vertical. Indeed, he is like an arrow that passes through, and partakes of, every level, from the highest to the lowest.

This is what it means to be a micro-cosmos, or a local branch of the central treasury. If this were not the case, then knowledge of the cosmos would be impossible. But because of our verticality, we can obtain genuine knowledge of every layer of the existentialada, from physics to biology to psychology and on to metaphysics and theology.

Obviously, the Inferno is a representation of the lower vertical, which has a number of distinct sub-levels, as we shall see. In a more general sense, as Upton says, "entry into the Inferno reverberates with the quality of the Fall of Man, which was [I would say is] a descent from a higher form of corporeality into a more animal-like condition."

Now, as we have been discussing in recent posts, spiritual progress is characterized by space, freedom, time dilation, and slack retrieval in general. Not surprisingly, the descent into hell is the opposite, a kind of "contraction" (Upton). Instead of time dilation, we are squeezed by and for time. There is nothing to do, and never enough time to do it. Have you ever suffered depression? Then you know what it means when it takes all day to get nothing done.

More hideously, there are humanoids who require a whole life to accomplish nothing. In fact, this will inevitably happen if one doesn't turn around. Or, to put it another way, if you don't change directions, you're liable to end up where you're headed.

So, "If we give ourselves completely to manifestation, we are giving our souls up to the river that leads to Hell" (Upton). Like all worldly rivers, this one flows downhill.

But there is a celestial river on which we may float upstream. In order to find the river, we must first notice the little nonlocal springs that dot the landscape. This can occur, for example, when celestial beauty radiates through phenomena, in what Schuon called the "metaphysical transparency" of the world.

For Upton, these "noble signs... are there to lead counter to the direction of the manifestation itself, and ultimately carry us back to our Source in the Unmanifest."

Note the watery language: "Are you then Virgil -- that great fountainhead / Whence such a flood of eloquence has flowed?"


Rick said...

Listen. You're playing our song.

Love the illustrations, BTW. Interesting that the moon in today's is shown only in reflection.

julie said...

In the final analysis, Virgil actually represents a projection of Dante's own deeper self. He is attracted to the projection because it is his own unborn self, which can only be accessed via encounter with an external model.

Notable, too, is the language with which they address each other, not by name but by station: Virgil, the shade whose life work has been Dante's strongest influence, is "My Master," and then in time, "My Father," while Dante, when called anything, is "My Son."


Rick, Barnes & Noble has a nice copy with all the illustrations for under $20. That's the one I'm reading, since my copy of Upton hasn't arrived yet. With a little help from the internets, it's potentially a fast read just by itself, depending on how long you want to chew over any given Canto...

Rick said...

Thanks, Julie!

robinstarfish said...

...We must first notice the little nonlocal springs that dot the landscape.

This can occur, for example, when celestial beauty radiates through phenomena, in what Schuon called the "metaphysical transparency" of the world...

I can't think of any finer advice for budding photographers.

julie said...

Or for any type of artist. You demonstrate the fruitfulness of that approach daily, Dojo; you may be the only one I know who can reveal the mystical presence illuminating a belt buckle :)

philmon said...

Oddly, this song popped into my head this morning for no apparent reason. Funny to see it here at the end of this post.

Songs pop into my head all the time for no apparent reason. If I think hard enough, I can usually figure out what started it. Today, though. Nada.

"This can occur, for example, when celestial beauty radiates through phenomena, in what Schuon called the "metaphysical transparency" of the world."

This happens to me most often in the mountains.

However, I've seen it in people and all kinds of other places.

mushroom said...

Did Dante attract Virgil, or vice versa?

Dante's response indicates the necessity of plowing the ground in "long faithful study", but it still seems like a miraculous outpouring of grace when it occurs.

The Unseen Who Opines On Things said...

A beautiful essay on the Divine Comedy.

You would make a splendid graduate student of literature. Ever consider going back for a second degree? You could get it easily and naturually while giving the faculty a bit of an eye opener and a what for. Shake 'em up, as it were. They like it. The stuffed shirts respect someone who writes well but is really different philosophically.

Then you could become a professor and lodge a raccoon mind in the godless territory of academia.

You may attract students who could use an awakening.

Maybe L wouldn't like it though? Less $

Jack said...

Has anyone seen these illustrations? Updated from Dore. In fact they did a whole "update" of The Divine Comedy...which was pretty silly overall. But I kind of like these illustrations...

I am enjoying this trip down into Dante's Inferno very much.

This seems to be the heart of it for me:

"People who try to develop spiritually while ignoring the dark side are generally two things: 1) annoying and 2) shallow. And often dangerous, because they only project into others what they deny in themselves."

Jack said...

...also, I'd be curious to know, for those who have read or are reading Dante, which translations people are choosing.

I have (for now) settled on the Hollander and Hollander as a good balance of clarity and poetry.

julie said...

I'm reading the Barnes & Noble version, because it was pretty, leatherbound and relatively inexpensive. Didn't even think of the translation when I bought it, perhaps unfortunately; this one is Longfellow's. Vanderleun today linked to a link re. Mo in the 8th Circle, which has text from Ciardi's translation (though the Canto is mislabeled there - it's 28, not 23 as he has written). It appears to be a little more readable to modern eyes, maybe, than the one I have. The gist is clearly the same, but the wording is quite different. The Ciardi is on Google books, so you can't beat the price :)

julie said...

Re. the San Francisco Hell illustrations, I saw them in person several years ago, or at least several of them. They were showing at the local arts center where I was taking some painting classes. Big pieces, very detailed, and I thought they were pretty interesting. I didn't really have the background at the time to properly appreciate them, though, unfortunately.

Jack said...

To be honest I find translations that attempt to maintain some semblance of the terza rima scheme to be ultimately a distraction and hard for me to read. I get lost in the sentence. I've had to bail on a number of translations for that reason. I have made it through the Hollander translation a few times and have enjoyed it more than others.

For what that's worth.

julie said...

I think it makes a big difference. With the Longfellow, I bought it a few months ago and at the time found it such a slog I didn't get past the first couple of Cantos. With the occasional bit of online assistance from this site, I'm having no real trouble with it now. Plus it helps that I'm more interested in sticking it out :)

I might go back and read the Ciardi, though; I like the cut of that one's jib...

Jack said...

I have Sandow Birks "version" of The Divine Comedy. As I mentioned he text is kind of silly...but the illustrations have a strange appeal to me. They even did a movie based on their version of the Inferno.

I would have like to see these illustrations up close and personal. I am in no way claiming any real discernment in art...but I know what I like! :)

julie said...

Agreed re. Birk's text - the snippets I saw, basically just description plates for the illustrations, seemed to try a little too hard to be hip. But you could get lost in those visuals for hours.

Jack said...

I bought the hard copy of "Dante Worlds" a few months back but haven't yet delved into it while actually reading the text. From what's on the website and just looking through the book and have the feeling it is going to be of great help on my next go round. Which I hope will be soon (I am making my way through Sowell's "Basic Economics: 4th Edition" and am determined to read the whole thing. Also a gamechanging experience in its own way!!).

But in the meantime I've been going through Upton's book first thing in the morning, a few chapters at a time. Every little bit helps!

The Ciardi version is in trade paperback and so isn't very expensive relatively speaking, i.e. if online reading becomes too annoying! (I am old fashioned that way).

julie said...

Yeah, I'm not overly fond of online reading. It's useful at the moment, though - so far, the baby hasn't been able to put his mouth on the computer...

ge said...

funny ~I hadnt seen Ciardi's name in decades
He was the only college prof ever mentioned in our youth by my Mom who took his class at a kansas city college
He was a jealous kerouac-basher which makes him a natch enemy to me

Mizz E said...

From Canto XXVIII:

Behind us, warden of our mangled horde,
the devil who butchers us and sends us marching
waits to renew our wounds with his long sword

julie said...

ge - oh, that's disappointing. I guess with so many translations, they probably all have their drawbacks...