Dante Alifhieri: The Spiritual Pilgrim

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“Yes, I wept, leaning against a spur of the rough crag, so that my escort said:
‘Are you still witless as the rest?

‘Here piety lives when pity is quite dead.
Who is more impious than one who thinks that God brings passion to His judgment?’”

In Dante’s thirty-fifth year he finds himself in a dark wood of confusion and misunderstanding, shrouded from the light of God. His vision is clouded by the temptations of worldliness so that he cannot see the true path towards Heaven. He emerges from the foggy woods and stumbles upon three symbolic “beasts of worldliness”: the Leopard, symbolizing malice and fraud, the Lion, a symbol of violence and ambition, and the She-wolf of incontinence. He is physically driven back into the mysterious wood by these beasts and is hindered in his spiritual journey by the sins they represent. To assist him on his journey, Virgil appears in Cantos I to act as Dante’s guide and source of human reason as they journey into the gates of Hell. Virgil is helping Dante escape the dark woods of error to achieve wisdom through unity with God.
To be witless is to be without reason or understanding. Rational thinkers use logic and reason to overcome emotions in order to achieve a higher comprehension of the will of God. Even in its highest form, human reason is self-limited. This is evidenced in Cantos IV, when Virgil and Dante are traveling through the first circle of Inferno: Limbo. The inhabitants of this middle ground were born before the time of Jesus, and therefore cannot be saved; they have neither sinned nor do they deserve to spend eternity in the light of Heaven. Within this first layer rests the Citadel of Human Reason, in which the masters of Pagan wisdom rest in a glow of philosophical awarene...

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...motion rather than reason can never be wise. Virgil has to remind Dante that God’s judgment is the zenith of wisdom and that he is working towards reaching that summit.
Each person alive must venture on his or her own personal journey through hell. The first step towards Enlightenment and oneness with God is the recognition of sin within the world. In order to accept God’s judgment or move towards Enlightenment, every person must play the role of the spiritual pilgrim. The path towards a better comprehension of the Self and a closer relationship to God is universal across all religions. Dante is on a quest to discover that God’s reason triumphs over all things. He must now venture on to Purgatory and Heaven to complete his spiritual journey. As Dante exits Hell on Easter Sunday, he walks out underneath the cover of stars, emblems of God’s brilliant reason.
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