The Divine Comedy and the Human Experience

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The Divine Comedy: The Depth of Human Experience

Religious, structured, and orderly. Although this book is religious through and through, it is also very earthly. You seem to never leave the earth. In fact, there seems to be no difference between earth and the heavenly sphere.

It is a solid world, no distinction between mind and matter, everything is touchable. The physical expresses the spiritual, the spirit of God is physical and pervades the physical universe--it's all one place. There is no heaven and hell, it is just all here. For this reason, this book answers all of those questions you had as a kid in Sunday school and nobody could give you a satisfying answer, for instance, where do people go when they die, what does hell look like, what does heaven look like, what is purgatory, and how does one get from purgatory to heaven. Sunday school teachers should just read Dante to the kids--it is the end-all encyclopedia of heaven, hell, and purgatory.

The symbolism of the beginning is nice, that he is in a forest being chased by various animals. I can imagine that each of the animals represents some kind of vice and that the part in the woods symbolizes the sinful, confused life full of temptations. It was interesting that Virgil was his guide. I was expecting a more religious character, for instance, Moses--but it later turned out that he was sitting in hell himself! That was an eye-opener. It makes you realize the difference between the old and the new testaments. Even Noah was in hell.(!) But at least they weren't very deep in hell.

"All hope abandon ye who enter here."

I liked how Hell is an interactive place for Dante. He isn't afraid to "touch the merchandise."

Then seizing on his hinder scalp, I cried:
"Name thee, or not a hair shall tarry here."

He is human, he takes part and overreacts. And he keeps fainting. It's not a Universal Studios ride through hell, but you can actually grab ahold of the props, talk to old friends and acquaintences, and the guide will patiently wait for you when you faint.

Another aspect of hell that surprised me was that the devil was standing on a frozen lake. This isn't the picture of Larson's Far Side hell scenes, nor is the devil the cool, rebellious bad boy of Milton's Paradise Lost.
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