I find myself slightly reluctant to leave the Purgatorio, where I feel as though I understand the world, to travel on to Paradiso where the spheres are both over my head and over Dante’s. Before, events made sense in the Inferno and Purgatorio, probably since they are closer to human experience, but now the journey is to Paradiso, beyond human existence and crossing the threshold of the divine, where we can’t really be expected to comprehend the decisions and justice of the divine, even when they are explained, still takes some time to grapple with and digest. Even when Beatrice explains all to Dante and he accepts it, I still have trouble with her explanations. This is probably just my own problem with being told about religious ‘truth’ and being condescended to by people who believe they know this ‘truth.’ Perhaps I just don’t respect authority enough, because that is what she is, Dante’s figure of Divine Love that holds the ‘truth,’ she is his religious authority.
Back to Purgatorio. I understand the human struggle. I understand how Purgatorio stands for humans striving everyday to improve themselves, whether spiritually or otherwise. When Professor Anderson put the poem up in class, I could see the entire Comedy in there as well as just Purgatorio. The load gets lighter as the speaker travels, she continues on her way to improve her life, to save it. Her journey is the human journey through improving her life, as the Purgatorio is also a journey of learning and improvement. There is nothing really so abstract in the allegory of Purgatorio. The abstract nature of Paradiso essentially blows my mind. I suppose when Dante says that only some people can follow him on this part of the journey that have eaten of the bread of the angels, meaning that they have also experienced the faith that he is experiencing, that this might exclude me. As Professor Anderson discussed with us in class, Dante continually says that he can’t really describe what is happening, since he is experiencing faith and divine love and so can’t really translate the experience into words for the rest of us. As Beatrice is constantly telling him, how he sees Heaven is also not really how it is, since his mortal mind can’t possibly grasp what Heaven really is, so they have nicely created the hierarchical illusion that he and Beatrice travel through specifically for him. The hierarchy is all so he can understand, is what I pulled out of the discussion. Dante’s mind likes hierarchies and order, so Heaven is ordered for his understanding, even though everybody truly is equal and all together in the Empyrean. That I understood more. Perhaps if I was up touring Heaven and Beatrice was taking me around, she’d throw everybody together at a big table with a huge dinner and show how well they all get along, laughing and telling stories, and then I’d understand how Heaven works since I like to think of it as a big uniting experience where everybody finally comes together. Dante would probably look at how Heaven was presented to me and scratch his head. But then I would remind him that it’s a personal experience of faith and God’s love, which can’t be truly described to anyone else, just as Dante tells us.