Read Next

The Nature of Religion

Hello Mr. Marshall!

I have been a reader of your blog for quite a while now, and I decided it's time to try to connect with you. I am very impressed by the quality of your blog posts and I enjoy reading them daily. And I am aware that you don't have much time for reading emails lately (which is good, people reach out to you and they should reach out. It is great that you offer yourself like this!), so I'll try to keep my first email brief.

I am starting to grow an interest in existentialism, religious and spiritual philosophy. Since I'm just starting this field I would like to start off with the right material, so I was wondering if you could recommend me some books or other material on these subjects?

Of course I completely understand if you don't have time for it, or if this email flies right into the trash folder - some things are not meant to be.

In any case, I wish you kind regards. S

Reality Versus Fictionalization

On Author's Den

Dante’s Inferno is far from empirical proof of a hell or eternal damnation in the afterlife. The work ought to be accepted as a piece of poetry and fiction, as there is no evidence that Dante Alighieri traversed the depths of the underworld. Although, the intense depictions of hell and the sufferings and tortures Dante writes of are so “realistic-feeling” one wonders if the man had visions of what the underworld would be like.

The damned of the Inferno are tossed in heavy winds, eaten, boiled, burned, frozen, etc. throughout the nine circles of Dante’s masterpiece. Such misery and utter tribulations are “painted” and illustrated to the point of visceral exhaustion as seen in the verse. Yet, the artistry in the poetry goes without mention. From the fourth circle, Dante writes, “Fixed in the slime, they say, ‘Sullen were we in the sweet air that by the Sun is gladdened, bearing within ourselves the sluggish fume; now we are sullen in the black mire.’ This hymn they gurgle in their throats, for they cannot speak with entire words.” One can see in this short excerpt what I am referring to in terms of the graphic and replete nature of the words Dante has chosen.

What is more, Dante was also a political figure who had many enemies whom he makes no mistakes with as to how he treated them in his writing. So hated were they to he, Dante neatly positioned his political foes in his version of hell so as to have vindicated himself. Was this poetic justice? I suppose it matters as to which side you were on back then. However, the point of this post is not to get into the politics of Dante’s time. The point, rather, is to touch upon how Dante’s poetry has different dimensions, one of which is in embodying what he believed is ultimate justice, and another of which is what he was motivated by here on earth as far as his political intrigues and or objectives.

The scientific and atheistic minded will simply view Dante’s writing as a mere work of fiction. The theocratic and religious minded, in the Judeo-Christian sense, may view the Inferno as inextricably tied into the teachings in their faiths. Whatever is one’s persuasion or conviction, however, one can still appreciate Dante’s writing for what it ultimately is. One can enter into the mindset of the medieval world through Dante, and into the mind of Dante himself, who is a “citizen of his times.” And as some artists believe, the purpose of art is to not just capture the soul and imagination of the viewer, it is to draw the viewer into the mind of the artist.

Rendering New Theme...