Education in the Darkness of God

» Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Blog, Literature | Comments Off on Education in the Darkness of God

Education in the Darkness of God

The first steps of Dante’s education are taken into Hell. Beset in a wood as mirky as the hobbit’s, and off the “path of truth,” he finally sees the good way outside the forest, upwards to the light. But this way up the mountain is blocked by the leopard, lion, and she-wolf. The beasts are his sins. He must be guided “down another road,” because he cannot defeat these animals. He must be taken down into greater darkness and savagery. He must learn about his own “pity”full heart, and his lust, pride, and greed, and this by seeing others suffering justice and torment in the pits of Hell. He must see how far Reason can guide him, past violence, gluttony, or “futile wranglers.” And he must see where Reason cannot guide him, through the demon gates of Dis, where help only comes from an arch-angel walking dry across hell-waters and scattering devils. Only then can the pilgrim’s (our) descent continue into the deep, past the worst of traitors of God and man, and out the other side of the earth. Here the descent is suddenly shown to be an ascent to the mountain first seen and blocked by the beasts. We remember a wise one’s words: “Descend that you may ascend.” We emerge upward toward the stars and continue the journey.

Let the dark come upon you

which shall be the darkness of God. – T.S. Eliot

(see Dante’s Divine Comedy, Vol. 1: Inferno, Peter Leithart’s Ascent to Love, ch. 3, and Augustine’s Confessions, IV, xii)