In the Heaven of Knowing: Dante’s Paradiso

A really interesting article that casts Dante’s Divine Comedy as a work on the art of education. From the article:

“For we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2

The focus of my talk this evening is the Paradiso, the culminating and most beautiful part of Dante’s Comedy. The Paradiso has much to tell us about happiness, the perfection of the intellect, the nature of true freedom, the flourishing of community, the role of love in education, and the profound connection that the good and the true have to beauty.

The Comedy is one of the greatest works on education. It is the story of Dante’s awakening to the highest and deepest things. The story begins in a dark wood and ends with a vision of God. Dante makes a journey to the three regions of the spiritual world: Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Each region is defined in terms of the intellect, the part of us that most reveals what it means to be made in God’s image. Hell is the place of those “who have lost the good of intellect” (Inf. 3.18). They have distorted God’s image beyond repair. Purgatory is the mountain “where reason searches us” (Purg. 3.3).[1] It is the place where repentant souls—through purifying torment, reflection, and prayer—undo the distortions of sin. In Paradise souls rejoice in the intellectual vision of God. They see with their most God-like part the Original whose image they are.

Dante’s poem has special relevance for those who have devoted their lives to teaching. Throughout the poem Dante stresses the importance of teachers and guides. Indeed, the Comedy may be regarded as an extended song of gratitude on Dante’s part—a tribute to all his guides and to guidance itself as the work of grace. The poem invites us to commemorate those who have played a guiding role in our own lives: our teachers, friends, and family members, and in addition the authors, poets, philosophers, founders, and heroes who hold a special place in our hearts and nourish us with their wisdom, their beauty, and their example. Dante gives these personal guides theological meaning. As St. Augustine knew better than anyone, grace—the central theme of his Confessions—does not work in a merely general way. It works at particular times in particular ways through particular people and events. This is the miraculous particularity that Dante too confesses.

 

A really amazing read. Follow the link to finish the piece. 

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