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Michael Spaulding

Dante: Final Paper Page 1

Professor Baker

One third, more or less, of all the sorrow that the person I think I am must endure is unavoidable. It is the sorrow inherent in the human condition, the price we must pay for being sentient and self-conscious organisms, aspirants to liberation, but subject to the laws of nature and under orders to keep on marching, through irreversible time, through a world wholly indifferent to our well-being, toward decrepitude and the certainty of death. The remaining two thirds of all sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary (Huxley 85). -Aldous Huxley, Island

The scapegoat is always easier to blame than taking responsibility upon ones self. I once heard a sermon by Pastor Mark Balmer on free will. The sermon paralleled what Dante notes through the words of Marco Lombard: that many Christians continue to assign to heaven every cause, as if it were the necessary source of every motion (Purg.XVI.67-9). These are the Christians who fail to acknowledge free will which without, there would be no equity in joy for doing good, in grief for evil (Purg.XVI.70-2). Free will is essential because it assigns substance to our choiceschoices become a valid way to evaluate a man. So why would God grant mankind the ability to choose between good and evil? Isaiah 55:8 says: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. The Lord is a being of eternal love, but we are not. This is because God wants our wholehearted trust (Balmer). John R. Buri, Ph.D. believes Trust is an essential part of love. In fact, love without trust is not love at all (Buri). So, once we recognize that if we were just programmed to serve God, our service would not be from our heart (Balmer), we can fully realize the importance of [punishment] and reward (Purg.353n70-2). Free will is both a prerequisite and a catalyst for love. But what is the purpose of Dantes elaboration on the importance of free will? First, Dante wants the reader to understand that a malevolent (Purg.XVI.104) world, stripped

Michael Spaulding

Dante: Final Paper Page 2

Professor Baker

utterly of every virtue (Purg.XVI.58-9) is clearly not caused by celestial forcesthey do not corrupt (Purg.XVI.104-5). Thus, we humans are to blame. Primarily, in Canto XVI, he is addressing the two factors acting outside the heavens sway (Purg.XVI.81) that cause motion in the world: 1) mans simple, unaware soul (Purg.XVI.88) which turns willingly to things that bring delight (Purg.XVI.90); and, 2) a ruler (Purg.XVI.95) to guide or rein (Purg.XVI.93) by application of existing laws (Purg.XVI.97). So we are presented with a twofold blame upon mankind, but not upon celestial beings, for the wrong-doings on earth. Both are due to misrule: the misrule of ones self and the misrule of a ruler. The misrule of ones self in Inferno, also two-fold, is envisioned as a disobedience to the first and great commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matthew 22:37-8), and also a disobedience to Dantes personal code of Nicomachean ethics. By judging those he places in Inferno using both Christian law and Nicomachean ethics, Dante is able to project his priorities to the reader: he considers free will nearly as important as Christian faith. A good example of this is the Knights of St. Mary (Jovial Friars) that Dante encounters in the hypocrites pouch of the eighth circle of Inferno. While the men Loderingo degli Andal and Catalano di Guido are part of an organization charged with the defense of Catholic faith and ecclesiastical freedom (Crawford), they exercised their free will and increasingly neglected their duty in favor of their own pleasure (Purg.377n103-8). So although they were part of the church and were well aware of Christianity, their own personal misrule corrupted them. Their personal misrule ended up causing greater violence instead of establish[ing] peace (Purg.377n103-8). While Inferno is more focused on judging those not seeking any good, or spiritual love, Purgatorio is really a narration on the misrule of ones self insomuch that it is a visualization of

Michael Spaulding

Dante: Final Paper Page 3

Professor Baker

love that seeks the good distortedly (Purg.XVII.126). This is possible due to mental lovea love that can choose its object, which can only be done by creatures possessing a mind, soul, [and] will (animo), namely, men and angels (Purg.357n92-6). Dantes belief in free will is supported in the actions of Lucifers dissension (Isaiah 14:13-5), mankinds fall from grace (Genesis 3:6-7), and all of the actions throughout Inferno and Purgatorio that place individuals in a state of punishment or penitence. Seeking love distortedly is different, however, from seeking evil, and that is what divides Purgatorio from Inferno. The three sins Virgil explains to Dante regarding love that seeks the good distortedly are pride, envy, and wrath. The example Dante uses to illustrate how a man of pride can, using free will, get into Purgatory is probably best demonstrated through the actions of Provenzan Salvani, a man who thought his grip could master all Siena (Purg.XI.123). However, when he was living in his greatest glory, then in his own free will he set aside all shame (Purg.XI.133-6) and humblyand successfully begged the money of the Sienese as ransom for the release of [his] friend (Purg.343n136-8). And so it happens in each terrace that a man can redeem his sinful nature by performing an act that opposes his sinful nature (e.g., humility for pride, joy for envy, meekness for wrath, etc.), but this can only happen by focusing ones free willthe same will that they used to sin must be used to atone. By now, it is easy to see that Dantes belief in free will is not only important, but essential, for him to believe in Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell as posthumous destinations. Although we are driven by our natural love, our fault and yet our strength lies in our mental lovethat which we must consciously focus on good and can gain merit from doing so. This is best embodied in Adams dilemma: Adam was created into the world with free willthe free will to love, to choose, and to disobeywhich is why God had to give him commandments. The

Michael Spaulding

Dante: Final Paper Page 4

Professor Baker

commandments are the just rule that Dante knows man must have looming over him to guide or rein (Purg.XVI.93) mans mental love less he fall into temptation (1 Timothy 6:9), which is exactly what happened. Additionally, this produces the idea of self-redemption, or the idea that our actions can actually redeem ourselves from our past wrongs which is important because it produces hope, for we are saved by hope (Romans 8:24). But there are always larger forces at work. We can try our best, but if our leaders manipulate the rules and teach blindly, then how can the follower determine if they are even on the right path? The misrule of a leader is political and defined in Purgatorio. We see the metaphor of a shepherd who precedes his flock (Purg.XVI.98), i.e., Pope Boniface VIII (Purg.354n98-9), who may allegorically chew the cud of the Scriptures and Gods law, but he does not recognize the need for cloven hooves, the separation or cleft between spiritual and temporal powers (Purg.354n98-9). But how can Dante put a pope in hell? Why does Boniface end up in Inferno? Matthew 18:6 says: But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. So, how does Bonifaces consolidation of church and state (i.e., practically anointing himself as temporal and spiritual emperor) affect free will and how does this all harm Gods children? Dantes belief is that when the sword has joined the shepherds crook; the two together must of necessity result in evil (Purg.XVI.109-11). In a pamphlet titled Monarchia, Dante made the argument that the Papacy and the Empire were two suns, notas some Guelphs contendeda sun and a moon; each derived its own light directly from God and was destined to illuminate all of humanity (Inf.327-8). When you remove the duality of spiritual and temporal, and the Church allows itself to be economically or politically interested, it is capable of being corrupted (Purg.354n106-9) and motivations become

Michael Spaulding

Dante: Final Paper Page 5

Professor Baker

convoluted; And thus the people, who can see their guide snatch only at that good for which they feel some greed and seek no further (Purg.XVI.100-2). And so how can a follower distinguish whether their actions are guiding them toward eternal happiness or earthly happiness (Inf.328)? When this becomes the case, people cannot define what they are pursuing since they can only eat what they are servedand they fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition (1 Timothy 6:9). One must be aware of the secular world and all of its sciences and philosophies, and simultaneously be aware of the spiritual world and all that it implies in order to for a belief in Christianity to stem from free will. If one has no options, (secular vs. spiritual) then a belief is forcibly manifested from being cornered by a lack of options, not from free will. And that is how Bonifaces power hungry, greed-motivated consolidation hurt Gods little onesby removing their choice to love and attempting to blanket free will with ignorance. And so Dante condemns Boniface to a contrapasso of drowning in a baptismal-like basin with the soles of his feet plunged into severe pain by eternal flames burning the bottoms of his feet (Inf.XIX.53). Toward the same end as putting a Pope into hell, Dante puts a pagan ruler into Paradiso: The Roman Emperor Trajan (Par.XX.45), in the realm of Jupiter, or the sphere of just rulers (Dantesworld); this same end is to trumpet the importance of a just ruler. By ensuring justice is a strong and binding force it gives people the freedom to pursue their own choicesthus, a just ruler mediates an environment in which free will can thrive. Now armed with understanding and awareness of our own responsibilities as creatures that are blessed with free will, it becomes easier to see why divine institutions of punishment and reward can, and must, exist (i.e., Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso). This understanding of free will and how it applies to misrule, as Dante would explain it, also examines the concepts of a

Michael Spaulding

Dante: Final Paper Page 6

Professor Baker

transparent government, and freedom of thought and speech. Without being able to fully consider all options available we cannot honestly say that we have chosen the best one, but instead have chosen from what was available. Thus, it falls upon a leading body, the Church and the government, to ensure a fair and just spread of knowledge so that our free will is the determining factor of what we choose to love. If God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son (John 3:16) then he deserves to be loved as truly in return. Complementary, we also deserve to be punished when we strayin fact, Virgil says it himself: love is the seed in you of every virtue and all acts deserving punishment (Purg.XVII.104-5). And so our Father is righteous in his love and his punishment. But, it is up to us to understand his love so we can attempt to grow towards him in an honest and self-aware way.

Michael Spaulding

Dante: Final Paper Page 7

Professor Baker

Works Cited Alighieri, Dante, and Allen Mandelbaum. Inferno. New York: Bantam Classics, 1982. Print. Alighieri, Dante, and Allen Mandelbaum. Purgatorio. New York: BantamDell, 2004. Print. Alighieri, Dante, and Allen Mandelbaum. Paradiso. New York. BantamDell, 2004. Print. Balmer, Mark. Message #6072; Daily Devotional #6 Dont Settle for Second Best. August 21, 2011. <http://www.calvaryccm.com/resources/dailydevotions/08-2111/Don_t_Settle_for_Second_Best.aspx> Buri, John, Ph.D.. Love Without Trust Is Not Love At All. Love Bytes: Insight on Our Deepest Desire. Psychology Today. May 17, 2011. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-bytes/201105/love-withouttrust-is-not-love-all> Crawford, Paul F, Ph.D.. "The Military Orders in Italy." Medieval Italy: an encyclopedia, ed. Christopher Kleinhenz et al. 2004, pp. 720-22. 2004. DantesWorld. Dantes Paradiso Jupiter. Dantes World. The University of Texas at Austin. Accessed 12 April 2012. <http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/paradiso/06jupiter.html> Huxley, Aldous. Island. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2010. 85. Print.