Friday, 13 April 2007

Dante and Beatrice

Dante completed La Vita Nuova (1294) when he was 29 years old. Yet he felt that his love sonnets still did not do justice to honor the beauty and blessedness of his dear Beatrice. So he vowed to write a poem to honor his beloved that has never been written of any woman. Dante fulfilled this promise 27 years later just before his death, when he finished La Commedia (1321)— the greatest love poem about the soul's ascent from Inferno to Purgatory to Paradise. What's insightful about this journey is that the poet Virgil took Dante only up to the heights of Mount Purgatory. From that point onward, only Beatrice could guide Dante to Paradise. Here Dante would learn about universal gravitation as he flies through the heavenly spheres, sharing with us his celestial vision, and concluding Paradiso with “ by Love that moves the sun, the moon, and the other stars.” I find it fascinating that Goethe echoed Dante's vision with “Eternal Feminine, leads us above” when he concluded his epic drama Faust just before his death (1832). Lao Tzu also advises us “to cling to the feminine” in the Tao Te Ching XXVIII (6th century B.C.). Perhaps the male principle (yang or animus) as represented by Virgil or logic could take our intellect only so far, and we need to harness the feminine principle (yin or anima) as represented by Beatrice or intuition to penetrate the realm beyond space-time so we could experience the transcendence and blessedness of paradise.

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