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The Unknown Dante and His Mystical Esotericism (2)

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In different traditions we have descriptions of travels outside the borders of the earth. Undoubtedly, if Dante accepts Virgil as his guide during the first two parts of his journey, the reason is in Song VI of the Aeneid; but we must note that in Virgil we have not only a rich poetic imagination, but also an indisputable knowledge of initiative.

Part 2 of 2 (Read PART 1 HERE)

Even in the Middle Ages there was a profanation and deformation of the legacy of the great ancient author, all the way to his connection with witchcraft. On the other hand, it is not difficult to find out who Virgil’s ancestors were among the ancient Greeks, recalling Odysseus ‘journey to the Cimmerian lands and Orpheus’ descent to Hell. But isn’t this just a series of subsequent literary imitations? The truth is that it has a direct connection with the ancient mysteries and this same reality is reflected in the various literary or legendary works: the golden willow, which Aeneas, led by Sybil, goes to cut down in the forest (the same “selva selvaggia” where Dante situates the beginning of his poem), is that willow carried by the initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries and reminiscent of the acacia of modern Freemasonry, in which is a “symbol of resurrection and immortality.” Even in Christianity we can find traces of such symbolism: with the Feast of the Willow (the Latin name of this holiday is Dominica in Palmis; the palm and the willow are not the same thing, but the palm as a symbol of martyrs has the same meaning as described in this case . The popular name of this holiday is “Palm Sunday” – “Easter”, which unequivocally indicates its connection with the resurrection) in most Christian denominations begins the holy (great) week, which commemorates the death of Christ and His descent into Hell, followed by from the resurrection, after which comes His glorious ascension. It is on Holy Monday that Dante’s story begins, after searching for the mysterious willow and getting lost, he finds Virgil and begins his journey through the worlds, which ends on Easter Sunday, ie until the resurrection.

Death and descent into Hell on the one hand, resurrection and ascension to Heaven on the other, are two opposite and complementary phases, the first of which is preparatory to the second and which, in addition to all traditional doctrines, we find in the description of the Great Work. hermeticism. We also find it in Islam, which tells us the episode with the “night journey” (“isra”) of Muhammad, containing descent into the infernal regions and ascension in the various levels in paradise or heavenly realms. Certain passages in this “night journey” and Dante’s poem have striking similarities. Don Miguel Asin Palasios (La Escatologia musulmana en la Divina Comedia, Madrid, 1919; also cf. Blochet, Les sources orientales de “La Divine Comedie”, Paris, 1901) reveals the numerous parallel places in the plot and in the form between “The Divine Comedy” and “Kitab al-Isra” (“Book of the Night Journey”) and “Futuhat al-Makkiya” (“Revelations from Mecca”) – works written by Mohiddin ibn Arabi eighty years earlier. Many researchers make analogies between Dante’s poem and the literature of other countries.

“In an adaptation of the Muslim legend, a wolf and a lion block the way of the worshiper, as the panther, the lion and the lioness meet and return from the path of Dante … Virgil is sent to Dante and Gabriel (Gabriel) to Muhammad from Heaven; during the journey, they will satisfy the curiosity of the devotee.Hell is announced in both cases with similar signs: a fierce storm, a fiery furnace … The architecture of Dante’s Hell is built on that of Muslim Hell: both are gigantic, formed by a series of floors, steps, or twisted steps that gradually descend to the bottom of the earth; each of them accepts a certain category of sinners, whose guilt and punishment are aggravated by each lower level. Each floor, in turn, is divided into sublevels according to the different characteristics of sinners .; finally, the two Hells are situated below the city of Jerusalem … In order to purify himself on the way out of Hell and to ascend to Heaven, Dante undergoes a triple shower. Such a triple shower purifies the souls in the Muslim legend: before entering Paradise, they are immersed in the waters of the three rivers that irrigate the garden of Abraham …

The architecture of the celestial spheres through which the ascension takes place are identical in the two legends; in the nine heavens are located the blessed souls, who in the quay eventually gather in the Empire or the last sphere … Just as Beatrice disappears before St. Bernard to lead Dante in the final stages, so Gabriel abandons Muhammad near the throne of God, where he is led by a light-emitting garland … The final apotheosis of both ascensions is the same: the two travelers , ascended to the presence of God, describe God as an intense light, surrounded by nine concentric circles, formed by endless rows of angelic spirits sending radiant rays; the closest circle is that of the cherubim; each circle completely envelops its inner, and the nine are around the divine center … The infernal stages, the astronomical heavens, the circles of the mystical rose, the angelic choirs around the abode of divine light, the three circles – a symbol of the trinity of faces, the Florentine poet borrowed word for word from Mohiddin ibn Arabi. “” (A. Cabaton, La Divine Comedie “et l’Islam, -La Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, P., 1920, where the work of M. Palacios is summarized).

Such coincidences in precise detail lead us to conclude that Dante was indeed largely inspired by Mohiddin’s writings, but how did they arrive at him? A possible mediator could be Bruneto Latini, who resided in Spain, but this is an unsatisfactory hypothesis. Mohiddin was born in Murcia, whence his nickname El-Andalusi, but did not spend his life in Spain, but died in Damascus; his followers traveled throughout the Islamic world, but mostly in Syria and Egypt; in principle, his works were not publicly available, and some of them were not known at all. In fact, al-Arabi is not just a “poet-mystic,” because for Islamic mysticism he is known as Ash-Sheikh al-Akbar, i. the greatest of the spiritual Masters, Teacher par excellence, whose doctrine is essentially metaphysical, due to which the main initiating Islamic orders, incl. the most developed and closed, originate from it. These organizations in the 13th century (in the era of Mohiddin himself) were in contact with the Knights and probably along this line was the exchange of ideas. If Dante received information about al-Arabi and his writings in a “profane” way, why does he not mention among the esoteric Islamic philosophers (Hell, 4, 143-144) personalities such as Averoes and Avicenna?

Western contemporary critics view the legend of Muhammad’s “night journey” as not necessarily Arabic and Muslim, but as originated in Persia, as a similar narrative is found in a Mazdeist book, Arda Viraf Nameh (Livre d. ‘Arda Viraf’ by MA Barthelemy, 1887). Others send it even further, to India, where we do find many different symbolic descriptions of a hierarchically structured ensemble of organization of Heaven and Hell, from which they conclude that Dante was under direct Indian influence, e.g. For the Indian type of Lucifer in Dante (Angelo de Gubernatis, Dante e l’India, – le Giornale della Societa asiatica italiana, vol. III, 1889, pp. 3-19). Dante’s exposition is in line with Hindu theories of worlds and cosmic cycles, but it does not show the similarity in form found in comparison with the work of al-Arabi.

Like Christianity in its historical development, Islam has undergone a fundamental internal stratification – as early as the 7th century it split into two main currents – Sunni and Shiite Islam. Numerous religious orders were formed. “Pre-Islamic beliefs infiltrated the practices of these orders – as a result, their followers professed an all-encompassing pantheism and preached that the divine essence manifests itself everywhere in nature, and man is one of the divine manifestations.” (cf. Tsveta Raichevska, “Amulet associated with the Order of Bektashi in Bulgaria”, Bulletin of the National Museum of History – Sofia, Volume XVII, 2006, pp. 41-44). As Mozeiko writes, the central meaning of Dante’s poetics is the figure of Beatrice (beatrice – in Italian beatrice; in “New Life” passers-by at first sight noticed her divine beauty and dignity: “and not knowing what to say, – called her Beatrice “), whose real prototype is the daughter of Falco Portinari, who was the wife of banker Simone de’Bardi, cousin of Boccaccio’s stepmother. In fact, Beatrice’s beauty is understood by Dante as beauty in the substantial sense of the word, and belonging to it means moral perfection and spiritual flight.

Therefore, characterizing Beatrice’s beauty, Dante interprets it as an impulse to the divine ascension, axiologically equivalent to the revelation: “Let them reward the Creator with thanks // All who share in her ways.” This is also reflected in the color symbolism of Dante’s poetics: during the first meeting, Beatrice, a nine-year-old girl, is dressed in purple-red – the color of the coming passion; at the second meeting Beatrice is in the prime of her feminine beauty and wears dazzling white clothes – a symbol of innocence and purity (“New Life”); at the time of the third, final meeting, Beatrice, the queen of the world, stands before Dante in shining fiery robes (“Divine Comedy”), which within the ascending to the Neoplatonists Christian symbolism of light means wisdom, glory of God and perfection. A significant symbol in Dante is the personification of the “compassionate lady”, who is “the most worthy daughter of the Lord of the Universe, whom Pythagoras called Philosophy.” It is the “Madonna of Philosophy” that inspired the poet’s spiritual and intellectual pursuits, and in this sense “Madonna Beatrice” and “Madonna of Philosophy” turned out to be semantically equivalent.

Notes:

“Dante Alighieri (Dante Alighieri), 1265-1321, Italian poet of European and world scale, thinker and politician of the late Middle Ages, humanist, founder of the Italian literary language. Dante wrote the grandiose philosophical poem” in fact it is an overview of all previous cultural traditions, the treatise “Feast” – the first precedent of scientific prose in Italian and the first pre-Renaissance work with an educational focus, devoted to the issues of physics, astronomy, ethics; the treatise “On Folk Eloquence”, written in Latin and dealing with the poetics and rhetoric of the Romance languages ​​(mainly Italian and Provençal); the socio-philosophical treatise “Monarchy”, representing a political-utopian model of social order; the lyrical poetic-prose work “New Life”; numerous letters, canzones, sextines, ballads, eclogues and sonnets, which are distinguished by exquisite stanzas. Born in Florence to the Roman family of the Elisha, who participated in the founding of Florence; great-grandson of Cachagvido, participant in the Crusades of Conrad III, grandson of the famous Guelph Belinchone. Student of Brunetto Latini, lawyer, writer and translator of Aristotle, Virgil, Ovid, Caesar, Juvenal. He belonged to the party of the White Guelphs and from 1295 actively participated in the political life of Florence, and from 1296 he was elected one of the six savas (sages) and a member of the Council of the Hundred (the main financial body of the republic), and from 1300 became one of the seven priors of Florence until the fall of the White Signoria in January 1302, when he was accused of abuse of power and convicted of other White leaders. of exile. In 1315 he was again sentenced to death by the seigneur of Florence together with his sons. He died in Ravenna, which refused to return his ashes to his native Florence even after the unification of Italy in the 19th century. ” (M.A. Mozheiko, Dante Alighieri, – ENCYCLOPEDIA HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY, Compiled and chief scientific editor A. A. Gritsanov, Book House, Moscow, 2002).

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Petar Gramatikov

Dr. Petar Gramatikov is the Editor in Chief and Director of The European Times. He is a member of the Union of Bulgarian Reporters. Dr. Gramatikov has more than 20 years of Academic experience in different institutions for higher education in Bulgaria. He also examined lectures, related to theoretical problems involved in the application of international law in religious law where a special focus has been given to the legal framework of New Religious Movements, freedom of religion and self-determination, and State-Church relations for plural-ethnic states. In addition to his professional and academic experience, Dr. Gramatikov has more than 10 years Media experience where he hold a positions as Editor of a tourism quarterly periodical “Club Orpheus” magazine – “ORPHEUS CLUB Wellness” PLC, Plovdiv; Consultant and author of religious lectures for the specialized rubric for deaf people at the Bulgarian National Television and has been Accredited as a journalist from “Help the Needy” Public Newspaper at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

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