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The Divine Comedy: Paradiso (Paradise)

#121: June - Aug. 2013 (Fiction)
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Chris OConnor

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The Divine Comedy: Paradiso (Paradise)

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The Divine Comedy: Paradiso (Paradise)
By DANTE ALIGHIERI
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Robert Tulip

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Re: The Divine Comedy: Paradiso (Paradise)

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Dante Beatrice.gif
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Here is a photo that makes me think of Dante and Beatrice.

The Paradise is really the best book of The Divine Comedy.

The astronomical geocentric framework of the ascent through the crystal spheres of the planetary heavens is a crowning flower of the classical cosmology. Although wrong, it is beautiful and poetic.
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Re: The Divine Comedy: Paradiso (Paradise)

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Paradise 1 The glory of Him, who moves all things, penetrates the universe, and glows in one region more, in another less. I have been in that Heaven that knows his light most, and have seen things, which whoever descends from there has neither power, nor knowledge, to relate: because as our intellect draws near to its desire, it reaches such depths that memory cannot go back along the track. Nevertheless, whatever, of the sacred regions, I had power to treasure in my mind, will now be the subject of my labour. O good Apollo, for the final effort, make me such a vessel of your genius.
The Divine Comedy is a precursor of modern science fiction. The idea of journeying to all the planets, as presented in this vision of heaven, is taken up by my favourite science fiction writer when I was a kid, Hugh Walters, with books such as Voyage to Venus and Nearly Neptune. Others who I think were influenced by Dante’s fantasy of the underworld include Lewis Carroll, in Alice in Wonderland, and Jules Verne, in Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Dante himself is influenced by Homer, with Ulysses’ visit to hell, and by the Christian tradition of the harrowing of hell, the fable in which Jesus goes to hell between his death and resurrection at Easter, which of course coincidentally also takes place at Easter, like Dante’s infernal journey.

Dante tells us that his description of the perfection of Paradise will seek to convey the hidden mysteries of heavenly enlightenment and inspiration. After his imaginary voyage to hell and purgatory, he now builds a fantasy of celestial perfection, contrasting the eternal crystal spheres of the planets against the corruption and ignorance of life on earth, and imagining the reality of life after death.

This vision of the contrast between the ‘world of seeming’ and the ‘world of being’ is central to philosophy since Plato. The eternal unchanging stability of the superlunary realm of the planets is imagined to have a complete separation from the temporal changing uncertainty of the sublunary realm of life on earth.

Only with Newton did the real cosmic reconciliation occur, with the recognition that the same physical laws govern earth and the heavens. It is intriguing that Newton saw his discovery of the law of gravity in religious terms, as validating the old idea from the Emerald Tablet of Thoth of ‘as above so below’, the hermetic sense that everything is connected because everything stands within the same universal laws.

A further irony is that the shift to a relativistic physics has somehow reinstated the old Ptolemaic distinction between the superlunary and the sublunary. Newtonian mechanics is perfectly good for explaining motion of bodies on earth, but breaks down when we move to the superlunary realm of explaining the motion of galaxies, where the warping of space by gravity has to be taken into account.
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Re: The Divine Comedy: Paradiso (Paradise)

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Dante via Kline wrote:Paradiso Canto I:37-72. At the equinox, at sunrise, the celestial circles of the Ecliptic, and the Equinoctial and Equatorial colures, cross the celestial circle of the Horizon at the same point. Each of the three then forms a cross with the Horizon. Allegorically, God most influences the world through the four Cardinal virtues (Temperance, Fortitude, Justice, and Prudence) when they are joined to form the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity). The happiest constellation is Aries, the sign in which the Sun was at the Creation.
The word ‘colure’ was new to me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colure says the colures are two circles drawn in the sky, joining the celestial poles, one through the equinox points (now in Virgo and Pisces), and the other through the solstice points (in Sagittarius and Gemini). Dante is sketching a picture of climbing through the heavens based on the cosmology of his day, the geocentric theory in which the planets and sun and moon and stars each form concentric crystal spheres around the earth. So in Dante’s model, the centre of the spherical universe is the navel of Satan in the icy core of the earth, as described in the Inferno, while the heavens are defined by the observed paths of the celestial bodies.

The circles described here, meeting together at the horizon at dawn on the equinox, shift against the stars by about one zodiac sign per 2000 years. This material points to an understanding of the visual cosmology of pre-modern times, showing how paradise was imagined in terms of the perfect motion seen in the sky. The equinox sunrise should be universally at 6am, because the equinox is defined as the date when day and night are equal. There is actually some variation, apart from the fact that time zones include an hour’s worth of variance. The equinoxes are the dates each year when the position of the sun in the heavens crosses the equator and moves between the north and south hemispheres. Dante is describing a special moment, when the four cardinal virtues meet the three theological virtues. He is setting up the allegorical intent of the Paradise, to illustrate moral virtue on the model of physically observable events.
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