The Journey Through Hell

When the Renaissance was being born, and the Dark Ages were giving way to a new era, society was becoming more cultured with music, and the arts and scholars were founding schools and universities to further the study of science and philosophy. It was during this time in the year 1265, Dante Alighieri was born in Florence Italy. He began writing the Divine Comedy in 1308 and completed it a year before his death in 1321. While the Divine Comedy is perhaps one of the greatest works of poetry in history, for me, it’s written with astonishing imagination and passion and poetic genius with his deep perceptions of human existence. No matter how many times you read it, it will speak to you wherever you are in life’s journey, and changes as you change.

“The path to paradise begins in hell.” ― Dante Alighieri

In the Divine Comedy, Dante travels through the depths of Hell and describes every corridor and level of fear, despair, anger, and every emotion that humans experience. It is indeed a journey that leaves a lasting impression on the imagination for all who reads it and continues to do so more than 700 years later.

In hell, Dante meets the Ancient Roman poet Virgil, his guide. According to Dante, Virgil is unable to ascend to heaven because he had worshiped pagan gods even though he led a virtuous life and thus, he avoids eternal damnation into the bowels of hell. Virgil teaches Dante that there is no way to avoid the hell that Dante perilously wants to avoid. And so, with all the courage he can muster, Dante crosses the threshold to Hell, a place that confines the world’s most offending souls that are devoured by Lucifer for all eternity.

As Dante reaches the precipice of Purgatory, he must say goodbye to Virgil and continue his journey with Beatrice, a woman Dante had known as a youngster who represented the feminine ideal in his mind. Here, Beatrice is the Muse and guides him through the celestial levels of heaven, which are based upon astrological alignments of the planets and stars that were studied earnestly during the Renaissance period. Each of the seven celestial bodies that comprised heaven represent a virtue or moral, with paradise awaiting Beatrice and Dante at the top of the celestial echelon.

“I found myself within a forest dark.” ― Dante Alighieri

Traveling through the realms of Hell was difficult for Dante, but this is how he intended it — it was an obstacle — one that requires struggle, self-reflection, and brutal personal honesty. It only begins to make sense in hindsight, in the light of experiences that unfold in purgatory and paradise. It also tells us that it is precisely through the terrifying experience of the dark forest that we navigate our return to innocence. The path that Dante leads us on is not easy, but it is necessary. We may try to avoid it, but this kind of soul-searching odyssey is the only way through to a rebirth when our world has fallen out from under us.

“The poets leave hell, and again behold the stars.” ― Dante Alighieri

So is Hell a destination or a state of mind? I happen to believe the latter. I think we manufacture our own Heaven and Hell and we have the choice which one we occupy. We become our thoughts, and if we dwell on something long enough, it will inevitably manifest itself. Everything mirrors itself into everything else. We are exposed to the reflections of our environment every day, and with all, we come in contact with. Ultimately, it is up to us how we respond to all of it.

We are thinking creatures, and in Dante’s time, free-thought was not encouraged and oftentimes, punishable by death. I am a spiritual person that does not subscribe to religious dogma and the rites and rituals of such. I do not believe in carrying the concepts of original sin, guilt, and shame because to me, to dwell on such things, only prevents me from experiencing the love and acceptance and freedom that the Divine offers each of us. I think Dante’s pilgrimage will help us deepen the understanding of ourselves and the reflections we choose to absorb. In the end, Dante ends up in Heaven after his journey through Hell, making this the ultimate story of hope.

“If the present world go astray, the cause is in you, in you it is to be sought.”
― Dante Alighieri

© Literary Remains

15 thoughts on “The Journey Through Hell”

  1. OK, so I’m taking a break from my break because this one intrigued me so much. It’s truly an interesting book.

    Sin, guilt and shame are real IMO. If they weren’t, everything the Nazis and other horrible people did would be OK. Now, whether or not they take the form of the traditional Judeo-Christian view, something more like Buddhist Karma or something else entirely could certainly be debated.

    Personally, if the devil is real, I imagine he’s more like a drill instructor, making us face the darkest aspects of ourselves so as to deal with them and grow as beings. Punishing people, that may more come down to karma. “Hell” could actually be Earth if you buy the Buddhist idea that we’re stuck here suffering through multiple lives until we grow as people.

    Even the TV show Lucifer kind of hit on the idea that our hells were of our own making. One guy found out that Lucifer was indeed THE Lucifer and was obsessed with ridding LA of him. Needless to say, Lucifer always out maneuvered him. When they finally had it out verbally, Lucifer told him that people created their own punishments in hell, and that he didn’t even hold them there, it was their own guilt that did and they actually could walk out any time they wanted if they’d just realize that.

    Lesson for the day there; make amends where you can, then let it go and be a better person.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your comment. It certainly is food for thought. My intention wasn’t to dismiss the things ‘bad’ people do (re: reference to Nazis) — I was attempting to imply that I choose not to accept those things that are related to religious dogma, like original sin, guilt, shame, etc. I cannot accept that we are all born sinners.. even as infants. As adults, we have choices as to whether our intentions are to harm people, or be compassionate to them. I choose the latter, regardless of how some may have treated me. Bad things happen sometimes, and it’s up to us how we react. 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I appreciated this recap, LR. I read the Inferno ten-plus years ago, and this makes me consider going back to it.
    To my thinking… Our lives are a combination of randomness, consequence and outlook.

    Liked by 1 person

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