Divine Comedy

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The Commedia by Dante Alighieri, later called Divina Commedia - the Divine Comedy - by Giovanni Boccaccio, has had a lasting influence on European literature like hardly any other work. After his banishment from Florence in 1302, Dante had settled in Ravenna, where he probably began work on the Divina Commedia, written in the Italian popular language, in 1307[1] and only completed it shortly before his death in 1321. According to Boccaccio, the last 13 cantos of the Paradiso were only found 8 months after Dante's death by his son Jacopo[2].


„The most sublime expression of this form of religion, which reckons with only one incarnation, is Christianity. Its characteristic feature is that it reckons with only one incarnation. This was not the case with esoteric Christian teaching, but popular religion did not include the doctrine of reincarnation. Ancient Judaism and Arabism did not know the doctrine of reincarnation.

Assuming this, you have the keynote from which Dante's magnificent poem grew. The poem represents a vision, starting from Good Friday. That was the day of the victory of life over death. This was not imagined in the abstract. On Good Friday and Easter, man felt that the Sun was receiving the new power of spring. It rises, it enters the constellation of the ram or lamb. It brings forth the plant world. The Sun was considered to be the expression of a spiritual being. One imagined a relationship of the spiritual-soul forces to the spirit of the solar body. Thus the night of Good Friday was felt to be the most suitable time for the soul to enter into that which lies beyond death.

The Dante poem is a vision, a vision in the sense that the initiate experiences it, a reality in the spiritual world. Dante can truly perceive the spiritual. He perceives with spiritual senses what is in the spiritual world. He imagines this as a Christian Catholic initiate. In the vision he brings with him what has lived into his organism from the Catholic world, but he sees it spiritually. Man always sees the spiritual through the glasses of his experiences. Just as the child's stay in its mother's body relates to the physical plan, so does its stay in the spiritual world relate to what we experience spiritually here on earth. Here in our earthly life we mature, as it were, as in the womb of the mother, in order to arise spiritually later. The senses we have developed for the spiritual depend on our life on this earth. Here we mature for the hereafter, here we prepare our spiritual eyes and ears for the hereafter. Therefore Dante had trained his spiritual organs in the way that the Christian Catholic world had produced.“ (Lit.:GA 97, p. 30f)

Brunetto Latini

Schema del Paradiso dantesco, Natalino Sapegna

The Divine Comedy is essentially influenced by the spiritual vision of Dante's teacher Brunetto Latini and, as Rudolf Steiner has made clear, gives a late echo of the spiritual experience that was once alive in the school of Chartres. Brunetto described his vision in his "Tesoretto".

„Brunetto Latini became the teacher of Dante. And what Dante learned from Brunetto Latini, he then set down in his poetic way in the "Divina Commedia". Thus the great poem "Divina Commedia" is a last reflection of what lived on in Platonic fashion in individual places...“ (Lit.:GA 240, p. 155)

Revival of Egyptian Astrology in the Sentient Soul

At the same time, in the "Divine Comedy", the ancient Egyptian astrology revives in the sentient soul in a deeply internalised way:

„What was peculiar about the Egyptian folk soul? At that time there was still an astrology that had a direct effect on the soul. The people's soul looked out at the movements of the heavenly bodies, did not see only material processes in what happened in the cosmos, as people do today, but really perceived the working spiritual beings behind what was going on outside. It related to the whole cosmos in the same way as man relates to other men, in that he knows in the other man that a soul is looking at him through the whole physiognomy. Thus all physiognomy was with the ancient Egyptian, and he perceived the soul in nature. The meaning of the development towards the new age lies in the fact that what was formerly, as it were, an elementary faculty, was directly kindled in man's body, that this became his inwardness in the newer age, in our fifth post-Atlantean age. And just as what the Egyptian went through was more elementary, so the Italian goes through what he repeats, what he goes through in his sentient soul, more inwardly, by experiencing this spiritual-cosmic in the sentient soul, but now more internalised. What could be more internalised than the Egyptian astrology in Dante's "Divine Comedy": the proper resurrection of ancient Egyptian astrology, but internalised!“ (Lit.:GA 174a, p. 38)

Dante and the Templar Gnosis

According to the Austrian Catholic theologian and Cistercian Robert L. John, Dante is said not only to have known the secret teachings of the Templars at a young age, but even to have belonged to the Templar order as an affiliate[3][4], and the Austrian Germanist Joseph P. Strelka affirms that "Dante was an initiated Templar and his Divine Comedy is the most brilliant surviving testimony to the Templar gnosis."[5] John also points to the great influence of Islamic mysticism, especially of Ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240), and the Kabbalah on Dante's work. The afterlife journey through heaven and hell described by Al-Ma'arri (973-1057) in his "Sending Letter on Forgiveness"[6] has also often been compared to Dante's Divine Comedy. Although, according to John, Dante adopted many Gnostic elements, he never slipped into any heresy, but always remained strictly faithful to Catholic theology.

The anthroposophist Arthur Schult took up John's thoughts and developed them further:

„Again and again one can see how Dante's poetry is deeply impulsed by the esotericism of the Order of the Knights Templar, especially clearly in the first two cantos, in which Dante tries to ascend the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where the mother church of the Templars stood as the holiest symbol of their esotericism. But the mythical beasts, the leopard, the lion and the she-wolf, denied the ascent. Vergil appeared, sent by Beatrice, as an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries to show Dante the way up the mountain of salvation, the mountain of initiation. No one can ascend the Temple Mount who has not overcome those beasts within himself in the practice of the active life, the vita activa, and who has not passed through the Inferno and Purgatorio. Now Dante has come so far, the mountain of salvation, the Temple Mount, has been climbed. The Mount of Purification corresponds to the Temple Mount and the Earthly Paradise to Jerusalem with the Temple Square. Therefore the poet places the topography of the Earthly Paradise in closest relation to the topography of Jerusalem and the Temple Square, where Dante experienced his first great enlightenment in the sense of Templar esotericism.“

Arthur Schult: Dante's Divina Commedia as Testimony to Templar Esotericism, p. 471

The wisdom that the Templars strove to attain can only be achieved through the spiritualisation of the astral body into the spirit self (manas), which was seen in the image of the divine Virgin Sophia. In Dante she appears in the form of his "Beatrice".

„If you follow the teachings of the Templars, there is something at the centre that was worshipped as something feminine. This feminine was called the divine Sophia, the divine wisdom. Manas is the fifth principle, the spiritual self of man, which should arise, to which a temple should be built. And just as the pentagon from the entrance to Solomon's temple characterises the five-membered man, so too does this feminine characterise the wisdom of the Middle Ages. With his "Beatrice", Dante wanted to portray nothing other than this wisdom. Only those who look at Dante's "Divine Comedy" from this point of view can understand it. Therefore you will find the same symbols in Dante's work that are expressed in the Templars, the Christian knighthoods, the Grail knights and so on.“ (Lit.:GA 93, p. 152)

On the title of the "Commedia

Dante explained why he titled his work "Comedy" in a letter to his patron Cangrande I della Scala (1291-1329):

„The title of the book is "It begins the Comedy of Dante Alighieri, the Florentine by birth, not by manners." Here it must be known that the word comedy consists of χώμη, village, and ώδή, song, hence comedy is as much as village song. Comedy, however, is a kind of poetic narrative, distinct from all others. It differs from tragedy in the material in that tragedy is admirable and calm at the beginning, but stinking and frightening at the end, and it takes its name from τράμος, goat, and ώδή, i.e. goat-song, that is, stinking like a goat, as can be seen from the tragedies of Seneca. Comedy, however, begins with something rough, but the material ends happily, as can be seen in the comedies of Terence. And therefore some speakers used to take "a tragic beginning and a comic ending" in their greetings instead of the salutation. In a similar way, the two differ in the manner of expression: in tragedy it is high and lofty, in comedy careless and low; as well as Horace in his poetry,[7] where he allows the comedians to speak at times like tragodes, and vice versa:

"Often, however, comedy raises its voice higher;
And a chremes with a fuller mouth doth the fervour exalt.
Even the tragedian sometimes laments in colloquial language."

From this it is clear that the present work is called comedy. For if we look at the material, it is at first terrible and stinking, namely hell, at the end happy, desirable, and delightful, namely paradise. If we look at the manner of expression, it is careless and low, namely common language in which even women communicate with each other. From this it is clear why the work is called a comedy. There are other kinds of poetical narrative, namely the pastoral song, the elegy, the satire, and the votive poem, as Horace also teaches in his Poetics; but of this it is not necessary to speak.“

Dante Alighieri: To Can Grande Scaliger wikisource

Dante's banishment from Florence

In 1295, Dante belonged to the "Council of a Hundred" in Florence. In 1300, as one of the six priori', he stood in sharp opposition to Pope Boniface VIII. A year later, the French King Philip IV the Fair, who soon afterwards crushed the Order of the Templars, helped the Pope's loyalists to victory and sent Dante and his party of White Guelfs into exile in 1302, which his sons had to share from the age of 14 - a strange fate that Dante had to bear heavily. But if Dante had not been banished, there would probably be no "Divine Comedy"!

„Let us suppose that Dante had not been banished, but had become something like a councillor or like a head of Florence; he would have achieved all that he could have come to according to his dispositions. He could have become a prior. If he had become a prior, he would have become an important prior, and so on. In short, a great deal would have happened through Dante, but there would have been no "Divine Comedy".

But the matter is not that simple. Let us really suppose that Dante had achieved his goal, had not been uprooted in Florence, had become one of the city or church leaders, which is quite related in public effectiveness. Because Dante - you'll admit that from what's in the "Divine Comedy" - had significant abilities, he would have become a significant Lord Mayor, he would have represented something tremendously significant. So history would look very different. Florence would have had a very significant city and state leader. Yes, not only that! But think of this Florence, which would have been administered by all the councillors with the skills that then flowed into the "Divine Comedy". This administration in such an ingenious way would mean that many, many forces that were there would have been prevented from their mysterious work. It is the most stupid thing to say that there are not ingenious people in the world. There are very many of them. They only perish because they are not awakened. If Dante had become head of a city, he would also have had a successor who would have been very significant, and he would have had seven such successors. Just seven people would have come in succession - we will establish these things sometimes - seven important people would have ruled in succession as heads of Florence. Something quite grandiose would have come into being, but there would not have been a "Divine Comedy". In 1265 Dante was born. We are now living in a time when, if all these seven people had worked in Florence at that time, we would still be feeling the after-effects in Florence, because they would have lasted seven centuries! Seven centuries would have passed quite differently than they have passed. None of that happened. The Catholic Church is still there, but so is the 'Divine Comedy'.“ (Lit.:GA 254, p. 146f)


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  1. Giovanni Boccaccio, Dante's first biographer, claimed that Dante had already begun the first 7 cantos of the Inferno before his banishment, but then had to leave them behind. Later, around 1307, they were found and sent to him. Marchese Moruello, with whom Dante was living at the time, was so enthusiastic about them that he asked Dante to continue his work. Boccaccio cites as the only evidence that the eighth canto begins with the words: "I say, going on, that much earlier...".
  2. „An able Ravignan called Piero Giardino, who had been Dante's pupil for a long time, told that after the eighth month since the master's death, one night at the hour we call the early prayer, Jacopo came to his house and told him that he had seen Dante, his father, coming towards him in a dream shortly before that hour, dressed in dazzling white clothes and his face shining with an unusual light. Then he thought he would ask him whether he was alive and hear him answer that he was, but that it was true life, not ours. Therefore, as it seemed to him, he also asked him whether he had completed his work before he went to the true life and, if he had completed it, where was that which was missing and could never have been found by them. Then it seemed to him that he would hear the answer for the second time: "Yes, I have finished it." And thereupon it was as if he took him by the hand and led him into the chamber where he used to sleep when he was still living in this life; and there he touched a spot and said, "There is that which you have sought so much." And no sooner were these words spoken than he felt, at the same hour, so Dante vanished as sleep. Therefore, he assured him, he had had no rest and had to come and tell him what he had seen, so that they might go and search together in the place which he had shown (and which he had especially remembered), that they might see whether a true spirit or false deceit had shown him such a thing. And so they both set out, while the night was yet a good while to come, and came to the place appointed, and found there a straw mat fastened against the wall; and as they easily uncovered it, they perceived in the wall a little opening, which none of them had ever noticed, neither knew it existed there; In it they found some writings, all musty from the dampness of the wall, and almost rotten if they had been left there longer; and, having carefully cleaned them from the mustiness, and read them, they found that they contained the thirteen cantos they sought, whereat they were delighted to write them down anew, and, according to the poet's custom, first sent them to Mr. Cane, and then added them to the imperfect work, as befitted. Thus the work, which had been compiled over many years, came to completion.” (Lit.: Boccaccio, p. 60f)
  3. „It is this affiliation of Alighieri to the Order of the Templars that will be corroborated to the point of indisputability in the course of our discussion. In it, indeed, lies the key to Dante's entire literary output, especially to the Divine Comedy, which will reveal itself to us as a thoroughly Templar doctrine of bliss, both as regards the events in the three kingdoms of the afterlife and the spirits inhabiting them, and even the moral structure of its construction.” {{LZ||Robert L. John: Dante, Springer-Verlag, Vienna 1946, p. 5)
  4. „That Dante, like his contemporary Francesco da Barberino, a Templar like him, had indeed received the tonsure or even the lower orders as a young man, can be all the less doubtful, since Francesco Buti, the Pisan Dante professor of the 14th century, must still have credible news of a spiritual-theological youth of Dante, since he virtually lets him be a former novice of the Franciscan order. Barbi rightly objects that all the circumstances of Dante's youth speak decisively against the assumption that the poet lived in seclusion in a monastery. Dante the theologian is unmistakably a Templar theologian and no doubt also received his clericate within the framework of the Templar Order.” (Lit.: John, p. 15f)
  5. Strelka, Foreword X
  6. However, there is no evidence that Dante knew this work.