Meditations on the Divine Comedy: Index IJKLM


MedXXXIV:1 Dante invokes the Reader’s powers of Imagination, when words fail him.

MedLI:1 Imagination operates on the rapt mind, as a light formed from heaven, or a divine will from there. Dante implies the revelatory and inspirational nature of his Vision.

Individual, The

MedI:1. The author as Individual. The DC as history, biography, and spiritual journey of the living author.

MedI:4 The spirit-guides provide help and sympathy to the Individual who is no longer totally isolated.

MedII:1 Nevertheless the journey of the spirit is essentially that of the single one, the ‘one, alone’.

MedVIII:1 Filippo Argenti is one of a long line of memorable individuals conjured up by a situation, phrase, mini-biography, interrogation, command, plea etc. They usually embody some generic quality or drama.

MedX:1 Farinata as the example of aristocratic pride, tradition, magnanimity and free-thinking obduracy.

MedXIII:1 Piero Delle Vigne is the example of a wronged man, the victim of envy, who was a suicide.

MedXV:1 Brunetto Latini the sodomite’s ‘baked visage’ begins a subtle tribute to an individual who influenced and possibly taught Dante.

MedXIX:1 Pope Nicholas III represents the corrupted Papacy. His acceptance of bribery by the Eastern Emperor, Michael Paleologus, enables Dante via the Donation of Constantine to point up the involvement of the Church wrongly in temporal matters.

MedXXII:1 Ciampolo and the demons provide a moment of burlesque concealing a serious thrust at the Florentines who exiled Dante partly on trumped-up corruption charges.

MedXXIV:1 Vanni Fucci bitten by a serpent is transformed to ashes and remade like the phoenix. He prophesies the defeat of Dante’s party. He represents the most arrogant of spirits towards God, brutish, angry, bitter, and vindictive.

MedXXVI:1 Ulysses tells the story of his own final end, and in doing so points to the existence of the Mount of Purgatory in the Southern Ocean. He was over-reliant on human knowledge and cunning, that lead to deceit.

MedXXVII:2 Guido da Montefeltro, a mercenary turned Franciscan, relied too much on Papal authority, leading him to give a counsel of deceit.

MedXXXVI:2 Casella appears as Dante’s friend, musician and new arrival at the shores of Purgatory.

MedXXXVII:3 Manfred, a type of the noble Ghibelline warrior.

MedXXXVIII:2 Belacqua, a type of the lazy mind, here beautifully captured by Dante.

MedXXXIX:2 A trio of vivid vignettes of individuals who died by violence, Jacopo del Cassero, Buonconte, and La Pia.

MedXLVII:2 Sapia de’ Saracini, one of the characterful portraits of individual women in the Commedia.

MedLI:3 In Purgatory the individual self is renewed and cleansed, and re-oriented towards relationship and community. Inferno reveals the divided community, Paradiso the united city of God.

MedLVII:2 Forese Donati gives us a picture of one of Dante’s friends in the period of moral unworthiness after Beatrice’s death.

MedLVIII:2 The parting with Forese, and in fact the whole conversation, is deeply felt, and echoes the parting with Brunetto Latini.

MedLXX:2 Piccarda Forese is the first individual spirit recognised in Paradiso. Her story is one of broken vows.

MedLXXII:2 As Dante ascends in Paradise the light grows brighter, hiding the features of individual spirits. Justinian is the last who reveals his features before hiding them again.

MedLXXIII:1 Justinian, Emperor and Lawgiver, represents the noble individual who sought earthly honour and fame.

MedLXXV:1 Charles Martel who befriended Dante represents friendship and intense earthly love.

MedLXXV:2 The world drives people into roles not suited to them, and Dante’s love of order suggests it would be best for individuals to realise their inborn qualities (an interesting forerunner to the nature-nurture argument). Society would then take account of individual variability in the optimum manner.

MedLXXXI:1 Solomon confirms the resurrection of the body, and the retention of complete individuality.

MedLXXXIV:1 Cacciaguida, Dante’s ancestor, represents the Christian warrior and Fortitude. He confirms Dante’s destiny and mission.

Intellect, Knowledge, Understanding

MedIII:1 The inhabitants of Hell have lost the good of the intellect, that power of Reason, which is through philosophy and theology an aid to human redemption.

MedIV:3 Dante sees the philosophers in Limbo, who have exercised the intellect within earthly philosophy, but not through theology or the Christian spiritual experience. These are the Classical and Islamic authorities.

MedV:2 The Paolo and Francesca episode hints at a parallel with Abelard and Heloise. Abelard was condemned by Bernard of Clairvaux for the excessive questioning use of the intellect, believing that contemplation and Divine grace were required for salvation.

MedVII:1 Dante’s concept of sin is primarily as an intellectual failing, a misuse of reason, the gift that distinguishes man. Adam’s was the first sin, and all other sins derive from that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The greater the abuse of intellect the greater the sin. This rationale may help explain the gradations in Hell, and why Dante’s gradations often do not square with our own criminal codes and moral systems.

MedX:2 Cavalacante hints that Dante’s journey is accomplished through the power of his own intellect. Dante is quick to point out that Divine intervention was required in the form of Virgil’s guidance. Intellect is powerful but grace is also needed.

MedXXVII:2 Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro are testimony to the inadequacies of human reason and intellect, and the dangers of cunning leading to deceit.

MedXXXV:1 Dante compares the human intellect to a little boat.

MedXXXVII:1 The self-questioning intellect examines itself, morally this is conscience which elicits self-reproach. Limited by the extent of human knowledge, faith is needed to accept the workings of the Universe.

MedXXXVIII:1 Dante displays but must also transcend purely human reason in progressing towards Divine knowledge.

MedXL:2 Divine Philosophy, personified in Beatrice, is ‘the light linking truth to intellect’.

MedXLV:1 Human intellect is limited, and peace is an act of grace.

MedLI:3 Rational Love unlike natural love may err, through desiring the wrong objective (Pride, Envy, Wrath), an inadequate response (Sloth), or an excessive response (Avarice, Gluttony, Lust).

MedLII:1 The rational mind may withhold assent from wrong objectives of desire, from excess or inadequacy. The virtue of freewill is innate and allows the power of self-control.

MedLIV:3 Dante is constantly the enquirer, the student. Desire for knowledge is a legitimate desire, so long as the right authorities are consulted. Dante’s adherence to the orthodox mainstream is clear throughout the Commedia, though illuminated by Neo-platonism, Franciscan radical fervour, and Classical teaching. The right use of the intellect, through freewill, leads to divine truth, the union of light, reason, and love.

MedLXVIII:3 The higher creatures with intellect see the stamp of the Maker in the order of the universe, for which purpose the order was created.

MedLXXII:1 Intelligent creatures are endowed with free will. Beatrice sees the progress of understanding in Dante since the eternal light of love and truth is reflected by his intellect (in asking the question he has asked). Understanding without retention is not knowledge. Truth must be inwardly digested.

MedLXXVII:1 Dante is unable to express the brightness of the sphere of the Sun by any known means, intellect, art, or knowledge, but it can be a subject of faith and hope.

MedLXXXV:2 God’s justice informs the intellect which then creates the conditions for it on earth.

MedXCVII:1 Dante unites Truth and Goodness, to be known by the intellect, out of which flows the transcendent joy of Love. Though Truth and Love coexist in God, intellect and knowledge in Man is the cause of human love.


MedLXIX:1 Beatrice, Divine Philosophy, is both beautiful to contemplate, and filled with joy.

MedLXIX:3 The joyful nature of the Divine source is revealed in the way the Angelic virtues shine through their planetary spheres like joyful light through the eye.

MedLXX:2 Blessed spirits in Paradise take their being from Divine Love and therefore cannot be in conflict with it. They are joyful at being in their proper state.

MedLXXV:2 Dante’s joy is increased by mutual awareness of it, and of its divine inspiration.

Justice, Law

MedII:1 Divine Justice is without Pity in Hell. Pity is invoked in the spectator.

MedIII:1 The Gate of Hell declares itself an emblem of God’s Justice.

MedIV:1 Divine Justice is merciless and implacable. For example the spiritually neutral who have failed to use the intellect live without hope, as do the unbaptised and pagan who are condemned to Limbo. Dante is orthodox and symbolic in his use of punishments to indicate dogmatic rules of his religion or abuses of freewill and intellect.

MedVII:2 The initial entry into Hell and the passing of Minos the Judge has been carried out while the sign of Libra, the Scales of Justice, is in the sky. The whole chronology and position of the heavens and star signs in the DC is carefully worked out.

MedXXIX:2 Dante emphasizes the infallible nature of Divine Justice.

MedXXXV:2 Divine Justice is inexorable in placing Cato and Marcia on opposite sides of the waters of Lethe, Marcia in Limbo, Cato at the foot of the Mount of Purgatory. The lower realm cannot influence the higher.

MedXLIV:1 Trajan and the widow, an example of Imperial justice and compassion.

MedXLV:1 God’s justice is not according to what we deserve by our actions but according to penitence and intention.

MedL:1 Law is necessary to curb sin, and ensure the innate good of the soul is not destroyed.

MedLXVI:1 The Mystic Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents Justice and the Empire, bound in turn to the spiritual Chariot of the Church.

MedLXXI:1 Beatrice indicates that Divine Justice is a matter for faith, and may occasionally seem unjust to human beings.

MedLXXIII:1 Dante interprets the Crucifixion as a just revenge for the Fall, and the destruction of the Temple by Titus as a just revenge for the Jewish betrayal of Christ to the Romans.

MedLXXIV:1 Beatrice explains the Crucifixion as just in divine terms, since it punished (or revenged) Adam’s original sin, while unjust in human terms given the divine goodness of Christ.

MedLXXX:1 We should be prudent in making judgements of others, since God’s justice may be at work, which is not human justice.

MedLXXXV:2 Jupiter is associated with Justice and Wisdom, with Jupiter the Roman god, and therefore with the Roman Emperors, and with the Christian God. God’s justice informs the intellect which then creates the conditions for it on earth.

MedLXXXVI:1 The evil recognise Justice even if they don’t follow it. God’s Justice is beyond human understanding. Dante asks the question concerning the denial of salvation to those who do not know Christianity, and is told that it is a matter of God’s justice and faith in that justice. Even Lucifer was too limited to see all, and fell through his own impatience for greater knowledge.

MedLXXXVII:1 Six examples of just spirits.


MedII:1 Light fades on the evening of Good Friday as the poets prepare to enter Hell. The Inferno holds many images of darkness.

MedXXXV:2 The light of the Southern Cross illuminates Cato’s face, symbolising the light of virtue.

MedXXXVIII:1 Virgil is a guiding light to Dante.

MedXLIII:1 Lucia who aids Dante as she did in Inferno Canto I, is associated with light and eyesight. Dante had trouble with his eyes, so that Lucia both aids him in the Vision and in the actual writing.

MedLI:1 Imagination operates on the rapt mind, as a light formed from heaven, or a divine will from there. Dante implies the revelatory and inspirational nature of his Vision.

MedLI:2 The Angels (here the Angel of Meekness) emit intense light, as receptacles and transmitters of God’s light.

MedLXI:3 The light of the sun signals the Earthly Paradise.

MedLXIII:1 A great light precedes the Chariot of the Church.

MedLXVIII:1 God is the Aristotelian prime mover whose glory manifested as light permeates the Universe, to varying degrees.

MedLXXII:2 As Dante ascends in Paradise the light grows brighter, and the features of individual spirits are hidden in their radiance.

MedLXXVII:1 Dante is unable to express the brightness of the sphere of the Sun by any known means, intellect, art, or knowledge, but it can be a subject of faith and hope.

MedC:1 Dante’s final Vision, in the moment of supreme stillness, beyond time, is of a universal unity, bound together by Love in a simplicity of Light. Within it is the concentrated and perfect Good, the object of will and desire, which the eye cannot turn away from to another sight. Outside it all things are in some way defective in their goodness.


MedI:3 A source of sustenance to the political saviour of Italy who is yet to come.

MedII:2 Beatrice is moved by Love to help Dante.

MedIII:1 Love is one of the shaping forces of the Gates of Hell, and Hell itself, an ethically difficult philosophy for our age.

MedV:1 Love coupled with Intellect provides the dual basis for Dante’s ascent towards the Godhead. Dante’s concept of Love derives partly from the Troubadour tradition but he spiritualises the concept. Beatrice therefore has attributes of saintliness as well as the erotic charge derived from secular and pagan Amor.

MedXI:1 The sub-divisions of the malicious within Hell, reflect the bonds of love which are broken there.

MedXII:1 Christ is identified with the universal Love that even disturbed Hell.

MedXXXVI:1 As with Brunetto Latini, here with Casella, Dante renews the bonds of affection, but in Purgatorio this is expressed with embraces, smiles, and mutual love.

MedXXXVII:1 Dante went beyond the Courtly Conventions of the troubadour poets, and of his friend Guido Cavalcanti, which represented Love as an irrational force, entering through the eyes at the sight of beauty, attacking the heart, creating the ache and pain of desire and longing, depressing the natural, vital, and animal spirits, of liver, heart and brain, a destructive power, forming a hell of unrequited passion, bringing the lover near death. Dante transcended this with his ideas of spiritualised Love, linking it to the rational capabilities, and in the Commedia must go a stage further to the contemplation of Beatrice, Divine Philosophy, beyond Human Philosophy, and a form of Divine not Human Love.

MedXXXVII:3 Divine love is turned towards all those who repent, even the excommunicated.

MedXL:2 Love as evidenced in prayer for the departed may intercede and redeem.

MedXLV:1 God loves the starry spheres, the primal creation, most. The nearer to the heavens the nearer to the source of Love, in Dante’s hierarchical view of the Universe.

MedXLVII:2 Sapia regards Dante’s journey as evidence of God’s love for him.

MedXLIX:1 A crucial interchange with Virgil on the nature of shared good. Shared is not less, since what is shared spiritually increases through being shared. Divine goodness is attracted to love, and gives more by finding more response. The wider love is spread the greater it is in sum: the greater the mutual understanding, the more spirits there are imbued with that understanding, the more love there is: and understanding and love mutually reflect one another.

MedLI:3 A second crucial explanation related to the structure of Purgatory. Love is in the human being as natural love that is error free and rational love, which may err. The Love abused and betrayed in Inferno, is strengthened and healed in Purgatorio, and fully revealed in Paradiso. This mirrors the Crucifixion, Descent, and Ascent of Christ. Love is expressed in the community of spirits, and Purgatory is a personal cleansing and re-orientation towards mutual and communal Love. Rational Love may be wrongly directed (Pride, Envy, Wrath), inadequately expressed (Sloth), or excessive in its manifestation (Avarice, Gluttony, Lust).

MedLII:1 A further crucial discourse by Virgil on Love. It arises naturally through the senses, and causes desire for the beloved object, but the object of desire is subject to assent by reason. Freewill is an innate virtue that allows judgement to be exercised, and self-control is a power available to the individual. Freewill is ‘the noble virtue’ to Beatrice. Dante thus goes beyond the tradition of Courtly Love.

MedLV:3 Statius expresses the love (for Virgil in this case) that is generated by intellectual affinity and respect.

MedLVI:1 Love inspired by virtue always inspires reciprocal love when it is known. Virgil refers to Statius as a friend. Friendship is an expression of mutual love and an aspect of love’s liberality and warmth.

MedLVIII:2 The heart of the dolce stil nuovo was that Love itself dictated to the poets and inspired their words, rather than mere literary desire or ambition.

MedLX:1 On the seventh terrace Dante invokes the poetic tradition of Troubadour poetry with its adulterous love, the later schools with their view of unrequited Love as a destructive force, and his own transcendent poetry where Love becomes a path to the spiritual life. He is effectively describing his own poetic and personal journey, from Beatrice as a source of unrequited, potentially adulterous, love, to her transformation after her death into an an expression of Divine Philosophy and a symbol of sublimated Love, turning and guiding the Intellect and Free Will towards the ultimate source of Love, in the Godhead. It is his journey from Love as a force beyond reason, potentially destroying through passion and lust, to Love as a redeeming power, bound to the rational intellect.

MedLXVIII:2 The power of Divine Love creates that longing and desire that draws the spirit upwards towards itself.

MedLXX:2 Blessed spirits in Paradise take their being from Divine Love and therefore cannot be in conflict with it.

MedLXXII:1 The overpowering effect of her eyes Beatrice attributes to increased understanding of love, that itself generates greater love.

MedLXXII:2 Love increases love, and the spirits feed on love so that they welcome the arrival of loving spirits.

MedLXXIV:1 God as an act of love mercy and justice sent Christ, his Word, his messenger, to Earth, taking on human nature with the divine nature, since only by Himself incurring punishment through the Crucifixion could reparation be made for original sin, that reparation being beyond Man’s power alone.

MedLXXV:1 The third sphere is that of Love, and of Venus the planet and the ancient Goddess of love. Dante deals with imperfections of love here, mainly that of excessive earthly love. Charles Martel explains that the spirits are so filled with love that to give pleasure is also to receive it. This is the divine aspect of love that it increases by being mutually experienced, and that shared love is not a loss but an addition.

MedLXXVII:1 The Holy Spirit of the Trinity is identified with the ‘breath’ of Love.

MedLXXVIII:2 The concept of the idealised Beatrice may have a source in Saint Francis’s embrace of ‘Lady Poverty’, the facets of Courtly Love being transferred to a purely spiritual symbol.

MedLXXXV:1 An intense moment where Dante is overcome by Beatrice’s eyes and smile, so that she has to draw his attention away to other aspects of Paradise. The intense feeling here is more than a merely spiritualsied encounter, or an allegorical masque. ‘Not only in my eyes is Paradise.’

MedXCIII:1 Dante asserts his continuing love for Beatrice (and Divine philosophy). Love is the yearning for the good, which must be loved by a mind that perceives it. Supreme love is therefore desire for the supreme Good that is for God. The whole true creation is filled with the good, and therefore inspires love. Dante however does not explore the nature of the Good except insomuch as it has been revealed in the Vision. He distinguishes goodness from Love, Love being the desire for the Good, and that is a thought from Plato and from Aristotle.

MedXCV:1 God is ultimate truth. Blessedness depends on the vision of truth, on seeing, rather on the degree of love. Love is a consequence of being blessed, rather than a cause of it. The extent of vision depends on grace and right use of the will.

MedXCVI God created his creatures out of Love, so that they could know existence.

MedXCVII:1 Dante unites Truth and Goodness, to be known by the intellect, out of which flows the transcendent joy of Love. Though Truth and Love coexist in God, intellect and knowledge in Man is the cause of human love.

MedC:1 Dante’s final Vision, in the moment of supreme stillness, beyond time, is of a universal unity, bound together by Love in a simplicity of Light. Within it is the concentrated and perfect Good, the object of will and desire, which the eye cannot turn away from to another sight. Outside it all things are in some way defective in their goodness. The Love that moves the stars, the Prome Mover, also drives his will and desire to attain salvation and write the Commedia.


MedI:1. The leopard as a symbol of the Lust which afflicted Dante and which will be referenced later.

MedV:2 The Paolo and Francesca episode indicates a deep conflict in Dante, between the urges of the tradition of courtly love, and normal sexual and erotic human relationship, and the spiritualised message of the orthodox church. The implication is that sexual love, and deep passion, without the correct exercise of freewill according to the rules of spiritual law, is destructive.

MedXXXVI:1 The sun banishes Capricorn, the sign associated with cold and goatish lust, from the sky, at the start of the Purgatorio, as it will be the last sin purged before Dante’s transit through the flames near the summit of the Mount.

MedXXXVI:2 Philosophy and art enable desire to be contained and the suffering of erotic love and longing to be endured, and made a subject for knowledge.

MedXLIII:1 Dante’s first dream carries associations of lust: Scorpio, Procne and Tereus, Ganymede. The fire at the top of Purgatory is here echoed in the fiery associations of the phoenix-like eagle.

MedLI:3 A sin arising from excessive love for what should be loved only in moderation, the pleasures of the body. It is related to Gluttony and Avarice. A wrong response of Rational love to desire for the good.

MedLIII:1 The Siren symbolizes the temptation towards this excessive desire. She seduces to Lust in particular, and Dante grieves over episodes in his past life, as he moves onwards after waking.

MedLIX:2 As Dante’s major failing of pride links Purgatory’s first terrace to the Inferno, so his purging of his major failing of Lust links the last terrace to Beatrice and Paradiso. Lust is purged by fire analogous to the fire of passion. He looks at his own feet both to escape the heat and flame, and to look backwards into his own past in humility. Examples of chastity, counter to lust, follow: Mary at the Annunication: Diana chasing away the fallen Callisto from her virgin band.

MedLXI:1 Dante’s conscience reminds him of his own moral failings concerning lust, he uses a metaphor of himself as a goat, traditionally associated with that failing, and knows that he must return at death through the purging fire.

MedLXV:1 Dante is stunned as he was in Inferno Canto V in the circle of Lovers, now with remorse rather than pity. Lust is a primary sin he confesses to Beatrice. There are numerous hints that this was his chief moral failing.


MedV:1 The sinners in the lower section of Hell are guilty of malice.

MedXI:1 Virgil explains that malice is more serious than incontinence, and is punished in the lower circles, divided between malicious violence and fraud, with treachery as the lowest form of fraud.


MedII:1 Invoked by Dante. More vital than Invention, the DC reflects a sense of ‘copying’ as a copyist from the book of the universe. Much of Dante’s material feels inevitable and gifted to him, though endless construction is apparent in the work.

MedXXVIII:1 Memory is inadequate to the task of description in the Inferno.

MedXLVI:1 The reliefs on floor tombs designed to prompt memory and recognition among the merciful.

MedLIX:1 Statius explains the origin of the individual, unified, soul. After death it retains intellect, memory and will, and around it a ‘shadow’ or ‘shade’ is manifested that reflects its desires and affections. Individual memory therefore persists beyond the grave.

MedLXV:2 The singing is so sweet, the sweetness evades the powers of memory.

MedLXVIII:1 One can penetrate to the highest Heaven nearest to God as Dante has, but one is then unable to remember the nature of the experience of the ultimate vision, lacking power or knowledge to relate it.

MedLXXXI:2 Beatrice’s beauty is too great for memory.

MedXCVI The Angels are all-seeing and do not require memory.

MedC:1 The final Vision is beyond speech and memory.


MedXLIX:1 A reciprocal grace. Mercy breeds mutual mercy, and counters human envy and antagonism.


MedXIII:1 The suicides are changed into trees. Dante uses a metamorphosis common in Ovid, derived from Virgil’s Aeneid.


MedII:1 Invoked by Dante to inspire poetry, but Memory is perhaps more crucial.