‘Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra.’
Yes, after Hogwarts and Dante’s 9 Spheres of Paradiso I revisit the Divine Comedy again. This time it is prompted by devouring Tiffany Reisz’ Original Sinners series and Sylvain Reynard’s Gabriel’s Inferno. The theme is love, lust, reason and desire.
“But what of lust? If love is the rabbit, then lust is the wolf. Dante says so explicitly when he identifies lust as a sin of wolf-like incontinence – a sin in which passion overtakes reason. […] In Dante’s philosophy, lust is a misplace love, but a kind of love nonetheless. For this reason, it is the least evil of the seven sins, and that is why Dante locates the Circle of the Lustful just underneath Limbo. Lust deals with the greatest earthly pleasures. […] In contrast to lust, which is a mortal sin, is love. Aquinas argues that a lover is related to his beloved as if his beloved were a part of himself.” Gabriel’s Inferno pp. 321-323
Love and lust – for Dante they are opposites and the fine line that separates them is reason and desire. While those residing in the tails of earth’s shadow on Venus are chaste lovers holding up the virtue of temperance, the second circle of Inferno, the first where the dwellers are actually punished, is reserved for those overcome by lust. The lovers were guided by the ennobling power of attraction toward the beauty of a whole person. The sinners let their appetites sway their reason and their fueled by the destructive force of possessive sexual desire.
Love according to Dante is generosity of spirit. To love means to acknowledge the diversity of the creation, to accept that all the talents are needed in society and to see part of oneself in the other. This concept of love can be found in Old Testament’s Shir Ha’shirim: I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, who gazes among lilies. The original Hebrew version is sometimes abbreviated as elul, what is also the name of the last month of the Jewish calendar. It is the time for retrospective, resolutions and apologies. It is a very intellectual way of showing and spreading love.
The opposite of love is lust, one of the seven deadly sins. The lustful in Dante’s Inferno are carnal malefactors who subordinated reason to desire. It more often than not let to their and their lovers’ death. Their souls are exposed to violent storms. Terrible winds blow them back and forth without rest. They symbolize the power of lust to blow one about needlessly and aimlessly. In literature and art the sinners among us fitting this concept would be depicted as vampires or werewolves – human beasts guided by their animalistic self rather than their conscious mind (hence Elena and Damon’s kiss depicted).
Nice concept, but already Dante admitted that this line between love and lust is a very fine one that can often not be drawn with certainty in one place and one place only. Hence he placed the sinners guilty of lust on the uppermost circle beneath Limbo, showing thereby that it is in his opinion the least grave of all sins, but also the most original that led to the exclusion from paradise. And the lovers on Venus are still in earth’s shadow since they suffered of the moral defect of irrepressible ardor.
For my personal touch, in a way of a solution, I brought in the sun and time. In Dante’s universe the Sun Sphere is located right above the Venus Sphere and it is home of the truly wise. Wisdom is result of personal growth that leads to the integration of all our parts into our Self. In the end, reason and desire or love and lust aren’t antipodal. One is nothing without the other. Paradise is reached when vampires love.