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"Paradiso, Act III of the Drama of the Soul" was the subject of Bishop William Boyd Carpenter's fifth lecture, under the William Belden Noble foundation, on "Dame's Verdict of Life," delivered in New Lecture Hall last evening. Bishop Boyd-Carpenter's exposition of Dante's "Paradiso"--its atmosphere, significance, and final vision--was remarkable for its clearness and simplicity.
While the atmosphere dominant in the "Inferno," is that of night, and in the "Purgatorio," that of morning, in the "Paradiso," it is that of high noon with its glorious light, happy repose, and above all, divine love.
The structure of the "Paradiso" follows closely the Ptolemaic system of astronomy. There are seven heavens: the first seven are represented by the "seven planets of Ptolemy"; the eighth heaven by the fixed stars or milky way; the ninth heaven by a crystalline sphere; and the tenth by the Empyrion, which is the furthest from earth. In this structural system, Dante shows that the further we are from God the less capable we are of entering into His Spirit, and that as the Empyrion is the centre of the heavens, yet embracing them all so God is both centre and circumference of all, for in Him we live and move.
Significance of the Paradiso.
The great significance of the "Paradiso" is progress, which may be specifically defined as the progressive education of the soul: Dante's mediaeval tendencies are exposed in his arrangement of this education in its analogy to the trivium and quadrivium of the scholas- tics. Faith, hope, and charity compose his trivium, and prudence, fortitude, justice, and temperance his quadrivium.
In the resting of the earth's shadow upon the first three planets, Dante shows with deep subtlety that the shadow of sin still rests upon the sinner no matter how well he may have shaken off his sin. In his description of the sun where the theologians dwell, Dante impresses the beautiful teaching of large hearted and Christian charity in judgment of our fellowmen. It is not for us but for God to judge.
Consummation of the Paradiso.
Beatrice, who has been Dante's guide through the "Paradiso," now leads him to look upon the great white light of Truth absolute. But Dante is blinded and cannot see it until he looks into Beatrice's eyes, when he feels an inward transformation and understanding. Beatrice is the embodiment of theology; and although man cannot see absolute Truth itself, he may see it translated in theologic form. Dante continues climbing up the golden ladder of the "Paradiso" until he reaches the Empyrion where Beatrice's place is taken by St. Bernard, the mystic. Here Dante has no more need of theology's aid; here he sees the final vision of God--all operations of the universe working through the power of divine love; here the teaching of "Paradiso" is consummated: "Would you enter into the kingdom of God, then, lean to love.
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