Main structure from the very long poem
Dante was standing near the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge crossing Florence’s Arno river. Just before 1300, a great awakening in the western world. Dante saw Beatrice standing on the bridge. That vision for Dante was completeness.
Dante did not speak to her, and he saw her rarely. Beatrice then died of the plague. Dante was stricken with the loss of his vision. She was the intermediary between his soul and heaven itself.
In mid-life, Dante found himself deeply depressed in the underworld. He sees a sign above a portal saying, ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’.
Dante meets Virgil (the intellect-masculine) to guide him on his journey through the levels of hell.
You reach the cold, heartless, meaningless pit of hell as the worst of the Human experience. You don’t exit hell the same way as you enter it. On the other side of hell (intense suffering) is heaven.
Hell lays out what is wrong; Dante then arrives in purgatory, which begins to repair and treat what needs to be restored. At this point, Virgil said that he could no longer be Dante’s guide and that Beatrice would guide him from there. At this point, reason can take you no further, and you have to let go of one’s futile attempts at controlling reality. ‘The vision of heaven takes over now’.
Beatrice shows Dante the way through purgatory and heaven. At the last moment, she gives way to St.Bernard. Beatrice is the #psychopomp (meaning soul guide from medieval times) that leads Dante through purgatory and into heaven – a journey of healing and wholeness.
In a flash of understanding that he cannot express, Dante finally understands the mystery of Christ’s divinity and humanity, and his soul aligns with God’s love.
Dante owes a lot to Virgil, but Beatrice awakens his soul; in Jungian terms, his anima.
Dante’s poem, Divine Comedy, gives an allegory for the Human’s path of the unlived life. At a certain point, a person may fall into hell (Inferno), where he must use his intellect (Virgil) to drag himself to purgatory.
In purgatory, one learns to heal and become whole; the intellect is no longer of service, and one must let go. This process can be painful, particularly in the west, with its hyper-rational stage of development.
The Soul (Beatrice) is the guide to move Dante to heaven (Paradiso). Beatrice is always available throughout life, but the man has to be ready to receive her and ask for her guidance.
As Dante reaches heaven, Beatrice makes way for St Bernard, who assists Dante’s understanding of the nature of God and Christ to conclude the journey of wholeness.
During world war 2, the Americans chased the German army up the ‘Italian Boot’. The Germans were blowing up everything of aid to the progression of the American army, including the bridges across the Arno River. But no one wanted to blow up that bridge because Beatrice had stood on it and Dante had written about her.
In plain language, the German army made radio contact with the Americans and said they’d leave Ponte Vecchio intact if they promised not to use it. In a modern, ruthless war, the bridge was spared because Beatrice had stood upon it.