The Elements of Eden: Dante's Allegory & Mystical Love

One of the more difficult bridges to cross in understanding Dante's vision of Eden in Purgatory is the purpose of the events that Dante sees take place. Keep in mind that the elements function as a complex series of symbols that represent important elements in the salvation of the soul. Dante's journey at this point is what prepares him for journeying in heaven. Likewise, Dante hopes that his reader who has to puzzle out the allegory will also grow in understanding, so that we too may be someday prepared for heaven.
medieval painting of a woman with children surrounding her

(Canto 27)

  • Wall of Fire;
  • Dream of Leah and Rachel;
  • [Virgil's (mistaken?) crowning of Dante].
  • Sanctifying purification;
  • Reflection on the active and contemplative vocations;
  • Either the perfection of natural reason without grace or natural reason's inability to see the need for grace.
Thus, Dante must undergo purification from his old life. This is true whether one served God as a monk (contemplative) or as a more active servant.

(Cantos 28-29)

  • Dante meets Matilda;
  • Lethe
  • Matilda speaks of the Abundance
  • The Pageant of the Divine Life
    • 7 Candlesticks
    • 7 Bands of Light
    • 24 Elders with crowns of fleur-de-Lis
    • 4 Living Creatures
    • 2 Wheeled Chariots
  • 7 Women -- 3 by one wheel, 4 by the other
    • 3 Women:
      • one in white
      • one in green
      • one in red
  • 4 Women:
    • all dressed in purple, one has three eyes
  • 7 men
  • 2 Aged Men
  • 4 Humble Men
  • 1 Old Man in a Dream
  • Active vocation in its unfallen state
  • Forgetfulness of past sins
  • Life as an unfallen order of Eden
  • Confirmation of poetic calling of the Classical poets was Eden
    • The Mystical Church of God
    • God's Creation
    • The Old Testament Saints with lives of purity
    • The Gospels
    • The Divine Economy of Salvation
  • 7 Women -- 3 by one wheel, 4 by the other
    • The Theological Virtues:
      • Faith
      • Hope
      • Charity
  • The Cardinal Virtues:
    • Prudence, which sees past, present, future
  • Luke -- The Acts of the Apostles
  • Paul -- The Pauline Epistles
  • James, Peter, John, and Jude -- The General Epistles
  • The Apocalypse
Thus, Dante needs the Church, the Scriptures, and the Virtues to be perfected.
And all of it centers around the person and nature of Christ.

(Cantos 30-31)

  • The Entrance of Beatrice dressed in green
  • Beatrice's Rebuke
  • The Angelic Choir's Hymn 
  • Dante's confession 
  • Matilda baptizes Dante in the waters of Lethe 
  • Beatrice's eyes reflect the Griffon 
  • The Dance of the Cardinal Virtues and The Dance of the Theological Virtues
  • The Eyes and Smile of Beatrice 
  • The unfallen contemplative life and the virtue of hope
  • Hope opposes presumption
  • Mercy for the broken-hearted
  • Recognition of sin
  • The removal of the memory of sin
  • Contemplation of the two natures of Christ -- human and divine
  • Christ brings sanctification to the repentant
  • The Beauty of Hope
Dante learns that hope for salvation prepares one for the radical mercy of God and the removal of one's sin. It is only in Christ, who is both fully God and fully human, that he can be saved.

(Cantos 32-33 )

  • Blinded by Beatrice's Smile
  • Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil 
  • The Blooming of the Tree 
  • The Apple Tree Angels Crave 

The Apocalyptic Vision

  • Jove's Bird Tears Leaves from Tree & Strikes Chariot
  • A Fox in the Chariot Driven Off 
  • The Eagle's Golden Feathers 
  • A Dragon
  • Chariot Overgrown with Weeds 
  • Chariot Sprouts Heads
  • The Ungirt Whore
  • A Giant 
  • Giant Drags Away the Whore 
  • Beatrice's Prophecy 
  • Dante Drinks of the Waters of Euroi 
  • Dante's need to still grow in spiritual understanding
  • God's justice and human fallenness
  • Christ's reversal of the Fall
  • Christ's promise of eternal bliss

The Apocalyptic Vision

  • The early persecution of the church
  • Early Heresy (e.g. Gnosticism)
  • Donation of Constantine
  • Islam
  • Wealth and corruption overtake the Church
  • Rival Popes
  • Boniface VIII
  • Philip III ("The Fair")
  • Avignon Captivity
  • The eventual deliverance of the Church by an Imperial Emperor
  • The memory of past good deeds.
Dante sees the flowering of the Church, its corruption, and entertains its eventual restoration. He is prepared to enter into Paradise.