Wednesday, September 09, 2015

50. Notes on the Inferno: Limbo and the Nine Circles

I've been studying Dante Alighieri's classic "The Divine Comedy" for a book project. The epic poem is considered a landmark in world literature, and has spun countless artworks, books, movies, and even a computer game. Exiled from Florence, Dante portrays himself  as the hero of the story who explores hell, purgatory, and heaven. In the process, he  meets dead people, finds out where they are, and even talks to them. One thing I noticed is this book may appear to be a theological piece of work, but at the heart of it is political satire. The personalities in it, or particularly those who were placed in hell by Dante where I am currently bookmarked, are actually his family's enemies. So, when Dante was writing this epic, he must have been a having a great time, imagining all those personalities who were responsible for his being in exile, as he puts all of them in hell. Essentially, the book says there are nine circles in hell, each circle is inhabited by a certain group of sinners: 1st) The Pagans, 2nd) The Sexually Promiscuous, 3rd) The Gluttons, 4th) The Hoarders and Wasters, 5th)The Angry and the Sullen, 6th) Heretics and Skeptics, 7th) The Violent, 8th) The Fraud, 9th) The Traitors. If somebody were to update this book to the 21st Century with a focus on the Philippines, there's going to be a lot personalities in hell. Let's start with the pagans. In Dante's book, these are the people who were born before Christ so they weren't saved. Nonetheless, in Dante's list of the people in the first circle, also known as limbo, are Homer, Ovid, Horace, Virgil, Caesar, Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, among others. As a philosophy major, it breaks my heart to know that the three pillars of western philosophy are in hell, even if its in the first level. The Jews, like Abraham, were saved from hell, because Jesus is supposed to have descended to hell to save them after he died. I reckon the Filipinos there would be Lapu-Lapu, Rajah Soliman, Datu Kalantiao, Datu Puti, Datu Sumakwel, and may other pre-Spanish Datus. A curious case would be Datu Humabon, who converted to Christianity on April 14, 1521 and was baptized as Carlos. But he had Spanish soldiers killed after they raped their women, so maybe he was not able to confess before he died, in which case he may be found in the 7th circle. Really, Dante's piece is a nifty political trick. Yet, it is all subjective. If PNoy would make the modern list of Filipinos in hell, I'm sure that list would not be the same as Gloria Arroyo's list, while some people would have both their names on the list. To say that somebody is going to hell is harsh judgment, because nobody knows the complete story why persons act unreasonably or sinfully at times. Sometimes, sinful actions may not even be defined. Well, Dante's lucky, because he's dead. If he were alive today and he made that Filipino list, he would not be in hell, but in jail. 

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