Statue of Moses de León (c. 1240–1305) in Guadalajara, Spain
Zohar and Comedy
Dante's metaphorical pilgrimage to the inexhaustible source of light, brings us to the still point around which all else revolves.
The nature of the universe, which is still
At the centre while all the rest moves round it,
Begins here as it were from its starting point. (Canto XXVII)
T. S. Eliot amplified this vision of the primum mobile in Burnt Norton. He was inspired to think of this ‘still point of the turning world’ as a wheeling dance, in the sense of creativity and engagement, as though dancing with a lover, in the moment, an eternal dance.
Eliot in Little Gidding also cut to the essence of Dante’s pilgrimage metaphor, much more prosaically than Dante, but reaffirming our reading of the Comedy nevertheless.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
In this return to the beginning there is something of the exile’s return. In our incoherent longings we are all pilgrims in exile. This is the story of Canto XXVI, in which Dante examines language theologically. This gives me cause to think about the influences upon the thinking of Dante. There is something kabbalistic about the exile's desire for return. Could it be that the Comedy was inspired by Kabbalah, which would probably mean the the Zohar of Moses de León, a Jewish text written some years before Dante's work and based on the neoplatonic ideas that Dante also drew upon. The Zohar certainly celebrated the way or the journey as the primary locus for mystical knowledge. Like the Zohar, Dante's Comedy too was a mystical epic.
In Dante's return to the beginning, there is an encounter with Adam, the arch poet, the one who named the world.
Adam says that before the Tower of Babel was ever attempted, the language he spoke had fallen into disuse...
...For because human wishes are always changing,
Following the stars, never was any product
of human reason made to last for ever.
That man should speak is a natural phenomenon;
But whether this way or that, nature allows
You to work out, as seems best to you.
The loss of the sacred language marked our own distance from the divine. The failure of the words is emblematic of our own exilic circumstances and predicament. The longing is inexpressible and the meaning always mysteriously escapes us. (To be continued).
© John Dunn.
From the archive:
The siren screams
'Anti-entropic' and 'Smashing eggs'
As the highest expression of the anti-entropic development of the universe man is capable of continuing the creative development of the universe insofar as he the living image of the first Creator.
To accept a system as closed, to accept freedom as necessity, is to withdraw into nature, to return to Mother Nature, to Ananke and an amorphous state of pre-Eros, pre-Love and pre-Being. Closed systems are the path to entropic death.
Just a thought:
Let us step back at this point and remember that this is not about warm and cosy lurv, or the costly mistranslation of charity, helping others and committing the sin of pride by feeling good about it. The love of mutual indwelling is about a love that results in pain, anguish, loss, passion and new consciousness, new life, resurrection. In passion the veil is rent. (Child of Encounter) John Dunn