Dante’s Inferno

QA115 QUESTION: This question is about the progress in narrowing circles which eventually, as you say, comes to a point of resolution where the whole problem is seen as summed up in one single difficulty, or something like that.

ANSWER: A nucleus, let us say.

QUESTION: A nucleus, yes. In this connection, it occurred to me that the description of Dante’s Inferno could be really seen as the same kind of progress, the way he progresses from circle to circle down to the bottom of the inferno where he finds Satan and the traitors thrown into the ice. Of course, he puts it in medieval terminology of sin and of devil and so on. But in this representation, what is the nucleus, the final difficulty, meeting which enables them, the travelers, to progress towards purgatory?

ANSWER: As you rightly said, these interpretations are, of course, highly symbolic. And each era has its own symbolism. Now, as I’ve often implied in the past, what was once talked about as sin is now, let us say perhaps, called neurosis [Lecture #94 Sin and Neurosis – Unifying the Inner Split]. But they are both the same thing. Because if you look at neurosis – what is it really?

It is, in the first place, misinterpretation of reality, of true factors. In other words, untruth – which it can also be said is the contrary of the divine. The divine is truth; Satan is untruth. This is the symbolism of the errors or misconceptions that created a neurotic condition. That is the one aspect of neurosis.

Another aspect of neurosis is that it always has the selfishness of the primitive child embedded in it. In the child, it is not even considered selfish because it is its natural state to receive rather than to give. To be primarily concerned with itself is a natural state for a child.

Only as the child matures and gets older, it learns to include other people – the outer world – in the same consideration it gives to itself. Now, where a human being is neurotic, he has not learned to do that. He is still primarily self-concerned. He still harbors utterly selfish and egocentric motivations, instincts, feelings, thoughts, aims.

Again, you can translate that into religious, spiritual or metaphysical terminology, by saying the selfishness is evil and unselfishness is good. Of course, if one tries to accomplish this by superimposition, it is an ungenuine selfishness, which is also a part of a neurosis. In other words, it is falsity. It is hypocrisy.

That too is the opposite of the divine, for another divine aspect is genuineness – humility in admitting one’s own limitations, one’s human shortcomings – while the neurotic pretends a perfection he cannot be. This would, in religious terms, be called spiritual pride. If you think of a neurotic nucleus, which came about through a hurt, you will see that this nucleus is the same that religious terminology calls the inferno.

The inferno or the hell is, of course, suffering. No one who has truly understood these neurotic processes can deny that it causes intense suffering. It is only the neurosis that makes you suffer, never the health. Never do you see life as despairing, hopeless or unhappy, if you view it from the point of view of reality and health. It only appears that way.

The pain and the suffering that lies in neurosis is the hell Dante talks about. So all these aspects you find in the inferno, you find in the nucleus of your neurosis: your own suffering, the untruth of a false world view, pretense, spiritual pride and self-centeredness – not because you have to be, but because you yourself have suffered and this part has not grown up. Not because you are not worthy and valuable. Do you see that, these parallels between the two?

QUESTION: Is there any particular reason why he put the traitors at the very bottom of the pit?

ANSWER: The traitors?

QUESTION: Yes, the traitors, including, of course, Satan who is a traitor to God.

ANSWER: Well, again, if we apply this to all your personal inner conflicts and problems, I venture to say there is not a single human being who has gone deep enough, who does not find that in one way or another, in a subtle emotional way, he has betrayed. Perhaps he has betrayed the parent whom he feared less, and whose love he was more sure of, to the parent whom he feared more, or whose love he was more dependent upon.

These subtle betrayals we have discussed in the course of our Pathwork together. There are lectures about it, and you all, or most of you, have come to such subtle little aspects which cause, of course, the acutest guilt and suffering.

The guilt and suffering is not because you are so terrible or condemnable. But in your helplessness as a child, you did not know any better. You absolutely had to act that way. But the only misery is that because you felt so guilty, you all pushed it into the pit, into the bottom, so this part could not grow up, and you carried this guilty secret, as it were, with you. Therefore you continue suffering. This is why it is at the bottom.

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