Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dante for Kix (Contingencies re-run).

Dante, Europe's sort of official Tour Guide of Hell (Nietzsche cared not for him: calling him a hyena or something), placed the greek philosophers--and scientists, such as Archimedes---in Elysium. Elysium is not Hell, but similar to Purgatory, where it's sort of gloomy, but the light of Reason was always observable. Yet the pagans never escape from Elysium--so that is a bit different than the case for sinners in the traditional Purgatory, who have a shot at redemption after a few eons. Purgatory is really not a bad idea--remember that Professor that gave you a B when you definitely earned an A? Perhaps after 5000 years or so, when her spiritual errors are purged, she crawls out of her hole of excrement and is allowed admittance into the bottom rings of Heaven. Thus, the Dantean afterworld "code" (and based not only on Aquinas and the Vulgate, but Platonism) seems to suggest that humans--even skeptic or pagan idolators-- who live a fairly ethical and rational life are eventually rewarded, sort of like being admitted to the cosmic fraternity, and join the "elect"--Alpha Beta Epsilon, or whatever.

Virtuous pagans and skeptics, say Thomas Jefferson, Einstein or Bertrand Russell, thus could be conceivably admitted into some spiritual land of the blessed, regardless of their doubts of Scripture; whereas moronic violent believers (say Falwell) are not. A Newton, whose constants and equations, for the most part, still accurately map the mechanics of planetary motion, would be presumably ranked much higher than irrationalists and equivocators such as Derrida and the post-modernists, who may be hard-pressed to gain entrance into Purgatory. Or perhaps there are heavens and hells for everyone, of all religious or non-religious creeds, a sort of pantheistic play of forces, where in one realm, a Derrida or a William Burroughs is near some linguistic paradise, and in another they are being looked over by jackal-faced demons characteristic of the egyptian underworld (maybe instead the Darwinist posse holds (however mundane) and we're jus' sophisticated primates and future worm food (when yr dead, yr dead, as some old fop-filosophe said to me once: tho' Dante places Epicurus, sort of an ancient Darwinian materialist, in a rather unpleasant section in Inferno), and the afterworld meme-metaphor functions in some biological or genetic manner, not quite understood.....).

As an aside, I must say I find Dante's Inferno quite entertaining. I especially enjoy contemplating the lower levels, the Malebolge (something like "piss pocket" according to my bad italiano), where the Hypocrites and Betrayers are located, quite a bit lower than those guilty of mere sins of the flesh (whores and sodomites, etc.). Signior Dante obviously felt that those who had betrayed their country, their countrymen, and/or children were near the bottom of Hell. There seem to be quite a few corrupt Catholic clergymen and noblemen, assassins and murderers as well. The Prophet Mohammed is down there, as are numerous other heretics (including a legendary Ho, Thais), Ulysses (think Capn' Kirk) and his sarge Diomedes (Diomedes not quite Spock--more like, say, Schwarzenegger, tho' the other great warrior Achilles quite a few rings above 'em), as well as corrupt judges such as Caiaphas. In the icy center of the hell-lake Cocytus, Brutus, the rather stoical and methodical assassin of Julius Caesar, and his cohort Cassius (alas, quite a witty wise guy in Shakespeare's play) are being gnawed on by Lucifer, their heads out; Judas Iscariot of course is being swallowed eternally head-first by the massive Lucifer, who, in a mockery of the Trinity, has 3 mouths.

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