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In the Divine Comedy as in the Allegory of the Cave, the Assent of Love, and

Boethius’ Consolation, we are presented with progression from a state of

deficiency to one of transcendent realization of truth. For Plato, this is the
form of the good; for the Christians this good is synonymous with the nature of
God and His rule and His works. Armed with reason and led by a guide representing
wisdom and experience the soul in question moves and ascends by doubts,
experiences and realizations that, resolved, lead to truths until they arrive at
that which encompasses all truth.
Each parable begins with the privileged pilgrim in a state of deficiency of true
knowledge of the good. In the case of the allegory of the cave this is “from
childhood, chained by the leg and also by the neck” to a state of ignorance
preventing actual knowledge of the Forms – the world as it really is. In that of
the assent of and to Love this is mistaken thought on the nature of Love, that
knowledge which is most desirable as it leads to eudemonia, true virtue and the
love of the gods even so far as immortality. For Boethius, this is having fallen
into despair and forgetfulness of the nature of God’s ordering of his universe. In
Dante’s account it is having strayed from that knowledge of God which is the path
to salvation and to be lost in ignorance and sin.
The “unwisdom” of the cave dweller is “from childhood” and all that he has been
allowed is shadows of artificial representations of actuals and echoes of those
performing the puppetry reflected off the shadowed wall and therefore attributed
to the shadows. It is only an illusory knowledge of which his life has consisted
and upon which his experience is built. The imagery of being so chained is echoed
by Boethius. The misconceptions of Socrates are less profound but similar - with
only false knowledge of love and its goal, how can he hope to achieve it and all
the good and virtue it brings? The man to whom the assent is ascribed is at the
beginning in a painful state of longing to reproduce and is prevented from so
doing because he does not know beauty (all things must give birth in the presence
of beauty) and so therefore he is impotent, uncomfortable, and unfulfilled.
Boethius has lost everything and is imprisoned awaiting his unmerited execution
but this is not where his deficiency lies. Rather, it is his forgetting of
himself in despair. In his despair he is attended by the muses who “slay the rich
and fruitful harvest of Reason with the barren thorns of passion.” His forgetting
of himself and the ways of reason and God has caused him to “lie prostrate
prisoner of night. /his neck bends low in shackles thrust, / and he is forced
beneath the weight / to contemplate – the lowly dust.” Dante presents himself
(as the pilgrim) “midway along the journey of our life / I woke to find myself in
a dark wood / for I had wandered off the straight path”. He has already had the
first realization that I will speak of latter and so he sees himself in his fallen
state in a “dark wood” symbolic of sinful and worldly life that he has come to by
straying from virtue and from following God. For him as for Boethius this is a
state akin to forgetfulness from being too much in and prone to the worldly ways
of men – they once knew the right path but have fallen through hardship and
weakness. By contrast, the characters of Plato have not forgotten (except for
what they knew in preexistence) - they just have not had their eyes yet opened to
the light of truth.

The process of enlightenment for each begins with realization of his respective
state and intervention by someone wiser. This first realization may be the result
of the intervention and painful, frightening or bewildering as in the case of the
cave dweller set free and forced to “turn his head” or the realization may simply
be humbling as Socrates’ is in his realization of his mistaken view of love
pointed out by Diotoma. Each must be lead through at least the first stages of
their enlightenment. None can overcome the obstacles that either they themselves
set or that exist independently - none can achieve the goal unaided. Their guides
in all cases represent wisdom and experienced thought. The cave dweller’s guide is
unnamed and we know only through their intervention forcing the cave dweller to
move up and out of the cave though as in the other cases this does involve
questioning and teaching leading to right thought. The education of Socrates takes
place at the instruction of Diotoma, the high priestess of love and a woman of
great wisdom. Boethius has Philosophy herself to nurse and guide him and Dante has
through the pity of Mary the virgin and st Lucia, Beatrice as faith and Virgil as
reason to guide him along with all those souls he encounters along the way as
examples elucidating truths. For him the journey begins as he tries to climb out
of the “dark wood”.
The cave dweller is set free and the “healing of unwisdom” begins as he is “forced
suddenly to stand up” (awake) and “turn his head”(realize) and begins to “walk
with eyes lifted to the lights” (truths). This is a painful process as he is
unaccustomed to the light of truth and disorientating for he is forced to realize
that “all he had formerly seen was meaningless illusion”. His knowledge of what
things are and how the world operates is all founded on these illusions and echoes
and his deprived underground environment leave him “dazzled” by what he now
experiences and unable to incorporate the new world into his old views. This
point is further stressed as his guide, who has explained to him that what he knew
before was only illusory, makes the point by questioning him about the objects
which cast the shadows. These objects, while the cause of the shadows, are so
alien from the shadows that the man is helpless to explain them. He wishes to
return to his prior state rather than face the pain of the light and bewilderment
of the actuals but he is dragged “forcibly up the steep and rugged ascent” by his
For Plato’s Socrates his enlightenment begins with the correction by Diaotoma of
his misconceptions about the nature of Love. Love does not, as Socrates and
Agathon had thought, “belong to the beautiful things” nor is he a great god. Love
is neither beautiful nor ugly and since love always is in pursuit of the good and
the beautiful and is often unhappy, Love cannot be a god for the gods are all
possessing of the beautiful, the good, and are eternally happy. Instead we a
presented with Love’s sad parentage as the son of Penia (poverty) and Poros
(way/resource) and the grandson of Metis (cunning) he is a daimonion and inherits
various qualities from his lineage . Love is not the beloved but rather the lover.
As the lover Love, and what men mean when they speak of love properly (within is
specific rather than general domain), is desirous of beautiful things by which are
meant good things which are the means of happiness and that they are desirous of
having them forever. This forever diotoma shows may only be accomplished by
reproducing within beauty which allows man a sort of immortality.
Boethius’ first realization comes by the clearing at least somewhat of the fog of
despair from his mind so that he may recognize again his nurse and teacher
Philosophy. Philosophy wipes his tear-obscured eyes with her robe (knit of
philosophies wisdom with the pi and the theta representing the different arias),
His eyes unobstructed, regaining their strength and his mind beginning to clear,
he recognizes his nurse whom he had forgotten. His mind, however, is still
obscured by the blows of fortune that he has experienced, and his thoughts
bitterly cry out against the unjust and haphazard nature of fortune. This is a
“grave” state not only for its debilitating effects on his mind but also because
it leads him to say of God “to human acts alone denied/ thy fit control as lord of
all.” it is by thinking that fortune is outside of Divine plan that he has
become ill and he is in risk of dieing a spiritual death because of his “wandering
from himself”. Philosophy having found the chief cause of the problem begins to
lead Boethius to an understanding of Fortune that shows that “change is her normal
behavior, her true nature” that inconsistency is her very essence. Furthermore,
that all that fortune takes is what fortune has bestowed and “in law eternal it
lies decreed / that naught from change is ever freed.” that he yet has many of
the blessings of Fortune in his children and family in his memory and his ability
to reason which is now being restored. She tells him “you are a happy man, then,
if you know where your true happiness lies…” that he should rejoice in his
anchors which yet hold. When he accepts that all that she has thus far shown is
true then they have made a little progress as he now longer considers himself
banished and stripped of all.
Dante, awakening, realizing that he has “wandered off the straight path” and finds
himself in a horrible place “savage and stubborn” a confession of his sinful state
bitter but sweet for “the good that came of it”. He wants to climb out of the
valley up the hill to the “light sent from the planet / that leads men straight
ahead on every road.” – he wants to sin no more. He remembers “that night spent in
deepest desperation.” and “Now safe upon the slope” he looks back “upon the pass
/ that never let a living soul escape.” He finds his way to the right path/life
blocked by three beasts representing the three natures of sin. The leopard as
fraud, the lion as violence, and the she-wolf as incontinence. The rising sun
makes him think at first that he can get past but the beasts (the she-wolf in
particular) force him back “to where the sun is mute”. Despairing and frightened
he sees Virgil and pleads for help. Virgil comes as a bastion of wisdom but wisdom
(however great) without knowledge of God cannot know the way in purgatory nor
enter paradise and so we are told that at these latter stages the pilgrim will be
lead by one far more blest (Beatrice). Virgil explains to the pilgrim how it is
that he has come to his aid and what the journey before him will be. In highest
heaven Mary the Virgin takes pity on Dante lost in sin and decides, with the help
of God, to intercede on the behalf of his soul. She instructs St. Lucia who in
turn instructs the blessed Beatrice to aid he who loved her so dearly and is now
in most need of her help. Beatrice condescends to go to limbo to seek the help of
Virgil to act as a guide to the pilgrim on his journey so far as he can. “I fear
he may have gone so far astray, / from what report has come to me in heaven, /
that I may have started to his aid too late.” This journey will not be the simple
climbing out of the valley the pilgrim tried; rather he must go through hell to
fully recognize his sins, must renounce them and do penance by traveling through
purgatory and confess his sin before he may enter paradise where he will be able
to confirm his faith and see Divine Light. Along the way he will see great and
terrible things and encounter many famous souls and inquire into the Nature of God
and his Divinity. He must, like the cave dweller, move from darkness into light
profound and then he will know “the right way”.

All these pilgrims experience an assent in which the stepping-stones are doubts
and questions resolved by reason made manifest with examples and experiences. The
final goal for each is reached with the transcendent knowledge bestowed by virtue
of their journey and in respect to what is considered the highest capacity of man.
The cave dweller now forced out of the cave into the sunlight is blinded by the
radiance (of truth) until his eyes (and mind) become adjusted. This period of
adjustment progresses through stages depending on the level of truth his eyes/mind
may comprehend and each builds upon the other. At first he can only make out
shadows, these are shadows not of artificial things but of actual things and so it
is great progress from those he knew in the cave. Even the nature of the light
broken by the shadow shows he has begun to ascend as they are not shadows cast by
a fire but by the sun (which we see latter as representing the Forms and in
general that highest Form of the Good). From shadows his eyes/mind becomes strong
enough to see reflected images of real things then “the things themselves”. Now he
is able to look up to the heavenly bodies the night sky the moon the stars note he
is not yet able to bear the light of the sun but these lesser while still elevated
truths he is now able to know. After his mind has achieved all this he is able to
finally look into the sun into its nature “as it is in itself in its own domain”
then reason its role in the seasons of earth (the ways of the world) in the year
(time) its control of everything in the visible world and in all the lesser lights
(truths) which take their share of light from it. He even comes to understand it
as the cause of his old visions.
The ascent of love may finally be shown to Socrates now that his views are no
longer mistaken. We are all pregnant both in body and soul and, are longing for
beauty so that we may give birth and ease our discomfort. When a man is pregnant
more in body than in soul he seeks out a woman which whom to have a child in order
that the child will confer on him a measure of immortality. However when a man is
pregnant more in soul than body he may give birth to greater and more immortal
things than the first man, providing he climbs the ascent of love in the proper
way . At first he should love a beautiful body and “beget beautiful ideas there”
then he should realize that the beauty of one body is akin to the beauty of other
bodies. From this he should realize the greater worth of a beautiful soul “noble
and well formed” and love and care for this beautiful soul regardless of his
outward form. This “makes him instantly teem with logos about virtue- the
qualities a virtuous man should have and the customary activities in which he
should engage”. This leads him to pursue and love wisdom fist of certain types
until as with the one body to all bodies he reveres and pursues all knowledge. In
both these stages he begets beautiful ideas, literature, laws, thoughts and
theories about virtue and truth. At this point diotoma warns Socrates that they
have almost reached their goal “the final and highest mystery” and “I don’t know
if you are capable of it.”
Boethius, now somewhat rehabilitated, no longer seeing himself as the victim of
Fortune’s unjust cruelty (for it is her nature to give as she takes and he has yet
things far more valuable then what he has lost), turns to Philosophy for guidance
to true happiness safe from Fortunes change. She tells him to seek happiness from
within for this is safe from Fortune and is superior to the highest Fortune may
give for it is your own, earned and safe. The only good you can possess is
yourself; nothing else can you call your own – not the beauties of nature nor gold
nor high office. These are Gods wealth bestowed according to His plan by Fortune.
Furthermore, all the things in which men seek happiness are good only if the men
are good. Power and high office are good when held by a good man and then called
good but the good is attributable only to the man who makes the power good. All
fame and earthly glory are “puny” compared with the expanse and breadth of heaven
and earth and the eternity of time . Bad fortune and adversity, she goes on to
state, are blessings unparallel with what are customarily called blessings as they
show things and friends as they truly are and temper the character to show true
goodness which otherwise would not have been known.
Boethius, much strengthened now, is eager to hear what is true happiness and how
it may be achieved but Philosophy cautions that “your mind dreams of it- but your
sight is clouded by shadows of happiness and cannot see reality ” she must dispel
these shadows of happiness to make his see what true happiness is – he must first
learn the cause. It is agreed that all men search for happiness/ beatitude, but
this cannot be found in power, renown, pleasure, etc. These are all good but they
are affects of the true happiness not true happiness itself. This is because they
do not give self-sufficiency which is taken as a measure of how “true” the
happiness is. Each on its own leaves one in a state of want or fear making man
slave to it. This is so because “that which is one and undivided is mistakenly
subdivided and removed by men from the state of truth and perfection to a state of
falseness and imperfection” . So Boethius has come to know by argument and proof
that “true and perfect happiness is that which makes a man self-sufficient,
strong, worthy of respect, glorious and joyful” but to go in search of it in any
of its affects would be a “sidetrack” where “the evils with which they are beset
is great” . Even this knowledge of true happiness is only a shadow compared with
the knowledge of happiness immortal. At this point they pray to God for help in
their endeavor into his right domain. It is here that we move from the nature of
happiness and good to the true nature of happiness and good as God and his ways.
First it is agreed that God is good as is his creation that it is that which
emanates from his creation and is further removed from him which is less good and
perishable – further reason to seek out his good in preference to worldly good for
his encompasses and surpasses all. God is also not distinct in any way from the
good – he is it and all good is good through and of him and since true good has
been shown to be one and the same with true happiness, God is the keeper of
supreme happiness . As with the supreme good being identical to both the supreme
happiness and the supreme God “so it follows that supreme happiness is identical
with supreme divinity” . The oneness of supreme happiness and divinity leads to
the conclusion that ”each happy individual is therefore divine. While only God is
so by nature, as many as you like may become so by participation”. Now we come to
how unity is identical with good and with God. “When these objects (affects of
good) differ, they’re not good, but when they begin to be one they become good. So
it comes about that it is through the acquisition of unity that these things are
good” the supreme good is possessing of all the affects of good and as unity and
sufficiency are part of the good so the supreme good (God) is the same as the
supreme sufficiency and unity. This is further illustrated with him as the “good
helmsman” controlling all in his divine plan. Here the problem of evil comes up –
for if God is in all omnipotent and supreme good how is there evil- especially
unpunished evil? Philosophy answers him with the same proof by definition that
won St Augustine his conversion. It goes a follows: can god do evil? No. What is
there that God cannot do? Nothing he is omnipotent. So evil is nothing. Further
that “the good are always strong and that the wicked are always bereft of power”
. She is not denying that evil and evil men exist but rather that they are
powerless and impotent. As has already been agreed all men desire to be happy,
something that may only be achieve through and is identical to the good, so how
can we call a man powerful if he has failed to reach the goal he most desires?
Philosophy likens it to a man walking on his hands to get to were he wants to go –
it is against nature and it is weakness. Power can only be power if it is for good
there can be no power from weakness (wickedness) and it cannot accomplish anything
evil (as evil is nothing). Furthermore these wicked men are not only powerless but
cease to exist as men and fall to the level of animals “men who give up the common
goal of all things that exist, thereby cease to exist themselves” . So good does
not go unrewarded as “goodness is happiness and therefore it is obvious that all
good men obtain happiness in virtue of their being good. But we agree that those
who obtain happiness are divine the reward of the good, then, a reward that can
never be decreased, that no one’s power can diminish and no one’s wickedness
darken is to become gods.” evil is punished by the unhappiness inseparable from
the wicked and even if they go apparently “scot-free” and are advanced in this
world they suffer all the more because of their opportunity for greater evil.
Boethius here asks if there isn’t any punishment left for the soul after the death
of the body and, Philosophy’s reply, Boethius the author makes clear that he is
writing of philosophy’s consolation not of religions and that “there is, indeed
great punishment then, (after the death of the body) sometimes exacted with penal
severity (one could liken this to Dante’s inferno), sometimes, I think, with
purifying mercy (and this to his purgatory) but it is not my intention to discuss
it now.” we have seen that the wicked are punished and the good rewarded but what
of the verity of fortune how are we to distinguish “between God and the haphazard
of chance?” Boethius asks. Philosophy responds that there is not such thing as
chance only that there appears to be as we cannot see with God’s intellect, that
everything, however coincidental it may appear, is part of the divine plan which
(seen in its sublime simplicity and entirety) is Providence and which, when
filtered down to individual events, times, and places, is called Fate. Boethius
wonders about how that most precious gift of man (along with reason) - freedom of
will - can fit into such foreknowledge. Philosophy points out, though, that just
as reason is higher than the imagination, which is higher than the senses, so
“that intellect perfect which is God” is higher and more powerful than them all.
So God can see all acts of free will, which are just that- free- because the omni-
knowledge does not impose necessity only that once things are they necessarily
As Dante descends into hell he becomes acquainted with those who have to one
degree or another fallen victim to the three beasts that blocked his path on the
hill. Their wretched states and punishments speak volumes but I will only speak of
the general nature of sin and punishment here and focus more on the truths the
pilgrim gains through this process and his questions answered as symbolic of his
ascent to true knowledge in the order in which they are addressed. They have
already gone through limbo (the place of the virtuous but unbaptized) where the
question of divine justice and final judgment is for the most part put off till
one of faith (Beatrice) can resolve it. They then descend through the domain of
the she-wolf (incontinence) through the second circle (the lustful) the third
(gluttonous) the fourth (greed and prodigality) the fifth (wrathful and slothful)
and the pilgrim is led to question Virgil about the nature of fortune. Virgil’s
answer echoes that of Philosophy in the consolation “how overwhelming is your
ignorance!” “That One, whose wisdom knows infinity, / made all the heavens and
gave each one a guide, / and each sphere shining shines on all he others so light
is spread with equal distribution; /for worldly splendors He ordained a guide and
general ministress / who would at her discretion shift the world’s vain wealth…
with no chance of interference from mankind / …your knowledge has no influence on
her for she foresees, she judges, and she rules / her kingdom…” “Her changing
changes never take a rest; /necessity keeps her in constant motion, /as men come
and go to take their turn with her.”(line 88-90 canto7) In short, fortune’s
nature is change and her authority and instructions are from the highest, but men
should not fear or be enthralled to her blessings or poverties it is of little
importance and leads many into sin. From the circles of the milder sins of
incontinence Virgil and the pilgrim descend to the city of Dis where they have to
call on heavens help to be let in here are punished sins far worse because of the
level of agency involved in committing them. In the sixth circle, that of the
heretics we learn that the damned have only “faulty vision” of the future and of
god whereas the blest can look into gods intellect directly though they may not be
able to comprehend what is there. Descending through the seventh circle is the
place of punishment for the violent with the gradations of violence against other
against oneself and most severely against God. Lastly they descend into the pit
where fraud or sins of the intellect are punished most grievously. Circle eight is
where the merely fraudulent are and is divided into ten “ditches” where they are
immersed in various horrors. Circle nine is reserved for the most wretched of
souls who through their fraud led others astray or betrayed them this is divided
into four zones of ice. Through all this the pilgrim questions the nature of the
punishments and what will happen to these souls and their bodies on the Day of
Judgment. Virgil explains that the punishments both mock what it was that they
desired so much as to lead them to be lost in life and that they cannot but desire
these punishments for such is the spell that comes over them on the bank of the
river when they are damned – punishment here can have no purifying effect and on
the final day when they are allowed their bodies back this will make there pain
and punishment more perfect for such is the will of god. Also as they descend the
pilgrim no longer pities the fates of the souls he comes into contact with he
begins to argue and even treat them with distain and condemnation for his sight is
being cleared and in his mind knowledge of sin s fermenting. Whenever he strays
into wrong behavior he sense his guides displeasure and his intense shame wins him
forgiveness – this could perhaps be taken for the forgiveness of god to those who
stay a bit but repent heartily and humbly.
The men have by climbing into the bowels of the pit shifted their perspective and
in turning are climbing out of the pit of sin out of the inferno and the relates
that as he climbed to the narrow exit “I saw the lovely things the heavens hold,
/ and we came out to see once more the stars”. This imaging of climbing out of a
cave of darkness and being able to see the light of the heavens strongly recalls
the allegory of the cave and as the cave dweller was finally set free and on the
right path to knowledge so the pilgrim has been freed of his sinful ways and now
on the path to salvation as the two enter purgatory.
As he ascends he sees penitent souls suffering tortures (along the same vein and
ordered as they unrepentant counterparts in hell) for their former sins but
blissful for they have repented and know god and all look to paradise and divine
love. This is where the pilgrim must proceed with humility (which the reed he
wears symbolizes) just as while within the inferno he goes with pity fear and
aversion. In the third canto he inquires more into the nature of the souls and the
shades that represent them until they regain their bodies. Virgil explains that
while the shades have no substance they may yet experience pain and pleasure heat
and cold and other sensory things. This is the will of God facilitating his
punishments and rewards and “madness it is to hope that human minds / can ever
understand the infinite / that comprehends three persons in One Being.” for “if
you knew everything, / no need for Mary to have born a son.” The mount purgatory
is wondrous in its physics too beyond the reach of seasons, more arduous at the
bottom and easier nearing the summit, also the peculiar nature of night with the
will of all failing before the shadows (symbolic of their former sin). In canto 6
the pilgrim asks for clarification on the power of prayer to help souls for in
hell Virgil’s words seemed to say it was powerless to aid souls. Virgil responds
that “High Justice would in no way be debased / if ardent love should cancel
instantly / the debt these penitents must satisfy.” His remarks of the
powerlessness of prayer had been regarding those damned in hell “those whose sins
could not be purged by prayer, / because their prayers had no access to God.”
(lines 34-42) in canto 9 they come to the gates to purgatory proper and an angel
writes with his sword seven Ps on the pilgrims forehead symbolic of the seven sins
he will be purged of on the assent and warns them once inside to not look back (on
the sinful ways they once knew). The light of truth is at first hard to bear for
the pilgrim but he- like the cave dweller, will grow accustomed. In canto 16 he
hears mans free will reaffirmed and the stars have no such influence over it. He
also is educated about the perversions of love that lead many to sin. Virgil
explains that “it should be clear to you by now how blind / to truth those people
are who make the claims / that every love is, in itself, good love. / They think
this, for love’s substance, probably, / seems always good, but though the wax is
good, / the impression made upon it may be bad.” (line 33-39) so reason and faith
should defend against such perversions and lead the love to higher things. The
nature of the body and the soul is also addressed for as the soul is given to the
material earth it generates its form according to the capacity and virtue that is
diffused in it.
Having learned all this the pilgrim must take faith and pass through fire this
shows that faith will take the prominent position in the next stages of the
journey. He enters the summit of mount purgatory the earthly paradise once the
birthright of man, Eden, alone for beyond this Virgil who never knew God’s faith
cannot go. There he is witness to the heavenly pageant representing God’s faith
and here at the hands of his beloved Beatrice whose radiance like that of the
representations of Faith dazzles him, he must humble himself and make his
confession before he can know any greater portion of the divine light. He is
dazzled and overwhelmed but does not forget himself or all that he has learned on
him journey and through the harsh mercy of Beatrice recalls his deficiencies and
sins makes a heartfelt confession the light and truth of which is too much for him
to bear and he passes out.
He awakes and after some prophecy regarding the state of God’s faith and church on
earth may now begin his assent into paradise. For this he feels himself being
“transhumanized” as he is raised heavenward amazed at this Beatrice who by looking
into the divine intellect can discern his thoughts explains to him “if you, free
as you are from every weight, / had stayed below, then that would be as strange /
as living flame on earth remaining still” (lines139-141) this is God’s order of
things the soul once unencumbered by sin automatically rises up. As they ascend
through the blest of heaven she explains further what Virgil could not about God’s
creations and how his Divine light operates using the example of the moon and its
“spots” as they reach it in canto 2. “ Different virtues mingle differently / with
each rich stellar body that they quicken / even as the soul within you blends with
you.” “And from this virtue, not from dense and rare, / derive those differences
of light we see; / this is the formal principle that gives; according to its
virtue, dark and light.” This is also meant to explain the different levels of
Divine Light in paradise each soul is given and placed according to its capacity
for happiness and Light.
Accordingly Plato’s thought that each soul returns to its star is faulty but
rather they return to the level of Divine Intellect for which they have capacity.
The next mystery of faith dealt with is the triumph of Christ the redemption
through Christ’s sufferings as man for the sin of Adam. God could have
accomplished this either by his mercy or his Justice he chouse to combine the two.
The mercy is God taking on the flesh the justice his suffering and death. The
imperfection of certain things shown by their perish ability (nothing that takes
full part in the divinely perfect creation can perish) is that god created all the
material but that removed secondary causes shaped them. In answer question god
created both human soul and human body directly so the immortality of the soul is
assured (even in hell), as is the resurrection of the body on the Day of Judgment.
The angels were created before all by an act of pure love and are like mirrors of
Divine Light without memory or character just reflections of Divine Love. It is
also reasserted that Eternal Judgment cannot be comprehended by human minds and so
maintains its mystery and independence. The final step before the pilgrim can look
into the Divine Light and Intellect is a test of his faith preformed by st Peter
in canto 24. This knowledge and possession of faith is the final and truest key
to salvation without which one is lost. The pilgrim answers; “faith is the
substance of those hoped for things / and argument for things we have not seen.”
The substance of love must come before knowledge and this substance must be from
the alpha to the omega love of God.
The final goal for each is reached with the transcendent knowledge bestowed by
virtue of his journey and in respect to what is considered the highest capacity of
man. These men, now beacons of truth, are within the story or implicitly within
the story returned to act as teachers and examples to those less privileged then

The cave dweller has gained knowledge of the true nature of things by moving
up ever-increasing intensities of light and clarity until he has arrived at the
knowledge of the Forms. The man in the ascent of love has moved up the ladder of
loves and pursuits to the Form of Beauty itself where he may give birth not to
mere images of virtue but virtue itself, something that earns him the love of the
gods as well as a share in immortality. Boethius has found himself, and through
philosophy, the path to virtue in the eyes of God and salvation. Dante too has
found the path to salvation through the truths of God. Each has found
transcendent truth but that level of truth differs to some extent. Plato’s
characters have found supreme truth – the highest that is possible: the Forms
themselves, even the supreme Form. Boethius and Dante are limited by the
disparity between human and Divine capacity for truth – the highest truth is too
blinding and yet this is not unsatisfying because the highest truth they are
desirous of is that which will lead them to blessedness and company with God, the
supreme Intellect. The experience of Dante as he looks directly into the Divine
Intellect and has Truth engulf him is too awesome for him to describe, and rightly
so. This is knowing God the creator and sustainer of all Divine Love itself. It
would not be fitting or logical for we who are his creations to be able to take in
the whole. For the other Christian, Boethius, the same holds true regarding the
incomprehensibility of Divine Truth although since his consolation is of
philosophy at the book’s end we can indeed see all of philosophy clearly – we do
not see Divinity but rather the Reason that leads to it.
These men, now beacons, are all at the end dispatched into the world to
carry the message to varying extends and face fate with the true knowledge they
have obtained. The cave dweller is put back in the cave and suffers a martyr’s
death for the truth he tries to convey is too foreign to the other cave dwellers
who have not seen the light. The cave dweller as the philosophy king is duty bound
to an office that distracts and keeps him from his true love philosophy and
unhappy as the head that wears the crown. Boethius is left consoled to his fate
and will die in righteousness. Dante returns to try to convey his miraculous
journey as a warning for the betterment of his fellow man as well as knowledge of
the righteous path to follow it till death. Only the man in the ascent of love
seems without assignment but that is because he having reached the state of
knowing the form of Beauty everything which he does will be virtuous and
educational to those around him – his blessedness is effortless once he knows
highest Truth.