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Personal Gnosis

With the sweetness and gentleness of a man comfortable in his faith Giancarlo displayed his collection of small iconographic images to the folks taking their morning espresso at Café La Piazzetta. When he got to our table both Harold and I gave him a Euro coin donation for a copy of Santa Lucia.
“Gnosis,” Harold said as Giancarlo departed.
“I feel an elaborate explanation coming on,” I said.
“Indeed. You’re familiar with St. Lucia?”
“No, I’m not.”
“To ensure her celibacy in the service of Christ she plucked out her own eyes. An act guaranteed to render her no longer desirable to her many suitors.”
“Ouch. An extreme gesture, wouldn’t you say?”
“In her eyes—so to speak—it was barely adequate compared to her Lord’s ultimate sacrifice.”
“So where does gnosis come in?”
“Giancarlo obviously believes that through the intercession of his patron saint he might achieve salvation, no?”
“A reasonable assumption.”
“So now recall the story of Dante and Beatrice.”
“The artist and his muse?”
“It goes way beyond that. I just read a recent interview with Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale. Among other topics, he discusses Dante. He points out that the Catholic Church claims the poet as one of its own, even though a close look at his work reveals all sorts of fascinating heresies.”
“Indeed. One of which is not exactly gnosticism, but rather a sort of personal gnosis.”
“How so?”
“Dante claims Beatrice, the woman he loves, is essential not just for his own salvation, but for everyone's salvation.”
“My friend, I’ll have to think about that for a while.”
Harold smiled. “And while you’re at it, lad, think also about the role Vittoria plays in your life as an artist. She’s your muse, isn’t she?”
“Of course.”
“Well, then, why does one write a novel if not to help others achieve a form of salvation?”


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what an intriguing take on dante and beatrice! i guess i'd always assumed that she was in Paradiso for dante personally, not for all humankind. i need to do some more reading. (this makes me regret not taking grad level courses in italian!) personal gnosis i need to look into, too. grazie. :)

Thanks, and you're welcome! The interview with Harold Bloom is in the current issue of The Atlantic Online, entitled “Ranting Against Cant,” and the Dante gnosis reference is about halfway down. Link here.

oh, great! thanks so much.

Your entries are real treats! I'm going to be teaching Hell to university-bound seventeen-year-olds in September. I love the stimulation. May I never go stale for my students.

Hell. That ought to be verrrry interesting. When I was a lad I overheard an argument between a couple of intellectuals, one a budding theologian and the other a student of literature. The literature lover went on at length how out of proportion eternal punishment--or eternal reward for that matter--was in comparison to our brief life span.

"Why are you so interested in getting rid of hell," the theologian asked.

"Why are you so interested in preserving it?" his friend replied.

I think eternal is different from infinity. The problem is that God has all day for everything, so to speak.

Have you read a book called Who In Hell? It's a funny encyclopedia of the famous damned-to-hell from history. It tells you why they went to Hell from a Catholic point of view. People like Walt Disney, Jim Morrison, and Henry VIII.

Can I get a Santa Lucia mask?

frank is my muse.

Sorry, the Bishop at St. Vito's informs me that the Vatican recently announced it no longer will make Santa Lucia masks available to anyone except exceptionally devout girls in convents.

Fascinating connection of ideas and images ... nourishing, too.

Thanks, glad you found it of interest!

An act guaranteed to render her no longer desirable to her many suitors.

who perhaps wore the scent of bay.

The Protagonist She who arrives home to a burnt town and desert-blasted land after being too late to save daphne from apollo later in the story tends to a small flock of devotees of The Muse.

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