Dark Way to Paradise

Dante's Inferno in Light of the Spiritual Path

Jennifer Doane Upton

Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004.
216 pages
ISBN: 1-59731-001-8
Price: $20.95 US
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ISBN: 1-59731-009-3
Price: $35.95 US
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Dante’s Inferno is often presented today in lurid ‘gothic’ terms as if it were no more than an entertaining demonic freak-show. Alternately, it is taken as merely a cultural and political commentary on Dante’s own place and time, cast in allegorical terms. But the Inferno, and the Divine Comedy as a whole, are much more than that. The human passions, and the Mystery of Iniquity of which they are expressions, are fundamentally the same in any place and time; the Inferno presents not so much a history of sin as a catalogue of the archetypes of sin, the fundamental ways in which all of us are tempted to betray the human form. Based on the works of a number of the Greek Fathers, on the writings of several members of the Traditionalist School, notably Frithjof Schuon and René Guénon, and on the kind of wide personal experience of the violation of the human form that is available to anyone in these times with both the requisite discernment—ooted in love—and the courage to keep his or her eyes open, Jennifer Doane Upton has once again seen Dante’s Inferno as it really is. It is the record of the struggle of the human mind, will, and emotions to discover and name, by the grace of God, the sins resident in the human soul. As both a traditional re-presentation and a contemporary revisioning of the ‘examination of conscience’, individual and collective, Dark Way to Paradise is at once an exegetical masterpiece and a handbook of demonology of concrete use to any true physician of the soul. In its direct application of metaphysical principles to ‘infernal psychology’, it is unique among Dante commentaries. And in a time like ours, when the Western Church appears to be dissolving before our eyes, to save again what Dante himself saved out of the great medieval Christian synthesis has never been so timely.

Table of Contents

Foreword—Preface—Introduction: Dante's Vision of Spiritual Love—Studies of Cantos I–XXXIV (in 34 separate chapters)—Afterword: Purgatory as a Type of the Spiritual Path


Jennifer Doane Upton has provided us with a remarkable study of Dante's Inferno, bringing the often obscure text down the level of the individual soul—hers, mine, and the reader's—and this in a manner no other contemporary commentary does. A practicing Orthodox Christian with a long-standing interest in psychology, and familiar with the mystical writings of other religious traditions, Mrs. Upton brings us many new insights into the Inferno. But make no mistake. While scholarly, this is not a scholar's text, but rather a spiritual guide to the path that each and every one of us must travel. You might say that she shares with us her own travail, and invites us to join her, explaining that Dante had to go through Hell in order to be convicted of his sin, to witness the darkness in his own soul. And for this, as we all do, he needed a guide, namely Virgil, whom Augustine loved to the point that he feared it might be sinful. More than a guide is required, however; we also need the virtue of hope, which enables us to witness and deal with the reality of sin—our sin. Furthermore, Dante makes it clear that he could live in this hope only because of the mercy of the Blessed Virgin, who among other things symbolizes the soul—his soul and ours—in a state of grace. I invite the reader to share the pleasures and insights of this wonderful text.
Rama Coomaraswamy, author of The Destruction of the Christian Traditio

About the Author

Jennifer Doane Upton, author and scholar of Christian mysticism, was guided by Alvin Moore to embrace patristic Christianity in its Greek Orthodox form. One of the fruits of this relationship was her book Dark Way to Paradise: Dante's Inferno in Light of the Spiritual Path (Sophia Perennis, 2005), an exegesis of the Inferno according to Schuon, Burckhardt, Lings, Guénon and the Church fathers. She lives with her husband, Charles Upton, in Lexington, Kentucky.