The Esoterism of Dante

René Guénon

Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001.
108 pages
Paperback
ISBN: 0-900588-64-0
Price: $15.95 US
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Hardcover
ISBN: 1-59731-058-1
Price: $33.95 US
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Especially since the Renaissance, some in Western Christendom have suspected that the deeper dimension of their tradition has somehow been lost, and have therefore sought to discover, or create, an ‘esoteric’ or ‘initiatic’ Christianity. In the middle of the nineteenth century two scholars, Gabriele Rossetti and Eugene Aroux, pointed to certain esoteric meanings in the work of Dante Alighieri, notably The Divine Comedy. Partly based on their scholarship, Guénon in 1925 published The Esoterism of Dante. From the theses of Rosetti and Aroux, Guénon retains only those elements that prove the existence of such hidden meanings; but he also makes clear that esoterism is not ‘heresy’ and that a doctrine reserved for an elite can be superimposed on the teaching given the faithful without standing in opposition to it. In the present volume, along with its companion volume Insights into Christian Esoterism (which includes the separate study Saint Bernard), Guénon undertakes to establish that the three parts of The Divine Comedyrepresent the stages of initiatic realization, exploring the parallels between the symbolism of the Commedia and that of Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and Christian Hermeticism, and illustrating Dante’s knowledge of traditional sciences unknown to the moderns: the sciences of numbers, of cosmic cycles, and of sacred astrology. Guénon also touches on the all-important question of medieval esoterism and discusses the role of sacred languages and the principle of initiation in the Christian tradition, as well as such esoteric Christian themes and organizations as the Holy Grail, the Guardians of the Holy Land, the Sacred Heart, the Fedeli d’Amore and the ‘Courts of Love’, and the Secret Language of Dante. In addition to Dante, various other paths toward a possible Christian esoterism have been explored by many investigators—the legend of the Holy Grail, the Knights Templars, the tradition of Courtly Love, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and Christian Hermeticism—and Guénon deals with all of these in the present volume as well as in his Insights into Christian Esoterism. Both The Esoterism of Dante and Insights into Christian Esoterism will be of inestimable value to all who are struggling to come to terms with the fullness of the Christian tradition.

Table of Contents

Apparent and Hidden Meaning—The 'Fede Santa'—Masonic and Hermetic Parallels—Dante and Rosicrucianism—Extra-Terrestrial Journeys in Different Traditions—The Three Worlds—The Symbolic Numbers—Cosmic Cycles—Errors of Systematic Interpretations

About the Author

René Guénon (1886–1951) was one of the great luminaries of the twentieth century, whose critique of the modern world has stood fast against the shifting sands of intellectual fashion. His extensive writings, now finally available in English, are a providential treasure-trove for the modern seeker: while pointing ceaselessly to the perennial wisdom found in past cultures ranging from the Shamanistic to the Indian and Chinese, the Hellenic and Judaic, the Christian and Islamic, and including also Alchemy, Hermeticism, and other esoteric currents, they direct the reader also to the deepest level of religious praxis, emphasizing the need for affiliation with a revealed tradition even while acknowledging the final identity of all spiritual paths as they approach the summit of spiritual realization. His greatest contributions are a blindingly lucid exposition of the principles of orthodoxy and traditional metaphysics, an uncompromising critique of the deviation of modernism, and a breath-taking view of the polyvalence of traditional symbols. Implicit in these three genres, as in all Guénon's writing, is the need for personal affiliation with an orthodox tradition as a precondition for a bona fide spiritual practice that might lead, at least in principle, to the intellectual intuition of which he speaks. Little known in the English-speaking world till the recent appearance of his Collected Works in translation, Guénon has nevertheless long been recognized as a veritable criterion of truth by a vanguard of remarkable writers who evince that rare combination: intellectuality and spirituality. Regarded by leading scholars as the first truly authentic interpreter of many Eastern doctrines in the West, Guénon never tired, in face of the seemingly inexorable process of dissolution in the twentieth century, of pointing to the transcendent unity of all religious faiths and the abiding Truth that contains them all.