Gates of Dis, as limitations of Reason

Today we had another great conversation about the deeper significance of the Gates of Dis, and the rejection of the futile efforts of Virgil to open them, as Reason. On a Journey into the deep and into Knowledge as well – Reason can only get you so far before the limitations become apparent. In the case of the Journey in Dante’s Inferno – this happens after Circle 5 when the guardians of the City of Dis slam the door in Virgil’s face and laugh!

They have to wait until an Angel (as a symbol of the transcendent or forces within us that lie beyond the rational domain) opens the Gates effortlessly, and shakes his head at the guardians playing their games.

A deeper reading of this scene will also open up the topics about the role, nature, limitations, insufficiencies and also great potential and value of Reason. In many aspects of life, reason is crucial and of enormous utility for progress, but in some cases it needs to be balanced with other sources of knowledge and illumination, to gain the sufficient capacity to overcome different obstacles and reach a deeper understanding and learning of the world, and of oneself.

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9 Responses to Gates of Dis, as limitations of Reason

  1. Yes, I think this is one of those scenes that may seem insignificant at first reading but becomes ever deeper the more you think about it! I had not worked out who called the angel until our conversation today and I realise that it was not called, it was promised right at the start that help would be given. So Virgil and Dante have to leave behind reason and now trust in the promise of another. Where reason stops, faith starts:)

    • ancientworld says:

      This is so true! The promise was there from the start. And it expands on the whole big “circular” movement of the Comedy, how it starts with Virgin Mary up in the White Rose of the Empyrean seeing the lost Pilgrim in the Dark Forest, until the ending/top of Paradise where they finally meet. She, as the source of Grace and birth giver of the Spiritual Life, is watching over him and the Journey – though perhaps at a bit more distance in the beginning – thus the little delay in waiting for the Angel.

      And also a brilliant point, about where reason stops, faith starts. In some ways the Gates of Dis is the first light touch and example of this dynamic and wisdom. And after that, the Reason is back again in the “driving seat” for a bit longer, but the bigger frame of the story has now expanded with the balancing of Faith and Reason, and the Intellectual and the Spiritual. Both are needed, in various ways and at different points and varying combinations. In some ways – the essence of the Renaissance too!

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