David Bruce: Dante’s PARADISE: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 29: Primum Mobile — The Creation and Fall of Angels”

“Canto 29: Primum Mobile — The Creation and Fall of Angels”

  • In Paradise, souls are very helpful.

In Paradise, souls are very helpful. Beatrice knows that Dante has some unanswered questions about angels:

Then she began: “I say, and I ask not

What thou dost wish to hear, for I have seen it

Where centres every When and every ‘Ubi.’”

(Longfellow 29.10-12)

The place of “every whereand every when” (Musa 29.12), of course, is God. The point of brilliant light that Dante can see from the Primum Mobile is God.

In Canto 28, Beatrice talked about the nine orders of the angels. In Canto 29, she talks about other topics concerning the angels.

  • Were the Angels created before the Heavenly Spheres and the Earth?

By creating the angels, God created reflections of Himself. When God created the angels, He also created the Heavenly Spheres and the Earth. Each order of angels is associated with a Heavenly Sphere. Beatrice says,

“Matter and Form unmingled and conjoined

Came into being that had no defect,

E’en as three arrows from a three-stringed bow.”

(Longfellow 29.22-24)

The angels are “[p]ure form,” Earth is “pure matter,” and the Heavenly Spheres are “form and matter mixed” (Musa 29.22).

Saint Jerome (circa 340-420) had thought that angels were created long before the Heavenly Spheres; however, he was mistaken. The angels were created at the same time as the Heavenly Spheres and the Earth.

From what we read here, we know that the angels were created in the Mystic Empyrean.

  • How quickly did some of the angels fall from heaven?

Some of the angels rebelled against God very quickly — quicker than you could count to 20 after the creation of the universe. Beatrice says,

“Nor could one reach, in counting, unto twenty

So swiftly, as a portion of these angels

Disturbed the subject of your elements.”

(Longfellow 29.49-51)

  • Why did some of the angels fall from heaven?

The presumption of Lucifer, whom Dante saw at the bottom of the Inferno, was responsible for the Fall of the Angels, according to Beatrice:

“The occasion of the fall was the accursed

Presumption of that One, whom thou hast seen

By all the burden of the world constrained.”

(Longfellow 29.55-57)

Interestingly, Adam took longer to sin than the fallen angels.

The angels who did not rebel against God received a gift from Him: 

“Those whom thou here beholdest modest were

To recognise themselves as of that goodness

Which made them apt for so much understanding;

On which account their vision was exalted

By the enlightening grace and their own merit,

So that they have a full and steadfast will.”

(Longfellow 29.58-63)

Mark Musa identifies this gift from God as “God’s ‘enlightening grace’ ([line] 62), or the light of glory, the light by which God sees Himself and by which the creature may have direct vision of God” (348).

  • Do unfallen angels have memories?

According to Beatrice, unfallen angels do not have memories because they have no need of memories. They get their knowledge directly from God, and so they have no need to memorize things.

  • What are the numbers of the unfallen angels?

According to Beatrice, mortals cannot count the numbers of the unfallen angels:

“This nature doth so multiply itself

In numbers, that there never yet was speech

Nor mortal fancy that can go so far.”

(Longfellow 29.130-132)

What does Daniel 7:10 say about the numbers of the unfallen angels? This is the King James Version:

10: A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

Beatrice says,

“And if thou notest that which is revealed

By Daniel, thou wilt see that in his thousands

Number determinate is kept concealed.”

(Longfellow 29.133-135)

  • Why does Beatrice criticize some preachers and thinkers in Canto 29?

Beatrice criticizes some preachers and thinkers because of two things:

1) Bad preachers and thinkers are more concerned about putting on “a show of wits” (Musa 29.87) than they are with teaching well. These preachers and thinkers talk above the heads of their students.

Beatrice says,

“You mortals do not keep to one true path

philosophizing; so carried away

you are by putting on a show of wits!”

(Musa 29.85-87)

Philosophy can be used correctly, and it can be misused. It is misused when it is used simply to score points against someone else. It is used correctly when it is used to find out the truth.

Arguments can be made sincerely, but bad arguments can be used deviously to mislead others.

Philosophy is very useful. It can be used to understand whatever can be understood by human reason.

Being an intellectual can be dangerous unless you use your intelligence and knowledge to seek the truth that can be understood by human reason. If you use your intelligence and knowledge to score points against others or to put on a show of how smart you are, then you are misusing your intelligence and knowledge.

2) Bad preachers and thinkers teach incorrect things about God.

Beatrice says,

“And even this above here is endured

With less disdain, than when is set aside

The Holy Writ, or when it is distorted.”

(Longfellow 29.88-90)

Why does Beatrice condemn bad philosophy and bad theology? Because bad philosophy and bad theology lead to bad preaching.

Beatrice, of course, is strongly against bad preaching:

“In such wise that the lambs, who do not know,

Come back from pasture fed upon the wind,

And not to see the harm doth not excuse them.

Christ did not to his first disciples say,

‘Go forth, and to the world preach idle tales,’

But unto them a true foundation gave;”

(Longfellow 29.106-111)

This calls to mind what Jesus said to his company (Mark 16:15; King James Version):

15: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

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PARADISE: CANTO 27  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/dantes-paradise-canto-27-retelling-gemini-heavens-wrath-at-the-sinful-church-the-primum-mobile/

PARADISE: CANTO 28  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/dantes-paradise-canto-28-retelling/

PARADISE: CANTO 29  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/dantes-paradise-canto-29-retelling-primum-mobile-the-creation-and-fall-of-angels/

PARADISE: CANTO 30  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/dantes-paradise-canto-30-retelling-mystic-empyrean-the-river-of-light-the-mystical-rose/

PARADISE: CANTO 31  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/dantes-paradise-canto-31-retelling-mystic-empyrean-saint-bernard/

PARADISE: CANTO 32  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/dantes-paradise-canto-32-retelling-mystic-empyrean-saint-bernard-and-the-saints-in-the-rose/

PARADISE: CANTO 33  RETELLING

https://davidbruceblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/dantes-paradise-canto-33-retelling-saint-bernard-prays-to-mary-the-trinity-and-christs-dual-nature/

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