Humans by nature desire to know. Intellectual knowledge is what we presume is an end in itself. Dante, the voyager-narrator in Inferno, introduces a countervailing notion of the body and soul being weighed down by the limits of the mind, which is that the faculties of the soul isn’t only intellectual knowledge but also desire and one’s own will.
Dante finds himself in :
a shadowed forest, for ‘he’ had lost the path that does not stray.
Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was,
that savage forest, dense and difficult,
which even in recall renews my fear”
For the forest represents the landscape in which he is lost in, terra incognita. We are introduced with an autobiographical focus, we are seeing Dante through the prism of the world. The world’s landscape saturated with many shades of reality. Dante’s purpose is to enlighten us on his journey that he took to discover the importance of will. By shifting the narrative focus in his writing, from an omniscient narrator, to looking at what the pilgrim did not know.
Dante looked “on high and saw its shoulders clothed already by the rays of that same planet
which serves to lead straight along all roads.”
Dawn has come, dawn breaks, Dante looks up at the sun. Believing that natural sunlight would unveil to him the layout of the land, a vignette giving us a metaphysical sense of our place in the world. The realm that we live in, however, is not transparent. There lie more subtle realms, real difficulties that we face in our inner soul.
These difficulties paralyze us. The spiritual experience of the shadowed forest of the soul.
“he who unwires what he wills
and shifts what he intends to seek new ends
so that he’s drawn from what he had begun
so was I in the midst of that dark land”
By bringing clarity to the world, Dante presents us with a vision of the world as a projection of our own will. This is going against the Platonic narrative of of being in a cave (dark land) and only knowledge can lead us to the light. We may not be happy about our current situations but sometimes we cannot solve it due to it not being a problem of knowledge but a problem of will. The definition of justice cannot make you just. The issue is one of willing.
“I entered on the steep and savage path.”
In order for Dante to acquire this feat, he has to endure Hell in order to reach Paradise. The cultivation of the soul begins to take place during the journey. Entering the edges of the unknown, we are always existing in reference to the world. Our path being illuminated by virtue of oscillating between different states of being. We learn by doing and having a readiness to deal with the unexpected. We are aways willing our way onto the empty lattices of our journey, filling the spaces with the present.