A Divine Journey

Contemplation

The inward gaze in the pursuit of spiritual meaning is a hallmark of civilization.

Whether focused on a deity, a spiritual force, or the individual soul, the search for something beyond the material realities of daily life — from Dante to Tagore, and Virginia Woolf to Malcolm X — reflects mankind’s ceaseless quest for meaning.

In his three-part epic poem, The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) describes his own imagined journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven, led by the Roman poet Virgil. The first-person narrative of The Inferno begins on the day before Good Friday in 1300, with Dante age 35. As translated in 1995 by United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, the poem begins, “Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself / In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell / About those woods is hard—so tangled and rough / And savage that thinking of it now, I feel / The old fear stirring . . .”

Dante Alighieri. La divina commedia (The divine comedy). Venice: Petrus de Plasiis, 1481. NYPL, Spencer Collection.

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