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Dante may have been familiar with a translation Libro della Scala of an Arabic popular text describing the Prophet's visit to the other world. Dante's innovation of placing Purgatory on a mountain may have Middle Eastern origins. In Muslim tradition, as well as in Hindu, Buddhist and Middle Eastern traditions, mountain tops are places where the gods are appeased and by which heaven may be approached recall Moses on Mt.

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Sinai and the Tower of Babel. In many of these traditions, as in the Paradisio cantos , the World Mountain is surmounted by a sacred tree at which a goddess figure sits dispensing the waters of life. There were many routes along which these Arabic poetic traditions came to Europe, and especially to Provence and Poitou in France, the birthplace of courtly love and the troubadour tradition.

Thus it is not too surprising that half of the surviving songs of the first known troubadour, William of Poitiers, agree with a certain form of Arab mystical poetry the zajel in their detailed metrical structure and conventional expressions. William , sixth Count of Poitiers and ninth Duke of Aquitaine, was a descendant of William the Great and Agnes of Burgundy, who established connections with the Neoplatonic academy at Chartres in the early eleventh century.

Among other Platonic ideas, this school viewed the World Soul Psyche ton Panton of Plato as a force pervading the universe, a source of inspiration and wisdom. They identified the World Soul with the Holy Spirit, an idea that was considered heretical.

Dante and the Fideli d’Amore

Several poets were influenced by these Neoplatonic ideas. For example, Bernard of Sylvester wrote c. Also in the twelfth century, Alan of Lille wrote a poem in which he is restored to spiritual health by a series of questions and answers administered by a beautiful goddess, Nature. This is reminiscent of Boethius' Consolation , whose figure of divine Philosophia was very popular at this time.

Dante and the Fedeli d'Amore

Alan also wrote a work in which Prudence ascends to heaven in order to admit the soul of a perfect man. This reminds us of the Commedia , and in fact Dante was influenced by Alan. These Neoplatonic ideas meshed with changes in women's status, which had been improving after a long decline since ancient Roman times. This was a result of many influences, including:.

Also influential was Catharism, the "Church of Love," which we discussed in connection with Wolfram's Parzival see Manichaeanism. Beginning in the third century, as we saw, these ideas spread across Europe and as far east as China. In particular they were welcomed in the Languedoc, since the idea of good and evil deities was compatible with surviving Celtic traditions of light and dark gods. The Cathars had the God of Love and the Creator or Great Arrogant , who had created the material world, which was considered evil. Indeed, when Rome was founded by Aeneas, the son of Venus, as was customary it was given three names: a common name Roma, a sacral name Flora, and a secret name Amor.

You will recall from the discussion of Manichaeanism that the Elect were banned from sexual relations and the Faithful were discouraged from them. This was because, according to Gnostic and Manichaean ideas, souls were first tempted to unite with matter i.

Dante: Six sermons

On the other hand, salvation could be won from a female divinity, existing from the beginning of time, known by various names: Maria, Wisdom Sophia, Sapientia , Faith Pistis , etc. She had born Jesus to show souls the way to escape from matter and reunite with their angelic spirits, who had remained in heaven. This divine feminine figure, who was also called the Form of Light, resided in the believer's spirit as well as in heaven consistent with the Neoplatonic Nous.

She met the believer's soul after he died, and greeted it with a kiss and salute. For the kiss and salute, see Courtly Love.

Catharism was apparently quite popular among the nobility of southern France and Cathar themes are pervasive in the troubadours' songs. No doubt some of the troubadours were practicing Cathars, while others were simply reflecting the values of their patrons. The Cathar belief system was poetic rather than rational, and so music played an essential role in maintaining the faith of the believers.

As discussed in Manichaeanism , the Elect who were called "Goodmen" among the Cathars were initiated in a ceremony called the consolamentum , because in it they received the gift of the Holy Spirit the Consolator.

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The bishops placed their hands on the initiate's head or shoulders analogous to dubbing a knight and bestowed the Kiss of Peace, which then was passed from Elect to Elect. Henceforth the newly "consoled" Elect received a "salute" of three bows from the assembled Believers. In addition to an increasing appreciation for the feminine principle, both mortal and divine, the eleventh century saw a revaluation of physical love. Some poets had discovered that being in passionate love could change their consciousness, and so they began to see love and sex as means of spiritual illumination. Ancient texts such as Ovid's works on love The Art of Love and The Cure of Love , which dealt with love's transformative power, were read with new appreciation, but the empire was officially Christian, and so these ideas had to be fit into a more or less orthodox Christian framework.

The Cathars called themselves Christian, but many of their beliefs were considered heretical by the Church. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world , and other notations in the work.

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