Chapter 2: Moon — Dark Spots
Dante the Poet thought, Pay attention, readers. You have journeyed with me through the Inferno and up the Mountain of Purgatory, but the journey to Paradise is much more difficult. Think about whether you will be able to make the journey. This is a journey for a ship, not for a small boat. All who will follow in my wake should have a substantial vessel and should follow me closely for their own safety. The way to Paradise is a difficult one. For me to describe that way, I need the help of Apollo and the nine Muses, and I need Minerva to fill my sails. If you have long sought the bread of Angels — knowledge of God — then you may follow my ship in its journey, but you will be amazed by what you learn. You will be more amazed than the Argonauts who sailed with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece, who saw Jason plow a field with two fire-breathing bulls, who saw Jason plant in the plowed field dragon’s teeth, and who saw the dragon’s teeth grow into armed soldiers.
Dante the Pilgrim and Beatrice rose into the heavens as fast as human eyes can rise to look at the sky. Dante looked at Beatrice, and Beatrice looked into the heavens. And as quickly as an arrow strikes its target after flying through the air after having been released by an archer, Dante and Beatrice reached the Moon. Beatrice told Dante, “Think of God and thank him, for He has raised us to the Sphere of the Moon.”
Dante saw what seemed to be a milky cloud, and Beatrice and he were inside the Moon. Dante wondered how that could be. How can a solid be admitted into another solid and both remain intact just like light can enter water and the water remains intact? If Dante still had his body, which he was not sure he had, his being inside the Moon with an intact body was more than remarkable. He wanted to see something else more than remarkable: Jesus, in Whose human body divinity was infused without lessening either the human nature or the divine nature of His being. Once saved souls are in the Mystic Empyrean, they will understand things that reason cannot comprehend. Things that reason cannot comprehend in the land of the living will appear self-evident in the Mystic Empyrean.
Dante said to Beatrice, “I am grateful to God who has raised me from the Forest of Eden to the Moon. Please tell me something: What are the dark spots of the Moon? People tell stories about them on Earth. They say that God took Cain and placed him on the Moon and made him carry a bundle of thorns on his back, and they say that the dark spots of the Moon are really Cain and his bundle of thorns.”
Amused, Beatrice smiled and said, “Human judgment often goes wrong, especially when no one can be present and see what is being speculated about. This should be no surprise, After all, when someone is present and can use the sense of sight and the other senses, errors can still be made. Optical illusions, mirages, hallucinations, and simple errors of judgment show this.
“Let me say that many of your ideas about the Moon are, quite simply, wrong, as will be shown with the rise of science in the future.
“You believe that the Moon both reflects the light of the Sun and has its own luminosity. Actually, the Moon does not have its own luminosity. It only reflects the light of the Sun.
“You believe that the Moon is smooth and without cracks. Actually, the Moon has mountains and craters and other geographical features. Any part of the Moon that is shadowed by mountains will be dark and will not reflect light. The Moon has different minerals. Some are shiny and reflect light well, and others are dark and absorb light instead of reflecting it. These things that I have mentioned explain the dark spots of the Moon.
“Of course, that is the scientific explanation, and the scientific explanation is a good one. If God had been incarnated in a later age, He could have said, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, give to Einstein what is Einstein’s, and give to God what is God’s.’ A man named Albert Einstein will be a famous scientist centuries from now.
“But we can give another explanation of the dark spots of the Moon. This explanation will be poetic and spiritual and is not meant to displace the scientific explanation. This explanation is simply another way of regarding the dark spots of the Moon to see what we may learn from them.
“People of your age — the medieval age — believe that the stars and the planets have an influence on human beings, who nevertheless have free will. Of course, a later age will discover that the stars and the planets have no influence on human beings. It is true that human beings are influenced by their heredity and environment, but they still have reason and free will that they can use to learn the right thing to do and then do it. Human beings are responsible for their actions and should not blame the stars and the planets for what they do.
“One way of looking at the dark spots of the Moon is that this is an example of God’s mark on the universe. Listen to me carefully: God’s glory is seen in the entire universe, which He created. The dark spots of the Moon are an illustration of this: In some places God’s glory can be seen more clearly. In some places God’s glory can be seen less clearly.
“God, by the way, will use what you know, or what you think you know, in order to teach you. You and other people of your time believe that the Earth is at the center of the universe and the Sun revolves around it. People of later ages will discover that the Earth revolves around the Sun, which is the center of our solar system. However, during our journey to the Mystic Empyrean, we will visit places in the cosmos in the order in which you would expect to visit them. In addition, when we visit planets, we will meet souls who have the qualities that people of your time associated with that particular planet.
“First, we are visiting the Moon, which is associated with faith. The Moon waxes and wanes, and throughout our lives our faith in God can also wax and wane. It can grow or diminish.
“Second, we will visit Mercury, which is associated with hope.
“Third, we will visit Venus, which is associated with love.
“Fourth, we will visit the Sun, which is associated with wisdom.
“Fifth, we will visit Mars, which is associated with courage.
“Sixth, we will visit Jupiter, which is associated with justice.
“Seventh, we will visit Saturn, which is associated with contemplation.
“Eighth, we will visit Gemini, a constellation of the Fixed Stars. The Fixed Stars are the constellations and other stars. The planets move around in the sky, but the stars of The Big Dipper, Gemini, and other constellations are always fixed in position relative to each other.
“Ninth, we will visit the Primum Mobile, which is the outermost moving Sphere. The Primum Mobile gives the planets and stars their motion.
“Finally, we will visit the Mystic Empyrean, which is the dwelling place of God. The Mystic Empyrean does not move, and it is outside space and time.
“You use the words ‘star’ and ‘planet’ interchangeably. You also call the Sun a planet. I will use the word ‘planet’ to refer to the Earth, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn only.
“Souls will be at each place we visit so that you can talk to and learn from them.
“One of the things you will learn is this: Merit determines whether God’s glory is seen more clearly or less clearly in human beings.
“God is intelligent, and His infinite intelligence is reflected in our finite intelligence. God is infinitely good, and His infinite goodness is reflected in our finite goodness.
“Each of us reflects God’s glory differently. A morally good person reflects God’s goodness well; a morally bad person reflects God’s goodness badly.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce
This is an excerpt from Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce, available here:
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