by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Rules and Order Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
[St. Thomas]: But that which never dies and that which dies
are only the reflected light of that
Idea which our Sire, with Love, begets;
because the living Light that pours out so
from Its bright Source that It does not disjoin
from It or from the Love intrined with them,
through Its own goodness gathers up Its rays
within nine essences, as in a mirror,
Itself eternally remaining One.
From there, from act to act, light then descends
down to the last potentialities,
where it is such that it engenders nothing
but brief contingent things, by which I mean
the generated things the moving heavens
bring into being, with or without seed.
The wax of such things and what shapes that wax
are not immutable; and thus, beneath
Idea's stamp, light shines through more or less.
Thus it can be that, in the selfsame species,
some trees bear better fruit and some bear worse,
and men are born with different temperaments.
For were the wax appropriately readied,
and were the heaven's power at its height,
the brightness of the seal would show completely;
but Nature always works defectively –
she passes on that light much like an artist
who knows his craft but has a hand that trembles." (Par. XIII, 52-78)
The moral worth of children relative to their parents is here depicted as a result of God's love and chance. His light, or love, shines down from the Empyrean, then is mediated further down by the nine angelic intelligences, described here as "mirror[s]." It seems that the further down God's light is reflected, the less integrity it maintains. Thus, the individual results (in the children of the world) vary. The fault lies with Nature, who is depicted as "an artist [who has] a hand that trembles"; thus, what should be an exact replica of God is made "defective" by the imperfection of Nature.
[Beatrice]: The size of spheres of matter – large and small –
depends upon the power – more and less –
that spreads throughout their parts. More excellence
yields greater blessedness; more blessedness
must comprehend a greater body when
that body's parts are equally complete.
And thus this sphere, which sweeps along with it
the rest of all the universe, must match
the circle that loves most and knows the most,
so that, if you but draw your measure round
the power within – and not the semblance of –
the angels that appear to you as circles,
you will discern a wonderful accord
between each sphere and its Intelligence:
greater accords with more, smaller with less." (Par. XXVIII, 64-78)
Here, a further distinction is drawn between sentient and non-sentient beings. Non-sentient beings, which are composed solely of matter, move according to the amount of "power" present in them. As explained in canto II, this "power" rains down from the Empyrean to all the smaller spheres, becoming lesser and lesser the further down it trickles. The larger a material body is, the more power it contains, and the closer it is to God; this is why Earth, as the smallest star, is the least powerful, most prone to sin, and farthest from God. However, sentient beings' blessedness is based only on their power. This is why the angels revolving around the Point revolve faster the closer they are to the source, God.
[Beatrice]: …"The first circles have displayed to you
the Seraphim and Cherubim. They follow
the ties of love with such rapidity
because they are as like the Point as creatures
can be, a power dependent on their vision.
Those other loves that circle round them are
called Thrones of the divine aspect, because
they terminated the first group of three;
and know that all delight to the degree
to which their sees – more or less deeply –
that truth in which all intellects find rest…
The second triad – blossoming in this
eternal springtime that the night Ram
does not despoil – perpetually sings
'Hosanna' with three melodies that sound
in the three ranks of bliss that form this triad;
within this hierarchy there are three
kinds of divinities: first, the Dominions
and then the Virtues; and the final order
contains the Powers. The two penultimate
groups of rejoicing ones within the next
triad are wheeling Principalities
and the Archangels; last, the playful Angels." (Par. XXVIII, 98-126)
Beatrice names the nine angelic Intelligences in descending order. Notice that they are grouped in triads, echoing the Holy Trinity. Beatrice emphasizes that it is the angels' vision that decides their proximity to God; those nearest the Point can "see" most accurately and thus desire Him the most and are rewarded by occupying the orbit nearest to Him. This stress on vision is also present in Dante's journey: the farther up he ascends, the more dazzled he is by the brilliant lights and only by absorbing Beatrice's words of wisdom can he learn to see better.