May 05 2010

Dante Alighieri – The love of God, unutterable and perfect

Published by at 8:11 am under Ivan's Story,Poetry

The love of God, unutterable and perfect
by Dante Alighieri

English version by Stephen Mitchell

The love of God, unutterable and perfect,
      flows into a pure soul the way that light
      rushes into a transparent object.
The more love that it finds, the more it gives
      itself; so that, as we grow clear and open,
      the more complete the joy of heaven is.
And the more souls who resonate together,
      the greater the intensity of their love,
      and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.

— from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell


/ Photo by DerrickT /

In Monday’s poem by Sultan Valad, the line that people particularly responded to, both positively and negatively, was his notion of seeing beneath color to the “colorless.”

I thought these verses by the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri are a nice further meditation on a similar theme.

The love of God, unutterable and perfect,
      flows into a pure soul the way that light
      rushes into a transparent object.

The idea of being “colorless” can imply purity, clarity, being beyond definition, or it can suggest a sort of blandness and lack of life.

This dual connotation reminds me of my earliest impressions of Zen Buddhism. I loved the absolute simplicity, essentialism, integrity, and lack projection. But, frankly, it also seemed rather cold and flat. No elevating imagery. No devotionalism. You sit until you learn to sit. The goal, if you try for a goal, is Nirvana – Nothingness. That sounded rather colorless to me!

The more love that it finds, the more it gives
      itself; so that, as we grow clear and open,
      the more complete the joy of heaven is.

It wasn’t until I began to encounter my own experiences of opening through other practices that I finally came to recognize the immense life and delight that is found in that Emptiness sought so assiduously by Zen practitioners. (It was also then that many of the spiritual definitions and imagery I had clung to so tightly fell away, leaving me in a very simple space and practice that some might describe as Zen-like.)

About that fundamental emptiness, the “colorless”– Colorless glass is not colorless; it contains all colors. Colorless glass does not halt the play of light; it is filled with light, and it lets each color remain entirely itself as it shines through…

And the more souls who resonate together,
      the greater the intensity of their love,
      and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.

Have a beautiful day!

Dante Alighieri, Dante Alighieri poetry, Christian poetry Dante Alighieri

Italy (1265? – 1321) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

More poetry by Dante Alighieri

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Dante Alighieri – The love of God, unutterable and perfect”

  1. jerome bechtleon 05 May 2010 at 11:03 am

    Ivan… I am ever thankful for your words…

    Jerry from Montana

  2. Catherineon 05 May 2010 at 11:26 am

    Dante’s use of the imagery around transparency is related to a subject that he held very dear: the quality of the human intellect (or “soul”, “anima”) and it’s relationship with the divine intellect (which is sometimes seen in the plural to relate to the angels). With the subject of the diaphanous, we are in an Aristolelian context, and “dantisti” debate to what degree Dante leaned within the Aristotelian criticism (more towards Aquinas or Avveroes). I believe in this subject he was more like Avveroes… and Avvicena, two great Commentators on Aristotle’s De Anima who were accomplished Muslim philosophers (Avveroes being also a judge).

    The transparency or diaphanous quality of the potential intellect, as the human intellect was called by Aristotle, had within its potential the capacity to hold and make known all knowables. The true agent or knower in this equation is of course Supreme Consciousness. All things could be known therefor. There was even the promise of ascending to a sublime “wiseman” status, of one who is so “clear” that the light passes through, he can know basically whatever is set before him…
    We’d call this a gnani in some circles.

    Anyway, the diaphanous is never bland, but a capacity for light.

    Thank you for posting the sublime poet!

    Much Love,
    Catherine

  3. Ceciliaon 05 May 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Thank you Ivan for sharing this divine poetry and frame it so well where I am in life personally.

    Cecilia – Berkeley

  4. aparnaon 05 May 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Take away all the blotches on my soul,
    And make me colorless as Thee!!!

  5. Yewtreeon 06 May 2010 at 3:58 am

    I am currently reading Into the silent land by Martin Laird, which deals with the encounter with the inner presence and silence – the colourlessness to which you and Dante are referring. It’s a very helpful book, as it outlines the difficulties with contemplative practice in a very clear and kind way, and explains how to get through them.

  6. Suzanne Sturnon 06 May 2010 at 6:13 am

    Dear Ivan,

    Thank you so much for these beautiful offerings….

    I’m reminded of Dogen’s verse:

    Midnight. No wind, no waves.
    The empty boat
    is flooded with moonlight.

    And also words from an old Zen teacher of mine: “Empty, empty, empty…happy, happy, happy.”

    love,
    Suzanne

  7. Nisaon 06 May 2010 at 10:49 am

    My thoughts on your thoughts….
    They are so beautiful, and bring dimensions to the poet’s word, that I only wish I could be enlightened enough to see. I am quite new to this world of poetry, and I find it divine, especially as seen through your interpretations. Thank you and bless you.

  8. Mianaon 07 May 2010 at 8:54 am

    I am in a place of abundant gratitude for receiving this poem as well as every other poem that randomly arrives in my email account. Thank you Ivan for creating this connection to universal like minded appreciation.

    This poem strikes a deep cord for me, it is rests in that place of vastness, reminding me of open sky. It celebrates in the deepest way possible with words the preciousness of being alive. The portal between the words offer a place that asks me to “re-member.” But mostly, this poem celebrates what can not be really expressed in words…but the fact that words do express this, well it challenges my understanding of words. I have reread this poem at least 10 times. Somehow I go back to that first line and then end up rereading the poem again. I realize when I read the poem over and over, it makes a full circle in itself.. reflecting it’s own words as well as his experience with god light love. The poem feeds on itself. To try to write about it makes me want to go back to it and reread it again to remember the beginning and the end. I then silently repeat to myself over and over and over….
    Yes, Yes and Yes.

  9. sergeyon 16 May 2010 at 12:06 am

    Ivan,
    please, go on… .
    Kind regards,
    Sergei.

  10. sergeyon 30 May 2010 at 12:53 am

    Ivan,
    I can’t find any words of gratitude for dicovering Dante’s verses for my perception of life.
    Kind regards,
    Sergei

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