Tuesday 19 October 2021
Dante and Spiritual Intelligence
Dr Mark Vernon
In the chair Dr Jeremy Naydler
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, who died 700 years ago this year, is many things: a personal crisis, a diatribe against corruption, an unsurpassed poem, a celebration of love. But as it is celebrated this year, it’s possible that its heart, as Dante described it, is side-lined or overlooked. He called it realising that ‘I am more than I am’, discovered by journeying through three domains of reality. So what is the nature of this perceptual expanse and how does it come about?
The lecture will examine the transformation Dante underwent, which human beings can still undergo. It will focus on what might be called the emergence of Dante’s spiritual intelligence, which is different though not divided from his rational and emotional intelligence. Spiritual intelligence knows many things: that descent and ascent are intimately linked; that time can be experienced in dramatically different ways; that virtues are crucial not so much for moral reasons but because they connect with reality; that the whole of life is one life, unified not through uniformity but, as Dante describes it, like a book of many leaves bound by love, each with its part.
In wisdom traditions, this is called the beatific vision and nondual consciousness. Dante recognised himself as a modern poet. His vision of what we are capable is no less inspiring, and important, now.
Mark Vernon is a psychotherapist and writer, based in London. He is also a broadcaster and podcaster, and regularly gives talks and lectures. He has a PhD in philosophy, and degrees in theology and physics. He is the author of A Secret History of Christianity (John Hunt Publishing), which focuses on Owen Barfield; and of Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Guide for the Spiritual Journey (Angelico Press), published on 13 September 2021, the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. He is also the author of books on friendship and ancient philosophy, love and the good life. He began his professional life as a priest in the Church of England.