3.5.3 Poetic
These are only few of the many examples from man's past which show that worship of the unknown can reduce his capability to survive below the critical value. Devotion to ritual and dogma lead to loss of flexibility and the power to adapt to a hostile environment. Only once in man's history has he effectively thrown off the shackles of the fear of the infinite and attempted to face himself and the world and get closer to the true nature of things.  It was a poet, the Italian Petrarch, who can be credited with this important advance. Through his poetry and writings, especially about the ancient Greek thinkers, he sowed the seeds which flowered into the Renaissance in Europe. Before then the life of medieval man had been ruled and shaped by the social and intellectual traditions of his family, his guild, his feudal class and his church. Renaissance man rejected such restrictions on his acts and thoughts. He was free to do what he wanted and to think as he pleased. He could also look at his surroundings in a new light and more fully savour the beauty of nature as it related directly to himself. This breakdown of the reliance on dogma in Europe ushered in the scientific revolution, and allowed Western man within the last three centuries to gain the power over nature which has led us to where we are today, in the technological society.
The greatest poet of the Middle Ages, Dante Alighieri, was a master of classical literature and medieval theology, a great admirer of Francis of Assisi, dedicated as he had been to courtly love, and a devout Christian. His trilogy The Divine Comedy describes his pilgrimage from the depths of Hell to the Heaven of Heavens, displaying vast knowledge, imagination and command of metaphor. At its culmination Dante attempts to express his spiritual response to the presence of God.
Guided by Vergil, the voice of philosophical wisdom, Dante first visits the damned, suffering their agonies in the fires of the Inferno. In the second book they climb through the souls struggling to make amends for their sins on the slopes of Purgatory. But in the third, when they reach Paradise, Beatrice his inamorata and the inspiration of his pilgrimage takes over; she personifies divine illumination. On the way upward she shows Dante the souls gathered on each of the planets. At the Sun a congregation of the church's greatest philosophers and theologians listen to St Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican, extolling the virtues of St Francis and telling the story of his love affair with Lady Poverty.
Once they have risen above the constellations and the empty primum mobile - the first of all the moving elements – Beatrice asks St Bernard, embodying contemplative vision and the love of Mary, to lead Dante to the climax of his quest. Dante then sees the saints, Francis among them, gathering in the formation of a white rose and presided over by the Virgin, glowing more brightly than the dawn. Bernard advises him to ask her for the grace to gaze directly into the intense, living and eternal light which is emerging from the three-fold godhead. In the last lines of his epic Dante seeks words for the ensuing apocalypse.
Like a geometer who sets himself
To square the circle, and is unable to think
Of the formula he needs to solve the problem
So was I, faced with this new vision. . .
But that was not a flight for my wings:
Except that my mind was struck by a flash
In which what it most desired came to it.
At this point high imagination failed;
But already my desire and my will
Were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed,
By the love which moves the sun and the other stars.