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( Part  I )



Dante Alighieri represents one of the greatest expressions of European culture, and in Italy especially he has for centuries been considered a fundamental reference point under many different aspects.
Dante is considered the father of the Italian language, the “supreme poet” and his work is considered unique and highly important, also from a spiritual point of view.

Nowadays, his image is all around us (even in the Italian 2-Euro coin) and he is in some way familiar to all Italians, if only in the memory of hours of boredom at school, or as a difficult writer to approach, because of his archaic language.

In this brief essay we intend to explore what is still alive and fascinating in the Divine Comedy, in the hope of offering you a new perspective on this opus, especially regarding man’s inner path and work on the self.

In particular we will try to draw out the links between the esotericism contained in the “supreme poet’s” work and the teachings of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and of the Fourth Way.
For those of you who are not familiar with Gurdjieff, he lived in the Nineteenth Century and came from the Caucasus, and after a lifetime’s travel, study and meditation, he brought back to Europe an ancient system of teachings, which we call the Fourth Way.

It ties into an ancient Tradition which reached Europe in the Middle Ages, hidden in the form of various spiritual movements, and then disappeared after the Renaissance.

In our opinion, one of the greatest merits of Gurdjieff’s work - summed up particularly well in P.D.Ouspensky’s book “In Search of the Miraculous - Fragments of an Unknown Teaching” – was to transmit the principles of an ancient knowledge in a new idiom, suitable for the modern western man.

But what relations are there between these teachings and the Divine Comedy?

We will try to answer this question by starting to look into the historical context

It is not possible to talk about Dante without entering into the historical and cultural context of his time, i.e., the context of Italy and Europe in the 13th and 14th Centuries, a very spiritually rich period.

For a long time, the Middle Ages have been looked upon as the “Dark Ages”, and maybe in terms of science and technology it wasn’t a time of great progress, but from the perspective of spiritual vitality it was a time of extreme richness, even in its contradictions.

It was certainly a troubled time, with the struggle between Papacy and Empire, the Crusades, and the burning of Heretics, but all the while, important spiritual waves were crossing Europe, leaving their mark in art and literature.

 In order to understand the spiritual context in which Dante’s universe took shape, let us briefly run through some of these movements.

In the 12th Century, a highly important event took place in the history of western esotericism: the founding of the order of the Templars.

In the year 1118 nine French knights were sent to the Holy Land in order to establish an organisation to protect Christian pilgrims. They took up lodgings on the ruins of the ancient Temple of King Solomon, and were called Knights Templar or Knights of the Temple.

The confraternity created by these nine knights, the Order of the Templars, soon became a powerful military and religious organisation. Its rule, dictated by Saint Bernard of Chiaravalle, was approved in 1128.

 We have underlined the number NINE, which is symbolically very important in the tradition of the Fourth Way (think, for example, of the Enneagram symbol), and which recurs frequently in Dante.



Apart from the official mission, we note with interest that in Palestine the Knights Templar came into contact with spiritual movements such as Sufism and with those who perpetuated the Essene tradition (of Jewish origin, and at the basis of early Christianity).

Amongst other things, in ancient times Solomon’s Temple was the place of preservation of the mysteries of the secret teaching that Moses learned in Egypt “…he was instructed in all the science of the Pharoes …” and then directly by God on Mount Sinai during the Exodus.

Remember that Hebrew esotericism was handed down through the following centuries in the tradition of the Kabbalah, which was highly influential in Europe.

As regards Islamic esotericism, it should be made clear that during the Crusades relations with the Arabs were not only belligerent: indeed, the Knights Templar found themselves face to face with a mirror image of themselves, particularly in the Arab order of the Ismailites, who has the same dual nature, military and religious, and also considered themselves to be “Guardians of the Holy Land” (to be understood in a symbolic and esoteric sense). There is reason to believe in the existence of underground relations between the two orders, which also met the same tragic destiny in the early 1300s, both annihilated by the political and religious authorities, respectively Catholic and Moslem.


The return of the 9 founders of the Knights Templar in 1128 from the Holy Land coincided with the appearance in France of Gothic architecture and with the flowering of knightly literature, in particular the so-called Grail cycle.

The Gothic style did not arise from a gradual evolution of previous styles, but sprung suddenly, complete and fully-developed, proving that the builders of these monuments had knowledge of physical and mathematical laws out of the ordinary, in other words, knowledge transcending simple architectural understanding.

 We could define it the art of reproducing in human works the secret laws of the universe, which we also find in numerous other examples of sacred art.

The close link between Gothicism, the Knights Templar and Alchemy is all too clear: in almost all Notre Dames (cathedrals dedicated to the Virgin Mary) we find symbols of the Knights Templar, and at Notre Dame in Paris we find bas-reliefs representing the Great Work of alchemy that the cathedral itself represents.

Another fundamental aspect is the very fact that the cathedrals were dedicated to the Virgin, and their geographical layout reproduces on the Earth’s surface  the constellation of Virgo – the Virgin.Above and beyond the strictly Catholic view, the figure of the Virgin here represents something broader, we could say the feminine aspect of God, but also hidden knowledge (the alchemists’  Philosophers’ Woman), which is symbolised in the papess [or high priestess – Tr.] found in the Tarot.

We mentioned that another event took place in the same period – the appearance of the Grail cycle.

From a historical point of view the most characteristic texts regarding the Grail lead us to think of an underground movement that surfaced suddenly only to withdraw immediately and disappear (late 12th – early 13th Century). They contain a fusion of elements from the ancient Nordic-Celtic tradition and those taken from Arab civilisation (as we have just seen, various themes and symbols were transmitted from the Arabian-Persian East to the Christian West through the Crusades).

The disappearance of the first tradition of the Grail coincided with the Church’s efforts to repress what it considered to be heretical movements.

The knightly adventures, which take place in strange and surreal atmospheres, essentially relate to inner trials and experiences whose aim is to attain a state of higher consciousness, of spiritual fulfilment (symbolised by the Grail itself).

 Once again in these tales we find the symbolism of the Woman taking on initiatory value.In the Divine Comedy we often find reference to this cycle, especially in the fifth canto of the Inferno, where Dante meets Paolo and Francesca.

Alongside the events analysed above, we should briefly introduce another occurrence that was taking place during the same centuries: the development of Alchemy.

The European alchemic tradition flourished in the 7th Century with the Arab invasions. During this period there was strong impulse towards the search that continued in the following centuries.

Thanks to the work of Constantine the African (1020-1087), in the 11th Century many western scholars discovered the great cultural treasures to be found in Arabic, and between the 12th and 13th Centuries, a vast quantity of manuscripts translated from Arabic to Latin appeared all over Europe.

It should be made clear that far from being simply the beginnings of modern chemistry, Alchemy pursued the aim of a transmutation and integration of the human being in absolute terms.

 Behind the symbolism of transformation of metals into gold was hidden teaching about the transformation of the self.Thus the Alchemic Great Work symbolically represents a process that takes place within the individual, with the aim of transforming the lead of one’s materiality into the gold of spiritual perfection.The three phases of this process, which are the black phase, the white phase and the red phase are marvellously represented in the journey of the Divine Comedy, from the Inferno through Purgatory to Paradise.

Here we can add an extremely interesting note: we have spoken about sacred architecture and Arab influences; in Italy there is an extraordinary example from this period - Castel del Monte in Apulia, built by Federico II in the Arab-Norman style, and closely tied to the traditions of the Fourth Way.

A single thread runs through Alchemy, the Knights Templar, the mystery of the cathedrals, the Virgin and the Grail, and in Dante we find a kind of synthesis of all these aspects.

 Like many of the poets of the Dolce stil novo [“sweet new style” – Tr.], Dante belonged to a secret initiatory order, the Fedeli d’Amore, linked to the Knights Templar, and strongly suspected of heresy.In all their poetry and writing we find the symbol of the Woman as Transcendent Knowledge. The Woman’s Greeting is described as an overwhelming experience, “the heart became dead which was alive”, “an experience that cannot be understood by those who do not experience it”. There are strong parallels with Persian mystic poetry, especially with Rumi, for whom Wine and Woman are symbols of the mystic experience of God.

We conclude this introductory analysis by emphasising how the spiritual influences active in the 150 years before Dante are the same in Europe and the Arabian-Persian East, and the considerable mutual exchange, almost osmotic, between East and West which took place between the 12th and 13th Centuries.

Let us now approach the extraordinary opus of the Florentine poet and try to discover the aspects which, for today’s searcher, can bring this reading to life, and make it even more fascinating.

The Divine Comedy, like all sacred texts, should be read under three aspects:

Literary: it is certainly an exceptional work, the greatest poem in Italian literature, which, even after centuries, continues to enthuse readers and academics worldwide.

Symbolic: the extraordinary poetic imagery and allegories that we find, elicit profound spiritual meanings and particular moods.

Esoteric: it represents and describes the initiatory journey, and Dante himself points us towards this interpretation: “O you possessed of sturdy intellects, observe the teaching that is hidden here beneath the veil of verses so obscure” (Inf. IX, 61)

This is the dimension that we are particularly interested in, and that we will try to tie in with the teachings of the Fourth Way.

In many eastern and western initiatory traditions there are texts describing experiences that bear many similarities with the work that we are examining. But the strongest parallel is to be found with the Book of the Ladder, an Arab text which describes in detail a visit to the realms beyond the grave by the prophet Mohammed, riding on a fantastic horse-like creature known as al-Buraq, guided by the angel Gabriel.






          Part II       




Theatre Company

 The meaning of theatre

in the Fourth Way



 Gurdjieff's psychology

and neurosciences



 What is the

Real music


Knowing and being

The difference between

knowing and being