The Vision of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise
His glory, by whose might all things are mov’d,
Pierces the universe, and in one part
Sheds more resplendence, elsewhere less. In heav’n,
That largeliest of his light partakes, was I,
Witness of things, which to relate again
Surpasseth power of him who comes from thence;
For that, so near approaching its desire
Our intellect is to such depth absorb’d,
That memory cannot follow. Nathless all,
That in my thoughts I of that sacred realm
Could store, shall now be matter of my song.
Benign Apollo! this last labour aid,
And make me such a vessel of thy worth,
As thy own laurel claims of me belov’d.
Thus far hath one of steep Parnassus’ brows
Suffic’d me; henceforth there is need of both
For my remaining enterprise Do thou
Enter into my bosom, and there breathe
So, as when Marsyas by thy hand was dragg’d
Forth from his limbs unsheath’d. O power divine!
If thou to me of shine impart so much,
That of that happy realm the shadow’d form
Trac’d in my thoughts I may set forth to view,
Thou shalt behold me of thy favour’d tree
Come to the foot, and crown myself with leaves;
For to that honour thou, and my high theme
Will fit me. If but seldom, mighty Sire!
To grace his triumph gathers thence a wreath
Caesar or bard (more shame for human wills
Deprav’d) joy to the Delphic god must spring
From the Pierian foliage, when one breast
Is with such thirst inspir’d. From a small spark
Great flame hath risen: after me perchance
Others with better voice may pray, and gain
From the Cirrhaean city answer kind.
Through diver passages, the world’s bright lamp
Rises to mortals, but through that which joins
Four circles with the threefold cross, in best
Course, and in happiest constellation set
He comes, and to the worldly wax best gives
Its temper and impression. Morning there,
Here eve was by almost such passage made;
And whiteness had o’erspread that hemisphere,
Blackness the other part; when to the left
I saw Beatrice turn’d, and on the sun
Gazing, as never eagle fix’d his ken.
As from the first a second beam is wont
To issue, and reflected upwards rise,
E’en as a pilgrim bent on his return,
So of her act, that through the eyesight pass’d
Into my fancy, mine was form’d; and straight,
Beyond our mortal wont, I fix’d mine eyes
Upon the sun. Much is allowed us there,
That here exceeds our pow’r; thanks to the place
Made for the dwelling of the human kind
I suffer’d it not long, and yet so long
That I beheld it bick’ring sparks around,
As iron that comes boiling from the fire.
And suddenly upon the day appear’d
A day new-ris’n, as he, who hath the power,
Had with another sun bedeck’d the sky.
Her eyes fast fix’d on the eternal wheels,
Beatrice stood unmov’d; and I with ken
Fix’d upon her, from upward gaze remov’d
At her aspect, such inwardly became
As Glaucus, when he tasted of the herb,
That made him peer among the ocean gods;
Words may not tell of that transhuman change:
And therefore let the example serve, though weak,
For those whom grace hath better proof in store
If I were only what thou didst create,
Then newly, Love! by whom the heav’n is rul’d,
Thou know’st, who by thy light didst bear me up.
Whenas the wheel which thou dost ever guide,
Desired Spirit! with its harmony
Temper’d of thee and measur’d, charm’d mine ear,
Then seem’d to me so much of heav’n to blaze
With the sun’s flame, that rain or flood ne’er made
A lake so broad. The newness of the sound,
And that great light, inflam’d me with desire,
Keener than e’er was felt, to know their cause.
Whence she who saw me, clearly as myself,
To calm my troubled mind, before I ask’d,
Open’d her lips, and gracious thus began:
“With false imagination thou thyself
Mak’st dull, so that thou seest not the thing,
Which thou hadst seen, had that been shaken off.
Thou art not on the earth as thou believ’st;
For light’ning scap’d from its own proper place
Ne’er ran, as thou hast hither now return’d.”
Although divested of my first-rais’d doubt,
By those brief words, accompanied with smiles,
Yet in new doubt was I entangled more,
And said: “Already satisfied, I rest
From admiration deep, but now admire
How I above those lighter bodies rise.”
Whence, after utt’rance of a piteous sigh,
She tow’rds me bent her eyes, with such a look,
As on her frenzied child a mother casts;
Then thus began: “Among themselves all things
Have order; and from hence the form, which makes
The universe resemble God. In this
The higher creatures see the printed steps
Of that eternal worth, which is the end
Whither the line is drawn. All natures lean,
In this their order, diversely, some more,
Some less approaching to their primal source.
Thus they to different havens are mov’d on
Through the vast sea of being, and each one
With instinct giv’n, that bears it in its course;
This to the lunar sphere directs the fire,
This prompts the hearts of mortal animals,
This the brute earth together knits, and binds.
Nor only creatures, void of intellect,
Are aim’d at by this bow; but even those,
That have intelligence and love, are pierc’d.
That Providence, who so well orders all,
With her own light makes ever calm the heaven,
In which the substance, that hath greatest speed,
Is turn’d: and thither now, as to our seat
Predestin’d, we are carried by the force
Of that strong cord, that never looses dart,
But at fair aim and glad. Yet is it true,
That as ofttimes but ill accords the form
To the design of art, through sluggishness
Of unreplying matter, so this course
Is sometimes quitted by the creature, who
Hath power, directed thus, to bend elsewhere;
As from a cloud the fire is seen to fall,
From its original impulse warp’d, to earth,
By vicious fondness. Thou no more admire
Thy soaring, (if I rightly deem,) than lapse
Of torrent downwards from a mountain’s height.
There would in thee for wonder be more cause,
If, free of hind’rance, thou hadst fix’d thyself
Below, like fire unmoving on the earth.”
So said, she turn’d toward the heav’n her face.
From Gutenberg: Paradise by Dante
“To whom will you compare me, or who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. Look up and see! Who created these? He brings out the stars by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing.
Remains from Morocco dated to 315,000 years ago push back our species’ origins by 100,000 years — and suggest we didn’t evolve only in East Africa.
Researchers say that they have found the oldest Homo sapiens remains on record in an improbable place: Morocco.
At an archaeological site near the Atlantic coast, finds of skull, face and jaw bones identified as being from early members of our species have been dated to about 315,000 years ago. That indicates H. sapiens appeared more than 100,000 years earlier than thought: most researchers have placed the origins of our species in East Africa about 200,000 years ago.
The finds, which are published on 7 June in Nature, do not mean that H. sapiens originated in North Africa. Instead, they suggest that the species’ earliest members evolved all across the continent, scientists say.
“Until now, the common wisdom was that our species emerged probably rather quickly somewhere in a ‘Garden of Eden’ that was located most likely in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Jean-Jacques Hublin, an author of the study and a director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Now, “I would say the Garden of Eden in Africa is probably Africa — and it’s a big, big garden.” Hublin was one of the leaders of the decade-long excavation at the Moroccan site, called Jebel Irhoud.
Jaws and Tools
Hublin first became familiar with Jebel Irhoud in the early 1980s, when he was shown a puzzling specimen of a lower jawbone of a child from the site. Miners had discovered a nearly complete human skull there in 1961; later excavations had also found a braincase, as well as sophisticated stone tools and other signs of human presence.
The bones “looked far too primitive to be anything understandable, so people came up with some weird ideas”, Hublin says. Researchers guessed they were 40,000 years old and proposed that Neanderthals had lived in North Africa.
More recently, researchers have suggested that the Jebel Irhoud humans were an ‘archaic’ species that survived in North Africa until H. sapiens from south of the Sahara replaced them. East Africa is where most scientists place our species’ origins: two of the oldest known H. sapiens fossils — 196,000 and 160,000-year-old skulls — come from Ethiopia, and DNA studies of present-day populations around the globe point to an African origin some 200,000 years ago.
Hublin first visited Jebel Irhoud in the 1990s, only to find the site buried. He didn’t have the time or money to excavate it until 2004, after he had joined the Max Planck Society. His team rented a tractor and bulldozer to remove some 200 cubic metres of rock that blocked access.
Their initial goal was to re-date the site using newer methods, but in the late 2000s, the team uncovered more than 20 new human bones relating to at least five individuals, including a remarkably complete jaw, skull fragments and stone tools. A team led by archaeological scientist Daniel Richter and archaeologist Shannon McPherron, also at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, dated the site and all the human remains found there to between 280,000 and 350,000 years old using two different methods.
The re-dating and the tranche of new human bones convince Hublin that early H. sapiens once lived at Jebel Irhoud. “It’s a face you could cross in the street today,” he says. The teeth — although big compared with those of today’s humans — are a better match to H. sapiens than they are to Neanderthals or other archaic humans. And the Jebel Irhoud skulls, elongated compared with those of later H. sapiens, suggest that these individuals’ brains were organized differently.
This offers clues about the evolution of the H. sapiens lineage into today’s anatomically modern humans. Hublin suggests that anatomically modern humans may have acquired their characteristic faces before changes to the shape of their brains occurred. Moreover, the mix of features seen in the Jebel Irhoud remains and other H. sapiens-like fossils from elsewhere in Africa point to a diverse genesis for our species, and raises doubt about an exclusively East African origin.
“What we think is before 300,000 years ago, there was a dispersal of our species — or at least the most primitive version of our species — throughout Africa,” Hublin says. Around this time, the Sahara was green and filled with lakes and rivers. Animals that roamed the East African savanna, including gazelles, wildebeest and lions, also lived near Jebel Irhoud, suggesting that these environments were once linked.
An earlier origin for H. sapiens is further supported by an ancient-DNA study posted to the bioRxiv preprint server on 5 June6. Researchers led by Mattias Jakobsson at Uppsala University in Sweden sequenced the genome of a boy who lived in South Africa around 2,000 years ago — only the second ancient genome from sub-Saharan Africa to be sequenced. They determined that his ancestors on the H. sapiens lineage split from those of some other present-day African populations more than 260,000 years ago.
Hublin says his team tried and failed to obtain DNA from the Jebel Irhoud bones. A genomic analysis could have clearly established whether the remains lie on the lineage that leads to modern humans.
Palaeontologist Jeffrey Schwartz, at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says the new finds are important — but he is not convinced that they should be considered H. sapiens. Too many different-looking fossils have been lumped together under the species, he thinks, complicating efforts to interpret new fossils and to come up with scenarios on how, when and where our species emerged.
“Homo sapiens, despite being so well known, was a species without a past until now,” says María Martínon-Torres, a palaeoanthropologist at University College London, noting the scarcity of fossils linked to human origins in Africa. But the lack of features that, she says, define our species — such as a prominent chin and forehead — convince her that the Jebel Irhoud remains should not be considered H. sapiens.
Forefront of evolution
Chris Stringer, a palaeoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London, who co-authored a News & Views article accompanying the studies, says he was baffled by the Jebel Irhoud remains when he first saw them in the early 1970s. He knew that they weren’t Neanderthals, but they seemed too young and primitive-looking to be H. sapiens. But with the older dates and the new bones, Stringer agrees that the Jebel Irhoud bones stand firmly on the H. sapiens lineage. “They shift Morocco from a supposed backwater in the evolution of our species to a prominent position,” he adds.
For Hublin, who was born in nearby Algeria and fled at the age of eight when its war of independence began, returning to North Africa to a site that has captivated him for decades was an emotional experience. “I feel like I have a personal relationship with this site,” he says. “I cannot say we closed a chapter, but we came to such an amazing conclusion after this very long journey. It blows my mind.”
From Nature: Oldest Homo Sapien Fossil from Morocco?
I started really investigating the theory of evolution in college, back when I thought it had some scientific credibility. In the intervening 30 years, I have watched the entire scientific community reluctantly bending towards something they philosophically refuse to believe.
For the time being, genetics and biology are propped up by a complex and dark constellation of invalid assumptions. Those assumptions are only ever tilted one way — away from the Truth.
The Truth won.
Just give it time.