Neutral Angels

Dante Alighieri, born in 1265 in Florence, is perhaps the greatest non-religious, technical poet to have ever lived. Not a single poet has been capable of replicating the Commedia’s hendecasyllable metre.* Dante’s Commedia takes us on an encyclopedic journey to see God face to face and return to tell the story. Commedia is a journey. It is also a tale of morality – one from which we may learn spiritual lessons, grow, mature, and contemplate. One such story in the Commedia follows.

And then we come to Canto 3, in which Dante crosses the gate of Hell, with its famous warning that scares him quite a lot. On the other side Dante meets the first sinners of the text, the so-called neutral angels: “And I, my head circled with error, said, ‘Master, what is this I hear? And what people are these who seem so overcome by pain?’ And he to me, ‘Such is the miserable condition of the sorry souls of those who live without infamy and without praise. They are mingled with that base band of angels, who were neither rebellious nor faithful to God, but stood apart.'” These are the angels who, during the great cosmic battle between God and the satanic forces with which the world begins, just became spectators. In other words, Dante begins his vision of Hell by dramatizing that which to him is the most serious of sins: being disengaged, not taking sides in the belief that you can wait and see what the outcome is and then you can take a side. He responds to them by saying that, “these have no hope of death,” that “mercy and justice disdain them. Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on.” He won’t even name them because to name them would be to bring them into reality, and the neutrality is a sign of the way in which they de-realize the world. They reduce the world to a pure show of their own, for their own spectatorship. (Emphasis added.)

Reading Dante, Guiseppe Mazzotta, pp. 33-34

Contemplate on “first sinners of the text” – which would mean the sinners after the rebellion.

Contemplate on mankind’s role amid the crises within the Church – God’s established Holy Church and them who choose to do nothing – they who are “disengaged, not taking sides . . . waiting and seeing what the outcome is and then taking a side.”

Contemplate if not taking a side is, in fact, taking a side.

God endows each of us with the right to exercise free will. The belief that a person may opt to not exercise free will is delusional since not making a decision is making a decision?


*Cf. Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity by Prue Shaw, Chapters 6 & 7