Jennifer Doane Upton
The Ordeal of Mercy is a book of wide erudition and simple style; its goal is to present the Purgatorio, according to the science of spiritual psychology, as a practical guide to travelers on the Spiritual Path. The author draws upon many sources: the Greek Fathers, notably Maximos the Confessor; St. John Climacus; Fathers and Doctors of the Latin Church, including St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas; John Donne, William Blake and other metaphysical poets; the doctrines of Dante’s own initiatory lineage, the Fedeli d’Amore; the modern Eastern Orthodox writers Pavel Florensky and Jean-Claude Larchet; and the writings of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School, including René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, Leo Schaya, and Titus Burckhardt.
Other exegetes of Dante have dealt with the overall architecture of the Divine Comedy, its astronomical and numerical symbolisms, its philosophical underpinnings, and its historical context. Jennifer Doane Upton, however—while preserving the narrative flow of the Purgatorio and making many cogent observations about its metaphysics—directs our attention instead to many of its “minute particulars,” unveiling their depth and symbolic resonance. She presents the ascent of the Mountain of Purgatory as a series of timeless steps, each of which must be plumbed to its depths before the next step arrives; in so doing she demonstrates how the center of this journey of purgation is everywhere, and its circumference nowhere.
In the words of the author, “The soul in its journey must divest itself of extraneous tendencies and desires in order to become the ‘simple’ soul of theology — the soul of one essence, of one will, of one mind. If it can do this it will reach Paradise, its true homeland.”
Praise for The Ordeal of Mercy:
“The Ordeal of Mercy is the finest commentary on Dante’s Purgatorio that I have ever read, an indispensable book for all those who want to understand the paradoxical dance of grace on the path to liberation.”
— Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism
“The Ordeal of Mercy presents a detailed and erudite metaphysical commentary on the Cantos of the Purgatorio section of Dante Alighieri’s ‘Fifth Gospel,’ La Divina Commedia, one that is clearly the fruit of extensive research combined with deep contemplation. Dante himself said that his poem had an interior sense beyond the surface meaning; Jennifer Doane Upton’s approach accordingly opens the Cantos of Purgatorio — whether we take it as an account of purgation in the post-mortem realms or as the passage through this present life understood as an ‘ordeal of mercy’— to the eye of initiatic apprehension, the eye of the Heart. Seemingly minor motifs are homed in on to reveal their deep significance, as well as their place in the broader pattern of the Purgatorio, which corresponds to the stage of Purgation on the Christian Way.”
— Nigel Jackson, author of The Seventh Tower: Tradition and Counter-Tradition in the Modern World (forthcoming)