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Thread: Marilyn Manson and Dante's Divine Comedy

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    Default Marilyn Manson and Dante's Divine Comedy

    As some of you may (not) remember, I posted a thread in which I drew visual parallels between the video for The Nobodies and Dante's Inferno. Link to the original thread here but I will still include most of it in this one because it all ties together. For some reason I went back to this thread a few days ago and while reading it I decided to do some more digging around. I just had it in my head that there was a bigger picture, even though (at least in my opinion) the most obvious connection between Marilyn Manson's and Dante's work is in The Nobodies. And I think I was right. Now, I'm not too familiar with Dante's work and I have only read the first part of his triptych Inferno around 10 years ago. Plus, I was on recreational drugs at the time but I digress…


    1. Overview: The fact that Manson changed the new album title to Heaven Upside Down is probably the main reason I got the idea of that “bigger picture”. Because in its essence, Dante's Comedy is the poet's vision about afterlife where he goes through Hell, Purgatory and then Heaven (the number 3). Allegorically, it could be described as the soul's journey towards God. Another interesting fact is that in classic terminology, a comedy is a work that begins in misery or deep confusion and ends in elation or happiness. In other words, a comedy is not something one would laugh about, but an ascension from a low state of confusion to one where all people are combined for the greatest happiness or high. With this being said, we could assume that Manson has found his happiness and the answers he has been looking for in his lifetime but at the same time, it's upside down. In Manson's work and in real life the positive and the negative always intertwine, there is nothing linear and there is no certainty. So there is still confusion, there's always questions to be asked and answers to be pursued, much like Marilyn Manson as a persona and artist.


    Another reason I'm making a connection between the Divine Comedy and the title Heaven Upside Down is in the below diagram which illustrates Dante's journey through the different parts of afterlife. Illustration is by Albert Ritter- sorry, I couldn't find a version of it with English captions.





    On the left hand side, Hell in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth. The big white funnel inside the circle represents Hell, the bottom of which leads to the Centre of the Earth. According to the legend, the gigantic hole in the Earth was made when God threw Satan (Lucifer) and his band of rebels out of Heaven with such force that they created a giant hole in the Earth. Having survived the depths of Hell, Dante and Virgil ascend out of the under gloom to the Mountain of Purgatory on the far side of the world (Remember when I took you up to the top of the hill?). So they are ascending but at the same time they are going down as the illustration suggests. The arrows around Earth in the picture represent the planet's rotation (and it spins around) so when it has completed a cycle, everything is upside down as shown on the right hand side, which represents Hell in the Southern Hemisphere. The high and the low, you can't really tell which is which. I'm not sure why Heaven is not included in this illustration however most diagrams of The Universe as described by Dante, show the following:






    2. Background/Context: Throughout the Middle Ages, politics was dominated by the struggle (Guns) between the two greatest powers of that age: the papacy (God/Religion) and the Holy Roman Empire (The Government). As we all know, conflict and violence are a reoccurring themes in Manson's work and so are religion and the authorities. In present day, violence, religion and governments are still as dominant in society (Nothing's gonna change the world).


    3. Randon fact: Dante Alighieri was accused of corruption and financial wrongdoing and thus exiled from Florence in 1302, where he served as one of six priors governing the city. This is when he began writing his masterpiece about afterlife. I'm feeling stoned and alone like a heretic and I'm ready to meet my maker; I’ve been running from the bloodless for fear of exile for all of my sorceries that shun the light.


    4. The Seventh Circle of Hell in Inferno: Here we see those who are being punished for Violence: Violence against neighbours, Violence against oneself and Violence against God, Art and Nature. In connection with Marilyn Manson, I will focus most on the sinners who have been violent against themselves. The second round of the seventh circle is the Wood of the Suicides, in which the souls of the Suicides are transformed into gnarled, thorny trees and then fed upon by Harpies, hideous clawed birds with the faces of women (Birds of Hell, your death desire). According to Dorothy L. Sayers, the sin of suicide is an insult to the body; so, here, the shades are deprived of even the semblance of the human form. Dante learns that these suicides, unique among the dead, will not be corporally resurrected after the Final Judgement since they threw their bodies away. NO BODIES! For visual comparison, please see below an illustration of the above and a still from the video for The Nobodies:




    The other residents of the Middle Ring are the profligates, who destroyed their lives by destroying the means by which life is sustained (i.e. money and property)...




    The profligates are said to be chased by ferocious dogs through the wood of the suicides. Obviously this is not the case in Manson's video but the imagery is definitely there. There is also the fact that in Dante's Inferno Satan eternally chews on those who have committed the ultimate sin- personal treachery against God. In Inferno, Satan is said to have three heads and in the video, there are three people eating those in the white robes whom were previously ground in a machine (Manson and the two children).





    Also, in Inferno there is icy wind that emanates from the beating of Lucifer's wings only further insures his own imprisonment in a frozen lake (They Said That Hell's Not Hot).


    As a side note, I think it's worth mentioning that the overall content of Dante's Seventh Circle of Hell in connection with Marilyn Manson's work strongly reminds of the Columbine shooting (the culprits committed violence against others and then themselves). In my opinion, The Nobodies is a tribute to the victims and is beautifully portrayed through the imagery from Dante's work.


    6. Paradiso: As with his Inferno, the structure of Dante's Heaven is therefore of the form 9+1=10 and seven of the Spheres within it are allocated to a particular celestial body, the second of which is Mercury. Because of its proximity to the sun, the planet Mercury is often difficult to see. Allegorically, the planet represents those who did good out of a desire for fame. Among other things, in mythology Mercury is the patron god of communication and messages (including divination) and is also said to be the guide of souls to the underworld. When he reaches the final Sphere of Heaven, Dante ascends to a region beyond physical existence, the Empyrean, which is the abode of God. Beatrice (Dante's one true love), representing theology, is here transformed to be more beautiful than ever before, and Dante becomes enveloped in light, rendering him fit to see God. He sees an enormous rose, symbolising divine love, the petals of which are the enthroned souls of the faithful.





    Just throwing a bunch of stuff together here really- if any of you has more in-depth knowledge of Dante's literature and The Divine Comedy, or you think I'm missing something, please feel free to contribute.
    Last edited by Procrastinator; 05-14-2017 at 01:34 AM. Reason: Images were not showing

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    Thanks for bringing this back again as a thread. I really enjoyed your original observation picking up on the way the Nobodies is using the imagery from Canto XIII. It is singlehandedly my favourite thing about the clip and the song, and it fits so completely and utterly perfectly. With Manson speaking as the suicides (and also the gluttons, seems to be some combined sins) speaking back to humanity about what they have done, where they have led them and condemning those crawling with greed – the fact that the two ‘children snatchers’ are crushed as much as they are devoured is intriguing. They are killed similarly to what happens repeatedly to those in fourth circle in Canto VII. Across all of Holy Wood there are small touches from the various bits of inferno - the pope in Disposable Teens matches nicely with the image of Celestine the V from Canto III. Having said that I would note that the papacy in Dante is just hideously complicated (papa satane.. from Pluto, the ring of greed with corrupt clergy, the depiction of the Guelph and Ghibelline crisis etc) and Disposable Teens simply might have more to do again with Manson acting the role of what has already gone wrong, as a pope who has distorted to the Whore of Babylon, speaking as the ultimate survival and power usurpation.

    In fact putting aside specific allusions to the torments, almost any of the triptych, with their journey of self-understanding (and inevitable failure) will echo the Divine Comedy. Especially the books of Inferno and Purgatorio because of how both books and albums track the failings of humankind, and of the various characters themselves as they struggle with the contradictions of trying to reform that which creates sin. Or in the less Christian version, how Adam and co are trying to save and change the world through their example/anger/despair. Yet nothing helps, and that is the very essence of Inferno, the very thing that Dante is trying to provide an answer to. After all the ninth circle of Inferno is Treachery – and it happens to both the Worm and Adam. Terribly Biblical. Terribly Dante. Terribly Manson, where instead of progressing to Purgatario no one learns, no one moves on, everyone spins on in the same cycle.

    Oh! There is, in addition, for the later albums that particular mixing of the classical and the Biblical that is present in Dante – Inferno is equally the afterlife of the Greeks (Furies, Pluto, through Dis and Tartar) and certainly for at least Born Villain and The Pale Emperor there is a similar weaving of the two that is rather fascinating. Although that perhaps shows wide reading on behalf of Manson more than anything else, as it did for Dante himself. :D

    Anyway, rambling. My main comment on this was meant to be:

    There probably needs to be more information about the album, the title and any particular context in it before commenting on any relationship between the Divine Comedy and 'Heaven Upside Down'. It could equally be from Faust again (and now there is a whole analysis just waiting to be done for The Pale Emperor) or William Blake.

    The place that Paradise (not so much heaven) has in Dante is one that is almost purely allegorical – it doesn’t represent salvation or even what heaven looks like, but rather provides a solution to the traps involved in the vices and sins represented in purgatorio and inferno (the types of love that will sink you forever in a wasteland, versus those that will elevate. The spheres (and the angelic cohorts they are derived from) are the mirror image of the city of Dis. Each one corresponds to the cardinal virtues and then the theological virtues, much as inferno corresponds to sin and the cardinal sins. The type of desire for knowledge that will rend you to pieces versus those that will place you nearer God). Paradise is more the work you have to do to find unity in the divine – a guide book – than it is a representation of the holy. Even at the pinnacle of Paradise, there is no sudden heaven, but rather an example of the perfect working community (the Rose, which is the embodiment of perfection and of the afterlife). Dante is only absorbed into the celestial once he has found the final and perfect outcome of his understanding. For the images above it is also the triggering of the cycle and beginning again. The child born out of the head. Ironically the opposite of Zeus birthing Athena and wisdom.
    Last edited by Enname; 05-14-2017 at 04:16 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enname View Post
    There probably needs to be more information about the album, the title and any particular context in it before commenting on any relationship between the Divine Comedy and 'Heaven Upside Down'. It could equally be from Faust again (and now there is a whole analysis just waiting to be done for The Pale Emperor) or William Blake.
    I agree with you, 100%. Also, I'm sorry if the way I worded my post might have made it sound like I was trying to predict something but that's not the case. (English is my second language) I just thought that the title makes sense when put into this context.

    P.S.: I wish I came back into this thread earlier because none of the images in my post were showing, lol. If that's still the case, can anyone please let me know?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Procrastinator View Post
    I agree with you, 100%. Also, I'm sorry if the way I worded my post might have made it sound like I was trying to predict something but that's not the case. (English is my second language) I just thought that the title makes sense when put into this context.

    P.S.: I wish I came back into this thread earlier because none of the images in my post were showing, lol. If that's still the case, can anyone please let me know?
    Images are working now. :)

    No need to apologise for something that wasn't an issue. I was as always over explaining my answer that is all. A failing of mine in every guise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enname View Post

    Oh! There is, in addition, for the later albums that particular mixing of the classical and the Biblical that is present in Dante – Inferno is equally the afterlife of the Greeks (Furies, Pluto, through Dis and Tartar) and certainly for at least Born Villain and The Pale Emperor there is a similar weaving of the two that is rather fascinating. Although that perhaps shows wide reading on behalf of Manson more than anything else, as it did for Dante himself. :D
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