giving an almost geometrical precision to his most mystical visions.
In his letter to Can Grande
he says: ‘It behooves not those to whom it is given to know what is best in us to follow the footprints of the herd; much rather are they bound to oppose its wanderings.
For the vigorous in intellect and reason, endowed with a certain divine liberty, are constrained by no customs.
Nor is it wonderful, since they are not governed by the laws, but much more govern the laws themselves.’
It is not impossible that Dante
, whose love of knowledge was all-embracing, may have got some hint of the doctrine of the Oriental Sufis
With them the first and lowest of the steps that lead upward to perfection is the Law
, a strict observance of which is all that is expected of the ordinary man whose mind is not open to the conception of a higher virtue and holiness.
But the Sufi puts himself under the guidance of some holy man [Virgil in the Inferno
], whose teaching he receives implicitly, and so arrives at the second step, which is the Path
] by which he reaches a point where he is freed from all outward ceremonials and observances, and has risen from an outward to a spiritual worship.
The third step is Knowledge [Paradiso
], endowed by which with supernatural insight, he becomes like the angels about the throne, and has but one farther step to take before he reaches the goal and becomes one with God.
The analogies of this system with Dante
's are obvious and striking.
They become still more so when Virgil takes leave of him at the entrance of the Terrestrial Paradise
with the words:—
Expect no more a word or sign from me;
Free and upright and sound is thy free-will,
And error were it not to do its bidding;
Thee o'er thyself I therefore crown and mitre,
Purgatorio, XXVII. 139-142.