The Divine Comedy: Week 41, Transhumanized

In Canto I of Paradise, Dante invents a word about what happens to the Pilgrim as he leaves the earth to ascend through the heavens.

The word in Canto I, Line 70, is trasumanar. The word is typically translated into English as "to transhumanize," as in "to pass beyond the human."

We see here a glimpse of the Orthodox notion of theosis, the process through which human beings are changed to become like or united with God. Sometimes this is called "divinization" or "deification," the process by which humans become divine and "godlike."

Theosis is different from sanctification, becoming holy, though the two ideas are related. Theosis isn't simply a process of moral betterment and purification. Theosis is undergoing a material change.

A classic patristic articulation of this process comes from Athanasius who commented upon the purpose of the Incarnation: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." A Biblical text that points to theosis is 2 Peter 1:4:
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
And, of course, there is the Transfiguration, an event in the gospels that has huge significance for the Orthodox, but not so much for Protestants. If Protestants say anything about the Transfiguration of Jesus, it's about Jesus' identity. But for the Orthodox, the Transfiguration is about what happens to the substance of Jesus' body. Because that change is a foreshadowing of what is going to happen to our bodies.

What happened to Jesus, happens to the Pilgrim in the Divine Comedy, and will happen to all of us.

We will be transhumanized.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply