Shift from External to Internal Considering: Inner Task Series by Grace Radford

Week 1 Task – Identification

8 Tasks in 8 weeks – A Pocket-Size Purgatorial Project

In the pivotal moment when preparing to rise from sitting, sense your feet, turn in your chair, and as you stand, remember yourself and say silently or out loud: “Turn and stand”. What is released?

This year we mark the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, the Maestro who penned The Divine Comedy. T.S. Eliot wrote that “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.” The epic poem is divided into three canticles, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. For seven centuries, readers have been compelled to map Dante’s journey and his cosmology. Living decades in Italy, I came to love the wisdom that saturates and connects every word and line of this extraordinary work. 

A disclaimer as we begin this series of tasks: In no way do these posts pretend to provide a commentary or analysis of The Comedy or the Purgatory canticle. Further, there is no attempt to reconcile, compare, or contrast Dante’s Purgatory with G.I. Gurdjieff’s chapter 39 entitled The Holy Planet Purgatory. Finally, I borrowed the term “purgatorial” from Fr. Azize and found it useful for our work to suspend considerations about the doctrinal and temporal aspects of purgatory. 

That stated, when I first came across the Ray of Creation diagram, I was reminded of the medieval diagrams of Dante’s cosmology I had seen in my kid’s textbooks over the years. I chose to use the construct of PURGATORY to frame the tasks for this eight week series. If we use the terraces of the seven-story mountain as structures rather than stages or levels, the allegory provides a time-tested framework for conscious work and intentional suffering. I have had to iterate many visits into various circles of hell and, by grace, have also found myself repeating purgatorial work.

The Law of Three infuses The Divine Comedy. In the architecture of Dante’s cosmology, the opposite of hell is purgatory, not paradise. The last canto of the Inferno explains that when Lucifer fell from heaven, he went straight to the center of the earth and blew out the circles of hell on the other side. The displaced earth formed Mount Purgatory. Purgatory and Hell are the affirming and denying and the complementary Yin and Yang. Paradise/heaven is the third force that provides grace to those ascending the difficult path of intentional suffering and conscious work. Along the way, they are cleansed, strengthened, beautified and beatified.

Before reaching purgatory, Dante must pass with his guide Virgil to the depths of hell, down the haunch of Satan himself. When they reach the core and pass through to the other hemisphere, he flips and changes orientation. Our pilgrim turns and stands and begins the ascent to the surface and the foothills of Mount Purgatory. Ante-Purgatory is where we will begin this series. Ante-purgatory is where we find those waiting to enter Purgatory proper. 


In the pivotal moment when preparing to rise from sitting, sense your feet, turn in your chair, and as you stand, remember yourself and say silently or out loud: “Turn and stand”. 

Notice how you were identified before and after the movement. In The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution, Ouspensky writes:

The curious state in which man passes more than half of his life. He identifies with everything: what he says, what he feels, what he believes, what he does not believe, what he wishes, what he does not wish, what attracts him, what repels him. Everything absorbs him, and he cannot separate himself from the idea, the feeling or the object that absorbed him. 

In the state of identification, man is incapable of looking impartially on the object of his identification. OBJECTIVE consciousness is impossible. 

Later Ouspensky writes about understanding vs knowing. Understanding always requires seeing a smaller thing in relation to a bigger whole. Without objective seeing, one cannot see the relationship and the possible consequences. Identification impedes understanding.

Darleen Franz has a chant entitled Turn and Stand available on Band Camp.

For the remaining seven weeks, we will link a task to a level of Purgatory and one of the other seven harmful features that man finds in himself: Lying, imagination, expressing negative emotions, unnecessary talking, consideration, dreaming and excess formatory thinking.

Inner Task Series by Grace Radford

8 Tasks in 8 weeks – A Pocket-Size Purgatorial Project

Grace Radford posted this Inner Task Series to the Wisdom School Community on Facebook from May 7 – June 25, 2021