Doubt on the threshold of hell

Is there a particular reason why in the center of Rodin’s (1840 – 1917) famous Gates of Hell stands a miniature of his very famous statue personifying doubt? Is not this existential condition of living in the ethereal, not clinging to anything (and thus “to” nothingness), the most apparent form of authentic escape from every claw of dogmatism?

Auguste Rodin's Gates of Hell on the top of which is a miniature of the statue of doubt
Auguste Rodin’s Gates of Hell, on the top of which is a miniature statue of a thinking man, the personification of doubt.

The evidence is far more explicit than the explanations: the doubter is caught by the advent of the misty archetypes that show insecurity not as a decline of the self but rather as a concrete possibility of standing before the most genuine reality.

Unlike Sisyphus, who is condemned to incompleteness and becomes the symbol of frustration (which never yields to discouragement), doubt seems to enjoy the moment when having almost reached the top of the mountain, it is pushed back down to begin a new quest. Is not all this symbolizing the very entry into hell?

Indeed, by observing the esoteric dimension of Dante’s journey (traceable to what is prescribed by the alchemical Latin motto V.I.T.R.I.O.L. – Visita Interiora Terrae et Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem), man crosses a threshold where hope must be abandoned. But what hope, exactly? Just the hope in certainty!

Here is where doubt arises even before the journey begins, albeit in a negative form. A persuasive wind that takes the visitor on a journey of presentation and discovery of darkness, the unknown, or the reversal of belief.

Dante doubts when he sees and hears Ulysses, he doubts in front of Paolo and Francesca, he doubts and is moved as he observes the grotesque face of Ugolino frankly pose to him the evidence of the dilemma that dogma purports to crush under its weight “filled” by the bodies of witches and heretics. But Dante does not ask to be dispensed from the downward journey: he makes it insofar as necessary to ascend and observe everything with eyes no longer subject to deception.

It almost seems his last impulse toward extreme perception, that light that merely dazzles him is held back by the infernal images that reshape everything, bringing order back into the absurd by placing man once again at the center of speculation.

Doubt is essentially and existentially, “existence” in the truest sense. In the path fragmented into instants that merely mirror a tiny fragment of time, man cannot help but doubt, just as he cannot help but carp at the atmosphere. The refuge in dogma, in certainty without any foundation, in absurdity dressed up as “inspired” morality, lies only in the illusion that mockingly laughs at its victims and prepares to devour them like Dante’s Lucifer.

Only doubt, as the only certainty of thought, can guarantee that immunity from the yoke of the true and the false: that duality which first self-creates and then asks man to destroy it, and thus spend its days as a watershed separating two streams only to see them united again in the ocean.


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