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Observations placeholder

Dante - Inferno [false flattery]



Type of Spiritual Experience


Dante devised a special place in Hell for what he called false flattery.

False flattery is in effect a lie, a lie told for gain. Flattery is thus lying to a person with the intent of obtaining something from them you want – obtaining something by deception – usually money, but occasionally other 'favours'.

Seducers use flattery to obtain sex from the innocent. This is flattery of the gullible, the trusting or the innocent to obtain 'favours' [in the seducers case sex]. And in these sorts of cases the flatterer hurts the flattered. The flatterer may be deluded into thinking they really are as good as the flatterer says and those delusions may lead the person into actions that do eventually hurt the flattered – really hurt.

But there are forms of flattery in which the flattered is not such an innocent party to the flattery. Businessmen use flattery to get business from customers. Politicians use flattery to obtain favours from other politicians or money from donors, or votes from voters. In these cases, both parties are to blame – the one because he wants to believe the lie, the other for issuing the lie.

The hurt does not usually lie with the flatterer or the flattered, they hurt those who have not lied, the ones who did not get the business because they didn't flatter, the ones who did not get the love of a girl because the other lied that he loved her when he didn't, and we hurt all those who voted for us thinking we obtained donations by virtue of our policies, not our ability to butter up a silly old fool.

We hurt all those who assumed we were honest.

And from it we do not get what is 'best', this does not produce the best forms of government or the best products, or the best systems of justice or the best relationships and partnerships.

A description of the experience

Dante – The Divine Comedy INFERNO I

That is Thais, the harlot who replied
To the customer who asked her
'Don't you think that I deserve it?'
'You do, you're marvellous'

Dante – The Divine Comedy INFERNO I

The embankments were encrusted with a mould
From the exhalation below, which thickened on them
And violently attacked the eyes and nose

The bottom was so deep, we could see nothing
Without climbing on the back of the arch
Until we were at the most commanding point

We reached it; and then, down in the ditch,
I saw people plunged in excrement
Which seemed as if it had flowed out of a cesspit

And while I was searching down there with my eyes,
I saw one with his head so covered with shit
You couldn't see whether he was layman or cleric

He shouted at me 'Why are you so keen
To look at me, rather than the other swine?'
And I replied 'Because, if I remember
I have seen you before when your hair was dry

And he then, smacking the top of his head
'So low I have been sunk by the flatteries
Which my tongue was never tired of saying

The source of the experience

Dante Alighieri

Concepts, symbols and science items





Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Loneliness and isolation


Manic depression