Dante Alighierei's Divine Comedy is one of the most influential epics of all time. Known merely by his first name, Dante earned himself a position among the greatest authors of all time for the work. Pardiso, however, is the volume which gained the least repute. This is probably due to Dante's inventive conception of heaven which, while original, lacks substantial grounding in the Christian tradition. Attempting to write about the Christian mythology, Dante departs from the myths in favor of his own creative conception of the afterlife.
Paradiso is a narrated story in which the narrator is visited by a heavenly guide, Beatrice, and given a tour of the heavens. On this journey he encounters many important saints, apostles, and historical figures who have come to rest in the various levels of heaven. He is counseled to treasure up and remember the things he witnesses in heaven because they are meaningless if forgotten. Why the narrator is being granted such an honor as to tour heaven while still living is a grand mystery. He provides a lens through which the author can theorize about the value of life.
Dante conceptualizes heaven as a series of 9 realms, each higher than the next and consequently holier. Each level is one of the planets of our solar system. Although Dante participates in some of the heavenly conceptions of his day, he departs from the traditional Miltonian concept of heaven in order to create this more complex version which is divided according to the merits of the souls which inhabit each level. Dante views the soul as an eternal being which can ascend the heavens during its lifetime but which climaxes at death and departs to its highest attained planet. It's interesting to note the similarities between Dante's conception of the heavens and the Mormon concept of planetary ownership in the afterlife.