Pocket number four is the place created to hold those who claim to have spiritual powers, powers that would question the fallibility and Divine Will of God. Upon entering it, Dante sees shades marching in what appears to be something akin of a Church procession. Closer inspection reveals to him that each shade has had its head reversed so completely that nothing like it could possibly ever exist in the world of the living. Each shade cried tears of pain and guilt. This grotesque scene moved Dante to tears, but Virgil was quick to rebuke him, telling him not to weep over the wrath of God. To do so would imply God’s punishment was not just, an impious act. As they walk, Virgil points out several sorcerers, magicians, and diviners, and explains that their eagerness to see forward in the history of the world by unholy means has led to them being doomed to walk about only able to see backwards.
Being eternally sentenced to walk about seeing only behind oneself is fitting punishment for those who sought to usurp God’s power and see beyond. However, one who can only see backwards can still see, and so the shades grieve eternally as well, muddying their vision and preventing them from seeing clearly. In this way one can also explain Dante’s weeping at the sight of these tortured souls. Most likely he wept because he could not bear the sight of so many disfigured human forms. Virgil was quick to scold him for his tears, because these souls were justly suffering God’s wrath for their sins. Dante did not see this, nor does he fully understand it after the event. His tears show judgment of the judgment God has pronounced, and also show and unreadiness to understand sin.
Nowhere in the Bible does it mention God has given the gift of seeing the future to anyone, and to attempt to see into the future without God’s grace can be perceived as nothing more than an attempt to circumvent God’s will. In order to accomplish their unholy task of divining, magicians and the like engaged in occult activities, making false Gods, and feigning to outwit God.
Committing this sin was no simple or light act. It took practice, study, and work for one to develop enough “power” to be a soothsayer. This sin was premeditated in a most awful manner. It was not committed lightly, as a crime of passion would be. This makes the sin all the more terrible, and the punishment that much more wrathful. In death these sinners are stripped of all their worldly power, having neither forward-sight nor clear vision. The very things they so vehemently sought are now twisted around as badly as their bodies, and used against them to torture them,
John Edward, host of the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Crossing Over with John Edward,” belongs in pouch four, as described in Canto XX. He is a self-proclaimed psychic, who makes millions hosting a television series in which he plies his art before the world. His “art” as it could be called is nothing more than divining. He claims to have a connection to the “other side” and that he can communicate with the dead. John Edward claims to not know where the soul goes when a person dies, but that he can communicate with souls that have made the transition. Now, it seems that not only is he guilty of sorcery, but also of being a non-Christian. However, non-Christians are doomed to limbo, and not to Hell. Therefore, most likely he’d be punished for his worst sin, sorcery.
When John Edward communes with the dead, he fixes his eyes directly on the person whose loved one he is trying to reach. Having his eyes clouded with tears for eternity would be apt. having his ears and mouth stopped up, so as to prevent his speaking to the dead would also fit. Although he does not talk to the dead in such a literal way, Dante’s portrayal of Hell often punishes sinners in a very literal way, even within this pouch. Those who tried to see the future are forever doomed to reversed heads and clouded vision. So should John Edward hear nothing but silence and never utter a peep.
It is important to note that Dante is not overly clear in Canto XX as to exactly what one has to do to belong in the fourth pouch. He says it is reserved for those who tried to see the future, and bypass God’s power. However, he does not go into detail as to what kinds of things one needs to try to predict to be guilty. Also, he only vaguely comments that these sinners were occultists. Is it to be understood that predictions are only against God’s will if they were made through the Occult? Or are all predictions inherently evil, with those made via the Occult simply more so? For John Edward, who claims his art is real, the fourth pouch is certainly the correct punishment.