In this Canto begins the journey through the area of the fraudulent. Here Dante sees the panderers, seducers, and flatterers. In vulgar terms they are kiss asses and bullshitters. Instigators and ones who lead astray with the honeyed tongue. (I use these crass words because Dante uses them. Well the excrement word. If you are offended, don’t be. It is the nature of such people in this circle of Hell).
Panderers are those who want to please others, not to help them but for an ulterior motive. A panderer kisses up to get something they want. A seducer is one who entices others into error or wrongdoing. One who takes advantage of another. Pandering can definitely be a part, a means of a seducer. Same with a flatterer. Dante literally has the flatterers face down in shit. In the detritus that they spew to suck up to another. Telling lies to get what they want, either praise or if they flatter another may attain a place of prominence beside the one they flatter. They are the yes-men. Parasites as Cicero calls them. As Cicero says, the yes-men are the antithesis of friendship. Part of friendship: to admonish and to be admonished for the good of the other. Not out of anger or to tear someone down.
Most have known one or all of these fraudulent types. Maybe has even been one at one point in their lives. To be trapped in the instigation of these types feels good at times, but when you realize what is going on, the lies hurt; questioning the motives of those people who have “built” you up.
The fraudulent, in Dante’s view, are the second worst; the worst being the traitors. Church Fathers have considered the sins of the mind being worse than the sins of the body. Pride being the worst, the root of all sin. The sin of Satan. To twist another with the intellect is far more damaging to the soul than killing the body or another temptation. Yet, with bodily sin, most of the time there is the sin of the intellect–the seducer and flatterer, even panderer will couple itself with lust. No sin is isolated within itself. Sin has multiple layers. We are the only creatures who will manipulate, lie, cheat, pride being the twister of reason and love. Our intellects twisting our motives and intentions. Manipulating is far more damaging to a person because it is long-term.
Conversion and repentance takes action by the person, but most of all the changing of one’s mind. To deny the natural impulse and follow what is right and good. Paul emphasized putting on the mind of Christ. We cannot do this on our own. It takes fellowship and community–the body of Christ. It is no easy road, probably why so many turn away. Yet crisis pulls people back because they cannot live in their own dysfunction for eternity. Or if you can, it is Hell.