Translation by Paulo Eugene Memmo, Jr., 1964
T. Now is described the path taken by heroic love, as it tends toward its proper object, the supreme good, and the path taken by the heroic intellect as it strives to attain its proper object, the primary or absolute truth. All of the above is summarized in the first poem which expresses the purpose to be developed in the following five. Thus he says:
The youthful Actaeon unleashes the mastiffs and the greyhounds to the forests, when destiny directs him to the dubious and perilous path, near the traces of the wild beasts.
Here among the waters he sees the most beautiful countenance and breast, that ever one mortal or divine may see, clothed in purple and alabaster and fine gold; and the great hunter becomes the prey that is hunted.
The stag which to the densest places is wont to direct his lighter steps, is swiftly devoured by his great and numerous dogs.
I stretch my thoughts to the sublime prey, and these springing back upon me, bring me death by their hard and cruel gnawing.
Actaeon represents the intellect intent upon the capture of divine wisdom and the comprehension of the divine beauty. He unleashes the mastiffs and the greyhounds; of these the greyhounds are swifter and the mastiffs more powerful, for the operation of the intellect precedes the operation of the will; but the latter in turn is the more vigorous and efficacious; since divine goodness and beauty are more lovable than comprehensible to the human intellect, and besides love moves and spurs the intellect to go before it, like a lantern, to the forests, uncultivated and lonely, very rarely visited and explored, with the result that few men have left the traces of their steps there. The youth is of little experience and practice, as one whose life is brief and whose frenzy is unstable. In the dubious path refers to the uncertain and the ambiguous reason and passion which the letter Y of Pythagoras symbolized. On the right this path shows him the more thorny, uncultivated and deserted arduous path upon which he unleashes the greyhounds and mastiffs near the traces of the wild beasts, which are the intelligible modes of ideal concepts. These are hidden, are pursued by few men, and visited most rarely, and do not offer themselves to everyone who seeks them. Here among the waters, that is to say, in the mirror of similitudes, in the works in which is resplendent the efficacy of the divine goodness and splendor -- these works are represented by the symbol of the superior and inferior waters over and beneath the firmament. He sees the most beautiful countenance and breast, that is to say, he sees the power and external operation which can be seen in the state and act of diligent contemplation of a mortal or divine mind, by a man, or by some deity.
C. If he compares divine and human comprehension and places them within the same class, I believe that he does so not with respect to the two modes of comprehension, which are very different, but with respect to the object of contemplation which is one and the same.
T. That is it exactly. He says in purple, alabaster and gold, meaning the purple of divine power, the gold of divine wisdom, the alabaste of divine beauty, in the contemplation of which the Pythagoreans, Chaldeans, Platonists, and others attempt to rise as best they can. The great hunter sees: he as understood as much as he can, and he himself becomes the prey; that is to say, this hunter set out for prey and became himself the prey through the operation of his intellect whereby he converted the apprehended objects into himself.
C. I see. For he gives shapes according to his mode to the intelligible species and proportions them to his capacity inasmuch as they are received according to a mode of him who receives them.
T. And he becomes the prey by the operation of the will whose act converts him into the object.
C. I understand; for love converts and transforms into the thing loved.
T. You know very well that the intellect understands things intelligently, that is, according to its own mode; and the will pursues things naturally, that is, according to the manner in which things exist in themselves. Therefore, Actaeon, who with these thoughts, his dogs, searched for goodness, wisdom, beauty, and the wild beast outside himself, attained them in this way. Once he was in their presence, ravished outside of himself by so much beauty, he became the prey of his thoughts and saw himself converted into the thing he was pursuing. Then he perceived that he himself had become the coveted prey of his own dogs, his thoughts, because having already tracked down the divinity within himself it was no longer necessary to hunt for it elsewhere.
C. Then it is well said that the kingdom of God is within us, and that divinity lives within us by virtue of the regenerated intellect and will.
T. Precisely. Actaeon becomes the prey of his own dogs, pursued by his own thoughts, turns his feet and directs his new steps; is renewed for a divine course -- that is, with greater facility and with a more efficatious inspiration -- toward the densest places, toward the deserts, toward the region of incomprehensible things: from the vulgar and common man he was, he becomes rare and heroic, rare in all he does, rare in his concepts, and he leads the extraordinary life. It is there that his great and numerous dogs bring him death; thus he stops living according to the world of folly, of sensuality, of blindness, and of illusion, and begins to live by the intellect; he lives the life of the gods, he feeds upon ambrosia and is drunk with nectar. Now, in the form of other similitude, he describes the manner in which Actaeon arms himself for the attainment of the object, and he says:
My solitary sparrow, no longer delay making your nest in that place which clouds and fills all my thought. There, above, give the full measure of your labor, your industry, and art.
Find new life there and raise your lovely offspring. Now that cruel destiny has run its full course, it no longer impedes you from your enterprise, as it used to do.
Go, a more noble refuge I desire for you -- and you shall have as a guide a god who by those who see nothing is called blind.
Go, and may every god of this immense creation be merciful to you; and return not to me, since you are no longer mine.
The lover's former progress symbolized by the hunter stirring his dogs here is symbolized by a winged heart; and from the cage in which it reposed in idleness and quiet it is dispatched to build its nest up on high, and to raise its little ones there -- its thoughts -- the time having come in which the obstacles posed by a thousand lures without and by the natural feebleness within are no longer present. He gives the heart permission, then, to attain a more noble state for itself, and turns it to a more lofty design and purpose, now that those powers of the soul which the Platonists have already represented by the two wings are more firmly developed. And as a guide to the heart he designates that god whom the vulgar in their blindness call blind and mad; and that god is love who by the mercy and favor of heaven has the power to transform the heart into that other nature to which it aspires, or, after its voyage of exile, to restore it to that state from which it was banished. That is why he said, and return not to me since you are no longer mine, so that not unworthily I may say with that other poet:
You have left me, my heart, and light of my eyes, you are no longer with me. (Ps. 37.11)
Next he describes the death of the soul, called by the Cabalists death of the kiss, symbolized in the Canticle of Solomon, where the beloved lady speaks these words:
Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth, because by his blows too cruel a love makes me languish; (Cant. 1: 1, 5:6-8)
by others this death is called sleep, as in the Psalmist's words:
If I shall give sleep to my eyes, slumber to my eyelids, I shall find in him peaceful repose. (Ps. 131: 4,5)
He then speaks for the soul as languid inasmuch as it is dead in itself, and alive in its object:
O frenzied ones, take care of your hearts; for mine, too much estranged from me, led away by a harsh and pitiless hand, finds its happy sojourn where it is smitten and dies.
My thoughts call it back at every hour; and in revolt, foolish falcon, it no longer knows that friendly hand, from which it has flown forth not to return.
Wild beast, who satisfies while giving pains, you ensnare the heart, the spirit, and the soul by your spurs, your flames, and your chains,
by your glances, accents, and lures; and the one who lanquishes and burns and does not return, who shall heal him, who shall cool his fire and unloose his chains?
Here the sorrowing soul, not in real discontent, but in the passion of a certain amorous martyrdom, speaks as though addressing its discourse to those who are similarly impassioned. It has dismissed its heart, as it were, against its will, for the heart directs its course toward an impossible goal, extends itself where it cannot reach and would embrace what it cannot grasp; and the more the heart is estranged from the soul, the more does it enkindle itself toward the infinite.
C. Tansillo, how does it happen that the soul in this stage of its development is happy in its own torment? Where does that spur come from which always stimulates it beyond what it possesses?
T. From this which I shall tell you now. Although the intellect has arrived at the apprehension of a certain definite intelligible form, and the will to a desire in proportion to that apprehension, the intellect does not stop there; for its own light impels it to think of that which contains every genus of be intelligible and appetitive, until it is about to apprehend the eminence of the source of ideas, the ocean of all truth and good. Thus it happens that whatever species is represented to the intellect and comprehended by the will, the intellect concludes there is another species above it, a greater and still greater one, and consequently it is always impelled toward new motion and abstraction in a certain fashion. For it ever realizes that everything it possesses is a limited thing which for that reason cannot be sufficient in itself, good in itself, or beautiful in itself, because the limited thing is not the universe and is not the absolute entity, but is contracted to this nature, this species or this form represented to the intellect and presented to the soul. As a result, from that beautiful which is comprehended, and therefore limited, and consequently beautiful by participation, the intellect progresses toward that which is truly beautiful without limit or circumscription whatsoever.
C. This procedure seems vain to me.
T. Not at all, in fact, because it is neither fitting nor natural that the infinite be understood, or that it present itself as finite, for then it would cease to be infinite; but it is perfectly in accord with nature that the infinite, because of its being infinite, be pursued without end, in that mode of pursuit which is not physical movement, but a certain metaphysical movement. And this movement is not from the imperfect to the perfect, but it goes circling through the degrees of perfection to reach that infinite center which is neither form nor formed.
C. I would like to know how by circling you can arrive at the center.
T. This I cannot imagine.
C. Then why do you say it?
C. Because I can say it and leave it for you to consider.
C. If you don't mean that he who pursues the infinite is like one who, moving along the circumference, seeks the center, I don't know what you mean.
T. It is other than that.
C. Now if you don't wish to explain it, we'll not speak of it any more. But tell me, if you will, what he means when he says that his heart is led away by a harsh and pitiless hand?
T. He uses here a similitude or metaphor borrowed from common usage, which calls cruel the object that gives no fruition, or, at best partial fruition, and is more an object of desire than of possession, so that he who has partial possession of it cannot rest in full happiness, because he still desires it with an ardor which brings him to the point of a swooning, and to the point of death.
C. What are those thoughts which call back the heart to retard it from so noble an enterprise?
T. The sensitive and other natural affections which looks to the preservation of the body.
C. What have these affections to do with the body which can in no way be of any aid or assistance to them?
T. They have nothing to do with the body, but with the soul which, too intent upon a single effort or goal, becomes remiss and shows little zeal for anything else.
C. Why does he called his heart that foolish falcon?
T. Because it knows of things above.
C. Usually one calls foolish those who know less than others.
T. No. As a matter of fact those are called foolish whose knowledge does not conform to the common rule, whether they tend to base things, having less sense, or to higher things, having more intellect.
C. I believe you are right. Now tell me further. What are the spurs, the flames, and the chains?
T. The spurs are those new pricks which stimulate and re-awaken the affection in order to render it attentive; the flames are those rays of beauty which enkindle the man who is ready to contemplate it; the chains are the details and circumstances which fix the eyes of the attention and firmly unite the intellectual powers to their object.
C. What are the glances, accents, and lures?
T. Glances are the persuasions whereby the object (as though it gazed at us) presents itself to us; the accents are the persuasions the object uses to inspire and inform us; if the lures are the circumstances which please and attract us. So that the heart which sweetly languishes, gently burns, and constantly perserveres in its enterprise, fears that its wound may heal, that its fire will go out, and its knot be untied.
C. Now recite what follows.
Lofty, profound, and living thoughts of mine, ready to flee the maternal bonds of the afflicted soul, and disposed as archers to aim where the lofty idea is born;
along these steep paths, heaven allows you to encountered the cruel beast. Remember to return and recall the heart which lies concealed in the hand of a savage goddess.
Arm yourselves with the love of the domestic fires, and curb your sight so forcefully, that
these companions of my heart shall not make you stranger to it. At least bring tidings of its delight and joy.
Here is described the natural solicitude of the soul made attentive to generation by the friendship it has contracted with matter. The soul dispatches its armed thoughts which, stimulated and spurred on by the complaint of the inferior nature, are commanded to call back the heart. The soul instructs its thoughts how they are to behave, for charmed and attracted by the object as they are, they are not too easily seduced to remain captives and companions of a heart. Therefore the soul tells them they ought to arm themselves with the love which burns with domestic fires, that is, the love friendly to generation to which they have an obligation, and of which they are to be the messengers, ministers, and soldiers. The soul, then, orders its thoughts to curb their sight, to close their eyes, in order not to gaze upon any other beauty or goodness than the one present to them, their friend and mother. And the soul finally concludes that, should its thoughts not wish to be recalled for any other duty, they at least can return to give the soul some news of the condition and state of its heart.
C. Before you proceed further, I should like you to explain what the soul means when it says to its thoughts, Curb your sight so forcefully?
T. I will tell you. All love proceeds from the sight, intellectual love from the eye of the mind; sensible love from the view of the senses. Now the word sight has two meanings. If it can mean the visual potency, that is, the power of seeing of the intellect or of the eye; or it can also mean the visual act, the application which the eye or the intellect makes upon the material or intellectual object. Thus when the thoughts are advised to curb the sight, it is not to be understood in the first way, but in the second, because it is the visual potency become act which begets the affection of the appetite, whether sensitive or intellectual.
C. This is what I desired to hear you say. Now if the visual act is the cause of the evil or of the good which proceeds from the sight, how is it that we love and desire the sight? And how does it happen that in the matter of divine things our love is greater than our understanding?
T. We desire the sight because in some way we know the good of seeing, and that the act of seeing offers us beautiful things. Therefore, we desire that act because we desire beautiful things.
C. We desire the beautiful and the good, but the sight is neither beautiful nor good; in fact, it is rather an instrument of comparison or light whereby we see not only the beautiful and good, but also the wicked and the ugly. It seems to me that the sight can be beautiful or good, as we can see either white or black. Therefore, if the sight (which actively perceives) is neither beautiful or good, how can it be desired?
T. It is not desired for itself, but surely because of some object, inasmuch as the apprehension of an object cannot take place without it.
C. What will you say if the object is neither one of sense nor of intellect? How, I ask, can the object be desired, or even seen, if there is no knowledge of it at all, if it has not occasioned any act of intellect or sense, in fact if one doubts whether it is an intelligible or sensible, incorporeal or corporeal object, or whether it is one or two or more objects, or of one or the other nature?
T. To that I would say that there exists in the sense and in the intellect an appetite and impulse towards the sensible in general. This is because the intellect desires to know all of the truth, in order to grasp all that is beautiful and good in the intelligible world. The sensitive potency wishes to be informed of all that comes within the class of the sensible, and to grasp all that appears as beautiful and good to the senses. Thus we desire no less to see things we have never seen than things we have already understood and seen. But it does not follow from this that desire does not proceed from cognition, and consequently that we desire things which we do not know. On the contrary, I hold it to be well established that we do not desire what is unknown. For if things are unknown with respect to their particular natures, they are not unknown with respect to their general natures; in the visual potency one finds everything which is visible in aptitude, and in the intellective potency everything which is intelligible. Therefore, because the inclination to act is in the aptitude, both the visual and the intellectual potency are inclined to act toward the universal, as toward something naturally understood as good. It follows, then, that the soul was not addressing itself to the deaf or the blind, when it counseled its thoughts to curb the sight; for although the sight may not be the proximate cause of desire, it is nevertheless the primary and underlying cause of it.
C. What do you mean by this last statement?
T. I mean that it is not the sensible or intelligible appearance of a form or species which of itself moves the soul, for he who contemplates the form as it is manifest to the eyes does not yet come to love it; but from the instant when the soul conceives the form as an object no longer of sight but of thought, no longer divisible but indivisible, no longer under the species of a particular thing, but under the species of the good and the beautiful, then at once love is born. Now this is the object from which the soul would divert the eyes of its thoughts. This sight is wont to encourage the inclination to love more than it sees; for as I said a little while ago, the affection always considers -- by its universal knowledge of the beautiful and the good -- that beyond the species of the good and the beautiful, which it has been able to attain, there are infinitely more and more species.
C. But how does it happen that having abstracted a species of beauty which is a conception of the soul we still desire to feed upon its external appearance?
T. Because the soul always desires to love more than it loves and to see more than it sees. Moreover the soul desires that this species which the sight has engendered in it should not become attenuated, enfeebled, or lost. The soul therefore wishes to see even more and more, so that what might become darkened to the soul's internal affection might be frequently illumined by the external aspect of the species, which, having been the beginning of its existence ought to be the beginning of its conservation. A similar analogy exists between the act of seeing and the act of understanding, for the sight is proportioned to visible objects exactly as the intellect is proportioned to intelligible objects. I believe, then, that you now understand the intention and sense of the words the soul speaks when it says, curb your sight. C. I see very well. Now proceed to relate what comes of these faults.
T. There follows the complaint of the mother against her sons who, having opened their eyes and fixed them upon the splendor of the object, contrary to her command, now wander in the company of the heart. Thus she says:
And you, cruel sons, you abandon me to embitter my pain the more; and because you constantly oppose me, you carry off with you my every hope.
For what reason do I remain conscious, oh covetous heavens? For what reason are these powers mutilated and wasted, if not to make of me the subject and example of so heavy a martyrdom and of so long a punishment?
Oh, in the name of God, dear sons, let even my winged fire become a prey, and let me see some one of you again
returned to me from those tenacious claws. Alas, no one returns, a party consolation for my woe.
Here am I miserable, deprived of a heart, abandoned by my thoughts, bereft of the hope I had entirely placed in them. Nothing else remains but the sense of my poverty, unhappiness, and wretchedness. And what am I not deprived of this sense too? Why does death not come to my aid, now that I am deprived of life? For what purpose are my natural faculties deprived of their power? How shall I be able to feed upon the intelligible species alone, the food for the intellect, if my substance is a composite? How shall I be able to remain in the company of these dear and friendly members, which I have woven around myself; how shall I order them according to the symmetry of their elements, if I am abandoned by my thoughts and passions because they are intent on immaterial and divine food? Come, come, oh my fleeting thoughts, my rebellious heart. Let the sense live on sensible things and the intellect upon intelligible things. Let matter and the corporeal subject be the support of the body, and the intellect be satisfied by its own objects; so that this complex continue to subsist, so that there be no dissolution of this machine, whose spirit unites the soul to the body. Why, wretched that I am, rather by my own doing than through external violence, do I witness this horrible divorce within my parts and members? Why? Because the intellect meddles by ruling the sense and depriving it of its nourishment; the sense, on the contrary, resists the intellect, for it would live according to its own rules, and not according to those of the other. Only its own rules and not those of the other can assure its existence and its happiness, because it must care for its own and not the other's convenience and life. There are no harmony and concord where there is that uniformity whereby one nature wishes to absorb the whole being; but harmony and concord are present where there is order and due proportion among diverse things and where each thing serves its own nature. Therefore let the sense feed itself according to the law of sensible things, the flesh according to the law of the flesh, the spirit according to the law of the spirit, the reason according to the law of the reason; let them not be confused or troubled with one another. It suffices that one does not at all alter or prejudice the law of the other. For if it is unjust that the sense outrage the law of reason, it is equally blamable that the reason tyrannize over the law of the senses, inasmuch as the intellect is the greater wanderer and the sense more domestic and as though in its own abode.
This is why it is then, oh my thoughts, that some of you are obligated to care for your home, while others can set out to seek other cares elsewhere. Such is the law of nature and such consequently is His law who is the author and the principle of nature. Therefore you transgress when, seduced by the beauties of the intellect, you leave the other part of me in danger of death. Whence have you engendered this perverse and melancholy humour of breaking certain natural laws of the true life, a life you hold in your power, for an uncertain life that is nothing if not a shadow beyond the limits of the imaginable? Does it seem natural to you that creatures should refuse the animal or the human life in order to live the divine life when they are not gods but only men and animals?
It is a law of fate and of nature that each thing work according to the condition of its nature. Why, therefore, in pursuit of coverting the nectar of the gods do you lose that nectar which is proper to you, afflicting yourself perhaps with the vain hope of some other nectar? Do you not believe that nature should disdain to accord you this other good, when you so stupidly disdain the good she offers you?
Heaven scorns giving a second good
To one who has not held first one dear.
By these and similar arguments the soul, pleading the cause of its more infirm part, seeks to recall the thoughts to the care of the body. But those, although late, return and show themselves to it not in the form in which they formerly departed; they return only to declare their rebellion and to force the whole soul to follow them. That is why the soul utters the dolorous complaint:
Oh, dogs of Actaeon, oh ungrateful beasts, whom I had directed to the refuge of my goddess, you return to me devoid of hope; and coming to the maternal shore,
too grievous a pain do you bring back. You tear me to pieces and wish me deprived of life. Then leave me, life, become a double stream deprived of its source, that I may reascend to my sun.
When will nature agree to release me of my grievous burden? When will it come to pass that from here I too may raise myself
and swiftly be delivered to the lofty object and together with my heart and common offspring dwell there?
The Platonists hold that with respect to its superior part the soul consists only in the intellect, so that it is more reasonably called intelligence than soul; for it is called soul only in so far as it vivifies the body and sustains it. Therefore here the same essence which nourishes the thoughts and maintains them on high in the vicinity of the exalted heart experiences a sadness in its inferior part and recalls those thoughts as rebels.
C. So that there are not two contrary essences, but only one essence subject to two extremes of contrariety?
T. Exactly. As the ray of the sun reaches the earth and touches the inferior and obscure elements it illuminates, vivifies and enkindles, but is for all this no less in contact with the element of fire, that is, with the star whence it proceeds, is diffused and has its principle and own original subsistence, similarly the soul which is in the horizon of its corporeal and incorporeal nature, raises itself to superior things and inclines to inferior things. And you can see that this happens not by reason and order of local motion, but only through the impulse of the one and the other potency or faculty. For example when the sense mounts to the imagination, the imagination to the reason, the reason to the intellect, the intellect to the mind, then the whole soul converts itself to God and inhabits the intelligible world. From there by a contrary conversion the soul descends to the sensible world by the degrees of the intellect, the reason, imagination, sense, and the vegetative faculty.
C. Indeed, I have been told that the soul that finds itself in the ultimate degree of divine things, justly descends to the mortal body and from there climbs again the divine degrees; and also that there are three degrees of intelligences -- those in which the intellectual dominates over the animal, called celestial intelligences; those in which the animal prevails over the intellectual, called human intelligences; and others in which the two balance each other as in the intelligences of demons or heroes.
T. In exercising its faculty, then, the mind can desire an object only to the extent that it is near, proximate, known and familiar to it. Thus a pig cannot wish to be a man nor desire anything appropriate to the appetite of a man. He prefers to wallow in the mud rather than in a bed of fine linen; he would sooner mate with a sow than with the most beautiful woman nature produces, because the desire conforms to the nature of the species. And among men one can see it is the same, according as some men are more or less similar to one or another species of brute animals. Some men have something of the quadruped, others something of the volatile animals and perhaps these men have an affinity -- one I would not wish to describe -- which draws them to the love of certain kinds of beasts. Now, if the mind, finding itself oppressed by the soul's tie to the body is permitted to raise itself to the contemplation of another state which the soul can attain, it certainly will be able to see the difference between one state and the other, and to disdain the present for the sake of the future one. Similarly, if a beast were sensible of the difference between his own condition and that of man, between the state of his own ignobility and the nobility of the human state which he would not deem impossible to achieve, then, as a way out, he would prefer death to a life that would detain him in his present existence. Therefore at this point when the soul laments, saying, O dogs of Actaeon, it is introduced as something constituted only of the inferior potencies, and the mind has revolted against it, and carried the heart away, that is, it has carried away all the affections and the entire army of thoughts. For that reason, perceiving its present state, and in ignorance of any other, believing none other any longer exists, and having no knowledge of it, the soul laments that its thoughts, in their tardy return, come back rather to draw it up with them than to find any refuge in it. And because of the distraction it if suffers from the double love of material and intelligible things, the soul feels itself lacerated and torn to pieces, so that it must finally yield to the more vigorous and powerful attraction. Now if the soul ascends by virtue of contemplation, or is transported above the horizon of the natural affections, perceiving with a most pure eye the difference between the life of contemplation and the life of passion, then, conquered by its most lofty thoughts, as though dead to the body, it aspires to the superior regions; and although it continues to live in the body, the soul vegetates there as if dead and is present in the body as an animate potency incapable of any action; not that it is inoperative so long as the body exists, but that the operations of the soul as a composite are delayed, enfeebled, and debilitated.
C. This, then, is the sense in which a certain theologian, who is said to have been transported to the third heaven, was dazzled by the heavenly vision, and desired the dissolution of his body.
T. In this manner, although the soul at first launches complaints against its heart and thoughts, it now desires to be raised with them and manifestly deplores the union and familiarity contracted with corporeal matter. Leave me then, it cries, corporeal life, and do not trouble me, so that I may reascend to my native home, to my sun. From now on leave me to dry the tears from my eyes, eyes I can no longer aid, separated as I am from my good. Leave me, for it is neither proper nor possible for a doubles stream to flow deprived of its source, that is deprived of its heart; for how can I form two rivers of tears here below, if my heart, the source of those rivers, has flown above with its nymphs which are my thoughts? Therefore, little by little from its disaffection and regret the soul progresses toward a hatred of inferior things which it expresses by the words, When will nature agree to release me of my grievous burden?
C . I understand this very well, and even what you would infer with respect to the principle point of this discourse, that there are degrees of loves, affections, and frenzies, according to the degrees of greater or lesser light of cognition and intelligence.
T. You understand me well. This should lead you to that doctrine commonly borrowed from the Pythagoreans and the Platonists according to which the soul makes the double progress of ascent and decent, corresponding to the double concern it has for itself and for matter, inasmuch as it is moved by the appetite for its proper good on the one hand, and as its material part on the other hand is directed by the providence of fate.
C. But please tell me briefly what you think about the world soul. Can it too ascend and descend?
T. If you speak of the world as the vulgar refer to it, when they call it the universe, I reply that this world being infinite and without dimension or measure appears to be immobile, inanimate, and unformed, even though it is the place of an infinite number of movable worlds and has infinite space in which are all those large animals we call stars. If you speak of the world according to the meaning held among the true philosophers for whom the world is every globe, every star, this our earth, the sun's body, the moon and even others, I reply that the soul of each of these worlds not only ascends and descends but moves in a circle. Because each of these souls is composed of superior and inferior powers, the superior powers lead it toward the divinity, the inferior ones toward the material mass which becomes vivified by that divinity and maintained among the tropics of generation and corruption of the living things of these worlds; and each soul eternally serves its own life; and the action of divine providence always in the same measure and order, by warmth and divine light always maintains it in the same, customary state.
C. This suffices me on this subject.
T. Just as these particular souls according to the diverse degrees of their ascent and descent are diversely affected in their behavior and inclinations, so they manifest a diversity of matter and degree of frenzy, love and sensitivity; and there is this diversity not only in the ladder of nature according to the order of the diverse lives the soul assumes in diverse bodies as expressly held by the Pythagoreans, the Saducees and others and implicitly by Plato and those who have more profoundly penetrated his meaning, but also in the ladder of human affections which has as many degrees as the ladder of nature, inasmuch as man in all his potencies represents every species of being.
C. For that reason souls can be known to ascend or decend by their affections, to come from above or from below, to be on the way of becoming beasts or gods, according to their specific natures, as the Pythagoreans understood it. Or one may understand it simply by the similitude of the affections held by common opinion; for the human soul need not have the power to become the soul of a brute, as Plotinus and other Platonists justly maintain, following the lesson of their master.
T. Good. Now, a to come to the point, this soul of which we speak having advanced from an animal to an heroic frenzy, expresses itself in these words: When will it come to pass that I raise myself to the lofty object, and dwell there in the company of my heart and common offspring? It continues with the same proposal when it says:
Destiny, when shall I be allowed to ascend the mount, which for my perfect blessing shall bring me to the lofty gates where I shall know those rare beauties? When will my tenacious pain be strongly comforted
by him who reassembles my dislocated members and preserves my failing powers from death? My spirit will prevail over its enemy, if it ascends where error assails it no longer,
and attains the end it waits for, and ascends where the lofty object is, and seizes the good which one alone possesses,
whereby so many faults are remedied and happiness is found -- as he declares who alone predicts all things.
O destiny, oh fate, oh divine and immutable providence,
when shall I be allowed to ascend that mount, when will I reach so much loftiness of mind that I may transport myself and reach those high portals and enter to see those rare beauties, beauties that in some way shall be explained and understood? When will he accord efficacious comfort to my pain (releasing me from the rigorous knots of care), he who read reassembles and unites my members, till then disunited and dislocated? The question is asked of Love, who brings about the union of these corporeal members, till then divided from each other as much as one contrary is divided from another; all Love, who, besides, preserves from death these intellectual potencies which have been failing to act, and provides them with the spirit whereby they may aspire to ascend. When, I say, shall I be fully comforted by giving these potencies free flight, so that my whole substance can fix its home in that place where by my own effort I may amend all my faults? Arriving at that summoned my spirit will prevail over its enemy, for nothing is present there that may outrage it, no contrary that may conquer it, no error that may assail it. Oh, if my spirit attains and reaches the place which with all its power it desires, if it climbs and arrives at the summit where its object is and settles itself to remain there; if it manages to possess the good which cannot be possessed except by one alone (that is, by that good itself, inasmuch as everything else has goodness only in the measure of its own capacity, and that good alone has it in all its plenitude), then I shall be permitted to be happy according to the mode in which he declares who predicts all things, that is, he who declares this loftiness and in whom declaring and accomplishing are the same thing. I will be happy according to the way in which he declares or acts, who predicts everything; that is to say, he who is the principle and efficient cause of all things, for whom to declare and to order is the true making and undertaking. This is how Love's affection makes its way from above and from below upon the ladder of superior and inferior things, and how the intellect and the sense make their way from above and from below in the order of intelligence and sensible things.
C. Therefore the greater number of philosophers hold that nature delights in the vicissitude which is seen in the revolution of its wheel.
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