Giordano Bruno


Translation by Paulo Eugene Memmo, Jr., 1964

Second Dialogue


MAR. Here is a flaming yoke enfolded by a noose, and around it the inscription, Levius aura ('Lighter than the air'). The emblem means that divine love does not oppress or lead its servant to the shades below as a captive and a slave, but raises, uplifts, and exalts him beyond every freedom.

CES. I beg you, let us read the poem quickly; then in better order, more precisely and with no delay shall we be able to examine its sense and see if we can find even another meaning in it.

MAR. It says:

She who kindled my mind to the higher love, she who rendered every other goddess base and vain to me; she in whom beauty and sovereign goodness are uniquely displayed,

is she whom I saw coming from the forest, huntress of me, my Diana, among the lovely nymphs upon the golden Campania, wherefore I said to Love: -- I surrender myself to this one.

And he to me: -- Oh fortunate lover! Oh spouse favored by your destiny! She who alone among so many

has within her bosom life and death, and adorns the world with holy graces, her you have achieved by labor and by fortune;

captive though I am in her amorous court, I am so highly blessed, that I do not envy the freedom of any man or god.

You notice how content he is under such a yoke, under such a burden, captive of the one he saw proceed from the forest, from the wilderness, and from the wood; that is to say, from those less frequented regions ignored by the multitude, alien to society and apart from the vulgar. Diana, splendor of the intelligible species, is his huntress, because having wounded him by her beauty and grace, she has bound him and holds him under her sway more content than he could have ever been otherwise. She is said to be among the lovely nymphs, that is to say, among the multitude of other species, forms and ideas, and upon the golden Campania, an allusion to that intelligence and spirit that appears in Nola, and lies on the plain of the Campanian horizon. To her he renders himself, to her whom love praised more than he praised any other, desiring that he regard himself most fortunate because of her, who, among all that is visible and invisible to the eyes of mortals, gives the world its noblest attire and makes man glorious and beautiful. That is why he says his mind is enkindled to that highest love and that it recognizes every other goddess, that is, the care and consideration of every other species, as base and vain.

Now in proclaiming that his mind has been kindled by the highest love, he offers us an example of how to raise the heart as high as possible by our thoughts, labors, and works, and how not to divert ourselves with things base and inferior to our faculty, as happens to those who either because of avarice, negligence, or even from some other unfitness, remain in this brief span of life attached to ignoble things.

CES. It is necessary that there be artisans, mechanics, farmers, servants, pedestrians, the ignoble, the base, the poor, the pedants, and others of the Sort; for otherwise there could not be the philosophers, saints, educators, lords, captains, noblemen, illustrious men, wealthy men, wise men, and others who are as heroic as are the gods. Why then, ought we to be forced to corrupt the law of nature which has divided the universe into things that are greater, and things that are less, things superior and things inferior, things illuminating and things obscure, things worthy and unworthy, not only outside of us, but also within us, in our very own substance, even to that part of our substance affirmed as immaterial? It is the same among the intelligences; some are inferior and others are superior, some serve and obey, while others command and govern. But I do not hold that this ought to serve as an example by which the order of things should become perverted and confounded because subjects wish to become rulers and the ignoble wish to become noble with the result that final a certain state of neutrality and bestial equality would follow, a condition one finds in certain solitary and uncultivated republics. Besides see what damage has come to the sciences because the pedants have wished to become philosophers, and while treating of the things of nature have meddled in determining things divine? Who does not realize that harm has come and still comes because not all minds are equally kindled to the highest love? Who has good sense and does not see the profit reaped by Aristotle, Alexander's master of letters, when he used his noble intellect to contradict and make war upon the Pythagorean theory and the theory of the natural philosophers? By the process of logical reasoning he wishes to offer definitions, notions, certain quintessences, and other fragments and miscarriages of fantastic thought as though they were the principles and the substances of things, more concerned as he was with the opinions of the mob and the stupid multitudes who are guided and lead more by means of sophisms and the superficial appearances of things than by the truth hidden in the substance of them, a truth which is the very substance of those things. He alerted his mind not to contemplate but to judge and give an opinion about things he had never studied and of things of which he had not even heard. Therefore so much of the good and of the rare which he offers from the matter of his poetics, logic, and metaphysics, in our day in the hands of other pedants who labor with the same sursum corda becomes formulated in new dialectics and modes of forming the reason, modes inferior to the doctrine of Aristotle, just as perhaps the doctrine of Aristotle is incomparably inferior to that of the ancients. This has already happened because certain grammarians, having worn themselves out upon the rumps of infants and on the anatomies of words and phrases, have wished to set their minds to the creation of a new logic and metaphysics, judging and giving opinions about matters they have not hitherto studied and do not understand now. That is why by the favor of the ignorant multitude (to whose wit they more conform these grammarians can so well give the final blow to the letters and observations of Aristotle, just as Aristotle himself was the hangman of other divine philosophers. See then what ordinarily results from the advice that everyone should pretend to aspire to the holy light and hold all other emprises base and vain.


Ride, si sapis, o puella, ride,
Pelignus, puto, dixerat poeta;
Sed non dixerat omnibus puellis;
Et si dixerit omnibus puellis,
Non dixit tibi. To puella non es.

(Martial, Epigrams II, 1, 1-5: 'Smile, if you are wise, maiden, smile, / Paelignus, the poet said, I believe; / But he spoke not to all the maidens; / And indeed had he spoken to all the maidens, / He did not speak to you. For a maiden you are not.')

Therefore the sursum corda is not meant for everyone, but only for those who have wings. We see quite well that pedantry has never been more exalted for governing the world, than in our day; and it opens toward the true intelligible species and objects of the one infallible truth as many paths as there are pedants. For that reason in this age well born intellects must be awakened to the greatest extent, armed with the truth and illumined by the divine intelligence, in order to take up arms against the darkness of ignorance and to ascend that high rock and eminent tower of contemplation. These are the intellects which must hold every other enterprise as vile and vain.

These intellects must not waste time, whose speed is infinite, on things superfluous and vain; for with astonishing speed the present slips by and the future approaches with equal rapidity. What we have endured is nothing, what we endure now is a point, and what we shall have to endure is not even a point, but can become a point which at the same time will be and will have been. And still one man encumbers his memory with genealogy, another attends to deciphering ancient writings, and still another is occupied with multiplying the sophisms of children. You will see, for example, volumes filled with reasoning such as:

Cor est fons vitae,
Nix est alba;
Ergo cornix est fons alba.

One warbles about whether the noun existed before the verb; the other about whether the sea existed before its source; another desires to revive obsolete words -- because an ancient writer once employed them he would raise them again to the clouds; another obsesses himself with false and true orthography; and still others preoccupy themselves with similar nonsense, more worthily scorned then heeded. For this they fast, become lean, grow consumptive, let their skin dry up, their beards grow, putrefy, and upon this throw down the anchor of the highest good. In the name of these futilities they scorn fortune and by them they build a rampart and a shield against the thrusts of fate. By the grace of these vile notions they think they ascend to the stars and are like the gods, and they think they comprehend the beautiful and the good which philosophy promises.

CES. It is amazing indeed that time, which can not suffice us for things that are necessary, no matter how diligently we guard it, becomes more often wasted on superfluous things, in fact upon things vile and shameful.

It is no laughing matter that the following is attributed to Archimedes (or to certain others who follow him) as a laudable action. At the moment when the city was in ruins and people were scurrying in all directions, when his room was on fire, his enemies in his chamber and at his back, at whose discretion and whim lay the loss of his skill, brain, and life, despite all this, he nevertheless lost the instinct and desire for self preservation and forgot everything in order to find the proportion between the curve and the straight line, the diameter and the circumference of a circle or to solve some other similar problem, all worthy of youths, but unworthy of one who, if he could, should have grown old intent upon things more worthy of the goal of human study.

MAR. I approve of what you yourself said a little while ago about this subject, that the world must be full of all sorts of people and the number of imperfect, ugly, poor, unworthy, and nefarious ones must be in the majority; in conclusion, it ought not be otherwise than it is. The long life of Archimedes, Euclid, of Priscian, of Donatus, and of others, who until their deaths were occupied with numbers, lines, verbal forms, grammatical convention, orthography, dialectics, syllogisms, methods, modes of thought, rudiments of speech, and other isagoges, has been ordained for the profit of youth and children, who may learn and receive the fruits of the mature years of those men; fruits which they may eat appropriately in their green age, so that once adult they may find themselves apt and prepared for greater pursuits without difficulty.

CES. I still maintain what I said a little while ago about those who on the one hand, labor to purloin the position and reputation of the ancients by producing new works, inferior or no better than those already produced, and spend their lives observing the skin of a goat or the shadow of an ass, and others who, on the other hand, as long as they live, labor to excel in exercises fit for children, and these for the most part without profit to themselves or to anyone else.

MAR. Now we have said enough about those who either cannot or ought not presume to have the mind kindled to the higher love. Let us consider now the voluntary captivity and delightful yoke beneath the sway of the mentioned Diana; I mean that yoke without which the soul is incapable of ascending to the loftiness from which it fell; for that yoke renders the soul lighter and more agile, and the noose gives it greater dispatch and liberty.

CES. Then explain.

MAR. To begin, continue and conclude in order, I consider that everything that lives, in whatever mode it lives, must in some manner nourish and feed itself. But to the intellectual nature only intellectual food is necessary, just as to the body only corporeal food is necessary; for nourishment is taken for no other purpose than to be absorbed into the substance of the thing nourished. Besides, the body can no more be transmuted into spirit than the spirit into the body; for a transmutation is possible only if the matter previously in the form of the one passes over to the form of the other; but the spirit and the body do not have a common matter which makes it possible for the subject of one domain to become the subject of the other.

CES. Surely if the soul drew nourishment from the body, it would bear itself better where it found an abundance of matter (as Iamblicus argues), so that when we see a big and fat body, we may believe it to be the vehicle of a valiant soul, firm, ready, heroic, and say, oh fat soul, oh fecund spirit, oh beautiful mind, oh divine intelligence, oh illustrious intellect, oh blessed hypostasis which would make a banquet for lions, or for dogs. In the same way an old man appearing half-decayed, weak and diminished in strength, would have to be deemed of little spirit, discourse, and reason. But continue.

MAR. The nourishment of the spirit, then, can be only the thing the spirit has always longed for, searched for, embraced and relished more willingly than any thing else, an object through which the soul is fulfilled, pleased, benefited, and grows; and that object is the truth toward which man aspires at every moment, in every age, and in whatever condition he finds himself, and for which he usually scorns all fatigue, undertakes every zeal, counts his body for nothing and holds this life in contempt. For the truth is something incorporeal; and no truth, whether it be physical, metaphysical, or mathematical is found in the body, for you know very well that the eternal human essence is not to be found in the individuals who are born and die. It is the specifically one, Plato said, not the numerical multitude, which bears the substance of things. For that reason he calls the idea one and many, stable and mobile; because as incorruptible species it is intelligible and one; and as it communicates itself to the corporeal and is subject to motion and generation, it is something sensible and many. In this second mode it has more of non-being than of being, for it is always one thing and another and its privation imposes an eternal course upon it. You see, moreover, that the mathematicians have agreed that perfect figures are not found in natural bodies, and they cannot exist either by the power of nature or art. Besides, you know that the truth of supersensual substances is beyond the corporeal.

One concludes, then, that he who seeks the truth must ascend above the order of corporeal things. Besides, it must be considered that everyone who is nourished has a certain notion and natural memory of his food, and always (especially when his nourishment becomes more necessary) retains the similitude and species of that food, and retains it the more nobly, the more noble he is who seeks, and the more glorious the object sought. Every one has innate knowledge of things which assure the conservation of his individuality and his species, and therefore his ultimate perfection; and this is the reason why every being industriously seeks nourishment through some species of prey.

Thus it is necessary that the human soul have the light, the ingenuity, and instruments adopted to possess its own prey. Toward such an end the contemplation gives assistance and toward this end logic is used, the organ most adept for the acquisition of the truth, for distinguishing, exploring, and making judgments. Then the soul will proceed to traverse the forest of natural phenomena where so many objects are hidden under a shadow and cloak; for in a thick, dense, and deserted solitude the truth voluntarily seeks cavernous retreats, interwoven with thickets, and surrounded by wooden, rugged, and leafy plants, and there for the most worthy and excellent reasons she conceals, veils, and buries herself with the greatest vigilance; just as we are accustomed to conceal most diligently our greater treasures, so that the multitude and variety of hunters (some having more skill and practice than others) cannot discover them without great pain. To that forest Pythagoras proceeded, seeking the truth by following its traces and vestiges in nature, that is, in the numbers which in a certain way make the progress, considerations, modes, and operations of the truth apparent; for it is in number insofar as it applies to the many, to measurements, to time, and to weight that the truth and essence of all things is found. There Anaxagoras and Empedocles proceeded, who, considering that the omnipotent and omnipresent divinity encompassed the universe, found nothing so minute which could not have the divinity concealed beneath it, in accordance with every argument; yet they never failed to proceed to that region in which the divinity was predominant and expressed by the most noble and magnificent argument. There the Chaldeans searched for the divinity by way of abstraction, not knowing what to affirm about it; and they advanced without demonstrations and syllogisms, and tried to penetrate further by brushing aside obstacles, furrowing the field, and clearing the forest, by a forceful denial of every species and predicate whether comprehensible or secret. Plato searched for it by alternately tearing down and building up barriers, so that the inconsistent and fleeting species would remain as in a network held in a row of definitions; for he considered that superior things exist by participation, similitude, and reflection in inferior things, and that inferior things according to their greater degree of dignity and excellence exist by their participation in superior things; and he considered that the truth is in the one and the other according to a certain analogy, order and scale in which the lowest degree of the superior order joins the highest degree in the inferior order. In this way, by traversing the intermediary degrees, he contributed a progression from the lowest in nature to the highest, a progression from evil to good, from darkness to light, from pure potency to pure act. Even Aristotle boasted of being able to arrive at the desired prey by means of the footprints and vestiges that could be traced when from effect he wished to reascend to cause. However most of the time (and more than all the others who preoccupied themselves in such a chase) he lost the way, hardly knowing how to distinguish between the vestiges.

Finally, some theologians, nurtured in the doctrines of various sects, seek the truth of nature in all its natural and specific forms; and they consider that it is through these forms that the eternal essence specifically and substantially perpetuates the everlasting generation and mutation of things called into existence by those who create and build them; and that over those who build them reigns the form of forms, the source of light, the truth of truths, the god of gods, by whom everything is filled with divinity, truth, being, and goodness. Therefore truth is sought as something inaccessible, an object beyond objectivity and beyond all comprehension. For that reason it is impossible for anyone to see the sun, the universal Apollo and absolute light as the supreme and most excellent species; but very possible to see its shadow, its Diana, the world, the universe, the nature which is in things, the light shining through the obscurity of matter, and so resplendent in the darkness. Therefore of all those who in the ways mentioned speculate much in this deserted wood, very few are those who arrive at the font of Diana. Many remain happy with chasing the wild and less illustrious beasts, and most of them find nothing to catch, for they have aimed their nets at the wind, and have remained with a handful of flies. I say very few are the Actaeons to whom destiny gives the power to contemplate Diana naked, and the power to become so enamored of the beautiful harmony of the body of nature, so fallen beneath the gaze of those two lights of the dual splendor of goodness and beauty, that they are transformed into deer, inasmuch as they are no longer the hunters but the hunted. For the ultimate and last end of this chase is the capture of a fugitive and wild prey, through which the hunter becomes the hunted, the pillager becomes the pillaged. Because in all the other species of the chase undertaken for particular things, it is the hunter who seeks to capture those things for himself, absorbing them through the mouth of his particular intelligence; but in that divine and universal chase he comes to apprehend that it is himself who necessarily remains captured, absorbed, and united Therefore, from the vulgar, ordinary, civil, and ordinary man he was, he becomes as free as a deer, and an inhabitant of the wilderness; he lives like a god under the protection of the woods in the unpretentious rooms of the cavernous mountains, where he contemplates the sources of the great rivers, vigorous as a plant, intact and pure, free of ordinary lusts, and converses most freely with the divinity, to which so many men have aspired, who in their desire to taste the celestial life on earth have cried with one voice, Ecce elongavi fugiens, et mansi in solitudine (Ps.54.8: 'Lo, I have gone far off flying away; and I abode in the wilderness.').

The result is that the dogs, as thoughts bent upon divine things, devour this Actaeon and make him dead to the vulgar, to the multitude, free him from the snares of the perturbing senses and the fleshly prison of matter, so that he no longer sees his Diana as through a glass or a window, but having thrown down the earthly walls, he sees a complete view of the whole horizon. And now he sees everything as one, not any longer through distinctions and numbers, according to the diversity of the senses, or as varied fissures are seen and apprehended in confusion. He sees the Amphitrite, the source of all numbers, of all species, the monad, the true essence of the being of all things; and if he does not see it in its own essence and absolute light, he sees it in its germination which is similar to it and is its image: for from the monad, the divinity, proceeds this monad, nature, the universe, the world; where it is contemplated and gazed upon as the sun is through the moon, which is illuminated by it, inasmuch as he finds himself in the hemisphere of intellectual substances. She is Diana, she who is the being and truth of intelligible nature, in which is infused the sun and the splendor of a superior nature, according as the unity is distinct in that which is generated and that which generates, or that which produces and that which is produced. Therefore you will be able to draw your own conclusions about the mode of the chase, the dignity of the hunter and the most worthy result of his effort. That is why the frenzied lover boasts of becoming the prey of Diana to whom he renders himself, of whom he is esteemed a worthy consort, and so happy a captive under his yoke, that he has no reason to envy any man. For no other man has been given so much advantage as he. Nor has he reason to envy any god. For the species of a divinity cannot be obtained by an inferior nature, and consequently must not be desired, or even become the object of our appetite.

CES. I have understood well what you have said, and have been more than moderately satisfied. Now it is time to return home.

MAR. Agreed.



Third Dialogue


LIB. While the frenzied one lay beneath the shadow of a cypress tree, and other thoughts allowed his soul to relax somewhat (a remarkable thing), it happened that his heart and his eyes (as though they were living beings and separate substances whose sense and reason were distinct from each other) engaged in a debate; and each one complained that the other was the cause of the laborious torment that consumed his soul.

LAO. If you remember their arguments, tell them to me.

LIB. The dialogue was begun by the heart, which let the following accents burst forth from the depth of its breast:


How is it, eyes of mine, that I am tormented so powerfully by that ardent flame which derives from you?

How can my mortal substance continue to be fed by so great a fire,

that I believe all of the ocean's moisture and the most frozen part of the slowest star of the Arctic to be inadequate to curb my fire even for a moment and give me a shadow of refuge?

You made me captive of a hand that holds me, yet wants me not; because of you I am at once buried in the body and exposed to the sun.

I am a principle of life, and yet, there is no life in me. I do not know what I am, for I belong to this soul, yet it does not belong to me.

LAO. Understanding, knowledge, and vision enkindle the desire, and therefore through the ministry of the eyes the heart becomes inflamed. The more lofty and worthy the object that presents itself to the eyes, the more powerful the fire and the more blazing the flames. Now what object could so enflame the heart that it dares not hope the coldest and most distant star of the arctic can temper its ardor, nor hope that all the waters of the ocean can appease its flames? How excellent must the object be to have made the heart an enemy of its own self, a rebel against the soul, and contented in such enmity and rebellion, the captive of a hand that scorns it and wants it not? But tell me whether or not the eyes reply and what they have to say.

LIB. The eyes, on the other hand, complain against the heart for having been the principle and cause of the tears they have shed.

They reply to its lament with the following complaint.


How is it, oh heart, that you pour forth waters as great as the sea from which the Nereids ever raise their heads who die and are reborn every day in the sun? Like Amphitrite, the two-fold font,

(you) can pour forth such immense rivers upon the world, that you may say the river overflowing Egypt becomes a meager stream flowing into the sea through seven double shores.

Nature provided twin lights to govern this tiny world. But you, perverter of that eternal order,

turned them into everlasting rivers. And the heavens allow nature to be violated and violence to endure.

LAO. Naturally, fire and affliction in the heart cause the eyes to fill with tears; and, of course, if the eyes enkindle the flame in the heart, it is the heart that causes the eye to fill with tears. But I marvel at so great an exaggeration, when the eyes say that the heads of the Nereids do not emerge to the sun bathed in more abundant waters. And besides these waters are compared to the ocean not because they are diffuse, but because their two sources are able to pour forth so many kinds of rivers, that compared to them the Nile would appear as a small inlet divided into seven streams.

LIB. Do not be surprised at this exaggeration or at this potency deprived of its act, for you shall understand it all when you have heard the conclusion of this argument. Now hear how the heart first replies to the complaint of the eyes.

LAO. I beg you, let me hear it.


Eyes, if an immortal flame is ignited in me, and I am nothing else but a blazing fire; if everything that approaches me burns up in smoke, so that I even see heaven burning in my flames,

why does my great fire not consume you, but produce in you a contrary effect? Why do I moisten you and not burn you instead, if fire and not moisture is my substance?

Blind ones, do you believe a two-fold stream derives from so ardent a fire and that those two living streams

derive their elements from Vulcan -- as sometimes of two contraries the one acquires force, if the other resists?

See how impossible it is for the heart to persuade itself that from one contrary cause and principle proceeds the force of a contrary effect; it goes so far as to refuse to admit any such possibility, even by way of antiperistasi. This word refers to the vigor acquired by one contrary while it flees the other contrary and becomes united, self-enveloped, condensed, and concentrated toward the individual substance of its own virtue, which gains in efficacy what it loses in extension.

LAO. Tell me how the eyes reply to the heart.


Oh heart, your passion so confounds you, you have lost the way to all truth. Whatever is revealed or concealed in us has its origin in the seas. Therefore, from us

and from nowhere else Neptune must be able to recover his vast empire should fate decree to take it from him. How can we be the source of your ardent flame, we who are the twin parents of the sea?

Are you so mad as to believe that fire traverses us, leaving behind it these two watery portals,

so that you might feel its immense flame? Will you believe, as light penetrates glass, that fire penetrates us?

It is not my intention here to philosophize upon the coincidence of contraries, which I have worked out in my book, Of the Principle and the One. I will suppose what is commonly supposed, that the contraries in the same category are as far apart as possible; thus we shall more easily understand the sense of this reply in which the eyes call themselves the origins or fonts in whose virtual potency is the sea; so that, from their potency, should Neptune lose all the waters of the ocean, he could recall them into action, for they are in that potency as in their principle and material agent. However, when the eyes say that the flame cannot pass through their rooms and portals to the heart leaving so much water behind it, their argument is not without reply, and this is true for two reasons. First, because such an impediment could not actually be present unless certain barriers were set up which were actually insurmountable; second, because if the waters were actually in the eyes, they could make way for heat just as they could for light. For experience shows that without burning the mirror a reflected ray will light a material object exposed to it; moreover, a ray of light will pass through a pane of glass, a crystal, or a vase full of water, illumine the thing it strikes and will not burn the liquid mass it has traversed; thus is it a similitude and even true that light produces impressions of dryness and burning in the concavities of the deep sea. Consequently, by a certain similitude, if not by an analogous consideration, one may see how it is possible that through the deceptive and obscure organ of the eyes the affection will be enkindled and enflamed by a light which does not produce the same effect wherever it penetrates. For the action of the sun's light as it traverses the air is one thing, another as it approaches the senses, another as it penetrates everyone's sense, and still another as it penetrates the intellect; and thus it proceeds from one mode to another mode of being.

LAO. Does the debate between the heart and the eyes continue?

LIB. Yes, because the eyes and the heart try to discover how it is that the heart contains so many flames and the eyes so much water. Therefore, the heart makes its second demand.


If all the rivers run their course toward the foamy sea and proceed to fill the blind abyss, how is it, oh my eyes, that a two-fold torrent proceeding from you is not discharged upon the world

to extend the reign of the sea gods, diminishing the glorious charge of the other deities? Why may one not see again the day when Deucalion returned to his mountains?

Where are the many overflowing rivers? Where is the torrent to extinguish my flame, or, if not to extinguish it, to enrage it the more?

Does not one drop descend to earth to diffuse itself there, that I may be allowed to doubt what my appearance obliges me to believe?

What kind of potency is this that does not translate itself into act? This is what it would know. If the waters are so numerous, why does not Neptune come to tyrannize over the power of the other elements? Where are the overflowing rivers? Where is the freshness fitted to cool the ardor of my flame? Is there not one drop from the eyes to permit me to affirm what all appearance denies? But the eyes, in their turn, have another question to ask.


If all matter is converted to fire and then, like fire, mobile and light, is raised to the lofty heaven, how is it that

tormented by so great a fire of love you are not swept away swiftly as the wind in one instant to the sun? Why do you wander a pilgrim here below, and not find the path toward us through the air?

No spark is seen flashing forth from that breast; nothing appears which resembles a body singed or reduce a to ashes,

no smoke rises upward to make us weep: each faultlessly guards its own state; and neither the reason, sensation nor thought are enflamed.

LAO. This argument has the same value as the one before it, no more, no less. But let us come now to the replies, if there are any.

LIB. There certainly are and they are full of substance. Listen.


He is foolish who believes only in appearances, and will not believe his reason; my fire cannot take flight and no infinite flame is seen, because

the ocean of the eyes has descended upon it, and one infinite does not exceed the other. If the fire and the sphere are counterbalanced, it is because nature does not wish all to perish.

Tell me, by heaven, oh my eyes, which path shall we ever take thanks to which you or I will be able to render apparent the cruel fate of our soul, that it may be rescued?

If our torments remain concealed, how shall we render this god of beauty merciful to us?

LAO. If this argument is not true, it is most original; and if not original, it is excused in any case; for when two forces exist, one of which is not stronger than the other, both forces must stop functioning; because the resistance of one is equal to the persistence of the other, inasmuch as the one can attack as much as the other can repulse the attack. Therefore, if in the eyes the ocean of tears is infinite and the force of tears is infinite, they must forever manifest themselves by setting aflame or fanning the impulse of the fire hidden within the breast, and the eyes will never be able to dispatch their twin currents to the sea, if the heart puts an obstacle of equal force in their way. This is why no appearance of tears flowing from the eyes or flames flashing forth from the heart can invite the beautiful deity to show mercy to the afflicted soul.

LIB. Now observe the following reply of the eyes:


Ah, the impetuous force of our fonts is wholly vain to pour forth their rivers to the sea, for a contrary power keeps them hidden, so that they send no rolling waters below.

The infinite vigor of the burning heart denies passage to the torrents that are only too high; thus, our two-fold stream does not flow into the sea, for nature abhors an earth submerged.

Tell me, now, afflicted heart, you who can oppose us with another force as great, who would ever boast

of being the herald of so hapless a love as ours, if your woe and ours can be so much the less useful, the greater it is?

Just as two contraries of equal force are neutralized, one and the other evil, being infinite, cancel out; and such could not be the case were both of the contraries finite, for in the natural order a perfect parity is never realized, nor would such be the case if one contrary were finite and the other infinite, for the infinite contrary would certainly absorb the one which was finite, and both contraries would manifest themselves, or at least one would manifest itself by the other. I leave the natural and moral philosophy concealed beneath these statements to be sought, considered, and understood by him who will and can. But one thing I will not omit, that not without reason is the heart's passion called an infinite sea by the apprehension of the eyes. Because the object of the mind is infinite and no definite object is proposed to the intellect, the will cannot be appeased by a limited good. Beyond this good the will finds a still higher good for itself, which it then desires and seeks, for, as it is commonly said, the highest of the inferior species is also the lowest and first of the superior species, whether this gradation ascends according to forms (whose infinity we cannot estimate), or according to the modes and reasons of those forms; and the highest good being infinite, we believe it communicates itself infinitely according to the condition of the things in which it is diffused. Therefore, no definite species is assigned to the universe (I mean according to shape or mass), no definite species to the intellect, nor to the affection.

LAO. Thus, these two potencies of the soul are never, and can never be, satisfied in their object, because they pursue it infinitely.

LIB. This would be so if the object were infinite through a negative privation of an end, whereas it is infinite because of a positive affirmation of an end, infinite and without limit.

LAO. Therefore, you distinguish between two species of the infinite, one privative, which can tend toward something, for it is potency; just as darkness is infinite and ends when light appears; the other is perfective and is related to action and completion; just as light is infinite whose end would be darkness and privation. Thus, the intellect conceives the light, the good and the beautiful as far as the horizon of its capacity is extended, and the soul drinks divine nectar, and from the fount of eternal life as much as its own vessel permits; it is evident that the light is beyond the circumference of the soul's horizon, but the soul will always be able to penetrate it more and more; similarly, nectar is infinite and the source of living water is inexhaustible, so that the soul can become ever more and more intoxicated.

LIB. Then, any imperfection in the object or a lack of satisfaction in the potency does not follow; but instead, the potency is seized by the object and beatifically absorbed by it. Thus the eyes make their imprint upon the heart, that is, upon the intelligence, and excite in the will an infinite torment of gentle love, in which the pain of not having the thing desired is absent, and present is the joy of ever finding the thing sought; and in the meantime satiety never arrives, because the appetite and consequently the taste never cease to desire. This is not the case with the nourishment taken by the body, which, after it has been filled up, loses the taste of the food so that it enjoys it neither before nor after indulging, but only at the moment of eating, and beyond a certain limit will feel nothing but discomfort and nausea.

You see, then, according to a certain similitude, how the highest good must be infinite, and how the impulse of the affection toward it must also be infinite, so that it will never cease to be a good -- unlike the nourishment which is good for the body and becomes a poison when used immoderately. This is why the moisture of the ocean does not extinguish that flame, and why the rigor of the Arctic Circle never tempers that ardor. That is why the heart is captive of a hand which holds it and wants it , holds it, because it belongs to it; wants it not, because, as though to flee from it, that hand escapes the more the heart aspires toward it; and the more the heart pursues it, the more it appears remote because of its most eminent excellence, according to the words, Accedet homo ad cor altum, et exaltabitur Deus (Ps. 63.7: '... Man shall come to a deep heart, and God shall be exalted...').

Such happiness of the affection begins in this life, and in this state has its own mode of being. Therefore one might say the heart is sheltered within the body and yet leaves it to be with the sun, meaning that the soul in the exercise of its two-fold faculty performs two functions, one of vivifying and activating a potentially animate body, the other of contemplating superior things; for just as the soul is in a receptive potency from what is superior to it, so is it in potential activity toward the body which is inferior to it. The body is as though dead and privative for the soul, which is its life and perfection; and the soul is as though dead and privative for the illuminating intelligence whereby the human intellect receives its proper character and actual form, For that reason the heart is said to be the principle of life and yet dead; to belong to a living soul when that soul does not belong to it. Because the heart is enflamed by the divine love, it is finally converted to fire and can enkindle whatever comes in contact with it; for having contracted the divinity to itself it becomes god-like, and consequently its aspect has the power to inspire love, just as in the moon the splendor of the sun can be contemplated and glorified.

And now for that which pertains to a consideration of the eyes, note that the present discourse attributes two functions to them, one of impressing the heart, the other of receiving an impression from the heart. Similarly the heart has two functions, one of receiving an impression from the eyes, and the other of making its impression upon them. The eyes apprehend the species and propose them to the heart; and the heart desires them and transmits its desire to the eyes; these conceive the light, diffuse it and enkindle the fire in the heart; the heart, burned and inflamed, sends its humour on the way to the eyes so that they may digest it. Thus in the first place the cognition moves the affection which in turn moves the cognition. When the eyes act as stimulants they are cold, for they function as mirrors and transmitters of images; but when they are themselves moved, they are turbulent and altered, and they act as zealous performers, inasmuch as at first the speculative intellect sees the beautiful and the good, then the will longs for it, and in turn the diligent intellect becomes anxious about it, pursues and seeks it. The weeping eyes symbolize the difficult separation of the thing desired from him who desires it, which, because it does not satiate or weary him, offers itself as an infinite effort, and therefore is always with him and is something for which he never stops searching. Similarly, the felicity of the gods is described by their drinking of nectar and not by their having drunk it, by their tasting and not by their having tasted ambrosia, by their ceaselessly desiring food and drink and not by their having been gorged so that they have no desire for them. Therefore) the gods hold satiety to be a state of movement and apprehension and not a state of repose and comprehension; their satiety is never without appetite, nor do they experience appetite without being in some way satiated.

LAO. Esuries satiata, satietas esuriens. ('A satiated hunger, and a hungry satiety.')

LIB. Precisely that.

LAO. From this I can now understand how it has been said without reproach but with much intelligence and truth that the divine love weeps in inexpressible groans, for possessing all, it loves all, and loving all, it possesses all.

LIB. But many a gloss would be necessary in order to make us understand the divine love which is the deity itself; whereas it is easy to understand divine love as it manifests itself in its effects and in inferior nature; I do not speak of the love that is diffused from the divinity among things, but of that love which from things aspires to the divinity.

LAO. We shall have every leisure to return to this and other subjects. Let us depart.



Fourth Dialogue


SEV. Let us hear the discourses of nine blind men, who give nine reasons and particular causes of their blindness, although all of them agree that the general cause is the frenzy they have in common.

MIN. Start with the first one.

SEV. Although the first one is blind by nature, he none the less utters a love complaint and tells the others he cannot persuade himself that nature has been more uncivil to them than it has been to him; for even though they no longer see, they nevertheless have once experienced sight and have experienced the dignity of the sense and the excellence of sensible things which caused them to become blind; but he has come into the world like a mole, to be seen while he himself does not see and to long for things he has never seen.

MIN. Many are found smitten by love, if we credit the rumor.
SEV. He says that they at least have the happiness of retaining that divine image in their mind's eye, so that, no matter how blind they are, they nevertheless maintain within their fantasy that which for him it is impossible to have. Then in the sestet he turns to his guide and begs to be led to some precipice so that he may no longer be a horrid spectacle of nature's disdain.

Listen to his plea.


Oh happy ones who at one time have been able to see, though now you weep for the lost light, my companions, you once knew the two illuminations. For me these were neither enkindled, nor extinguished.

Thus a heavier misfortune than you believe is mine, and is worthy of greater lamentation. Nothing convinces me that nature has been more harsh with you than with me.

Oh guide, if you wish to bring me content, lead me to the precipice, so that my torment find a remedy.

To be seen and yet not to see the light, like a mole I came forth into the world to be a useless burden to the earth.

The next one follows, who, bitten by the serpent of jealousy, has become infected in the visual organs. He goes without any guide, unless we may call jealousy the only guide he has. Because there is no remedy for his misfortune, he begs one of those around him to pity him and make him lose all sense of his evil by burying him with it, thus making him so hidden from himself, as the light of his eyes is now hidden from him. Then he says:


From her terrible tresses Alecto has torn the infernal serpent, whose fierce bite has so cruelly infected my spirit, that of my senses, the most noble has perished,

depriving my intellect of its guide. That mad rage of jealousy makes me stumble so on every path, that in vain does my soul ask anyone for aid.

if no magic chant, or sacred herb, or virtue of precious stone, or divine aid offer me release,

may one of you, in the name of God, be so merciful as to remove me from my own sight by burying me without delay with my misfortune.

Next, one follows who says he has become blind by having unexpectedly emerged from the darkness into a great light; for accustomed to contemplating ordinary beauties, suddenly he was presented with one celestial beauty, a divine sun. As a result his sight was destroyed and extinguished was the twofold light which illumines the prow of his soul (for the eyes are like two light-houses guiding the ship); and his fate was similar to that of one who, nurtured in Cimmerian obscurity, suddenly fixed his eyes upon the sun. And in the sestet he begs that he may be given passage to the inferno, because darkness only is suitable for so dark a being.


If the sun suddenly appears to a man nourished in profound darkness or under the sky of the Cimmerian people, where the great star diffuses a distant glow,

this inimical sun extinguishes the two-fold light resplendent at the prow of the soul and renders itself invisible. So was my sight extinguished, for it was accustomed to gazing upon vulgar beauties.

Let me descend into hell! Why do I, a dead man, go wandering through the world? Why do I, an infernal clog, among you who are living

go mingling with others? Why do I taste the air in pain? Why am I put to so many pains for having seen the supreme good?

The fourth blind man in his turn exposes the reason for his blindness, a reason similar, though not identical with the preceding one. This blind man did not suddenly find himself beneath the ray of light; it is for having gazed upon it too often or for having fixed his eyes upon it too much, that he has cease to be aware of any other light; thus one cannot say that the ray of that unique light was the cause of his blindness. And he says the same thing happened to his sense of sight that happened to his sense of hearing; for they who have accustomed their ears to great uproars do not hear minor noises, as in the famous example of the people of Cataduppia, who live where the great Nile river descends precipitously from a very high mountain upon the plain below.

MIN. Therefore all those who have accustomed their body and soul to the most difficult and the greatest things, usually do not concern themselves with minor difficulties. And this one ought not to be unhappy because of his blindness.

SEV. No, indeed. And he is called willingly blind, since he prefers that all other objects be hidden from him, for they could only annoy him by turning his view from that object alone which he desires to contemplate.

And in the meantime, he begs the wayfarers to aid in preventing him from falling upon some evil fortune, as he goes forth intent and wholly captivated by his chief object.

MIN. Refer us to his words.


Falling precipitously from its height the Nile has abolished the sense of every other sound for the hapless Cataduppian people. So do I remain with spirit all intent

upon the most living light which illumines the world, and I am insensible toward all lesser splendors; and while this light shines upon the world, it willingly pays attention to no others.

I beg of you, warn me of running against some stone, or wild beast, and (tell me) if I must descend or ascend,

so that these wretched bones may not fall into some open ditch, while I make my way deprived of guidance.

It befalls the blind man who follows that because of the excessive weeping which has darkened his eyes, he cannot extend their visual rays to the visible species, and above all to that light again which, in spite of himself and at the cost of his great pain, he once saw. Moreover, he does not deem that his blindness is any longer a passing disposition, but habitual, and privative in the highest degree; for the luminous flame which enkindles the soul through the pupil of the eye has been too long and too vigorously repressed and oppressed by a contrary humour; so that, no matter how much he may cease from weeping, he is not persuaded that the desired sight will be given him. And hear what he says to his companions, so that they might give him free passage.


Eyes of mine, forever so pregnant of water, when will the spark of your visual ray be thrust forth over so many and so dense obstacles,

that I may see those sacred lights again, the sources of my sweet pain? But ah! I believe that visual ray is forever extinct, so long has it been oppressed and vanquished by its contrary humour.

Let this blind one pass, and turn your eyes to these founts, which overcome all other rivers combined in one.

And if there is anyone who dares to dispute it with me, I have reason to render it certain that my two eyes contain an ocean!

The sixth blind man is in darkness, because by excessive weeping he has poured forth so many tears that all the moisture in him has been dried up, even to the humid crystal of the eye, the diaphanous body traversed by the visual ray which had formerly introduced the external light and visible species; from that moment his heart was so afflicted that all the humid substance (whose function it is to maintain the unity of his diverse and contrary elements) was consumed in him; and love's affection remained in him without causing any tears, because his organism was dissolved by the victory of the other elements; as a result, he lost his sight and at the same time the cohesion of the parts of his body. Listen to the complaint he addresses to those around him:


Eyes not eyes; fountains no longer, you have poured out all the moisture which holds the body, the spirit and the soul together. And you, crystal of the eye, which made

so many external objects known to the soul, even you are consumed by my afflicted heart. Therefore, arid and blind I lead my steps toward the dark infernal cavern.

Ah, do not be niggardly in your mercy toward me, make me go promptly; I who in those dark days took pleasure only in my tears

and was the source of so many streams; now that every humour in me is dried up, toward profound oblivion give me passage.

The next blind one has lost his sight from the intense flame which, issuing from his heart, has first consumed his eyes, then licked u p all the remaining moisture of his body, so that, reduced to ashes, the lover is no longer himself; for the fire, whose virtue dissolves bodies into their atoms, has converted him into dust -- an irremediable desegregation, inasmuch as water alone reassembles and combines the atoms of other bodies to make one subsistent composite. Nevertheless, he continues to experience the most intense fire. For that reason in the sestet he asks that a large passage be opened for him, for if anyone should be touched by his flame, he would become so insensible of the infernal fires, that he would no longer distinguish heat from cold snow. Therefore he says:


Beauty, rushing from my eyes to the heart, formed in my breast a high furnace which, sending its relentless flame to the sky, absorbed the moisture of my eyes;

then to appease its ardor it devoured all my body's liquid elements, so that I should remain ever disjoined and reduced to separate atoms of dust.

If you have horror of an infinite evil, stay away from me, oh people! Beware of my scorching flame, for if the contagion of its fire assails you, you would seek winter in hell's flames.

The eighth blind one follows, whose blindness was caused by the arrow Love sent through his eyes to penetrate his heart. As a result, he complains not only of being blind, but also of being wounded, and more profoundly burned than he believes any one could be. His meaning is understood without difficulty in this poem:


Vile assault, cruel blow, unjust palm, acute point, devouring bait, strong sinew, bitter wound, pitiless ardor, harsh burden, arrow, fire and noose of that insolent god,

who pierced my eyes, burned my heart, bound my soul and made me blind at one stroke, a lover and a slave, so that in my deep blindness every moment, everywhere and in every way I feel my wound, my fire and my noose.

Men, heroes, and gods who inhabit the earth, the inferno or Olympus, tell me, I beg you, how, when, and where

have you, among the oppressed, the damned -- among lovers, ever experienced, seen or heard those who give vent to such complaints and to so many of them?

The last blind one finally approaches, and he is also mute; for, lacking the boldness to say the thing he most desires without giving offense or invoking scorn, he is unable to say anything at all. He is silent, but he who guides him speaks in his place. Because his discourse is without difficulty, I shall not comment on it, but simply report it.


You other blind lovers are fortunate, for you can explain the reason for your blindness. And the virtue of your tears can win you the favor of gracious and chaste acceptance.

But the blind man I guide, torn with desire more than all the others, keeps his flame hidden, mute perhaps for lack of boldness to make clear his torment to his goddess.

And you, oh people unaware of these sad obstacles, have compassion for this face become extinct, provide a path

for this afflicted body, consumed by fatigue, which goes knocking at the door of a less painful and more profound death.

Thus nine reasons have been indicated why the human intelligence is blind with regard to the divine object upon which it is unable to fix its eyes.

Of these reasons, the first personified by the first blind man, is that the nature of our species, according to the rank in which it finds itself, always aspires higher than it can attain.

MIN. Because no natural desire is vain, we may be sure that there is outside the body a more excellent state to which the soul can be united when it is raised nearer to its object.

SEV. As you point out very well, no natural potency or impulse is without its reason for being, which is, in fact, the rule of nature which orders things. Therefore it is absolutely true for every well disposed mind that the human soul (such as it appears while residing in the body) shows by everything it expresses that it is a stranger in this country, for it aspires to the universal truth and good, and is not satisfied with what is offered to it for the use and profit of its natural species.

The second reason, personified by the second blind man, proceeds from the disturbance of the affection which, when one is in love, is jealousy, and jealousy is like a worm for whom the same subject is enemy and progenitor, for it nibbles at the cloth or wood from which it is generated.

MIN. It seems to me that such jealousy has no place in heroic love.

SEV. No, not for the same reason it is found in vulgar love; but I understand jealousy in a different though corresponding way, according as it is manifest among lovers of the true and the good when they are incensed against those who would adulterate, waste, or corrupt the true and the good, or in one way or another treat them with indignity. And they are incensed against them to such an extent, that, should they fall into the hands of those men, they are tormented, done to death, and treated ignominiously by the ignorant populace and vulgar sects.

MIN. Certainly, no one sincerely loves the true and the good without becoming irate against the multitude, just as no one experiences vulgar love without being jealous and fearful for the thing loved.

SEV. And thus he will be truly blind to many things, and according to the common opinion, stupid and mad in the highest degree.

MIN. I have noted a passage which says that all those are stupid and mad who have any sense beyond and above the universal sense of ordinary men. But this madness is of two kinds, accordingly as some surpass or mount above the limit to which all or a majority of men ascend or can ascend (such men are thus inspired by the divine frenzy), or as some descend lower, falling to the level of those who lack sense and reason, and lack them more than the multitude of ordinary men. This last species of madness, lunacy and blindness will not attain heroic jealousy.

SEV. The third reason, personified by the third blind man, proceeds from this, that the divine truth, in the mode of the supernatural, called metaphysics, is revealed to the rare spirits whom it favors, and does not submit its arrival to measurements of movement and of time, as is the case in the physical sciences (those acquired by the light of nature which proceed from a thing known by sense and reason to a thing still unknown, in the discursive mode one calls argumentation), but, on the contrary, arrives suddenly and unexpectedly according to the mode appropriate to its activity. For that reason the sage said, Attenuati stint oculi mei suspicientes in excelsum (Isa. 38.14: '...My eyes are weakened as they gaze into the heavens...'). Therefore a vain length of time, laborious study, and effort of research are not required for obtaining divine truth, but it allows itself to be absorbed as promptly as the light of the sun renders itself present to him who turns and opens himself to it.

MIN. Would you say then, that scholars and philosophers are not more apt to receive this light than the ignorant are?

SEV. That might be true in one sense, and might not be true in another. It does not make any difference when the divine spirit, by its own providence, communicates itself without any special disposition of the subject who receives it; that is, when it communicates itself because it seeks out and elects the subject of its own accord. But it makes a great difference when the divine spirit waits and wishes to be sought, and then at its good pleasure would be discovered. In this mode it does not appear to everyone, nor can it appear to anyone unless he seeks it. And so it is said, Qui quaerunt me invenient me (Luke, 11.9-10: '...Ask and it shall be given you: seek and you shall find: knock and it shall be opened to you.'); and elsewhere, Qui sitit, veniat et bibat (John, 7.37: '...If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.').

MIN. It cannot be denied that the apprehension of the second mode comes with time.

SEV. You are not distinguishing between disposing oneself to the divine light and apprehending it. Certainly I do not deny that in order to dispose oneself to it, time, discourse, zeal and labor are required; but, alteration, as we say, comes with time, and generation, in an instant; or further, as anyone can see, it takes time to open a window, but the sun enters in a moment The same thing applies to what we have been saying.

The fourth reason, personified by the fourth blind man, is entirely without the indignity belonging to the habit of sharing the errors of the mob -- errors which can either be far removed from all philosophical opinion, or derived from the study of vulgar philosophies esteemed true by the mob the more they conform to the mob's view. This is one of the greatest and most unseemly habits into which one can fall; for as Al-Gazeli and Averroës have shown us by examples, there are those who from infancy and youth have accustomed themselves to digesting poisons, so that in the long run these poisons have become to them sweet and appropriate nourishment for their organisms, while they hold in abomination things truly sweet and good for normal beings. The blindness of the fourth lover has a most worthy reason, for it comes from the habit of gazing upon the true light (a habit which, as it has been said, cannot be practiced by the many). This blindness is heroic and appropriate for the worthy satisfaction of our blind lover, who, far from finding any remedy for it, truly arrives at the point of scorning every other sight, and asks nothing of the human community but free passage and progress toward contemplation, because too frequently he is a victim of snares and is usually jostled against mortal obstacles.

The fifth reason, personified by the fifth blind man, proceeds from the lack of proportion between the means of our intellect and the intelligible object; for to contemplate divine things we must consider them by means of symbols, similitudes and other ambiguities which the Peripatetics call phantasms; moreover, we must proceed by the agency of the creature to the speculation of its essence, by the way of the effect to the notion of cause; all means so inadequate for attaining such an end, that they would seem rather to be obstacles, if one must believe that the highest and most profound knowledge of divine things is negative and not affirmative, knowing that the divine beauty and goodness is not something which can fall and submit itself to our concept, but something completely beyond our comprehension, especially in this mortal state, called by the philosopher a speculation of phantasms, and by the theologian, a vision only by similitude, mirror, and enigma. For we do not truly see the effects and the true forms of things, or the substances of ideas, but we see only the shadows, vestiges and images of them, for we are like those who are inside the cave and from birth turn their backs to the light and their faces to the dark, so that they never see that which truly is, but the shadows of those things whose substance is to be found outside the cave.

That is why a spirit comparable to Plato, if not superior, weeps for the clear vision he has lost, and desires to exit from the cave, in order to see his light again not by reflection, but by an immediate conversion.

MIN. What this blind man deplores, it seems to me, is not the difficulty caused by the reflected vision, but the difficulty caused by the intermediary interposed between his visible potency and the object.

SEV. Although these two modes are distinct in the sensitive cognition or the sensitive sight, they suddenly concur in one rational or intellective cognition.

MIN. I believe I have read and understood that every vision requires an intermediary between its potency and the object. For, just as by means of light diffused in the air, and by the image of an object which proceeds in some way from the thing seen to him who sees it, the act of vision becomes effective, so in the intellectual sphere where the sun of the active intellect shines, by means of the intelligible species which receives its form from the object, and so to speak, proceeds from it, our intellect or some other inferior one begins to comprehend something of the divinity. For, just as our eye, when we see, does not receive the light of fire or of gold in substance, but in similitude, so our intellect, in whatever state it is found, does not receive the divinity in substance (for then there would be as many gods as there are separate intelligences), but receives it in similitude; and this is why these intelligences are not formally gods, but may be designated divine things, the divinity and the divine beauty remaining one and exalted above them all.

SEV. You explain it very well; but this explanation does not oblige me to retract anything, for I have not said the contrary. It is necessary only that I explain myself. Thus first I declare that the immediate vision about which we have spoken and have understood each other does not exclude those intermediaries such as the intelligible species or the light, but excludes rather those which correspond to the thickness and density of a diaphanous mean or even to the opacity of a body interposed, as it happens to him who looks through more or less turbid water, or cloudy and murky air, that he would desire to see without an intermediary, if permitted to gaze through pure, lucid and clear air. All of which you have more or less explained by the words, thrust forth over so many dense obstacles. But let us return to our discourse.

The sixth reason, personified by the sixth blind man, is none other than the weakness and inconsistency of the body which is in continual motion, change, and alteration, and where operations must conform to the aptitudes resulting from the condition of its nature and being. For how would you have immobility, persistence, entity and truth belong to a thing which changes every moment from one thing to another, and is ever in the process of becoming something else? What reality, what image can be retained, depicted and impressed up on the eye, when the pupils are dispersed in water, when the water turns into vapor, vapor into flame, the flame into air, and so on, while a sensible and knowing subject endlessly perambulates the wheel of metamorphoses?

MIN. The movement is one of alteration; he who is moved is always another, and he who is another always bears himself and behaves otherwise than he did before, for intellection and affection conform to the reason and the condition of the subject. And he who is always another, who forever changes his vision, can only be completely blind with respect to the beauty which is always unique and one, which is unity itself, entity and identity.

SEV. Exactly.

The seventh reason, allegorically contained in the complaint of the seventh blind man, derives from the fire of the affection, from which some become impotent and incapable of apprehending the truth, inasmuch as their affection overcomes their intellect. Such are those who place love before understanding, so that everything appears to them colored by their affection; for it is an established fact that for those who would attain the truth by way of contemplation a perfect purification of the thought is necessary.

MIN. We know very well that there is a great diversity among those who contemplate and those who seek. Some (following the habits of primary and elementary disciplines) advance by way of numbers, others progress by way of figures; some advance by the rules or without the rules, others progress by way of composition and division; some by way of separating into parts and assembling them again, others by inquiry and disputation; some by discourse and definition, others by the interpretation and deciphering of terms, vocabularies and dialects; in other words, some are mathematical philosophers, and others are metaphysicians, logicians, or grammarians. The same diversity exists among those for whom to contemplate is to study written opinions and to apply their attention to them; so that it comes to this that the same light of truth expressed in the same book and by the same words could serve the designs of numerous sects, diverse and hostile among themselves.

SEV. That is why the affections have such power to impede the apprehension of the truth, inasmuch as those who submit to them are incapable of perceiving it, as those who attribute to the food the bitterness of their mouth submit to the malady of stupidity.

Now such a species of blindness is noted in this blind man, whose eyes are altered and deprived of their natural power by that which has been sent from the heart and impressed upon them, altering not only their sight, but all the other faculties of the soul besides, as the present allegory demonstrates.

With regard to the meaning of the eighth blind man, as he has lost his sense of sight by the impact of a sensible object, so has his intellect been blinded by the excellence of the intelligible object. Thus it happens that he who sees Jove in his majesty loses his life, and consequently loses his sense. So does it occur that he who so gazes on high sometimes becomes overwhelmed by majesty. Besides, when he would penetrate the divine species, it pierces him like an arrow.

Therefore, the theologians say that the divine word is more penetrating than the point of a sword or knife. Wherever it forms and impresses its image, no other form can be impressed or sealed; for where such an impression has been made, a new mark cannot replace it without the first one having yielded; consequently it may be said that a being no longer has the faculty of receiving another form, even if there is anyone who attempts to change or transform it through a necessary alteration of proportion.

The ninth reason is personified by the ninth man who is blind because of lack of confidence and humility of spirit, both of which are caused by great love, for he fears his ardor may give offense. With reference to which the Canticle says, Averte oculos tuos a me quia ipsi me avolare fecere (Cant. 6.4: 'Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have made me flee away. Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from Galaad.'). And, therefore, he curbs his eyes from seeing what he most would desire and enjoy, as he holds his tongue from speaking to whom he most longs to speak, for fear that some defect of his glance or of his word might debase him, or in some way cause him disgrace. And this is what happens when the excellence of the object is so far superior to the power of apprehension. For this reason the more profound and divine theologians say God is honored and adored more by silence than by words, and that to see him better one must close one's eyes to the species represented than open them. This is why the negative theology of Pythagoras and Dionysius is so highly renowned above the demonstrative theology of Aristotle and the schoolmen.

MIN. Let us depart and discourse on the way home.

SEV. As you like.



Fifth Dialogue


LAOD. Some other time, oh sister, you will understand the significance of the complete story of these nine blind men. They were nine most handsome and loving youths and so ardently smitten by the graciousness of your sight, that, having lost hope of gathering love's longed for fruition, and fearing that such despair would reduce them to ultimate ruin, they departed from the happy Campanian fields; and (they who were rivals) commonly agreed to swear by your beauty never to separate until they had tried everything to find one more beautiful than you, or at least, one similar to you and, besides, adorned with that mercy and pity of which your cruel heart was destitute; for they believed this was the only remedy that could release them from their cruel captivity. On the third day after their departure, as they passed not far from the mount of Circe, it pleased them to go and see those antique caves and sight consecrated to that goddess. When they arrived there, because of the majesty of that solitary and windy place, and the majesty of the high and resounding rocks, and of the murmuring sea waves which broke into those caves, and owing to other circumstances which the place and season offered, all of them became as though inspired and one among them (who it was I shall tell you), more impassioned than the others, spoke these words: "Oh would that heaven would be pleased to present us at this time, as happened in other happier centuries, with that magician, Circe, who by virtue of plants, minerals, venoms and incantations was able to seize control of nature. Implacable as she may be, I firmly believe that she would be merciful to us in our misfortune. Solicited by our supplication and complaints, she would condescend to provide us with a remedy and to accord us the favor of vengeance against our cruel enemy. Hardly had he finished speaking these words, when suddenly before the eyes of everyone, a palace appeared which anyone with any notion of human accomplishment could easily see was no work of man or nature, whose aspect I shall describe at another time. Stricken by that great marvel and moved by hope that some propitious deity (the cause of this apparition) would explain the state of their fortune, they cried out together that nothing could befall them worse than death, which they deemed less evil than to go on living in such intense suffering. This is why, not finding the door closed to them or any porter who inquired what their business was, they entered, and found themselves in a most rich and ornate room, where, in that regal majesty in which Apollo was discovered by Phaeton, appeared she who is called his daughter, at whose appearance they saw disappear the images of many other deities who used to minister to her. Received and encouraged by her gracious visage, they advanced, and overcome by the splendor of that majesty they fell upon their knees, and all together in varied strains dictated by their diverse talents, offered prayers to the goddess. To conclude, they were treated by her in such a way, that blind, wandering and miserably belabored, they traversed all the seas, passed every river, overcame every mount, traversed every plain for a period of ten years, after which beneath the temperate sky of the island of Britain, they found themselves in the presence of the lovely and gracious nymphs of Father Thames. After they had performed acts of appropriate humility, which were received with gestures of the most chaste courtesy, one among them, their chief, whose name I shall give you another time, expressed the common cause in a tragic and lamenting tone as follows:

Noble ladies, the bearers of a closed vessel present themselves before you, their hearts pierced through, not by an error of nature, but by a cruel fate which tortured them with this living death, and they remain in blindness.

We are nine spirits who, wandering for many years because of the desire to understand, have traveled many countries, and we were one day victims of a severe and sudden disaster, which, if you listen to our story, will cause you to say, O worthy ones, and unhappy lovers!

A cruel Circe, who boasts of having this beautiful sun her progenitor, received us after a long and adventurous voyage; she opened a vessel and sprinkled us with water, and to that gesture joined her incantation.

Awaiting the consummation of such action, we were in silence and mute attention, until she spoke: -- O, you sorrowing ones, depart, blind as you are in all things; go gather the fruit that falls to those who direct their gaze too high. -

Then suddenly the blind men -- Daughter and mother of darkness and horror (we said with one voice) does it please you, then, to treat wretched lovers so cruelly who submit themselves before you, willing perhaps to consecrate their hearts to you?

But when the frenzy suddenly excited by so strange a mishap was somewhat appeased, each one collected himself, and as rage yielded to pain, all implored mercy, mixing the following words with their tears:

-- Now, if it pleases you, oh noble enchantress, that zeal for glory may pierce your heart, or that your heart be anointed and soothed by the waters of compassion, have pity upon us with your remedies, and close the wound inflicted upon our hearts.

If your lovely hand be pleased to aid us, do not delay that some sad one of us may reach death before your gesture give us the right to say, a great torment was caused by her, but a much greater consolation.

And she replied: -- O curious spirits, take this other fatal vessel which my hand is powerless to open; and go far and wide on a pilgrimage through the world, seeking out all the numerous kingdoms,

for destiny wishes that this vase remain closed until lofty wisdom and noble chastity and beauty together apply their bands to it; all other labors are fruitless to pour forth this water.

But if it happens that those gracious hands with this water besprinkle whoever approaches them for a cure, you will be able to experience divine virtue, for your cruel torment being changed to remarkable joy, you will see the two most beautiful stars in the world.

May none of you be saddened, no matter how long so much of the firmament may be concealed in profound darkness; for no pain is so great that will render you worthy of so great a good.

For the prize to which your blindness leads you, hold vile every other gain and esteem every torture as so much joy, for the hope of contemplating these unique and rare graces will incline you to scorn every other light. -

Alas! Too long have our limbs gone wandering through the whole terrestrial earth, so that finally we have come to believe a sagacious beast has filled our hearts with false hope by its promises.

Henceforth (although we know it is late) we perceive that this enchantress, for our greater woe, strives to keep us in eternal expectation. For she believes that no lady of so many virtues can be seen beneath the cloak of heaven.

Now, although we know every hope vain, we yield to our destiny and are content not to retreat from painful labors, and are content to advance (though trembling and weary), without ever halting our steps, and to suffer for as long a time as life remains in us.

Lovely nymphs who sojourn on the verdant shores of the gentle Thames, ah, in God's name, lovely ones, hold it not beneath you, even if it is in vain, to lend your white hands to disclose what our vase conceals.

Who knows? Perhaps on these shores where one sees this torrent, with its nymphs, so rapidly rising as it rewinds itself to its source, heaven has destined that she whom we seek may be found.

One of the nymphs took the vase in her hand, and without essaying further, offered it to each one of the others, but none could be found who dared to open it first. But all of them by common agreement, after merely looking at it, referred and proposed it in deference and reverence to only one among them; who seized it finally, not so much from a desire to demonstrate her glory, but though pity and the desire to bring succor to these hapless men; and although uncertain, she clasped it in her hand, and almost spontaneously, opened it herself. How would you have me relate how great was the applause of the nymphs? Do you imagine I can express the excessive joy of the nine blind men, who, having heard that the vase was opened, felt themselves sprinkled with the longed for water, opened their eyes, saw the twin suns and were overwhelmed by a two-fold felicity, that of having recovered the light formerly lost and that of having newly discovered the other light which alone could show them the image of the supreme good on earth? How, I ask, would you have me express that happiness and jubilance of voice, that thrill of spirit and body which they themselves were incapable of expressing? For a moment they appeared to be in frenzied intoxication; they thought they were dreaming and seemed not to believe what they manifestly beheld. But when the excess of that frenzy finally became somewhat subdued, they took their places in a circle, where

The first sang and played the guitar in this tone

O rocks, O trenches, oh thorns, oh twigs, oh stones, oh mountains, oh plains, oh valleys, oh rivers, oh seas, how you reveal yourselves gracious and sweet, for heaven has discovered to us your mercy and your worth! Oh steps spent for good fortune!

The second played and sang with his mandolin

Oh steps spent for good fortune, oh goddess Circe, oh glorious afflictions! Oh, how the pains of so many months and years are so many divine graces, if this is our recompense after so much torment and misery!

The third played and sang with his lyre

After so much torment and misery, this is the port prescribed by our tempests, there remains nothing else for us but to thank heaven for having placed before our eyes this veil, through which this light has been finally revealed.

The fourth sang with his viol

Through which this light has been finally revealed, blindness more worthy than any other sight, cares more sweet than any other pleasures; for to the most excellent light you have led us, making less worthy objects useless to the soul.

The fifth one sang with his Spanish timbrel

Making less worthy objects useless to the soul, nourishing a noble thought with hope, was one who spurred us toward that unique path, which showed us the most beautiful creation of God. In this way fate will show itself propitious.

The sixth one sang with his lute

Fate will show itself propitious in this way. For fate does not wish that good follow good, or pain be the presage of pain; but making the wheel turn, it raises, then it hurls down, as in mutability, the day gives itself to night.

The seventh sang with his Spanish harp

As in mutability, the day gives itself to night, when the great cloak of the nocturnal torches obscures the flaming chariot of the sun, so he who governs by eternal decree crashes the great and raises the humble.

The eighth one with bow and viol

He crushes the great and raises the humble, who sustains his infinite schemes, and by a rapid, moderate, or slow rotation he distributes in the immense creation all that is hidden and all that remains seen.

The ninth with a three-stringed viol

Oh, may all that is hidden and all that remains seen not deny, but confirm the incomparable end of our labors, whose witnesses are the fields and mountains, ponds, rivers, seas, rocks, trenches, thorns, twigs, and stones.

After each one in this form and in his turn, had played his instrument and sung his sestet, they danced together in a circle, and, playing in a most sweet accord to the praise of the unique nymph, sang a song which I think I shall remember well enough.

GIU. Don't fail, I pray you, sister, to let me hear as much as you may recall.


"I no longer envy, O Jove, your firmament", says Father Ocean with raised brow, "for I have so much joy in what my empire offers".

"How haughty you are!" Jove replies. "What else do you have beside your wealth? Oh lord of the senseless waters, why do you so inflate yourself with such foolish boldness?"

"You have", said the god of the waters, In your power the blazing heavens, where the fiery zone is, in which you can see the eminent chorus of your stars,

"and through them the whole world gazes upon the sun. But, I say, even the sun shines with less brightness than She who makes me the most glorious god of the great creation of worlds.

"And I hold in my vast bosom, among all the others that nation where the happy Thames is seen, which has the pleasing chorus of the most beautiful nymphs.

"Among these I possess one who is unique among all beautiful ones, who will make you a lover of the sea more than of the sky, oh loud thundering Jove, for your sun shines with less splendor among the stars."

And Jove replies: "O, god of the tossing seas, that any one be found more blessed than I is not permitted by fate, but my treasures and yours run their course together.

"The sun prevails among your nymphs through this one, and by the force of eternal laws and of the alternate abodes, she is valued as the sun among my stars."

I believe I have reported it to you completely.

GIU. You may be assured of it, for there is no lack of perfection in their argument, nor lack of art in the perfection of the strophes. As for myself, if by heaven's grace I have achieved any beauty, I believe I have been granted even a greater grace and favor; for whatever my beauty may have been, it was in some way responsible for the discovery of that unique and divine beauty. I am thankful to the gods, for in my youth when I was so young that the flames of love could not enkindle my heart, my cruelty and intractability, though simple and innocent, was the occasion and means of according my lovers graces incomparably higher than they could otherwise have obtained whatever might have been my benevolence.

LAOD. With respect to the souls of those lovers, I assure you that, just as they are not ungrateful to their enchantress, Circe, for their dark blindness, calamitous labors, and their bitter afflictions which brought them to so great a good, so will they not be less appreciative of you.

GIU. This is my desire and hope.




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