Thus is described the discourse of heroic love, in all which tends to
its own object, which is the highest good; and heroic intellect, which
devotes itself to the study of its own object, which is the primal
verity, or absolute truth. Now the first discourse holds the sum of this
and the intention, the order of which is described in five others
To the woods, the mastiffs and the greyhounds young Actaeon leads,
When destiny directs him into the doubtful and neglected way,
Upon the track of savage beasts in forests wild.
And here, between the waters, he sees a bust and face more beautiful
than e'er was seen
By mortal or divine, of scarlet, alabaster, and fine gold;
He sees, and the great hunter straight becomes that which he hunts.
The stag, that towards still thicker shades now goes with lighter
His own great dogs swiftly devour.
So I extend my thoughts to higher prey, and these
Now turning on me give me death with cruel savage bite.
Actaeon signifies the intellect, intent on the pursuit of divine wisdom
and the comprehension of divine beauty. He lets loose the mastiffs and
the greyhounds, of whom the latter are more swift and the former more
strong, because the operation of the intellect precedes that of the
will; but this is more vigorous and effectual than that; seeing that, to
the human intellect, divine goodness and beauty are more loveable than
comprehensible, and love it is that moves and urges the intellect, and
precedes it as a lantern. The woods, uncultivated and solitary places,
visited and penetrated by few, and where there are few traces of men.
The youth of little skill and practice, as of one of short life and of
wavering enthusiasm. In the doubtful road of uncertain and distorted
reason--a disposition assigned to the character of Pythagoras--where you
see the most thorny, uncultivated, and deserted to be the right and
difficult path, where he lets loose the greyhounds and the mastiffs upon
the track of savage beasts, that is, the intelligible kinds of ideal
conceptions, which are occult, followed by few, visited but rarely, and
which do not disclose themselves to all those who seek them. Here,
amongst the waters,--that is, in the mirror of similitude, in those
works where shines the brightness of divine goodness and splendour,
which works are symbolized by the waters superior and inferior, which
are above and below the firmament, he sees the most beautiful bust and
face--that is, external power and operation, which it is possible to
see, by the habit and act of contemplation and the application of mortal
or divine mind, of man or any god.
CIC. I do not believe that he makes a comparison, nor puts as the same
kind the divine and the human mode of comprehending, which are very
diverse, but as to the subject they are the same.
TANS. So it is. He says "of red and alabaster and gold," because that
which in bodily beauty is red, white, and fair, in divinity signifies
the scarlet of divine vigorous power, the gold of divine wisdom, the
alabaster of divine beauty, through the contemplation of which the
Pythagoreans, Chaldeans, Platonists, and others, strive in the best way
that they can to elevate themselves. "The great hunter saw," he
understood as much as was possible, and became the hunted. He went out
for prey, and this hunter became himself the prey, by the operation of
the intellect converting the things learned into itself.
CIC. I understand. He forms intelligible conceptions in his own way and
proportions them to his capacity, so that they are received according to
the manner of the recipient.
TANS. And does he hunt through the operation of the will, by the act of
which he converts himself into the object?
CIC. As I understand: because love transforms and converts into the
TANS. Well dost thou know that the intellect learns things
intelligibly--_i.e._, in its own way, and the will pursues things
naturally, that is, according to the reason that is in themselves. So
Actaeon with those thoughts--those dogs--which hunted outside themselves
for goodness, wisdom, and beauty, thus came into the presence of the
same, and ravished out of himself by so much splendour, he became the
prey, saw himself converted into that for which he was seeking, and
perceived, that of his dogs or thoughts, he himself came to be the
longed-for prey; for having absorbed the divinity into himself it was
not necessary to search outside himself for it.
CIC. For this reason it is said "the kingdom of Heaven is in us;"
divinity dwells within through the reformed intellect and will.
TANS. It is so. See then, Actaeon hunted by his own dogs--pursued by his
own thoughts--runs and directs these novel paces, invigorated so as to
proceed divinely and "more easily," that is, with greater facility and
with refreshed vigour "towards the denser places," to the deserts and
the region of things incomprehensible. From being such as he first was,
a common ordinary man, he becomes rare and heroic, his habits and ideas
are strange, and he leads an unusual life. Here his great dogs "give him
death," and thus ends his life according to the mad, sensual, blind, and
fantastic world, and he begins to live intellectually; he lives the life
of the gods, fed on ambrosia and drunk with nectar.
Next we see under the form of another similitude the manner in which he
arms himself to obtain the object. He says:
My solitary bird! away unto that region
Which overshadows and which occupies my thought,
Go swiftly, and there nestle; there every
Need of thine be strengthened,
There all thy industry and art be spent!
There be thou born again, and there on high,
Gather and train up thy wandering fledglings
Since adverse fate has drawn away the bars
With which she ever sought to block thy way.
Go! I desire for thee a nobler dwelling-place,
And thou shalt have for guide a god,
Who is called blind by him who nothing sees.
Go! and ever be by thee revered,
Each deity of that wide sphere,
And come not back to me till thou art mine.
The progress symbolized above by the hunter who excites his dogs, is
here illustrated by a winged heart, which is sent out of the cage, in
which it lived idle and quiet, to make its nest on high and bring up its
fledglings, its thoughts, the time being come in which those impediments
are removed, which were caused, externally, in a thousand different
ways, and internally by natural feebleness. He dismisses his heart then
to make more magnificent surroundings, urging him to the highest
propositions and intentions, now that those powers of the soul are more
fully fledged, which Plato signifies by the two wings, and he commits
him to the guidance of that god, who, by the unseeing crowd, is
considered insane and blind, that is Love, who, by the mercy and favour
of heaven, has power to transform him into that nature towards which he
aspires, or into that state from which, a pilgrim, he is banished.
Whence he says, "Come not back to me till thou art mine," and not
unworthily may I say with that other--
Thou has left me, oh, my heart,
And thou, light of my eyes, art no more with me.
Here he describes the death of the soul, which by the Kabbalists is
called the death by kisses, symbolized in the Song of Solomon, where the
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,
For, when he wounds me,
I suffer with a cruel love.
By others it is called sleep; the Psalmist says:
It shall be, that I give sleep unto mine eyes,
And mine eyelids shall slumber,
And I shall have in him peaceful repose.
The soul then is said to be faint, because it is dead in itself, and
alive in the object:
Give heed, enthusiasts, unto the heart!
For mine condemns me to a life apart,
Bound by unmerciful and cruel ties,
He dwells with joy, there where he faints and dies.
At every hour I call him back by thoughts:
A rebel he, like gerfalcon insane,
He feels no more the hand that did restrain,
And is gone forth not to return again.
Thou beauteous beast that dost in punishment
Knit up the soul, spirit and heart content'st
With pricks, with lightnings, and with chains!
From looks, from accents, and from usages,
Which faint and burn and keep thee bound,
Where shall he that heals, that cools, and loosens thee be found?
Here the soul, sorrowful, not from real discontent, but on account of
pains which she suffers, directs the discourse to those who are affected
by passions similar to her own: as if she had not of her own free will
and of her own desire dismissed her heart, which goes running whither it
cannot arrive, stretches out to that which it cannot reach, and tries to
enfold that which it cannot comprehend, and with this, because he vainly
separates from her, ever more and more goes on aspiring towards the
CIC. Whence comes it, oh Tansillo, that the soul in such progression
delights in its own torments? Whence comes that spur which urges it ever
beyond that which it possesses?
TANS. From this, which I will tell thee now. The intellect being
developed to the comprehension of a certain definite and specific form,
and the will to a love commensurate with such comprehension; the
intellect does not stop there, but by its own light it is prompted to
think of this: that it contains within itself the germ of everything
intelligible and desirable, until it comes to comprehend with the
intellect the depth of the fountain of ideas, the ocean of every truth
and goodness. So that it happens, that whatever conception is presented
to the mind, and becomes understood by it, from that which is so
presented and comprehended it judges, that above it, is other greater
and greater, and finds itself ever in a certain way discoursing and
moving with it. Because it sees that all which it possesses is only a
limited thing, and therefore cannot be sufficient of itself, nor good of
itself, nor beautiful of itself; because it is not the universal nor the
absolute entity; but contracted into being this nature, this species,
this form, represented to the intellect and present to the soul. Then
from the beautiful that is understood, and consequently limited, and
therefore beautiful through participation, it progresses towards that
which is really beautiful, which has no margin, nor any boundaries.
CIC. This progression appears to me useless.
TANS. Not so. For it is not natural nor suitable that the infinite be
restricted, nor give itself definitely, for it would not then be
infinite. To be infinite, it must be infinitely pursued with that form
of pursuit which is not incited physically, but metaphysically, and is
not from imperfect to perfect, but goes circulating through the grades
of perfection to arrive at that infinite centre which is not form, and
is not formed.
CIC. I should like to know how, by circumambulating, one is to arrive at
TANS. I cannot know that.
CIC. Why do you say it?
TANS. I can say it, and leave it to you to consider.
CIC. If you do not mean that he who pursues the infinite is like him who
talks about the circumference when he is seeking for the centre, I do
not know what you mean.
TANS. Quite the contrary.
CIC. Now if you will not explain yourself, I cannot understand you; but
tell me, prythee, what he means by saying the heart is bound by cruel,
TANS. He speaks in similitude or metaphor; as you would say, cruel was
one who did not allow a full enjoyment, and who lives more in the desire
than in possession, and who, partially possessing, is not content, but
desires, faints, and dies.
CIC. What are those thoughts that call him back from the noble
TANS. The sensual and natural affections, which regard the government of
CIC. What have they to do with it, that in no way can either help or
TANS. They have not to do with it, but with the soul, which, being so
absorbed in one work or study, becomes remiss and careless in others.
CIC. Why does he call him insane?
TANS. Because he surpasses in knowledge.
CIC. It is usual to call insane those who know nothing.
TANS. On the contrary. Those are called insane who know not in the
ordinary way, or who rise above the ordinary from having more intellect.
CIC. I perceive that thou sayest truly. Now tell me what are the pricks,
the lightnings, and the chains?
TANS. Pricks are those experiences that stimulate and awaken the
affection, to make it on the alert; lightnings are the rays of the
present beauty, which enlighten those who watch and wait for them;
chains are those effects and circumstances which keep fixed the eyes of
attention and unite together the object and the powers.
CIC. What are the looks, the accents, and the customs?
TANS. Looks are the means by which the object is made present to us;
accents are the means through which we are inspired and informed;
customs are the circumstances which are most pleasant and agreeable to
us. So that the heart that gently suffers, patiently burns and
constantly perseveres in the work, fears that its hurt will heal, its
fire be extinguished, and its bands be loosened.
CIC. Now relate that which follows.
Lofty, profound, and stirring thoughts of mine,
Ye long to sever the maternal ties
Of the afflicted soul, and like to proud
And able bowmen, draw at the mark,
Which is the germ of all your high conceits.
In those steep paths where cruel beasts may be,
Let not heaven leave ye!
Remember to return, and summon back
The heart that tarries with the wild wood nymph;
Arm ye with love,
Warm with the flame of domesticity,
And with strong repression guard thy sight,
That strangers keep thee not companioned with my heart;
At least bring news of that,
Which unto him is such delight and joy.
Here he describes the natural solicitude of the attentive soul on the
subject, of its inclination towards generation, which it has contracted
with matter. She dispatches the armed thoughts, which, solicited and
urged by disagreement with the inferior nature, are sent to recall the
heart. The soul instructs them how they should conduct themselves, so
that, being allured and attracted by the object, they do not become
induced to remain, they also, captive and companions of the heart. She
says, then, they are to arm themselves with love, with that love that is
fired by the domestic flame; that is, the friend of generation, to whom
they are bound, and in whose jurisdiction, ministry, and warfare they
find themselves. Anon she orders them to repress their eyesight and to
close their eyes, so that they may not behold other beauty or goodness
than that which is present, friend and mother; and concludes at last
with this, that if no other reason will cause them to return, they
should at least do so, to give account of the discourse and of the state
of the heart.
CIC. Before you proceed further, I would understand from you what is
that which the soul means when she tells the thoughts to repress the
TANS. I will tell thee. All love proceeds from seeing: intelligent love,
from seeing intelligently; sensuous love, from seeing sensuously. Now
this seeing has two meanings: either it means the visual power, that is
the sight, which is the intellect, or truly the sense; or it means the
act of that power, that is, that application which the eye or the
intellect makes to the material or intellectual object. When the
thoughts are counselled to repress the sight, it is not the first, but
the second, mode that is meant, because that is the father of the
subsequent affection of the sensuous or intellectual desire.
CIC. This is what I wished to hear from you. Now, if the act of the
visual power is the cause of the evil or good which proceed from seeing,
whence comes it that in things divine we have more love than knowledge?
TANS. We desire to see, because in some way we perceive the value of
seeing. We are aware that, through the act of seeing, beautiful things
offer themselves to us; and therefore we desire beautiful things.
CIC. We desire the beautiful and the good; but seeing is not beautiful
nor good; rather is it the touchstone or light by which we see, not only
the beautiful and good, but also the evil and bad. Therefore it seems to
me that seeing may be equally beautiful or good, as the thing seen may
be white or black. If, then, the sight, which is an act, is not
beautiful nor good, how can it fall into desire?
TANS. If not for itself, yet certainly for some other reason, it is
desired, seeing that there can be no apprehension of that other without
CIC. What wilt thou say, if that other is not within the knowledge of
the senses nor of the intellect? How, I say, can that be desired which
is not seen, if there is no knowledge whatever of it--if towards it
neither the intellect nor the sense has exercised any act whatever; but,
on the contrary, it is even dubious whether it be intellectual or
sensuous, whether a thing corporeal or incorporeal, whether it be one or
two or more, or of one fashion or of another?
TANS. I answer, that in the sense and the intellect there is one desire
and one impulse to the sensuous in general; because the intellect will
hear the whole truth, so that it may learn all that is beautiful or good
intelligently; the power of the senses will inform itself of all that is
sensuous, so that it may know all that is good and beautiful in the
world of the senses. Hence it follows that not less do we desire to see
things unknown and unseen than those known and seen. And from this it
does not follow that the desire does not proceed from cognition, and
that we desire something that is not known; but I say that it is certain
and sure that we do not desire unknown things. Because, if they be
occult as to particulars, they are not occult as to generals; as in the
entire visual power is found the whole of the visible appositely, and in
the intellect all the intelligible. Therefore, as the inclination to the
act lies in its appropriateness, the result is that both these powers
incline towards the universal action, as to a thing naturally
comprehended as good. The soul, then, did not speak to the deaf or the
blind when she counselled her thoughts to repress the sight, which,
although it may not be the immediate cause of the will, is yet the
primal and principal cause.
CIC. What do you mean by this last saying?
TANS. I mean that it is not the figure or the conception, sensibly or
intelligently represented, which of itself moves us; because while one
stands beholding the figure manifested to the eyes, he does not yet
arrive at loving; but from that instant that the soul conceives within
itself that figure, not visible, but thinkable; no longer dividual, but
individual; no longer classed among things in general, but among things
good and beautiful; then immediately love is born. Now this is the
seeing, from which the soul desires to divert the eyes of her thoughts.
Here the sight usually moves the affection to a greater love than the
love of that which is seen; for, as I have just said, it always
considers, through the universal knowledge that it holds of the
beautiful and the good, that, besides the degrees of known conceptions
of goodness and beauty, there are others and yet others _ad infinitum_.
CIC. How is it that after we become informed of that conception of the
beautiful which is begotten in the soul, we yet desire to satisfy the
TANS. From this, that the soul would ever love that which it loves, and
ever see that which it sees. Therefore she wills that, the conception
which has been produced in her through seeing, should not become
weakened, enervated and lost; but would ever see more and more, and that
which becomes obscure in the interior affection, should be frequently
brightened by the exterior aspect, which as it is the principle of
being, must also be the principle of conservation. This results
proportionately in the act of understanding and of considering, for as
the sight has reference to visible things, so has the intellect to
intelligible things. I believe now that you understand to what end and
in what manner the soul tends, when she says "repress the sight."
CIC. I understand very well. Now continue to unfold what happens to
TANS. Now follows the disagreement between the mother and the aforesaid
children, who having, contrary to her orders, opened their eyes, and,
having fixed them on the splendour of the object, they remained in
company with the heart.
Cruel sons are ye to me, me whom ye left
Still farther to exasperate my pain;
And ever without cease ye weary me,
Taking away from me my every hope!
Why should the sense remain? oh, grasping heavens!
Wherefore these broken ruined powers, if not
To make me subject and exemplar
Of such heavy martyrdom, such lengthened pain?
Leave, dear sons, my winged fire enchained,
And let me, some of you once more behold,
Come back to me from those retaining claws!
Oh, weariness! not one returns
To bring a late refreshment to my pains.
Behold me, miserable one, deprived of heart, abandoned of thoughts, left
by hope, I, who had fixed my all in them. Nothing is left to me but the
sense of my poverty, my unhappiness and misery; why does not this too
leave me? Why does not death succour me, now that I am deprived of life?
To what use do I possess these natural powers if I be deprived of the
use of them? How can I alone nourish myself with intelligible
conceptions as with intellectual bread, if the substance of this bread
be composed of this contingency. How can I linger in the intimacy of
these friendly and dear members which I have woven round me, adjusting
them with the symmetry of the elementary conditions, if my thoughts and
all my affections abandon me, intent upon the care of the bread that is
immaterial and divine? Up, up; oh my flying thoughts; up, oh my rebel
heart; let live the sense of things that are felt, and the understanding
of things intelligible, come to the succour of the body with matter and
corporeal subject, and let the understanding delight in its own objects,
to the end that this composition of the body may be realized, that this
machine dissolve not, in which, by means of the spirit, the soul is
united to the body. Why, unhappy as I am (more through domestic
circumstances than through external violence), am I doomed to see this
horrible divorce between my parts and members? Why does the intellect
trouble itself to give laws to the sense and yet deprive it of its food?
and this, on the other hand, resists; desiring to live according to its
own decrees, and not according to the decree of others; for these and
not those are able to maintain and bless it, therefore it ought to
attend to its own comfort and life, and not to that of others. There is
no harmony and concord where there is only one, where one individual
absorbs the whole being, but where there is order and analogy in things
diverse; where each thing serves its own nature. Therefore let the sense
feed according to the law of things that can be felt, the flesh be
obedient to the law of the spirit, the reason to its own law. Let them
not be confounded nor mixed. Enough that one neither mar nor prejudice
the law of the other, since it is not just that the sense outrage the
law of reason. And verily it is a shameful thing that one should
tyrannize over the other, particularly where the intellect is a pilgrim
and strange, and the sense is more domesticated and at home. I am forced
by you, my thoughts, to remain at home in charge of the house, while
others may wander wherever they will. This is a law of Nature, and
therefore a law of the author and originator of Nature. Sin on then, now
that all of you, seduced by the charm of the intellect, leave the other
part of me to the peril of death. How have you gotten this melancholy
and perverse humour, which breaks the certain and natural laws of the
true life, and which is in your own hands, for one, uncertain, and which
has no existence except in shadow, beyond the limits of fantastic
thought? Seems it to you a natural thing that they should live divinely
and not as animals and humanly, they being not gods, but men and
animals? It is a law of fate and Nature that everything should adapt
itself to the condition of its own being, wherefore then, while you
follow after the niggard nectar of the gods, do you lose that which is
present and is your own, and trouble yourself about the vain hopes of
others? Ought not Nature to refuse to give you the other good, if that
which she at present offers to you, you stupidly despise?
Heaven the second gift denies,
To him who does the first despise.
With these and similar reasons the soul, taking part with the weakest,
seeks to recall the thoughts to the care of the body. And these,
although late, come and show themselves, but not in that form in which
they departed, but only to declare their rebellion, and force her to
follow. And the sorrowing one thus laments:
Ah, dogs of Actaeon, ah, proud ingrates!
Whom to the abode of my divinity I sent;
Without hope do ye return to me;
And, coming to the mother's side, ye bring
Back unto me a too unhappy boon;
Ye mangle me, and will that I live not.
Leave me, life, that I may mount up to my sun,
A double streamlet, mad, without my fount!
When shall this ponderous mass of me dissolve?
When shall it be, that, taking myself hence,
And swiftly rising to the heights above,
Together with my heart I may abide,
And with my thoughts I may be deified?
The Platonists say that the soul, as to its superior part, always
consists in the intellect, in which it has more of understanding than of
soul, seeing that it is called soul only in so far as it vivifies the
body and sustains it. So here, the same essence which nourishes and
maintains the thoughts on high, together with the exalted heart, is
induced by the inferior part to afflict itself, and recall them as
CIC. So that they are not two contrary existences, but one, subject to
two contradictory terms?
TANS. So it is, precisely. As the ray of the sun which touches the
earth, and is joined to obscure and to inferior things, which it
brightens, vivifies, and kindles, and is then joined to the element of
fire--that is, to the star, whence it proceeds, and has its beginning,
and is diffused, and in which it has its own and original
subsistence--so the soul, which is in the horizon of Nature, is
corporeal and incorporeal, and contains that with which it rises to
superior things and declines to things inferior. And this, you may
perceive, does not happen by reason and order of local motion, but
solely through the impulse of one and of another power or faculty. As
when the sense rises to the imagination, the imagination to the reason,
the reason to the intellect, the intellect to the mind, then the whole
soul is converted into God, and inhabits the intelligible world; whence,
on the other hand, she descends in an inverse manner to the world of
feeling, through the intellect, reason, imagination, sense, vegetation.
CIC. It is true that I have heard that the soul, in order to put itself
in the ultimate degree of divine things, descends into the mortal body,
and from this goes up again to the divine degrees, which are three
degrees of intelligence. For there are others in which the intellectual
surpasses the animal, which are said to be the celestial intelligences;
and others in which the animal surpasses the intellectual, which are the
human intelligences; others there are, of which those things are equal,
as those of demons or heroes.
TANS. The mind then cannot desire except that which is near, close,
known, and familiar. The pig cannot desire to be a man, nor wish for
those things that are suitable to the human appetite. He likes better
to turn about in mud than in a bed of linen, he would prefer a sow to
the most beautiful of women, because the affection follows the reason of
the species. And amongst men the same thing is seen, according as some
resemble one species of brute beast and some another: these having
something of the quadruped, and those of birds, and, may be, some
affinity, which I will not explain, but through which those have been
known who are affected by certain sorts of beasts. Now, it is lawful for
the mind which finds itself oppressed by the material conjunction of the
soul, to raise itself to the contemplation of another state, to which
the soul may arrive, comparing the two, and so through the future
despise the present. If a beast had a sense of the difference which
exists between his own condition and that of man, and the meanness of
his own state with the nobility of the human state, which he would deem
it not impossible to be able to reach, he would love death, which would
open to him that road, more than that life which keeps him in the
present state of being. When the soul complains, saying, "Ah! dogs of
Actaeon!" she is represented as a thing which appears only in the
inferior powers, and against which the mind rebels for having taken away
the heart with it; that is to say, the entire affections, with all the
army of the thoughts. So that, having a knowledge of the present state,
and being ignorant of every other, and not believing that others exist
about which she can have any knowledge, she complains of her thoughts,
which, tardily turning towards her, come rather to draw her up than to
make themselves accepted by her. And through the distraction which she
endures on account of the ordinary love of the material and of things
intelligible, she feels herself lacerated and mangled, so that at last
she is forced to yield to the more vigorous impulse. And if, by virtue
of contemplation, she rises or is caught up above the horizon of the
natural affections, whence with purer eye she learns the difference
between the one life and the other, then, vanquished by the lofty
thoughts, and, as if dead to the body, she aspires to that which is
elevated, and, although alive in the body, she vegetates there as if
dead, being present as an animating principle and absent in operative
activity; not because she does not act while the body is alive, but that
the actions of this mass are intermittent, weak, and, as it were,
CIC. Thus a certain theologian, who was said to be transported to the
third heaven and enchanted with the view of it, said that what he
desired was the dissolution of his body.
TANS. So; first complaining of the heart and quarrelling with the
thoughts, she now desires to rise on high with them, and exhibits her
regret for the connection and familiarity contracted with corporeal
matter, and says: "Leave me life (corporeal), and do not impede my
progress upwards to my native home, to my sun. Leave me now, for no
longer do my eyes weep tears; neither because I cannot succour them (the
thoughts), nor because I cannot remain divided from my happiness. Leave
me, for it is not fit nor possible that these two streams should run
without their source, that is, without the heart. I will not, I say,
make two rivers of tears here below, while my heart, which is the source
of such rivers, is flown away on high with its nymphs, which are my
thoughts." Thus, little by little, from dislike and regret, she proceeds
to the hatred of inferior things, which she partly shows, saying, "When
shall this ponderous mass of me dissolve?" and that which follows.
CIC. This I understand right well, and also that which you would infer
about the principal intention; that is to say, that these are the
degrees of the loves, of the affections, and of the enthusiasms,
according to the degrees of greater and lesser light, of cognition, and
TANS. Thou understandest rightly. From this thou oughtest to learn that
doctrine taken from the Pythagoreans and Platonists, which is, that the
soul makes the two progressions of ascent and descent, by the care that
it has of itself and of matter; being moved by its own proper love of
good, and being urged by the providence of fate.
CIC. But, prythee, tell me briefly what you mean about the soul of the
world, if she can neither ascend nor descend?
TANS. If you ask of the world, according to the common
signification--that is, in so far as it signifies what is called the
universe--I say that, being infinite, it has no dimension or measure, is
immobile, inanimate, and without form, notwithstanding it is the place
of infinite moving worlds and is infinite space, in which are so many
large animals that are called stars. If you ask according to the
signification held by the true philosophers--that is, in so far as it
signifies every globe, every star, such as this earth, the body of the
sun, moon, and others--I say that such soul does not ascend nor descend,
but turns in a circle. Thus, being compounded of superior and inferior
powers, with the superior it turns round the divinity, and with the
inferior, towards the mass of the worlds, which is by it vivified and
maintained between the tropics of generation and the corruption of
living things in those worlds, serving its own life eternally; because
the act of the divine providence, always preserves it with divine heat
and light, with the same order and measure, in the ordinary and
CIC. I have now heard enough upon this subject.
TANS. It happens then that individual souls come to be influenced
differently as to their habits and inclinations, according to the
diverse degrees of ascension and descension, and come to display various
kinds and orders of enthusiasms, of loves, and of senses, not only in
the scale of Nature according to the orders of diverse lives which the
soul takes up in different bodies, as is expressly declared by the
Pythagoreans, Saduchimi and others, and by implication, Plato, and those
who dive more profoundly into it, but still more in the scale of human
affections, which has as many degrees as the scale of Nature; for man,
in all his powers, displays every species of being.
CIC. Therefore from the affections one may know souls, whether they are
going up or down, or whether they are from above or from below, whether
they are going on towards becoming beasts or towards divine beings,
according to the specific being as the Pythagoreans understood it; or
according to the similitude of the affections only, as is commonly
believed, the human soul not being able, (so long as it is truly human)
to become soul of a brute, as Plotinus and other Platonists well said,
on account of the quality of its beginning.
TANS. Now to come to the pro animal enthusiasm, this soul,
as described, is promoted to heroic enthusiasm, saying, "When shall it
be that I rise up to the height of the object, there to dwell in company
with my heart and with my fledglings and his?" This same proposition
he continues when he says:
Destiny, when, shall I that mountain mount,
Which, blissful to the high gates bringing, bring,
Where those rare beauties I shall counting, count,
When _he_ my pain with comfort comforting,
Who my disjointed members joined,
And leaves my dying powers not dead?
My spirit's rival more than rivalled is
If, far from sin, it unassailed may sail,
If thither tending, it may waiting, wait,
And up with that high object rising, rise,
And if my good alone, alone I take,
For which I sure remove of each defect effect,
And so at last may come to enjoy with joy,
As he who all foretells can tell.
O Destiny! O Fate! O divine immutable Providence! when shall it be that
I shall climb that mount--that is, that I may arrive at such altitude of
mind, as transporting me shall bring me into those outer and inner
courts where I may behold and count those rare beauties? When shall it
be, that he will effectually comfort my pain, loosening me from the
tightened bonds of those cares in which I find myself, he, who formed
and united my members, which before were disunited and disjoined: that
is Love; he who has joined together these corporeal parts, which were as
far divided as one opposite is divided from another; so that these
intellectual powers which, through his action he has extinguished,
should not be left quite dead, but be again re-animated and made to
aspire on high? When, I say, will he fully comfort me, and give my
powers free and speedy flight, by which means my substance may go and
nestle there, where, by my efforts, I may make amends and correct my
defects, and where (if I arrive) my spirit will be made effectual or
prevail over my rival, because there, no excess will oppose, no
opposition overcome, no error assail? Oh! if by force he may arrive
there, at that height which he is waiting to reach, he will remain on
high, at the elevation of his object, and he will take that good that
cannot be comprehended by any other than one, that is, by himself,
seeing that every other has it in the measure of his own capacity, and
this one alone has it in all its fulness. Then will happiness come to me
in that manner which he says, "who all foretells"; that is, at that
elevation in which the saying all and the doing all is the same thing;
in that manner that he says and does who all foretells, that is, who is
sufficient for all things and primary, and whose word and pre-ordaining
is the true doing and beginning. This is how, in the scale of things
superior and inferior, the affection of Love proceeds, as the intellect
or sentiment proceeds from these intelligible or knowable objects, to
those, or from those to these.
CIC. Thus the greater number of sages believe that Nature delights in
this changeful circulation which is seen in the whirling of her wheel.