Then said he, his mind often went fearing and searching out various and rare things, and most of all about himself—what [Passages in italics were added by Alfred to the original Latin.] he was; whether his mind and his soul were mortal and perishable, or ever-living and eternal; and again, about his God, what He was, and of what nature He was; and what good it were best for him to do, and what evil best to forsake. Then answered me something, I know not what, whether myself or another thing; nor know I whether it was within me or without; but this one thing I most truly know, that it was my Reason; and it said to me:
Reason. If thou have any good steward that can well hold that which thou gettest and committest unto him, show him to me; but if thou have none so prudent, search till thou find him; for thou canst not both always keep watch and ward over that which thou hast gained, and also get more.
Augustine. To what shall I commit what more I get, if not to my memory?
R. Is thy memory powerful enough to hold all things that thou thinkest out and bidst it to hold?
A. Nay, nay; neither mine nor any man's is so strong that it can hold everything that is committed to it.
R. Then commit it to words and write it down. Howbeit methinks thou art too feeble to write it all; and though thou wert entirely sound, thou wouldst need to have a place retired and void of everything else, and a few wise and skilful men with thee who would hinder thee in no wise, but give aid to thy ability.
A. I have none of these, neither the leisure, nor the help of other men, nor a place retired enough to suit me for such work; therefore I know not what I shall do.
R. I know then nothing better than that thou shouldst pray. Make known thy wish to God, Saviour of mind and body, that thou mayst through such salvation obtain what thou wishest. And when thou hast prayed, write the prayer, lest thou forget it, that thou be the fitter for thy task. And pray sincerely in few words and with full understanding.
A. I will do even as thou teachest me, saying thus:
O Lord, Thou who art the Creator of all things, grant me first to know how to pray to Thee aright and acceptably, and that I may merit to be worthy that Thou for thy mercy wilt redeem and deliver me. On Thee I call, O Lord, who madest all that could not else have sprung into being, nor without Thee could even abide. I call to Thee, O Lord, who leavest none of thy creatures to become naught. To Him I call who hath made all creatures beautiful without any original substance. To Thee I call, who never wroughtest any evil, but rather every good work. To Him I call who teacheth to a few wise men that evil is naught.
O Lord, thou hast wrought all things perfect, and nothing imperfect; to Thee is no creature untoward; though any thing will, it can not be so, for Thou hast shapen them all orderly, and peaceable, and so harmonious that none of them can altogether destroy another, but the ugly ever adorneth the beautiful. To Thee I call, whom everything loveth that can love, both those which know what they love, and those which know not what they love. Thou who hast shapen all creatures very good, without any evil—Thou who wilt not altogether show thyself openly to any but to them that are pure in heart, I call to Thee, O Lord, because Thou art the Father of truth and wisdom, of the true and highest life, and of the highest blessedness, and of the highest good, and of the highest brightness, and of the intelligible light; Thou who art the Father of the Son who hath awakened us, and still arouseth us, from the sleep of our sins, and warneth us to come to Thee.
To Thee I pray, O Lord, who art the highest truth, and through whom is true all that is true. I pray to Thee, O Lord, who art the true life, and through whom all things live that do live. Thou art the highest blessedness, and through Thee are blessed all that are blessed. Thou art the highest good ... [An omission in the MS.] ... is and beautiful. Thou art the intelligible light through which man knoweth. I pray to Thee, O Lord, who wieldest all the world; whom we can not know bodily, neither by eyes, nor by smell, nor by ears, nor by taste, nor by touch; although such laws as we have, and such virtues as we have, we take all those that are good from thy realm, and from thy realm we draw an example of all the good we perform. For every one falleth who fleeth from Thee, and every one riseth who turneth to Thee, and every one standeth who abideth in Thee; he dieth who wholly forsaketh Thee, he is quickened who turneth to Thee, and he liveth indeed who abideth in Thee. No one that is wise forsaketh Thee, no one seeketh Thee except he be wise, and no one altogether findeth Thee but the pure in heart. That is, he perisheth who forsaketh Thee. He who loveth Thee seeketh Thee; he who followeth after Thee hath Thee. Thy truths which Thou hast given us awaken us from the sleep of our sins. Our hope lifteth us to Thee. Our love, which Thou hast given us, bindeth us to Thee. Through Thee we overcome our foes, both spiritual and carnal. Thou who forgivest, draw nigh to me and have mercy upon me, because Thou hast bestowed upon us great gifts, to wit, that we shall never entirely perish and thus come to naught.
O Lord, who warnest us to watch, Thou hast given us reason, wherewith to find out and distinguish good and evil, and to flee the evil. Thou hast given us patience not to despair in any toil nor in any misfortune. Nor is this a wonder, because Thou dost verily rule well, and makest us to serve Thee well. Thou hast taught us to understand that worldly wealth, which we looked upon as our own, is alien to us, and transitory; and Thou hast also taught us to consider as our own what we looked upon as alien to us, to wit, the kingdom of heaven, which we once despised. Thou who hast taught us to do no unlawful thing, and hast also taught us not to mourn even though our riches should wane. Thou who hast taught us to subject our body to our mind.
Thou who didst overcome death when Thou thyself didst arise, and also wilt make all men arise. Thou who makest us all worthy of Thee, and cleansest us from all our sins, and justifiest us, and hearest our prayers. Thou who madest us of thy household, and who teachest us all righteousness, and always teachest us the good, and always dost us good, and leavest us not to serve an unrighteous lord, as we did aforetime. Thou callest us back to our way, and leadest us to the door, and openest to us, and givest us the bread of eternal life and the drink of life's well. Thou who threatenest men for their sins, and who teachest them to judge righteous judgments, and to do righteousness. Thou strengthenedst us, and yet dost strengthen us, in our belief, in order that unbelievers may not harm us. Thou hast given us, and yet givest us, understanding, that we may overcome the error of those [who teach that][Supplied by translator to complete the sense.] men's souls have, after this world, no reward for their deserts, either of good or of evil, whichever they do here. Thou who hast loosed us from the thraldom of other creatures, Thou always preparest eternal life for us, and always preparest us for eternal life.
Come now to my aid, Thou who art the only eternal and true Deity—Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost—without any variableness or turning, without any need or impotence, and without death. Thou who always dwellest in the highest brightness and in the highest steadfastness, in the highest unanimity and the highest sufficiency; for to Thee there is no want of good, but Thou always dwellest thus full of every good unto eternity. Thou art Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost.
Thee serve all the creatures that Thou didst create; to Thee is every good soul subject; at thy command the heavens turn and all stars hold their courses; at thy behest the sun bringeth the bright day, and the moon light by night; after the image of these Thou dost govern and wield all this world, so that all creatures change even as day and night. Thou rulest and fixest the year by the alternations of the four seasons—to wit, spring, and summer, autumn, and winter; each of which alternateth and varieth with the other, so that each of them is again exactly what and where it formerly was; and so all stars change and vary in the same manner—likewise the sea and the rivers; in the same manner all creatures suffer change. Howbeit, some vary in another manner, so that the same come not again where they formerly were, nor become just what they were; but others come in their stead, as leaves on trees; and apples, grass, plants, and trees grow old and sere, and others come, wax green, and grow, and ripen; wherefore they again begin to wither. And likewise all beasts and fowls, in such manner that it is now too long to reckon them all. Yea, even men's bodies wax old, just as other creatures do; but just as they formerly lived more worthily than trees or other animals, so shall they arise more worthily on Doomsday, so that never afterward shall their bodies become naught nor wax old; and though the body had decayed, yet the soul was ever-living since first it was created.
And all the creatures, about whom we say that they seem to us inharmonious and unsteadfast, have yet somewhat of steadiness, because they are bridled with the bridle of God's commandments. God gave freedom to men's souls, that they might do either good or evil, whichever they would; and promised good for a reward to them that do good, and evil to them that do evil.
With God is prepared the well-spring of every good, and thence is prepared and granted to us every good of those which we have; He shieldeth us against every evil. Nothing is above Him, but all things are under Him, or with Him, or in Him. He created man in His own image, and every man who knoweth himself knoweth that all this is true. To that God I cry, and say:
Hear me, hear me, O Lord, for Thou art my God and my Lord, my Father, and my Creator, and my Governor, and my hope, and my riches, and my honor, and my house, and my inheritance, and my salvation, and my life. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, Thy servant. Few understand Thee.
Thee alone I love truly above all other things; Thee I seek, Thee I follow, Thee I am ready to serve; under Thy rule I wish to dwell, for Thou alone reignest. I pray Thee to command me what Thou wilt; but heal and open mine eyes that I may see Thy wonders, and drive from me folly and pride, and give me wisdom that I may understand Thee, and teach me whither I should look to behold Thee; then shall I, methinks, do gladly that which Thou commandest me.
I beseech Thee, Thou merciful, benevolent, and beneficent Lord, to receive me, Thy fugitive; since once I was formerly Thine, and then fled from Thee to the devil, and fulfilled his will, enduring much misery in his service. But if to Thee it seemeth as it doth to me, long enough have I felt the pains which I have now suffered, and longer have I served Thy foes than I should those whom Thou hast [under Thy feet].[Supplied from the Latin.] Long enough have I been in the reproach and shame which they brought on me; but do Thou receive me now, Thine own servant, for I am fleeing from them. Behold, did they not receive me even before I had fled from Thee to them? Never again restore me to them, now that I have sought Thee, but open to me Thy door, and teach me how to come. I have naught to bring Thee but good will, for I myself have nothing else, nor know I aught better than to love the heavenly and the spiritual above the earthly; and this I do, good Father, since I know naught better than that. But I know not how I shall now come to Thee except Thou teach me; teach it, then, to me, and help me. If it is by faith that they find Thee who do find Thee, give me that faith. If by any other power they find Thee who do find Thee, give me that power. If by wisdom they find Thee who find Thee, then give me wisdom. Augment in me the hope of eternal life, and increase Thy love in me.
O, how wonderful is Thy goodness, for it is unlike all other good things. I desire to come to Thee; and all that I have need of on the way I desire from Thee, and chiefly that without which I can not come to Thee. If Thou forsake me, I perish; yet I know that Thou wilt not forsake me unless I forsake Thee; nor will I forsake Thee, for Thou art the highest good. There is none who rightly seeketh Thee that doth not find Thee. He alone seeketh Thee aright whom Thou teachest aright to seek Thee, and how he should seek Thee. O, good Father, free me entirely from the error in which I have hitherto wandered, and yet wander; and teach me the way in which no foe can encounter me before I come to Thee. If I love naught above Thee, I beseech Thee that I may find Thee; and if I desire any thing beyond measure and wrongly, deliver me from it. Make me worthy to behold Thee.
Thou most ancient and most wise Father, I commit to Thee my body, that Thou mayest keep it whole. Yet I know not what I ask—whether I am asking a thing useful or useless to me or to the friends whom I love and who love me; nor do I know how long Thou wilt keep it whole. Therefore I commit and commend it to Thee, for Thou knowest better than I what I need. Wherefore I pray Thee alway to teach me, while I am in this body and this world, and help me alway to utter the counsel which is pleasing to Thee, and which is best and most righteous for me in this life. But above all other things I earnestly pray Thee to convert me wholly to Thee, and let nothing overcome me on this way, to prevent me from coming to Thee; and cleanse Thou me while I am in this world, and make me humble. Give me loftiness of soul. Make me reasonable and just and prudent and perfect; and, O God, make me a lover of Thy wisdom and a perceiver of it, and make me worthy to dwell in Thy blessed kingdom. Amen!
Now I have done as thou didst teach me; now I have prayed even as thou badest me. Then answered me my Reason and said:
R. I see that thou hast prayed; but say now what thou hast merited, or what thou wouldst have.
A. I would understand all, and know what I just now said.
R. Sum up, then, from all that thou hast just spoken about, that which seemeth to thee that thou most needest and most requirest to know; then clothe it in few words, and tell it to me.
A. I will tell it to thee at once: I would understand God and know mine own soul.
R. Wouldst thou know any thing more?
A. Many things I fain would know that I know not. Howbeit there is nothing I wish more to know than this.
R. Then inquire after and seek what thou askest, and tell me first what thou knowest with most certainty, and then say to me: 'Sufficiently known will God and my soul be to me, if they shall be as well known to me as this thing.'
A. I can name nothing so well known to me as I would that God were.
R. What, then, can we do, if thou knowest not the measure? Thou oughtest to know when it seemed to thee enough, and if thou ever come to that limit, then thou shouldst go no further, but shouldst seek something else, lest thou shouldst desire any thing beyond measure.
A. I know what thou wishest; I should illustrate to thee by some example; but I can not, for I know naught like unto God, so that I can say to thee: 'I should like to know God as well as I know this thing.'
R. I am astonished at thee, why thou sayest that thou knowest nothing like unto God, and yet dost not know what He is.
A. If I knew aught like unto Him, I would love that thing exceedingly. Since I know naught like unto Him, I love nothing but Him and mine own soul; howbeit, I know not what either of them is.
R. Thou sayest that thou lovest naught but God and thy soul; if that is true, lovest thou then no other friend?
A. Why, if I love a soul, do I not love my friend? Hath not he a soul?
R. If thou lovest thy friend because he hath a soul, why, then, lovest thou not every thing that hath a soul? Why dost thou not love mice and fleas?
A. I love them not, because they are carnal animals, not men.
R. Have not thy friends likewise bodies, even as beasts have?
A. Yet it is not on this account I love them, but because they are men, and have reason in their minds—that quality I love even in slaves. Those that I hate, I hate because they turn the good of reason into evil, since I am allowed both to love the good and to hate the evil. Therefore I love all my friends, some less, some more; and him whom I love more than another, I love him so much more than the other as I perceive that he hath a better will than the other, and the desire to make his reason more serviceable.
R. Thou understandest it well enough, and rightly enough. But if any one should now say to thee that he could teach thee how thou mightest know God as well as thou knowest Alypius thy servant, would that seem enough to thee, or how much wouldst thou thank him for it?
A. I should thank him, but nevertheless I would not answer 'enough.'
A. Alypius is better known to me than God, yet even him I know not so well as I would.
R. Look to it now that thy desire be not beyond measure, now that thou comparest them together. Wouldst thou know God just as thou dost Alypius?
A. Nay; nor do I make them the more alike, albeit I name them together. But I say that one often knoweth more about higher than about lowlier things. I know now about the moon, how it will move to-morrow and other nights; but, I know not what I shall eat to-morrow, which is a baser matter.
R. Then wouldst thou know enough about God, if He should be as well known to thee as the motion of the moon—in what constellation it now is, or into which it is going next?
A. Nay; I wish that He were better known to me than the moon which I see with mine eyes. Yet I do not know but that God may, for some secret reasons, which we know not, change it in another wise; then should I be perplexed in what I now imagine I know about it. But I would have such knowledge about God, in my reason and in my understanding, that nothing could disturb me, nor bring me into any doubt.
R. Dost thou believe, therefore, that I can make thee wiser about God than thou now art about the moon?
A. Yea; I believe it, but I should prefer to know it, for we believe all that we know, and we are ignorant of many things which we believe.
R. Methinks that thou dost not trust the external senses—eyes, ears, smell, taste, and touch—as a means of clearly understanding what thou wouldst, unless thou comprehend it in the mind by the reason.
A. That is true; I trust them not.
R. Wouldst thou know thy servant, whom we were just now speaking of, with the outer senses, or with the inner?
A. I know him now as well as I can know him with the external senses; but I should like to know his mind with my mind; then I should know what was his loyalty toward me.
R. Can one know otherwise than with the mind?
A. It doth not seem to me that I can know it as I would.
R. Dost thou, then, not know thy servant?
A. How can I know him, seeing I am not certain that I know myself? It is said in the law that one shall love his neighbor even as himself. How then do I know in what way I should love him, if I do not know whether I love myself? Nor do I know how he loveth me; yet I know that it is the same with him in regard to me.
R. If thou with the inner sense wouldst know God, why pointest thou me to the outer senses, as if thou wouldst see Him bodily, just as thou formerly saidst thou sawest the moon? I know not therefore how thou teachest it to me, nor can I teach it to any one, by the outer senses. But tell me whether it seemeth enough for thee to know God as Plato and Plotinus knew him?
A. I dare not say that it would seem to me enough, because I know not whether it seemed to them enough in regard to that which they knew. I know not whether it seemed to them that they needed to know more of Him, but even so they formerly seemed to me. [Doubtful rendering of and swa-swa me er puhton.] When I prayed, methought I did not so fully understand that which I besought as I would. But I still could not forbear to speak about it, just as it seemed to me that I needed, and just as I supposed it was.
R. Methinks now it seemeth to thee that it is one thing to know, and quite another only to suppose.
A. Yea, so methinks; therefore I would now that thou tell me what difference there is between these, or what one certainly knoweth.
R. Knowest thou that thou didst learn the science which we call geometry? In that science thou learnedst on a ball, or an apple, or a painted egg, that thou mightest by the painting understand the motion of the heavens and the course of the stars. Knowest thou that thou didst learn in the same science about a line drawn along the middle of the ball? Knowest thou what was there taught thee about the positions of the twelve stars and the path of the sun?
A. Yea; I know well enough what the line signifieth.
R. Now that thou sayest thou doubtest this no whit, dost thou not fear the Academicians, those philosophers who said that there was never anything certain beyond a doubt?
A. Nay; I do not fear them much, for they said that there never was a wise man. Therefore I am not at all ashamed not to be wise, for I know that as yet I am not wise; but if I ever become as wise as they, then I will do as they teach, until I can say that I know without doubt what I seem to myself to know.
R. I do not object at all to thy doing so. But thou sayest thou knowest about the line which was painted on the ball on which thou learnedst the revolution of this heaven; I would know whether thou also knowest about the ball on which the line is drawn.
A. Yea; I know both. No man can mistake that.
R. Didst thou learn with the eyes or with the mind?
A. With both: first with the eyes, then with the mind. The eyes brought me to the understanding; but after I had perceived it, I left off looking with the eyes, and reflected, for it seemed to me that I could contemplate much more of it than I could see, after the eyes had fixed it in my mind. Just so a ship bringeth one over the sea; when he cometh ashore, he letteth the ship stand, for it seemeth to him that he can travel more easily without it than with it. However, it seemeth easier to me to travel by skiff on dry land than to learn any science with the eyes, but without the reason—though the eyes must at times give aid.
R. Therefore thou must needs look rightly with the eyes of the mind to God, just as the ship's anchor-cable is stretched direct from the ship to the anchor, and fasten the eyes of thy mind on God, just as the anchor is fastened in the earth. Though the ship be out among the sea-billows, it will remain sound and unbroken if the cable holdeth, since one end of it is fast to the earth and the other to the ship.
A. What is that which thou callest the mind's eyes?
R. Reason, in addition to other virtues.
A. What are the other virtues?
R. Wisdom, and humility, and honor, and moderation, and righteousness, and mercy, and prudence, and constancy, and benevolence, and chastity, and abstinence. With these anchors thou art able to fasten to God the cable that shall hold the ship of thy mind.
A. May the Lord God make me entirely as thou teachest me [to be]. I would if I could, but I can not understand how I shall be able to obtain these anchors, or how I shall fasten them, except thou teach it to me more clearly.
R. I could teach thee, but I ought first to ask thee how many of this world's lusts thou hast renounced for God. After thou hast told me that, then I can say to thee without any doubt that thou hast obtained so many of the anchors as thou hast renounced the lusts of the world.
A. How can I forsake that which I know and am familiar with, and have been used to from childhood, and love that which is unknown to me except by hearsay? Howbeit, I feel sure that if I knew what thou sayest about me as certainly as what I here see for myself, I would love that, and despise this.
R. I wonder why thou speakest so. Suppose now if a letter with seal from thy lord should come to thee, canst thou say thou art not able to understand him by that, nor to recognise his will therein? If thou sayest that thou canst know his will therein, say then whether it seemeth to thee better to follow his will, or to follow after the wealth which he gave thee over and above his friendship.
A. Whether I will or not, I must speak truly, unless I am prepared to lie. If I lie, God knoweth it. Therefore I dare speak only the truth, so far as I can know it. Methinks it is better to forsake the gift, and follow the giver, who is to me the steward both of the riches and of his friendship, unless I can have both. I should like, however, to have both, if I could follow both the wealth and also his will.
R. Full rightly hast thou answered me, but I would ask thee whether thou supposest that thou canst have all that thou now hast without thy lord's friendship.
A. I do not suppose that any man is so foolish as to think that.
R. Thou understandest it rightly enough, but I would know whether thou thinkest that what thou hast is temporal or eternal.
A. I never supposed it to be eternal.
R. What thinkest thou about God and the anchors which we spake of—are they like these, or are they eternal?
A. Who is so mad as to dare say that God is not eternal?
R. If He is eternal, why lovest thou not the eternal Lord more than the temporal? Lo, thou knowest that the Eternal will not leave thee, except thou go from Him; and thou must needs depart from the other whether thou will or no; thou must either leave him, or he thee. Howbeit I perceive that thou lovest him very much, and also fearest and dost well; very rightly and very becomingly thou dost. But I wonder why thou dost not love the Other much more, Him who giveth thee both the friendship of the worldly lord and His own, and, after this world, life eternal. The Lord is the ruler of you both—thine and thy lord's whom thou so immeasurably lovest.
A. I confess to thee that I would love Him above all other things, if I could understand and know Him as I would. But I can understand very little of Him, or nothing at all, and yet at times, when I think carefully of Him, and any inspiration cometh to me about the eternal life, then I by no means prefer this present life to that, nor even love it so much.
R. Wishest thou now to see Him and clearly understand Him?
A. I have no wish above that.
R. Keep, then, His commandments.
A. What commandments?
R. I named them to thee before.
A. Methinks they are very burdensome and very manifold.
R. What one loveth, methinks, is not burdensome.
A. Nor doth any work seem burdensome to me if I can see and have what I work for. But doubt begetteth heaviness.
R. Thou graspest it well enough in speech, and well enough thou understandest it. But I can say to thee that I am the faculty of Reason, which argueth with thee—the discursive faculty whose province it is to explain to thee in such wise that thou mayest see God with thy mind's eyes as clearly as thou now seest the sun with the eyes of the body.
A. Almighty God reward thee! I am truly grateful for thy promise to teach it to me so clearly. Although I was ignorant, yet I emerge from this condition to a clearer vision of Him, if I come to see Him as I now see the sun. Howbeit I do not see the sun so clearly as I would like to. I know very little better what the sun is, though I look on it every day. Still it seemed good to me that I might thus clearly see God.
R. Now consider very earnestly what I formerly said to thee.
A. I will, so much as possible.
R. First know of a truth that the mind is the eye of the soul; secondly, thou must know that it is needful for one to see what one looketh at; the fourth is what one would see. For every one having eyes first looketh at that which he would see till he hath beheld it. When he hath beheld it then he truly seeth it. But thou must know that I who now speak with thee am Reason, and I am to every human mind what looking is to the eyes. Three things it behooveth the eyes of every human body to have; the fourth is what it seeketh and would draw to them. One is that thou hast and usest and lovest that which thou formerly didst hope for.
A. Alas! Shall I ever come to that which I hope for, or shall that ever come to me which I desire?
R. Add now love as a third besides faith and hope; for the eyes of no soul are entirely sound—especially to see God with—if lacking these three. Seeing, then, is knowing.
A. If then there be sound eyes, that is, perfect understanding, what is then wanting to it, or what is more needful?
R. The soul's vision is Reason and Contemplation. But many souls look with these, and yet see not what they desire, because they have not entirely sound eyes. But he who wisheth to see God must have the eyes of his mind whole; that is, he must have an abiding faith and a just hope and a full love. When he hath all these, then hath he life blessed and eternal. The vision which we shall catch of God is knowledge. That knowledge is between two things—between that which understandeth and that which is understood—and is fastened on both even as love is between the lover and the one loved. On both it is fastened, as we said before concerning the anchor-cable that the one end was fast to the ship, and the other to the land.
A. Then if it ever again happeneth that I can see God as thou now teachest me that I should behold Him, would I need all three of the things that thou formerly spakest about, namely: faith and hope and love?
R. What need then is there of faith, when one seeth that which he formerly exercised faith toward, and again knoweth that which he formerly hoped for? But love never waneth—it abideth greatly increased when the understanding is fixed on God; nor hath love ever any end. Omni consummatione uidi finem; latum mandatum tuum nimis: [Ps. 119. 96, inexactly quoted.] that is, of everything in the world I shall see the end, but the end of thy commandments I shall never see. That is the love about which he prophesied. But, although the soul be perfect and pure while it is in the body, it can not see God as it desireth, because of the sorrow and tribulation of the body, except with much labor through faith and hope and love. These are the three anchors which sustain the ship of the mind in the midst of the dashing of the waves. Yet the mind hath much comfort because it believeth and clearly knoweth that the misfortunes and unhappiness of this world are not eternal. So the ship's master,[Translating MS., ho feut, emended to hlaford at the suggestion of Professor Cook. Cf. translator's ed. of the OE. version, 29. 20.] when the ship rideth most unsteadily at anchor and the sea is roughest, then knoweth of a truth that calm weather is coming. Three things are needful to the eyes of each soul: One is that they be whole; the second, that they should look at what they would see; the third, that they may see what they look at. For the three is God's help necessary, for one can neither do good nor any thing without His aid. Therefore He is always to be entreated that He be ever helpful; therefore also He inspireth us and inciteth us first to be well-wishing, and afterwards worketh with us that which He willeth till such time as we perfect it with Him; and especially He worketh with us as with some powerful tool, just as it is written[1 Cor. 3. 9.] that with each well-working person God is a co-worker. We know that no man can perform any good unless God work with him; howbeit no man must be so idle as not to begin something through the strength that God giveth him.
A. Thou teachest me the right way. Now I know what I ought to do; but I do not know whether I can or can not.
R. Thou oughtest not to despair because thou canst not come at once to that which thou desirest for thyself. Can he who would learn a science ever do so in a short time, a little more or a little less? Thine is the science of all sciences, to wit, that one should seek after God and look toward Him and see Him.
A. Well thou advisest me; but I recall what thou didst formerly promise me, and very joyfully I abide that promise; thou didst promise to teach me how to see God with the eyes of my mind as clearly as I now see the sun with the eyes of my body.
R. Well thou remindest me; I will do for thee what I promised. Call to mind now that thou canst see with thy body's eyes three things in regard to the sun: One is that it existeth; another, that it shineth; the third, that it lighteth up many things with its shining. All the things which are bright, when the sun shineth on them, shine against it, each after its own kind. But those things which are not bright shine not against the sun, although it shineth on them. But the sun shineth, nevertheless, on them, and yet he who looketh toward it can not see it wholly just as it is. All this and more thou canst observe concerning God. He is the high Sun. He always abideth, lighting up with His own light both the sun which we see with bodily eyes and all creatures both spiritual and terrestrial. Therefore he seemeth to me a very foolish man who wisheth to understand Him just as He is, while we are yet in this world. Behold! I suppose that no one is so foolish that he becometh sorrowful because he can not see and understand, just as it is, the sun which we look at with corporeal eyes; but every one rejoiceth that at least he can understand according to the measure of his understanding. He doth well who desireth to understand the Eternal and Almighty Sun; but he doth very foolishly, if he wisheth to know Him perfectly while he is in this world.
A. Very wonderfully and very truly thou teachest, and very much thou hast comforted me and brought me into good hope. But I pray still for what thou aforetime didst promise me.
R. Two things I promised that I would accomplish and teach thee, to wit, to understand God and thyself. But I would know how thou desirest to understand that—whether thou wouldst believe without experience, or know by experience.
A. I would know it by experience, for I know nothing of it surely.
R. That is no wonder. I did not explain it to thee in such wise that thou couldst know it by experience; for there is yet something which thou must first know, to wit, whether we both are whole.
A. Thou must know whether thou findest any health, either in me, or in thyself, or in us both. It becometh thee to teach and me to listen; and it becometh me to answer what I understand according to the measure of my understanding, if so be I understand it at all; if I do not understand it at all, then must I admit it and leave it to thy judgment.
R. Wishest thou to know more than about God and thyself?
A. I answer thee that I do not wish anything more earnestly; but I dare not promise thee that I shall not desire any thing else than that; for it is verily hidden from me, albeit something cometh into my mind which, methinks, nothing can hinder me from furthering and performing. When another thing cometh which seemeth to me more right and reasonable, then I leave off that which I formerly held enough; and therefore at times it happeneth that something is so fixed in my mind, that I think I shall never let it go so long as I live. Howbeit there cometh to me then some trouble which occupieth me so that I can never leave it, nor can I perform it although I can not think of any better [thing to be done].[Supplied by translator.] But three things have troubled me most: One is, I fear that I must part with my friends whom I love most, or they with me—either for life or for death; the second is, I fear sickness, both the known and the unknown; the third is, I fear death.
R. I hear now what thou lovest most next to thine own reason and God: They are, the life of thy friends, and thine own health, and thine own life. Of these five things thou art afraid that thou shalt lose some, because thou lovest them all very much. If thou didst not love them, then thou hadst not dreaded that thou wouldst lose them.
A. I admit what thou sayest to me.
R. Therefore methinks that I see thee very sad and greatly cast down in thy mind, because thou hast not such health as thou hadst; nor hast thou all thy friends with thee so agreeable and harmonious as thou wouldst. Nor doth it seem to me any wonder that thou art sad for that reason.
A. Thou understandest it rightly; I can not gainsay that.
R. If then it ever happen that thou shalt find thyself full whole and full strong, and hast all thy friends with thee, both in mind and in body, and in that same work and in that same will which pleaseth thee best to do, wilt thou then be happy at all?
A. Yea, verily; if it should now suddenly happen, I do not know how on earth I would begin.
R. Hast thou not then still some trouble, such as immoderate sorrow, either of mind or of body—seeing now thou hast those two things? Wert thou, therefore, foolish in heart, when thou didst wish that thou shouldst see with such eyes the high and everlasting Sun?
A. Now thou hast overcome me withal, so that I by no means know how much of health I have, nor how much of sickness.
R. That is no wonder. No man hath such sound eyes that he can look any length of time toward the sun which we here see, much less if he have weak eyes. But those that have weak eyes can be more at ease in the darkness than in the light. Methinks, though, that it seemeth to thee that thou hast sound eyes. Thou thinkest of the health of thy soul's eyes, but thou dost not think of the great light which thou wishest to see. Be not wroth with me, albeit I question thee and examine thee, for I needs must do that. Methinks thou dost not understand thyself.
A. I am in no wise wroth with thee, but rejoice in what thou sayest, because I know that thou seekest my good.
R. Wishest thou any wealth?
A. Long ago I resolved that I should despise it. I am now three and thirty years old, and I was one less than twenty when I first resolved that I would not love wealth overmuch. Though enough should come to me, I would not rejoice very much, nor enjoy it too immoderately, nor would I gain more to keep than I could fitly make use of, and keep and support the men on, whom I must help; and the residue I think as orderly to divide as I best am able so to do.
R. Wishest thou any honor?
A. I confess to thee that I did wish that till recently desire failed.
R. Desirest thou not a beautiful wife, and withal modest and well instructed and of good manners and subject to thy will, and one who hath much substance and would not engross thee in any thing, nor hinder thee from enjoying leisure at thy will?
A. Dost thou not praise her overmuch that I may wish her all the more? For methinks there is nothing worse for him that willeth to serve God than to take a wife—though some one hath said that it is better to take one for the rearing of children. Howbeit I say that it is better for priests not to have a wife. Therefore I decided that I would take none, because I wished to be the freer to serve God.
R. I hear now that thou dost not think to take a wife; but I would know whether thou still hast any love or lust after any uncleanness.
A. Why askest thou more about that? I do not now desire that; but if lust ever cometh to me, I dread it as an adder. Ever the less is my desire for it, and ever the more I wish to see the light, even as I lust the less after this manner.
R. How about food? How much dost thou desire that?
A. I desire none of those meats which I have renounced; I desire those which I have thought right to eat, when I see them. What shall I say more either about meat, or drink, or baths, or riches, or honor, or any worldly lusts? Nor do I wish any more of these than I shall need to have for my bodily comfort and to keep my strength. Howbeit I need much more for the wants of those men which I must take care of, and moreover this I needs must have.
R. Thou art right. But I would know whether thy old covetousness and greediness be entirely extirpated and uprooted from thy mind, so that it can not still grow.
A. Why askest thou that?
R. I speak of the things which thou before saidst to me that thou hadst decided to leave off and for nothing would turn back to again, namely: overmuch wealth, and immoderate honor, and inordinately rich and luxurious living; and therefore I now ask whether, either for the love of them or for the love of any thing, thou wilt return to them again. I heard formerly that thou saidst that thou lovedst thy friends, next to God and thine own reason, above other things. Now I would know whether thou, for their love, wouldst lay hold of these things again.
A. I will lay hold of all again for their love, if I can not else have their companionship—yet it doth not please me so to do.
R. Very reasonably thou dost answer me and very rightly. Howbeit I understand that the lusts of the world are not entirely uprooted from thy mind, although the trench be prepared; for the roots can sprout thence again. Yet I impute that not to thee as a fault, for thou layest hold of it not for the love of those things but for the love of this thing which it is more right to love than that. I never ask about any man, what he doth; but yet I ask thee now why thou lovest thy friends so much, or what thou lovest in them, or whether thou lovest them for their own sake or for some other thing.
A. I love them for friendship and for companionship, and above all others I love those who most help me to understand and to know reason and wisdom, most of all about God and about our souls; for I know that I can more easily seek after Him with their help than I can without.
R. How then if they do not wish to inquire after the One whom thou seekest?
A. I shall teach them so that they will.
R. But how then if thou canst not, and if they be so foolish as to love other things more than that which thou lovest, and say that they can not or will not?
A. I, nevertheless, will have them: they will be helpful to me in some things and I likewise to them.
R. But how then if they disturb thee, and if the infirmities of the body hinder thee?
A. That is true; howbeit I would not fear at all the infirmities, if it were not for three things: One of these is heavy sorrow; another is death; the third is that I can not seek nor truly find what I desire just as thou madest me know. Toothache hindered me from all learning, but yet it did not altogether snatch from me the remembrance of that which I formerly learned. Howbeit I suppose, if I should understand certainly that which I yearn to understand, sorrow would seem to me very little, or else naught, compared with faith. Yet I know many a pain is much sharper than toothache, albeit I never suffered any sharper. I learned that Cornelius Celsus taught in his books that in every man wisdom is the highest good and sickness the greatest evil. The saying appeareth to me very true. Concerning the same thing the same Cornelius saith: 'Of two things we are what we are, to wit, of soul and of body. The soul is spiritual, and the body earthy. The best faculty of the soul is wisdom, and the worst affliction of the body is sickness.' Methinks moreover that this is not false.
R. Have we not now shown clearly enough that wisdom is the highest good? Is it not also beyond a doubt that it is to every man the best of all the virtues? And is it not his best work to search after wisdom, and love it whenever he findeth it? But I would that we two might now search out who the lovers of this wisdom should be. Dost thou not know that every man who loveth another very much liketh better to caress and kiss the other on the bare body than where the clothes come between? Now I understand that thou lovest wisdom very much, and wishest so much to know and feel it naked that thou wouldst not that any cloth were between; but it will seldom so openly reveal itself to any man. At those times when it will show any limb thus bare, it doth so to very few men; but I know not how thou canst receive it with gloved hands. Thou must also place the bare body against it, if thou wilt feel it. But tell me now, if thou lovedst a certain beautiful woman very immoderately and above all other things, and if she fled from thee and would reciprocate thy love on no other condition than that thou wouldst renounce every other love for hers alone, wouldst thou then do as she wished?
A. Alas! what a hard thing thou dost enjoin upon me! Didst thou not formerly admit that I loved nothing above wisdom, and moreover I too admitted it, albeit thou saidst then that whoever loveth one thing for the sake of another, he doth not of a truth love that former thing for which he professeth love, but really that for which he loved the former thing and thought to obtain it. Therefore I assert that I love wisdom for no other thing than for its own sake. I love all the world—each thing as I consider it profitable, and especially that thing most which helpeth me to wisdom; and moreover those things which I fear most to lose. Howbeit I do not love any thing else in such wise as I love wisdom. Every thing which I love most I grant, while I love it most, to no man but to myself, except wisdom alone. It I love above all other things, and yet of my free will I would grant it to every man, so that all who are on this earth might love it and search after it, yea, find it, and then use it; for I know that each of us would love the other by so much more as our will and our love were more in unison.
R. Said I not formerly that he who would feel the bare body must feel it with bare hands? And I say also, if thou wilt behold wisdom itself thus bare, that thou must not allow any cloth between thine eyes and it, nor even any mist; albeit to that thou canst not come in this present life, though I enjoin it upon thee, and though thou wish it. Wherefore no man ought to despair, though he have not so sound eyes as he who can look the sharpest; even he who can look the sharpest of all can not himself see the sun just as it is while he is in this present life. Yet no man hath such weak eyes that he can not live by the sun and use it, if he can see at all, unless he be purblind. Moreover, I can teach unto thee other parables about wisdom. Consider now whether any man seeketh there the king's home where he is in town, or his court, or his army, or whether it seemeth to thee that they all must come thither by the same road; on the contrary, I suppose they would come by very many roads: some would come from afar, and would have a road very long and very bad and very difficult; some would have a very long and very direct and very good road; some would have a very short and yet hard and strait and foul one; some would have a short and smooth and good one; and yet they all would come to one and the same lord, some more easily, some with more difficulty; neither do they come thither with like ease, nor are they there alike at ease. Some are in more honor and in more ease than others; some in less, some almost without, except the one that he loveth. So is it likewise with wisdom. Each one who wisheth it and who anxiously prayeth for it, he can come to it and abide in its household and live near it; yet some are nearer it, others farther from it; just so is every king's court: some dwell in cottages, some in halls, some on the threshing-floor, some in prison; and yet they all live by the favor of one lord, just as all men live under one sun, and by its light see what they see. Some look very carefully and very clearly; some see with great difficulty; others are stark blind, yet use the sun. But just as the visible sun lighteth the eyes of our body, so wisdom lighteth the eyes of our mind, which is our understanding. And just as the eyes of the body are more sound, thus to use more of the sun's light, so is it also with the mind's eyes, that is, the understanding: just by so much as that is sounder, by so much more may it see the eternal sun, which is wisdom. Every man that hath sound eyes needeth no other guide nor teacher to see the sun, except health. If he hath sound eyes, he may himself look at the sun. On the contrary, if he hath unsound eyes, then he needeth that one teach him to look first on the wall, then on gold, and on silver; when he can more easily look on that, [then let him look][Supplied by translator.] on fire, before he looketh at the sun. Then after he hath learned that his eyes do not at all avoid the fire, let him look on the stars and on the moon, then on sunshine, before he looketh on the sun itself. And just so with the other sun that we formerly spake of, that is, wisdom. He who wisheth to see it with his mind's eyes must begin very gradually, and then little by little mount nearer and nearer by steps, just as if he were climbing on a ladder and wished to ascend some sea-cliff. If he then ever cometh up on the cliff, he may look both over the shore and over the sea, which then lieth beneath him, and also over the land that formerly was above him. But if it seemeth good to us, let us stop here for this day, and to-morrow seek further after the same thing which we before sought after.
A. Nay, not at all; but I humbly pray thee that thou weary not, nor leave off the conversation here; but say somewhat more clearly about it so that I may more clearly feel and understand something concerning this wisdom, and bid me what thou wilt. I will understand it, if it lies in my power.
R. I know not anything to command thee of which thou hast more need for the science which thou wishest to know, than that thou despise, so much as thou art able, worldly honors, and especially intemperate and unlawful ones, because I fear that they may bind thy mind to themselves and take it with their snare, just as one catcheth wild beasts or fowls, so that thou canst not accomplish what thou wishest; for I know that the freer thou art from the things of this world, the more clearly thou shalt understand about the wisdom which thou desirest; and if it ever happen that thou canst so entirely forsake them that thou desirest naught of them, then shall I be able to say to thee forsooth (believe me if thou wilt), that in that very hour thou shalt know all that thou wishest now to know, and shalt have all that thou wishest to have.
A. When shall that be? I do not believe that it will ever be that I shall not yearn at all after this world's honors, unless one thing happen, namely: that I see those honors which thou promisest me. Howbeit I know not that it would please me so well to yearn no more after this world's honors.
R. Now methinks thou dost not answer me with reason. Methinks that thou speakest very much as if thine eyes should say to thy mind: 'We will never avoid the darkness of the night until we can see the sun itself.' Thus, methinks, the eyes do, if they avoid that part of the sun's light which they can see. It can not happen even to the soundest of all eyes that they can look from this world and see the sun as it is. By this thou mayest conclude that thou oughtest not to sigh though thou canst not see wisdom naked with the eyes of thy mind just as it is; for thou canst never do that while thou art in the darkness of thy sins. But enjoy the wisdom which thou hast, and have joy in the part which thou canst understand, and seek more with thy whole heart. Wisdom itself knoweth what thou art worthy of, and how much it may show itself to thee. There is naught worse in a man than to suppose that he is worthy of what he is not. The physician knoweth better than the sick whether he can be healed or not, or whether he can be healed by mild or by severe treatment. Therefore thou must not excuse thyself too much, nor sigh too much after aught. The eyes of thy mind are not so wholly sound as thou dost suppose.
A. Cease, O cease! Do not vex me, nor increase my sorrow. Enough have I, though thou increase it not. Thou seekest it at times so high, at times so deep, that I understand now that I am not such as I supposed, but I am ashamed that I supposed that which was not. Truly enough thou hast said. The Physician whom I wish to heal me knoweth how sound my eyes are. He knoweth what He wisheth to show me. To Him I commit myself, and to His goodness I entrust myself. May He do unto me according to His will! On Him I call, that He may make fast my soul to Him. I will never again say that I have sound eyes until I see wisdom itself.
R. I know no better advice for thee than thou formerly saidst. But leave off woe and sorrow, and be measurably happy. Thou wert formerly too immoderately sorrowful, for sorrow injureth both mind and body.
A. Thou wouldst restrain my weeping and my sorrow, and still I perceive no limit to my misery and misfortunes. Thou bidst me leave off sorrow lest I, either in mind or in body, be weaker; yet I find no strength, either in mind or body, but am full nigh in despair. But I beseech thee, if thou in any wise canst, to lead me by some shorter way, somewhat nearer the light of the understanding which I long ago desired and yet could not come by in my ignorance; notwithstanding that I may afterwards be ashamed to look again toward the darkness which I formerly desired to forsake, if ever I draw nigh to the light.
R. Let us now end this book here properly, and name a shorter way in another book, if we can.
A. Nay, nay; let us not leave this book yet until I am able to understand that which we are after.
R. Methinks I ought to do as thou bidst me. Something draweth me on, I know not what, but I surmise it is the God thou seekest after.
A. Thanks be to Him that adviseth thee, and to thee also, if thou praise Him. Lead whither thou wilt: I will follow after thee if I can.
R. Methinks thou desirest still to know that same thing about God and thy soul which thou didst formerly desire.
A. Yea, that alone I desire.
R. Wishest thou aught more? Wishest thou not to know truth?
A. How can I, without truth, know aught of truth, or what wilt thou say, without truth, that God is? For we hear it read in the Gospel that Christ said that He is the way, the truth, and the life.
R. Rightly thou sayest; but I would know whether it seemeth to thee that the true and truth are one [and the same thing].
A. Two things, methinks, they are, just as wisdom is one thing, and that which is wise is another; and likewise chastity is one thing, and that which is chaste is another.
R. Which, then, doth seem to thee better, the true or truth?
A. Truth; for all that is true is so because of truth; and every thing that is chaste is so because of chastity; and he who is wise is so because of wisdom.
R. Thanks be to God that thou understandest it so well. Howbeit I would know whether thou suppose, if a wise man were dead, wisdom would be dead. Or again, if a chaste man were dead, chastity would be dead. Or if a truthful man were dead, would truth then be dead.
A. Nay, nay, verily; that can not come to pass.
R. Well dost thou understand it. But I would know whether thou suppose that wisdom is gone, or chastity, or truth, when the man passeth away; or whence they formerly came, or where they are, if they exist? Or whether they be corporeal, or spiritual? For no man doubteth that every thing that is existeth somewhere.
A. Very searching is thy question, and pleasant for him to know who can know it. What is wanting to him who knoweth that?
R. Canst thou recognize the righteous and the unrighteous?
A. Yea, to some extent; not, however, as I would. But I would like to know what thou formerly didst ask.
R. I wonder why thou hast so completely forgotten what thou only a little before didst admit that thou knewest. Didst thou not say before that thou knewest truth to be eternal, although the true man passed away? And now thou sayest, 'If it existeth.'
A. That same thing I say still. I know that it abideth, although the true man passeth away.
R. All that is true abideth while it doth exist; but that which thou callest truth is God. He ever was, and ever will be, immortal and eternal. God hath all knowledge in Himself sound and perfect. He hath made two eternal things, to wit, angels and men's souls, to which He gave some portion of eternal gifts, such as wisdom and righteousness, and many others which it seemeth to us too numerous to count. To angels He giveth according to their capacity, and to the souls of men He giveth gifts according to the capacity of each. These same they need never lose, for they are everlasting, and to men He giveth many and divers good gifts in this world, although they be not eternal. Howbeit they are serviceable while we are in this world. Dost thou yet understand that souls are immortal? If thou hast understood it, do not conceal it from me, but confess it. If it is otherwise, tell me then.
A. Thanks be to God for the part I know. I will now consider this and hold it as I best can, and if I have doubts about any thing, I will promptly tell them to thee.
R. Believe firmly in God, and commit thyself wholly to God, and seek not too much the fulfilling of thine own will above His; but be His servant, not thine own; and confess that thou art His servant. Then He will raise thee ever nearer and nearer to himself, and will not let any adversity befall thee. Howbeit if He permit any adversity to befall thee, it will be for thy good, although thou canst not understand it.
A. That I both hear and believe, and this instruction I will follow as I best can, and will pray God that I may fulfil it as thou long ago didst instruct me; do thou now teach me, if thou wilt.
R. Do this for me first, and tell me again, after thou hast studied this, what thou likest of this; and if thou doubtest aught about any of these things, then tell it to me.