A. Alas! Long have we been unoccupied, yet we have not sought after what thou didst promise me.
R. Let us make amends for it; let us carry it forward into another book.
A. Yea, let us indeed.
R. Let us believe that God is our Helper.
A. Truly would I that we believed it, if I had power. But methinks faith is not in our power, in such measure as we seek, unless God give it to us.
R. Both faith and all the good that we shall have. Therefore I know not what else we can do without His help. Howbeit I advise thee that thou begin it. Pray in as few words as thou most sincerely canst, and ask for that which is and may be most needful for thee.
A. Then said I: 'Lord, Lord, Thou who remainest unchangeable, grant me these two things which I always wished, to wit, that I may understand Thee and myself.' Now I have done as thou didst instruct me; truly have I prayed.
R. Now I hear what thou wishest to know. Howbeit I would first learn from thee whether thou knowest without doubt that thou dost exist or not; or that thou dost live or dost not live.
A. These are two things which I certainly know.
R. What now wishest thou to know?
A. Whether I be immortal.
R. I hear that thou wouldst live always.
A. That I confess.
R. Wilt thou, then, know enough if I cause thee to know that thou mayest live always?
A. That is a very good desire; yet say what I ask thee about: whether I shall live always; and then I would know whether I, after the parting of the body and the soul, shall ever know more than I now know of all that which I have long wished to know; for I can not find any thing better in man than that he know, and nothing worse than that he be ignorant.
R. Now I know all that thou wishest: One thing is, thou wouldst exist; another, thou wouldst live; the third, thou wouldst know. And I know also why thou wishest these three things: Thou wouldst exist in order to live, and thou wouldst live in order to know. And these three things I hear that thou certainly knowest: Thou knowest that thou art, and thou knowest that thou livest, and thou also knowest that thou knowest something, albeit thou knowest not all that thou wouldst know.
A. That is true. These three things I know, and these three things I desire. I would exist in order that I may live. What would I care whether I existed, if I lived not? Or what would I care for life, if I knew nothing?
R. Now I hear that thou lovest all that thou dost love on account of these three things, and I know also which of the three things thou lovest most. Thou lovest to exist because thou wouldst live, and thou wouldst live in order to know. Thus I perceive that thou lovest wisdom above all other things. That, methinks, is the highest good, and also thy God.
A. Truth thou sayest to me. What is the highest wisdom other than the highest good? Or what is the highest good except that every man in this world love God as much as he loveth wisdom—whether he love it much, or little, or moderately? So much as he loveth wisdom, so much doth he love God.
R. Very rightly thou hast understood it. But I would we began again where we were before. Now thou knowest that thou art, and that thou livest, and that thou knowest something, albeit not so much as thou wouldst; and a fourth thing thou wouldst also know, to wit, whether the three things all be eternal or not, or whether any of them be eternal; or, if they are all eternal, whether any of them after this world in the eternal life shall either become worse or wane.
A. All my yearning hast thou understood very well.
R. About what doubtest thou now? Didst thou not before confess that God is eternal and almighty, and hath created two rational and eternal creatures, as we before said, namely: angels and men's souls, to which He hath given eternal gifts? These gifts they need never lose. If thou now rememberest this and believest this, then knowest thou beyond doubt that thou art, and always wilt be, and always wilt love, and always wilt know something, albeit thou mayest not know all that thou wouldst. Now thou knowest about those three things that thou askedst about, namely: (1) Whether thou art immortal; (2) Whether thou shalt know something throughout eternity; (3) Whether thou, after the parting of the body and the soul, shalt know more than thou now knowest, or less. After the fourth we shall still seek—now that thou knowest the three—until thou also know that.
A. Very orderly thou dost explain it, but I will yet say to thee what I firmly believe, and about what I yet doubt. I do not doubt at all about God's immortality and about His omnipotence, for it can not be else respecting the trinity and the unity, which was without beginning and is without end. Therefore I can not otherwise believe, for He hath created so great and so many and so wonderful visible creatures; and He ruleth them all and directeth them all, and at one time adorneth them with the most winsome appearances, while at another time He taketh away their adornments and beauties. He ruleth the kings who have the most power on this earth—who like all men are born, and also perish like other men. Then He letteth them rule while He willeth. For such and for many such things I do not know how I can doubt His eternity; and also about the life of our souls I do not now doubt any more. But I doubt yet about the eternity of souls, whether they are immortal.
R. About what dost thou doubt? Are not all the holy books well nigh full of the immortality of the soul? But methinks that too long to enumerate now in full, and too long for thee to hear.
A. I have heard a good deal of it, and I also believe it; but I desire rather to know it than to believe it.
R. I wonder why thou yearnest to know so very much and so certainly what no man in the prison of this present life ever so certainly could know as thou wishest, although many yearn to understand it more clearly in this present life than many others believe it from the sayings of these and truthful men. No one can ever understand all that he would, till the soul be parted from the body; nor indeed before Doomsday so clearly as he would. And yet the holy Fathers that were before us knew very truly about that which thou before didst ask, to wit, about the immortality of men's souls, which was so clear to them that they had no doubt, since they despised this present life [A break in the MS.] ... they would be parted; and just as they endured the greatest torments in this world, so they would afterward have the greater reward in the eternal life. Through the sayings of such men we should infer that we can not understand it as clearly as they could; howbeit as regards the immortality of the soul, if thou dost not yet assent to it, I will make thee to understand it, and I will also cause thee to be ashamed that thou understoodest it so slowly.
A. Even so do! Cause me to be ashamed therefor.
R. Behold, I know that thou hast to-day the lord whom thou trustest in all things better than thyself; and so also hath many a servant who hath a less powerful lord than thou hast; and I know that thou hast also many friends whom thou trustest well enough, though thou dost not trust them altogether so well as thou dost thy lord. How seemeth it to thee now, if thy lord should tell thee some news which thou never before heardest, or if he should say to thee that he saw something which thou never sawest? Doth it seem to thee that thou wouldst doubt his statement at all, because thou didst not see it thyself?
A. Nay, nay, verily; there is no story so incredible that I would not believe it, if he should tell it. Yea, I even have many companions, whom, if they should say that they themselves saw or heard it, I would believe just as well as if I myself saw or heard it.
R. I hear now that thou believest thy lord better than thyself, and thy companions quite as well as thyself. Thou dost very rightly and very reasonably, in that thou hast such good faith in them. But I would that thou shouldst tell me whether Honorius, the son of Theodosius, seem to thee wiser or more truthful than Christ, the Son of God.
A. Nay, verily nay; nowhere near! But methinks that it is difficult for thee to compare them together. Honorius is very good, although his father was better; the latter was very devout and very prudent and very rightly of my lord's kin; and so is he who still liveth there. I will honor them just as a man should a worldly lord, and the others of whom thou didst formerly speak just as their masters, and as one should the king who is the King of all kings, and the Creator and Ruler of all creatures.
R. Now I hear that the Almighty God pleaseth thee better than Theodosius; and Christ, the Son of God, better than Honorius, the son of Theodosius. I blame thee not that thou lovest both, but I advise thee to love the higher lords more, for they know all that they wish and can perform all that they wish.
A. All that thou sayest is true. I believe it all.
R. Now I hear that thou trustest the higher lord better. But I would know whether it seem to thee that thy worldly lords have wiser and truer servants than the higher lords have. Trustest thou now thyself and thy companions better than thou dost the Apostles, who were the servants of Christ Himself? Or the Patriarchs? Or the Prophets, through whom God Himself spake to His people what He would?
A. Nay, nay; I trust not ourselves so well, nor anywhere near, as I do them.
R. What spake God then more often, or what said He more truly through His Prophets to His people than about the immortality of souls? Or what spake the Apostles and all the holy Fathers more truly if not about the eternity of souls and about their immortality? Or what meant Christ, when He said in His Gospel: 'The unrighteous shall go into eternal torments, and the righteous into eternal life'? Now thou hearest what said Christ and His Apostles; and I heard before that thou didst doubt nothing of the word of Honorius and his servants. Why doubtest thou, then, about the words of Christ, the Son of God, and those of the Apostles, which they themselves uttered? They spake to us more of such like words than we can count, and with many examples and proofs they explained it to us. Why canst thou, then, not believe them all, and why saidst thou before that thou wert their man?
A. So I say still, and say that I believe them, and also know exactly that it is all true that God either through Himself or through them said; for there are more of these occurrences in the holy books than I can ever count. Therefore I am now ashamed that I ever doubted about it, and I confess that I am rightly convinced, and I shall always be much happier when thou dost convince me of such things than I ever was when I convinced another man. All this I knew, however, before; but I forgot it, as I fear also that I shall this. I know also that I had so clean forgotten it that I should never have remembered it again, if thou hadst not cited me clearer examples, both about my lord and about many parables.
R. I wonder why thou couldst ever suppose that men's souls were not eternal, for thou clearly enough knewest that they are the highest and the most blessed of the creatures of God; and thou knowest also clearly enough that He alloweth no creature entirely to pass away so that it cometh to naught—not even the most unworthy of all. But He beautifieth and adorneth all creatures, and again taketh away their beauty and adornments, and yet again reneweth them. They all so change, however, that they pass away, and suddenly come again and return to that same beauty and to the same winsomeness for the children of men, in which they were before Adam sinned. Now thou canst perceive that no creature so fully passeth away that it cometh not again, nor so fully perisheth that it doth not become something. Now that the weakest creatures do not pass away entirely, why then supposest thou that the most blessed creature should entirely depart?
A. Alas! I am beset with wretched forgetfulness, so that I can not remember it as well as before. Methinks now that thou hadst explained it to me clearly enough by this one example, though thou hadst said nothing more.
R. Seek now in thyself the examples and the signs, and thou canst know well what thou before wouldst know, and what I explained to thee by the concrete examples. Ask thine own mind why it is so desirous and so zealous to know what was formerly, before thou wert born, or ever thy grandfather was born; and ask it also why it knoweth what is now present and what it seeth and heareth every day; or why it wisheth to know what shall be hereafter. Then I suppose it will answer thee, if it is discreet, and say that it desireth to know what was before us for the reason that it always existed since the time that God created the first man; and therefore aspireth to what it formerly was, to know what it formerly knew, although it is now so heavily weighed with the burden of the body that it can not know what it formerly knew. And I suppose that it will say to thee that it knoweth what it here seeth and heareth, because it is here in this world; and I suppose also that it will say that it wisheth to know what shall happen after our days, because it knoweth that it shall ever be.
A. Methinks now that thou hast clearly enough said that every man's soul ever is, and ever shall be, and ever was since God first made the first man.
R. There is no doubt that souls are immortal. Believe thine own reason, and believe Christ, the Son of God, and believe all His sayings, because they are very reliable witnesses; and believe thine own soul, which always saith to thee through its reason that it is in thee; it saith also that it is eternal, because it wisheth eternal things. It is not so foolish a creature as to seek that which it can not find, nor wish for that which doth not belong to it. Give over now thy foolish doubting. Clear enough it is that thou art eternal and shalt ever exist.
A. That I hear and that I believe and clearly know, and I am rejoiced as I never was at anything. Now I hear that my soul is eternal and ever liveth, and that the mind shall ever hold all that my mind and my reason gathered of good virtues. And I hear also that my intellect is eternal. But I wish yet to know what I before asked about the intellect: whether it shall, after the parting of the body and the soul, wax or wane, or shall stand still in one place, or do as it before did in this world—for a time wax, then for a time wane. I know now that life and reason are eternal, albeit I fear that it shall be in that world as it is here in children. I do not suppose that the life there shall be without reason, any more than it is here in children; in that case there would be too little winsomeness in that life.
R. I hear now what thou wouldst know, but I can not tell thee in a few words. If thou wilt know it clearly, then shalt thou seek it in the book which we call De Videndo Deo. In English the book is called Of Seeing God. But be now of good cheer, and think over what thou hast now learned, and let us both pray that He may help us, for He promised that He would aid every one who called on Him and rightly wished it; and He promised without any doubt that He would teach us after this world that we might very certainly know perfect wisdom and full truthfulness, which thou mayest hear about more clearly in the book which I have before named to thee—De Videndo Deo.