1. After the consideration of the essential (conditions of God), the eye of the intelligence must be lifted up to survey the Most Blessed Trinity, so as to set up the one Cherub alongside the other.6  Moreover just as ‘being’ itself is the radical principle and name of the vision of essential (conditions), through which all others become known (innotescunt); so the Good itself is the most principle foundation of the contemplation of emanations.

2. Therefore see and attend (to this), that ‘the best’ (is) what is simply (speaking) ‘that than which nothing better can be thought’; and so is this of which we speak (hoc tale), because It cannot be rightly thought not to be, because ‘to be’ is entirely better than ‘not to be’;7 thus it is, that It cannot rightly be thought, if It is not thought of as Triune and One.  For « the good is said to be diffusive of itself »; therefore the Most High Good is most highly diffusive of Itself.  However a most high diffusion cannot be, unless it be actual and intrinsic, substantial and hypostatic, natural and voluntary, liberal and necessary, unfailing and perfect. Therefore unless there be eternally in the Most High Good an actual and consubstantial production, and a hypostasis equally noble,8 as is one producing through the manner (per modum) of generation and spiration — so that there be an eternal (production) of an eternally co-principiant principle — so that there  would be a beloved (dilectus), a co-beloved (condilectus), a begotten and a spirated, that is, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; it would never be the Most High Good, because it would not diffuse itself most highly. For diffusion in time (ex tempore) into creatures is not but as a center and/or point in respect to the immensity of the eternal Goodness;9 whence any diffusion can also be thought greater than that, namely that, in which diffusing itself it communicates to the other its whole substance . . .

1  Liber de Causis, proposition 17:  Every virtue united is more infinite than virtue multiplied.
2  As (St.) Augustine notes above on p. 19, footnote 7.  Cfr. Dionysius (the Areopagite), De Divinis Nominibus, ch. 13, § 3, where he shows, that with their unity removed, all things perish and, that all things exist from the one God.  —  Above this against nearly all the codices, in place of For what is most highly one is (Quod enimsumme unum est est) the editions have For because (It is) most highly one, for that reason (Quia enim summe unum, ideo).
3  Alan de L’Isle, Rules of Theology, rule 7.  Cf. Sent., Bk. I, d. 37, p. I, a. 1, q. 1, ad 3.  See also the words of (Pope St.) Gregory (the Great) above on p. 81, footnote 3.  —  the following sentence is from Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae, poem 9:  And remaining stable Thou dost grant that all others be moved.  Even very many codices and editions 1 and 2 have stable (stabilis) in place of stable (stabile).
4  1 Cor. 15:28.
5  Rom. 11:36.  —  The following passage is Exod. 33:19.
6  Exod. 25:19 :  Let one Cherub be on one side, and the other on the other.  —  Through the words placed below radical principle (principium radicale) etc. there is hinted at that which now is commonly called the metaphysical essence (essentia metaphysica).
7  According to (St.) Anselm (of Canterbury);  cf. above p. 47, footnote 7.  —  On the following items see above Quaestiones de mysterio Trinitatis, throughout, and Breviloquium, p. I, ch. 2 ff.  —  That sentence:  «  the good is diffusive of itself », is taken from Dionysius (the Areopagite), cited above on p. 60, in footnote 7.  —  Above after ‘the best’ (optimum) supply: is.
8  With A C E I P and editions 1 and 2, we have substituted hypostasis in place of hypostatical, B hypostalis (!).  Concerning the parenthetical statement, cf. Sent., Bk. I, d. 29, a. 2 and its dubia;  scil.  principle « stands here for the paternity and spiration together » (ibid, dubium 1).
9  Alan de L’Isle, Rules of Theology, rule 7, explaining the words near the end of the preceding chapter, God is an intelligible sphere etc., says:  A creature is called His center, because, just as time considered from eternity is reputed a moment, so the creature, compared to His immensity, a point and/or center.  —  In place of as a center and/or point (centralis vel punctalis) — B I P omit and/or point (vel punctalis) — H K L M faultily have essential (essentialis); F G read is not essential (non est essentialis).  Then in place of whence . . . can also (unde et potest), which A B P exhibit, the other codices and editions faultily have whence (unde) — the editions adding also (et) — . . . cannot (non potest).



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and nature.  Therefore it would not be the Most High Good, if it were able in reality (in re), and/or in understanding (intellectu) to be lacking.

Therefore, if you can, with the eye of your mind survey the purity of goodness, which is the pure act of the Principle loving (diligentis) in a charitable manner (caritative) with a love (amore), free and due and commingled from both,1 which is the fullest diffusion by means (per modum) of a nature and will, which is a diffusion by means of the Word, in which all things are said, and by means of the Gift, in whom all other gifts are given; (then) you can see, through the most high communicability of the Good, that the Trinity, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, is necessary. Among Whom it is necessary on account of Most High Goodness that there be a most high communicability, and from the most high communicability a most high consubstantiality, and from the most high consubstantiality a most high configurability, and from these a most high co-equality, and through this (per hoc) a most high co-eternity, and from all the aforesaid a most high co-intimacy, by which One is in the Other necessarily through a most high circumincession and One works (operatur) with an Other through the omnimodal2 indivision of the Substance and Virtue and Activity (operationem) of the Most Blessed Trinity Itself.

3. But when you contemplate these, see, that you do not consider yourself able (te existimes) to comprehend the incomprehensible.  For in these six conditions you still have to consider what leads the eye of our3 mind vehemently into the stupor of admiration.  For there is a most high communicability with the property of the Persons, a most high consubstantiality with the plurality of the hypostases, a most high configurability with discrete personality, a most high co-equality with order, a most high co-eternity with emanation, a most high co-intimacy with a sending-forth (emissione). Who at the sight (ad aspectum) of so great wonders does not rise up together (with them) in admiration?  —  But all these we most certainly understand to be (esse) in the Most Blessed Trinity, if we raise our eyes to (Its) most superexcellent Goodness.  For if there is a most high communication and true diffusion, there is a true origin and a true distinction; and because the Whole is communicated, not the part; for that reason4 That which is given, is What is had, and It is the Whole; therefore the One emanating and the One producing, both are distinguished in properties, and are essentially One. Therefore because They are distinguished in properties, for that reason They have personal properties and a plurality of Hypostases and an emanation of origin and an order not of posteriority, but of origin, and an sending-forth not of a change of place (localis mutationis), but by the gratuity of inspiration, on account of (per rationem) of the authority of the One producing, which the One sending has in respect to the One being sent.   —  On the other hand, because They are substantially One, for that reason it is proper, that there be a Unity in essence and form and dignity and eternity and existence and incircumscriptibility.  —  Therefore while you consider these (conditions) singly through themselves, you have that from which to (unde) contemplate the Truth; while comparing (confers) these one to another, you have that from which to be suspended unto the highest admiration; and for that reason, as your mind ascends through admiration into admirable contemplation, these (conditions) must be considered together (haec simul sunt consideranda).

4. For the Cherubim, who used to look at one another (se mutuo aspiciebant), also designate this.  Nor was this free from mystery, because they looked backwards (respiciebant) at each other in the face upon the propitiatory5 to verify that which the Lord says in (the Gospel of) John: This is eternal life, to know (cognoscant) Thee the only True God, and Him whom Thou has sent, Jesus Christ.  For we ought to admire not only the essential and personal conditions of God, in themselves, but also through a comparison to the super-wonderful union of God and man in the unity of the Person of Christ.

5. For if you are a Cherub in contemplating the essential (conditions) of God, and you wonder, because at the same time the Divine ‘Being’ is First and Last, Eternal and Most Present, Most Simple and Greatest or Uncircumscribed, wholly everywhere and never comprehended, Most Actual and never moved, Most Perfect and having nothing superfluous nor diminished, and nevertheless Immense and Infinite without terminus, Most Highly One, and nevertheless Omnimodal, as having all things in Himself, as All Virtue, All Truth, All Good; look back (respice) towards the Propitiatory and wonder, that in Himself the First Principle has been joined with the last (postremo), God with the man formed on the sixth day,6 the Eternal One has been joined with temporal man, in the fullness of times born from the Virgin, the Most Simple with the most highly composite, the Most Actual with one who has most highly suffered (passo) and died, the Most Perfect and Immense with the little measure (modico), the Most Highly One and Omnimodal with the composite individual and distinct from all others, that is with the Man Christ Jesus.

6. Moreover if you are the other Cherub by contemplating the things proper (propria) to the Persons, and you wonder, that communicability is (joined) with property, consubstantiality with plurality, configurability with personality, co-equality with order, co-eternality with production, co-intimacy with sending-forth, because the Son has been sent from the Father, and the Holy Spirit from Them both, who nevertheless is with Them and never recedes from Them; look back upon the propitiatory and wonder, because in Christ a personal union stands with a trinity of substances7 and a duality of natures; an omnimodal consensus (consensio) stands with a plurality of wills, a co-predication of God and man stands with a plurality of properties, . . .

1  Richard of St. Victor proposes this division of ‘love’ (amoris), De Trinitate, Bk. V, ch. 16 ff..  Cf. tome I, p. 57, footnote 7, and p. 199, footnote 4.  —  Concerning the following proposition, cf. above p. 87, footnote 1; p. 211, footnote 2, and Sent., Bk. I, text of Master (Peter), d. XVIII, ch. 1.
2  B D H K M N have the most high (summam).
3  A has your (tuae).
4  Thus D F H K L N; the other codices and the editions have the same (idem).
5  Exod. 25:20 :  And they looked backwards at each other in the etc..  (Not a few codices have in the propitiatory (in propitiatorio)).  —  The following citation is Jn 17:3 :  But this is eternal life etc..
6  Gen. 1:26.  —  This exposition is taken from (St.) Ireneus; cf. above p. 241, footnote 6.  —  On the Incarnation see Breviloquium, p. IV, ch. 1 ff.  —  In place of the last (postremo) M has the extreme (extremo).
7  Cf. above ch. 1, n. 3, and p. 64, footnote 10.  —  A major part of the codices omit look back upon the propitiatory and (respice in propitiatorium et).



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a co-adoration stands with a plurality of nobilities, a co-exaltation above all (things) stands with a plurality of dignities, a co-domination stands a plurality of powers.

7. Moreover in this consideration there is a perfection of the illumination of the mind, while as on the sixth day one sees that man has been made to the image of God.1  For if the image is an expressive similitude, while our mind contemplates in Christ the Son of God, who is the invisible Image of God by nature, our humanity so wonderfully exalted, so ineffably united, by seeing together (simul) in one thing (in unum) the First and last, the Most High and most deep (imus), the Circumference and center, the Alpha and the Omega, the caused and the Cause, the Creator and the creature, that is the book written inside and out; it has already arrived at a certain perfect reality (rem), so that it may with God arrive at the perfection of His illuminations on the sixth step as if on the sixth day, and so that nothing more ample may now remain except the Day of rest, in which through an excess of the mind the perspicacity of the human mind rests from every work, which it would accomplish (patraret).2



1. Therefore having run the course of these six considerations (sex considerationibus excursis), as if of the six steps of the throne of the true Solomon, by which one arrives at peace, where the true Pacifier rests in a pacifying mind as if in the interior of Jerusalem; as if also of the six wings of the Cherub, by which the mind of the true contemplative is able (valeat) to be driven above by a full brightening of supernal wisdom; as if also of the first six days, in which the mind has to be exercised, to arrive at last to the Sabbath of quiet;3 after which our mind has surveyed God outside of itself through vestiges and in vestiges, within itself through image and in image, above itself through a similitude of the divine light glittering above us and in that Light itself, according to what is possible according to the state of the way and the exercise of our mind; when one arrives on the sixth step as far as this (tantum ad hoc), that in the First and Most High Principle and the Mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ,4 one gazes upon those things the like of which can in nowise be discovered (reperiri) among creatures, and which exceed every perspicacity of the human intellect: it follows, that this (mind) by gazing transcends and passes-over not only this sensible world, but also its very self; in which transitus Christ is the Way and the Gate,5 Christ is the Stair and the Vehicle as the propitiatory located above the ark of God and the Sacrament hidden from the ages.

2. Towards which propitiatory he who looks at it with a full conversion of face, by looking at him suspended upon the Cross through faith, hope and charity, devotion, admiration, exultation, appreciation (appretiationem), praise and jubilation; makes the Passover, that is the transitus,6 together with Him, to pass over the Red Sea through the rod of the Cross, from Egypt entering the desert, where he tastes the hidden manna, and rests together with Christ upon the funeral mound (in tumulo) as if exteriorly dead, sensing (sentiens), nevertheless, as much as is possible according to the state of the way, that there is said to the thief handing on a cross with Christ: Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.

3. Which also has been shown to blessed Francis, when in an excess of contemplation on the exalted mountain — where these things, which have been written, he treated with his mind — there appeared the Seraph of six wings fastened (confixus) upon a cross, as I and many others have heard about in the same place from his companion, who was with him at that time; where he passed-over into God through an excess of contemplation; and has been placed as an example (in exemplum) of perfect contemplation; as first he had been of action, as if another Jacob and Israel,7 so that God may invite all truly spiritual men through him to a transitus of this kind and an excess of the mind more by example than by word.

4. Moreover in this transitus, if one be perfect, it is opportune that all intellectual activities be left behind (relinquantur), and the whole apex of affection be transferred and transformed into God. However this is mystical and most secret, because no one knows it, except him who accepts it,8 nor does he accept it unless he be one who desires it, nor does he desire it unless he be one whom the fire of the Holy Spirit, which Christ sent upon earth, inflames to the marrow of his bones (medullitus). And for that reason the Apostle says,9 that this mystical wisdom has been revealed through the Holy Spirit.

5. Therefore since for this reason there can be nothing by nature, a limited amount by industry, a little by inquiring, and much by unction; little must be given to the tongue, and most to internal gladness; little must be given . . .

1  Gen 1:26.  —  Below this there is a reference to Apoc. 1:8 :  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End etc.. (After the First (primum) very many codices add Principle (principium)); Apoc. 5:1 and Ezech 2:9 :  Which (book) was written on inside and out (cf. Breviloquium, p. II, ch. 11).
2  Gen. 2:2 : And He rested on the seventh day from all His work etc..  Cf. Breviloquium, p. II, ch. 2.  —  In place of remain (restet) A G K L M N have remain (restat). (Trans. Note:  the critical text has the faulty patrarat for it would accomplish (patraret).
3  See above ch. 1, n. 5, where this consideration is constituted as the principle of contemplation.  —  Above this in place of supernal (supernae) B D H K N have eternal (aeternae).
4  1 Tim. 2:5.  See the what is said above on p. 306, footnote 4.
5  Jn 14:6 and 10:7.  —  Next is a reference to Exod. 25:20 and Eph. 3:9 :  The dispensation of the sacrament hidden from the ages in God.
6  Exod. 12:11 :  And you shall eat (the paschal lamb) hastily; for it is the phase, that is the transitus, of the Lord.  —  Next there is a reference to Exod. 14:16 ff. (concerning the rod) and 16:15 (concerning the manna), on behalf of which there is quoted Apoc. 2:17 :  To the one conquering I shall give the hidden manna.  The following text is Lk. 23:43.
7  Gen. 35:10 :  You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.  Cf. the Prologue above.  —  The Vatican text, editions 3 and 4, have Jacob changed into Israel (Iacob mutatus in Israel).  Above this among the words by an excess of contemplation (excessu contemplationis) not a few codices insert of the mind or (mentis seu). (Trans. note:  if this last observation is taken according to the syntax of the Latin strictly, then it refers to the words and has been placed as an example of perfect (et positus est in exemplum perfectae).
8  Apoc. 2:17 :  No one knows, except etc..  —  Then there is a reference to Lk. 12:49 :  I have come to send fire upon the earth.  —  Above this after it is opportune (opportet) C quotes certain words of Dionysius (the Areopagite), De Mystica Theologia, ch. 3 near the end, and De Divinis Nominibus, ch. 7, § 3.
9  1 Cor. 2 :10 ff.  —  Then there is a reference to 1 Jn. 2:20, 27 (concerning unction).



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to word and to writing, and the whole to the Gift of God, that is to the Holy Spirit; little or nothing must be given to the creature, and the whole to the creative Essence, to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, by saying with Dionysius (the Areopagite) to God the Trinity: « O Trinity super-essential and super-God and super-best of the Christians, inspector of godly-wisdom (theosophiae), direct us into the super-unknown and super-shining (superlucentem) and most sublime vertex of mystical speech (mysticorum eloquiorum); where the new and absolute and unspeakable (inconversibilia) mysteries of theology are, according to the super-shining (superlucentem) darkness of an instructing silence, secretly hidden in the One most obscure (in obscurissimo), because He is the Most Manifest, Super-splendent, and That in which everything glitters, and Super-fulfilling invisible intellects with the splendors of invisible super-goods ». This (he says) to God.  However to the friend to whom these things are written, there is said (along) with the same: « Moreover you, O friend, concerning (circa) mystical visions, having been strengthened on the journey, desert both the senses and the intellectual activities, both sensibles and invisibles and every non-being and being, (non ens et ens) and unknowingly re-establish yourself (inscius restituere), as is possible, according to the Unity of Him, who is above every essence and knowledge.  For indeed deserting all things and absolved from all, you shall ascend by yourself and by the Un-boundable (immensurabili) by all and by an absolute excess of pure mind,2 to the super-essential Ray of divine shadows ».3

6. Moreover if you seek, in what manner these things occur (fiant), interrogate grace, not doctrine, desire, not understanding (intellectum); the groan of praying, not the study of reading; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man, darkness, not brightness (claritatem); not light, but the Fire totally inflaming, transferring one into God both by its excessive unctions and by its most ardent affections.  Which Fire indeed is God, and His forge is in Jerusalem,4 and Christ ignites (accendit) this in the fervor, of His most ardent Passion, which He alone truly perceived, who said: My soul has chosen suspense, and my bones death.  He who loves (diligit) this death can see God, because it is indubitably true: No man will see Me and live.  —  Therefore let us die and step into the darkness, let us impose silence upon our cares (sollicitudinibus), and concupiscences and phantasms; let us pass-over together with Christ Crucified from this world to the Father,5 that, by showing us the Father, we may say with Phillip: It suffices for us; let us hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; let us exult with David6 saying: My flesh and my heart failed, God of my heart and my portion: God forever.  Blessed be the Lord forever, and every people shall say: Fiat, Fiat.  Amen.

1  De Mystica Theologia, ch. 1 § 1, where the following quote is also found.  (St.) Bonaventure cites the passage according to the version of Scotus Erigena, in which near the middle of the first sentence in place of hidden (absconditam) we have substituted are hidden (absconduntur) (G has hide (abscondunt), N P hidden (absconditum)).  In place of the words which are put between the first and second quote, This (he says) to God . . (along) with the same (Hoc ad Deum . . . cum eodem) D G M with the original substituted For myself, indeed, I choose these (Mihi quidem haec opto).
2  In Greek: ???????????????????????????????? ???????????????????? ?????????? The sense is:  God, exceeding your very self and all things etc..
3  Besides the passages cited above on p. 260, footnote 3, cf. Sent., Bk. III, d. 23, dubium 4.  —  Catholic authors writing on mystical theology commonly approve this doctrine of St. Bonaventure, which he took from the celebrated Dionysius (the Areopagite), that namely, in perfect souls a certain sublime grade of supernatural and infused contemplation is bestowed, which they call pure contemplation, because it comes to be without the concourse of phantasms.  Likewise they teach, that to this grade of contemplation pertains that prayer in darkness, of which our authors here speaks.  Concerning these matters cf. (Bl.) Dionysius the Carthusian, in his Commentaria ad Dionysii Areopagitis..  Among more recent authors, however, pure contemplation is spoken of by Phillip of the Most Holy Trinity, Summa theologiae mysticae, p. II, tr. 3, discursus 2, a. 2, where he determines better what he had taught to the contrary in his Summa philosophiae, II, II, q. 14, a. 6; and also Scaramelli, Direttorio mystico, tr. 2, ch. 15, nn. 166-172;  on prayer in darkness cf. Phillip of the Most Holy Trinity, loc. cit., a. 3; Scaramelli, loc. cit., ch. 8, nn. 80-85.
4  Isaiah 31: 9 :  His forge (is) in Ierusalem.  —  The following citation is Job 7:15 ; the third is Exod. 33:20.
5  Jn. 13:1.  —  The following citation is ibid. 14:8; the third is 2 Cor. 12:9.
6  Psalm 72:26 et 105:48:  Blessed (be) the Lord God of Israel, from generation and unto generation, and every etc.




The doctrine of this little, golden work not rarely is understood imperfectly and/or entirely faultily by even learned men.  For not a few judge that some of its propositions are to be understood not according to its rigorous terminology, but to be expounded or excused according to a certain benign interpretation, as sayings for a book of mysticism, and not scientifically theological.  Not a few others have abused certain manners of speaking occurring in it to confirm their own false opinions.  —  Considering the sublimity of this work and the brevity of its exposition, it is not to be wondered at, that erroneous interpretations might befall either those little versed in the doctrine of the Seraphic Doctor, or those not attending to the special character and entire context of the this writing.  And yet by the wisest men of recent ages this work has rightfully been celebrated as entirely one of a kind, composed with a wonderful artfulness and never to be praised sufficiently.  In truth it contains a sane, most high, most wholesome doctrine and that expressed with a diligent choice of words; and its whole doctrine is perfectly in accord with that which the Saint proffers in his theological writings and expounds more at length therein.  Although we have sufficiently already established this fact by means of the notes included herein, we refer reader to the Disputed Question above on p. 17 regarding a few, certain, more difficult matters, which disputation with others by authors of the Bonaventurian School was first published in the work De Humanae cognitionis ratione, College of St. Bonaventure, 1883; of especial interest will be the preamble to the Dissertation there on pp. 1-47.

Nevertheless, for the convenience of the reason it has seemed opportune to submit certain breif observations here, so that way to a right understanding of the more difficult passages might be made easier.

1.  In regard to the peculiar characteristic of this work we note, that rightly it is judged to be among mystical works, without, however, depriving it of its rightly place among works pertaining to theology and even to philosophy. It is a mystical work, considered both from the end intended by its author and from the dispositions, which the same requires from those reading it; which is manifestly established from its Prologue and the beginning of Chapter I.  For its author did not write according to that counsel, to teach in the customary manner of scholars a purely theoretical science, and/or to refute error, but to directly promote devotion and the contemplation of divine things.  For he says:  « I propose the following speculations to be free for those willing to magnify, admire and even take a taste of God » (Prologue, n. 4).  On the other hand, for the disposition of the reader it is not said that the human understanding suffices, however acute and cultivated it may be, indeed even supported by those principles, which faith proposes to all Christians; but that he be « a man of desires », prepared by grace, humble, pious, compunct, devout and dedicated to contemplation; because, as is observed, « that too little or nothing is the proposed, exterior gaze, unless the mirror of our mind has been wiped and polished ».    Nay, as one prescient of future events, the author warns beforehand, that one must beware of this deficient disposition for contemplation, and of this badly disposed eye of the mind, « lest by chance from the sight itself of His rays you fall into the graver pit of shadows » (ibid., n. 4).  Therefore to truly enjoy this work that eye of contemplation is required, of which, when dealing with the threefold eye, the Saint speaks above in his Breviloquium, p. II, ch. 12 (cf. on the gift of contemplation, Sent., Bk. II, d. 23,a. 2. q. 3. in corp. and ad 6).

Nevertheless part, as I will thus say, of the material of this work, which proposes these objects to be considered, has been taken from the disciplines of theology and philosophy; and it contains in a learned and profound manner certain recondite quotes of Christian philosophy concerning the multiple relation both of the natural and supernatural order, which created things have to the first efficient, exemplary and final Cause.  For all things are proposed by God in the natural and supernatural order as certain mirrors for the eye of the mind purified and illumined to contemplate both the divine attributes of the Trinity and the mysteries of the Incarnation.  Therefore while the common books of meditation include very many considerations to meditate these mysteries of the Faith; this work proposes that arcane nexus, in which the order of creatures, natural and supernatural, are conjoined with the First Principle, which, as (St.) Augustine testifies, is entirely « the Cause of being (essendi), the Reason of understanding and the Order of living ».  Thus it can come about, that « according to the state of our condition this university of things be the stairway to ascend into God » (ch. 1, n. 2).

2.  Three distinctions must be noted first of all.  — a.  There is a threefold comparison and dependence of creatures to God:  « either as regards the creative Principle, or as regards the motive object, or as regards the inhabitative gift.  In the first manner every effect of His is compared to Him, in the second manner every intellect, in the third ever spirit, just and accepted by God.  For every effect however so much it has of ‘being’ (esse), has God as its principle.  Every intellect, however so much it has of the light, is bound through cognition and love to seize God.  Moreover every spirit, just and holy, has the gift of the Holy Spirit infused into it » (Breviloquium, p. II, ch. 12).  —  With this distinction is joined another from the four steps of that cognition of God, which can be had by the wayfarer.  « For God is cognized in the vestige, is cognized in the image, is cognized also in the effect of grace, is cognized even through that intimate union of God and soul; according to what the Apostle says (1 Cor. 6:17):  he who cleaves to God is one spirit.  And this is that most excellent cognition, of which Dionysius (the Areopagite) teaches, which is in ecstatic love and which elevates above the cognition of the faith according to the common state (of believers) » (Sent., Bk. III, d. 24, dubium 4).

b.  There is a threefold mode of the existence of things. «  Things have a threefold ‘being’ (esse), namely in matter and/or their proper nature, in the created intelligence and in the Eternal Art;  according to which three Scripture says:  God said:  let it be, He has made, and it has been made » (Breviloquium, p. II, ch. 12; cf. above in the Prologue, § 3;  Sent., Bk. I, d. 36, a. 2, q. 2. in corp., and Sent., Bk. II, d. 3, p. II, a. 2, q. 1, fundam. 6; Quaest. disp. de scientia Christi, q. 4, in corp.).

c.  In a threefold manner the intellect can turn toward itself to consider the mirror of creatures, both interiorly and exteriorly; because « the senses of the flesh (and this is valid also for the interior sense) either devoutly serves the intellect rationally investigating, or faithfully believing, or intellectually contemplating » (here ch. 1, n. 10).  Whence by a threefold manner the intellect can pass-over from effects to causes, from the creature to God, that is by the force alone of its natural light and in a philosophical manner, and/or supported by the principles of the faith, and/or even with the illuminating gifts of the Holy Spirit.

3.  About the manner, in which the intellect rationally investigating passes-over, especially from the interior image to God, another distinction must be noted between the intellect apprehending and resolving, and resolving either semi-fully or fully; by which distinction there is also understood the reason for the explicit and implicit cognition, and in which sense it be true, that a created being cannot be cognized by an intellect fully resolving, unless it be helped by the intellect of the First Being (ch. 3, n. 3, and ch. 5, n. 3, with footnotes).  —  Therefore the Seraphic Doctor says of this (Sent., Bk. I, d. 28, dubium 1):  « as much as regards the intellect apprehending something cannot be understood without something else, which is the reason for understanding (ratio intelligendi) it, just as ‘God’ (cannot be understood) except (according to His) deity, and man except (according to his) humanity;  however the effect can be understood, with the cause not understood, and the inferior, with the superior non understood, because anyone can apprehend (what is meant by) ‘man’, having not understood anything superior to him.  And thus the Philosopher says, that he who says one thing in a certain manner says many, not simply speaking, but in a certain manner, because (he does so) implicitly.  —  In another manner it happens that one understands something besides the other by the intellect resolving; and this intellect considers those things which are the essential (conditions) of a thing, just as a subject can be understood without its proper passion.  And this can be in a twofold manner:  either by an intellect resolving fully and perfectly, or by an intellect deficient and resolving semi-fully.  By an intellect resolving semi-fully there can be understood any ‘being’, not understood by the First Being (primo ente).  But by an intellect resolving perfectly something cannot be understood, with the First Being not understood ».  Cf. Sent., Bk. II, d. 1, p. II, dubium 2, where there will be taught, that ‘being’, abstracted from goodness, « can be understood by an intellect apprehending and an intellect resolving semi-fully; but by an intellect comparing fully according to causes it cannot be understood, when (goodness) is not understood ».

4.  Though « every creatur leads more into God than into anything else » ( Sent, Bk. I, d. 3, p. I, q. 2), nevertheless, since actual cognition begins from sensation and progresses from the exterior toward the interior, from the imperfect towards the more perfect; for intellects rougher still, there is scarecly any other way for rationally investigating God, except by ascending from the sensible world or from the vestige of God.  Hence it is said:  « let us situate the first step of ascension at the bottom, by considering this whole world sensible to us as a mirror, through which we pass-over to God, the Most High Artisan » (ch. 1, n. 9).  Furthermore the shadows of the creatures and the vestiges are « proposed to minds still rough and sensible, to be transferred through the sensibles, which they see, to the intelligibles, which they do not see, as through signs to things signified » (ch. 2, n. 11).  —  However, the author tarries but a little in describing the particular things of the sensible world (ch. 1, but immediately passes-over (ch. 2) from the material word (the real one) to world of ideas or to that non-physical, but rather metaphysical, ‘being’, which the world has in the human mind.  For the intellect itself apprehending naturally and necessarily steps above the concrete order of the existence of particular and contingent things, by abstracting their species and by purifying it conceives them in itself, and thus quasi elevates those things above the material order and puts on a certain vestment of the supernatural order, that is certain ideal properties, namely of universality, of immutability, of eternity and of necessity, which convene least of all with the real order of material things.  Furthermore, that ideal order has its supreme root and ultimate foundation in God and leads unto Him.  «  Intellected truths are founded in the other Eternal (Intellect).  Moreover they are founded in that prime Truth as in a universal cause, contentative of every truth » (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, Bk. II, ch. 84).  « The incommutable rules (of the intellect) are rooted in the Eternal Light and lead unto It » (St. Bonaventure, Hexaëmeron, collation 2).  « Hence the intellect itself, considering the conditions of being according to the relation of cause to caused, transfers itself from the effect to its causes and passes-over to eternal reasons » (ibid., collation 5).  This passing-over . . .



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can be accomplished in arguing and resolving by an intellect rationally investigating; but more perfectly it is accomplished by the same illuminated and intellectually contemplating.  —  This ideal order, obscure and nearly unknown to the common intellect, is proposed by St. Bonaventure, following the lead of St. Augustine, chiefly for study in chapters 2, 3, 5 and 6, so that the contemplative eye may pass-over to contemplate divine things.  Having considered the threefold ‘being’ of real things, it is not difficult to understand such a passing-over; and yet it must be attended to well, that one is the reason and way, by which the intellect passes-over from the real to the ideal order, and another is that, by which it ascends to the divine order (cf. the Dissertation cited above on this matter, pp. 22-25).

5.  Commonly the ancient Scholastics together with St. Thomas (De Veritate, q. 22, a. 2, ad 1) taught, « that all cognizers cognize God implicitly in every cognized » (cfr. the cited Dissertation, p. 17 & 18); and according to this implicit and confused, any kind of cognition they assert that it can be said, that naturally the existence of God has been known (St. Thomas, Summa, I, q. 2, a.1, ad 1).  « Therefore the movement of our intellect, while it understands, while it reasons, begins from the implicit cognition of God and is terminated in the explicit cognition of God »; thus cl. P. Lepidi, O. P., (Periodical Divus Thomas, 1881, n. 11 ff.).

6.  Between the human mind and God, insofar as He is the supreme « Cause of being, Reason of understanding, and Order of living », no creature is an intermediary; this, however, does not impede, that creatures be a means disposing and quasi leading-by-the-hand to the cognition of God, as St. Bonaventure better explains in Sent, Bk. I, d. 3, p. I, q. 3, ad 1, and Bk. II, d. 3, p. II, a. 2, q. 2, ad 6.  —  Therefore, though the human intellect in the state of the way  least of all cognizes God immediately, but only in the mirror of creatures; nevertheless rightly is it said to in itself conjoined to God, near to God, and/or stretching out to God, as occurs here in passing in chs. 2 and 3, and in (St.) Augustine, teaching that we have been connected to intelligible nature not only by intelligibles, but also by immutable things. (Retract., Bk. I, ch. 8, n. 2).  However the Seraphic Doctor warns (Quaest. disp. de scientia Christi, q. 4, ad 19.): « There are few, who know how to attain by themselves those reasons in this manner; nay, what is more, there are few, who want to believe this, because it seems difficult for an intellect not yet elevated to contemplate eternal things, that it has a God so present and near, though even (St.) Paul says (Acts 17:27), that He is not far from each one of us ».

7.  Likewise the sentence commonly held to be certain teaches that there is a general concourse of God, both active and immediate, to every action posited by creatures; whence « their created light cannot perfect their activity without some cooperation from the increated Light, through which every man, who comes into this world, is illuminated ».  (St. Bonaventure, Sent, Bk. II, d. 28, a. 2, q. 3 in corp.).  For « in this God continuously acts in the mind, because He causes in it a natural light and He directs it to see; and in this manner the mind proceeds not without the activity of the First Cause in its activity » (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusculum 63, or In librum Boethii de Trin., q. 1, a. 1, ad 6).  This immediate cooperation of the First Light is called by (St.) Augustine and the Scholastics a certain irradiation or illumination of minds, which is, besides the created intellect in its own manner, a certain supreme principle by which one knows; or, as St. Bonaventure says, it is a motive reason, ductive or regulating unto the other; and in this sense « after the manner of a candlestick the Light of Truth glitters upon the face of our mind » (ch. 3, n. 1); however the First Light is not a principle which is (directly) known, nor a terminating object, quieting and leading into Itself.  He deals with this throughout q. 4 in Qq. disput. de scientia Christi, which is explained at greater length by Matthew of Aquasparta (de Humanae Cognitionis ratione, pp. 87-108; cf. ibid. Dissert. cit. pp. 26-44).  Of the greatest importance is both this distinction between cognition’s principle by which and principle which, or between the means (reason) and the object of cognizing, and the doctrine of all Scholastics, that something can be the medium by which or the reason for cognizing, and not be the object itself of cognition, so that « It lies hidden as an object of cognition, but lies out in the open as the reason of cognizing » (thus Matthew of Aquasparta, q. disp. 3, ad 4.; cf. ibid. ad 5, and St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent., Bk. I, d. 3, q. 4, ad 5).  Chiefly on account of this distinction and doctrine there have arisen the false interpretions of the Itinerarium, of which we will now treat.

8.  With this supposed, the genuine sense of the other manners of speaking, which have been taken from (St.) Augustine, can be laid out, and at the same time the falsehood of certain interpretations, which have imposed upon the Seraphic Doctor a twofold error.

For first is has been said, that he consented to the Ontologism of Malebranche, as if he had taught, that intellectual truths are cognized formally in eternal reasons.  And yet how often has it  already been demonstrated by irrefragable testimonies of the same, that in this life he admits indeed neither a « thin » step of the immediate cognition of God, nor in the highest contemplation (at least ordinarily), nor any passing-over to eternal reasons, except that by which the intellect « transfers itself from effect to causes ».  « Whence if the things which the authorities on that account say be found, that god in the present (life) is seen and discerned by man, they are not to be understood, (as saying) that He is seen in His Essence, but that He is cognized in some inferior effect » (Sent., Bk. II, d. 23, a. 2, q. 3, in corp.).  The Angels themselves by a natural cognition could not cognize god except « through His effects.  But God is cognized through visible effects and through spiritual substances and through an influence of a light connatural to the cognizing power, which is a certain similitude of God, not abstracted, but infused, inferior to god, because it is in an inferior nature, just as (St.) Augustine says » in De Trinitate, Bk. IX, ch. 11, n. 16 (thus Sent., Bk. II, d. 3, p. II, a. 2, q. 2, ad 4).  See further Sent., Bk. I, d. 3, p. I, q. 1, Scholium, and the Dissertation cited above, pp. 7-12.  —  It seems a wonder, that on account of certain badly understood formulae in his Itinerarium, one could have any doubts concerning the genuine doctrine of St. Bonaventure, when in the same work he teaches in the clearest manner (in chs. 1, 2, and 3) that there is not but an ascension from creatures to God; and when he employs the words to see God, he will explain himself with other additional words, that : « we ought to strive to see God through the mirror » (ch. 3, n. 1) and « you will already be able to see God through yourself as through an image, which is to see Him through a mirror in mystery » (ibid.).

9.  Another error has been imposed upon our author through a false interpretation of Chapter 5, as if he taught, both that the first thing cognized of the intellect apprehending is the divine ‘Being’ (esse divinum), and that he confounded common ‘being’ with the divine ‘Being’.  This perverse interpretation is in a word foreign to the mind of the Seraphic Doctor and manifestly is excluded by the irrefutable chapters of the doctrine, which he constantly and in passing asserts.  For he teaches with peremptory words, that the divine ‘Being’ in itself could not be cognized immediately, neither before nor after the first sin; that It is percieved not but in the mirror of creatures and through the order, which effects have to their Cause (Sent., Bk. I, d. 3, p. I, q. 1, 2; Sent., Bk. II, d. 23, a. 2, q. 3, and passim); likewise, that actual intellection begins from a sense, thus that it progresses from an imperfect and confused intellection to a more perfect and explicit one (cf. Sent., Bk. II,  d. 39, a. 1, q. 2,  and the Scholium, n. II, d. 25, p. II, q. 6; Sent., Bk. I,  d. 8, p. II, dubium 1).  Then how often does he affirm, that the divine ‘being’ is not in a genus, but is above every genus, nor is it univocal, but only analogous with all mental concepts, even those transcendental.

Moreover, from this Itinerarium and from chapter 5 itself the genuine sense of the author is sufficiently apparent.  —  For first he most clearly teaches that there is an order and steps of cognition and of contemplation, through which we ascend from creatures to a perfect, as much as this can be said, cognition of God (ch. 1, n. 2).  For he puts the first stem at the bottom by beginning from the sensible world, as we have noted above (Scholium, n. 1); that is « so that we arrive at God, it is opportune that we pass-over through the vestige » (ch. 1, nn. 2 and 5).  —  But the superior steps explained afterwards from that suppose those preceeding.

Second, concerning the concept of ‘being’ itself (??? esse), already on the third step (ch. 3, n. 3) the author spoke according to intellect apprehending and resolving (see above n. 3); where there is said, that « our intellect does not come to resolve fully the understanding of any of the created beings (entium), unless it be aided by the understanding of the most pure Being (entis) » etc..  Therefore not but by ascending from things caused and by resolving, nay by resolving not semi-fully, but fully, does the intellect conceive the most pure and absolute Being (ens).

With this supposed, even in ch. 5, n. 3, he distinguishes the threefold ‘being’ (of things), namely in things (outside of us) « particular ‘being’, which is constrained ‘being’, because it is commingled with potency »; in the intellect (within us) « analogous ‘being’, because it has the least actuality (minime de actu), for the reason that exists in the least manner (minime est) »; . . .




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finally the ‘being’ above us.  But having briefly recalled those two prior ones, he turns entirely to the contemplation of that ‘being’, which is « above us » and is not attained except by the contemplative eye.  Therefore lest the reader wander away from the genuine sense of this chapter, those things which are said in Chapter 3 and the connexion of the fifth step with the third must be kept in mind.

Third, the contemplation of this 5th step is founded on the axiom of Avicenna commonly received by Scholastics, that « being (ens)* is what first falls in the intellect ».  This sentence is understood properly of that common being, conceived by the first act of the intellect, which in no manner can be made manifest to us through something more known than it.  However this being, insofar as it is conceived by the intellect apprehending, « is not something determinate, neither according to act nor potency, neither present nor future, neither man nor horse and things of this kind, but being, which is superior to all these, and I say, that this quiddity is being in the intellect . . . though it be not being in act, because neither does this concern its own understanding » (Matthew of Aquasparta, in the cited Opusculum de Humanae Cognitionis ratione, p. 120; or in the disputed question:  “Whether for cognition of a thing there is required the existence of the thing itself” etc., ad 4; cf. ad 5, 6, and 7, and in the body of the question, where there are also some other things regarding the matter at hand).  St. Thomas (Summa, I, II, q. 94, a. 2 in the body) says:  « That which first falls upon the apprehension, is a being, the understanding of which is included in all things, whatsoever anyone apprehends; and for that reason the first principle is indemonstrable, because there is no simultaneous affirmation and negation, which is founded upon the reckoning of being and non-being, and upon this principle all other things are founded » (cf. the same author’s De Potentia, q. 9, a. 7, ad 15 and at the end; Summa , I, q. 11, a. 2, ad 4).

This analogous ‘being’, first cognized by the apprehending intellect, is not but the most tenuous shadow of the divine ‘being’, from which it is by a reckoning of reality an entire heaven in distance and quasi Its opposite; nevertheless by reason of its greatest universality, primacy and simplicity it is apt to be become for the contemplative eye a mirror for contemplating divine things.  Richard of Milan also observes ( Sent., Bk. I, d. III, p. I, a. 3, q. 3):  « when we understand being in common (terms), not by descending to being created and/or uncreated, we understand God by the most general intellection, inasmuch as we understand something common to Him and to any creature, not by a univocal commonness, but by an analogical one.  And this natural cognition of God is more first than the (proper) cognition of God through the vestige; because that presupposes the cognition of something other in the intellect, but this one does not.  Whence according to Avicenna . . . the being common to all things can in no manner be made manifest to us through something more known that it.  In another manner God is cognized by us in general (terms), inasmuch as we cognize, that some uncreated being is, the efficient and final cause of any created being; and this cognition we have of God through nature first through the vestige ».  — All this can be confirmed by the testimonies of our author, one of which it markedly helps to quote here, in which he speaks of a most general genus and a most special species and concludes in this manner:  « And hence it is, that genus in something is assimilated to God more than species, in something and vice-versa. For God, because He is most noble is at the end of all nobility, has together in Himself every perfection, thus that He Himself is most simple and entirely incorruptible, is also perfect and constituted in an omnimodal actuality.  A creature, on the other hand, according to which it is able, is assimilated to God semi-fully; and as much as regards its reckoning of simplicity and of incorruptibility the more it is assimilated the more it is universal, as much as regards its reckoning of actuality the more it is assimilated the less universal » (Sent., Bk. II, d. 18, a. 1, q. 3, in corp. near the end).  For this reason this is all the more valid concerning transcendental universals, of which the first and most general is ‘being’.

Fourth, the very works of our author in Chapter 5 sufficiently manifest, that he distinguished well these two others from the divine ‘being’, which is a pure act.  For he says:  « But this is not particular ‘being’ (really existing outside of us), which is constrained ‘being’, because it is commingled with potency; nor is it analogous ‘being’, because it has the least actuality, for the reason that it scarcely is ».  Of analogous or most common ‘being’, which is quasi lowest among all beings, to which (the term) ‘being´ pertains, our author does not speak here, except insofar as it gives him occasion to contemplate ‘being’ itself (above us).  Whence he warns:  « Wanting therefore to contemplate the invisible things of God in regard to His unity of essence, let (the mind) first fix its power of sight upon ‘being’ itself and see » etc. (n. 3).  Likewise:  « See, therefore, that most pure ‘being’, if you can, and it occurs to you » etc. (n. 5).  These words concerning « ‘being’ itself » (ipso esse) manifestly are not understood of that first act of the intellect apprehending, which naturally and necessarily is exercised, and whose object is that most tenuous ‘being’, which is not the first and pure ‘being’, but rather a distant shadow of it.  On the other hand, the intellect reflecting and resolving, and chiefly the contemplative eye can easily advert, that ‘being’ itself per se, which is first in respect to the existing thing (a parte rei essendi) and the principle of cognizing, is something above us and before us, in which every created ‘being’ and even that most common ‘being´ of the prime universal is rooted, and into which all things lead the resolving intellect.  In this sense St. Thomas (Summa., I, q. 3, a. 5, sed contra) also proclaims: « Nothing is prior to God, neither according to thing (rem) nor according to understanding (intellectum) ».  Which is manifestly said not on the part of the human intellect, which in its blindness first apprehends a shadow of the truth than the very truth in itself, but on the part of the thing and/or superior intellect, which sees well, that ‘being’ itself precedes its shadow.  —  In this sense are to be accepted those words, which have become a stumbling block to many:  «Therefore ‘being’ is what first falls in the intellect, and ‘being’ is that which is a pure act » (n. 3).  Therefore the genuine sense is this:  ‘being´ itself is not in particular things except through (their) participation (in it) and (this) in a constrained and imperfect manner, nor by the human intellect in its own first act, is it apprehended in its purity and distinction, but only most imperfectly in that shadow of most common ‘being’; nevertheless the same is cognized distinctly by the contemplative eye as that ‘being’, to which in truth « nothing is prior, neither according to thing nor according to understanding ».  Moreover because the intellect apprehending on account of its own blindness « does not see », « nor advert  » to that most pure ‘being’, nay rather « it seems to it that it sees nothing » (as is taught, ibid., n. 4); the Seraphic Doctor with wonderful acumen expounds the chief attributes of God according to the intellect reflecting and resolving, from the concept itself of per se ‘being’ itself (??? esse per se).

Moreover, in his entire Itinerarium the Seraphic Doctor leans upon the doctrine of St. Augustine and at the same time offers in a sense the best key for understanding his profundity.  Therefore who would understand this sublime work well, let him read and/or rather meditate on the books of St. Augustine, De Vera Religione, De Musica, Bk. VI, and De Libero Arbitrio, Bks. II and III, and/or at least refer himself to those passages cited by us in the notes here above.



* (Translator’s Note:  Here the critical text juxtaposes the term esse to term ens.  Scholasticism for all its erudition and exactitude has no consensus for the proper term for being.  With the Greek, following such authors in Latin translations, as Avicenna, St. Thomas and others (for example Richard of Milan, here in the Scholium, n. 9, p.  313, and Bl. John Duns Scotus, cited here below) employ ens, while St. Bonaventure, whenever he writes on his own, apart from quoting others, employs esse.  Each in its own manner has its advantages and draw backs.  Properly, since every being is constituted by an act of being, it does not seem fitting that the present active participle, used as a substantive, in the form of ens or being should be employed for the most common and general ontological characteristic of all things, especially when the use of a gerund of the verb ‘to be’ would capture more closely this fundamental truth of metaphysics.  On the other hand to employ the gerund in Latin, when this is identical to the infinitive of the verb ‘to be’, confounds the distinction between essence and existence, between being in its most general sense and the act of existing. St. Bonaventure for his part appears to follow the linguistic custom of the Latin and Italic tongues, which employ the infinitive of the verb for the gerund; while St. Thomas appears to have accepted the linguistic custom of the Greek, and of French, (which is also that of modern English) which even today uses the present active participle as the gerund of the verb.  For a modern English translation, I have always followed the principle here at The Franciscan Archive that a translation should be as transparent as possible, allowing the English reader to understand the Latin author, as it seems best that that author would have so expressed himself in modern English, had he had the talent and opportunity.  For this reason, in the translation above, and throughout the translations at the Franciscan Archive, whenever esse is employed in its metaphysical and proper sense, the translation ‘being’ is employed and when ens is similarly employed, not for the individual being, but for the general reality, being without quotes or necessarily italics, is employed. I leave it to scholars to sort out why apparently such erudite men as St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, who quoted differing uses of the term for being, continued to use ambiguous terminology, sometimes even in the same tract, as is done here.

Contemporary scholastics also follow this same ambiguous terminology.  For example, here in the Itinerarium, p. 308, in footnote 8, the Quaracchi editors seemingly contradict the usage of identifying ens and esse which they employ here in the Scholium; saying on p. 308 in the said footnote, « It must be noted, that Avicenna says being (ens), not ‘being’ (esse), which is what is being discussed here. »  Which comment would be superfluous if the editors had in mind the identicity of ens and esse in all usages regarding being.  —  Similarly Bl. John Duns Scotus, Sent., Prolog., p. I. q. unic. n. 1, p. 2 in the critical edition, quotes the same passage of Avicenna referred to above thus: Avicenna in his First Book on the Metaphysics, chapter 5 (chapter 6 (72rb)) (says):  « Being (ens) and thing by a first impression are impressed upon the soul, nor can they be made manifest from others »;  if, however, anything other than these would be the first object, those could be manifested through a reckoning of it; but this is impossible. — And yet the critical edition of Scotus’ works in the footnote to the passage just prior has this citation: Avicenna, Metaphysics. I c. 6 (73ra):  « ‘being’ (esse) on the other hand is more known than ‘non-being’ »; even though Scotus has just written: « But the first natural object of our intellect is being inasmuch as it is being (ens in quantum ens);  therefore our intellect can naturally have an act about whatever being, and thus about whatever intelligible non-being, because negation is cognized through affirmation ».  What Scotus says here is certainly true, however, the cognition of the reader is rather negated by a twofold usage and affirmation.)


The English translation here has been released to the public domain by its author. The / symbol is used to indicate that the text which follows appeared on the subsequent page of the Quarrachi Edition. The translation of the notes in English corresponds to the context of the English text, not that of the Latin text; likewise they are a freer translation that that which is necessitated by the body of the text. Items in square ( ) brackets are Latin terms corresponding to the previous English word(s) and/or notes added by the translator.