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Journey of the Mind into God-St Bonaventure


Saint Bonaventura: 1221-1274

Saint BonaventuraPREFACE

This translation of St. Bonaventura's "Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum" is 
addressed to undergraduate students of the history of philosophy who may 
wish to read a work of a great medieval Franciscan thinker. I have used the 
Latin text of the Franciscan Fathers contained in "Tria Opuscula" 
(Quaracchi), fifth edition, 1938. Biblical quotations are taken from the 
Douay Bible, since that is a translation of the Vulgate, which, it goes 
without saying, St. Bonaventura used. In order to make the translation more 
readable, I have taken the liberty of breaking up a few of the longer 
sentences and once in a while have inserted explanatory words and phrases 
in square brackets. In two places, indicated in footnotes, I have made 
slight emendations to the text. Students who approach this work for the 
first time would do well to familiarize themselves with Giotto's painting 
of St. Francis receiving the stigmata, for the "Itinerarium" could almost 
be called a meditation upon the vision there depicted.

My deepest thanks are given to the Reverend George Glanzman, S. J., who 
made a painstaking comparison of this translation with the Latin original 
and suggested several revisions which improved my first draft. I have 
accepted all of his suggestions gratefully but, of course, I alone am 
responsible for the version as it now appears. Any errors in the 
translation, footnotes, and introduction must be laid at my door.

G. B.


Biographical Note On St. Bonaventura


Selected Bibliography




I. Of the Stages in the Ascent to God and of His Reflection in His Traces 
in the Universe

II. Of the Reflection of God in His Traces in the Sensible World

III. Of the Reflection of God in His Image Stamped upon Our Natural Powers

IV. Of the Reflection of God in His Image Reformed by the Gifts of Grace

V. Of the Reflection of the Divine Unity in Its Primary Name, Which Is 

VI. Of the Reflection of the Most Blessed Trinity in Its Name, Which Is 

VII. Of the Mental and Mystical Elevation, in Which Repose Is Given to the 
Intellect When the Affections Pass Entirely into God through Elevation



St. Bonaventura, a native of Tuscany, was born Giovanni di Fidanza in 1221. 
He entered the Franciscan order about 1242 and in the short space of 
fifteen years rose to be seventh general of that order. Professor of 
theology at the University of Paris, Bishop of Albano, and created a 
cardinal by Gregory X shortly before his death in 1274, he was widely 
venerated during his lifetime and is mentioned as a saint in Dante's 
Paradiso. He was canonized in 1482 by Sixtus IV and a little over a century 
later declared a doctor of the church by Sixtus V. He has usually been 
known as the Seraphic Donor, probably because of his mysticism and constant 
preoccupation with the vision of the Seraph which is described in the 
Prologue to "The Mind's Road to God." In addition to this little treatise, 
his major works are the "Reductio Artium in Theologiam" ("Reduction of the 
Arts to Theology"), the "Biblia Pauperum" ("Bible of the Poor"), and the 


There should be little need of apologizing for a new translation into 
English of Saint Bonaventura's "Itinerarium Mentis ad Deum," for it has 
been recognized by all serious historians of philosophy as one of the 
shorter masterpieces of medieval philosophy. It sets forth in very few 
pages a whole system of metaphysics; it illustrates a philosophical method; 
it typifies the thinking of one of the great monastic orders of the West; 
it stands at the beginning of Renaissance science as one of those documents 
in which the future can be seen in germ. Besides its importance as an 
outstanding work in metaphysics, a work comparable to Descartes' "Discourse 
on Method," Leibniz's Monadology, or Hume's "Enquiry" in its compactness 
and suggestiveness, it represents a strain of medieval thought which has 
been too much neglected since the publication of "Aeterni Patris," in 1879. 
That encyclical with its emphasis upon Thomism has given many people, both 
Catholic and non-Catholic, the impression that the philosophy of Saint 
Thomas Aquinas is the "official" philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church. 
The result of this miscomprehension has been disparagement of writings 
other than Thomistic. Yet even in the thirteenth century Catholic 
philosophers were far from being in agreement, either on matters of 
doctrine or method. One has only to mention such figures as Alexander of 
Hales, the master of Saint Bonaventura; Roger Bacon; and the various monks 
of Saint Victor, to realize that the confusion and disagreement which 
certain writers of today find in our own time were just as characteristic 
of a period to which they refer as one of universal concord.

The metaphysical point of view of Saint Bonaventura can be traced back to 
Plotinus, if not to Philo. Fundamental to his whole system is that fusion 
of the three hierarchies of Neo-Platonism: the hierarchy of logical 
classes, that of values, and that of reality. Elementary students of logic 
are accustomed to the doctrine that individuals can be grouped into classes 
which belong to certain species; that these species are again susceptible 
to classification in certain genera; that these are capable of being 
grouped into still larger orders and families, until we come to the class 
which includes all other classes and which is usually called being. This 
hierarchy of classes in the textbooks of classical logic is called the Tree 
of Porphyry. In non-philosophic work we find the same sort of thing 
illustrated in the Linnaean classification of plants and animals. The 
higher up one goes in this hierarchy, the more inclusive are one's classes. 
Thus the class of vertebrates is more inclusive than the class of mammals, 
and the class of animals is more inclusive than the class of vertebrates.

If we assume, as most classical writers did, that such a classification 
reproduces the structure of reality, that classes are ordained by God and 
are not simply convenient groupings made by man for his own purposes, then 
we can see in this order of beings a scale of creatures which might be 
thought of as a map of all things, a tree not only of life but of all 
existence. But an added assumption is usually introduced into the 
discussion at this point, the assumption of both Plotinus and Saint 
Bonaventura, that the more general a class, the more real and the better. 
This assumption may be argued, but one can at least imagine why someone 
contemplating this arrangement of classes within other classes, running 
from the least inclusive to the most inclusive, would maintain that there 
was logical priority in the more general. For before one can define, let us 
say, man as a rational animal, it would be necessary to know the definition 
of "animal"; and before one could define "animality," one would have to 
know the definition of "living matter." This logical order of priority and 
posteriority might be thought of as corresponding in some mysterious way--
and it has remained mysterious to this day--to some relationship in the 
order of reality. The problem was to discover precisely what this 
relationship was.

Plotinus answered the question by the invention of a basic metaphor. The 
universe was subject to something which he called "emanation." The lower 
classes flowed out of the upper classes as light flowed from a candle. Such 
metaphors have been of the greatest influence in the history of thought, 
both philosophic and scientific. Thus we have had such figurative terms as 
"affinity" in chemistry, or the "life force" in biology, or the "life cycle 
of a nation" in history, terms which were taken literally by some people 
but which upon scrutiny turned out to be figures of speech. In Plotinus' 
case there is little doubt that he believed emanation to be literal truth; 
though when he came to explain how lower orders emanated from higher, he 
could do it only by means of a more elaborate figure of speech or by having 
recourse to what he thought of as a law of nature, namely, that all things 
produced something and that what they produced was always "lower" than they 
themselves. Thus, Being produced the kinds of Being, and each kind produced 
less inclusive kinds; and so on down to the smallest classes in which 
individual things were comprised.

This hierarchy of Being appears throughout the work of Saint Bonaventura, 
though he did not derive it immediately from Plotinus. It had become a 
medieval commonplace which few were willing to question. And yet he could 
not accept the whole theory of emanation, since he was bound by his 
religious faith to believe in actual creation out of nothing. The God of 
Plotinus was The One from whom everything flowed like light; the God of 
Saint Bonaventura was the personal God of Genesis. His metaphysical problem 
was to accommodate one to the other. This accommodation appears most 
clearly in the fifth chapter of the "Itinerarium."

The second hierarchy which was fused with the logical hierarchy was that of 
value. There is no purely logical reason why the general should be any 
better than the particular, though there are good traditional grounds for 
thinking so. Plato, Aristotle, the Neo-Platonists, and even the Stoics had 
a tendency to confuse goodness with the ideal or the general. In ancient 
Pagan thought, there was a standard belief that no particular was ever a 
perfect exemplification of its class--no triangle made of matter being a 
perfect geometrical triangle, no human being a perfectly rational animal, 
no work of art a perfect realization of the artist's idea. Arguing in this 
way, one could see that no species would ever perfectly exemplify its 
genus, no genus its higher order, and so on. Hence the process "downward" 
from Being was degeneration. When one stops to think that the Christian 
religion insisted upon man's nature as having been vitiated by sin--sin 
which, though committed by our primordial parents, was nevertheless 
inherited by us--one can also see why, to a Christian, the fusion of the 
logical and the value-hierarchy was natural enough. We still look in vain 
for the perfect exemplification of animal and vegetable species, though we 
are inclined to believe that the species is an ideal formed for 
intellectual purposes, and not to be expected to exist in anything other 
than scientific books and articles. But to a Christian thinker of the type 
of Saint Bonaventura, the species and genera were the ideas of God in 
accordance with which He had created the world. It is they which are 
responsible for the orderliness of the universe; they are sometimes called 
by the Stoic term, seminal reasons. In the nineteenth century, when men 
were as impressed by the regularity of scientific laws as they had been in 
the thirteenth, people like Lord Russell found a religious satisfaction in 
contemplating them, the only difference being that Lord Russell did not use 
the Stoic term; nor did he think of scientific laws as the ideas in the 
mind of God. If permanence and invariability are marks of goodness, then 
indeed the more general the law, or the more inclusive the idea, the 
better. And since the most general and inclusive term is without question 
the term "Being," it would follow that "Being" was the best of all things. 
In the sixth chapter of the "Itinerarium," in which Saint Bonaventura 
discusses "Good" as the name of God, the importance of this fusion appears 
most clearly.

The third hierarchy, as we have said, was that of reality. In common speech 
we are accustomed to think of particular things in this material world of 
time and space as more real than ideas, or logical classes, or mathematical 
concepts, such as circles and triangles. We should, if untutored in the 
history of philosophy, think that a given man, George Washington or Abraham 
Lincoln, was more real than the idea of mankind though it is doubtful 
whether we should proceed to maintain that the idea of "rational animal" is 
more real than that of "animal." The fundamental question for a philosopher 
is what we mean by the adjective "real" and whether we should give it a 
meaning such that it may be used in the comparative and superlative 
degrees. Saint Bonaventura was far from being unique in thinking that this 
adjective was comparable; indeed such modern thinkers as Hegel and his 
followers seemed to have taken that for granted. In any event Saint 
Bonaventura did believe in its comparability, and he identified the 
hierarchy of reality with those of logic and value.

This fusion of hierarchies lies behind the whole method of thinking which 
is illustrated by the "Itinerarium," and it must be accepted by a reader 
who wishes to study the work sympathetically. But along with this 
metaphysical matrix a certain philosophical method is to be found which is 
of particular importance in studying this work. That method is resident in 
a theory of knowledge which makes true knowledge a matter of inspection, of 
seeing. We all have to believe that certain ideas must be taken for 
granted, whether they are the postulates of a system of geometry which we 
accept merely for the purpose of deducing their consequences or whether 
they are the simple matters of perceptual fact which we are likely to call 
the truths of observation. Again, when we deduce a conclusion from a set of 
premises, as in a simple syllogism or a bit of arithmetical reasoning, how 
do we know that the conclusion is not merely logically entailed in the 
premises, but true also to fact? Cardinal Newman, in his "Grammar of 
Assent," distinguished between what he called "real assent" and "notional 
assent"--the former being the assent which we give to propositions of 
existence or, roughly, fact; the latter, that which we give to the logical 
conclusions. Thus the following syllogism is logically accurate, but no one 
would believe in the truth of its conclusion:

1. All triangles are plane figures.
2. John Doe is a triangle.
3. John Doe is a plane figure.

We should be obligated to maintain that the conclusion followed from the 
premises, but we would not give real assent to it nevertheless. Just what 
do we mean by real assent, and how does it arise?

The most obvious case of real assent occurs in the acceptance of the truths 
of observation. If someone is asked why he thinks sugar is sweet, he will 
tell you that it is because he has tasted it. If someone asks why a person 
believes that the sky is blue, he will be told that the person has looked 
and seen. Sensory observation looks like simple and direct and 
incontrovertible knowledge. It is not quite so simple and direct and 
incontrovertible as used to be thought, but we are dealing with the common-
sense point of view here, and from that it has all these traits. Throughout 
the "Itinerarium" Saint Bonaventura emphasizes that knowledge in the last 
analysis comes down to seeing, to contemplation, to a kind of experience in 
which we know certain things to be true without further argument or 
demonstration. On the lowest level, this occurs in sensory observation, on 
the highest in the mystic vision.

Along with this insistence on direct experience as the source of all truth 
runs a practice which goes back at least to Philo-Judaeus in the Hebraic-
Christian tradition: the practice of the allegorical method. In Philo, who 
was mainly interested in the Pentateuch, the allegorical method was 
employed in interpreting Scripture. It was believed by him that if every 
verse in the Bible was accepted literally, then we should have to believe 
things which were contrary to reason. Thus we should have to believe that 
God, Who is not in space, actually walked in the Garden of Eden; that He 
spoke as human beings speak with a physical voice; that He literally 
breathed into Adam the breath of life as we breathe our breath into 
things.[1] But to hold such beliefs is to deny the spirituality and ubiquity 
of God, and that is repugnant to our religious and philosophical theories. 
Consequently Philo maintained that these and similar texts must be 
interpreted allegorically, and he naturally believed that he had the key to 
the allegory. Similarly the "Itinerarium," which begins as a meditation 
upon the vision which Saint Francis had on Mount Alverna, continues as an 
interpretation in philosophical terms, not only of the vision itself, but 
also of certain passages in Exodus and Isaiah in which details of the 
vision are paralleled. The Seraph which Saint Francis saw, and which had 
three pairs of wings, has to be interpreted as a symbol of a philosophical 
and religious idea. The wings become stages in the process of the mind's 
elevation to God, and their position on the body of the Seraph indicates 
the heights of the stages. Furthermore, it will be seen that even the 
physical world itself becomes a sort of symbol of religious ideas. This was 
in keeping with many traditions which were common in the Middle Ages--ideas 
that appeared in the Bestiaries and Lapidaries, and which we retain in 
weakened form in some of our pseudoheraldic symbols, such as the Eagle, the 
Lion, and the Olive Branch; or the use of certain colors, such as blue for 
hope, white for purity, red for passion. Among these more popular symbols 
was that of the macrocosm and the microcosm, according to which a human 
being exactly mirrored the universe as a whole, so that one could pass from 
one to the other and find corresponding parts and functions. Much of this 
was undoubtedly fortified by Saint Francis' fashion of humanizing natural 
objects--the sun, the birds, the rain, and so on--in his talks and poems. 
Few, if any, of the saints seem to have felt such an intimate relationship 
with the physical world as the founder of the Order to which Saint 
Bonaventura belonged.

The full effect of this appears in the first chapter of the "Itinerarium," 
in which we are told that God may be seen in His traces in the physical 
world. This is the basis of what sometimes is called natural theology; for 
if we can actually see the traces of God about us in the order of natural 
law, then we have a start toward knowledge of the divine mind which is 
sure. It is only a start, Saint Bonaventura maintains, but it is the proper 
start. It means that one does not have to be a great rationalist, an 
erudite theologian, a doctor, to know religious truths. One has only to 
look about one and observe that certain laws obtain; that there is order; 
that all things are "disposed in weight, number, and measure." This can be 
seen; and when it is seen, one has a reflection of the divine mind in one's 
sensory experience. One has only to contrast this with the method of Saint 
Thomas Aquinas in the "Summa Theologica," in which God's existence is 
proved by a series of rational arguments--where objections are analyzed, 
authorities are consulted and weighed, multiple distinctions are made, and 
the whole emphasis is upon reason rather than observation. Saint 
Bonaventura seems to have as his purpose a demonstration of God's existence 
and of His traits which is not irrational but nonrational. That is, he 
would be far from saying that his conclusions would not stand up under 
rational criticism, but would insist that his method, to use modern 
language, is empirical rather than rational. To take a trivial example from 
another field, we could prove that a person had committed a crime either by 
circumstantial evidence or by direct testimony. If we can produce two or 
three persons who actually saw him commit the crime, we do not feel that we 
must corroborate what they say by a rational demonstration that he could 
have committed it, that he had a motive for committing it, that he 
threatened to commit it, that no one else could have committed it, and so 
on. We like to think that a good case gives us both kinds of evidence, but 
frequently we have to be satisfied with one type or bits of both types. 
Saint Bonaventura might be compared to the man who insists on direct 
testimony; Saint Thomas to him who puts his trust exclusively in 
circumstantial evidence, though the comparison would be superficial. It 
would be superficial since both would agree that God's existence could be 
shown in both ways.

The method of direct observation by which one is made certain of one's 
beliefs leads step by step to the mystic vision. The mystic, like the 
strict empiricist, has a kind of knowledge which is indisputable. No one 
can deny what the mystic sees any more than one can deny what the sensory 
observer sees. The philosopher who bases all knowledge upon the direct 
observation of colors, sounds, shapes, and so on, has knowledge which he 
readily admits is uncommunicable, in spite of the fact that most of us use 
words for our elementary sensations in the same ways. But whether John Doe, 
who is looking upon a patch of red, sees precisely what Richard Roe sees, 
could be doubted and has been doubted. For the psychological equipment, the 
sensory apparatus of the two men may and probably does contribute something 
to even the most simple sensory experiences. If Messrs. Doe and Roe are 
exactly alike in all relevant ways, then one may reasonably conclude that 
their sensations are exactly alike. But nevertheless Roe would not be 
having Doe's sensation, for each man is the terminus of causal events which 
diverge from a given point and which cease to be identical once they have 
entered the human body Thus a bell may be ringing and therefore giving off 
air waves. When these air waves enter the body of Roe, they are no longer 
the same waves which have entered the body of Doe for Roe's auditory 
nerves, no matter how similar to Doe's, are not existentially identical 
with them. If we distinguish between existential and qualitative identity, 
and we all do, then we may say that Doe and Roe have qualitatively 
identical but existentially nonidentical sensations. Until Roe can hear 
with Doe's ears and auditory nerves and auditory brain centers, he will 
never experience Doe's auditory sensations. Similarly with the mystic 
vision. If one man has such a vision, he is not made uneasy the fact that 
another does not have it. The other man has only to follow the discipline 
which will lead him to it. Saint Bonaventura traces the steps on this road, 
one by one, until he reaches his goal.

The mysticism of Saint Bonaventura was peculiar in that it was based on a 
theory of knowledge in which all degrees of knowledge were similarly 
direct, immediate, and nonrational. One sees God's traces in the sensory 
world; one sees His image in the mind; one sees His goodness in human 
goodness; one sees His powers in the operations of our own powers--it is 
always a question of direct seeing. Thus we have the possibility of real, 
rather than notional, assent in all fields of knowledge. We are not forced 
to know about things; we can know them. We have, to use other familiar 
terms, direct acquaintance with, rather than descriptions of, them. In 
other words, there is never any real need for rational discourse, for 
erudition. The simplest man of good will can see God as clearly as the most 
learned scholar. That made a philosophy such as this a perfect instrument 
for the Christian, for throughout the Christian tradition ran a current of 
anti-intellectualism. Christianity was held to be a religion, not merely a 
body of abstract knowledge. It was an experience as well as a theory. A man 
of faith could have as certain knowledge of God as the man of learning. 
This did not discourage the Christian from attempting to build up rational 
systems which would demonstrate to the world of scholars what the religious 
man knew by faith. Far from it. But what Kant was to say of the 
relationship between concepts and precepts, the Christian could have said 
of that between faith and reason, or religion and philosophy: faith without 
reason is blind, reason without faith empty.

The difficulty with the extremists who maintained that either one or the 
other faculty was sufficient was that faith and reason were both supposed 
to assert something. Whether you believed by faith or by reason, you 
believed in ideas which presumably made sense, could be stated in words, 
could be true or false. If you believed in one of these truths by faith, 
without reason, you were in the position of a man who had no knowledge of 
what he was believing nor why, nor even whether there was any good reason 
for believing in it rather than its contradictory. It was all very well for 
a man like Tertullian to maintain that there was more glory in believing 
something irrational--inept--than in believing something demonstrably true. 
Most Christian philosophers were anxious to put a sound rational 
underpinning beneath their beliefs. Similarly, if you had only rational 
knowledge, you were like a blind man who might be convinced that there were 
such things as colors, analogous to sounds and odors, but who had no direct 
acquaintance with them; or again like a man who had read an eloquent 
description of a great painting, but who had never seen it. Though all 
Christians were in the position of maintaining that there were some 
beliefs, those in the mysteries, which could not be rationally 
demonstrated, nevertheless they all, including Saint Bonaventura, pushed 
their rational demonstrations as far as they were able. Thus Saint 
Bonaventura goes so far as to attempt a dialectical proof of the dogma of 
the Trinity (Ch. VI), though he realizes that such a proof is not 
sufficient for religion.

It is worth pointing out that Franciscan philosophy as a whole tended to 
put more emphasis upon the observation of the natural world than its great 
rival, Thomism, did. Even in the "Little Flowers" of Saint Francis, only in 
a remote sense of the word a philosophical work, there is a fondness for 
what we call Nature which led him at times close to heresy. Later there 
were Franciscans like Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, and their great friend and 
protector, Robert Grosseteste, whose interest in what we would call 
science, as distinct from philosophy, was almost their main interest. 
Indeed, one might without too much exaggeration maintain that the impetus 
to the study of the natural world through empirical methods came from the 
Franciscans. This appears in the early chapters of the "Itinerarium," where 
observational science becomes not simply the satisfaction of idle 
curiosity, but the fulfillment of a religious obligation. But it goes 
without saying that a man of science may discover truths which contradict 
what he has believed on faith and that a man of faith may look to science, 
not for everything which it is capable of revealing, but only for those 
things which corroborate his faith. The best illustration of this conflict 
is found in the use made of arithmetic by allegorists, as early as Philo. 
Few mathematicians today would play upon the curious properties of numbers-
-virgin numbers, perfect numbers, superabundant numbers, numbers which are 
the sums of such numbers as three and four--to prove religious truths. Few 
men of religion would, I imagine, seek validation of their religious 
beliefs in the properties of numbers, finding it extraordinary that there 
are four Gospels, four points of the compass, four winds, four elements 
(earth, water, air, and fire), four seasons, four humors, four 
temperaments. But all men will usually feel uneasy in the presence of 
contradiction and will do their best to bring all their beliefs into 
harmony with one another. The question reduces to the motivation of 
knowledge, the question of why exploration is pushed into fields which 
previously have been terrae incognitae. And when one compares science as it 
was before the fourteenth century and that which it became after that date, 
one sees that only a strong emotional propulsion would have produced the 
change of interest. That propulsion, we are suggesting, came from the 

The student who has no acquaintance with the philosophy of Saint 
Bonaventura can do no better than to begin with the "Itinerarium." It is 
short and yet complete; it is typical of his manner of thinking; and it 
presents only the difficulties which any medieval philosophical text 
presents. There is no need to hack one's way through a jungle of 
authorities, quotations, refutations, distinctions, and textual exegeses. 
It is not a commentary on another man's book; it is a straightforward 
statement of a philosophical point of view. It illustrates the manner in 
which its author's contemporaries and predecessors utilized Biblical texts, 
and it also illustrates the knowledge of physics and psychology which was 
current in the thirteenth century. It is thus one of those representative 
documents which it behooves all students of intellectual history to know. 
It should be read with sympathy. One should accept its author's various 
assumptions, both methodological and doctrinal, and begin from there. There 
would be no point in trying to translate it in terms of the twentieth 
century, for the attempt would fail. But similarly one would not attempt to 
translate Dante's cosmology into modern terms nor justify Chartres 
Cathedral in terms of functional architecture as that is understood by 
modern engineers. This book is a kind of prose poem, with a dramatic 
development of its own as one rises from step to step toward a mystic 
vision of God. That would seem to be the best approach which the beginner 
could make to it.


1. The student will do well to read Philo's "Allegorical Interpretation" 
for examples of his method. The most readily available translation is that 
of G. H. Whitaker in the Loeb Library. For a thorough study of the whole 
matter, he should consult H. A. Wolfson s "Philo" (Cambridge: Harvard 
University, 1949).

July, 1953


St. Bonaventura, "Breviloquium," tr. by Erwin Esser Nemmers, St. Louis an 
London, 1946.

----, "Opera Omnia," As Claras Aquas (Quaracchi), 10 vols., 1937.

Dady, Sister Mary Rachael, "The Theory of Knowledge of St. Bonaventura," 
Washington, D. C., 1939.

De Benedictis, Matthew M., "The Social Thought of St. Bonaventura," 
Washington, D. C., 1946.

Gilson, E. H., "La Philosophie de St. Bonaventure," Paris, 1924.

Healy, Sister Emma Therese, "Saint Bonaventura's De reductione artium ad 
theologiam" (commentary with introduction and translation), St. 
Bonaventura, N. Y., 1939.

Prentice, Robert P., "The Psychology of Love according to St. Bonaventura," 
St. Bonaventura, N. Y., 1951.



1. To begin with, the first principle from Whom all illumination descends 
as from the Father of Light, by Whom are given all the best and perfect 
gifts [James, 1, 17], the eternal Father do I call upon through His Son, 
our Lord Jesus Christ, that by the intercession of the most holy Virgin 
Mary, mother of God Himself and of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and of the 
blessed Francis, our father and leader, He may enlighten the eyes of our 
mind to guide our feet into the way of that peace "which surpasses all 
understanding" [Eph., 1, 17; Luke, 1, 79; Phil., 4, 7], which peace our 
Lord Jesus Christ has announced and given to us; which lesson our father 
Francis always taught, in all of whose preaching was the annunciation of 
peace both in the beginning and in the end, wishing for peace in every 
greeting, yearning for ecstatic peace in every moment of contemplation, as 
a citizen of that Jerusalem of which that man of peace said, with those 
that hated peace he was peaceable [Ps., 119, 7], "Pray ye for the things 
that are for the peace of Jerusalem" [Ps., 121, 6]. For he knew that the 
throne of Solomon was nowise save in peace, since it is written, "His place 
is in peace and His abode in Sion" [Ps., 75, 3].

2. Since, then, following the example of the most blessed father Francis, I 
breathlessly sought this peace, I, a sinner, who have succeeded to the 
place of that most blessed father after his death, the seventh Minister 
General of the brothers, though in all ways unworthy--it happened that by 
the divine will in the thirty-third year after the death of that blessed 
man I ascended to Mount Alverna as to a quiet place, with the desire of 
seeking spiritual peace; and staying there, while I meditated on the ascent 
of the mind to God, amongst other things there occurred that miracle which 
happened in the same place to the blessed Francis himself, the vision 
namely of the winged Seraph in the likeness of the Crucified. While looking 
upon this vision, I immediately saw that it signified the suspension of our 
father himself in contemplation and the way by which he came to it.

3. For by those six wings are rightly to be understood the six stages of 
illumination by which the soul, as if by steps or progressive movements, 
was disposed to pass into peace by ecstatic elevations of Christian wisdom. 
The way, however, is only through the most burning love of the Crucified, 
Who so transformed Paul, "caught up into the third heaven" [II Cor., 12, 
2], into Christ, that he said, "With Christ I am nailed to the cross, yet I 
live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me" [Gal., 2, 19]; who therefore so 
absorbed the mind of Francis that his soul w as manifest in his flesh and 
he bore the most holy stigmata of the Passion in his body for two years 
before his death. Therefore the symbol of the six-winged Seraph signifies 
the six stages of illumination, which begin with God's creatures and lead 
up to God, to Whom no one can enter properly save through the Crucified. 
For he who does not enter by the door but otherwise, he is a thief and a 
robber [John, 10, 1]. But if anyone does enter by this door, he shall go in 
and go out and shall find pastures [John, 9]. Because of this John says in 
his Apocalypse [22, 14], "Blessed are they that wash their robes in the 
blood of the Lamb, that they may have a right to the Tree of Life and may 
enter in by the gates into the City"; as if he were to say that one cannot 
enter into the heavenly Jerusalem through contemplation unless one enter 
through the blood of the Lamb as through a gate. For one is not disposed to 
contemplation which leads to mental elevation unless one be with Daniel a 
man of desires [Dan., 9, 23]. But desires are kindled in us in two ways: by 
the cry of prayer, which makes one groan with the murmuring of one's heart, 
and by a flash of apprehension by which the mind turns most directly and 
intensely to the rays of light [Ps., 37, 9].

4. Therefore to the cry of prayer through Christ crucified, by Whose blood 
we are purged of the filth of vice, do I first invite the reader, lest 
perchance he should believe that it suffices to read without unction, 
speculate without devotion, investigate without wonder, examine without 
exultation, work without piety, know without love, understand without 
humility, be zealous without divine grace, see without wisdom divinely 
inspired. Therefore to those predisposed by divine grace, to the humble and 
the pious, to those filled with compunction and devotion, anointed with the 
oil of gladness [Ps., 44, 8], to the lovers of divine wisdom, inflamed with 
desire for it, to those wishing to give themselves over to praising God, to 
wondering over Him and to delighting in Him, do I propose the following 
reflections, hinting that little or nothing is the outer mirror unless the 
mirror of the mind be clear and polished.

Bestir yourself then, O man of God, you who previously resisted the pricks 
of conscience, before you raise your eyes to the rays of wisdom shining in 
that mirror, lest by chance you fall into the lower pit of shadows from the 
contemplation of those rays.

5. I have decided to divide my treatise into seven chapters, heading them 
with titles so that their contents may be the more easily understood. I ask 
therefore that one think rather of the intention of the writer than of his 
work, of the sense of the words rather than the rude speech, of truth 
rather than beauty, of the exercise of the affections rather than the 
erudition of the intellect. That such may come about, the progress of these 
thoughts must not be perused lightly, but should be meditated upon in 
greatest deliberation.




1. Blessed is the man whose help is from Thee. In his heart he hath 
disposed to ascend by steps, in the vale of tears, in the place which he 
hath set [Ps., 83, 6]. Since beatitude is nothing else than the fruition of 
the highest good, and the highest good is above us, none can be made 
blessed unless he ascend above himself, not by the ascent of his body but 
by that of his heart. But we cannot be raised above ourselves except by a 
higher power raising us up. For howsoever the interior steps are disposed, 
nothing is accomplished unless it is accompanied by divine aid. Divine 
help, however, comes to those who seek it from their hearts humbly and 
devoutly; and this means to sigh for it in this vale of tears, aided only 
by fervent prayer. Thus prayer is the mother and source of ascent ("sursum-
actionis") in God. Therefore Dionysius, in his book, "Mystical Theology" 
[ch. 1, 13, wishing to instruct us in mental elevation, prefaces his work 
by prayer. Therefore let us pray and say to the Lord our God, "Conduct me, 
O Lord, in Thy way, and I will walk in Thy truth; let my heart rejoice that 
it may fear Thy name" [Ps., 85, 11].

2. By praying thus one is enlightened about the knowledge of the stages in 
the ascension to God. For since, relative to our life on earth, the world 
is itself a ladder for ascending to God, we find here certain traces [of 
His hand], certain images, some corporeal, some spiritual, some temporal, 
some aeviternal; consequently some outside us, some inside. That we may 
arrive at an understanding of the First Principle, which is most spiritual 
and eternal and above us, we ought to proceed through the traces which are 
corporeal and temporal and outside us, and this is to be led into the way 
of God. We ought next to enter into our minds, which are the eternal image 
of God, spiritual and internal; and this is to walk in the truth of God. We 
ought finally to pass over into that which is eternal, most spiritual, and 
above us, looking to the First Principle; and this is to rejoice in the 
knowledge of God and in the reverence of His majesty.

3. Now this is the three days' journey into the wilderness [Ex., 3, 18]; 
this is the triple illumination of one day, first as the evening, second as 
the morning, third as noon; this signifies the threefold existence of 
things, as in matter, in [creative] intelligence, and in eternal art, 
wherefore it is said, "Be it made, He made it," and "it was so done" [Gen., 
1]; and this also means the triple substance in Christ, Who is our ladder, 
namely, the corporeal, the spiritual, and the divine.

4. Following this threefold progress, our mind has three principal aspects. 
One refers to the external body, wherefore it is called animality or 
sensuality; the second looks inward and into itself, wherefore it is called 
spirit; the third looks above itself, wherefore it is called mind. From all 
of which considerations it ought to be so disposed for ascending as a whole 
into God that it may love Him with all its mind, with all its heart, and 
with all its soul [Mark, 12, 30]. And in this consists both the perfect 
observance of the Law and Christian wisdom.

5. Since, however, all of the aforesaid modes are twofold--as when we 
consider God as the alpha and omega, or in so far as we happen to see God 
in one of the aforesaid modes as "through" a mirror and "in" a mirror, or 
as one of those considerations can be mixed with the other conjoined to it 
or may be considered alone in its purity--hence it is necessary that these 
three principal stages become sixfold, so that as God made the world in six 
days and rested on the seventh, so the microcosm by six successive stages 
of illumination is led in the most orderly fashion to the repose of 
contemplation. As a symbol of this we have the six steps to the throne of 
Solomon [III Kings, 10, 19]; the Seraphim whom Isaiah saw have six wings; 
after six days the Lord called Moses out of the midst of the cloud [Ex., 
21, 16]; and Christ after six days, as is said in Matthew [17, 1], brought 
His disciples up into a mountain and was transfigured before them.

6. Therefore, according to the six stages of ascension into God, there are 
six stages of the soul's powers by which we mount from the depths to the 
heights, from the external to the internal, from the temporal to the 
eternal--to wit, sense, imagination, reason, intellect, intelligence, and 
the apex of the mind, the illumination of conscience ("Synteresis"). These 
stages are implanted in us by nature, deformed by sin, reformed by grace, 
to be purged by justice, exercised by knowledge, perfected by wisdom.

7. Now at the Creation, man was made fit for the repose of contemplation, 
and therefore God placed him in a paradise of delight [Gen., 2, 16]. But 
turning himself away from the true light to mutable goods, he was bent over 
by his own sin, and the whole human race by original sin, which doubly 
infected human nature, ignorance infecting man's mind and concupiscence his 
flesh. Hence man, blinded and bent, sits in the shadows and does not see 
the light of heaven unless grace with justice succor him from 
concupiscence, and knowledge with wisdom against ignorance. All of which is 
done through Jesus Christ, Who of God is made unto us wisdom and justice 
and sanctification and redemption [I Cor., 1, 30]. He is the virtue and 
wisdom of God, the Word incarnate, the author of grace and truth--that is, 
He has infused the grace of charity, which, since it is from a pure heart 
and good conscience and unfeigned faith, rectifies the whole soul in the 
threefold way mentioned above. He has taught the knowledge of the truth 
according to the triple mode of theology--that is, the symbolic, the 
literal, and the mystical--so that by the symbolic we may make proper use 
of sensible things, by the literal we may properly use the intelligible, 
and by the mystical we may be carried aloft to supermental levels.

8. Therefore he who wishes to ascend to God must, avoiding sin, which 
deforms nature, exercise the above-mentioned natural powers for 
regenerating grace, and do this through prayer. He must strive toward 
purifying justice, and this in intercourse; toward the illumination of 
knowledge, and this in meditation; toward the perfection of wisdom, and 
this in contemplation. Now just as no one comes to wisdom save through 
grace, justice, and knowledge, so none comes to contemplation save through 
penetrating meditation, holy conversation, and devout prayer. Just as grace 
is the foundation of the will's rectitude and of the enlightenment of clear 
and penetrating reason, so, first, we must pray; secondly, we must live 
holily; thirdly, we must strive toward the reflection of truth and, by our 
striving, mount step by step until we come to the high mountain where we 
shall see the God of gods in Sion [Ps., 83, 8]

9. Since, then, we must mount Jacob's ladder before descending it, let us 
place the first rung of the ascension in the depths, putting the whole 
sensible world before us as a mirror, by which ladder we shall mount up to 
God, the Supreme Creator, that we may be true Hebrews crossing from Egypt 
to the land promised to our fathers; let us be Christians crossing with 
Christ from this world over to the Father [John, 13, 1]; let us also be 
lovers of wisdom, which calls to us and says, "Come over to me, all ye that 
desire me, and be filled with my fruits" [Ecclesiasticus, 24, 26]. For by 
the greatness of the beauty and of the creature, the Creator of them may be 
seen [Wisdom, 13, 5].

10. There shine forth, however, the Creator's supreme power and wisdom and 
benevolence in created things, as the carnal sense reports trebly to the 
inner sense. For the carnal sense serves him who either understands 
rationally or believes faithfully or contemplates intellectually. 
Contemplating, it considers the actual existence of things; believing, it 
considers the habitual course of things; reasoning, it considers the 
potential excellence of things.

11. In the first mode, the aspect of one contemplating, considering things 
in themselves, sees in them weight, number, and measure [Wisdom, 11, 21]--
weight, which directs things to a certain location;[2] number, by which they 
are distinguished from one another; and measure, by which they are limited. 
And so one sees in them mode, species, and order; and also substance, 
power, and operation. From these one can rise as from the traces to 
understanding the power, wisdom, and immense goodness of the Creator.

12. In the second mode, the aspect of a believer considering this world, 
one reaches its origin, course, and terminus. For by faith we believe that 
the ages are fashioned by the Word of Life [Hebr., 11, 3]; by faith we 
believe that the ages of the three laws--that is, the ages of the law of 
Nature, of Scripture, and of Grace--succeed each other and occur in most 
orderly fashion; by faith we believe that the world will be ended at the 
last judgment--taking heed of the power in the first, of the providence in 
the second, of the justice of the most high principle in the third.

13. In the third mode, the aspect of one inquiring rationally, one sees 
that some things merely are; others, however, are and live; others, 
finally, are, live, and discern. And the first are lesser things, the 
second midway, and the third the best. Again, one sees that some are only 
corporeal, others partly corporeal and partly spiritual, from which it 
follows that some are entirely spiritual and are better and more worthy 
than either of the others. One sees, nonetheless, that some are mutable and 
corruptible, as earthly things; others mutable and incorruptible, as 
celestial things, from which it follows that some are immutable and 
incorruptible, as the supercelestial things.

From these visible things, therefore, one mounts to considering the power 
and wisdom and goodness of God as being, living, and understanding; purely 
spiritual and incorruptible and immutable.

14. This consideration, however, is extended according to the sevenfold 
condition of creatures, which is a sevenfold testimony to the divine power, 
wisdom, and goodness, as one considers the origin, magnitude, multitude, 
beauty, plenitude, operation, and order of all things. For the "origin" of 
things, according to their creation, distinction, and beauty, in the work 
of the six days indicates the divine power producing all things from 
nothing, wisdom distinguishing all things clearly, and goodness adorning 
all things generously. "Magnitude" of things, either according to the 
measure of their length, width, and depth, or according to the excellence 
of power spreading itself in length, breadth, and depth, as appears in the 
diffusion of light, or again according to the efficacy of its inner, 
continuous, and diffused operation, as appears in the operation of fire--
magnitude, I say, indicates manifestly the immensity of the power, wisdom, 
and goodness of the triune God, Who exists unlimited in all things through 
His power, presence, and essence. "Multitude" of things, according to the 
diversity of genus, species, and individuality, in substance, form, or 
figure, and efficacy beyond all human estimation, clearly indicates and 
shows the immensity of the aforesaid traits in God. "Beauty" of things, 
according to the variety of light, figure, and color in bodies simple and 
mixed and even composite, as in the celestial bodies, minerals, stones and 
metals, plants and animals, obviously proclaims the three mentioned traits. 
"Plenitude" of things--according to which matter is full of forms because 
of the seminal reasons; form is full of power because of its activity; 
power is full of effects because of its efficiency--declares the same 
manifestly. "Operation," multiplex inasmuch as it is natural, artificial, 
and moral, by its very variety shows the immensity of that power, art, and 
goodness which indeed are in all things the cause of their being, the 
principle of their intelligibility, and the order of their living. "Order," 
by reason of duration, situation, and influence, as prior and posterior, 
upper and lower, nobler and less noble, indicates clearly in the book of 
creation the primacy, sublimity, and dignity of the First Principle in 
relation to its infinite power. The order of the divine laws, precepts, and 
judgments in the Book of Scripture indicates the immensity of His wisdom. 
The order of the divine sacraments, rewards, and punishments in the body of 
the Church indicates the immensity of His goodness. Hence order leads us 
most obviously into the first and highest, most powerful, wisest, and best.

15. He, therefore, who is not illumined by such great splendor of created 
things is blind; he who is not awakened by such great clamor is deaf; he 
who does not praise God because of all these effects is dumb; he who does 
not note the First Principle from such great signs is foolish. Open your 
eyes therefore, prick up your spiritual ears, open your lips, and apply 
your heart, that you may see your God in all creatures, may hear Him, 
praise Him, love and adore Him, magnify and honor Him, lest the whole world 
rise against you. For on this account the whole world will fight against 
the unwise [Prov., 5, 21]; but to the wise will there be matter for pride, 
who with the Prophet can say, "Thou hast given me, O Lord, a delight in Thy 
doings: and in the works of Thy hands I shall rejoice [Ps., 91, 5]. . . . 
How great are Thy works, O Lord; Thou hast made all things in wisdom; the 
earth is filled with Thy riches" [Ps., 103, 24].


1. have translated the Latin "speculatio," which appears over and over 
again in this work, in a variety of ways. St. Bonaventura plays upon its 
various shades of meaning--reflection, speculation, consideration--for he 
seems haunted by the basic metaphor of the universe's being a sort of 
mirror (speculum) in which God is to be seen. The Italian and French 
translators have the advantage of those of us who write English, for they 
have merely to transliterate the Latin word. We have a similar difficulty 
in the Latin word "vestigia," which I have translated traces. It will 
hardly do to write vestiges or footprints, and traces is not much better. 
St. Bonaventura simply means that by considering the work of art one will 
know the artist. This handiwork shows traces of his workmanship. But we are 
likely to think of traces as something which are left behind, whereas God 
is not to be thought of as having created the world and then left it alone, 
as Pascal said of Descartes' God.

2. Reading "pondus quo ad situm," instead of "quoad."



1. But since with respect to the mirror of sensible things it happens that 
God is contemplated not only through them, as by His traces, but also in 
them, in so far as He is in them by essence, potency, and presence; and to 
consider this is higher than the preceding; therefore a consideration of 
this sort holds next place as a second step in contemplation, by which we 
should be led to the contemplation of God in all creatures which enter into 
our minds through the bodily senses.

2. Let it be noted then that this world, which is called the "macrocosm," 
enters our souls, which are called the "microcosm," through the doors of 
the five senses, according to the apprehension, delectation, and judgment 
of sensible things themselves. This is apparent as follows: In the world 
some things are generating, some generated, some governing the former and 
the latter. The generating are simple bodies, celestial bodies, and the 
four elements. For from the elements, by virtue of the light which 
reconciles the contrariety of elements in mixtures, there can be generated 
and produced whatsoever things are generated and produced through the 
operation of a natural power. But the generated are bodies composed of the 
elements, like minerals, vegetables, sensible things, and human bodies. The 
rulers of the former and the latter are spiritual substances, either 
conjoined entirely, as are the animal souls; or conjoined though separable, 
as are the rational spirits; or entirely separated, as are the celestial 
spirits, which philosophers call "intelligences," but we "angels." These, 
according to the philosophers, move the celestial bodies; and thus there is 
attributed to them the administration of the universe by taking over from 
the First Cause, that is God, their active influence, which they pour out 
in accordance with the work of governing, which looks to the natural 
harmony of things. According to the theologians, however, there is 
attributed to them the rule of the universe in accordance with the power of 
the supreme God with respect to the work of reparation, wherefore they are 
called "ministering spirits," sent to minister to them who shall receive 
the inheritance of salvation [Hebr., 1, 14].

3. Therefore, man, who is called a "microcosm," has five senses like five 
doors, through which enters into his soul the cognition of all that is in 
the sensible world. For through sight enter the transparent ("sublimia"), 
luminous, and other colored bodies; through touch the solid and terrestrial 
bodies; by the three intermediate senses the intermediates, as by taste the 
aqueous, by hearing the aerial, by odor the vaporous--all of which have 
something of a humid nature, something aerial, something fiery or warm, as 
appears in the smoke which is freed from incense.

There enter then through these doors, not only simple bodies, but also 
composite, mixed from these. But since by sense we perceive not only these 
particular sensibles, which are light, sound, odor, savor, and the four 
primary qualities which touch apprehends, but also the common sensibles, 
which are number, magnitude, figure, rest, and motion, and since everything 
which is moved is moved by something, and some are self-moved and remain at 
rest, as the animals, it follows that when through these five senses we 
apprehend the motion of bodies, we are led to the cognition of spiritual 
movers, as through an effect we are led to a knowledge of its causes.

4. As far as the three kinds of things are concerned, this whole sensible 
world enters into the human soul through "apprehension." The external 
sensibles, however, are what first enter the soul through the five doors of 
the senses. They enter, I say, not though their substance, but through 
their similitudes. These are first generated in the medium, and from the 
medium are generated in the organ and pass from the external organ into the 
internal, and from there into the apprehensive power. And thus the 
generation of the [sensible] species in the medium and from the medium into 
the organ and the reaction of the apprehensive power to it [the species] 
produce the apprehension of all those things which the soul apprehends from 

5. Upon this  apprehension, if it be of the appropriate thing, there 
follows delight. Sense, however, takes delight in an object perceived 
through an abstracted similitude either by reason of its beauty, as in 
sight; or by reason of its agreeableness, as in odor and hearing; or by 
reason of wholesomeness, as in taste and touch, speaking with 
appropriation.[2] All delight, however, is by reason of proportion. But since 
a species is form, power, and operation, according to whether it is thought 
of as related to the principle from which it comes, to the medium through 
which it passes, or to the end for which it acts, therefore proportion may 
be considered in similitude, inasmuch as it is a species or form and thus 
is called "speciositas" [beauty], because beauty is nothing other than 
numerical equality or a certain relation of parts with agreeable color. Or 
else proportion may be considered as potency or power, and thus it is 
called "suavity," for active power does not exceed immoderately the powers 
of the recipient, since the senses are pained by extremes and delight in 
the mean. Or it may be considered, by thinking of species, as efficacy and 
impression, which is proportional when the agent by impression supplies 
what the recipient lacks; and this is to save and nourish it, which appears 
especially in taste and touch. And thus through delight the external 
pleasures enter into the soul by similitudes in a triple mode of 

6. After the delight of apprehension comes judgment. By this we not only 
judge whether something is white or black, for this pertains to a special 
sense, not only whether it is healthful or harmful, for this pertains to 
the inner sense, but also why something is delightful. And in this act the 
question is raised about the reasons for our delight which sense derives 
from the object. This happens when we ask why something is beautiful, 
pleasant, and wholesome. And it is discovered that the answer is equality 
of proportion. equality, however, is the same in the great and the small, 
and is not spread out through a thing's dimensions; nor does it change and 
pass away when there is alteration through change or motion. Therefore it 
abstracts from place, time, and motion, and thus is unchangeable, 
inimitable, without ends, and in all ways spiritual. Judgment is, 
therefore, an action which causes the sensible species, received sensibly 
through sense, to enter the intellective faculty by purification and 
abstraction. And thus the whole world can enter into the human soul through 
the doors of the senses by the three aforesaid operations.

7. These all, however, are traces in which we can see the reflection of our 
God. For since the apprehended species is a likeness produced in the medium 
and then impressed upon the organ itself, and by means of that impression 
leads to its principle and source--that is to say, to the object of 
knowledge--manifestly it follows that the eternal light generates out of 
itself a likeness or coequal radiance which is consubstantial and 
coeternal. And He Who is the image and likeness of the invisible God [Col., 
1, 15] and "the brightness of His glory and the figure of His substance" 
[Hebr., 1, 3], He Who is everywhere through His primal generation, as an 
object generates its likeness in the whole medium, is united by the grace 
of union to an individual of rational nature--as a species to a corporeal 
organ--so that by that union He may lead us back to the Father as to the 
primordial source and object. If then all knowable things can generate 
their likeness (species), obviously they proclaim that in them as in a 
mirror can be seen the eternal generation of the Word, the Image, and the 
Son, eternally emanating from God the Father.

8. In this way the species, delighting us as beautiful, pleasant, and 
wholesome, implies that in that first species is the primal beauty, 
pleasure, and wholesomeness in which is the highest proportionality and 
equality to the generator. In this is power, not through imagination, but 
entering our minds through the truth of apprehension. Here is impression, 
salubrious and satisfying, and expelling all lack in the apprehending mind. 
If, then, delight is the conjunction of the harmonious, and the likeness of 
God alone is the most highly beautiful, pleasant, and wholesome, and if it 
is united in truth and in inwardness and in plenitude which employs our 
entire capacity, obviously it can be seen that in God alone is the original 
and true delight, and that we are led back to seeking it from all other 

9. By a more excellent and immediate way are we led by judgment into seeing 
eternal truths more surely. For if judgment comes about through the 
reason's abstracting from place, time, and change, and therefore from 
dimension, succession, and transmutation, by the immutable, illimitable, 
and endless reason, and if there is nothing immutable, inimitable, and 
endless except the eternal, then all which is eternal is God or is in God. 
If, then, all things of which we have more certain judgments are judged by 
this mode of reasoning, it is clear that this is the reason of all things 
and the infallible rule and light of truth, in which all things shine forth 
infallibly, indestructibly, indubitably, irrefragably, unquestionably, 
unchangeably, boundlessly, endlessly, indivisibly, and intellectually. And 
therefore those laws by which we make certain judgments concerning all 
sensible things which come into our consideration--since they [the laws] 
are infallible and indubitable rules of the apprehending intellect--are 
indelibly stored up in the memory as if always present, are irrefragable 
and unquestionable rules of the judging intellect. And this is so because, 
as Augustine says [Lib. Arb., II, ch. 4], no one judges these things except 
by these rules. It must thus be true that they are incommutable and 
incorruptible since they are necessary, and boundless since they are 
inimitable, endless since eternal. Therefore they must be indivisible since 
intellectual and incorporeal, not made but uncreated, eternally existing in 
eternal art, by which, through which, and in accordance with which all 
things possessing form are formed. Neither, therefore, can we judge with 
certainty except through that which was not only the form producing all 
things but also the preserver of all and the distinguisher of all, as the 
being who preserves the form in all things, the directing rule by which our 
mind judges all things which enter into it through the senses.

10. This observation is extended by a consideration of the seven different 
kinds of number by which, as if by seven steps, we ascend to God. Augustine 
shows this in his book "On the True Religion" and in the sixth book "On 
Music," wherein he assigns the differences of the numbers as they mount 
step by step from sensible things to the Maker of all things, so that God 
may be seen in all.

For he says that numbers are in bodies and especially in sounds and words, 
and he calls these "sonorous." Some are abstracted from these and received 
into our senses, and these he calls "heard." Some proceed from the soul 
into the body, as appears in gestures and bodily movements, and these he 
calls "uttered." Some are in the pleasures of the senses which arise from 
attending to the species which have been received, and these he calls 
"sensual." Some are retained in the memory, and these he calls remembered. 
Some are the bases of our judgments about all these, and these he calls 
"judicial," which, as has been said above, necessarily transcend our minds 
because they are infallible and incontrovertible. By these there are 
imprinted on our minds the "artificial" numbers which Augustine does not 
include in this classification because they are connected with the judicial 
number from which flow the uttered numbers out of which are created the 
numerical forms of those things made by art. Hence, from the highest 
through the middles to the lowest, there is an ordered descent. Thence do 
we ascend step by step from the sonorous numbers by means of the uttered, 
the sensual, and the remembered.

Since, therefore, all things are beautiful and in some way delightful, and 
beauty and delight do not exit apart from proportion, and proportion is 
primarily in number, it needs must be that all things are rhythmical 
("numerosa"). And for this reason number is the outstanding exemplar in the 
mind of the Maker, and in things it is the outstanding trace leading to 
wisdom. Since this is most evident to all and closest to God, it leads most 
directly to God as if by the seven differentiae. It causes Him to be known 
in all corporeal and sensible thing while we apprehend the rhythmical, 
delight in rhythmical proportions, and though the laws of rhythmical 
proportions judge irrefragably.

11. From these two initial steps by which we are led to seeing God in His 
traces, as if we had two wings falling to our feet, we can determine that 
all creatures of this sensible world lead the mind of the one contemplating 
and attaining wisdom to the eternal God; for they are shadows, echoes, and 
pictures, the traces, simulacra, and reflections of that First Principle 
most powerful, wisest, and best; of that light and plenitude; of that art 
productive, exemplifying, and ordering, given to us for looking upon God. 
They are signs divinely bestowed which, I say, are exemplars or rather 
exemplifications set before our yet untrained minds, limited to sensible 
things, so that through the sensibles which they see they may be carried 
forward to the intelligibles, which they do not see, as if by signs to the 

12. The creatures of this sensible world signify the invisible things of 
God [Rom., 1, 20], partly because God is of all creation the origin, 
exemplar, and end, and because every effect is the sign of its cause, the 
exemplification of the exemplar, and the way to the end to which it leads; 
partly from its proper representation; partly from prophetic prefiguration; 
partly from angelic operation; partly from further ordination. For every 
creature is by nature a sort of picture and likeness of that eternal 
wisdom, but especially that which in the book of Scripture is elevated by 
the spirit of prophecy to the prefiguration of spiritual things. But more 
does the eternal wisdom appear in those creatures in whose likeness God 
wished to appear in angelic ministry. And most specially does it appear in 
those which He wished to institute for the purpose of signifying which are 
not only signs according to their common name but also Sacraments.

13. From all this it follows that the invisible things of God are clearly 
seen, from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that 
are made; so that those who are unwilling to give heed to them and to know 
God in them all, to bless Him and to love Him, are inexcusable [Rom., 1, 
20], while they are unwilling to be carried forth from the shadows into the 
wonderful light of God [I Cor., 15, 57]. But thanks be to God through Jesus 
Christ our Lord, Who has transported us out of darkness into His wonderful 
light, when through these lights given from without we are disposed to re-
enter into the mirror of our mind, in which the divine lights shine [I 
Peter, 2, 9].


1. This may be a mistranslation. For St. Bonaventura may be talking about 
our perception of the heavenly bodies. Since, however, he is listing the 
three kinds of visible objects, one of which is clearly luminous, and since 
the heavenly bodies are luminous, he must he speaking of some kind of 
visible object which is not luminous. "Sublime" in classical Latin was used 
for the air, and this usage survives in the English verb, "sublimate," "to 

2. This is a technical term which is used when one appropriates to a 
function what is really a trait of that which possesses the function. Thus 
if a whole person has five senses, he touches as a whole, sees as a whole, 
and exercises all his other senses as a whole. But we can speak of his 
sight doing the seeing, his taste doing the smelling, and so on. This 
becomes of importance when a Catholic theologian speaks of the Father as 
creating the world, whereas he believes that all three persons of the 
Trinity are always present in all the acts of the Trinity.



1. The two steps mentioned above, by leading us to God by means of His 
Traces, whereby He shines forth in all creatures, have led us to the point 
of entering into ourselves, that is, into our minds in which the divine 
image shines. Now in the third place, as we enter into ourselves, as if 
leaving the vestibule and coming into the sanctum, that is, the outer part 
of the tabernacle, we should strive to see God through a mirror. In this 
mirror the light of truth is shining before our minds as in a candelabrum, 
for in it gleams the resplendent image of the most blessed Trinity.

Enter then into yourselves and see, for your mind loves itself most 
fervently. Nor could it love itself unless it knew itself. Nor would it 
know itself unless it remembered itself, for we receive nothing through 
intelligence which is not present to our memory. And from this be advised, 
not with the eye of the flesh but with that of reason, that your soul has a 
threefold power. Consider then the operations and the functions of these 
three powers, and you will be able to see God in yourselves as in an image, 
which is to see through a glass darkly [I Cor., 13, 12].

2. The operation of memory is retention and representation, not only of 
things present, corporeal, and temporal, but also of past and future 
things, simple and eternal. For memory retains the past by recalling it, 
the present by receiving it, the future by foreseeing it. It retains the 
simple, as the principles of continuous and discrete quantities--the point, 
the instant, the unit--without which it is impossible to remember or to 
think about those things whose source is in these. Nonetheless it retains 
the eternal principles and the axioms of the sciences and retains them 
eternally. For it can never so forget them while it uses reason that it 
will not approve of them when heard and assent to them, not as though it 
were perceiving them for the first time, but as if it were recognizing them 
as innate and familiar, as appears when someone says to another, ''One must 
either affirm or deny," or, "Every whole is greater than its part," or any 
other law which cannot be rationally contradicted.

From the first actual retention of all temporal things, namely, of the 
past, present, and future, it has the likeness of eternity whose 
indivisible present extends to all times. From the second it appears that 
it is not only formed from without by images [phantasms], but also by 
receiving simple forms from above and retaining them in itself--forms which 
cannot enter through the doors of the senses and the images of sensible 
things. From the third it follows that it has an undying light present to 
itself in which it remembers unchangeable truths. And thus, through the 
operations of the memory, it appears that the soul itself is the image of 
God and His likeness, so present to itself and having Him present that it 
receives Him in actuality and is susceptible of receiving Him in potency, 
and that it can also participate in Him.

3. The operation of the intellect is concerned with the meaning of terms, 
propositions, and inferences. The intellect however, understands the 
meaning of terms when it comprehends what anything is through its 
definition. But a definition must be made by higher terms and these by 
still higher, until one comes to the highest and most general, in ignorance 
of which the lower cannot be defined. Unless, therefore, it is known what 
is being-in-itself, the definition of no special substance can be fully 
known. For can being-in-itself be known unless it be known along with its 
conditions: the one, the true, the good. Since being, however, can be known 
as incomplete or complete, as imperfect or perfect, as potential or actual, 
as relative or absolute, as partial or total, as transient or permanent, as 
dependent or independent, as mixed with non-being or as pure, as contingent 
or necessary (per se), as posterior or prior, as mutable or immutable, as 
simple or composite; since privations and defects can be known only through 
affirmations in some positive sense, our intellect cannot reach the point 
of fully understanding any of the created beings unless it be favored by 
the understanding of the purest, most actual, most complete, and absolute 
Being, which is simply and eternally Being, and in which are the principles 
of all things in their purity. For how would the intellect know that a 
being is defective and incomplete if it had no knowledge of being free from 
all defect? And thus for all the aforesaid conditions.

The intellect is said to comprehend truly the meaning of propositions when 
it knows with certitude that they are true. And to know this is simply to 
know, since error is impossible in comprehension of this sort. For it knows 
that such truth cannot be otherwise than it is. It knows, therefore, that 
such truth is unchangeable. But since our mind itself is changeable, it 
cannot see that truth shining forth unchangeably except by some light 
shining without change in any way; and it is impossible that such a light 
be a mutable creature. Therefore it knows in that light which enlighteneth 
every man that cometh into this world [John, 1, 9], which is true light and 
the Word which in the beginning was with God [John, 1, 1].

Our intellect perceives truly the meaning of inference when it sees that a 
conclusion necessarily follows from its premises. This it sees not only in 
necessary terms but also in contingent. Thus if a man is running, a man is 
moving. It perceives, however, this necessary connection, not only in 
things which are, but also in things which are not. Thus if a man exists, 
it follows that if he is running, he is moved. And this is true even if the 
man is not existing. The necessity of this mode of inference comes not from 
the existence of the thing in matter, because that is contingent, nor from 
its existence in the soul because then it would be a fiction if it were not 
in the world of things. Therefore it comes from the archetype in eternal 
art according to which things have an aptitude and a comportment toward one 
another by reason of the representation of that eternal art. As Augustine 
says in his "On True Religion" [Ch. 39, 72], "The light of all who reason 
truly is kindled at that truth and strives to return to it." From which it 
is obvious that our intellect is conjoined with that eternal truth so that 
it cannot receive anything with certainty except under its guidance. 
Therefore you can see the truth through yourself, the truth that teaches 
you, if concupiscence and phantasms do not impede you and place themselves 
like clouds between you and the rays of truth.

4. The operation of the power of choice is found in deliberation, judgment, 
and desire. Deliberation is found in inquiring what is better, this or 
that. But the better has no meaning except by its proximity to the best. 
But such proximity is measured by degrees of likeness. No one, therefore, 
can know whether this is better than that unless he knows that this is 
closer to the best. But no one knows that one of two things is more like 
another unless he knows the other. For I do not know that this man is like 
Peter unless I know or am acquainted with Peter. Therefore the idea of the 
good must be involved in every deliberation about the highest good.

Certain judgment of the objects of deliberation comes about through some 
law. But none can judge with certainty through law unless he be certain 
that that law is right and that he ought not to judge it But the mind 
judges itself. Since, then, it cannot judge the law it employs in judgment, 
that law is higher than our minds, and through this higher law one makes 
judgments according to the degree with which it is impressed upon it. But 
there is nothing higher than the human mind except Him Who made it. 
Therefore our deliberative faculty in judging reaches upward to divine laws 
if it solves its problems completely.

Now desire is of that which especially moves one. But that especially moves 
one which is especially loved. But happiness is loved above all. But 
happiness does not come about except through the best and ultimate end. 
Human desire, therefore, seeks nothing unless it be the highest good or 
something which leads to it or something which has some resemblance to it. 
So great is the force of the highest good that nothing can be loved except 
through desire for it by a creature which errs and is deceived when it 
takes truth's image and likeness for the truth.

See then how close the soul is to God and how memory in its operations 
leads to eternity, intelligence to truth, the power of choice to the 
highest goodness.

5. Following the order and origin and comportment of these powers, we are 
led to the most blessed Trinity itself. From memory arises intelligence as 
its offspring, for then do we know when a likeness which is in the memory 
leaps into the eye of the intellect, which is nothing other than a word. 
From memory and intelligence is breathed forth love, which is the tie 
between the two. These three--the generating mind, the word, and love--are 
in the soul as memory, intelligence, and will, which are consubstantial, 
coequal, and coeval, mutually immanent. If then God is perfect spirit, He 
has memory, intelligence, and will; and He has both the begotten Word and 
spirated Love. These are necessarily distinguished, since one is produced 
from the other--distinguished, not essentially or accidentally, but 
personally. When therefore the mind considers itself, it rises through 
itself as through a mirror to the contemplation of the Blessed Trinity--
Father, Word, and Love--three persons coeternal, coequal, and 
consubstantial; so that each one is in each of the others, though one is 
not the other, but all three are one God.

6. This consideration which the soul has of its threefold and unified 
principle through the trinity of its powers, by which it is the image of 
God, is supported by the light of knowledge which perfects it and informs 
it, and represents in three ways the most blessed Trinity. For all 
philosophy is either natural or rational or moral. The first deals with the 
cause of being, and therefore leads to the power of the Father. The second 
deals with the principle of understanding, and therefore leads to the 
wisdom of the Word. The third deals with the order of living, and therefore 
leads to the goodness of the Holy Spirit.

Again, the first is divided into metaphysics, mathematics, and physics. The 
first concerns the essences of things; the second, numbers and figures; the 
third, natures, powers, and extensive operations. Therefore the first to 
the First leads Principle, the Father; the second, to His image, the Son; 
third, to the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The second is divided into grammar, which gives us the power of expression; 
logic, which gives us skill in argumentation; rhetoric, which makes us 
skillful in persuasion or stirring the emotions. And this similarly images 
the mystery of the most blessed Trinity.

The third is divided into individual, family, and political [problems].[1] 
And therefore the first images the First Principle, which has no birth; the 
second, the family relationship of the Son; the third, the liberality of 
the Holy Spirit.

7. All these sciences have certain and infallible rules, like rays of light 
descending from the eternal law into our minds. And thus our minds, 
illumined and suffused by such great radiance, unless they be blind, can be 
led through themselves alone to the contemplation of that eternal light. 
The irradiation and consideration of this light holds the wise suspended in 
wonder; and, on the other hand, it leads into confusion the foolish, who do 
not believe that they may understand. Hence this prophecy is fulfilled: 
"Thou enlightenest wonderfully from the everlasting hills. All the foolish 
of heart were troubled" [Ps., 75, 5-6].


1. In Latin, "monasticam oeconomicam et politicam."



1. But since not only by passing through ourselves but also within 
ourselves is it given to us to contemplate the First Principle, and this is 
greater than the preceding, therefore this mode of thought reaches to the 
fourth level of contemplation. It seems amazing, however, when it is clear 
that God is so near to our minds, that there are so few who see the First 
Principle in themselves. But the reason is close at hand. For the human 
mind, distracted by cares, does not enter into itself through memory; 
obscured by phantasms, it does not return into itself through intelligence; 
allured by concupiscence, it never returns to itself through the desire for 
inner sweetness and spiritual gladness. Thus, lying totally in this 
sensible world, it cannot return to itself as to the image of God.

2. And since, when anyone lies fallen, he must remain there prostrate 
unless someone give a helping hand and he falls in order to rise again 
[Isaiah, 24, 20], our soul has not been able to be raised perfectly from 
the things of sense to an intuition of itself and of the eternal Truth in 
itself unless the Truth, having assumed human form in Christ, should make 
itself into a ladder, repairing the first ladder which was broken in Adam.

Therefore, however much anyone is illuminated only by the light of nature 
and of acquired science, he cannot enter into himself that he may delight 
in the Lord in himself, unless Christ be his mediator, Who says, "I am the 
door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved; and he shall go in, 
and go out, and shall find pastures" [John, 10, 9]. We do not, however, 
approach this door unless we believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him. It 
is therefore necessary, if we wish to enter into the fruition of Truth, as 
into Paradise, that we enter through the faith, hope, and charity of the 
Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, Who is as the tree of life in 
the middle of Paradise.

3. The image of our mind must therefore be clothed also in the three 
theological virtues by which the soul is purified, illuminated, and 
perfected; and thus the image is repaired and is made like the heavenly 
Jerusalem and part of the Church militant, which, according to the Apostle, 
is the child of the heavenly Jerusalem. For he says: "But that Jerusalem 
which is above is free, which is our mother" [Gal., 4, 26]. Therefore the 
soul which believes in, hopes in, and loves Jesus Christ, Who is the Word 
incarnate, uncreated, and spirated, that is, the way and the truth and the 
life, where by faith he believes in Christ as in the uncreated Word, which 
is the Word and the splendor of the Father, he recovers spiritual healing 
and vision: hearing to receive the lessons of Christ, vision to look upon 
the splendor of His light. When, however, he yearns with hope to receive 
the spirated Word, through desire and affection he recovers spiritual 
olfaction. When he embraces the incarnate Word in charity, as one receiving 
from Him delight and passing into Him through ecstatic love, he recovers 
taste and touch. When these senses are recovered, when he sees his spouse 
and hears, smells, tastes, and embraces Him, he can sing like the Bride a 
Canticle of Canticles, as was done on the occasion of this fourth stage of 
contemplation, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it [Apoc., 2, 
17]. For it occurs in affective experience rather than in rational 
consideration. On this level, when the inner senses are renewed in order to 
perceive the highest beauty, to hear the highest harmony, smell the highest 
fragrance, taste the highest delicacy, apprehend the highest delights, the 
soul is disposed to mental elevation through devotion, wonder, and 
exultation, in accordance with those three exclamations which are in the 
Canticle of Canticles. Of these the first arises from the abundance of 
devotion, by which the soul becomes like a pillar of smoke of aromatic 
spices, of myrrh and frankincense [Cant., 3, 6]; the second, from the 
excellence of wonder, by which the soul becomes as the dawn, the moon, and 
the sun, like the series of illuminations which suspend the soul in wonder 
as it considers its spouse; the third, from the superabundance of 
exultation, by which the soul, overflowing with the sweetest delight, leans 
totally upon its beloved [Cant., 8, 5].

4. When this is accomplished, our spirit is made hierarchical to mount 
upward through its conformity to the heavenly Jerusalem, into which no one 
enters unless through grace it has descended into his heart, as John saw in 
his Apocalypse [21, 2]. But then it descends into one's heart when, by the 
reformation of the image through the theological virtues and through the 
delights of the spiritual senses and ecstatic elevation, our spirit has 
been made hierarchical, that is, purged, illuminated, and perfected. 
Likewise the soul is stamped by the following nine steps when it is 
disposed in an orderly way: perception, deliberation, self-impulsion, 
ordination, strengthening, command, reception, divine illumination, union,[1] 
which one by one correspond to the nine orders of angels, so that the first 
three stages correspond to nature in the human mind, the next three to 
industry, and the last three to grace.[2] With these acquired, the soul, 
entering into itself, enters into the heavenly Jerusalem, where, 
considering the orders of the angels, it sees God in them, Who living in 
them causes all their operations. Whence Bernard said to Eugenius that--

"God in the seraphim loves as Charity, in the Cherubim He knows as Truth, 
in the Thrones He is seated as Equity, in the Dominations He dominates as 
Majesty, in the Principalities He rules as the First Principle, in the 
Powers He watches over us as Salvation, in the Virtues He operates as 
Virtue, in the Archangels He reveals as Light, in the Angels He aids as 

From all of which God is seen to be all in all through the contemplation of 
Him in the minds in which He dwells through the gifts of His overflowing 

5. For this grade of contemplation there is especially and outstandingly 
added as a support the consideration of Holy Scripture divinely issued, as 
philosophy was added to the preceding. For Holy Scripture is principally 
concerned with the works of reparation. Wherefore it especially deals with 
faith, hope, and charity, by which the soul is reformed, and most of all 
with charity. Concerning this the Apostle says that the end of the 
Commandments is reached by a pure heart and a good conscience and an 
unfeigned faith [I Tim., 1, 5]. This is the fulfillment of the Law, as he 
says. And our Saviour adds that all the Law and the Prophets depend upon 
these two Commandments: the love of God and of one's neighbor. Which two 
are united in the one spouse of the Church, Jesus Christ, Who is at once 
neighbor and God, at once brother and Lord, at once king and friend, at 
once Word uncreated and incarnate, our maker and remaker, the alpha and 
omega. He is the highest hierarch, purging and illuminating and perfecting 
His spouse, the whole Church and any holy soul.

6. Of this hierarch and this ecclesiastical hierarchy is the entire Holy 
Scripture by which we are taught to be purified, illuminated, and 
perfected, and this according to the triple law handed down to us in it: 
the law of Nature, of Scripture, and of Grace; or rather according to the 
triple principal part of it: the Mosaic Law purifying, the prophetic 
revelation illuminating, and evangelical teaching perfecting; or above all, 
according to the triple spiritual meaning of it--the tropological which 
purifies us for an honest life, the allegorical which illuminates us for 
the clarity of understanding, the analogical which perfects us by mental 
elevation and the most delightful perceptions of wisdom--in accordance with 
the three aforesaid theological virtues and the spiritual senses reformed 
and the three above-mentioned stages of elevation and hierarchical acts of 
the mind, by which our mind retreats into itself so that it may look upon 
God in the brightness of the saints [Ps., 109, 3] and in them, as in a 
chamber, it may sleep in peace and take its rest [Ps., 4, 9] while the 
spouse adjures it that it stir not up till she pleases [Cant., 2, 7].

7. Now from these two middle steps, by which we proceed to contemplate God 
within ourselves as in the mirrors of created images--and this as with 
wings opened for flying which hold the middle place--we can understand that 
we are led into the divine by the powers of the rational soul itself placed 
therein by nature as far as their operations, habits, and knowledge are 
concerned, as appears from the third stage. For we are led by the powers of 
the soul reformed by virtues freely granted, by the spiritual senses, and 
by mental elevation, as appears from the fourth stage. We are nonetheless 
led through hierarchical operations, that is, by purgation, illumination, 
and perfection of human minds through the hierarchical revelations of the 
Holy Scriptures given to us, according to the Apostle, through the Angels 
in the hand of a mediator [Gal., 3, 19]. And finally we are led by 
hierarchies and hierarchical orders which are found to be ordered in our 
minds in the likeness of the heavenly Jerusalem.

8. Our mind, filled with all these intellectual illuminations, is inhabited 
by the divine wisdom as the house of God; become the daughter, the spouse, 
and the friend of God; made a member of Christ the head, the sister, and 
the fellow-heir; made nonetheless the temple of the Holy Spirit, founded by 
faith, elevated by hope, and dedicated to God by the sanctity of the mind 
and the body. All of this has been brought about by the most sincere love 
of Christ which is poured forth into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Who is 
given to us [Rom., 5, 5], without which Spirit we cannot know the secrets 
of God. For just as no one can know the things of a man except the spirit 
of a man that is in him, so the things also that are of God no man knoweth 
but the spirit of God [I Cor., 2, 11] In charity then let us be rooted and 
founded, that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the 
length of eternity, the breadth of liberality, the height of majesty and 
the depth of the wisdom which judges us [Eph., 3, 17 18].


1. Reading "unitio" instead of "unctio."

2. The translation of the names of the nine steps is based on St. 
Bonaventura's "Hexaemeron," XXII, 25-27, where each is explained. Since 
they are somewhat awkward in English, I give the Latin equivalents in 
order. They are so similar to English words that the student who wishes may 
retain them in transliteration in place of my rendering. They run: 
"nuntiatio, dictatio, ductio, ordinatio, roboratio, imperatio, susceptio, 
revelatio, unctio" (or "unitio," if my reading be acceptable).

3. St. Bernard of Clairvaux to Pope Eugenius III.



1. It happens that we may contemplate God not only outside of us but also 
within us and above us. [Thus we contemplate Him] outside through His 
traces, inside through His image, and above us through His light, which has 
signed upon our minds the light of eternal Truth, since the mind itself is 
immediately formed by Truth itself. Those who exercise themselves in the 
first manner have already entered into the atrium of the tabernacle; the 
second have entered into the sanctum; but the third have entered into the 
Holy of Holies with the High Priest, the Holy of Holies where above the ark 
are the Cherubim of glory overshadowing the propitiatory. By these modes we 
understand two ways or degrees of contemplation of the invisible and 
eternal things of God, of which one deals with God's essential attributes, 
the other with the properties of the Persons.

2. The first way first and foremost signifies Him in Being itself, saying 
He Who Is is the primary name of God. The second signifies Him in His 
goodness, saying this [goodness] is the primary name of God. The former 
refers above all to the Old Testament, which preaches the unity of the 
divine essence, whence it was said to Moses, "I am Who I am." The second 
refers to the New Testament, which lays down the plurality of the Persons, 
by baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy 
Spirit. Therefore our Master Christ, wishing to elevate the youth who had 
served the law to evangelical perfection, attributed the name of goodness 
principally and precisely to God. No one, He said, is good but God alone 
[Luke, 18, 19]. Damascenus ["De fide orthodox.," 1, 9] therefore, following 
Moses, says that "He Who Is" is the primary name of God. Dionysius, 
following Christ, says that goodness is God's primary name.

3. If you wish then to contemplate the invisible traits of God in so far as 
they belong to the unity of His essence, fix your gaze upon Being itself, 
and see that Being is most certain in itself; for it cannot be thought not 
to be, since the purest Being occurs only in full flight from Non-Being, 
just as nothingness is in full flight from Being. Therefore, just as the 
utterly nothing contains nought of Being nor of its conditions, so 
contrariwise Being itself contains no Non-Being, neither in actuality nor 
in potency, neither in matters of fact nor in our thinking. Since, however, 
Non-Being is the privation of Being, it cannot enter the intellect except 
through Being; Being, however, cannot enter through anything other than 
itself. For everything which is thought of is either thought of as Non-
Being or as Being-in-potency or as Being-in-actuality. If, therefore, Non-
Being is intelligible only through Being, and if Being-in-potency can be 
understood only through Being-in-actuality, and if Being is the name of 
that pure actuality of Being, Being then is what first enters the 
intellect, and that Being is pure actuality. But this is not particular 
Being, which is restricted Being, since that is mixed with potentiality. 
Nor is this analogous Being, for such has a minimum of actuality since it 
has only a minimum of being. It remains, therefore, that that Being is 
divine Being.

4. Marvelous then is the blindness of the intellect which does not consider 
that which is its primary object and without which it can know nothing. But 
just as the eye intent upon the various differences of the colors does not 
see the light by which it sees the other things and, if it sees it, does 
not notice it, so the mind's eye, intent upon particular and universal 
beings, does not notice Being itself, which is beyond all genera, though 
that comes first before the mind and through it all other things. Wherefore 
it seems very true that just as the bat's eye behaves in the light, so the 
eye of the mind behaves before the most obvious things of nature. Because 
accustomed to the shadows of beings and the phantasms of the sensible 
world, when it looks upon the light of the highest Being, it seems to see 
nothing, not understanding that darkness itself is the fullest illumination 
of the mind [Ps., 138, 11], just as when the eye sees pure light it seems 
to itself to be seeing nothing.

5. See then purest Being itself, if you can, and you will understand that 
it cannot be thought of as derivative from another. And thus necessarily 
that must be thought of as absolutely primal which can be derivative 
neither from nothing nor from anything. For what exists through itself if 
Being does not exist through itself and of itself? You will understand 
that, lacking Non-Being in every respect and therefore having no beginning 
nor end, it is eternal. You will understand also that it contains nothing 
in itself save Being itself, for it is in no way composite, but is most 
simple. You will understand that it has no potentialities within it, since 
every possible has in some way something of Non-Being, but Being is the 
highest actuality. You will understand that it has no defect, for it is 
most perfect. Finally, you will understand that it has no diversity, for it 
is One in the highest degree.

Being, therefore, which is pure Being and most simply Being and absolutely 
Being, is Being primary, eternal, most simple, most actual, most perfect, 
and one to the highest degree.

6. And these things are so certain that Being itself cannot be thought of 
by an intellect as opposed to these, and one of these traits implies the 
others. For since it is simply Being, therefore it is simply primary; 
because it is simply primary, therefore it is not made from another nor 
from itself, and therefore it is eternal. Likewise, since it is primary and 
eternal, and therefore not from others, it is therefore most simple. 
Furthermore, since it is primary, eternal, and most simple, therefore it 
contains no potentiality mixed with actuality, and therefore it is most 
actual. Likewise, since it is primary, eternal, most simple, most actual, 
it is most perfect. To such a Being nothing is lacking, nor can anything be 
added, Since it is primary, eternal, most simple, most actual, most 
perfect, it is therefore one to the highest degree. For what is predicated 
because of its utter superabundance is applicable to all things. For what 
is simply predicated because of superabundance cannot possibly be applied 
to anything but the one.[1] Wherefore, if God is the name of the primary, 
eternal, most simple, most actual, most perfect Being, it is impossible 
that He be thought of as not being nor as anything save One alone. "Hear, O 
Israel, the Lord our God is one God." If you see this in the pure 
simplicity of your mind, you will somehow be infused with the illumination 
of eternal light.

7. But you have ground for rising in wonder. For Being itself is first and 
last, is eternal and yet most present, is simplest and greatest, is most 
actual and immutable, is perfect and immense, is most highly one and yet 
all inclusive. If you wonder over these things with a pure mind, while you 
look further, you will be infused with a greater light, until you finally 
see that Being is last because it is first. For since it is first, it 
produces all things for its own sake alone; and therefore it must be the 
very end, the beginning and the consummation, the alpha and the omega. 
Therefore it is most present because it is eternal. For since it is 
eternal, it does not come from another; nor does it cease to be nor pass 
from one thing to another, and therefore has no past nor future but only 
present being. Therefore it is greatest because most simple. For since it 
is most simple in essence, therefore it is greatest in power; because 
power, the more greatly it is unified, the closer it is to the infinite. 
Therefore it is most immutable, because most actual. For that which is most 
actual is therefore pure act. And as such it acquires nothing new nor does 
it lose what it had, and therefore cannot be changed. Therefore it is most 
immense, because most perfect. For since it is most perfect, nothing can be 
thought of which is better, nobler, or more worthy. And on this account 
there is nothing greater. And every such thing is immense. Therefore it is 
all-inclusive ("omnimodal"), because it is one to the highest degree. For 
that which is one to the highest degree is the universal source of all 
multiplicity. And for this reason it is the universal efficient cause of 
all things, the exemplary and the final cause, as the cause of Being, the 
principle of intelligibility, the order of living.[2] And therefore it is 
all-inclusive, not as the essence of all things, but as the superexcellent 
and most universal and most sufficient cause of all essences, whose power, 
because most highly unified in essence, is therefore most highly infinite 
and most fertile in efficacy.

8. Recapitulating, let us say: Because, then, Being is most pure and 
absolute, that which is Being simply is first and last and, therefore, the 
origin and the final cause of all. Because eternal and most present, 
therefore it encompasses and penetrates all duration, existing at once as 
their center and circumference. Because most simple and greatest, therefore 
it is entirely within and entirely without all things and, therefore, is an 
intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference 
nowhere. Because most actual and most immutable, then "remaining stable it 
causes the universe to move" [Boethius, Cons. III, met. 9]. Because most 
perfect and immense, therefore within all, though not included in them; 
beyond all, but not excluded from them; above all, but not transported 
beyond them; below all, and yet not cast down beneath them. Because most 
highly one and all-inclusive, therefore all in all, although all things are 
many and it is only one. And this is so since through most simple unity, 
clearest truth, and most sincere goodness there is in it all power, all 
exemplary causality, and all communicability. And therefore from it and by 
it and in it are all things. And this is so since it is omnipotent, 
omniscient, and all-good. And to see this perfectly is to be blessed. As 
was said to Moses, "I will show thee all good" [Exod. 33, 19].


1. The editors of the Latin text cite this as a quotation from Aristotle's 
Topics, V. 5, but I have not been able to find the passage which might be 
the source of it.

2. In Latin: "causa essendi, ratio intelligendi, et ordo vivendi."



1. After a consideration of the essential traits [of God] the eye of the 
intelligence must be raised to look upon the most Blessed Trinity, in order 
that the second Cherub may be placed next to the first. Just as Being is 
the root and name of the vision of the essential traits, so Good is the 
principal foundation of our contemplation of the divine emanations [of the 

2. See then and pay heed, since the best which exists simply is that than 
which nothing better can be thought of. And this is such that it cannot be 
rightly thought not to be. For Being is in all ways better than Non-Being. 
This is such that it cannot rightly be thought of unless conceived of as 
both three and one. For the Good is said to be self-diffusive. The highest 
good is therefore the most self-diffusive. The greatest diffusion, however, 
can exist only if it is actual and intrinsic, substantial and hypostatic, 
natural and voluntary, free and necessary, lacking nothing and perfect. 
Unless, then, there be eternally in the highest good a production which is 
actual and consubstantial, and an hypostasis as noble as the producer 
through generation and spiration, so that it would be from the eternal 
principle eternally co-producing and would be beloved ("dilectus") in 
itself and co-loved ("condilectus"), generated, and spirated as are the 
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in no way would it be the highest 
good, for it would not diffuse itself most highly. For temporal diffusion 
in creation is nothing else than central and punctiform with respect to the 
immensity of the eternal goodness. Whence also can some diffusion be 
conceived as greater than that--to wit, that in which the diffusive power 
communicates its whole substance and nature to another. Therefore the 
highest good would not exist if it could lack that characteristic either in 
existence or in thought.

If then you can look with the mind's eye upon the purity of goodness, which 
is the pure actualization of the principle of Charity, pouring forth free 
and due love, and both mingled together, which is the fullest diffusion 
according to nature and will--the diffusion as Word, in which all things 
are expressed, and as Gift, in which all other gifts are given--you may see 
by the highest communicability of the Good that a Trinity of Father and Son 
and Holy Spirit is necessary. Because of the greatest goodness, it is 
necessary that there be in them the greatest communicability, and out of 
the greatest communicability the greatest consubstantiality, and from the 
greatest consubstantiality the greatest configurability, and from all these 
the greatest coequality; and therefore the greatest coeternity as well as, 
because of all the aforesaid, the greatest co-intimacy, by which one is in 
the other necessarily through the highest degree of mutual penetration and 
one operates with the other through the complete identity of substances and 
power and operation of the most Blessed Trinity itself.

3. But when you contemplate these things, see that you do not think 
yourself able to understand the incomprehensible. For you have still in 
these six stages to consider what most strongly leads our mind's eye into 
the stupor of wonder. For there [in the Trinity] is the greatest 
communicability with individuality of the persons, the greatest 
consubstantiality with plurality of the hypostases, the greatest 
configurability with distinct personality, the greatest co-equality with 
order, the greatest co-eternity with emanation, the greatest mutual 
intimacy with mission. Who in the face of such great marvels would not 
start in wonder? But we understand with greatest certitude that all these 
exist in the most Blessed Trinity if we raise our eyes to the goodness that 
excels all goodness. For if there is the greatest communication and true 
diffusion, there is also true origin and true distinction. And because the 
whole and not the part is communicated, therefore it is itself given as a 
whole and not as a part. Therefore the one emanating and the one producing 
are distinguished by their properties, and yet arc essentially one. Since, 
then, they are distinguished by their properties, therefore they have 
personal properties and a plurality of hypostases and an emanation of 
origin and an order which is not of posteriority but of origin, and a 
mission not of local change but of free spiration, because of the authority 
of the producer which every sender has in respect to that which is sent. 
Because they are substantially one, therefore it must be true that there is 
unity in essence and in form, In dignity and in eternity, in existence and 
inimitability While therefore you consider these things one by one in 
themselves, you have a reason for contemplating the truth ; when you 
compare them with one another, you have the wherewithal to hover in highest 
wonder; and therefore, that your mind may ascend in wonder to wonderful 
contemplation these things should be considered all together.

4. For these Cherubim signify this also, since they look at each other. Nor 
is this free from mystery, that they look toward each, their faces being 
turned toward the propitiatory [Exod., 25, 20], that there may be verified 
what the Lord said in John, "Now this is the eternal life: That they may 
know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom thou hast sent" [John, 
17, 3]. For we should wonder not only at the essential and personal traits 
of God in themselves, but also in comparison with the superwonderful union 
of God and man in the unity of Christ's person.

5. For if you are the Cherub when you contemplate the essentials of God and 
you wonder because the divine Being is at once primary and last Being, 
eternal and most present most simple and greatest or unlimited, all 
everywhere and yet never bounded, most actual and never moved, most perfect 
and having nothing superfluous or lacking, and yet immense and infinite 
without bounds, one to the highest degree and yet all-inclusive as having 
all things in itself, as total power, total truth, total goodness, look to 
the propitiatory and wonder that in it the primal principle is joined to 
the last term, God joined with man formed on the sixth day, the eternal 
joined with temporal man, born in the fullness of time of a Virgin--the 
most simple joined with the most composite, the most actual with the most 
passive and mortal, the most perfect and immense with the little, the most 
highly unified and all-inclusive with the composite individual distinct 
from all else, namely, Jesus Christ

6. If, however, you are the other Cherub when you contemplate the 
properties of the Persons, you will also wonder that communicability exists 
with individuality, consubstantiality with plurality, configurability with 
personality, co-equality with order, co-eternity with production, co-
intimacy with mission, for the Son was sent by the Father, and the Holy 
Spirit by both, Who nevertheless is always with Them and never withdraws 
from Them. Look to the propitiatory and wonder because in Christ is a 
personal union with a trinity of substances and a duality of natures, an 
absolute agreement with a plurality of wills, a common speech between God 
and man with plurality of properties, an equal worship with plurality of 
ranks, an equal exaltation above all things with plurality of dignities, a 
condominium with plurality of powers

7. In this consideration is the perfection of the mind's illumination, 
when, as if on the sixth day, it sees man made in the image of God. If then 
the image is an express likeness when our mind contemplates in Christ the 
Son of God, Who is the natural image of the invisible God, our humanity now 
wonderfully exalted, now ineffably united, by seeing at once in one Being 
the first and the last, the highest and the lowest, the circumference and 
the center, the alpha and the omega, the caused and the cause, the creator 
and the creature, the book written within and without, it [the mind] 
arrives at a perfect being in order that it may arrive with God at the 
perfection of His illuminations on the sixth level, as if on the sixth day; 
nor does anything more remain save the day of rest, on which, by the 
elevation of the mind, its insight rests from all work which He had done.



1. Now that these six considerations have been studied as the six steps of 
the true throne of Solomon by which one ascends to peace, where the truly 
peaceful man reposes in    peace of mind as if in the inner Jerusalem; as 
if, again, on the six wings of the Cherub by which the mind of the truly 
contemplative man grows strong to rise again, filled with the illumination 
of supreme wisdom; as if, once again, during the first six days in which 
the mind has to be exercised that it may finally arrive at the Sabbath of 
rest after it has beheld God outside itself through His traces and in His 
traces, within itself by His image and in His image, above itself by the 
likeness of the divine light shining down upon us and in that light, in so 
far as is possible in this life and the exercise of our mind-- when, 
finally, on the sixth level we have come to the point of beholding in the 
first and highest principle and the Mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ, 
those things of which the likeness cannot in any wise be found in creatures 
and which exceed all the insight of the human intellect, there remains that 
by looking upon these things it [the mind] rise on high and pass beyond not 
only this sensible world but itself also. In this passage Christ is the way 
and the door, Christ is the stairway and the vehicle, like the propitiatory 
over the ark of God and the mystery which has been hidden from eternity 
[Eph, 3, 9].

2. He who with full face looks to this propitiatory by looking upon Him 
suspended on the cross in faith, hope, and charity, in devotion, wonder, 
exultation, appreciation, praise, and jubilation, makes a passover--that 
is, the phase or passage [Exod., 12, 11] with Him--that he may pass over 
the Red Sea by the staff of the cross from Egypt into the Desert, where he 
may taste the hidden manna and with Christ may rest in the tomb as if 
outwardly dead, yet knowing, as far as possible in our earthly condition, 
what was said on the cross to the thief cleaving to Christ: ''Today thou 
shalt be with me in Paradise."

3. That was shown to the blessed Francis when, in the transport of 
contemplation on the high mountain--where I thought out these things which 
I have written--there appeared to him the Seraph with the six wings nailed 
to the cross, as I and several others have heard from the companion who was 
with him when he passed over into God through the transports of 
contemplation and became the example of perfect contemplation, just as 
previously he had been of action; as another Jacob is changed into Israel, 
so through him all truly spiritual men have been invited by God to passage 
of this kind and to mental transport by example rather than by word.

4. In this passage, if it is perfect, all intellectual operations should be 
abandoned, and the whole height of our affection should be transferred and 
transformed into God. This, however, is mystical and most secret, which no 
man knoweth but he that hath received it [Apoc., 2, 17], nor does he 
receive it unless he desire it; nor does he desire it unless the fire of 
the Holy Spirit, Whom Christ sent to earth, has inflamed his marrow. And 
therefore the Apostle says that this mystic wisdom is revealed through the 
Holy Spirit.

5. Since, therefore, nature is powerless in this matter and industry but 
slightly able, little should be given to inquiry but much to unction, 
little to the tongue but much to inner joy, little to the word and to 
writings and all to the gift of God, that is, to the Holy Spirit, little or 
nothing to creation and all to the creative essence, Father, Son, and Holy 
Spirit, saying with Dionysius to God the Trinity:

"Trinity, superessential and superdivine and supergood guardian of 
Christian knowledge of God, direct thou us into the more-than-unknown and 
superluminous and most sublime summit of mystical eloquence, where new and 
absolute and unchangeable mysteries of theology are deeply hidden, 
according to the superluminous darkness of instructive silence--darkness 
which is supermanifest and superresplendent, and in which all is aglow, 
pouring out upon the invisible intellects the splendors of invisible 
This to God. To the friend, however, to whom I address this book, let me 
say with the same Dionysius:

"Thou then, my friend, if thou desirest mystic visions, with strengthened 
feet abandon thy senses and intellectual operations, and both sensible and 
invisible things, and both all nonbeing and being; and unknowingly restore 
thyself to unity as far as possible, unity of Him Who is above all essence 
and knowledge. And when thou hast transcended thyself and all things in 
immeasurable and absolute purity of mind, thou shalt ascend to the 
superessential rays of divine shadows, leaving all behind and freed from 
ties of all."[2]

6. If you should ask how these things come about, question grace, not 
instruction; desire, not intellect; the cry of prayer, not pursuit of 
study; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity; 
not light, but the wholly flaming fire which will bear you aloft to God 
with fullest unction and burning affection. This fire is God, and the 
furnace of this fire leadeth to Jerusalem; and Christ the man kindles it in 
the fervor of His burning Passion, which he alone truly perceives who says, 
"My soul rather chooseth hanging and my bones death" [Job, 7, 15]. He who 
chooses this death can see God because this is indubitably true: "Man shall 
not see me and live" [Exod., 33, 20]. Let us then die and pass over into 
darkness; let us impose silence on cares, concupiscence, and phantasms; let 
us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father [John, 
13, 1], so that when the Father 

1. "Mystic Theology," Ch. I [Migne, "Pat. Graec.," Vol. III, 997].

2. "Ibid."

is shown to us we may say with Philip, "It is enough for us" [John, 14, 8]; 
let us hear with Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee" [II Cor., 12, 9]; 
let us exult with David, saying, "For Thee my flesh and my heart hath 
fainted away; Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion 
forever [Ps. 72, 26]. . . . Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from 
everlasting to everlasting; and let all the people say: So be it, so be it" 
[Ps., 105, 48]. AMEN.

Fathers of the Early ChurchThe Early Church Fathers


A society characterized by the violence, loss of respect for life, exotic religious cults, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and even pedophilia. No, we're not talking about modren times -


The Early Church Fathers succeeded in bringing a Pagan society to Christ. If we pay attention to what they taught, we will succeed in doing the same for our own de-Christianized society!


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Fathers of the Early Church, Early Church FathersIf you are not familiar with the Fathers of the Early Church, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, in this single, upbeat talk, full of examples and stories about some of the Church's most intriguing personalities. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains who people are talking about when they refer to the "Fathers of the Church" or "Early Church Fathers.  Though the ranks of the fathers include a tremendous variety of cultures, locales, and personalities, there is surprising consensus that emerges from them on a variety of the most important questions of our day.  In this talk, Marcellino makes clear just how much these figures have to teach us today. 


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