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On the Sight of God in His Vestiges in the Sensible World


1. But since concerning the sensible reflection not only does it happen that God is contemplated through these as through vestiges, but also in these, inasmuch as He is in them through essence, power, and presence; and this is to consider Him higher than before [praecedens]; for that reason a consideration of this kind holds second place as the second step of contemplation, by which we ought to be lead by hand to contemplate God in all other creatures, which enter our minds through bodily senses.

2. Therefore it must be noted, that this world, which is called a macrocosm, enters our soul, which is called a microcosm, through the gates of the five senses, according to (their) apprehension, enjoyment [oblectationem] and dijudication of these sensible (images). That this is clearly so: because in it certain things are generating, certain things generated, certain thing governing the former and the latter [haec et illa]. The things generating are the simple bodies, that is the celestial bodies and the four elements. For from the elements by virtue of a light unifying [conciliantis] the contrariety of elements in mixtures there has been generated and produced, whatever is generated and produced by the activity of natural virtue. But the things generated are the bodies composed from the elements, as minerals, vegetables, sensibles and human bodies. The things ruling the former and the latter are the spiritual substances whether entirely conjoined, as are the brute animals, or conjoined in a separable manner [separabiliter], as are the rational spirits, or conjoined in an inseparable manner [inseparabiliter], as are the celestial spirits, whom the philosophers name Intelligences, we the Angles. To whom according to philosophers it pertains [competit] to move the celestial bodies, and for this reason to them there is attributed the administration of the universe, taking up [suscipiendo] from the First Cause, that is from God, the influence of virtue, which they pour back according to the work of governing, which respects [respicit] the natural consistency of things. Moreover according to theologians there is attributed to these same the control [regimen] of the universe according to the empire of the Most High God as much as regards the works of reparation, according to what is called the spirits of administration, sent on account of those who have seized the inheritance of salvation.

3. Man therefore, who is called the microcosm, has five senses like five gates, through which acquaintance with [cognitio] all things, which are in the sensible world, enters into his soul. For through vision there enters bodies sublime and luminous and the other colored things, but through touch bodies solid and terrestrial, indeed through the three intermediary senses there enters intermediary things, as through taste liquids [aquea], through hearing gases [aërea], through smell vapours [vaporabilia], which have something of the humid nature, something of the gaseous [aërea], something of the fiery [ignea] or hot (nature), as is clear in the smoke released from aromatics [aromatibus].

Therefore there enters through these gates both simple bodies and also composite ones, from these (which are) mixed. But because in sensing [sensu] we perceive no only these particular sensibles, which are light, sound, odor, taste and the four primary qualities, which apprehend (our) touch; but also the common sensibles, which are number, magnitude, figure, rest and movement [motus]; both "all, which is moved is moved by another" and certain things are moved by themselves and rest, as are the animals: while through those five senses we apprehend the movement of bodies, we are lead by hand towards acquaintance with spiritual movers as through an effect towards acquaintance with its causes.

4. Therefore there enters, as much as regards three genera of things, into the human soul through apprehension, that whole sensible world. Moreover these exterior sensibles are those which at first step into the soul through the gates of the five senses; they enter, I say, not through substances, but through their similitudes at first generated in the midst and from the midst in the organ and from the exterior organ in the interior, and from this into the apprehensive power; and thus the generation of the species in the midst and from the midst in the organ and the conversion of the apprehensive power over it causes [facit] the apprehension of all these which the soul apprehends exteriorly.

5. To this apprehension, if it belongs to something agreeable [rei convenientis], there follows enjoyment. Moreover the sense takes delight [delectatur] in the object perceived through the abstract similitude and/or [vel] by reason of its beauty [speciositatis], as in sight, and/or by reason of its savor, as in smell and hearing, and/or by reason of its wholesomeness [salubritatis], as in taste and touch, respectively [appropriate loquendo]. Moreover every delectation is by reason of its proportionality. But since the species holds the reason for the form, virtue and activity, according to which it has a relation [respectum] to the beginning, from which it flows [manat], to the middle, through which it passes over, and to the end, in which it acts; for that reason proportionality either is tended towards in similitude, according to which it accounts [habet rationem] for the species or form, and so is called beauty [speciositas], because "beauty [pulchritudo] is nothing other than numeric [numerosa] equality", or "a certain one of the parts of position [situs] together with the savor of color". Or proportionality is tended towards, inasmuch as it accounts [habet rationem] for power or virtue, and so is called savor, when acting virtue does not disproportionately exceed the recipient; because sense is saddened in extremes and takes delight in means. Or it is tended towards, inasmuch as it accounts for efficacy and impression, which is then proportional, when acting in impressing it fills full the indigence of the one impressed [patientis], and this is to save and feed [nutrire] itself, which most appears in taste and touch. And thus through enjoyment exterior delectables, according to the three fold reason for taking delight, enter into the soul through similitude.

6. After this apprehension and enjoyment there occurs [fit] dijudication, by which not only is it distinguished [diiudicatur], whether this be white, and/or black, because this pertains [pertinet] to a particular sense; not only, whether it be wholesome, and or noxious [nocivum], because this pertains to interior sense; but also, because it is distinguished and an account [rationem] is rendered, why it takes delight in this; and in this act one inquires for [inquiritur de] a reason for the delectation, which in the sense is perceived from the object. This is moreover, when the reason for the beautiful [pulcri], savory and wholesome is sought: and one finds [invenitur] that this is the proportion of equality. Moreover the reason for equality is the same in great things and in small and it neither is extended in dimensions nor succeeds or passes over with those things passing over nor is it altered by movements. Therefore it abstracts [abstrahit] from place, time and movement, and for this reason it is thoroughly unchangeable [incommutabilis], uncircumscribable and entirely spiritual. Therefore dijudication is an action, which causes [facit] the sensible species, accepted sensibly through sense, to go into the intellective power by pruning [deputando] and abstracting (it). And thus, this whole world has to go into [introire habet] the human soul through the gates of the senses according to the three aforesaid activities.

7. Moreover all these are vestiges, in which we gaze upon [speculari] Our God. For since the species apprehended is a similitude born in the midst and then impressed on the organ itself and through that impression it leads into its beginning, that is into the object with which one is to become acquainted; it manifestly intimates, that that One who is the invisible image of God and the splendor of His glory and the figure of His substance , who is everywhere by His first generation--as an object in the center [toto medio] generates its own similitude--is united by the grace of union--as a species to the bodily organ--to an individual of rational nature, to lead us back through that union to the Father as to the fontal begining and object. Therefore as all things with which one can become acquainted have to generate [habet generare] their own species, they manifestly proclaim, that in them as in mirrors can be seen the eternal generation of the Word, the Image and Son eternally emanating from God the Father.

8. According to this manner (of speaking) the species taking delight as one beautiful [speciosa], savory and wholesome, intimates, that in that first species there is prime beauty [speciositas], savor and wholesomeness, in which there is most high proportionality and equality to the one generating; in which there is unstaining [illabens] virtue, not through phantasm, but through the truth of apprehension: in which there is saving impression, expelling both substitutes [sufficientes] and every indigence of apprehension. If therefore "delectation is a conjunction of agreeable [convenientis] to agreeable"; and solely the similitude of God accounts most highly for the beautiful [speciosi], savory and the wholesome; and it is united according to truth and interiority [intimitatem] and fulness filling full every capacity: it can manifestly be seen, that in God alone there is fontal and true delectation, and that we are lead by hand to require that from [ex] all delectations.

9. Moreover by a more excellent and immediate manner dijudication leads us to gaze upon [in speculandam] eternal truth with more certainty [certius]. For if dijudication has occured [fieri] through reason abstracting from place, time and mutability and for this reason from dimension, succession and transmutation, through immutable and incircumscriptible and interminalbe reason; nothing however is entirely immutable, incircumscriptible and interminalbe, except what is eternal; everthing however which is eternal, is God, and/or in God: if therefore all things, however more certainly we distinguish [diiudicamus] them, we distinguish through reason of this kind; it is clear, that He himself is the reason for all things and the infallible rule and the light of truth, in which all other things glitters infallibly, indelibly, undoubtedly, unbreakably, indistinguishably [indiiudicabiliter], thoroughly unchangeably, unconfinably, interminably, indivisibly, and intellectually. And for that reason those laws, through which we judge with certainty [certitudinaliter] concerning all sensibles, coming into our consideration; although they are infallible and undoubtable by the intellect of the one apprehending (them), indelible from the memory of the one recalling (them) as things always present, unbreakable and indistinguishable by the intellect of the one judging (them), because, as Augustine says "no one judges from them, but through them": it is necessary, that they be thoroughly unchangeable and incorruptible as necessaries, unconfinable as uncircumscribed, interminable as eternals, and for this reason indivisable as intellectual and incorporeal (beings), not made, but uncreated, eternally existing in the eternal Art, from which, through which and according to which all shapely [formosa] things are formed; and for that reason they cannot be with certainty judged except through That which was not only producing all other forms, but also conserving and distinguishing [distinguens] all others, as the Being [ens] holding the form and directing the rule [regula] over all things, and through Which our mind distinguishes [diiudicat] all others, which enter into itself through the senses.

10. Moreover this speculation broadens according to the consideration of seven numerically different things [differentiarum numerorum], by which as by seven steps one climbs thoroughly into God, according to that which Augustine (says) in his book De vera Religione and in its sixth (chapter) Musicae , where he assignes numercially different things climbing step-by-step [gradatim] thoroughly from these sensibles even to the Artisan of all, so that God is seen in all (of them).

For he says, that numbers are in bodies and most in sounds and voices, and these he names notes [sonantes]; that numbers (have been) abstracted from these and received in our senses, and these he names messages [occursores]; numbers (are) proceding from the soul into the body, as is clear in gesticulations and gestured-dances [saltationibus], and these he names instructions [progressors]; that (there are) numbers in the delectations of the sense from the conversion of intention over the species received, and these he names sensations [sensuales]; that numbers (have been) retained in the memory, and these he calls memories [memoriales]; that (there are) even numbers, through which we judge concerning all these things, and these he names judgements [iudiciales], which as has been said are necessarily above the mind as infallibles and indistinguishables. By these moreover there are impressed upon our minds artificial numbers, which nevertheless Augustine does not ennumerate among those steps, because they have been connected with judgements; and from these flow the number-intructions, from which are created numerous forms of crafts [artificiatorum], so that from most high things through middle things towards the lowest things an ordered descent comes into being [fiat]. Towards these we also ascend step-by-step by numbers (that are) notes, intervening [mediantibus] messages, sensations, and memories.

Therefore since all things are beautiful [pulcra] and in a certain manner delectable; and beauty [pulcritudo] and delectation are not apart from proportion; and proportion is first in numbers: it is necessary, that all things be numerous; and for this reason "number is the foremost [praecipuum] exemplar in the mind [animo] of the Founder"; and in things the foremost vestige leading to Wisdom. Because when (this vestige) is most evident to all and closest to God, and most closely as through seven differences leads into God and causes [facit], us to acquaint ourselves with Him in all other corporal and sensible things, we at the same time [dum] apprehend numerous things, take delight in numerous proportions and judge most securely [irrefragabiliter] by means of [per] laws of numerous proportions.

11. From these two first steps, by which we are lead by hand to gaze upon God in (His) vestiges as after the manner of the two wings descending about the feet, we can gather, that all creatures of this sensible world lead the spirit [animum] of the one contemplating and tasting [sapientis] (them) into the eternal God, for the reason [pro eo] that of that First Principle most powerful, most wise and best, of that eternal Origin, Light, and Fullness, of that, I say, Art efficient, exemplary [exemplantis] and ordering [ordinantis] there are shadows, resonances [resonantia] and pictures, there are vestiges, likenesses [simulacra] and spectacles divinely given to us as first premises of a syllogism [proposita] and signs to survey [contuendum] God; which, I say, are exemplary and/or rather examples [exemplata], proposed to minds still rough and sensible, to be transferred through the sensibles, which they see, to the intelligibles, which they do not see, as through signs to things signified [signata].

12. Moreover these manner of creatures of this sensible world signify the invisible things of God, partly because God is the Origin, Exemplar and End, of every creature, and (because) every effect is a sign of a cause, and an example of an exemplar, and a way for the end, towards which it leads: partly from itsown representation; partly from a prophetic prefiguration; partly from angelic activity; partly from a superadded institution. For every creature by [ex] its nature is a certain likeness and similitude of that eternal Wisdom, and especially those things which have been assumed in the book of Scripture through the spirit of prophecy for the prefiguration of spiritual things; moreover more especially those creatures, in the likeness of which God has willed to appear as an angelic minister; but most especially that which He willed to institute for signification [ad significandum], which not only accounts for [secundum] the common name of sign, but also of Sacrament.

13. From all of which is gathered, that the invisible things of God from the creatures of the world, through those which have been made, are perceived as things understood [intellecta]. so that those who do not want to advert to these and to acquaint themselves with, bless and love God in all these are inexcusable so long as [dum] they do not want to be transfered from darkness into the admirable light of God. But thanks to God through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who has transferred us from darkness into His own admirable light , while through these lights given exteriorly to the mirror [speculum] of our mind in which divine things glitter, we dispose (ourselves) to reenter.

English transl. by Alexis Bugnolo, The Franciscan Archive.

Source of the English digital text: