I really have no qualms about quoting Proclus
in this way, since these rough examples, true as they are, raise the intellect
to understand the above statements on a higher level. And by this I mean that
in the said example the prime cause is not merely the cause of man's being but also of man's being alive and being
rational, because life and reason are also entirely effects of God’s creation.
everything that exists is either creator or creature. Therefore, the world is
either God, or a creature. However, the
world, being finite and visible, is not God. This truth is obvious to our
senses. Therefore, it exists as a created being, as the effect of a cause, and
not per se, as nothing can be its own cause; thus it is simply an effect caused
by God, as are all things in this world.
we have not said anything about the orderly return of creatures to God from their
nethermost abodes, as we wished to give the above preliminary information,
which will be useful later on. The natural Chaos of the elements in a confused
mixture is the lowest material cause of all things subject to generation and
corruption, and accordingly stands at the lowest level as shown.
first to rise out of the said confusion are the compound bodies of the
elements. They continuously seek out the places that God predestined for them
and where their own nature is preserved in greater power, existing more simply
on its own, less compounded with other elements. However, they can never
fulfill their intention by remaining where they are. Therefore, they try other
places as they flee from confusion. They do this with the singular intention, appetite
and belief that they can overcome the other elements in the substantial beings
they form as they enter into composition. Therefore, they generate a mixed
elemented body disposed in the order of elemental degrees, an order that they
naturally seek, to escape confusion. This is the initial point and first degree
of ascent of bodies subject to decay.
Next, in ascending order above the said simple
body, the second degree of physical being arises through the process of
composition. It is simply animated per se and contains all vegetal beings
produced by the active, passive and functioning vegetative power.
Above vegetation, the third degree arises in
sentient animals or beasts. It follows a natural ascending scale of perfection
until the highest degree of perfection in animals is attained. Some animals
seem vile and imperfect as compared to higher animals, yet they have sense and
movement, like oysters and similar shellfish. We sense that they are alive
beneath their inert outward aspect, and by looking within, we see that they are
endowed with their own senses. They are visibly alive, and they display it
through their sense of touch, a primitive sense they noticeably display by
shrinking back when touched, and expanding when released. In addition, they
open and close their shells with a contracting and expanding motion.
life manifests a degree of perfection above vegetal life, which is immobile and
remains in one place as do inanimate bodies or stones. Some animals such as
coral remain attached to the stones on which they feed and are almost more like
trees than animals. Lower animals have the one sense that all animals have in
common, namely touch. Other animals then arise with the same primitive sense,
but greater power to move about, for they can shrink and expand to change
places as do annulata or worms. They do not constitute another degree above the
previous one, but other crawling creatures display increasing degrees of
perfection as they have more senses, adding sight, smell, taste and even voice,
as snakes do. Other perfect animals attain even higher perfection and being,
like quadrupeds, birds and fish, and it is impossible to know how many kinds of
them exist in the diversity of greater, medium and lesser perfection.
Imperfect animals, as all other living beings,
have appetite and instinct. Appetite and instinct are more or less developed in
greater and lesser beings, and they all have them regardless of their degree of
perfection. Every being that can be nourished on water and food has appetite,
but in plants, it is grosser and less perceptible to the senses. We can see
that plants have instinct, although in a less apparent form. For instance, a
grapevine has tendrils instead of hands to bear it up as it climbs and seeks
out its source of energy and instinctively forms a trunk with branches, boughs,
flowers and fruit. Although imperceptible to our senses, even inanimate bodies
have instinct and appetite, for they all have a purpose, as nothing exists in
vain. Now all created beings are imperfect as compared to their prime source.
They all have an appetite for better and greater perfection. This appetite
would have no purpose without their innate God-given instinct, and God and
nature never do anything without a purpose.
various perfect animals, greater, medium or lesser perfection is found. Some
can walk and move in all directions, but are lacking one or more senses, like
moles that have no eyes, but still have the other senses.
Any animal with more senses than the primitive
sense of touch is classed among perfect animals, especially walking or flying
animals endowed with all five senses that also have voice for naturally expressing
what they mean, and humans have an even more developed sense of voice called
the said three separate degrees in living beings, in a distinct ascending
order. It begins with vegetation as the first degree of life; followed in the
next degree by sentient animals that can move with their own contracting and
expanding motion. They are called "imperfect animals" because they do
not move from place to place, but merely have some motion as a first sign of
life. The heart of perfect animals moves with this motion when they first come
into being, and they are said to come to life with the first heartbeat. The
visible innate motion perceptibly continues in the absence of any other
sensible cause. Thus, with our senses of sight and touch we perceive this most
basic primitive motion, as for instance in a decapitated bird whose heart still
goes on beating. A swan's heart can go on living for a long time after being
cut out and astonishingly, even when it is cut into pieces each piece still
continues to show signs of life for some time. This shows that the heart is the
principal organ of life, where life most firmly takes root, and from which life
spreads to all other organs that die when primordial movement stops at the root
degree of life is in animals that can move in all directions. We call them
perfect animals because their motion is in all directions and distances, unlike
the imperfect non-local motion described above. In their degree of perfection,
they have perfectly organized senses with which they can work and function as
Ultimately, the said three degrees of life
culminate in a fourth supernatural degree far above the others. This is the
human species, where the degrees exist jointly, in order, linked, and mutually
bonded with all their appendages as parts that naturally compose the human
Therefore, the degrees of life reach their
summit in the human species where they attain the purpose and perfection they
crave by natural appetite. Ultimately, they repose here, for they have been
raised to the human level and informed with one spiritual and immortal form
created by God. Due to the human form, man remembers, understands and finally
above all loves God. Now there are two created natures. Spiritual nature exists
above the heavens in angels (or separated substances or intelligences). Physical
nature comprises the prime mobile, the starry sky, the seven planetary spheres
with the chaos of elements beneath them, and natural physical bodies subject to
generation and decay. The two essences and natures are altogether different,
with naturally separate places and subjects. They have almost nothing in common
apart from the fact that they are both creatures created by God out of
nothingness. Both are parts of the universe, as shown in the first Figure. They
form one formal and material world because of the wisdom, free will and power
of the Creator.
must be no vacuum in such a noble work of creation and no lack of mutual
solidarity among all parts although they are separate and imperfectly united.
Man is naturally composed of everything that exists in creation. Through man,
all created beings can participate in the unity of one nature, which is human
nature. Therefore, man is the center of the whole universe, where all created
beings fulfill their purpose. Through man, as we said earlier, all physical
things accomplish their purpose. Here, the diligent reader can see the created being,
in whom God brought creation to its perfect fulfillment, and the purpose for
which He created everything, and the idea He objectified in His eternal mind
Creatures arise in ascending levels through
clearly visible degrees from a degree of obvious imperfection. A continuous,
gradual ascent ultimately leads them to man, in whom, as we said, they can
attain perfect fulfillment of purpose and ultimate bliss. This would be
impossible without goodness, greatness, duration, power, wisdom, will, virtue,
truth and glory, and even more impossible without the intrinsic natural acts of
these dignities, namely active good, passive good and functioning good and the
same with the rest.
principles, all created beings find their origin and source of production. Everything
that exists due to the principles is actual through first and second acts.
Without goodness, nothing can be good. Without the essence of goodness, no
being can originate, because all that exists must be good. Good and Being are
said to be convertible and identical. All things can naturally be known by the
same principles, because they are the principles and causes of everything.
the said principles can in no way constitute anything without certain other
respective principles. If there were no difference between the principles and
their operations, nothing could be truly actual, since all action requires
active and passive parts, from which action must proceed. Whenever something
has even a little actual being, this actual being must be good, and even this
little is created from goodness. Goodness has no power at all to act as a
substantially productive being without the existence of active good and passive
good. Therefore, difference is necessary as a natural principle, without which
nothing could have any beginning. Because this is necessarily so, concordance
must mutually concur with all principles and with their acts that mutually
influence each other and also influence themselves inwardly. Therefore, if
concordance is destroyed, its opposite, namely contrariety remains. Contrariety
cannot exist without appetites for divergent ends constantly striving to
separate. This is why it is exists in corruption more than anywhere else.
beginning must begin what is begun, as a cause must cause its effect.
Therefore, all beings must necessarily have a beginning. The middle must be a
principle too, through which the beginning passes on its way to the perfect
end. By the same token, the end must be a necessary principle since nothing can
be complete or perfect without an end. Now the end moves the beginning to
itself through the intervening medium that receives the influence of the end on
the beginning. In addition, the beginning retransmits its influence to the end
through the same medium. Therefore, the end is greater than the beginning, for
the end is the principle to which all principles flow. The beginning is a
lesser principle as long as it reaches toward the end and has not yet attained
it. The middle, as it participates with both, is rightly called the middle.
principles of majority, equality and minority are necessary in all things.
Without them, there could be no natural order, peace or tranquility. Without
the movement from lesser to greater being, there could be only confusion and
separation. Consequently, there would be no cognition and no operation.
see that our being, operation, cognition, life and existence in time all
originate in the selfsame principles. Thus, Raymond's science depends entirely
on the said primordial, necessary and simply universal principles.
doubtful matter subject to man's ignorance consists of nine things, namely God,
angels, the heavens, man, imagination, sense, vegetation, elements and
artificial things. We can either be in error or act correctly regarding these
subjects that Raymond mentions in the Art.
regarding the above principles, subjects and the things they imply can arise in
nine or ten ways. When doubts arise about something, we ask whether it exists,
what it is, what it consists of, why it exists, in what quantity, what quality,
when, where, how and with what means.
knowledge of these distinctions and questions, Raymond investigated practically
everything. The entire Art is artificially based on them, and we wrote this
part to dispose the human mind to learning it more easily. It is really very
difficult for those who are not really disposed to learning it, because this is
a new art; separate from all the old principles. Many find it strange, for its
principles are altogether new and unknown and its way of treating the subject
matter is astonishing and even stranger. In addition, it has a bewildering
diversity of practical modes. It uses seldom-used terms, and uses letters to
stand for various things, as we will see, God willing. If God permits, we will
deal with all this to make it easy to learn and remember. Hence, we will draw
visual figures as the need arises.
End of Fr. Thomas le
Myèsier’s introductory text to the brief practical summary of Blessed Raymond's
Extended Overview of the Breviculum