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.

 Now 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.

  So far, 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.

 The 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.

  Sentient 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.

  Among 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 affatus.

  We see 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 source.

  The next 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 perfect animals.

  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 body.

  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.

  There 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 before creation.

  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.

  In these 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.

  However, 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.

  The 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.

  The 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.

  Now we 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.

  All 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.

  Doubts 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.

  With the 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 Art (Breviculum).

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