The Theological Tractates and The Consolation of Philosophy Part 31

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Quod si in corporibus sentiendis, quamuis afficiant instrumenta sensuum forinsecus obiectae qualitates animique agentis uigorem passio corporis antecedat quae in se actum mentis prouocet excitetque interim quiescentes intrinsecus formas, si in sentiendis, inquam, corporibus animus non passione insignitur, sed ex sua ui subiectam corpori iudicat passionem, quanto magis ea quae cunctis corporum affectionibus absoluta sunt, in discernendo non obiecta extrinsecus sequuntur, sed actum suae mentis expediunt? Hac itaque ratione multiplices cognitiones diuersis ac differentibus cessere substantiis. Sensus enim solus cunctis aliis cognitionibus destitutus immobilibus animantibus cessit quales sunt conchae maris quaeque alia saxis haerentia nutriuntur, imaginatio uero mobilibus beluis quibus iam inesse fugiendi appetendiue aliquis uidetur affectus, ratio uero humani tantum generis est sicut intellegentia sola diuini. Quo fit ut ea notitia ceteris praestet quae suapte natura non modo proprium sed ceterarum quoque notitiarum subiecta cognoscit. Quid igitur, si ratiocinationi sensus imaginatioque refragentur, nihil esse illud uniuersale dicentes quod sese intueri ratio putet? Quod enim sensibile uel imaginabile est, id uniuersum esse non posse; aut igitur rationis uerum esse iudicium nec quidquam esse sensibile, aut quoniam sibi notum sit plura sensibus et imaginationi esse subiecta, inanem conceptionem esse rationis quae quod sensibile sit ac singulare quasi quiddam uniuersale consideret.

Ad haec, si ratio contra respondeat se quidem et quod sensibile et quod imaginabile sit in uniuersitatis ratione conspicere, illa uero ad uniuersitatis cognitionem adspirare non posse, quoniam eorum notio corporales figuras non possit excedere, de rerum uero cognitione firmiori potius perfectiorique iudicio esse credendum, in huiusmodi igitur lite nos quibus tam ratiocinandi quam imaginandi etiam sentiendique uis inest nonne rationis potius causam probaremus? Simile est quod humana ratio diuinam intellegentiam futura, nisi ut ipsa cognoscit, non putat intueri. Nam ita disseris: Si qua certos ac necessarios habere non uideantur euentus, ea certo euentura praesciri nequeunt. Harum igitur rerum nulla est praescientia, quam si etiam in his esse credamus, nihil erit quod non ex necessitate proueniat. Si igitur uti rationis participes sumus ita diuinae iudicium mentis habere possemus, sicut imaginationem sensumque rationi cedere oportere iudicauimus, sic diuinae sese menti humanam submittere rationem iustissimum censeremus. Quare in illius summae intellegentiae cacumen, si possumus, erigamur; illic enim ratio uidebit quod in se non potest intueri, id autem est, quonam modo etiam quae certos exitus non habent, certa tamen uideat ac definita praenotio neque id sit opinio sed summae potius scientiae nullis terminis inclusa simplicitas.

V.

And if in sentient bodies, although the qualities of outward objects do move the organs of sense, and the passion of the body goeth before the vigour of the active mind, provoking her action to itself and exciting the inward forms which before lay quiet; if, I say, in perceiving these corporal objects the mind taketh not her impression from passion, but by her own force judgeth of the passion itself, which is objected to the body; how much more do those powers exercise the action of their mind and not only follow the outward objects in their judgment, which are free from all affections of the body? Wherefore in this sort have diverse and different substances knowledges of many kinds. For only sense destitute of all other means of knowledge is in those living creatures which are unmovable, as some shell-fish and other which stick to stones and so are nourished; and imagination in movable beasts who seem to have some power to covet and fly. But reason belongeth only to mankind, as understanding to things divine. So that that knowledge is most excellent which of itself doth not only know her own object, but also those which belong to others. What then, if sense and imagination repugn to discourse and reason, affirming that universality to be nothing which reason thinketh herself to see? For that cannot be universal, they argue, which is either sensible or imaginable; wherefore either the judgment of reason must be true and nothing at all sensible, or because they know that many things are subject to the senses and imagination, the conceit of reason is vain, which considereth that which is sensible and singular as if it were universal. Moreover if reason should answer that she beholdeth in her universality all that which is sensible or imaginable, but they cannot aspire to the knowledge of universality, because their knowledge cannot surpass corporal figures and shapes, and that we must give more credit to the firmer and more perfect judgment about the knowledge of things, in this contention should not we, who have the power of discoursing as well as of imagination and sense, rather take reason's part? The very like happeneth when human reason doth not think that the divine understanding doth behold future things otherwise than she herself doth. For thus thou arguest: If any things seem not to have certain and necessary events, they cannot be certainly foreknown to be to come. Wherefore there is no foreknowledge of these things, and if we think that there is any, there shall be nothing which happeneth not of necessity. If, therefore, as we are endued with reason, we could likewise have the judgment proper to the divine mind, as we have judged that imagination and sense must yield to reason, so likewise we would think it most reasonable and just that human reason should submit herself to the divine mind. Wherefore let us be lifted up as much as we can to that height of the highest mind; for there reason shall see that which she cannot behold in herself. And that is, how a certain and definite foreknowledge seeth even those things which have no certain issue, and that this is no opinion, but rather the simplicity of the highest knowledge enclosed within no bounds.

V.

Quam uariis terras animalia permeant figuris!

Namque alia extento sunt corpore pulueremque uerrunt Continuumque trahunt ui pectoris incitata sulcum Sunt quibus alarum leuitas uaga uerberetque uentos Et liquido longi spatia aetheris enatet uolatu, 5 Haec pressisse solo uestigia gressibusque gaudent Vel uirides campos transmittere uel subire siluas.

Quae uariis uideas licet omnia discrepare formis, Prona tamen facies hebetes ualet ingrauare sensus.

Vnica gens hominum celsum leuat altius cacumen 10 Atque leuis recto stat corpore despicitque terras.

Haec nisi terrenus male desipis, admonet figura, Qui recto caelum uultu petis exserisque frontem, In sublime feras animum quoque, ne grauata pessum Inferior sidat mens corpore celsius leuata. 15

V.

What several figures things that live upon the earth do keep!

Some have their bodies stretched in length by which the dust they sweep And do continual furrows make while on their breasts they creep.

Some lightly soaring up on high with wings the wind do smite And through the longest airy space pass with an easy flight.

Some by their paces to imprint the ground with steps delight, Which through the pleasant fields do pass or to the woods do go, Whose several forms though to our eyes they do a difference show, Yet by their looks cast down on earth their senses heavy grow.

Men only with more stately shape to higher objects rise, Who with erected bodies stand and do the earth despise.

These figures warn (if baser thoughts blind not thine earthly eyes) That thou who with an upright face dost look upon the sky, Shouldst also raise thy mind aloft, lest while thou bearest high Thine earthly head, thy soul opprest beneath thy body lie.

VI.

Quoniam igitur, uti paulo ante monstratum est, omne quod scitur non ex sua sed ex conprehendentium natura cognoscitur, intueamur nunc quantum fas est, quis sit diuinae substantiae status, ut quaenam etiam scientia eius sit, possimus agnoscere. Deum igitur aeternum esse cunctorum ratione degentium commune iudicium est. Quid sit igitur aeternitas consideremus; haec enim nobis naturam pariter diuinam scientiamque patefacit. Aeternitas igitur est interminabilis uitae tota simul et perfecta possessio, quod ex collatione temporalium clarius liquet. Nam quidquid uiuit in tempore id praesens a praeteritis in futura procedit nihilque est in tempore constitutum quod totum uitae suae spatium pariter possit amplecti. Sed crastinum quidem nondum adprehendit; hesternum uero iam perdidit; in hodierna quoque uita non amplius uiuitis quam in illo mobili transitorioque momento. Quod igitur temporis patitur condicionem, licet illud, sicuti de mundo censuit Aristoteles, nec coeperit umquam esse nec desinat uitaque eius cum temporis infinitate tendatur, nondum tamen tale est ut aeternum esse iure credatur.

Non enim totum simul infinitae licet uitae spatium comprehendit atque complectitur, sed futura nondum transacta iam non habet. Quod igitur interminabilis uitae plenitudinem totam pariter comprehendit ac possidet, cui neque futuri quidquam absit nec praeteriti fluxerit, id aeternum esse iure perhibetur, idque necesse est et sui compos praesens sibi semper adsistere et infinitatem mobilis temporis habere praesentem. Vnde non recte quidam, qui cum audiunt uisum Platoni mundum hunc nec habuisse initium temporis nec habiturum esse defectum, hoc modo conditori conditum mundum fieri coaeternum putant. Aliud est enim per interminabilem duci uitam, quod mundo Plato tribuit, aliud interminabilis uitae totam pariter complexum esse praesentiam, quod diuinae mentis proprium esse manifestum est. Neque deus conditis rebus antiquior uideri debet temporis quantitate sed simplicis potius proprietate naturae. Hunc enim uitae immobilis praesentarium statum infinitus ille temporalium rerum motus imitatur cumque eum effingere atque aequare non possit, ex immobilitate deficit in motum, ex simplicitate praesentiae decrescit in infinitam futuri ac praeteriti quantitatem; et cum totam pariter uitae suae plenitudinem nequeat possidere, hoc ipso quod aliquo modo numquam esse desinit; illud quod implere atque exprimere non potest, aliquatenus uidetur aemulari alligans se ad qualemcumque praesentiam huius exigui uolucrisque momenti, quae, quoniam manentis illius praesentiae quandam gestat imaginem, quibuscumque contigerit id praestat ut esse uideantur. Quoniam uero manere non potuit, infinitum temporis iter arripuit eoque modo factum est ut continuaret eundo uitam cuius plenitudinem complecti non ualuit permanendo. Itaque si digna rebus nomina uelimus imponere, Platonem sequentes deum quidem aeternum, mundum uero dicamus esse perpetuum. Quoniam igitur omne iudicium secundum sui naturam quae sibi subiecta sunt comprehendit, est autem deo semper aeternus ac praesentarius status; scientia quoque eius omnem temporis supergressa motionem in suae manet simplicitate praesentiae infinitaque praeteriti ac futuri spatia complectens omnia quasi iam gerantur in sua simplici cognitione considerat. Itaque si praesentiam pensare uelis qua cuncta dinoscit, non esse praescientiam quasi futuri sed scientiam numquam deficientis instantiae rectius aestimabis; unde non praeuidentia sed prouidentia potius dicitur, quod porro ab rebus infimis constituta quasi ab excelso rerum cacumine cuncta prospiciat. Quid igitur postulas ut necessaria fiant quae diuino lumine lustrentur, cum ne homines quidem necessaria faciant esse quae uideant? Num enim quae praesentia cernis, aliquam eis necessitatem tuus addit intuitus?" "Minime." "Atqui si est diuini humanique praesentis digna collatio, uti uos uestro hoc temporario praesenti quaedam uidetis, ita ille omnia suo cernit aeterno. Quare haec diuina praenotio naturam rerum proprietatemque non mutat taliaque apud se praesentia spectat qualia in tempore olim futura prouenient. Nec rerum iudicia confundit unoque suae mentis intuitu tam necessarie quam non necessarie uentura dinoscit; sicuti uos cum pariter ambulare in terra hominem et oriri in caelo solem uidetis, quamquam simul utrumque conspectum tamen discernitis et hoc uoluntarium illud esse necessarium iudicatis, ita igitur cuncta despiciens diuinus intuitus qualitatem rerum minime perturbat apud se quidem praesentium, ad condicionem uero temporis futurarum. Quo fit ut hoc non sit opinio sed ueritate potius nixa cognitio, cum exstaturum quid esse cognoscit quod idem exsistendi necessitate carere non nesciat.

Hic si dicas quod euenturum deus uidet id non euenire non posse, quod autem non potest non euenire id ex necessitate contingere, meque ad hoc nomen necessitatis adstringas; fatebor rem quidem solidissimae ueritatis sed cui uix aliquis nisi diuini speculator accesserit. Respondebo namque idem futurum, cum ad diuinam notionem refertur, necessarium, cum uero in sua natura perpenditur, liberum prorsus atque absolutum uideri. Duae sunt etenim necessitates, simplex una, ueluti quod necesse est omnes homines esse mortales, altera condicionis, ut si aliquem ambulare scias, eum ambulare necesse est; quod enim quisque nouit, id esse aliter ac notum est nequit, sed haec condicio minime secum illam simplicem trahit. Hanc enim necessitatem non propria facit natura sed condicionis adiectio; nulla enim necessitas cogit incedere uoluntate gradientem, quamuis eum tum cum graditur incedere necessarium sit. Eodem igitur modo, si quid prouidentia praesens uidet, id esse necesse est, tametsi nullam naturae habeat necessitatem. Atqui deus ea futura quae ex arbitrii libertate proueniunt praesentia contuetur. Haec igitur ad intuitum relata diuinum necessaria fiant per condicionem diuinae notionis; per se uero considerata ab absoluta naturae suae libertate non desinunt. Fient igitur procul dubio cuncta quae futura deus esse praenoscit, sed eorum quaedam de libero proficiscuntur arbitrio; quae quamuis eueniant, exsistendo tamen naturam propriam non amittunt, qua priusquam fierent etiam non euenire potuissent. Quid igitur refert non esse necessaria, cum propter diuinae scientiae condicionem modis omnibus necessitatis instar eueniet? Hoc scilicet quod ea quae paulo ante proposui, sol oriens et gradiens homo. Quae dum fiunt, non fieri non possunt; eorum tamen unum prius quoque quam fieret, necesse erat exsistere, alterum uero minime. Ita etiam quae praesentia deus habet, dubio procul exsistent, sed eorum hoc quidem de rerum necessitate descendit, illud uero de potestate facientium. Haud igitur iniuria diximus haec si ad diuinam notitiam referantur necessaria, si per se considerentur necessitatis esse nexibus absoluta; sicuti omne quod sensibus patet, si ad rationem referas, uniuersale est, si ad se ipsa respicias, singulare. 'Sed si in mea,'

inquies, 'potestate situm est mutare propositum, euacuabo prouidentiam, cum quae illa praenoscit forte mutauero.' Respondebo: propositum te quidem tuum posse deflectere, sed quoniam et id te posse et an facias quoue conuertas praesens prouidentiae ueritas intuetur, diuinam te praescientiam non posse uitare, sicuti praesentis oculi effugere non possis intuitum, quamuis te in uarias actiones libera uoluntate conuerteris. Quid igitur inquies? Ex meane dispositione scientia diuina mutabitur, ut cum ego nunc hoc nunc aliud uelim, illa quoque noscendi uices alternare uideatur? Minime. Omne namque futurum diuinus praecurrit intuitus et ad praesentiam propriae cognitionis retorquet ac reuocat nec alternat, ut aestimas, nunc hoc nunc illud praenoscendi uice, sed uno ictu mutationes tuas manens praeuenit atque complectitur. Quam comprehendendi omnia uisendique praesentiam non ex futurarum prouentu rerum, sed ex propria deus simplicitate sortitus est. Ex quo illud quoque resoluitur quod paulo ante posuisti indignum esse, si scientiae dei causam futura nostra praestare dicantur. Haec enim scientiae uis praesentaria notione cuncta complectens rebus modum omnibus ipsa constituit, nihil uero posterioribus debet. Quae cum ita sint, manet intemerata mortalibus arbitrii libertas nec iniquae leges solutis omni necessitate uoluntatibus praemia poenasque proponunt. Manet etiam spectator desuper cunctorum praescius deus uisionisque eius praesens semper aeternitas cum nostrorum actuum futura qualitate concurrit bonis praemia malis supplicia dispensans. Nec frustra sunt in deo positae spes precesque; quae cum rectae sunt, inefficaces esse non possunt. Auersamini igitur uitia, colite uirtutes, ad rectas spes animum subleuate, humiles preces in excelsa porrigite. Magna uobis est, si dissimulare non uultis, necessitas indicta probitatis, cum ante oculos agitis iudicis cuncta cernentis."

VI.

Seeing, therefore, as hath been showed, all that is known is not comprehended by its own nature but by the power of him which comprehendeth it, let us see now, as much as we may, what is the state of the divine substance that we may also know what His knowledge is.

Wherefore it is the common judgment of all that live by reason that God is everlasting, and therefore let us consider what eternity is. For this declareth unto us both the divine nature and knowledge. Eternity therefore is a perfect possession altogether of an endless life, which is more manifest by the comparison of temporal things, for whatsoever liveth in time, that being present proceedeth from times past to times to come, and there is nothing placed in time which can embrace all the space of its life at once. But it hath not yet attained to-morrow and hath lost yesterday. And you live no more in this day's life than in that movable and transitory moment. Wherefore, whatsoever suffereth the condition of time, although, as Aristotle thought of the world, it never began nor were ever to end, and its life did endure with infinite time, yet it is not such that it ought to be called everlasting. For it doth not comprehend and embrace all the space of its life together, though that life be infinite, but it hath not the future time which is yet to come. That then which comprehendeth and possesseth the whole fulness of an endless life together, to which neither any part to come is absent, nor of that which is past hath escaped, is worthy to be accounted everlasting, and this is necessary, that being no possession in itself, it may always be present to itself, and have an infinity of movable time present to it. Wherefore they are deceived who, hearing that Plato thought that this world had neither beginning of time nor should ever have any end, think that by this means the created world should be coeternal with the Creator. For it is one thing to be carried through an endless life, which Plato attributed to the world, another thing to embrace the whole presence of an endless life together, which is manifestly proper to the divine mind. Neither ought God to seem more ancient than the things created, by the quantity of time, but rather by the simplicity of His divine nature. For that infinite motion of temporal things imitateth the present state of the unmovable life, and since it cannot express nor equal it, it falleth from immobility to motion, and from the simplicity of presence, it decreaseth to an infinite quantity of future and past, and since it cannot possess together all the fulness of its life, by never leaving to be in some sort, it seemeth to emulate in part that which it cannot fully obtain and express, tying itself to this small presence of this short and swift moment, which because it carrieth a certain image of that abiding presence, whosoever hath it, seemeth to be. But because it could not stay it undertook an infinite journey of time, and so it came to pass that it continued that life by going whose plenitude it could not comprehend by staying. Wherefore, if we will give things their right names, following Plato, let us say that God is everlasting and the world perpetual. Wherefore, since every judgment comprehendeth those things which are subject unto it, according to its own nature, and God hath always an everlasting and present state, His knowledge also surpassing all motions of time, remaineth in the simplicity of His presence, and comprehending the infinite spaces of that which is past and to come, considereth all things in His simple knowledge as though they were now in doing. So that, if thou wilt weigh His foreknowledge with which He discerneth all things, thou wilt more rightly esteem it to be the knowledge of a never fading instant than a foreknowledge as of a thing to come. For which cause it is not called praevidence or foresight, but rather providence, because, placed far from inferior things, it overlooketh all things, as it were, from the highest top of things. Why, therefore, wilt thou have those things necessary which are illustrated by the divine light, since that not even men make not those things necessary which they see? For doth thy sight impose any necessity upon those things which thou seest present?" "No." "But the present instant of men may well be compared to that of God in this: that as you see some things in your temporal instant, so He beholdeth all things in His eternal present. Wherefore this divine foreknowledge doth not change the nature and propriety of things, and it beholdeth them such in His presence as they will after come to be, neither doth He confound the judgment of things, and with one sight of His mind He discerneth as well those things which shall happen necessarily as otherwise. As you, when at one time you see a man walking upon the earth and the sun rising in heaven, although they be both seen at once, yet you discern and judge that the one is voluntary, and the other necessary, so likewise the divine sight beholding all things disturbeth not the quality of things which to Him are present, but in respect of time are yet to come. And so this is not an opinion but rather a knowledge grounded upon truth, when He knoweth that such a thing shall be, which likewise He is not ignorant that it hath no necessity of being. Here if thou sayest that cannot choose but happen which God seeth shall happen, and that which cannot choose but happen, must be of necessity, and so tiest me to this name of necessity, I will grant that it is a most solid truth, but whereof scarce any but a contemplator of divinity is capable. For I will answer that the same thing is necessary when it is referred to the Divine knowledge; but when it is weighed in its own nature that it seemeth altogether free and absolute. For there be two necessities: the one simple, as that it is necessary for all men to be mortal; the other conditional, as if thou knowest that any man walketh, he must needs walk. For what a man knoweth cannot be otherwise than it is known. But this conditional draweth not with it that simple or absolute necessity.

For this is not caused by the nature of the thing, but by the adding a condition. For no necessity maketh him to go that goeth of his own accord, although it be necessary that he goeth while he goeth. In like manner, if providence seeth anything present, that must needs be, although it hath no necessity of nature. But God beholdeth those future things, which proceed from free-will, present. These things, therefore, being referred to the divine sight are necessary by the condition of the divine knowledge, and, considered by themselves, they lose not absolute freedom of their own nature. Wherefore doubtless all those things come to pass which God foreknoweth shall come, but some of them proceed from free-will, which though they come to pass, yet do not, by coining into being, lose, since before they came to pass, they might also not have happened. But what importeth it that they are not necessary, since that by reason of the condition of the divine knowledge they come to pass in all respects as if they were necessary? It hath the same import as those things which I proposed a little before--the sun rising and the man going. While they are in doing, they cannot choose but be in doing; yet one of them was necessarily to be before it was, and the other not.

Likewise those things which God hath present, will have doubtless a being, but some of them proceed from the necessity of things, other from the power of the doers. And therefore we said not without cause that these, if they be referred to God's knowledge, are necessary; and if they be considered by themselves, they are free from the bonds of necessity. As whatsoever is manifest to senses, if thou referrest it to reason, is universal; if thou considerest the things themselves, it is singular or particular. But thou wilt say, 'If it is in my power to change my purpose, shall I frustrate providence if I chance to alter those things which she foreknoweth?' I answer that thou mayest indeed change thy purpose, but because the truth of providence, being present, seeth that thou canst do so, and whether thou wilt do so or no, and what thou purposest anew, thou canst not avoid the divine foreknowledge, even as thou canst not avoid the sight of an eye which is present, although thou turnest thyself to divers actions by thy free-will.

But yet thou wilt inquire whether God's knowledge shall be changed by thy disposition, so that when thou wilt now one thing, and now another, it should also seem to have divers knowledges. No. For God's sight preventeth all that is to come and recalleth and draweth it to the presence of His own knowledge; neither doth He vary, as thou imaginest, now knowing one thing and now another, but in one instant without moving preventeth and comprehendeth thy mutations. Which presence of comprehending and seeing all things, God hath not by the event of future things but by His own simplicity. By which that doubt is also resolved which thou didst put a little before, that it is an unworthy thing that our future actions should be said to cause the knowledge of God. For this force of the divine knowledge comprehending all things with a present notion appointeth to everything its measure and receiveth nothing from ensuing accidents. All which being so, the free-will of mortal men remaineth unviolated, neither are the laws unjust which propose punishments and rewards to our wills, which are free from all necessity. There remaineth also a beholder of all things which is God, who foreseeth all things, and the eternity of His vision, which is always present, concurreth with the future quality of our actions, distributing rewards to the good and punishments to the evil. Neither do we in vain put our hope in God or pray to Him; for if we do this well and as we ought, we shall not lose our labour or be without effect.

Wherefore fly vices, embrace virtues, possess your minds with worthy hopes, offer up humble prayers to your highest Prince. There is, if you will not dissemble, a great necessity of doing well imposed upon you, since you live in the sight of your Judge, who beholdeth all things."

SYMMACHI VERSVS

Fortunae et uirtutis opus, Seuerine Boethi, E patria pulsus non tua per scelera, Tandem ignotus habes qui te colat, ut tua uirtus Vt tua fortuna promeruitque [Greek: sophos].

Post obitum dant fata locum, post fata superstes Vxoris propriae te quoque fama colit.

EPIGRAM BY SYMMACHUS[177]

Boethius! model of all weal and worth, Unjustly from thy country driven forth, Thy fame, unfamed at last, yet one shall praise, One voice the cry of approbation raise; What life denied, through death kind heaven giveth; Thine honour in thy wife's for ever liveth.

[177] This epigram was found by Barth in a Merseburg codex, and first printed in his _Adversaria_ (1624). If genuine (and the faithful reproduction the error SYMMACHIVS for SYMMACHI VS or VR, i.e. VERSVS, is in its favour), the author may be either the son or the father-in-law of Boethius. Some readers may prefer to rank this poem with the epitaph on Elpis, the supposititious first wife of Boethius, on whom see Obbarius, _De cons._ p. xii. At any rate it is as old as the times of Hrabanus Maurus, who imitated it in a poem also first published by Barth. See Peiper, _Cons._ p. xxxviiii.

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