§ 1. Preamble1

1. I have read, most esteemed Fathers,2 in the records of the Arabians,3 that Abdallah the Saracen4 when questioned as to what, on this stage, so to say, of the world, could be seen most worthy of wonder, replied that there is nothing to be seen more wonderful that man.

2.In agreement with this opinion is the saying of Hermes: «A great miracle, Asclepius, is man».5

§ 2.The current reasons for human pre-eminence are not satisfying

3. Still, when I weighed the reasons for these sayings, the numerous considerations advanced by many men to explain the excellence of human nature6 did not fully persuade me: that man is the intermediary between creatures, the familiar of the higher beings, the king of the things beneath him; by the acuteness of his senses, by the inquiry of his reason and by the light of his intelligence the interpreter of nature;7 set midway between fixed eternity and fleeting time and, (as the Persians say)8 the bond, or rather the wedding-song of the world, on David's testimony,9 but little lower that angels.

§ 3.The final discovery

4. These reason are great, nevertheless they are not the principal grounds, that is, those for which man may rightfully claim for himself the privilege of the highest admiration.

5. Why should we not admire more the angels themselves and the beatific choirs of heaven?

6. At last, however, it seems to me that I have come to understand why man is the most fortunate of beings and consequently worthy of all admiration, and what finally is the condition which is his lot in the universal order, a condition to be envied not only by brutes but even by the stars and by the intelligences dwelling beyond this world.10

7. A thing surpassing belief and a wondrous one.

8. Still, why should it not be? For it is on this ground that man is rightly called and considered a great miracle and a living creature worthy of all admiration.

9. But hear, Fathers, exactly what this condition is and, in the name of your humanity, grant your benign audition to my work.

§ 4.The history of the creation

10.The supreme Father, God the Architect, had already built this cosmic home we behold, the most sacred temple of divinity, according to the laws of the mysterious wisdom.

11. He had already adorned the supercelestial region with intelligences, quickened the heavely globes with eternal souls and filled the excrementary and filthy parts of the lower world with a multitude of animals of every kind.

12. But when the work was finished, the Craftsman still longed that there were someone to ponder the meaning of so great a work, to love its beauty, and to wonder at its vastness.11

13.Therefore, when everything was done (as Moses and Timaeus testify), He finally bethought himself of bringing forth man.12

14. But there was not among the archetypes that from which he could fashion a new offspring, nor in his treasure-houses anything which he might bestow on his new son as an inheritance, nor among the seats of the universe any place where the latter might sit to contemplate the universe.

15.All was now complete; all things had heen assigned to the highest, the middle, and the lowest orders.

16. But it was not in the nature of the Father's power to fail in his final creation; it was not in the nature of his wisdom to hesitate through lack of counsel in a needful matter, nor it was in the nature of his beneficient love that he who would praise the divine generosity in all other things should be obliged to condemn it in regard to himself.

§ 4.God's address to man

17. At last the best of makers decreed that the creature to whom he had been anable to give anything wholly his own, should have in common whatever belonged to every other being.13

18.He therefore took man, this creature of indeterminate image,14 set him in the middle of the world15 and thus spoke to him: «We have given you, Adam, no fixed seat nor features proper to yourself nor endowment peculiar to you alone, in order that whatever seat, whatever features, whatever endowment you may responsibly desire, these same you may have and possess according to your desire and judgement.

19. Once defined, the nature of all other beings, is constrained within the laws prescribed by us.

20. Constrained by no limits, you may determine it for yourself, according to your own free will, in whose hand we have placed you.

21.I have placed you at the world's center so that you may thence more easily look around atwhatever is in the world.

22. We have made you neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal,16 so that you may, as the free and extraordinary17 shaper of yourself, fashion yourself in the form you will prefer.

23.It will be in your power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are brutish; you shall have the power, according to your soul's judgement, to be reborn into the higher orders, which are divine».