Title: Oration on the Dignity of Man (De Hominis Dignitate).
Author: Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola.
Genre: Non-fiction, philosophy, religion.
Publication Date: 1486.
Summary: A famous public discourse by an Italian scholar and philosopher often called "Manifesto of the Renaissance". Repelled by the purely positive science of law, Mirandola devoted himself to the study of philosophy and theology. The Oration attempted to remap the human landscape to center all attention on human capacity and human perspective. He spoke in front of hostile clerics of the dignity of the liberal arts and about the dignity and glory of angels - Seraphim represent charity, achieved by "burning with love for the Creator." The Cherubim represent intelligence, obtained through contemplation and meditation. Thrones represent justice, obtained by being just in ruling over "inferior things."
My rating: 8/10.
♥ ...for it is not the bark that makes the tree, but its insensitive and brute and sensual soul; nor the orbicular form which makes the heavens, but their harmonious order. Finally, it is not freedom from a body, but its spiritual intelligence, which makes the angel. If you see a man dedicated to his stomach, crawling on the ground, you see a plant and not a man; or if you unresponsive nature; nor the hide which makes the beast of burden, but its see a man bedazzled by the empty forms of the imagination, as by the wiles of Calypso, and through their alluring solicitations made a slave to his own senses, you see a brute and not a man. If, however, you see a philosopher, judging and distinguishing all things according to the rule of reason, him if, finally, a pure contemplator, unmindful of the body, wholly withdrawn into shall you hold in veneration, for he is a creature of heaven and not of earth; the inner chambers of the mind, here indeed is neither a creature of earth nor a heavenly creature, but some higher divinity, clothed in human flesh.
♥ But what is the purpose of all this? That we may understand — since we have been born into this condition of being what we choose to be — that we ought to be sure above all else that it may never be said against us that, born to a high position, we failed to appreciate it, but fell instead to the estate of brutes and uncomprehending beasts of burden; and that the saying of Aspah the Prophet, “You are all Gods and sons of the Most High,” might rather be true; and finally that we may not, through abuse of the generosity of a most indulgent Father, pervert the free option which he has given us from a saving to a damning gift. Let a certain saving ambition invade our souls so that, impatient of mediocrity, we pant after the highest things and (since, if we will, we can) bend all our efforts to their attainment. Let us disdain things of earth, hold as little worth even the astral orders and, putting behind us all the things of this world, hasten to that court beyond the world, closest to the most exalted Godhead.
♥ I address all these complaints, with the greatest regret and indignation, not against the princes of our times, but against the philosophers who believe and assert that philosophy should not be pursued because no monetary value or reward is assigned it, unmindful that by this sign they disqualify themselves as philosophers. Since their whole life is concentrated on gain and ambition, they never embrace the knowledge of the truth for its own sake. This much will I say for myself — and on this point I do not blush for praising myself — that I have never philosophized save for the sake of philosophy, nor have I ever desired or hoped to secure from my studies and my laborious researches any profit or fruit save cultivation of mind and knowledge of the truth — things I esteem more and more with the passage of time. I have also been so avid for this knowledge and so enamored of it that I have set aside all private and public concerns to devote myself completely to contemplation; and from it no calumny of jealous persons, nor any invective from enemies of wisdom has ever been able to detach me. Philosophy has taught me to rely on my own convictions rather than on the judgements of others and to concern myself less with whether I am well thought of than whether what I do or say is evil.
♥ Indeed, it is the characteristic of the impotent (as Seneca writes) to have their knowledge all written down in their note-books, as though the discoveries of those who preceded us had closed the path to our own efforts, as though the power of nature had become effete in us and could bring forth nothing which, if it could not demonstrate the truth, might at least point to it from afar. The farmer hates sterility in his field and the husband deplores it in his wife; even more then must the divine mind hate the sterile mind with which it is joined and associated, because it hopes from that source to have offspring of such a high nature.