"There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community." (Scott Peck)


Communis comes from a combination of the Latin prefix com- (which means "together") and the word munis (which has to do with the exchange of services), probably originally derived from the Etruscan word munis- (meaning "to endow", or "to have the charge of").



Humans are bipedal primates belonging to the "wise man" or "knowing man") under the great apes, originated in Africa. They have a highly developed brain capable of abstract reasoning, language and introspection. This mental capability, combined with an erect body carriage that frees their upper limbs for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other species.



gain perspective | Macron's Sorbonne speech 2024 | The black swan | a community | Community development | Europe United: Power Politics and the Making of the European Community (2010) | on the dignity of the human being (Pico della Mirandola)




(about greater purpose and greater goodness)
"Man, as we say, is a tame and civilized animal. Nevertheless, he requires proper instruction and a fortunate nature. And then of all animals he becomes the most devine and most civilized. But if he be insufficiently or ill educated, he is the most savage of earthly creatures". (Plato)
Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people' (Eleanor Roosevelt)
gain perspective  
Our thinking regarding ideas "usually advances by a succession of small steps, through a fog in which even the most keen-sighted explorer can seldom see more than a few steps ahead.

Occasionally the fog lifts, perspective is gained, and a wider stretch of territory can be surveyed - sometimes with startling results."

In the wake of a big idea - one capable of lifting the fog that we have been operating in - we don't see the world in quite the same way anymore.

Our approach to thinking about an issue gets rearranged. Perspectives shift, fragments of ideas fit together in ways we didn't think about previously.
All this can come from an idea - one that is not a small step, but rather a big leap! Ideas of this type are rare, but when they appear on the scene they can certainly make themselves known

(Sir James Jeans, 1943 book Physics and Philosophy).



As a metaphor, a black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11.

You could argue black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives. But that can only be said with more certainty after an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. And why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur?

Part of the answer could be that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”

We fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world.



a community  
Renoir's Dance at Le Moulin de La Galette: people in intimate and canded compositions.
A group of interacting humans sharing an environment is called a community. Communities are nested; one community can contain another. Community is vital for humans. Intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness, the strength of the ties between the group, of whatever nature—cultural, ethnic, or moral—they may be. Currently, we should figure out a way to deal and live in a disorderly world with human failings, a world that we do not understand.

Liberty and equality are the uncontested “values” of the modern world. They have been paid lip service to by all the parties, including the Communists, who did so much to smother them in the course of the twentieth century (hence the ubiquitous “people’s republics” that brought untold misery to a third of the globe). Some have even argued that we have arrived at the “end of history,” that the political problem has been solved in principle through the universal affirmation (and the eventual realization) of democratic liberty and equality. Democracy, forevermore, will be the only game in town.

“Progressive” thought is defined by the view that liberty and equality are unproblematic, and that the great task before democratic peoples is to maximize them, to make the world ever more “democratic” and egalitarian. The solution to the problems of democracy is said to be more democracy, as the philosopher John Dewey famously proclaimed at the beginning of the twentieth century. True democracy must move to the left, becoming ever more inclusive, tolerant, egalitarian, and relativistic. To realize the democratic ideal, we must reject antiquated truths and insist on extreme equality and unlimited personal choice (think “the right to choose” or the self-reinvention central to “gender theory”). In this view there is no such thing as loving democracy (or liberty and equality) too much.

What could possibly be wrong with such an uncompromising commitment to the “democratic” ideal? To begin with, progressivism (and extreme libertarianism) forgets the goods, habits, and traditions that make a free society cohere. Elsewhere I have called them the “conservative foundations of the liberal order.” These goods—healthy family life, a moral code rooted in religion and natural law, prudent and far-seeing statesmanship, the rule of law, a respect for legitimate institutions, love of truth—were largely taken for granted by the Founders of the American republic. As the philosopher Michael Polyani put it in the 1960s, the best of the liberal tradition, including the American Founding, presupposed an “authoritative traditional framework” that could protect, nourish, and inform “the new self-determination of man.” Liberalism, properly understood, presupposes the continuity of civilization. It undermines itself if it demands “liberation” from all moral restraints. 

We have to learn again what liberalism is about
At its best, liberalism must include a self-consciously conservative dimension. Rational self-mastery and the freedom to choose, goods cherished by liberals and conservatives alike, do not mean that individuals are radically independent, that they are completely sovereign over themselves and the world. Progressivism is that crucial moment when liberalism succumbs to an ethic of absolute autonomy, when it liberates human beings from an order of nature or justice above the human will. It is that moment when liberalism subverts itself by negating the goods that truly allow it to flourish.
Conservative-minded liberals have always appreciated the essential fragility of civilized order. As the great French political philosopher Montesquieu (widely cited by the American Founders of all stripes) already saw in the middle of the eighteenth century, the principles of democracy can become “corrupted,and a “well-regulated” democracy can degenerate into a regime of ”extreme equality.” In such a regime, liberty becomes license. Democracy can lose its soul when it “exaggerates” its principles, when it forgets the legitimate place of hierarchy, authority, and truth within their own spheres. As Dominique Schnapper argues in a brilliant new study inspired by Montesquieu’s insight (The Democratic Spirit of Law), in an “extreme democracy” equality risks becoming indiscriminate egalitarianism, the defense of novelty risks giving rise to the “temptation of the unlimited,” and healthy skepticism risks decaying into “absolute relativism.” As another contemporary French thinker, Pierre Manent, has put it, “To love democracy well it is necessary to love it moderately.”

As Manent shows, in the nineteenth century this insight was adopted and developed in wonderfully suggestive ways by the most astute student of democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville. Like the American Founders, Tocqueville understood the “consent of the governed” to be a precious political achievement, a hedge against tyranny and an essential element of self-government. There was no more eloquent partisan than Tocqueville of what he himself called “liberty under God and the laws.” At the same time, he saw the danger of applying the perfectly admirable political principle of consent, of choice, to every aspect of life. Authority is essential if homo democraticus is not to succumb to a soul-destroying nihilism or new forms of tyranny. The family, churches, the armed forces, and the universities should not be endlessly democratized or subjected to social engineering. Democracy needs “extra-democratic” institutions to flourish.

In addition, Tocqueville emphasized that there are limits built into the human condition. Democratic men and women must not hesitate to respect the truth, the moral law, and the free institutions and rule of law that they craft for themselves. Autonomy is not an end in itself. Men are not gods. We are not free to choose anything and everything. This faith in human omnipotence is one of the great illusions of democratic man. Religion, and the best secular wisdom, remind democratic man of the necessary place of limits in a life well-lived. As the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn always insisted, lovers of liberty must not jettison “the golden key” of voluntary self-limitation. It is essential for our liberty—and our souls.

As we rewrite the millennial-old institution of marriage by judicial fiat, ignoring nature, tradition, and biology, not to mention the sacred traditions of the West, we risk giving way to the vice that the ancients called hubris. The most fashionable intellectual currents in our universities teach contempt for authority and confuse freedom with a perfectly arbitrary cultural and moral relativism, all in the name of democratic values. We need to return to the good sense of the Founders and to the even deeper wisdom of Tocqueville. Recovering a sense of limits and law, and a respect for old wisdom, is necessary for true liberty to flourish. How can human beings choose wisely if there are no ends and purposes guiding the exercise of freedom? “Liberty under God and the laws” is the only liberty worthy of human beings. For that we need a renewed intellectual and political appreciation of “the conservative foundations of the liberal order.” One of the tasks of liberal education is to teach us that our liberty, however precious, is not absolute and must ultimately bow before the truth of things.
(This article is received by Intercollegiate Studies Institute. The author, Peter,Daniel J. Mahoney, holds the Augustine Chair in Distinguished Scholarship at Assumption College.)

Every human being is entitled to humanity

Obama said in Athens: “To see different cultures and meet different people is important to understand ourselves and our place in the world. Here, so many ideas about democracy, notions of citizenship and rule of law began to develop. That is something of value.”

I sent the text to Michele Norris, Founder The Race Card Project. She wrote to me: “Your story is VERY powerful”. Admittedly, that is complimenting, but the real credit goes to the 44th POTUS; I only observed a few events in order to create and send the Race Card. I'm a European, live and learn in the Netherlands and worked for financial institutions. About 20 years ago I started to delve into causes of declining interest in the norms and values concept, found an answer at the Nexus Institute and started a foundation to disseminate European values and affairs, with the aim of improving living conditions as a human condition.

Besides many meetings in Europe focused on policy and culture, I often visited the US. I became aware of the project's existence through the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. The presence of ethnic groups, races and religions is a given. But going into profiling and manipulating human-made racial, ethnic and religious thoughts can lead to aberrant treatment and have an impact on social identity, creating racism and the theory of identity politics. Erasmus knew that 500 years ago, Obama knows that, as do many political leaders.

Obama's rise and election to POTUS seemed to mark a hopeful start to a new post-racial and progressive era in which people of different ethnic backgrounds would live together harmoniously and prosperously. And yet, in 2017, an eruption in Charlottesville and yet many serious racial issues after that.

Think carefully about what happened January 6th and beyond. Think carefully about how we should limit and prevent these abuses together and what we can and must do about it ourselves. The Greek concept of Arete, the German notion of Bildung, and humanism helps us in this, bringing us closer to a just and fraternal society. There is only one way: if people do not want to bother each other, but truly want to interact and to move forward, then this is only possible by using these valuable insights, by ennobling your soul and by cultivating our spirit.

We need an Age of Encounter. On September 11 it is commemorated that 20 years ago a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks took place. A good time to reflect the intention of Creation, the condition of man and to start encounters.


"Most Americans seem aware that things are not going well for our country, for our families and for our children and the younger generations. We don't know what has gone wrong with the culture, the economy and our politics. We have lost self-confidence in ourselves and trust in others; we complain and point fingers; our social capital has been depleted."

As a first step in seeking solutions, a lot of publicly available data was compiled which demonstrates the scope of the problem. What was found, is included in "The De-Enlightening of America: The Onset of Systemic National Dysphoria", the latest special issue of Pegasus. Suggested is that the developments illustrated by the data was systemic dysphoria among Americans.

March 21, 2024, there was a Zoom round table for those concerned – in the U.S. and around the world. Discussed were the data and its implications. As a civilization state, the United States of America was framed in ethics and law by an enlightened Calvinism, often referred to as the Scottish Enlightenment. The founding documents – a declaration of independence and a written constitution – reflect a commitment to the common sense political theory of John Locke on public office as a public trust, married to the moral sense and wealth-creating insights of Adam Smith. Since 1990, the country has entered a new era. The American people, led by a narcissistic elite rejecting the wisdom of the Scottish Enlightenment, have been deconstructing that original and most beneficial enlightened vision of social justice to replace it with cultural and social decline that has encouraged political degradation.

Societies lack benchmarks and appear incapable to find an exit out of the discontents. People lost directions, have become theatrical personalities, float, and become susceptible to wrong influences. How to encounter? Questions raise as who we are, where are we come from, and where are we going.

A main role for bookclubs and libraries, and education by teaching about epistemology, the antology of "The American Idea" (2006), from 'The Atlantic', the quest for identity, and by raising awareness about the importance of the duty what it is to have rights.

During the meeting, Socrates' method how to discuss and Aristotle' scientific method (e.g. on epistemology) were brought to the table for highlighting virtues.


Community development  
Europe, one of the continents of planet earth, is populated by about 500 million citizens. Citizens in EU-member-states have European citizenship and have therefore opportunity to help with preparation of texts, decision-making and the evaluation of the EU's work, resulting in for instance Eurobarometer surveys.

As people grow, they learn about and form perceptions of social structures. During this progression, they form personal and cultural values, a world view, and attitudes toward the larger society. Including limitations of dominant discourses about European integration. In this context, an article on 'Cosmopolitan Dreams and Nationalist Nightmares' from Dr Stefan Auer. Innovative Universities European Union (IUEU) Centre, addresses to clarity on the attempt to move towards a more federalist Europe underpinned by the ideal of ‘post-national citizenship’ (Habermas), which looks both unrealistic and undesirable.

The rise of populism and ethno-centric nationalism that endanger the European project emerged in Europe not despite the cosmopolitan agendas of its elites, but to a large extent, in response to their ambitious agendas. A more realistic view on nationalism is imperative for a better understanding of European integration; one capable of addressing the appeal of populist politics.

Gaining an understanding of group dynamics and how to "fit in" is part of socialization. Individuals develop interpersonal relationships and begin to make choices about whom to associate with and under what circumstances and they develop a sense of community. Four elements of "sense of community" could be stated (McMillan and Chavis):

1. membership
2. influence
3. integration and fulfillment of need and
4. shared emotional connection.

In spite of Americans who speak one language, Europeans have the disposal of more than 300 languages, a diversity of capital cities and distinction between inhabitants:

Dutch, Germans, Englishmen, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, German-Swiss & Flemings;
Catalonians, Frenchmen, Italians, Provences, Portuguesians, Romanians & Spaniards.


European Commission
Civil Society Contact Group

Community Development Journal

NEXUS Institute's website

If community exists, both freedom and security exist as well. The community then takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along. The sense of connectedness and formation of social networks comprise what has become known as social capital, "the collective value of all social networks and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other (norms of reciprocity)." (Putnam: Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000). Western cultures are thus said to be losing the spirit of community that once were found in institutions including churches, community centers and sports. People need three places:
1. the home
2. the office and
3. the community hangout or gathering place taking form in bookstores,
coffeehouses, salons, and local pubs and through many more innovative means to create the social capital needed to foster the sense and spirit of community (Ray Oldenburg: 'The Great Good Place').

The process of learning to adopt the behavior patterns of the community is called socialization. The most fertile time of socialization is usually the early stages of life, during which individuals develop the skills and knowledge and learn the roles necessary to function within their culture and social environment.

Socialization also includes adults moving into a significantly different environment, where they must learn a new set of behaviors. Socialization is influenced primarily by the family, through which children first learn community norms. Other important influences include school, peer groups, mass media, the workplace, and government. The degree to which the norms of a particular society or community are adopted determines one's willingness to engage with others. The norms of tolerance, reciprocity, and trust are important "habits of the heart," as de Tocqueville put it, in an individual's involvement in community.

Community development is often formally conducted by non-government organisations (NGOs), universities or government agencies to improve the social well-being of local, regional and, sometimes, national communities. Less formal efforts, called community building or community organizing, seek to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to effect change in their own communities. These skills often assist in building political power through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda. Community development practitioners must understand both how to work with individuals and how to affect communities' positions within the context of larger social institutions.

In The United Kingdom, Oxford University has led in providing extensive research in the field through its Community Development Journal, used worldwide by sociologists and community development practitioners. At the intersection between community development and community building are a number of programs and organizations with community development tools. One example of this is the program of the Asset Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University. The institute makes available downloadable tools to assess community assets and make connections between non-profit groups and other organizations that can help in community building. The Institute focuses on helping communities develop by "mobilizing neighborhood assets" — building from the inside out rather than the outside in.In The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace, Scott Peck argues that the almost accidental sense of community that exists at times of crisis can be consciously built. Peck believes that conscious community building is a process of deliberate design based on the knowledge and application of certain rules. He states that this process goes through four stages:
  1. Pseudo-community: Where participants are "nice with each other", playing-safe, and presenting what they feel is the most favourable sides of their personalities.
  2. Chaos: When people move beyond the inauthenticity of pseudo-community and feel safe enough to present their "shadow" selves. This stage places great demands upon the facilitator for greater leadership and organization, but Peck believes that "organizations are not communities", and this pressure should be resisted.
  3. Emptiness: This stage moves beyond the attempts to fix, heal and convert of the chaos stage, when all people become capable of acknowledging their own woundedness and brokenness, common to us all as human beings. Out of this emptiness comes
  4. True community: the process of deep respect and true listening for the needs of the other people in this community. This stage Peck believes can only be described as "glory" and reflects a deep yearning in every human soul for compassionate understanding from one's fellows.

More recently Peck remarked that building a sense of community is easy but maintaining this sense of community is difficult in the modern world. Community building can use a wide variety of practices, ranging from simple events such as potlucks and small book clubs to larger–scale efforts such as mass festivals and construction projects that involve local participants rather than outside contractors. Community building that is geared toward citizen action is usually termed "community organizing." In these cases, organized community groups seek accountability from elected officials and increased direct representation within decision-making bodies. Where good-faith negotiations fail, these constituency-led organizations seek to pressure the decision-makers through a variety of means, including picketing, boycotting, sit-ins, petitioning, and electoral politics. Community organizing is sometimes focused on more than just resolving specific issues. Organizing often means building a widely accessible power structure, often with the end goal of distributing power equally throughout the community. Community organizers generally seek to build groups that are open and democratic in governance. Such groups facilitate and encourage consensus decision-making with a focus on the general health of the community rather than a specific interest group.
The three basic types of community organizing are grassroots organizing, coalition building, and "institution-based community organizing," (also called "broad-based community organizing," an example of which is faith-based community organizing, or "congregation-based community organizing").
The construction of the European Community (EC) has widely been understood as the product of either economic self-interest or dissatisfaction with the nation-state system. In 'Europe United', Sebastian Rosato challenges these conventional explanations, arguing that the Community came into being because of balance of power concerns. France and the Federal Republic of Germany—the two key protagonists in the story—established the EC at the height of the cold war as a means to balance against the Soviet Union and one another.

More generally, Rosato argues that international institutions, whether military or economic, largely reflect the balance of power. In his view, states establish institutions in order to maintain or increase their share of world power, and the shape of those institutions reflects the wishes of their most powerful members. Rosato applies this balance of power theory of cooperation to several other cooperative ventures since 1789, including various alliances and trade pacts, the unifications of Italy and Germany, and the founding of the United States

"The Wait"
Population ageing or population aging occurs when
the median age of a country or region rises. With the exception of 18 countries termed by the United
Nations 'demographic outliers'
. This process is
taking place in every country and region across the globe
Certain fundamental principles are relevant for our western society. In strengthening these principles a treaty for Europe is framed and ratified, all from the cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance of Europe.

"THE PEOPLES of EUROPE are resolved to share a peaceful future based on rights and common values":

democracy dignity freedoms equality soldidarity tolerance the rule of law citizens' rights justice

source: The Charter of fundamental rights of the Union


How thin is the layer of our civilization?



visitors from 131 countries with monthly about hundreds of pages viewed and 1500 visits (Google Analytics) - Backlinks
NEXUS Institute
November 2005

"What is a Good Society?
"Mass Democracy on Trial"
Nexus 2006


Pico della Mirandola: Oration on the dignity of the human being (Oratio de hominis dignitate), 1486  
This is the first part of the famous Oration written by the humanist Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494). The extract contains the main ideas of Pico concerning human nature. Those ideas undermine any frozen and confined view of human nature and highlight the conviction that the human being is the master of his own life. According to Pico della Mirandola human nature is a repository of instruments by which each individual can shape his/her life. It is this freedom of choice and the responsibilities attached to it that constitute the dignity of the human being.

I have read, most esteemed Fathers, in the records of the Arabians, that Abdallah the Saracen 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 the human being. In agreement with this assertion is the saying of Hermes: «A great miracle, Asclepius, is the human being».Still, when I weighed the reasons for these statements, the numerous considerations advanced by many people to explain the excellence of human nature did not fully persuade me: that the human being 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; set midway between fixed eternity and fleeting time and, as the Persians say, the bond, or rather the wedding-song of the world, according to David, little lower that angelsThese reason are great, nevertheless they are not the main ones, that is, those for which the human being may rightfully claim for himself the privilege of the highest admiration.Why should we not admire more the angels themselves and the beatific choirs of heaven?At last, however, it seems to me that I have come to understand why the human being is the most fortunate 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.A thing surpassing belief and a wondrous one.Still, why should it not be? For it is on this ground that the human being is rightly called and considered a great miracle and a living creature worthy of all admiration.But hear, Fathers, exactly what this condition is and, in the name of your humanity, grant your benign audition to my work.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.He had already adorned the supercelestial region with intelligences, quickened the heavenly globes with eternal souls and filled the excrementary and filthy parts of the lower world with a multitude of animals of every kind.But when the work was finished, the Craftsman still longed that there were someone to appreciate the meaning of so great a work, to love its beauty, and to wonder at its vastness.Therefore, when everything was done, as Moses and Timaeus testify, He finally bethought himself of bringing forth the human being.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.All was now complete; all things had been assigned to the highest, the middle, and the lowest orders.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 beneficent love that he who would praise the divine generosity in all other things should be obliged to condemn it in regard to himself.At last the best of makers decreed that the creature to whom he had been unable to give anything wholly his own, should have in common whatever belonged to every other being.He therefore took the human being, this creature of indeterminate image, set him in the middle of the world 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.Once defined, the nature of all other beings, is constrained within the laws prescribed by us.You, on the contrary, constrained by no limits, may determine it for yourself, according to your own free will, in whose hand we have placed you.I have placed you at the world's centre so that you may thence more easily look around at whatever is in the world.We have made you neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, so that you may, as the free and extraordinary shaper of yourself, fashion yourself in the form you prefer.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».O supreme liberality of God the Father and wonderful happiness of the human being!To him is given to be what he desires and what he wills.As soon as they are born, brutes bring with them, from their mother’s womb, as Lucilius says, all that they are going to possess.Superior spirits have been, either from the beginning or soon after, that which they are perpetually going to be throughout eternity.The Father infused in the human being, at birth, every sort of seed and sprouts of every kind of life.These seeds will grow and bear their fruit in each human being who will cultivate them.If he cultivates his vegetable seeds, he will become a plant. If he cultivates his sensitive seeds, he will become brutish. If he cultivates his rational seeds, he will become a heavenly animal. If he cultivates his intellectual seeds, he will be an angel and a son of God.And if he is not contented with the fate of any creature, he will gather himself into the centre of his own unity and, become one spirit with God, will join the solitary darkness of the Father, who is above all things, and will stand ahead of all things.Who will not wonder at this chameleon?Or rather, who will admire any other being more?Not without reasons, Asclepius the Athenian said that in the secret rites the human being was symbolized by Proteus, because of his changing and metamorphous nature.Hence the metamorphoses celebrated among the Jews and the Pythagoreans.Indeed, even the most secret Hebrew theology at one time transforms holy Enoch into an angel of divinity, whom they call Metatron, and at other times it reshapes other human beings into other spirits.According to Pythagoreans, wicked men are deformed into brutes, and if you believe Empedocles, into plants as well.Imitating them, Mohammed often repeated that he who strays from divine law becomes a brute.Indeed, it is not the bark which makes the plant, but dull and non-sentient nature; not the hide which makes a horse or other beast of burden, but a brutal and sensual soul; not the circular body which makes the heavens, but right reason; not the separation from the body which makes the angel, but spiritual intelligence.If you see someone, slave to his belly, crawling on the ground, it is not a human being you see but a plant; if you see someone who is enslaved by his senses, as though blinded by Calipso with empty imaginations, under a seductive spell, it a brute you see, not a human being.If you see a philosopher discerning things with right reason, worship him; he is a heavenly not an earthly animal.If you see a pure contemplator, oblivious to his body, absorbed in the recesses of the mind, this is neither an earthly nor a heavenly animal: this is a superior spirit, clothed with human flesh.Who, then, will not admire the human being?Not undeservedly, in the Mosaic and Christian Scriptures he is called at times with the name of every flesh, at times of every creature, for he fashions, shapes and transforms his own look into that of every flesh, his own mind into that of every creature.Accordingly, Evantes the Persian, explaining Chaldaean theology, writes that no inner image belongs to the human being, but many exterior and derived ones.Hence that saying of the Chaldaens that the human being is animal by nature, diverse, multiform and inconstant.Yet, what is the reason of all this?It is in order for us to understand that, because we were born with the option to be what we want to be, we must take most care of this; lest people say of us that, being held in honor, we did not realize that we reduced ourselves to brutes and mindless beasts of burden.Let us rather remember the saying of Asaph the prophet: “You are all gods and sons of the most high,” unless abusing the most indulgent liberality of the Father, we turn from beneficial to harmful the free choice he bestowed on us.Let a holy ambition pervade our soul, so that, not satisfied with mediocre things, we strive for the loftiest and apply ourselves with all our strength to pursue them (because we can achieve them, if we want).Let us spurn earthly things, disregard the celestial, and reject all that is of this world, in order to fly to the otherworldly court near the most eminent divinity.There, as sacred mysteries reveal, Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones occupy the first places; let us emulate their dignity and glory, unwilling as we are to yield to them and unable to endure second place.If so we wish, we will not be at all inferior to them.But in what way, or by doing what?Let us see what they do, what life they lead.If we live that life (and indeed we can), we will be equal to their lot.The Seraph burns with the fire of love; the Cherub shines with the splendour of intelligence; the Throne stands in the steadfastness of judgment.Therefore if we, being dedicated to an active life, undertake the care of inferior things with proper consideration of their worth, we will be strengthened by the steadfast solidity of the Thrones.If we, being unburdened by actions, meditate on the Creator in His creation and on creation in the Creator, we will be engaged in the tranquillity of contemplation; we will shine on all sides with Cherubic light.If we burn for the Creator alone, with charity, with its all-consuming fire, we will burst into flame in the likeness of the Seraphim.Upon the Throne, that is upon the just judge, sits God, the Judge of all time.Over the Cherub, that is over the contemplator, He flies and, almost brooding over him, imbues him with warmth.Indeed, the Spirit of the Lord is carried over the waters, the waters that, it is said, are above the Heavens and that praise God in the pre-dawn hymns in the book of Job.And the Seraph, that is the lover, is in God and God is in him; and God and he are one.Great is the power of the Thrones that we may reach by judging; supreme is the height of the Seraphim that we may reach by loving.And yet in what manner can anyone either judge or love things unknown?Moses loved the Lord Whom he saw and, as a judge, he administered to the people the things that he earlier saw on the mountain as a contemplator.Hence the Cherub, located in the middle position, prepares us for the Seraphic fire and likewise illuminates us for the judgment of the Thrones.This is the bond of the First Minds, the order of Pallas, the guardian of contemplative philosophy. First we must emulate him, thirst after him and to the same degree understand him in order that we may be raised to the heights of love and descend well taught and prepared to the duties of action.And so it is valuable, if our life is to be modelled on the example of the Cherubs' life, to have before our eyes an idea of what their life is and what it is like, what their actions are and what works are theirs.Because we, who are flesh and know only earthly things, are not permitted to follow their model of our own accord, let us consult the ancient Fathers for they, to whom these things were common and well known, can provide us with certain and abundant evidence of its nature.Let us inquire of the apostle Paul, the chosen vessel, about the activities of the Cherubic hosts that he saw when raised up to the third heaven.He will certainly answer, according to the interpretation of Dionysius, that they are cleansed, then illuminated and afterwards are perfected.We, emulating the Cherubic life on Earth, curbing the drive of the emotions through moral science, dispersing the darkness of reason through dialectic, as if washing away the squalor of ignorance and vices, therefore purge our souls lest our emotions run amok or our reason imprudently run off course at any time.

Then well we imbue our purified and prepared soul with the light of natural philosophy so that afterwards we may perfect it with the knowledge of divine things.