The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

Of reason

When the first man Adam was created, he received of God a double eye, that is to say, an outward eye, whereby he might see visible things, and know his bodily enemies, and eschew them: and an inward eve, that is, the eye of reason, whereby he might see his spiritual enemies that fight against his soul, and beware of them. And among all gifts that God gave to men, this gift of reason is the most noblest, for thereby man precelleth all beasts, and is made like to the dignity of angels, discerning truth from falsehood, and evil from good; wherefore he goeth far from the effect that he was made to, when he taketh not heed to the truth, or when he preferreth evil before good.

And therefore, after doctors, reason is the power of the soul that discerneth between good and evil, and between good and better, comparing the one with the other: the which also sheweth virtues, loveth good, and flieth vices. And reason is called righteous and good, for it is conformable to the will of God; and that is the first thing, and the first rule that all things must be ruled by. And reason that is not righteous nor strait, but that is said culpable, is either because she is deceived with an error that might be overcome, or else through her pride or slothfulness she enquireth not for knowledge of the truth that ought to be enquired. Also reason is divided into two parts, that is to say, into the higher part, and into the lower part.

The higher part hideth heavenly things and eternal, and reasoneth by heavenly laws or by heavenly reason what is to be done, and what is not to be done, and what things God commandeth, and what he prohibiteth. And this higher part of reason hath no regard to transitory things or temporal things, but that sometime, as it were by manner of counsel, she bringeth forth heavenly reasons to order well temporal things. The lower part of reason worketh most to govern well temporal things, and she groundeth her reasons much upon laws of man, and upon reason of man, whereby she concludeth that that is to be done that is honest and expedient to the commonwealth, or not to be done, that is not expedient to the commonwealth. And so that reason whereby I know God, and such things as pertain to God, belongeth to, the highest part of reason; and the reason whereby I know creatures belongeth to the lower part of reason. And though these two parts, that is to say, the higher part and the lower part, be one in deed and essence, yet they differ by reason of their working, and of their office; as it is of one self eye, that sometime looketh upward, and sometime downward.