The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/To the Reader
TO THE READER
Every being, even an irrational one, tends to delighting in pleasant and useful things, and to desiring them. Therefore this is naturally particularly the case as regards man, in whom the innate reasoning power has developed that desire for the good and useful; and, indeed, it not only develops it, but induces a man to find more pleasure in a thing the more good, useful, and pleasant it is, and the more heartily to strive for it. Therefore the question arose long ago among learned men, where and in what that summit of good (summum bonum) is to be found at which the wishes of man could stop; that is to say, that point which a man having attained it in his mind could and should stop, having no longer anything further to wish for.
2. If, then, we notice this fact, we shall find not only that philosophers gave, and give, careful consideration to this question, and to the way in which it can be solved, but also generally that every man's mind endeavours to discover where and by what means he can obtain the greatest delight; and we find that almost all men, fleeing outward from themselves, seek in the world and its things wherewith to calm and quiet their minds; one by estates and riches, another by pleasure and sensuality, another by glory and honours; another, again, by wisdom and learning, another by gay companionships, and so forth; generally all strive for outward things.
3. But that that cannot be found there, of that the wisest of men, Solomon, is witness; he who also sought solace for his mind, and who, having traversed and viewed the whole world, at last said: "I hate this life; because the work that is wrought under this sun is grievous unto me; for all is vanity and vexation of spirit." When he had searched afterwards for the true solace of the spirit, he declared that it consists in this: that man, renouncing the world such as it is, should seek only our Lord God, fear Him, and heed His commandments. For this, he said, is the whole duty of man. Similarly, David found that that man is happiest who, dismissing the world from his eyes and his mind, trusts in the Lord God alone, considers Him his portion for ever, and dwells with Him in his heart.
4. The mercy of God be praised that has opened my eyes also, so that I have learnt to recognise the manifold vanities of this world, and its miserable deceit that is hidden under its outer splendour; and also (have I learnt) to seek elsewhere the peace and security of my mind. Wishing suitably to place all this before mine own eyes, and also to show it to others, I have imagined this pilgrimage or wandering through the world; what monstrous things I have seen or met with, and where and how I at last discovered the solace which I had vainly sought in the world; all this I have, as it were, depicted in this treatise. With how much wit, I heed not. May God only grant that my work be useful to myself and to my fellow-men!
5. It is not a poem, reader, that you will read, although it may have the seeming of a poem. It contains true matter; understanding me, you will easily recognise this; he, in particular, who has some knowledge of my life and its incidents. For I have mainly depicted the adventures that I have already encountered in the not numerous years of my life, though I have also described some incidents that I have seen in others, and things concerning them, of which information was given unto me. I have not, however, alluded to all the happenings that befell me, partly from bashfulness, partly because I did not know what instruction such a narrative would confer on others.
6. My guides, and indeed those of everyone who gropes through this world, are two. Insolence of the mind, which inquires into everything, and inveterate custom with regard to all things, which gives the colour of truth to the deceits of the world. He who follows them prudently will, together with me, recognise the wretched turmoil of his race; but if it appears otherwise to him, let him know that the spectacles of the general deception oppress his nose.
7. As regards the happy ways of those hearts that are devoted to God, this is described rather "in idea," and I do not wish to infer that all this befalls all those that are chosen. But God will have no lack of such chosen spirits, and every truly pious one will be bound to strive to reach the same degree of perfection. Farewell, dear Christian, and may the leader of light, the Holy Ghost, show thee better than I can both the vanity of the World and the glory, happiness, and pleasure of the chosen hearts that are united with God.