ORB Masthead with site navigation toolbar; see bottom 
of page for text version of toolbar

Encyclopedia | Library | Reference | Teaching | General | Links | About ORB | HOME

ORB Online Encyclopedia

John of Hildesheim's The Mirror of the Source of Life .

Frank Schaer, ed.

Table of contents:

1. The inherent fecund perfection of the Living Source

2. The multiple abundance of the Living Source

3. The manifold condition of life

4. The dominion and ranking of life

5. The food and sustenance of life

6. The variety of food eaten by living things

7. Divine worship, sacrifices, and the food in the Garden of Eden

8. The bodily and spiritual death of life forms and their renewal

9. The long or short lifespan of rational living creatures

10. The influence of different places on rational creatures

11. The special gifts and remarkable nature of life's many forms.

12. The different transformations of living things, and how the animate detests the non-animate.

13. The ways in which corruptible life finally breaks down

May The Mirror of the Fount of Life stand for ever, I pray, the work composed by the pious muse of John of Hildesheim (may death's sword be far from him!).

Nurturing parent of life, fount from the sweetest vine; deign to deem me worthy to pronounce my pious thoughts about life.

The beginning of The Mirror of the Fount of Life of John of Hildesheim, brother of the order of the Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel:

Ch. 1. The inherent fecund perfection of the Living Source.

1. There is one sole omnipotent transcendent boundless intelligent Life Source, in its essence consisting in and of itself of life and of what is alive.

2. In this primitive source of all things, which is eternally alive, is found the Father's fecundity and the Father who begets the consubstantial and coeternal being of the Son.

3. This Source and the life that flows from it by the individual truth of each together breathe a third living entity which is distinct only in Person and remains within.

4. The aforementioned triple entity, notwithstanding that it is three in person, is in essence, universally, and ineffably [read? indivisibly] one living thing, or so to say, utterly one.

5. Because the Life Source necessarily exists and is alive it necessarily follows that through its power it is possible for non-being and non-life to exist.

6. The uncreated Life Source is of such fecundity that it is impossible for it not to bring forth a living being perfect like itself.

7. It necessarily follows that every living thing has its life from this Source on such terms that no life form can exist that does not have its life from it.

8. If there were no living things there would be no non-living things.

9. Unless this Life Source were the unique, transcendent, triune, essential form of life, no created life of any sort would come forth from it.

10. If this uncreated livng entity were not threefold in person, there would be no created life.

Ch. 2. The multiple abundance of the Living Source.

11. From this primitive source of all life, which is to the highest degree living, issued in the beginning the external heavens, that is, the entire universe with all angelic and intelligent life.

12. The Life Source which produced this first outflow poured life into beings through the outpouring of itself. So the outpouring must continue, for if it were checked for an instant all created life would cease to exist.

13. Every intelligent living being which flows immediately from the first one remains so inexhaustibly and continuously alive that, according to the law established by the first one, at no moment could it of itself cease or interrupt its being.

14. Such is the integrity, unity, and indivisibility of every living thing that no being can properly be said to be half alive.

15. The boundless Life Source, which in the first instant produced intelligent life, went on to produce through the ministry of intelligent life all corruptible life forms.

16. When it brought forth corruptible life the intelligent Life Source first produced purely vegetative life forms living at a lower level.

17. Afterwards it brought forth aquatic and airborne life forms which were sentient but subject to decay.

18. As this process continued, the Life Source brought forth more perfect four-footed and land-dwelling life forms; these, too, were sentient but subject to decay.

19. In the final stages of the process, the Life Source brought forth a rational creature whose bodily part was subject to dissolution but whose intelligent part was eternal.

20. Life come through the life-giving sphere of signs, the circle of the Zodiac, which rules every corporeal life form through the circumstances of its birth.

21. Although the Life Source produced all the aforementioned life forms by the word alone, human beings, the sole life form endowed with reason, were produced by the decree, the senatorial decree, so to speak, of the three Persons.

Ch. 3. The manifold condition of life.

22. From the formal union of living and non-living some living being of a certain type or condition must necessarily result.

23. The human individual who has taken origin from the "utterly one" Source must necessarily be one indivisible living being, so much so that if ever it reverted or broke up into its elements, it ceases to be alive as soon as it ceases to be integrally alive.

24. Any living thing no matter how small, contains and partakes of life in an equally perfect way as the largest, so long as it can be considered alive.

25. That every living thing originates from higher causes is clear from the fact that it tends upwards rather than downwards, in contrast to non-living things.

26. Disregarding (instances of) imperfection, a human being includes almost every specific perfection that any vegetable or sentient life form possesses or can possess.

27. Even living forms at a lower level of life are so perfect that the noblest inanimate thing cannot match their perfection.

28. What is inanimate cannot come forth directly from a living being as such; the primitive process will always produce from it an equally perfect life form.

29. When a living creature is cut off or separated from its life principle, it quickly ceases to be alive.

30. It would seem that in the beginning the Life Source did not produce any of the sorts of imperfect life forms such as are now found: those harmful, poisonous, or monstruous, or those engendered by putrefaction.

31. If a freak exists or is born, it is a random event, caused for some particular reasons by God's will, or because of the influence of the constellation assigned to it, or because of the refractory nature of matter, or by some other cause.

32. It would not have been fitting for the Life Source to have produced in the beginning the relatively perverse form of human life that now exists.

33. A brute animal leads a less perfect and more debased life than others of its species when it cohabits with human beings and is handled by them.

34. One sometimes finds birds refusing to feed their chicks after a human being has handled them.

35. One finds that some animals simulate rational behaviour as if they were rational creatures.

36. One sometimes finds animals whose exterior senses are more alert than those of rational creatures.

37. Animals became man's foe after the loss of original innocence through sin, and assumed all the savagery they now display to each other and to man.

Ch. 4. The dominion and ranking of life.

38. The Life Source produced the first, perfect man and gave him universal dominion over all brute creatures that were then living or that ever would.

39. By reason the first human being should have won dominion over every other human being at the time and thereafter.

40. Since we find among creatures that creep, swim, fly, or walk that some are in a position of dominance and overlordship, so to speak, over others, it does not seem altogether reasonable that human beings should not be subject to some sort of dominance.

41. Although the first man lost full de facto dominion over the beasts, he did not on that account lose his de iure authority over every rational creature he begot.

42. If the first man were still alive, he should still be entitled to exercise his inherited authority and dominance over every living creature begotten by him but stained with original sin, even if has lost his dominion over brute creatures.

43. Just as in the divine city of heaven above there is one uncreated Life Source which has full dominion without exception over every one of those citizens, so in the worldly city below it is quite fitting that there should be one to have universal dominion over every human being.

44. In scriptural tradition we find it stated that on a number of occasions rational creatures have had power over the stars or the heavenly bodies.

Ch. 5. The food and sustenance of life.

45. In making provision for the food of the first man who had perfect life, the Life Source did not allow him to feed off any animal that should be forced to give up its life so that man might eat.

46. It does not seem that the perfect human race produced in the beginning by the Life Source was ever required to take, or ever did take, the life of any sentient creature in order to feed themselves or to furnish a sacrifice to God.

47. Because of the sin committed by the rational, corruptible being it had produced, the Life Source destroyed all life on earth with the exception of the few passengers in the ark.

48. As the elements and the things composed of them had lost their strength as a result of the Flood, the Life Source granted to man that he could take for his sustenance any vegetative, sentient, or moving living creature.

49. In the course of time the Life Source instructed the people that they were not to feed off any living creature that was not clean.

50. Everything which according to the laws given by the Life Source is fit to become a holocaust or sacrifice to God is also unhesitatingly fit to provide sustenance to rational beings, even if it is unclean.

51. In a state of uncorrupt nature the fruits of vegetative matter alone would have been sufficient sustenance for man; nor would it have been necessary for the plants themselves to perish in the process.

52. It was forbidden in the beginning by divine goodness that man should approach the Tree of Life, lest he be forced to exist in misery for a very long time.

53. However, in the state of nature after the fall but before the flood the produce of vegetative and sentient matter would have been sufficient sustenance for man without these plants and animals being deprived of their existence.

54. Some animals are found of which at certain times only one half is allowed to human beings as food.

55. One reads that there are certain special places in which by virtue of the stones there human beings neither hunger nor seek food.

56. Any living animal should be nourished on such terms that when it is offered food after being deprived of it, it will become docile, no matter how wild it.

Ch 6. The variety of food eaten by living things.

57. Any purely vegetative life form is content to feed off inanimate sources of sustenance.

58. Similarly every good-natured sentient more perfect creature is content to feed purely off less perfect vegetative life.

59. Generally every ill-natured destructive sentient creature is not satisfied with living off inferior vegetative life, but perversely rends and incorporates in itself the flesh of fellow sentient or higher rational creatures.

60. Every rational creature with good reason abhors to feed off the dead body of any animal that has died by natural causes.

61. Some sentient life forms are found which are nourished and kept alive by substances which if taken in by a human being would deprive him of his life.

62. Any creature forbidden and deemed unclean by the Life Source would equally well be forbidden by a competent physician as food for any human being who wished to live a long life.

63. According to the principles of medicine, the more subtle the composition of any living thing, the more subtle are the corresponding qualities which it extracts from the living things which serve for its sustenance.

64. On occasion it may help to keep a man alive if he abstains completely from ingesting the remains of any animal which has lost its life through the will of a human being.

65. If a person seeks to live in order to enjoy food, this is a vicious life; but if he eats simply in order to keep alive, his life is virtuous.

66. God mercifully granted that rational creatures might feed and cloth themselves from the flesh, hair, hide, and such like of creatures whose lives had been taken, so that they thus might be lead each day to contemplate their mortality, since without these things they could not properly repair their wretched state which followed the loss of the good life through sin.

Ch. 7. Divine worship, sacrifices, and the food in the Garden of Eden.

67. Every creature endowed with reason has intimations that there is some supernatural being which must be worshiped.

68. Any rational creature which has not been corrupted by cunning detests vice more strongly than it seeks to promote religious ritual.

69. The reason that God ordained that an animal should lose its life as a scapegoat or as a sacrifice was that man might thereby contemplate that he rightly deserved to lose his own life for offending God through sin.

70. No law or reason would permit that any living creature should have to lose its life to feed any other living creature unless by its death as it provided sustenance and passed into another substance it gained more perfect life.

71. If it had the wit, every brute creature would hasten to offer itself as food for man, so that it might achieve a more perfect life in him.

72. The more intimately a living creature is incorporated into the substance of a more perfect creature, the closer it comes to the original Life Source.

73. If man were ever to return to his pristine state of innocence, every beast would lay aside its fierceness for him and become tame.

74. If the fruits of Paradise retained their vigour outside Paradise, they would suffice for man's sustenance.

75. ( ... ) take the life of a vegetative rather than a sentient life form, because more perfect life is generated from the decomposition of vegetative life.

76. No reason dictates that it is fitting that a living creature purely in sport or for its pleasure can or should turn what is animate into what is inanimate.

77. It hardly seems fair that man should take the life of an animal that does not serve him for food when that animal has not attempted or does not have the strength to take away a man's life.

Ch. 8. The bodily and spiritual death of life forms and their renewal.

78. When nature weakened and lost its vigour through sin, rational creatures were exposed to bodily and spiritual peril, and death since then has been their wretched fate.

79. No man would ever have lost his bodily life if no man had lost his spiritual life.

80. The word of God took pity on mankind and in the end of time took flesh of an incorrupt virgin, making good the corruption of the flesh which man had incurred living in the flesh.

81. The possibility of the virgin birth is proved by the fact that walking, flying, and creeping living creatures can be produced, and sometimes are produced, without seed or the corruption of sexual intercourse.


82. The Word of the Life Source, the Son of God, by the shame of the death he innocently endured brought back to life the human race which through its own doing had become dead through sin.

83. Taking flesh the Son of God purified and manifoldly ennobled all flesh by relaxing the prohibition against the eating of certain animals.

84. It is the supreme act of charity and beneficence that the uncreated Life Source gave himself as food for man.

Ch. 9. The long or short lifespan of rational living creatures.

85. The existence of every creature living in thrall to time naturally falls into four periods by which its life is measured.

86. All other things being equal, the greater the power a human being wields on earth, the shorter the measure of his life span.


87. All other things being equal, the more an animal refrains from sexual intercourse, the longer it will stay alive.

88. The more a human being's life is morally virtuous, the longer it will continue to stay alive.

89. Likewise the more a human being's life is given to vice, the shorter its existence will be.

90. If a human being's life is given to constant pleasure, the shorter its whole existence will seem to it to be.

91. The further the world lapses into old age, the smaller and shorter-lived will be the body of every mortal creature.

92. Some sentient creatures are found whose life span does not extend beyond a day.

93. Other things being equal, we find that the age any creature lives to usually depends on that of both its parents.

94. The life span of mankind has become ever shorter and shorter since the beginning of time because of man's sin and vice.

(A corrupt passage about sick animals is preserved in the margin)

95. It seems contrary to reason, indeed proof of extreme savagery, if a rational creature takes the life of another of his species other than out of the gravest necessity.

96. A murdered man's corpse apparently at times keeps alive some hope of vengeance against its killer and sheds fresh blood from its wounds in the presence of the murderer, thus giving it the appearance of still being alive.


Ch. 10. The influence of different places on rational creatures.

97. Some places are said have the special quality that no human being can lose his life in them.

98. Some places are said to have the special quality that the human body does not decompose there after it has died.

99. It is written that some places have the special quality that only male animals can exist there.

100. It is written that some places have the special quality that only female animals can exist there.

101. Any animal born bisexual belongs equally to both sexes but is described as being predominantly one or the other, male or female.

102. Some places are said to have the special quality that no poisonous creatures are born there, and if one is brought there from elsewhere, it cannot survive there.

Ch. 11. The special gifts and remarkable nature of life's many forms.

103. There are some creatures which bring to life their newborn young by the mere action of their voice.

104. Some animals are found which can kill a rational creature by their look alone.

105. Some animals are found which foretell a longer life to a man who sees one in his sleep.

106. Some sentient creatures are found to which nature gave the voice or language proper to rational creatures.

107. Some creatures are found which do not produce a living ( ... ) until they individually cease to live.

108. Some animals are found which are naturally so opposed to each other that even their oppositeness remains in their remains when both of them have ceased to exist.

109. That a living creature does not entirely cease to live is suggested by the fact that a person dreaming does not normally see a dead person as dead, but regards what he sees as alive.

110. Another proof of the same is that a swan sings sweetly when it begins to relinquish its bodily life.

111. It is confirmed by a third proof, that when a human being who has been unjustly been caused sorrow summons the person who caused him sorrow to judgement above, it is necessary that the spirit of the person causing sorrow should withdraw the life from his own body and appear.

112. Every sentient as well as rational being, since it cannot prolong its life for ever, naturally ...

113. Although in the last days human beings are said to tend to live the lives of incubus spirits, one cannot say simply for that reason that such a creature was begotten of an incubus.


Ch. 12. The different transformations of living things, and how the animate detests the non-animate.

114. We read that on occasion by divine will rational beings have been transformed into beasts because of their pride and vice.

115. We read that on occasion with God's permission rational beings have been transformed into beasts through magic and witchcraft.

116. It is believed that by nature as well as by art certain living creatures can be transmuted into particular creatures of another species.

117. Every living rational creature is naturally repelled by any non-living creature that was previously alive.

118. No rational living creature is repelled by an artistic representation of a non-living creature that was never previously alive.

119. The nobler a being was in its life, the more a living rational animal is repelled by it when it ceases to be alive.

120. The nobler in life a living animal, the more it is repelled by anything inanimate that was previously alive.

121. A human being will be shocked and repelled if ever something that was never alive cried out like a living creature.

122. Any animal, no matter of what life form, is more repelled by the dead body of one of its own species than that of another species.

123. Like the sea and the rivers, the Vital Principle does not support but ejects anything non-living that was formerly alive.

Ch. 13. The ways in which corruptible life finally breaks down.

124. Generally, every corruptible being when it first breaks down is resolved into something inanimate.

125. In the course of its resolution, whatever was earliest alive in the creature is the latest to cease living.

126. One sometimes finds insensate and non-reasoning life forms which are of such liveliness that it is more difficult for them to lose their life than it is for human beings.

127. Generally every corruptible being which breaks down naturally does not return to its component elements without first passing through another living being.

128. The more a living being was endowed with higher qualities the more it strives to prolong its existence.

129. The more fastidious a creature's way of life the more effort it makes to preserve its life.

130. The more perfect in grace is the life of a traveller (!), the more he hastens to acquire a more excellent life.

131. The reason all corruptible life decays is that it sustains its existence by feeding off corruptible nutriment.

132. Generally speaking, every form of life subject to putrefaction rots and ceases to exist because the vegetative matter upon which it feeds is also nourished by putridity so that it may grow and achieve a more perfect life.

133. Some sentient bodily creatures at times relinquish the outer part of their bodies in order to renew and reinvigorate their inner life.

134. Everything which perpetuates its existence by eating becomes food for many others and is eaten by some other life form.

135. A human body which has been devoured by an animal will return to its pristine substance at the end of time and live again.

136. A human body which has decomposed into dust will be reassembled by the ministery of angels, no matter how widely it is scattered, and will live again more perfectly.

137. After being separated from the corporeal body the spiritual body that quickens it will resume its former body at the end of time in a nobler, glorified, resurrected state.

138. The more power a rational being who led a vicious life enjoyed in the temporal world, the heavier its punishment and the bitterer its existence after the end of time.

139. No composite living creature achieves a simpler existence unless it was resolved into its component principles formerly while alive.

140. Every rational composite creature will retain its bare existence after stripping off what is bodily and corrupt.

141. There is only a single life in all living things, and it is perpetuated by the Life Source, each life form partaking of it according to its capacity.

Go to Introduction | Go to Latin text

Copyright (C) 1998, Frank Schaef. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

Encyclopedia | Library | Reference | Teaching | General | Links | About ORB | HOME

The contents of ORB are copyright © 1995-1999 Laura V. Blanchard and Carolyn Schriber except as otherwise indicated herein.