Chapter V The pilgrim looks upon the world from above

Beyond the world there is nothing

While I was thus musing, we suddenly found ourselves (I know not how) upon an exceedingly high tower, so that I seemed to touch the clouds. Looking down from this tower, I saw a city beautiful in appearance, shining, and prodigiously wide-spread, but not so great that I could not discern its limits and boundaries all around. The city formed a circle, and was surrounded with walls and ramparts, but instead of moats there yawned a gloomy abyss, to all appearances boundless and bottomless. Light shone only above the city, while beyond the walls it was pitch dark.

The situation of the world

2 The city itself, as I perceived, was divided into innumerable streets, squares, houses and buildings both large and small. It swarmed with people as if with insects. Toward the east I saw a gate, from which an alley ran toward another gate facing the west. The second gate opened upon the streets of the city. I counted six principal streets running from east to west, parallel with each other. In the midst of these streets was a very large ring or marketplace. Farthest toward the west, upon a steep and rocky eminence, stood a lofty, magnificent castle toward which the inhabitants of the city frequently gazed.

The gate of entering and the gate of separation

3 My guide, Mr. Ubiquitous, remarked: “Behold, my pilgrim, here you have that fine world that you were so anxious to see! I brought you first to this elevation that you might survey it all and thus might understand its arrangement. The eastern gate is the gate of life, through which all who dwell on earth must enter. That other gate which is nearer to us is the gate of division, where all receive their lot in life and turn toward one or another calling.”

Six classes of the world

4 “The streets which you see are the various classes, orders, and professions in which men are settled. Observe the six principal streets: in the one toward the south dwells the domestic group — parents, children and servants; in the next dwell the craftsmen and the tradesman; in the third, nearest the market-place, are found the learned professions, devoted to the intellectual labors; on the other side, opposite them, is the clerical order, to which the rest resort for religious ministrations; beyond them are the governing and magisterial classes; and farthest to the north is the order of knights engaged in military affairs. How excellent it all is! The first beget all; the second sustain all; the third teach all; the fourth pray for all; the fifth judge and preserve good order among all; and the sixth fight for all. Thus all serve one another, and all live in harmony with each other.

The Castle of Fortune

5 The castle toward the west is Arx Fortunate, the Castle of Fortune, where only the most distinguished people dwell in the enjoyment of wealth, pleasure, and glory.

The common square and the castle of the world

The central square is common to all. There men of all classes come together to transact their necessary business. In the center of it, as the hub of everything else, stands the residence of Wisdom, the queen of the world.”

The beginning of confusion

6 I was pleased with this excellent arrangement and began to praise God for having disposed all classes in such splendid order. But one thing I disliked, namely, that streets intersected each other in many places, so that here and there they ran together. It seemed that this might result in confusion and straying. Moreover, as I gazed at the global shape of the world, I palpably felt it move and whirl in a circle until I feared to be overcome with dizziness. For wherever I cast my glance, everything to the least mote seemd to swarm before my eyes. Moreover, when I stopped to listen, the air was filled with the sounds of pounding, striking, shuffling, whispering, and screaming.

There was delusion too

7 My interpreter, Mr. Delusion, remarked: “You see, my dear fellow, how delightful this world is, and how splendid are all things in it, even though you view it only from afar. What will you say when you examine it in detail and with all its delights? Who would not be happy to live in such a world?” — “I am much pleased with it from a distance,” I answered: “how it shall be later on, I cannot tell.” — “All will be well, believe me,” he replied: “but now let us go.”

The ways of childhood

8 “Wait,” Mr. Ubiquitous interposed, “let me show him from here what otherwise we do not intend to visit. Turn back toward the east: do you discern something crawling out of the dark gate and creeping toward us?” — “Yes, I see it,” I replied. “Those are human beings,” he continued, “just entering the world. They themselves know not whence (for as yet they are not self-conscious) nor do they know themselves to be human. Hence, darkness envelopes them, and they merely wail and cry. But as they proceed up the street, the darkness slowly disappears and the light increases, until they reach the gate beneath us. Let us now go and see what transpires there.”