XXII. (1.133) Such then may be said, by way of preface, to the discussion of that description of visions which are sent from God. But it is time now to turn to the subject itself, and to investigate, with accuracy, every portion of it. The scripture therefore says, “And he dreamed a dream. And behold a ladder was planted firmly on the ground, the head of which reached to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending along It.”{35}{#ge 28:12.} (1.134) By the ladder in this thing, which is called the world, is figuratively understood the air, the foundation of which is the earth, and the head is the heaven; for the large interior space, which being extended in every direction, reaches from the orb of the moon, which is described as the most remote of the order in heaven, but the nearest to us by those who contemplate sublime objects, down to the earth, which is the lowest of such bodies, is the air. (1.135) This air is the abode of incorporeal souls, since it seemed good to the Creator of the universe to fill all the parts of the world with living creatures. On this account he prepared the terrestrial animals for the earth, the aquatic animals for the sea and for the rivers, and the stars for the heaven; for every one of these bodies is not merely a living animal, but is also properly described as the very purest and most universal mind extending through the universe; so that there are living creatures in that other section of the universe, the air. And if these things are not comprehensible by the outward senses, what of that? For the soul is also invisible. (1.136) And yet it is probable that the air should nourish living animals even more than the land or the water. Why so? Because it is the air which has given vitality to those animals which live on the earth and in the water. For the Creator of the universe formed the air so that it should be the habit of those bodies which are immovable, and the nature of those which are moved in an invisible manner, and the soul of such as are able to exert an impetus and visible sense of their own. (1.137) Is it not then absurd that that element, by means of which the other elements have been filled with vitality, should itself be destitute of living things? Therefore let no one deprive the most excellent nature of living creatures of the most excellent of those elements which surrounds the earth; that is to say, of the air. For not only is it not alone deserted by all things besides, but rather, like a populous city, it is full of imperishable and immortal citizens, souls equal in number to the stars. (1.138) Now of these souls some descend upon the earth with a view to be bound up in mortal bodies, those namely which are most nearly connected with the earth, and which are lovers of the body. But some soar upwards, being again distinguished according to the definitions and times which have been appointed by nature. (1.139) Of these, those which are influenced by a desire for mortal life, and which have been familiarised to it, again return to it. But others, condemning the body of great folly and trifling, have pronounced it a prison and a grave, and, flying from it as from a house of correction or a tomb, have raised themselves aloft on light wings towards the aether, and have devoted their whole lives to sublime speculations. (1.140) There are others, again, the purest and most excellent of all, which have received greater and more divine intellects, never by any chance desiring any earthly thing whatever, but being as it were lieutenants of the Ruler of the universe, as though they were the eyes and ears of the great king, beholding and listening to everything. (1.141) Now philosophers in general are wont to call these demons, but the sacred scripture calls them angels, using a name more in accordance with nature. For indeed they do report (diangellousi) the injunctions of the father to his children, and the necessities of the children to the father. (1.142) And it is in reference to this employment of theirs that the holy scripture has represented them as ascending and descending, not because God, who knows everything before any other being, has any need of interpreters; but because it is the lot of us miserable mortals to use speech as a mediator and intercessor; because of our standing in awe of and fearing the Ruler of the universe, and the all-powerful might of his authority; (1.143) having received a notion of which he once entreated one of those mediators, saying: “Do thou speak for us, and let not God speak to us, lest we Die.”{36}{#ex 20:19.} For not only are we unable to endure his chastisements, but we cannot bear even his excessive and unmodified benefits, which he himself proffers us of his own accord, without employing the ministrations of any other beings. (1.144) Very admirably therefore does Moses represent the air under the figurative symbol of a ladder, as planted solidly in the earth and reaching up to heaven. For it comes to pass that the evaporations which are given forth by the earth becoming rarefied, are dissolved into air, so that the earth is the foundation and root of the air, and that the heaven is its head. (1.145) Accordingly it is said that the moon is not an unadulterated consolidation of pure aether, as each of the other stars is, but is rather a combination of the aether-like and air-like essence. For the black spot which appears in it, which some call a face, is nothing else but the air mingled with it, which is by nature black, and which extends as far as heaven.