TO THE READER
Every creature, even an irrational one, naturally inclines to delight in pleasure and comfort, and to desire them; so much the more man, by reason of his innate rational powers, aspires to the good and the comfortable. Indeed, his reason not only awakens the desire, but spurs him to seek and aspire to a thing more assiduously, the greater its proportion of the good, the pleasant, and the comfortable. Therefore, the question arose long ago among the wise wherein and what is the highest good (summum bonum) which could completely satisfy all human desires; that is, what could give a man such a complete satisfaction, that having obtained it, his mind could and must rest, for there would be nothing else he could desire.
Considering this matter carefully, we find that the problem has always been and is now engaging the attention not only of philosophers, who have been striving to solve it; but in addition, every man concerns himself with the problem where and how he may find complete happiness. We find, however, that almost all men seek it outside themselves, in the world and its possessions, imagining thus to pacify their minds: one in property and wealth, another in pleasure and indulgence, another in glory and honors, another in wisdom and learning, another among boon companions, and so forth. In short, all strive for things that are external, and seek in them their happiness.
But Solomon, the wisest of men, bears witness that satisfaction is not to be found in things, for after he had traveled through the world in search of rest for his own mind, he finally concluded: "I hated this life, because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me; for all is vanity, and vexation of spirit." When later he found true rest for his mind, he pronounced that it consisted in renouncing the world such as it is, and in having regard only for the Lord God, in fearing Him, and observing His commandments. For, he said, this is the whole duty of man. Similarly, David concluded that the happiest man is he who dismisses the world from his sight and mind, and cleaving to God alone, and having Him for his portion, dwells with Him in his heart.
May the mercy of God be praised that He opened my eyes also, so that I was able to perceive the manifold vanities of this pretentious world, as well as the frauds everywhere, hidden under the appearance of outward splendor. I have learned to seek peace and security of mind elsewhere. Desiring to portray this more vividly both to myself and to others, I have devised this peregrination or wandering through the world, recounting the perversities which I saw and encountered, and how I finally had discovered the desired solace, so vainly sought in the world. All this I have depicted in the present treatise. How wittily it was done, I do not care; may God grant that it be of benefit both to myself and to my fellow-men.
What you will read, dear reader, is no fable, even though it may have the appearance of one: it describes real life, as you will perceive when you have gained insight into it, particularly such among yu as are somewhat acquainted with my life and circumstances. For I have described, for the greatest part, the vicissitudes of the few years of my own life; for the rest, the incidents were observed in other lives, or I have been told f them. I have not, however, narrated all my experiences, partly from a sense of shame, and partly because I did not consider them of edification to others.
My guides, who are the guides of every man groping through the world, are indeed these two: insatiability of Mind, which pries into everything, and Custom, which lends a color of truth to all the frauds of the world. Nevertheless, if you apply your reason to them, you will perceive, as I did, the miserable confusion of our race; should it appear otherwise, you may feel sure that you are looking through the eye-glasses of general deception, which present all things to your view upside down.
As regards the portrayal of the happy life of the God-devoted hearts, that is professedly a sketch of their ideal state, rather than a description of the actual condition of all the elect. But the Lord has no lack even of such perfected spirits, and every truly devout person reading this book is in duty bound to desire the same degree of perfection. Fare you well, my dear Christian, and may the leader of light, the Holy Spirit, reveal to you,
better than I am able to do,
the vanity of the world, as well as the true glory, consolation,
and the joy of the elect and God-united hearts.