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September 19, 1980

The Fourth Book

JAMA. 1980;244(12):1362. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310120050027

It was held widely from the 12th century through the 17th that God expressed Himself in three "books"—the Book of Nature or the World, the Bible, and the divine imprint on the heart or soul.1 With the advances in mathematics in the 17th century, the Book of Nature was perceived as mathematical rather than verbal in form.

"The universe," wrote Galileo, "is written in the language of mathematics and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it."2 The language of the Bible is verbal, of course. But the language of the Third Book, the divine imprint on the individual conscience, transcended ordinary discourse. It was intuitive and visionary, capable only of imperfect partial transcription into verbal communication.

Individual perceptions of the three divine Books did not, however, always accord with one another. Galileo's reading