In his Essay on Man Alexander Pope presents the reader his own cosmology, wherein the human being plays a decisive role: it can be stated that Pope outlines his cosmology from the perspective of the human being. Simultaneously, however, this does not mean that Pope in some way privileges the human being in his cosmology. Rather, his anthropology firmly asserts that the cosmos is organized by a divine being, and in this sense, the role of the human being is to understand his or her own subordination to God.
In the first Epistle of the Essay on Man Pope makes this point clear. He wants to stress that the human being is the creation of God, as well as the entire cosmos. Therefore he writes: “Say first, of God above, or man below/What can we reason, but from what we know?” Pope here introduces the fundamental question: from where does our knowledge of the universe come? This is a question which for Pope only concerns the human being, since he writes in the following lines: “Of man, what see we but his station here,/From which to reason, or to which refer?” Pope therefore claims that man is the human being that questions his own “station” or place of existence.
But the crucial question for Pope is where does this astonishment itself come from? Furthermore, how can the human being know of the divine, if he himself is limited to his own “station”? The universe for Pope is divinely ordered, but the problem arises when man thinks he is the center of this order as opposed to God. Pope therefore writes: “Looked through? Or can a part contain the whole?/Is the great the chain, that draws all to agree,/And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee?” Pope criticisms the egoism of man for thinking that he has created the order of being. The order of the universe cannot be created by the human, who is confined within his station. At the same time, man is allowed to contemplate this well-ordered universe. The mistake occurs when the human being takes this to mean that he himself is a God: God, in Pope’s universe, is the enabler of all things, including the being that allows the human being to see the universe as an ordered whole. Pope’s universe is an ordered and theocentric universe, where man must be forced to realize his debt to God.