From the Paradiso, Canto I, verses 64 to 72:
Beatrice tutta ne l'etterne rote fissa con li occhi stava; e io en lei le luci fissi, di l sù rimote. Ne suo aspetto tal dentro mi fei, qual si f Glauco nel gustar de l'erba che 'l f consorto in mar de li altri di. Transumanar significar per verba non si poria; per l'essemplo basti a cui esperenza grazia serba.And Charles Singleton's prose translation:
Beatrice was standing with her eyes all fixed upon the eternal wheels, and I fixed mine upon her, withdrawn from there above. Gazing upon her I became within me such as Glaucus became on tasting of the grass that made him sea-fellow of the other gods. The passing beyond humanity may not be set forth in words: therefore let the example suffice any for whom grace reserves that experience.I believe this is the first use of the word "transhuman", in any variation, recorded.
Recently, the term "transhuman" has been picked up by some of the more outr futurists. The science journalist Ed Regis has a hilarious account of their early escapades called Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition. Worth picking up, if you can find a copy. They've become both weirder and more mainstream since the dot.com boom. Right now, the current plan is salvation through better office equipment. Picture your personality running on a computer... forever! It's an interesting interpretation of "grace". The metaphor to Glaucus comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, like many bits of mythology in Dante. (What a rich sourcebook the Metamorphoses has been for civilization! Alas that it has no gelatinous cubes.) In our modern times, one might suspect the erba or "grass" that Glaucus ate to be a little more potent than what might be plucked from a lawn. But I don't know; that vision of biochemical grace is so 1970s. The current paradigm is all about computing power, instead of that hippie trippy opening the doors of perception stuff. Now it's all about, how many computations per second will it take to emulate a human brain? I wonder how the concept of the transhuman will change once people achieve that goal. My guess is... it will be rather boring, except to specialists, like the development of the artificial heart; and the transhuman enthusiasts will hare off after another thinly sublimated religious impulse. Lee Smolin's subcreational universes, perhaps.