« VorigeDoorgaan »
UPON HUMAN PHILOSOPHY.
MR. BACON IN PRAISE OF KNOWLEDGE.
SILENCE were the best celebration of that, menting, maketh us to stumble upon somewhat which I mean to commend; for who would not which is new: but all the disputation of the use silence, where silence is not made ? and what learned never brought to light one effect of nature
crier can make silence in such a noise and tumult before unknown. When things are known and pof vain and popular opinions? My praise shall found out, then they can descant upon them, they
be dedicated to the mind itself. The mind is the can knit them into certain causes, they can reduce man, and the knowledge of the mind. A man is them to their principles. If any instance of exbut what he knoweth. The mind itself is but an perience stand against them, they can range it in accident to knowledge; for knowledge is a double order by some distinctions. But all this is but a of that which is. The truth of being, and the truth web of the wit, it can work nothing. I do not of knowing, is all one: and the pleasures of the doubt but that common notions which we call reaaffections greater than the pleasures of the senses. son, and the knitting of them together, which we And are not the pleasures of the intellect greater call logic, are the art of reason and studies. But than the pleasures of the affections? Is it not a they rather cast obscurity, than gain light to the true and only natural pleasure, whereof there is contemplation of nature. All the philosophy of no satiety? Is it not knowledge that doth alone nature which is now received, is either the philoclear the mind of all perturbations? How many sophy of the Grecians, or that other of the alchethings are there which we imagine not? How mists. That of the Grecians hath the foundations many things do we esteem and value otherwise in words, in ostentation, in confutation, in sects, than they are? This ill-proportioned estimation, in schools, in disputations. The Grecians were, these vain imaginations, these be the clouds of as one of themselves saith, "you Grecians, ever error that turn into the storms of perturbation. Is children.” They knew little antiquity; they there any such happiness as for a man's mind to i knew, except fables, not much above five hundred be raised above the confusion of things ; where years before themselves. They knew but a small he may have the prospect of the order of nature, portion of the world. That of the alchemists and the error of men ? Is this but a vein only of hath the foundation in imposture, in auricular tradelight, and not of discovery? of contentment, and ditions and obscurity. It was catching hold of not of benefit? Shall we not as well discern the religion, but the principle of it is, “ Populus vult riches of nature's warehouse, as the benefit of her decipi.” So that I know no great difference shop? Is truth ever barren? Shall he not be between these great philosophers, but that the one able thereby to produce worthy effects, and to is a loud crying folly, and the other is a whisperendow the life of man with infinite commodities ? ing folly. The one is gathered out of a few vulBut shall I make this garland to be put upon a gar observations, and the other out of a few exwrong head? Would any body believe me, if I periments of a furnace. The one never faileth to should verify this, upon the knowledge that is multiply words, and the other ever faileth to mulnow in use? Are we the richer by one poor in- tiply gold. Who would not smile at Aristotle, vention, by reason of all the learning that hath when he admireth the eternity and invariableness been these many hundred years ? The industry of the heavens, as there were not the like in the of artificers maketh some small improvement of bowels of the earth? Those be the confines and things invented ; and chance sometimes in experi- borders of these two kingdoms, where the con
tinued alteration and incursion are. The super- | many in the Universities of Europe at this day. ficies and upper parts of the earth are full of But alas, they learn nothing there but to believe : varieties. The superficies and lower parts of the first, to believe that others know that which they heavens, which we call the middle region of the know not; and after, themselves know that which air, is full of variety. There is much spirit in the they know not. But indeed facility to believe, | one part, that cannot be brought into mass. impatience to doubt, temerity to answer, glory to There is much massy body in the other place, know, doubt to contradict, end to gain, sloth to that cannot be refined to spirit. The common air search, seeking things in words, resting in part is as the waste ground between the borders. of nature; these and the like, have been the Who would not smile at the astronomers, I mean things which have forbidden the happy match not these few carmen which drive the earth about, between the mind of man and the nature of but the ancient astronomers, which feign the things; and in place thereof have married it to moon to be the swiftest of the planets in motion, vain notions and blind experiments: and what the and the rest in order, the higher the slower; and posterity and issue of so honourable a match may so are compelled to imagine a double motion : be, it is not hard to consider. Printing, a gross whereas how evident is it, that that which they invention; artillery, a thing that lay not far out call a contrary motion, is but an abatement of of the way; the needle, a thing partly known bemotion. The fixed stars overgo Saturn, and so fore: what a change have these three made in the in them and the rest, all is but one motion, and world in these times; the one in state of learning, the nearer the earth the slower. A motion also the other in state of the war, the third in the state whereof air and water do participate, though much of treasure, commodities, and navigation ? And interrupted. But why do I in a conference of those, I say, were but stumbled upon and lighted pleasure enter these great matters, in sort that upon by chance. Therefore, no doubt, the sopretending to know much, I should forget what is vereignty of man lieth hid in knowledge; wherein seasonable? Pardon me, it was because all many things are reserved, which kings with their things may be endowed and adorned with treasure cannot buy, nor with their force comspeeches, but knowledge itself is more beautiful mand; their spials and intelligencers can give no than any apparel of words that can be put upon news of them, their seamen and discoverers cannot it. And let me not seem arrogant without re- sail where they grow: now we govern nature in spect to these great reputed authors. Let me so opinions, but we are thrall unto her in necessity; give every man his due, as I give time his due, but if we would be led by her in invention, we which is to discover truth. Many of these men should command her in action. had greater wits, far above mine own, and so are
THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE:
ANNOTATIONS OF HERMES STELLA.
A FEW FRAGMENTS OF THE FIRST BOOK.
[None of the Annotations of Stella are set down in these Fragments.]
and intruding into God's secrets and mysteries,
was rewarded with a further removing and estrangOf the limits and end of knowledge.
ing from God's presence. But as to the goodIn the divine nature, both religion and philoso- ness of God, there is no danger in contending or phy hath acknowledged goodness in perfection, advancing towards a similitude thereof; as that science or providence comprehending all things, which is open and propounded to our imitation. and absolute sovereignty or kingdom. In aspir. For that voice, whereof the heathen and all other ing to the throne of power, the angels transgress- errors of religion have ever confessed that it ed and fell; in presuming to come within the sounds not like man, “ Love your enemies; be oracle of knowledge, man transgressed and fell; you like unto your heavenly Father, that suffereth but in pursuit towards the similitude of God's his rain to fall both upon the just and the unjust,” goodness or love, which is one thing, for love is doth well declare, that we can in that point comnothing else but goodness put in motion or applied, mit no excess. So again we find it often repeated neither man or spirit ever hath transgressed, or in the old law, “ Be ye holy as I am holy;" and shall transgress.
what is holiness else but goodness, as we conThe angel of light that was, when he presumed sider it separate and guarded from all mixture, before his fall, said within himself, “I will ascend and all access of evil ! and be like unto the Highest;" not God, but the Wherefore seeing that knowledge is of the numHighest. To be like to God in goodness, was no ber of those things which are to be accepted of part of his emulation: knowledge, being in crea- with caution and distinction ; being now to open tion an angel of light, was not the want which a fountain, such as it is not easy to discern where did most solicit him; only because he was a mi- the issues and streams thereof will take and fall; nister he aimed at a supremacy; therefore his I thought it good and necessary in the first place, climbing or ascension was turned into a throwing to make a strong and sound head or bank to rule down or precipitation.
and guide the course of the waters; by setting Man, on the other side, when he was tempted down this position or firmament, namely, “ That before he fell, had offered unto him this suggestion, all knowledge is to be limited by religion, and to " that he should be like unto God.” But how? be referred to use and action." not simply, but in this part, “knowing good and For if any man shall think, by view and inquievil.” For being in his creation invested with ry into these sensible and material things, to attain sovereignty of all inferior creatures, he was not to any light for the revealing of the nature or will needy of power or dominion. But again, being of God, he shall dangerously abuse himself. It a spirit newly enclosed in a body of earth, he was is true, that the contemplation of the creatures of fittest to be allured with appetite of light and God hath for end, as to the natures of the creatures liberty of knowledge. Therefore this approaching themselves, knowledge; but as to the nature of Vol.1.-11
God, no knowledge, but wonder; which is nothing lineages and propagations, yet nevertheless honour else but contemplation broken off, or losing itself. the remembrance of the inventor both of music Nay further, as it was aptly said by one of Plato's and works in metal. Moses again, who was the school, “ the sense of man resembles the sun, reporter, is said to have been seen in all the Egypwhich openeth and revealeth the terrestrial globe, tian learning, which nation was early and leading but obscureth and concealeth the celestial;" so in matter of knowledge. And Solomon the king, doth the sense discover natural things, but darken as out of a branch of his wisdom extraordinarily and shut up divine. And this appeareth sufficient- petitioned and granted from God, is said to have ly in that there is no proceeding in invention of written a natural history of all that is green, from knowledge, but by similitude ; and God is only the cedar to the moss, which is but a rudiment be sell-like, having nothing in common with any tween putrefaction and an herb, and also of all creature, otherwise as in shadow and trope. There- that liveth and moveth. And if the book of Job fore attend his will as himself openeth it, and be turned over, it will be found to have much asgive unto faith that which unto faith belongeth ; persion of natural philosophy. Nay, the same for more worthy it is to believe than to think or Solomon the king affirmeth directly, that the glory know, considering that in knowledge, as we now of God “is to conceal a thing, but the glory of are capable of it, the mind suffereth from inferior the king is to find it out,” as if, according to the natures; but in all belief it suffereth from a spirit, innocent play of children, the Divine Majesty which it holdeth superior, and more authorized took delight to hide his works, to the end to have than itself.
them found out; for in naming the king he intendTo conclude; the prejudice hath been infinite, eth man, taking such a condition of man as hath that both divine and human knowledge hath re- most excellency and greatest commandments of ceived by the intermingling and tempering of the wits and means, alluding also to his own person, one with the other: as that which hath filled the being truly one of those clearest burning lamps, one full of heresies, and the other full of specula- whereof himself speaketh in another place, when tive fictions and vanities.
he saith, “ The spirit of man is as the lamp of God, But now there are again, which, in a contrary wherewith he searcheth all inwardness;" which extremity to those which give to contemplation nature of the soul the same Solomon, holding prean over-large scope, do offer too great a restraint cious and inestimable, and therein conspiring with to natural and lawful knowledge ; being unjustly the affection of Socrates, who scorned the pretendjealous that every reach and depth of knowledge ed learned men of his time for raising great benefit wherewith their conceits have not been acquaint- of their learning, whereas Anaxagoras contraried, should be too high an elevation of man's wit, wise, and divers others, being born to ample patriand a searching and ravelling too far into God's monies, decayed them in contemplation, delivereth secrets; an opinion that ariseth either of envy, it in precept yet remaining, “ Buy the truth and which is proud weakness, and to be censured and sell it not; and so of wisdom and knowledge." not confuted, or else of a deceitful simplicity. And lest any man should retain a scruple, as if For if they mean that the ignorance of a second this thirst of knowledge were rather an humour of cause doth make men more devoutly to depend the mind, than an emptiness or want in nature, upon the providence of God, as supposing the ef- and an instinct from God; the same author defineth fects to come immediately from his hand ; I de- of it fully, saying, “ God hath made every thing mand of them, as Job demanded of his friends, in beauty according to season; also he hath set 6 Will you lie for God, as man will for man the world in man's heart, yet can he not find out to gratify him ?" But if any man, without any the work which God worketh from the beginning sinister humour, doth indeed make doubt that to the end :" declaring not obscurely that God hath this digging further and further into the mine of framed the mind of man as a glass, capable of the natural knowledge, is a thing without example, image of the universal world, joying to receive the and uncommended in the Scriptures, or fruitless; signature thereof, as the eye is of light; yea, not let him remember and be instructed : for behold only satisfied in beholding the variety of things, it was not that pure light of natural knowledge, and vicissitude of times, but raised also to find out whereby man in paradise was able to give unto and discern those ordinances and decrees, which every living creature a name according to his pro- throughout all these changes are infallibly priety, which gave occasion to the fall; but it was observed. And although the highest generality an aspiring desire to attain to that part of moral of motion, or summary law of nature, God should knowledge, which defineth of good and evil, still reserve within his own curtain; yet many whereby to dispute God's commandments, and and noble are the inferior and secondary operations not to depend upon the revelation of his will, which are within man's sounding. This is a thing which was the original temptation. And the first which I cannot tell whether I may so plainly speak holy records, which within those brief memorials as truly conceive, that as all knowledge appeareth of things which passed before the flood, entered to be a plant of God's own planting, so it may seem few things as worthy to be registered, but only the spreading and flourishing, or at least the beartime or age.
ing and fructifying of this plant, by a providence active; “ If I render my body to the fire,” there of God, nay, not only by a general providence is power passive; "If I speak with the tongues but by a special prophecy, was appointed to of men and angels," there is knowledge, for lanthis autumn of the world : for to my understand-guage is but the conveyance of knowledge, “all ing, it is not violent to the letter, and safe now were nothing.”
1 after the event, so to interpret that place in the And therefore it is not the pleasure of curiosity, prophecy of Daniel, where, speaking of the latter nor the quiet of resolution, nor the raising of the times, it is said, “Many shall pass to and fro, and spirit, nor victory of wit, nor faculty of speech, science shall be increased;" as if the opening of nor lucre of profession, nor ambition of honour or the world by navigation and commerce, and the fame, or inablement for business, that are the true further discovery of knowledge, should meet in one ends of knowledge; some of these being more
worthy than other, though all inferior and degeBut howsoever that be, there are besides the nerate : but it is a restitution and reinvesting, in authorities of Scriptures before recited, two reasons great part, of man to the sovereignty and power, of exceeding great weight and force, why religion for whensoever he shall be able to call the creashould dearly protect all increase of natural know- tures by their true names, he shall again command ledge : the one, because it leadeth to the greater them, which he had in his first state of creation. exaltation of the glory of God; for as the Psalms And to speak plainly and clearly, it is a discovery and other Scriptures do often invite us to consider, of all operations and possibilities of operations and to magnify the great and wonderful works of from immortality, if it were possible, to the meanGod; so if we should rest only in the contempla- est mechanical practice. And therefore knowtion of those shows which first offer themselves to ledge, that tendeth but to satisfaction, is but as a oar senses, we should do a like injury to the courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit majesty of God, as if we should judge of the store or generation. And knowledge that tendeth to of some excellent jeweller, by that only which is profit or profession, or glory, is but as the golden set out to the street in his shop. The other reason ball thrown before Atalanta; which while she is, because it is a singular help and preservative goeth aside, and stoopeth to take up, she hindereth against unbelief and error: for saith our Saviour, the race. And knowledge referred to some parti“ You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the cular point of use, is but as Harmodius, which power of God;" laying before us two books or putteth down one tyrant: and not like Hercules, volumes to study, if we will be secured from error; who did perambulate the world to suppress tyrants first the Scriptures revealing the will of God, and and giants and monsters in every part. then the creatures expressing his power; for that It is true, that in two points the curse is peremplatter book will certify us, that nothing which the tory, and not to be removed: the one, that vanity first, teacheth shall be thought impossible. And must be the end in all human effects; eternity
most sure it is, and a true conclusion of experience, being resumed though the revolutions and periods that a little natural philosophy inclineth the mind may be delayed. The other, that the consent of
to atheism, but a further proceeding bringeth the the creature being now turned into reluctation, this mind back to religion.
power cannot otherwise be exercised and admiTo conclude then: Let no man presume to nistered but with labour, as well in inventing as check the liberality of God's gifts, who, as was in executing; yet nevertheless chiefly that labour said, “ hath set the world in man's heart.” So and travel which is described by the sweat of the as whatsoever is not God, but parcel of the world, brows, more than of the body; that is, such travel he hath fitted it to the comprehension of man's as is joined with the working and discursion of mind, if man will open and dilate the powers of the spirits in the brain: for as Solomon saith exhis understanding as he may.
cellently, “ The fool putteth to more strength, but But yet evermore it must be remembered, that the wise man considereth which way;" signifying the least part of knowledge passed to man by this the election of the mean to be more material than so large a charter from God, must be subject to multiplication of endeavour. It is true also that use for which God hath granted it, which is that there is a limitation rather potential than the benefit and relief of the state and society of actual, which is when the effect is possible, but man: for otherwise all manner vi knowledge be- the time or place yieldeth not the matter or basis cometh malign and serpentine, and therefore, as whereupon man should work. But notwithstandcarrying the quality of the serpent's sting and ing these precincts and bounds, let it be believed, malice, it maketh the mind of man to swell; as and appeal thereof made to time, with renunciation the Scripture sayeth excellently, “ Knowledge nevertheless to all the vain and abusing promises bloweth up, but charity buildeth up.” And again, of alchemists and magicians, and such like light, the same author doth notably disavow both power idle, ignorant, credulous, and fantastical wits and and knowledge, such as is not dedicated to good-sects, that the new-found world of land was not 5068 or love; for saith he, “ If I have all faith, so greater addition to the ancient continent, than there as I could remove mountains," there is power remaineth at this day a world of inventions and