« PreviousContinue »
to the outwardest parts, in regard of their adjacence to foreign or unlike bodies; and so of the rest: both causes being true and compatible, the one declaring an intention, the other a consequence only.
Neither doth this call in question, or derogate from divine providence, but highly confirm and exalt it. For as in civil actions he is the greater and deeper politician, that can make other men the instruments of his will and ends, and yet never acquaint them with his purpose, so as they shall do it, and yet not know what they do; than he that imparteth his meaning to those he employeth: so is the wisdom of God more admirable, when nature intendeth one thing, and providence draweth forth another; than if he had communicated to particular creatures, and motions, the characters and impressions of his providence. And thus much for metaphysic; the latter part whereof I allow as extant, but wish it confined to its proper place.
Nevertheless there remaineth yet another part of natural philosophy, which is commonly made a principal part, and holdeth rank with physic special, and metaphysic, which is mathematic; but I think it more agreeable to the nature of things, and to the light of order, to place it as a branch of metaphysic for the subject of it being quantity, not quantity indefinite, which is but a relative, and belongeth to philosophia prima, as hath been said, but quantity determined, or proportionable; it appeareth to be one of the essential forms of things; as that that is causative in nature of a number of effects; insomuch as we see, in the schools both of Democritus and of Pythagoras, that the one did ascribe Figure to the first seeds of things, and the other did suppose Numbers to be the principles and originals of things; and it is true also, that of all other forms, as we understand forms, it is the most abstracted and separable from matter, and therefore most proper to metaphysic; which hath likewise been the cause why it hath been better laboured and inquired, than any of the other forms, which are more immersed into matter.
For it being the nature of the mind of man, to the extreme prejudice of knowledge, to delight in the spacious liberty of generalities, as in a champain region, and not in the enclosures of particularity; the mathematics of all other knowledge were the goodliest fields to satisfy that appetite.
But for the placing of these sciences, it is not much material; only we have endeavoured, in these our partitions, to observe a kind of perspective, that one part may cast light upon another.
The Mathematics are either pure or mixed. To the pure mathematics are those sciences belonging which handle quantity determinate, merely severed from any axioms of natural philosophy; and these are two, Geometry and Arithmetic; the one handling quantity continued, and the other dissevered.
Mixed hath for subject some axioms or parts of natural philosophy, and considereth quantity determined, as it is auxiliary and incident unto them.
For many parts of nature can neither be invented with sufficient subtilty, nor demonstrated with sufficient perspicuity, nor accommodated unto use with sufficient dexterity, without the aid and intervening of the mathematics: of which sort are perspective, music, astronomy, cosmography, architecture, enginery, and divers others.
In the mathematics I can report no deficience, except it be that men do not sufficiently understand the excellent use of the pure mathematics, in that they do remedy and cure many defects in the wit and faculties intellectual. For, if the wit be too dull, they sharpen it; if too wandering, they fix it; if too inherent in the sense, they abstract it. So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye, and a body ready to put itself into all postures; so in the mathematics, that use which is collateral and intervenient, is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended.
And as for the mixed mathematics, I may only make this prediction, that there cannot fail to be more kinds of them, as nature grows farther disclosed.
Thus much of natural science, or the part of nature speculative.
For Natural Prudence, or the part operative of natural philosophy, we will divide it into three parts, experimental, philosophical, and magical; which three parts active have a correspondence and analogy with the three parts speculative, natural history, physic, and metaphysic: for many operations have been invented, sometimes by a casual incidence and occurrence, sometimes by a purposed experiment; and of those which have been found by an intentional experiment, some have been found out by varying, or extending the same experiment, some by transferring and compounding divers experiments the one into the other, which kind of invention an empiric may manage.
Again, by the knowledge of physical causes, there cannot fail to follow many indications and designations of new particulars, if men in their speculation will keep one eye upon use and practice. But these are but coastings along the shore, premendo littus iniquum: for, it seemeth to me, there can hardly be discovered any radical or fundamental alterations and innovations in nature, either by the fortune and essays of experiments, or by the light and direction of physical causes.
If therefore we have reported metaphysic defi- Naturalis cient, it must follow, that we do the like of natural magia sive physica magic, which hath relation thereunto. For as for operativa the natural magic whereof now there is mention in books, containing certain credulous and superstitious conceits and observations of sympathies, and antipathies, and hidden properties, and some frivolous experiments, strange rather by disguisement, than in themselves; it is as far differing in truth of nature from such a knowledge as we require, as the story of king Arthur of Britain, or Hugh of Bourdeaux, differs from Cæsar's Commentaries in truth of story. For it is manifest that Cæsar did greater things de vero, than those imaginary heroes were feigned to do; but he did them not in that fabulous manner. Of
this kind of learning the fable of Ixion was a figure, who designed to enjoy Juno, the goddess of power; and instead of her had copulation with a cloud, of which mixture were begotten centaurs and chimeras.
So whosoever shall entertain high and vaporous imaginations, instead of a laborious and sober inquiry of truth, shall beget hopes and beliefs of strange and impossible shapes. And therefore we may note in these sciences, which hold so much of imagination and belief, as this degenerate natural magic, alchemy, astrology, and the like, that, in their propositions, the description of the means is ever more monstrous than the pretence or end.
For it is a thing more probable, that he that knoweth well the natures of weight, of colour, of pliant and fragile in respect of the hammer, of volatile and fixed in respect of the fire, and the rest, may superinduce upon some metal the nature and form of gold by such mechanic as longeth to the production of the natures afore rehearsed, than that some grains of the medicine projected, should in a few moments of time turn a sea of quicksilver, or other material, into gold: so it is more probable, that he, that knoweth the nature of arefaction, the nature of assimilation, of nourishment to the thing nourished, the manner of increase and clearing of spirits, the manner of the depredations which spirits make upon the humours and solid parts; shall, by ambages of diets, bathings, anointings, medicines, motions, and the like, prolong life, or restore some degree of youth or vivacity, than that it can be done with the use of a few drops, or scruples of a liquor or receipt. To conclude therefore, the true natural magic, which is that great liberty and latitude of operation, which dependeth upon the knowledge of forms, I may report deficient, as the relative thereof is; to which part, if we be serious, and incline not to vanities and plausible discourse, besides the deriving and deducing the operations themselves from metaphysic, there are pertinent two points of much purpose, the one by way of preparation, the other by way of caution: the first
is, that there be made a calendar resembling an in- Inventariventory of the estate of man, containing all the in- um opum ventions, being the works or fruits of nature or art, rum. which are now extant, and whereof man is already possessed, out of which doth naturally result a note, what things are yet held impossible or not invented: which calendar will be the more artificial and serviceable, if to every reputed impossibility you add what thing is extant, which cometh the nearest in degree to that impossibility; to the end, that by these optatives and potentials man's inquiry may be the more awake in deducing direction of works from the speculation of causes: and secondly, that those experiments be not only esteemed which have an immediate and present use, but those principally which are of most universal consequence for invention of other experiments, and those which give most light to the invention of causes; for the invention of the mariner's needle, which giveth the direction, is of no less benefit for navigation, than the invention of the sails, which give the motion.
Thus have I passed through natural philosophy, and the deficiencies thereof, wherein if I have differed from the ancient and received doctrines, and thereby shall move contradiction; for my part, as I affect not to dissent, so I purpose not to contend. If it be truth,
Non canimus surdis, respondent omnia sylva: the voice of nature will consent, whether the voice of man do or no. And as Alexander Borgia was wont to say of the expedition of the French for Naples, that they came with chalk in their hands to mark up their lodgings, and not with weapons to fight: so I like better that entry of truth, which cometh peaceably with chalk to mark up those minds which are capable to lodge and harbour it, than that which cometh with pugnacity and contention.
But there remaineth a division of natural philosophy according to the report of the inquiry, and nothing concerning the matter or subject; and that is positive and considerative; when the inquiry reporteth either an assertion, or a doubt. These doubts,