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MISCELLANEOUS TRACTS.

[TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN.]

OF THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE.

XII. SENTENCES.

Of the Condition of Man.

1. MAN, the servant and interpreter of nature, does and understands as much, as he shall really or mentally observe of the order of nature, himself meanwhile enclosed around by the laws

of nature.

2. The limit, therefore, of human power and knowledge, is in the faculties, with which man is endowed by nature for moving and perceiving, as well as in the state of present things. For beyond these bases, those instruments avail not.

3. These faculties, though of themselves weak and inept, are yet capable, when properly and regularly managed, of setting before the judgment and use things most remote from sense and action, and of overcoming greater difficulty of works and obscurity of knowledge, than any one hath yet learned to wish.

4. Truth is one, interpretation one; but sense is oblique, the mind alien, the matter urgent; yet the work itself of interpretation is devious rather than difficult.

Of the Impediments of Interpretation.

5. Whoever, unable to doubt, and eager to affirm, shall establish principles proved, (as he believes,) conceded, and manifest, and, according to the unmoved truth of these, shall reject or receive others as repugnant or favourable; he shall exchange things for words, reason for insanity, the world for a fable, and shall be incapable of interpreting.

6. He who hath not mixed, confounded, and reduced into a mass, all distinction of things, which appears in the commonly established species, and the names imposed, shall not see the

unity of nature, nor the legitimate lines of things, and shall not be able to interpret.

7. He who hath not first, and before all, intimately explored the movements of the human mind, and therein most accurately distinguished the course of knowledge and the seats of error, shall find all things masked and, as it were, enchanted, and, till he undo the charm, shall be unable to interpret.

8. He who is occupied in inquiring into the causes of things obvious and compound, as flame, dreams, fever, and doth not betake himself to simple natures; first, to those which are popularly esteemed such; next, to those which by art are reduced and, as it were, sublimed to truer simplicity, he shall, perhaps, if in the rest he err not, add to inventions some things not to be contemned, and next to inventions. But he shall effect nothing against the greater secularities of things, nor shall he be named an interpreter.

Of the Qualities of the Interpreter.

9. Let him who comes to interpret thus prepare and qualify himself; let him not be a follower of novelty, nor of custom or antiquity; neither let him embrace the license of contradicting or the servitude of authority. Let him not be hasty to affirm or unrestrained in doubting, but let him produce every thing marked with a certain degree of probation. Let hope be the cause of labour to him, not of idleness. Let him estimate things not by their rareness, difficulty, or credit, but by their real importance. Let him manage his private affairs under a mask, yet with some regard for the provisions of things. Let him prudently observe the first entrances of errors into truths, and of truths into errors, nothing contemning or admiring. Let him know the advantages of his nature; and let him humour the nature of others, for no man is angry with the stone that is

striking him. Let him, as it were, with one eye scan the natures of things; with the other, the uses of mankind. Of words let him distinctly know the mixed nature, which especially partakes of advantage and of inconvenience. Let him determine that with inventions the art of inventing grows. Also, let him not be vain in concealing or in setting forth the knowledge which he hath obtained, but ingenuous and prudent, and let him commend his inventions, not ambitiously or spitefully, but first in a manner most vivid and fresh, that is, most fortified against the injuries of time, and most powerful for the propagation of science, then least capable of begetting errors, and, above all, such as may procure him a legitimate reader.

Of the Duty of the Interpreter.

there remains such store of works most fruitful and altogether unknown, that they have not before this time, or now suddenly, been discovered; at the same time thou inquirest what they are by name, and promisest to thyself immortality, or freedom from pain, or transporting pleasure. But thou bestowest liberally upon thyself, my son, and wilt hunt after hope from knowledge, as from ignorance thou didst begin to hunt despair. Is it also by art, that the work must be adopted. Yet, as far as may be, I shall satisfy thy doubt, and obey thee. That these things are suddenly known, my son, is no wonder. Knowledge is of quick, time of tardy birth. Also the noble things which were invented before these, were not by the light of former knowledge gradually invented, but by chance, (as they say,) abundantly. But in things mechanical there is a certain extension 10. Thus qualified and prepared, let the inter- of what is already invented, which yet deserves preter, proceed in this way. He will consider not the name of new invention. The way is not the condition of man, and remove the impedi- long, my son, but ambiguous. Yet, when I say ments of interpretation; then, girded up for his that these things have not come to view before work, he will prepare a history and regular series this time, hast thou ascertained, how much was of tables, at the same time appointing their uses, known to all antiquity, or in all countries, or co-ordinations, occurrences, and appendages. He even to single individuals. But I almost agree will exhibit the solitude of things and their with thee, my son, and will lead thee higher by resemblance of each other. He will also make a the hand. Thou doubtest not but that if men selection of things, and those which are most had never existed, many of the things which are primitive or instant, that is, conduce especially to made by art (as they say) would have been the invention of other things, or to human wants, wanting, as marble statues, clothes. But now, and he will place first in order. He will also observe men, have not they too their motions which they the pre-eminences of instances, which can do obey? Truly, my son, more subtle, and more much to shorten his work. And thus furnished, difficult to comprehend by knowledge, yet equally he will at length maturely and happily undertake certain. Indeed, you will say, men obey their and complete rearrangements and new tables, and will. I hear, but this is nothing. Such a cause the interpretation itself now easy and following as fortune is in the universe, such is the will in spontaneonsly, nay, almost as if snatched away man. If any thing therefore is produced, yet not from the mind. Which, when he shall have without man, and lies also beyond the ways of accomplished, he will immediately perceive and man, is it not equal to nothing? Man lights number, in their pure and native light, the true, upon certain inventions which, as it were, present eternal, and simplest motions of nature, from the themselves, others he attains to by foreseeing the ordinate and well adjusted progress of which end and knowing the means. The knowledge arises all this infinite variety, both of the present of the means however he derives from things oband of all ages. And meanwhile from the begin-vious. In which number then shall be placed ning of his work he will not fail to receive con- those inventions which from things obvious restantly, as interest, for human affairs many things and unknown. But from hence again, altogether directing himself to and intent upon the uses of mankind, and the present state of things, he will, in diverse ways, dispose and arrange the whole for action. To natures the most secret he will assign others explanatory, and to the most absent others superinductory. And then at last, like a second nature, he will institute generalities, the errors of which may be accounted monsters, yet also saving to himself the prerogative of his art.

Of the Provision of Things.

11. But thou receivest these things with languid hope and zeal, my son, and wonderest, if

ceive neither obvious effect nor method and light of operations? Such works are called Epistemides, or daughters of science, which do not otherwise come into action than by knowledge and pure interpretation, seeing they contain nothing obvious. But between these and the obvious now many degrees thinkest thou are numbered? Receive, my son, and seal.

12. In the last place, my son, I counsel thee, as is especially necessary, with an enlightened and sober mind to distinguish the interpretation of things divine and things natural, and not to suffer these in any way to be mingled together. Errors enough there are in this kind. Nothing is learned here unless by the similitudes of things to each other: which, though they seem most dis

similar, do yet contain a genuine similitude known | fling which pertain to the legitimate mode of to the interpreter. But God is as similar to thee, communicating knowledge? Do they seem to and without a figure. Wherefore, expect from hence no sufficient light for the knowledge of Give faith to what is of faith.

him.

CHAPTER FIRST.

Legitimate Mode of Delivering.

I PERCEIVE, my son, that many, in bringing forward, or, on the other hand, in concealing the knowledge of things which they conceive themselves to have attained, do noways conduct themselves according to their credit and duty. With equal detriment, though perhaps with less blame, do those also offend, who, though of excellent qualifications, are yet imprudent, and possess no art or precepts concerning the several modes of propounding things. Yet need we not make complaint regarding this malignity or ignorance in the teachers of knowledge. If, indeed, through the unskilfulness of teaching they were to destroy the importance of things, one might be angry not without cause; but we ought to consider that the importunity of teaching doth even by right belong to the impertinences of things. But far different from these, when I am going to impart to thee, not the fictions of ingenuity, nor the shadows of words, or the devotion mingled therewith, nor certain popular observations, or certain noble experiments trimmed up into fables of theory, but in truth to bind and make over unto thee nature with her offspring; does the argument I have before me seem worthy of being polluted by the ambition or ignorance or faultiness of any sort with which it is treated? May I be such, my son, and may I so extend to its given limits the narrowness, never enough lamented, of man's empire over the universe, (which, of things human, is my sole wish,) that most faithfully and from the deepest providence of my mind, and the well explored state of things and of minds, I may deliver these to thee in the most legitimate mode of all. But now, which (thou wilt say) is that legitimate mode? Dismiss all art and circumstance, exhibit the matter naked to us, that we may be enabled to use our judgment. And would that you were in a condition, dearest son, to admit of this being done. Thinkest thou that, when all the accesses and motions of all minds are besieged and obstructed by the obscurest idols deeply rooted and branded in, the sincere and polished areas present themselves in the true and native rays of things? A new method must be entered upon, by which we may glide into minds the most obstructed. For, as the delirium of phrenetics is subdued by art and ingennity, but by force and contention raised to fury; so, in this universal insanity we must use moderation. What? Are these conditions triVOL. II.-69

thee so free and easy, that the method is innocent, that it affords no handle or occasion for error? that it has a certain inherent and innate power of conciliating belief and repelling the injuries of time, so that knowledge thus delivered, like a plant full of life's freshness, may spread daily and grow to maturity? that it will set apart for itself, and, as it were, adopt a legitimate reader? And, whether I shall have accomplished all this or not, I appeal to future time.

CHAPTER SECOND.

BUT, plainly, I dissemble not, my son, that in some way I must remove those philosophasters, fuller of fables than the very poets, the ravishers of minds, falsifiers of things; and much more, also, their satellites and parasites, that professorial and money-gaming crowd: who dictates the song, that I may devote them to oblivion? For, what silence can there be for truth, when they are thus clamorous with their brutish and inarticulate reasons? But, perhaps, it were safer to condemn them by name, lest, while they flourish with such authority, if not named they may seem to be excepted, or lest any might conceive, seeing such severe and mortal hatred at work amongst them, and such contentions, that I were sent to these battles of larves and shadows to give assistance to the other side. Let us, then, summon Aristotle, worst of sophists, crazed with useless subtlety, base laughing-stock of words. At a time when the human mind, carried by some chance as by favourable weather to somewhat of truth, did rest, he ventured to lay the severest shackles on the mind, and to compose a kind of art of insanity, and to bind us to words. Nay, also, out of his bosom have been produced and nourished those most cunning prattlers, who, when they had turned away from all perambulation of this earth, and from all light of things and of history, exhibited to us, chiefly from the exceeding ductile materials of his precepts and positions, and from the unquiet agitation of their own ingenuity, the manifold sweepings of the schools. But this their dictator is so much the more to blame than they, since even when engaged in the evident things of history, he brought back the darkest idols of some subterranean den; and erected even upon the history itself of particular things certain works as of spiders, which he wished to seem causes, whereas they are utterly without strength or value. Such also in our times hath Geronimo Cardano constructed, both at variance with things and with himself. Yet, augur not, my son, that while I entertain this opinion against Aristotle, I have conspired with his rebel, a certain Pierre Ramus. No commerce have I with this nest of

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ignorance, most pernicious moth of letters, who | tories, who, in theories as madly as the rest, twists and presses things with the chains of his did, more copiously indeed, from the supinest method and compendium, till the things, indeed, if any there be, escape altogether and leap out; but he himself grasps the arid and most deserted trifles. And Aquinas, indeed, with Scotus and his fellows, contrived a variety of things, even when their subjects were nonentities; but this man hath, even on subjects having real existence, produced the vacuity of nonentity. And although he is such a man, yet doth he impudently talk of uses to mankind, so that even when compared with the sophists he seems to prevaricate. But let us dismiss these. And now let Plato be summoned, that polite caviller, tumid poet, insane theologian. And, surely, when thou wast filing and putting together I know not what philosophic rumours, and simulating knowledge by dissembling it, and tempting and loosening men's minds with vague inductions, thou mightest either have ministered discourses to the feasts of literate and polite men, or also grace and love to ordinary discourses. But, when thou didst counterfeit truth, which is as it were the indigenous inhabitant of the human mind, migrating from nowhere else, and didst turn aside our minds, which are never sufficiently applied and brought back to history and to things themselves, and teach them to enter into themselves, and under the name of contemplation to wallow amid their blind and most confused idols, thou didst then commit a capital offence. And afterwards, with scarcely less naughtiness, didst thou introduce an apotheosis of folly, and dare to defend with religion thy meanest cogitations. For it is a slighter evil that thou hast been the parent of philologers, and that under thy guidance, and the auspices of thy manifold genius, ensnared and satisfied with fame and the popular and smooth jucundity of the knowledge of things, they did corrupt the severer investigation of truth. Among these were Marcus Cicero, and Annæus Seneca, and Plutarch of Chaeronea, and many others nowise equal to these. Let us now proceed to physicians. I see Galen, a man of the narrowest mind, a forsaker of experience, and a most vain pretender. Art not thou he, Galen, who took away even the infamy of ignorance and indolence in physicians, and put them in safety, the most sluggish definer of their art and duty? who, by declaring so many disorders to be incurable, proscribest so many of the sick, cutting off their hope and the industry of physicians. O, dogstar! O, pestilence! Eagerly seizing and displaying thy fiction of mixture, the prerogative of nature, and thy sedition between the heat of stars and of fire, deceitfully reducest human power to order, and seekest to defend for ever thy ignorance by despair. Thou art unworthy to be longer detained. Thou mayest also take away with thee thy fellows and confederates, the Arabians, the framers of dispensa

conjectures, compound the promises rather than the aids of vulgar medicines. Take also thy companions the careless crowd of moderns. Ho! Nomenclator, call them. But he replies, they are unworthy of having their names preserved by him. As, however, I recognise certain grades among triflers of this kind, the worst and most absurd sort are those who in method and accurate discussion comprehend universal art, and are usually applauded for their elocution and arrangement; such is Fernelius. Those do less harm, who display a greater variety and propriety of observations, though deluded with and immersed in the most foolish pretences; as Arnoldus de Villa Nova, and others the like sort. I perceive, on the other side, the cohort of chymists, among whom Paracelsus boasts himself above the rest; who by his audacity merits separate correction. What oracles of Bacchus dost thou pour out in thy new meteorics, thou rival of Epicurus? Yet he, as if asleep, or doing something else, did in this matter as it were commit his opinions to fate. Thou, more foolish than any fate, art ready to swear to the words of the absurdest falsehood. But let us see thy other works. What mutual imitations of the fruits of thy elements? what correspondencies; what parallels dreamest thou, O fanatical joiner of idols! for thou hast made man indeed a pantomime. Yet, how notable are those interpunctions, thy species namely, by which thou hast broken the unity of nature. Wherefore I can better endure Galen weighing his elements, than thee adorning thy dreams. For the occult properties of things excite him, but thee the common and promiscuous qualities. Meanwhile, unhappy we, that dwell amid such odious impertinences! But how eagerly this most skilful impostor inculcates the triad of principles, a fiction not altogether useless, and somewhat allied to things! Hear still graver charges! By mingling things divine with things natural, profane and sacred, heresies with fables, thou hast polluted (O, sacrilegious impostor!) truth, both human and religious. The light of nature (whose most sacred name thou so often usurpest with impure mouth) thou hast not hid, like the sophists, but extinguished. They were the deserters of experience, thou the betrayer. Subjecting by rule the crude and masked evidence of things to contemplation, and seeking the Proteuses of substances according to the computations of motions, thou hast endeavoured to corrupt the fountains of knowledge, and to strip the human mind; and thou hast increased with new and adscititious windings and tediousness of experiments, those to which the sophists were averse, and the empirics unequal; so far art thou from having followed or known the representation of experience. And also the boastings of the Magi

fast looking, yet with eyes not moving and inquiring, but stupid and enfeebled. Afterwards, his sight recovering somewhat from the stupor, he receives certain idols, not indeed those huge idols of theories, but the more elegant which encompass the superficies of history; on swallowing which swelling, and half a sophist, and (after the manner of his age) sheltered by brevity, he at length (as these two think) sets forth his oracles, of which they seek to be esteemed the interpreters; while in reality he does nothing but either deliver certain sophistications in sentences abrupt and suspended, thus withdrawing them from confutation; or invest with stateliness the observations of rustics. And nearest (as is commonly believed) to his precepts, which are not so unsound as useless, approaches Cornelius Celsus, but a more intense sophist, and more bound to history modified, sprinkling the same moral moderation upon the progress of knowledge, and amputating the extremes of error, not rooting

thou hast everywhere done thy utmost to amplify, forcing the most importunate cogitations by hope, and hope by promises, at once the contriver and the work of imposture. Among thy followers, Paracelsus, I envy thee none but Petrus Severinus, a man not deserving to spend his life amid such impertinences. Surely thou art much indebted to him, Paracelsus, because he rendered the things which thou (O, adopted of asses) used to bray, harmonious and pleasant, by a certain melody and modulation, and most agreeable diversity of words, converting the odiousness of falsehoods into the delights of fable. Yet I pardon thee, Severinus, if, weary of the learning of sophists, which is not only fruitless, but professedly courteth despair, thou soughtest other supports for our decaying affairs. And when those pretensions of Paracelsus presented themselves, commended by the proclamations of ostentation, and the subterfuges of obscurity, and the affinities of religion, and other adornments, thou didst surrender thyself with a certain impulse of indignation to these, not foun-out the principles. And, regarding these, what tains of things, but openings of hope. Thou wouldst have acted rightly and in order, if from the maxims of ingenuity thou hadst turned to the decrees of nature, which would have held out to thee not only art short, but also life long. And now, having passed sentence against Paracelsus, I perceive the rest of the chymists fixed in astonishment. They immediately acknowledged his decrees, which he himself promulgated rather than established, and fortified by arrogance, (plainly not after the ancient discipline,) instead of caution; when, indeed, these men, reconciled to each by much reciprocation of lying, everywhere hold forth abundant hope, and, wandering through the by-ways indeed of experience, do at times, by chance, not conduct, hit upon some things useful. Yet in their theories they (as disciples of the furnace) have not withdrawn from their art. But, as that wanton youth, when he discovered a boat upon the shore, sought to build a ship; so these coalmen, from a few experiments of distillations, have attempted to erect a philosophy, which is everywhere obnoxious to those most absurd idols of separations and liberations. Yet I count them not all alike; forasmuch as there is a useful sort of them, who, not very solicitous about theories, do by a kind of mechanic subtlety lay hold of the extensions of things; such is Bacon. There is a base and detestable sort, who everywhere seek applause for their theories, by religion, hope, imposture, wooing, and supplicating for it; such is Isaac Hollandis, and by far the greater part of the rabble of chymists. And now let us summon Hippocrates, the creature of antiquity and the seller of years, to whose authority, when both Galen and Paracelsus with much zeal strive to betake themselves, as to the shadow of the ass, who bursts not into laughter? And truly this man seems to cling to experience with perpetual stead

we have said is most true. But I now hear thee, my son, inquiring whether, perhaps, as is done, they have not sought after the worst parts, especially as the state of knowledge is always almost democratic? Hath not time, like a river, brought down to us the light and inflated, and sunk the solid and weighty? What of those ancient inquirers after truth, Heraclitus, Democritus, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and others, known by the writings of others, not by their own? Lastly, what deem you of the silence and the secrets of antiquity? My son, (that I may answer these inquiries, as is usual with me, for thy benefit,) I recognise a few fragments of antiquity, (of books found I speak not,) yet these as specimens rather of the diligence and ingenuity, than the knowledge of their authors. But, if I hint that those searchings of conjectures respecting things, which, with their footsteps, have fled away, are laborious; and that, for me, studying the utility of mankind for time coming, it were unfitting to turn back to the philology of antiquity. I know sufficiently that in thy modesty thou wouldst acquiesce. Nevertheless, that thou mayest perceive what two-faced prophets things present are, and how they bring before us things both past and future, I have resolved to gratify thee with tables of both times, (which may comprise not only the courses and flowings of knowledge, but also other provisions of things.) And do not augur what this may be, before seeing it, for the true anticipation of this matter falls not to thee, and if it come not from thy hand, seek it not. For, in this matter, my son, I shall gratify some of you, and conciliate the minds of the more delicate. Knowledge, indeed, is to be sought from the light of nature, not recovered from the obscurity of antiquity. Nor is it of importance what may have been done; we have only to see

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