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Valerius Terminus: of the Interpretation of Nature by Sir Francis Bacon

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Valerius Terminus: of the Interpretation of Nature

by Francis Bacon

Preface by Robert Leslie Ellis

The following fragments of a great work on the Interpretation of
Nature were first published in Stephens's Letters and Remains [1734].
They consist partly of detached passages, and partly of an epitome
of twelve chapters of the first book of the proposed work. The
detached passages contain the first, sixth, and eighth chapters, and
portions of the fourth, fifth, seventh, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and
sixteenth. The epitome contains an account of the contents of all
the chapters from the twelfth to the twenty-sixth inclusive, omitting
the twentieth, twentythird, and twenty-fourth. Thus the sixteenth
chapter is mentioned both in the epitome and among the detached
passages, and we are thus enabled to see that the two portions of the
following tract belong to the same work, as it appears from both that
the sixteenth chapter was to treat of the doctrine of idola.

It is impossible to ascertain the motive which determined Bacon to
give to the supposed author the name of Valerius Terminus, or to his
commentator, of whose annotations we have no remains, that of Hermes
Stella. It may be conjectured that by the name Terminus he intended
to intimate that the new philosophy would put an end to the wandering
of mankind in search of truth, that it would be the TERMINUS AD QUEM
in which when it was once attained the mind would finally acquiesce.

Again, the obscurity of the text was to be in some measure removed by
the annotations of Stella; not however wholly, for Bacon in the
epitome of the eighteenth chapter commends the manner of publishing
knowledge "whereby it shall not be to the capacity nor taste of all,
but shall as it were single and adopt his reader." Stella was
therefore to throw a kind of starlight on the subject, enough to
prevent the student's losing his way, but not much more.

However this may be, the tract is undoubtedly obscure, partly from
the style in which it is written, and partly from its being only a
fragment. It is at the same time full of interest, inasmuch as it is
the earliest type of the INSTAURATIO...

Note to Preface by James Spedding:

The manuscript from which Robert Stephens printed these fragments was
found among some loose papers placed in his hands by the Earl of
Oxford, and is now in the British Museum; Harl. manuscripts 6462. It
is a thin paper volume of the quarto size, written in the hand of one
of Bacon's servants, with corrections, erasures, and interlineations
in his own.

The chapters of which it consists are both imperfect in themselves
(all but three),--some breaking off abruptly, others being little
more than tables of contents,--and imperfect in their connexion with
each other; so much so as to suggest the idea of a number of separate
papers loosely put together. But it was not so (and the fact is
important) that the volume itself was actually made up. However they
came together, they are here fairly and consecutively copied out.
Though it be a collection of fragments therefore, it is such a
collection as Bacon thought worthy not only of being preserved, but
of being transcribed into a volume; and a particular account of it
will not be out of place.

The contents of the manuscript before Bacon touched it may be thus

1. A titlepage, on which is written "VALERIUS TERMINUS of the
Interpretation of Nature, with the annotations of HERMES STELLA."

2. "Chapter I. Of the limits and end of knowledge;" with a running
title, "Of the Interpretation of Nature."

3. "The chapter immediately following the Inventory; being the 11th
in order."

4. "A part of the 9th chapter, immediately precedent to the Inventory,
and inducing the same."

5. "The Inventory, or an enumeration and view of inventions already
discovered and in use, together with a note of the wants and the
nature of the supplies; being the 10th chapter, and this a fragment
only of the same."

6. Part of a chapter, not numbered, "Of the internal and profound
errors and superstitions in the nature of the mind, and of the four
sorts of Idols or fictions which offer themselves to the
understanding in the inquisition of knowledge."

7. "Of the impediments of knowledge; being the third chapter, the
preface only of it."

8. "Of the impediments which have been in the times and in diversion
of wits; being the fourth chapter."

9. "Of the impediments of knowledge for want of a true succession of
wits, and that hitherto the length of one man's life hath been the
greatest measure of knowledge; being the fifth chapter."

10. "That the pretended succession of wits hath been evil placed,
forasmuch as after variety of sects and opinions the most popular and
not the truest prevaileth and weareth out the rest; being the sixth

11. "Of the impediments of knowledge in handling it by parts, and in
slipping off particular sciences from the root and stock of universal
knowledge; being the seventh chapter."

12. "That the end and scope of knowledge hath been generally mistaken,
and that men were never well advised what it was they sought" (part
of a chapter not numbered).

13. "An abridgment of divers chapters of the first book;" namely, the
l2th, 13th, and 14th, (over which is a running title "Of active
knowledge;") and (without any running title) the 15th, 16th, 17th,
18th], 19th, 21st, 22nd, 25th, and 26th. These abridgments have no
headings; and at the end is written, "The end of the Abridgment of
the first book of the Interpretation of Nature."

Such was the arrangement of the manuscript as the transcriber left it;
which I have thought worth preserving, because I seem to see traces
in it of two separate stages in the developement of the work; the
order of the chapters as they are transcribed being probably the same
in which Bacon wrote them; and the numbers inserted at the end of the
headings indicating the order in which, when he placed them in the
transcriber's hands, it was his intention to arrange them; and
because it proves at any rate that at that time the design of the
whole book was clearly laid out in his mind.

There is nothing, unfortunately, to fix the DATE of the transcript,
unless it be implied in certain astronomical or astrological symbols
written on the blank outside of the volume; in which the figures 1603
occur. This may possibly be the transcriber's note of the time when
he finished his work; for which (but for one circumstance which I
shall mention presently) I should think the year 1603 is likely a
date as any; for we know from a letter of Bacon's, dated 3rd July
1603, that he had at that time resolved "to meddle as little as
possible in the King's causes," and to "put his ambition wholly upon
his pen;" and we know from the ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING that in 1605
he was engaged upon a work entitled "The Interpretation of Nature:"
to which I may add that there is in the Lambeth Library a copy of a
letter from Bacon to Lord Kinlosse, dated 25th March, 1603, and
written in the same hand as this manuscript.

Bacon's corrections, if I may judge from the character of the
handwriting, were inserted a little later; for it is a fact that
about the beginning of James's reign his writing underwent a
remarkable change, from the hurried Saxon hand full of large sweeping
curves and with letters imperfectly formed and connected, which he
wrote in Elizabeth's time, to a small, neat, light, and compact one,
formed more upon the Italian model which was then coming into fashion;
and when these corrections were made it is evident that this new
character had become natural to him and easy. It is of course
impossible to fix the precise date of such a change,--the more so
because his autographs of this period are very scarce,--but whenever
it was that he corrected this manuscript, it is evident that he then
considered it worthy of careful revision. He has not merely inserted
a sentence here and there, altered the numbers of the chapters, and
added words to the headings in order to make the description more
exact; but he has taken the trouble to add the running title wherever
it was wanting, thus writing the words "of the Interpretation of
Nature" at full lengths not less than eighteen times over; and upon
the blank space of the titlepage he has written out a complete table
of contents. In short, if he had been preparing the manuscript for
the press or for a fresh transcript, he could not have done it more
completely or carefully,--only that he has given no directions for
altering the order of the chapters so as to make it correspond with
the numbers. And hence I infer that up to the time when he made
these corrections, this was the form of the great work on which he
was engaged: it was a work concerning the Interpretation of Nature;
which was to begin where the NOVUM ORGANUM begins; and of which the
first book was to include all the preliminary considerations
preparatory to the exposition of the formula.

I place this fragment here in deference to Mr. Ellis's decided
opinion that it was written before the ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING. The
positive ground indeed which he alleges in support of that conclusion
I am obliged to set aside, as founded, I think, upon a
misapprehension; and the supposition that no part of it was written
later involves a difficulty which I cannot yet get over to my own
satisfaction. But that the body of it was written earlier I see no
reason to doubt; and if so, this is its proper place.

The particular point on which I venture to disagree with Mr. Ellis I
have stated in a note upon his preface to the NOVUM ORGANUM,
promising at the same time a fuller explanation of the grounds of my
own conclusion, which I will now give.

The question is, whether the "Inventory" in the 10th chapter of
VALERIUS TERMINUS was to have exhibited a general survey of the state
of knowledge corresponding with that which fills the second book of

It is true indeed that the title of that 10th chapter,--namely, "The
Inventory, or an enumeration and view of inventions already
discovered and in use, with a note of the wants and the nature of the
supplies",--has at first sight a considerable resemblance to the
description of the contents of the second book of the ADVANCEMENT OF
LEARNING,--namely, "A general and faithful perambulation of learning,
with an inquiry what parts thereof lie fresh and waste, and not
improved and converted by the industry of Man;... wherein
nevertheless my purpose is at this time to note only omissions and
deficiencies, and not to make any redargutions of errors," and so on.
But an "enumeration of INVENTIONS" is not the same thing as "a
perambulation of LEARNING;" and it will be found upon closer
examination that the "Inventory" spoken of in VALERIUS TERMINUS does
really correspond to one, and one only, of the fiftyone Desiderata
set down at the end of the DE AUGMENTIS; viz. that INVENTARIUM OPUM
HUMANARUM, which was to be an appendix to the MAGIA NATURALIS. See DE
AUG. iii. 5. This will appear clearly by comparing the descriptions
of the two.

In the ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING Bacon tells us that there are two
points of much purpose pertaining to the department of Natural Magic:
the first of which is, "That there be made a calendar resembling an
Inventory of the ESTATE OF MAN, containing ALL THE INVENTIONS, BEING
WHICH 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 essentials man's inquiry may be the more awake in
deducing direction of works from the speculation of causes."

The Inventory which was to have been inserted in the 10th chapter of
VALERIUS TERMINUS is thus introduced:--"The plainest method and most
directly pertinent to this intention will be to make distribution of
MAN'S LIFE; and under those several uses, being as several offices of
provisions, to charge and tax what may be reasonably exacted or
demanded,... and then upon those charges and taxations to distinguish
and present as it were in several columns what is extant and already
found, and what is DEFECTIVE AND FURTHER TO BE PROVIDED. Of which
provisions because in many of them, after the manner of slothful and
faulty accomptants, it will be returned by way of excuse that no such
are to be had, it will be fit to give some light OF THE NATURE OF THE
SUPPLIES; whereby it will evidently appear that they are to be
compassed and procured." And that the calendar was to deal, not with
knowledge in general, but only with arts and sciences of invention in
its more restricted sense--the PARS OPERATIVA DE NATURA (DE AUG. iii.
5.)--appears no less clearly from the opening of the 11th chapter,
which was designed immediately to follow the "Inventory." "It
appeareth then what is now in proposition, not by general
circumlocution but by particular note. No former philosophy," etc.
etc. "but the revealing and discovering of NEW INVENTIONS AND
OPERATIONS,... the nature and kinds of which inventions HAVE BEEN
DESCRIBED as they could be discovered," etc. If further evidence were
required of the exact resemblance between the Inventory of VALERIUS
TERMINUS and the Inventarium of the ADVANCEMENT and the DE AUGMENTIS,
I might quote the end of the 9th chapter, where the particular
expressions correspond, if possible, more closely still. But I
presume that the passages which I have given are enough; and that the
opinion which I have elsewhere expressed as to the origin of the
ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING,--namely, that the writing of it was a
by-thought and no part of the work on the Interpretation of Nature as
originally designed,--will not be considered inconsistent with the
evidence afforded by these fragments.

That the VALERIUS TERMINUS was composed before the ADVANCEMENT,
though a conclusion not deducible from the Inventory, is nevertheless
probable: but to suppose that it was so composed EXACTLY IN ITS
PRESENT FORM, involves, as I said, a difficulty; which I will now
state. The point is interesting, as bearing directly upon the
developement in Bacon's mind of the doctrine of Idols; concerning
which see preface to NOVUM ORGANUM, note C. But I have to deal with
it here merely as bearing upon the probable date of this fragment.

In treating of the department of Logic in the ADVANCEMENT, Bacon
notices as altogether wanting "the particular elenches or cautions
against three false appearances" or fallacies by which the mind of
man is beset: the "caution" of which, he says, "doth extremely import
the true conduct of human judgment." These false appearances he
describes, though he does not give their names; and they correspond
respectively to what he afterwards called the Idols of the Tribe, the
Cave, and the Forum. But he makes no mention of the fourth; namely,
the Idols of the Theatre. Now in VALERIUS TERMINUS we find two
separate passages in which the Idols are mentioned; and in both all
four are enumerated, and all by name; though what he afterwards
called Idols of the Forum, he there calls Idols of the Palace; and it
seems to me very unlikely that, if when he wrote the ADVANCEMENT he
had already formed that classification he should have omitted all
mention of the Idols of the Theatre; for though it is true that that
was not the place to discuss them, and therefore in the corresponding
passage of the DE AUGMENTIS they are noticed as to be passed by "for
the present," yet they are noticed by name, and in all Bacon's later
writings the confutation of them holds a very prominent place.

To me the most probable explanation of the fact is this. I have
already shown that between the composition and the transcription of
these fragments the design of the work appears to have undergone a
considerable change; the order of the chapters being entirely altered.
We have only to suppose therefore that they were composed before
the ADVANCEMENT and transcribed after, and that in preparing them for
the transcriber Bacon made the same kind of alterations in the
originals which he afterwards made upon the transcript, and the
difficulty disappears. Nothing would be easier than to correct
"three" into "four," and insert "the Idols of the Theatre" at the end
of the sentence.

And this reminds me (since I shall have so much to do with these
questions of date) to suggest a general caution with regard to them
all; namely, that in the case of fragments like these, the comparison
of isolated passages can hardly ever be relied upon for evidence of
the date or order of composition, or of the progressive developement
of the writer's views; and for this simple reason,--we can never be
sure that the passages as they now stand formed part of the original
writing. The copy of the fragment which we have may be (as there is
reason to believe this was) a transcript from several loose papers,
written at different periods and containing alterations or additions
made from time to time. We may know perhaps that when Bacon
published the ADVANCEMCNT OF LEARNING he was ignorant of some fact
with which he afterwards became acquainted; we may find in one of
these fragments,--say the TEMPORIS PARTUS MASCULUS,--a passage
implying acquaintance with that fact. Does it follow that the
LEARNING? No; for in looking over the manuscript long after it was
written, he may have observed and corrected the error. And we cannot
conclude that he at the same time altered the whole composition so as
to bring it into accordance with the views he then held; for that
might be too long a work. He may have inserted a particular
correction, but meant to rewrite the whole; and if so, in spite of
the later date indicated by that particular passage, the body of the
work would still represent a stage in his opinions anterior to the

I have felt some doubt whether in printing this fragment, I should
follow the example of Stephens, who gave it exactly as he found it;
or that of later editors, who have altered the order of the chapters
so as to make it agree with the numbers. The latter plan will
perhaps, upon the whole, be the more convenient. There can he little
doubt that the numbers of the chapters indicate the order in which
Bacon meant them to be read; and if any one wishes to compare it with
the order in which they seem to have been written, he has only to
look at Bacon's table of contents, which was made with reference to
the transcript, and which I give unaltered, except as to the spelling.

of the Interpretation of Nature with the Annotations of a few
fragments of the first book, viz.

1. The first chapter entire. {Of the ends and limits of knowledge.}

2. A portion of the 11th chapter. {Of the scale.}

3. A small portion of the 9th chapter {being an Inducement to the

4. A small portion of the 10th chapter {being the preface to the

5. A small portion of the 16th chapter {being a preface to the inward
elenches of the mind.}

6. A small portion of the 4th chapter. {Of the impediments of
knowledge in general.}

7. A small portion of the 5th chapter. {Of the diversion of wits.}

8. The 6th chapter entire. {Of}

9. A portion of the 7th chapter.

10. The 8th chapter entire.

11. Another portion of the 9th chapter.

12. The Abridgment of the 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 21. 22. 25.
26th chapters of the first book.

13. The first chapter of {the} a book of the same argument written in
Latin and destined {for} to be {traditionary} separate and not public.

None of the Annotations of Stella are set down in these fragments.

[The title] is written in the transcriber's hand: all that follows in
Bacon's. The words between brackets have a line drawn through them.
For an exact facsimile of the whole [see Contents pages 1 and 2].

[13.] refers to the first chapter of the TEMPORIS PARTUS MASCULUS;
which follows in the manuscript volume, but not here. It is
important as bearing upon the date of that fragment.


(by Sir Francis Bacon)

CAP. 1.


In the divine nature both religion and philosophy hath acknowledged
goodness in perfection, science or providence comprehending all
things, and absolute sovereignty or kingdom. In aspiring to the
throne of power the angels transgressed and fell, in presuming to
come within the oracle of knowledge man transgressed and fell; but in
pursuit towards the similitude of God's goodness or love (which is
one thing, for love is nothing else but goodness put in motion or
applied) neither man or spirit ever hath transgressed, or shall

The angel of light that was, when he presumed before his fall, said
but the highest. To be like to God in goodness, was no part of his
emulation; knowledge, being in creation an angel of light, was not
the want which did most solicit him; only because he was a minister
he aimed at a supremacy; therefore his climbing or ascension was
turned into a throwing down or precipitation.

Man on the other side, when he was tempted before he fell, had
offered unto him this suggestion, THAT HE SHOULD BE LIKE UNTO GOD.
But how? Not simply, but in this part, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL. For
being in his creation invested with sovereignty of all inferior
creatures, he was not needy of power or dominion; but again, being a
spirit newly inclosed in a body of earth, he was fittest to be
allured with appetite of light and liberty of knowledge; therefore
this approaching and intruding into God's secrets and mysteries was
rewarded with a further removing and estranging from God's presence.
But as to the goodness of God, there is no danger in contending or
advancing towards a similitude thereof, as that which is open and
propounded to our imitation. For that voice (whereof the heathen and
all other errors of religion have ever confessed that it sounds not
doth well declare, that we can in that point commit no excess; so
again we find it often repeated in the old law, BE YOU HOLY AS I AM
HOLY; and what is holiness else but goodness, as we consider it
separate and guarded from all mixture and all access of evil?

Wherefore seeing that knowledge is of the number of those things
which are to be accepted of with caution and distinction; being now
to open a fountain, such as it is not easy to discern where the
issues and streams thereof will take and fall; I thought it good and
necessary in the first place to make a strong and sound head or bank
to rule and guide the course of the waters; by setting down this
position or firmament, namely, THAT ALL KNOWLEDGE IS TO BE LIMITED BY

For if any man shall think by view and inquiry into these sensible
and material things, to attain to any light for the revealing of the
nature or will of God, he shall dangerously abuse himself. It is
true that the contemplation of the creatures of God hath for end (as
to the natures of the creatures themselves) knowledge, but as to the
nature of God, no knowledge, but wonder; which is nothing else but
contemplation broken off; or losing itself. Nay further, as it was
aptly said by one of Plato's school THE SENSE OF MAN RESEMBLES THE
AND CONCEALETH THE CELESTIAL; so doth the sense discover natural
things, but darken and shut up divine. And this appeareth
sufficiently in that there is no proceeding in invention of knowledge
but by similitude; and God is only self-like, having nothing in
common with any creature, otherwise than as in shadow and trope.
Therefore attend his will as himself openeth it, and give unto faith
that which unto faith belongeth; for more worthy it is to believe
than to think or know, considering that in knowledge (as we now are
capable of it) the mind suffereth from inferior natures; but in all
belief it suffereth from a spirit which it holdeth superior and more
authorised than itself.

To conclude, the prejudice hath been infinite that both divine and
human knowledge hath received by the intermingling and tempering of
the one with the other; as that which hath filled the one full of
heresies, and the other full of speculative fictions and vanities.

But now there are again which in a contrary extremity to those which
give to contemplation an overlarge scope, do offer too great a
restraint to natural and lawful knowledge, being unjustly jealous
that every reach and depth of knowledge wherewith their conceits have
not been acquainted, should be too high an elevation of man's wit,
and a searching and ravelling too far into God's secrets; an opinion
that ariseth either of envy (which is proud weakness and to be
censured and not confuted), or else of a deceitful simplicity. For
if they mean that the ignorance of a second cause doth make men more
devoutly to depend upon the providence of God, as supposing the
effects to come immediately from his hand, I demand of them, as Job
demanded of his friends, WILL YOU LIE FOR GOD AS MAN WILL FOR MAN TO
GRATIFY HIM? But if any man without any sinister humour doth indeed
make doubt that this digging further and further into the mine of
natural knowledge is a thing without example and uncommended in the
Scriptures, or fruitless; let him remember and be instructed; for
behold it was not that pure light of natural knowledge, whereby man
in paradise was able to give unto every living creature a name
according to his propriety, which gave occasion to the fall; but it
was an aspiring desire to attain to that part of moral knowledge
which defineth of good and evil, whereby to dispute God's
commandments and not to depend upon the revelation of his will, which
was the original temptation. And the first holy records, which
within those brief memorials of things which passed before the flood
entered few things as worthy to be registered but only lineages and
propagations, yet nevertheless honour the remembrance of the inventor
both of music and works in metal. Moses again (who was the reporter)
is said to have been seen in all the Egyptian learning, which nation
was early and leading in matter of knowledge. And Salomon the king,
as out of a branch of his wisdom extraordinarily petitioned and
granted from God, is said to have written a natural history of all
that is green from the cedar to the moss, (which is but a rudiment
between putrefaction and an herb,) and also of all that liveth and
moveth. And if the book of Job be turned over, it will be found to
have much aspersion of natural philosophy. Nay, the same Salomon the
king affirmeth directly that the glory of God IS TO CONCEAL A THING,
BUT THE GLORY OF THE KING IS TO FIND IT OUT, as if according to the
innocent play of children the divine Majesty took delight to hide his
works, to the end to have them found out; for in naming the king he
intendeth man, taking such a condition of man as hath most excellency
and greatest commandment of wits and means, alluding also to his own
person, being truly one of those clearest burning lamps, whereof
himself speaketh in another place, when he saith THE SPIRIT OF MAN IS
nature of the soul the same Salomon holding precious and inestimable,
and therein conspiring with the affection of Socrates who scorned the
pretended learned men of his time for raising great benefit of their
learning (whereas Anaxagoras contrariwise and divers others being
born to ample patrimonies decayed them in contemplation), delivereth
it in precept yet remaining, BUY THE TRUTH, AND SELL IT NOT; AND SO

And lest any man should retain a scruple as if this thirst of
knowledge were rather an humour of the mind than an emptiness or want
in nature and an instinct from God, the same author defineth of it
declaring not obscurely that God hath framed the mind of man as a
glass capable of the image of the universal world, joying to receive
the signature thereof as the eye is of light, yea not only satisfied
in beholding the variety of things and vicissitude of times, but
raised also to find out and discern those ordinances and decrees
which throughout all these changes are infallibly observed. And
although the highest generality of motion or summary law of nature
God should still reserve within his own curtain, yet many and noble
are the inferior and secondary operations which are within man's
sounding. This is a thing which I cannot tell whether I may so
plainly speak as truly conceive, that as all knowledge appeareth to
be a plant of God's own planting, so it may seem the spreading and
flourishing or at least the bearing and fructifying of this plant, by
a providence of God, nay not only by a general providence but by a
special prophecy, was appointed to this autumn of the world: for to
my understanding it is not violent to the letter, and safe now after
the event, so to interpret that place in the prophecy of Daniel where
speaking of the latter times it is said, MANY SHALL PASS TO AND FRO,
AND SCIENCE SHALL BE INCREASED; as if the opening of the world by
navigation and commerce and the further discovery of knowledge should
meet in one time or age.

But howsoever that be, there are besides the authorities of
Scriptures before recited, two reasons of exceeding great weight and
force why religion should dearly protect all increase of natural
knowledge: the one, because it leadeth to the greater exaltation of
the glory of God; for as the Psalms and other Scriptures do often
invite us to consider and to magnify the great and wonderful works of
God, so if we should rest only in the contemplation of those shews
which first offer themselves to our senses, we should do a like
injury to the majesty of God, as if we should judge of the store of
some excellent jeweler by that only which is set out to the street in
his shop. The other reason is, because it is a singular help and a
preservative against unbelief and error; for, saith our Saviour, YOU
us two books or volumes to study if we will be secured from error;
first the Scriptures revealing the will of God, and then the
creatures expressing his power; for that latter book will certify us
that nothing which the first teacheth shall be thought impossible.
And most sure it is, and a true conclusion of experience, that a
little natural philosophy inclineth the mind to atheism, but a
further proceeding bringeth the mind back to religion.

To conclude then, let no man presume to check the liberality of God's
gifts, who, as was said, HATH SET THE WORLD IN MAN'S HEART. So as
whatsoever is not God but parcel of the world, he hath fitted it to
the comprehension of man's mind, if man will open and dilate the
powers of his understanding as he may.

But yet evermore it must be remembered that the least part of
knowledge passed to man by this so large a charter from God must be
subject to that use for which God hath granted it; which is the
benefit and relief of the state and society of man; for otherwise all
manner of knowledge becometh malign and serpentine, and therefore as
carrying the quality of the serpent's sting and malice it maketh the
mind of man to swell; as the Scripture saith excellently, knowledge
bloweth up, but charity buildeth up. And again the same author doth
notably disavow both power and knowledge such as is not dedicated to
goodness or love, for saith he, IF I HAVE ALL FAITH SO AS I COULD
FIRE, (there is power passive,) IF I SPEAK WITH THE TONGUES OF MEN
AND ANGELS, (there is knowledge, for language is but the conveyance
of knowledge,) ALL WERE NOTHING.

And therefore it is not the pleasure of curiosity, nor the quiet of
resolution, nor the raising of the spirit, nor victory of wit, nor
faculty of speech, nor lucre of profession, nor ambition of honour or
fame, nor inablement for business, that are the true ends of
knowledge; some of these being more worthy than other, though all
inferior and degenerate: but it is a restitution and reinvesting (in
great part) of man to the sovereignty and power (for whensoever he
shall be able to call the creatures by their true names he shall
again command them) which he had in his first state of creation. And
to speak plainly and clearly, it is a discovery of all operations and
possibilities of operations from immortality (if it were possible) to
the meanest mechanical practice. And therefore knowledge that
tendeth but to satisfaction is but as a courtesan, which is for
pleasure and not for fruit or generation. And knowledge that tendeth
to profit or profession or glory is but as the golden ball thrown
before Atalanta, which while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take up
she hindereth the race. And knowledge referred to some particular
point of use is but as Harmodius which putteth down one tyrant, and
not like Hercules who did perambulate the world to suppress tyrants
and giants and monsters in every part. It is true, that in two
points the curse is peremptory and not to be removed; the one that
vanity must be the end in all human effects, eternity being resumed,
though the revolutions and periods may be delayed. The other that
the consent of the creature being now turned into reluctation, this
power cannot otherwise be exercised and administered but with labour,
as well in inventing as in executing; yet nevertheless chiefly that
labour and travel which is described by the sweat of the brows more
than of the body; that is such travel as is joined with the working
and discursion of the spirits in the brain: for as Salomon saith
CONSIDERETH WHICH WAY, signifying the election of the mean to be more
material than the multiplication of endeavour. It is true also that
there is a limitation rather potential than actual, which is when the
effect is possible, but the time or place yieldeth not the matter or
basis whereupon man should work. But notwithstanding these precincts
and bounds, let it be believed, and appeal thereof made to Time,
(with renunciation nevertheless to all the vain and abusing promises
of Alchemists and Magicians, and such like light, idle, ignorant,
credulous, and fantastical wits and sects,) that the new-found world
of land was not greater addition to the ancient continent than there
remaineth at this day a world of inventions and sciences unknown,
having respect to those that are known, with this difference that the
ancient regions of knowledge will seem as barbarous compared with the
new, as the new regions of people seem barbarous compared to many of
the old.

The dignity of this end (of endowment of man's life with new
commodities) appeareth by the estimation that antiquity made of such
as guided thereunto. For whereas founders of states, lawgivers,
extirpers of tyrants, fathers of the people, were honoured but with
the titles of Worthies or Demigods, inventors were ever consecrated
amongst the Gods themselves. And if the ordinary ambitions of men
lead them to seek the amplification of their own power in their
countries, and a better ambition than that hath moved men to seek the
amplification of the power of their own countries amongst other
nations, better again and more worthy must that aspiring be which
seeketh the amplification of the power and kingdom of mankind over
the world; the rather because the other two prosecutions are ever
culpable of much perturbation and injustice; but this is a work truly
divine, which cometh IN AURA LENI without noise or observation.

The access also to this work hath been by that port or passage, which
the divine Majesty (who is unchangeabIe in his ways) doth infallibly
continue and observe; that is the felicity wherewith he hath blessed
an humility of mind, such as rather laboureth to spell and so by
degrees to read in the volumes of his creatures, than to solicit and
urge and as it were to invocate a man's own spirit to divine and give
oracles unto him. For as in the inquiry of divine truth, the pride
of man hath ever inclined to leave the oracles of God's word and to
vanish in the mixture of their own inventions; so in the self-same
manner, in inquisition of nature they have ever left the oracles of
God's works, and adored the deceiving and deformed imagery which the
unequal mirrors of their own minds have represented unto them. Nay
it is a point fit and necessary in the front and beginning of this
work without hesitation or reservation to be professed, that it is no
less true in this human kingdom of knowledge than in God's kingdom of
heaven, that no man shall enter into it EXCEPT HE BECOME FIRST AS A

CAP. 4.


In some things it is more hard to attempt than to achieve, which
falleth out when the difficulty is not so much in the matter or
subject, as it is in the crossness and indisposition of the mind of
man to think of any such thing, to will or to resolve it. And
therefore Titus Livius in his declamatory digression wherein he doth
depress and extenuate the honour of Alexander's conquests saith,
it is the manner of men first to wonder that any such thing should be
possible, and after it is found out to wonder again how the world
should miss it so long. Of this nature I take to be the invention
and discovery of knowledge, etc.


The encounters of the times have been nothing favourable and
prosperous for the invention of knowledge; so as it is not only the
daintiness of the seed to take, and the ill mixture and unliking of
the ground to nourish or raise this plant, but the ill season also of
the weather by which it hath been checked and blasted. Especially in
that the seasons have been proper to bring up and set forward other
more hasty and indifferent plants, whereby this of knowledge bath
been starved and overgrown; for in the descent of times always there
hath been somewhat else in reign and reputation, which hath generally
aliened and diverted wits and labours from that employment.

For as for the uttermost antiquity which is like fame that muffles
her head and tells tales, I cannot presume much of it; for I would
not willingly imitate the manner of those that describe maps, which
when they come to some far countries whereof they have no knowledge,
set down how there be great wastes and deserts there: so I am not apt
to affirm that they knew little, because what they knew is little
known to us. But if you will judge of them by the last traces that
remain to us, you will conclude, though not so scornfully as
Aristotle doth, that saith our ancestors were extreme gross, as those
that came newly from being moulded out of the clay or some earthly
substance; yet reasonably and probably thus, that it was with them in
matter of knowledge but as the dawning or break of day. For at that
time the world was altogether home-bred, every nation looked little
beyond their own confines or territories, and the world had no
through lights then, as it hath had since by commerce and navigation,
whereby there could neither be that contribution of wits one to help
another, nor that variety of particulars for the correcting of
customary conceits.

And as there could be no great collection of wits of several parts or
nations, so neither could there be any succession of wits of several
times, whereby one might refine the other, in regard they had not
history to any purpose. And the manner of their traditions was
utterly unfit and unproper for amplification of knowledge. And again
the studies of those times, you shall find, besides wars, incursions,
and rapines, which were then almost every where betwixt states
adjoining (the use of leagues and confederacies being not then known),
were to populate by multitude of wives and generation, a thing at
this day in the waster part of the West-Indies principally affected;
and to build sometimes for habitation towns and cities, sometimes for
fame and memory monuments, pyramids, colosses, and the like. And if
there happened to rise up any more civil wits; then would he found
and erect some new laws, customs, and usages, such as now of late
years, when the world was revolute almost to the like rudeness and
obscurity, we see both in our own nation and abroad many examples of,
as well in a number of tenures reserved upon men's lands, as in
divers customs of towns and manors, being the devices that such wits
wrought upon in such times of deep ignorance, etc.


In arts mechanical the first device comes shortest and time addeth
and perfecteth. But in sciences of conceit the first author goeth
furthest and time leeseth and corrupteth. Painting, artillery,
sailing, and the like, grossly managed at first, by time accommodate
and refined. The philosophies and sciences of Aristotle, Plato,
Democritus, Hippocrates, of most vigour at first, by time degenerated
and imbased. In the former many wits and industries contributed in
one: In the latter many men's wits spent to deprave the wit of one.

The error is both in the deliverer and in the receiver. He that
delivereth knowledge desireth to deliver it in such form as may be
soonest believed, and not as may be easiliest examined. He that
receiveth knowledge desireth rather present satisfaction than
expectant search, and so rather not to doubt than not to err. Glory
maketh the author not to lay open his weakness, and sloth maketh the
disciple not to know his strength.

Then begin men to aspire to the second prizes; to be a profound
interpreter and commenter, to be a sharp champion and defender, to be
a methodical compounder and abridger. And this is the unfortunate
succession of wits which the world hath yet had, whereby the
patrimony of all knowledge goeth not on husbanded or improved, but
wasted and decayed. For knowledge is like a water that will never
arise again higher than the level from which it fell; and therefore
to go beyond Aristotle by the light of Aristotle is to think that a
borrowed light can increase the original light from whom it is taken.
So then no true succession of wits having been in the world, either
we must conclude that knowledge is but a task for one man's life, and
then vain was the complaint that LIFE IS SHORT, AND ART IS LONG: or
else, that the knowledge that now is, is but a shrub, and not that
tree which is never dangerous, but where it is to the purpose of
knowing Good and Evil; which desire ever riseth upon an appetite to
elect and not to obey, and so containeth in it a manifest defection.

CAP. 7.


It is sensible to think that when men enter first into search and
inquiry, according to the several frames and compositions of their
understanding they light upon different conceits, and so all opinions
and doubts are beaten over, and then men having made a taste of all
wax weary of variety, and so reject the worst and hold themselves to
the best, either some one if it be eminent, or some two or three if
they be in some equality, which afterwards are received and carried
on, and the rest extinct.

But truth is contrary, and that time is like a river which carrieth
down things which are light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth
that which is sad and weighty. For howsoever governments have
several forms, sometimes one governing, sometimes few, sometimes the
multitude; yet the state of knowledge is ever a DEMOCRATIE, and that
prevaileth which is most agreeable to the senses and conceits of
people. As for example there is no great doubt but he that did put
the beginnings of things to be SOLID, VOID, AND MOTION TO THE CENTRE,
was in better earnest than he that put MATTER, FORM, AND SHIFT; or he
that put the MIND, MOTION, AND MATTER. For no man shall enter into
inquisition of nature, but shall pass by that opinion of Democritus,
whereas he shall never come near the other two opinions, but leave
them aloof for the schools and table-talk. Yet those of Aristotle
and Plato, because they be both agreeable to popular sense, and the
one was uttered with subtilty and the spirit of contradiction, and
the other with a stile of ornament and majesty, did hold out, and the
other gave place, etc.

CAP. 8.


Cicero, the orator, willing to magnify his own profession, and
thereupon spending many words to maintain that eloquence was not a
shop of good words and elegancies but a treasury and receipt of all
knowledges, so far forth as may appertain to the handling and moving
of the minds and affections of men by speech, maketh great complaint
of the school of Socrates; that whereas before his time the same
professors of wisdom in Greece did pretend to teach an universal
SAPIENCE and knowledge both of matter and words, Socrates divorced
them and withdrew philosophy and left rhetoric to itself, which by
that destitution became but a barren and unnoble science. And in
particular sciences we see that if men fall to subdivide their
labours, as to be an oculist in physic, or to be perfect in some one
title of the law, or the like, they may prove ready and subtile, but
not deep or sufficient, no not in that subject which they do
particularly attend, because of that consent which it hath with the
rest. And it is a matter of common discourse of the chain of
sciences how they are linked together, insomuch as the Grecians, who
had terms at will, have fitted it of a name of CIRCLE LEARNING.
Nevertheless I that hold it for a great impediment towards the
advancement and further invention of knowledge, that particular arts
and sciences have been disincorporated from general knowledge, do not
understand one and the same thing which Cicero's discourse and the
note and conceit of the Grecians in their word CIRCLE LEARNING do
intend. For I mean not that use which one science hath of another
for ornament or help in practice, as the orator hath of knowledge of
affections for moving, or as military science may have use of
geometry for fortifications; but I mean it directly of that use by
way of supply of light and information which the particulars and
instances of one science do yield and present for the framing or
correcting of the axioms of another science in their very truth and
notion. And therefore that example of OCULISTS and TITLE LAWYERS
doth come nearer my conceit than the other two; for sciences
distinguished have a dependence upon universal knowledge to be
augmented and rectified by the superior light thereof, as well as the
parts and members of a science have upon the MAXIMS of the same
science, and the mutual light and consent which one part receiveth of
another. And therefore the opinion of Copernicus in astronomy, which
astronomy itself cannot correct because it is not repugnant to any of
the appearances, yet natural philosophy doth correct. On the other
side if some of the ancient philosophers had been perfect in the
observations of astronomy, and had called them to counsel when they
made their principles and first axioms, they would never have divided
their philosophy as the Cosmographers do their descriptions by globes,
making one philosophy for heaven and another for under heaven, as in
effect they do.

So if the moral philosophers that have spent such an infinite
quantity of debate touching Good and the highest good, had cast their
eye abroad upon nature and beheld the appetite that is in all things
to receive and to give; the one motion affecting preservation and the
other multiplication; which appetites are most evidently seen in
living creatures in the pleasure of nourishment and generation; and
in man do make the aptest and most natural division of all his
desires, being either of sense of pleasure or sense of power; and in
the universal frame of the world are figured, the one in the beams of
heaven which issue forth, and the other in the lap of the earth which
takes in: and again if they had observed the motion of congruity or
situation of the parts in respect of the whole, evident in so many
particulars; and lastly if they had considered the motion (familiar
in attraction of things) to approach to that which is higher in the
same kind; when by these observations so easy and concurring in
natural philosophy, they should have found out this quaternion of
good, in enjoying or fruition, effecting or operation, consenting or
proportion, and approach or assumption; they would have saved and
abridged much of their long and wandering discourses of pleasure,
virtue, duty, and religion. So likewise in this same logic and
rhetoric, or arts of argument and grace of speech, if the great
masters of them would but have gone a form lower, and looked but into
the observations of Grammar concerning the kinds of words, their
derivations, deflexions, and syntax; specially enriching the same
with the helps of several languages, with their differing proprieties
of words, phrases, and tropes; they might have found out more and
better footsteps of common reason, help of disputation, and
advantages of cavillation, than many of these which they have
propounded. So again a man should be thought to dally, if he did
note how the figures of rhetoric and music are many of them the same.
The repetitions and traductions in speech and the reports and
hauntings of sounds in music are the very same things. Plutarch hath
almost made a book of the Lacedaemonian kind of jesting, which joined
ever pleasure with distaste. SIR, (saith a man of art to Philip king
of Macedon when he controlled him in his faculty,) GOD FORBID YOUR
taxing his ignorance in his art he represented to him the perpetual
greatness of his fortune, leaving him no vacant time for so mean a
skill. Now in music it is one of the ordinariest flowers to fall
from a discord or hard tune upon a sweet accord. The figure that
Cicero and the rest commend as one of the best points of elegancy,
which is the fine checking of expectation, is no less well known to
the musicians when they have a special grace in flying the close or
cadence. And these are no allusions but direct communities, the same
delights of the mind being to be found not only in music, rhetoric,
but in moral philosophy, policy, and other knowledges, and that
obscure in the one, which is more apparent in the other, yea and that
discovered in the one which is not found at all in the other, and so
one science greatly aiding to the invention and augmentation of
another. And therefore without this intercourse the axioms of
sciences will fall out to be neither full nor true; but will be such
opinions as Aristotle in some places doth wisely censure, when he
FEW THINGS. So then we see that this note leadeth us to an
administration of knowledge in some such order and policy as the king
of Spain in regard of his great dominions useth in state; who though
he hath particular councils for several countries and affairs, yet
hath one council of State or last resort, that receiveth the
advertisements and certificates from all the rest. Hitherto of the
diversion, succession, and conference of wits.

CAP. 9.


It appeareth then how rarely the wits and labours of men have been
converted to the severe and original inquisition of knowledge; and in
those who have pretended, what hurt hath been done by the affectation
of professors and the distraction of such as were no professors; and
how there was never in effect any conjunction or combination of wits
in the first and inducing search, but that every man wrought apart,
and would either have his own way or else would go no further than
his guide, having in the one case the honour of a first, and in the
other the ease of a second; and lastly how in the descent and
continuance of wits and labours the succession hath been in the most
popular and weak opinions, like unto the weakest natures which many
times have most children, and in them also the condition of
succession hath been rather to defend and to adorn than to add; and
if to add, yet that addition to be rather a refining of a part than
an increase of the whole. But the impediments of time and accidents,
though they have wrought a general indisposition, yet are they not so
peremptory and binding as the internal impediments and clouds in the
mind and spirit of man, whereof it now followeth to speak.

The Scripture speaking of the worst sort of error saith, ERRARE FECIT
COS IN INVIO ET NON IN VIA. For a man may wander in the way, by
rounding up and down. But if men have failed in their very direction
and address that error will never by good fortune correct itself.
Now it hath fared with men in their contemplations as Seneca saith it
fareth with them in their actions, DE PARTIBUS VITAE QUISQUE
DELIBERAT, DE SUMMA NEMO. A course very ordinary with men who receive
for the most part their final ends from the inclination of their
nature, or from common example and opinion, never questioning or
examining them, nor reducing them to any clear certainty; and use
only to call themselves to account and deliberation touching the
means and second ends, and thereby set themselves in the right way to
the wrong place. So likewise upon the natural curiosity and desire
to know, they have put themselves in way without foresight or
consideration of their journey's end.

For I find that even those that have sought knowledge for itself, and
not for benefit or ostentation or any practical enablement in the
course of their life, have nevertheless propounded to themselves a
wrong mark, namely satisfaction (which men call truth) and not
operation. For as in the courts and services of princes and states
it is a much easier matter to give satisfaction than to do the
business; so in the inquiring of causes and reasons it is much easier
to find out such causes as will satisfy the mind of man and quiet
objections, than such causes as will direct him and give him light to
new experiences and inventions. And this did Celsus note wisely and
truly, how that the causes which are in use and whereof the
knowledges now received do consist, were in time minors and
subsequents to the knowledge of the particulars out of which they
were induced and collected; and that it was not the light of those
causes which discovered particulars, but only the particulars being
first found, men did fall on glossing and discoursing of the causes;
which is the reason why the learning that now is hath the curse of
barrenness, and is courtesanlike, for pleasure, and not for fruit.
Nay to compare it rightly, the strange fiction of the poets of the
transformation of Scylla seemeth to be a lively emblem of this
philosophy and knowledge; a fair woman upwards in the parts of show,
but when you come to the parts of use and generation, Barking
Monsters; for no better are the endless distorted questions, which
ever have been, and of necessity must be, the end and womb of such

But yet nevertheless here I may be mistaken, by reason of some which
have much in their pen the referring sciences to action and the use
of man, which mean quite another matter than I do. For they mean a
contriving of directions and precepts for readiness of practice,
which I discommend not, so it be not occasion that some quantity of
the science be lost; for else it will be such a piece of husbandry as
to put away a manor lying somewhat scattered, to buy in a close that
lieth handsomely about a dwelling. But my intention contrariwise is
to increase and multiply the revenues and possessions of man, and not
to trim up only or order with conveniency the grounds whereof he is
already stated. Wherefore the better to make myself understood that
I mean nothing less than words, and directly to demonstrate the point
which we are now upon, that is, what is the true end, scope, or
office of knowledge, which I have set down to consist not in any
plausible, delectable, reverend, or admired discourse, or any
satisfactory arguments, but in effecting and working, and in
discovery of particulars not revealed before for the better endowment
and help of man's life; I have thought good to make as it were a
Kalendar or Inventory of the wealth, furniture, or means of man
according to his present estate, as far as it is known; which I do
not to shew any universality of sense or knowledge, and much less to
make a satire of reprehension in respect of wants and errors, but
partly because cogitations new had need of some grossness and
inculcation to make them perceived; and chiefly to the end that for
the time to come (upon the account and state now made and cast up) it
may appear what increase this new manner of use and administration of
the stock (if it be once planted) shall bring with it hereafter; and
for the time present (in case I should be prevented by death to
propound and reveal this new light as I purpose) yet I may at the
least give some awaking note both of the wants in man's present
condition and the nature of the supplies to be wished; though for
mine own part neither do I much build upon my present anticipations,
neither do I think ourselves yet learned or wise enough to wish
reasonably: for as it asks some knowledge to demand a question not
impertinent, so it asketh some sense to make a wish not absurd.

CAP. 10.


The plainest method and most directly pertinent to this intention,
will be to make distribution of sciences, arts, inventions, works,
and their portions, according to the use and tribute which they yield
and render to the conditions of man's life, and under those several
uses, being as several offices of provisions, to charge and tax what
may be reasonably exacted or demanded; not guiding ourselves neither
by the poverty of experiences and probations, nor according to the
vanity of credulous imaginations; and then upon those charges and
taxations to distinguish and present, as it were in several columns,
what is extant and already found, and what is defective and further
to be provided. Of which provisions, because in many of them after
the manner of slothful and faulty officers and accomptants it will be
returned (by way of excuse) that no such are to be had, it will be
fit to give some light of the nature of the supplies, whereby it will
evidently appear that they are to be compassed and procured. And yet
nevertheless on the other side again it will be as fit to check and
control the vain and void assignations and gifts whereby certain
ignorant, extravagant, and abusing wits have pretended to indue the
state of man with wonders, differing as much from truth in nature as
Caesar's Commentaries differeth from the acts of King Arthur or Huon
of Bourdeaux in story. For it is true that Caesar did greater things
than those idle wits had the audacity to feign their supposed
worthies to have done; but he did them not in that monstrous and
fabulous manner.

CAP. 11.


It appeareth then what is now in proposition not by general
circumlocution but by particular note. No former philosophy varied
in terms or method; no new PLACET or speculation upon particulars
already known; no referring to action by any manual of practice; but
the revealing and discovering of new inventions and operations. This
to be done without the errors and conjectures of art, or the length
or difficulties of experience; the nature and kinds of which
inventions have been described as they could be discovered; for your
eye cannot pass one kenning without further sailing; only we have
stood upon the best advantages of the notions received, as upon a
mount, to shew the knowledges adjacent and confining. If therefore
the true end of knowledge not propounded hath bred large error, the
best and perfectest condition of the same end not perceived will
cause some declination. For when the butt is set up men need not
rove, but except the white be placed men cannot level. This
perfection we mean not in the worth of the effect, but in the nature
of the direction; for our purpose is not to stir up men's hopes, but
to guide their travels. The fullness of direction to work and
produce any effect consisteth in two conditions, certainty and
liberty. Certainty is when the direction is not only true for the
most part, but infallible. Liberty is when the direction is not
restrained to some definite means, but comprehendeth all the means
and ways possible; for the poet saith well SAPIENTIBUS UNDIQUE LATAE
SUNT VIAE, and where there is the greatest plurality of change, there
is the greatest singularity of choice. Besides as a conjectural
direction maketh a casual effect, so a particular and restrained
direction is no less casual than an uncertain. For those particular
means whereunto it is tied may be out of your power or may be
accompanied with an overvalue of prejudice; and so if for want of
certainty in direction you are frustrated in success, for want of
variety in direction you are stopped in attempt. If therefore your
direction be certain, it must refer you and point you to somewhat
which, if it be present, the effect you seek will of necessity follow,
else may you perform and not obtain. If it be free, then must it
refer you to somewhat which if it be absent the effect you seek will
of necessity withdraw, else may you have power and not attempt. This
notion Aristotle had in light, though not in use. For the two
commended rules by him set down, whereby the axioms of sciences are
precepted to be made convertible, and which the latter men have not
without elegancy surnamed the one the rule of truth because it
preventeth deceit, the other the rule of prudence because it freeth
election, are the same thing in speculation and affirmation which we
now observe. An example will make my meaning attained, and yet
percase make it thought that they attained it not. Let the effect to
be produced be Whiteness; let the first direction be that if air and
water be intermingled or broken in small portions together, whiteness
will ensue, as in snow, in the breaking of the waves of the sea and
rivers, and the like. This direction is certain, but very particular
and restrained, being tied but to air and water. Let the second
direction be, that if air be mingled as before with any transparent
body, such nevertheless as is uncoloured and more grossly transparent
than air itself, that then etc. as glass or crystal, being beaten to
fine powder, by the interposition of the air becometh white; the
white of an egg being clear of itself, receiving air by agitation
becometh white, receiving air by concoction becometh white; here you
are freed from water, and advanced to a clear body, and still tied to
air. Let the third direction exclude or remove the restraint of an
uncoloured body, as in amber, sapphires, etc. which beaten to fine
powder become white; in wine and beer, which brought to froth become
white. Let the fourth direction exclude the restraint of a body more
grossly transparent than air, as in flame, being a body compounded
between air and a finer substance than air; which flame if it were
not for the smoke, which is the third substance that incorporateth
itself and dyeth the flame, would be more perfect white. In all
these four directions air still beareth a part. Let the fifth
direction then be, that if any bodies, both transparent but in an
unequal degree, be mingled as before, whiteness will follow; as oil
and water beaten to an ointment, though by settling the air which
gathereth in the agitation be evaporate, yet remaineth white; and the
powder of glass or crystal put into water, whereby the air giveth
place, yet remaineth white, though not so perfect. Now are you freed
from air, but still you are tied to transparent bodies. To ascend
further by scale I do forbear, partly because it would draw on the
example to an over-great length, but chiefly because it would open
that which in this work I determine to reserve; for to pass through
the whole history and observation of colours and objects visible were
too long a digression; and our purpose is now to give an example of a
free direction, thereby to distinguish and describe it; and not to
set down a form of interpretation how to recover and attain it. But
as we intend not now to reveal, so we are circumspect not to mislead;
and therefore (this warning being given) returning to our purpose in
hand, we admit the sixth direction to be, that all bodies or parts of
bodies which are unequal equally, that is in a simple proportion, do
represent whiteness; we will explain this, though we induce it not.
It is then to be understood, that absolute equality produceth
transparence, inequality in simple order or proportion produceth
whiteness, inequality in compound or respective order or proportion
produceth all other colours, and absolute or orderless inequality
produceth blackness; which diversity, if so gross a demonstration be
needful, may be signified by four tables; a blank, a chequer, a fret,
and a medley; whereof the fret is evident to admit great variety.
Out of this assertion are satisfied a multitude of effects and
observations, as that whiteness and blackness are most incompatible
with transparence; that whiteness keepeth light, and blackness
stoppeth light, but neither passeth it; that whiteness or blackness
are never produced in rainbows, diamonds, crystals, and the like;
that white giveth no dye, and black hardly taketh dye; that whiteness
seemeth to have an affinity with dryness, and blackness with moisture;
that adustion causeth blackness, and calcination whiteness; that
flowers are generally of fresh colours, and rarely black, etc. All
which I do now mention confusedly by way of derivation and not by way
of induction. This sixth direction, which I have thus explained, is
of good and competent liberty for whiteness fixed and inherent, but
not for whiteness fantastical or appearing, as shall be afterwards
touched. But first do you need a reduction back to certainty or
verity; for it is not all position or contexture of unequal bodies
that will produce colour; for AQUA FORTIS, oil of VITRIOL, etc. more
manifestly, and many other substances more obscurely, do consist of
very unequal parts, which yet are transparent and clear. Therefore
the reduction must be, that the bodies or parts of bodies so
intermingled as before be of a certain grossness or magnitude; for
the unequalities which move the sight must have a further dimension
and quantity than those which operate many other effects. Some few
grains of saffron will give a tincture to a tun of water; but so many
grains of civet will give a perfume to a whole chamber of air. And
therefore when Democritus (from whom Epicurus did borrow it) held
that the position of the solid portions was the cause of colours, yet
in the very truth of his assertion he should have added, that the
portions are required to be of some magnitude. And this is one cause
why colours have little inwardness and necessitude with the nature
and proprieties of things, those things resembling in colour which
otherwise differ most, as salt and sugar, and contrariwise differing
in colour which otherwise resemble most, as the white and blue
violets, and the several veins of one agate or marble, by reason that
other virtues consist in more subtile proportions than colours do;
and yet are there virtues and natures which require a grosser
magnitude than colours, as well as scents and divers other require a
more subtile; for as the portion of a body will give forth scent
which is too small to be seen, so the portion of a body will shew
colours which is too small to be endued with weight; and therefore
one of the prophets with great elegancy describing how all creatures
carry no proportion towards God the creator, saith, THAT ALL THE
is a thing appeareth but weigheth not. But to return, there resteth
a further freeing of this sixth direction; for the clearness of a
river or stream sheweth white at a distance, and crystalline glasses
deliver the face or any other object falsified in whiteness, and long
beholding the snow to a weak eye giveth an impression of azure rather
than of whiteness. So as for whiteness in apparition only and
representation by the qualifying of the light, altering the
INTERMEDIUM, or affecting the eye itself, it reacheth not. But you
must free your direction to the producing of such an incidence,
impression, or operation, as may cause a precise and determinate
passion of the eye; a matter which is much more easy to induce than
that which we have passed through; but yet because it hath a full
coherence both with that act of radiation (which hath hitherto been
conceived and termed so unproperly and untruly by some an effluxion
of spiritual species and by others an investing of the INTERMEDIUM
with a motion which successively is conveyed to the eye) and with the
act of sense, wherein I should likewise open that which I think good
to withdraw, I will omit. Neither do I contend but that this motion
which I call the freeing of a direction, in the received philosophies
(as far as a swimming anticipation could take hold) might be
perceived and discerned; being not much other matter than that which
they did not only aim at in the two rules of AXIOMS before remembered,
but more nearly also in that which they term the form or formal
cause, or that which they call the true difference; both which
nevertheless it seemeth they propound rather as impossibilities and
wishes than as things within the compass of human comprehension. For
Plato casteth his burden and saith THAT HE WILL REVERE HIM AS A GOD,
THAT CAN TRULY DIVIDE AND DEFINE; which cannot be but by true forms
and differences. Wherein I join hands with him, confessing as much
as yet assuming to myself little; for if any man call by the strength
of his ANTICIPATIONS find out forms, I will magnify him with the
foremost. But as any of them would say that if divers things which
many men know by instruction and observation another knew by
revelation and without those means, they would take him for somewhat
supernatural and divine; so I do acknowledge that if any man can by
anticipations reach to that which a weak and inferior wit may attain
to by interpretation, he cannot receive too high a title. Nay I for
my part do indeed admire to see how far some of them have proceeded
by their ANTICIPATIONS; but how? It is as I wonder at some blind men,
to see what shift they make without their eye-sight; thinking with
myself that if I were blind I could hardly do it. Again Aristotle's
school confesseth that there is no true knowledge but by causes, no
true cause but the form, no true form known except one, which they
are pleased to allow; and therefore thus far their evidence standeth
with us, that both hitherto there hath been nothing but a shadow of
knowledge, and that we propound now that which is agreed to be
worthiest to be sought, and hardest to be found. There wanteth now a
part very necessary, not by way of supply but by way of caution; for
as it is seen for the most part that the outward tokens and badges of
excellency and perfection are more incident to things merely
counterfeit than to that which is true, but for a meaner and baser
sort; as a dubline is more like a perfect ruby than a spinel, and a
counterfeit angel is made more like a true angel than if it were an
angel coined of China gold; in like manner the direction carrieth a
resemblance of a true direction in verity and liberty which indeed is
no direction at all. For though your direction seem to be certain
and free by pointing you to a nature that is unseparable from the
nature you inquire upon, yet if it do not carry you on a degree or
remove nearer to action, operation, or light to make or produce, it
is but superficial and counterfeit. Wherefore to secure and warrant
what is a true direction, though that general note I have given be
perspicuous in itself (for a man shall soon cast with himself whether
he be ever the nearer to effect and operate or no, or whether he have
won but an abstract or varied notion) yet for better instruction I
will deliver three particular notes of caution. The first is that
the nature discovered be more original than the nature supposed, and
not more secondary or of the like degree; as to make a stone bright
or to make it smooth it is a good direction to say, make it even; but
to make a stone even it is no good direction to say, make it bright
or make it smooth; for the rule is that the disposition of any thing
referring to the state of it in itself or the parts, is more original
than that which is relative or transitive towards another thing. So
evenness is the disposition of the stone in itself, but smooth is to
the hand and bright to the eye, and yet nevertheless they all cluster
and concur; and yet the direction is more unperfect, if it do appoint
you to such a relative as is in the same kind and not in a diverse.
For in the direction to produce brightness by smoothness, although
properly it win no degree, and will never teach you any new
particulars before unknown; yet by way of suggestion or bringing to
mind it may draw your consideration to some particulars known but not
remembered; as you shall sooner remember some practical means of
making smoothness, than if you had fixed your consideration only upon
brightness by making reflexion, as thus, make it such as you may see
your face in it, this is merely secondary, and helpeth neither by way
of informing nor by way of suggestion. So if in the inquiry of
whiteness you were directed to make such a colour as should be seen
furthest in a dark light; here you are advanced nothing at all. For
these kinds of natures are but proprieties, effects, circumstances,
concurrences, or what else you shall like to call them, and not
radical and formative natures towards the nature supposed. The
second caution is that the nature inquired be collected by division
before composition, or to speak more properly, by composition
subaltern before you ascend to composition absolute, etc.


The opinion of Epicurus that the gods were of human shape, was rather
justly derided than seriously confuted by the other sects, demanding
whether every kind of sensible creatures did not think their own
figure fairest, as the horse, the bull, and the like, which found no
beauty but in their own forms, as in appetite of lust appeared. And
the heresy of the Anthropomorphites was ever censured for a gross
conceit bred in the obscure cells of solitary monks that never looked
abroad. Again the fable so well known of QUIS PINXIT LEONEM, doth
set forth well that there is an error of pride and partiality, as
well as of custom and familiarity. The reflexion also from glasses
so usually resembled to the imagery of the mind, every man knoweth to
receive error and variety both in colour, magnitude, and shape,
according to the quality of the glass. But yet no use hath been made
of these and many the like observations, to move men to search out
and upon search to give true cautions of the native and inherent
errors in the mind of man which have coloured and corrupted all his
notions and impressions.

I do find therefore in this enchanted glass four Idols or false
appearances of several and distinct sorts, every sort comprehending
many subdivisions: the first sort, I call idols of the NATION or
TRIBE; the second, idols of the PALACE; the third, idols of the CAVE;
and the fourth, idols of the THEATRE, etc.


CAP. 12.

That in deciding and determining of the truth of knowledge, men have
put themselves upon trials not competent. That antiquity and
authority; common and confessed notions; the natural and yielding
consent of the mind; the harmony and coherence of a knowledge in
itself; the establishing of principles with the touch and reduction
of other propositions unto them; inductions without instances
contradictory; and the report of the senses; are none of them
absolute and infallible evidence of truth, and bring no security
sufficient for effects and operations. That the discovery of new
works and active directions not known before, is the only trial to be
accepted of; and yet not that neither, in ease where one particular
giveth light to another; but where particulars induce an axiom or
observation, which axiom found out discovereth and designeth new
particulars. That the nature of this trial is not only upon the
point, whether the knowledge be profitable or no, but even upon the
point whether the knowledge be true or no; not because you may always
conclude that the Axiom which discovereth new instances is true, but
contrariwise you may safely conclude that if it discover not any new
instance it is in vain and untrue. That by new instances are not
always to be understood new recipes but new assignations, and of the
diversity between these two. That the subtilty of words, arguments,
notions, yea of the senses themselves, is but rude and gross in
comparison of the subtilty of things; and of the slothful and
flattering opinions of those which pretend to honour the mind of man
in withdrawing and abstracting it from particulars, and of the
inducements and motives whereupon such opinions have been conceived
and received.

CAP. 13.

Of the error in propounding chiefly the search of causes and
productions of things concrete, which are infinite and transitory,
and not of abstract natures, which are few and permanent. That these
natures are as the alphabet or simple letters, whereof the variety of
things consisteth; or as the colours mingled in the painter's shell,
wherewith he is able to make infinite variety of faces or shapes. An
enumeration of them according to popular note. That at the first one
would conceive that in the schools by natural philosophy were meant
the knowledge of the efficients of things concrete; and by metaphysic
the knowledge of the forms of natures simple; which is a good and fit
division of knowledge: but upon examination there is no such matter
by them intended. That the little inquiry into the production of
simple natures sheweth well that works were not sought; because by
the former knowledge some small and superficial deflexions from the
ordinary generations and productions may be found out, but the
discovery of all profound and radical alteration must arise out of
the latter knowledge.

CAP. 14.

Of the error in propounding the search of the materials or dead
beginnings or principles of things, and not the nature of motions,
inclinations, and applications. That the whole scope of the former
search is impertinent and vain; both because there are no such
beginnings, and if there were they could not be known. That the
latter manner of search (which is all) they pass over compendiously
and slightly as a by-matter. That the several conceits in that kind,
as that the lively and moving beginnings of things should be shift or
appetite of matter to privation; the spirit of the world working in
matter according to platform; the proceeding or fructifying of
distinct kinds according to their proprieties; the intercourse of the
elements by mediation of their common qualities; the appetite of like
portions to unite themselves; amity and discord, or sympathy and
antipathy; motion to the centre, with motion of stripe or press; the
casual agitation, aggregation, and essays of the solid portions in
the void space; motion of shuttings and openings; are all mere
nugations; and that the calculating and ordination of the true
degrees, moments, limits, and laws of motions and alterations (by
means whereof all works and effects are produced), is a matter of a
far other nature than to consist in such easy and wild generalities.

CAP. 15.

Of the great error of inquiring knowledge in Anticipations. That I
call Anticipations the voluntary collections that the mind maketh of
knowledge; which is every man's reason. That though this be a solemn
thing, and serves the turn to negotiate between man and man (because
of the conformity and participation of men's minds in the like
errors), yet towards inquiry of the truth of things and works it is
of no value. That civil respects are a lett that this pretended
reason should not be so contemptibly spoken of as were fit and
medicinable, in regard that hath been too much exalted and glorified,
to the infinite detriment of man's estate. Of the nature of words
and their facility and aptness to cover and grace the defects of
Anticipations. That it is no marvel if these Anticipations have
brought forth such diversity and repugnance in opinions, theories, or
philosophies, as so many fables of several arguments. That had not
the nature of civil customs and government been in most times
somewhat adverse to such innovations, though contemplative, there
might have been and would have been many more. That the second
school of the Academics and the sect of Pyrrho, or the considerers
that denied comprehension, as to the disabling of man's knowledge
(entertained in Anticipations) is well to be allowed, but that they
ought when they had overthrown and purged the floor of the ruins to
have sought to build better in place. And more especially that they
did unjustly and prejudicially to charge the deceit upon the report
of the senses, which admitteth very sparing remedy; being indeed to
have been charged upon the Anticipations of the mind, which admitteth
a perfect remedy. That the information of the senses is sufficient,
not because they err not, but because the use of the sense in
discovering of knowledge is for the most part not immediate. So that
it is the work, effect, or instance, that trieth the Axiom, and the
sense doth but try the work done or not done, being or not being.
That the mind of man in collecting knowledge needeth great variety of
helps, as well as the hand of man in manual and mechanical practices
needeth great variety of instruments. And that it were a poor work
that if instruments were removed men would overcome with their naked
hands. And of the distinct points of want and insufficiency in the
mind of man.

CAP. 16.

That the mind of a man, as it is not a vessel of that content or
receipt to comprehend knowledge without helps and supplies, so again
it is not sincere, but of an ill and corrupt tincture. Of the
inherent and profound errors and superstitions in the nature of the
mind, and of the four sorts of Idols or false appearances that offer
themselves to the understanding in the inquisition of knowledge; that
is to say, the Idols of the Tribe, the Idols of the Palace, the Idols
of the Cave, and the Idols of the Theatre. That these four, added to
the incapacity of the mind and the vanity and malignity of the
affections, leave nothing but impotency and confusion. A recital of
the particular kinds of these four Idols, with some chosen examples
of the opinions they have begot, such of them as have supplanted the
state of knowledge most.

CAP. 17.

Of the errors of such as have descended and applied themselves to
experience, and attempted to induce knowledge upon particulars. That
they have not had the resolution and strength of mind to free
themselves wholly from Anticipations, but have made a confusion and
intermixture of Anticipations and observations, and so vanished.
That if any have had the strength of mind generally to purge away and
discharge all Anticipations, they have not had that greater and
double strength and patience of mind, as well to repel new
Anticipations after the view and search of particulars, as to reject
old which were in their mind before; but have from particulars and
history flown up to principles without the mean degrees, and so
framed all the middle generalities or axioms, not by way of scale or
ascension from particulars, but by way of derivation from principles;
whence hath issued the infinite chaos of shadows and notions,
wherewith both books and minds have been hitherto, and may be yet
hereafter much more pestered. That in the course of those
derivations, to make them yet the more unprofitable, they have used
when any light of new instance opposite to any assertion appeared,
rather to reconcile the instance than to amend the rule. That if any
have had or shall have the power and resolution to fortify and
inclose his mind against all Anticipations, yet if he have not been
or shall not be cautioned by the full understanding of the nature of
the mind and spirit of man, and therein of the seats, pores and
passages both of knowledge and error, he hath not been nor shall not
be possibly able to guide or keep on his course aright. That those
that have been conversant in experience and observation have used,
when they have intended to discover the cause of any effect, to fix
their consideration narrowly and exactly upon that effect itself with
all the circumstances thereof, and to vary the trial thereof as many
ways as can be devised; which course amounteth but to a tedious
curiosity, and ever breaketh off in wondering and not in knowing; and
that they have not used to enlarge their observation to match and
sort that effect with instances of a diverse subject, which must of
necessity be before any cause be found out. That they have passed
over the observation of instances vulgar and ignoble, and stayed
their attention chiefly upon instances of mark; whereas the other
sort are for the most part more significant and of better height and
information. That every particular that worketh any effect is a
thing compounded (more or less) of diverse single natures, (more
manifest and more obscure,) and that it appeareth not to whether of
the natures the effect is to be ascribed, and yet notwithstanding
they have taken a course without breaking particulars and reducing
them by exclusions and inclusions to a definite point, to conclude
upon inductions in gross, which empirical course is no less vain than
the scholastical. That all such as have sought action and work out
of their inquiry have been hasty and pressing to discover some
practices for present use, and not to discover Axioms, joining with
them the new assignations as their sureties. That the forerunning of
the mind to frame recipes upon Axioms at the entrance, is like
Atalanta's golden ball that hindereth and interrupteth the course,
and is to be inhibited till you have ascended to a certain stage and
degree of generalities; which forbearance will be liberally
recompensed in the end; and that chance discovereth new inventions by
one and one, but science by knots and clusters. That they have not
collected sufficient quantity of particulars, nor them in sufficient
certainty and subtilty, nor of all several kinds, nor with those
advantages and discretions in the entry and sorting which are
requisite; and of the weak manner of collecting natural history which
hath been used. Lastly that they had no knowledge of the formulary
of interpretation, the work whereof is to abridge experience and to
make things as certainly found out by Axiom in short time, as by
infinite experiences in ages.

CAP. 18.

That the cautels and devices put in practice in the delivery of
knowledge for the covering and palliating of ignorance, and the
gracing and overvaluing of that they utter, are without number; but
none more bold and more hurtful than two; the one that men have used
of a few observations upon any subject to make a solemn and formal
art, by filling it up with discourse, accommodating it with some
circumstances and directions to practice, and digesting it into
method, whereby men grow satisfied and secure, as if no more inquiry
were to be made of that matter; the other, that men have used to
discharge ignorance with credit, in defining all those effects which
they cannot attain unto to be out of the compass of art and human
endeavour. That the very styles and forms of utterance are so many
characters of imposture, some choosing a style of pugnacity and
contention, some of satire and reprehension, some of plausible and
tempting similitudes and examples, some of great words and high
discourse, some of short and dark sentences, some of exactness of
method, all of positive affirmation, without disclosing the true
motives and proofs of their opinions, or free confessing their
ignorance or doubts, except it be now and then for a grace, and in
cunning to win the more credit in the rest, and not in good faith.
That although men be free from these errors and incumbrances in the
will and affection, yet it is not a thing so easy as is conceived to
convey the conceit of one man's mind into the mind of another without
loss or mistaking, specially in notions new and differing from those
that are received. That never any knowledge was delivered in the
same order it was invented, no not in the mathematic, though it
should seem otherwise in regard that the propositions placed last do
use the propositions or grants placed first for their proof and
demonstration. That there are forms and methods of tradition wholly
distinct and differing, according to their ends whereto they are
directed. That there are two ends of tradition of knowledge, the one
to teach and instruct for use and practice, the other to impart or
intimate for re-examination and progression. That the former of
these ends requireth a method not the same whereby it was invented
and induced, but such as is most compendious and ready whereby it may
be used and applied. That the latter of the ends, which is where a
knowledge is delivered to be continued and spun on by a succession of
labours, requireth a method whereby it may be transposed to another
in the same manner as it was collected, to the end it may be
discerned both where the work is weak, and where it breaketh off.
That this latter method is not only unfit for the former end, but
also impossible for all knowledge gathered and insinuated by
Anticipations, because the mind working inwardly of itself, no man
can give a just account how he came to that knowledge which he hath
received, and that therefore this method is peculiar for knowledge
gathered by interpretation. That the discretion anciently observed,
though by the precedent of many vain persons and deceivers disgraced,
of publishing part, and reserving part to a private succession, and
of publishing in a manner whereby it shall not be to the capacity nor
taste of all, but shall as it were single and adopt his reader, is
not to be laid aside, both for the avoiding of abuse in the excluded,
and the stregthening of affection in the admitted. That there are
other virtues of tradition, as that there be no occasion given to
error, and that it carry a vigour to root and spread against the
vanity of wits and injuries of time; all which if they were ever due
to any knowledge delivered, or if they were never due to any human
knowledge heretofore delivered, yet are now due to the knowledge

CAP. 19.

Of the impediments which have been in the affections, the principle
whereof hath been despair or diffidence, and the strong apprehension
of the difficulty, obscurity, and infiniteness which belongeth to the
invention of knowledge, and that men have not known their own
strength, and that the supposed difficulties and vastness of the work
is rather in shew and muster than in state or substance where the
true way is taken. That this diffidence hath moved and caused some
never to enter into search, and others when they have been entered
either to give over or to seek a more compendious course than can
stand with the nature of true search. That of those that have
refused and prejudged inquiry, the more sober and grave sort of wits
have depended upon authors and traditions, and the more vain and
credulous resorted to revelation and intelligence with spirits and
higher natures. That of those that have entered into search, some
having fallen upon some conceits which they after consider to be the
same which they have found in former authors, have suddenly taken a
persuasion that a man shall but with much labour incur and light upon
the same inventions which he might with ease receive from others; and
that it is but a vanity and self-pleasing of the wit to go about
again, as one that would rather have a flower of his own gathering,
than much better gathered to his hand. That the same humour of sloth
and diffidence suggesteth that a man shall but revive some ancient
opinion, which was long ago propounded, examined, and rejected. And
that it is easy to err in conceit that a man's observation or notion
is the same with a former opinion, both because new conceits must of
necessity be uttered in old words, and because upon true and
erroneous grounds men may meet in consequence or conclusion, as
several lines or circles that cut in some one point. That the
greatest part of those that have descended into search have chosen
for the most artificial and compendious course to induce principles
out of particulars, and to reduce all other propositions unto
principles; and so instead of the nearest way, have been led to no
way or a mere labyrinth. That the two contemplative ways have some
resemblance with the old parable of the two moral ways, the one
beginning with incertainty and difficulty, and ending in plainness
and certainty, and the other beginning with shew of plainness and
certainty, and ending in difficulty and incertainty. Of the great
and manifest error and untrue conceit or estimation of the
infiniteness of particulars, whereas indeed all prolixity is in
discourse and derivations; and of the infinite and most laborious
expense of wit that hath been employed upon toys and matters of no
fruit or value. That although the period of one age cannot advance
men to the furthest point of interpretation of nature, (except the
work should be undertaken with greater helps than can be expected),
yet it cannot fail in much less space of time to make return of many
singular commodities towards the state and occasions of man's life.
That there is less reason of distrust in the course of interpretation
now propounded than in any knowledge formerly delivered, because this
course doth in sort equal men's wits, and leaveth no great advantage
or preeminence to the perfect and excellent motions of the spirit.
That to draw a straight line or to make a circle perfect round by aim
of hand only, there must be a great difference between an unsteady
and unpractised hand and a steady and practised, but to do it by rule
or compass it is much alike.

CAP. 21.

Of the impediments which have been in the two extreme humours of
admiration of antiquity and love of novelty, and again of
over-servile reverence or over-light scorn of the opinions of others.

CAP. 22.

Of the impediments which have been in the affection of pride,
specially of one kind, which is the disdain of dwelling and being
conversant much in experiences and particulars, specially such as are
vulgar in occurrency, and base and ignoble in use. That besides
certain higher mysteries of pride, generalities seem to have a
dignity and solemnity, in that they do not put men in mind of their
familiar actions, in that they have less affinity with arts
mechanical and illiberal, in that they are not so subject to be
controlled by persons of mean observation, in that they seem to teach
men that they know not, and not to refer them to that they know. All
which conditions directly feeding the humour of pride, particulars do
want. That the majesty of generalities, and the divine nature of the
mind in taking them (if they be truly collected, and be indeed the
direct reflexions of things,) cannot be too much magnified. And that
it is true that interpretation is the very natural and direct
intention, action, and progression of the understanding delivered
from impediments. And that all Anticipation is but a deflexion or
declination by accident.

CAP. 25.

Of the impediments which have been in the state of heathen religion
and other superstitions and errors of religion. And that in the true
religion there hath not nor is any impediment, except it be by
accident or intermixture of humour. That a religion which consisteth
in rites and forms of adoration, and not in confessions and beliefs,
is adverse to knowledge; because men having liberty to inquire and
discourse of Theology at pleasure, it cometh to pass that all
inquisition of nature endeth and limiteth itself in such metaphysical
or theological discourse; whereas if men's wits be shut out of that
port, it turneth them again to discover, and so to seek reason of
reason more deeply. And that such was the religion of the Heathen.
That a religion that is jealous of the variety of learning, discourse,
opinions, and sects, (as misdoubting it may shake the foundations,)
or that cherisheth devotion upon simplicity and ignorance, as
ascribing ordinary effects to the immediate working of God, is
adverse to knowledge. That such is the religion of the Turk, and
such hath been the abuse of Christian religion at some several times,
and in some several factions. And of the singular advantage which
the Christian religion hath towards the furtherance of true knowledge,
in that it excludeth and interdicteth human reason, whether by
interpretation or anticipation, from examining or discussing of the
mysteries and principles of faith.

CAP. 26.

Of the impediments which have been in the nature of society and the
policies of state. That there is no composition of estate or society,
nor order or quality of persons, which have not some point of
contrariety towards true knowledge. That monarchies incline wits to
profit and pleasure, and commonwealths to glory and vanity. That
universities incline wits to sophistry and affectation, cloisters to
fables and unprofitable subtilty, study at large to variety; and that
it is hard to say, whether mixture of contemplations with an active
life, or retiring wholly to contemplations, do disable and hinder the
mind more.

(Back Cover.)

Line 1: see commentary
Line 2: libri dimidium est, pagina 34
Line 3: pagellarum numeri veri

Writing on the Back Cover of VALERIUS TERMINUS

The writing in the original is on the outside of the last leaf, which
is in fact the cover. The front cover, if there ever was one, is
lost. The ink with which the line containing the symbols is written
corresponds with that in the body of the manuscript; and the line
itself is placed symmetrically in the middle of the page, near the
top. The two lower lines are apparently by another hand, probably of
later date, certainly in ink of a different colour, and paler. The
word "Philosophy" is in Bacon's own hand, written lightly in the
upper corner at the left, and is no doubt merely a docket inserted
afterwards when he was sorting his papers. What connexion there was
between the note and the manuscript it is impossible to say. But it
is evidently a careful memorandum of something, set down by somebody
when the manuscript was at hand; and so many of the characters
resemble those adopted to represent the planets and the signs of the
zodiac, that one is led to suspect in it a note of the positions of
the heavenly bodies at the time of some remarkable accident;--perhaps
the plague, of which 30,578 persons died in London, during the year
ending 22nd December, 1603. The period of the commencement, the
duration, or the cessation of such an epidemic might naturally be so

Now three of the characters clearly represent respectively Mercury,
Aquarius, and Sagittarius. The sign for Jupiter, as we find it in
old books, is so like a 4, that the first figure of 45 may very well
have been meant for it. The monogram at the beginning of the line
bears a near resemblance to the sign of Capricorn in its most
characteristic feature. And the mark over the sign of Aquarius
appears to be an abbreviation of that which usually represents the
Sun. (The blot between 1603 and B is nothing; being only meant to
represent a figure 6 blotted out with the finger before the ink was
dry.) Suspecting therefore that the writing contained a note of the
positions of Mercury and Jupiter in the year 1603, I sent a copy to a
scientific friend and asked him if from such data he could determine
the month indicated. He found upon a rough calculation (taking
account of mean motions only) that Jupiter did enter the sign of
Sagittarius about the 10th of August, 1603, and continued there for
about a twelvemonth; that the Sun entered Aquarius about the 12th or
13th of January, 1603-4; and that Mercury was about the 16th or 17th
of the same month in the 26th or 27th degree of Capricorn:
--coincidences which would have been almost conclusive as to the date
indicated, if Capricorn had only stood where Aquarius does, and vice
versa. But their position as they actually stood in the manuscript
is a formidable, if not fatal, objection to the interpretation.

According to another opinion with which I have been favoured, the
first monogram is a NOTA BENE; the next group may mean DIES MERCURII
(Wednesday) 26TH JANUARY, 1603; and the rest refers to something not
connected with astronomy. But to this also there is a serious
objection. The 26th of January, 1603-4, was a Friday, and it seems
to me very improbable that any Englishman would have described the
preceding January as belonging to the year 1603. Bacon himself
invariably dated according to the civil year, and the occasional use
of the historical year in loose memoranda would have involved all his
dates in confusion. I should think it more probable that the writer
(who may have been copying a kind of notation with which he was not
familiar) miscopied the sign of Venus into that of Mercury; in which
case it would mean Friday, 26th January, 1603-4. But even then the
explanation would he unsatisfactory, as leaving so much unexplained.
Those however who are familiar with old manuscripts relating to such
subjects may probably be able to interpret the whole.

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