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and not only respective to divinity, but extensive to nil knowledge: "Devita profanas vocum novitates, et oppositiones falsi nominis scientiae." For he assigneth two marks and badges of suspected and falsified science: the one, the novelty and strangeness of terms; the other, the strictness of positions, which of necessity doth induce oppositions, and so questions and altercations. Surely, like as many substances in nature which are solid, do putrify and corrupt into worms; so it is the propriety of good and sound knowledge, to putrify and dissolve into a number of subtle, idle, unwholesome, and, as I may term them, vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness, and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter, or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly reign amongst the schoolmen, who, having sharp and strong wits, and abundance of leisure, and small variety of reading; but their wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors, chiefly Aristotle their dictator, as their persons were shut up in the cells of monasteries and colleges, and knowing little history, either of nature or time, did, out of no great quantity of matter, and infinite agitation of wit, spin out unto us those laborious webs of learning, which are extant in their books. For the wit and mind of man, if it work upon matter, which is the contemplation of the creatures of God, workcth according to the stufT, and is limited thereby; but if it work npon itself, as the spider worketh his web, then it is endless, and brings forth indeed cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit.
This same unprofitable subtiliry or curiosity is of two sorts: either in the subject itself that they handle, when it is fruitless speculation, or controversy, whereof there are no small number both in divinity and philosophy; or in the manner or method of handling of a knowledge, which amongst them was this; upon every particular position or assertion to frame objections, and to those objections, solutions; which solutions were for the most part not confutations, but distinctions: whereas indeed the strength of all sciences is, as the strength of the old man's faggot, in the band. For the harmony of a science, supporting each part the other, is and ought to be the true and brief confutation and suppression of all the smaller sort of objections. But, on the other side, if you take out every axiom, as the sticks of the faggot, one by one, you may quarrel with them, and bend them, and break them at your pleasure: so that, as was said of Seneca, " Verborum minutiis rerum frangit pondera:" so a man may truly say of the schoolmen, "Quiestionum minutiis scientiarum frangunt soliditatem." For were it not better for a man in a fair room, to set up one great light, or branching candlestick of lights, than to go about with a small watch candle into every corner? And such is their method, that rests not so much upon evidence of truth proved by arguments, authorities, similitudes, examples, as upon particular confutations and solutions of every scruple, cavillation, and objection; breeding for the most part one question, as fast as it solveth another; even as in the former
resemblance, when you carry the light into one corner, you darken the rest: so that the fable and fiction of Scylla seemeth to be a lively image of this kind of philosophy or knowledge, which was transformed into a comely virgin for the upper parts; but then, " Candida succinctam latrantibus inguina monstris:" so the generalities of the schoolmen are for awhile good and proportionable ; but then, when you descend into their distinctions and decisions, instead of a fruitful womb, for the use and benefit of man's life, they end in monstrous altercations, and barking questions. So as it is not possible but this quality of knowledge must fall under popular contempt, the people being apt to contemn truth upon occasion of controversies and altercations, and to think they are all out of their way which never meet: and when they see such digladiation about subtilties, and matters of no use or moment, they easily fall upon that judgment of Dionysius of Syracuse, " Verba ista sunt senum otiosorum."
Notwithstanding, certain it is, that if those schoolmen, to their great thirst of truth, and unwearied travail of wit, had joined variety and universality of reading and contemplation, they had proved excellent lights, to the great advancement of all learning and knowledge; but as they are, they are great undertakers indeed, and fierce with dark keeping. But as in the inquiry of the divine truth, their pride inclined to leave the oracle of God's word, and to vanish in the mixture of their own inventions; so in the inquisition of nature, they ever left the oracle of God's works, and adored the deceiving and deformed imnges, which the unequal mirror of their own minds, or a few received authors or principles, did represent unto them. And thus much for the second disease of learning.
For the third vice or disease of learning, which concerneth deceit or untruth, it is of all the rest the foulest; as that which dolh destroy the essential form of knowledge, which is nothing but a representation of truth; for the truth of being and the truth of knowing are one, differing no more than the direct beam and the beam reflected. This vice therefore brancheth itself into two sorts; delight in deceiving, and aptness to be deceived; imposture and credulity; which, although they appear to be of a diverse nature, the one seeming to proceed of cunning, and the other of simplicity; yet certainly they do for the most part concur: for, as the verse noteth,
"Percontatorem fugito, nam garrulus idem est:"
an inquisitive man is a prattler: so upon the like reason, a credulous man is a deceiver: as we see it in fame, that he that will easily believe rumours, will as easily augment rumours, and add somewhat to them of his own; which Tacitus wisely noteth, when he saith, " Fingunt simul creduntque:" so great an affinity hath fiction and belief.
This facility of credit, and accepting or admitting things weakly authorized or warranted, is of two kinds, according to the subject: for it is either a belief of history, or, as the lawyers speak, matter of fact; or else of matter of art and opinion. As to tne former, we see the experience and inconvenience of this error in ecclesiastical history, which hath too easily received and registered reports and narrations of miracles wrought by martyrs, hermits, or monks of the desert, and other holy men, and their relics, shrines, chapels, and images: which though they had a passage for a time, by the ignorance of the people, the superstitious simplicity of some, and the politic toleration of others, holding them but ns Dirine poesies; yet after a period of time, when the mist began to clear up, they grew to be esteemed but as old wives' fables, impostures of the clergy, illusions of spirits, and badges of antichrist, to the great scandal and detriment of religion.
So in natural history, we see there hath not been that choice and judgment used as ought to have been, as may appear in the writings of Plinius, Cardancs, Albertus, and divers of the Arabians, being fraught with much fabulous matter, a great part not only untried, but notoriously untrue, to the great derogation of the credit of natural philosophy with the grave and sober kind of wits: wherein the »isdom and integrity of Aristotle is worthy to be observed, that, having made so diligent and exquisite a-history of living creatures, hath mingled it sparingly with any vain or feigned matter; and yet, on the other side, hath cast all prodigious narrations, which he thought worthy the recording, into one book: excellently discerning that matter of manifest truth, such whereupon observation and rule were to be built, was not to be mingled or weakened with matter of doubtful credit; and yet again that rarities and reports, that seem incredible, are not to be suppressed or denied to the memory of men.
And as for the facility of credit which is yielded Warts and opinions, it is likewise of two kinds; either when too much belief is attributed to the arts themselves, or to certain authors in any art. The scinnces themselves, which have had better intelligence and confederacy with the imagination of man, than with his reason, are three in number: astrology, natural magic, and alchemy; of which sciences, nevertheless, the ends or pretences are noble. For ■astrology pretendeth to discover that correspondence, or concatenation, which is between the superior globe and the inferior: natural magic pretendeth lo call and reduce natural philosophy from variety of speculations to the magnitude of works: and alchemy pretendeth to make separation of all the unlike parts of bodies, which in mixtures of nature are incorporate. But the derivations and prosecutions to these ends, both in the theories and in the practices, are full of error and vanity; which the great professors themselves have sought to veil over and conceal by enigmatical writings, and referring themselves to auricular traditions and such other Offices, to save the credit of impostors: and yet surely to alchemy this right is due, that it may be eompared to the husbandman whereof /Esop makes the fable; that, when he died, told his sons, that lie had left unto them gold buried under-ground in his vineyard; and they digged over all the ground, and gold they found none; but by reason of their stirring and digging the mould about the roots of
their vines, they had a great vintage the year following: so assuredly the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as well for the disclosing of nature, as for the use of man's life.
And as for the overmuch credit that hath been given unto authors in sciences, in making them dictators, that their words should stand, and not consuls, to give advice; the damage is infinite that sciences have received thereby, as the principal cause that hath kept them low, at a stay, without growtn or advancement. For hence it hath come, that in arts mechanical, the first deviser comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth; but in science, the first author goeth farthest, and time loseth and corrupteth. So we see, artillery, sailing, printing, and the like, were grossly managed at the first, and by time accommodated and refined: but contrariwise the philosophies and sciences of Aristotle, Plato, Democritus, Hippocrates, Euclides, Archimedes, of most vigour at the first, and by time degenerate and embased; whereof the reason is no other, but that in the former many wits and industries have contributed in one; and in the latter many wits and industries have been spent about the wit of some one, whom many times they have rather depraved than illustrated. For ns water will not ascend higher than the level of the first spring-head from whence it descendeth, so knowledge derived from Aristotle, and exempted from liberty of examination, will not rise again higher than the knowledge of Aristotle. And therefore, although the position be good, " Oportet discentem credere;" yet it must be coupled with this, " Oportet edoctum judicare:" for disciples do owe unto masters only a temporary belief, and a suspension of their own judgment till they be fully instructed, and not an absolute resignation, or perpetual captivity: and therefore, to conclude this point, I will say no more; but so let great authors have their'due, as time, which is the author of authors, be not deprived of his due, which is, farther and farther to discover truth. Thus I have gone over these three diseases of learning; besides the which, there are some other rather peccant humours than formed diseases, which nevertheless are not so secret and intrinsic, but that they fall under a popular observation and traducement, and therefore are not to be passed over.
The first of these is the extreme affecting of two extremities; the one antiquity, the other novelty; wherein it seemeth the children of time do take after the nature and malice of the father. For as he devoureth his children, so one of them seeketh to devour and suppress the other, while antiquity envieth there should be new additions, and novelty cannot be content to add, but it must deface; surely, the advice of the prophet is the true direction in this matter, "State super vias antiquas, et videte qua?nam sit via recta et bona, et ambulate in ea." Antiquity deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stand thereupon, and discover what is the best way; hut when the discovery is well taken, then to make progression. And to speak truly, " Antiquitas seculi, juventus mundi." These times are the ancient times, when the world is ancient, and not those which we account ancient ordine retrogrado, by a computation backward from ourselves.
Another error, induced by the former, is a distrust that any thing should be now to be found out, which the world should have missed and passed over so long time; as if the same objection were to be made to time, that Lucian maketh to Jupiter and other the heathen gods, of which he wondereth, that they begot so many children in old time, and begot none in his time; and asketh, whether they were become septuagenary, or whether the law Papia, made against old men's marriages, had restrained them. So it seemeth men doubt lest time is become past children and generation; wherein, contrariwise, we see commonly the levity and inconstancy of men's judgments, which, till a matter be done, wonder that it can be done; and as soon as it is done, wonder again that it was no sooner done; as we see in the expedition of Alexander into Asia, which at first was prejudged as a vast and impossible enterprise: and yet afterwards it pleaseth Livy to make no more of it than this; "Nil aliud, quam bene ausus est vana contemnere:" and the same happened to Columbus in the western navigation. But in intellectual matters, it is much more common; as may be seen in most of the propositions of Euclid, which till they be demonstrated, they seem strange to our assent; but being demonstrated, our mind accepteth of them by a kind of relation, as the lawyers speak, as if we had known them before.
Another error, that hath also some affinity with the former, is a conceit, that of former opinions or sects, after variety and examination, the best hath still prevailed, and suppressed the rest: so as, if a man should begin the labour of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion; as if the multitude, or the wisest, for the multitude's sake, were not ready to give passage, rather to that which is popular and superficial, than to that which is substantial' and profound: for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.
Another error, of a diverse nature from all the former, is the over early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a farther stature: so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be farther polished and illustrated, and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.
Another error which doth succeed that which we last mentioned, is, that after the distribution of particular arts and sciences, men have abandoned universality, or philosophia prima; which cannot but cease, and stop all progression. For no perfect
discovery can be made upon a flat or a level: neither is it possible to discover the more remote and deeper parts of any science, if you stand but upon the level of the same science, and ascend not to a higher science.
Another error hath proceeded from too great a reverence, and a kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man; by means whereof, men have withdrawn themselves too much from the contemplation of nature, and the observations of experience, and have tumbled up and down in their own reason and conceits. Upon these intellectualists, which are, notwithstanding, commonly taken for the most sublime and divine philosophers, Heraclitus gave a just censure, saying, "Men sought truth in their own little worlds, and not in the great and common world f for they disdain to spell, and so by degrees to read in the volume of God's works; and contrariwise, by continual meditation and agitation of wit, do urge and as it were invocate their own spirits to divine, and give oracles unto them, whereby they are deservedly deluded.
Another error that hath some connexion with this latter, is, that men have used to infect their meditations, opinions, and doctrines, with some conceits which they have most admired, or some sciences which they have most applied; and given all things else a tincture according to them, utterly untrue and improper. So hath Plato intermingled his philosophy with theology, and Aristotle with logic; and the second school of Plato, Proclus and the rest, with the mathematics. For these were the arts which had a kind of primogeniture with them severally. So have the alchemists made a philosophy out of a few experiments of the furnace; and Gilbertus, our countryman, hath made a philosophy out of the observations of a loadstone. So Cicero, when, reciting the several opinions of the nature of the soul, he found a musician, that held the soul -was but a harmony, saith pleasantly, " Hie ab arte suit non recessit," etc. But of these conceits Aristotle speaketh seriously and wisely, when he saith, "Qui respiciunt ad pauca, de facili pronuntiant."
Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action, commonly spoken of by the ancients: the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even: so it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Another error is in the manner of the tradition and deliver}' of knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and peremptory; and not ingenuous and faithful, in a sort, as may be soonest believed, and not easiliest examined. It is true, that in compendious treatises for practice, that form is not to be disallowed. But in the true handling of knowledge, men ought not to fall either, on the one side, into the vein of Velleius the Epicurean: "Nil lam metuens, quam ne dubitare aliqua de re videretur.
nor, on llie other side, into Socrates his ironical doubting of all things; but to propound things sincerely, with more or less asseveration, as they stand in a man's own judgment proved more or less.
Other errors there are in the scope that men propound to themselves, whereunto they bend their endeavours: Tor whereas the more constant and devoted kind of professors of any science ought to propound to themselves to make some additions to their science; they convert their labours to aspire to certain second prizes; as to be a profound interpreter, or commentator; to be a sharp champion or defender: to be a methodical compounder or abridger; and so the patrimony of knowledge cometh to be sometimes improved, but seldom augmented.
But the greatest error of all the rest, is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or farthest end of knowledge: for men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity, and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and moat times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of r-ison, to the benefit and use of men: as if there were sought in knowledge a couch, whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a terrace, for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ETound, for strife and contention; or a shop, for pro?t, or sale; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man's estate. But this ia that which will indeed dignify and exalt knowledge, if contemplation and action may be more nearly and straitly conjoined and united together than they have been; a conjunction like unto that of the two highest planets, Saturn, the planet of rest »nd contemplation, and Jupiter, the planet of civil society and action. Howbeit, I do not mean, when I speak of use and action, that end before mentioned of the applying of knowledge to lucre and profession; for I am not ignorant how much that diverteth and ntermpteth the prosecution and advancement of knowledge, like unto the golden ball thrown before Atalanta, which while she goeth aside and stooptth to take up, the race is hindered;
Decimal cursus, aurumquc volubilc tollit.
Neither is my meaning, as was spoken of Socrates, to call philosophy down from heaven to converse opon the earth; that is, to leave natural philosophy ^ide, and to apply knowledge only to manners and policy. But as both heaven and earth do conspire and contribute to the use and benefit of man; so the end ought to be, from both philosophies to separate and reject vain speculations, and whatsoever is empty *M void, and to preserve and augment whatsoever ls solid and fruitful: that knowledge may not be, w * courtesan, for pleasure and vanity only, or, >s a bond-woman, to acquire and gain to her master's "*! but, as a spouse, for generation, fruit, and comfort.
Thus have I described and opened, as by a kind of dissection, those peccant humours, the principal of them, which have not only given impediment to the proficience of learning, but have given also occasion to the traducement thereof: wherein if I have been too plain, it must be remembered, "Fidelia vulncra amantis, sed dolosa oscula malignantii."
This, I think, I have gained, that I ought to be the better believed in that which I shall say pertaining to commendation; because I have proceeded so freely in that which concemeth censure. And yet I have no purpose to enter into a laudative of learning, or to make a hymn to the Muses, though I am of opinion that it is long since their rites were duly celebrated: but my intent is, without varnish or amplification, justly to weigh the dignity of knowledge in the balance with other things, and to take the true value thereof by testimonies and arguments divine and human.
First, therefore, let us seek the dignity of knowledge in the archetype or first platform, which is in the attributes and acts of God, as far as they are revealed to man, and may be observed with sobriety; wherein we may not seek it by the name of learning; for all learning is knowledge acquired, and all knowledge in God is original; and therefore we must look for it by another name, that of wisdom or sapience, as the Scriptures call it.
It is so then, that in the word of the creation wc see a double emanation of virtue from God; the one referring more properly to power, the other to wisdom; the one expressed in making the subsistence of the matter, and the other in disposing the beauty of the form. This being supposed, it is to be observed, that, for any thing which appeareth in the history of the creation, the confused mass and matter of heaven and earth was made in a moment; and the order and disposition of that chaos, or mass, was the work of six days; such a note of difference it pleased God to put upon the works of power, and the work8 of wisdom: wherewith concurreth, that in the former it is not set down that God said, " Let there be heaven and earth," as it is set down of the works following; but actually, that God made heaven and earth: the one carrying the style of a manufacture, and the other of a law, decree, or council.
To proceed to that which is next in order, from God to spirits. We find, as far as credit is to be given to the celestial hierarchy of that supposed Dionysius the senator of Athens, the first place or degree is given to the angels of love, which are termed Seraphim; the second to the angels of light, which are termed Cherubim; and the third, and so following places, to thrones, principalities, and the rest, which are all angels of power and ministry; so as the angels of knowledge and illumination are placed before the angels of office and domination.
To descend from spirits and intellectual forms to sensible and material forms; we read the first form that was created was light, which hath a relation and correspondence in nature and corporal things to knowledge in spirits and incorporal things.
So in the distribution of days, we sec, the day wherein God did rest, and contemplate his own works, was blessed above all the days wherein he did effect and accomplish them.
After the creation was finished, it is set down unto us, that man was placed in the garden to work therein; which work, so appointed to him, could be no other than work of contemplation; that is, when the end of work is but for exercise and experiment, not for necessity; for there being then no reluctation of the creature, nor sweat of the brow, man's employment must of consequence have been matter of delight in the experiment, and not matter of labour for the use. Again, the first acts which man performed in paradise, consisted of the two summary parts of knowledge; the view of creatures, and the imposition of names. As for the knowledge which induced the fall, it was, as was touched before, not the natural knowledge of creatures, but the moral knowledge of good and evil; wherein the supposition was, that God's commandments or prohibitions were not the originals of good and evil, but that they had other beginnings, which man aspired to know, to the end to make a total defection from God, and to depend wholly upon himself.
To pass on: in the first event or occurrence after the fall of man, we see, as the Scriptures have infinite mysteries, not violating at all the truth of the story or letter, an image of the two estates, the contemplative state, and the active state, figured in the two persons of Abel and Cain, and in the two simplest and most primitive trades of life; that of the shepherd, who, by reason of his leisure, rest in a place, and living in view of heaven, is a lively image of a contemplative life; and that of the husbandman; where we see again, the favour and election of God went to the shepherd, and not to the tiller of the ground.
So in the age before the flood, the holy records within those few memorials, which are there entered and registered, have vouchsafed to mention, and honour the name of the inventors and authors of music, and works in metal. In the age after the flood, the first great judgment of God upon the ambition of man was the confusion of tongues; whereby the open trade and intercourse of learning and knowledge was chiefly imbarred.
To descend to Moses the lawgiver, and God's first pen: he is adorned by the Scriptures with this addition and commendation, that he was " seen in all the learning of the Egyptians;" which nation, we know, was one of the most ancient schools of the world: for so Plato brings in the ./Egyptian priest saying unto Solon, "You Grecians are ever children j you have no knowledge of antiquity, nor antiquity of knowledge.'* Take a view of the ceremonial law of Moses; you shall find, besides the prefiguration of Christ, the badge or difference of the people of God, the exercise and impression of obedience, and other divine uses and fruits thereof, that some of the most learned Rabbins have travelled profitably, and profoundly to observe, some of them a natural, some of them a moral sense, or reduction of many of the ceremonies and ordinances.
As in the law of the leprosy, where it is said, " If the whiteness have overspread the flesh, the patient may pass abroad for clean; but if there be any whole flesh remaining, he is to be shut up for unclean:" one of them noteth a principle of nature, that putrefaction is more contagious before maturity, than after: and another noteth a position of moral philosophy, that men, abandoned to vice, do not so much corrupt manners, as those that are half good and half evil. So in this, and very many other places in that law, there is to be found, besides the theological sense, much aspersion of philosophy.
So likewise in that excellent book of Job, if it be revolved with diligence, it will be found pregnant and swelling with natural philosophy: as for example, cosmography, and the roundness of the world; "Qui extendit aquilonem super vacuum, et appendit terram super nihilum;" wherein the pensileness of the earth, the pole of the north, and the finiteneaa or convexity of heaven, are manifestly touched. So again, matter of astronomy; "Spiritus ejus ornavit ccelos, et obstetricante manu ejus eductus est Coluber tortuosu8." And in another place; " Nunquid conjungere valebis micantes stellas Pleiadas, aut gyrum Arcturi poteris dissipare?" Where the fixing of the stars, ever standing at equal distance, is with great elegancy noted. And in another place; "Qui facit Arcturum, et Oriona, et Hyadas, et interiors Austri;" where again he takes knowledge of the depression of the southern pole, calling it the secrets of the south, because the southern stars were in that climate unseen. Matter of generation; "Annon sicut lac mulsisti me, et sicut caseum coagulasti me," etc. Matter of minerals; "Habet argentum venarum suarum principia: et auro locus est in quo conflatur, ferrum de terr& tollitur, et lapis solutus calore in a?s vertitur:" and so forwards in that chapter.
So likewise in the person of Solomon the king, we see the gift or endowment of wisdom and learning, both in Solomon's petition, and in God's assent thereunto, preferred before all other terrene and temporal felicity. By virtue of which grant or donative of God, Solomon became enabled, not only to write those excellent parables, or aphorisms, concerning divine and moral philosophy; but also to compile a natural history of all verdure, from the cedar upon the mountain to the moss upon the wall, which is but a rudiment between putrefaction and an herb, and also of all things that breathe or move. Nay, the same Solomon the king, although he excelled in the glory of treasure and magnificent buildings, of shipping and navigation, of service and attendance, of fame and renown and the like, yet he maketh no claim to any of those glories, but only to the glory of inquisition of truth; for so he saith expressly, " 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; and as if kings could not obtain a greater honour than to be God's playfellows in that game, considering the great commandment of wits and means, whereby nothing needeth to be hidden from them.