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of practice, hath this general cautele of art, that he dischargeth the weakness of his art upon supposed impossibilities : neither can his art be condemned, when itself judgeth. That philosophy also, out of which the knowledge of physic, which now is in use, is hewed, receiveth certain positions and opinions, which (if they be well weighed) induce this persuasion, that no great works are to be expected from art, and the hand of man; as in particular that opinion, that the heat of the sun and fire differ in kind; and that other, that Composition is the work of man, and Mixture is the work of nature, and the like; all tending to the circumscription of man's power, and to artificial despair ; killing in men, not only the comfort of 1 imagination, but the industry of trial ; only upon vain glory to have their art thought perfect, and that all is impossible that is not already found. The Alchemist dischargeth his art upon his own errors, either supposing a misunderstanding of the words of his authors, which maketh him listen after auricular traditions; or else a failing in the true proportions and scruples of practice, which maketh him renew infinitely his trials; and finding also that he lighteth upon some mean experiments and conclusions by the way, feedeth upon them, and magnifieth them to the most, and supplieth the rest in hopes. The Magician, when he findeth something (as he conceiveth) above nature effected, thinketh, when a breach is once made in nature, that it is all one to perform great things and small; not seeing that they are but subjects of a certain kind, wherein magic and superstition hath played in all times. The Mechanical person, if he can refine an invention, or put two or three observations
1 of is omitted in the MS.
or practices together in one, or couple things better with their use, or make the work in less or greater volume, taketh himself for an inventor. So he saw well, that men either persuade themselves of new inventions as of impossibilities; or else think they are already extant, but in secret and in few hands; or that they account of those little industries and additions, as of inventions : all which turneth to the averting of their minds from any just and constant labour to invent further in any quantity.
3. He thought also, when men did set before themselves the variety and perfection of works produced by mechanical arts, they are apt rather to admire the provisions of man, than to apprehend his wants; not considering, that the original inventions and conclusions of nature which are the life of all that variety, are not many nor deeply fetched ; and that the rest is but the subtile and ruled motion of the instruments and hand; and that the shop therein is not unlike the library, which in such number of books containeth (for the far greater part) nothing but iterations, varied sometimes in form, but not new in substance. plainly, that opinion of store was a cause of want ; and that both works and doctrines appear many and are few.
4. He thought also, that knowledge is uttered to men, in a form as if every thing were finished; for it is reduced into arts and methods, which in their divisions do seem to include all that may be. And how weakly soever the parts are filled, yet they carry the shew and reason of a total ; and thereby the writings of some received authors go for the very art: whereas antiquity used to deliver the knowledge which the mind of man
So he saw
had gathered, in observations, aphorisms, or short and dispersed sentences, or small tractates of some parts that they had diligently meditated and laboured; which did invite men, both to ponder that which was invented, and to add and supply further. But now sciences are delivered to be believed and accepted, and not to be examined and further discovered ; and the succession is between master and disciple, and not between inventor and continuer or advancer: and therefore sciences stand at a stay, and have done for many ages, and that which is positive is fixed, and that which is question is kept question, so as the columns of no further proceeding are pitched. And therefore he saw plainly, men had cut themselves off from further invention; and that it is no marvel that that is not obtained, which hath not been attempted, but rather shut out and debarred.
5. He thought also, that knowledge is almost generally sought either for delight and satisfaction, or for gain and profession, or for credit and ornament, and that every of these are as Atalanta's balls, which hinder the race of invention. For men are so far in these courses from seeking to increase the mass of knowledge, as of that mass which is they will take no more than will serve their turn: and if any one amongst so many seeketh knowledge for itself, yet he rather seeketh to know the variety of things, than to discern of the truth and causes of them; and if his inquisition be yet more severe, yet it tendeth rather to judgment than to invention; and rather to discover truth in controversy, than new matter; and if his heart be so large as he propoundeth to himself further discovery or invention, yet it is rather of new discourse and speculation of causes, than of effects and operations: and as for those that have so much in their mouths, action and use and practice and the referring of sciences thereunto, they mean it of application of that which is known, and not of a discovery of that which is unknown. So he saw plainly, that this mark, namely invention of further means to endow the condition and life of man with new powers or works, was almost never yet set up and resolved in man's intention and inquiry.
6. He thought also, that, amongst other knowledges, natural philosophy hath been the least followed and laboured. For since the Christian faith, the greatest number of wits have been employed, and the greatest helps and rewards have been converted upon divinity. And before time likewise, the greatest part of the studies of philosophers was consumed in moral philosophy, which was as the heathen divinity. And in both times a great part of the best wits betook themselves to law, pleadings, and causes of estate ; specially in the time of the greatness of the Romans, who by reason of their large empire needed the service of all their able men for civil business. And the time amongst the Grecians in which natural philosophy seemed most to flourish, was but a short space; and that also rather abused in differing sects and conflicts of opinions, than profitably spent : since which time, natural philosophy was never any profession, nor never possessed any whole man, except perchance some monk in a cloister, or some gentleman in the country, and that very rarely ; but became a science of passage, to season a little young
and unripe wits, and to serve for an introduction to other arts, specially physic and the practical mathematics. So as he saw plainly, that natural philosophy hath been intended by few persons, and in them hath occupied the least part of their time, and that in the weakest of their age and judgment.
7. He thought also, how great opposition and prejudice natural philosophy had received by superstition, and the immoderate and blind zeal of religion; for he found that some of the Grecians which first gave the reason of thunder, had been condemned of impiety ; and that the cosmographers which first discovered and described the roundness of the earth, and the consequence thereof touching the Antipodes, were not much otherwise censured by the ancient fathers of the Christian Church; and that the case is now much worse, in regard of the boldness of the schoolmen and their dependances in the monasteries, who having made divinity into an art, have almost incorporated the contentious philosophy of Aristotle into the body of Christian religion. And generally he perceived in men of devout simplicity, this opinion, that the secrets of nature were the secrets of God and part of that glory whereinto the mind of man if it seek to press shall be oppressed ; and that the desire in men to attain to so great and hidden knowledge, hath a resemblance with that temptation which caused the original fall: and on the other side in men of a devout policy, he noted an inclination to have the people depend upon God the more, when they are less acquainted with second causes ; and to have no stirring in philosophy, lest it may lead to an innovation in divinity, or else should discover matter of further contradiction to divinity. But in this part resorting to the authority of the Scriptures, and holy examples, and to reason, he rested not satisfied alone, but much confirmed. For first he considered that the knowledge of nature, by the light whereof man discerned of every