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the crude and watery spirit, produced mostly from the nitre, and in some degree from the charcoal of willowwood, which is not only expanded (as vapours usually are by heat), but also (which is the chief point) flies and bursts away from the heat and inflammation with the utmost rapidity and violence, and thereby likewise makes a passage and opening for the inflammation. We see some rudiments of this motion in the crackling of dry leaves of laurel or ivy when they are put on the fire ; and still more in salt, which more resembles the nature of the thing here inquired. Something like it also we often see in wet tallow-candles and the flatulent flames of green wood. But it is especially visible in quicksilver, which is an exceedingly crude body, and like mineral water, the force whereof (if it be vexed by fire and prevented from escaping) is not much less than that of gunpowder. Therefore men should be admonished and entreated by this example, not to seize some one point in the inquisition of causes and thereupon lightly pronounce, but to look about them, and fix their considerations stronger and deeper.
On the Dissimilarity between Celestial and Sublunary
Bodies with regard to eternity and mutability ; that it is not verified.
The common idea that the universe is rightly divided and distinguished as it were by globes, so that there is one system of celestial and another of sublunary bodies, seems to have been introduced not without reason, if only it be held with moderation. For no doubt but that the regions above and below the
lunar orb, together with the bodies contained therein, differ much and greatly. And yet this is not more certain than that the bodies of both globes have common inclinations, passions, and motions. We should therefore follow the unity of nature, and rather distinguish than sever such things, and not make a breach in the contemplation of them. But what is further held, — that celestial bodies do not suffer changes, while sublunary or, as they call them, elementary bodies do; that the matter of the latter is like a harlot, always seeking after new forms, while that of the former is like a matron, delighting in a wedlock constant and undefiled, — seems a weak and popular opinion, arising out of superficial appearances and superstition. To me indeed it appears to be untenable and without foundation on both sides. For neither is heaven indued with that eternity which they suppose nor the earth with that mutability. For with regard to the heaven, we may not conclude that there are no changes there, because there are none which we can see; for the sight is defeated both by subtlety of the body and distance of place. For there are manifestly various changes of the air, as in heat, cold, odours and sounds, which are not subject to sight. And I suppose that if the eye were placed in the moon's orb, it would not be able at such a distance to see what was going on here, and all the motions and changes of machines, animals, plants, and the like (which by reason of the distance are not as big as the smallest mite), on the surface of the earth. But that in bodies of so great size and magnitude as by the bulk of their dimensions to overcome such a distance and reach the eye, changes do take place within the heavenly regions, is sufficiently proved by some
comets; I mean those which have preserved a certain and constant configuration with the fixed stars; like that which in our day appeared in Cassiopea. But with regard to the earth, when we have penetrated into the interior, and got through that crust and composition which is found on the surface and in the parts next it, there seems a perpetuity there also, like that supposed to exist in the heavens. For doubtless if the earth were subject to changes far within, the consequence of those changes would even in this region which we inhabit produce greater accidents than we see take place. Certainly most of the earthquakes and eruptions of water or fire do not rise from any great depth, but close at hand ; seeing that they occupy a small part of the surface. For the wider the district and region such accidents extend over on the face of the earth, the deeper must we suppose their roots or sources to descend into its bowels. Therefore the greater earthquakes (greater I mean in extent, not in violence), which happen seldom, may be rightly compared to the comets of which I spoke, that are themselves likewise uncommon; so that it is true, as I said at first, that between the heavens and the earth, as regards constancy and change, there is no great difference. But if any one be moved by the apparent equability and certainty of motion in the heavenly bodies, as being the inseparable companion of eternity ; look at the ocean, which in its ebb and flow exhibits a constancy almost as regular. Lastly, if a man still urge, that yet it cannot be denied but that on the surface of the earth itself and the parts next thereto there are innumerable changes ; in the heavens
- I would answer, first that I do not mean that they are equal in everything ; and yet, secondly, that if we take the regions which they call the upper and middle region of the air for the surface or inner coat of the heavens, in the same manner as we take this region here in which animals, plants, and minerals are contained, for the surface or outer coat of the earth, we shall find there also various and multiform generations and changes. Therefore almost all tumult, conflict, and disorder seem to have place only in the confines of heaven and earth. As it is in civil affairs, wherein it commonly happens that the border country of two kingdoms is harassed by continual incursions and violence, while the interior of both kingdoms enjoys peace, security, and profound tranquillity. Nor will any one object to this opinion, if he consider it rightly, on the ground of religion. For it was only heathen arrogance that endowed the heaven with this prerogative of being incorruptible; whereas the Holy Scriptures assign eternity and corruption to heaven and earth alike, though not to each an equal glory and veneration. For if we read, “ that the sun and moon are faithful and eternal witnesses in the heaven," we read likewise that generations pass away, but the earth remaineth for ever.” But that both are transitory is implied in one oracle, namely, “ heaven and earth shall pass away, but the word of the Lord shall not pass away.” And these things I have spoken not out of zeal to introduce a new opinion, but because I foresee, not without experience, but instructed by example, that these fabulous divorces and distinctions of things and regions, beyond what truth admits of, will be a great obstacle to true philosophy and the contemplation of nature.
not so ;