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PRINCIPLES AND ORIGINS
ACCORDING TO THE FABLES OF
CUPID AND CELUM:
The stories told by the ancients concerning Cupid, or Love, cannot all apply to the same person ; and indeed they themselves make mention of two Cupids, very widely differing from one another ; one being said to be the oldest, the other the youngest of the gods. It is of the elder that I am now going to speak. They say then that this Love was the most ancient of all the gods, and therefore of all things else, except Chaos, which they hold to be coeval with him. He is without any parent of his own; but himself united with Chaos begat the gods and all things. By some however it is reported that he came of an egg that was laid by Nox. Various attributes are assigned to him : as that he is always an infant, blind, naked, winged, and an archer. But his principal and peculiar power is exercised in uniting bodies; the keys likewise of the air, earth, and sea were entrusted to him. Another younger Cupid, the son of Venus, is also spoken of, to whom the attributes of the elder are transferred, and many added of his own.
This fable, with the following one respecting Cælum, seems to set forth in the small compass of a parable a doctrine concerning the principles of things and the origins of the world, not differing in much from the philosophy which Democritus held, excepting that it appears to be somewhat more severe, sober, and
pure. For the speculations of that philosopher, acute and diligent as he was, could not rest nor keep within bounds, nor put a sufficient check and control over themselves. And even the opinions which are veiled in the parable, though somewhat more correct, are yet no better than such as proceed from the intellect left to itself and not resting constantly on experience and advancing step by step; a fault to which I suppose the primitive ages were likewise subject. It must be understood however in the first place, that the things here brought forward are drawn and concluded from the authority of human reason alone, according to the belief of the sense, whose expiring and failing oracles are deservedly rejected since a better and more certain light has been shed upon us from divine revelation. This Chaos then, which was contemporary with Cupid, signified the rude mass or congregation of matter. But matter itself, and the force and nature thereof, the principles of things in short, were shadowed in Cupid himself. He is introduced without a parent, that is to
. say, without a cause ; for the cause is as the parent of the effect; and it is a familiar and almost continual figure of speech to denote cause and effect as parent and child. Now of this primary matter and the proper virtue and action thereof there can be no cause in nature (for we always except God), for nothing was before it. Therefore there was no efficient cause of
it, nor anything more original in nature; consequently neither genus nor form. Wherefore whatsoever this matter and its power and operation be, it is a thing positive and inexplicable, and must be taken absolutely as it is found, and not to be judged by any previous conception. For if the manner could be known, yet it cannot be known by cause, seeing that next to God it is the cause of causes, itself only without a cause. For there is a true and certain limit of causes in nature; and it is as unskilful and superficial a part to require or imagine a cause when we come to the ultimate force and positive law of nature, as not to look for a cause in things subordinate. And hence Cupid is represented by the ancient sages in the parable as without a parent, that is to say, without a cause, observation of no small significance ; nay, I know not whether it be not the greatest thing of all. For nothing has corrupted philosophy so much as this seeking after the parents of Cupid ; that is, that philosophers have not taken the principles of things as they are found in nature, and accepted them as a positive doctrine, resting on the faith of experience ; but they have rather deduced them from the laws of disputation, the petty conclusions of logic and mathematics, common motions, and such wanderings of the mind beyond the limits of nature. Therefore a philosopher should be continually
. reminding himself that Cupid has no parents, lest his understanding turn aside to unrealities; because the human mind runs off in these universal conceptions, abuses both itself and the nature of things, and struggling towards that which is far off, falls back on that which is close at hand. For since the mind, by reason of its narrowness, is commonly most moved by things of familiar occurrence and which may enter and strike it directly and at once, it comes to pass that when it has advanced to those things which are most universal in experience, and yet cannot be content to rest in them, that then, as if striving after things still more original, it turns to those by which itself has been most affected or ensnared, and fancies these to be more causative and demonstrative than those universals themselves.
It has been said then that the primitive essence, force and desire of things has no cause. How it proceeded, having no cause, is now to be considered. Now the manner is itself also very obscure: and of this we are warned by the parable, where Cupid is elegantly feigned to come of an egg which was laid by Nox. Certainly the divine philosopher declares that “God hath made everything beautiful in its season, also he hath given the world to their disputes ; yet so that man cannot find out the work that God worketh from the beginning to the end."1 For the summary law of being and nature, which penetrates and runs through the vicissitudes of things (the same which is described in the phrase, “ the work which God worketh from the beginning to the end”), that is, the force implanted by God in these first particles, from the multiplication whereof all the variety of things proceeds and is made up, is a thing which the thoughts of man may offer at but can hardly take in. Now that point concerning the egg of Nox bears a most apt reference to the demonstrations by which this Cupid is brought to light. For things concluded by affirmatives may be considered as the offspring of light;
1 Eccles. iii. 11.