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DE PRINCIPIIS ATQUE ORIGINIBUS.
BY ROBERT LESLIE ELLIS.
The following tract is one of those which were published by Gruter. It seems to be of later date than many of the others, as it contains several phrases and turns of expression which occur also in the Novum Organum.
Bacon's design was to give a philosophical exposition of two myths ; namely, that of the primeval Eros or Cupid, and that of Uranos or Cælum. Only the first however is discussed in the fragment which we now have, and even that is left incomplete.
The philosophy of Democritus appeared to Bacon to be nearly in accordance with the hidden meaning of these fables; but we are not well able to judge of his reasons for thinking so, as the only system spoken of in detail is that of Telesius.
Touching the origin of Eros, Bacon remarks that no mention is made anywhere of his progenitors. In this he is supported by the authority of Plato, or rather by that of one of the interlocutors in the Symposium, who affirms that no one, whether poet or not, has
spoken of the parents of Eros; but that Hesiod in the order of his theogony places Gaia and Eros next after primeval Chaos.1 It seems in truth probable that the fables which make Eros the son of Zeus and Aphrodite are of later origin. From the Symposium Bacon may also have derived the recognition of an elder and a younger Eros, of whom the former was allied to the heavenly Aphrodite, and the latter to Aphrodite Pandemus.? But it is more probable that his account of the distinction between them comes from some later writer.
Hesiod, to whom the first speaker in the Symposium refers, though he places Eros and Gaia next to Chaos, says nothing of Eros as the progenitor of the universe. His existence is recognised, but nothing is said of his offspring. In this the theogony of Hesiod differs essentially from that which is contained in the Orphic poems, and shows I think signs of greater antiquity. To recognise as a deity an abstract feeling of love or desire, is in itself to recede in some measure from the simplicity of the old world: we find no such recognition in Homer; and the transition from him to Hesiod is doubtless a transition from an earlier way
of thinking to a later. But even in Hesiod Eros is not the producing principle of the universe, nor is his share in its production explained.
On the other hand in the Orphic poems, Phanes, whom we are entitled to identify with Eros, is the progenitor of gods and men, the light and life of the universe. He comes forth from Chaos, uniting in his own essence the poles of
i Sympos. p. 178.; and see Valcknaer's Diatribe, to wbom Stallbaum refers. On the other hand Pausanias mentions as an early myth that Eros was the son of Ilithyia. See Pausan. Bæot. ix. 27. 2 Sympos. p. 180., and see also p. 195.
the mysterious antithesis on which all organic production depends. From him all other beings derive their existence. There seems clearly more of a philosophenie in this than in the simpler statements of Hesiod.
The identification of Eros with Phanes or Ericapeus rests on a passage in the Argonautics, in which it is said that he was called Phanes by the men of later time because he was manifested before all other beings; πρώτος γάρ εφάνθη: It is confirmed by the authority of Proclus.
Phanes, in the common form of the Orphic theogony, comes out of the egg into which Chaos had formed itself.? But I am not aware that any one except Aristophanes makes Night lay the egg from which Eros afterwards emerges ;
3 and it seems that this is only a playful modification of the common myth, not unsuitable to the chorus of birds by whom it is introduced.4 It does not appear necessary to suppose, as Cudworth seemingly does, that Aristophanes had in some unexplained way become acquainted with a peculiar form of “ the old atheistic cabala.”
The most remarkable passage in which Eros (not Phanes) is spoken of as the producer of all things, is in the Argonautics :
πρώτα με αρχαίου χάεος μεγαλήφατον ύμνον,
1 Orph. Argon. 14. In the preceding line, Eros is made, according to Gesner's reading, the son of Night. But for via there is another reading, πατέρα. . 2 See Lobeck, Aglaoph. i. 474.
8 Aves, 650. 4 This seems to be confirmed by the half ludicrous epithet únnvéJLOV. 6 See Cudworth, Intellect. Syst.
πρεσβύτατόν τε και αυτοτελή πολύμητιν "Έρωτα, ,
Nothing is said here, or elsewhere I believe, of his having mingled with Uranos in the engendering of the universe, and I am inclined to think that when Bacon says, Ipse cum Coelo mistus, et deos et res universos progenuit," we ought to substitute Chao for Colo.2 For the passage in Aristophanes goes on to say that in wide Tartarus Eros and Chaos mingled in love and produced first the race of birds and then gods and
Of Phanes nothing of this kind is mentioned, except his intercourse with Night;3 so that Bacon's statement does not seem to be in any way justified.
It would be endless to cite passages in which the attributes of Eros are described, nor is it necessary to do so.
The form in which Bacon connects the myth of the primeval Eros with philosophy is far less artificial and unreal than most of the interpretations which he has given in the Wisdom of the Ancients. Chaos represents uninformed matter ; Eros matter actually existing, and possessed of the law or principle by which it is energised ; the first principle, in short, which is the cause of all phenomena. The parents of Eros are unknown; that is to say, it is in vain to seek to carry our inquiries beyond the fact of the existence of matter possessed of such and such primitive qualities. On what do those primary qualities ultimately depend? On the “lex summa essentiæ atque naturæ . . . vis scilicet primis particulis a Deo indita, ex cujus multiplicatione omnis rerum varietas emergat et confletur.” Whether this highest law can ever be discovered is · by Bacon left here as elsewhere doubtful; but he does not forbid nen to seek for it. But what he utterly condemns is the attempt to make philosophy rise above the theory of matter. We must ever remember that Eros las no progenitors, "ne forte intellectus ad inania deflectat" that we turn not aside to transcendental fancies ; for in these the mind can make no real progress, and “ dum ad ulteriora tendit ad proximiora recidit." We must of necessity take as the starting point of our philosophy, matter possessed of its primitive qualities ; and this principle is in accordance with the wisdom of those by whom the myth of Eros was constructed. And certainly, Bacon goes on to say, “ that despoiled and merely passive matter is a figment of the human
1 Argonaut. 423. In the third line avquévas is admitted to be corrupt. I would venture to suggest możlūs, making Jañáoons the genitive case after γένεσιν. .
2 This conjecture is confirmed by the corresponding passage in the De Sap. Vet., where for cum cælo mistus we have ex chao.-J. S.
3 Lobeck, i. 501. It is to this intercourse that the line quoted by Proclus refers:
Αυτός έής γαρ παιδός αφείλετο κούριον άνθος.
a statement which refers to the Aristotelian doctrine in which the primitive ūln is not conceived of as a thing actually existing, but as that which first receives existence through the cids, wherewith it is united. Of this doctrine Bacon asserts that it is altogether trifling: “For that which primarily exists inust no less exist than that which thence derives its existence; that is to say, matter must in itself exist actually and not potentially. And the same conclusion follows from the Scriptures, “ wherein it is not said that God created hyle, but that he created heaven and earth.”