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without grave reason. And let physicians be assured of this : that there may be (for example) three or four medicines rightly prescribed for the cure of some serious disease, which if taken in proper order and at proper intervals will work the cure ; but if taken either singly, or in a different order, or without the interval, will prove most injurious.
I do not mean that every scrupulous and superstitious prescript should be taken for the best (no more than every strait way is the way to heaven); the way must be the right way no less than the strait and difficult one. This part then, which I will call the Physician's Clue, I set down as deficient. And these are the things I find wanting in that part of medicine which relates to the cure of diseases : only there is one thing still remaining, which is of more consequence than all the rest ; — namely, a true and active Natural Philosophy for the science of medicine to be
But that does not belong to the present treatise.
The third part of medicine which I have set down is that which relates to the Prolongation of Life, which is new, and deficient; and the most noble of all. For if such a thing may be discovered, the business of medicine will no longer be confined to humble cures, nor will physicians be honoured only for necessity; but for a gift to men — of earthly gifts perhaps the greatest — of which, next to God, they may become the dispensers and administrators. For although to a Christian making for the Land of Promise the world is but a wilderness, yet even while we travel in the wilderness to have our shoes and garments (that is our bodies, which are as the clothing of the soul) not worn out by the way, must be accounted as a gift of divine grace. Upon
this subject then, seeing it is of such excellence, and that I have set it down as wanting, I will after my manner give both admonitions, and directions, and
My first admonition is, that of the writers upon this argument there is none who has discovered anything great, not to say anything sound. Aristotle has indeed published a very short commentary upon it, in which there is some acuteness: which he, as usual, will have to be everything. But more modern writers have handled it so idly and superstitiously, that by reason of their vanity the argument itself has come to be reputed vain and senseless.
My second admonition is, that the very intentions of physicians in this matter are worth nothing, and rather serve to draw men's thoughts away from the point than to direct them to it. For they tell us that death consists in the destitution of warmth and moisture; and therefore that the natural warmth should be comforted, and the radical moisture cherished. Just as if this could be done by broths, or lettuces and mallows, or starch, or jujubes, or spices, or generous wines, or even spirits of wine and chemical oils ; all of which are rather injurious than beneficial.
My third admonition is, that men should cease from trifling, nor be so credulous as to imagine that so great a work as this of delaying and turning back the course of nature can be effected by a morning draught or by the ụse of some precious drug; by potable gold, or essence of pearls, or suchlike toys; - but be assurec that the prolongation of life is a work of labour and difficulty, and consisting of a great number of remedies, and those aptly connected one with another. For
let no man be so dull as to believe that a thing which has never yet been done can be done now except by means yet unattempted.
My fourth admonition is, that men should rightly observe and distinguish between those things which conduce to a healthy life, and those which conduce to a long life. For there are some things which tend to exhilarate the spirits, strengthen the bodily functions, and keep off diseases, which yet shorten the sum of life, and without sickness hasten on the decay of old age.
There are others also which are of service to prolong life and retard decay, which yet cannot be used without danger to health, so that they who use them for the prolongation of life should at the same time provide against such inconveniences as may arise from their use. And so much by way of admonition.
With regard to directions, the idea I have formed of the matter is this. Things are preserved and continued in two ways ; either in their own identity, or by repair. In their own identity, as a fly or an ant in amber ; a flower or an apple or wood in conservatories of snow; a corpse in balsam. By repair, as in flame, and in things mechanical. Now he that seeks to effect the prolongation of life must use both methods (for separate they have less power); and the human body must be preserved as bodies inanimate, and again as flame, and lastly to a certain degree as things mechanical are preserved. Therefore there are three intentions for the prolongation of life; prevention of waste, goodness of repair, and renewal of that which has begun to grow old. Waste is caused by two depredations ; that of the native spirit, and that of the surrounding air. Both of these may be prevented in two ways ; either by making those agents less predatory, or the patients (that is, the juices of the body) less susceptible of being preyed on. The spirit is made less predatory if it be either condensed in substance, as in the use of opiates and preparations of nitre, and in mortifications ; or diminished in quantity, as in Pythagorean and monastic diets; or quieted in motion, as in leisure and tranquillity. The surrounding air becomes less predatory, when it is either less heated by the rays of the sun, as in cold climates, caves, mountains, and the columns of anchorites; or kept from the body, as by thick skins, the plumage of birds, and the use of oils and unguents without spices. The juices of the body are made less susceptible of depredation, by being rendered either hard, or roscid and oily: hard, as by rough diet, living in the open air, strong exercises, and some mineral baths; roscid, as by the use of sweet things, abstaining from salts and acids, and most of all by such a composition of drink as has very fine and subtle parts, yet free from all acrimony or acidity. Repair is produced by aliments. Now alimentation is promoted in four ways; by the digestion of the bowels to send out the nourishment, as is done by medicines comforting the principal bowels; by excitation of the external parts to attract the aliment, as by exercises, proper frictions, some proper unctions and baths; by preparation of the aliment itself, so that it
may insinuate itself more easily and to a certain ex. tent anticipate digestion, as in the various artificial modes of preparing food, mixing drink, fermenting bread, and combining together the virtues of these three; by comforting the last act of assimilation, as in seasonable sleep, and some external applications.
The renovation of what has begun to grow old takes place in two ways; either by the inteneration of the habit of body itself, as in the use of baths, plasters, and unguents, which act so as to sink in without drawing anything out; or by draining out the old moisture and substituting new, as in seasonable and frequent purgings, lettings of blood, and attenuating diets, which restore the flower of the body. And so much for directions.
As for precepts, though many may be deduced from the directions themselves, I think fit to subjoin three as principal. The first is, that prolongation of life is to be expected rather from periodical diets, than from any familiar regimen of living, or even from the excellence of particular recipes. For things which have sufficient strength to turn back the course of nature are generally so strong, and produce such alterations, that they cannot be compounded with any medicine, much less mixed with common food. It remains therefore, that they be used in series, and regularly, and at set times recurring at certain intervals.
The second is, that prolongation of life is to be expected rather froin working on the spirits and from the softening of the parts, than from the modes of alimentation. For there being three things which act upon the human body and frame (not taking external accidents into account), namely the spirits, the parts, and the aliments; the way of prolonging life by the modes of alimentation is tedious and circuitous; whereas the ways by working on the spirits and on the parts are much shorter, and sooner attain the desired end ; because the spirits are immediately affected both by vapours and passions, which have strange power upon