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IN PRAISE OF KNOWLEDGE.
SILENCE were the best celebration of that, which I mean to commend; for who would not use silence,
1 where silence is not made ? and what crier can make silence in such a noise and tumult of vain and popu
a lar opinions ? My praise shall be dedicated to the mind itself. The mind is the man, and the knowledge of the mind. A man is but what he knoweth. The mind itself is but an accident to knowledge; for knowledge is a double of that which is. The truth of being, and the truth of knowing, is all one: and the pleasures of the affections greater than the pleasures of the senses.. And are not the pleasures of the intellect greater than the pleasures of the affections? Is it not a true and only natural pleasure, whereof there is no satiety? Is it not knowledge that doth alone clear the mind of all perturbations ? How many things are there which we imagine not ? How many things do we esteem and value otherwise than they are ? This ill-proportioned estimation, these vain imaginations, these be the clouds of errour that turn into the storms of perturbation. Is there any such happiness as for a man's mind to be raised above the confusion of things; where he may have the prospect of the order of nature, and the errour of men ? Is this but a vein only of delight, and not of discovery? of contentment, and not of benefit ? Shall we not as well discern the riches of nature's warehouse, as the benefit of her shop? Is truth ever barren ? Shall he not be able thereby to produce worthy effects, and to endow the life of man with infinite commodities? But shall I make this garland to be put upon a wrong head? Would any body believe me, if I should verify this, upon the knowledge that is now in use ? Are we the richer by one poor invention, by reason of all the learning that hath been these many hundred years? The industry of artificers maketh some small improvement of things invented ; and chance sometimes in experimenting, maketh us to stumble upon somewhat which is new: but all the disputation of the learned never brought to light one effect of nature before unknown. When things are known and found out, then they can descant upon them, they caŋ knit them into certain causes, they can reduce them to their principles. If any instance of experience stand against them, they can range it in order by some distinctions. But all this is but a web of the wit, it can work nothing. I do not doubt but that common notions which we call reason, and the knitting of them together, which we call logic, are the art of reason and studies. But they rather cast obscurity, than gain light to the contemplation of nature. All the philosophy of nature which is now received, is either the philosophy of the Grecians, or that other of the alchemists.
That of the Grecians hath the foundations in words, in ostentation, in confutation, in sects, in schools, in disputations. The Grecians were, as one of themselves saith, “ you Grecians, ever children.” They knew little antiquity; they knew, except fables, not much above five hundred years before themselves. They knew but a small portion of the world. That of the alchemists hath the foundation in imposture, in auricular traditions and obscurity. It was catching hold of religion, but the principle of it is, “ Populus vult decipi.” So that I know no great difference between these great philosophers, but that the one is a loud crying folly, and the other is a whispering folly. The one is gathered out of a few vulgar observations, and the other out of a few experiments of a furnace. The one never faileth to multiply words, and the other ever faileth to multiply gold. Who would not smile at Aristotle, when he admireth the eternity and invariableness of the heavens, as there were not the like in the bowels of the earth? Those be the confines and borders of these two kingdoms, where the continued alteration and incursion are. The superficies and upper parts of the earth are full of varieties. The superficies and lower parts of the heavens, which we call the middle region of the air, is full of variety. There is much spirit in the one part, that cannot be brought into mass. There is much massy body in the other place, that cannot be refined to spirit. The common air is as the waste ground between the borders. Who would not smile at the astronomers, I mean not these