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astrology pretendeth to discover that correspondence or concatenation, which is between the superior globe and the inferior: natural magic pretendeth to call and reduce natural philosophy from variety of speculations to the magnitude of works: and alchemy pretendeth to make separation of all the unlike parts of bodies, which in mixtures of nature are incorporate. But the derivations and prosecutions to these ends, both in the theories and in the practices, are full of error and vanity; which the great professors themselves have sought to veil over and conceal by enigmatical writings, and referring themselves to auricular traditions and such other devices, to save the credit of impostures : and yet surely to alchemy this right is due, that it
be compared to the husbandman whereof Æsop makes the fable; that, when he died, told his sons, that he had left unto them gold buried under ground in his vineyard'; and they digged over all the ground, and gold they found none; but by reason of their stirring and digging the mould about the roots of their vines, they had a great vintage the year following: so assuredly the search and stir to make gold hath brought to light a great number of good and fruitful inventions and experiments, as well for the disclosing of nature, as for the use of man's life.
And as for the overmuch credit that hath been given unto authors in sciences, in making them dictators, that their words should stand, and not consuls, to give advice; the damage is infinite that sciences have received thereby, as the principal cause that hath kept them low, at a stay, without growth or advancement. For hence it hath come, that in arts mechanical the first deviser comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth; but in sciences the first author goeth farthest, and time leeseth and corrupteth. So, we see, artillery, sailing, printing, and the like, were grossly managed at the first, and by time accommodated and refined: but contrariwise, the philosophies and sciences of Aristotle, Plato, Democritus, Hippocrates, Euclides, Archimedes, of most vigour at the first, and by time degenerate and imbased; whereof the reason is no other, but that in the former many wits and industries have contributed in one; and in the latter many wits and industries have been spent about the wit of some one, whom many times they have rather depraved than illustrated. For as water will not ascend higher than the level of the first spring-head from whence it descendeth, so knowledge derived from Aristotle, and exempted from liberty of examination, will not rise again higher than the knowledge of Aristotle. And therefore, although the position be good,“ Oportet “ discentem credere,” yet it must be coupled with this, “ Oportet edoctum judicare;" for disciples do owe unto masters only a temporary belief, and a suspension of their own judgment until they be fully instructed, and not an absolute resignation, or perpetual captivity: and therefore, to conclude this point, I will say no more, but so let great authors have their due, as time, which is the author of authors, be not deprived of his due, which is, further and further to discover truth.
Thus have I gone over these three diseases of learning ; besides the which, there are some other rather peccant humours than formed diseases ; which nevertheless are not so secret and intrinsic, but that they fall under a popular observation and traducement, and therefore are not to be passed over.
The first of these is the extreme affecting of two extremities; the one antiquity, the other novelty : wherein it seemeth the children of time do take after the nature and malice of the father. For as he devoureth his children, so one of them seeketh to devour and suppress the other; while antiquity envieth there should be new additions, and novelty cannot be content to add, but it must deface : surely, the advice of the prophet is the true direction in this matter, “ State super vias antiquas, et videte quænam “ sit via recta et bona, et ambulate in ea.” Antiquity deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stand thereupon, and discover what is the best way; but when the discovery is well taken, then to make progression. And to speak truly, “ Antiquitas “ sæculi juventus mundi.” These times are the ancient times, when the world is ancient, and not those which we account ancient “ordine retrogrado,” by a computation backward from ourselves.
Another error, induced by the former, is a distrust that any thing should be now to be found out, which the world should have missed and passed over, so long time; as if the same objection were to be
made to time, that Lucian maketh to Jupiter and other the heathen gods; of which he wondereth that they begot so many children in old time, and begot none in his time; and asketh whether they were become septuagenary, or whether the law Papia, made against old men's marriages, had restrained them. So it seemeth men doubt lest time is become past children and generation; wherein, contrariwise, we see commonly the levity and inconstancy of men's judgments, which, till a matter be done, wonder that it can be done; and, as soon as it is done, wonder again that it was no sooner done: as we see in the expedition of Alexander into Asia, which at first was prejudged as a vast and impossible enterprise : and yet afterwards it pleaseth Livy to make no more of it than this: “ Nil aliud quàm bene ausus vana " contemnere:" and the same happened to Columbus in the western navigation. But in intellectual matters it is much more common; as may
be seen in most of the propositions of Euclid : which till they be demonstrate, they seem strange to our assent; but being demonstrate, our mind accepteth of them by a kind of relation, (as the lawyers speak,) as if we had known them before.
Another error, that hath also some affinity with the former, is a conceit that of former opinions or sects, after variety and examination, the best hath still prevailed, and suppressed the rest; so as, if a man should begin the labour of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion : as
if the multitude, or the wisest, for the multitude's sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that which is popular and superficial, than to that which is substantial and profound; for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.
Another error, of a diverse nature from all the former, is the over early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth ; but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrated, and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.
Another error which doth succeed that which we last mentioned, is, that after the distribution of particular arts and sciences, men have abandoned universality, or “ philosophia prima ;” which cannot but cease and stop all progression. For no perfect discovery can be made upon a flat or a level : neither is it possible to discover the more remote and deeper parts of any science, if you stand but upon the level of the same science, and ascend not to a higher science.
Another error hath proceeded from too great a