Friday, October 21, 2005

Item of the Day: Bacon's Essayes (1632)

Full Title:

The Essayes or, Covnsels, Civill and Morall: of Francis Lo. Verulam, Viscount St. Alban. With a Table of the Colours, or Apparances of Good and Evill, and their Degrees, as Places of Perswasion, and Disswasion, and their Severall Fallaxes, and the Elenches of them. Newly enlarged.

Written by Francis Bacon. Contains table and Of the Colours of Good and Evill, a Fragment. Printed in London by John Beale, 1639.

"Of Superstition":

IT were better to have no Opinion of God at all, than such an Opinion as is unworthy of him: For the one is Unbeleefe, the other is Contumely: And certainely Superstition is the Reproach of the Deity. Plutarch saith well to that purpose: Surely (saith he) I had rather, a great deale, Men should say there was no such thing as Man at all, as Plutarch, than that they should say, there there was one Plutarch, that would eat his Children, as soone as they were borne; As the Poets speake of Saturne. And, as the Contumely is greater towards God, so the Danger is greater towards Men. Atheisme leaves a Man to Sense; to Philosophy; to Naturall Piety; to Lawes; to Reputation; All which may be Guides to an outward Morall vertue, though Religion were not; But Superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute Monarchy in the Mindes of Men. Therefore Atheisme did never perturbe States; For it makes Men wary of themselves, as looking no further: And we see the times inclined to Atheisme (as the Time of Augustus C├Žsar) were civill times. But Superstition hath beene the Confusion of Many States; And bringeth in a new Primum Mobile, that ravisheth all the Spheares of Government. The Master of Superstition is the People; And in all Superstition, Wise Men follow Fooles; And Arguments are fitted to Practise, in a reversed Order. It was gravely said, by some of the Prelates, in the Counsell of Trent, where the doctrine of the Schoolemen bare great Sway; That the Schoolemen were like Astronomers, which did feigne Eccentricks and Epicycles, and such Engines of Orbs, to save the Phenomena; though they knew, there were no such Things: And in like manner, that the Schoolemen had framed a Number of subtile and intricate Axiomes, and Theorems, to save the practice of the Church. The Causes of Superstition are; Pleasing and sensuall Rites and Ceremonies: Excesse of Outward and Pharisaicall Holinesse: Over great Reverence of Traditions, which cannot but load the Church: The Stratagems of Prelates for their owne Ambition and Lucre: The Favouring too much of Good Intentions which openeth the Gate to Conceits and Novelties: The taking an Aime at divine Matters by Humane, which cannot but breed mixture of Imaginations: And lastly, Barbarous Times, Especially joyned with Calamities and Disasters. Superstition, without a vaile, is a deformed Thing; For, as it addeth deformity to an Ape, to be so like a Man; So the Similitude of Superstition to Religion, makes it the more deformed. And as wholesome Meat corrupteth to little Wormes; So good Formes and Orders, corrupt into a Number of petty Observances. There is a Superstition, in avoiding Superstition; when men thinke to doe best if they go furthest from the Superstition formerly received: Therefore, Care would be had, that (as it fareth in ill Purgings) the good be not taken away, with the Bad, which commonly is done, when the People is the Reformer.

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