Part 8by Francis Bacon
1 Moral and Private virtue is in the quote:
It takes away the wildness, barbarism, and fierceness of men’s minds.
But the accent must be upon fideliter, for a little superficial learning rather creates a contrary effect.
It takes away all levity, temerity, and insolency, by:
- copious suggestion of all doubts and difficulties
- acquainting the mind to balance reasons on both sides, and to:
- turn back the first offers and conceits of the mind, and
- accept only the examined and tried.
It takes away vain admiration of anything, which is the root of all weakness.
All things are admired, either:
- because they are new, or
- because they are great
Novelty, no man that wadeth in learning or contemplation thoroughly but will find that printed in his heart, Nil novi super terram.
Neither can any man marvel at the play of puppets, that goes behind the curtain, and advises well of the motion.
And for magnitude, as Alexander the Great, after that he was used to great armies, and the great conquests of the spacious provinces in Asia, when he received letters out of Greece, of some fights and services there, which were commonly for a passage or a fort, or some walled town at the most, he said:—“It seemed to him that he was advertised of the battles of the frogs and the mice, that the old tales went of.”
If a man meditate much on the universal frame of nature, the earth with men on it (the divineness of souls except) will not seem much other than an ant-hill, whereas some ants carry corn, and some carry their young, and some go empty, and all to and fro a little heap of dust.
It takes away or mitigateth fear of death or adverse fortune, which is one of the greatest impediments of virtue and imperfections of manners.
For if a man’s mind be deeply seasoned with the consideration of the mortality and corruptible nature of things, he will easily concur with Epictetus, who went forth one day and saw a woman weeping for her pitcher of earth that was broken, and went forth the next day and saw a woman weeping for her son that was dead, and thereupon said, “Heri vidi fragilem frangi, hodie vidi mortalem mori.”
Therefore, Virgil did excellently and profoundly couple the knowledge of causes and the conquest of all fears together, as concomitantia.
2 It were too long to go over the particular remedies which learning doth minister to all the diseases of the mind: sometimes purging the ill humours, sometimes opening the obstructions, sometimes helping digestion, sometimes increasing appetite, sometimes healing the wounds and exulcerations thereof, and the like; and, therefore, I will conclude with that which hath rationem totius—which is, that it disposeth the constitution of the mind not to be fixed or settled in the defects thereof, but still to be capable and susceptible of growth and reformation.
For the unlearned man knows not what it is to descend into himself, or to call himself to account, nor the pleasure of that suavissima vita, indies sentire se fieri meliorem. The good parts he hath he will learn to show to the full, and use them dexterously, but not much to increase them.
The faults he hath he will learn how to hide and colour them, but not much to amend them; like an ill mower, that mows on still, and never whets his scythe. Whereas with the learned man it fares otherwise, that he doth ever intermix the correction and amendment of his mind with the use and employment thereof. Nay, further, in general and in sum, certain it is that Veritas and Bonitas differ but as the seal and the print; for truth prints goodness, and they be the clouds of error which descend in the storms of passions and perturbations.
Power and Command
3 Is Power and Command comparable with knowledge?
The dignity of the commandment is according to the dignity of the commanded; to have commandment over beasts as herdmen have, is a thing contemptible; to have commandment over children as schoolmasters have, is a matter of small honour; to have commandment over galley-slaves is a disparagement rather than an honour.
Neither is the commandment of tyrants much better, over people which have put off the generosity of their minds; and, therefore, it was ever holden that honours in free monarchies and commonwealths had a sweetness more than in tyrannies, because the commandment extendeth more over the wills of men, and not only over their deeds and services. And therefore, when Virgil putteth himself forth to attribute to Augustus Cæsar the best of human honours, he doth it in these words:—
“Victorque volentes Per populos dat jura, viamque affectat Olympo.”
But yet the commandment of knowledge is yet higher than the commandment over the will; for it is a commandment over the reason, belief, and understanding of man, which is the highest part of the mind, and giveth law to the will itself. For there is no power on earth which setteth up a throne or chair of estate in the spirits and souls of men, and in their cogitations, imaginations, opinions, and beliefs, but knowledge and learning.
Therefore we see the detestable and extreme pleasure that arch-heretics, and false prophets, and impostors are transported with, when they once find in themselves that they have a superiority in the faith and conscience of men; so great as if they have once tasted of it, it is seldom seen that any torture or persecution can make them relinquish or abandon it.
But as this is that which the author of the Revelation calleth the depth or profoundness of Satan, so by argument of contraries, the just and lawful sovereignty over men’s understanding, by force of truth rightly interpreted, is that which approacheth nearest to the similitude of the divine rule.