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Francis Bacon

Glyn Hughes’ Squashed Philosophers

Glyn Hughes’ Squashed Philosophers

The Condensed Edition of
Francis Bacon’s
The Advancement of Learning
… in 7,500 words

“if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.”

Bacon’s great claim to fame is not that he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of 12, not that he was Lord Chancellor of England under James I, nor even that he has been reputed the real writer of Shakespeare’s plays, but that he was a philosopher of the first rank and the effective founder of the modern, experimental, scientific, approach to understanding.
Before Bacon, ‘learning’ largely meant memorizing the classics, especially Aristotle, and acceding to every dictat of established religion. In The Advancement of Learning, he argued that the only knowledge of importance was that which could be discovered by observation- ’empirical’ knowledge rooted in the natural world. He championed the idea of state funding for experimental science and the creation of an encyclopedia. In Novum Organum 1620, he redefined the task of natural science, as a way of increasing human power over nature, and in The New Atlantis 1626, describing a utopian state exploiting scientific knowledge. The expression “Knowledge is power” is his. In 1621 Bacon was evicted from office for taking a bribe and died four years later after catching a cold while stuffing a chicken with snow in an early experiment in refrigeration.

As befits one of the founders of science, Bacon’s writing style is very clear, so there has been little need to modernize spellings. Indeed, in The Advancement of Learning he has very harsh words for the pompous abstruseness of many academics. This squashed version reduces about 80,000 words to about 7,500

VEHICULA SCIENTIAE: “Vehicles of knowledge”
JUSTIFICATA EST SAPIENTIA A FILIIS SUIS: “Wisdom is justified of her children”
Spials: Spies, secret discoverers
Poesy: Poetry
PHILOSOPHIA PRIMA: “First philosophy”
Scient: Knowing, skillful
Kalendar: A written work organised in tables
LOQUENDUM UT VULGUS, SENTIENDUM UT SAPIENTES: “Speak like the ordinary folk, think like the wise men”
NON HOS QUAESITUM MUNUS IN USUS: “It was not a gift which was asked for in these circumstances”
TANQUM ADEPS SACRIFICII: “As if obtained by a sacrifice”
DEO GLORIA: “For the glory of God

The Advancement of Learning
by Francis Bacon, 1605
Squashed version edited by
Glyn Hughes © 2000

To the King

THERE were under the law, excellent King, from their servants both tribute of duty and presents of affection. In the former of these I hope I shall not be wanting, for the latter, I thought to make some oblation, which might refer to the excellency of your individual person.

Wherefore, representing your Majesty unto my mind, I have been touched with extreme wonder at those your virtues and faculties, which the Philosophers call intellectual. God hath given your Majesty a composition of understanding admirable, being able to compass and comprehend the greatest matters. Your Majesty’s manner of speech is indeed prince-like, bowing as from a fountain, and yet streaming and branching itself into nature’s order, full of facility and felicity, imitating none, and inimitable by any; such that your Majesty deserveth to be expressed in some solid work, and immortal monument, bearing a character or signature both of the power and perfection of a King.

Therefore I did conclude with myself, that I could not make unto your Majesty a better oblation than of some Treatise concerning the excellency of Learning and Knowledge.


To discover then the ignorance and error of this opinion, it was not the pure knowledge of nature and universality, which gave the occasion to the fall: but it was the proud knowledge of good and evil. There is no vexation or anxiety of mind which resulteth from knowledge otherwise than merely by accident; for all knowledge and wonder (which is the seed of knowledge) is an impression of pleasure in itself. And as for the conceit that too much knowledge should incline a man to Atheism, a little or superficial knowledge of Philosophy may incline the mind of man to Atheism, but a further proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to Religion.

Let no man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation think or maintain, that a man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy: but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both; only let men beware that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together.

And for the conceit that Learning should dispose men to leisure and privateness, and make men slothful; it were a strange thing if that which accustometh the mind to a perpetual motion and agitation should induce slothfulness. Again, for that other conceit that Learning should undermine the reverence of laws and government, it is assuredly a mere depravation and calumny, without all shadow of truth.

Now we come to that sort of discredit that groweth unto Learning from learned men themselves, for no doubt there be amongst them, as in other professions, men of all temperatures.

A fault hath been incident to learned men; which is, that they have esteemed the preservation, good, and honour of their countries or masters before their own fortunes or safeties. Another fault incident commonly to learned men is that they fail sometimes in applying themselves to particular persons: I refer them to that which Plato said of his master Socrates, whom he compared to the pots of apothecaries, which on the outside had the shape of apes and owls and antiques, but contained within sovereign and precious liquors and confections. And so much touching the manners of learned men.

Now I proceed to those errors and vanities which have intervened amongst the studies of the learned.

Martin Luther, conducted no doubt by a higher providence, was enforced to awake antiquity, so that the ancient authors, which had long time slept in libraries, began generally to be read and revolved. Thus by consequence did bring in an affectionate study of eloquence and copie of speech, which then began to flourish. This grew speedily to an excess; for men began to hunt more after words than matter; more after the choiceness of the phrase, than after the weight of matter.

Yet indeed the strength of all sciences is, as the strength of the old man’s fagot of sticks, in the band that binds them. For the harmony of a science, supporting each part the other, is and ought to be the true and brief confutation and suppression of all the smaller sort of objections. But, on the other side, if you take out every axiom, as the sticks of the fagot, one by one, you may quarrel with them, and bend them, and break them at your pleasure So as it is not possible but this quality of knowledge must fall under popular contempt, the people being apt to contemn truth.

Another error hath proceeded from a kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man; by means whereof men have withdrawn themselves away from the contemplation of nature, and the observations of experience, and have tumbled up and down in their own reason and conceits. Upon these Heraclitus gave a just censure, saying, MEN SOUGHT TRUTH IN THEIR OWN LITTLE WORLDS, AND NOT IN THE GREAT AND COMMON WORLD.

Another error is an impatience of doubt and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients; the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. The end ought to be to separate and reject vain speculations, and whatsoever is empty and void, and to preserve and augment whatsoever is solid and fruitful: that knowledge may not be, as a curtesan, for pleasure and vanity only, or as a bondwoman, to acquire and gain to her master’s use; but as a spouse, for generation, fruit, and comfort. My intent is, without varnish or amplification, justly to weigh the dignity of knowledge in the balance with other things, and to take the true value thereof by testimonies and arguments divine and human.

First therefore let us seek the dignity of knowledge in the archetype or first platform, which is in the attributes and acts of God, as far as they are revealed to man and may be observed with sobriety; wherein we may not seek it by the name of Learning; for all Learning is Knowledge acquired, and all knowledge in God is original: and therefore we must look for it by another name, that of Wisdom or Sapience, as the Scriptures call it.

We find, as far as credit is to be given to the celestial hierarchy of that supposed Dionysius the senator of Athens, the first place or degree is given to the angels of Love, which are termed Seraphim; the second to the angels of Light, which are termed Cherubim; and the third to Thrones, Principalities, and the rest; so as the angels of Knowledge and Illumination are placed before the angels of Office and Domination.

To descend from Spirits and Intellectual Forms to Sensible and Material Forms; we read the first Form that was created was Light, which hath a relation and correspondence in nature and corporal things to Knowledge in Spirits and incorporal things. After the creation was finished, the first acts which man performed in Paradise consisted of the two summary parts of knowledge; the view of creatures, and the imposition of names.

So in the age before the flood, the holy records honour the name of the inventors and authors of music and works in metal. To descend to Moses the lawgiver, and God’s first pen: he is adorned by the Scriptures with this addition and commendation, THAT HE WAS SEEN IN ALL THE LEARNING OF THE EGYPTIANS; which nation, we know, was one of the most ancient schools of the world.

So likewise in that excellent book of Job, if it be revolved with diligence, it will be found pregnant and swelling with natural philosophy; as, for example, cosmography, and the roundness of the world. So likewise in the person of Salomon the King, we see the gift or endowment of wisdom and learning, both in Salomon’s petition and in God’s assent thereunto. By virtue of which grant or donative of God Salomon became enabled not only to write those excellent Parables or Aphorisms concerning divine and moral philosophy; but also to compile a Natural History of all verdure, from the cedar upon the mountain to the moss upon the wall, (which is but a rudiment between putrefaction and a herb,) and also of all things that breathe or move. Nay, the same Salomon the King, although he excelled in the glory of treasure, yet he maketh no claim to any of those glories, but only to the glory of inquisition of truth

Our Saviour Himself did first show His power to subdue ignorance, by His conference with the priests and doctors of the law. And the coming of the Holy Spirit was chiefly figured and expressed in the similitude and gift of tongues, which are but VEHICULA SCIENTIAE.

So again, we find that many of the ancient Bishops and Fathers of the Church were excellently read and studied in all the learning of the heathen; it was the Christian Church, amidst the inundations of the Scythians and the Saracens, did preserve in the sacred lap and bosom thereof the precious relics of heathen learning, which otherwise had been extinguished as if no such thing had ever been.

We see before our eyes, that in the age of ourselves and our fathers, when it pleased God to call the Church of Rome to account for their degenerate manners and ceremonies, that the Jesuits, have much quickened and strengthened the state of learning.

Wherefore, to conclude this part, let it be observed, that there be two principal duties and services which philosophy and human learning do perform to faith and religion. The one, because they are an effectual inducement to the exaltation of the glory of God: the other, because they minister a singular help and preservative against unbelief and error.

As for human proofs, of the value of learning, it was, honour amongst the heathen, the highest honour to obtain veneration and adoration as a God. This unto the Christians is a forbidden fruit. But according to that which the Grecians call APOTHEOSIS, inventors and authors of new arts were consecrated amongst the gods themselves; as were Ceres, Bacchus, Mercurius, Apollo, and others.

For although he might be thought partial to his own profession, he that said, THEN SHOULD PEOPLE AND ESTATES BE HAPPY, WHEN EITHER KINGS WERE PHILOSOPHERS, OR PHILOSOPHERS KINGS, yet so much is verified by experience, that under learned princes and governors there have been ever the best times. And senators or counsellors likewise, which be learned, do proceed upon more safe and substantial principles, than counsellors which are only men of experience.

Trajan was, for his person, not learned: but there was not a greater admirer of learning, or benefactor of learning; a founder of famous libraries, a perpetual advancer of learned men to office, and a familiar converser with learned professors and preceptors. Adrian, his successor, was the most curious man that lived, and the most universal inquirer; insomuch as it was noted for an error in his mind.

But for a tablet, or picture of smaller volume, (not presuming to speak of your majesty that liveth,) in my judgment the most excellent is that of Queen Elizabeth, your immediate predecessor in this part of Britain. This lady was endued with learning in her sex singular, and great even amongst masculine princes; whether we speak of learning, of language, or of science, modern or ancient, Divinity or Humanity: and unto the very last year of her life she was accustomed to appoint set hours for reading.

Alexander was bred and taught under Aristotle, the great philosopher, who dedicated divers of his books of philosophy unto him. As for Julius Caesar, the excellency of his learning needeth not to be argued from his education or his speeches; but in a further degree doth declare itself in his writings and works.

To proceed now to moral and private virtue: first, it is an assured truth, that knowledge taketh away the wildness and barbarism and fierceness of men’s minds. It taketh away all levity, temerity, and insolency, by copious suggestion of all doubts and difficulties, and acquainting the mind to balance reasons on both sides, and to turn back the first offers and conceits of the mind, and to accept of nothing but examined and tried. It taketh away vain admiration of anything, which is the root of all weakness. Neither can any man marvel at the play of puppets, that goeth behind the curtain, and adviseth himself well of the motion.

So certainly, if a man meditate much upon the universal frame of nature, the earth with men upon 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. Knowledge investeth and crowneth man’s nature.

But yet the commandment of knowledge is yet higher than the commandment over the will; for there is no power on earth which setteth up a throne or chair of state in the spirits and souls of men, and in their cogitations, imaginations, opinions, and beliefs, but knowledge and learning. And no doubt it is hard to say. whether arms or learning have advanced greater numbers. By learning man excelleth in that wherein man excelleth beasts; that by learning man ascendeth to the heavens and their motions, where in body he cannot come.

Let us conclude with the dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that whereunto man’s nature doth most aspire, which is, immortality or continuance. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years, or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time, infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished? But the images of men’s wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time, and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages: so that, if the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified, which, as ships, pass through the vast seas of time, and make ages so distant to participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions, the one of the other?

Nevertheless I know it will be impossible for me, by any pleading of mine, to reverse the judgment of Aesop’s Cock, that preferred the barleycorn before the gem. For these things continue as they have been: but so will that also continue whereupon learning hath ever relied, and which faileth not: JUSTIFICATA EST SAPIENTIA A FILIIS SUIS.


To the King
Excellent King, those, which are fruitful in their generations, should likewise be careful of the good estate of future times. Queen Elizabeth was a sojourner in the world in respect of her unmarried life, and was a blessing to her own times; and yet your Majesty, whom God hath already blessed with so much royal issue, it is proper and agreeable to be conversant in those acts also which are in their nature permanent and perpetual: amongst the which there is not any more worthy than the further endowment of the world with sound and fruitful knowledge. To return therefore where we left, it remaineth to consider of what kind those acts are which have been undertaken and performed by kings and others for the increase and advancement of learning.

The works or acts of merit towards learning are conversant about three objects: the places of learning, the books of learning, and the persons of the learned.

The works which concern the seats and places of learning are four; foundations and buildings, endowments with revenues, endowments with franchises and privileges, institutions and ordinances for government.

The works touching books are two: first, libraries, which are as the shrines where all the relics of the ancient saints are preserved and reposed: secondly, new editions of authors, with more correct impressions, more faithful translations, more profitable glosses, more diligent annotations, and the like.

The works pertaining to the persons of learned men, besides the advancement and countenancing of them in general, are two: the reward and designation of readers in sciences already extant and invented; and the reward and designation of writers and inquirers concerning any parts of learning not sufficiently laboured and prosecuted.

First, therefore, amongst so many great foundations of colleges in Europe, I find it strange that they are all dedicated to professions, and none left free to arts and sciences at large. And this I take to be a great cause that hath hindered the progression of learning. Neither is it to be forgotten, that this dedicating of foundations to professory learning hath not only had a malign aspect and influence upon the growth of sciences, but hath also been prejudicial to states and governments. For hence it proceedeth that princes find a solitude in regard of able men to serve them in causes of state, because there is no education collegiate which is free; where such as were so disposed might give themselves to histories, modern languages, books of policy and civil discourse, and other the like enablements unto service of estate.

And because Founders of Colleges do plant, and Founders of Lectures do water, it followeth well in order to speak of the defect which is in public lectures; namely, in the smallness and meanness of the salary or reward which in most places is assigned unto them.

Another defect I note, that unto the deep and fruitful study of sciences, books be not the only instrumentals; for we see globes, astrolabes, maps, and the like, provided to astronomy, as well as books: we see likewise that some places instituted for physic have gardens for simples of all sorts, and do likewise command the use of dead bodies for anatomies. But these do respect but a few things. In general, there will hardly be any main proficience in the disclosing of nature, except there be some allowance for expenses about experiments; whether they be experiments appertaining to Vulcanus or Daedalus, furnace or engine, so you must allow the spials and intelligencers of nature to bring in their bills; or else you shall be ill advertised.

Another is a lack I find in the exercises used in the Universities, which do make too great a divorce between invention and memory; for their speeches are either premeditate, where nothing is left to invention, or merely extemporal, where little is left to memory: whereas in active life there is rather an intermixture of premeditation and invention.

Another defect which I note, ascendeth a little higher; knowledge would be yet more advanced, if there were more intelligence mutual between the Universities of Europe than now there is.

THE parts of human learning have reference to the three parts of man’s understanding: history to his memory, poesy to his imagination, and philosophy to his reason. Divine learning receiveth the same distribution; theology consisteth of the history of the church; parables, which is divine poesy; and holy doctrine is but Divine History.

I am not ignorant that in divers sciences, as of the jurisconsults, the mathematicians, the rhetoricians, the philosophers, there are set down some memorials of the schools, authors, and books. But a just story of learning, containing the antiquities and originals of knowledges and their sects, their inventions, their traditions, their flourishings, decays, with the causes and occasions of them, throughout the ages of the world, I may truly affirm to be wanting.

As to those histories of marvels, those superstitious narrations of sorceries, witchcrafts, dreams, divinations, and the like, where there is an assurance and clear evidence of the fact, I am not of the opinion that they be altogether excluded. For it is not yet known in what cases the effects attributed to superstition do participate of natural causes: as your majesty hath showed in your own example; who with the two clear eyes of religion and natural philosophy have looked deeply and wisely into these shadows, and yet proved yourself to be of the nature of the sun, which passeth through pollutions and itself remains as pure as before. But this I hold fit, that these narrations, which have mixture with superstition, be sorted by themselves, and not be mingled with the narrations which are merely and sincerely natural.

For history of nature wrought or mechanical, I find some collections made of agriculture, and likewise of manual arts; but it is esteemed a kind of dishonour unto learning to descend to inquiry upon matters mechanical. But the truth is, it be not the highest instances that give the securest information. He that enquireth into the nature of a great Commonwealth, must find it first in a family, and the simple conjugations of man and wife, which are in every cottage. So we see how that secret of nature, of the turning of iron touched with the loadstone towards the north, was found out in needles of iron, not in bars of iron.

If my judgment be of any weight, the use of history mechanical is of all others the most radical and fundamental towards natural philosophy and to the endowment and benefit of man’s life.

As for civil history, it is of three kinds; not unfitly to be compared with the three kinds of pictures or images: for of pictures or images, we see some are unfinished, some are perfect, and some are defaced. So of histories we may find three kinds, memorials, perfect histories, and antiquities; for memorials are history unfinished, or the first or rough draughts of history; and antiquities are history defaced, or some remnants of history which have casually escaped the shipwreck of time.

History, which may be called just and perfect history, is of three kinds, according to the object which it propoundeth or pretendeth to represent: for it either representeth a time, or a person, or an actions. The first we call chronicles, the second lives, and the third narrations or relations. But for modern histories, whereof there are some few very worthy, but the greater part beneath mediocrity.

There is another portion of history which Cornelius Tacitus maketh, which is not to be forgotten, especially with that application which he accoupleth it withal, annals and journals. I cannot likewise be ignorant of a form of writing which some wise and grave men have used, containing a scattered history of those actions which they have thought worthy of memory, with politic discourse and observation thereupon: not incorporate into the history, but separately, and as the more principal in their intention; which kind of ruminated history I think more fit to place amongst books of policy.

History ecclesiastical receiveth the same divisions with history civil: but further, in the propriety thereof, may be divided into the history of the church, by a general name; history of prophecy; and history of providence. Thus much therefore concerning history; which is that part of learning which answereth to one of the cells, domiciles, or offices of the mind of man: which is that of memory.

Poesy is a part of learning in measure of words extremely licensed, and doth truly refer to the imagination. It is taken in two senses in respect of words or matter; in the first sense it is but a character of style, and belongeth to arts of speech, and is not pertinent for the present: in the latter it is, as hath been said, one of the principal portions of learning, and is nothing else but feigned history, which may be styled as well in prose as in verse.

The use of this feigned history hath been to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man in those points wherein the nature of things doth deny it. Therefore, because the acts or events of true history have not that magnitude which satisfieth the mind of man, poesy feigneth acts and events greater and more heroical.

In this third part of learning, which is poesy, I can report no deficience. For being as a plant that cometh of the lust of the earth, without a formal seed, it hath sprung up and spread abroad more than any other kind. But it is not good to stay too long in the theatre. Let us now pass on to the judicial place or palace of the mind, which we are to approach and view with more reverence and attention.

In Philosophy, the contemplations of man do either penetrate unto God, or are reflected or reverted upon himself. Out of which several inquiries there do arise three knowledges, divine philosophy, natural philosophy, and human philosophy or humanity. But because the distributions and partitions of knowledge are not like several lines that meet in one angle, and so touch but in a point; but are like branches of a tree, that meet in a stem: therefore it is good, before we enter into the former distribution, to erect and constitute one universal science, by the name of PHILOSOPHIA PRIMA , primitive or summary philosophy, as the main and common way: THAT IT BE A RECEPTACLE FOR ALL SUCH PROFITABLE OBSERVATIONS AND AXIOMS AS FALL NOT WITHIN THE COMPASS OF ANY OF THE SPECIAL PARTS OF PHILOSOPHY OR SCIENCES, BUT ARE MORE COMMON AND OF A HIGHER STAGE.

This science, as I understand it, I may justly report as deficient; for I see sometimes the profounder sort of wits in handling some particular argument will now and then draw a bucket of water out of this well for their present use; but the spring-head thereof seemeth to me not to have been visited; being of so excellent use, both for the disclosing of nature, and the abridgment of art.

Returning to divine philosophy or natural theology, it is that knowledge or rudiment of knowledge concerning God, which may be obtained by the contemplation of His creatures. The bounds of this knowledge are, that it sufficeth to convince atheism, but not to inform religion. So as in this part of knowledge, touching divine philosophy, I am so far from noting any deficience, as I rather note an excess: whereunto I have digressed because of the extreme prejudice which both religion and philosophy have received and may receive, by being commixed together; as that which undoubtedly will make an heretical religion, and an imaginary and fabulous philosophy.

We will now proceed to natural philosophy.

If then it be true that Democritus said, THAT THE TRUTH OF NATURE LIETH HID IN CERTAIN DEEP MINES AND CAVES, it were good to divide natural philosophy into the mine and the furnace: and to make two professions or occupations of natural philosophers, some to be pioneers and some smiths; some to dig, and some to refine and hammer: and surely I do best allow of a division of that kind, into speculative, and operable; natural science and natural prudence.

Now although it be true that there is an intercourse between causes and effects; yet because all true and fruitful natural philosophy hath a double scale or ladder, ascendent and descendent; ascending from experiments to the invention of causes, and descending from causes to the invention of new experiments; therefore I judge it most requisite that these two parts be severally considered and handled.

Natural science or theory is divided into physique and metaphysique: and I intend PHILOSOPHIA PRIMA or Summary Philosophy, and Metaphysique, which heretofore have been confounded as one, to be two distinct things. I have assigned to Summary Philosophy the common principles and axioms which are promiscuous and indifferent to several sciences. It is therefore now a question which is left remaining for Metaphysique; wherein I may without prejudice preserve thus much of the conceit of antiquity, that Physique should contemplate that which is inherent in matter, and therefore transitory; and Metaphysique that which is abstracted and fixed. And again, that Physique should handle that which supposeth in nature only a being and moving; and Metaphysique should handle that which supposeth further in nature a reason, understanding, and platform. Physique, inquireth and handleth the material and scient causes; and the other, which is Metaphysique, handleth the formal and final causes.

Physique, taking it according to the derivation, and not according to our idiom for medicine, is situate in a middle term or distance between Natural History and Metaphysique. For natural history describeth the variety of things; physique, the causes, but variable or respective causes; and metaphysique, the fixed and constant causes.

For Metaphysique, we have assigned unto it the inquiry of formal and final causes; which assignation, as to the former of them, may seem to be nugatory and void; because of the received and inveterate opinion that the inquisition of man is not competent to find out essential Forms or true differences. As for the possibility, they are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.

There remaineth yet another part of Natural Philosophy, which is commonly made a principal part and holdeth rank with Physique special and Metaphysique, which is Mathematique; but I think it more agreeable to the nature of things and to the light of order to place it as a branch of Metaphysique.

The Mathematics are either pure or mixed. To the Pure Mathematics are those sciences belonging which handle quantity determinate, merely severed from any axioms of natural philosophy; and these are two, Geometry and Arithmetic; the one handling quantity continued, and the other dissevered. For many parts of nature can neither be invented with sufficient subtilty, nor demonstrated with sufficient perspicuity, nor accommodated unto use with sufficient dexterity, without the aid and intervening of the mathematics; of which sort are perspective, music, astronomy, cosmography, architecture, enginery, and divers others.

In the Mathematics I can report no deficience, except it be that men do not sufficiently understand the excellent use of the Pure Mathematics. So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye and a body ready to put itself into all postures; so in the Mathematics, that use which is collateral and intervenient is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended. And as for the Mixed Mathematics, I may only make this prediction, that there cannot fail to be more kinds of them, as nature grows further disclosed.

As for Natural Magic, containing certain credulous and superstitious conceits and observations of sympathies and antipathies, and hidden properties, and some frivolous experiments; it is as far differing in truth of nature from such a knowledge as we require, as the story of King Arthur of Britain, or Hugh of Bordeaux, divers from Caesar’s Commentaries in truth. And therefore we may note in these sciences which hold so much of imagination and belief, as this degenerate Natural Magic, Alchemy, Astrology, and the like.

Besides the deriving and deducing operations from Metaphysique, there are pertinent two points of much purpose. The first is, that there be made a kalendar , resembling an inventory, containing all the inventions, being the works or fruits of nature or art, which are now extant, and a note of what things are yet held impossible, or not invented; to the end that man’s inquiry may be more awake and that those experiments be not only esteemed which have an immediate use, but those principally which are of most universal consequence for invention. For the mariner’s needle, which giveth the direction, is of no less benefit for navigation than the invention of the sails which give the motion.

We come therefore now to that knowledge which is the KNOWLEDGE OF OURSELVES. This knowledge, as it is the end and term of natural philosophy in the intention of man, it is but a portion of natural philosophy in the continent of nature: and generally let this be a rule, that all partitions of knowledges be accepted; rather for lines and veins than for sections and separations; and that the continuance and entireness of knowledge be preserved.

So we may see that the opinion of Copernicus touching the rotation of the earth, which astronomy itself cannot correct, because it is not repugnant to any of the phenomena, yet natural philosophy may correct. So we see also that the science of medicine, if it be destituted and forsaken by natural philosophy, it is not much better than an empirical practice.

The knowledge that concerneth the good of man’s body is of four kinds, Health, Beauty, Strength, and Pleasure: so the knowledges are Medicine, or art of Cure; art of Decoration, which is called Cosmetic; art of Activity, which is called Athletic; and art Voluptuary, which Tacitus truly calleth ERUDITUS LUXUS.

To speak therefore of Medicine: the ancient opinion that man was MICROCOSMUS, an abstract or model of the world, hath been fantastically strained by Paracelsus’ and the alchemists. But thus much is evidently true, that of all substances which nature hath produced, man’s body is the most extremely compounded. For we see herbs and plants are nourished by earth and water; beasts for the most part by herbs and fruits; man by the flesh of beasts, herbs, grains, fruits, water, and the manifold alterations, dressings; that in his mansion hath infinite variations. The Soul on the other side is the simplest of substances.

Medicine is a science which hath been more professed than laboured, and yet more laboured than advanced; the labour having been, in my judgment, rather in circle than in progression. Notably the discontinuance of the ancient and serious diligence of Hippocrates, which used to set down a narrative of the cases of his patients, and how they proceeded, and how they were judged by recovery or death. Therefore having an example proper in the father of the art, I shall not need to allege an example foreign, of the wisdom of the lawyers, who are careful to report new cases and decisions for the direction of future judgments. This continuance of medicinal history I find deficient. In the inquiry which is made by Anatomy, I find much deficience: for they inquire of the parts, and their substances, figures, and collocations; but they inquire not of the diversities of the parts, the secrecies of the passages.

I esteem it the office of a physician not only to restore health, but to mitigate pain and dours. But the physicians contrariwise do make a kind of scruple and religion to stay with the patient after the disease is deplored; whereas, in my judgment, they ought both to inquire the skill and to give the attendances for the facilitating and assuaging of the pains and agonies of death.

In preparation of medicines, I do find strange, especially considering how mineral medicines have been extolled, and that they are safer for the outward than inward parts, that no man hath sought to make an imitation by art of natural baths and medicinable fountains.

For Cosmetic, it hath parts civil, and parts effeminate: for cleanness of body was ever esteemed to proceed from a due reverence to God, to society, and to ourselves. As for artificial decoration, it is well worthy of the deficiencies which it hath; being neither fine enough to deceive, nor wholesome to please. For Athletic, I accept the subject of it largely, that is to say, that the body of man may be brought, by activity, to hardness against wants and extremities. As for arts of pleasure sensual, the chief deficience is of laws to repress them.

For Human Knowledge which concerns the Mind, it hath two parts; the one that inquireth of the substance or nature of the soul or mind, the other that inquireth of the faculties or functions thereof.

But although I am of opinion that this knowledge may be more really and soundly inquired than it hath been; yet I hold that in the end it must be bounded by religion, or else it will be subject to deceit and delusion. Unto this part of knowledge there be two appendices; Divination and Fascination.

Divination for the most part is superstitious; such as were the heathen observations upon the inspection of sacrifices, the flights of birds, the swarming of bees; and Chaldean astrology, and the like. Fascination is the power and act of imagination intentive upon other bodies than the body of the imagination. And herein comes in crookedly and dangerously a great part of Ceremonial Magic. For it may be pretended that Ceremonies, Characters, and Charms, do work, not by any tacit or sacramental contract with evil spirits, but serve only to strengthen the imagination of him that useth it: as images are said by the Roman church to raise the devotions of them that pray before them. Deficiencies in these knowledges I will report none, other than the general deficience, that it is not known how much of them is verity, and how much vanity.

The Knowledge which respecteth the faculties of the mind of man is of two kinds; the one respecting his Understanding and Reason, and the other his Will, Appetite, and Affection. The Arts intellectual are four in number; divided according to the ends whereunto they are referred: for man’s labour is to invent that which is sought or propounded; or to judge that which is invented; or to retain that which is judged; or to deliver over that which is retained. So as the arts must be four: Art of Inquiry or Invention: Art of Examination or Judgment: Art of Custody or Memory: and Art of Elocution or Tradition.

Invention is of two kinds, much differing: the one of Arts and Sciences; and the other of Speech and Arguments. The former of these I do report deficient; which seemeth to me to be such a deficience as if in the making of an inventory touching the estate of a defunct it should be set down THAT THERE IS NO READY MONEY. For as money will fetch all other commodities, so this knowledge is that which should purchase all the rest. And like as the West Indies had never been discovered if the use of the mariner’s needle had not been first discovered, though the one be vast regions, and the other a small motion; so it cannot be found strange if sciences be no further discovered, if the art itself of invention and discovery hath been passed over.

Now we pass unto the arts of Judgment, which handle the natures of Proofs and Demonstrations; which as to Induction hath a coincidence with Invention.

Here let us consider the false appearances that are imposed upon us by words, which are framed and applied according to the conceit and capacities of the vulgar sort: and although we think we govern our words, and prescribe it well, LOQUENDUM UT VULGUS, SENTIENDUM UT SAPIENTES ; yet certain it is that words, as a Tartar’s bow, do shoot back upon the understanding of the wisest, and mightily entangle and pervert the judgment. So as it is almost necessary in all controversies and disputations to imitate the wisdom of the mathematicians, in setting down in the very beginning the definitions of our words and terms that others may know how we accept and understand them.

The custody or retaining of knowledge is either in writing or memoir; whereof writing hath two parts, the nature of the character, and the order of the entry; for the art of characters, it hath nearest conjugation with grammar.

For the other principal which is Memory, I find that faculty in my judgment weakly inquired of. This art of memory is but built upon two intentions; the one prenotion, the other emblem. Prenotion dischargeth the indefinite seeking of that we would remember, and emblem reduceth conceits intellectual to images sensible, which strike the memory more; out of which axioms may be drawn. I do not to report those things deficient, but only ill managed.

There remaineth the kind of transitive knowledge, concerning the expressing or transferring our knowledge to others.

The organ of tradition is either speech or writing: and we see the commerce of barbarous people, that understand not one another’s language, and in the practice of divers that are dumb and deaf, that men’s minds are expressed in gestures. And we understand that it is the use of China to write in characters which express neither letters nor words but things or notions; insomuch as provinces, which understand not one another’s language, can nevertheless read one another’s writings; and therefore they have a vast multitude of characters, as many, I suppose, as radical words.

Notes of cogitations are of two sorts; the one when the note hath some similitude or congruity with the notion: the other having force only by contract or acceptation. Of the former sort are hieroglyphics and gestures. As to hieroglyphics, they are things of ancient use, embraced chiefly by the Egyptians. And as for gestures, they are as transitory hieroglyphics, in that they abide not.

Concerning speech and words, the consideration of them hath produced the science of grammar. The duty of it is for the speedy and perfect attaining languages; and also philosophical, examining the power and nature of words; and therefore I cannot report it deficient, though I think it very worthy to be reduced into a science by itself.

CIVIL knowledge is conversant about a subject which of all others is most immersed in matter. And therefore it cometh oft to pass that there be evil times in good governments. Again, states, as great engines, move slowly, and are not so soon put out of frame: for as in Egypt the seven good years sustained the seven bad, so governments for a time well grounded, do bear out errors following; but the resolution of particular persons is more suddenly subverted. These respects do somewhat qualify the extreme difficulty of civil knowledge.

This knowledge hath three parts, according to the three summary actions of society; which are conversation, negotiation, and government. For man seeketh in society comfort, use, and protection: and they be three wisdoms of divers natures, which do often sever: wisdom of the behaviour, wisdom of business, and wisdom of state. The first of these is well laboured, the second and third are deficient.

But to all this part of inquiry the most compendious way resteth in three things: the first, to have general acquaintance with those which look most into the world. The second is, to keep a good mediocrity in liberty of speech and secresy; in most things liberty; secresy where it importeth; for liberty of speech inviteth and provoketh liberty to be used again, and so bringeth much to a man’s knowledge; and secresy, on the other side, induceth trust and inwardness. The last is, the reducing of a man’s self to this watchful and serene habit, as to make account and purpose, in every conference and action, as well to observe as to act.

And if any man flatter himself that he will employ his fortune well, though he should obtain it ill, as was said concerning Augustus Cesar, and after of Septimius Severus, THAT EITHER THEY SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN, OR ELSE THEY SHOULD NEVER HAVE DIED, they did so much mischief in the pursuit and ascent of their greatness, and so much good when they were established; yet these compensations and satisfactions are good to be used, but never good to be purposed. And lastly, it is not amiss for men in their race toward fortune, to cool themselves a little with that conceit which is elegantly expressed by the Emperor Charles the Fifth, in his instructions to the king his son, THAT FORTUNE HATH SOMEWHAT OF THE NATURE OF A WOMAN, THAT IF SHE BE TOO MUCH WOOED, SHE IS THE FARTHER OFF.

Concerning Government, it is a part of knowledge secret and retired, in both these respects in which things are deemed secret; for some things are secret because they are hard to know, and some because they are not fit to utter. And for your Majesty’s laws of England, I could say much of their dignity, and somewhat of their defect; but they cannot but excel the civil laws in fitness for the government: for the civil law was NON HOS QUAESITUM MUNUS IN USUS ; it was not made for the countries which it governeth: hereof I cease to speak because I will not intermingle matter of action with matter of general learning.

THUS have I concluded this portion of learning touching civil knowledge; and with civil knowledge have concluded human philosophy; and with human philosophy, philosophy in general. Now let us come to that learning, which both the former times were not so blessed as to know, sacred and inspired divinity, the Sabbath and port of all men’s labours and peregrinations.

THE prerogative of God extendeth as well to the reason as to the will of man; so that as we are to obey His law, though we find a reluctation in our will, so we are to believe His word, though we find a reluctation in our reason.

Howbeit, if we will truly consider it, more worthy it is to believe than to know. For in knowledge man’s mind suffereth from sense; but in belief it suffereth from spirit.

The use of human reason in religion is of two sorts: the former, in the conception and apprehension of the mysteries of God to us revealed; the other, in the inferring and deriving of doctrine and direction thereupon. For the obtaining of the information, it resteth upon the true and sound interpretation of the Scriptures, which are the fountains of the water of life. The interpretations of the Scriptures are of two sorts; methodical, and solute or at large. As to which interpretation solute and at large, there have been divers kinds introduced and devised; some of them rather curious and unsafe than sober and warranted.

The matter informed by divinity is of two kinds; matter of belief and truth of opinion, and matter of service and adoration; which is also judged and directed by the former: the one being as the internal soul of religion, and the other as the external body thereof.

These things I have passed over so briefly because I can report no deficience concerning them: for I can find no space or ground that lieth vacant and unsown in the matter of divinity: so diligent have men been, either in sowing of good seed, or in sowing of tares.

THUS have I made as it were a small globe of the intellectual world. The errors I claim as mine own: the good, if any be, is due TANQUM ADEPS SACRIFICII , to be incensed to the honour, first of the Divine Majesty, and next of your Majesty, to whom on earth I am most bounden.


Sir Francis Bacon, Viscount Saint Alban (or Albans), Baron of Verulam

Bacon’s memorial at The Church of St Michael, St Albans, England







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