BACON CITATION & COMMENTARY

Citation taken from Francis Bacon's Preface to the Advancement of Learning (printed for Thomas Williams at the Golden Bull in Osier Lane in the year 1674) pages 12-13.

 

(1)First we admonish (which thing we have also prayed for) that we keep humane Reason within due limits in Matters Divine, and sense within compass; for sense like the sun, opens and reveals the face of the Terrestial Globe, but shuts up and conceals the face of the Celestial.

(2)Again, that men beware that in flight from this error, they fall not upon a contrary extreme, of too much abasing Natural Power, which certainly will come to pass, if they once entertain a conceit, that there are some secrets of Nature separate and exempt, as it were by injunction, from Humane Inquisition.

(3)For it was not that pure and immaculate Natural Knowledge , by the light whereof Adam gave names unto the Creatures, according to the propriety and occasion to the Fall; but it was that proud and Imperative Appetite of Moral Knowledge, defining the laws and limits of Good and Evil, with an intent in man to revolt from God, and to give laws unto himself, which was indeed the project of the Primitive Temptation.

(4)For, of the knowledges which contemplate the works of Nature, the holy Philosopher hath said expresly;
That the glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the King is to find it out: as if the Divine Nature, according to the innocent and sweet play of children, which hide themselves to the end they may be found, took delight to hide his works, to the end that they might be found out; and of his indulgence and goodness to mankind, had chosen the soul of man to be his Play-fellow in this game.

(5)In summ, I would advise all in general, that they would take into serious consideration the time and Genuine ends of Knowledge; that they seek it not either for Pleasure, or contention, or contempt of others, or for Profit, or Fame, or for Honour and Promotion; or such like adulteration or inferior ends: but for the merit and emolument of Life, and that they regulate and perfect the same in charity : For the desire of Power, was the Fall of the Angels; the desire of Knowledge, the Fall of Man; but in charity there is no excess, neither men nor angels ever incurred danger by it.

(6)The Requests we make are these; ( To say nothing of ourselves touching the matter in hand) we Request thus much, That men would not think of it as an opinion; but as a work, and take it for Truth, that our aim, and ends is not to lay the foundation of a Sect or Placit, but of Humane Profit and Proficience. Again, that respecting their own benefit, and putting off Partialities and Prejudices, they would all contribute in one for the publick Good: and that being freed and fortified by our preparations and aids, against the errors and Impediments of the ways, they likewise may come in, and bear a part of the burden, and inherit a portion of the Labours that yet remain behind.

(7)Moreover that they clear themselves and conceive well of the enterprise; and not figure themselves a conceit and fancy, that this our Instauration is a matter infinite and beyond the power and compass of Morality; seeing it is in truth the right and legitimate end of Infinite Errors; and not unmindful of Mortality and Humane condition being it doth not promise that the Design may be accomplished within the Revolution of an Age only but delivers it over to Posterity to Perfect.

Commentary by Nigel Hardy
In the first paragraph Bacon advises his readers to use the power of Thought or Reason sparingly making each thought a separate study and to avoid the pain of mental indigestion.
The desires or sense must be kept well under control by means of the will so that the energy will not be wasted on things material.
The two globes are the symbols of the physical plane or world of form, and the real spiritual plane which is the archetypal world. As the former is shut out so the latter peforms its task.
The second paragraph teaches the readers to study closely and make proper enquiries into the forces which govern this planet, to search out the hidden springs of wisdom and to apply them rightly on all occasions.
The third paragraph instructs us to avoid pride which is the root of all sorrows, for the people who know the right use of power and apply it need no laws. Laws are only necessary for a people who have lost th way to right living. In the Bible it is stated that the people came unto the Prophets and asked "Prophesy unto us smooth things" and wisdom departed among them.
The fourth paragraph gives us an illustration of how the Spirit works in relation to mankind. Man is the Key that unlocks the Door to the Garden of Understanding. "For the Kingdom of God is within us." The King is the one who governs himself, the man who has attained and received the crown of life.
The fifth paragraph refers to the middle way, which is the Path of Compassion, one of the most difficult of spiritual experiences.
The sixth paragraph shows us the responsibility of partnership. Bacon is pointing the way to the union of Ideas which is not the prerogrative of any one class but is for the benefit of all.
The last paragraph is a form of encouragement to further research and this is not limited to the people of his own time in history but to all ages.
As the principal peformers in the Plays have their exits and their entrances and each in their time plays many parts, so Bacon the creator of this artificial Universe of the Stage conducts his readers through the winding passages of this mortal life; thereby giving to them and to us the opportunites and experiences of joy and sorrow, comedy and tragedy; and ringing down the curtain at the end.
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This originally appeared in Baconiana December 1958