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NOTES ON ESSAY XVII. 1. contumely'--positive insult, reproach. What Bacon says in
this, opening sentence seems at first hardly consistent with the language used at the beginning of Essay XVI. In one he says that credulity is better than atheism—in the other he says that atheism, 'to have no opinion of God at all,' is not so bad as superstition. Doubtless, however, he regards atheism in two separate lights—one the plain, deliberate, and ex. plicit denial in words of the existence of God-i.e. active mental atheism--the other, passive moral atheism, which gives or seems to give acquiescence and consent to atheism, by living as if there were no God, or as if we could know nothing about such a Being. The former Bacon regards with abhorrence as worse than the worst credulity—the latter he says is not so bad as to have a positive opinion respecting
God which really insults Him. 2. Superstition'-lit. a standing over; a putting something over
and above (religion); adding to religion fears and scruples which degrade it.
Thus, to believe that God 'orders all things both in heaven and earth’ is a fundamental part of religion; but if I add to that a belief that if I were to have my hair cut when th: moon is waning (which is a superstition some people hod), God would be offended thereby, and would, in consequence, cause events to happen so as to injure me, this is superstition, and, as Bacon says, it 'reproaches 'God.
Thus superstition is not excess of religion, but it is some absurd and dangerous belief associated with religion; hence Dr Johnson speaks of superstition as religion without
morals.' 3. •Plutarch,' already referred to, was a famous Greek biographer,
who lived in the first century after Christ. His great work, Parallel Lives, consists of the biographies of forty-six famous Greeks and Romans.
The quotation is from his work, De Superstitione, and the reference is to Saturn (Greek Kronos), who, according to the ancient mythology, devoured all his children, until Zeus
(Jupiter) was saved by the substitution of a stone. 4. danger is greater.' Superstition has led to many fearful acts
of cruelty: the belief in witchcraft has no doubt entailed
persecution, and even death, upon many innocent persons. 5. were not’-did not exist. 6. dismounts '—deposes, supersedes. 7. 'perturbé-disturb. He means that atheists, not looking for.
ward to the rewards and punishments of another world, live quietly in this world, because they have nothing to consider but their own interests.
8. civil'—tranquil; free from war. 9. ‘primum mobile, See note 19, Essay XV. Just as the sup
posed primum mobile was the one source of all the motions of the universe, superstition would be like an opposing force
introducing confusion. 10. master of Superstition is the people. The real origin of
superstition not that common people are deluded and imposed upon by those who wish to lead them wrong, but that there is in them a predisposition to be deceived. They are, in the first place, willing to be led wrong. Men are not easily deluded unless there is first in them a readiness or desire for delusion.
The same is the case with the evils of a pernicious literature, the origin of which is due more to those who read bad books than to those who publish them; for if there were none willing to read such books, none would offer to sell them.
So also in the case of bribery. The guilt of the briber is less than that of the person who lets it be known that he is
open to receive a bribe. II. 'arguments are fitted to practice'-i.e. me do not conform
their practice to those principles which they believe to be true, but they first act in a certain manner, and then seek for arguments to justify their conduct. Thus, in the sixteenth century men first engaged in the African slave trade, and found it lucrative, and afterwards discovered that the negroes, being descendants of Ham, had been consigned to slavery by the Divine decree.
So some of the Corinthians indulged in sensuality, and then found out the principle, 'Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.
So also some stingy persons refuse to help in works of legitimate charity, and then justify their meanness by saying that political economy has shown that such works are really
and ultimately injurious. 12. • schoolmen '—those who adopted the 'scholastic philosophy'
taught in the schools or universities of Europe during the Middle Ages, beginning with the ninth century, but reaching its height in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The schools were opened by Charlemagne for the prosecution of speculative studies, and were entirely under the guidance of the clergy, who alone had the leisure or inclination for such work. Philosophy was, therefore, very much mixed up with theology, and the great effort of the schoolmen was to construct a theological system upon the basis of the recently revived Aristotelian philosophy. To a modern reader much of their philosophy seems nothing better than a frivolous and wearisome dispute about words, involving the most subtle
questions on the nature of God and angels, and on points of casuistry.
The most eminent schoolmen were Johannes Scotus Erigena, Abelard, Albertus Magnus, St Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventura, Duns Scotus; Raymond Lully, Roger Bacon,
and William of Occam, and the nominalists. * eccentrics and epicycles, and such engines of orbs.' In the
Ptolemaic system of astronomy the apparent irregularities in the motions of the heavenly bodies were accounted for by imagining that they moved in orbs having more than one centre d'eccentric'), or that their orbs described circles upon other circles (“ epicycles ').
These were mere devices ('engines ') invented to account for ('save') astronomical phenomena by men who were really ignorant of the true nature of the motions of the heavenly bodies.
Milton refers to these devices as 'quaint opinions' in the words which he makes Raphael address to Adam :
When they come to model heaven
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb'-Paradise Lost, viii, 79. 14. causes.' In the seven causes which Bacon enumerates, he
seems to have had in view the excesses both of the Puritans
and the High Church party. 15. mixture of imaginations' -confusion which arises from mix
ing science with religion, and attempting to measure the ANALYSIS OF ESSAY XVII. I. The evil nature of superstition1. More impious than atheism, because insulting God is
truths of one by the standard of the other. 16. •Superstition in avoiding Superstition.' A superstitious act
or belief is in itself really a thing indifferent, and can do neither good nor harm; just as St Paul says of an idol, ‘We know that an idol is nothing in the world (1 Cor. viii, 4). But some people attach importance to it in the belief that it will do good, while others as sedulously avoid it, in the fear that it may do harm : both these arise from superstition. Many good people perhaps use the sign of the cross in worship in a superstitious way, but others, equally superstitious, regard such a use as wrong and positively hurtful: the truth is, that neither the use nor the neglect have the
slightest connection with the essential part of worship. 17. ill purgings'-violent medicines; extreme remedies which do
harm at the same time as good.
worse than neglecting Him. 2. More criminal than atheism, because it destroys morality
and government. 3. It originates with fools, and then is supported by argu.
ments devised by wiser men (like astronomy and scholas.
ticism). II. Its causes-rites and ceremonies, pharisaism, traditions, seli
seeking, etc. III. Concluding remarks:
1. Superstition is all the more horrible from its resemblance
to religion. 2. Avoiding superstition may itself be superstition in another
XVIII.-OF TRAVEL (1625.) TRAVEL, in the younger sort, is a part of education ; 1 in the elder, a part of experience. He that travelleth into a country before he hath some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel. That young men travel under some tutor or grave servant, I allow3 well; so that he be such a one that hath the language, and hath been in the country before ; whereby he may be able to tell them what things are worthy to be seen in the country where they go, what acquaintances they are to seek, what exercises or discipline the place yieldeth ; for else young men shall go hooded,4 and look abroad little.
It is a strange thing, that in sea voyages, where there is nothing to be seen but sky and sea, men should make diaries; but in land travel, wherein so much is to be observed, for the most part they omit it, as if chance were fitter to be registered than observation : let diaries, therefore, be brought in use.
The things to be seen and observed are the Courts of princes, especially when they give audience to ambassadors; the Courts of Justice, while they sit and hear causes; and so of Consistories 5 Ecclesiastic; the Churches and
Monasteries, with the monuments which are therein extant; the Walls and fortifications of cities and towns; and so the Havens and harbours, antiquities and ruins, libraries, colleges, disputations, and lectures, where any are; Shipping and navies; Houses and gardens of state and pleasure near great cities; Armories, arsenals, magazines, exchanges, burses, warehouses, exercises of horsemanship, fencing, training of soldiers, and the like; Comedies, such whereunto the better sort of persons do resort; Treasuries of jewels and robes; Cabinets and rarities; and, to conclude, whatsoever is memorable in the places where they go ; after all which the tutors or servants ought to make diligent inquiry. As for Triumphs, Masks, Feasts, Weddings, Funerals, Capital Executions, and such shows, men need not be put in mind of them : yet are they not to be neglected. If
you will have a young man to put his Travel into a little room, and in short time to ather much, this you must do: first, as was said, he must have some entrance into the language before he goeth; then he must have such a servant, or tutor, as knoweth the country, as was likewise said : let him carry with him also some card, or book, describing the country where he travelleth, which will be a good key to his inquiry ; let him keep also a diary; let him not stay long in one city or town, more or less as the place deserveth, but not long; nay, when he stayeth in one city or town, let him change his lodging from one end and part of the town to another, which is a great adamant of acquaintance ;8 let him sequester himself from the company of his countrymen, and diet in such places where there is good company of the nation where he travelleth ; let him, upon his removes 9 from one place to another, procure recommendation to some person of quality residing in the place whither he removeth, that he may use his favour in those things he desireth to see or know; thus he may abridge his Travel with much profit. As for the acquaintance which is to be sought in Travel, that which is most of all profitable is acquaintance with the secretaries and employed men 10