Philosophy Index

Francis Bacon

The Advancement of Learning

Second Book

XI. (1) 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.  Unto the first of these, the considerations of the original of the soul, whether it be native or adventive, and how far it is exempted from laws of matter, and of the immortality thereof, and many other points, do appertain: which have been not more laboriously inquired than variously reported; so as the travail therein taken seemeth to have been rather in a maze than in a way.  But although I am of opinion that this knowledge may be more really and soundly inquired, even in nature, than it hath been, yet I hold that in the end it must be hounded by religion, or else it will be subject to deceit and delusion.  For as the substance of the soul in the creation was not extracted out of the mass of heaven and earth by the benediction of a producat, but was immediately inspired from God, so it is not possible that it should be (otherwise than by accident) subject to the laws of heaven and earth, which are the subject of philosophy; and therefore the true knowledge of the nature and state of the soul must come by the same inspiration that gave the substance.  Unto this part of knowledge touching the soul there be two appendices; which, as they have been handled, have rather vapoured forth fables than kindled truth: divination and fascination.

(2) Divination hath been anciently and fitly divided into artificial and natural: whereof artificial is, when the mind maketh a prediction by argument, concluding upon signs and tokens; natural is, when the mind hath a presention by an internal power, without the inducement of a sign.  Artificial is of two sorts: either when the argument is coupled with a derivation of causes, which is rational; or when it is only grounded upon a coincidence of the effect, which is experimental: whereof the latter 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 such as was the Chaldean astrology, and the like.  For artificial divination, the several kinds thereof are distributed amongst particular knowledges.  The astronomer hath his predictions, as of conjunctions, aspects, eclipses, and the like.  The physician hath his predictions, of death, of recovery, of the accidents and issues of diseases.  The politique hath his predictions; O urbem venalem, et cito perituram, si emptorem invenerit! which stayed not long to be performed, in Sylla first, and after in Cæsar: so as these predictions are now impertinent, and to be referred over.  But the divination which springeth from the internal nature of the soul is that which we now speak of; which hath been made to be of two sorts, primitive and by influxion.  Primitive is grounded upon the supposition that the mind, when it is withdrawn and collected into itself, and not diffused into the organs of the body, hath some extent and latitude of prenotion; which therefore appeareth most in sleep, in ecstasies, and near death, and more rarely in waking apprehensions; and is induced and furthered by those abstinences and observances which make the mind most to consist in itself.  By influxion, is grounded upon the conceit that the mind, as a mirror or glass, should take illumination from the foreknowledge of God and spirits: unto which the same regiment doth likewise conduce.  For the retiring of the mind within itself is the state which is most susceptible of divine influxions; save that it is accompanied in this case with a fervency and elevation (which the ancients noted by fury), and not with a repose and quiet, as it is in the other.

(3) Fascination is the power and act of imagination intensive upon other bodies than the body of the imaginant, for of that we spake in the proper place.  Wherein the school of Paracelsus, and the disciples of pretended natural magic, have been so intemperate, as they have exalted the power of the imagination to be much one with the power of miracle-working faith.  Others, that draw nearer to probability, calling to their view the secret passages of things, and specially of the contagion that passeth from body to body, do conceive it should likewise be agreeable to nature that there should be some transmissions and operations from spirit to spirit without the mediation of the senses; whence the conceits have grown (now almost made civil) of the mastering spirit, and the force of confidence, and the like.  Incident unto this is the inquiry how to raise and fortify the imagination; for if the imagination fortified have power, then it is material to know how to fortify and exalt it.  And herein comes in crookedly and dangerously a palliation of 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 fix the cogitations and raise the devotions of them that pray before them.  But for mine own judgment, if it be admitted that imagination hath power, and that ceremonies fortify imagination, and that they be used sincerely and intentionally for that purpose; yet I should hold them unlawful, as opposing to that first edict which God gave unto man, In sudore vultus comedes panem tuum.  For they propound those noble effects, which God hath set forth unto man to be bought at the price of labour, to be attained by a few easy and slothful observances.  Deficiences 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 Advancement of Learning by Francis Bacon.