Chap. XI.

A further Illustration.

NOW although these ways of delusions most Christians have escaped, yet are there many other whereunto we are daily betrayed, and these we meet with in obvious occurrents of the world, wherein he induceth us, to ascribe effects unto causes of no cognation; and distorting the order and theory of causes perpendicular to their effects, he draws them aside unto things whereto they run parallel, and in their proper motions would never meet together.

Thus doth he sometime delude us in the conceits of Stars and Meteors, beside their allowable actions ascribing effects thereunto of independent causations. Thus hath he also made the ignorant sort believe that natural effects immediately and commonly proceed from supernatural powers: and these he usually drives from Heaven, his own principality the Air, and Meteors therein; which being of themselves the effects of natural and created causes, and such as upon a due conjunction of actives and passives, without a miracle must arise unto what they appear; are always looked on by ignorant spectators as supernatural spectacles, and made the causes or signs of most succeeding contingencies. To behold a Rainbow in the night, is no prodigy unto a Philosopher. Then Eclipses of Sun or Moon, nothing is more natural. Yet with what superstition they have been beheld since the Tragedy of Nicias and his Army,[1] many examples declare.

True it is, and we will not deny, that although these being natural productions from second and setled causes, we need not alway look upon them as the immediate hand of God, or of his ministring Spirits; yet do they sometimes admit a respect therein; and even in their naturals, the indifferency of their existencies contemporised unto our actions, admits a farther consideration.

That two or three Suns or Moons appear in any mans life or reign, it is not worth the wonder.[2] But that the same should fall out at a remarkable time, or point of some decisive action; that the contingency of the appearance should be confined unto that time; that those two should make but one line in the Book of Fate, and stand together in the great Ephemerides of God; beside the Philosophical assignment of the cause, it may admit a Christian apprehension in the signality.

But above all he deceiveth us, when we ascribe the effects of things unto evident and seeming causalities, which arise from the secret and undiscerned action of himself. Thus hath he deluded many Nations in his Augurial and Extispicious inventions, from casual and uncontrived contingencies divining events succeeding. Which Tuscan superstition seizing upon Rome, hath since possessed all Europe. When Augustus found two galls in his sacrifice, the credulity of the City concluded a hope of peace with Anthony; and the conjunction of persons in choler with each other. Because Brutus and Cassius met a Blackmore, and Pompey had on a dark or sad coloured garment at Pharsalia; these were presages of their overthrow. Which notwithstanding are scarce Rhetorical sequels; concluding Metaphors from realities, and from conceptions metaphorical inferring realities again.

Now these divinations concerning events, being in his power to force, contrive, prevent, or further, they must generally fall out conformably unto his predictions. When Graceus was slain, the same day the Chickens refused to come out of the Coop: and Claudius Pulcher underwent the like success, when he contemned the Tripudiary Augurations: They died not because the Pullets would not feed: but because the Devil foresaw their death, he contrived that abstinence in them. So was there no natural dependence of the event.[3] An unexpected way of delusion, and whereby he more easily led away the incircumspection of their belief. Which fallacy he might excellently have acted before the death of Saul; for that being within his power to foretell, was not beyond his ability to foreshew: and might have contrived signs thereof through all the creatures, which visibly confirmed by the event, had proved authentick unto those times, and advanced the Art ever after.[4]

He deludeth us also by Philters, Ligatures, Charms, ungrounded Amulets, Characters, and many superstitious ways in the cure of common diseases: seconding herein the expectation of men with events of his own contriving. Which while some unwilling to fall directly upon Magick, impute unto the power of imagination, or the efficacy of hidden causes, he obtains a bloody advantage: for thereby he begets not only a false opinion, but such as leadeth the open way of destruction. In maladies admitting natural reliefs, making men rely on remedies, neither of real operation in themselves, nor more then seeming efficacy in his concurrence. Which whensoever he pleaseth to withdraw, they stand naked unto the mischief of their diseases; and revenge the contempt of the medicines of the Earth which God hath created for them. And therefore when neither miracle is expected, nor connection of cause unto effect from natural grounds concluded; however it be sometime successful, it cannot be safe to rely on such practises, and desert the known and authentick provisions of God. In which rank of remedies, if nothing in our knowledge or their proper power be able to relieve us, we must with patience submit unto that restraint, and expect the will of the Restrainer.

Now in these effects although he seems oft-times to imitate, yet doth he concur unto their productions in a different way from that spirit which sometime in natural means produceth effects above Nature. For whether he worketh by causes which have relation or none unto the effect, he maketh it out by secret and undiscerned ways of Nature. So when Caius the blind, in the reign of Antoninus, was commanded to pass from the right side of the Altar unto the left, to lay five fingers of one hand thereon, and five of the other upon his eyes; although the cure succeeded and all the people wondered, there was not any thing in the action which did produce it, nor any thing in his power that could enable it thereunto. So for the same infirmity, when Aper was counselled by him to make a Collyrium or ocular medicine with the blood of a white Cock and Honey, and apply it to his eyes for three days: When Julian for his spitting of blood, was cured by Honey and Pine nuts taken from his Altar: When Lucius for the pain in his side, applied thereto the ashes from his Altar with wine; although the remedies were somewhat rational, and not without a natural vertue unto such intentions, yet need we not believe that by their proper faculties they produced these effects.[5]

But the effects of powers Divine flow from another operation; who either proceeding by visible means or not, unto visible effects, is able to conjoin them by his co-operation. And therefore those sensible ways which seem of indifferent natures, are not idle ceremonies, but may be causes by his command, and arise unto productions beyond their regular activities. If Nahaman the Syrian had washed in Jordan without the command of the prophet, I believe he had been cleansed by them no more then by the waters of Damascus. I doubt if any beside Elisha had cast in salt, the waters of Jericho had not been made wholsome. I know that a decoction of wild gourd or Colocynthis (though somewhat qualified) will not from every hand be dulcified unto aliment by an addition of flower or meal. There was some natural vertue in the Plaister of figs applied unto Ezechias; we find that gall is very mundificative, and was a proper medicine to clear the eyes of Tobit: which carrying in themselves some action of their own, they were additionally promoted by that power, which can extend their natures unto the production of effects beyond their created efficiencies[6] And thus may he operate also from causes of no power unto their visible effects; for he that hath determined their actions unto certain effects, hath not so emptied his own, but that he can make them effectual unto any other.

Again, Although his delusions run highest in points of practice, whose errors draw on offensive or penal enormities, yet doth he also deal in points of speculation, and things whose knowledge terminates in themselves. Whose cognition although it seems indifferent, and therefore its aberration directly to condemn no man; yet doth he hereby preparatively dispose us unto errors, and deductively deject us into destructive conclusions.

That the Sun, Moon, and Stars are living creatures, endued with soul and life, seems an innocent Error, and an harmless digression from truth; yet hereby he confirmed their Idolatry, and made it more plausibly embraced. For wisely mistrusting that reasonable spirits would never firmly be lost in the adorement of things inanimate, and in the lowest form of Nature; he begat an opinion that they were living creatures, and could not decay for ever.

That spirits are corporeal, seems at first view a conceit derogative unto himself, and such as he should rather labour to overthrow; yet hereby he establisheth the Doctrine of Lustrations, Amulets and Charms, as we have declared before.

That there are two principles of all things, one good, and another evil; from the one proceeding vertue, love, light, and unity; from the other, division, discord, darkness, and deformity, was the speculation of Pythagoras, Empedocles, and many ancient Philosophers, and was no more then Oromasdes and Arimanius of Zoroaster. Yet hereby he obtained the advantage of Adoration, and as the terrible principle became more dreadful then his Maker; and therefore not willing to let it fall, he furthered the conceit in succeeding Ages, and raised the faction of Manes to maintain it.

That the feminine sex have no generative emission, affording no seminal Principles of conception, was Aristotles Opinion of old, maintained still by some, and will be countenanced by him forever. For hereby he disparageth the fruit of the Virgin, frustrateth the fundamental Prophesie, nor can the seed of the Woman then break the head of the Serpent.[7]

Nor doth he only sport in speculative Errors, which are of consequent impieties; but the unquietness of his malice hunts after simple lapses, and such whose falsities do only condemn our understandings. Thus if Xenophanes will say there is another world in the Moon; If Heraclitus with his adherents will hold the Sun is no bigger then it appeareth; If Anaxagoras affirm that Snow is black; If any other opinion there are no Antipodes, or that Stars do fall, he shall not want herein the applause or advocacy of Satan. For maligning the tranquility of truth, he delighteth to trouble its streams; and being a professed enemy unto God (who is truth it self) he promoteth any Error as derogatory to his nature; and revengeth himself in every deformity from truth. If therefore at any time he speak or practise truth it is upon design, and a subtile inversion of the precept of God, to do good that evil may come of it. And therefore sometime we meet with wholsome doctrines from Hell; Nosce teipsum, the Motto of Delphos, was a good precept in morality: That a just man is beloved of the gods, an uncontrolable verity. 'Twas a good deed, though not well done, which he wrought by Vespasian, when by the touch of his foot he restored a lame man, and by the stroak of his hand another that was blind,[8] but the intention hereof drived at his own advantage; for hereby he not only confirmed the opinion of his power with the people, but his integrity with Princes; in whose power he knew it lay to overthrow his Oracles, and silence the practice of his delusions.

But of such a diffused nature, and so large is the Empire of Truth, that it hath place within the walls of Hell, and the Devils themselves are daily forced to practise it; not onely as being true themselves in a Metaphysical verity, that is, as having their essence conformable unto the Intellect of their Maker, but making use of Moral and Logical verities; that is, whether in the conformity of words unto things, or things unto their own conceptions, they practise truth in common among themselves. For although without speech they intuitively conceive each other, yet do their apprehensions proceed through realities; and they conceive each other by species, which carry the true and proper notions of things conceived. And so also in Moral verities, although they deceive us, they lie not unto each other; as well understanding that all community is continued by Truth, and that of Hell cannot consist without it.

To come yet nearer the point, and draw into a sharper angle; They do not only speak and practise truth, but may be said well-wishers hereunto, and in some sense do really desire its enlargement. For many things which in themselves are false, they do desire were true; He cannot but wish he were as he professeth, that he had the knowledge of future events; were it in his power, the Jews should be in the right, and the Messias yet to come. Could his desires effect it, the opinion of Aristotle should be true, the world should have no end, but be as immortal as himself. For thereby he might evade the accomplishment of those afflictions, he now but gradually endureth; for comparatively unto those flames, he is but yet in Balneo, then begins his Ignis Rotæ, and terrible fire, which will determine his disputed subtilty, and even hazard his immortality.

But to speak strictly, he is in these wishes no promoter of verity, but if considered some ways injurious unto truth; for (besides that if things were true, which now are false, it were but an exchange of their natures, and things must then be false, which now are true) the setled and determined order of the world would be perverted, and that course of things disturbed, which seemed best unto the immutable contriver. For whilest they murmur against the present disposure of things, regulating determined realities unto their private optations, they rest not in their established natures; but unwishing their unalterable verities, do tacitely desire in them a difformity from the primitive Rule, and the Idea of that mind that formed all things best. And thus he offendeth truth even in his first attempt: For not content with his created nature, and thinking it too low, to be the highest creature of God, he offended the Ordainer, not only in the attempt, but in the wish and simple volition thereof.

End of Book I



* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 [According to Pliny, 2.ix.54, Englished by Holland; Pliny expresses some dubiety, as he does about night rainbows: II.lix (English), HN 2.lx.150. The tragedy was occasioned rather by the ritual noise made by the Athenians on seeing the eclipse; Nicias, not realizing what was the cause of the noise, feared to take the fleet out of the harbor and was trapped.]

2 [Phenomena widely reported through history; see for instance Pliny Book 2 Chaps. 31 & 32 (English); HN 2.xxi.99-xxxii.100 (Latin).]

3 [Which, it would seem, does not lessen their utility as auguries. Whether it's the devil or God who gives the chickens their information, nevertheless the information is given. The Claudian chickens, alas, met the same fate as their subject: Claudius said that, if they wouldn't eat, they should drink, and ordered them thrown into the sea, where they presumably drowned. Chickens can, on the other hand, float for quite some time, so who knows? Cf. Billina apud Baum.]

4 [1 Samuel 28. The Catholic Encyclopedia s.v. Necromancy has an admirably succinct summary of the various orthodox theological views on the event, which I quote below:

The Moasic Law forbids necromancy (Levit., xix, 31; xx, 6), declares that to seek the truth from the dead is abhorred by God (Deut., xviii, 11, 12), and even makes it punishable by death (Levit., xx, 27; cf. I Kings, xxviii, 9). Nevertheless, owing especially to the contact of the Hebrews with pagan nations, we find it practised in the time of Saul (I Kings, xxviii, 7, 9), of Isaias, who strongly reproves the Hebrews on this ground (viii, 19; xix, 3; xxix, 4, etc.), and of Manasses (IV Kings, xxi, 6; II Par., xxxiii, 6). The best known case of necromancy in the Bible is the evocation of the soul of Samuel at Endor (I Kings, xxviii). King Saul was at war with the Philistines, whose army had gathered near that of Israel. He "was afraid and his heart was very much dismayed. And he consulted the Lord, and he answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by priests, nor by prophets" (5, 6). Then he went to Endor, to a woman who had "a divining spirit", and persuaded her to call the soul of Samuel. The woman alone saw the prophet, and Saul recognized him from the description she gave of him. But Saul himself spoke and heard the prediction that, as the Lord had abandoned him on account of his disobedience, he would be defeated and killed. This narrative has given rise to several interpretations. Some deny the reality of the apparition and claim that the witch deceived Saul; thus St. Jerome (In Is., iii, vii, 11, in P. L., XXIV, 108; in Ezech., xiii, 17, in P. L., XXV, 119) and Theodoret, who, however, adds that the prophecy came from God (In I Reg., xxviii, QQ. LXIII, LXIV, in P. G., LXXX, 589). Others attribute it to the devil, who took Samuel's appearance; thus St. Basil (In Is., viii, 218, in P. G., XXX, 497), St. Gregory of Nyssa ("De pythonissa, ad Theodos, episc. epist.", in P. G., XLV, 107-14), and Tertullian (De anima, LVII, in P. L., II, 794). Others, finally, look upon Samuel's apparition as real; thus Josephus (Antiq. Jud., VI, xiv, 2), St. Justin (Dialogus cum Tryphone Judæo, 105, in P. G., VI, 721), Origen (In I Reg., xxviii, "De Engastrimytho", in P. G., XII, 1011-1028), St. Ambrose (In Luc., i, 33, in P. L., XV, 1547), and St. Augustine, who finally adopted this view after having held the others (De diversis quæst. ad Simplicianum, III, in P. L., XL, 142-44; De octo Dulcitii quæst., VI, in P. L., XL, 162-65; De cura pro mortuis, xv, in P. L., XL, 606; De doctrina christiana, II, xxiii, in P. L., XXXIV, 52). St. Thomas (Summa, II-II, Q. clxxiv, a. 5, ad 4 um) does not pronounce. The last interpretation of the reality of Samuel's apparition is favoured both by the details of the narrative and by another Biblical text which convinced St. Augustine: "After this, he [Samuel] slept, and he made known to the king, and showed him the end of his life, and he lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy to blot out the wickedness of the nation" (Ecclus., xlvi, 23).]

5 [Gaius, Justin, Valerius Aper: ]

6 [Nahaman, Elisha, Ezechias are in 2 Kings 2, 4, 5, 20; Tobit, Tobit 6. Colocynth or colocynthis or bitter-apple, Citrullus colocynthis, is an extremely active purgative, poisonous in even moderate doses.]

7 [Gen. 3:15]

8 [Suetonius Vespasian; Tacitus IV:81 (English).]

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