INTRODUCTIONS TO THE TITLES DESIGNED
FOR THE NEXT FIVE MONTHS.
FOR THE INTRODUCTION
THE HISTORY OF DENSE AND RARE,
THE motion of heavy and light was distinguished by the an-cients under the name of natural motion. For they saw no external efficient, and no apparent resistance. Moreover this motion seemed to gain rapidity by its progress. To their con-templation or rather discourse on this subject they added by way of seasoning the mathematical fancy that heavy bodies would adhere to the centre of the earth (even if a hole were made through it), together with the scholastic fiction of the motion of bodies to their own places. And believing that by these positions they had settled the question, they made no further inquiry, except that there was one of them who inquired some-what more diligently concerning the centre of gravity in dif-ferent figures, and touching the things which float on water. Nor has one of the moderns contributed anything of con-sequence; having only added a few mechanical inventions, and even those distorted by his demonstrations. But to speak direct, it is quite certain that a body is affected only by a body; and that there is no local motion which is not excited either by the parts of the body moved, or by the adjacent bodies, or by those contiguous or proximate to it, or at least by those which lie within the sphere of its activity. Gilbert therefore has not unscientifically introduced the question of magnetic force, but he has himself become a magnet; that is, he has ascribed too many things to that force, and built a ship out of a shell.
STRIFE and friendship in nature are the spurs of motions and the keys of works. Hence are derived the union and repulsion of bodies, the mixture and separation of parts, the deep and intimate impressions of virtues, and that which is termed the junction of actives with passives; in a word, the magnalia naturae. But this part of philosophy concerning the sympathy and antipathy of things, which is also called Natural Magic, is very corrupt; and (as is almost always the case), there being too little diligence, there has been too much hope. The effect of hope on the mind of man is very like the working of some soporific drugs, which not only induce sleep, but fill it with joyous and pleasing dreams. For first it throws the human mind into a sleep by the recital of specific properties, and secret and heaven-sent virtnes; whence men are no longer wakeful and eager in searching out real causes, but are content to rest in such kinds of indolence ; and then it insinuates and infuses into it innumerable fancies, like so many dreams.
Men likewise in their folly expect to become acquainted with nature from her outward face and mask, and by external resemblances to detect internal properties. Their practice also is very like their inquiry. For the rules of natural magic are such, as if men expected to till the ground and eat their bread without the sweat of their brow. and by an easy and indolent application of bodies to become masters of things. And they are always talking of the magnet, and the sympathy of gold with quicksilver, and a few other things of the kind, and appealing to them as sureties to accredit other things which are not bound by any similar contract. But God has ordained that whatever is excellent shall be won only by labours both in inquiry and working. For my own part, in unravelling the law of nature, and interpreting the relations of things, I shall show somewhat more diligence, not giving way to marvels and wonders, and yet not instituting a narrow or partial inquiry.
THIS triad of principles has been introduced by chemists, and as a speculative doctrine it is the best discovery that they have made. The deepest philosophers amongst them maintain the elements to be earth, water, air, and ether. But these they regard not as the matter of things, but as wombs, wherein specific seeds of things are generated, in the same manner as in the womb. But instead of the First Matter (which the school- men call matter spoiled and indifferent), they substitute these three things, sulphur, mercury, and salt; whereof all bodies are compounded and mixed. Their terms I accept, but not their opinions, which do not appear sound. It seems however not to sort ill with their opinion, that two of these, namely, sulphur and mercury (in the sense in which I take them), I judge to be the most primaeval natures, the most original configurations of matter, and among the forms of the first class almost the principal.
But these terms of sulphur and mercury may be varied, and receive different denominations; as, the oily, the watery, the fat, the crude, the inflammable, the non-inflammable, and the like. For they appear to be those two enormous tribes of things which occupy and penetrate the universe. In the subterranean world we find sulphur and mercury, as they are called; in the animal and vegetable world we find oil and water; in pneumatical bodies of the lower order we find air and flame ; in the celestial regions we find starry body and pure ether.
But of this last pair I do not as yet pronounce decisively, though the concordance appears probable. With regard to salt, the case is different. For if by salt they mean the fixed part of a body, which does not turn either into flame or smoke, this belongs to the inquiry of matter fluid and matter determinate, whereof I am not now speaking. But if they mean salt to be taken in its plain and literal signification, it cannot be regarded as a thing different from sulphur and mercury, seeing it is a formation compounded from them both, by means of a strong spirit. For all salt has some inflammable parts.; and some parts which not only do not conceive flame, but strenuously shrink from and avoid it. However, since the inquiry concerning salt has some connection with the inquiry into the other two things, and moreover is of great use,-seeing that salt comprises in itself the nature of sulphur and mercury, and is a rudiment of life itself,- I have thought good to admit it likewise into this history and inquiry. But meanwhile I give notice that I reserve the inquiries into those pneumatical bodies, air, flame, the stars, and ether, for titles of their own (as they certainly merit); and that here I only institute a history of sulphur and mercury tangible, that is, either mineral, vegetable, or animal.