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In the engraving opposite the artist has symbolized Bacon's two methods of teaching. These are described in Book VI of the De Augmentis as "Magistral" and "Initiative". One is delivered "magisterially" from lectern or pulpit, as with the right hand in the light. This is the appeal to the reason. The other is "insinuated" secretly and experimentally, as with the left hand in the shade;apparently manipulating a puppet in goatskins. This is the appeal to the "whole man" (in mediaeval parlance to the Soul) through the medium of fiction or drama. This was the time-honoured method of the Ancient Mysteries, as the Temple in the background reminds us. The fable of the New Atlantis, with its strange mingling of Science and Religion, must be understood in both senses.
TITLE PAGE OF BACON'S ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
IN THE FIRST CONTINENTAL EDITIONS OF
1645, 1652, 1654, 1662
The Hog Islands (named after the wild swine that infested them) were first re-named the Sommers Islands and later the Bermudas. In 1616 the "Hog Money" was struck with no date. The wild boar is an heraldic device identical with the crest of Lord Bacon. Its circulation was forbidden by James I.
FRANCIS BACON AND THE UTOPIAS
This also we humbly beg, that human things shall not prejudice such as are divine; neither that, from the unlocking of the gates of sense and the kindling of a greater natural light, anything of incredulity or intellectual night shall arise in our minds towards the Divine Mysteries.- FRANCIS BACON
Visions of an ideal society have been recorded for many ages. The modern ones are much given to satire; the classic ones belong to an age which is already left behind. Only one of them is truly evolutionary, geared to change in a changing world, and still essentially religious. Only Francis Bacon's unfinished New Atlantis comes to grips with the real problem of human life and human society;the problem of ever becoming.
It is no use lamenting the past. We might be happier if we were Greeks of the Homeric Age or Renaissance artists and craftsmen or Western Pioneers; but the very thought is idle. Science has advanced and moral responsibility with it. For good or ill the power of the atom has become available to man.
Bacon believed in a Life and Consciousness transcending our own. "I had rather believe" he wrote "in all the fables of the legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal Frame is without a Mind." Confident that human life and human society could be transformed by experimental science without any surrender of religious faith, he still utters a warning. He tells us that knowledge is a thing to be accepted with caution, that he is about to "open a fountain" from which the issues and streams may well take a wrong direction, and he therefore proposes a rule"that all knowledge be limited by religion and referred to use and action."ý The New Atlantis is a dramatic and spectacular demonstration of these words.
ý Valerius Terminus.
Bacon looked to Science for the relief of poverty and ignorance but his lifelong devotion was to the freedom and development of the human mind; this demanded independence, not submission. It was not part of his plan to promote the dictatorship of Science. The dictatorship of the Church had been bad enough, but at least it had fostered the Arts. Bacon wanted Science to be the legitimate offspring of a true religion;Christianity rather than Churchianity;and not an outcast. The very idea of "excommunication" was nonsense. He was firmly against the tyranny of Rome, but friendly to many Roman Catholics. He corresponded with Father Fulgentio, and he alone shielded his friend, Tobie Mathew, from persecution when the latter adopted the Roman Faith. But Bacon was also aware of the ossifying process at work within the reformed Religion"To my Lords the Bishops I say, that it is hard for them to avoid blame, in standing so precisely upon altering nothing."§
The tenet of political Socialism, that all will be well if only people will submit to more and more controlto statute upon statute and Ministry upon Ministry;is certainly a great error. Even worse, in Bacon's eyes, would be an abject attitude to the Pavlovian techniques, to the "conditioned reflex" and its hideous extreme, brain-washing.
Bacon had a distinct leaning towards the Spartan and Roman codes and disciplines though he thought that Sparta had carried them too far. He observes that "a people overburdened with taxes with never become valiant," that all war-like peoples love danger rather than labour and that they "must not be too much broken of this" if they are to retain their vigour. He reflects that the greatest gift of Romulus to Rome was the precept that "above all they should intend arms" and he notes that "in a slothful peace courages will effeminate and manners corrupt."
It may be that modern methods of warfare will make the martial virtues out-dated politically, but psychologically they cannot be ignored. Bacon believed in the law as a deterrent, in eloquence and art as legitimate modes of persuasion, and in the
§ Controversies of the Church of England.
drama as the time-honoured modes of "conditioning."ý This had been the mighty instrument for moving and moulding the multitude ever since Athens had sat at the summit of her power. Miracles and Moralities, summoning all the soul to their spectacles "in long drawn aisle and fretted vault" had upheld that tradition; but the pulpit and a vicious play-house were all that remained to echo the ancestral voices. Holding such views could Bacon have been ignorant of Marlowe and Shake-speare?
The word "conditioning" is vague. There is a distinction between persuasion and compulsion, between education and indoctrination. The Ideal Society is not necessarily totalitarian. To subvert man's free will by force, whether in the name of the Holy Inquisition or of Communism, is the way of involution. The end product is the ant-hill.
The realism of Bacon's essay Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms as compared with the idealism of the New Atlantis, marks the clear distinction in his mind between the world as it is and the world as it might be. In the world as it is something must be rendered to Caesar, and something in Time. A man's inner self may be changed in the twinkling of an eye, but the external conditions which constitute his world;conditions which have taken ages to develop;must take time to disappear. The pessimism of Plato predominates in the Essay; but the New Atlantis knows nothing of this. On its title-page is an emblem of Time discovering Truth.
Plutarch's Life of Lycurgus, Plato's Republic, St. Augustine's City of God and More's Utopia were certainly known to Bacon and he may have known something about Campanella's City of the Sun. All these visions of an ideal society are earnest, wise and sincere. But there is a practical quality in More and Bacon which brings their vision closer to realization. According to Bacon, Plato made over the world to thoughts, and Aristotle made over thoughts to words.
Whether we regard the national socialism of Sparta as fact or fiction, there is no doubt that Plutarch, by relating it, has contributed something to the dream of the Ideal Commonwealth. The
ý De Augmentis II (13), VI (3), and VII (3).
Spartan rules and disciplines imposed by Lycurgus were nothing if not practical. A Senate of 28 members was set up to share in the power of the kings. Distribution of the land was ordained so as to yield so much grain, wine and oil for each man and woman. The keeping of a common table at which all the main meals had to be taken by rich and poor alike was made compulsory. A daily ration was laid down which, incidentally, included a liberal allowance (about two pints) of wine. Private property was condemned and the metal of the coinage was debased so that nobody could hoard it with advantage. At night the Lacedaemonians were obliged to walk home without torches to accustom their eyesight to darkness. They had to sleep on beds of reeds, but in winter they were permitted to add a little thistledown. Mechanical trades were despised, and, when not at war, enjoyment of leisure was prized as the greatest privilege. Dances for the young men and virgins (occasionally naked) and military exercises for the young men were compulsory. In practicing military ambuscades the actual killing of the Helotes was allowed; Sparta carried national socialism to its terrifying extreme.
Lycurgus objected to written laws, holding that laws should be regarded as principles, honoured in the observance, inbred in the people, and handed down by custom and tradition. We are told that Lycurgus, when advised to establish a popular government, replied "Go, and first make trial of it in thine own family!" But according to Plato his government degenerated later into an oligarchy which became so wanton and violent that, after about 130 years, means had to be found to curb the prerogative.
Plato has been called a philosopher with the soul of a poet, and the same has been said of Bacon.ý In Plato's Republic there is a true but disquieting vein of prophecy, probably inspired by his knowledge of lost Atlantis and subsequent failures of civilization. It is nobly argued by Plato that the aim of individual Man, as of the State, is to be wise, brave and temperate, and the greatest cause of discord is said to be injustice. But there is a grave note of pessimism in the Republic. According to Socrates, governments of all kinds are bound to deteriorate. Aristocracy (meaning the perfect state and
ý Preface to The Banquet. P. B. Shelley.
perfect man) deteriorates into Timocracy, which is a government of honour and war-like ambition. This soon degenerates into Oligarchy, in which loves of riches is the predominating influence. The People are then automatically divided into classes of wealthy and poor, slave-owners and slaves. Revolution inevitably follows: Democracy is established; Liberty and Equality are worshipped; and liberty, degenerating into licence and vice, becomes the chief feature of the Democratic State. Finally, when licence and extravagant desires have expelled all love of decency, Democracy prepares the way by a natural reaction for Tyranny. The future despot, who begins as the champion of the people, gradually becomes more powerful, obtains a bodyguard, and finally becomes a consummate tyrant.
Plato's concentration on universals, as distinct from particulars, is sublime, but lofty ideas, to be put into effect, require detailed planning and financing. Money is often a growth producing agent. "Money" wrote Bacon "is like muck, best when it is spread out." Bacon was interested in particulars as well as universals, and he attempted a synthesis;"The knowledge of Man is as the waters; some descending from above and some springing from beneath; the one formed by the light of Nature, the other by Divine Revelation."§
Sir Thomas More's Utopia is the first bold attempt to describe an imaginary visit to an Ideal Society. The lengthy approach contains a witty and penetrating criticism of European civilization, but we do not actually get to Utopia till Book II. Raphael, the imaginary narrator, maintains that it is useless to recount his Utopian experiences for the benefit of the Courts of Europe. Master More insists that everyone should give all the wise counsel that is in their power to give. But Raphael falls back on the pessimism of the Greeks. He is tired of giving good advice and merely echoes Plato by saying that "except Kings become Philosophers, nothing can be done." So the story of Utopia has to be coaxed out of him reluctantly, after a good dinner at More's house in Chelsea.
§ De Augmentis.
In Utopia we find a land ruled by wise magistrates (Syphrogrants and Tranibors) in which the law is strict and punishment severe. To mention some of the salient points, property is condemned, luxury is despised, clothing is all of one design and one colour the colour of natural wool! Beer is not allowed but cider and wine may be drunk in moderation. Slaves in chains are used for menial work and also for slaughtering cattle. The punishment for attending an unofficial meeting in which state affairs are discussed is death! Aggression is approved in certain circumstances, and the colonization of other lands by force is held to be justified if the lands in question have not been cultivated. The sick and aged are well cared for, and there is a good national health service. A great point is made of everyone becoming familiar with agriculture, and taking their allotted turn as a farm-worker.
Certainly the atmosphere of Utopia is reformative if not penal; but religious toleration prevails in every district. There is no established religion, but the wisest believe in a supreme Deity, the Father of us all. We are told that Christianity is accepted, but apparently the Utopians dislike the ranting and declamatory style of Christian sermons. An over-zealous Utopian who, on being baptized, starts to harangue his countrymen and threaten them with eternal damnation, is immediately banished!
Probably it is in the field of justice that Utopia is most ahead of its time, and the trained mind of a lawyer is manifest throughout the story. In regard to poverty Sir Thomas More's solution was egalitarianism, which Professor Farrington describes as "equal shares in poverty," whereas Bacon's solution, was the creation of plenty.§ He himself lived lavishly, and his vision of the Welfare State differs most from Utopia in its suggestion of liberality, extravagance and bounty. However, the greatness and magnanimity of More's vision are beyond question. Utopia with its ordered life, rules and penalties, is a practical and necessary step on the long road from despotism towards a more benign and colourful New Atlantis.
§ See The Christianity of Francis Bacon, by Benjamin Farrington. Baconiana 165.
Thomas Campanella was Bacon's contemporary, and as a young Italian entered the Dominican Order. Like Bruno, he was "put to the question" and suffered the most cruel tortures under the Holy Inquisition. His City of the Sun has the following sub-title:
A poetical dialogue between the Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller and a Genoese sea captain, his guest. Campanella, like Bacon, urged the direct scientific study of Nature, coupled with earnest study of the Books of God. The Civitas Solis is one enormous temple governed by a hierarchy of Priests and Magistrates. The Chief by election is Hoh, who is a priest versed in metaphysics. Under Hoh come his three assistants, Pon, Sin and Mor, whose respective spheres are Power, Wisdom and Love. The allegory is sometimes a little forced (as in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress) and everyone is named after some principle or other. The magistrates, for example, are named "Magnanimity," "Fortitude," "Chastity," "Exercise" and "Sobriety."
Astrology is venerated in the City of the Sun and enters into everything from the great dome of the Central Temple (carrying the signs of the Zodiac), to the communal farms. Farm-workers born under the same sign are set to work together, whereas in the New Atlantis astrology is not mentioned at all. Bacon is much more skeptical about it, and his views on its tendency to superstition are recorded elsewhere.ý He did not preclude the possibility of solar, lunar and stellar influences on our planet, but he wanted astrology to be purified and reformed rather than rejected utterly. There is a revealing entry in the Promus in his own handwriting. "Astrology is true. But where is the Astrologer?"
In the City of the Sun life is strictly communal. Gifts and benefits between friends are unknown, since everyone has all he requires. The true worth of friendship is recognised in sickness and war, but is not regarded, as in Bacon's essay, as the greatest enrichment and ennoblement of human life thing without which "the world is but a wilderness." Something, some indefinable warmth of human
ý Advancement of Learning I (259). De Augmentis III (4) and IV (3). Filum Labyrinthi.
relationship, seems to be lacking in the City of the Sun. It is the ideal society of a monk or religious devotee; albeit a very brave man who had endured cruel persecution at the hands of the Church.
Bacon's New Atlantis is only a fragment; in essence it is a curtain-raiser for the coming age; in design it is like the first act of an unfinished play. The text is positively pervaded with stage directions, exits and entrances, gestures and mannerisms, costume and colour effects. The fiction is bold and we are taken headlong into the story in the very first sentence"Wee sailed from Peru, where wee had continued by the space of one whole year . . . taking victuals with us for twelve months . . . "
After many months at sea, lost in "a great wilderness of waters," with no food and many sick, the mariners prepare for death and offer up a prayer. At dawn they make land-fall on the unknown island of Bensalem. On entering harbour they are at once placed in quarantine by the port authorities and screened as to health and religion; but their first fears are allayed by the Sign of the Cross. They are then duly sworn, the Oath being a Christian one ;"by the merits of our Saviour." Those taking it must not have been involved in the shedding of blood, lawfully or unlawfully, for a period of forty days.
At first the visitors are confined to "The Strangers House" where, after resting a few days, they are instructed in the government of the State. Apparently this is a constitutional monarchy administered by "Salomon's House," a Fraternity of Elders and Apprentices all dedicated to scientific progress in the service of Christ. Promotion to high office is the reward of service and capacity and the Masonic structure of the foundation is but thinly disguised.
Bacon had imagined an entirely new dispensation which I can best describe as an "Aristocracy of Service." This is envisaged on a remote island in the Pacific beyond America, which Bacon regarded as a part of the ancient Atlantis that had survived the cataclysm recorded by Plato. So it may be that his New Atlantis is a projection of the ideals which he expected modern America to fulfil. Certainly the multi-racial experiment which followed his dream was never intended by its founders to be a Plutocracy. The key-note of the Pilgrim Fathers was Service. "We do hold ourselves straitly tied to all care of each other's good . . . "ý
The first and most obvious message of the New Atlantis is that knowledge is power; the deeper message is that power is multiplied when knowledge is shared. It is a pattern and example of group work& the capacity at all levels and in all vocations to submerge and identify oneself with a group-working for the good of the whole. Restrictive practices are unthinkable.
Bacon's vision of the future Welfare State was no idle dream for, as usual, he took the first practical steps towards realising it. He was the prime mover"most noble factor";of the Virginia Company from the beginning, and is acknowledged as such by William Strachey, the first Secretary of the Colony, in his History of Travaile into Virginia Britannia. The first Bermudan coinage, known as the hog-money, carried Bacon's crest on one side and the picture of a ship under full sail, probably the Sea Venture, on the other.§ Three centuries later his head appeared on the Newfoundland tercentenary stamp of 1910, with the caption "Guiding Spirit of the Colonization Scheme." Thomas Jefferson carried Bacon's portrait with him everywhere.
The Virginia Company, with Bacon as its guiding star, included the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, the two noble brothers to whom the first Shakespeare Folio is dedicated. William Strachey's narrative of Virginia is actually dedicated to Bacon, but according to the British Museum authorities, it must have been seen by the author of The Tempest in manuscript form! This rather curious admission would mean that the fashioning and perfecting of the English language, and the simultaneous planting of it in America, were two enterprises under one management&emdash;"a tight little corporation" in the words of Manly Hall!
The Tempest and the New Atlantis, though quite different in form, were contemporary works. Both were inspired by the same
ý Reason Four of the "Five Reasons" submitted to James I, seeking approval of the voyage. (See Baconiana 166, p. 8).
§ See verso of Frontispiece.
voyages of discovery, and in each case the setting is an unknown island with magical qualities. Prospero's isle was enchanted, and Bensalem appeared to the visiting mariners as "a land of magicians that sent forth Spirits of the Air . . . to bring them News and Intelligence";surely a rather striking resemblance to Ariel.
The Tempest is one of the most beautiful poems in our language, solemn and awe-inspiring though classed as a comedy. It also contains the lightest imaginable touches of satire;as for instance Gonzalo's somewhat confused musings about an ideal commonwealth. This elderly courtier, marooned on a strange and enchanted island, a little over-stimulated and perhaps a little fuddled, engages our sympathy in spite of the ridicule which surrounds him. Shake-speare (with one auspicious and one drooping eye!) is presenting us with a confused and most unpractical vision of an ideal Commonwealth. In Bacon's New Atlantis the outline becomes crystal clear, practical and even prophetic.
In spite of its practical nature the New Atlantis overflows with a natural symbolism which is quite unrestrained. Bacon adorns his philosophy with the colours and symbols of Nature, and his imagery translates into any language without loss of power. Modern editions are sometimes prefixed with a polite disclaimer"a few sentences which offend modern taste have been omitted." Like More before him, Bacon was nothing if not candid. In the words of the Novum Organum "Whatever deserves to exist deserves to be known, for Knowledge is the image of Existence . . . the Sun enters the palace and privy alike, and is not polluted thereby." In this spirit of free and unfettered candour Bacon condemns those degrading human abuses which are related in the biblical story of Lot.
More and Bacon both thought there was room for improvement in the laws and conventions covering betrothal, marriage and sex. In Utopia the prospective bride and bridegroom, escorted by grave relatives, were required before contract to see each other in the "altogether." In the New Atlantis Bacon refers to this Utopian custom and, after remarking that it would be "a scorn to give a refusal after so familiar knowledge," he proposes a more civilised way. The inspection is to take place as if by chance in a swimming pool and is delegated to one of the friends of the bridegroom and one of the friends of the bride. For this purpose there is provided, near every town in Bensalem, a couple of pools called "Adam and Eve Pools." On the sanctity and solemnity of the matrimonial contract More and Bacon are adamant.
The most important event in the social life of Bensalem was a ceremony called "The Feast of the Tirsan." It stresses the great importance of family life, though Bacon himself was childless. Apparently it was granted to any man that should live to see 30 persons descended of his body alive together, to make this feast at the cost of the State. In describing this feast, Bacon's love of symbolism, ceremony and colour shines forth in many sentences; as for example . . .
Then the herald taketh into his hand from the other child the cluster grapes, which is of gold; both the stalk and the grapes. But the grapes are daintily enamelled; and if the males of the family be the greater number, the grapes are enamelled purple, with the little sun set on the top; if the females, they are enamelled into a greenish yellow, with the crescent on the top.
The Tirsan doth also, then, ever choose one Man from among his sons to live in house with him, who is called ever after "Son of the Vine."
A charming veil this for the mystical term "Son of the Master".
Is this simply Bacon's ranging imagination or some lost language of Symbolism? Aubrey tells us that Bacon needed a good draught of strong March beer to bedward "to lay his working fancy asleep"! This vivid imagination, and his tendency to pack stage directions into the text of the New Atlantis, are shown in the following extracts . . . .
He had on him a gown with wide sleeves, of a kind of water chamolet, of an excellent azure colour, far more glossy than ours . . . .. . . and divers of them as we passed by them, put their arms a little abroad, which is their gesture when they bid any welcome.
This done, he brought us back to the parlour and, lifting up his cane a little (as they do when they give any charge or command) said to us: "Yes are to know that the custom of the land requireth . . . "
. . . there came to us a new man . . . clothed in blue as the former was; save that his turban was white with a small red cross on the top . . . At his coming in he did bend to us a little, and put his arms abroad. And as we were thus in conference, there came one that seemed to be a messenger, in a rich huke, that spake with the Jew. Whereupon he turned to me, and said "You will pardon me, for I am commanded away in haste."
The final "exit" of all is the sudden departure of the Father of Salomon's House, who breaks off his long discourse with a blessing, after which the story ends abruptly with these words "And so he left me; having assigned a Bounty of about two thousand ducats for me and my Fellows. For they give great largesses, when they come upon all occasions."
Two further extracts may serve to show the attention which Bacon gives to courtesy and hospitality . . .
Ye shall also understand that the strangers' house is at this time rich, and much aforehand; for it has laid up revenue these thirty- seven years; for so long it is since any stranger arrived in this part. And therefore take ye no care; the State will defray you all the time you stay. Neither shall you stay one day the less for that.
Soon after, our dinner was served in; which was right good viands, both for bread and meat better than any collegiate diet that I have known in Europe! . . . We had also drink of three sorts, all wholesome and good; wine of the grape, a drink of grain, such as is with us our ale, but more clear. And a kind of cider, made of a fruit of that country ;a wonderful pleasing and refreshing drink . . .
In the very prophetic excerpt which follows we find Bacon's plan for an altruistic and deeply religious use of experimental science. He predicts refrigeration, air-conditioning, meteorology, radiology, telephony, submarines, synthetic perfumes, textiles and dyes. All these have come to pass, while some novel uses of sound may be still to come. The Father of Salomon's House is speaking:
God blesse thee, my Son; I will give the greatest Jewel I have. For I will impart unto thee, for the love of God and Men, a relation of the true state of Salomon's House . . . The end of our Foundation is the Knowledge of causes and secret motion of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible.
We have large and deep caves . . . for the imitation of natural mines, and the production also of new artificial metals . . . We have also great variety of composts and soils . . . We have high towers . . . for the view of divers meteors; as winds, rain, snow, hail and some fiery meteors also . . . We have also certain chambers of health, where we qualify the air as we think good and proper for the cure of divers diseases, and preservation of health . . . We have also divers mechanical arts, which you have not; and stuffs made by them; as Paper, Linen, Silks, Tissues, excellent Dyes . . . Instruments also which generate heat only by motion.
We have also perspective houses, where we make demonstrations of all Light and Radiations and Colours. We represent also all Multiplications of light which we carry to great distances, and make so sharp as to discern small points and lines . . . We procure means of seeing objects afar off . . .
We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds and their generation . . . We represent small signals as great and deep . . . We have certain helps which, set to the ear, do further the hearing greatly . . . We have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances . . . We have also perfume houses . . . We multiply smells . . . We make divers imitations of taste likewise . . . We imitate also the flight of birds . . . We have ships and boats for going under water . . . These are, my son, the Riches of the Salomon's House.
This atmosphere of sunlight, benevolence and optimism is the hall-mark of the New Atlantis, as distinct from the other visions of the Welfare State. More sought the ideal society under Religion and Law, Bacon under Religion, Law and Science. Yet it was not solely from his beloved science that Bacon drew his light-hearted optimism, but from a quality within himself;from a life-long simplicity or naiveté (one could hardly call it innocence) which sometimes led him into trusting where he should have suspected.
It is a rare mark of genius when the simplicity of the child becomes transmuted into the simplicity of the Sage; when the eye becomes single and the body full of light. The New Atlantis is a product of the synthetic faculty, not of the calculating faculty, it is a leap forward in consciousness to a time when human morals and human knowledge shall go hand-in-hand. The Republic and the Utopia, like Bacon's Essays, regard Man as he is, and not as one might wish him to be.
In the Utopia there is a good deal about punishment and crime and the penal code is much in evidence; in the New Atlantis it is never reached. Bacon seems to have come to the end of his long prophetic list of benefits to the human race with a feeling of elation, and perhaps with some misgivings about the proposed "Frame of Laws" which he had meant to include. He may have felt that this would be against the spirit of the fable as it had developed in his mind. If so I believe he was right.
In the year 1679 Archbishop Tenison, who inherited the custody of Bacon's unpublished papers from Rawley, wrote as follows:
Those who have true skill in the Works of Lord Verulam . . . can tell by the Design, the Strength, the way of colouring, whether he was the Author of this or the other Piece, though his name be not to it.
Rawley tells us that Bacon had begun the New Atlantis with the intention of including "A Frame of Laws for a Commonwealth." Spedding declares that he would gladly give the Sylva Sylvarum ten times over in exchange for these laws. I am not so sure.
There is a small octavo volume (dated 1660) with the following title:The New Atlantis begun by the Lord Verulam and continued by R.H. Esq. In this book an attempt is made to supply the missing "Frame of laws." It is a rare and interesting book and one sometimes wonders whether "R.H." might not have had access to notes left by Bacon. But the book does not strike me as Bacon's composition. There is not the same kindness and understanding, and the atmosphere is oppressive like that of a Police State.
The laws and penalties listed by "R.H." are extremely harsh, much more so than in More's Utopia. Religious toleration is still proclaimed, and no action is taken against dissenters who hold their tongues. But the punishment for publicly denying Christianity is a terrible one; it is crucifixion. To Bacon this idea would have been unthinkable. Perhaps it is as well that he never got as far as framing the legal constitution of Bensalem. Laws must have their penal side, and to legislate for so distant a future, might have spoilt the vision as it stands.
There are two writings by Bacon which the New Atlantis serves to illustrate. One is the noble chapter in the De Augmentis on the "double nature of goodness." The other is Bacon's Confession of Faith. Spedding's Preface to the latter ends with the following words: "If anyone wishes to read a summa theologiae digested into seven pages of the finest English of the days when its tones were finest, he may read it here." That should be recommendation enough, but I believe it could be even stronger. Few great thinkers have had the courage to confront the theologian, and accept the ridicule of the pseudo-scientific men, by placing on record such an intimate belief in the Christ, as Lord, Mediator and Master. The confidence with which he introduces a special revelation of Christianity into the New Atlantis is confirmed in his Confession of Faith. So too are the distinctions which he draws between true miracles and illusions.
Spedding writes finely and sensitively about Bacon in his preface to the New Atlantis.
Perhaps there is no single work of his which has so much of himself in it. The description of Solomon's House is the description of the vision in which he lived . . . the vision of our own world as it might be made if we did our duty by it; of a state of things which he believed would one day be actually seen upon this earth . . . and the coming of which he believed that his own labours were sensibly hastening.
Certain it is that the tendency was strong in Bacon to credit the past with wonders; to suppose that the world had brought forth greater things than it remembered, had seen periods of high civilisation buried in oblivion, great powers and peoples swept away and extinguished. In the year 1607, he avowed before the House of Commons a belief that in some forgotten period of her history, England had been far better peopled than she was then. In 1609, when he published the De Sapientia Veterum, he inclined to believe that an age of higher intellectual development than any the world then knew of had flourished and passed out of memory long before Homer and Hesiod wrote; and this upon the clearest and most deliberate review of all the obvious objections.
Through Bacon's eyes we see disjointed pieces of History linking forgotten ages with our own. We see the Wisdom of the Ancients ;preserved in myth and fable ;passing like a thin rarefied air through a curtain of darkness, and falling into the "trumpets and flutes of the Greeks".
Bacon's ideas on the nature of goodness are expounded in the De Augmentis.ý The essential point is the difference between "good apparent" and "good in earnest." Everything, according to Bacon, is possessed of two forms ;its own individual form and the form of the greater whole of which it is only a part. It is natural, he tells us, for any low-grade entity to seek only the good of itself; this he calls
ý De Augmentis VII (2).
"good apparent" or, "good, private and particular." More highly evolved entities, who can view things through the perspective of time, become aware of the "greater form" of which they are only part. The private good can then be sacrificed to what Bacon calls "the good of communion," meaning successively, the good of one's family, the good of one's country or the good of humanity. In Bacon's words "there is inbred and imprinted in everything an appetite to a double nature of Good: The one as offering a total or substantive in itself the other as a part or member of some greater total; and this latter is more excellent and potent than the other, because it tendeth to the conservation of a more ample form."
To Bacon the "more ample form" was at first his own country, but he also looked towards a group of English-speaking peoples that would one day span the Atlantic. Like most Elizabethans he was patriotic, and his patriotism soon came to include Scotland. The Act of Union which followed the succession of James I was largely Bacon's work. His famous speeches to an obstinate and anti-Scottish House of Commons (on the Post-Nati and Ante-Nati) show this clearly. It was to Francis Bacon for England and the Lord Advocate for Scotland that the drafting of the Act was finally entrusted.
In the previous reign, as a younger member of the House of Commons in 1593, Bacon had felt compelled to oppose the Government on a money Bill. By so doing he wrecked his chances of obtaining a lucrative office in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The Commons had been almost betrayed by the wily Cecil into consenting to a conference with the Lords on the question of increased taxation. But the youthful figure of Francis Bacon stood firm, not against the tax, but against the manner of raising it. The Commons rallied behind him, and the conference with the Lords was tactfully declined. The Queen was much offended and Bacon's political career was set back a whole decade. But from that day to this money Bills have been the privilege and prerogative of the House of Commons.
Bacon held the unusual idea that people should actually enjoy the privilege of paying their taxes, and of making their personal contributions to the good of the realm (the greater form). His ideal in respect of property;that it should be held as a kind of trustcan be summed up in two words "devoted possession." To confiscate or nationalise private property would destroy this trust, for no one can give devotedly what is not theirs to give. "Riches are for the spending" Bacon tells us, and in the same breath he adds "Voluntary undoing may be as well for a man's Country as for the Kingdom of Heaven."ý "Voluntary undoing" is putting the hand in the pocket for the public good. The modern social reformer does not always see what Bacon saw so clearly ;that it is for the individual himself to sacrifice the private good for the greater good of the community; or to use Bacon's words in the House of Commons in 1593 "to make offer from hence unto the Upper House."
The voice of Francis Bacon still reverberates in many languages. The images translate easily. The naked phrase resounds . . . "God Almighty first planted a garden" . . . "The labour we lose in not succeeding is nothing to the chances we lose by not trying" . . . "Into the Kingdom of Knowledge, as into the Kingdom of Heaven, no entry is conceded except as a little child" . . . These three sentences taken from his other works, seem to form the bones of his New Atlantis.
Was Bacon's faith child-like? Erudite commentators have confessed themselves unequal to discussing his Confession of Faith. Yet, in the highest sense, Bacon's Faith was child-like. It even led him to bequeath his name and memory to foreign nations and future ages! Whether we take the record of his passing to be symbolic or true, his life-long belief in Science followed him to the end. It led him, so we are told, to stop his coach on Highgate Hill on a cold and blustering day to carry out an experiment in refrigeration stuffing a chicken with snow! He caught pneumonia. From a damp and hastily prepared bed in lord Arundel's house, he dictated the letter which was to be his last. The long "experiment" of his life was over; the Court : the Commonst he Law; the
ý Essays: "Of Expence".
Union of England and Scotland the Virginia Company the Great Instauration ;the Essays his vision of the New Atlantis his Confession of Faith. He passed on his way, loved by many, understood by few.
His soul (as he would often say) had been a stranger in his pilgrimage. She came to him early on that Easter Sunday morning, to a sick bed in a strange house. But Bacon was Bacon still. His last letter was one of courtesy and gratitude to an absent host. He sought forgiveness for his intrusion, and pardon for the house-keeper who had taken him in. He compared his fate to Pliny the Elder who lost his life in an experiment on a volcano (his mind was still running on that experiment in the snow!). But in this last letter we read the words which symbolise Bacon's work on earth and his message of optimism to the ages to come. " . . . as for the experiment, it succeedeth excellently well".
To sum up the Utopias. From Plutarch's Lycurgus we get the well-known Spartan Laws and disciplines. From Plato an exquisitely constructed discussion of the abstract principles of Government . . . beautiful in expression, pessimistic in outlook, disdaining practical details, and with slavery taken for granted.
In Sir Thomas More's Utopia we have the first great practical approach to an Ideal Society. Justice and religious toleration predominate. The Utopians lead mainly a communal life, with slavery for menial work only. There is a good National Health Service, which even to-day is lacking in many lands.
From Campanella we have a curious and interesting metaphysical dream. In the City of the Sun, the supreme authority is the High Priest. Importance is attached to Astrology and Agriculture.
Modern Utopias are often satirical; and satire, except in small doses, leaves a bitter taste. Bacon, in his younger days, made some use of it in his masques and revels at Gray's Inn and at Court, but not in his more serious works.
The New Atlantis had a dual objective;as a curtain-raiser for the age of industrial science, and as a pattern of "group work" still to come. Of all Bacon's writings it is most difficult to classify. To me it is almost like the pealing of bells, but whether it comes from past or future is hard to tell.
It was right that the New Atlantis should have remained unfinished, because Science itself is never finished. To descend from the zenith of Bacon's vision to his projected "Frame of Laws" would have been something of an anti-climax. To-day we are hovering between the same extremes compulsive laws or voluntary restraint. The New Atlantis, even in its truncated form, is a vision of which the world still stands in need. It is government by a new kind of aristocracy an Aristocracy of Service.
SirBacon.org - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning