Wisdom of the Ancients
Lord Bacon's Interpretation of Myths
Manly P. Hall
(1901 - 1990)
Manly P. Hall was a prolific
author and mystic. He is perhaps most famous for his work The
Secret Teaching of All Ages: An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic,
Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy,
which he published at the age of twenty five; the first line of which
is, "Philosophy is the science of estimating values." He has been
widely recognized as a leading scholar in the fields of religion,
mythology, mysticism, and the occult. Carl Jung, when writing
Psychology and Alchemy, borrowed material from Hall's private
In 1934 Manly P. Hall founded the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles, California, dedicating it to an idealistic approach to the solution of human problems. The PRS claims to be non-sectarian and entirely free from educational, political, or ecclesiastical control, the Society's programs stress the need for the integration of philosophy, religion, and science into one system of instruction. The PRS Library, a public facility devoted to source materials in obscure fields, has many rare and scarce items now impossible to obtain elsewhere.
In his long career, spanning more than seventy years of dynamic public activity, Mr. Hall delivered over 7,500 lectures in the United States and abroad, authored over 150 books and essays, and wrote countless magazine articles. One of his favourite subjects was the life and work of Francis Bacon who he highly regarded as the author behind the works of Shakespeare.
With the passing of time, things forgotten
or neglected come back into focus, and I think this is especially the
case in the example set in the field of learning of Francis
Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Albans, High Chancellor of England, was one of the universal geniuses of all times and can be listed in the same classification as Leonardo da Vinci, who took all knowledge as his province. Bacon's position in learning is unique for through his personality and skills he made possible within his own nature a unification of knowlege which is very seldom to be found in any one personality.
Bacon's areas of skills included first of all the legal profession. In this he rose to the highest possible office , next only to the king in power. As High Chancellor and as a legislator he was outstanding genius of his time. Scarcely less important were his advancements in learning. He can probably be considered the father of modern science and his entire approach toward knowledge was highly scientific. He recognized the fallacy in the academic traditons of his time and laid the foundation for what we call the inductive system of reasoning. Under inductive reasoning, science rose from a critical bacground to occupy one of the most powerful postions in the world today. He was a philosopher of great parts, a person whose intellectual skills enabled him to integrate most of the great philosophical systems that had preceded him. He was not only adept in western thinking, but in a large number of his specialized philosophical researches he seems to have instinctively incorporated a considerable part of Buddhist concepts although he probably did not know it.
Next in importance was his literary output. He was a writer of extraordinary genius. The essays, written when he was a young man, are still considered to be perfect examples of English literature. He had an immense vocabulary and a wonderful power of turning well meditated and well considered thoughts. In his field of literature he was a poet. He also transcribed and poetized a number of Psalms of David. It is believed on good authority that he was also the final editor of the King James version of the Bible.
In addition to these numerous and highly diversified accomplishments on intellectual and material levels, he was a devoutly religious man. His prayers&emdash; the attorney's prayer, the student's prayer&emdash;are simple, humble, and magnificient expressions of an indwelling expression of the presence of the Divine in his own daily life. His secretary and chaplain, Dr. Rawley, said of him :
"If ever the light of God descended upon any man in this century, it was upon His Lordship, for although he was a great reader of books, his knowledge came not from books but from some deep, hidden source within himself."
While this may be thought of as an extraordinary comibination of abilities in one man, this combination should not be overlooked in estimating his attainments. He was probably one of the best qualified persons to approach the problems of daily life. As a scientist he had the basic skills and procedures, creating the modern scientific method. At the same time he was a scientist he was, as he says, " a humble child of God, taking orders always to be obedient to the Divine Will." We do not produce geniuses today that have such a span.
While Bacon realized the importance of depth, he was equally
concerned with breadth. All scientists should cultivate religion and
philosophy, and the arts should be grounded on concepts of true
beauty and high morality. Those whose idealism is immature can
develop a variety of skills, but can never have a true vision of
universal purpose and human destiny.
All of these make the writings and his philosophy very important. A brilliant English writer said, "Quote me a sentence from any of his books and I will tell you who wrote it." This was a peculiar weakness of his ability. The principle writings of Bacon that have descended to us are the Novum Organum (The New Organ of the Mind) and the De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientarum (The Advancement of Learning). In his spare time he apparently produced some shorter works, and our subject deals with one of these light productions of His Lordship's meditation, The Wisdom of the Ancients. This little book&emdash;it has only less than a hundred pages&emdash; is not really a work in itself. It is a combination or a culling from his more important writings of analogies and alliegories which he regarded as archetypal.
Bacon's Wisdom of the Ancients is of great interest to modern dream analysts, those studying symbols, those concerned with meditations, and those seeking to transcend the commonplace in the investigation of nature. Bacon was not addicted primarily to ancient learning&emdash;he doubted many parts of it, but he realized something which perhaps someday we must all discover; namely, that ancient learning is archetypal. He did not use the term&emdash;it was not in use in his day, but it arose from something that was not a conscious process of thinking. Mythology, to him, was a kind of dreaming, the dreaming of the world before the rise of organized knowledge. Mythology is not only the history of prehistoric times; it is a statement of prehistoric thought, of those patterns which are innate in the individual, those archetypal concepts which, though they appear in a thousand forms, are still always based upon some remote subjective experience. Bacon, I think, would have assumed that these ancient fables relate in a concealed way to experience of prehistory&emdash;of those who lived long ago whose bodies have long been in the earth, but whose strange and wonderful mental concepts, redressed in every age, have come down to us with tremendous moral force.
While most of these fables are simply extracts of his other works, they indicate the thoughtfulness of the rare mind that conceived and developed them. According to Bacon, this world is not a series of accidents nor a production of blind forces governed by laws of physical matter alone. This world, as we know it, is a living thing, a tremendous composite. This living thing is ruled over by processes, by principles, and by laws. These laws, processes, and principles, as he tells us in The Wisdom of the Ancients, were personified, clothed, given embodiment in mythology. Mythology is a secret language, very much like the names bestowed upon the pieces in a chess game. They represent always principles. The deities were not arbitrary despots on some Olympian peak, but the personification of impulses, convictions, ideas, experiences, and intuitions of mankind from the earliest known time.
Bacon's fables all have a Grecian background, and when we look back upon the golden age of Pericles in Greece we realize that in those days the world produced some of its most important and powerful minds. Pythagoras, who gave us ancient science; Plato, the philosopher of his age and of his time; Orpheus, the great inspirer of religion among the Greeks&emdash;these persons and hundreds of others, including Euclid, Demosthenes, Antisthenes&emdash; all the great minds of that time certaintly did not believe that the gods were a group of despots sitting on the top of Mount Olympus. The fables that have come down to us are simply the outer cover, just as in every religion we find parables, allegories, and fables to press home upon us certain truths that might otherwise not be easily recognized.
Those today who are concerned with archetypal subjects and also wish to test the depth of their own intuitions would profit considerably by the study of Bacon's little volume, The Wisdom of the Ancients. I should point out, however, that it was written by a lawyer, an individual whose career was greatly involved in statesmanship. He was a counsellor of kings and one of the most powerful men in the realm. Much of his interpretation naturally carries him towards the application of principles to the office which he himself held. On the other hand, there are some of those fables that obviously have nothing to do with politics, legislation, or legality, but are concerned with morality and ethics. All of them, of course, are deeply tinged by Bacon's conviction that a Divine Power was the source and guide of all existence.
Probably most of you have read the children's versions of the Greek mythology and therefore will be able to follow at least a general outline of some of these fables. Perhaps you might be inspired to give mythology a second look because of the very interesting things that are contained therein. We have chosen some details from those fables which seemed to Bacon to prove conclusively that this wisdom did exist, a wisdom which, sad to say, we are in great need of today.
One very simple example follows. The principal deity of the Greek pantheon was Zeus. He was not the supreme deity, but he was the ruler of the mundane world, in its manifestation. He was the god king of existence. According to the story, it is said that in one fable Zeus courted Metis, and from the union of Metis and Zeus was born Pallas Athena from the head of Zeus, armed and helmeted. Now Bacon points out that he doubts very much if Socrates believed that story in its outer form, and he is quite sure that Plato and the icons of Athens did not. Therefore, why did they participate in this believing and also follow on to observe these fables? Bacon does not point it out, but it might be interesting to add at this time that the reason they accepted this was that they had been initiated into the state mysteries and knew the key. The rest of the world worshipped the face and surface of things as we do today, but to those who penetrate into the depths of things the commonplace becomes a source, as Bacon says, so miraculous that no other miracle is necessary.
Out of this little line of Jupiter, Metis, and Pallas Athena he developed quite an interesting pattern. The word " Metis" means counsel. Therefore, we may say that power, Zeus, took counsel to wife, and form the union of power and counsel was born wisdom. The Greeks reserved the term "wisdom" not to the person who had knowledge or learning; wisdom was the immediate participation and experience of truth. Only those who had had the mystical experience of identification with truth could be termed "wise." This is a very much higher approach to the subject than we have today. In other words, wisdom was a theurgic union with reality and had nothing to do with intellectual achievement. In the case of the sophists of Greece, it gradually fell to include professional educators. Howevever, even in the 6th century before Christ, Pythagoras refused to be considered wise, saying that only God is wise, and therefore he chose not to be a sophist but a theosophist. He gave us the word "philosopher," meaning a friend or lover of wisdom. He never would accept the term of being "wise."
In the case of Athena also we have other interesting considerations. Metis, being counsel, gave Lord Bacon a concept of the importance of counsel in all procedures&emdash;that power must be governed by consel. Out of counsel and power comes prudence, and out of prudence comes justice. All these things fit together in a series finally ending in the production of Pallas Athena.
Pallas Athena herself is a remarkable figure. First of all, she was the only virgin in Mount Olympus. She never married, had no love affairs, and lived entirely alone, from which the conclusion can be drawn that wisdom was not involved in any of the secondary procedures of life. Wisdom was complete and eternal in its own nature, having no affiliation to anything. It was remote and unapproachable except through the inner experience of the individual. It never compromised, and the suitors of Penelope were the compromisers that attempted to dilute truth. She never would compromise, and never in any way allowed the absoluteness of her integrity to be damaged. Therefore, she was descended to us as that form of integrity which cannot be corrupted.
This integrity is in the individual, in the world, and in the
Divine Plan of things. Therefore, we consider, as Bacon does, that
Athena represents the inevitable victory of wisdom, wisdom which is
superior to all compromise, all reformation, and all change. To Bacon
the supreme wisdom was eternally and forever the same. Wisdom does
not grow, but is born full grown. Wisdom is not defenseless; it bears
a shield and a spear. Wisdom is not
obvious&emdash;Pallas wore the helmet, but
when she closed the helmet she became invisible.
These different ideas can be thought about for a long time to test the allegories and the significance of these matters. Bacon summarized the concept of that true wisdom which we are all seeking as being located in incorruptible virtue, which on the level of government means incorruptible integrity; and wisdom, itself, defends itself against every approach. No one can ever accidently achieve it. No one can ever force the gates of wisdom. No one can take over this eternal quality.
Wisdom of its own nature being the principle incorruptible, the relationship of knowledge and learning to wisdom becomes important. Knowledge and learning are expressions of the ascent of human intelligence rising along the steps of what Bacon called his "Pyramid of Pan." Knowledge is like the rungs of a ladder upon which men climb. It is also a road with many paths as in the table of Thebes in which persons of every walk of life, every degree of intelligence, every type of conviction are groping along&emdash;always in search of that which is better. They are constantly striving toward wisdom. Their strivings are forever changing.
Bacon, being somewhat of a scientist, liked to point out that the
strivings of science are forever changing. One day w have one belief,
the next day another. One scientist supports another, a third
contradicts them both. Yet each one ina way is dedicated to truth,
but to each truth is only what he is capable of experiencing.
Therefore, Bacon points out that the greatest handicap to the
advancement of learning is the human mind. Here he comes very close
to the concepts of Buddha. He points out that as long as the
individual is in captivity to the tryranny of mind, mind will hold
him to the conditions with which it is familiar. The biologist will
continue to grope along the lines of biology, the physicist along the
lines of physics, the astronomer will continue to build larger lenses
with which to view the heavens; but all these are not going to end
directly in wisdom.
Man will discover wisdom by the experience of his own errors. Little by little he will come to discard that which is not true. It takes a long time,but one by one his errors defeat him, one by one his mistakes confuse him, one by one his false believings fold him in emergency, until finally he is stripped of everything that he thought would be able to support him.He is stripped of all his material assets. He is stripped of his concepts of government. He is stripped of everything that he has believed to be adequate&emdash;not because he is told to turn from them but because they have failed him&emdash;until finally, he comes into the gradual realization of the Universal Plan that underlies everything. Ultimately, if he reaches the apex of all of his teaching, he will come to that mysterious inscrutability, that power which alone is capable of causing and maintaining all things, for the search for knowledge ends in the achievement of consciousness of the Divine.
This has a message even for us in our modern world, a message that we need every day because we are still groping. In this particular crisis we are groping as never before. We are experimenting with things that we trust and believe. We are following the dictates of conditons which are insecure. However, we have not conditioned and regenerated our own inner lives; therefore, we are incapable of being wise. Wisdom is not merely the piling up of knowledge; wisdom involves the sorting out of error, and it is only in this way that we can gain the end we seek.
Another fable that Bacon makes a great point of is in the story of
Pan. Pan was a nature deity of the very ancient Greeks. He was
represented as a creature, the upper part of his body being human and
the lower part the body of a goat. He had horns, a bushy body, and a
pan-like or animal-like face&emdash;the face
of a ram. he carried with him, wherever he went, a flute or a musical
instrument consisting of seven pipes on which he played the music of
nature. Bacon, explaining the mystery of Pan, tells us several
interesting things. He says Pan represents nature, that part of the
world which we can see. Pan is an immense creature extending through
many worlds. The lower part of his being is animal, the upper part is
human. Another form of the centaur, he represents the natural
diffusion of things&emdash;the flowers, the
meadows, the ancient ways, the trees, the birds. The pipes of Pan
represent in a sense the melody and harmony of natural law.
Bacon was convinced that natural law is the highest form of legislation, that there is no law man can create that equals its importance. Also that no individual, no matter how wise, how skilled, how scientifically trained, can break a law of nature without penalty. Therefore, he points out that man, instead of trying to protect himself against nature or exploiting it, should have learned to understand, obey it, and love it because it is the hope of his own survival. Bacon was very definite in his realization that man is constantly exploiting and perverting the natural resources of life around him. He regards himself as born to manage, to govern, to administer the world. While Bacon is not so certain but that this might potentially be true, he points out that the human being is approaching the matter in the wrong way. This nature god is not to be denied. Pan, although we don't see anything that looks like him in the world, is a very real being&emdash;not because he is an image, not because he is a creature that might have been extinct long ago, or a mythological animal like the dragon that may or may not ever have existed, but because Pan is a being. Nature is a being. Nature is not simply oak and birch, stars and comets. Nature is a being having within itself one of the most priceless powers that man can possibly understand : natural intelligence. The natural intelligence of man made him superintendent over the natural intelligence of the world, but man has substituted sophistication for natural intelligence. In so doing he has brough about a conflict between personal desire and natural law.
The tendency will be always to assume that man would ultimately attain a victory over nature, but according to the Baconian interpretation of the idea, the only victory that man can ever attain over nature is to form a constructive partnership with it. He can never change one of its rules. He can never justify a fault of his own that is contrary to natural good. He can never destroy the harmony of nature without destroying himself. The harmony of nature is the pipes of Pan. He hides in the reeds by the river and plays his pipes, and in the playing of these pipes he produces the melody of life. The melody of life is in color and form and number&emdash;the perfect coordination of all of the beauty and processes of nature. All of nature's processes, whether we understand them or not, are intrinsically beautiful, but man, arming himself against nature, has caused those things in which he disagrees with nature to appear wrong. It is the perspective, it is the point of view, it is the individual's own wrong relationship with life that produces the conflicts which we see around us every day.
In ancient times people were close to nature. They lived according
to the seasons, planting and reaping according to them. Animals
obeyed natural law and natural law guided the motion of the insects.
It also dominated and ruled everything else so that where man has not
interfered with nature, nature has seldom worked a hardship on him.
While man's higher life rises above the empire of Pan, his inner life
is not part of material nature. His outer life is part of material
nature. His outer life is part of the body of the goat; his inner
life is the human head that rises from it. To paraphrase a Biblical
concept, it is the duty of every human being to render unto Caesar
and his nature the things that belong to Caesar, and unto God, the
higher nature, those things that belong to God.
Pan, or Nature, is never in conflict with the Divine Power at the source of life, but Nature, over which Pan exercised dominion, has its own rights, rules, and regulations which cannot be transgressed. The natural world is predestined to fulfill the purposes for which it was created. As Bacon points out, Pan has no children and therefore was without a successor. Pan, as Nature personified, was alone, without progeny. He gave birth to nothing because he already represented the complete structure of the natural world, the rules of which must be obeyed.
In the course of time, human beings attempted to depart from natural law. Assuming that they would improve upon nature, they exploited its resources for their own advantage. While humanity obeyed natural law and had not developed inordinate ambitions, the spirits of nature protected them and supplied all their proper needs. When, however, humanity compromised its own integrity and attempted to commercialize and exploit nature, its difficulties multiplied. It changed the bounty of the Divine Plan and transformed the earth into a place of merchandising. Man put fences around the land, claiming ownership over small parts of the body of Pan. As his fences became higher, mortgages furthe encumbered the land and man had to borrow money to pay the bills created. Finally the land was so covered with mortgage stones that in parts of Greece there is no longer any space for planting crops.
It followed that disillusioned mortals began to fight for the
properties of others and the harmony of nature was corrupted by the
stupidity of human beings. In the fable , the great god Pan was
unhappy and his only recourse was to enforce the laws of nature which
he personified. He knew that those who disobey the will of God or the
laws of nature would ultimately discover the error of their ways.
Like a wise parent, Pan realized that every person and creature must
learn to experience the rules tha govern conduct. In the course of
time, humanity wouuld learn the difference between right and wrong.
They would come to realize that if they kept the rules governing the
mortal world they would live together in peace and share the bounty
of nature without selfishness or greed. It was only by understanding
natural law that the individual could come to know the rules and have
the courage to keep them. All the forms of learning which are set up
to escape or violate natural law are chimeram, monstrosities, being
born for corruption.
The world of Pan, though troubled to some degree, survived through classical times until the rise of the first great conquering and colonizing power, Rome. This was the first nation that was able to support the program of world conquest. It trained its legions and claimed most of the countries of its time as vassal states. It required its citizens to worship the Caesars as divine beings until gradually mortal politicians attempted to guide the destiny of the physical creation. When this occurred, the last words of the great oracle of Delphi, which had guided destiny through revelations of the Divine Will, were : "Great Pan is dead."
In more recent times we had a rise in atheism in the world in
which it is no longer cried out that great Pan is dead, but it is
even affirmed that God never existed. This, however, has no effect
whatsoever on the great pageantry of life. The principles that Bacon
recognized were the first primary causes, and these causes never
change. Those who come along can build cities or empires, but they
must always build according to the law, or that which they build will
crumble&emdash;no matter how powerful they may
become. Nature, though less hurried, less listened to, is still
supreme. Among those arts and sciences heavily influenced was
medicine. It was believed that Pan gave to humanity all the medicines
of life in the flowers of the
field&emdash;every cure necessary for his own
illness. Men in their haste overlooked this and began finding
artifical ways. Instead of following natural law, they brewed
medications to cover their disobediences. This did not change nature
which went right on being what it always
was&emdash;the changelessness, of the Eternal.
All superficial things change continuously. Every generation has its
own differences, but Nature never changes. That which governed the
first man will govern the last. It is not that we are weak when we
begin the struggle against Nature; it merely means that we are
beginning to have an inkling of what wisdom really is. This is very
interesting and informative fable which gives us a great many
interesting and valuable concepts to think about.
Another fable that Bacon gave close attention to is the story of Prometheus. Prometheus, he says, siginifies Providence. In the story of Prometheus he is said to have existed in the formation of a human being. Finding it incomplete, he took a bundle of reeds, raised himself to heaven, and touched the chariot of Apollo. Where he touched the chariot the reeds burst into flame, and Prometheus came back bringing fire to man.
Prometheus was, in a sense, the individual who was against the establishment&emdash;a rugged individual who wanted everything to be done his way because he believed that his way was right. When he brought the fire to earth and gave it to mankind, humanity, instead of being grateful, went to Jupiter or Zeus and accused Prometheus of bringing fire down on them. Zeus smiled in his great beard because he was really delighted, but he looked stern faced and did nothing to punish Prometheus. Prometheus continued his way and Zeus was sufficiently impressed by what he had accomplished that he decided to bestow upon man the supreme gift&emdash;immortality. This is where the story becomes very interesting. It is said that Zeus wrapped immortality in a very nice package and had it delivered to mankind. It was sent down on the body of a donkey. The donkey came down the road to the edge of a river. Guarding the river was a serpent, and the serpent would not let the donkey cross the river unless the donkey gave him the package that he was carrying. The donkey, having no idea what he was carrying, thought it was a good deal so he gave the serpent the immortality that had been intended for man. This, of course, relates to the symbol of the serpent changing its skin every year. Man lost his immortality that way, largely perhaps because the donkey represents the kind of mind that is trying to bring immortality to man, and sells out on the way on the slightest pretext.
Prometheus gets into one tangle after another, but he never really
is in trouble except that in his arrogance, his self-will, and his
boastfulness he attempts to seduce Pallas Athena. That was a mistake.
In other words, he tried to control wisdom. For this he was bound to
the crest of a Caucasian mountain and a vulture was placed upon his
liver to gnaw him day and night forever because to violate wisdom, to
violate truth, was the sin that could not be forgiven. It was,
however, ultimately nullified, because there arose in the world the
great hero, Hercules. Hercules later became a demigod and was raised
up into the heavens as a constellation. Hercules among his labors
liberated Prometheus, and Hercules, as William James points out,
symbolized the hero. In other words, he was the
initiate&emdash;the divine man whose twelve
labors were to redeem the world, and because he came as the Messiah
he liberated Prometheus, the sinner.
This remarkable story now goes into a little more detail as to some of the elements involved. "Providence" (Prometheus), Bacon says, is more or less disobedient being, yet part of the plan of things. Perhaps in the words of Mephisto in Faust, he was part of the power of good while ever working ill. Prometheus represents individuality&emdash;the gradual dawning of selfness within the individual, and this is an act of providence. Providence was the lightening flash that ensouled life. When we analyze it in this particular context, Providence tells us that the human being was intended for a purpose&emdash;that man was providentially created. Man was part of the plan; Providence had ordained him, and Providence became his leader and his guide.
While the human being was in a desperate state of primitive existence, living as an animal with no particular skills against the pressures of a pre-historic world, and in a world of creatures that were not endowed with any providential capacities, Prometheus brought him fire. Bacon makes a great point of the fact that fire, on this level of things, was the beginning of civilization, and fire in the spirit is the beginning of religion. In the material world fire enabled man to gradually attain supremacy over his environment. Fire made it possible for him to cook his food, heat his cave,and fire his pottery. It also gave him the skills to make ploughs and later, unfortunately, to make swords. Thus fire was a twofold power&emdash;a power for good which, as light, brought him out of darkness, and a power for evil when, as force, it began to release the innate cupidities and ambitions locked within him. However, fire was the beginning a man's separateness from the environment in which he lived, the beginning of that providential factor which brought him to the rulership or leadership of the species of the earth.
Bacon gives a great significance to this fire factor. He explains how fire serving all kinds of purposes became a mysterious deity, a deity which apparently is self born, for a fire springs up. When it dies, it is dead, but it never dies as a principle. Every fire on the earth could be put out, and yet fire would come back. Fire became a kind of divine agent, a symbol of all the skills, powers, and potentials possible to man. He had two power factors at work; fire could be used to build or to destroy. He could use it to make life better for everyone, or to destroy cities and worlds. It became the most powerful factor in the world of man's experience.
Humanity was confronted with the supreme opportunity and the
supreme temptation. Fire enabled the individual to protect his kind.
It also provided him with the means of exterminating his kind. Fire
gradually developed into the symbol of what we might call fortune. It
became the symbol of wealth, for wealth came out of fire; even
coinage was coined by heat. Fire became the means of bringing the
precious metals from the earth. Fire burned on the alters of the
gods, and fires also burned in the camps of armies. Thus a strange
division began to take place and, according to the Baconian theory,
this division under Prometheus was a providential force.
The Bible also gives us (Bacon was very well acquainted with the Bible) a clue to this situation in the struggle between Cain and Abel, in which we find the beginning of the struggle between common good and personal ambition. The parent of this problem was Prometheus who had a great desire to do what he pleased. This factor also was incorporated in the gift which he bestowed. The usage of it was to become the great test of human nature. It was this usage by which Providence would ultimately bring about the redemption of mankind. It was the testing, it was the temper, and the sword of spirit had to be tempered in the flame of suffering. Suffering became the punishment for all mistakes. It was not some deity sitting in judgment to punish people, for the mistake and its punishment were one thing, each inherent in the other. The reward for good is part of the good of which it is the reward. They are one single substance, each producing it's own kind of inevitably.
Out of the struggle for power brought about by Providence comes another interesting mythological figure&emdash;Fortuna,or Fortune&emdash;also sometimes represeted by a figure called Fame. Fame is represented as a human figure standing on a sphere, in one hand holding a daggar. Fortuna or Fame is the measurer of so-called greatness, but we know the path of glory leads to the grave. Fortune and Fame are bridles which destroy the liberty of the individual. In the other hand Fame holds the urn that holds the ashes of the ambitious dead. Fama stands upon a sphere, indicating absolute insecurity and instability. There is no safety in fortune or in fame, but inspired by the discovery of fire and the rising power of the individual to work his own will upon others, fame and fortune came into existence. From these pressures we have not yet recovered.
Bacon points out in his more important works from which these fables are extracted that the end of all education has to be the discovery of what is intended&emdash;that the only truth that is important is that which is considered in the Divine Mind, and whatever was to be will be. That which has been, will be, and every action has a reward natural to itself. Integrity and justice is not that the reaction shall be what we want; the rule of integrity is that the reaction is that which is necessary to universal good.
In the story of the struggle of Prometheus we find Providence as well as many different factors moving man forward through a series of stages or sets in which he ascends this Pyramid of Pan. We find him passing through all the stages that were invovled when Prometheus, in a sense, put man together.
Prometheus was among those who are said to have fashioned humanity. When he put mankind together he took a germ or a seed from all other creatures&emdash;birds, animals, fishes, insects, etc., and put them inside of man. The result is that man has within himself every level of nature. He is tied to Pan by every cell he has, and he is tied to the animal creation by not only his body but by his material propensities. His body is of the earth earthy, and the earth is Pan and nature. Therefore, the spark that rises out of this, the humanity in him made possible by fire, very often comes into direct conflict with the nature of his lower life.
Now man is not destined to destroy all these little seeds that were planted in him by which he partakes of all living things, but he is to become the Orpheus , the one whose sweet music will charm all the creatures of the world. Therefore, through his own harmony he charms all of the lower parts of his own life. If he lives in harmony with beauty and truth, all of the beasts of his inner life follow patiently and lovingly with him, as inthe beautiful legend of St. Francis of the Birds. The lower parts of man are not bad; they are good and useful parts of his complete economy. The beasts of the field are not bad, but when man declares war upon the beasts of hte field, where there is an imbalance in nature and an inevitalbe consequence sets in. When the individual disobeys the laws of nature within himself, he comes in the end to a great tribulation because he has perverted the natural powes. It is his purpose to civilize the animals, not destroy them. When he ignores his responsibility to the animals around him he also ignores his responsibility to the animal seeds in himself. It is a beautiful, interesting, and constructive kind of fable.
Other fables of this general shape take considerable thought.
Bacon opens his story The Fables with the story of heaven as a great
vault in which all things take place. It is almost a chemical retort
for under heaven is enclosed all of creation as we know it. Heaven
was deposed by Saturn and Saturn, in turn, was deposed by Zeus. Bacon
says that by "heaven" we are to understand the totality of things
and, by Saturn, matter. We associate Saturn symbolically even today
with crystallization and death. Bacon said that Saturn is matter, the
material substance from which all things must be molded, and in
explaining this he gives us the fable of Proteus.
Proteus was an old hermit who guided a flock of sheep. He had magic powers and could conjurate. Anyone who wanted to capture Proteus, representing the symbol of 'forever change,' must ensare him by magic and must then wait. Proteus can assume at will every kind of different form imaginable&emdash;bird, insect, fish,animal, etc. He becomes visible and invisible beings,, but to capture him he must be held until ultimately he is forced to return to his natural form. This, says Bacon, is the story of matter. It is also the story of we have forever with the changing essences and substances of life. Every form of matter passes through innumerable changes. To capture the mystery locked in matter we observe all of the transformations in which matter rises from the most simple form to the most highly organized creature. We see in matter the Proteus , that substance whcih can take any all forms. In any an all of its forms it may be examined but it can never be captured, except in its natural form. Therefore, we must patiently observe the disguises under which it appears but never hope to understand it until we can restore it to its native condition.
This, I think, was one of the great inspirations behind Bacon's philosophy of life. He was a profound student of matter. He wanted to know how it came into being, where it came into being, what it was all about. He believed that matter was a series of infinite disguises in which a simple thing becomes increasingly more complicated as the evolutionary processes result in the piling up of mathematical patterns of matter. All these forms may bewilder, but anyone who tries to capture these forms will find they slip through his fingsers. He thinks he has found the proper and true form, and as he takes hold of it, it changes. Bacon points out that there is no way in which we can understand substance, essence , matter, unless we can examine it in its inevitable and natural state. It its most natural and primordial state it is invisible. This leads to the Baconian deduction, namely, that we must study things by their functions because we cannot find out actually exactly what they are.
If we study heaven as the great globe within which all the chemical experiments of existence take place, we must then cease to know the Creator as represented by the infiinite diversity of creation. And here the Creator becomes a Proteus&emdash;for one principle, one truth, one reality takes on an infinite diversity of forms and appearances beyond conception. Yet somewhere underneath all this infinite change and diversity is one simple fact which man has not yet been able to become simple enough to find. He assumes that he will discover it by the reduction of complication and not by the magnification or expansion of this same complicated principle.
Always, also, Bacon is concerned with the legalistic phase. He has in his concept the idea of a government. He took a long, hard look at the government of Olympus and realized that obviously in its literal form it could not be true, but if the attributes of the twelve deities of Olympus were examined carefully, and their attribute qualities substituted for their name, a rather good legal system resulted. All of these beings and powers have a valid part in the administration of the world. There is no doubt that underneath the network and webwork of myths there is a legalistic form, a structure which can be made applicable to almost any system of government. This is true because this government is stamped and sealed upon the individual. Olympus is within each of us. It is a representation of the type of government that which we adminsiter the small nation or our own personalities.
Many people cannot understand how it happens that the Greeks who were a naturally rather thoughtful people could get along with a god like Zeus who was a philanderer of good parts, supposedly very tempermental, and who was bossed about by a nagging wife. How all this fits in together to form a divine being seems a little difficult, but Bacon tells us in one of his works that the answer is very simple. All you have to do is look at yourself. There is something in you, the leader of yourself , which for most people is the mind. This mind is Zeus, and if you cn find any more irresponsible leader than that, it would be difficult to imagine. The mind always tells you to do whatever you want to do. It proves to you conclusively that your faults are virtues. It leads you to every type of complication, and if it weren't for the mind's problems that it creates, you would not need a lawyer to settle them. If we use ourselves as an example we see that the individual, in the management of that which he can manage(and the only thing we can hope to manage finally is ourselves), the individual is very delinquent in his management. He does what he pleases, which is suppose to be the divine right of kings. They have the right to be tyrannts. The individual forever feels that he has a right to be a tyrannt, and most are to some degree. He also has the right to make and unmake rules and powers. He has the right to declare war upon the drop of a hat. He has the right to make friends and declare enemies, the right to accumulate anything he wants and to fight bitterly to prevent someone else from takinng it away from him. He is constantly inconsistent in his attitudes and self-centered in the extreme. Therefore, you could not imagine a better ruler god than that. Remember Zeus is not the great deity. Zeus is a sort of majordomo. He is what the Greeks called a demiurgus, or the leser deity who rules only over the temporal world. He is accountable to the Divine as a good governor of the temporal world and its problems. In the individual mind is not actually the supreme power. The supreme power is vested in an invisible spirit to which the mind is accountable, whether it knows it or not. We have the same thing in the Nordic mythology. Odin or Woden is not the supreme god. He is simply the god of the twelve deities dwelling in the palace of Asgard. Above him is the All-Father, invisible, unknowable, to whom Odin and all other things are accountable.
Bacon uses the simple analogy of Zeus to indicate this secondary deity. So everything is a guard of that over which it has dominion. The mind has dominion over the body, and the mind, because it has this dominion, tyrannizes the body and sets it into very false procedures and ways. In order to prevent this, Bacon developed his inductive system of reasoning, based upon the simple and inevitable truth of the matter that the mind is the thing that must be improved. In its present state it is hopelessly inadequate. The mind must, therefore, give attention to those things which are above it and not all the time to those things which are below it. Instead of the mind spending all its time tyrannizing over the outer world or trying to govern it, the mind should first turn its attention to the higher world in order to understand what is necessary and what is wanted. It is for that reason Janus, the Roman god, has two faces&emdash;one which faces the public and the other which faces the gods. In this case the mind must become aware of that which is beyond the mind, because the mind of itself is earthbound and bound to the situations which arise from environment, heredity, and circumstances, and it is often very much the victim of the mysterious deity, Fortuna, on the globe.
The opinions, customs, and knowledges of humanity change from day to day. They become more complicated, taking new forms as Proteus does, but they do not become solutional. Each new form is a new problem, each new discovery is a new danger, because the mind is not capable of guiding itself by itself, and when it attempts to do so it becomes a dictator. In the Baconian system the only answer to the world's problems is to find out what the world wants, needs, and must have, according to Providence, according to the great laws of things, according to the rules that are inflexible and unchangeable.
Another interesting fable in connection with this is the fable of Persephone. Persephone, representing the human soul, is abducted by Pluto and taken to the underworld. Her mother, Ceres, the goddess of nature, descends to the underworld and tries to rescue her. She is helped in this way by Pan who is the first to point out where her daughter has actually been abducted. Mercury goes to save her but cannot do so because she has already eaten part of a pomegranate, the symbol of generation. Therefore, the soul is captured in generation. Finally, however, a deity intercedes, and Persephone is permited to return to the upper world half of every year. The underlying meaning seems to be that Ceres and Persephone were both agricultural deities. Therefore, the seasons of growth, summer and winter, become the two halves of the year. In these two halfs, vegetation in the winter fails, and it is said that Persephone is locked in the underworld; in the spring she is released and returns to the heavenly worlds above.
Another interesting interpretation of this fable is that the soul descending into the body is what makes the body fruitful, and all the good and all the true life of man is vested in this soul power or soul quality. When God gave the breath of life to man and made him a living soul, this was the beginning of man's journey upward toward truth. Bacon always aligns the soul to religion, assuming that the spiritual integrity in man is the direct manifestation of soul power, and that the soul abides in him a part of the time, and at death it departs, but at birth it is reborn. The soul coming into embodiment is the perpetual guide and guardian of man's life.
For just a moment suppose the gods had to take an oath. Who would they swear by? To Bacon who was a lawyer and probably had a good many pejury cases, this comes to be a problem. It would not be very possible to do as in one booklet written years ago, Heavenly Discourse, a god swears by saying : "By myself." But the Greeks did not do it that way. The great oath of the gods was the oath to the River Styx. The River Styx was the stream that divides the world of the living from the world of the dead. It is forever flowing, never ends, and became in Greek mythology the symbol of the inevitable, the immutable, and the unchangeable&emdash;that which is before gods or men; in other words, the complete mystery of life itself. It was that mysterious power from Eternity, the forever existing essence of life, whch was the highest unknowable, for all things that live&emdash;from the gods to the smallest atom&emdash;live because there is life, and this life, therefore, became the most sacred of all things. And when the gods took an oath, they took an oath to the river of life.
It may seem strange, perhaps, but there are tremendous values hiding in these stories. There are moral lessons that it seems to me we would all benefit from, and while we are using our natural faculties it might be interesting for us to see what would happen if we would take some of these legends and interpret them according to our own insights, calling upon the internal to find the meaning of a symbol. This is the power of symbols : that they bring out of us something. Any person in any walk of life can take one of these myths, bring it down to a level of his own experience,and not only get a useful answer but may also get a clue through the symbolism to the laws involved in the situation in which he finds himself. I think this was the principle and idea behind Francis Bacon's production of these mysterious and truly charming fables.
SirBacon.org - Sir Francis Bacon's New Advancement of Learning