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Tag: philosophy

Religious Studies

What Indeed Hath Athens to do With Jerusalem?

. . .that human wisdom which pretends to know the truth, whilst it only corrupts it, and is itself divided into its own manifold heresies, by the variety of its mutually repugnant sects. What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? what between heretics and Christians?

Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics

Moreover, if those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said aught that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it. For, as the Egyptians had not only the idols and heavy burdens which the people of Israel hated and fled from, but  also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and garments, which the same people when going out of Egypt appropriated to themselves, designing them for a better use, not doing this on their own authority, but by the command of God, the Egyptians themselves, in their ignorance, providing them with things which they themselves, were not making a good use of; in the same way all branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies and heavy burdens of unnecessary toil, which every one of us, when going out under the leadership of Christ from the fellowship of the heathen, ought to abhor and avoid; but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of the truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them. Now these are, so to speak, their gold and silver, which they did not create themselves, but dug out of the mines of God’s providence which are everywhere scattered abroad, and are perversely and unlawfully prostituting to the worship of devils. These, therefore, the Christian, when he separates himself in spirit from the miserable fellowship of these men, ought to take away from them, and to devote to their proper use in preaching the gospel. Their garments, also,—that is, human institutions such as are adapted to that intercourse with men which is indispensable in this life,—we must take and turn to a Christian use.

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book I.40

Theology, while saying that a special illumination has been vouchsafed to Christians and (earlier) to Jews, also says that there is some divine illumination vouchsafed to all men. The Divine light, we are told, ‘lighteneth every man.’ We should, therefore, expect to find in the imagination of great Pagan teachers and myth makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic: story – the theme of incarnation, death, and rebirth. And the differences between the Pagan Christs (Balder, Osiris, etc.) and the Christ Himself is much what we should expect to find. The Pagan stories are all about someone dying and rising, either every year, or else nobody knows where and nobody knows when.

Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?,” Weight of Glory
Harvard Classics

July 9 – Sir Francis Bacon: Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral

  • Of Truth
  • Of Death
  • Of Unity in Religion
  • Of Revenge
  • Of Adversity
  • Of Simulation and Dissimulation

A Little Lying Now and Then
“What is Truth?” asked Pilate. For an answer Bacon discourses not on human nature as it should be, but as it is. These shrewd observations on making a life and a living admit occasional departures from truth.
(Bacon becomes Privy Councilor, July 9, 1616.)
Read from BACON‘S ESSAYS Vol. 3, pp. 719

Of Truth

Men love lies: made for pleasure (poetry) and for advantage (merchants) // the mixture of a lie adds pleasure // natural though corrupt love of the lie itself // difficult to find and obtain truth

poesy (poetry) vinum daemonum [devil’s wine] because it fills the imagination yet is but with the shadow of a lie

It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore and to see ships tossed upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth.

There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame as to be found false and perfidious.

Of Death

Of Unity and Religion

The quarrels and divisions about religion were evils unknown to the heathen.

Bacon discusses the subject of unity in religion under three heads: the fruits of unity; the bounds or extent of unity, and the means of unity. Taking up the fruits of unity first, Bacon points out that heresies and schisms are the greatest scandals in the sphere of religion. Nothing keeps men out of the Church, and nothing drives men out of the Church, as much as a breach of unity does. There will be complete confusion in the minds of people if one man suggests that Christ should be sought in secret chambers. If a heathen hears Christians talking with several tongues, he will surely think them to be mad. If there are different sects in a religion and they all adopt different postures and attitudes, they will be enacting a kind of “Morris dance” mentioned by the French writer, Rabelais. The fruits of unity for those who believe in their Church are the blessings of peace leading to faith, charity, and piety.

Of Revenge

A kind of “wild justice” that offends the law

The most tolerable revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law to remedy

The man that studies revenge keeps his wounds fresh that otherwise would heal and “do well”

Of Adversity

good things that belong to prosperity are to be wished; but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.

Of Simulation and Dissimulation

Bacon argues that both simulation and dissimulation are useful but their successful use requires both intelligence and “a strong heart,” that is, confidence. Dissimulation Bacon defines as “when a man lets fall signs and arguments, that he is not, that he is.” In other words, dissimulation allows others to misunderstand what he is doing and thinking–he fails to correct misconceptions about his behavior. Simulation, on the other hand, is much more active: a man takes actions that disguise what he is really thinking and doing. Dissimulation and simulation are two of three levels of a man’s method of hiding or veiling his motives, the first of which is “closeness, reservation, and secrecy,” that is, a man hides himself sufficiently so that no can easily observe his behavior. We might call that today shyness, modesty, reserved behavior. Bacon argues that secrecy is “both public and moral” because being “open,” telling everyone what one thinks about everything, leads to people concluding that the person cannot keep confidences and is therefore weak.

Harvard Classics

June 27 – The Essays of Francis Bacon: “OF ENVY”

There is a human trait most poisonous to a man’s blood. Man seeks to avoid it because he knows that it lies like a curse upon him. Just what is the poisonous human failing? Who are most subject to it? Bacon tells you in one of his best essays.
(Francis Bacon enrolled at Cambridge University, June 27, 1576.)
Read from BACON‘S ESSAYS Vol. 3 pp. 22-26

I recently purchased the 50-volume “Harvard Classics,” which are also known as Dr. Eliot’s “Five-Foot Shelf of Books.” This set was accompanied by a book called “15 Minutes a Day – The Reading Guide.” In that reading guide Eliot stated, “Within the limits of fifty volumes, containing about twenty-three thousand pages, my task was to provide the means of obtaining such knowledge of ancient and modern literature as seemed essential to the twentieth-century idea of a cultivated man.”

Today, on 27 June 2021 I begin my journey through the “Harvard Classics” using the accompanied reading guide. The first reading is an essay written by Francis Bacon titled “Of Envy.”

Sir Francis Bacon

Born in January 1561 and studied as a lawyer at Trinity College in Cambridge. Bacon took an active part in politics and became Solicitor-General and ultimately Lord Chancellor of England in 1618. Bacon was ultimately convicted of bribery and sentenced by the House of Lords to the loss of all his offices, imprisonment, and a large fine.

Bacon contributed to the sciences and philosophy with published works: “Magna Instauratio” (unfinished), “De Augmentis,” “History of Henry VII,” “The New Atlantis,” “Novum Organum,” and his collection of essays. Bacons philosophy helped establish the scientific method and is considered to be the father of empiricism. Bacon’s essays are considered “shrewd observations” on how men get on in life.

List of mentioned figures:

  • Narses the eunuch – Narses was, with Belisarius, one of the great generals in the service of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I during the Roman reconquest that took place during Justinian’s reign. Narses was a Romanized Armenian. He spent most of his life as an important eunuch in the palace of the emperors in Constantinople.
  • Agesilaus – Agesilaus II was the king of Sparta between c. 400 to 360 BC. Generally considered the most important king in the history of Sparta, Agesilaus was the main actor during the period of Spartan hegemony that followed the Peloponnesian War.
  • Tamberlanes – Timur, later Timūr Gurkānī, was a Turco-Mongol conqueror who founded the Timurid Empire in and around modern-day Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia, becoming the first ruler of the Timurid dynasty. As an undefeated commander, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest military leaders and tacticians in history.
  • Adrian the Emperor – Hadrian was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family that settled in Spain from the Italian city of Atri in Picenum. His father was of senatorial rank and was a first cousin of Emperor Trajan.

“There be none of the affections which have been noted to fascinate or bewitch, but love and envy.”

Notes on similarities between Love and Envy

  • vehement wishes
  • frame themselves into imaginations and suggestions
  • come easily to the eye (especially upon objects)

Envy in general:

Mentioned in scriptures (evil eye) and astrology (evil aspects).

Envy is ever joined with the comparing of a man’s self; and where there is no comparison, no envy; and therefore kings are not envied but by kings.

Politicians chanting “quanta patimur” [how great things do we suffer] to abate the edge of envy.

There is yet some good in pubic envy [a bridle to keep men within bounds], whereas in private there is none. Bacon focuses mostly on private envy which in his opinion is more dangerous.

He that cannot possibly mend his own case will do what he can to impair anothers