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Francis bacons new atlantis

Francis Bacon's New Atlantis

Francis Bacon was the founder of the modern scientific method. The focus on the

new scientific method is on orderly experimentation. For Bacon, experiments

that produce results are important. Bacon pointed out the need for clear and

accurate thinking, showing that any mastery of the world in which man lives was

dependent upon careful understanding. This understanding is based solely on the

facts of this world and not as the ancients held it in ancient philosophy. This

new modern science provides the foundation for modern political science. Bacon's

political science completely separated religion and philosophy. For Bacon,

nothing exists in the universe except individual bodies. Although he did not

offer a complete theory of the nature of the universe, he pointed the way that

science, as a new civil religion, might take in developing such a theory.

Bacon divided theology into the natural and the revealed. Natural theology is

the knowledge of God which we can get from the study of nature and the

creatures of God. Convincing proof is given of the existence of God but nothing

more. Anything else must come from revealed theology. Science and philosophy

have felt the need to justify themselves to laymen. The belief that nature is

something to be vexed and tortured to the compliance of man will not satisfy

man nor laymen. Natural science finds its proper method when the 'scientist'

puts Nature to the question, tortures her by experiment and wrings from her

answers to his questions. The House of Solomon is directly related to these

thoughts. "It is dedicated to the study of Works and the Creatures of God"

(Bacon, 436). Wonder at religious questions was natural, but, permitted free

reign, would destroy science by absorbing the minds and concerns of men. The

singular advantage of Christianity is its irrationality. The divine soul was a

matter for religion to handle. The irrational soul was open to study and

understanding by man using the methods of science.

The society of the NEW ATLANTIS is a scientific society. It is dominated by

scientists and guided by science. Science conquers chance and determines change

thus creating a regime permanently pleasant. Bensalem, meaning "perfect son" in

Hebrew, has shunned the misfortunes of time, vice and decay. Bensalem seems to

combine the blessedness of Jerusalem and the pleasures and conveniences of

Babylon. In Bacon's NEW ATLANTIS, the need for man to be driven does not exist.

Scarcity is eliminated thereby eliminating the need for money. "But thus, you

see, we maintain a trade, not for gold, silver or jewels... nor for any other

commodity of matter, but only for God's first creature which was light" (Bacon,

437). This shows a devotion to truth rather than victory and it emphasizes the

Christian piety to which the scientist is disposed by virtue of his science. As

man observes and brings the fruits of his observations together, he discover

likeness' and differences among events and objects in the universe. In this way

he will establish laws among happenings upon which he can base all subsequent

action. Bacon realized that sometimes religious ideas and the discoveries of

nature and careful observations were contradictory but he argued that society

must believe both.

The NEW ATLANTIS begins with the description of a ship lost at sea. The crew

"lift up their hearts and voices to God above, who showeth his wonders in the

deep, beseeching him of his mercy" (Bacon, 419). Upon spotting land and

discerning natives the sailors praise God. When a boarding party comes to their

ship to deliver messages, none of the natives speak. Rather, the messages are

delivered written on scrolls of parchment. The parchment is "signed with a

stamp of cherubins' wings... and by them a cross" (Bacon, 420). To the sailors,

the cross was "a great rejoicing, and as it were a certain presage of good"

(Bacon, 420). After the natives leave and return to the ship, they stop and ask

"Are ye Christians?" (Bacon, 421). When the sailors confirm that they are, they

are taken to the island of Bensalem. On Bensalem, the sailors are 'confined' to

their resting place and are attended to according to their needs. The sailors

reply, "God surely is manifested in this land" (Bacon, 424). Upon talking to

the governor the next day, he exclaims "Ye knit my heart to you by asking this

question, [the hope that they might meet heaven], in the first place, for it

showeth that you first seek the kingdom of heaven" (Bacon, 427). This is not

true. The sailors have already sought food, shelter and care of the sick. In

other words, they had sought self preservation. As Bacon put it, "they had

already prepared for death" (Bacon, 419).

After the Feast of the Family, the father of Salomon's House has a conference

with the travelers. The father says, "I will give the greatest jewel that I

have. For I will impart to thee... a relation of the true state of Salomon's

House" (Bacon, 447). The greatest 'jewel' is not one of monetary value but of

knowledge. The father continues, "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 affecting of all things possible" (bacon, 447). This is the

turning point from religion to science and science becoming the new civil

religion. From this comes the ability of human rule over Nature. It was stated

before that they were interested in "God's first creature which was light"

(Bacon, 437). This contradicts an earlier statement that "It is dedicated to

the study of Works and Creatures of God" (Bacon, 436). The former obviously an

indication to science as the latter is to religion. Bacon stresses the

importance of 'light' as the precursor of 'fruit' to suggest that they are

following the divine instrument. There are two images used by Bacon to refer to

knowledge, torture and light. The torture refers to the violent twisting of

nature's secrets. Nature must be conquered but is not adverse to the conquest.

The forces of Nature are against us, but in a rather passive manner. Light, on

the other hand, is the meaning for natural philosophy. From Salomon's house

there go forth 'merchants of light' and 'lamps'. Light is identified with truth.

Supposing that light is symbolic of natural philosophy, then it dismisses the

case of light being divine philosophy. The light in Bacon is primarily the

light of Nature. The obvious contrast here is one between "gold and silver and

light" (Bacon, 437). Light, here is noble where gold and silver are base. The

'noble light' is for the beneficence of all man. Bcaon took the modern spirit

and weaved them together so as to suggest a method by which man could master

the universe. He did this to the end that he might exhibit therein a model or

description of a college instituted for the interpreting of nature and the

producing of great works for the benefit of man.

The island community of Bensalem also has "two long and fair galleries" (Bacon,

456). In one gallery the native place all manner of patterns and samples of

rare and excellent inventions. In the other gallery are placed statues of

inventors. It is interesting to note here that while the island and its natives

act in "so civil a fashion" (Bacon, 423) in professing to be Christian and

religious that they place science so high on their list. Science is placed so

high that instead of having statues of God and his works, they erect statues of

inventors of the western world thereby showing their commonness and baseness to

human preservation. They do, however, have "certain hymns and services, which

(we) say daily, of laud and praise to God for his marvelous works" (Bacon, 457).

But, even this is done "for the illumination of (their) labors and the turning

of them into good and holy uses" (Bacon, 457). The statues are erected to the

memory of what the natives consider most important for in Bacon, the scientists

are a consecrated priesthood.

In Bacon's NEW ATLANTIS, religion plays an important role. However, it is a

role of cover-up. It covers up the true idea that Bacon is trying to get across

- science as the new civil religion. Although he relegated religion into a

realm of its own outside of and different from philosophy, he held that there

were religious laws that man must obey whether or not they appeared reasonable.

By freeing theology and philosophy, Bacon was able to shape philosophy so that

it might undertake an unbiased study of the universe. This left man subject to

the will of God and thereby shorn of his freedom. It is obvious that this

creation could not long satisfy the thinking mind as it was far too

contradictory. The laymen have a genuine thirst for knowledge yet they cannot

know what is uncovered either by religion or by science.

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