An Antidote Against Atheism/Book III/Chapter XVI
1. The Atheists Evasions against Apparitions; as first, That they are mere Imaginations. 2. Then, That though they be Realities without yet they are caused by the force of Imagination; with the confutation of these Conceits. 5. Their fond conceit, That the Skirmishings in the Aire are from the exuvious Effluxes of things; with a confutation thereof. 4. A copious confutation of their last subterfuge, (viz. That those Fightings are the Reflexions of Battels on the Earth) from the distance, and debility of Reflexion; 5. From the rude Politure of the Clouds; 6. From their inability of reflecting so much as the image of the starrs, which yet were a thing far easier; First, by reason of the undiminishableness of their magnitude. 7. Then from the purity of their light. 8. Thirdly, from the posture of our Eye in the shade of the Earth. 9. Lastly, from their dispersedness, ready from every part to be reflected if the Clouds had any such Reflexivity in them. 10. That if they have any such Reflexivity at to represent battels so exceeding distant, it is by some supernatural Artifice. 11. That this Artifice has its limited laws. 12. Whence at least some of these Aereal battels cannot be Reflexions from the Earth. 13. Machiavel's opinion concerning these Fightings in the Aire. 14. Nothing so demonstrable in Philosophy as the being of a God. 15. That Pedantick affectation of Atheisme whence it probably arose. 16. The true causes of being really prone to Atheisme. 17. That men ought not to oppose their mere complexional humours against the Principles of Reason, and Testimonies of Nature and History His Apology for being so copious in the reciting of Stories of Spirits.
1.Now for their Evasions whereby they would elude the force of that Argument for Spirits which is drawn from Apparitions, they are so weak and silly, that a man may be almost sure they were convinced in their judgement of the truth of such like Stories, else it had been better flatly to have denied them, then to feign such idle and vain Reasons of them.
For first, they say they are nothing but Imaginations, and that there is nothing reall without us in such Apparitions.
2. But being beaten off from this slight account, for that many see the same thing at once, then they fly to so miraculous a power of Phansy, as if it were able to change the Air into a real shape and form, so that others may behold it as well as he that fram'd it by the power of his Phansy.
Now I demand of any man, whether this be not a harder Mystery and more unconceiveable then all the Magical Metamorphoses of Devils or Witches. For it is far easier to conceive that some knowing thing in the Air should thus transform the Air into this or that shape, being in that part of the Air it doth thus transform, then that the Imagination of man, which is but a Modification of his own Minde, should be able at a distance to change it into such like Appearances. But suppose it could, can it animate the Aire that it doth thus metamorphize, and make it speak, and answer to questions, and put things into mens hands, and the like? O the credulity of besotted Atheism! How intoxicated and infatuated are they in their conceits, being given up to sensuality, and having lost the free use of the natural Faculties of their Minde!
But shall this force of Imagination reach as high as the Clouds also, and make Men fight pitched Battels in the Aire, running and charging one against the other?
3. Here the same bold pretender to Wit and Philosophy, In his 51. Dia. de Apparitionibus* Cæsar Vaninus (who cunningly and jugglingly endeavours to infuse the poison of Atheism into the minde of his Reader on every occasion) hath recourse to those old cast rags of Epicurus his School, the Exuvious Effluxes of things, and attempts to salve these Phænomena thus; That the vapours of Mens bodies, and it seems of Horses too, are carried up into the Aire, and fill into a certain proportionable posture of parts, and so imitate the figures of them aloft among the Clouds.
But I demand how the vapours of the horses finde the vapours of their Riders: and when and how long are they coming together? and whether they appear not before there be any Armies in the field to send up such vapours: and whether harness and weapons send up vapours too, as Swords, Pikes and Shields: and how they come to light so happily into the hands of those Aerial men of war, especially the vapours of Metalls (if they have any) being heavier in all likelihood then the reek of Animals and Men: and lastly, how they come to discharge at one another and to fight, there being neither life nor soul in them: and whether Sounds also have their Exuviæ that are reserved till these solemnities; for at Alborough in Suffolk 1642. were heard in the Aire very loud beatings of Drums, shooting of Muskets and Ordnance as also in other such like Prodigies there hath been heard the founding of Trumpets, as Snellius writes. And * Hist. Natural lib. 2. cap. 57.* Pliny also makes mention of the sounding of Trumpets and clashing of Armour heard out of the heavens about the Cimbrick Wars, and often before. But here at Alborough all was concluded with a melodious noise of Musical Instruments.
The Exuviæ of Fiddles it seems fly up into the Aire too; or were those Musical Accents frozen there for a time, and at the heat and firing of the Cannons, the Aire relenting and thawing, became so harmoniously vocal? With what vain conceits are men intoxicated that wilfully wink against the light of Nature, and are estranged from the true knowledge and acknowledgment of a God!
4. But there is another Evasion which the same sedulous Insinuator of Atheism would make use of in case this should not hold, which seems more sober, but no less false: Dialog. 51.and that is this; That these fightings and skirmishings in the Aire are only the reflexion of some real battel on the Earth. But this in Nature is plainly impossible. For of necessity these Armies thus fighting, being at such a distance from the Spectators that the fame of the battel never arrives to their ears, their eyes can never behold it by any reflexion from the Clouds. For besides that reflexion makes the images more dim then direct sight, such a distance from the Army to the clouds, and then from the clouds to our eye, will lessen the species so exceedingly that they will not at all be visible.
5. Or if we could imagine that there might be sometimes such an advantage in the figure of these Clouds as might in some sort remedy this lessening of the species, yet their surfaces are so exceeding rudely polish'd, and reflexion (which, as I said, is ever dim enough of it self,) is here so extraordinarily imperfect, that they can never be able, according to the course of Nature, to return the species of Terrestriall Objects back again to our sight, it being so evident that they are unfit for what is of far lesse difficulty. For we never finde them able to reflect the image of a Star, whenas not onely glasse, but every troubled pool or dirty plash of water in the high-way does usually doe it.
6. But that it is far easier for a Star then for any of these Objects here upon Earth to be reflected to our Eyes by those rude naturall Looking glasses placed among the Clouds, sundry reasons will sufficiently inform us.
For first, The Stars do not abate at all of their usuall magnitude in which they ordinarily appear to us by this reflexion, the difference of many hundreds of Leagues making no difference of magnitude in them; for indeed the distance of the Diameter of the Orbite of the Earth makes none, as must be acknowledged by all those that admit of the annual motion thereof. But a very few miles do exceedingly diminish the usual bigness of the species of an Horse or Man, even to that littleness that they grow invisible. What then will become of his sword, shield or spear? And in these cases we now speak of, how great a journey the species have from the Earth to the Cloud that reflects them, I have intimated before.
7. Secondly, it is manifest that a Star hath the preeminence above these Terrestrial objects, in that it is as pure a light as the Sun, though not so big, but they but opake coloured bodies; and that therefore there is no comparison betwixt the vigour and strength of the species of a Star and of them.
8. Thirdly, in the Night-time the Eye being placed in the shadow of the Earth, those reflexions of a Star will be yet more easily visible; whenas the great light of the Sun by Day must needs much debilitate these reflected Images of the Objects upon the Earth, his beams striking our Eyes with so strong vibrations.
9. Fourthly and lastly, there being Stars all over the Firmament so as there is, it should seem a hundred times more easie for natural Causes to hit upon a Paraster or Parastron (for let Analogie embolden me so to call these seldome or never seen Phænomena, the image of a single Star or whole Constellation reflected from the Clouds) then upon a Parelios or Paraselene. But now the story of these is more then an hundred times more frequent then that of the Paraster. For it is so seldome discovered, that it is doubted whether it be or no, or rather acknowledged not to be; of which there can be no reason, but that the clouds are so ill polished that they are not able to reflect so considerable a light as a Star. From whence, I think, we may safely gather, that it is therefore impossible that they should reflect so debile Species as the colours and shapes of Beasts and Men, and that so accurately as that we may see their swords, helmets, shields, spears, and the like.
10. Wherefore it is plain that these Apparitions on high in the Aire are no reflexions of any Objects upon Earth; or, if it were imaginable that they were, that some supernatural cause must assist to conglaciate and polish the surfaces of the clouds to such an extraordinary accuracy of figure and smoothness as will suffice for such prodigious reflexions.
And that these Spirits that rule in the Aire may not act upon the materials there as well as Men here upon the Earth work upon the parts thereof, as also upon the neighbouring Elements so far as they can reach, shaping, perfecting and directing things according to their own purpose and pleasure, I know no reason at all in Nature or Philosophy for any man to deny. For that the help of some officious Genii is imploied in such like Prodigies as these, the seasonableness of their appearance seems no contemptible argument, they being, according to the observation of Historians, the * The same which Vaninus himself acknowledges in is Dialogues, Dialog. 51* Forerunners of Commotions and Troubles in all Kingdomes Commonwealths.
11. Yet nevertheless as good Artificers as I here suppose, they working upon Nature must be bounded by the Laws of Nature: and reflexion will have it limits as well as refraction, whether for conveyance of species, or kindling of heat; the laws and bounds whereof that discerning Wit Cartesius being well aware of, doth generously and judiciously pronounce, That a burning-Glass, the distance of whose focus from the Glass doth not hear a less proportion to the Diameter thereof then the distance of the Earth from the Sun to the Diameter of the Sun, will burn no more vehemently then the direct rays of the Sun will do without it, though in other respects this Glass were as exactly shaped and curiously polished as could be expected from the hand of an Angel.
12. Wherefore suppose the surface of the clouds polished never so well and fitted for reflexion, it is still evident that some of these Apparitions cannot be such as are mere reflexions of Armies skirmishing on the ground. For those that are observed to fight determinately over such or such a City, if they be but the mere reflexions of fights, of necessity they must be from some Armies not far off: and if so, they could not but be discovered, at least by speedy report. Whence it is manifest, that such Skirmishings in the clouds are reall Encounters there, not the Images or Reflexions of Battels on the Ground. And considering that there have been such reall Prodigies of fightings on the ground it self by these Aereal Coursers, as I have * See chap. 12. sect. 6.* above intimated, it is but reasonable to conceive, that the generality of the rest of these prodigious Skirmishings, though not determinate to this or that City, are really in the clouds or skye, not a shadow or reflexion of Battels upon the Earth.
But that these Fightings have been seen over such and such Cities, were easie to make good out of History: I shall onely instance in Snellius his report of Amortsfort, that such Skirmishings were seen there, and that nigh over the very tops of their houses. The like Machiavell reports concerning Artium, and acknowledges that such kinde of Prodigies are very frequent in History, as also certain forerunners of the Troubles and Disturbances of that State and Countrey wherein they appear.
13. His own words are so free and ingenuous, and his judgment so considerable, (though he will not pretend to Philosophy) touching the reason of these strange sights, that I think it worth the while to transcribe them. * Dispt. de Republica lib. 1. cap. 56.* Hujusmodi rerum causas ab iis explicari posse credo qui rerum naturalium ac supranaturalium cognitione insignes sunt, à qua me alienum esse fateor: nisi forte cum philosophis quibusdam pronunciandum censeamus, aerem plenum spiritibus & Intelligentiis esse, quæ res futuras dentes, & casibus humanis condolentes, eas hominibus per hujufmodi signa prænuncient, at se adversus eos tempestiviùs præparare & communire queant. Utut se res habeat, Experientiâ certè compertum habemus talia signa sequi solcre magnos aliquos motus.
14. I have now compleated this present Treatise against Atheism in all the Three parts thereof: upon which while l cast mine eye, and view that clear and irrefutable evidence of the Cause I have undertaken, the external Appearances of things in the world so faithfully seconding the undeniable dictates of the innate Principles of our own Minds, I cannot but with confidence aver, That there is not any one notion in all Philosophy more certain and demonstrable then That there is a God.
And verily I think I have ransacked all the corners of every kinde of Philosophy that can pretend to bear any stroke in this Controversie with that diligence, that I may safely pronounce, that it is mere brutish Ignorance or Impudence, no Skill in Nature or the Knowledge of things, that can encourage any man to profess Atheism, or to embrace it at the proposal of those that make profession of it.
15. But so I conceive it is, that at first some famously-learned men being not so indiscreetly zealous and superstitious as others, have been mistaken by Ideots and traduced for Atheists, and then ever after some one vain-glorious Fool or other hath affected, with what safety he could, to seem Atheistical, that he might thereby, forsooth, be reputed the more learned, or the profounder Naturalist.
16. But I dare assure any man, that if he do but search into the bottom of this enormous disease of the Soul, as Trismegist truly calls it, he will find nothing to be the cause thereof but either vanity of mind, or brutish sensuality and an untamed desire of satisfying a mans own will in every thing, an obnoxious Conscience, and a base Fear of divine Vengeance, ignorance of the scantness and insufficiency of second causes, a jumbled feculency and incomposedness of the spirits by reason of perpetual intemperance and luxury, or else a dark bedeading Melancholy that so starves and kils the apprehension of the Soul, in divine matters especially, that it makes a man as inept for such Contemplations as if his head was filled with cold Earth or dry Grave-moulds.
17. And to such flow Constitutions as these, I shall not wonder if, as the first Part of my Discourse must seem marvellous subtile, so the last appear ridiculously incredible. But they are to remember, that I do not here appeal to the Complexional humors or peculiar Relishes of men that arise out of the temper of the Body, but to the known and unalterable Ideas of the Mind, to the Phænomena of Nature and Records of History. Upon the last whereof if I have something more fully insisted, it is not to be imputed to any vain credulity of mine, or that I take a pleasure in telling strange stories, but that I thought fit to fortifie and strengthen the faith of others as much as I could; being well assured that a contemptuous misbelief of such like Narrations concerning Spirits, and an endeavour of making them all ridiculous and incredible, is a dangerous Prelude to Atheism it self, or else a more close and crafty profession and insinuation of it. For assuredly that Saying is not more true in Politicks, No Bishop, no King; then this is in Metaphysicks, No Spirit, no God.