Instauratio Magna/Proem (Devey)
AND SUCH IS THE METHOD WHICH HE
DETERMINED WITHIN HIMSELF, AND WHICH
HE THO0UGHT IT CONCERNED THE LIVING AND
POSTERITY TO KNOW.
Being convinced, by a careful observation, that the human understanding perplexes itself, or makes not a sober and advantageous use of the real helps within its reach, whence manifold ignorance and inconveniences arise, he was determined to employ his utmost endeavours towards restoring or cultivating a just and legitimate familiarity betwixt the mind and things.
And whilst men agree to admire and magnify the false powers of the mind, and neglect or destroy those that might be rendered true, there is no other course left but with better assistance to begin the work anew, and raise or rebuild the sciences, arts, and all human knowledge from a firm and solid basis.
This may at first seem an infinite scheme, unequal to human abilities, yet it will be found more sound and judicious than the course hitherto pursued, as tending to some issue; whereas all hitherto done with regard to the sciences is vertiginous, or in the way of perpetual rotation.
Nor is he ignorant that he stands alone in an experiment almost too bold and astonishing to obtain credit, yet he thought it not right to desert either the cause or himself, but to boldly enter on the way and explore the only path which is pervious to the human mind. For it is wiser to engage in an undertaking that admits of some termination, than to involve oneself in perpetual exertion and anxiety about what is interminable. The ways of contemplation, indeed, nearly correspond to two roads in nature, one of which, steep and rugged at the commencement, terminates in a plain; the other, at first view smooth and easy, leads only to huge rocks and precipices. Uncertain, however, whether these reflections would occur to another, and observing that he had never met any person disposed to apply his mind to similar thoughts, he determined to publish whatsoever he found time to perfect. Nor is this the haste of ambition, but anxiety, that if he should die there might remain behind him some outline and determination of the matter his mind had embraced, as well as some mark of his sincere and earnest affection to promote the happiness of mankind.