The Discovery of a World in the Moone/Chapter 2

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The First Proposition, by

way of Preface.

That the strangenesse of this opinion is no sufficient reason why it should be rejected, because other certaine truths have beene formerly esteemed ridiculous, and great absurdities entertayned by common consent.

Here is an earnestnesse and hungering after novelty, which doth still adhere unto all our natures, and it is part of that primative image, that wide extent and infinite capacity at first created in the heart of man, for this since its depravation in Adam perceiving it selfe altogether emptied of any good doth now catch after every new thing, conceiving that possibly it may finde satisfaction among some of its fellow creatures. But our enemy the divell (who strives still to pervert our gifts, and beate us with our owne weapons) hath so contriv'd it, that any truth doth now seeme distastefull for that very reason, for which errour is entertain'd—Novelty, for let but some upstart heresie be set abroach, and presently there are some out of a curious humour; others, as if they watched an occasion of singularity, will take it up for canonicall, and make it part of their creede and profession;—whereas solitary truth cannot any where finde so ready entertainement; but the same Novelty which is esteemed the commendation of errour and makes that acceptable, is counted the fault of truth, and causes that to bee rejected. How did the incredulous World gaze at Columbus when hee promised to discover another part of the earth, and he could not for a long time by his confidence, or arguments, induce any of the Christian Princes, either to assent unto his opinion, or goe to the charges of an experiment. Now if he who had such good grounds for his assertion, could finde no better entertainement among the wiser sort, and upper end of the World; 'tis not likely then that this opinion which I now deliver, shall receive any thing from the men of these daies, especially our vulgar wits, but misbeliefe or derision. It hath alwaies beene the unhappinesse of new truths in Philosophy, to be derided by those that are ignorant of the causes of things, and reiected by others whose perversenesse ties them to the contrary opinion, men whose envious pride will not allow any new thing for truth which they themselves were not the first inventors of. So that I may iustly expect to be accused of a pragmaticall ignorance, and bold ostentation, especially since for this opinion Xenophanes, a man whose authority was able to adde some credit to his assertion could not escape the like censure from others. For Natales Comes[1] speaking of that Philosopher, and this his opinion, saith thus, Nonnulli ne nihil scisse videantur, aliqua nova monstra in Philosophiā introducunt, ut alicujus rei inventores fuisse appareant. "Some there are who least they might seeme to know nothing, will bring up monstrous absurdities in Philosophy, that so afterward they may bee famed for the invention of somewhat." The same author doth also in another place[2] accuse Anaxagoras of folly for the same opinion, Est enim non ignobilis gradus stultitiæ, vel si nescias quid dicas, tamen velle de rebus propositis hanc vel illam partem stabilire. "'Tis none of the worst kindes of folly, boldly to affirme one side or other, when a man knows not what to say."

If these men were thus censur'd, I may iustly then expect to be derided by most, and to be believed by few or none; especially since this opinion seemes to carry in it so much strangenesse, so much contradiction to the generall consent of others. But how ever, I am resolved that this shall not be any discouragement, since I know that it is not the common opinion of others that can either adde or detract from the truth. For,

1. Other truths have beene formerly esteemed altogether as ridiculous as this can be.

2. Grosse absurdities have beene entertained by generall opinion.

I shall give an instance of each, that so I may the better prepare the Reader to consider things without a prejudice, when hee shall see that the common opposition against this which I affirme cannot any way derogate from its truth.

1. Other truths have beene formerly accounted as ridiculous as this, I shall specifie that of the Antipodes, which have beene denied and laught at by many wise men and great Scholars, such as were Herodotus, St. Austin, Lactantius, the Venerable Bede, Lucretius the Poet, Procopius, and the voluminous Abulensis with others. Herodotus counted it so horrible an absurdity, that hee could not forbeare laughing to thinke of it. Γελῶ δὲ ὁρῶν γῦς περιόδους γράψαντας, πολλοὺς ἤδη καὶ οὐδένα νόον ἔχοντας ἐξηγησάμενον ὃι Ὠκεανόν τε ῥεόντα γράφουσι, πέριξ τήν τε γὴν ἐοῦσαν κυκλοτερέα ὡς ἀπὸ τόρνου.

"I cannot choose but laugh, (saith he) to see so many men venture to describe the earths compasse, relating those things that are without all sense, as that the Sea flowes about the World, and that the earth it selfe is round as an Orbe." But this great ignorance is not so much to be admired in him, as in those learneder men of later times, when all sciences began to flourish in the World. Such was Saint Austin who censures that relation of the Antipodes to be an incredible fable[3], and with him agrees the eloquent Lactantius[4], quid illi qui esse contrarios vestigits nostris Antipodes putant? num aliquid loquuntur? aut est quispiam tam ineptus, qui eredat esse homines, quorum vestigia sunt superiora quàm capita? aut ibi quæ apud nos jacent inversa pendere? fruges & arbores deorsum versus crescere, pluvias & nives, & grandinem sursum versus cadere in terram? & miratur aliquis hortos pensiles inter septem mira narrari, quam Philosophi, & agros & maria, & urbes & montes pensiles faciunt? &c. "What (saith he) are they that thinke there are Antipodes, such as walke with their feet against ours? doe they speake any likelyhood? or is there any one so foolish as to believe that there are men whose heeles are higher than their heads? that things which with us doe lie on the ground doe hang there? that the Plants and Trees grow downewards, that the haile, and raine, and snow fall upwards to the earth? and doe wee admire the hanging Orchards amongst the seven wonders, whereas here the Philosophers have made the Field and Seas, the Cities and Mountains hanging. What shall wee thinke" (saith hee in Plutarch) that men doe clyng to that place like wormes, or hang by their clawes as Cats, or if wee suppose a man a little beyond the Center, to bee digging with a spade? is it likely (as it must bee according to this opinion) that the earth which hee loosened. should of it selfe ascend upwards? or else suppose two men with their middles about the center, the feete of the one being placed where the head of the other is, and so two other men crosse them, yet all these men thus situated according to this opinion should stand upright, and many other such grosse consequences would follow (saith hee) which a false imagination is not able to fancy as possible. Upon which considerations, Bede[5] also denies the being of any Antipodes, Neá enim Antipodarum nilotenus est Fabulis accommodandus assensus, "Nor should wee any longer assent to the Fable of Antipodes." So also Lucretius the Poet speaking of the same subject, sayes:

Sed vanus solidis hæc omnia sinxerit error.[6]

That some idle fancy faigned these for fooles to believe. Of this opinion was Procopius Gazases[7], but he was perswaded to it by another kinde of reason; for he thought that all the earth under us was sunke in the water, according to the saying of the Psalmist[8], Hee hath founded the Earth upon the Seas, and therefore hee accounted it not inhabited by any. Nay Testatus a man of later yeeres and generall learning doth also confidently deny that there are any such Antipodes, though the reason which hee urges for it bee not so absurde as the former, for the Apostles[9], saith hee, travelled through the whole habitable world, but they never passed the Equinoctiall; and if you answer that they are said to goe through all the earth, because they went through all the knowne world, hee replies, that this is not sufficient, since Christ would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of his truth[10], and therefore 'tis requisite that they should have travelled thither also, if there had been any inhabitants, especially since he did expressely command them to goe and teach all nations[11], and preach the Gospell through the whole world, and therefore he thinkes that as there are no men, so neither are there seas, or rivers, or any other conveniency for habitation: 'tis commonly related of one Virgilius. that he was excommunicated and condemned for a Heretiqne by Zachary Bishop of Rome, because hee was not of the same opinion. But Baronius saies[12], it was because hee thought there was another habitable world within ours. How ever, you may well enough discerne in these examples how confident many of these great Schollars were in so grosse an errour, how unlikely, what an incredible thing it seemed to them, that there should be any Antipodes, and yet now this truth is as certaine and plaine, as sense or demonstration can make it. This then which I now deliver is not to be rejected, though it may seeme to contradict the common opinion.

2. Grosse absurdities have beene entertained by generall consent. I might instance in many remarkeable examples, but will onely speake of the supposed labour of the Moone in her eclipses, because this is neerest to the chiefe matter in hand, and was received as a common opinion amongst many of the ancients, and therefore Plutarch speaking of a Lunary eclipse, relates that at such times 'twas a custome amongst the Romanes (the most civill and learned people in the world) to sound brasse Instruments, and hold great torches toward the heaven. Των δε Ρωμαίων (ωσπερ εςιν ενομισμενον) χαλκψ τε πατάγοις ἀνακαλὃυμενων το φως αὐτὸς καὶ πυρὰ πολλὰ δαλοῖς καὶ δασσὶν ἀνεχόντων ωρὸς τὸν ψρανὸν. [13] for by this meanes they supposed the Moone was much eased in her labours, and therfore Ovid calls such loud Instruments the auxiliaries or helpes of the Moone.

Cum frustra resonant æra auxiliaria Lunæ[14]

and therefore the Satyrist too describing a loud scold, saies, she was able to make noise enough to deliver the labouring Moone.

Una laboranti poterit succurrere Lunæ[15]

Now the reason of all this their ceremonie, was, because they feared the world would fall asleepe, when one of its eyes began to winke, and therefore they would doe what they could by loud sounds to rouse it from its drowsinesse, and keepe it awake by bright torches, to bestow that light upon it which it began to lose. Some of them thought hereby to keepe the Moone in her orbe, whereas otherwise she would have fallen downe upon the earth, and the world would have lost one of its lights, for the credulous people believed, that Inchanters, and Witches could bring the Moone downe, which made Virgil say,

Cautus & è cœlo possunt deducere Lunam.

And those Wizards knowing the times of her eclipses, would then threaten to shew their skill, by pulling her out of her orbe. So that when the silly multitude saw that she began to looke red, they presently feared they should lose the benefit of her light, and therefore made a great noise that she might not heare the sound of those Charmes, which would otherwise bring her downe, and this is rendered for a reason of this cuftome by Pliny and Propertius:

Cantus & ècurru lunam deducere tentant, Et facerent si non ara repulsa sonent.[16]

Plutarch gives another reason of it, and he fayes, 'tis because they would hasten the Moone out of the darke shade wherein shee was involv'd, that so she might bring away the soules of those Saints that inhabit within her, which cry out by reason they are then deprived of their wonted happinesse, and cannot heare the musicke of the Spheares, but are forced to behold the torment, and wailing of those damned soules which are represented to them as they are tortured in the region of the aire, but whether this or what ever else was the meaning of this superstition, yet certainly 'twas a very ridiculous Stome, and bewrayed a great ignorance of those ancient times, especially since it was not onely received by the vulgar, such as were men of Iesse note and Iearning, but believed also, by the more famous and wiser sort, such as were those great Poets, Stefichorus and Pindar. And not onely amongst the more sottish heathens, who might account that Planet to be one of their Gods, but the primitive Christians alfo were in this kinde guilty; which made S. Ambrose so tartly to rebuke those of his time, when he said,Tum turbatur carminibus Globus Lunæ quando calicibus turbantur & otuli. When your heads are troubled with cups, then you thinke the Moone to be troubled with charmes".

And for this reason also did Maximus a Bishop, write a Homily[17] against it, wherein hee shewed the absurditie of that foolish superstition. I remember, that Ludovicus Vives relates a more ridiculous sory of a people that imprisoned an Asset for drinking up the Moone, whose image appearing in the water was covered with a cloud, as the Asse was drinking, for which the poore beast was afterward brought to the barre to receive a sentence according to his deserts, where the grave Senate being set to examine the matter, one of the Counsell (perhaps wiser than the rest) rises up, and out of his deepe judgement, thinkes it not fit that their Towne should lose its Moone, but that rather the Asse should be cut up, and that taken out of him, which sentence being approved by the rest of those Politicians, as the subtilIest way for the condition of the matter was accordingly performed. But whether this tale were true or no l will not question, however there is absurdity enough in that former custome of the ancients, that may confirme the truth to be proved, and plainly declare the insufficiency of common opinion to adde true worth or estimation unto any thing. So that from that which I have said may be gathered thus much.

1. That a new truth may seeme absurd and impossible not onely to the vulgar, but to those also who are otherwise wise men, and excellent schollers; and hence it will follow, that every new thing which seemes to oppose common Principles is not presently to be rejected, but rather to be pry'd into with a diligent enquiry, since there are many things which are yet hid from us, and reserv'd for future discovery.
2. That it is not the commonnesse of an opinion that can priviledge it for a truth, the
wrong way is sometime a well beaten path, whereas the right way (especially to hidden truths) may bee lesse trodden and more obscure.

True indeed, the strangenesse of this opinion will detract much from its credit; but yet we should know that nothing is in its selfe strange, since every natural effect has an equall dependance upon its cause, and with the like necessity doth follow from it, so that 'tis our ignorance which makes things appear so, and hence it comes to passe that many more evident truths seeme incredible to such who know not the causes of things: you may as soone perswade some Country peasants that the Moone is made of greene Cheese (as wee say) as that 'tis bigger than his Cart-wheele, since both seeme equally to contradict his sight, and hee has not reason enough to leade him farther than his senses. Nay, suppose (saith Plutarch) a Philosopher should be educated in such a secret place, where hee might not see either Sea or River, and afterwards should be brought out where one might shew him the great Ocean telling him the quality of that water, that it is blackish, salt, and not potable, and yet there were many vast creatures of all formes living in it, which make use of the water as wee doe of the aire, questionlesse he would laugh at all this, as being monstrous lies & fables, without any colour of truth. Just so will this truth which I now deliver appeare unto others; because we never dreamt of any such matter as a world in the Moone, because the state of that place hath as yet been vailed from our knowledge, therefore wee can scarcely assent to any such matter. Things are very hardly received which are altogether strange to our thoughts and our senses. The soule may with lesse difficulty be brought to believe any absurdity, when as it has formerly beene acquainted with some colours and probabilities for it, but when a new, and an unheard of truth shall come before it, though it have good grounds and reasons, yet the understanding is afraid of it as a stranger, and dares not admit it into its beliefe without a great deale of reluctancy and tryall. And besides things that are not manifested to the senses, are not assented unto without some labour of mind, some travaile and discourse of the understanding, and many lazie soules had rather quietly repose themselves in an easie errour, then take paines to search out the truth. The strangenesse then of this opinion which I now deliver will be a great hinderance to its beliefe, but this is not to be respected by reason it cannot bee helped. I have stood the longer in the Preface, because that prejudice which the meere title of the booke may beget cannot easily be removed without a great deale of preparation, and I could not tell otherwise how to rectifie the thoughts of the Reader for an impartiall survey of the following discourse.

I must needs confesse, though I had often thought with my selfe that it was possible there might be a world in the Moone, yet it seemed such an uncouth opinion that I never durst discover it, for feare of being counted singular and ridiculous, but afterward having read Plutarch, Galilæus, Keplar, with some others, and finding many of mine owne thoughts confirmed by such strong authority, I then concluded that it was not onely possible there might bee, but probable that there was another habitable world in that Planet. In the prosecuting of this assertion, I shall first endeavour to cleare the way from such doubts as may hinder the speed or ease of farther progresse; and because the suppositions imply'd in this opinion may seeme to contradict the principles of reason or faith, it will be requisite that I first remove this scruple, shewing the conformity of them to both these, and proving those truths that may make way for the rest; which I shall labour to performe in the second, third, fourth, and fifth Chapters, and then proceede to confirme such Propositions, which doe more directly belong to the maine point in hand.

  1. Mytholog. lib. 3. c. 17.
  2. Lib. 7. c. 1.
  3. De civit. Dei. lib. 16. cap. 9.
  4. Institut. l. 3. c. 24.
  5. De ratione temporum, Cap. 32.
  6. De nat. rerum, lib. 1.
  7. Comment. in 1, Cap. Gen.
  8. Psal. 24.2.
  9. Comment in 1. Genes.
  10. 1 Tim 2.4
  11. Mat. 28. 19
  12. Annal. Eccles. A.D. 748.
  13. In Vita Paul Æmil.
  14. Metam. lib. 4
  15. Juven. Sat. 6
  16. Næt. Hist. lib. 2 c. 12.
  17. Turinens. Episc.