Friar Bacon His Discovery of the Miracles of Art, Nature, and Magick

Chap. II.

Of Charms, Figures, and their Use.

WHat men ought to believe touching Figures, Charmes, and such stuff, I shall deliver my opinion. Without doubt there is nothing in these dayes of this kind, but what is either deceitfull, dubious, or irrational, which Philosophers formerly invented to hide their secret operations of Nature and Art from the eyes of an unworthy generation. For instance, if the virtue of the Load-stone, whereby it draws iron to it were not discovered, some one or other who hath a mind hereby to cosen the people, so goes about his businesse, as lest any by-stander should discover the work of attraction to be natural, he calls Figures, and mutters forth some Charmes. Thus many things lie dark in Philosophical writings; in which the wiser sort of Readers will expresse so much discretion, as reject the Figures and Charmes, eying the works of Nature and Art, that so they may see the mutual concurrence of animate and inanimate creatures, occasioned by Natures conformity, not any efficacy of Figures or Charmes. This is the cause why the unlearned crew have judged such natural or artificial operations to be merely Magical. And some fond Magicians beleeve, That their casting of Figures and Charmes was the sole cause of such operations; hereupon leaving their natural and artificial operations have stuck close to their erroneous casting of Figures and Charmes. And thus they both have by their own folly deprived themselves of the benefit of the others wisdome. In times past, godly and religious men, or rather God himself, or his Nnmb.6.27. good Angels composed several Prayers which yet may retain their primitive virtue. As to this day, in several Countreys certain prayers are made over hot irons, and water in the River, &c. By which the innocent are cleared, and guilty condemned; yet all this is done by the Authority of the Church, and her Prelates. Our Priests exercise their holy water, Numb. 5. as formerly the Jews did in the Old Testament, in making the water of Tryal, whereby the wise was tryed, whether she were an adultresse, or honest. Not to instance in others of the like nature. Concerning those Secrets, which are revealed in Magicians writings, although they may contain some truth, yet in regard those very truths are enveloped with such a number of deceits, as it's not very easie to judge betwixt the truth and falshood, they ought all worthily to be rejected. Neither must men be believed, who would assure us, That Solomon, or some other of our sage Progenitors were Authors of such Books, because those Books are not received either by the Churches Authority, or by any prudent men, but only by a few cheating Companions to be the work of such men. Mine own experience assures me they compose and set forth new works and inventions of their own, in lofty high flown expressions, the more colourably to make their lies passe under the shelter of the Text; prefixing some specious titles, the better to set them off, impudently ascribe such bastard births to famous Authors.

Figures are either composed of words involved in the formes of letters, invented to contain the sense of some * speech or prayer * Oraionis.; or they are made according to the face of the Heavens in proper and select seasons. The Figures of the former sort must have the same sentence that I gave of prayers formerly; as for Figures and * * Sigillis.Impressions of the other kind, unlesse they be made in their peculiar seasons, they are not of any efficacy. And hence it is that all wise men think they effect nothing, who only go according to their prescribed Characters, not at all regarding more than the bare external forme. The more knowing sonnes of Art, dispose all their works of Nature and Art according to the power of the Heavens, casting their work under a right Constellation, no lesse than the casting it in a right Figure. Now in regard there is much difficulty to discern the motion of Celestial Bodies, many are cousened, and very few know, how to begin their work either profitably or truly. Hence it comes to passe, that the croud of judicious Mathematicians and Starre gazers effect little, and that unprofitable, while the more expert Professours, who sufficiently understand their own Art, attain many conveniences both by their Operations and Judgements in select and proper opportunities: And yet let us take notice, how the Physician, or he that would re-erect a drooping soul, effects his designe by the use of Figures or Charmes, which in themselves are meerly fictitious (as Constantine the Physician is of opinion.) Thus some think the Kings evil is cured, by creating a belief the touch of the King can cure. Physicians use Figures or Charmes, not for any prevalency in them, but that the raising of the soul is of great efficacy in the curing of the body, and raising it from infirmity to health, by oy and confidence is done by Charmes; for they make the Patient receive the Medicine with greater confidence and desire, exciting courage, more liberal belief, hope and pleasure. The Physician then who would magnifie his cure, may work some way of exciting hope and confidence in his Patient; not that hereby he should cheat, but stirre up the sick to believe he shall recover, which if we pin our faith on Constantines sleeve, is very tolerable. This may be
done lawfully, if the party that is the principal agent doth nothing by way of compact with any Spirit, or sinistrously.
Upon this account he defends the hanging Charmes or Figures about the Neck. The soul no question is of much prevalency by reason of its strong affections over its proper body, as Avicen saith in lib. de anima, & 8. & animal. to which all wise men accord. Hereupon it was, that they concluded sick persons should be delighted by the company of children to play before them, and other pleasing objects. Yea they frequently consent to such things as please the appetite, though they be obnoxious to their disease; because affection, desire and hope of the soul conquers many diseases.

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