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DISCOVERY OF A NEW WORLD;
TENDING TO PROVE, THAT (IT IS PROBABLE) THERE MAY BE ANOTHER
* DISCOURSE CONCERNING THE POSSIBILITY OF A PASSAGE THITHER.
THAT THE MOON MAY BE A WORLD.
BY WAY OF PREFACE.
That the strangeness of this opinion is no sufficient reason
why it should be rejected; because other certain truths have been formerly esteemed ridiculous, and great absurdities entertained by common consent. HERE is an earnestness and hungering after novelty,
which doth still adhere unto all our natures; and it is part of that primitive image, that wide extent and infinite capacity at first created in the heart of man. For this, since its depravation in Adam, perceiving itself altogether emptied of any good, doth now catch after every new thing, conceiving that possibly it may find satisfaction among some of its fellow creatures. But our enemy the devil (who strives still to pervert our gifts, and beat us with our own weapons) hath so contrived it, that any truth doth now seem distasteful for that very reason, for which error is entertained ; novelty. For let but some upstart heresy be set abroach, and presently there are some out of a curious hụmour; others, as if they watched an occasion of singularity, will take it up for canonical, and make it part of their creed and profession; whereas solitary truth cannot anywhere find so ready entertainment; but the same novelty which is esteemed the commendation of error, and makes that acceptable, is counted the fault of truth, and causes that to be rejected.
How did the incredulous world gaze at Columbus, when he 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 go to the charges of an experiment. Now if he, who had such good grounds for his assertion, could find no better entertainment among the wiser sort, and upper end of the world; it is not likely then that this opinion which I now deliver, shall receive any thing from the men of these days; especially our vulgar wits, but misbelief or derision.
It hath always been the unhappiness of new truths in philosophy, to be derided by those that are ignorant of the causes of things; and rejected by others, whose perverseness 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 justly expect to be accused of a pragmatical ignorance, and bold ostentation; especially, since for this opinion Xeno. phanes, a man whose authority was able to add some credit to his assertion, could not escape the like censure from others. For Natales Comes*, speaking of that philosopher, and this his opinion, saith thus: Nonnulli ne nihil scisse videantur, aliqua nova monstra in philosophiam introducunt, ut alicujus rei inventores fuisse appareant. “ Some there
are who lest they might seem to know nothing, will “ bring up monstrous absurdities in philosophy, that so " afterward they may be famed for the invention of some“ what.” The same author doth also in another place + 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 kinds of folly, boldly “ to affirmn one side or other, when a man knows not what 6 to say.”
If these men were thus censured, I may justly then expect
* Mythol. lib. 3. c. 17.
to be derided by most, and to be believed by few or none; especially since this opinion seems to carry in it so much strangeness, and contradiction to the general consent of others. But however, I am resolved that this shall not be any discouragement, since I know that it is not common opinion that can either add or detract from the truth. For,
1. Other truths have been formerly esteemed altogether as ridiculous as this can be.
2. Gross absurdities have been entertained by general opinion. I shall give an instance of each, that so I
the better prepare the reader to consider things without a prejudice ; when he shall see that the common opposition against this which I affirm, cannot anyway derogate from its truth.
1. Other truths have been formerly accounted as ridiculous as this. I shall specify that of the Antipodes, which have been denied, and laughed at by many wise men and great scholars, such as were Herodotus, Chrysostom, Austin, Lactantius, the venerable Bede, Lucretius the poet, Procopius, and the voluminous Abulensis, together with all those fathers or other authors who denied the roundness of the heavens *. Herodotus counted it so horrible an absurdity, that he could not forbear laughing to think of it. Γελω δε όρων γης περιοδες γραψαντας, πολλες ηδη και εδενα νόον έχοντας εξηγησάμενον οι Ωκεανοντε ρεόντα γραφεσι, περιξ την τε γην ε8σαν κυκλο τερεα ως απο τορν8.
"I cannot chuse but laugh, (saith he) to see so many men venture to describe “the earth's compass, relating those things that are without “ all sense: as that the sea flows about the world, and that “ the earth itself is round as an orb.” But this great ignorance is not so much to be admired in him, as in those learned men of later times, when all sciences began to flourish in the world. Such were St. Chrysostom, who in his 14th homily upon the Epistle to the Hebrews, does make a challenge to any man that shall dare to defend that the heavens are round, and not rather as a tent. Thus
* Vid. Josep. Acosta, de nat, novi orbis, 1. 1. cap. 1.