Francis Bacon produced his final draft of the New Atlantis around the years 1624-1625. Standing at the threshold of early modern thought, Bacon's text operates at the interstices of its contemporary culture and does indeed signal a desire to 'illuminate all the border-regions that confine upon the circle of our present knowledge'. This book presents a collection of essays that show how the New Atlantis negotiates a variety of contexts, namely literary, philosophical, political, religious and social, in order to achieve this. The narrative begins with a standard literary device. When Bacon wrote the New Atlantis, he clearly had More's Utopia in mind as a model. For all his strictures on the use of language for rhetorical effect, Francis Bacon was thoroughly grounded in the Renaissance art of rhetoric. He consciously drew on his rhetorical skill in his writings, adapting his style as occasion demanded. The New Atlantis is a text about natural philosophy which seems to offer connections at almost every point with moral and political philosophy. The book discusses two forms of natural knowledge that Bacon takes up and develops in the New Atlantis: natural magic, and medicine. The modern project is crucially dependent on two fundamental miracles: the miracle of creation and the miracle of divine revelation. The book also analyses Bacon's representations of colonialism and Jewishness in the New Atlantis has revealed. The New Atlantis raises questions concerning the relationship between censorship and knowledge.
Bacon had especially prophetic powers about the
course of subsequent history. But we can nonetheless see that it
might be possible both for him to have derived the ideas in
Salomon’s House from contemporary forms of natural knowledge,
and then to have turned these materials into things quite novel
and different. Later on in this essay, I shall show how this is so in
the case of two forms of natural knowledge that Bacon takes up
and develops in the New Atlantis: naturalmagic, and medicine.
The works of nature
We should begin, however, by surveying the range of
perception of magic
persisted through the medieval and early modern period. Natural philosophy
admitted two branches of magia : naturalmagic and demonic magic. Both
were occult, because their processes were secret and hidden from human
intellect, but naturalmagic was not the work of demons. The men known as
magi in Renaissance circles, such as Cornelius Agrippa, Marsilio
Ficino, or Pico della Mirandola, defended naturalmagic
invented by us is Philosophy, learned from him is Magicke.14
This statement credits witches with increasing the sum of human
knowledge – ‘Philosophy’ – by learning the secrets of nature from
the devil. The knowledge gained by witches, passed on to others,
becomes harmless and even beneficial. Witches’ magic is not supernatural, according to Browne, but appears to be identical with what
writers such as Scot described as naturalmagic.
Browne’s position is in one sense orthodox. As James I also
argued, the devil is not capable of performing true miracles (that
Nature. London: Wildwood.
Morley, David 2013. The Gypsy and the Poet. Manchester: Carcanet.
Morley, David 2014. ‘NaturalMagic’. Lecture presented to the Literary and Cultural
Research Network, Monash University, 28 July.
Musser, Anne 2014. ‘Megafauna Extinction Theories: Patterns of Extinction’.
National Museum of Australia. 30 October. http://australianmuseum.net.au/
megafauna-extinction-theories-patterns-of-extinction. Accessed 15 February
Nash, James A. 1996. ‘Toward the Ecological Reformation of Christianity’, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology
magic accomplished through
“invocations, conjurations, sacrifices, fumigations, and adorations” implied a
pact with the devil and apostasy.4 Such a stance left a tenuous opening for
legitimate naturalmagic which relied upon the occult properties of heavenly
bodies, herbs, and stones, but, as Aquinas noted, even such seemingly legitimate practices all too often simply disguised the presence of demons.5
Because magic depended upon a diabolic pact inconsistent with Christian faith, the practice of magic was always potentially heretical, and this
attitudes to his rhetorical advantage on occasion,
also criticises a double standard in the treatment recommended for witches
and (male) conjurers, pointing out that ‘though a conjurer be not to be
condemned for curing the diseased by vertue of his art: yet must a witch
die for the like case’ (ii.5, p. 26).
33 Scot, i.3, p. 7.
34 Scot, i.6, p. 13.
35 Scot deals with naturalmagic in book xiii of the Discoverie.
Witchcraft in Elizabethan drama
geave (yf he please) the lyke forse of transubstanciatinge things fro[m]
that they were into things wh[ich] before they were