While physically separated from Europe only by the narrow English channel, The British Isles
were barred from the changes going on in Europe by their constant wars with France. The
reformation in England differed from Europe because beginning with the time that Henry the
VIII severed ties with the Vatican, the English church gradually became an entity of its own.
This was primarily the work of Queen Elizabeth who formed a church that kept many of the
ideas of the catholic as well as some of the new ideas of Luther and Calvin. .
Francis Bacon, who was a close confidant of the Queen in
her later years expressed this very different approach to knowledge in this aphorism.
It is well to observe the force and effect and consequences of discoveries. These are to
be seen nowhere more conspicuously than in those three which were unknown to the
ancients, and of which the origin though recent is obscure; namely, printing, gunpowder,
and the magnet. For these things have changed the whole face and state of things
throughout the world; the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation;
whence have followed innumerable changes; insomuch that no empire, no sect, no star,
seems to have exerted more power and influence over human affairs than these changes.
It would be absurd to think that any Scholastic or any Christian Rationalist Philosopher thought
even for a moment that experience is not a major source of all human knowledge. But for them
the knowledge had to be abstracted out of experience, and it had to be compatible with
revelation. As the Greeks did a thousand years before, they believed that what led to true
knowledge was the unchanging that lay beneath the changing world of experience. But, though
man was led to this knowledge through experience, the final source was God, the Bible, and
revelation. But of what value to a man's life is knowledge of essences potential or otherwise?
Bacon's aim was to organize all knowledge according to the way it benefited the life of man.
Thus Bacon developed a new and different approach to
knowledge that dealt only with things that exist, a new form of Aristotle's induction.
We must make therefore a complete solution and separation of nature, not indeed by fire,
but by the mind, which is a kind of divine fire. The first work therefore of true induction
(as far as regards the discovery of forms) is the rejection or exclusion of the several
natures which are not found in some instance where the given nature is present, or are
found in some instance where the given nature is absent, or are found to increase in some
instances where the given nature decreases, or to decrease when the given nature
increases. Then indeed after the rejection and exclusion has been duly made, there will
remain at the bottom, all light opinions vanishing into smoke, a Form, affirmative, solid
and true and well defined. This is quickly said; but the way to come at it is winding and
intricate. I will endeavor however not to overlook any of the points which may help
But although he speaks of forms, which may seem like simply another form of Scholasticism, he
is adamant that what he is heading towards is not metaphysics, but science. Not the science
being developed by Galileo because Bacon had no appreciation for mathematics, but applied
science, new developments and ideas that would improve the condition of mankind. In this
Aphorism, Bacon made particular note of the practical
importance of the scientific way of examining things.
But if anyone conceive that my forms too are of somewhat abstract nature, because they
mix and combine things heterogeneous (for the heat of heavenly bodies and the heat of
fire seem to be very heterogeneous; so the fixed red of the rose or the like, and the
apparent red in the rainbow, the opal, or the diamond; so again do the different kinds of
death; death by drowning, by hanging, by apoplexy, by atrophy; and yet they agree
severally in the nature of heat, redness, death); if any one, I say, be of this opinion, he
may be assured that his mind is held in captivity by custom, by the gross appearance of
things, and by men's opinions. For it is most certain that these things, however
heterogeneous and alien from each other, agree in the form or law which governs heat,
redness and death, and the power of man cannot possibly be emancipated and freed from
the common course of nature, and expanded and exalted to new efficients and new
modes of operation, except by the revelation and discovery of forms of this kind..
The period of Bacon's life coincided with the period of the greatest expansion of England's first
industrial revolution. In the reign of Henry VIII who first installed iron cannons in English
ships, to the reign a century later of Charles I, England went from an industrially backward
nation to Europe's leading mining and industrial country. It was Bacon's dream that there would
someday be built a vast museum with examples depicting every advancement of practical
science and natural knowledge that he called "Solomon's House." When the "Royal Society of
London for Promoting Natural Knowledge" was formed by Charles II 36 years after his death, it
was acknowledged by many as a monument to his leadership.