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The Ark and Immediate Revelation in Francis Bacon's New Atlantis

DeCook, Travis.

Studies in Philology, Volume 105, Number 1, Winter 2008, pp. 103-122 (Article) Published by The University of North Carolina Press DOI: 10.1353/sip.2008.0003

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The Ark and Immediate Revelation in Francis Bacons New Atlantis

by Travis DeCook
hroughout Christian history, Noahs ark and the Ark of the Covenant have served as images representing interrelated concepts of memory, preservation, election, and salvation. For instance, many of the church fathers believed Noahs ark foreshadows Christ and his church, perceiving typological significance in its dimensions and physical characteristics. Additionally, the arks protection of Noahs family and the animals during the deluge was seen to correspond to the churchs preservation of Christians in history, saved through the wood of the cross. The arks association with memory is exemplified in Hugh of St. Victors mid-twelfth-century mnemonic structure, De arca Noe mystica, a textual pictura embodying a profusion of Christian doctrines and knowledge for the purposes of meditation and rhetorical invention. Here the ark of Noah, the storehouse of Gods elect preserved against the destruction of the flood, becomes quite literally a storehouse in the mnemonic sense, an archive of knowledge. Mary Carruthers See, for example, Origen, Homilies on Genesis, in Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, trans. Ronald E. Heine (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1982), 2.34; John Crysostom, Sixth Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, in On Wealth and Poverty, trans. Catharine P. Roth (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1984), 113; Jerome, St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, trans. W. H. Fremantle, vol. 6 of A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989), 15.2; and Augustine, Contra Faustum Manichaeum, in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 25, ed. Joseph Zycha (Vienna, 1891), 12.14. Augustine, City of God, trans. Henry Bettenson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), 15.26. Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 231ff. The term storehouse was frequently used in the period to refer to the archive of commonplacesinscribed either in books or in the memoryemployed as the basis for 103 2007 The University of North Carolina Press


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

has indicated the significance of the punning involved in Hughs mnemonic scheme, which conjoins arca (chest), Noahs ark, the Ark of the Covenant, and the citadel (arca) of Jerusalem: Puns transform the treasure chest of memory into the salvational ark of Noah, into a treasure chest (the ark of Moses) that contains the matter of salvation (Gods law) which, stored in the chest of memory and thus available for meditation, will redeem and save, as the citadel (arc-) of Jerusalem will save Gods people. As Carruthers notes, puns are crucial to the elaborate memory system Hugh erects, exploiting not only homophonic relationships but semantic, historical, and theological ones as well. The connection between these arks is a commonplace as early as Prudentiuss Psychomachia of 405, in which the Ark (of Noah), [the] Ark (of the Covenant) in its Tabernacle carried in the camps of the Israelites, and [the] Temple of Solomon in the citadel of Jerusalem are all brought together. Another important link in this mnemonic catena is the word arc-cana (secrets): the ark of Genesis and the Ark of the Covenant both store Gods secrets, protecting them like citadels (arc-es). While Francis Bacons various allusions to biblical arks were not employed in the kinds of memory systems Carruthers discusses, he nonetheless invokes their traditional associations with preservation and salvation. Moreover, he conflates the various biblical arks, relying on similar theological and semantic connections to those exploited by his medieval predecessors, and he often relies on a highly traditional understanding of the ark as a type of the church. In his discussion of ecclesicommunication. For a discussion of this model for memory in antiquity and the Middle Ages, see ibid., 3345. Carruthers, The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 4001200 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 24445. Ibid., 14950. Ibid., 150. Indeed, Bacon believed most extant arts of memory, while not harmful to the natural memory, to be barren of works and unable to perform usefully (Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, ed. Michael Kiernan, The Oxford Francis Bacon 4 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000], 119). Hereafter, all quotations from Bacon will be cited parenthetically in the text. The Advancement will be designated by the abbreviation AL. For Novum Organum (NO), Instauratio Magna (IM), and Parasceve, I have used The Instauratio Magna: Novum Organum and Associated Texts, ed. Graham Rees, The Oxford Francis Bacon, 11 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004). Quotations from Temporis Partus Masculus (TPM), Cogita et Visa (CV ) and Redargutio Philosophiarum (RG) are from Benjamin Farrington, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon: An Essay on Its Development from 1603 to 1609 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1964). All other quotations of Bacon are from The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding et al., 14 vols. (London, 185774). Citations of the Spedding edition are designated by volume and page number.

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astical history in The Advancement of Learning (1605), Bacon claims that the first division of this form of history is concerned with the militant, or earthly, church and whether it be fluctuant, as the Arke of Noah, or moueable, as the Arke in the Wildernes, or at rest, as the Arke in the Temple; That is, the state of the Church in Persecution, in Remoue, and in Peace (71). Bacon also describes the church as an ark in his Better Pacification and Edification of the Church of England (1603) (10:119) and the Confession of Faith (1603) (7:225). In addition to these more conventional uses, Bacon also employs an ark in his scientific utopia New Atlantis (1627) in a similar but much more complex way. Despite the fact that this arks significance has received virtually no commentary, it has a crucial function in this text. The governor of Bacons imaginary society, Bensalem, describes how his isolated island nation became Christian, recounting that about twenty years after Christs resurrection, a pillar of light, topped with a cross, appeared in the middle of the sea surrounding the island. Under this pillar, a small ark or chest of cedar was seen floating on the waves, containing a book and a letter. The governor describes these texts as follows: The Book contained all the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, according as you have them . . . ; and the Apocalypse itself, and some other books of the New Testament which were not at that time written, were nevertheless in the Book. . . . For there being at that time in this land Hebrews, Persians, and Indians, besides the natives, every one read upon the Book and Letter, as if they had been written in his own language (3:138). The governor recounts how the apostle Bartholomew was commanded by an angel to put a book within an ark, along with a letter describing the books contents, and then place the ark in the sea, where it found its way, via divine guidance, to Bensalem. The book in the ark is the Bible but in a form exemplifying a miraculous completeness: the processes of compilation and canonization have already occurred, and it moreover contains books that have yet to be written in historical time. Furthermore, the miracle mirrors the Pentecost, being conform to that of the Apostles in the original Gift of Tongues, in that all of the islands diverse language groups can read both the Bible and the letter found in the ark (ibid.). For the sake of convenience, I use the term science in this paper to describe Baconian natural philosophy, although the modern meanings of the word are not implied. For the problems of applying the term science to Bacon, see Richard Serjeantson, Natural Knowledge in the New Atlantis, in Francis Bacons New Atlantis: New Interdisciplinary Essays, ed. Bronwen Price (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), 8284.


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

The event of revelation described in New Atlantis appears dramatically immediate and instantaneous. Notwithstanding Jesuits claims about the gift of tongues and other miracles advancing their global missionary work, revelation in Bensalem stands in striking contrast to the temporal and material mediations, the translations and adaptations to different cultures, through which Christian revelation has been historically communicated.10 This miraculous transparency emerges as an extraordinary moment in a text that is both pervaded by an atmosphere of mystery and fundamentally concerned with the experience and processes of discovery. The narrative begins with a lost and frightened crew arriving in the harbor of a strange land, both thankful for their apparent safety but also deeply uncertain about their fate, and the reader follows the mariners experience of having this strange new society gradually unfold before them. But while more and more of Bensalem is gradually discovered to the crew and the reader, there always remains the sense that much of it remains hidden.11 Furthermore, the Fathers disclosure to the narrator of the workings of Bensalems scientific research institution, Salomons House, reveals the extent to which the House is founded upon secrecy: not all the results of the Fathers worldwide missions to accumulate new knowledge are made public, and they take an oath of secrecy affecting their dealings with the state.12 Moreover, while the Fathers possess full knowledge of the rest of the world and make use of this knowledge to benefit Bensalem, the island nation remains unknown to the rest of the world.13 Within this climate of esotericism, 10For the Jesuits assertions of miracles occurring in their evangelizing, see David Renaker, A Miracle of Engineering: The Conversion of Bensalem in Francis Bacons New Atlantis, Studies in Philology 87 (1990): 18384. 11By contrast, much contemporary utopian literature is characterized by comprehensive accounts of their imagined lands. For instance, in Thomas Mores Utopia (1516), Tommaso Campanellas City of the Sun (first written in 1602), and Johann Valentin Andreaes Christianopolis (1619), we are presented with exhaustive, almost encyclopaedic descriptions of all aspects of the societies. For discussions of the significance of secrecy in Bacons narrative, see John C. Briggs, Francis Bacon and the Rhetoric of Nature (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), 169174 and Simon Wortham, Censorship and the Institution of Knowledge in Bacons New Atlantis, in Francis Bacons New Atlantis, ed. Price, 187, 190. 12As the Father informs the narrator, And this we do also: we have consultations, which of the inventions and experiences which we have discovered shall be published, and which not: and take all an oath of secrecy, for the concealing of those which we think fit to keep secret: though some of those we do reveal sometimes to the state, some not (3:165). 13John Michael Archer contends that New Atlantis reflects the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts culture of surveillance, which Bacon directly participated in as intelligence gatherer for the Earl of Essex (Sovereignty and Intelligence: Spying and Court Culture in the

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then, the openness characterizing the revelation of Christianity stands out in stark relief.14 Despite this, studies of Bacons utopia have predominantly ignored its religious dimension, instead focusing on how Salomons House reflects Bacons project to reform natural philosophy. This is characteristic of the traditional lack of attention to Bacons religious thought, although this situation has begun to change in the last few decades, particularly with the work of Charles Whitney, who has shown how religious ideas are adapted by Bacon within his natural philosophy.15 But while there
English Renaissance [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993], 12326, 139151). Bacons attitude toward the role of esotericism in science was complicated. Charles Whitney argues that while Bacon understood circumspection to be necessary for scientists interaction with laypeople, he believed transparent communication to be essential within the scientific community (Francis Bacon and Modernity [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986], 14546). For Bacons influence on the public emphasis of seventeenth-century science and the Royal Society, see William Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), ch. 10. For Bacons advocacy of esotericism in science, see TPM, 62, 69; CV, 101; RG, 108; and AL, 124. 14The emphasis on secrecy in New Atlantis may offer a clue to Bacons choice of Bartholomew as the vehicle for revelation. In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius writes that Bartholomew brought Matthews gospel into India (The Ecclesiastical History, trans. Kirsopp Lake [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992], 5.10). Furthermore, the apocryphal books purportedly by Bartholomew, Questions of Bartholomew and The Book of the Resurrection of Christ, consist of inquiries into the secrets of virgin birth, the devil, and the resurrectionsecrets that at first are said to be closed to inquiry because of their mortal danger to those who search them out. But Bartholomew and the other apostles succeed in hearing these secrets after they prostrate themselves and persist in begging to hear them, whatever the consequences (Briggs, Bacons Science and Religion, in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, ed. Markku Peltonen [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996], 198). Although there is no evidence that Bacon was familiar with these apocryphal texts, their concern with revelation is significant (indeed, they are described by commentators alternately as gospels or apocalypses). These texts emphasize cautious disclosure: in the Questions, Jesus states that only certain people are worthy of having these secrets revealed to them. See The Apocryphal New Testament, trans. J. K. Elliott (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 666. In The Book of the Resurrection, Bartholomew tells his son Thaddeus not to let his book fall into impure hands (ibid., 670). 15In addition to Whitneys Francis Bacon and Modernity, see his Cupid Hatched by Night: The Mysteries of Faith and Bacons Art of Discovery, in Ineffability: Naming the Unnameable from Dante to Beckett, ed. Peter S. Hawkins and Anne Howland Schotter (New York: AMS Press, 1984), 5164. This approach is continued in Briggs, Bacons Science and Religion. Discussions of religion in Bacons writings have generally focused on his treatment of the boundaries between the study of nature and religion. For example, see Perez Zagorin, Francis Bacon (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 4451; Peter Urbach, Francis Bacons Philosophy of Science: An Account and a Reappraisal (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1987), 98100, 1025; and F. H. Anderson, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), 15153, 17172, 21214. John Hedley Brooke similarly concentrates on Bacons approach to the relationship between revealed and natural knowl-


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

has been some attention to the miracle in New Atlantis, its full significance has not been recognized.16 In this paper, I will argue that Bacons representation of revelation reflects Reformation controversies over the nature of Scripture and its relationship to divine revelation. The image of the ark is vital here. Since in many ways it resembles both Noahs ark and the Ark of the Covenant, the Bensalemite ark not only resonates with the concepts traditionally associated with the biblical arks, but it furthermore embodies an archival function that directly corresponds to the reformist concepts of Scripture Bacon alludes to. Moreover, the relationship between these issues and New Atlantiss portrayal of the accumulation of empirical knowledge has broad implications for Baconian natural philosophy, reflecting his attitudes toward the boundaries between the study of nature and religion, his awareness of the fundamental role of time in the discovery, accumulation, and development of natural knowledge, and his understanding of the role textual archives play in this process. Through a close examination of divine revelation in New Atlantis, it becomes apparent that Bacon transformed the profoundly contentious network of attitudes and approaches to the Bible that marked the Reformation in order to envision new possibilities for scientific advancement.

The differences between the forms of preservation vital to Baconian natural philosophy and exemplified by the ark and Bible in New Atlantis represent one of the main ways Bacon engages the separation between divinely revealed and secular knowledge in his utopia. At the same time, however, Bacon conflates Bensalems emphasis on archiving natural philosophy and preservative capacities with its divinely elect status, at times by closely associating the island nation with the biblical arks. When questioned by the narrator and his fellow shipwrecked crewmembers, the islands governor tells them that Bensalem is the
edge but situates him within a much broader context (Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991], ch. 2). 16For examinations of the miracle in New Atlantis, see David Renakers A Miracle of Engineering, 18384, and Jerry Weinberger, On the Miracles in Bacons New Atlantis, in Francis Bacons New Atlantis, ed. Price 10628. Both Renaker and Robert K. Faulkner cast doubt on the genuineness of the miracle, suggesting that the Fathers stage it (Faulkner, Francis Bacon and the Project of Progress [Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993], 243). These readings are unconvincing, since they ignore much of the intellectual and theological significance of Bacons representation of the miracle.

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only nation that has maintained the superior navigation skills that were once widespread and then decayed, unequalled even by the current advances of Europe. The governor wonders if the example of the ark, that saved the remnant of men from the universal deluge, gave men confidence to adventure upon waters (3:140). But if the ancient omnipresence of global navigation is the result of Noahs ark, the preserver of humanity, Bensalem in turn functions as the preserver of this legendary ancient era, maintaining a link to this past and its superior knowledge. Bensalem is the sole survivor of a glorious, ancient world: we are told that, ark-like, it remained unscathed from a flood, the divine revenge levelled on its militant neighbouring nation Atlantis. Moreover, Bensalems ancient King Solamona instituted that the island be maintained as it was without change, since he recognized its self-sufficiency and that it might be a thousand ways altered to the worse, but scarce any one way to the better (3:144).17 In order to preserve its perfect status, Solamona limited and policed the entry of foreigners so that Bensalem was not detrimentally influenced by outsiders, and he also prohibited the Bensalemites from travelling beyond their nation (with the exception, of course, of the Fathers of Salomons House, who collect knowledge from around the world). Thus, Bensalem itself becomes a kind of archive, preserving the customs and institutions of an earlier era, allowing change and addition only through the House of Salomon, which makes new knowledge and inventions public only with great caution. The description of the Houses achievements and activities, forming the final section of New Atlantis, foregrounds numerous forms of archiving that reflect the importance of knowledge preservation in Baconian natural philosophy. For Bacon, natural historiesexhaustive compilations of facts and observationswere essential to the derivation of new discoveries. The vital role of these textual archives is most vigorously lauded in the Parasceve that accompanied the Novum Organum. Here, Bacon claims that a natural historya granary and storehouse of things that awaits interpretation (4:459)is so essential to the growth 17The omnipresence of Solomon in Bacons writings reflects his significance in the period. James represented himself as a new King Solomon throughout his career. The Hebrew king provided a model for divinely sanctioned kingship associated with the advancement of law, religion, trade, administration, national unity, and peace (Louis A. Knafla, Britains Solomon: King James and the Law, in Royal Subjects: Essays on the Writings of James VI and I, ed. Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier [Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2002], 240). The multiple allusions to Solomon in New Atlantis and his other writings represent Bacons perennial employment of the Hebrew king as a justification for natural philosophy and empirical investigation.


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

of knowledge that it is even more important than the cooperative application of minds that will ultimately transform this data into works (4:45152).18 The Fathers of Salomons House epitomize Bacons emphasis on the importance of archiving information for the facilitation of the advancement of knowledge. For instance, they retain samples of their own inventions (patterns and principals), even for those which do not attain popular use (3:161). Several Fathers are occupied with collecting and arranging information that becomes the fodder for experiment and application (3:16465). The Fathers even have a museum of sorts, with galleries displaying patterns and samples of all manner of the more rare and excellent inventions and statuas of all principal inventors (3:165).19 Indeed, the list of the Fathers accomplishments is itself an archive like book 2 of The Advancement, Bacons exhaustive encyclopaedia of existing learning. In a 1605 letter to Sir Thomas Bodley, Bacon praises the formers library, stating that Bodley has created an Ark to save learning from deluge (10:253). Bensalem, or more precisely, the House of Salomon, also functions as such an ark. Bensalems mastery of knowledge and exemplification of Baconian methods of archiving are combined with its divinely elect status. The pillar of light that announces the arks presence echoes Exodus 13:21 22, where God uses a pillar of light to guide the Israelites out of Egypt. This is one of many ways the Bensalemites are associated with events in the Old Testament. Bensalem is Hebrew for son of peace, Salem being the original name of Jerusalem. Furthermore, the Bensalemites 18In Bacons scheme, books were to be used in very different ways than they had been in the previous regime of natural philosophy, which was based on circulating preexisting learning and the production of commentaries upon previous authorities rather than the accumulation of new forms of knowledge (Ann Blair, Annotating and Indexing Natural Philosophy, in Books and the Sciences in History, ed. Marina Frasca-Spada and Nick Jardine [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000], 69.) 19For a contemporary utopian archive, compare the visual representation of all existing knowledge on the city walls and the description of a book containing all sciences in the City of the Sun (Tommaso Campanella, La Citt del Sole: Dialogo Poetico/The City of the Sun: A Poetical Dialogue, trans. Daniel J. Donno [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981], 33ff ). But whereas the House of Salomon is founded upon the continual accumulation of new knowledge, the City of the Sun stresses existing knowledge. As Judah Bierman remarks, throughout this city, dominated by its walls, there is no place for exploring new knowledge; in effect, knowledge is fully known, codified and exhibited (Science and Society in the New Atlantis and Other Renaissance Utopias, PMLA 78 (1963): 495). The library in Christianopolis is staggeringly comprehensive, yet it is mentioned primarily to contrast the emptiness of human learning with the sufficiency of Christianity (Johann Valentin Andreae, Christianapolis, trans. Felix Emil Held [New York: Oxford University Press, 1916], 191).

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use scrolls for administrative purposes, which have Jewish associations (3:130, 149). In the Feast of the Family, reference is made to the patriarchs Adam, Noah, and Abraham.20 Not only is the illustrious founder of the College of Six Days Works named King Solamona, but the Bensalemites possess works of natural history by King Solomon lost to the Europeans (3:145). The Bensalemite Solamona is explicitly conflated with Solomon, since the governor speculates that Solamona named Salomons House after the Hebrew king and not himself. Solamona [finds] himself to symbolize in many things with that king of the Hebrews (ibid.). God chooses the Bensalemites, like the ancient Israelites, for a unique purpose, and this process of election is dependent on an ark, just as election in the Old Testament depends on both Noahs ark and the Ark of the Covenant. As an elect people, the Bensalemites themselves also represent a kind of archive: they embody the preservation of singular knowledge through historical time. Bacons use of the term instauration to describe his project for the reform of natural philosophy is important here, since the term is used in the Vulgate to describe the founding of Solomons Temple.21 This concept is echoed by the Bensalemite ark, given that Solomons Temple was the location of the Ark of the Covenant. Indeed, the engraved frontispiece of the original volume containing Sylva Sylvarum and New Atlantis displays imagery from Solomons Temple, pillars standing before cherubim.22 As Whitney has shown, Bacons introduction to his Instauratio Magna is pervaded with architectural metaphors to describe his project as a new temple of learning.23 Moreover, the Solomonic allusions in New Atlantis reflect the archival and mnemonic resonances of Solomons Temple evident in the sixteenth century: the Temple was understood to have contained the pattern of the universe within it and was itself the pattern for Giulio Camillos memory theater (called Solomons House of Wisdom).24 Just as a memory theater preserves knowledge in inner places, Solomons Temple preserves the essence of a peoples identity. 20Elizabeth McCutcheon, Bacon and the Cherubim: An Iconographical Reading of the New Atlantis, English Literary Renaissance 2 (1972): 352. 21See Whitney, Francis Bacon, for an in-depth study of the importance of the word instauration and its relation to the shifting tension between reform and revolution in Bacons project. Bacons use of the term instauration aligns his project with the Judeo-Christian typology of spiritual rebirth (2425). 22Ibid., 33. 23Ibid., 23ff. 24Ibid. 3536.


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

Thus, the ark through which the Bensalemites receive Christian revelation picks up on a host of concepts relating to memory, election, and preservation resonating throughout the text. Floating on the waves, preserving its contents against the flood, the Bensalemite ark clearly evokes Noahs ark, the ark of Genesis. Yet given its contentsthe Word of God it simultaneously represents the Ark of the Covenant, the chest containing the Law that was possessed by the Israelites. The cherub wings in Bensalemite visual culturestamped on the scroll given to the sailors when the first arrive on the island (3:130) and carved in gold on the Fathers chariot (3:155)allude to the cherubim with outspread wings that were put on the mercy seat, the lid of the ark containing the tablets of the Law.25 Bacons fantastical representation of miraculous revelation foregrounds the idea of the arkthe containerthat, like Noahs ship and the Law, safeguards Gods elect through time and space. As the governor proclaims, And thus was this land saved from infidelity (as the remain of the old world was from water) by an ark, through the apostolical and miraculous evangelism of St. Bartholomew (3:139).

The archival function of the Bensalemite ark is essential to the theological implications of New Atlantis. Moreover, the texts biblical echoes take on a much broader significance than heretofore acknowledged when the Bensalemite miracle is considered within the context of Reformation controversy. Currents of thought subject to intense debate during the Reformation inform Bacons representation of revelation in New Atlantis, and they are also evident in his discussion of the nature of divine revelation at the end of The Advancement. In the latter work, he not only proclaims the absolute authority and sufficiency of Scripture,26 but he also emphasizes Scripture as encompassing and addressing all of time. Just as Jesus answered the thoughts of those who questioned Him, and not merely their words, Scripture,
being written to the thoughts of men, and to the succession of all ages, with a foresight to all heresies, contradictions, differing estates of the Church, yea, and

25See Exodus 25:20, 37:79. On cherub imagery in New Atlantis, see McCutcheon, Bacon and the Cherubim, 33839. In Bartholomews Book of the Resurrection, Jesus is described as being on a chariot of the Cherubim (Apocryphal New Testament, 669). 26For the reformist principle of sola scriptura and its complex medieval backgrounds, see Alister E. McGrath, The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987), ch. 5.

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particularly of the elect, are not to be interpreted only according to the latitude of the proper sense of the place, and respectiuely towardes that present occasion, whereupon the wordes were vttered; or in precise congruitie or contexture with the wordes before or after, or in contemplation of the principall scope of the place, but haue in themselues, not onley totally, or collectiuely, but distributiuely in clauses and wordes, infinite springs and streames of doctrine to water the Church in euerie part. (189)

Bacon acknowledges here the historical approach to the Bible characteristic of humanism, which stressed interpreting utterances in Scripture rhetorically, taking into account speaker, audience, and time.27 However, he also warns of its limitations, affirming that the Bible has a transhistorical dimension of meaning. The Bible in effect predicts and answers all heresies and disruptions in the church, and so it cannot be interpreted in a strictly contextual manner. For Bacon, it is a book that in effect speaks to all times rather than merely the time in which it was written and the times that it records. Here, Bacon invokes a particular strand of reformist thinking that not only emphasizes the Bible as the sole source of doctrine but also downplays its contingent, temporal dimensions, claiming that it embodies all of history.28 In New Atlantis, Bacons Christian utopia receives divine revelation in a way that reflects this understanding of Scripture. Revelation in Bensalem occurs as an immediate event, independent of the clarifications brought about through time that mark historical Christianity.29 There 27Erasmuss Ratio Verae Theologiae exemplifies this approach. For the humanist stress on particularity and its relationship to classical rhetorical theory, see James D. Tracy, Humanism and the Reformation, in Reformation Europe: A Guide to Research, ed. Steven E. Ozment (St. Louis: Center for Reformation Research, 1982), 42. 28The issue raised here was of central importance during the early English Reformation. Against reformist attitudes to Scripture, in his polemical writings Thomas More affirms that the Bible is an incomplete, albeit infallible, record. He is at pains to assert that holy writ exists within the flux of time: its books are subject to corruption and loss, and their incorporation into the Bible is a historically contingent process occurring under the aegis of the church. More claims that the Bible does not address all future heresies; it is the church that functions as the guardian of truth within history (The Confutation of Tyndales Answer, ed. Louis A. Schuster et al., The Complete Works of St. Thomas More 8 [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973], 334ff ). For William Tyndales contradictory understanding of Scripture as containing all necessary doctrine and as being the preserver of truth within history, see An Answer to Sir Thomas Mores Dialogue, ed. Henry Walter (Cambridge, 1850), 2628. 29Some opponents of the Reformation made polemical use of the idea that Gods revelation is a gradual process, occurring within the church rather than being solely contained in the Bible. For example, More writes, And from tyme to tyme as it lykyth his maiestye to haue thyngys knowen or done in his chyrche / so is it no doubt / but he temperyth his reuelacyons / and in such wyse dothe insinuate and inspyre them into the brestys of


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

are two particularly significant and miraculous aspects to revelation in New Atlantis relating to issues of temporality. The first is that the Bible received in the ark contains all the canonical books of the Old and New Testament . . . and the Apocalypse itself, and some other books of the New Testament which were not at that time written (3:138). The references to the canon and the Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation) are significant, since they raise the issue of the lengthy (and in many ways, ongoing) process of canon formation. Luther and many of his followers viewed four New Testament books (Hebrews, James, Jude, Revelation) as subcanonical: while not actually excluded from the canon, they were nonetheless seen as having less value than the other books. The Old Testament Apocrypha, however, were more important as sites of contested canonicity. In the early church, Augustine considered them canonical Scripture, whereas Jerome did not, since they only appeared in the Septuagint, not in the Hebrew texts, and were not deemed Scripture by the Jews at that time. During the Reformation, the Catholic Church used several apocryphal books to defend its doctrines, and the Council of Trent in 1546 officially declared them canonical Scripture.30 Protestant churches, on the other hand, gave them a highly ambiguous status. They were denied status as Scripture, so that no point of doctrine could be based upon them, yet they were simultaneously included in virtually all sixteenth-century English Bibles and were officially deemed beneficial reading.31 Apparently, however, the difficulties in classifying the apocryphal books did not affect Bensalem. The Bensalemites receive an unproblematic canon, and they need not spend any time or thought on the status of these books nor on the relationships among them. Moreover, they receive books that were not at that time written. Whereas the early Christian churches often had access only to a limited number of the books that now constitute the New Testament, Bensalem is spared this pre-canon period, faced with no challenges to accessibility. Here, Bacons notion of the Bible as encompassing all of history
his crysten people (A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, ed. Thomas M. C. Lawler et al., The Complete Works of St. Thomas More 6 [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981], 146). Similarly, Josse Clichtove, writing against Luther, employs a notion of gradual revelation (George H. Tavard, Holy Writ or Holy Church: The Crisis of the Protestant Reformation [London: Burns & Oates, 1959], 154). 30Bruce Manning Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957), 189. For a brief history of the status of the Apocrypha in the Reformation, see ibid., 181201. 31The Thirty-Nine Articles formulates this position. The first English Bible to exclude the Apocrypha was the Geneva version printed in 1599 (ibid., 196).

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is made literal in that Scripture is taken out of the realm of time. Paradoxically, it exists before it is written, and furthermore it exists as an established canon of texts before the historical process of its canonization. The reformer William Tyndale argued that the New Testament was present at the beginning of the world, since promises of Christs coming always existed.32 In his fiction, Bacon effectively makes literal this spiritual understanding of an omnitemporal Word of God. As we have seen, the miracle of revelation in Bensalem is also noteworthy in that both the arks book and letter can be read by everyone, despite the different language groups on the island. Through this Pentecostal miracle, whereby language differences are erased, the arks texts are immediately available: no time is needed to translate them, and no confusion or contention arises over their meaning. Moreover, revelation in Bensalem is also immediate in the sense that the ark represents a self-sufficient archive, reflecting the key reformist doctrines of sola scriptura and scriptura sui ipsius interpres. In the Reformation, the idea that Scripture alone is necessary for the establishment of doctrine becomes linked to a rejection of the church as mediating authority.33 While Bartholomews letter functions as a mediator, authenticating the Bible, and the Father verifies the legitimacy of the miracle of the pillar of light, these merely appear as necessary initial steps. Once the Bensalemite miracle and Bible have been authenticated, the contents of the ark take on a remarkably self-sufficient quality, echoing a perception of Scripture shaped by the Reformation. The notion that the Bible interprets itself, that difficult scriptural passages became clear when read in the light of easier ones, represents an ideal of absolute self-sufficiency, of the obviation of any need for outside mediation.34 The Bensalemite ark thus contains everything necessary for the islands salvation and everything necessary for interpretation.35 32Tyndale, A Prologue into the Second Book of Moses Called Exodus, in The Works of the English Reformers: William Tyndale and John Frith, vol. 1, ed. Thomas Russell (London, 1831), 24. 33McGrath, Intellectual Origins, 151. 34While this view of the Bible was common among reformers, in practice Scripture remained mediated by traditional interpretations within reformed churches. For a discussion of the forms of mediation that were incorporated in the Reformation for the laitys engagement with the Word, see Orlaith OSullivan, introduction to The Bible as Book: The Reformation, ed. OSullivan and Ellen N. Herron (London: British Library, 2000), 3. 35As I have argued above, Bensalem itself can be viewed as a kind of archive, or an ark that has preserved earlier forms of knowledge. This notion takes on an added dimension when we consider the islands self-sufficiency, recognized by King Solamona, which leads him to police outside influence.


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis


What significance, then, does Bacons representation of divine revelation in New Atlantis have for his vision of natural philosophy? One of the important issues here is Bacons perception of the effects of religious controversy on the progression of knowledge. As has been discussed, Christian revelation in Bensalem embodies an immediacy impossible in Bacons Europe. The books of the Bible found in the ark are comprehensible to all people, no matter their language, and the process of canonization has already occurred. Thus, Bensalemite revelation obviates both the need for humanist philology and textual criticism, through which accurate texts and translations are achieved, and the lengthy and occasionally tumultuous councils and debates associated with canon formation. Whereas Christian history entails the gradual establishment of its texts as Scripture, and, simultaneously, the ongoing and contentious canonization of various books, Bensalem is freed from these sites of potential disagreement.36 The completeness of the ark and its self-interpreting character imply the preclusion of religious disagreement. Moreover, there is no discussion of interpretive controversies in Bensalem, and the well-integrated Jew Joabin represents the societys highly developed religious toleration.37 The gift of tongues that is part of the miracle is also significant here. In the seventeenth century, religious controversy was often understood to arise from discrepancies between languages, the result of Babels curse, causing confusion in definitions; the search for a universal language was therefore viewed as a way to overcome religious contention.38 Bacon often refers to the Babel myth when discussing the possibilities for an improved understanding of nature.39 He refers to the 36Wortham is one of the few critics to give some attention to the transcendent completeness and accessibility of the Bible, although his conclusions about its significance diverge from mine. He argues that the miraculous nature of the Bible paradoxically implies a kind of censorship in which the temporal production of the text is repressed (Censorship, 19394). By contrast, I draw out the theological resonance and intellectual significance of Bacons portrayal of the miraculous book. 37On Joabin, see Rose-Mary Sargent, Bacon as an Advocate for Cooperative Scientific Research, in The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, ed. Peltonen, 157. 38Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 22526, 261. 39The Babel myth was a touchstone for many Renaissance ideas about language and natural knowledge. See James J. Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine. Volume 1: Ficino to Descartes (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), 14, 18, 5859, 61, 7475; Jean Card, De Babel la

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confusion of tongues following Babels fall as a second curse following the Fall in Eden, and he affirms, In the age after the Floud, the first great iudgement of God vppon the ambition of man, was the confusion of the tongues; whereby the open Trade and intercourse of Learning and knowledge, was chiefly imbarred (AL, 34). In Valerius Terminus, Bacon connects true natural philosophy with Adamic language: it is a restitution and reinvesting (in great part) of man to that sovereignty and power (for whensoever he shall be able to call creatures by their true names he shall command them) which he had in his first state of creation (6:34).40 In New Atlantis, Bacon returns this notion of perfect communication to its original religious context. Here, he imagines revelation being received in all languages simultaneously, mirroring the gift of tongues at Pentecost. Whereas human language is polluted with the idols of the mind, the various intellectual delusions and sociological conditions that impede the correct apprehension of reality, Bensalem encounters Christianity freed from the distortions of actual language and its inevitable production of error and disagreement.41 The non-controversial character of revelation in New Atlantis resonates with what Bacon hoped would be possible for his own age. Bacon occasionally suggests that too much time is given to theology at the expense of natural philosophy: in Novum Organum, he considers Christianity to be one of the primary reasons why development in natural philosophy has not progressed, since for so many centuries most intellectual energy was focused on theology (97).42 Bacon did not advocate a rejection of theology: much of The Advancement takes up the importance of the study of divinity and notes crucial areas it must investigate. He did, however, view religious controversy as a diversion of human energy and potential. At the beginning of his discussion of divine learning in book 2 of The Advancement, among the
Pentecte: La Transformation du Mythe de la Confusion des Langues au XVIe Sicle, Bibliothque dHumanisme et Renaissance 42 (1980): 57794. 40See also IM, 11. For the ways in which Bacons understanding of the original Adamic language differs from the major contemporary traditions, see Bono, Word of God, 237ff, and Martin Elsky, Authorizing Words: Speech, Writing, and Print in the English Renaissance (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989), 168ff. 41For Bacons discussion of the idols of the mind, see NO, 79109. 42Interestingly, in the early work Valerius Terminus, Bacon claims that the singular advantage which the Christian religion hath towards the furtherance of true knowledge, is that it excludeth and interdicteth human reason, whether by interpretation or anticipation, from examining or discussing of the mysteries and principles of faith. A religion that prohibits these forms of inquiry effectively turns human energies to their appropriate course, investigating nature (6:75).


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

many positive developments and characteristics of his era, Bacon lists The consumption of all that euer can be said in controuersies of Religion, which haue so much diuerted men from other Sciences (181).43 Bacon rather disingenuously asserts that his age is free of those religious controversies that previously sidetracked attention from the progress of knowledge. He goes on to attest that his age will far excel its predecessors if, among other things, men take one from the other, light of inuention, and not fire of contradiction (ibid.).44 Bacon thus describes the immediate future as an age of unprecedented advancement in knowledge, defined against the preceding age of religious controversy. His vision of cooperation and knowledge accumulation entails a derogation of the energy-wasting factionalism symptomatic of an age focused primarily on religious dispute. Whereas Bensalem achieves a significant level of natural knowledge prior to Christian revelation indeed, the miracles true nature is authenticated by one of the Fathers of Salomons HouseEurope, Bacon suggests, must to some extent free itself of religious controversy if it is to fully engage with the accumulation and application of natural philosophy.45 Seventeenth-century scientific writers such as Galileo contrasted the comparatively uncontroversial book of nature with the book of Scripture as a way to justify the study and importance of the new philosophy.46 While the former is accessible to all and singular in meaning (if difficult to penetrate), interpreting the Bible leads to abysses of multiple interpretations. Bacon makes a similar point in the Parasceve, contrasting the endless commentaries produced in the fields of law and religion with the axioms of natural philosophy: For to me (who, as a faithful scribe, takes down and copies out the very laws of nature and nothing else) brevity is natural, for it is practically forced on me by the things themselves; whereas the numberless host of opinions, tenets, and speculations goes on for ever (47173). Indeed, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the study of nature was also frequently de43Bacons understanding of his age as the beginnings of a new dawning of human possibility reflects and transforms the apocalyptic thought running throughout the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. On the apocalyptic dimensions of the term instauration, see Whitney, Francis Bacon, 26. 44See also CV, 95. 45In his essay on New Atlantis, Renaker makes this point as well, rhetorically asking, for is it not a commonplace that the age of religious controversies had to end before the enlightenment could begin? (A Miracle of Engineering, 182). 46Harrison, The Bible, 197.

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fended as a means whereby the vulgar could access Gods truths.47 This notion is addressed by Guillaume du Bartas: To read this Booke, we neede not understand | Each Strangers gibbrish; neither take in hand | Turkes Caracters, nor Hebrue Points to seeke, | Nyles Hieroglyphics, nor the Notes of Greeke.48 While not wishing to decenter the Bible from its preeminent position as source of knowledge about God, many of the periods writers nonetheless represent nature as more comprehensible than Scripture, which demands the kind of philological learning du Bartas reduces to Strangers gibbrish.49 By contrast, Bacon tends to emphasize the separation between natural philosophy and the study of divinity. He goes to great lengths to legitimize secular learning in general, and natural philosophy in particular, by asserting that it in no way encroaches upon divine matters. Whereas the Fall resulted from a hubristic attempt to attain knowledge fit only for God, achieving knowledge of nature is in fact divinely sanctioned and even encouraged. This division between secular and religious knowledge is central to Bacons vision of the great instauration; indeed, observing nature without referring it to first causes is precisely the method enabling authentic knowledge to be attained. The two realms are distinct: we conclude that sacred Theologie . . . is grounded onely vpon the word & oracle of God, and not vpon the light of nature (AL, 182). While Bacon believed nature to be marked by the Creators footprints and impressions (IM, 45), he rejected the idea that it could provide anything more than indirect knowledge about Gods operations and power, as well as the notion that it contains occult sympathies and spiritual interconnections.50 Against the modes of reading the book of Nature for symbolic meaning, characteristic of the Middle 47Ibid., 19697. 48Quoted in ibid., 196. See The Divine Weeks and Works of Guillaume de Saluste Sieur du

Bartas, ed. Susan Snyder, trans. Joshua Sylvester (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 1.1.184 91. 49In the lines following the cited du Bartas passage, the poet claims that faith enables the comprehension of a higher reality behind the natural order (1.1.19396). See also 1.1.11114, in which the necessity of the Bible is discussed. Generally speaking, nature was not viewed in the period as conveying detailed, saving knowledge about God (Harrison, The Bible, 201). However, toward the end of the seventeenth century, deism was posited as a natural religion that would obviate the conflict and intolerance characterizing Christendom during the previous centuries, a religion easily comprehended by all and based on reason (ibid., 199200). 50Bono, Word of God, 21819, 23234. See Harrison, The Bible, 25155, for a discussion of the Renaissance doctrine of signatures.


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

Ages but also continuing in his own day, Bacon articulates the emerging early modern conception of the natural world as a language of things and not symbols.51 In many ways, the miraculous revelation imagined by Bacon in New Atlantis encapsulates his attempts to separate natural philosophy from theology and to pool human energies into fruitful learning rather than waste them in religious controversies. In sharp contrast to the immediacy distinguishing divine revelation in Bensalem, for Bacon knowledge about nature depended on eminently temporal processes. Bacon envisioned natural philosophy as a progressive enterprise in which the knowledge gained in the past would provide the basis for future discoveries. While past authorities should not be ignored, Bacon argues, it is essential to recognize that the passage of time can be a force for clarification: so let great Authors haue theire due, as time which is the Author of Authors be not depriued of his due, which is furder and furder to discouer truth (AL, 28).52 Along these lines, alluding to the ancient motto, Truth is the daughter of time, Bacon notes, the inseparable proprietie of Time . . . is euer more and more to disclose truth (AL, 181).53 Not only does the emergence of natural knowledge depend on the passage of time, but Bacon also insisted that time be incorporated into the very method used to determine truth. According to Bacon, the human tendency to make premature conclusions is among the worst enemies of knowledge; to combat this, he proposed his method of negative induc51Bono, Word of God, 23234. As Elsky puts it, following Sidney Warhaft, although Bacon believed in a providential order in the created world and saw a divine plan imprinted on the works of creation as signatures, for Bacon those signatures do not reveal occult resemblances or higher levels of spiritual meaning. Instead they reveal both the logical and causative arrangement of things in the world (Authorizing Words, 169). 52The words of authorities are not to remain ossified but must be tested, applied, and altered if necessary. The slavish adherence to past authorities contrasts natural philosophy with the lowly mechanical arts: For hence it hath comen, that in arts Mechanicall, the first deuiser comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth: but in Sciences the first Author goeth furthest, and time leeseth and corrupteth (AL, 2728). Bacon apparently took the notion of collaborative development from the mechanical arts, where he perceived a fruitful progress contrasting with the stagnation characterizing the sciences (Paolo Rossi, Francis Bacon: From Magic to Science, trans. S. Rabinovitch [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968], 9). Bacons partial extolling of the mechanical arts reflects a larger trend in sixteenth-century humanist culture valuing the practical and technical over the merely theoretical (ibid., 6). 53At the same time, Bacon also lamented that time frequently leads to the enshrinement of falsehoods as truth because the opinions of the multitude tend to win out over the advances of the wise (AL, 29; IM, 15; NO, 115).

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tion, whereby truth is determined through the elimination of negative instances in order to arrive at affirmative ones.54 Unlike the immediate knowledge unique to God and the angels, humans are allowed only to proceed by Negatives at first, and then to finish up with Affirmatives after making every sort of exclusion (NO, 253). Bacons imagined Bensalemite miracle thus entails a process of immediate knowledge standing in stark contrast to his philosophical method. The instantaneousness of the Bensalemites religious knowledge enables energies to be concentrated on the temporal labors necessary for the investigation of nature. In Bacons scientific utopia, revelation is static: it occurs instantaneously, in marked contrast to the vexed, lengthy processes of Christendom, and its textual embodiment obviates time-consuming philological and theological efforts. This stasis contrasts with the dynamism of natural knowledge in Bensalem; natural knowledge is accumulated over time and produces new inventions, the latter managed by esotericism and distributed by the Fathers according to a temporal process of accommodation. Whereas the concept of textual community established by the reformers rests upon a stable, always-available text, accessible at any point in time by its members, the Baconian scientific community depends upon a dynamic, ever-growing text of natural knowledge. Natural histories and tables of discovery archive the results of experiments and eliminative induction, processes that are themselves dependent on temporality. In Bensalemite religion, the utopian society exemplifies the reformist vision of textual community, yet in a way impossible for actual Christians: revelation in Bacons utopia epitomizes reformist dreams of a perfectly complete, accessible, comprehensible text existing outside of time, a fantastic archive in which revelation is fully present. These 54For the human tendency towards hasty conclusions, see NO, 75, and 6:69. Bacon sets out his method of negative induction in Novum Organum, book 2. For a discussion of the originality of Bacons emphasis on eliminative induction, see Zagorin, Francis Bacon, 87ff, and C. D. Broad, Ethics and the History of Philosophy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952), 14142. Zagorin claims that Bacon was the first to recognize induction as a research procedure for bringing about new knowledge about nature (Francis Bacon, 92). For a discussion of Baconian induction that situates it within its Aristotelian, medieval, and Renaissance backgrounds, see Antonio Prez-Ramos, Francis Bacons Idea of Science and the Makers Knowledge Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), chs. 1517. For an earlier example of the importance of falsification being stressed, see A. C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science, 1100-1700 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), 8384.


The Ark and Revelation in Bacons New Atlantis

miraculous features of the Bensalemite Bible are captured most strikingly in the image of the ark, which preserves the book and letter against the flood of temporal and material contingency. Unlike the archives of Salomons House, which store and stabilize temporal knowledge that is constantly being augmented, the ark represents a changeless, selfsufficient archive of atemporal knowledge. The ark epitomizes the Bensalemites special election; not only does it resonate with an array of biblical types and concepts associating them with the Old Testament Hebrews, but it quite literally singles them out by appearing on their shores. Furthermore, the ark, whose contents represent the essentials of Christian conversion, echoes the Bensalemite Bibles embodiment of the reformist notion of Scriptures self-sufficiency. Within Bacons vision of scientific progress, the ideal textual community of Bensalem represents a fantasy of the end of both religious controversy and the need for the textual sciences of humanism within religion. He employs this fantasy primarily to express his dreams of an instauration of natural philosophy unencumbered by the consequences of Christian historys perennial problem of the temporality of its sacred text. In contrast to the textual battles of the Reformation, many of which became articulated as conflicts over the understanding of the historical dimension of divine revelation, for Baconian natural philosophy, temporality is the force that enables revelation: truth is the daughter of time. Carleton University