The uses of this Theory for the illustration of Antiquity; The ancient Chaos explain’d; The inhabitability of the Torrid Zone; The change of the Poles of the World; The doctrine of the Mundane Egg; How America was first peopled; How Paradise within the Circle of the Moon.
WE have now dispatch’d the Theory of the Primæval Earth, and reviv’d a forgotten World; ’Tis pity the first and fairest works of Nature should be lost out of the memory of Man, and that we should so much dote upon the Ruines, as never to think upon the Original Structure. As the modern Artists from some broken pieces of an ancient Statue, make out all the other parts and proportions; so from the broken and scatter’d limbs of the first World we have shown you how to raise the whole Fabrick again; and renew the prospect of those pleasant Scenes that first see the light, and first entertain’d Man, when he came to act upon this new-erected Stage.
We have drawn this Theory chiefly to give an account of the Universal Deluge, and of Paradise; but as when one lights a Candle to look for one or two things which they want, the light will not confine it self to those two objects, but shows all the other in the room; so, methinks, we have unexpectedly cast a light upon all Antiquity, in seeking after these two things, or in retrieving the Notion and Doctrine of the Primæval Earth, upon which they depended. For in ancient Learning there are many Discourses, and many Conclusions deliver’d to us, that are so obscure and confus’d, and so remote from the present state of things, that one cannot well distinguish, whether they are fictions or realities; and there is no way to distinguish with certainty, but by a clear Theory upon the same subjects; which showing us the truth directly, and independently upon them, shows us also by reflection, how far they are true or false, and in what sence they are to be interpreted and understood. And the present Theory being of great extent, we shall find it serviceable in many things, for the illustration of such dubious and obscure doctrines in Antiquity.
To begin with their Ancient CHAOS, what a dark story have they made of it, both their Philosophers and Poets; and how fabulous in appearance? ’Tis deliver’d as confus’dly as the Mass it self could be, and hath not been reduc’d to order, nor indeed made intelligible by any. They tell us of moral principles in the Chaos instead of natural, of strife, and discord, and division on the one hand, and Love, Friendship, and Venus on the other; and, after a long contest, Love got the better of Discord, and united the disagreeing principles: This is one part of their story. Then they make the forming of the World out of the Chaos a kind of
[paragraph continues] Genealogie or Pedigree; Chaos was the common Parent of all, and from Chaos sprung, first, Night, and Tartarus, or Oceanus; Night was a teeming Mother, and of her were born Æther and the Earth; The Earth conceiv’d by the influences of Æther, and brought forth Man and all Animals.
This seems to be a Poetical fiction rather than Philosophy; yet when ’tis set in a true light, and compar’d with our Theory of the Chaos, ’twill appear a pretty regular account, how the World was form’d at first, or how the Chaos divided it self successively into several Regions, rising one after another, and propagated one from another, as Children and Posterity from a common Parent. We show’d in the first Book, Chap. 5, how the Chaos, from an uniform mass, wrought it self into several Regions or Elements; the grossest part sinking to the Center, upon this lay the mass of Water, and over the Water was a Region of dark, impure, caliginous Air; This impure, caliginous Air is that which the Ancients call Night, and the mass of Water Oceanus or Tartarus, for those two terms with them are often of the like force, Tartarus being Oceanus inclos’d and lock’d up: Thus we have the first off-spring of the Chaos, or its first-born twins, Nox and Oceanus. Now this turbid Air purifying it self by degrees, as the more subtle parts flew upwards, and compos’d the Æther; so the earthy parts that were mixt with it dropt down upon the surface of the Water, or the liquid mass; and that mass on the other hand sending up its lighter and more oily parts towards its surface, these two incorporate there, and by their mixture and union compose a Body of Earth quite round the mass of Waters: And this was the first habitable Earth, which as it was, you see, the Daughter of Nox and Oceanus, so it was the Mother of all other things, and all living Creatures, which at the beginning of the World sprung out of its fruitful womb.
This doctrine of the Chaos, for the greater pomp of the business, the Ancients call’d their Theogonia, or the Genealogy of the Gods; for they gave their Gods, at least their Terrestrial Gods, an original and beginning; and all the Elements and greater portions of Nature they made Gods and Goddesses, or their Deities presided over them in such a manner, that the names were us’d promiscuously for one another. We also mention’d before some moral principles, which they plac’d in the Chaos, Eris and Eros; Strife, discord, and disaffection which prevail’d at first, and afterward Love, kindness and union got the upper hand, and in spite of those factious and dividing principles gather’d together the separated Elements, and united them into an habitable World. This is all easily understood, if we do but look upon the Schemes of the rising World, as we have set them down in that fifth Chapter; for in the first commotion of the Chaos, after an intestine struggle of all the parts, the Elements separated from one another into so many distinct bodies or masses, and in this state and posture things continued a good while, which the Ancients, after their Poetick or Moral way, call’d the Reign of Eris or Contention, of hatred, flight and disaffection; and if things had always continued in that System, we should never have had an habitable World. But Love and good Nature conquer’d at length, Venus rise out of the Sea, and receiv’d into her bosom, and intangled in her imbraces the falling Æther, viz. The parts of lighter earth, which were mixt with the Air in that
first separation, and gave it the name of Night, fell down upon the oily parts of the Sea-mass, which lay floating upon the surface of it, and by that union and conjunction, a new Body, and a new World was produc’d, which was the first habitable Earth. This is the interpretation of their mystical Philosophy of the Chaos, and the resolution of it into plain natural History: Which you may see more fully discust in the Latin Treatise.Lib. 2. c. 7.
We have already explain’d, in several places, the Golden Age of the Ancients, and laid down such grounds as will enable us to discern what is real, and what Poetical, in the reports and characters that Antiquity hath given of those first Ages of the World. And if there be any thing amongst the Ancients that refers to another Earth, as Plato's Atlantis, which he says, was absorpt by an Earthquake, and an inundation, as the Primæval Earth was; or his Æthereal Earth mention’d in his Phædo, which he opposeth to this broken hollow Earth; makes it to have long-liv’d inhabitants, and to be without Rains and Storms, as that first Earth was also; or the pendulous Gardens of Alcinous, or such like, to which nothing answers in present Nature, by reflecting upon the state of the first Earth, we find an easie explication of them. We have also explain’d what the Antichthon and Antichthones of the Ancients were, and what the true ground of that distinction was. But nothing seems more remarkable than the inhabitability of the Torrid Zone, if we consider what a general fame and belief it had amongst the Ancients, and yet in the present form of the Earth we find no such thing, nor any foundation for it. I cannot believe that this was so universally receiv’d upon a slight presumption only, because it lay under the course of the Sun, if the Sun had then the same latitude from the Æquator in his course and motion that he hath now, and made the same variety of seasons; whereby even the honest parts of the Earth have a Winter, or something equivalent to it. But if we apply this to the Primæval Earth, whose posture was direct to the Sun, standing always fixt in its Equinoctial, we shall easily believe that the Torrid Zone was then uninhabitable by extremity of heat, there being no difference of seasons, noge ofr any chan(sic) weather, the Sun hanging always over head at the same distance, and in the same direction. Besides this, the descent of the Rivers in that first Earth was such, that they could never reach the Equinoctial parts, as we have shown before; by which means, and the want of Rain, that Region must necessarily be turn’d into a dry Desart. Now this being really the state of the first Earth, the fame and general belief that the Torrid Zone was uninhabitable had this true Original, and continued still with posterity after the Deluge, though the causes then were taken away; for they being ignorant of the change that was made in Nature at that time, kept up still the same Tradition and opinion currant, till observation and experience taught later Ages to correct it. As the true miracles that were in the Christian Church at first, occasion’d a fame and belief of their continuance long after they had really ceast.
This gives an easie account, and, I think, the true cause, of that opinion, amongst the Ancients generally receiv’d, That the Torrid Zone was uninhabitable. I say generally receiv’d; for not only the Poets, both Greek and Latin, but their Philosophers, Astronomers and Geographers, had the same notion, and deliver'd
the same doctrine; as Aristotle, Cleomedes, Achilles Tatius, Ptolomy, Cicero, Strabo, Mela, Pliny, Macrobius, &c. And to speak truth, the whole doctrine of the Zones is calculated more properly for the first Earth, than for the present; for the divisions and bounds of them now, are but arbitrary, being habitable all over, and having no visible distinction; whereas they were then determin’d by Nature, and the Globe of the Earth was really divided into so many Regions of a very different aspect and quality; which would have appear’d at a distance, if they had been lookt upon from the Clouds, or from the Moon, as Jupiter's Belts, or as so many Girdles or Swathing-bands about the body of the Earth: And so the word imports, and so the Ancients use to call them Cinguli and Fasciæ. But in the present form of the Earth, if it was seen at a distance, no such distinction would appear in the parts of it, nor scarce any other but that of Land and Water, and of Mountains and Valleys, which are nothing to the purpose of Zones. And to add this note further, When the Earth lay in this regular form, divided into Regions or Walks, if I may so call them, as this gave occasion of its distinction by Zones, so if we might consider all that Earth as a Paradise, and Paradise as a Garden, (for it is always call’d so in Scripture, and in Jewish Authors) as this Torrid Zone, bare of Grass and Trees, made a kind of Gravel-walk in the middle: so there was a green Walk on either hand of it, made by the temperate Zones; and beyond those lay a Canal, which water’d the Garden from either side.See Fig. 3. c. 5.
But to return to Antiquity; We may add under this Head another observation or doctrine amongst the Ancients, strange enough in appearance, which yet receives an easie explication from the preceding Theory; They say, The Poles of the World did once change their situation, and were at first in another posture from what they are in now, till that inclination happen’d; See the Lat. Treat. lib. 2. c. 10.This the ancient Philosophers often make mention of, as Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Diogenes, Leucippus, Democritus; as may be seen in Laertius, and in Plutarch; and the Stars, they say, at first were carried about the Earth in a more uniform manner. This is no more than what we have observ’d and told you in other words, namely, that the Earth chang’d its posture at the Deluge, and thereby made these seeming changes in the Heavens; its Poles before pointed to the Poles of the Ecliptick, which now point to the Poles of the Æquator, and its Axis is become parallel with that Axis; and this is the mystery and interpretation of what they say in other terms; this makes the different aspect of the Heavens, and of its Poles: And I am apt to think, that those changes in the course of the Stars, which the Ancients sometimes speak of, and especially the Ægyptians, if they did not proceed from defects in their Calendar, had no other Physical account than this.
And as they say the Poles of the World were in another situation at first, so at first they say, there was no variety of seasons in the Year, as in their Golden Age. Which is very coherent with all the rest, and still runs along with the Theory. And you may observe, that all these things we have instanc’d in hitherto, are but links of the same chain, in connexion and dependance upon one another. When the Primæval Earth was made out of the Chaos, its form and posture was such, as, of course, brought on all those Scenes which Antiquity hath kept the remembrance of: though now in another state of Nature they seem very strange;
especially being disguis’d, as some of them are, by their odd manner of representing them. That the Poles of the World stood once in another posture; That the Year had no diversity of Seasons; That the Torrid Zone was uninhabitable; That the two Hemispheres had no possibility of intercourse, and such like: These all hang upon the same string; or lean one upon another as Stones in the same Building; whereof we have, by this Theory, laid the very foundation bare, that you may see what they all stand upon, and in what order.
There is still one remarkable Notion or Doctrine amongst the Ancients, which we have not spoken to; ’tis partly Symbolical, and the propriety of the Symbol, or of the Application of it, hath been little understood; ’Tis their doctrine of the Mundane Egg, or their comparing the World to an Egg, and especially in the original composition of it. This seems to be a mean comparison, the World and an Egg, what proportion, or what resemblance betwixt these two things? And yet I do not know any Symbolical doctrine, or conclusion, that hath been so universally entertain’d by the Mystæ, or Wise and Learned, of all Nations; as hath been noted before in the Fifth Chapter of the First Book, and at large in the Latin Treatise. Lib. 2. c. 10.’Tis certain, that by the World in this similitude, they do not mean the Great Universe, for that hath neither Figure, nor any determinate form of composition, and it would be a great vanity and rashness in any one to compare this to an Egg; The works of God are immense, as his nature is infinite, and we cannot make any image or resemblance of either of them; but this comparison is to be understood of the Sublunary World, or of the Earth; And for a general key to Antiquity upon this Argument, we may lay this down as a Maxim or Canon, That what the Ancients have said concerning the form and figure of the World, or concerning the Original of it from a Chaos, or about its periods and dissolution, are never to be understood of the Great Universe, but of our Earth, or of this Sublunary and Terrestrial World. And this observation being made, do but reflect upon our Theory of the Earth, the manner of its composition at first, and the figure of it, being compleated, and you will need no other interpreter to understand this mystery. We have show’d there, that the figure of it, when finisht, was Oval, and the inward form of it was a frame of four RegionsBook I. c. 5. incompassing one another, where that of Fire lay in the middle like the Yolk, and a shell of Earth inclos’d them all. This gives a solution so easie and natural, and shows such an aptness and elegancy in the representation, that one cannot doubt, upon a view, and compare of circumstances, but that we have truly found out the Riddle of the Mundane Egg.
To these illustrations of Antiquity in things Natural and Geographical, give me leave to add, and to resolve from the same Theory, one Historical difficulty; and ’twill seem, ’tis likely, of no less moment than any we have hitherto insisted upon, and I am sure hath exercis’d the Pens of many Learned men with small or no success. ’Tis to give an account of the Original of the people of America, how that Continent was first peopled and inhabited, or any other Continent distinct from ours, wherein we suppose Adam to have liv’d, and to have propagated his posterity. ’Tis certain, that all Mankind came from one Head, or from one common Parent; Certain, I say, according to the History of Moses, confirm'd
by Apostolical authority;Acts 17. 26. and ’tis also admitted on all hands that Adam after his expulsion out of Paradise, wheresoever he was before, liv’d in this Continent, which being encompass’d with great Seas, and separate from America on either side, how could the children of Adam pass the wide Ocean, to hunt out remote habitations in America? How easie is the answer to this great Question, which hath imploy’d the time of so many Learned men to resolve? Or rather how suddenly doth it vanish at the sight of truth, as a phantom at the approach of light? The ground sinks under it that it seem’d to stand upon; Adam's Earth was not broken into Continents and Islands, as ours is, nor the parts of it separated by Seas and Mountains; ’twas one continued and smooth surface, and gave free and easie passage from the rising to the setting Sun: So according as his progeny increast, and new swarms were ready to go abroad, they might spread themselves on either hand, East and West, without any interruption or impediment; neither Sea, Mountain, nor Desart would stand in their way. ’Tis true, the passage was not so free North and South, they could not go out of one Hemisphere into another, but Providence seems to have made provision for that, in transplanting Adam into this Hemisphere, after he had laid the foundation of a World in the Other.
We see then the great difficulty concerning the peopling the several Continents and Islands of the Earth, and particularly of America, easily remov’d by this Hypothesis; The propagation of Mankind, and of all sorts of Animals into those several portions of the World, may readily be understood, if you admit the true form of the first Earth: But without that ’tis an endless controversie, as those commonly are that proceed upon a false supposition. I will not examine here the several projects and methods that have been propos’d, some by one Author, and some by another, for getting people into America; they confute one another, methinks, very well; and to show, as we have done, that the ground they go upon is imaginary, is a compendious way of confuting them all together. However, those that will not admit our Hypothesis, concerning the continuity and uniformity of the first Earth, stand oblig’d still to give us an account of the propagation of Mankind from one Head, and how the posterity of Adam got into America.
’Twill be said, possibly, that this doth not intirely remove the difficulty, because it returns again after the Flood; and then we suppose the Earth broken into Continents and Islands, in the same manner that it is now; How then did the posterity of Noah get into America, to people it after the Flood? I do not know that ever they got into America till Columbus went thither in the last Age, who, for any thing I know, was the first of Noah's progeny that ever set foot in that Continent. Scripture tells us, that all Mankind rise from one Head, namely, from Adam, and his fault was derived to posterity, but no where that Noah was the common Head of Mankind that hath been since his time, nor does any doctrine of faith, that I know of, depend upon that supposition. When the great frame of the Earth broke at the Deluge, Providence fore-see into how many Continents it would be divided after the ceasing of the Flood, and accordingly, as we may reasonably suppose, made provision to save a remnant in every Continent, that the race of Mankind might not be quite extinct in any of them. What
provision he made in our Continent we know from Sacred History, but as that takes notice of no other Continent but ours, so neither could it take notice of any method that was us’d there for saving of a remnant of men; but ’twere great presumption, methinks, to imagine that Providence had a care of none but us, or could not find out ways of preservation in other places, as well as in that where our habitations were to be. Asia, Africk and Europe were repeopled by the Sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, but we read nothing of their going over into America, or sending any Colonies thither; and that World which is near as big as ours, must have stood long without people, or any thing of Humane race in it, after the Flood, if it stood so till this was full, or till men navigated the Ocean, and by chance discovered it: It seems more reasonable to suppose, that there was a stock providentially reserv’d there, as well as here, out of which they sprung again; but we do not pretend in an Argument of this nature to define or determine any thing positively. To conclude, as this is but a secondary difficulty, and of no great force, so neither is it any thing peculiar to us, or to our Hypothesis, but alike common to both; and if they can propose any reasonable way, whereby the Sons of Noah might be transplanted into America, with all my heart; but all the ways that I have met with hitherto, have seem’d to me meer fictions, or meer presumptions. Besides, finding Birds and Beasts there, which are no where upon our Continent, nor would live in our Countries if brought hither, ’tis a fair conjecture that they were not carried from us, but originally bred and preserv’d there.
Thus much for the illustration of Antiquity in some points of Humane literature, by our Theory of the Primæval Earth; There is also in Christian Antiquity a Tradition or Doctrine, that appears as obscure and as much a Paradox as any of these, and better deserves an illustration, because it relates more closely and expressly to our present subject: ’Tis that Notion or Opinion amongt the Ancients concerning Paradise, that it was seated as high as the Sphere of the Moon, or within the Lunar Circle. This looks very strange, and indeed extravagantly, at first sight, but the wonder will cease, if we understand this not of Paradise taken apart from the rest of the Earth, but of the whole Primæval Earth, wherein the Seat of Paradise was; That was really seated much higher than the present Earth, and may be reasonably suppos’d to have been as much elevated as the tops of our Mountains are now. And that phrase of reaching to the Sphere of the Moon, signifies no more than those other expressions of reaching to Heaven, or reaching above the Clouds, which are phrases commonly us’d to express the height of Buildings, or of Mountains, and such like things: So the Builders of Babel said, they would make a Tower should reach to Heaven; Olympus and Parnassus are said by the Poets to reach to Heaven, or to rise above the Clouds; And Pliny and Solinus use this very expression of the Lunar Circle, when they describe the height of Mount Atlas, Eductus in viciniam Lunaris Circuli. Solin. c. 17.The Ancients, I believe, aim’d particularly by this phrase, to express an height above the middle Region, or above our Atmosphere, that Paradise might be serene; and where our Atmosphere ended, they reckon’d the Sphere of the Moon begun, and therefore said it reach’d to the Sphere of the Moon. Many of the Christian Fathers exprest their opinion concerning the high situation of Paradise in plain and
formal terms, as St. Basil, Damascen, Moses Bar Cepha, &c. but this phrase of reaching to the Lunar Circle is repeated by several of them, and said to be of great Antiquity. Aquinas, Albertus, and others, ascribe it to Bede, but many to St. Austin; Com. in Gen. c. 2 and therefore Ambrosius Catharinus is angry with their great Schoolman, that he should derive it from Bede, seeing St. Austin writing to Orosius, deliver’d this doctrine, which surely, says He, St. Austin neither feign’d nor dream’d only, but had receiv’d it from Antiquity: Sum. Theol. par. 2. tract. 13. q. 79And from so great Antiquity, that it was no less than Apostolical, if we credit Albertus Magnus, and the ancient Books he appeals to; for He says this Tradition was deriv’d as high as from St. Thomas the Apostle. His words are these, after he had deliver’d his own opinion. Hoc tamen dico, &c. But this I say, without prejudice to the better opinion, for I have found it in some most ancient Books, that Thomas the Apostle was the Author of that opinion, which is usually attributed to Bede and Strabus, namely, that Paradise was so high as to reach to the Lunar Circle. But thus much concerning this Opinion, and concerning Antiquity.
To conclude all, we see this Theory, which was drawn only by a thred of Reason, and the Laws of Nature, abstractly from all Antiquity, notwithstanding casts a light upon many passages there, which were otherwise accounted fictions, or unintelligible truths; and though we do not alledge these as proofs of the Theory, for it carries its own light and proof with it, yet whether we will or no, they do mutually confirm, as well as illustrate, one another; And ’tis a pleasure also, when one hath wrought out truth by meer dint of thinking, and examination of causes, and propos’d it plainly and openly, to meet with it again amongst the Ancients, disguis’d, and in an old fashion’d dress: scarce to be known or discover’d, but by those that before-hand knew it very well. And it would be a further pleasure and satisfaction, to have render’d those Doctrines and Notions, for the future, intelligible and useful to others, as well as delightful to our selves.