Part 12 Icon

August 26, 2022

(1) The knowledge which respects the faculties of the mind of man is of 2 kinds:

  1. One respecting his understanding and reason

This produces position or decree.

  1. The other his will, appetite, and affection

This produces action or execution.

The imagination is an agent or nuncius in both provinces, both the judicial and the ministerial.

For sense sendeth over to imagination before reason have judged, and reason sendeth over to imagination before the decree can be acted. For imagination ever precedeth voluntary motion.

Saving that this Janus of imagination hath differing faces: for the face towards reason hath the print of truth, but the face towards action hath the print of good; which nevertheless are faces,

Neither is the imagination simply and only a messenger; but is invested with, or at least wise usurpeth no small authority in itself, besides the duty of the message. For it was well said by Aristotle, “That the mind hath over the body that commandment, which the lord hath over a bondman; but that reason hath over the imagination that commandment which a magistrate hath over a free citizen,” who may come also to rule in his turn.

In matters of faith and religion, we raise our imagination above our reason, which is the cause why religion sought ever access to the mind by similitudes, types, parables, visions, dreams.

In all persuasions that are wrought by eloquence, and other impressions of like nature, which do paint and disguise the true appearance of things, the chief recommendation unto reason is from the imagination. Nevertheless, because I find not any science that doth properly or fitly pertain to the imagination, I see no cause to alter the former division. For as for poesy, it is rather a pleasure or play of imagination than a work or duty thereof.

And if it be a work, we speak not now of such parts of learning as the imagination produceth, but of such sciences as handle and consider of the imagination.

No more than we shall speak now of such knowledges as reason produceth (for that extendeth to all philosophy), but of such knowledges as do handle and inquire of the faculty of reason: so as poesy had his true place. As for the power of the imagination in nature, and the manner of fortifying the same, we have mentioned it in the doctrine De Anima, whereunto most fitly it belongeth.

Imaginative or insinuative reason is the subject of rhetoric. We think it best to refer it to the arts of reason. So therefore we content ourselves with the former division, that human philosophy, which respecteth the faculties of the mind of man, hath two parts, rational and moral.

(2) The part of human philosophy which is rational is of all knowledges, to the most wits, the least delightful, and seemeth but a net of subtlety and spinosity.

Knowledge is pabulum animi.

In the nature of men’s appetite to this food, most men are of the taste and stomach of the Israelites in the desert, that would fain have returned ad ollas carnium, and were weary of manna; which, though it were celestial, yet seemed less nutritive and comfortable.

So generally men taste well knowledges that are drenched in flesh and blood, civil history, morality, policy, about the which men’s affections, praises, fortunes do turn and are conversant. But this same lumen siccum doth parch and offend most men’s watery and soft natures.

But to speak truly of things as they are in worth, rational knowledges are the keys of all other arts, for as Aristotle saith aptly and elegantly, “That the hand is the instrument of instruments, and the mind is the form of forms;” so these be truly said to be the art of arts. Neither do they only direct, but likewise confirm and strengthen; even as the habit of shooting doth not only enable to shoot a nearer shoot, but also to draw a stronger bow.


The intellectual arts are 4, divided according to their ends

  1. Art of inquiry or invention

This is to invent that which is sought

  1. Art of examination or judgment

This is to judge that which is invented

  1. Art of custody or memory

This is to retain that which is judged

  1. Art of elocution or tradition

This is to deliver over that which is retained.