Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
How the Soul by One Simple Faculty Performeth So Many and Divers Actions
By Dr. Timothy Bright (1551–1615)
From A Treatise of Melancholie

THUS have you these parts, and organical uses distinct: and if it seem yet difficult unto you, to conceive, how one simple faculty can discharge such multiplicity of actions, weigh with me a little, by a comparison of similitude, the truth of this point, and accordingly accept it. We see it evident in automatical instruments, as clocks, watches, and larums, how one right and straight motion, through the aptness of the first wheel, not only causeth circular motion in the same, but in divers others also: and not only so, but distinct in pace, and rhythm of motion: some wheels passing swifter than other some, by diverse races: now to these devices, some other instrument added, as hammer and bell, not only another right motion springeth thereof, as the stroke of the hammer, but sound oft repeated, and delivered at certain times by equal pauses, and that either larum or hours, according as the parts of the clock are framed. To these if yet moreover a directory hand be added, this first, and simple, and right motion, by weight or strain, shall seem not only to be author of deliberate sound, and to counterfeit voice, but also to point with the finger as much as it hath declared by sound. Besides these we see yet a third motion with reciprocation in the balance of the clock. So many actions diverse in kind rise from one simple first motion, by reason of variety of joints in one engine. If to these you add what wit can devise, you may find all the motion of Heaven with his planets counterfeited, in a small model with distinction of time and season, as in the course of the heavenly bodies. And this appeareth in such sort as carry their motion within themselves. In water-works I have seen a mill driven with the wind, which hath both served for grist, and avoiding of rivers of water out of drowned fens and marshes, which to an American, ignorant of the device, would seem to be wrought by a lively action of every part, and not by such a general mover as the wind is, which bloweth direct, and followeth not by circular motion of the mill-sail. Now if this be brought to pass in artificial practices, and the variety of action infer not so many faculties, but mere dispositions of the instruments: let the similitude serve to illustrate that unto you, whereto the reasons before alleged, may with more force of proof induce you. If yet you be not satisfied (for melancholic persons are for the most part doubtful and least assured) and although ye acknowledge the truth hereof in organical actions, yet in these as require no instrument, judge otherwise, that scruple also by a similitude I will take away, and make it plain unto you, referring you for strength of reason to that which hath been aforesaid. Before, I shewed the variety of action to spring of diversity of instrument: now, where there is no instrument, what diversity (say you) can there be? and yet to give but one action to the soul were to deprive it of many goodly exercises, whereby it apprehendeth the Creator, thankfully acknowledgeth His goodness, and directeth itself to His honour, besides those spiritual offices, which the souls departed out of this life, in love perform to each other, with that knowledge of eternal things. If you require reason of proof, the simplicity of the soul, and the nature of diverse things will make answer: if of illustration and comparison of similitude, then consider how with one view, a man beholdeth both top and bottom of height and both ends of length at once, the situation of the thing being convenient thereunto: yet are there neither diverse faculties, nor diverse instruments: the sun both ripeneth and withereth, and with an influence it bringeth forth metals, trees, herbs, and whatsoever springeth from the earth; sometimes it softeneth, and other some it hardeneth; other some it maketh sweet, and other some bitter: an hammer driveth in, and driveth out, it looseneth and fasteneth, it maketh and marreth, not with diversity of faculty, keeping the same weight, temper, and fashion it had before, but only diversely applied, and used upon diverse matters: so many uses arise of one instrument. Moreover, if a man were double fronted (as the poets have feigned Janus) and the instruments disposed thereafter, the same faculty of sight would address itself to see both before and behind at one instant, which now it doth by turning. As these actions of so sundry sorts require no diverse faculty, but change of subject, and altered application: so the mind, in action wonderful, and next unto the Supreme Majesty of God, and by a peculiar manner proceeding from Himself, as the things are subject unto the apprehension and action thereof: so the same faculty varieth not by nature, but by use only, or diversity of those things whereto it applieth itself; as the same faculty applied to differing things, discerneth, to things past, remembereth: to things future, forseeth: of present things determineth: and that which the eye doth by turning of the head, beholding before, behind, and on each side, that doth the mind freely at once (not being hindered, nor restrained by corporal instrument) in judging, remembering, foreseeing, according as the things present themselves unto the consideration thereof. For place more than one, and where will you stay, and how will you number them? and why are there not as well threescore, as three? If you measure them by kinds of actions, they are indefinite, and almost infinite, and cannot bear any certain rate in our natures: seeing such as are voluntary, rise upon occasions and necessity uncertain; and natural are diverse in every several part, and so according to their number are multiplied, and of them sundry actions being performed, as to attract, to concoct, to retain, to expel, as assimilate, agglutinate, etc.: not generally, but the peculiar and proper nourishment, the number would fill up Erastosthenes’ sieve 1 to count them all. Wherefore to conclude this argument, and to leave you resolved in this point, let the faculty be one, and plurality in application, use, and diversity of those things, where about it was conversant: otherwise the mind shall be distracted into parts, which is whole in every part: and admit mixture, which is most simple: and become subject to diverse qualities, which are distinct in nature, and communicated by mixture of substances whereto they belong, and not confused together in one against nature. Thus you have mine opinion touching these three parts, of soul, of spirit, and body, with their peculiar actions, and how every one is severally brought to pass: which I thought necessary first to make plain, before I entered into particular answer to the former objections, as the ground of the solution, and rule, whereto the particular answers are to be squared. So then I take generally the soul to be affected of the body and spirit, as the instrument hindereth the work of the artificer, which is not by altering his skill, or diminishing his cunning, but by depraving the action through untowardness of tool and fault of instrument. This in the chapter following, I will particularly apply to the former objection.
Note 1. Eratosthenes’ sieve.  The Cribrum arithmeticum, or method of detecting prime numbers, ascribed to Eratosthenes of Cyrene (276æ196 B.C.). [back]
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