II. The Prophecy of Paracelsus, and the General Reformation of the whole wide World

II. The Prophecy of Paracelsus, and the General Reformation of the whole wide World


PARACELSUS, in the eighth chapter of his “Treatise on
Metals,” gave utterance to the following prognostication:—
Quod utilius Deus patefieri sinet, quod autem majoris momenti
est, vulgo adhuc latet usque ad Eliæ Artistæ adventum, quando
is venerit. “God will permit a discovery of the highest
importance to be made, it must be hidden till the advent of
the artist Elias.” In the first chapter of the same work, he
says:—Hoc item verum est nihil est absconditum quod non sit
retegendum; ideo, post me veniet cujus magnale nundum vivit qui
multa revelabit. “And it is true, there is nothing concealed
which shall not be discovered; for which cause a marvellous
being shall come after me, who as yet lives not, and
who shall reveal many things.” These passages have been
claimed as referring to the founder of the Rosicrucian
order, and as prophecies of this character are usually the
outcome of a general desire rather than of an individual
inspiration, they are interesting evidence that then as now
many thoughtful people were looking for another saviour of
society. At the beginning of the seventeenth century “a
great and general reformation,” says Buhle,—a reformation
far more radical and more direct to the moral improvement
of mankind than that accomplished by Luther,—“was
believed to be impending over the human race, as a neces-

page 35
sary forerunner to the day of judgement.” The comet of
1572 was declared by Paracelsus to be “the sign and harbinger
of the approaching revolution,” and it will be readily
believed that his innumerable disciples would welcome a
secret society whose vast claims were founded on the philosophy
of the master whom they also venerated, as a supreme
factor in the approaching reformation. Paracelsus, however,
had recorded a still more precise prediction, namely,
that “soon after the decease of the Emperor Rudolph,
there would be found three treasures that had never
been revealed before that time.” It is claimed that
these treasures were the three works which I proceed to
lay before my readers in this and the two succeeding
Somewhere about the year 1614 a pamphlet was published
anonymously in German, called “Die Reformation
der Ganzen Weiten Welt,” which, according to De Quincey,
contained a distinct proposition to inaugurate a secret
society, having for its object the general welfare of mankind.
This description is simply untrue; the “Universal
Reformation” is an amusing and satirical account of an
abortive attempt made by the god Apollo to derive assistance
towards the improvement of the age from the wise men of
antiquity and modern times. It is a fairly literal translation
of Advertisement 77 of Boccalini’s “Ragguagli di Parnasso,
Centuria Prima;” its internal connection with Rosicrucianism
is not clear, but it has been generally reprinted with the
society’s manifestoes, alchemical interpretations have been
placed on it, and it is cited by various authors as the first
publication of the Fraternity. I have determined to include
it in this collection of authoritative documents, and have
made use for this purpose of three versions already existing

page 36
in English. The literal translation from the Italian, made
by Henry Earl of Monmouth,1 has been taken as the base.
I have compared it with the original, and with the later
versions which appeared in 17042 and 1706,3 and, where
possible, I have abridged it by the elision of unnecessary
and embarrassing prolixities.
It is needless to say that the unfortunate Trajano
Boccalini had no connection himself with the Rosicrucian
Brotherhood. The first “Centuria” appeared in 1612 at
Venice, and he met his tragical and violent death in the
following year.
A Universal Reformation of the Whole Wide World, by order
of the God Apollo, is published by the Seven Sages of Greece
and some other Litterati.
The Emperor Justinian, that famed compiler of the
Digests and Code, the other day presented to Apollo, for
the royal approbation, a new law against self-murder.
Apollo was mightily astonished, and fetching a deep sigh,
he said, “Is the good government of mankind, Justinian,
then fallen into so great disorder that men do voluntarily
kill themselves? And whereas I have hitherto given pensions
to an infinite number of moral philosophers, only that

1 “I. Regguagli di Parnasso: or, Advertisements from Parnassus
in Two Centuries, with the Politick Touchstone. Put into English
by the Right Honourable Henry Earl of Monmouth.” Fol. 1656.

2 “Advertisements from Parnassus. Written originally in Italian
by the famous Trajano Boccalini. Newly done into English, and
adapted to the Present Times.” 3 vols. 8vo. 1704. A poor and
paraphrastic rendering.

3 “Advices from Parnassus, in Two Centuries, with the Politick
Touchstone and an Appendix to it. Written by Trajano Boccalini.
Translated by several hands.” London. Fol. 1706. The best as regards
style, but less literal than the version by the Earl of Monmouth.

page 37
by their words and writings they may make men less apprehensive
of death, are things now reduced to such calamity
that even they will now live no longer, who could not formerly
frame themselves to be content to die? And am I
amongst all the disorders of my Litterati all this while
supinely asleep?” To this Justinian answered, that the
law was necessary, and that many, cases of violent deaths
having happened by many men having desperately made
themselves away, worse was to be feared if some opportune
remedy were not found out against so great a disorder.
Apollo then began diligently to inform himself, and
found that the world was so impaired, that many valued not
their lives nor estate, so they might be out of it. The disorders
necessitated his Majesty to provide against them
with all possible speed, and he absolutely resolved to institute
a society of the men most famous in his dominions for wisdom
and good life. But in the entrance into so weighty a
business he met with insuperable difficulties, for amongst
so many philosophers, and the almost infinite number of
vertuiosi, he could not find as much as one who was endowed
with half the requisite qualifications to reform his fellowcreatures,
his Majesty knowing well that men are better
improved by the exemplary life of their reformers than by
the best rules that can be given. In this penury of fitting
personages, Apollo gave the charge of the Universal Reformation
to the Seven Wise Men of Greece, who are of great
repute in Parnassus, and are conceived by all men to have
found the receipt of washing blackmoors white, which
antiquity laboured after in vain. The Grecians were rejoiced
at this news for the honour which Apollo had done
their nation, but the Latins were grieved, thinking themselves
thereby much injured. Wherefore Apollo, well know-

page 38
ing that prejudice against reformers hinders the fruit that is
to be hoped by reformation, and being naturally given to
appease his subjects’ imbittered minds more by giving them
satisfaction then by that legislative power with which men
are not pleased withal, because they are bound to obey it, that
he might satisfie the Romans, joined in commission with the
Seven Sages of Greece, Marcus and Annæus Seneca, and in
favour to the modern Italian philosophers, he made Jacopo
Mazzoni da Cesena Secretary of the Congregation, and
honoured him with a vote in their consultations.
On the fourteenth of the last month the seven wise men,
with the aforesaid addition, accompanied by a train of the
choicest vertuosi of this State, went to the Delfick Palace,
the place appropriated for the Reformation. The Litterati
were well pleased to see the great number of pedants, who,
baskets in hands, went gathering up the sentences and
apothegms which fell from those wise men as they went
along. The day after the so1enm entrance they assembled
for the first time, and ’tis said that Thales the Milesian, the
first of the Grecian sages, spake thus:—
“The business, most wise philosophers, about which we
are met, is the greatest that can be treated on by human
understanding; and though there be nothing harder then
to set bones that have been long broken, wounds that are
fistuled, and incurable cancers, yet difficulties which are
able to affright others ought not to make us despair, for the
impossibility will increase our glory, and I do assure you
that I have already found out the true antydote against the
poyson of these present corruptions. I am sure we do all
believe that nothing hath more corrupted this age then hidden
hatreds, feigned love, impiety, and the perfidiousness of
double-dealers under the specious cloke of simplicity, love

page 39
to religion, and charity. Apply yourselves to these evils,
gentlemen; make use of fire and razor, lay corrosive plasters
to these wounds which I discover unto you, and mankind,
which by reason of their vices, that lead them the highway
to death, may be said to be given over by physitians,
will soon be made whole, become sincere and plain in their
proceedings, true in what they say, and such in their
sanctity of life as they were in former times. The true and
immediate cure, then, for these present evils consists in
necessitating men to live with candour of mind and purity
of heart, which cannot be better effected than by making
that little window in men’s breasts which his Majesty hath
often promised to his most faithful vertuosi; for when those
who use such art in their proceedings shall be forced to speak
and act, having a window whereby one may see into their
hearts, they will learn the excellent virtue of being, and not
appearing to be; they will conform deeds to words, and their
tongues to sincerity of heart; all men will banish lies and
falsehood, and the diabolical spirit of hypocrisy will
abandon many who are now possest with so foul a fiend.”
The opinion of Thales was so well approved by the whole
Congregation that it was unanimously voted just, and
Secretary Mazzoni was commanded to give Apollo a sudden
account thereof, who perfectly approved the opinion, and
commanded that they should begin that very day to make
windows in the breasts of mankind. But at the very instant
that the surgeons took their instruments in hand,
Homer, Virgil, Plato, Aristotle, Avveroes, and other eminent
Litterati went to Apollo, and said his Majesty must needs
know that the prime means whereby men to govern the
world with facility is the reputation of those who command,
and they hoped his Majesty would be tender of the

page 40
credit which the reverend Philosophical Synod and the
honourable Colledg of Vertuosi had universally obtained for
sanctity of life and manners. If his Majesty should unexpectedly
open every man’s breast, the philosophers who
formerly were most highly esteemed ran evident hazard of
being shamed, and that he might, peradventure, find fowlest
faults in those whom he had held to be immaculate. Therefore,
before a business of such importance should be taken
in hand, they entreated that he would afford his vertuosi a
competent time to wash and cleanse their souls. Apollo
was greatly pleased by the advice of so famous poets and
philosophers, and by a publick edict, prorogued the day of
incision for eight days, during which everyone did so attend
the cleansing of their souls from all fallacies, hidden vice,
hatred, and counterfeit love, that there was no more honey
of roses, succory, cassia, scena, scamony, nor laxative
syrups to be found in any grocer’s or apothecary’s shop in
all Parnassus; and the more curious did observe that in the
parts where the Platonicks, Peripateticks, and Moral Philosophers
did live, there was then such a stink as if all the
privies of the country had been emptied, whereas the
quarters of Latin and Italian poets smelt only of cabbadgporrage.
The time allotted for the general purging was already
past, when, the day before the operation was to begin,
Hippocrates, Galen, Cornelius, Celsus, and other the most
skilful Physitians of this State, went to Apollo, and said:—
“Is it possible, Sire, you that are the Lord of the Liberal
Sciences, that this Microcosmos must be deformed, which
is so nobly and miraculously framed, for the advantage of
a few ignorant people? For not only the wiser sort of
men, but even those of an indifferent capacity, who have

page 41
conversed but four daies with any quack-salver, know how
to penetrate even into the inmost bowels.”
This memorandum of the physitians wrought so much
with Apollo that he changed his former resolution, and
by Ausonius Gallus had the philosophers of the Reformation
proceed in delivering their opinions.
Then Solon thus began:—“In my opinion, gentlemen,
that which hath put the present age into so great confusion
is the cruel hatred and spiteful envy which is seen to reign
generally amongst men. All hope then for these present
evils is from the infusion of charity, reciprocal affection,
and that sanctified love of our neighbour which is God’s
chiefest commandment to mankind. We ought, therefore,
to employ all our skill in removing the occasions of those
hatreds which reign in men’s hearts, which, if we be able
to effect, men will agree like other animals, who, by instinct,
love their own species, and will, consequently, drive away
all hatred and rancor of mind. I have been long thinking,
my friends, what the true spring’s head may be of all
human hatred, and am still more established in my old
opinion that it proceeds from the disparity of means, from
the hellish custom of meum and tuum, which, if it were
introduced among the beasts, even they would consume
and waste themselves with the same hatred wherewith we
so much disquiet ourselves, whereas the equality in which
they live, and their having nothing of their own, are the
blessings which preserve that peace among them which we
have cause to envy. Men are likewise creatures, but
rational; this world was created by Almighty God, that
mankind might live thereon in peace, not that the avaritious
should divide it amongst themselves, and should turn
what was common into that meum and tuum which hath

page 42
put us all into such confusion. So it clearly appears, that
the depravation of men’s souls by avarice, ambition, and
tyranny, hath occasioned the present inequality and if it
be true, as we all confess it is, that the world is an inheritance
left to mankind by one father and mother, from
whom we are all descended like brethren, what justice is
it that men should not all have a brother’s share? What
greater disproportion can be imagined then that this world
should be such that some possess more than they can
govern, and others have not so much as they could govern?
But that which doth infinitely aggravate this disorder is,
that usually vertuous men are beggars, whereas wicked and
ignorant people are wealthy. From the root of this
inequality it then ariseth, that the rich are injurious to the
poor, and that the poor envy the rich.
“Now, gentlemen, that I have discovered the malady unto
you, it is easie to apply the medicine. To reform the age
no better course can he taken then to divide the world
anew, al1otting an equal part to everyone, and, that we
may fall no more upon the like disorders, I advise that,
for the future, all buying and selling be forbidden, to the
end that there may be established that parity of goods, the
mother of publick peace, which my self and other lawmakers
have formerly so much laboured to procure.”
Solon’s opinion suffered a long debate, and though it
was not only thought good but necessary by Bias, Periander,
and Pittacus, it was gainsaid by all the rest, and Seneca’s
opinion prevailed, who with substantial reasons convinced
the assembly, that if they should come to a new division of
the world, one great disorder would necessarily follow; that
too much would fall to the share of fools, and too little to
gallant men; and that plague, famine, and war were not

page 43
God’s severest scourges, for the affliction of mankind would
be to enrich villains.
Solon’s opinion being laid aside, Chilo argued as follows:
—“Which of you, most wise philosophers, doth not know
that the immoderate thirst after gold hath now adaies filled
the world with all the mischiefs which we see and feel.
What wickedness, how execrable soever it be, will men not
willingly commit, if thereby they may accumulate riches?
Conclude, therefore, unanimously with me, that no better
way can be found out, whereby to extirpate all the vices
with which our age is opprest, then for ever to banish out
of the world the two infamous mettals, gold and silver, for
so the occasion of our present disorders being removed, the
evils will necessarily cease.”
Though Chilo’s opinion had a very specious appearance,
it would not bear the test, for it was said, that men took so
much pains to get gold and silver because they are the
measure and counterpoise of all things, and that it was
requisite for man to have some mettals, or other thing of
price, by which he might purchase what was fitting for
him, that if there were no such thing as gold or silver, he
would make use of something instead of them, which,
rising in value, would be equally coveted, as was plainly
seen in the Indies, where cockle-shells were made use of
instead of money, and more vallued than either gold or
silver. Cleobulus, particularly, being very hot in refuting
this opinion, said, with much perturbation of mind:—“My
Masters, banish iron out of the world, for that is the mettal
which hath put us into the present condition. Gold and
silver serve the purpose ordained by God, whereas iron,
which Nature produced for the making of plow-shears,
spades, and mattocks, is by the malice and mischief of

page 44
men, forged into sword, daggers, and other deadly instruments.”
Though Cleobolus his opinion was judged to be very true,
yet it was concluded by the whole Assembly, that, it being
impossible to expel iron but by grasping iron and putting
on corslets, it was imprudent to multiply mischiefs, and to
cure one wound with another. It was therefore, generally
resolved, that the ore of gold and silver should be still
kept, but that the refiners should be directed for the future
to cleanse them well, and not to take them out of the fire till
they had removed from both mettals that vein of turpentine
which is the reason why gold and silver stick so
close to the fingers even of good and honest men.
Then Pittachus, with extraordinary gravity, thus began:
—“The world, most learned philosophers, is fallen into
that deplorable condition which we labour to amend because
men in these daies have given over travailing by the
beaten roadways of vertue, and take the bye-waies of vice,
by which, in this corrupted age, they obtain the rewards
only due to vertue. Things are brought to such a woful
state, that none can get entrance into the palace of dignity,
honor, or reward by the gate of merit, but like thieves they
climb the windows with ladders of tergeversation, and
some, by the force of gifts and favours, have even opened
the roof to get thereby into the house of honour. If you
would reform this corrupted age, my opinion is, that you
should force men to walk by the way of vertue, and make
severe laws, that whosoever will take the laborsom journey
which leads to supreme dignities must travail with the
waggon of desert, and with the sure guide of vertue. Consequently,
you should order the stopping up of all crosspaths
and crooked lanes, discovered by ambitious men and

page 45
modern hypocrites, who, multiplying faster then locusts in
Africa, have filled the world with contagion. What greater
affront can be put upon vertue then to see one of these
rascals mounted on the throne of preferment, when no man
can guess what course he took to reach it? Which makes
many think they have got it by the magick of hypocrisy,
whereby these magicians do inchant the minds even of wise
Pittacus his opinion was not only praised, but greatly
admired by the whole Assembly, and certainly would have
been approved as the most excellent, had not Periander
changed their minds by the following discourse:—“Gentlemen,
the disorder mentioned by Pittacus is very true; but
the thing we should chiefly consider is why princes, who
are so quick-sighted and interested in their own Stateaffairs,
do note bestow, in these our daies, their great places
(as they were wont to do of old) on able and deserving
men, by whose service they may receive advantage and
reputation, but instead, make use of new fellows raised
out of the mire, and without either work or honor? The
opinion of those who say that it is fatal for princes to love
carrion is so false, that for the least interest of State they
neglect their brethren, and wax cruel even against their
own children, so far are they from ruining themselves by
blind fondness for their servants. Princes do not act by
chance, nor suffer themselves to be guided in their proceedings
by their passions; whatsoever they do is out of interest,
and those things which to private men appear errors and
negligence are accurate politick precepts. All that have
written of State-affairs free1y confess that the hest way to
govern kingdoms well is to confer places of highest dignity
upon men of great merit and known worth and valour.

page 46
This is a truth very well known to princes; and though it
be clearly seen that they do not deserve it, he is a fool
that believes they do not out of carelessness. I, who have
long studied a point of so great weight, am perswaded that
ignorant and raw men, and men of no merit, are preferred
before learned and deserving persons, not out of any fault
in the prince, but (I blush to say it) through default of the
vertuosi. I acknowledge that princes stand in need of
learned officers and men of experienced valor, but they
likewise need faithful servants. If deserving men and men
of valor were loyal in proportion to their capacity, we
should not complain of the present disorders in seeing undeserving
dwarfs become great giants in four daies’ space,
ignorance seated in the chair of vertue, and folly in valor’s
tribunal. ’Tis common to all men to overrate their own
worth, but the vertuosi do presume so much upon their
own good parts that they rather pretend to add to the
prince’s reputation by accepting preferments then to receive
credit themselves by accepting his munificence. I have
known many so foolishly enamoured of their own works
that they have thought it a greater happiness for a prince
to have an occasion of honouring them then good luck for
the other to meet with so liberal a prince. Such men, acknowledging
all favours conferred upon them as debts paid
to their deserts, prove so ungrateful to their benefactors in
their necessity that they are abhorred as perfidious, and are
causes of this grievance, that princes seek fidelity instead of
more shining accomplishments, that they may be secure of
gratitude when they stand in need of it.”
Periander having finished his discourse, Bias spake
thus:—“Most wise philosophers, all of you sufficiently
know that the reason of the world’s depravity is only be

page 47
cause mankind hath so shamefully abandoned those holy
laws which God gave them to observe when he bestowed
the whole world upon them for a habitation; nor did he
place the French in France, the Spaniards in Spain, the
Dutch in Germany, and bound up the fowl fiend in hell for
any other reason but the advantage of that general peace
which he desired might be observed throughout the whole
world. But avarice and ambition (spurs which have
alwaies egged on men to greatest wickedness), causing
nations to pass into other men’s countries, have caused
these evils which we endeavour to amend. If it be true,
as we all confess it is, that God hath done nothing in vain,
wherefore, think you, hath His Divine Majesty placed the
inaccessible Pyrenean mountains between the Spaniards
and Italians, the rocky Alpes between the Italians and
Germans, the dreadful English Channel between the French
and English, the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and
Europe? Why hath he made the infinite spacious rivers
of Euphrates, Indus, Ganges, and the rest, save only that
people might be content to live in their own countries by
reason of the difficulties of fords and passages? And the
Divine Wisdom, knowing that the harmony of universal
peace would be out of tune, and that the world would be
filled with incurable diseases, if men should exceed their
allotted bounds, added the multitude and variety of languages
to the fore-mentioned impediments, without
which all men would speak the same tongue, as all
creatures of the same species sing, bark, or bray after
one and the same manner. ’Tis then man’s boldness in
bearing through mountains, passing over the broadest and
most rapid rivers, and even manifestly and rashly hazarding
himself and all his substance by crossing the largest

page 48
seas in a little wooden vessel, which caused the ancient
Romans, not to mention any other nations, to ruine other
men’s affairs and discompose their own, not being satisfied
with their dominion over the whole of Italy. The true
remedy, then, for so great disorder is, first to force every
nation to return to their own country, and then, to prevent
the like confusion in future, I am of opinion that all
bridges built for the more commodious passing of rivers
should be absolutely broken down, that the ways over the
mountains should he quite destroyed, and the mountains
made more inacessible by man’s industry then originally
by nature; and I would have all navigation forbidden upon
severest penalty, not allowing so much as the least boats to
pass over rivers.
Bias his opinion was regarded with unusual attention,
but after being well examined by the best wits of the
Assembly, it was found not to be good; for all those philosophers
knew that the greatest enmities between nation and
nation are not national, but occasioned by cunning princes,
who are great masters in the proverb, Divde et impera, and
that that perfection of manners being found in all nations
joyned together which was not to be had in any particular
one, travel is necessary to acquire the complete wisdom
which adorned the Great Ulysses. Now, this is a benefit
entirely owing to navigation, which is very necessary to mankind,
were it onely for that God, having created this world
of an almost incomprehensible greatness, having filled it
with pretious things, and endowed every province with
somewhat of particular navigation, ’tis by that wonderful
art reduced to so small an extent that the aromatics of
Molucca, though above fifteen thousand miles from Italy,
seem to the Italians to grow in their own gardens.

page 49
Thus the opinion of Bias was laid aside, when Cleobolus,
rising up, and with a low bow, seeming to crave leave to speak,
said thus:—“I clearly perceive, most wise gentlemen, that
the reformation of the present age, a business of itself very
easie, becomes by the diversity and extravagancy of our
opinions rather impossible then difficult. And to speak
with the freedom which becomes this place and the weight
of the business which we have in hand, it grieves my heart
to find, even amongst us, that common defect of ambitious
and slight wits, who, getting up into publike pulpits, labor
more to display their ingenuity by their new and curious
conceits, then to profit their auditors by useful precepts
and sound doctrines. To raise man out of the foul mire
whereinto he has fallen, to what purpose is that dangerous
operation of making little windows in their breasts, which
Thales advised? And why should we undertake the laborious
business of dividing the world into equal partitions
according to Solon’s proposition? Or the course mentioned
by Chilo, of banishing gold and silver out of the world?
Of that of Pittacus, of forcing men to walk the way of
merit and vertue? Or lastly, that of Bias, that the mountains
should be raised higher and made more difficult than
Nature hath made them, and that the miracle of navigation
should be extirpated, the greatest proof of human ingenuity
that was ever given? What are these by chimæras and
sophistical fancies? The chief consideration which reformers
ought to have is, that the remedy proposed by
practicable, that it may work its effect soon and secretly,
and that it may be chearfully received by those who are to
be reformed, for, otherwise, we shall rather deform the world
then improve it. There is great reason for this assertion,
for that Physitian deserves to be blamed, who should

page 50
ordain a medicine for his impatient which is impossible to
be used, and which would afflict him more than his disease.
Therefore is it the requisite duty of reformers to provide a
sure remedy before they take notice of the would; it is not
onely foolishness but impiety to defame men by publishing
their vices, and to shew the world that their maladies are
grown to such a height that they are past cure. Therefore
the great Tacitus, who always speaks to the purpose if he be
rightly understood, doth in this particular advise men.
Omittere potius prævalida et adulta vitia, quam hoc assequi, ut
palam fieret, quibus flagittiis impares essemus.1 Those who
would fell an old oak are ill-advised if they begin with
lopping the top boughs; our true method, gentlemen, is to
lay the axe to the root, as I do now, in affirming that the
reformation of the present age consists wholly in these few
Here Cleobulus held his peace, whose opinion Thales
Milesius did with such violence oppose as showed how
dangerous a thing it is to offend, though by speaking the
truth, those who have the repute to be good and wise, for
he with a fiery countenance broke forth into these words:—
Myself, and these gentlemen, most wise Cleobulus, whose
opinions you have been pleased to reject as sophistical and
meer chimeras, did expect from your rare wisdom that you
had brought soma new and miraculous Bezoar from the
Indies for cure of those present evils, whereas you have propounded
that for the easiest remedy which is the hardest
and most impossible that could ever be fancied by the
prime pretenders to high mysteries, Caius Plinius and
Albertus Magnus. There is not any of us, my Cleobulus,
that did not know, before you were pleased to put us in

1 Tacitus, Lib. 3, Ann.

page 51
mind of it, that the reformation of the world depends
wholly upon rewarding such as are good and punishing the
wicked. But give me leave to ask you, who are those that
in this our age are perfectly good, and who exactly ill? I
would also know whether your eye can discern that which
could never yet be found out by any man living, how to know
true goodness from that which is counterfeit. Do not you
know that modern hypocrites are arrived at that height of
cunning that, in this our unhappy age, those are accounted
to be cunningest in their wickedness who seem most exactly
good, and that really perfect men, who live in sincerity and
singleness of soul, with an undisguised and unartificial
goodness, are thought to be scandalous and silly? Every
one by natural instinct loves those that are good and hates
those that are wicked, but princes do it both out of instinct
and interest, and when hypocrites or other cunning cheaters
are listened unto by great men, while good men are
suppressed and undervalued, it is not by the princes’ own
election but through the abuse of others. True vertue is
known onely and rewarded by God, by whom also vices are
discovered and punished. He onely penetrates into the
depths of men’s hearts, and we, by means of the window I
proposed, might also have looked therein had not the
enemy of mankind sown tares in the field where I sowed
the grain of good advice. But new laws, how good and
wholesome soever, have alwaies been and ever will be withstood
by those vitious people who are thereby punished.”
The reasoning of Thales gave mighty satisfaction to the
Assembly, and all of them turned their eyes upon Periander,
who, thinking himself thereby desired to speak his
opinion, began thus:—“The variety of opinions which I
have heard confirms me in my former tenet, that four parts

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of five who are sick perish because the physitians know not
their disease; such errors are indeed excusable, because
men are easily deceived in matters of mere conjecture, but
that we, who are judged by Apollo to be the salt of the
earth, should not know the evil under which the present age
labours, redounds much to our shame, since the malady
which we ought to cure lies not hidden in the veins, but is so
manifestly known to all men, that it self cries aloud for help.
And yet, by all the reasons I have heard alledged, methinks
you go about to mend the arm when it is the heart that
is fistula’d. Gentlemen, since it is Apollo’s pleasure that
we should do so. since our reputation stands upon it, and
charity to our so afflicted age requires it at our hands, let
us, I beseech you, take from our faces the mask of respect,
which hath been hitherto worn by us all, and let us speak
freely. The fatal error then which has so long confirmed
mankind in their unhappiness is this, that while the vices
of the great have brought the world into confusion, a reformation
of private men’s faults has been thought sufficient
to retrieve it. But the falshood, avarice, pride and
hypocrisie of private men are not the vices (though I confess
them to be hanious evils), which have so much depraved
our age, for fitting punishments being by the law provided
for every fault and foul action, man is so obedient to the
laws and so apprehensive of justice that a few ministers
thereof make millions of men tremble, and men live in such
peace that the rich cannot, without much danger to themselves,
oppress the poor, and everyone may walk safely
both by day and night with gold in their hand, not onely
in the streets but even in the highways. But the world’s
most dangerous infirmities are discovered when publique
peace is disturbed, and we must all of confess that the

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ambition, avarice, and diabolical engagement which the
swords of some powerful princes have usurped over the
states of those less powerful is the great scandal of the
present times. ’Tis this, gentlemen, which hath filled the
world with hatred and suspicion, and hath defiled it with so
much blood, that men, who were created by God with humane
hearts and civil inclinations, are become ravenous wilde
beasts, tearing one another in pieces with all sorts of inhumanity.
The ambition of these men hath changed
publike peace into most cruel war, vertue into vice, the love
which we ought to bear our neighbours into such intestine
hatred, that, though lyons appear lyons to their own species,
yet the Scotch to the English, the Italians to the Germans,
the French to the Spaniards, and every nation to another,
appear not men and brethren but creatures of another kind,
so that justice being oppressed by the inexplicable ambition
of potent men, our race, which was born, brought up,
and did live long under the government of wholesome laws,
waxing now cruel to itself, lives with the instinct of beasts,
ready to oppress the weaker. Theft which is undoubtedly
base, is so persecuted by the laws that the stealing of an
egg is a capital fault, yet powerful men are so blinded with
ambition as to rob another man perfidiously of his whole
state, which is not thought to be an execrable mischief but
an noble occupation, and onely fit for kings. Tacitus, the
master of policy, that he may win the good will of princes,
is not ashamed to say, In summa Fortuna id æquis quod
vallidus, et sua retinere privatæ domus, de alienis certare,
regiam laudem esse.1 If it be true, as all politicians agree,
that people are the prince’s apes, how can those who obey
live vertuously quiet when their commanders do sp abound

1 Tacitus, Lib. V. Ann.

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in vice. To bereave a powerful prince of a kingdome is a
weighty business which is not to be done by one man
alone. To effect so foul an intent they muster a multitude
of men, who, that they may not fear the shame of stealing
their neighbours’ goods, of murthering men, and of firing
cities, change the name of base thief into that of gallant
souldier and valliant commander. And that which aggravates
this evil is that even good princes are forced to run
upon the same rocks to defend their own estates from the
ravenousness of these harpyes and to regain what they have
lost, and to revenge themselves of those that have injured
them, have in reprizal got possession of their dominions, till
lured on by gain, they betake themselves to the same shameful
trade. Thus the method of plundering others of their
kingdomes is become a reputable art, and humane wit,
made to admire and contemplate the miracles of Heaven
and the wonders of the earth, is wholly turned to invent
stratagems and to plot treasons, while the hands, which were
made to cultivate the earth that feeds us, are employed in
the exercise of arms that we may kill one another. This
is the wound which hath brought our age to its last gasp,
and the true way to remedy it is for princes who use such
dealings to amend themselves, and to be content with their
own fortunes, for, certainly, it appears very strange that there
should be any king who cannot satisfie his ambition with the
absolute command over twenty millions of men. Princes,
as you all know, were ordained by God on earth for the
good of mankind; therefore, it would do well not onely to
bridle their ambitious lust after the possessions of others,
but I think it necessary that the peculiar engagement which
some men pretend their swords have over all estates, be
cut up by the root, and I advise above all things that the

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greatness of principalities be limited, it being impossible
that overgrown kingdoms should be governed with that
exact care and justice which is requisite to the people’s
good, and which princes are bound to observe. There never
was a vast monarchy which was not in a short time lost by
the negligence of its governors.”
Here Periander ended, whom Solon thus opposed:—“The
true cause, Periander, of our present mischiefs which you
have mentioned with such liberty of speech was not omitted
by us out of ignorance, but out of prudence. The disorders
you speak of began when the world was first
peopled, and you know that the most skilful physitian
cannot restore sight to one born blind. I mention this
because it is much the same thing to cure an infirm eye as
to reform antiquated errors. For as the skilful physitian
betakes himself to his cauters the first day he sees the distempered
eye water, but is forced to leave that patient in
deserved blindness who neglected to seek a cure till his
sight was quite lost, so reformers should oppose abuses with
severe remedies the very first hour that they commence, for
when vices and corruption have got deep rooting, it is wiselier
done to tolerate the evil then to go about to remedy it out
of time, with danger to occasion worse inconveniences, it
being more dangerous to cut an old wen then it is misbecoming
to let it stand. Moreover, we are here to call
to mind the disorders of private men, and to use modesty
in so doing, but to be silent in what concerns princes, for
they having no superiours in this world it belongs onely to
God to reform them. He having given them the prerogative
to command, us the glory to obey. Subjects, therefore,
should correct the faults of their rulers onely by their own
godly living, for the hearts of princes being in the hands

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of the Almighty, when people deserve ill from His Divine
Majesty he raiseth up Pharoahs against them, and, on the
contrary, makes princes tender-hearted, when people by
their fidelity and obedience deserve God’s assistance.”
What Solon said was much commended by all the
hearers, and then Cato began thus:—“Your opinions,
most wise Grecians, are much to be admired, and have
abundantly justified the profound esteem which all the
Litterati have of you; the vices, corruptions, and ulcerated
wounds under which the age languishes could not be better
discovered and pointed out. Nor are your opinions, which
are full of humane knowledge, gain-said here for that
they are not excellent, but for that the malady is so habituated
in the veins, and is even so grounded in the bones,
that the constitution of mankind is worn out, and their
vital vertue yields to the strength of the distemper; in
short the patient spits nothing but blood and putrefaction,
and the hair falls from his head. The physitian, gentlemen,
hath a hard part to play when the sick man’s maladies are
many, and one so far differing from another that cooling
medicines, and such as are good for a hot liver, are nought
for the stomach, and weaken it too much. Truly this is
just our case, for the maladies which molest our age equal
the stars of heaven, and are more various than the flowers
of the field. I, therefore, think this cure desperate, and
that the patient is totally incapable of humane help. We
must have recourse to prayers and to other divine helps,
which in like case are usually implored from God; this is
the true north-star, which, in the greatest difficulties, leads
men into the harbour of perfection, for Pauci prudentia,
honesta ab deterioribus, utilia ab noxiis discernunt; plures aliourm
eventis docentur.1 If we approve this consideration, we shall

1 Tac., Lib. iv., Ann.

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find that when the world was formerly sunk into the same
disorders, it was God’s care that did help it by sending a
universal deluge to raze mankind, full of abominable and
incorrigible vice, from off the world. And, gentlemen,
when a man sees the walls of his house all gaping and
ruinous, and its foundations so weakened that, in all
appearance, it is ready to fall, certainly it is more wisely
done to pull down the houre and build it anew, than to
lose money and time in piecing and patching it. Therefore,
since man’s life is so foully depraved with vice that
it is past all human power to restore it to its former health,
I do with my heart beseech the Divine Majestie, and
counsel you to do the like, that He will again open the
cataracts of Heaven, and pour down upon the earth another
deluge, with this restriction, that a new Ark may be made,
wherein all boys not above twelve years of age may be
saved, and that all the female sex, of whatsoever age, be so
wholly consumed, that nothing but their unhappy memory
may remain. And I beseech the same Divine Majestie
that all He hath granted the singular benefit to bees, fishes,
beetles,1 and other animals, to procreate without the female
sex, so He will think men worthy of the like favour. I
have learnt for certain that as long as there shall be any
women in the world men will be wicked.”
It is not to be believed how much Cato’s discourse displeased
the whole Assembly, who did all so abhor the harsh
conceit of a deluge, that, casting themselves upon the
ground, with their hands held up to heaven, they humbly
beseeched Almighty God that He would preserve the
excellent female sex, that He wou1d keep mankind from
any more deluges, or that He would send them on the

1 See Additional Note, No. 3.

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earth onely to extirpate those discomposed and wilde wits,
those untunable and bloodthirsty souls, those heterodox
and phantastick brains, who, being of a depraved judgment,
are nothing but mad men, whose ambition was boundless,
and pride without end, and that when mankind should,
through their demerits, become unworthy of any mercy
from the Almighty, He would be pleased to punish them
with the scourges of plague, sword, and famine, rather than
to deliver mankind unto the good will and pleasure of those
insolent and wicked rulers, who, being composed of nothing
but blind zeal and diabolical folly, would pull the world in
pieces if they could compass the bestial caprices they hourly
hatch in their heads.
Cato’s opinion had this unlucky end, when Seneca thus
began:—“Rough dealing is not so greatly requisite in
reformation as would seem by many of your discourses,
especially when disorders have grown to so great a height;
on the contrary, they ought, like wounds which are subject
to convulsions, to be drest with a light hand. It is a
scandal to the physitian that the patient should die with
his prescriptions in his body, since all men will conclude
that the medicine hath done him more harm than his
malady. It is a rash advice to go from one extreme to
another, passing by the due medium; man’s nature is not
capable of violent mutations, and if it be true that the
world hath been falling many thousand years into the present
infirmities, he is a very fool who thinks to restore it
to health in a few days. Moreover, in reformation the
conditions of those who do reform, and the qualities of
those that are to be reformed, ought to be exactly considered.
We that are the reformers are philosophers and
men of learning, and if those to be reformed be onely

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stationers, printers, such as sell paper, pens, and ink, or
other such things appertaining to learning, we may very
well correct their errors, but if we offer to rectify the faults
of other trades, we shall commit worse errors, and become
more ridiculous then the shoemaker who would judge of
colours, and durst censure Apelles his pictures. This, I
must say, is a defect frequent in us Litterati, who, for four
cujus that we have in our heads, pretend to know all things,
and are not aware that when we first swerve from our books
we run riot, and say a thousand things from the purpose.
I say this, gentlemen, because nothing more obviates reformations
then to walk therein in the dark, which happens
when reformers are not well acquainted with the vices
of those with whom they have to deal. The reason is
apparent, for nothing makes men more obstinate in their
errors then when they find their reformers ill-informed of
their defects. Now, which of us is acquainted with the
falsehood of notaries, the prevarications of advocates, the
simony of judges, the tricks of attorneys, the cheats of
apothecaries, the filching of tailors, the roguery of butchers,
and the cheating tricks of a thousand other artificers? And
yet all these excesses must be by us corrected, which are so
far from our profession that we shall appear like so many
blind fellows fumbling to stop a leaky cask which spills the
wine on every side. This, gentlemen, is enough to convince
you that reformation is only likely to proceed well
when mariners discourse of navigation, souldiers of war,
shepherds of sheep, and herdsmen of bullocks. It is manifest
presumption in us to pretend to know all things,
and meer malice to believe that in every occupation there are
not three or four honest men. My opinion, therefore,
is, that we ought to send for a few of each profession of

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known probity and worth, and that every one should correct
his own trade; by this means, we shall publish to the
world a reformation worthy of ourselves and of the present
Pittachus and Chilo extolled this speech to the skies, and
seeing the other philosophers of a contrary sentiment, protested
before God and the world that they believed it was
impossible to find out a better means for the reformation
of mankind, yet did the rest of their companions abhor it
more than Cato’s proposition, and, with great indignation
told Seneca they much wondered that he, by taking more
reformers into their number, should so far dishonour
Apollo, who had thought them not only sufficient but
excellently fit for that business. It was not wisely advised
to begin the general reformation by publishing their own
weakness, for all resolutions which detract from the credit
of the publishers want that reputation which is the very soul
of business. It was strange a man who was the very
prime sage of Latin writers should be so lavish of authority,
which should be guarded more jealously then women’s
honour, since the wisest men did all agree that twenty
pound of blood taken from the life-vain was well imployed
to gain but one ounce of jurisdiction.
The whole Assembly were mightily afflicted when, by the
reputation of Seneca’s opinion, they found small hopes of
effecting the reformation, for they relyed little on Mazzoni,
who was but a novice; which though Mazzoni did by many
signs perceive, yet, no whit discouraged, he spoke thus:—
“It was not for any merit of mine, moot wise philosophers,
that I was admitted by Apollo into this reverend congregation,
but out of his Majestie’s special favour; and I very
well know that it better becomes me to use my ears than

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my tongue, and certainly I should not dare to open my
mouth upon any other occasion; but reformation being the
business in hand, and I lately coming where nothing is
spoken of but reformation and reformers, I desire that
every one may hold their peace, and that I alone may be
heard to speak in a business which I am so verst in that I
may boast myself to be the onely Euclid in this mathematick.
Give me leave, I beseech you, to say that you,
in relating your opinions, seem to me to be like those indiscrete
physitians who lose time in consulting and disputing
without having seen the sick party, or heard front his
own mouth the account of his disease. Our business,
gentlemen, is to cure the present age of the foul infirmities
under which she labours; we have all laboured to find out
the reasons of the maladies and its proper remedys, but
none of us hath been so wise as to visit the sick party. I
therefore advise that we send for the present Age to come
hither and be examined, that we interrogate it of its sickness,
and that we see the ill-affected parts naked, for this
will make the cure easie, which you now think desperate.
The whole Assembly was so pleased at Mazzoni’s motion,
that the reformers immediately commanded the Age to be
sent for, who was presently brought in a chair to the
Delphick Palace by the four Seasons of the year. He was
a man full of years, but of so great and strong a complexion
that he seemed likely to live yet many ages, onely he was
short breathed, and his voyce was very weak, at which they
philosophers, much wondering, asked him what was the
reason that he, whose ruddy face was a sign of much
natural heat and vigor, and of a good stomach, was nevertheless
so feeble? And they told him that a hundred years
before his face was so yellow that he seemed to have the

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jaundice, yet he spoke freely, and seemed to be stronger
then he was now, and since they had sent for him to cure
his infirmity, he should speak freely of his griefs.
The Age answered thus:—“Soon after I was born,
gentlemen, I fell into these maladies under which I now
labour. My face is fresh and ruddy because people have
petered it and coloured it with lakes; my sickness resembles
the ebbing and flowing of the sea, which alwaies
contains the same water, though it rises and fals, with this
variation notwithstanding, that when my looks are outwardly
good, my malady is more grievous inwardly (as
at this present), thus, when my face looks ill, I am best
within. As for the infirmities which torment me, do
but take off this gay jacket, wherewith some good people
have covered a rotten carcass, and view me naked as I was
made by Nature.”
At these words the philosophers stript him in a trice,
and found that this miserable wretch was covered all over
four inches thick with a scurf of appearances. They caused
ten razors to be forthwith brought unto them, and fell to
shaving it off with great diligence, but they found it so far
eaten in to his very bones that in all the huge colossus there
was not one inch of good live flesh, at which, being struck
with horror and despair, they put on the patients cloaths
again, and dismist him. Then, convinced that the disease
was incurable, they shut themselves up together and
abandoning the case of publike affairs, they resolved to
provide for the safety of their own reputations. Mazzoni
writ what the rest of the reformers dictated, a Manifesto,
wherein they witnessed to the world the great care Apollo
ever had of the virtuous lives of his Litterati, and of the
welfare of all mankind, also what pains the Reformers had

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taken in compiling the General Reformation. Then,
coming to particulars, they fixt the prices of sprats, cabbiges,
and pumpkins. The Assembly had already underwritten
the Reformation when Thales put them in mind
that certain higlers, who sold pease and black-cherryes,
vinted such small measures that it was a shame not to take
order therein. The Assembly thankt Thales for his advertisement,
and added to their reformation that the measures
should be made greater. Then the palace gates were
thrown open, and the General Reformation was read, in the
place appointed for such purposes, to the people assembled
in great numbers in the market-place, and was so generally
applauded by every one that all Parnassus rang with shouts
of joy, for the rabble are satisfied with trifles, while men of
judgment know that vitia erunt donec homines1— as long as
there be men there will be vices—that men live on earth
not indeed well, but as little ill as they may, and that the
height of human wisdom lies in the discretion to be content
with leaving the world as they found it.

1 Tac., Lib. iv., Hist.