Freedom to Know — Milton and Today

Freedom to Know — Milton and Today
          I have placed an important paragraph from John Milton’s famous, but unfortunately neglected, Areopagitica, in the front as well as its original place in the middle of this classical oration, built on the Classical Rhetorical Scheme or organization that persisted well into the 17th Century. Even today, people wind up using vestiges of that organization without even knowing whence they came. The point here, of course, is to illustrate how fundamental a human drive is the right to know and how loathsome efforts to frustrate it are.
          This forum was started as a place to consider issues of far more significance than contemporary events.   The right to know, however, is an enduring concern. Those with authority genuinely fear the free flow of information whenever it threatens to loosen their grip on that authority. Milton, who knew just about everything there was to know in the 17th Century was aware of this and wrote the following essay as an argument against prior restraint.
          Today, we live in a much different era where much information is available, but little of it is of any use. In other words, with 24/7 news coverage, one would assume a better informed populace.   Unfortunately, although much is said, little is known. For example, a great deal is being said about the situation in the middle east, and there is some awareness that there is some sort of religious dispute motivating much of it, the particular sects, history, beliefs, and the fact that much of it is simply a camouflage for, or a justification of, a thirst for power.   Right now, the most obvious example of this is the imprisonment of journalists in Egypt because of an alleged collusion with some religious sect (which was little more than a political movement). Unfortunately, those journalists are employed by various factions that control what they say.  
          This, however, is no justification for the suppression of information, even if it is false information, for false information can only be countered if it is out in the open and the resources are available to contradict it. At any rate, Milton published his essay in the face of the law, violated it, but was never touched as a result. His example should be remembered and the best was of making his point available is to publish it, as we do here:
And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill
a man as kill a good book. Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature,
God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills
the image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden
to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master
spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. ‘Tis
true, no age can restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great loss;
and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth,
for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.
We should be wary therefore what persecution we raise against the living
labours of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man, preserved
and stored up in books.
Title: Areopagitica
       A Speech For The Liberty Of Unlicensed Printing To The
       Parliament Of England
Author: John Milton
Release Date: January 21, 2006 [EBook #608]
Language: English
Produced by Judith Boss and David Widger
     This is true liberty, when free-born men,
     Having to advise the public, may speak free,
     Which he who can, and will, deserves high praise;
     Who neither can, nor will, may hold his peace:
     What can be juster in a state than this?
     Euripid.   Hicetid.
They, who to states and governors of the Commonwealth direct their
speech, High Court of Parliament, or, wanting such access in a private
condition, write that which they foresee may advance the public good;
I suppose them, as at the beginning of no mean endeavour, not a little
altered and moved inwardly in their minds: some with doubt of what will
be the success, others with fear of what will be the censure; some with
hope, others with confidence of what they have to speak. And me perhaps
each of these dispositions, as the subject was whereon I entered,
may have at other times variously affected; and likely might in these
foremost expressions now also disclose which of them swayed most, but
that the very attempt of this address thus made, and the thought of whom
it hath recourse to, hath got the power within me to a passion, far more
welcome than incidental to a preface.
Which though I stay not to confess ere any ask, I shall be blameless, if
it be no other than the joy and gratulation which it brings to all who
wish and promote their country’s liberty; whereof this whole discourse
proposed will be a certain testimony, if not a trophy. For this is not
the liberty which we can hope, that no grievance ever should arise
in the Commonwealth–that let no man in this world expect; but when
complaints are freely heard, deeply considered and speedily reformed,
then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained that wise men look
for. To which if I now manifest by the very sound of this which I shall
utter, that we are already in good part arrived, and yet from such
a steep disadvantage of tyranny and superstition grounded into our
principles as was beyond the manhood of a Roman recovery, it will be
attributed first, as is most due, to the strong assistance of God our
deliverer, next to your faithful guidance and undaunted wisdom, Lords
and Commons of England. Neither is it in God’s esteem the diminution
of his glory, when honourable things are spoken of good men and worthy
magistrates; which if I now first should begin to do, after so fair a
progress of your laudable deeds, and such a long obligement upon the
whole realm to your indefatigable virtues, I might be justly reckoned
among the tardiest, and the unwillingest of them that praise ye.
Nevertheless there being three principal things, without which all
praising is but courtship and flattery: First, when that only is praised
which is solidly worth praise: next, when greatest likelihoods are
brought that such things are truly and really in those persons to whom
they are ascribed: the other, when he who praises, by showing that such
his actual persuasion is of whom he writes, can demonstrate that he
flatters not; the former two of these I have heretofore endeavoured,
rescuing the employment from him who went about to impair your merits
with a trivial and malignant encomium; the latter as belonging chiefly
to mine own acquittal, that whom I so extolled I did not flatter, hath
been reserved opportunely to this occasion.
For he who freely magnifies what hath been nobly done, and fears not to
declare as freely what might be done better, gives ye the best covenant
of his fidelity; and that his loyalest affection and his hope waits on
your proceedings. His highest praising is not flattery, and his plainest
advice is a kind of praising. For though I should affirm and hold by
argument, that it would fare better with truth, with learning and the
Commonwealth, if one of your published Orders, which I should name, were
called in; yet at the same time it could not but much redound to the
lustre of your mild and equal government, whenas private persons are
hereby animated to think ye better pleased with public advice, than
other statists have been delighted heretofore with public flattery. And
men will then see what difference there is between the magnanimity of a
triennial Parliament, and that jealous haughtiness of prelates and cabin
counsellors that usurped of late, whenas they shall observe ye in the
midst of your victories and successes more gently brooking written
exceptions against a voted Order than other courts, which had produced
nothing worth memory but the weak ostentation of wealth, would have
endured the least signified dislike at any sudden proclamation.
If I should thus far presume upon the meek demeanour of your civil and
gentle greatness, Lords and Commons, as what your published Order hath
directly said, that to gainsay, I might defend myself with ease, if any
should accuse me of being new or insolent, did they but know how much
better I find ye esteem it to imitate the old and elegant humanity of
Greece, than the barbaric pride of a Hunnish and Norwegian stateliness.
And out of those ages, to whose polite wisdom and letters we owe that we
are not yet Goths and Jutlanders, I could name him who from his private
house wrote that discourse to the Parliament of Athens, that persuades
them to change the form of democracy which was then established. Such
honour was done in those days to men who professed the study of wisdom
and eloquence, not only in their own country, but in other lands, that
cities and signiories heard them gladly, and with great respect, if they
had aught in public to admonish the state. Thus did Dion Prusaeus, a
stranger and a private orator, counsel the Rhodians against a former
edict; and I abound with other like examples, which to set here would be
But if from the industry of a life wholly dedicated to studious labours,
and those natural endowments haply not the worst for two and fifty
degrees of northern latitude, so much must be derogated, as to count me
not equal to any of those who had this privilege, I would obtain to be
thought not so inferior, as yourselves are superior to the most of them
who received their counsel: and how far you excel them, be assured,
Lords and Commons, there can no greater testimony appear, than when
your prudent spirit acknowledges and obeys the voice of reason from what
quarter soever it be heard speaking; and renders ye as willing to
repeal any Act of your own setting forth, as any set forth by your
If ye be thus resolved, as it were injury to think ye were not, I know
not what should withhold me from presenting ye with a fit instance
wherein to show both that love of truth which ye eminently profess, and
that uprightness of your judgment which is not wont to be partial to
yourselves; by judging over again that Order which ye have ordained to
regulate printing:–that no book, pamphlet, or paper shall be henceforth
printed, unless the same be first approved and licensed by such, or at
least one of such, as shall be thereto appointed. For that part which
preserves justly every man’s copy to himself, or provides for the poor,
I touch not, only wish they be not made pretences to abuse and persecute
honest and painful men, who offend not in either of these particulars.
But that other clause of licensing books, which we thought had died with
his brother quadragesimal and matrimonial when the prelates expired, I
shall now attend with such a homily, as shall lay before ye, first the
inventors of it to be those whom ye will be loath to own; next what is
to be thought in general of reading, whatever sort the books be;
and that this Order avails nothing to the suppressing of scandalous,
seditious, and libellous books, which were mainly intended to be
suppressed. Last, that it will be primely to the discouragement of all
learning, and the stop of truth, not only by disexercising and blunting
our abilities in what we know already, but by hindering and cropping
the discovery that might be yet further made both in religious and civil
I deny not, but that it is of greatest concernment in the Church and
Commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well
as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on
them as malefactors. For books are not absolutely dead things, but do
contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose
progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy
and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they
are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon’s
teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.
And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill
a man as kill a good book. Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature,
God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills
the image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden
to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master
spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. ‘Tis
true, no age can restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great loss;
and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth,
for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.
We should be wary therefore what persecution we raise against the living
labours of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man, preserved
and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus
committed, sometimes a martyrdom, and if it extend to the whole
impression, a kind of massacre; whereof the execution ends not in the
slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at that ethereal and fifth
essence, the breath of reason itself, slays an immortality rather than
a life. But lest I should be condemned of introducing license, while I
oppose licensing, I refuse not the pains to be so much historical,
as will serve to show what hath been done by ancient and famous
commonwealths against this disorder, till the very time that this
project of licensing crept out of the Inquisition, was catched up by our
prelates, and hath caught some of our presbyters.
In Athens, where books and wits were ever busier than in any other part
of Greece, I find but only two sorts of writings which the magistrate
cared to take notice of; those either blasphemous and atheistical, or
libellous. Thus the books of Protagoras were by the judges of Areopagus
commanded to be burnt, and himself banished the territory for a
discourse begun with his confessing not to know WHETHER THERE WERE GODS,
OR WHETHER NOT. And against defaming, it was decreed that none should
be traduced by name, as was the manner of Vetus Comoedia, whereby we may
guess how they censured libelling. And this course was quick enough, as
Cicero writes, to quell both the desperate wits of other atheists,
and the open way of defaming, as the event showed. Of other sects and
opinions, though tending to voluptuousness, and the denying of divine
Providence, they took no heed.
Therefore we do not read that either Epicurus, or that libertine school
of Cyrene, or what the Cynic impudence uttered, was ever questioned
by the laws. Neither is it recorded that the writings of those old
comedians were suppressed, though the acting of them were forbid; and
that Plato commended the reading of Aristophanes, the loosest of them
all, to his royal scholar Dionysius, is commonly known, and may be
excused, if holy Chrysostom, as is reported, nightly studied so much the
same author and had the art to cleanse a scurrilous vehemence into the
style of a rousing sermon.
That other leading city of Greece, Lacedaemon, considering that Lycurgus
their lawgiver was so addicted to elegant learning, as to have been the
first that brought out of Ionia the scattered works of Homer, and sent
the poet Thales from Crete to prepare and mollify the Spartan surliness
with his smooth songs and odes, the better to plant among them law and
civility, it is to be wondered how museless and unbookish they were,
minding nought but the feats of war. There needed no licensing of books
among them, for they disliked all but their own laconic apophthegms, and
took a slight occasion to chase Archilochus out of their city, perhaps
for composing in a higher strain than their own soldierly ballads and
roundels could reach to. Or if it were for his broad verses, they were
not therein so cautious but they were as dissolute in their promiscuous
conversing; whence Euripides affirms in Andromache, that their women
were all unchaste. Thus much may give us light after what sort of books
were prohibited among the Greeks.
The Romans also, for many ages trained up only to a military roughness
resembling most the Lacedaemonian guise, knew of learning little but
what their twelve Tables, and the Pontific College with their augurs
and flamens taught them in religion and law; so unacquainted with other
learning, that when Carneades and Critolaus, with the Stoic Diogenes,
coming ambassadors to Rome, took thereby occasion to give the city a
taste of their philosophy, they were suspected for seducers by no less
a man than Cato the Censor, who moved it in the Senate to dismiss them
speedily, and to banish all such Attic babblers out of Italy. But Scipio
and others of the noblest senators withstood him and his old Sabine
austerity; honoured and admired the men; and the censor himself at
last, in his old age, fell to the study of that whereof before he was
so scrupulous. And yet at the same time Naevius and Plautus, the first
Latin comedians, had filled the city with all the borrowed scenes of
Menander and Philemon. Then began to be considered there also what was
to be done to libellous books and authors; for Naevius was quickly cast
into prison for his unbridled pen, and released by the tribunes upon
his recantation; we read also that libels were burnt, and the makers
punished by Augustus. The like severity, no doubt, was used, if aught
were impiously written against their esteemed gods. Except in these two
points, how the world went in books, the magistrate kept no reckoning.
And therefore Lucretius without impeachment versifies his Epicurism to
Memmius, and had the honour to be set forth the second time by Cicero,
so great a father of the Commonwealth; although himself disputes against
that opinion in his own writings. Nor was the satirical sharpness or
naked plainness of Lucilius, or Catullus, or Flaccus, by any order
prohibited. And for matters of state, the story of Titus Livius, though
it extolled that part which Pompey held, was not therefore suppressed by
Octavius Caesar of the other faction. But that Naso was by him banished
in his old age, for the wanton poems of his youth, was but a mere covert
of state over some secret cause: and besides, the books were neither
banished nor called in. From hence we shall meet with little else but
tyranny in the Roman empire, that we may not marvel, if not so often bad
as good books were silenced. I shall therefore deem to have been large
enough, in producing what among the ancients was punishable to write;
save only which, all other arguments were free to treat on.
By this time the emperors were become Christians, whose discipline in
this point I do not find to have been more severe than what was formerly
in practice. The books of those whom they took to be grand heretics were
examined, refuted, and condemned in the general Councils; and not till
then were prohibited, or burnt, by authority of the emperor. As for the
writings of heathen authors, unless they were plain invectives against
Christianity, as those of Porphyrius and Proclus, they met with no
interdict that can be cited, till about the year 400, in a Carthaginian
Council, wherein bishops themselves were forbid to read the books of
Gentiles, but heresies they might read: while others long before them,
on the contrary, scrupled more the books of heretics than of Gentiles.
And that the primitive Councils and bishops were wont only to declare
what books were not commendable, passing no further, but leaving it to
each one’s conscience to read or to lay by, till after the year 800,
is observed already by Padre Paolo, the great unmasker of the Trentine
After which time the Popes of Rome, engrossing what they pleased of
political rule into their own hands, extended their dominion over men’s
eyes, as they had before over their judgments, burning and prohibiting
to be read what they fancied not; yet sparing in their censures, and the
books not many which they so dealt with: till Martin V., by his bull,
not only prohibited, but was the first that excommunicated the reading
of heretical books; for about that time Wickliffe and Huss, growing
terrible, were they who first drove the Papal Court to a stricter policy
of prohibiting. Which course Leo X. and his successors followed, until
the Council of Trent and the Spanish Inquisition engendering together
brought forth, or perfected, those Catalogues and expurging Indexes,
that rake through the entrails of many an old good author, with a
violation worse than any could be offered to his tomb. Nor did they stay
in matters heretical, but any subject that was not to their palate,
they either condemned in a Prohibition, or had it straight into the new
purgatory of an index.
To fill up the measure of encroachment, their last invention was to
ordain that no book, pamphlet, or paper should be printed (as if St.
Peter had bequeathed them the keys of the press also out of Paradise)
unless it were approved and licensed under the hands of two or three
glutton friars. For example:
     Let the Chancellor Cini be pleased to see if in this present
     work be contained aught that may withstand the printing.
     VINCENT RABBATTA, Vicar of Florence.
     I have seen this present work, and find nothing athwart the
     Catholic faith and good manners: in witness whereof I
     have given, etc.
     NICOLO GINI, Chancellor of Florence.
     Attending the precedent relation, it is allowed that this
     present work of Davanzati may be printed.
     It may be printed, July 15.
     Chancellor of the Holy Office in Florence.
Sure they have a conceit, if he of the bottomless pit had not long since
broke prison, that this quadruple exorcism would bar him down. I fear
their next design will be to get into their custody the licensing
of that which they say Claudius intended, but went not through with.
Vouchsafe to see another of their forms, the Roman stamp:
     Imprimatur, If it seem good to the reverend Master of the
     Holy Palace.
     BELCASTRO, Vicegerent.
     Imprimatur, Friar Nicolo Rodolphi, Master of the Holy Palace.
Sometimes five Imprimaturs are seen together dialogue-wise in the piazza
of one title-page, complimenting and ducking each to other with their
shaven reverences, whether the author, who stands by in perplexity at
the foot of his epistle, shall to the press or to the sponge. These
are the pretty responsories, these are the dear antiphonies, that so
bewitched of late our prelates and their chaplains with the goodly echo
they made; and besotted us to the gay imitation of a lordly Imprimatur,
one from Lambeth House, another from the west end of Paul’s; so apishly
Romanizing, that the word of command still was set down in Latin; as
if the learned grammatical pen that wrote it would cast no ink without
Latin; or perhaps, as they thought, because no vulgar tongue was worthy
to express the pure conceit of an Imprimatur, but rather, as I hope, for
that our English, the language of men ever famous and foremost in the
achievements of liberty, will not easily find servile letters enow to
spell such a dictatory presumption English.
And thus ye have the inventors and the original of book-licensing ripped
up and drawn as lineally as any pedigree. We have it not, that can
be heard of, from any ancient state, or polity or church; nor by any
statute left us by our ancestors elder or later; nor from the modern
custom of any reformed city or church abroad, but from the most
anti-christian council and the most tyrannous inquisition that ever
inquired. Till then books were ever as freely admitted into the world
as any other birth; the issue of the brain was no more stifled than the
issue of the womb: no envious Juno sat cross-legged over the nativity
of any man’s intellectual offspring; but if it proved a monster, who
denies, but that it was justly burnt, or sunk into the sea? But that a
book, in worse condition than a peccant soul, should be to stand before
a jury ere it be born to the world, and undergo yet in darkness the
judgment of Radamanth and his colleagues, ere it can pass the ferry
backward into light, was never heard before, till that mysterious
iniquity, provoked and troubled at the first entrance of Reformation,
sought out new limbos and new hells wherein they might include our books
also within the number of their damned. And this was the rare morsel
so officiously snatched up, and so ill-favouredly imitated by our
inquisiturient bishops, and the attendant minorites their chaplains.
That ye like not now these most certain authors of this licensing order,
and that all sinister intention was far distant from your thoughts, when
ye were importuned the passing it, all men who know the integrity of
your actions, and how ye honour truth, will clear ye readily.
But some will say, what though the inventors were bad, the thing for
all that may be good? It may so; yet if that thing be no such deep
invention, but obvious, and easy for any man to light on, and yet best
and wisest commonwealths through all ages and occasions have forborne
to use it, and falsest seducers and oppressors of men were the first who
took it up, and to no other purpose but to obstruct and hinder the first
approach of Reformation; I am of those who believe it will be a harder
alchemy than Lullius ever knew, to sublimate any good use out of such
an invention. Yet this only is what I request to gain from this reason,
that it may be held a dangerous and suspicious fruit, as certainly it
deserves, for the tree that bore it, until I can dissect one by one the
properties it has. But I have first to finish, as was propounded, what
is to be thought in general of reading books, whatever sort they be, and
whether be more the benefit or the harm that thence proceeds.
Not to insist upon the examples of Moses, Daniel, and Paul, who were
skilful in all the learning of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Greeks,
which could not probably be without reading their books of all sorts;
in Paul especially, who thought it no defilement to insert into
Holy Scripture the sentences of three Greek poets, and one of them a
tragedian; the question was notwithstanding sometimes controverted among
the primitive doctors, but with great odds on that side which affirmed
it both lawful and profitable; as was then evidently perceived, when
Julian the Apostate and subtlest enemy to our faith made a decree
forbidding Christians the study of heathen learning: for, said he, they
wound us with our own weapons, and with our own arts and sciences they
overcome us. And indeed the Christians were put so to their shifts by
this crafty means, and so much in danger to decline into all ignorance,
that the two Apollinarii were fain, as a man may say, to coin all the
seven liberal sciences out of the Bible, reducing it into divers
forms of orations, poems, dialogues, even to the calculating of a new
Christian grammar. But, saith the historian Socrates, the providence of
God provided better than the industry of Apollinarius and his son, by
taking away that illiterate law with the life of him who devised it. So
great an injury they then held it to be deprived of Hellenic learning;
and thought it a persecution more undermining, and secretly decaying the
Church, than the open cruelty of Decius or Diocletian.
And perhaps it was the same politic drift that the devil whipped St.
Jerome in a lenten dream, for reading Cicero; or else it was a phantasm
bred by the fever which had then seized him. For had an angel been his
discipliner, unless it were for dwelling too much upon Ciceronianisms,
and had chastised the reading, not the vanity, it had been plainly
partial; first to correct him for grave Cicero, and not for scurril
Plautus, whom he confesses to have been reading, not long before; next
to correct him only, and let so many more ancient fathers wax old in
those pleasant and florid studies without the lash of such a tutoring
apparition; insomuch that Basil teaches how some good use may be made
of Margites, a sportful poem, not now extant, writ by Homer; and why not
then of Morgante, an Italian romance much to the same purpose?
But if it be agreed we shall be tried by visions, there is a vision
recorded by Eusebius, far ancienter than this tale of Jerome, to the
nun Eustochium, and, besides, has nothing of a fever in it. Dionysius
Alexandrinus was about the year 240 a person of great name in the Church
for piety and learning, who had wont to avail himself much against
heretics by being conversant in their books; until a certain presbyter
laid it scrupulously to his conscience, how he durst venture himself
among those defiling volumes. The worthy man, loath to give offence,
fell into a new debate with himself what was to be thought; when
suddenly a vision sent from God (it is his own epistle that so avers it)
confirmed him in these words: READ ANY BOOKS WHATEVER COME TO THY HANDS,
To this revelation he assented the sooner, as he confesses, because it
was answerable to that of the Apostle to the Thessalonians, PROVE ALL
THINGS, HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD. And he might have added another
remarkable saying of the same author: TO THE PURE, ALL THINGS ARE PURE;
not only meats and drinks, but all kind of knowledge whether of good or
evil; the knowledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the
will and conscience be not defiled.
For books are as meats and viands are; some of good, some of evil
substance; and yet God, in that unapocryphal vision, said without
exception, RISE, PETER, KILL AND EAT, leaving the choice to each man’s
discretion. Wholesome meats to a vitiated stomach differ little or
nothing from unwholesome; and best books to a naughty mind are not
unappliable to occasions of evil. Bad meats will scarce breed good
nourishment in the healthiest concoction; but herein the difference is
of bad books, that they to a discreet and judicious reader serve in
many respects to discover, to confute, to forewarn, and to illustrate.
Whereof what better witness can ye expect I should produce, than one of
your own now sitting in Parliament, the chief of learned men reputed in
this land, Mr. Selden; whose volume of natural and national laws proves,
not only by great authorities brought together, but by exquisite reasons
and theorems almost mathematically demonstrative, that all opinions, yea
errors, known, read, and collated, are of main service and assistance
toward the speedy attainment of what is truest. I conceive, therefore,
that when God did enlarge the universal diet of man’s body, saving ever
the rules of temperance, he then also, as before, left arbitrary the
dieting and repasting of our minds; as wherein every mature man might
have to exercise his own leading capacity.
How great a virtue is temperance, how much of moment through the whole
life of man! Yet God commits the managing so great a trust, without
particular law or prescription, wholly to the demeanour of every grown
man. And therefore when he himself tabled the Jews from heaven, that
omer, which was every man’s daily portion of manna, is computed to have
been more than might have well sufficed the heartiest feeder thrice as
many meals. For those actions which enter into a man, rather than issue
out of him, and therefore defile not, God uses not to captivate under
a perpetual childhood of prescription, but trusts him with the gift
of reason to be his own chooser; there were but little work left for
preaching, if law and compulsion should grow so fast upon those things
which heretofore were governed only by exhortation. Solomon informs us,
that much reading is a weariness to the flesh; but neither he nor other
inspired author tells us that such or such reading is unlawful: yet
certainly had God thought good to limit us herein, it had been much more
expedient to have told us what was unlawful than what was wearisome.
As for the burning of those Ephesian books by St. Paul’s converts;
’tis replied the books were magic, the Syriac so renders them. It was
a private act, a voluntary act, and leaves us to a voluntary imitation:
the men in remorse burnt those books which were their own; the
magistrate by this example is not appointed; these men practised the
books, another might perhaps have read them in some sort usefully.
Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost
inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven
with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly
to be discerned, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon
Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out, and sort asunder, were not
more intermixed. It was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the
knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth
into the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into
of knowing good and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil. As
therefore the state of man now is; what wisdom can there be to choose,
what continence to forbear without the knowledge of evil? He that can
apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures,
and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly
better, he is the true warfaring Christian.
I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and
unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary but slinks out
of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without
dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring
impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by
what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the
contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to
her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her
whiteness is but an excremental whiteness. Which was the reason why our
sage and serious poet Spenser, whom I dare be known to think a better
teacher than Scotus or Aquinas, describing true temperance under the
person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through the cave of
Mammon, and the bower of earthly bliss, that he might see and know, and
yet abstain. Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this
world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning
of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with
less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading
all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is
the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.
But of the harm that may result hence three kinds are usually reckoned.
First, is feared the infection that may spread; but then all human learning
and controversy in religious points must remove out of the world, yea the
Bible itself; for that ofttimes relates blasphemy not nicely, it describes
the carnal sense of wicked men not unelegantly, it brings in holiest men
passionately murmuring against Providence through all the arguments of
Epicurus: in other great disputes it answers dubiously and darkly to the
common reader. And ask a Talmudist what ails the modesty of his marginal
Keri, that Moses and all the prophets cannot persuade him to pronounce the
textual Chetiv. For these causes we all know the Bible itself put by the
Papist put by the Papist into the first rank of prohibited books. The
ancientest Fathers must be next removed, as Clement of Alexandria, and that
Eusebian book of Evangelic preparation, transmitting our ears through a
hoard of heathenish obscenities to receive the Gospel. Who finds not that
Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Jerome, and others discover more heresies than they
well confute, and that oft for heresy which is the truer opinion?
Nor boots it to say for these, and all the heathen writers of greatest
infection, if it must be thought so, with whom is bound up the life of
human learning, that they writ in an unknown tongue, so long as we are
sure those languages are known as well to the worst of men, who are both
most able and most diligent to instil the poison they suck, first into
the courts of princes, acquainting them with the choicest delights and
criticisms of sin. As perhaps did that Petronius whom Nero called his
Arbiter, the master of his revels; and the notorious ribald of Arezzo,
dreaded and yet dear to the Italian courtiers. I name not him for
posterity’s sake, whom Henry VIII. named in merriment his vicar of hell.
By which compendious way all the contagion that foreign books can infuse
will find a passage to the people far easier and shorter than an
Indian voyage, though it could be sailed either by the north of Cataio
eastward, or of Canada westward, while our Spanish licensing gags the
English press never so severely.
But on the other side that infection which is from books of controversy
in religion is more doubtful and dangerous to the learned than to
the ignorant; and yet those books must be permitted untouched by the
licenser. It will be hard to instance where any ignorant man hath been
ever seduced by papistical book in English, unless it were commended and
expounded to him by some of that clergy: and indeed all such tractates,
whether false or true, are as the prophecy of Isaiah was to the eunuch,
not to be UNDERSTOOD WITHOUT A GUIDE. But of our priests and doctors
how many have been corrupted by studying the comments of Jesuits and
Sorbonists, and how fast they could transfuse that corruption into the
people, our experience is both late and sad. It is not forgot, since the
acute and distinct Arminius was perverted merely by the perusing of a
nameless discourse written at Delft, which at first he took in hand to
Seeing, therefore, that those books, and those in great abundance, which
are likeliest to taint both life and doctrine, cannot be suppressed
without the fall of learning and of all ability in disputation, and that
these books of either sort are most and soonest catching to the learned,
from whom to the common people whatever is heretical or dissolute may
quickly be conveyed, and that evil manners are as perfectly learnt
without books a thousand other ways which cannot be stopped, and evil
doctrine not with books can propagate, except a teacher guide, which he
might also do without writing, and so beyond prohibiting, I am not able
to unfold, how this cautelous enterprise of licensing can be exempted
from the number of vain and impossible attempts. And he who were
pleasantly disposed could not well avoid to liken it to the exploit of
that gallant man who thought to pound up the crows by shutting his park
Besides another inconvenience, if learned men be the first receivers out
of books and dispreaders both of vice and error, how shall the licensers
themselves be confided in, unless we can confer upon them, or they
assume to themselves above all others in the land, the grace of
infallibility and uncorruptedness? And again, if it be true that a wise
man, like a good refiner, can gather gold out of the drossiest volume,
and that a fool will be a fool with the best book, yea or without book;
there is no reason that we should deprive a wise man of any advantage
to his wisdom, while we seek to restrain from a fool, that which being
restrained will be no hindrance to his folly. For if there should be so
much exactness always used to keep that from him which is unfit for his
reading, we should in the judgment of Aristotle not only, but of Solomon
and of our Saviour, not vouchsafe him good precepts, and by consequence
not willingly admit him to good books; as being certain that a wise man
will make better use of an idle pamphlet, than a fool will do of sacred
‘Tis next alleged we must not expose ourselves to temptations without
necessity, and next to that, not employ our time in vain things. To both
these objections one answer will serve, out of the grounds already laid,
that to all men such books are not temptations, nor vanities, but useful
drugs and materials wherewith to temper and compose effective and strong
medicines, which man’s life cannot want. The rest, as children and
childish men, who have not the art to qualify and prepare these working
minerals, well may be exhorted to forbear, but hindered forcibly they
cannot be by all the licensing that Sainted Inquisition could ever yet
contrive. Which is what I promised to deliver next: that this order of
licensing conduces nothing to the end for which it was framed; and hath
almost prevented me by being clear already while thus much hath been
explaining. See the ingenuity of Truth, who, when she gets a free and
willing hand, opens herself faster than the pace of method and discourse
can overtake her.
It was the task which I began with, to show that no nation, or
well-instituted state, if they valued books at all, did ever use this
way of licensing; and it might be answered, that this is a piece of
prudence lately discovered. To which I return, that as it was a thing
slight and obvious to think on, so if it had been difficult to find
out, there wanted not among them long since who suggested such a course;
which they not following, leave us a pattern of their judgment that it
was not the rest knowing, but the not approving, which was the cause of
their not using it.
Plato, a man of high authority, indeed, but least of all for his
Commonwealth, in the book of his Laws, which no city ever yet received,
fed his fancy by making many edicts to his airy burgomasters, which they
who otherwise admire him wish had been rather buried and excused in
the genial cups of an Academic night sitting. By which laws he seems to
tolerate no kind of learning but by unalterable decree, consisting most
of practical traditions, to the attainment whereof a library of smaller
bulk than his own Dialogues would be abundant. And there also enacts,
that no poet should so much as read to any private man what he had
written, until the judges and law-keepers had seen it, and allowed it.
But that Plato meant this law peculiarly to that commonwealth which
he had imagined, and to no other, is evident. Why was he not else a
lawgiver to himself, but a transgressor, and to be expelled by his own
magistrates; both for the wanton epigrams and dialogues which he made,
and his perpetual reading of Sophron Mimus and Aristophanes, books of
grossest infamy, and also for commending the latter of them, though
he were the malicious libeller of his chief friends, to be read by the
tyrant Dionysius, who had little need of such trash to spend his
time on? But that he knew this licensing of poems had reference
and dependence to many other provisos there set down in his fancied
republic, which in this world could have no place: and so neither he
himself, nor any magistrate or city, ever imitated that course, which,
taken apart from those other collateral injunctions, must needs be vain
and fruitless. For if they fell upon one kind of strictness, unless
their care were equal to regulate all other things of like aptness to
corrupt the mind, that single endeavour they knew would be but a
fond labour; to shut and fortify one gate against corruption, and be
necessitated to leave others round about wide open.
If we think to regulate printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must
regulate all recreation and pastimes, all that is delightful to man.
No music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is grave and
Doric. There must be licensing dancers, that no gesture, motion, or
deportment be taught our youth but what by their allowance shall be
thought honest; for such Plato was provided of. It will ask more than
the work of twenty licensers to examine all the lutes, the violins, and
the guitars in every house; they must not be suffered to prattle as they
do, but must be licensed what they may say. And who shall silence all
the airs and madrigals that whisper softness in chambers? The windows
also, and the balconies must be thought on; there are shrewd books, with
dangerous frontispieces, set to sale; who shall prohibit them, shall
twenty licensers? The villages also must have their visitors to inquire
what lectures the bagpipe and the rebeck reads, even to the ballatry
and the gamut of every municipal fiddler, for these are the countryman’s
Arcadias, and his Monte Mayors.
Next, what more national corruption, for which England hears ill abroad,
than household gluttony: who shall be the rectors of our daily rioting?
And what shall be done to inhibit the multitudes that frequent those
houses where drunkenness is sold and harboured? Our garments also should
be referred to the licensing of some more sober workmasters to see
them cut into a less wanton garb. Who shall regulate all the mixed
conversation of our youth, male and female together, as is the fashion
of this country? Who shall still appoint what shall be discoursed, what
presumed, and no further? Lastly, who shall forbid and separate all idle
resort, all evil company? These things will be, and must be; but how
they shall be least hurtful, how least enticing, herein consists the
grave and governing wisdom of a state.
To sequester out of the world into Atlantic and Utopian polities, which
never can be drawn into use, will not mend our condition; but to ordain
wisely as in this world of evil, in the midst whereof God hath placed
us unavoidably. Nor is it Plato’s licensing of books will do this, which
necessarily pulls along with it so many other kinds of licensing, as
will make us all both ridiculous and weary, and yet frustrate; but
those unwritten, or at least unconstraining, laws of virtuous education,
religious and civil nurture, which Plato there mentions as the bonds and
ligaments of the commonwealth, the pillars and the sustainers of every
written statute; these they be which will bear chief sway in such
matters as these, when all licensing will be easily eluded. Impunity and
remissness, for certain, are the bane of a commonwealth; but here the
great art lies, to discern in what the law is to bid restraint and
punishment, and in what things persuasion only is to work.
If every action, which is good or evil in man at ripe years, were to be
under pittance and prescription and compulsion, what were virtue but a
name, what praise could be then due to well-doing, what gramercy to
be sober, just, or continent? Many there be that complain of divine
Providence for suffering Adam to transgress; foolish tongues! When
God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but
choosing; he had been else a mere artificial Adam, such an Adam as he is
in the motions. We ourselves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or
gift, which is of force: God therefore left him free, set before him a
provoking object, ever almost in his eyes; herein consisted his merit,
herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence. Wherefore
did he create passions within us, pleasures round about us, but that
these rightly tempered are the very ingredients of virtue?
They are not skilful considerers of human things, who imagine to remove
sin by removing the matter of sin; for, besides that it is a huge heap
increasing under the very act of diminishing, though some part of it may
for a time be withdrawn from some persons, it cannot from all, in such a
universal thing as books are; and when this is done, yet the sin remains
entire. Though ye take from a covetous man all his treasure, he has yet
one jewel left, ye cannot bereave him of his covetousness. Banish all
objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can
be exercised in any hermitage, ye cannot make them chaste, that came not
hither so; such great care and wisdom is required to the right managing
of this point. Suppose we could expel sin by this means; look how much
we thus expel of sin, so much we expel of virtue: for the matter of them
both is the same; remove that, and ye remove them both alike.
This justifies the high providence of God, who, though he command us
temperance, justice, continence, yet pours out before us, even to a
profuseness, all desirable things, and gives us minds that can wander
beyond all limit and satiety. Why should we then affect a rigour
contrary to the manner of God and of nature, by abridging or scanting
those means, which books freely permitted are, both to the trial of
virtue and the exercise of truth? It would be better done, to learn
that the law must needs be frivolous, which goes to restrain things,
uncertainly and yet equally working to good and to evil. And were I the
chooser, a dream of well-doing should be preferred before many times
as much the forcible hindrance of evil-doing. For God sure esteems the
growth and completing of one virtuous person more than the restraint of
ten vicious.
And albeit whatever thing we hear or see, sitting, walking, travelling,
or conversing, may be fitly called our book, and is of the same effect
that writings are, yet grant the thing to be prohibited were only books,
it appears that this Order hitherto is far insufficient to the end
which it intends. Do we not see, not once or oftener, but weekly, that
continued court-libel against the Parliament and City, printed, as the
wet sheets can witness, and dispersed among us, for all that licensing
can do? Yet this is the prime service a man would think, wherein this
Order should give proof of itself. If it were executed, you’ll say.
But certain, if execution be remiss or blindfold now, and in this
particular, what will it be hereafter and in other books? If then the
Order shall not be vain and frustrate, behold a new labour, Lords and
Commons, ye must repeal and proscribe all scandalous and unlicensed
books already printed and divulged; after ye have drawn them up into a
list, that all may know which are condemned, and which not; and ordain
that no foreign books be delivered out of custody, till they have
been read over. This office will require the whole time of not a few
overseers, and those no vulgar men. There be also books which are partly
useful and excellent, partly culpable and pernicious; this work will ask
as many more officials, to make expurgations and expunctions, that the
commonwealth of learning be not damnified. In fine, when the multitude
of books increase upon their hands, ye must be fain to catalogue all
those printers who are found frequently offending, and forbid the
importation of their whole suspected typography. In a word, that this
your Order may be exact and not deficient, ye must reform it perfectly
according to the model of Trent and Seville, which I know ye abhor to
Yet though ye should condescend to this, which God forbid, the Order
still would be but fruitless and defective to that end whereto ye meant
it. If to prevent sects and schisms, who is so unread or so uncatechized
in story, that hath not heard of many sects refusing books as a
hindrance, and preserving their doctrine unmixed for many ages, only by
unwritten traditions? The Christian faith, for that was once a schism,
is not unknown to have spread all over Asia, ere any Gospel or Epistle
was seen in writing. If the amendment of manners be aimed at, look into
Italy and Spain, whether those places be one scruple the better, the
honester, the wiser, the chaster, since all the inquisitional rigour
that hath been executed upon books.
Another reason, whereby to make it plain that this Order will miss
the end it seeks, consider by the quality which ought to be in every
licenser. It cannot be denied but that he who is made judge to sit upon
the birth or death of books, whether they may be wafted into this world
or not, had need to be a man above the common measure, both studious,
learned, and judicious; there may be else no mean mistakes in the
censure of what is passable or not; which is also no mean injury. If
he be of such worth as behooves him, there cannot be a more tedious and
unpleasing journey-work, a greater loss of time levied upon his head,
than to be made the perpetual reader of unchosen books and pamphlets,
ofttimes huge volumes. There is no book that is acceptable unless at
certain seasons; but to be enjoined the reading of that at all times,
and in a hand scarce legible, whereof three pages would not down at any
time in the fairest print, is an imposition which I cannot believe
how he that values time and his own studies, or is but of a sensible
nostril, should be able to endure. In this one thing I crave leave of
the present licensers to be pardoned for so thinking; who doubtless took
this office up, looking on it through their obedience to the Parliament,
whose command perhaps made all things seem easy and unlaborious to
them; but that this short trial hath wearied them out already, their
own expressions and excuses to them who make so many journeys to solicit
their licence are testimony enough. Seeing therefore those who now
possess the employment by all evident signs wish themselves well rid of
it; and that no man of worth, none that is not a plain unthrift of his
own hours, is ever likely to succeed them, except he mean to put himself
to the salary of a press corrector; we may easily foresee what kind of
licensers we are to expect hereafter, either ignorant, imperious, and
remiss, or basely pecuniary. This is what I had to show, wherein this
Order cannot conduce to that end whereof it bears the intention.
I lastly proceed from the no good it can do, to the manifest hurt it
causes, in being first the greatest discouragement and affront that can
be offered to learning, and to learned men.
It was the complaint and lamentation of prelates, upon every least
breath of a motion to remove pluralities, and distribute more equally
Church revenues, that then all learning would be for ever dashed and
discouraged. But as for that opinion, I never found cause to think that
the tenth part of learning stood or fell with the clergy: nor could I
ever but hold it for a sordid and unworthy speech of any churchman
who had a competency left him. If therefore ye be loath to dishearten
utterly and discontent, not the mercenary crew of false pretenders to
learning, but the free and ingenuous sort of such as evidently were born
to study, and love learning for itself, not for lucre or any other end
but the service of God and of truth, and perhaps that lasting fame and
perpetuity of praise which God and good men have consented shall be the
reward of those whose published labours advance the good of mankind;
then know that, so far to distrust the judgment and the honesty of one
who hath but a common repute in learning, and never yet offended, as not
to count him fit to print his mind without a tutor and examiner, lest
he should drop a schism, or something of corruption, is the greatest
displeasure and indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put
upon him.
What advantage is it to be a man, over it is to be a boy at school,
if we have only escaped the ferula to come under the fescue of an
Imprimatur; if serious and elaborate writings, as if they were no more
than the theme of a grammar-lad under his pedagogue, must not be uttered
without the cursory eyes of a temporizing and extemporizing licenser? He
who is not trusted with his own actions, his drift not being known to
be evil, and standing to the hazard of law and penalty, has no great
argument to think himself reputed in the Commonwealth wherein he was
born for other than a fool or a foreigner. When a man writes to the
world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he
searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers
with his judicious friends; after all which done he takes himself to be
informed in what he writes, as well as any that writ before him. If, in
this the most consummate act of his fidelity and ripeness, no years, no
industry, no former proof of his abilities can bring him to that state
of maturity, as not to be still mistrusted and suspected, unless he
carry all his considerate diligence, all his midnight watchings and
expense of Palladian oil, to the hasty view of an unleisured licenser,
perhaps much his younger, perhaps his inferior in judgment, perhaps one
who never knew the labour of bookwriting, and if he be not repulsed or
slighted, must appear in print like a puny with his guardian, and his
censor’s hand on the back of his title to be his bail and surety that he
is no idiot or seducer, it cannot be but a dishonour and derogation to
the author, to the book, to the privilege and dignity of learning.
And what if the author shall be one so copious of fancy, as to have many
things well worth the adding come into his mind after licensing, while
the book is yet under the press, which not seldom happens to the best
and diligentest writers; and that perhaps a dozen times in one book? The
printer dares not go beyond his licensed copy; so often then must the
author trudge to his leave-giver, that those his new insertions may be
viewed; and many a jaunt will be made, ere that licenser, for it must be
the same man, can either be found, or found at leisure; meanwhile either
the press must stand still, which is no small damage, or the author lose
his accuratest thoughts, and send the book forth worse than he had made
it, which to a diligent writer is the greatest melancholy and vexation
that can befall.
And how can a man teach with authority, which is the life of teaching;
how can he be a doctor in his book as he ought to be, or else had better
be silent, whenas all he teaches, all he delivers, is but under the
tuition, under the correction of his patriarchal licenser to blot or
alter what precisely accords not with the hidebound humour which he
calls his judgment? When every acute reader, upon the first sight of a
pedantic licence, will be ready with these like words to ding the book
a quoit’s distance from him: I hate a pupil teacher, I endure not an
instructor that comes to me under the wardship of an overseeing fist. I
know nothing of the licenser, but that I have his own hand here for his
arrogance; who shall warrant me his judgment? The State, sir, replies
the stationer, but has a quick return: The State shall be my governors,
but not my critics; they may be mistaken in the choice of a licenser,
as easily as this licenser may be mistaken in an author; this is
some common stuff; and he might add from Sir Francis Bacon, THAT
licenser should happen to be judicious more than ordinary, which will
be a great jeopardy of the next succession, yet his very office and his
commission enjoins him to let pass nothing but what is vulgarly received
Nay, which is more lamentable, if the work of any deceased author,
though never so famous in his lifetime and even to this day, come to
their hands for licence to be printed, or reprinted, if there be found
in his book one sentence of a venturous edge, uttered in the height
of zeal (and who knows whether it might not be the dictate of a divine
spirit?) yet not suiting with every low decrepit humour of their own,
though it were Knox himself, the reformer of a kingdom, that spake it,
they will not pardon him their dash: the sense of that great man shall
to all posterity be lost, for the fearfulness or the presumptuous
rashness of a perfunctory licenser. And to what an author this violence
hath been lately done, and in what book of greatest consequence to be
faithfully published, I could now instance, but shall forbear till a
more convenient season.
Yet if these things be not resented seriously and timely by them who
have the remedy in their power, but that such iron-moulds as these shall
have authority to gnaw out the choicest periods of exquisitest books,
and to commit such a treacherous fraud against the orphan remainders of
worthiest men after death, the more sorrow will belong to that hapless
race of men, whose misfortune it is to have understanding. Henceforth
let no man care to learn, or care to be more than worldly-wise; for
certainly in higher matters to be ignorant and slothful, to be a common
steadfast dunce, will be the only pleasant life, and only in request.
And it is a particular disesteem of every knowing person alive, and most
injurious to the written labours and monuments of the dead, so to me it
seems an undervaluing and vilifying of the whole nation. I cannot set
so light by all the invention, the art, the wit, the grave and solid
judgment which is in England, as that it can be comprehended in any
twenty capacities how good soever, much less that it should not pass
except their superintendence be over it, except it be sifted and
strained with their strainers, that it should be uncurrent without
their manual stamp. Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be
monopolized and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. We must
not think to make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in the land,
to mark and licence it like our broadcloth and our woolpacks. What is it
but a servitude like that imposed by the Philistines, not to be allowed
the sharpening of our own axes and coulters, but we must repair from
all quarters to twenty licensing forges? Had anyone written and divulged
erroneous things and scandalous to honest life, misusing and forfeiting
the esteem had of his reason among men, if after conviction this only
censure were adjudged him that he should never henceforth write but
what were first examined by an appointed officer, whose hand should be
annexed to pass his credit for him that now he might be safely read; it
could not be apprehended less than a disgraceful punishment. Whence to
include the whole nation, and those that never yet thus offended, under
such a diffident and suspectful prohibition, may plainly be understood
what a disparagement it is. So much the more, whenas debtors and
delinquents may walk abroad without a keeper, but unoffensive books must
not stir forth without a visible jailer in their title.
Nor is it to the common people less than a reproach; for if we be
so jealous over them, as that we dare not trust them with an English
pamphlet, what do we but censure them for a giddy, vicious, and
ungrounded people; in such a sick and weak state of faith and
discretion, as to be able to take nothing down but through the pipe of a
licenser? That this is care or love of them, we cannot pretend, whenas,
in those popish places where the laity are most hated and despised, the
same strictness is used over them. Wisdom we cannot call it, because
it stops but one breach of licence, nor that neither: whenas those
corruptions, which it seeks to prevent, break in faster at other doors
which cannot be shut.
And in conclusion it reflects to the disrepute of our ministers also, of
whose labours we should hope better, and of the proficiency which their
flock reaps by them, than that after all this light of the Gospel which
is, and is to be, and all this continual preaching, they should still be
frequented with such an unprincipled, unedified and laic rabble, as
that the whiff of every new pamphlet should stagger them out of their
catechism and Christian walking. This may have much reason to discourage
the ministers when such a low conceit is had of all their exhortations,
and the benefiting of their hearers, as that they are not thought fit
to be turned loose to three sheets of paper without a licenser; that all
the sermons, all the lectures preached, printed, vented in such numbers,
and such volumes, as have now well nigh made all other books unsaleable,
should not be armour enough against one single Enchiridion, without the
castle of St. Angelo of an Imprimatur.
And lest some should persuade ye, Lords and Commons, that these
arguments of learned men’s discouragement at this your Order are mere
flourishes, and not real, I could recount what I have seen and heard in
other countries, where this kind of inquisition tyrannizes; when I have
sat among their learned men, for that honour I had, and been counted
happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom, as they
supposed England was, while themselves did nothing but bemoan the
servile condition into which learning amongst them was brought; that
this was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had
been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian.
There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a
prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than
the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought. And though I knew
that England then was groaning loudest under the prelatical yoke,
nevertheless I took it as a pledge of future happiness, that other
nations were so persuaded of her liberty. Yet was it beyond my hope that
those worthies were then breathing in her air, who should be her leaders
to such a deliverance, as shall never be forgotten by any revolution of
time that this world hath to finish. When that was once begun, it was as
little in my fear that what words of complaint I heard among learned men
of other parts uttered against the Inquisition, the same I should hear
by as learned men at home, uttered in time of Parliament against an
order of licensing; and that so generally that, when I had disclosed
myself a companion of their discontent, I might say, if without envy,
that he whom an honest quaestorship had endeared to the Sicilians was
not more by them importuned against Verres, than the favourable opinion
which I had among many who honour ye, and are known and respected by ye,
loaded me with entreaties and persuasions, that I would not despair to
lay together that which just reason should bring into my mind, toward
the removal of an undeserved thraldom upon learning. That this is
not therefore the disburdening of a particular fancy, but the common
grievance of all those who had prepared their minds and studies
above the vulgar pitch to advance truth in others, and from others to
entertain it, thus much may satisfy.
And in their name I shall for neither friend nor foe conceal what
the general murmur is; that if it come to inquisitioning again and
licensing, and that we are so timorous of ourselves, and so suspicious
of all men, as to fear each book and the shaking of every leaf, before
we know what the contents are; if some who but of late were little
better than silenced from preaching shall come now to silence us from
reading, except what they please, it cannot be guessed what is intended
by some but a second tyranny over learning: and will soon put it out of
controversy, that bishops and presbyters are the same to us, both name
and thing. That those evils of prelaty, which before from five or six
and twenty sees were distributively charged upon the whole people, will
now light wholly upon learning, is not obscure to us: whenas now the
pastor of a small unlearned parish on the sudden shall be exalted
archbishop over a large diocese of books, and yet not remove, but keep
his other cure too, a mystical pluralist. He who but of late cried down
the sole ordination of every novice Bachelor of Art, and denied sole
jurisdiction over the simplest parishioner, shall now at home in his
private chair assume both these over worthiest and excellentest books
and ablest authors that write them.
This is not, ye Covenants and Protestations that we have made! this is
not to put down prelaty; this is but to chop an episcopacy; this is
but to translate the Palace Metropolitan from one kind of dominion into
another; this is but an old canonical sleight of commuting our penance.
To startle thus betimes at a mere unlicensed pamphlet will after a
while be afraid of every conventicle, and a while after will make a
conventicle of every Christian meeting. But I am certain that a State
governed by the rules of justice and fortitude, or a Church built
and founded upon the rock of faith and true knowledge, cannot be so
pusillanimous. While things are yet not constituted in religion, that
freedom of writing should be restrained by a discipline imitated from
the prelates and learnt by them from the Inquisition, to shut us up all
again into the breast of a licenser, must needs give cause of doubt and
discouragement to all learned and religious men.
Who cannot but discern the fineness of this politic drift, and who are
the contrivers; that while bishops were to be baited down, then all
presses might be open; it was the people’s birthright and privilege in
time of Parliament, it was the breaking forth of light. But now, the
bishops abrogated and voided out of the Church, as if our Reformation
sought no more but to make room for others into their seats under
another name, the episcopal arts begin to bud again, the cruse of truth
must run no more oil, liberty of printing must be enthralled again
under a prelatical commission of twenty, the privilege of the people
nullified, and, which is worse, the freedom of learning must groan
again, and to her old fetters: all this the Parliament yet sitting.
Although their own late arguments and defences against the prelates
might remember them, that this obstructing violence meets for the most
part with an event utterly opposite to the end which it drives at:
instead of suppressing sects and schisms, it raises them and invests
them with a reputation. The punishing of wits enhances their authority,
saith the Viscount St. Albans; and a forbidden writing is thought to be
a certain spark of truth that flies up in the faces of them who seek
to tread it out. This Order, therefore, may prove a nursing-mother to
sects, but I shall easily show how it will be a step-dame to Truth: and
first by disenabling us to the maintenance of what is known already.
Well knows he who uses to consider, that our faith and knowledge thrives
by exercise, as well as our limbs and complexion. Truth is compared in
Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual
progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.
A man may be a heretic in the truth; and if he believe things only
because his pastor says so, or the Assembly so determines, without
knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he
holds becomes his heresy.
There is not any burden that some would gladlier post off to another
than the charge and care of their religion. There be–who knows not that
there be?–of Protestants and professors who live and die in as arrant
an implicit faith as any lay Papist of Loretto. A wealthy man, addicted
to his pleasure and to his profits, finds religion to be a traffic so
entangled, and of so many piddling accounts, that of all mysteries he
cannot skill to keep a stock going upon that trade. What should he do?
fain he would have the name to be religious, fain he would bear up with
his neighbours in that. What does he therefore, but resolves to give
over toiling, and to find himself out some factor, to whose care and
credit he may commit the whole managing of his religious affairs; some
divine of note and estimation that must be. To him he adheres, resigns
the whole warehouse of his religion, with all the locks and keys, into
his custody; and indeed makes the very person of that man his religion;
esteems his associating with him a sufficient evidence and commendatory
of his own piety. So that a man may say his religion is now no more
within himself, but is become a dividual movable, and goes and comes
near him, according as that good man frequents the house. He entertains
him, gives him gifts, feasts him, lodges him; his religion comes home at
night, prays, is liberally supped, and sumptuously laid to sleep; rises,
is saluted, and after the malmsey, or some well-spiced brewage, and
better breakfasted than he whose morning appetite would have gladly fed
on green figs between Bethany and Jerusalem, his religion walks abroad
at eight, and leaves his kind entertainer in the shop trading all day
without his religion.
Another sort there be who, when they hear that all things shall be
ordered, all things regulated and settled, nothing written but what
passes through the custom-house of certain publicans that have the
tonnaging and poundaging of all free-spoken truth, will straight give
themselves up into your hands, make ’em and cut ’em out what religion ye
please: there be delights, there be recreations and jolly pastimes that
will fetch the day about from sun to sun, and rock the tedious year
as in a delightful dream. What need they torture their heads with that
which others have taken so strictly and so unalterably into their own
purveying? These are the fruits which a dull ease and cessation of our
knowledge will bring forth among the people. How goodly and how to be
wished were such an obedient unanimity as this, what a fine conformity
would it starch us all into! Doubtless a staunch and solid piece of
framework, as any January could freeze together.
Nor much better will be the consequence even among the clergy
themselves. It is no new thing never heard of before, for a parochial
minister, who has his reward and is at his Hercules’ pillars in a warm
benefice, to be easily inclinable, if he have nothing else that may
rouse up his studies, to finish his circuit in an English Concordance
and a topic folio, the gatherings and savings of a sober graduateship,
a Harmony and a Catena; treading the constant round of certain common
doctrinal heads, attended with their uses, motives, marks, and
means, out of which, as out of an alphabet, or sol-fa, by forming and
transforming, joining and disjoining variously, a little bookcraft, and
two hours’ meditation, might furnish him unspeakably to the performance
of more than a weekly charge of sermoning: not to reckon up the infinite
helps of interlinearies, breviaries, synopses, and other loitering gear.
But as for the multitude of sermons ready printed and piled up, on every
text that is not difficult, our London trading St. Thomas in his vestry,
and add to boot St. Martin and St. Hugh, have not within their hallowed
limits more vendible ware of all sorts ready made: so that penury he
never need fear of pulpit provision, having where so plenteously to
refresh his magazine. But if his rear and flanks be not impaled, if his
back door be not secured by the rigid licenser, but that a bold book
may now and then issue forth and give the assault to some of his old
collections in their trenches, it will concern him then to keep waking,
to stand in watch, to set good guards and sentinels about his
received opinions, to walk the round and counter-round with his fellow
inspectors, fearing lest any of his flock be seduced, who also then
would be better instructed, better exercised and disciplined. And God
send that the fear of this diligence, which must then be used, do not
make us affect the laziness of a licensing Church.
For if we be sure we are in the right, and do not hold the truth
guiltily, which becomes not, if we ourselves condemn not our own weak
and frivolous teaching, and the people for an untaught and irreligious
gadding rout, what can be more fair than when a man judicious, learned,
and of a conscience, for aught we know, as good as theirs that taught
us what we know, shall not privily from house to house, which is more
dangerous, but openly by writing publish to the world what his opinion
is, what his reasons, and wherefore that which is now thought cannot be
sound? Christ urged it as wherewith to justify himself, that he preached
in public; yet writing is more public than preaching; and more easy
to refutation, if need be, there being so many whose business and
profession merely it is to be the champions of truth; which if they
neglect, what can be imputed but their sloth, or unability?
Thus much we are hindered and disinured by this course of licensing,
toward the true knowledge of what we seem to know. For how much it hurts
and hinders the licensers themselves in the calling of their ministry,
more than any secular employment, if they will discharge that office as
they ought, so that of necessity they must neglect either the one duty
or the other, I insist not, because it is a particular, but leave it to
their own conscience, how they will decide it there.
There is yet behind of what I purposed to lay open, the incredible loss
and detriment that this plot of licensing puts us to; more than if some
enemy at sea should stop up all our havens and ports and creeks, it
hinders and retards the importation of our richest merchandise, truth;
nay, it was first established and put in practice by Antichristian
malice and mystery on set purpose to extinguish, if it were possible,
the light of Reformation, and to settle falsehood; little differing from
that policy wherewith the Turk upholds his Alcoran, by the prohibition
of printing. ‘Tis not denied, but gladly confessed, we are to send our
thanks and vows to Heaven louder than most of nations, for that great
measure of truth which we enjoy, especially in those main points between
us and the Pope, with his appurtenances the prelates: but he who thinks
we are to pitch our tent here, and have attained the utmost prospect of
reformation that the mortal glass wherein we contemplate can show us,
till we come to beatific vision, that man by this very opinion declares
that he is yet far short of truth.
Truth indeed came once into the world with her divine Master, and was
a perfect shape most glorious to look on: but when he ascended, and his
Apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race
of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon with his
conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin
Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them
to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth,
such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for
the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb,
still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, Lords and
Commons, nor ever shall do, till her Master’s second coming; he shall
bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into
an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection. Suffer not these
licensing prohibitions to stand at every place of opportunity,
forbidding and disturbing them that continue seeking, that continue to
do our obsequies to the torn body of our martyred saint.
We boast our light; but if we look not wisely on the sun itself, it
smites us into darkness. Who can discern those planets that are oft
combust, and those stars of brightest magnitude that rise and set with
the sun, until the opposite motion of their orbs bring them to such a
place in the firmament, where they may be seen evening or morning? The
light which we have gained was given us, not to be ever staring on, but
by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge. It
is not the unfrocking of a priest, the unmitring of a bishop, and the
removing him from off the presbyterian shoulders, that will make us a
happy nation. No, if other things as great in the Church, and in the
rule of life both economical and political, be not looked into and
reformed, we have looked so long upon the blaze that Zuinglius and
Calvin hath beaconed up to us, that we are stark blind. There be who
perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity
that any man dissents from their maxims. ‘Tis their own pride and
ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will hear with
meekness, nor can convince; yet all must be suppressed which is not
found in their Syntagma. They are the troublers, they are the dividers
of unity, who neglect and permit not others to unite those dissevered
pieces which are yet wanting to the body of Truth. To be still searching
what we know not by what we know, still closing up truth to truth as we
find it (for all her body is homogeneal and proportional), this is the
golden rule in theology as well as in arithmetic, and makes up the
best harmony in a Church; not the forced and outward union of cold, and
neutral, and inwardly divided minds.
Lords and Commons of England! consider what nation it is whereof ye are,
and whereof ye are the governors: a nation not slow and dull, but of a
quick, ingenious and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy
to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human
capacity can soar to. Therefore the studies of learning in her deepest
sciences have been so ancient and so eminent among us, that writers of
good antiquity and ablest judgment have been persuaded that even the
school of Pythagoras and the Persian wisdom took beginning from the
old philosophy of this island. And that wise and civil Roman, Julius
Agricola, who governed once here for Caesar, preferred the natural wits
of Britain before the laboured studies of the French. Nor is it for
nothing that the grave and frugal Transylvanian sends out yearly from
as far as the mountainous borders of Russia, and beyond the Hercynian
wilderness, not their youth, but their staid men, to learn our language
and our theologic arts.
Yet that which is above all this, the favour and the love of Heaven,
we have great argument to think in a peculiar manner propitious and
propending towards us. Why else was this nation chosen before any other,
that out of her, as out of Sion, should be proclaimed and sounded forth
the first tidings and trumpet of Reformation to all Europe? And had it
not been the obstinate perverseness of our prelates against the divine
and admirable spirit of Wickliff, to suppress him as a schismatic and
innovator, perhaps neither the Bohemian Huns and Jerome, no nor the name
of Luther or of Calvin, had been ever known: the glory of reforming all
our neighbours had been completely ours. But now, as our obdurate clergy
have with violence demeaned the matter, we are become hitherto the
latest and the backwardest scholars, of whom God offered to have made
us the teachers. Now once again by all concurrence of signs, and by
the general instinct of holy and devout men, as they daily and solemnly
express their thoughts, God is decreeing to begin some new and great
period in his Church, even to the reforming of Reformation itself: what
does he then but reveal himself to his servants, and as his manner is,
first to his Englishmen? I say, as his manner is, first to us, though we
mark not the method of his counsels, and are unworthy.
Behold now this vast city: a city of refuge, the mansion house of
liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his protection; the shop of war
hath not there more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates
and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than
there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing,
searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with
their homage and their fealty, the approaching Reformation: others as
fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and
convincement. What could a man require more from a nation so pliant and
so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly
and pregnant soil, but wise and faithful labourers, to make a knowing
people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies? We reckon more
than five months yet to harvest; there need not be five weeks; had we
but eyes to lift up, the fields are white already.
Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much
arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but
knowledge in the making. Under these fantastic terrors of sect and
schism, we wrong the earnest and zealous thirst after knowledge and
understanding which God hath stirred up in this city. What some lament
of, we rather should rejoice at, should rather praise this pious
forwardness among men, to reassume the ill-deputed care of their
religion into their own hands again. A little generous prudence, a
little forbearance of one another, and some grain of charity might win
all these diligences to join, and unite in one general and brotherly
search after truth; could we but forgo this prelatical tradition of
crowding free consciences and Christian liberties into canons and
precepts of men. I doubt not, if some great and worthy stranger should
come among us, wise to discern the mould and temper of a people, and how
to govern it, observing the high hopes and aims, the diligent alacrity
of our extended thoughts and reasonings in the pursuance of truth and
freedom, but that he would cry out as Pyrrhus did, admiring the Roman
docility and courage: If such were my Epirots, I would not despair the
greatest design that could be attempted, to make a Church or kingdom
Yet these are the men cried out against for schismatics and sectaries;
as if, while the temple of the Lord was building, some cutting, some
squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there should be a sort
of irrational men who could not consider there must be many schisms and
many dissections made in the quarry and in the timber, ere the house
of God can be built. And when every stone is laid artfully together,
it cannot be united into a continuity, it can but be contiguous in
this world; neither can every piece of the building be of one form;
nay rather the perfection consists in this, that, out of many
moderate varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes that are not vastly
disproportional, arises the goodly and the graceful symmetry that
commends the whole pile and structure.
Let us therefore be more considerate builders, more wise in spiritual
architecture, when great reformation is expected. For now the time seems
come, wherein Moses the great prophet may sit in heaven rejoicing to
see that memorable and glorious wish of his fulfilled, when not only
our seventy elders, but all the Lord’s people, are become prophets. No
marvel then though some men, and some good men too perhaps, but young in
goodness, as Joshua then was, envy them. They fret, and out of their own
weakness are in agony, lest these divisions and subdivisions will undo
us. The adversary again applauds, and waits the hour: when they have
branched themselves out, saith he, small enough into parties and
partitions, then will be our time. Fool! he sees not the firm root, out
of which we all grow, though into branches: nor will beware until he
see our small divided maniples cutting through at every angle of his
ill-united and unwieldy brigade. And that we are to hope better of
all these supposed sects and schisms, and that we shall not need that
solicitude, honest perhaps, though over-timorous, of them that vex in
this behalf, but shall laugh in the end at those malicious applauders of
our differences, I have these reasons to persuade me.
First, when a city shall be as it were besieged and blocked about, her
navigable river infested, inroads and incursions round, defiance and
battle oft rumoured to be marching up even to her walls and suburb
trenches, that then the people, or the greater part, more than at other
times, wholly taken up with the study of highest and most important
matters to be reformed, should be disputing, reasoning, reading,
inventing, discoursing, even to a rarity and admiration, things not
before discoursed or written of, argues first a singular goodwill,
contentedness and confidence in your prudent foresight and safe
government, Lords and Commons; and from thence derives itself to a
gallant bravery and well-grounded contempt of their enemies, as if there
were no small number of as great spirits among us, as his was, who when
Rome was nigh besieged by Hannibal, being in the city, bought that piece
of ground at no cheap rate, whereon Hannibal himself encamped his own
Next, it is a lively and cheerful presage of our happy success and
victory. For as in a body, when the blood is fresh, the spirits pure and
vigorous, not only to vital but to rational faculties, and those in the
acutest and the pertest operations of wit and subtlety, it argues in
what good plight and constitution the body is; so when the cheerfulness
of the people is so sprightly up, as that it has not only wherewith to
guard well its own freedom and safety, but to spare, and to bestow upon
the solidest and sublimest points of controversy and new invention, it
betokens us not degenerated, nor drooping to a fatal decay, but casting
off the old and wrinkled skin of corruption to outlive these pangs and
wax young again, entering the glorious ways of truth and prosperous
virtue, destined to become great and honourable in these latter ages.
Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself
like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks:
methinks I see her as an eagle mewing her mighty youth, and kindling
her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam; purging and unscaling her
long-abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the
whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love
the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their
envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms.
What would ye do then? should ye suppress all this flowery crop of
knowledge and new light sprung up and yet springing daily in this city?
Should ye set an oligarchy of twenty engrossers over it, to bring a
famine upon our minds again, when we shall know nothing but what is
measured to us by their bushel? Believe it, Lords and Commons, they
who counsel ye to such a suppressing do as good as bid ye suppress
yourselves; and I will soon show how. If it be desired to know the
immediate cause of all this free writing and free speaking, there cannot
be assigned a truer than your own mild and free and humane government.
It is the liberty, Lords and Commons, which your own valorous and happy
counsels have purchased us, liberty which is the nurse of all great
wits; this is that which hath rarefied and enlightened our spirits like
the influence of heaven; this is that which hath enfranchised, enlarged
and lifted up our apprehensions, degrees above themselves.
Ye cannot make us now less capable, less knowing, less eagerly pursuing
of the truth, unless ye first make yourselves, that made us so, less
the lovers, less the founders of our true liberty. We can grow ignorant
again, brutish, formal and slavish, as ye found us; but you then
must first become that which ye cannot be, oppressive, arbitrary and
tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have freed us. That our hearts
are now more capacious, our thoughts more erected to the search and
expectation of greatest and exactest things, is the issue of your own
virtue propagated in us; ye cannot suppress that, unless ye reinforce an
abrogated and merciless law, that fathers may dispatch at will their own
children. And who shall then stick closest to ye, and excite others?
not he who takes up arms for coat and conduct, and his four nobles of
Danegelt. Although I dispraise not the defence of just immunities, yet
love my peace better, if that were all. Give me the liberty to know, to
utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
What would be best advised, then, if it be found so hurtful and so
unequal to suppress opinions for the newness or the unsuitableness to
a customary acceptance, will not be my task to say. I only shall repeat
what I have learned from one of your own honourable number, a right
noble and pious lord, who, had he not sacrificed his life and fortunes
to the Church and Commonwealth, we had not now missed and bewailed a
worthy and undoubted patron of this argument. Ye know him, I am sure;
yet I for honour’s sake, and may it be eternal to him, shall name him,
the Lord Brook. He writing of episcopacy, and by the way treating of
sects and schisms, left ye his vote, or rather now the last words of his
dying charge, which I know will ever be of dear and honoured regard with
ye, so full of meekness and breathing charity, that next to his last
testament, who bequeathed love and peace to his disciples, I cannot
call to mind where I have read or heard words more mild and peaceful. He
there exhorts us to hear with patience and humility those, however
they be miscalled, that desire to live purely, in such a use of God’s
ordinances, as the best guidance of their conscience gives them, and
to tolerate them, though in some disconformity to ourselves. The book
itself will tell us more at large, being published to the world, and
dedicated to the Parliament by him who, both for his life and for his
death, deserves that what advice he left be not laid by without perusal.
And now the time in special is, by privilege to write and speak what may
help to the further discussing of matters in agitation. The temple of
Janus with his two controversial faces might now not unsignificantly be
set open. And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to
play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously,
by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and
Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and
open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing. He who
hears what praying there is for light and clearer knowledge to be sent
down among us, would think of other matters to be constituted beyond
the discipline of Geneva, framed and fabricked already to our hands. Yet
when the new light which we beg for shines in upon us, there be who envy
and oppose, if it come not first in at their casements. What a collusion
is this, whenas we are exhorted by the wise man to use diligence, to
seek for wisdom as for hidden treasures early and late, that another
order shall enjoin us to know nothing but by statute? When a man hath
been labouring the hardest labour in the deep mines of knowledge,
hath furnished out his findings in all their equipage: drawn forth
his reasons as it were a battle ranged: scattered and defeated all
objections in his way; calls out his adversary into the plain, offers
him the advantage of wind and sun, if he please, only that he may try
the matter by dint of argument: for his opponents then to skulk, to lay
ambushments, to keep a narrow bridge of licensing where the challenger
should pass, though it be valour enough in soldiership, is but weakness
and cowardice in the wars of Truth.
For who knows not that Truth is strong, next to the Almighty? She needs
no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious;
those are the shifts and the defences that error uses against her power.
Give her but room, and do not bind her when she sleeps, for then she
speaks not true, as the old Proteus did, who spake oracles only when he
was caught and bound, but then rather she turns herself into all shapes,
except her own, and perhaps tunes her voice according to the time, as
Micaiah did before Ahab, until she be adjured into her own likeness. Yet
is it not impossible that she may have more shapes than one. What else
is all that rank of things indifferent, wherein Truth may be on this
side or on the other, without being unlike herself? What but a vain
shadow else is the abolition of those ordinances, that hand-writing
nailed to the cross? What great purchase is this Christian liberty which
Paul so often boasts of? His doctrine is, that he who eats or eats not,
regards a day or regards it not, may do either to the Lord. How many
other things might be tolerated in peace, and left to conscience, had we
but charity, and were it not the chief stronghold of our hypocrisy to be
ever judging one another?
I fear yet this iron yoke of outward conformity hath left a slavish
print upon our necks; the ghost of a linen decency yet haunts us.
We stumble and are impatient at the least dividing of one visible
congregation from another, though it be not in fundamentals; and
through our forwardness to suppress, and our backwardness to recover
any enthralled piece of truth out of the gripe of custom, we care not to
keep truth separated from truth, which is the fiercest rent and disunion
of all. We do not see that, while we still affect by all means a rigid
external formality, we may as soon fall again into a gross conforming
stupidity, a stark and dead congealment of wood and hay and stubble,
forced and frozen together, which is more to the sudden degenerating of
a Church than many subdichotomies of petty schisms.
Not that I can think well of every light separation, or that all in a
Church is to be expected gold and silver and precious stones: it is not
possible for man to sever the wheat from the tares, the good fish from
the other fry; that must be the Angels’ ministry at the end of mortal
things. Yet if all cannot be of one mind–as who looks they should
be?–this doubtless is more wholesome, more prudent, and more Christian,
that many be tolerated, rather than all compelled. I mean not tolerated
popery, and open superstition, which, as it extirpates all religions and
civil supremacies, so itself should be extirpate, provided first that
all charitable and compassionate means be used to win and regain the
weak and the misled: that also which is impious or evil absolutely
either against faith or manners no law can possibly permit, that intends
not to unlaw itself: but those neighbouring differences, or rather
indifferences, are what I speak of, whether in some point of doctrine
or of discipline, which, though they may be many, yet need not interrupt
THE UNITY OF SPIRIT, if we could but find among us THE BOND OF PEACE.
In the meanwhile if any one would write, and bring his helpful hand to
the slow-moving Reformation which we labour under, if Truth have spoken
to him before others, or but seemed at least to speak, who hath so
bejesuited us that we should trouble that man with asking license to do
so worthy a deed? and not consider this, that if it come to prohibiting,
there is not aught more likely to be prohibited than truth itself; whose
first appearance to our eyes, bleared and dimmed with prejudice and
custom, is more unsightly and unplausible than many errors, even as the
person is of many a great man slight and contemptuous to see to. And
what do they tell us vainly of new opinions, when this very opinion of
theirs, that none must be heard but whom they like, is the worst and
newest opinion of all others; and is the chief cause why sects and
schisms do so much abound, and true knowledge is kept at distance from
us; besides yet a greater danger which is in it.
For when God shakes a kingdom with strong and healthful commotions to
a general reforming, ’tis not untrue that many sectaries and false
teachers are then busiest in seducing; but yet more true it is, that God
then raises to his own work men of rare abilities, and more than
common industry, not only to look back and revise what hath been taught
heretofore, but to gain further and go on some new enlightened steps in
the discovery of truth. For such is the order of God’s enlightening his
Church, to dispense and deal out by degrees his beam, so as our earthly
eyes may best sustain it.
Neither is God appointed and confined, where and out of what place these
his chosen shall be first heard to speak; for he sees not as man sees,
chooses not as man chooses, lest we should devote ourselves again to set
places, and assemblies, and outward callings of men; planting our faith
one while in the old Convocation house, and another while in the Chapel
at Westminster; when all the faith and religion that shall be there
canonized is not sufficient without plain convincement, and the charity
of patient instruction to supple the least bruise of conscience, to
edify the meanest Christian, who desires to walk in the Spirit, and not
in the letter of human trust, for all the number of voices that can be
there made; no, though Harry VII himself there, with all his liege tombs
about him, should lend them voices from the dead, to swell their number.
And if the men be erroneous who appear to be the leading schismatics,
what withholds us but our sloth, our self-will, and distrust in the
right cause, that we do not give them gentle meetings and gentle
dismissions, that we debate not and examine the matter thoroughly with
liberal and frequent audience; if not for their sakes, yet for our own?
seeing no man who hath tasted learning, but will confess the many ways
of profiting by those who, not contented with stale receipts, are able
to manage and set forth new positions to the world. And were they but as
the dust and cinders of our feet, so long as in that notion they may yet
serve to polish and brighten the armoury of Truth, even for that respect
they were not utterly to be cast away. But if they be of those whom God
hath fitted for the special use of these times with eminent and ample
gifts, and those perhaps neither among the priests nor among the
Pharisees, and we in the haste of a precipitant zeal shall make no
distinction, but resolve to stop their mouths, because we fear they come
with new and dangerous opinions, as we commonly forejudge them ere we
understand them; no less than woe to us, while, thinking thus to defend
the Gospel, we are found the persecutors.
There have been not a few since the beginning of this Parliament, both
of the presbytery and others, who by their unlicensed books, to the
contempt of an Imprimatur, first broke that triple ice clung about our
hearts, and taught the people to see day: I hope that none of those were
the persuaders to renew upon us this bondage which they themselves have
wrought so much good by contemning. But if neither the check that Moses
gave to young Joshua, nor the countermand which our Saviour gave
to young John, who was so ready to prohibit those whom he thought
unlicensed, be not enough to admonish our elders how unacceptable to
God their testy mood of prohibiting is; if neither their own remembrance
what evil hath abounded in the Church by this set of licensing, and what
good they themselves have begun by transgressing it, be not enough,
but that they will persuade and execute the most Dominican part of the
Inquisition over us, and are already with one foot in the stirrup so
active at suppressing, it would be no unequal distribution in the first
place to suppress the suppressors themselves: whom the change of their
condition hath puffed up, more than their late experience of harder
times hath made wise.
And as for regulating the press, let no man think to have the honour
of advising ye better than yourselves have done in that Order published
next before this, “that no book be printed, unless the printer’s and the
author’s name, or at least the printer’s, be registered.” Those which
otherwise come forth, if they be found mischievous and libellous, the
fire and the executioner will be the timeliest and the most effectual
remedy that man’s prevention can use. For this authentic Spanish policy
of licensing books, if I have said aught, will prove the most unlicensed
book itself within a short while; and was the immediate image of a Star
Chamber decree to that purpose made in those very times when that Court
did the rest of those her pious works, for which she is now fallen
from the stars with Lucifer. Whereby ye may guess what kind of state
prudence, what love of the people, what care of religion or good
manners there was at the contriving, although with singular hypocrisy
it pretended to bind books to their good behaviour. And how it got the
upper hand of your precedent Order so well constituted before, if we may
believe those men whose profession gives them cause to inquire most,
it may be doubted there was in it the fraud of some old patentees and
monopolizers in the trade of bookselling; who under pretence of the poor
in their Company not to be defrauded, and the just retaining of each man
his several copy, which God forbid should be gainsaid, brought divers
glossing colours to the House, which were indeed but colours, and
serving to no end except it be to exercise a superiority over their
neighbours; men who do not therefore labour in an honest profession
to which learning is indebted, that they should be made other men’s
vassals. Another end is thought was aimed at by some of them in
procuring by petition this Order, that, having power in their hands,
malignant books might the easier scape abroad, as the event shows.
But of these sophisms and elenchs of merchandise I skill not. This I
know, that errors in a good government and in a bad are equally almost
incident; for what magistrate may not be misinformed, and much the
sooner, if liberty of printing be reduced into the power of a few? But
to redress willingly and speedily what hath been erred, and in highest
authority to esteem a plain advertisement more than others have done a
sumptuous bride, is a virtue (honoured Lords and Commons) answerable to
your highest actions, and whereof none can participate but greatest and
wisest men.



The juxtaposition of these particular aphorisms by Adorno may at first seem strange, but they all intertwine as a commentary of the human condition as opposed to the manufactured human condition. Even somewhat strange reading attempts to come to terms with Nietzsche seem antiquated today when he is much better understood. Certainly, there are at least two Nietzsches, as described below by Ernst, but a multitude — even as he is now understood better than ever. As he himself said, “I was born posthumously.” In fact, by the end of the 19th century, there was not the slightest hint that he was soon to become the single most influential thinker of the 20th, revolutionizing thought and impacting thinkers and writers either directly or indirectly for the entire century and beyond. This is remarkable in itself as his final and most productive year was 1888 and only a thousand copies of his last book of Zarathustra had been printed and most of them were given away. Soon after his last work, the Anti-Christ, he finally succumbed to brain cancer and could not be induced to utter a single syllable about his work. The Will to Power is an attempt by his sister to piece together many of his past writings and notebooks and it was published without his knowledge. The influence he was to have in the next Century was as well anticipated as was Quantum Mechanics in the Physical Sciences. This selection of aphorisms concludes with Adorno’s own analysis of Nietzsche. Evaluation and explication of that is left to the reader.

#106 here discusses memory and memories and the discussion yields an ambivalent attitude towards it. It concludes, however, with a very powerful assertion of ints importance: in other words, without memories of past achievements or worth, one is doomed to die in despair. With such a warning, it is wise to revisit our own memories and reassess them rather than to dismiss them. It is certainly worth thinking about whether winning a baseball game with one swing of the bat, leaving all players to walk off the field, way back when one was in his teens is a more worthy achievement than obtaining a Ph.D. or having an I.Q. measured at least three standard deviations above the mean. In the last analysis, which of these three is the most valuable? There are many diverse elements involved in each situation, but perhaps the overwhelming one is the instantaneous accomplishment which put a final and irrevocable end to something. The point here is that there is value in all of these and one need not let society or societal prejudices determine the value of any of them, nor should one allow them to be tinged as either “good” or “bad” according to some external value system that seems to conspire to keep the individual humble and retiring and allow the wealthy and powerful to continue their own definition of success, which always seems to describe them.

#113 shows Adorno at his most irritating, and hence most interesting. He discusses Schopenhauer’s attitude towards leisure time as expressed by an editor to his World as Will and Idea, indicates that therefore Schopenhauer preferred death to leisure time, found himself alienated from the concept, and then uses Baudelaire, Christianity, Marx (the concept of alienation), and Tolstoi’s attitude towards the feeling after sex to support his points. On a very real level this is preposterous. In fact, when Schopenhauer felt the urge to copulate was so overwhelming that it distracted him from his thought and writing, he went out, paid a willing female, and discharged the offending urge and, with much relief, returned to his work. Such a logical and intelligent, and also stubborn, attitude is simply beyond the imagination of most human beings, yet who is to say that many males, at least, would have led happier and more productive lives had they followed Schopenhauer’s advice and example?

#119 is an excellent discussion of morality as oppression and how it developed. It is amazing when one considers how a system of values that asserts the corrupting and pernicious effects of capital acquisition become a defense of the ruling class and the wealthy, what we today, in 2014, tend to call the 1% when we are in our most polite mode of discourse. Additionally, the ruling forces have always attempted to harness are acquire the rights to any sort of pleasurable or needy urges and allow then to be indulged only by permission. In a section here omitted Adorno uses the term “Ford” to refer to Henry Ford, the archetypical capitalist later identified as Fascist. It is little-known that he had manufacturing plants in Hitler’s Germany and was supplying armaments to Hitler during World War II (he was doing the same here). It is even less known that we bombed one or more of these plants during the war and he sued the United States Government for damages. Even more preposterous is the fact that he won in the United States’ Legal system. He became an obvious symbol of the first half of the 20th century and was used by Aldus Huxley in his Brave New World, a classic that illustrates much of what Adorno discusses in the next passages. Today, of course, no single person can be used a such an exemplar as there ae so many, all subsumed under the rubric of “Corporation,” a concept which has been legally designated as human by our legal system as of a few years ago.

The rest of the discussion concerns the CULTURE INDUSTRY. This is a concept that the Frankfurt School has had difficulty in dealing with. At one time, Marcuse wrote a piece lamenting the phonograph as replacing the concert hall which led to much anger and indignation. He, of course, was not attacking the technology and the benefits but rather remarking on the importance of the traditional setting. At the same approximate time, a recording of the Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould was released and caused not only a sensation, but a revolution in the way people listened to serious music. Some classical pianists remarked that the recording reminded them of why they started on their arduous career in the first place. Gould erupted against the stuffy and traditional, appearing in an overcoat, sitting on an orange crate, wearing gloves with the fingertips cut off and performing in the most prestigious concert halls in the world. Eventually, he retired from public performance and dedicated himself exclusively to the recording studio. He hummed along, out of tune, with his brilliant playing and revived classical music and revolutionized how people listened to it.
Adorno himself contributed to Thomas Mann’s understanding of the technicalities of classical music, especially the twelve tone system of Arnold Schoenberg. I would not hesitate to recommend Dr. Faustus as the most accomplished novel of the twentieth century, although I would warn that not only is a familiarity with the Faust legend is required but also a close understanding of what “Classical” music is. Terms such as “Fugue,” “Cantata,” “Sonata,” and several others are familiar enough and, if they are not, Faustus is not a work the reader will find rewarding.
I must, however, contrast it to Finnegan’s Wake and the works of Joyce. Joyce once said “It took me my whole life to write my books. You should spend your whole life reading them.” I took him at his word, eagerly, and abandoned any attempts to come to terms with him. There were simply too many other authors to consider. Thomas Mann has never made such an idiotic statement.
On the final issue: the culture industry. Mass media is simply too demeaning to discuss formally and is out of place here. Adorno does his best to deal with it and I leave his words to themselves.

All the little flowers. – The sentence, most likely from Jean-Paul, that memories are the only property which cannot be taken from us, belongs in the storehouse of a powerlessly sentimental consolation, which would like to think that the self-renouncing withdrawal of the subject into interiority is precisely the fulfillment, from which the consolation turns away. By establishing the archive of oneself, the subject commandeers its own stock of experience as property and thereby turns it once more into something entirely external to the subject. The past inner life turns into furniture, just as, conversely, every piece of Biedermeier furniture was memory made wood. The intérieur [French: interior], in which the soul stores its collection of curiosities and memorabilia, is invalid. Memories cannot be preserved in drawers and file cabinets, but rather in them is indissolubly interwoven what is past with what is present. No-one has them at their disposal in the freedom and arbitrariness, whose praise resounds in the swollen sentences of Jean-Paul. Precisely where they becomes controllable and objective, where the subject thinks of them as wholly secure, memories fade like soft wall-papers under harsh sunlight. Where however they retain their energy, protected by what is forgotten, they are endangered like anything which is alive. The conception of Bergson and Proust, aimed against reification, according to which what is contemporary, what is immediacy, constitutes itself only through memory, the reciprocity of what is now and what is then, has for that reason not merely a providential but also an infernal aspect. Just as no earlier experience truly exists, which was not detached from the rigor mortis of its isolated existence by involuntary memorialization, so too is the converse true, that no memory is guaranteed, as existing in itself, indifferent towards the future of the one who harbors it; nothing which is past is safe from the curse of the empirical present, through the transition into mere representation [Vorstellung]. The most blissful memory of a human being can, according to its substance, be repealed by a later experience. Whoever loved and betrayed love, does something awful not only to the picture of what has been, but to this last itself. With incontrovertible evidence, an unwilling gesture while awakening, a hollow cadence, a faint hypocrisy of pleasure, inveigles itself into the memory, making the nearness of yesterday already into the alienation, which it today has become. Despair has the expression of what is irrevocable not because things couldn’t go better next time, but because it draws the previous time into its maw. That is why it is foolish and sentimental, to wish to preserve what is past as pure in the midst of the dirty flood of what is contemporary. This latter, delivered unprotected to calamity, is left with no other hope than to emerge once more from this latter as something else. To those however who die in despair, their whole life was in vain.
Spoilsport. – The affinity between asceticism and euphoria, noted by the humdrum wisdom of psychology, the love-hate between saints and whores, has the objectively valid ground, that asceticism accords to fulfillment more of its rights than cultural installment-payments. The hostility to pleasure is certainly not to be separated from the consensus with the discipline of a society, which has its essence [Wesen] in demanding more than it grants in return. But there is also a mistrust against pleasure which comes from the intuition, that the latter is in this world nothing of the sort. A construction of Schopenhauer unconsciously expressed something of this intuition. The transition from the affirmation to the repudiation of the will to life occurs in the development of the thought, that in every delimitation of the will by a barrier “which is placed… between it and its former goal” there is suffering; in contrast, “its attainment of the goal” would be “satisfaction, well-being, happiness.” While such “suffering,” according to Schopenhauer’s intransigent cognition, could easily enough grow to the point that death itself would be preferable, the condition of “satisfaction” is itself unsatisfying, because “as soon as a shelter is granted to human beings from urgent necessity and suffering, boredom is so close at hand, that it requires the killing of time. What occupies all living beings and keeps them in motion, is the striving for existence [Dasein]. They don’t know what to do with existence, however, what it is assured: thus the second thing, which they set into motion, is the striving to be free of the burden of existence, to make it imperceptible, ‘to kill time’, that is, to escape boredom.” (Schopenhauer, Collected Works, Grand Duke Wilhelm-Ernst Edition, Volume I: The World as Will and Idea. I. Introduction by Eduard Grisebach. Leipzig 1920, pg 415). But the concept of this boredom which is sublated to such unsuspected dignity, is something which Schopenhauer’s sensibility, which is hostile to history, would least like to admit – bourgeois through and through. It is, as the experience of antithetical “free time,” the complement of alienated labor, whether this free time is supposed to merely reproduce expended energy, or whether it is burdened by the extraction of alien labor as a mortgage. Free time remains the reflex of the rhythm of production as something imposed heteronomously, to which the former is compulsorily held fast even in periods of weariness. The consciousness of the unfreedom of all existence, which the pressure of the demands of commerce, and thus unfreedom itself, does not allow to appear, emerges first in the intermezzo of freedom. The nostalgie du dimanche [French: Sunday nostalgia] is not homesickness for the workweek, but for the condition which is emancipated from this; Sundays are unsatisfying, not because they are observed, but because its own promise immediately represents itself at the same time as something unfulfilled; like the English one, every Sunday is too little Sunday. Those for who time painfully extends itself, who wait in vain, are disappointed that it failed to happen, that tomorrow goes past once more just like yesterday. The boredom of those however who do not need to work, is not fundamentally different from this. Society as a totality imposes, on those with administrative power, what they do to others, and what these latter may not do, the former will scarcely permit themselves. The bourgeoisie have turned satiety, which ought to be the close relation of ecstasy, into an epithet. Because others go hungry, ideology demands that the absence of hunger should count as vulgar. Thus the bourgeoisie indict the bourgeoisie. Their own existence, as exempt from labor, prevents any praise of laziness: the latter would be boring. The hectic bustle, which Schopenhauer refers to, is due less to the unbearable nature of the privileged condition than to its ostentation, which according to the historical situation either enlarges the social distance or seemingly reduces such through presumably important events and ceremonies, which are supposed to emphasize the usefulness of the masters. If those at the top truly felt bored, this stems not from too much happiness, but from the fact that they are marked by the general unhappiness; by the commodity character, which consigns the pleasures to idiocy, by the brutality of command, whose terrifying echo resounds in the high spirits of the rulers, finally by their fear of their own superfluousness. Noone who profits from the profit-system is capable of existing therein without shame, and it distorts even undistorted pleasure, although the excesses, which the philosophers envy, may by no means be so boring as they assure us. That boredom would disappear in realized freedom, is something vouchsafed by many experiences stolen from civilization. The saying omne animal post coitum triste [Latin: all animals are sad after mating] was devised by bourgeois contempt for humanity: nowhere more than here does what is human distinguish itself from creaturely sorrow. Not euphoria but socially approved love elicits disgust: the latter is, in Ibsen’s word, sticky. Those who are deeply moved by erotic sentiment transform fatigue into the plea for tenderness, and momentary sexual incapacity is understood as accidental, entirely external to passion. It is not for nothing that Baudelaire thought the bondage of erotic obsession together with the illuminating spiritualization, naming kiss, scent and conversation equally immortal. The transience of pleasure, on which asceticism stakes its claim, stands for the fact that except in the minutes heureuses [French: happy minutes], in which the forgotten life of the lover radiates from the arms and limbs of the beloved, there is no pleasure yet at all. Even the Christian denunciation of sex in Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata cannot entirely cancel out the memory of this in the middle of all the Capucin-style preaching. What he reproaches sensuous love for, is not only the grandiosely overweening theological motif of self-denial, that no human being may turn another into an object – actually thus a protest against patriarchal control – but at the same time the memorialization of the bourgeois malformation of sex, in its murky entanglement with every material interest, in marriage as a humiliating compromise, however much of an undercurrent of Rousseau’s resentment against pleasure raised to reflection runs in this. The attack on the period of the engagement is aimed at the family photograph, which resemblance the word “bridegroom.” ‘And moreover there was that ridiculous custom of giving sweets, of coarse gormandizing on sweets, and all those abominable preparations for the wedding: remarks about the house, the bedroom, beds, wraps, dressing-gowns, underclothing, costumes.’ [The Kreutzer Sonata, trans. R. Gustafson, Oxford UP: 1997, pg 107] He similarly mocks the honeymoon, which is compared to the disappointment after visiting an ‘extremely uninteresting’ fairground booth, extolled by a hawker. The exhausted senses are less to blame for this dégoût [French: disgust] than what is institutionalized, ordained, prefabricated in pleasure, its false immanence in the social order which adjusts it and turns it into something deathly sad, in the moment it is decreed. Such contrariness may grow to the point that all euphoria ultimately prefers to cease, inside renunciation, rather than violating the concept of euphoria through its realization.
Model virtue. – It is well-known how oppression and ethics [Moral] converge in the renunciation of the drives. But the ethical ideas do not merely oppress other ones, but are immediately derived from the existence of the oppressor. Since Homer, the concepts of good and wealth are intertwined in the Greek language. The kalokagathie [Greek: perfection], which was upheld by the humanists of modern society as a model of aesthetic-ethical harmony, has always put a heavy emphasis on property, and Aristotele’s Politics openly confessed the fusion of inner value with status in the determination of nobility, as “inherited wealth, which is connected with excellence.” The concept of the polis [Greek: city-state] in classical antiquity, which upheld internalized and externalized nature [Wesen], the validity of the individual [Individuum] in the city-state and the individual’s self as a unity, permitted it to ascribe moral rank to wealth, without inciting the crude suspicion, which the doctrine already at that time courted. If the visible effect on an existent state establishes the measure of a human being, then it is nothing but consistency to vouchsafe the material wealth, which tangibly confirms that effect, as the characteristic of the person, since the latter’s moral substance – just as later in Hegel’s philosophy – is supposed to be constituted on nothing other than their participation in the objective, social substance. Christianity first negated that identification, in the phrase that it would be easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven. But the particular theological premise on voluntary chosen poverty indicates how deeply the general consciousness is stamped by the ethos [Moralität] of property. Fixed property is to be distinguished from the nomadic disorder, against which all norms are directed; to be good and to have goods, coincided from the beginning. Good people are those who control themselves as their own possessions: their autonomous nature [Wesen] is modeled on material disposition. The rich are therefore not to be accused of being unethical – that reproach has ever belonged to the armature of political oppression – but given to understand, that they represent ethics [Moral] to others. In this latter is reflected having [Habe]. Wealth as goodliness [Gutsein: having goods/being good] is an element of the mortar of the world: the hard-bitten appearance [Schein] of such identity hinders the confrontation of the moral idea with the social order, in which the rich are right, while at the same time determinations of what is ethical different than those derived from wealth cannot be conceptualized. The more that the individual [Individuum] and society later diverged in the competition of interests, and the more the former is thrown back on itself, the more stubbornly do individuals hold onto the conception of moral nature [Wesen] as wealth. It is supposed to vouch for the possibility of reunifying what has been divided in two, into inside and outside. That is the secret of the inner-worldly asceticism, which Max Weber wrongly hypostatized as the limitless exertion of the businessman ad majorem dei gloriam [Latin: to the greater glory of God]. Material success binds individual [Individuum] and society not merely in the comfortable and meanwhile dubious sense, that the rich can escape loneliness, but in a far more radical sense: if the blind, isolated self-interest is driven only far enough, then it passes over, along with the economic one, into social power and reveals itself to be the incarnation of a universally binding principle. Whoever is rich or acquires wealth, experiences what is attained by the ego, “by one’s own initiative,” as what the objective Spirit [Geist], the truly irrational predestination of a society held together by brutal economic inequality, has willed. Thus the rich may reckon as benevolence, what testifies only to its absence. To themselves and to others, they experience themselves as the realization of the general principle. Because this latter is injustice, that is why the unjust turn regularly into the just, and not as mere illusion, but borne out of the hegemony of the law, according to which society reproduces itself. The wealth of the individual is inseparable from progress in society as “prehistory.” The rich dispose over the means of production. Consequently the technical progress, in which the entire society participates, is accounted for primarily as “their” progress, today that of industry, and the Fords necessarily appear to be benefactors, to the same degree which they in fact are, given the framework of the existing relations of production. Their privilege, already established in advance, makes it seem as if they were giving up what is theirs – namely the increase on the side of use-value – while those who are receiving their administered blessings are getting back only part of the profit. That is the ground of the character of delusion of ethical hierarchy. Poverty has indeed always been glorified as asceticism, the social condition for the acquisition of precisely the wealth in which morality [Sittlichkeit] is manifested, but nevertheless “what a man is worth” [in English in original] signifies, as everyone knows, the bank account – in the jargon of the German merchants, “the man is good,” i.e. they can pay. What however the reasons of state of the almighty economy so cynically confesses, reaches unacknowledged into the mode of conduct of individuals. The generosity in private intercourse, which the rich can presumably allow themselves, the reflected glow of happiness, which rests on them, and something of this falls on everyone who they consort with, all this veils them. They remain nice, “the right people” [in English in original], the better types, the good. Wealth distances itself from immediate injustice. The guard beats strikers with a billy club, the son of the factory-owner may occasionally drink a whisky with the progressive author. According to all desiderata of private ethics [Moral], even the most advanced kind, the rich could, if they only could, in fact always better be than the poor. This possibility, while truly indeed left unused, plays its role in the ideology of those who do not have it: even the convicted con artist, who may anyway be preferable to the legitimate boss of the trusts, is famous for having such a beautiful house, and the highly paid executive turns into a warm human being, the moment they serve an opulent dinner. Today’s barbaric religion of success is accordingly not simply counter-ethical [widermoralisch], rather it is the home-coming of the West to the venerable morals [Sitten] of the fathers. Even the norms, which condemn the arrangement of the world, owe their existence to the latter’s own mischief [Unwesen]. All ethics [Moral] is formed on the model of what is unethical [Unmoral], and to this day reproduces the latter at every stage. Slave-ethics [Sklavenmoral] is in fact bad: it is still only master-ethics [Herrenmoral].
Customer service. – The culture industry sanctimoniously claims to follow its consumers and to deliver what they want. But while it reflexively denigrates every thought of its own autonomy and proclaims its victims as judges, its veiled high-handedness outbids all the excesses of autonomous art. It is not so much that the culture industry adapts to the reactions of its customers, as that it feigns these latter. It rehearses them, by behaving as if it itself was a customer. One could almost suspect, the entire “adjustment” [in English in original], which it claims to obey, is ideology; that the more human beings try, through exaggerated equality, through the oath of fealty to social powerlessness, to participate in power and to drive out equality, the more they attempt to make themselves resemble others and the whole. “The music listens for the listeners,” and the film practices on the scale of a trust the despicable trick of adults, who, when speaking down to a child, fall over the gift with the language which suits only them, and then present the usually dubious gift with precisely the expression of lip-smacking joy, that is supposed to be elicited. The culture industry is tailored according to mimetic regression, to the manipulation of suppressed imitation-impulses. Therein it avails itself of the method, of anticipating its own imitation by its viewers, and sealing the consensus that it wishes to establish, by making it appear as if it already existed. What makes this all the easier, is that it can count on such a consensus in a stable system and can ritually repeat it, rather than actually having to produce it. Its product is by no means a stimulus, but a model for modes of reaction of nonexistent stimuli. Thus the enthusiastic music titles on the silver screen, the moronic children’s speech, the eye-winking folksiness; even the close-up of the start calls out “How beautiful!,” as it were. With this procedure the cultural machine goes so far as to dress down viewers like the frontally photographed express train in a moment of tension. The cadence of every film however is that of the witch, who serves soup to the little ones she wants to ensorcel or devour, with the hideous murmur, “Yummy soup, yummy soup? You’ll enjoy it, you’ll enjoy it…” In art, this kitchen fire-magic was discovered by Wagner, whose linguistic intimacies and musical spices are always tasting themselves, and who simultaneously demonstrated the entire procedure, with the genius’ compulsion of confession, in the scene of the Ring, where Mime offers Siegfried the poisoned potion. Who however is supposed to chop off the monster’s head, now that its blond locks have lain for a long time under the linden tree? [Unter den Linden: famous boulevard in Berlin]
Grey and grey. – Not even its bad conscience can help the culture industry. Its Spirit [Geist] is so objective, that it slaps all its subjects in the face, and so the latter, agents all, know what the story is and seek to distance themselves through mental reservations from the nonsense which they create. The acknowledgment, that films broadcast ideology, is itself a broadcast ideology. It is dealt with administratively by the rigid distinction between synthetic day-dreams on the one hand, vehicles of flight from daily life, “escape” [English in original]; and well-meaning products on the other hand, which promote correct social behaviors, providing information, “conveying a message” [in English in original]. The prompt subsumption under “escape” [in English in original] and “message” [in English in original] expresses the untruth of both types. The mockery against “escape” [in English in original], the standardized outrage against superficiality, is nothing but the pathetic echo of the old-fashioned ethos, which denounces gambling, because it cannot play along with such in the prevailing praxis. The escape-films are so dreadful not because they turn their back on an existence squeezed dry, but because they do not do so energetically enough, because they are squeezed just as dry, because the satisfactions which they pretend to give, converge with the humiliation of reality, with renunciation. The dreams have no dream. Just as the technicolor heroes don’t allow us to forget for a second that they are normal human beings, typecast prominent faces and investments, what is unmistakably revealed under the thin flutter of schematically produced fantasy is the skeleton of cinema-ontology, the entire prescribed hierarchy of values, the canon of what is unwanted and what is to be imitated. Nothing is more practical than “escape” [in English in original], nothing is more wedded to bustle: one is kidnapped into the distance only to have it hammered into one’s consciousness, that even at a distance, the laws of the empirical mode of life are undisturbed by empirical deviations. The “escape” [in English in original] is full of “message” [in English in original]. That is how the “message” [in English in original], the opposite, looks, which wishes to flee from flight. It reifies the resistance against reification. One need only hear experts talk about how a splendid work of the silver screen has, next to other merits, also a constitution, in the same tone of voice that a pretty actress is described as even having “personality” [in English in original]. The executive can easily decide at the conference, that the escape-film must be given, next to more expensive additions, an ideal such as: human beings should be noble, helpful and good. Separated from the immanent logic of the entity, from the thing, the ideal turns into something produced on tap, the reform of ameliorable grievances, transfigured charity, thereby simultaneously tangible and void. They prefer most of all to broadcast the rehabilitation of drunks, whose impoverished euphoria they envy. By representing a society hardened in itself, according to anonymous laws, as if good will alone were enough to help matters, that society is defended even where it is honestly attacked. What is reflected is a kind of popular front of all proper and right-thinking people. The practical Spirit [Geist] of the “message” [in English in original], the tangible demonstration of how things can be done better, allies itself with the system in the fiction, that a total social subject, which does not exist at present, can make everything okay, if one could only assemble all the pieces and clear up the root of the evil. It is quite pleasant, to be able to vouch for one’s efficiency. “Message” [in English in original] turns into “escape” [in English in original]: those swept up in cleaning the house in which they live, forget the ground on which it was built. What “escape” [in English in original] would really be, the antipathy, turned into a picture, against the whole, all the way into what is formally constituted, could recoil into a “message” [in English in original], without expressing it, indeed precisely through tenacious asceticism against the suggestion.
Wolf as grandmother. – The strongest argument of the apologists for film is the crudest, its massive consumption. They declare the drastic medium of the culture industry to be popular art. The independence of norms of the autonomous work is supposed to discharge it from aesthetic responsibility, a responsibility whose standards prove to be reactionary in relation to film, just as in fact all intentions of the artistic ennoblement of film have something awry, something badly elevated, something lacking in form – something of the import for the connoisseur. The more that film pretends to be art, the more fraudulent it becomes. Its protagonists can point to this and even, as critics of the meanwhile kitschy interiority, appear avant-garde next to its crude material kitsch. If one grants this as a ground, then they become, strengthened by technical experience and facility with the material, nearly irresistible. The film is not a mass art, but is merely manipulated for the deception of the masses? But the wishes of the masses make themselves felt incessantly through the market; its collective production alone would guarantee its collective essence [Wesen]; only someone completely outside of reality would presume to see clever manipulators in the producers; most are talentless, certainly, but where the right talents coincide, it can succeed in spite of all the restrictions of the system. The mass taste which the film obeys, is by no means that of the masses themselves, but foisted on them? But to speak of a different mass taste than the one they have now, would be foolish, and what is called popular art, has always reflected domination. According to such logic, it is only in the competent adaptation of production to given needs, not in consideration of a utopian audience, that the nameless general will can take shape. Films are full of lying stereotypes? But stereotyping is the essence of popular art, fairy-tales know the rescuing prince and the devil just as films have the hero and villain, and even the barbaric cruelty, which divided the world into good and evil, is something film has in common with the greatest fairy-tales, which have the stepmother dance to death in red-hot iron shoes.
All this is can be countered, only by consideration of the fundamental concepts presupposed by the apologists. Bad films are not to be charged with incompetence: the most gifted are refracted by the bustle, and the fact that the ungifted stream towards them, is due to the elective affinity between lies and swindlers. The idiocy is objective; improvements in personnel could not create a popular art. The latter’s idea was formed in agrarian relationships or simple commodity economies. Such relationships and their character of expression are those of lords and serfs, profiteers and disadvantaged, but in an immediate, not entirely objectified form. They are to be sure not less furrowed by class differences than late industrial society, but their members are not yet encompassed by the total structure, which reduces individual subjects to mere moments, in order to unite them, as those who are powerless and isolated, into the collective. That there are no longer folk does not however mean that, as Romanticism propagated, the masses are worse. On the contrary, what is revealed precisely now in the new, radical alienated form of society is the untruth of the older one. Even the traits, which the culture industry reclaims as the legacy of popular art, become thereby suspect. The film has a retroactive energy: its optimistic horror brings to light what always served injustice in the fairy-tale, and evokes in the parade of villains the countenances of those, which the integral society condemns and whose condemnation was ever the dream of socialization. That is why the extinction of individual art is no justification for one which acts as if it its subject, which reacts archaically, were the natural one, while this last is the syndicate, albeit unconscious, of a pair of giant firms. If the masses themselves, as customers, have an influence on the film, this remains as abstract as the ticket stub, which steps into the place of nuanced applause: the mere choice between yes and no to something offered, strung between the discrepancy of concentrated power and scattered powerlessness. Finally, the fact that numerous experts, also simple technicians, participate in the making of a film, no more guarantees its humanity than the decisions of competent scientific bodies vis-à-vis bombs and poison gas. The high-flown talk of film art stands indeed to benefit scribblers, who wish to get ahead; the conscious appeal to naïvété, however, to the block-headedness of the subalterns, long since permeated by the thoughts of the master, will not do. Film, which today clings as unavoidably to human beings, as if it was a piece of themselves, is simultaneously that which is most distant from their human determination, which is realized from one day to the next, and its apologetics live on the resistance against thinking through this antinomy. That the people who make films are by no means intriguers, says nothing against this. The objective Spirit [Geist] of manipulation prevails through rules of experience, estimations of situations, technical criteria, economically unavoidable calculations, the entire deadweight of the industrial apparatus, without even having to censor itself, and even those who questioned the masses, would find the ubiquity of the system reflected back at them. The producers function as little as subjects as their workers and buyers, but solely as parts of an independent machinery. The Hegelian-sounding commandment, however, that mass art must respect the real taste of the masses and not that of negativistic intellectuals, is usurpation. The opposition of film, as an all-encompassing ideology, to the objective interests of human beings, its entanglement with the status quo of the profit-system, its bad conscience and deception can be succinctly cognized. No appeal to a factually accessible state of consciousness would have the right of veto against the insight, which reaches beyond this state of consciousness, by disclosing its contradiction to itself and to objective relationships. It is possible, that the Fascist professor was right and that even the folk songs, as they were, lived from the degraded cultural heritage of the upper class. It is not for nothing that all popular art is crumbly and, like films, not “organic.” But between the old injustice, in whose voice a lament is still audible, even where it transfigures itself, and the alienation which upholds itself as connectedness, which cunningly creates the appearance [Schein] of human intimacy with loudspeakers and advertising psychology, there is a distinction similar to the one between the mother, who soothes the child who is afraid of demons with a fairy-tale in which the good are rewarded and the evil are punished, and the cinema product, which drives the justice of each world order into the eyes and ears of audiences of every land harshly, threateningly, in order to teach them anew, and more thoroughly, the old fear. The fairy-tale dreams which call so eagerly for the child in the adult, are nothing but regression, organized by total enlightenment, and where they tap the audience on the shoulder most intimately, they betray them most thoroughly. Immediacy, the community produced by films, is tantamount to the mediation without a remainder, which degrades human beings and everything human so completely to things, that their contrast to things, indeed even the bane [Bann] of reification itself, cannot be perceived anymore. Film has succeeded in transforming subjects into social functions so indiscriminately, that those who are entirely in its grasp, unaware of any conflicts, enjoy their own dehumanization as human, as the happiness of warmth. The total context of the culture industry, which leaves nothing out, is one with total social delusion. That is why it so easily dispatches counter-arguments.
Expensive reproduction. [Piperdruck] – Society is integral, before it ever becomes ruled as totalitarian. Its organization encompasses even those who feud against it, and normalizes their consciousness. Even intellectuals who have all the political arguments against bourgeois ideology handy, are subjected to a process of standardization which, whether in crassly contrasting content or through the readiness on their part to be comfortable, brings them closer to the prevailing Spirit [Geist], such that their standpoint objectively becomes always more arbitrary, dependent on flimsy preferences or their estimation of their own chances. What appears to them as subjectively radical, objectively belongs through and through to the compartment of a schema, reserved for them and their kind, so that radicalism is degraded to abstract prestige, the legitimation of those who know what today’s intellectuals should be for and against. The good things, for which they opt, have long since been acknowledged, their numbers accordingly limited, as fixed in the value-hierarchy as those in the student fraternities. While they denounce official kitsch, their sensibility is dependent, like obedient children, on nourishment already sought out in advance, on the cliches of hostility to cliches. The dwellings of young bohemians resemble their spiritual household. On the wall, deceptively original color prints of famous artists, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or the Café at Arles, on the bookshelf derivative works on socialism and psychoanalysis and a little sex-research for the uninhibited with inhibitions. In addition, the Random House edition of Proust – Scott Moncrieff’s translation deserved a better fate – exclusivity at reduced prices, whose exterior alone, the compact-economic form of the omnibus, is a mockery of the author, whose every sentence knocks a received opinion out of action, while he now plays, as a prize-winning homosexual, the same role with youth as books on animals of the forest and the North Pole expedition in the German home. Also, the record player with the Lincoln cantata of a brave soul, which deals essentially with railroad stations, next to the obligatory eye-catching folklore from Oklahoma and a pair of brassy jazz records, which make one feel simultaneously collective, bold and comfortable. Every judgment is approved by friends, they know all the arguments in advance. That all cultural products, even the non-conformist ones, are incorporated into the mechanism of distribution of large-scale capital, that in the most developed lands a creation which does not bear the imprimatur of mass production can scarcely reach any readers, observers, or listeners, refuses the material in advance for the deviating longing. Even Kafka is turned into a piece of inventory in the rented apartment. Intellectuals themselves are already so firmly established, in their isolated spheres, in what is confirmed, that they can no longer desire anything which is not served to them under the brand of “highbrow” [in English in original]. Their sole ambition consists of finding their way in the accepted canon, of saying the right thing. The outsider status of the initiates is an illusion and mere waiting-time. It would be giving them too much credit to call them renegades; they wear overlarge horn-rimmed glasses on their mediocre faces, solely to better pass themselves off as “brilliant” to themselves and to others in the general competition. They are already exactly like them. The subjective precondition of opposition, the non-normalized judgment, goes extinct, while its trappings continue to be carried out as a group ritual. Stalin need only clear his throat, and they throw Kafka and Van Gogh on the trash-heap.
Contribution to intellectual history. – In the back of my copy of Zarathrustra, dated 1910, there are publisher’s notices. They are all tailored to that clan of Nietzsche readers, as imagined by Alfred Körner in Leipzig, someone who ought to know. “Ideal Life-goals by Adalbert Svoboda. Svoboda has ignited a brightly shining beacon in his works, which cast light on all problems of the investigative Spirit of human beings [Menschengeist] and reveal before our eyes the true ideals of reason, art and culture. This magnificently conceived and splendidly realized book is gripping from beginning to end, enchanting, stimulating, instructive and has the same effect on all truly free Spirits [Geister] as a nerve-steeling bath and fresh mountain air.” Signed: Humanity, and almost as recommendable as David Friedrich Strauss. “On Zarathrustra by Max Ernst. There are two Nietzsches. One is the world-famous fashionable philosopher, the dazzling poet and phenomenally gifted master of style, who is now the talk of all the world, from whose works a few misunderstood slogans have become the intellectual baggage of the educated. The other Nietzsche is the unfathomable, inexhaustible thinker and psychologist, the great discerner of human beings and valuer of life of unsurpassable spiritual energy and power of thought, to who the most distant future belongs. To bring this other Nietzsche to the most imaginative and serious-minded of contemporary human beings is the intent of the following two essays contained in this short book.” In that case I would still prefer the former. The other goes: “A Philosopher and a Noble Human Being, a Contribution to the Characteristics of Friedrich Nietzsche, by Meta von Salis-Marschlins. The book grabs out attention by the faithful reproduction of all the sensations which Nietzsche’s personality evoked in the self-conscious soul of a woman.” Don’t forget the whip, instructed Zarathrustra. Instead of this, is offered: “The Philosophy of Joy by Max Zerbst. Dr. Max Zerbst starts out from Nietzsche, but strives to overcome a certain one-sidedness in Nietzsche… The author is not given to cool abstractions, it is rather a hymn, a philosophical hymn to joy, which he delivers in spades.” Like a student spree. Only no one-sidedness. Better to run straight to the heaven of the atheists: “The Four Gospels, German, with introduction and commentary by Dr. Heinrich Schmidt. In contrast to the corrupted, heavily edited form, in which the gospels have been delivered to us as literature, this new edition goes back to the source and may be of high value not only for truly religious human beings, but also for those ‘anti-Christs’, who press for social action.” The choice is difficult, but one can take comfort from the fact that both elites will be as agreeable as the synopticists: “The Gospel of Modern Humanity (A Synthesis: Nietzsche and Christ) by Carl Martin. An astounding treatise of edification. Everything which is taken up in the science and art of the present has taken up the struggle with the Spirits [Geistern] of the past, all of this has taken root and blossomed , in this mature and yet so young mind [Gemüt]. And mark well: this ‘modern’, entirely new human being creates for itself and us the most revivifying potion from an age-old spring: that other message of redemption, whose purest sounds resonate in the Sermon on the Mount… Even in the form of the simplicity and grandeur of those words!” Signed: Ethical Culture. The miracle passed away nearly forty years ago, plus twenty more or so, since the genius in Nietzsche justifiably decided to break off communication with the world. It didn’t help – exhilarated, unbelieving priests and exponents of that organized ethical culture, which later drove formerly well-to-do ladies to emigrate and get by as waitresses in New York, have thrived on the posthumous legacy of someone who once worried whether someone was listening to him sing “a secret barcarole.” Even then, the hope of leaving behind a message in a bottle amidst the rising tide of barbarism was a friendly vision: the desperate letters have been left in the mud of the age-old spring, and have been reworked by a band of noble-minded people and other scoundrels to highly artistic but low-priced wall decorations. Only since then has the progress of communication truly gotten into gear. Who are we to cast aspersion on the freest spirits [Geister] of them all, whose trustworthiness possibly even outbids those of their contemporaries, if they no longer write for an imaginary posterity, but solely for the dead God?