Source:

Manuscript held by G. W. Leibniz Bibliothek, Hanover
Shelfmark LH 4, 7a Bl. 11


Date: c. 1693

Translated from the Latin



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LEIBNIZ: AURORA, OR, THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE GENERAL SCIENCE, FROM THE DIVINE LIGHT TO HUMAN HAPPINESS


[LH 4, 7a Bl. 11r]

Aurora, or,1 the Foundations of the General Science, from the Divine Light to Human Happiness
by Guilielmi Pacidii Lubentiani


Arise, sun, and unite the celestial warmth to the light
And send sacred impulses into the willing soul


Men in ancient times, not yet having been led to civilization,2 kindled fire by the rubbing of harder wood. The laws of Charlemagne that forbid the practice tell us that long ago the Saxons, by necessity or violence, called it nodfyr.3 And yet even now the name and remnants of the superstition survive in the country folk, and no other way of lighting a fire is more popular among the barbarians of America. But wise men summon a purer flame from the sky, gathering the sun's rays with mirrors or lenses.4 From this arises an admirable force of action, to which none of the hardest bodies resists: nature is tamed and transformed, and reveals its secret properties, with an equal increase in our knowledge and our power. Even now I think that, besides other innumerable uses, one could purge the savageness of the earth and, instead of having fallow land, burn useless herbs and plants at the root with a burning instrument moved around towards the sun. But now it will be useful to compare the barbarian procedure with that of the wise. The former, in lighting a fire, first obtain motion in dense, hard, and earthy material, then heat, and finally light; on the other hand, the wise, who gather the celestial rays, first obtain light, then heat, which melts even the hardest things.5 In an analogous way, there is a difference between the methods - like the degrees - through which minds are made better. For while we are still immersed in the earthly senses, if an opportunity is offered, a certain sacred agitation starts in us with propitious motions, from which we receive the heat of passion to strive towards more illustrious things, and finally the celestial light shines. But when the light that has emerged is concentrated more and more into one by the attention of the soul, there occurs a return to heat and motion, for a purer flame burns in our hearts, and from that an ethereal force erupts into noble motions and acts, from which grows new material for heat and light. From this circular process comes the sacred triad, that is, wisdom, virtue, and happiness. The same happens in the investigation of truth. For, either from the effect we tend to the cause, from experiments to reasons, from confused notions to distinct ones, and we see the back of God, just like Moses:6 such is every item of historical knowledge of nature and fortune, with those who possess it being called scholars and experts; or, in the opposite way, having started from the first and simplest ideas, that is, from the divine attributes as the reasons and clearest light of things, we go back to the source of the essence that is poured out, and we draw from the mind the eternal truths within us, bringing them forward in order. And since nothing is more pleasing and agreeable than those, the soul feels an admiration far removed from the one that stimulated us to learn when we were still young: for the first of these two ways was born from ignorance and had vexation as its companion, whereas the mother of the second is knowledge itself and the daughter is pleasure; nor, indeed, does it differ from the7 love of the beautiful joined with the contemplation of supreme perfection. To adhere to it with a firm will is virtue, to delight in it with the purest joy is true happiness. And although we know the majority of8 sensible things only confusedly, and thanks to an admirable design of providence we are advised about the goods and evils of the body by an obscure instinct of pleasures and pains for the use of this life, nevertheless the divine father of souls has sown in our minds the seeds of a higher doctrine, and has offered marks of a greater and more enduring good, which, when clothed in numbers and figures, everyone will understand, even the most uncultivated. However, the very force and necessity of truth, which is called demonstration, rises above numbers and figures and is not located in images, but consists in imitation of the divine light in certain invisible rays. I think this will be more clearly attainable by our zeal when we reveal an invincible and efficacious truth linked not only to mathematical things; however, there is a general science far superior to geometry and algebra itself, from which they borrow what is most beautiful in them, to such an extent that with its help we seem to have greatly extended even the limits of algebra and geometry, as we have shown by noteworthy examples. Moreover, we do not deny that in this life there is a comparable degree of virtue and happiness attainable without a deep and distinct knowledge of the truth, and also that many minds are nevertheless led to a certain participation in the good, albeit by the confused and detectable motions of useful images. But if light or (if that is still lacking) moderation is not added to heat, it is evident that even the minds devoted to God are often tempted by prejudices, illusions, ignorant obstinacy, and rash judgements [LH 4, 7a Bl. 11v] in which the singular is preferred to universal. Whence arises disguised vanity and the sectarian harshness of proud piety towards those9 who do not yield to their disciples or their masters. From this itch to secede, it often happens that even the well-intentioned are unwilling to unite efforts for a common reward, and by mutual confrontations they in turn disturb noble endeavours, preventing what they seek, no less foolishly than if men refused to trade with those who speak a different language. Not to mention that it is very bad to fight indiscriminately with murderous hatred, and that true wisdom can bring good just as much as ill-founded opinion can induce evil. These monsters of the kingdom of darkness are not driven away except by bringing light. To do this better, however, we need these postulates to which the good and the prudent must adhere until such time as they have reached the point where all the things of which they are convinced can be proved by invincible arguments.10





NOTES:

1. or, ǀ Introduction to the General Science ǀ deleted.
2. civilization ǀ and piety ǀ deleted.
3. "Nodfyr" ("need-fire") refers to an old Germanic pagan practice in which fire kindled by rubbing sticks together was carried into houses and stables in order to ward off evil. It was forbidden by the Council of Regensburg in 792.
4. lenses ǀ , and not long ago a most ingenious Saxon, as though compensated for his greater ignorance, obtained such great arts from documents that we may readily challenge ancient Greece. ǀ deleted.
5. things. ǀ Thus there are two methods by which (α) souls are led to wisdom and happiness, namely while we are still immersed in earthly thoughts, a certain agitation is needed (β) minds are perfected ǀ deleted.
6. An allusion to Exodus 33.23.
7. the ǀ intellectual love of beauty ǀ deleted.
8. of ǀ corporeal things ǀ deleted.
9. those ǀ who have not learned to parrot the same formulas. They are unwilling to allow others to reach the same end by a different path, as if the inclinations were the same for all and well-intentioned prejudices were also the same. ǀ deleted.
10. arguments. ǀ (α) Namely, that no-one follow his own prejudices (β) Namely, that because it is impossible to cast off all prejudices and leave them aside in practice (γ) Namely, that we shall seek unquestionable and acknowledged goods rather than those designated by the opinion of certain people (β) First, that in all things ǀ deleted.


© Lloyd Strickland 2019