Thomas Browne

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I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion, or be angry with his judgement for not agreeing with me in that, from which perhaps within a few days I should dissent myself.

Sir Thomas Browne, MD (19 October 160519 October 1682) was an English author of varied works that disclose his wide learning in diverse fields including medicine, religion, science and the esoteric.

Quotes[edit]

When we desire to confine our words, we commonly say they are spoken under the rose.
I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret Magic of numbers.
  • When we desire to confine our words, we commonly say they are spoken under the rose.
    • Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646), Book 5, Ch. 22, sect. 6

Religio Medici (1642)[edit]

The severe Schools shall never laugh me out of the Philosophy of Hermes, that this visible world is but a picture of the invisible.
Whosoever enjoys not this life, I count him but an apparition, though he wear about him the sensible affections of flesh.
In these moral acceptions, the way to be immortal is to die daily.

Part I[edit]

  • I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion, or be angry with his judgement for not agreeing with me in that, from which perhaps within a few days I should dissent myself.
    • Section 6
  • Many from the ignorance of these Maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal unto Truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error, and remain as Trophies unto the enemies of Truth: A man may be in as just possession of Truth as of a City, and yet be forced to surrender.
    • Section 6
  • Rich with the spoils of Nature.
    • Section 8
  • The severe Schools shall never laugh me out of the Philosophy of Hermes, that this visible world is but a picture of the invisible.
    • Section 12
  • We carry with us the wonders, we seek without us: There is all Africa, and her prodigies in us; we are that bold and adventurous piece of nature, which he that studies, wisely learns in a compendium, what others labour at in a divided piece and endless volume.
    • Section 15
  • Art is the perfection of nature.
    • Section 16
  • All things are artificial, for nature is the Art of God.
    • Section 16
  • Obstinacy in a bad cause, is but constancy in a good.
    • Section 25
  • Thus is man that great and true Amphibium, whose nature is disposed to live not only like other creatures in diverse elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds.
    • Section 34
  • This reasonable moderator, and equal piece of justice, Death.
    • Section 38
  • I am not so much afraid of death, as ashamed thereof; 'tis the very disgrace and ignominy of our natures, that in a moment can so disfigure us that our nearest friends, Wife, and Children stand afraid and start at us.
    • Section 40
  • Men that look no further than their outsides, think health an appurtenance unto life, and quarrel with their constitutions for being sick; but I that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that fabric hangs, do wonder that we are not always so; and considering the thousand doors that lead to death, do thank my God that we can die but once. It is not only the mischief of diseases, and villany of poisons, that make an end of us: we vainly accuse the fury of guns, and the new inventions of death; it is in the power of every hand to destroy us, and we are beholden unto every one we meet he doth not kill us. There is, therefore, but one comfort left, that though it be in the power of the weakest arm to take away life, it is not in the strongest to deprive us of death: God would not exempt himself from that, the misery of immortality in the flesh; he undertook not that was immortal. Certainly there is no happiness within this circle of flesh, nor is it in the optics of those eyes to behold felicity; the first day of our jubilee is death. The devil hath therefore failed of his desires: we are happier with death, than we should have been without it. There is no misery but in himself, where there is no end of misery; and so, indeed, in his own sense, the stoic is in the right. He forgets that he can die who complains of misery. We are in the power of no calamity while death is in our own.
    • Section 44
  • Now, besides the literal and positive kind of death, there are others whereof divines make mention, and those, I think not merely metaphorical, as mortification, dying unto sin and the world. Therefore, I say, every man hath a double horoscope, one of his humanity, his birth; another of his Christianity, his baptism, and from this do I compute or calculate my nativity, — not reckoning those Horæ combustæ and odd days, or esteeming myself anything, before I was my Savior's, and enrolled in the register of Christ. Whosoever enjoys not this life, I count him but an apparition, though he wear about him the sensible affections of flesh. In these moral acceptions, the way to be immortal is to die daily; nor can I think I have the true theory of death, when I contemplate a skull, or behold a skeleton with those vulgar imaginations it casts upon us.
    • Section 45
  • I believe the world grows near its end, yet is neither old nor decayed, nor will ever perish upon the ruins of its own principles.
    • Section 45
  • How shall the dead arise, is no question of my faith; to believe only possibilities, is not faith, but mere philosophy.
    • Section 48
  • The heart of man is the place the devil dwells in; I feel sometimes a hell within myself.
    • Section 51
  • There is no road or ready way to virtue.
    • Section 55

Part II[edit]

No man can justly censure or condemn another, because indeed no man truly knows another.
There is surely a piece of Divinity within us, something that was before the Elements, and owes no homage unto the Sun.
We are somewhat more than our selves in our sleepes, and the slumber of the body seemes to bee but the waking of the soule.
  • It is the common wonder of all men, how among so many million of faces there should be none alike.
    • Section 2
  • There is surely a Physiognomy, which those experienced and Master Mendicants observe… For there are mystically in our faces certain Characters that carry in them the motto of our Souls, wherein he that cannot read A.B.C. may read our natures.
    • Section 2
  • I intend no Monopoly, but a Community in Learning; I study not for my own sake only, but for theirs that study not for themselves.
    • Section 3
  • They that endeavour to abolish vice destroy also virtue, for contraries, though they destroy one another, are yet the life of one another.
    • Section 4
  • No man can justly censure or condemn another, because indeed no man truly knows another.
    • Section 4
  • But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? Charity begins at home, is the voice of the world, yet is every man his greatest enemy, and as it were, his own executioner.
    • Section 4
  • I could be content that we might procreate like trees, without conjunction, or that there were any way to perpetuate the world without this trivial and vulgar act of coition; It is the foolishest act a wise man commits in all his life, nor is there anything that will more deject his cooled imagination, when he shall consider what an odd and unworthy piece of folly he hath committed.
    • Section 9
  • I can look a whole day with delight upon a handsome picture, though it be but of a horse. It is my temper, & I like it the better, to affect all harmony, and sure there is music even in the beauty, and the silent note which Cupid strikes, far sweeter than the sound of an instrument. For there is a music wherever there is a harmony, order or proportion; and thus far we may maintain the music of the spheres.
    • Section 9
  • I can cure the gout or stone in some, sooner than Divinity, Pride, or Avarice in others
    • Section 9
  • We all labour against our own cure, for death is the cure of all diseases.
    • Section 9
  • There is no man alone, because every man is a Microcosm, and carries the whole world about him.
    • Section 10
  • For the world, I count it not an Inn, but a Hospital, and a place, not to live, but to die in.
    • Section 11
  • Men that look upon my outside, perusing only my condition, and fortunes, do err in my altitude; for I am above Atlas his shoulders.
    • Section 11
  • There is surely a piece of Divinity within us, something that was before the Elements, and owes no homage unto the Sun.
    • Section 11
  • I am in no way facetious, nor disposed for the mirth and galliardize of company, yet in one dream I can compose a whole Comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests, and laugh myself awake at the conceits thereof.
    • Section 11
  • The world that I regard is my selfe, it is the Microcosme of mine owne frame, that I cast mine eye on; for the other, I use it but like my Globe, and turne it round sometimes for my recreation. Men that look upon my outside, perusing onely my condition, and fortunes, do erre in my altitude; for I am above Atlas his shoulders.
    • Section 12
  • We term sleep a death, and yet it is waking that kills us, and destroys those spirits that are the house of life.
    • Section 12
  • I thanke God for my happy dreames, as I doe for my good rest, for there is a satisfaction in them unto reasonable desires, and such as can be content with a fit of happinesse; and surely it is not a melancholy conceite to thinke we are all asleepe in this world, and that the conceits of this life are as meare dreames to those of the next, as the Phantasmes of the night, to the conceit of the day. There is an equall delusion in both, and the one doth but seeme to bee the embleme or picture of the other; we are somewhat more than our selves in our sleepes, and the slumber of the body seemes to bee but the waking of the soule. It is the ligation of sense, but the liberty of reason, and our awaking conceptions doe not match the fancies of our sleepes.
    • Section 12
  • Sleep is a death; oh, make me try
    By sleeping what it is to die,
    And as gently lay my head
    On my grave as now my bed.
    • Section 12
  • Aristotle whilst he labours to refute the Ideas of Plato, falls upon one himself: for his summum bonum, is a Chimera, and there is no such thing as his Felicity.
    • Section 15

On Dreams[edit]

  • Half our days we pass in the shadow of the earth; and the brother of death exacteth a third part of our lives.
  • Happy are they that go to bed with grave music like Pythagoras.
  • A little water makes a sea, a small puff of wind a Tempest.
  • That some have never dreamed is as improbable as that some have never laughed.
  • That children dream not the first half year, that men dream not in some countries, with many more, are unto me sick men's dreams, dreams out of the Ivory gate, and visions before midnight.

Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial (1658)[edit]

Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been, to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man.
Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us.
  • Times before you, when even the living men were Antiquities; when the living might exceed the dead, and to depart this world, could not be properly said, to go unto the greater number.
    • Dedication
  • I look upon you as a gem of the old rock.
    • Dedication
  • In the deep discovery of the Subterranean world, a shallow part would satisfy some enquirers.
    • Chapter I
  • A Dialogue between two Infants in the womb concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Plato's Den, and are but Embryon Philosophers.
    • Chapter IV
  • Were the happiness of the next world as closely apprehended as the felicities of this, it were a martyrdom to live.
    • Chapter IV
  • Time which antiquates Antiquities, and hath an art to make dust of all things.
    • Chapter V
  • The long habit of living indisposeth us for dying.
    • Chapter V
  • To be nameless in worthy deeds exceeds an infamous history. The Canaanitish woman lives more happily without a name, than Herodias with one. And who had not rather have been the good thief, than Pilate?
    But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. Who can but pity the founder of the Pyramids? Herostratus lives that burnt the Temple of Diana, he is almost lost that built it.
    • Chapter V
  • In vain we compute our felicities by the advantage of our good names, since bad have equal durations, and Thersites is like to live as long as Agamemnon. Who knows whether the best of men be known, or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot, than any that stand remembered in the known account of time? Without the favour of the everlasting register, the first man had been as unknown as the last, and Methuselah's long life had been his only chronicle.
    Oblivion is not to be hired. The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been, to be found in the register of God, not in the record of man. Twenty seven names make up the first story before the flood, and the recorded names ever since contain not one living century. The number of the dead long exceedeth all that shall live. The night of time far surpasseth the day, and who knows when was the Æquinox? Every hour adds unto that current arithmetick, which scarce stands one moment.
    • Chapter V
  • Darkness and light divide the course of time, and oblivion shares with memory, a great part even of our living beings; we slightly remember our felicities, and the smartest strokes of affliction leave but short smart upon us. Sense endureth no extremities, and sorrows destroy us or themselves. To weep into stones are fables.
    • Chapter V
  • But man is a Noble Animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing Nativities and Deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting Ceremonies of Bravery, in the infamy of his nature. Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us.
    • Chapter V

The Garden of Cyrus (1658)[edit]

  • That Vulcan gave arrows unto Apollo and Diana the fourth day after their Nativities, according to Gentile Theology, may pass for no blind apprehension of the Creation of the Sun and Moon, in the work of the fourth day.
    • Opening lines of Ch. 1
  • Life itself is but the shadow of death, and souls departed but the shadows of the living: All things fall under this name. The Sun itself is but the dark simulacrum, and the light but the shadow of God.
    • Ch. 4
  • But the Quincunx of Heaven runs low, and 'tis time to close the five ports of knowledge. We are unwilling to spin out our awaking thoughts into the phantasmes of sleep, which often continueth præcogitations; making Cables of Cobwebbes and Wildernesses of handsome Groves. Beside Hippocrates hath spoke so little and the Oneirocriticall Masters, have left such frigid Interpretations from plants, that there is little encouragement to dream of Paradise it self. Nor will the sweetest delight of Gardens afford much comfort in sleep; wherein the dulnesse of that sense shakes hands with delectable odours; and though in the Bed of Cleopatra, can hardly with any delight raise up the ghost of a Rose.
    • Ch. 5
  • To keep our eyes open longer were but to set our Antipodes. The Huntsmen are up in America, and they are already past their first sleep in Persia. But who can be drowsy at that hour which freed us from everlasting sleep? or have slumbering thoughts at that time, when sleep itself must end, and as some conjecture all shall awake again?
    • Ch. 5

Letter to a Friend (circa 1656)[edit]

  • To make an end of all things on Earth, and our Planetical System of the World, he (God) need but put out the Sun
  • Not to be content with Life is the unsatisfactory state of those which destroy themselves; who being afraid to live, run blindly upon their own Death, which no Man fears by Experience.
  • And surely, he that hath taken the true Altitude of Things, and rightly calculated the degenerate state of this Age, is not like to envy those that shall live in the next, much less three or four hundred Years hence, when no Man can comfortably imagine what Face this World will carry.
  • Pursue Virtue virtuously.
    • These words also appear in Christian Morals, Part I, Section I
  • Be charitable before Wealth makes thee covetous.

Christian Morals (first pub. post. 1716)[edit]

Be substantially great in thyself, and more than thou appearest unto others.
  • Be substantially great in thyself, and more than thou appearest unto others.
    • Part I, Section XIX
  • The noblest Digladiation is in the Theatre of ourselves.
    • Part I, Section XXIV
  • He who discommendeth others obliquely commendeth himself.
    • Part I, Section XXXIV
  • Burden not the back of Aries, Leo, or Taurus, with thy faults, nor make Saturn, Mars, or Venus, guilty of thy Follies.
    • Part III, Section VII
  • To ruminate upon evils, to make critical notes upon injuries, and be too acute in their apprehensions, is to add unto our own tortures, to feather the arrows of our enemies, to lash ourselves with the scorpions of our foes, and to resolve to sleep no more.
    • Part III, Section XII
  • The created World is but a small Parenthesis in Eternity.
    • Part III, Section XXIX

External links[edit]

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