The Vanity of Arts and Sciences by Henry Cornelius Agrippa 1486-1535

The Vanity of Arts and Sciences by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, 1486-1535, Knight, Doctor of both Laws, Judge of the Prerogative Court and Counsellor to Charles the Fifth, Emperour of Germany Published in London 1676

Ecclesiastes: Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity

To The Reader
Studious reader
Wilt thou not look upon this Labour of mine to be a most bold and almost Herculean attempt, to wage War against the Giant-like Opposition of all the Arts and Sciences? And thus to challenge the stoutest Hunters of Nature? Doubters will knit their enraged brows upon me: the Authority of Masters, the endeavours of the Batchelors of Art, the heat of the Schoolmen, the sedition of the Mechanicks, will be all up in arms against me. All which if I stab at one blow, will it not be a greater work, than Hercules in the accomplishment of all his Labours was ever guilty of?

Shall I not have performed a nobler Task, if with no less danger and labour, I overcome these Monsters of Schools, Universities and Pulpits? For I am not ignorant how bloody a Battle I must fight, or how hazardous and difficult the War will be, being to meet with such an Army of potent Enemies.

Woe is me, with what Engins will they seek to destroy me? The Grammarians will rail at me: the Etymologists will derive my name from the Gout: the mad Poets will call me Goat and Momus; the frivolous Historians will profane me beyond Pausanias or Herostratus: the obstreperous Rhetoricians will plague me with their big Words and mimical Gestures: the quarrelsome Logicians will confound me with their Syllogisms.

The nimble Sophisters will sawe my jaws with the snaffles of their subtle Questions. The barbarous Lullist will make me made with his absurd Soloecisms. The Atome-numbering Arithmeticians will set an host of Userers upon me. The Gamesters will curse me. The musicians will sing Ballads of me. The proud Matrons will expel me their Meetings. The Wenches will deny to kiss me. The giggling Girls will laugh, and cry, I dance like a Camel.

The lewd Players will kill me in as Tragedy. The intricate Geometrician will imprison me in his Triangles and Tetragonals. The vain Painter will make me more ugly than an Ape, or Thersites himself. The Cosmographer will banish me among the bears in Greenland. The Astrologer will erect some wicked Scheme or other for me. The Physiognomist will defame me for being impotent.

The Epicures will bespew me to death. The Tyrant will crucife me in Phalaris’s Bull. Hypocrites will declaim against me in their Pulpits. The Whores will pox me. The Priests will excommunicate me. The blasphemous Marriner will throw me overboard. The yawling Hunter will set his Dogs upon me. The Souldier will plunder me. The Ordure-tasting Physicians will throw their Urinal at my Head. The Chyrurgeons will anatomize me. The Lawyers will accuse me of Treason. The Judges will condemn me. Thus, though I omit for brevities sake many others, dost thou not see, Reader, what dangers I am like to run through.

But I am in hopes to avoid their fury, provided that thou, patient to bear the Truth, and laying all Prepossession and Obstinacy aside, will but give they mind candidly and without passion to read what I have writ. I have moreover the Word of God to defend me, which with an undaunted Courage I intend to make use of for my Buckler. I would have thee moreover to know, that I have not writ these things either out of Hatred, Envy, Ambition, or vain Errour, nor did Arrogance prompt me to it; but off all Causes the most just and truest: because I see that so many men, pufft up with Human Knowledge and Learning, not only contemn and despise the Oracles of the Sacred Scripture, but also prosecute and deride it with the same contempt.

Others we see, though to themselves they seem to be more holy, who endeavor to confirm and approve the Lawes of Christ, yet attribute more Authority to the Maximes of Philosophers, than to the holy Prophets of God, the Evangelists or Apostles, though there be so vast a difference between them.

Moreover, we finde that a most detestable Custome has invaded all or most Schools of Learning, to swear their Disciples never to contradict Aristotle, Boethius, Thomas Ablertus, or some such-like School-Deity: From whom if there be any that differ so much as a nails breadth, him they proclaim a scandalous Heretick, a Criminal against the Holy Sciences, fit only to be consumed in Fire and Flames. Therefore these audacious Giants, These Enemies of Scripture are to be set upon, their Bulwarks and Castles are to be stormed: And it behoves us to shew how intolerable the blindness of Men is, to wander from the truth, misguided by so many Sciences and Arts, and by so many Authors and Doctors thereof.

For how great a boldness is it, what an arrogant presumption, to prefer the Schools of the Philosophers before the Church of Christ? and to extol or equal the Opinions of Men, to the Word of God? Lastly, how impious a piece of Tyranny it is, to captivate the Wits of Students to prefixed Authors, and to deprive their Disciples of the liberty of searching after and following the Truth? All which things being so manifest, that they cannot be denied, I may be the more easily pardoned, if I seem to have more freely and bitterly inveighed against some sorts of Sciences and their Professors. Farewell

Heinrich_Cornelius_Agrippa00

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