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serve upon what peculiar structure and impulse its elastic motion depends, would no doubt discover something very admirable; but if eyes so framed could not view at once the hand and the characters of the hour-plate, and thereby at a distance see what o'clock it was, their owner could not be much benefited by that acuteness; which, whilst it discovered the secret contrivance of the parts of the machine, made him lose its use.
Conjecture about spirits.
13. And here give me leave to pro
pose an extravagant conjecture of mine, viz. that since we have some reason (if there be any credit to be given to the report of things that our philosophy cannot account for) to imagine that spirits can assume to themselves bodies of different bulk, figure, and conformation of parts; whether one great advantage some of them have over us may not lie in this, that they can so frame and shape to themselves organs of sensation or perception as to suit them to their present design, and the circumstances of the object they would consider. For how much would that man exceed all others in knowledge, who had but the faculty so to alter the structure of his eyes, that one sense, as to make it capable of all the several degrees of vision which the assistance of glasses (casually at first lighted on) has taught us to conceive! What wonders would he discover, who could so fit his eyes to all sorts of objects, as to see, when he pleased, the figure and motion of the minute particles in the blood, and other juices of animals, as distinctly as he does, at other times, the shape and motion of the animals themselves! But to us, in our present state, unalterable organs so contrived as to discover the figure and motion of the minute parts of bodies, whereon depend those sensible qualities we now observe in them, would perhaps be of no advantage. God has, no doubt, made them so as is best for us in our present condition. He hath fitted us for the neighbourhood of the bodies that surround us, and we have to
do with and though we cannot, by the faculties we have, attain to a perfect knowledge of things, yet they will serve us well enough for those ends above-mentioned, which are our great concernment. I beg my reader's pardon for laying before him so wild a fancy, concerning the ways of perception in beings above us; but how extravagant soever it be, I doubt whether we can imagine any thing about the knowledge of angels, but after this manner, some way or other in proportion to what we find and observe in ourselves. And though we cannot but allow, that the infinite power and wisdom of God may frame creatures with a thousand other faculties and ways of perceiving things without them than what we have, yet our thoughts can go no farther than our own; so impossible it is for us to enlarge our very guesses beyond the ideas received from our own sensation and reflection. The supposition, at least, that angels do sometimes assume bodies, needs not startle us; since some of the most ancient and most learned fathers of the church seemed to believe that they had bodies: and this is certain, that their state and way of existence is unknown
S 14. But to return to the matter in Complex hand, the ideas we have of substances, and
the ways we come by them,-I say, our specific ideas of substances are nothing else but a collection of a certain number of simple ideas, considered as united in one thing. These ideas of substances, though they are commonly simple apprehensions, and the names of them simple terms, yet in effect are complex and compounded. Thus the idea which an Englishman signifies by the name swan, is white colour, long neck, red beak, black legs, and whole feet, and all these of a certain size, with a power of swimming in the water, and making a certain kind of noise; and perhaps, to a man who has long observed this kind of birds, some other properties which all
terminate in sensible simple ideas, all united in one common subject.
Idea of spiritual substances as clear as of bodily sub
§ 15. Besides the complex ideas we have of material sensible substances, of which I have last spoken, by the simple ideas we have taken from those operations of our own minds which we experiment daily in ourselves, as thinking, understanding, willing, knowing, and power of beginning motion, &c. coexisting in some substance; we are able to frame the complex idea of an immaterial spirit. And thus, by putting together the ideas of thinking, perceiving, liberty, and power of moving themselves and other things, we have as clear a perception and notion of immaterial substances as we have of material. For putting together the ideas of thinking and willing, or the power of moving or quieting corporeal motion, joined to substance, of which we have no distinct idea, we have the idea of an immaterial spirit; and by putting together the ideas of coherent solid parts, and a power of being moved, joined with substance, of which likewise we have no positive idea, we have the idea of
matter. The one is as clear and distinct an idea as the other the idea of thinking, and moving a body, being as clear and distinct ideas as the ideas of extension, solidity, and being moved for our idea of substance is equally obscure, or none at all in both; it is but a supposed I know not what, to support those ideas we call accidents. It is for want of reflection that we are apt to think that our senses show us nothing but material things. Every act of sensation, when duly considered, gives us an equal view of both parts of nature, the corporeal and spiritual. For whilst I know, by seeing or hearing, &c. that there is some corporeal being without me, the object of that sensation; I do more certainly know, that there is some spiritual being within me that sees and hears. This, I must be convinced, cannot be the action of
bare insensible matter; nor ever could be, without an immaterial thinking being.
No idea of abstract sub
§ 16. By the complex idea of extended, figured, coloured, and all other sensible qualities, which is all that we know of it, we are as far from the idea of the substance of body as if we knew nothing at all: nor after all the acquaintance and familiarity which we imagine we have with matter, and the many qualities men assure themselves they perceive and know in bodies, will it perhaps upon examination be found, that they have any more or clearer primary ideas belonging to body, than they have belonging to immaterial spirit. § 17. The primary ideas we have pecuculiar to body, as contradistinguished to spirit, are the cohesion of solid, and consequently separable, parts, and a power of communicating motion by impulse. These, I think, are the original ideas proper and peculiar to body; for figure is but the consequence of finite extension.
sion of solid parts and impulse the primary ideas of
18. The ideas we have belonging and peculiar to spirit are thinking and will, or a power of putting body into motion by thought, and, which is consequent to it, liberty. For as body cannot but communicate its motion by impulse to another body, which it meets with at rest; so the mind can put bodies into motion, or forbear to do so, as it pleases. The ideas of existence, duration, and mobility, are common to them both.
Spirits capable of mo
§ 19. There is no reason why it should be thought strange, that I make mobility belong to spirit: for having no other idea of motion but change of distance with other beings that are considered as at rest,—and finding that spirits, as well as bodies, cannot operate but where they are, and that spirits do operate at several times in several places,-I cannot but attribute change of
place to all finite spirits (for of the infinite spirit I speak not here). For my soul being a real being, as well as my body, is certainly as capable of changing distance with any other body, or being, as body itself; and so is capable of motion. And if a mathematician can consider a certain distance, or a change of that distance between two points, one may certainly conceive a distance, and a change of distance between two spirits and so conceive their motion, their proach or removal, one from another.
§ 20. Every one finds in himself, that his soul can think, will, and operate on his body in the place where that is; but cannot operate on a body or in a place a hundred miles distant from it. Nobody can imagine, that his soul can think or move a body at Oxford, whilst he is at London; and cannot but know, that, being united to his body, it constantly changes place all the whole journey between Oxford and London, as the coach or horse does that carries him, and I think may be said to be truly all that while in motion; or if that will not be allowed to afford us a clear idea enough of its motion, its being separated from the body in death, I think, will: for to consider it as going out of the body, or leaving it, and yet to have no idea of its motion, seems to me impossible.
§ 21. If it be said by any one, that it cannot change place, because it hath none, for the spirits are not in loco, but ubi; I suppose that way of talking will not now be of much weight to many, in an age that is not much disposed to admire or suffer themselves to be deceived by such unintelligible ways of speaking. But if any one thinks there is any sense in that distinction, and that it is applicable to our present purpose, I desire him to put it into intelligible English; and then from thence draw a reason to show that immaterial spirits are not capable of motion. Indeed motion cannot be attributed to God; not because he is an immaterial, but because he is an infinite spirit.