Passages from the Physics of Comenius.

Ths post-Reformation literature has scarcely any work to point to, which in the smallest compass includes such a wealth of interesting and suggestive matter in so light a form, and so systematically put together, as the little pamphlet entitled Physicce ad lumen divinum reformandce Synopsis (1635 and 1663, in 12 mo), by John Amos Comenius, the last bishop of the Bohemian-Moravian Brethren, who died in exile, at Amsterdam, in the year 1671. In addition to what had been done by precursors, such as Ludovicus Vives, Thomas Campanella, and Lord Bacon of Verulam, Comenius seeks to release natural science from the bondage of heathen philosophy, and especially of Aristotelian scholasticism, by vindicating, instead of this, the divine revelation in the Scripture, but besides, the perception of the senses, and reasonable investigation as its principles of knowledge; and by maintaining as certain, that the results of natural research which are attained in an empirical way, will never contradict the rightly understood testimonies of Scripture.1

The idea that the Holy Scripture has no reference at all to natural philosophy, is familiar to him. He refutes it in a striking manner: "Cui obsecro usui," says he among other things, "tot et tanta de mundi exordio, creationis processu, creaturarum proprietatibus possim memorantur, si nihil de natura docere nos voluit naturae parens idemque Scripturse dictator? Aiunt,

1 Comp. K. v. Raumer, Geschichte der Piidagogik, ii. 65-68, and generally the interesting characterization there given of Comenius.

id eo spectare, ut rerum factorem agnoscere et admirari, amare et metuere discamus. Recte, sed quomodo factorem absque factura? Annon quo melius quis picturae artem intelligit, eo magis pictoris ingenium, si excellit, miratur et laudat? Utique. Superficiaria cognitio nec amorem nee admirationera excitabit unquam. Et qusero: ea quae de creaturis in Scriptura occurrunt (etiam per similitudines inde ductas) verane sicut necne? Si vera (quis autem absque blasphemia aliter statuat?) cur ea non conferamus cum iis, quae Sensu et Ratione constant? ad deprehendendam scilicet earn, qua: in rebus et rerum Auctoris ore est, veritatis harmoniam!"

To quote an example: Comenius, on the ground of empirical investigation, and of the biblical narrative of creation, professes to recognise three principles of all things: matter, spirit, and light or fire. The Tliohu wa-Bohu is matter; the Spirit of God which broods over it is the power that moulds it, and the life that vitalizes it; the light, which comes into being at God's command, is that which refines, actualizes (mactuans), and diversifies it. Light (Or) and Fire (Ur) are reciprocal. "Primaeva lux," says he, "fuit ingens moles Ignis ardentis, in mundanae materia massa jussu creatoris accensa." To the same purpose, Leibnitz, in his ingenious work, Protogcea.

Comenius comes to the conclusion, without intending it, that the created essences of the elements (cether, aer, aqua, terra) form a scale of seven degrees up to the pure spiritual nature. To us it is more important, that in these seven essential classes he recognises seven powers proceeding from God, of which the subsequent always includes the precedent: Esse, motus, figura scil. qualitas, vita, sensus, ratio, intelligentia. He compares them to the seven pillars (Prov. ix. 1), and to the seven steps (Ezek. xl. 22) ; and having called attention to the significance of the number seven in all created things, he continues: Quid omnia haec portendunt nisi ut expressa sit imago illius Dei, cujus septem oculi permeant universam terram (Zech. iv. 10) et cujus septem Spiritus sicut in conspectu throni ejus (Apoc. i. 4), imo qui ipse cum quolibet gradu creaturae suae mysticam constituit octavam? In ipso enim vivunt, sunt et moventur omnia quae vivunt, sunt et moventur (Acts xvii. 28) et ipse operatur omnia in omnibus (1 Cor. xii. 6) et omnia haec sunt quasi Ipse ille (Ecc.lus. xliii. 29), nec tamen quidquam eorum est Ipse ille (Job xii. 9), sed quia omnia illa aliquid de divina essentia effigiant et virtute ejus operantur quae operantur, hinc est quod ille, super omnia, extra omnia, infra omnia existens vera sit mystica octava omnium. Others may form a different judgment; we discern herein presentiments and perceptions of the truth, and rejoice in them.

The section de angelis is excellent, in which Comenius distinguishes, besides other things, how far physics (in the sense of that day), and how far theology, are respectively bound to speak on this subject: we give therefrom only the second proposition, paradoxical, but thoroughly true, and its elucidation. The proposition runs thus: "Angelus est homo incorporeus;" and the explanation: " Homo dici potest angelus eo sensu, quo homo ipse Animal, Animal Planta, Planta concretum, etc., dicitur, id est, propter inclusam prsecedentis formam, nova solum superaddita perfectione. Homo enim creatura est rationalis ad imaginem Dei condita, immortalis; est et angelus, sed majoris perfectionis ergo a corpore liber. Nihil igitur aliud est angelus quam Homo a corpore nudus, nihil aliud Homo, quam angelus corpore vestitus." In three points we find Comenius altogether in agreement with ourselves: (1) That the angels were created before the visible world; (2) that, not less than man, they were created after the image of God; and (3) that they are absolutely incorporeal. Each of these three points is proved by Comenius, briefly, but convincingly.

In the doctrine of man, he does homage to that trichotomy which has often been mentioned and maintained by us previously, that man consists of a body, spirit, and animal soul, which he has in common with the brutes. He calls the spirit anima or mens; the animal soul, spiritus. His two chief positions are these: (1) Corpus est organon ethabitaculum spiritus. Spiritus vero habitaculum et organon animse; and, (2) Ut spiritus afficitur a corpore, ita Mens a Spiritu. We have the body from the elements, as the brutes; the nature-soul (spiritus) from the universal spirit of nature (spiritus mundi), as likewise the brutes;1 the spiritual soul, on the other hand (anima, sc. mens), from God, but not as a part of the divine nature: Deus enim in partes divisibilis non est nec in essentiam cum creatura

1 "Spiritus hie Comenii ex Spiritu Mundi," says Quenstedt, i. 739, "est ejusdem valoris cum Spiritu mundi h. e. seque fictitius et nullua."

coibilis. Comenius thinks so little of the doctrine of emanation, that he regards the inspiration of Gen. ii. 7 not at all as an increating of a proper spiritual soul, but as the creative deepening of the natural soul into spirit. He explains Gen. ii. 7 according to Zech. xii. 1. The natural soul, according to its innermost condition, is an immortal spirit. It propagates itself per traducem, but not as spirit. It only becomes spirit by virtue of a constructive divine act, associated with procreation; an act which is the continuation of that original one in Gen. ii. 7. Different as our views are from this, yet there is much in harmony with our idea, when Comenius attributes to the natural soul attentio, judicium, memoria (the three sensus interni), and makes the spiritual soul, by means of these functions of the natural soul, exercise its own functions, intellectus, voluntas, conscientia; and we may appropriate to ourselves the apophthegm of which Comenius makes use, as more applicable to our view than to his: Hominem dum vides, Regem te videre cogita, regie vestitum et in regio residentem solio. Hex enim mens est, vestis ejus spiritus, solium corpus.




Communicated on April 13, 1860.

Br Fire is to be understood, on the one hand, only the desire after Light and Being; but, on the other hand, also (as in the thirst for the realities is announced the capability of the reality itself) the might or power for both. *

In God the Father, as the absolute supporter of Fire, is contained, for that reason, the nature, i.e. the possibility of the Being of the divine corporeity, and again also the Light, or the idea, i.e. the possibility of the form of the same.

The actual supporter of Light, or of the idea, is the Son who proceeds from the Father, begotten by Him; in whom, as the actual essentiality is not to be conceived without form, is given the purpose of the fulfilment of the will of His Father, through whom therefore, so far, the Father is reconciled.

The Holy Spirit, finally, is the supporter of the actual Being, in that through Him the Fire-life of the Father and the Light-life of the Son are brought together, the possibility of the Essence and the possibility of the Form are united, and thus the divine corporeity is shown forth in fact.

This showing forth follows, according to the part in it of the one or the other divine person, in seven impulses, distinguished from one another. These impulses are effected by the divine persons: the divine persons thus stand absolutely above them.

Moreover, certainly, as this forming forth of the divine corporeity is an eternally free act of will, there must be assumed for it—ideally—one impulse or moment in which the Godhead presents to itself the mere possibility of that corporeity, which then by the power of its will it brings to realization.

As the divine corporeity has its ground in the Father as the supporter of Fire, in the Son as the supporter of Light, and in the Holy Spirit as the supporter of actual essentiality; so, moreover, the world is created from God, through God, to God, in the seme that by the Father first of all is established the ground of its essentiality, therefore of its distinction from God, or its independence; by the Son is established the ground of its form and figure, consequently of its analogy with God; but by the Holy Spirit both of these grounds are brought to actual existence, and consequently the world is perfected and brought back to God, from whom its being proceeded.

The individual impulses of the Mosaic history of creation correspond to the impulses of the forming forth of the everlasting corporeity of God.

The deepest ground of human being is the Fire-life bestowed upon man by God,—consequently, the longing, on the one side after Being, and on the other side after Light. This Fire-life was first of all offered to him by God, through the opening of the everlasting nature, as that which underlay all creation. But because existences were already in being, when man was to appear on the stage, and therefore man organically is linked with the whole of nature, so immediately essentiality was itself bestowed upon him, including all the powers of nature, i.e. in the earthly clod. Within this essentiality there already subsisted also the Light, or the divine idea, but at first still inoperative.

In the Fire-life—which, as essentiality, was given to man by the Father—was rooted his soul; in the essentiality was based his corporeity; but in the idea which had been implanted in him by the Son, as the supporter of the whole ideal world, and in which the whole law of his being floated before him, is given the possibility of his elevation to spirit.

This threefold possibility became actualized by the Holy Spirit, who awakened by His breath the idea that as yet was ont living, and herewith brought the corporeity of man to full manifestation, so that now man might become a living soul.

Man merely HAS the body as he has the spirit, but he himself is the soul, and in it he has the will and the power of choice between the Fire-life (in pride) and the Nature-life (in sensual lust), and a life according to the will of God (godliness). Man is only uni-personal, and not tri-personal as God is, who bears in Himself the reason not only of His will, but also of His ideal as of His real Being.