Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 9: The Light of Reason - An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature
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chapter 9: The Light of Reason - Nathaniel Culverwell, An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature 
An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature, ed. Robert A. Greene and Hugh MacCallum, foreword by Robert A. Greene (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
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The Light of Reason
 This law of Nature having a firme and unshaken foundation in the necessity and conveniency of its materials, becomes formally valid and vigorous by the minde and command of the Supreme Law-giver; So as that all the strength and nerves, and binding virtue of this Law are rooted and fasten’d partly in the excellency and equity of the commands themselves, but they principally depend upon the Sovereignty and Authority of God himself: thus contriving and commanding the welfare of his Creature, and advancing a Rational Nature to the just perfection of its being. This is the rise and original of all that obligation which is in the Law of Nature. But the publishing and manifestation of this Law which must give notice of all this, does flow from that heavenly beame which God has darted into the soul of man; from the Candle of the Lord, which God has lighted up for the discovery of his owne Lawes; from that intellectual eye which God has fram’d and made exactly proportionable to this Light.
Therefore we shall easily grant that the obligation of this Law does not come from this Candle of the Lord; and others I suppose will not deny that the Manifestation of this Law does come from this Candle of the Lord, that the Promulgation of this Law is made by the voice of Reason.
In order of Nature, this Law, as all others, must be made, before it can be made known, Entity being the just Root and bottome of Intelligibility. So that Reason does not facere[make] or ferre legem[produce the law], but only invenire[discover it], as a Candle does not produce an object, but only present it to the eye, and make it visible. All verity ’tis but the glosse of Entity, there’s a loving Union and Communion between them, as soone as being is it may be known.
So that Reason is the Pen by which Nature writes this Law of her own composing; This Law ’tis publisht by Authority from heaven, and Reason is the Printer: This eye of the soul ’tis to spy out all dangers and all advantages, all conveniences and disconveniences in reference to such a being, and to warne the soul in the name of its Creator, to fly from such irregularities as have an intrinsecal and implacable malice in them, and are prejudicial and destructive to its Nature, but to comply with, and embrace all such acts and objects as have a native comelinesse and amiablenesse, and are for the heightning and ennobling of its being.
Hierocles does most excellently set forth this, whilest he brings that golden Verse of Pythagoras to the Touch-stone; Μηδ̕ἀλογίστωςσαυτὸνἜχεινπερὶμηδῃνἐθίζου1 [never accustom yourself to acting irrationally], and does thus brighten it, and display it in its full glory, ὡςγὰρπρὸςκανόνατὴνοὐσίανἡμω̑νἀποβλέποντες, τὸδεόνἐνπα̑σινεὐρίσκομεν, κατὰτὸνὀρθὸνλόγον, συμφώνωςτῃ̑ἑαυτω̑νοὐσίαδιαζω̑ντες;2 his meaning’s this: There is a kinde of Canon-Law in the essences of men, and a Rational tuning all their faculties according to those lessons which Nature has set; it does ζῃ̑νσυμφώνως[live harmoniously], with a most grateful and harmonious life, pleases both it self and others. So whilest he weighs that other golden verse in the Ballance, he speaks very high. ΒουλεύουδῃπρὸἜργουὅπωςμήμω̑ραπέληται3 [think before you act, lest stupidities result]; he gives us this learned accompt of it; Λόγῳδ̕ὀρθῳ̑πείθεσθαι, καὶθεῳ̑ταὐτόνἐστι. τὸγὰρλογικὸνγένοςεὐμοίρησαντη̑ςοἰκείαςἐλλάμψεως, ταυ̑ταβούλεταιἃὁθει̑οςὁρίζεινόμας, καὶγίνεταισύμψηφοςθεῳ̑ἡκατὰθεὸνδιακειμένηψυχὴ, καὶπρὸςτὸθει̑ον, καὶτὸλαμπρὸνἀποβλέπουσαπράττειἃἌνπράττῃ. ἥδεἐναντίωςδιακειμένηπρὸςτὸἄθεον, καὶσκοτεινὸν, εἰκη̑καὶὡςἜτυχεφερομένη, ἅτετη̑ςμόνηςτω̑νκαλω̑νστάθμης, νου̑καὶθεου̑ἀποπεσου̑σα;4 which I may thus render; To obey right Reason, ’tis to be perswaded by God himself; who has furnisht and adorn’d a Rational Nature with this intrinsecal and essential Lamp, that shines upon it, and guides it in the wayes of God, so as that the soul and its Creator become perfect Unisons, and being blest with the light of his countenance, it steeres all its motions and actions with much security and happinesse. But if this Lamp of Reason be darken’d and obscured, the soul presently embraces a Cloud, and courts a Shadow; the blackest and most palpable Atheisme and wickednesse must needs cover the face of that soul, that starts back and apostatizes from its God and its Reason. Where you cannot but take notice that he calls the light of Reason ΟἰκείαἜλλαμψις[a natural illumination], which is an expression very parallel to this of Solomon, the Candle of the Lord.
That wise Heathen Socrates was of the very same minde, in whose mouth that speech was so frequent and usual, οὐδενὶχρὴπείθεσθαιπλὴντῳ̑ὀρθῳ̑λόγῳ;5 ’Tis in vaine to trust anything but that which Reason tells you has the Seal of God upon it. Thus that Heathen Oratour very fully and emphatically; Nos Legem bonam a Mala nulla alia nisi Naturali norma dividere possumus; Nec solum Jus & Injuria a Natura dijudicantur, sed omnino omnia honesta & Turpia. Nam & communis Intelligentia nobis Res notas efficit, ea quae in animis nostris inchoavit, ut Honesta in virtute ponuntur, in vitiis Turpia;6 That is, Nature has distinguisht good from evil, by these indelible stamps and impressions which she has graven upon both; and has set Reason as a competent Judge to decide all Moral controversies, which by her first seeds of light plainly discovers an  honourable beauty in goodnesse, and an inseparable Blot in wickedness: hence these three ζῃ̑νκατὰφύσιν, ζῃ̑νκατὰλόγον, ζῃ̑νκατὰθεὸν[to live according to nature, to live according to reason, to live according to God] are esteem’d equivalencies by that Emperour and Philosopher Marcus Antoninus.7 But yet the Jews will by no means yeeld that there is light enough in the dictates of Reason to display common notions, for they look upon it as a various and unsatisfactory light mixt with much shadow and darknesse, labouring with perpetual inconstancy and uncertainty. What, are first Principles become so mutable and treacherous? Are Demonstrations such fortuitous and contingent things? had I met with this in a fluctuating Academick, in a Rowling Sceptique, in a Sextus Empiricus,8 in some famous Professor of doubts, I should then have lookt upon it as a tolerable expression of their trembling and shivering opinion. But how come I to finde it among those Divers into the depths of knowledge, who grant a certainty, and yet will not grant it to Reason? I would they would tell us then, where we might hope to finde it; Surely not in an Oriental Tradition, in a Rabinical dream, in a dusty Manuscript, in a Remnant of Antiquity, in a Bundle of Testimonies; and yet this is all you are like to get of them, for they tell you this story, that these Natural precepts, tum in ipsis rerum initiis, tum in ea quae fuit post diluvium instauratione, Humano generi, ipsa sanctissima Numinis voce fuisse imperata, atque ad Posteros per Traditionem solum inde manasse;9 that is, that these commands were proclaim’d by the voice of God himself, first to Adam in the first setting out of the world; and then they were repeated to Noah when there was to be a reprinting, and new Edition of the world after the Deluge; and thus were in way of Tradition to be propagated to all posterity. O rare and admirable foundation of Plerophory!10 O incomparable method and contrivance to finde out certainty, to rase out first Principles, to pluck down Demonstrations, to demolish the whole structure and fabrick of Reason, and to build upon the word of two or three Hebrew Doctors, that tell you of a voice, and that as confidently, as if they had heard it, and they are entrusted with this voice, they must report and spread it unto others, though they do it like unfaithful Ecchos with false and imperfect rebounds.
This is to tell you that men have no Candle of the Lord within them, but only there must be Traditio Lampadis,11 a General and Publique light, that must go from one hand to another.
This is to blot out the Νόμοςγραπτὸς12 [written law], to leave out Canonical Scripture, and to give you Apochrypha in the room of it. ’Tis to set a Jew in the chaire dictating the Law of Nature, with the very same infallibility, that the Pope promises himself in determining all points of Religion. Therefore some it may be will have recourse to such an Intellectus Agens13 [active intellect] as must clear up all things. Now this is another Oriental Invention, for those Arabian  writers Averroes and Avicen, did not look upon the spirit of a man as the Candle of the Lord, but must needs have an Angel to hold the Candle to enlighten men in their choicest operations. Nay, Averroes will allow but one Angel to superintend and prompt the whole Species of mankinde; yet Zabarel questions whether his bounty will not extend to two, the one for an Intellectus Agens, the other for an Intellectus Patiens14 [passive intellect]. To be sure Averroes fanci’d man as the most imperfect and contemptible being that could be, totally dependant upon an Angel in his most essential workings; the whole sphere of his being was to be mov’d by an Intelligence.
He fanci’d him a Ship steer’d only by an Angel; he fanci’d him a Lute that made no musick but by the touch of an Angel. It had been well if his Genius would have tun’d him a little better. It had been well if his Pilot would have kept him from making shipwrack of Reason. If his Intelligence would but have mov’d his Head a little more harmoniously. But by this, if he had pleas’d he might have perceiv’d that there were pluralities and differences of understandings, because there were so few of his minde. Yet Plotinus and Themistius that were his Seniors, had more then a tincture of this Errour; and lookt upon this Νου̑ςποιητικὸς[active intellect], as if it had been Sol quidam incorporeus nulli oriens aut occidens, sed semper & ubique omnibus praesens15 [a sort of spiritual sun, neither rising nor setting, but always and everywhere present in all].
Which notion Cardan prosecutes so far, as that he falls into this most Prodigious conceit, that this Intellectus Agens does offer its light and assistance to sensitive beings also, but that the churlishnesse of the matter will not wellcome and entertain such pure irradiations, for thus he speaks; Eundem Intellectum etiam belluis imminere, easque ambire: At ipsi non patere Aditum, propter materiae ineptitudinem. Igitur hominem intus irradiare, circum belluas extrinsecus collucere. Neque alia re Hominis Intellectum, ab Intellectu differre belluarum. Idcirco belluas ea omnia habere inchoata, quae in homine perfecta sunt16 [That the very same Intellect hangs over beasts, and surrounds them, but cannot gain access, because of the unsuitableness of the matter. Therefore it shines within man, but outside and around beasts. And the intellect of man does not differ from that of beasts in any other way; therefore beasts possess all the crude elements which are brought to perfection in man.] But Scaliger has sufficiently corrected him for this brutish Tenent; so that I shall need only to adde this; Cardans Intellectus Agens, was so familiar, as that some question whether he were a good Angel or no. Nay, some tell us that he was left him for an inheritance, shut up in a Ring, enclos’d in a golden circle, a goodly sphere for an Intelligence to move in. But there were many others also enamour’d with this opinion of an Intellectus Agens; the Platonists were excessively enclinable to it, and were alwayes so much conversant with spirits, which made their Philosophy ever question’d for a touch of  Magick. Nay, Scaliger tells us of some others, that will have this Intellectus Agens to be caput & Author consiliorum omnium, the contriver of the rarest and wittiest inventions; the Author of Guns, of Clocks, of Printing, of the Pyxis nautica: Materialem vero Intellectum esse quasi Usufructuarium, & beneficiarium illius17 [the compass; and that the material intellect is a sort of usufructary and beneficiary of it].
The Jews especially admire and adore the Influence of an Intellectus Agens, and not forgetful of their Primogeniture and priviledges, but being alwayes a conceited and a bragging generation, they would fain perswade us that God himself is their Intellectus Agens, but to the Gentiles he sends only an Angel to illuminate them.18
The Jews indeed sometimes call every faculty an Angel, as one of the best amongst them, Maimonides tells us,19 but yet here they properly mean an Angelical being, distinct and separate from the soul, and just according to Averroes Determination, the lowest Intelligence, Ultimus Motor Coelestium20 [the final mover of heavenly beings]. Their own Intellectus Agens they call שבינה&רוח הקדש,21 the presence and power of God dwelling in the understanding, the influence of it they tearme שפע,22 as the forementioned Maimonides observes, that is, a copious and abundant supply of light shining upon the Minde. According to which they understand that place of the Psalmist באודך נדאו אורin lumine tuo videbimus lumen23 [in thy light shall we see light]; which the Schoolmen more truly expound of the Lumen Gloriae[the light of glory] in the Beatifical vision, though it may reach also to that joy and delight which Saints have in communion with God here.
Amongst fresher and more moderne writers, Zabarel is very intense and zealous for this, that God himself is the Intellectus Agens of the soul: but being a most humble and devoted servant of Aristotle, he can by no means quiet and content himself unlesse he can shew the world that his Master was of the same judgement.24
This makes him to suborne two or three Testimonies, or at least to tamper with a place or two; and then bravely to conclude that without doubt ’twas the minde of the Philosopher, which is not only against the whole stream of other Interpreters, but against the known & Orthodox Principles of him that was wiser then to countenance such a vanity.
It should seeme by that eminent writer of our own, that Fryer Bacon was of the same mind too, for whose words these are quoted amongst many others, out of an Oxford-Manuscript; Deus respectu animae est sicut Sol respectu Oculi Temporalis,&Angeli sicut stellae25 [God, in the view of the soul, is like the sun to the physical eye, and angels are like stars]. Now what angels they were that this Roger Bacon fixt his eye upon, whether they were not fallen Stars, let others  examine. I should think that Cardans Intellectus Agens and his were both much of the same colour.
But this you may perceive in him and the rest of the great Pleaders for an Intellectus Agens, that they found all their Arguments in a pretty similitude of an eye, and light, and colours, as if this were some inconquerable Demonstration. Whereas that great Master of subtleties, whom I have more then once nam’d before, has made it appear, that the whole Notion of an Intellectus Agens is a meere fancy and superfluity.26
Yet this may be granted to all the foremention’d Authors, and this is the only spark of Truth, that lies almost buried in that heap of Errours; That God himself as he does supply every being, the Motion of every Creature with an intimate and immediate concourse every way answerable to the measure and degree of its Entity; so he does in the same manner constantly assist the Understanding with a proportionable Co-operation. But then as for any such Irradiations upon the soul in which that shall be meerly patient: God indeed if he be pleas’d to reveal himself in a special and extraordinary manner, he may thus shine out upon it, either immediately by his own light, or else drop Angelical influence upon it: but that this should be the natural and ordinary way, necessarily required to Intellectual workings, is extremely prejudicial to such a noble Being as the soul of Man is; to which God gave such bright participations of himself, and stampt his Image upon it, and left it to its own workings, as much as any other created being whatsoever. Nay, as Scaliger does most confidently object it to Cardan, you will not have one Argument left, by which you can evince the Immortality of the soul, if ye shall resolve all the excellency of its being and operations into an Intellectus Agens really distinct from it.
But then to make this Νου̑ςποιητικὸς[active intellect], and παθητικὸς[passive], only the various aspects and different relations of the same soul, is but a weak and needlesse device, and if ’twere Aristotles, to be sure ’twas none of his Master-pieces;27 for ’tis built upon I know not what Phantasms and false Appearances.
Whereas those Species and colours, those pictures and representations of being that are set before an Intellectual eye, carry such a light and beauty in themselvs as may justly engratiate them with the understanding. And though some tell us that they have too much drosse & impurity, that they are too muddy and feculent, not proportionable to the purity of a reasonable soul, yet let them but think of those many strainers they have gone through: those double refinings and clarifyings, that they have had from so many percolations: and withall they may know that the understanding can drink in the most pure and flowring part of the Species, and can leave the dregges at the bottome. Have you not thus often seen a seal stamping it self upon the waxe, and yet not communicating the  least particle of matter, but only leaving a form and impression upon it?
However, there is as much proportion between these Species and an Intellectus Patiens, as between these and an Intellectus Agens.28 Nay, there is more proportion between these Species and the understanding, then between the soul and body, which yet are joyn’d and married together in a most loving and conjugal union.