OF THE WATER AND AIR.
THE other two elements, viz. water and air, are not less efficacious than the former; neither is Nature wanting to work wonderful things in them. There is so great a necessity of water, that without it nothing can live--no herb nor plant whatsoever without the moistening of water, can bring forth; in it is the seminary virtue of all things, especially of animals, whose seed is manifestly waterish. The seeds, also, of trees and plants, although they are earthy, must, notwithstanding, of necessity be rotted in water before they can be fruitful; whether they be imbibed with the moisture of the earth, or with dew, or rain, or any other water that is on purpose put to them.--For Moses writes, that only earth and water can bring forth a living soul; but he ascribes a two-fold production of things to water, viz. of things swimming in the water, and of things flying in the air above the earth; and
that those productions that are made in and upon the earth are partly attributed to the very water the same scripture testifies, where it saith, that the plants and the herbs did not grow, because God had not caused it to rain upon the earth. Such is the efficacy of this element of water, that spiritual regeneration cannot be done without it, as Christ himself testified to Nicodemus. Very great, also, is the virtue of it in the religious worship of God, in expiations and purifications; indeed the necessity of it is no less than that of fire. Infinite are the benefits, and divers are the uses, thereof as being that, by virtue of which all things subsist, are generated, nourished, and in creased. Hence it was that Thales of Miletus, and Hesiod, concluded that water was the beginning of all things; and said it was the first of all the elements, and the most potent; and that, because it hath the mastery over all the rest. For, as Pliny saith--"Waters swallow up the earth--extinguish flames--ascend on high--and, by the stretching forth of the clouds, challenge the heavens for their own; the same, falling down, becomes the cause of all things that grow in the earth." Very many are the wonders that are done by waters, according to the writings of Pliny, Solinus, and many other historians.
Josephus also makes relation of the wonderful nature of a certain river betwixt Arcea and Raphanea, cities of Syria, which runs with a full channel all the Sabbath-day, and then on a sudden stops, as if the springs were stopped, and all the six days you may pass over it dry-shod; but again, on the seventh day, no man knowing the reason of it, the waters return again, in abundance as before! wherefore the inhabitants thereabout called it the Sabbath-day River) because of the seventh day, which was holy to the Jews.--The Gospel, also, testifies of a sheep-pool, into which whosoever stepped first after the water was troubled by the Angel, was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. The same virtue and efficacy, we read, was in a spring of the Ionian Nymphs, which was in the territories belonging to the town of Elis, at a village called Heradea, near the river Citheron, which whosoever stepped into, being diseased, came forth whole, and cured of all his diseases. Pausanias also reports, that in Lyceus, a mountain of Arcadia, there was a
spring called Agria, to which, as often as the dryness of the region threatened the destruction of fruits, Jupiter, Priest of Lyceus, went; and, after the offering of sacrifices, devoutly praying to the waters of the spring, holding a bough of an oak in his hand, put it down to the bottom of the hallowed spring; then, the waters being troubled, a vapour ascending from thence into the air, was blown into clouds, which being joined together, the whole heaven was overspread: which being, a little after, dissolved into rain, watered all the country most wholesomely.--Moreover, Ruffus, a physician of Ephesus, besides many other authors, wrote strange things concerning the wonders of waters, which, for aught I know, are found in no other author.
It remains, that I speak of the air.--This is a vital spirit passing through all beings--giving life and subsistence to all things--moving and filling all things. Hence it is that the Hebrew doctors reckon it not amongst the elements; but count it as a medium, or glue, joining things together, and as the resounding spirit of the world's instrument. It immediately receives into itself the influence of all celestial bodies, and then communicates them to the other elements, as also to all mixed bodies. Also, it receives into itself, as if it were a divine looking-glass, the species of all things, as well natural as artificial; as also of all manner of speeches, and retains them; and carrying them with it, and entering into the bodies of men, and other animals, through their pores, makes an impression upon them, as well when they are asleep as when they are awake, and affords matter for divers strange dreams and divinations.--Hence, they say, it is that a man, passing by a place where a man was slain, or the carcass newly hid, is moved with fear and dread; because the air, in that place, being full of the dreadful species of man-slaughter, doth, being breathed in, move and trouble the spirit of the man with the like species; whence it is that he becomes afraid. For every thing that makes a sudden impression astonishes Nature. Whence it is that many philosophers were of opinion, that air is the cause of dreams, and of many other impressions of the mind, through the prolonging of images, or similitudes, or species (which proceed from things and speeches, multiplied in the very air), until they come to the senses, and then to the phantasy and soul of him that receives
them; which, being freed from cares, and no way hindered, expecting to meet such kind of species, is informed by them. For the species of things, although of their own proper nature they are carried to the senses of men, and other animals in general, may, notwithstanding, get some impression from the heavens whilst they are in the air; by reason of which, together with the aptness and disposition of him that receives them, they may be carried to the sense of one, rather than of another. And hence it is possible, naturally, and far from all manner of superstition (no other spirit coming between), that a man should be able, in a very small time, to signify his mind unto another man, abiding at a very long and unknown distance from him--although he cannot precisely give an estimate of the time when it is, yet, of necessity, it must be within twenty-four hours;--and I, myself, know how to do it, and have often done it. The same also, in time past, did the Abbot Tritemius both know and do.--Also, when certain appearances (not only spiritual, but also natural) do flow forth from things, that is to say, by a certain kind of flowings forth of bodies from bodies, and do gather strength in the air, they shew themselves to us as well through light as motion--as well to the sight as to other senses--and sometimes work wonderful things upon us, as Platonius proves and teacheth. And we see how, by the south-wind, the air is condensed into thin clouds, in which, as in a looking-glass, are reflected representations at a great distance, of castles, mountains, horses, men, and other things, which when the clouds are gone, presently vanish.--And Aristotle, in his Meteors, shews that a rainbow is conceived in a cloud of the air, as in a looking-glass.--And Albertus says, that the effigies of bodies may, by the strength of Nature, in a moist air, be easily represented; in the same manner as the representations of things are in things.--And Aristotle tells of a man, to whom it happened, by reason of the weakness of his sight, that the air that was near to him became, as it were, a looking-glass to him, and the optic-beam did reflect back upon himself, and could not penetrate the air, so that, whithersoever he went, he thought he saw his own image, with his face towards him, go before him.--In like manner, by the artificialness of some certain looking-glasses, may be produced at a distance, in the air, besides the
looking-glasses, what images we please; which, when ignorant men see, they think they see the appearances of spirits or souls--when, indeed, they are nothing else but semblances a-kin to themselves, and without life. And it is well-known, if in a dark place, where there is no light but by the coming in of a beam of the sun some where through a little hole, a white paper or plain looking-glass be set up against the light, that there may be seen upon them whatsoever things are done without, being shined upon by the sun. And there is another slight or trick yet more wonderful:--if any one shall take images, artificially painted, or written letters, and, in a clear night, set them against the beams of the full moon, those resemblances being multiplied in the air, and caught upward, and reflected back together with the beams of the moon, another man, that is privy to the thing, at a long distance, sees, reads, and knows them in the very compass and circle of the moon; which art of declaring secrets is, indeed, very profitable for towns and cities that are besieged, being a thing which Pythagoras long since did, and which is not unknown to some in these days; I will not except myself. And all these things, and many more, and much greater than these, are grounded in the very nature of the air, and have their reasons and causes declared in mathematics and optics. And as these resemblances are reflected back to the sight, so also are they, sometimes, to the hearing, as is manifest in echo. But there are many more secret arts than these, and such whereby any one may, at a remarkable distance, hear, and understand distinctly, what another speaks or whispers.