Thomas Browne

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Sir Thomas Browne, MD (19 October 160519 October 1682) was an English author of varied works that disclose his wide learning in diverse fields including medicine, religion, science and the esoteric.


Religio Medici (1642)

  • I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion, or be angry with his judgement for not agreeing with me in that, from which perhaps within a few days I should dissent myself.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 6
  • Many from the ignorance of these Maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal unto Truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error, and remain as Trophies unto the enemies of Truth: A man may be in as just possession of Truth as of a City, and yet be forced to surrender.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 6
  • I love to lose myself in a mystery, to pursue my reason to an O altitudo.
    • Pt. 1, Sec. 9
  • I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret Magic of numbers.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 12
  • The severe Schools shall never laugh me out of the Philosophy of Hermes, that this visible world is but a picture of the invisible.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 12
  • Rich with the spoils of nature.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 13
  • We carry with us the wonders, we seek without us: There is all Africa, and her prodigies in us; we are that bold and adventurous piece of nature, which he that studies, wisely learns in a compendium, what others labour at in a divided piece and endless volume.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 15
  • All things are artificial, for nature is the Art of God.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 16
  • Obstinacy in a bad cause, is but constancy in a good.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 25
  • Persecution is a bad and indirect way to plant Religion.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 25
  • Thus is man that great and true Amphibium, whose nature is disposed to live not only like other creatures in divers elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 34
  • This reasonable moderator, and equal piece of justice, Death.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 38
  • I am not so much afraid of death, as ashamed thereof; 'tis the very disgrace and ignominy of our natures, that in a moment can so disfigure us that our nearest friends, Wife, and Children stand afraid and start at us.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 40
  • Whosoever enjoys not this life, I count him but an apparition, though he wear about him the sensible affections of flesh. In these moral acceptions, the way to be immortal is to die daily.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 45
  • I believe the world grows near its end, yet is neither old nor decayed, nor will ever perish upon the ruins of its own principles.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 45
  • How shall the dead arise, is no question of my faith; to believe only possibilities, is not faith, but mere philosophy.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 48
  • The heart of man is the place the devil dwells in; I feel sometimes a hell within myself.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 51
  • There is no road or ready way to virtue.
    • Pt. I, Sec. 55
  • I intend no Monopoly, but a Community in Learning; I study not for my own sake only, but for theirs that study not for themselves.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 3
  • They that endeavour to abolish vice destroy also virtue, for contraries, though they destroy one another, are yet the life of one another.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 4
  • No man can justly censure or condemn another, because indeed no man truly knows another.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 4
  • But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? Charity begins at home, is the voice of the world, yet is every man his greatest enemy, and as it were, his own executioner.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 4
  • I could be content that we might procreate like trees, without conjunction, or that there were any way to perpetuate the world without this trivial and vulgar act of coition; It is the foolishest act a wise man commits in all his life, nor is there anything that will more deject his cooled imagination, when he shall consider what an odd and unworthy piece of folly he hath committed.
    • Pt. II,Sec. 9
  • I can look a whole day with delight upon a handsome picture, though it be but of a horse. It is my temper, & I like it the better, to affect all harmony, and sure there is music even in the beauty, and the silent note which Cupid strikes, far sweeter than the sound of an instrument. For there is a music wherever there is a harmony, order or proportion; and thus far we may maintain the music of the spheres.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 9
  • I can cure the gout or stone in some, sooner than Divinity, Pride, or Avarice in others.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 9
  • There is no man alone, because every man is a Microcosm, and carries the whole world about him.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 10
  • For the world, I count it not an Inn, but a Hospital, and a place, not to live, but to die in.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 11
  • Men that look upon my outside, perusing only my condition, and fortunes, do err in my altitude; for I am above Atlas his shoulders.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 11
  • There is surely a piece of Divinity within us, something that was before the Elements, and owes no homage unto the Sun.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 11
  • I am in no way facetious, nor disposed for the mirth and galliardize of company, yet in one dream I can compose a whole Comedy, behold the action, apprehend the jests, and laugh myself awake at the conceits thereof.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 11
  • We term sleep a death, and yet it is waking that kills us, and destroys those spirits that are the house of life.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 12
  • Aristotle whilst he labours to refute the Idea's of Plato, falls upon one himself: for his summum bonum, is a Chimera, and there is no such thing as his Felicity.
    • Pt. II, Sec. 15

On Dreams

  • Half our days we pass in the shadow of the earth; and the brother of death exacteth a third part of our lives.
  • Happy are they that go to bed with grave music.
  • A little water makes a sea, a small puff of wind a Tempest.
  • That some have never dreamed is as improbable as that some have never laughed.
  • That children dream not the first half year, that men dream not in some countries, with many more, are unto me sick men's dreams, dreams out of the Ivory gate, and visions before midnight.

Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial (1658)

  • Times before you, when even the living men were Antiquities; when the living might exceed the dead, and to depart this world, could not be properly said, to go unto the greater number.
    • Dedication
  • In the deep discovery of the Subterranean world, a shallow part would satisfy some enquirers.
    • Ch. I
  • A Dialogue between two Infants in the womb concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Plato's Den, and are but Embryon Philosophers.
    • Ch. IV
  • Were the happiness of the next world as closely apprehended as the felicities of this, it were a martyrdom to live.
    • Ch. IV
  • Time which antiquates Antiquities, and hath an art to make dust of all things.
    • Ch. V
  • The long habit of living indisposeth us for dying.
    • Ch. V
  • What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.
  • To be nameless in worthy deeds exceeds an infamous history.
    • Ch V
  • But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. Who can but pity the founder of the Pyramids? Herostratus lives that burnt the Temple of Diana, he is almost lost that built it.
    • Ch. V
  • Who knows whether the best of men be known? or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot, than any that stand remembered in the known account of time? without the favour of the everlasting Register the first man had been as unknown as the last, and Methusaleh's long life had been his only Chronicle.
    • Ch. V
  • Oblivion is not to be hired: The greater part must be content to be as though they had not been, to be found in the Register of God, not in the record of man.
    • Ch. V
  • The night of time far surpasseth the day, and who knows when was the Æquinox?
    • Ch. V
  • Darkness and light divide the course of time, and oblivion snares with memory, a great part even of our living beings; we slightly remember our felicities, and the smartest strokes of affliction leave but short smart upon us. Sense endureth no extremities, and sorrows destroy us or themselves. To weep into stones are fables.
    • Ch. V
  • But man is a Noble Animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing Nativities and Deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting Ceremonies of Bravery, in the infamy of his nature.
    • Ch. V
  • Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us.
    • Ch. V

The Garden of Cyrus (1658)

  • Life itself is but the shadow of death, and souls departed but the shadows of the living: All things fall under this name. The Sun itself is but the dark simulacrum, and the light but the shadow of God.
    • Ch. 4
  • But the Quincunx of Heaven runs low, and 'tis time to close the five ports of knowledge.
    • Ch. 5
  • To keep our eyes open longer were but to set our Antipodes. The Huntsmen are up in America, and they are already past their first sleep in Persia. But who can be drowsy at that hour which freed us from everlasting sleep? or have slumbering thoughts at that time, when sleep itself must end, and as some conjecture all shall awake again?
    • Ch. 5

Letter to a Friend (circa 1656)

  • To make an end of all things on Earth, and our Planetical System of the World, he (God) need but put out the Sun.
  • Not to be content with Life is the unsatisfactory state of those which destroy themselves; who being afraid to live, run blindly upon their own Death, which no Man fears by Experience.
  • And surely, he that hath taken the true Altitude of Things, and rightly calculated the degenerate state of this Age, is not like to envy those that shall live in the next, much less three or four hundred Years hence, when no Man can comfortably imagine what Face this World will carry.
  • Pursue Virtue virtuously.
    • These words also appear in Christian Morals, Part I, Section I.
  • Be charitable before Wealth makes thee covetous.

Christian Morals (first pub. post. 1716)

  • Be substantially great in thyself, and more than thou appearest unto others.
    • Part I, Section XIX
  • The noblest Digladiation is in the Theatre of ourselves.
    • Part I, Section XXIV
  • He who discommendeth others obliquely commendeth himself.
    • Part I, Section XXXIV
  • Burden not the back of Aries, Leo, or Taurus, with thy faults, nor make Saturn, Mars, or Venus, guilty of thy Follies.
    • Part III, Section VII
  • The created World is but a small Parenthesis in Eternity.
    • Part III, Section XXIX

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Project Gutenberg's Religio Medici, Hydriotaphia and Letter to a Friend

The University of Chicago's Sir Thomas Browne page