The extrinsic bible: Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, concepts of scripture, and the question of secularity
This article examines the miraculous Bible imagined in Francis Bacon's Utopian narrative New Atlantis. Here Bacon depicts the conversion of a fictional society through its encounter with a Bible which appears off the coast of its island, enclosed in a cedar ark and heralded by a pillar of light. This Bible can be read by all the island's language groups, and, we are told, it contains parts of the Bible not yet written. Drawing on Catholic philosopher Maurice Blondel's concept of "extrinsicism," which describes a stark separation of divine revelation from the human and historical means by which it is mediated, this article analyzes the significance of various aspects of this strikingly transcendent Bible, including its displacement of human agency, history, and culture from its production and transmission. It also examines the implications of this Bible's miraculously self-enclosed and self-grounding status for its reception, as well as the significance of this reception's immediacy and passivity. The article proceeds to consider the role this imagined Bible plays in the narrative's promulgation of Baconian natural philosophy. The particular boundaries established by this imagined Bible, I argue, can be seen to serve a supporting function for Bacon's depiction in his natural philosophic writings of the complex distinctions between reason and revelation, philosophy and theology, and the workings of nature and the workings of God. The article concludes by considering how these various distinctions, and their relationship to Bacon's imagined Bible, might be illuminated by critical reflection on concepts of secularity in our own time.
|Journal||Religion and Literature|
DeCook, T. (2015). The extrinsic bible: Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, concepts of scripture, and the question of secularity. Religion and Literature, 47(1), 99–121.