Humankind can easily be characterized by its fascination with unexplainable phenomenon. Throughout history, all discoveries have been conducted by men who were unable to accept the present explanations for different realities and felt constrained by existing boundaries. Francis Bacon is no stranger to this innate fascination with the unknown and attraction to the elements which lie beyond the confines of human understanding.
This controversial figure of the late 16 and early 17th century in England was credited with instigating the evolution of what is known as modern science today. After being impeached for accepting bribery as one of the highest lawmen for king James I, he concentrated the later parts of his life on the development of natural philosophy. The lawman and philosopher wrote many influential essays, such as "The Great Instauration" and "the New Organon" which explained his approach to a practical and theoretical project to reform the way men study nature. Based on those essays, he composed his only short story, "New Atlantis", which pictured a perfect world beneficiating from the thorough application of his vision. The New Atlantis is nothing more than the account of a world in which men possess a successful inductive method to study nature. Bensalem can be viewed as a society of happiness dominated by science and monarchy and there is an evident connection between the state of science today and the idea Bacon had in late Renaissance.
The story was published by Rawley after Bacon's death in 1627 and was supposed to include an account of the political and legal constitution of the Island of Bensalem. A crucial aspect of the story is perhaps the "House of Salomon" which controls the development of science in an effort to enlarge the human empire. At first sight, "New Atlantis" is the mere recollection of the events occurring to Spaniards lost in the Atlantic Ocean while sailing in search for new lands. Lost at sea, they observe a cluster of clouds forming along the horizon, which indicates the proximity of land. Sure enough, they are approached by a richly dressed man navigating a sophisticated boat, which informs them that they have reached the Island of Bensalem. After a few questions concerning their affairs and catholicity, they are informed that they are invited on the island of Bensalem, where all illnesses will be promptly treated, and any needs sufficed during a period of 16 days. The Spaniards are received in "Strangers house", an incredibly luxurious and comfortable establishment where sickness is cured in a way unknown to most Europeans in the 17ht century. From then on, The Benselamite "way of life" is revealed to the reader through the narrator, which acts as a token of the typical "European response". His reaction towards Bensalem is the one any European would have setting foot on the Island. The narrator is an amazed reporter, recounting all the events which bring to light specific characteristics of the utopian society. We discover their religious beliefs, Traditions, values and unavoidably the tedious tasks and hierarchical organization of the pillars of Bensalem; the House of Salomon.
The plot itself is obviously not a token of Bacon's narrative genius. The story is rather seen as "an attempt by Bacon to popularize the New Science"(Spedding 710). The power of this short story is that it enables us to understand the long term effect of enforcing Bacon's vision onto our society. The effects of the application of "The New Organon", which was Bacon's account of a practical and theoretical project to reform the way men studies nature, are thoroughly discussed through the story of the New Atlantis. In fact, as stated by James Spedding, "The story of the New Atlantis is nothing more than a vision of the practical results which he anticipated from the study of natural history diligently and systematically" (711). Bensalem is not the recollection of an ideal world released from the natural...
Cited: ALBANESE, Denise; New Science New World, Durham N.C.; Duke University Press, 1996.
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