“In short, all that were great and good loved and honoured him.”
John Aubrey, Brief Lives – 1680-93
Sir Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam of Verulam, Viscount Saint Alban (1561-1626), was a man of mystery. On the one hand a great deal is known about him from letters and writings, and various other sources. On the other hand there is a great deal about him that is veiled and hard to discover.
Besides being a poet, philosopher, scientist, orator, essayist, author, courtier, jurist, the first QC and KC, and a Lord Chancellor and nobleman in his later life, he was also a Hermeticist and Christian Cabalist. One of the Cabalistic maxims is that some things should be revealed and some things should be hidden, so that to find the truth we have to make the effort to search for it. This treasure hunt is allegorised in the Bible as a game of hide and seek (1), wherein God hides the truth in order that man should seek to find it, and in Freemasonry as the search for the Lost Word. The absolute importance of this to Bacon is made clear in his writings, wherein he says that the glory of man is to play God's game of hide and seek(2), and to imitate God as we are made in God's image (3).
Not only did Bacon believe in and understand this proverbial wisdom of Solomon, together with the teachings of Jesus and the Mosaic account of creation, but also the “New Method” Bacon gave to mankind, which he calls the “Art of Discovery”, is based on this wisdom. Bacon also said that he would provide a practical example of this art in order to teach us the method; but he doesn’t actually tell us what the practical example is or where to find it, other than providing the hint of the game of hide and seek, and mentioning that “the Art of Discovery can grow together with Discovery itself.”(4) This perhaps is the key mystery; but there are also many other mysteries involved with Bacon’s own life—for instance:-
- Francis Bacon was born on 22 January 1561 in York House, the Strand, London, the younger son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and Lady Ann Bacon. This is perhaps the first of the mysteries, for there are hints given by Bacon and others that he was in fact an adopted son and that his natural parents were Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester.
- The second mystery is probably that which involves Francis Bacon's spiritual life and metaphysical researches, including mathematics and ciphers. Many times Bacon wrote that he considered mathematics to be a branch of metaphysics and one of the "essential Forms of things, as that it is causative in Nature of a number of effects.."(5) He also wrote that "inquiries into nature have the best result when they begin with physics and end in mathematics."(6) Bacon was deeply involved with cryptology and was an inventor of ciphers used by the Elizabethan intelligence agency as also by himself for his own purposes. He set out to imitate the Great Architect of the Universe and "disposed all things in proportion, number and order", as emphasised by the motto on the second title page of his 1640 Advancement of Learning.
- The third mystery concerns Francis Bacon's participation in the Elizabethan intelligence service headed by Francis Walsingham and Lord Burleigh, and then later his co-leadership with his brother Anthony of his own intelligence network.
- A fourth mystery is that there are many indications that Francis Bacon headed not just a literary group and intelligence network but also the Society of the Golden and Rosy Cross, otherwise known as the Rosicrucians, and was the founder of modern Speculative Freemasonry in Britain, echoing (on a higher "octave") Saint Alban, the reputed founder of Craft Freemasonry in Roman Britain, whose name Bacon was given as a title (Viscount Saint Alban, not Viscount Saint Albans which would have been normal practice).
- A fifth mystery is Francis Bacon's involvement in writing poems, masques, entertainments and plays, and his use of the name "William Shakespeare" to mask his authorship of the Shakespeare works, and possibly other pseudonyms to mask other works. He is famous for writing in numerous different styles, each style depending on the subject matter, purpose, and who he was writing for or pretending to be. For instance, his essay style, which he worked at developing over many decades, is very different to his style for his philosophical writings. Even with the latter style, he experimented several times before he settled on a final version. Then he wrote very differently for the masques, and again differently for the speeches at the Queen's Entertainments—speeches that he wrote for noblemen to speak to the Queen when they were acting their part. He was a master at imitating other people's styles, which he did many times, usually on behalf of the other person; but on one occasion he wrote a letter to the Queen as if from Essex, hoping to make the Queen become friendlier towards the earl at a time when the latter had seriously upset the Queen and was out of favour. Then he had other various styles for his letters to different people, his legal work, his reports, his advice to the sovereign or to Parliament, and so on. Moreover, these are just the styles that we can see in his known writing.
- A sixth mystery is Bacon's philosophical work, The Great Instauration, which has far more to it than meets the eye, and why he considered using the pseudonyms 'Hermes Stella' and 'Valerius Terminus' to mask the authorship of this work.
- A seventh mystery is the naming of Francis Bacon as the Instaurator of the Royal Society by the founders of that Society, which itself developed out of the "Invisible College", a nickname for the Rosicrucians.
- An eighth mystery concerns Bacon's use of certain key places, such as York Place, Essex House, Canonbury Manor and Gorhambury Manor.
- A ninth mystery is Bacon's geographic and geocosmological knowledge of Britain, Europe and the Americas, and perhaps of the whole planet.
- A tenth mystery is Bacon's knowledge of mining, his interest in the Americas (which he associated with Atlantis), his participation in the Virginia Company, and his involvement in the geometric layout and subterranean works on Oak Island, Nova Scotia.
- An eleventh mystery concerns Bacon's fall from grace and impeachment as Lord Chancellor, in which it is clear from letters and documents that he was used as a scapegoat and commanded by the King to plead guilty to trumped up charges of corruption.
- A twelfth mystery surrounds Bacon's death, wherein he is reported to have died on Easter Day, 9 April 1626, in his 66th year. The tributes to Francis Bacon and the monument erected in his memory in St Michael's Church, St Albans, immediately after his death, offer gateways into this mystery and the mystery of the man himself.
Then, of course, there are probably further mysteries as well.