Of Superstition by Francis Bacon Summary and Analysis

Read our detailed notes below on the essay “Of Superstition” by Francis Bacon. Our notes cover Of Superstition by Francis Bacon summary and analysis.

Of Superstition Summary:

Francis Bacon starts the essay with an emphatic rejection of the superstitious belief of the common men and profoundly goes to the extent of calling it “the reproach of the Deity”. This argument is then backed by a quote of a renowned philosopher Plutarch who had said almost the same thing but in different words. Plutarch is quoted to have said that he would happier if no one believes in his existence then the situation if the people believed that he used to eat his sons as soon as they were born.

He starts comparing the atheists with superstitious people and finds the atheists better because they are free to go by their will but superstitious people are bound to fears and traditions which limit their lives to very tiny circles. Bacon furthers his argument by saying that the atheists are in no way bad people for a state because they are “wary of themselves”. The real danger is with the superstitious people whose minds are not ready to accept anything against their beliefs as if their minds have become some sorts of monarchs.

Furthermore, he presents the evidence of past times and said that the times of Augustus Cæsar were civil times because those times were inclined to atheisms while superstitions have brought many states to ground. He then moves on to explain the cause and essence of superstitions and says that the masses create them and the wise people then start following the fools who have created it. The people then start creating arguments to defend these practices which is quite unnatural. The basic causes which result in the formation of these beliefs and practices are common vices and follies like sensual rites, outward holiness, barbarous past, and other such petty ideals.

Having proved the ill nature of superstitions and the damages they can cause, Bacon then moves on to his conclusion by saying that superstition, without any doubt, is a deformed thing which can only damage the face of religion. He says that these small deformities on the face of religion can wholly destroy it just like small worms can destroy large bundles of meat. But at the same time, he advises us to not overdo things. We should try to not leave the good customs and traditions along with the bad times because this thing occurs when the people are the reformers.

Of Superstition Analysis:

Use of Literary Devices:

Bacon is famous for his use of literary devices in his essays where he uses them to fulfill the purpose of persuasion. This essay is no exception. Parallelism has been used in many sentences like “Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation” and “for the one is unbelief, the other is contumely”. A kind of musicality and rhythmical tone is added to an ordinary prose, by the use of literary devices, which could otherwise become boring and dull. There are many metaphors and similes in the text as well, like “superstition is the reproach of the Deity” which add to the literariness of the piece.

Start:

Bacon starts the essay with the most important sentence to produce a sense of awe in minds of the readers. This serves as a hook for the readers’ interest. He then moves on to present a quote in its support to seal the effect. The starting paragraph has in itself a sense of completeness which makes the reader’s interest intact.

Ending:

The end of the essay is just as interesting as the start is. He starts the last paragraph with a concluding tone and provides the readers with a clear-cut conclusion based on the arguments he has presented. Then, there is a sudden shift and the author advises us to be careful in following what he has tried to tell us in the whole essay. In this way, he ends the essay with yet a new taste.

Style:

Just like most of the essays of Francis Bacon, this essay is a short persuasive essay focused on the objective subject-matter of superstition. The lengths of the sentences vary throughout the essay according to the need of the subject. Sentence structures are craftily varied at various occasions which is a proof of the deft craftsmanship of the author. The arguments in the essay are supported by quotes from renowned scholars and evidence from the past which adds to the authority of the piece on the subject matter.