Observations upon experimental philosophy to which is added The description of a new blazing world
Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674.

15. Of the Seeds of Vegetables.

SOme do call the seeds of Vegetables, the Cabinet of Nature, wherein are laid up her Jewels; but this, in my opinion, is a very hard and improper ex∣pression; for I cannot conceive what Jewels Nature has, nor in what Cabinet she preserves them. Nei∣ther are the seeds of Vegetables more then other parts or Creatures of Nature: But I suppose some conceive Nature to be like a Granary or Store-house of Pine∣barley, or the like; which if so, I would fain know in what grounds those seeds should be sown to produce and increase; for no seeds can produce of themselves if they be not assisted by some other mat∣ter, which proves, that seeds are not the prime or prin∣cipal Creatures in Nature, by reason they depend upon some other matter which helps them in their productions; for if seeds of Vegetables did lie never so Page  41 long in a store-house, or any other place, they would never produce until they were put into some proper and convenient ground: It is also an argument, that no Creature or part of Nature can subsist singly and pre∣cised from all the rest, but that all parts must live toge∣ther; and since no part can subsist and live without the other, no part can also be called prime or principal. Nevertheless all seeds have life as well as other Crea∣tures; neither is it a Paradox to say, seeds are buried in life, and yet do live; for what is not in present act, we may call buried, intombed or inurned in the power of life; as for example, a man, when his figure is dissol∣ved, his parts dispersed, and joyned with others, we may say his former form or figure of being such a par∣ticular man is buried in its dissolution, and yet liveth in the composition of other parts, or which is all one, he doth no more live the life of a Man, but the life of some other Creature he is transformed into by the transform∣ing and figuring motions of Nature; nay, although every particle of his former figure were joyned with se∣veral other parts and particles of Nature, and every particle of the dissolved figure were altered from its for∣mer figure into several other figures, nevertheless each of these Particles would not onely have life, by reason it has motion, but also the former figure would still re∣main in all those Particles, though dispersed, and living several sorts of lives, there being nothing in Nature that can be lost or annihilated, but Nature is and con∣tinues Page  42 still the same as she was, without the least addi∣tion or diminution of any the least thing or part, and all the varieties and changes of natural productions pro∣ceed onely from the various changes of Motion. But to return to seeds; some Experimental Writers have observed, that the seed of Corn-violets, which looks almost like a very small Flea, through the Microscope appears a large body cover'd with a tough, thick and bright reflecting skin, very irregularly shrunk and pit∣ted, insomuch that it is almost an impossibility to find two of them wrinkled alike, and wonder that there is such variety even in this little seed: But to me it is no wonder, when I consider the variety of Nature in all her works, not onely in the exterior, but also in the in∣terior parts of every Creature; but rather a wonder to see two Creatures just alike each other in their exte∣rior figures. And since the exterior figures of Crea∣tures are not the same with the interior, but in many or most Creatures quite different, it is impossible that the exterior shape and structure of bodies can afford us sure and excellent instructions to the knowledg of their na∣tures and interior motions, as some do conceive; for how shall a feather inform us of the interior nature of a Bird? we may see the exterior flying motions of a Bird by the help of its wings, but they cannot give us an informa∣tion of the productive and figurative motions of all the interior parts of a Bird, and what makes it to be such a Creature, no more then the exterior view of a mans Page  43 head, arms, legs, &c. can give an Information of his interior Parts, viz. the spleen, liver, lungs, &c. Also in Vegetables; although those sorts of Vegetables which are outwardly burning may be outwardly pointed, and they that are hot and burning within may be inwardly pointed, yet no Microscope is able to present to our view those inward points by the inspection of the exte∣rior figure and shape of those Vegetables: Neither doth it follow, that all those which are outwardly point∣ed, must needs be of a hot and burning nature, except they be also pointed inwardly. Nay although some particular Creatures should seem to resemble each o∣ther in their exterior shapes and figures so much as not to be distinguished at the first view, yet upon better ac∣quaintance we shall find a great difference betwixt them; which shews that there is more variety and dif∣ference amongst Natures works, then our weak senses are able to perceive; nay, more variety in one parti∣cular Creature, as for example, in Man, then all the kind or sort of that Creature, viz. Mankind, is able to know. And if there be such difference betwixt the ex∣terior figures of Creatures of one sort, what may there be betwixt their exterior shapes and interior natures? Nevertheless, although there be such variety, not one∣ly in the General kinds of Creatures, but in every Particular, yet there is but one ground or principle of all this variety, which is self-motion, or self-moving Matter. And I cannot enough admire the strange Page  44 conceits of some men, who perceiving and be∣lieving such a curious variety and various curiosity of Nature in the parts of her body, and that she is in a perpetual motion, and knows best her own Laws, and the several proprieties of bodies, and how to adapt and fit them to her designed ends, nay, that God hath implanted a faculty of knowing in every Creature, do yet deny, nay, rail against Natures self-moving power, condemning her as a dull, inanimate, sense∣less and irrational body, as if a rational man could con∣ceive, that such a curious variety and contrivance of natural works should be produced by a senseless and irational motion; or that Nature was full of immate∣rial spirits, which did work Natural matter into such various figures; or that all this variety should be cau∣sed by an Immaterial motion, which is generated out of nothing, and annihilated in a moment; for no man can conceive or think of motion without body, and if it be above thought, then surely it is above act. But I rather cease to wonder at those strange and irregular opinions of Man-kind, since even they themselves do justifie and prove the variety of Nature; for what we call Irregularities in Nature, are really nothing but a variety of Natures motions; and therefore if all mens conceits, fancies and opinions were rational, there would not be so much variety as there is. Con∣cerning those that say, there is no variety in the Ele∣mental Kingdom, as Air, Water, and Earth; Air Page  45 and Water having no form at all, unless a potentiality to be formed into globules, and that the clods and parcels of Earth are all Irregular. I answer, This is more then Man is able to know: But by reason their Microscopes cannot make such Hermaphroditical fi∣gures of the Elements, as they can of Minerals, Ve∣getables and Animals, they conclude there is no such variety in them; when as yet we do plainly perceive that there are several sorts of Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and no doubt but these several sorts, and their parti∣culars, are as variously figured as other Creatures: Truly it is no consequence to deny the being of that which we do not see or perceive; for this were to at∣tribute a Universal and Infinite knowledg to our weak and imperfect senses. And therefore I cannot be∣lieve, that the Omnipotent Creator has written and engraven his most mysterious Designs and Counsels onely in one sort of Creatures; since all parts of Nature, their various productions and curious contrivances, do make known the Omnipotency of God, not onely those of little, but also those of great sizes; for in all figures, sizes and actions is apparent the curious va∣riety of Nature, and the Omnipotency of the Cre∣tor, who has given Nature a self-moving power to produce all these varieties in her self; which varieties do evidently prove, that Nature doth not work in all Creatures alike: nor that she has but one Primary or Principal sort of motions by which she produces all Page  46 Creatures, as some do conceive the manner of wreath∣ing and unwreathing, which they have observed in the beard of a Wild-oat, mentioned before, to be the first foot step of sensation and animate motion, and the most plain, simple and obvious contrivance Nature has made use of to produce a motion next to that of rare∣faction and condensation by heat and cold; for this is a very wild and extravagant conceit, to measure the in∣finite actions of Nature according to the rule of one particular sort of motions, which any one that has the perfect use of his sense and reason may easily see, and therefore I need not to bring many arguments to con∣tradict it.