11. Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty yeares, which to relate, were not a History, but a peece of Poetry, and would sound to common eares like a fable; for the world, I count it not an Inne, but an Hospitall, and a place, not to live, but to die in. The world that I regard is my selfe, it is the Microcosme of mine owne frame, that I cast mine eye on; for the other, I use it but like my Globe, and turne it round sometimes for my recreation. Men that look upon my outside, perusing onely my condition, and fortunes, do erre in my altitude; for I am above Atlas his shoulders, and though I seeme on earth to stand, on tiptoe in Heaven. The earth is a point not onely in respect of the heavens above us, but of that heavenly and celestiall part within us: that masse of flesh that circumscribes me, limits not my mind: that surface that tells the heavens it hath an end, cannot perswade me I have any; I take my circle to be above three hundred and sixty; though the number of the Arke do measure my body, it comprehendeth not my minde: whilst I study to finde how I am a Microcosme or little world, I finde my selfe something more than the great. There is surely a peece of Divinity in us, something that was before the Elements, and owes no homage unto the Sun. Nature tels me I am the Image of God as well as Scripture; he that understands not thus much, hath not his introduction or first lesson, and is yet to begin the Alphabet of man. Let me not injure the felicity of others, if I say I am as happy as any. I have that in me that can convert poverty into riches, transforme adversity into prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles. Fortunes hath not one place to hit me. Ruat coelum, Fiat voluntas tua [“Though the heavens fall, let they will be done.”] salveth all; so that whatsoever happens, it is but what our daily prayers desire. In briefe, I am content, and what should providence adde more? Surely this is it wee call Happinesse, and this doe I enjoy, with this I am happy in a dreame, and as content to enjoy a happinesse in a fancie as others in a more apparent truth and reality. There is surely a neerer apprehension of any thing that delights us in our dreames, than in our waked senses: with this I can be a king without a crown, rich without a stiver [A Dutch coin of small value]; in Heaven though on earth; enjoy my friend and embrace him at a distance, when I cannot behold him; without this I were unhappy, for my awaked judgement discontents me, ever whispering unto me, that I am from my friend; but my friendly dreames in the night requite me, and make me thinke I am within his armes. I thanke God for my happy dreames, as I doe for my good rest, for there is a satisfaction in them unto reasonable desires, and such as can be content with a fit of happinesse; and surely it is not a melancholy conceite to thinke we are all asleepe in this world, and that the conceits of this life are as meare dreames to those of the next, as the Phantasmes of the night, to the conceits of the day.
—from Religio Medici (1642) in our edition of Sir Thomas Browne’s Religion Medici and Urne-Buriall, edited and with an introduction by Stephen Greenblatt and Ramie Targoff, which publishes today. From both the prose and his “brain with a twist” (to quote Coleridge on Browne), one can see why Sir Thomas Browne’s has been admired by writers and thinkers from Thomas de Quincey to W.G. Sebald, Virginia Woolf to Carl Jung.