The Chain of Being
A system bound dogether in a divinely appointed order. The chain stretched from the foot of God's throne to the meanest of inanimate objects. Every speck of creation was a link in the chain and every link was simultaneously bigger and smaller that another, there was no gap. Man formed the vital central link. Below were animals, vegetables and inanimate matter, abover man were celestial intelligences and the order of angels.
The whole world was believed to be composed of different combinations of the four elements: fire, water and earth. Similarly, human temperament was believed to be the result of varying blends of the four corresponding bodily fluids or 'humours': chloer, blood, phlegm and melancholy.
Travel and discovery
Compasses, maps and globes that are frequently alluded to in metaphysical poetry, reflect the interest in navigation and cosmography, but also indicates the new discoveries of the Elizabethan age. The ancient geographers had assumed that the earth was divided into three continents meeting about the Mediterranean. They were proved wrong by the voyage of Columbus in 1492; and in the century following numerous expeditions and navigations to America and the new world, revealing the extent of the error.
Alchemy and chemistry
One of the most presistent hopesof the old science was that of discoverying the so-called philosophers' stone, by which base metals could be transmuted into gold. They argued that it must be possible to make gold by combining what they hoped were the right ingredients in the true proportions so when the mixture was melted it would create pure gold. The task of the alchemist was to give base metal the qualities which, they believed, gold aquired through its long maturing.