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Paracelsus and The Quintessential of Life

The Hermetics III

Diego Antolini

In the history of alchemy there is not a more picturesque and incredible figure as that of Auroelus Philippus Theophrastus Paracelstis Bombast von Hohenheim, an illustrious physician and exponent of the hermetic philosophy who chose to be remembered as Paracelsus. Paracelsus was born in 1493 in Einsideln, near Zurich. His father was the natural son of a prince and a practitioner of the art of medicine; therefore he wanted his only son to follow on his very foosteps.

Paracelsus’ first education was then directed to the medical sciences, but the subject were impressed more upon his imagination by aid of the alchemy world and its mysteries, rather than via the actual practice of medicine. He immediately understood that the medical traditions of the time were nothing more than empty shells from which every substance had long dried up.

Paracelsus said:

"... I considered with myself that if there had not been medical teachers in the world, how could I learn the craft? In no other way than from the great open book of nature, written by the finger of God…"

Having thus detached himself from the bonds of an orthodox and obsolete medicine, Paracelsus began a personal path that would lead him to conceive a new system to replace the old one. He plunged into the "book of nature" through a long period of travels, from 1513 to 1524, during which he visited basically every corner of the known world.
He was imprisoned by the Tartars (but later he accompanied the Kahn's son to Constantinople), confronted
with the wizards of Egypt and Arabia, and perhaps even reached India, the land of the Sufi. He studied metallurgy, chemistry and medicine, often accompanying himself to wanderers of all kinds.

He eventually returned to Switzerland (1524) and settled in Basel, then the meeting place of scholars and doctors, where he obtained the chair of medicine at the University of Basel,
that had never before seen such more erratic and brilliant a professor than Paracelsus. His exaggerated language, eccentric behavior and the splendor of concepts he conveyed through a mist of dark codes, attracted and shocked at the same time, bringing friends but also attracting many enemies.

Paracelsus' criticism to Galen’s school embittered until it reached
its apex when he publicly burned the works of Galen and Avicenna in a bronze vase in which he had thrown sodium and sulfur. With this act, Paracelsus ran into the wrath of his more conservative colleagues, and severed permanently all ties with the academic medicine. Despite all this, he continued his triumphant career until a conflict with the city magistrates changed everything: Paracelsus was forced to leave Basel and, from that moment on, he wandered from place to place, making a living as best as he could.

His death in 1541 is shrouded in mystery. The most accredited version has him poisoned in a plot instigated by the medical faculty of Basel.
Interesting as it is, the events of his life are only a corollary to his works. Not only was Paracelsus the founder of modern medical science, but Mesmer's theory of magnetism, the "astral" theory of modern spiritualism, and Descartes' philosophy are all concepts that have drawn from his fantastic and not always logical teachings. It was Paracelsus who revived the "microcosmic" theory of ancient Greece, attempting to demonstrate that the human body is in fact the quantum mirror of the Solar System, linking the seven organs to the seven planets. It was Paracelsus who preached the doctrine of the Will and its effectiveness – power and imagination – with these words:

"... It is possible that my spirit, without the help of my body but through the mere, ardent will, and without a sword, might strike and hurt others. It is also possible that I could transfer the spirit of my opponent into an image and keep him there or torture him as I please..."

"... Vivid imagination is the beginning of every magic operation..."

"... Since men neither believe nor imagine in a perfect way, the result is that the arts are uncertain when they could be entirely certain..."


The first principle of his doctrine was the extraction of the quintessential, or Philosophical Mercury, from every material body. Paracelsus believed that if the quintessential had been collected from every animal, plant and mineral, the result would be the universal spirit or "astral body" within a man, and that a sip of that extract could restore youth. Eventually he came to the conclusion that the "astral bodies" exerted a mutual influence on each other, and declared that he himself had communicated with the dead and with the living, with the latter even at a considerable distance.

Paracelsus was the first to put in place the connection between the astral influence and that of magnets, using the word "magnetism" with its modern application. It was thanks to this founding tenet that Mesmer built his theory of magnetic influence.
Although immersed in such esoteric studies, Paracelsus did not neglect the practice of medicine. In fact, both astrology and magnetism became an integral part of his treatments. When he was called upon by a patient, his first act was to consult the planets, the origin of the disease, and if, for example, the sick person was a woman, he assumed that the cause of evil laid within the Moon’s behavior.

His anticipation of Descartes' philosophy was in the theory that harmonizing the various elements of the human body with those of nature – fire, earth, water, air, light – aging and death could be delayed indefinitely. His experiment in extracting the essence of poppies resulted in the production of the laudanum, which Paracelsus used to prescribe freely in the form of "three black pills". It is no coincidence that he is now celebrated as the first doctor to have used opium and mercury as well as having recognized the value of sulfur.

Another controversial subject still debated by modern science, and which Paracelsus studied extensively, was that of the possibility of obtaining life from inorganic matter. According to
him this is possible; Paracelsus left to posterity a detailed recipe for the creation of the Homunculus or Artificial Man: treating in a particular way certain "spagyric" substances -which, appropriately in our opinion, have never been specified- Paracelsus declared that he could reproduce a miniature human child. Such speculations, in a time when virtually every doctor or scholar used to impose their theories upon the ignorant folks, could be seen as strategies “of form” rather than of substance. However, throughout his life Paracelsus showed a peculiar uniformity of goals, and a real desire to penetrate the mysteries of nature, even if he often masked them under an arrogant and boastful attitude.

We have used the term "appropriately” to justify the fact that Paracelsus himself was aware of possessing an enlightened, superior knowledge, which could not and should not be granted to everyone. For this reason, in publishing the nine volumes of his philosophy under the name
Archidoxa Medicina, he revealed that he had thought of ten tomes but the last one – which had to contain the key to understand the first nine – would be published only under certain conditions:

... [the tenth volume] is a treasure that men do not deserve to possess, and that can only be given to the world when Aristotle, Avicenna and Galen shall be repudiated, and a total submission to Paracelsus will be sworn upon…"

Of course the world did not comply to Paracelsus's command and so, under the pressure of his students, he eventually published the tenth volume of
The Archidoxa under the title "The Key Or The Tenth Book Of The Archidoxa Taken From An Ancient German Manuscript", but making it even more hermetic than the others, so that its use as a "key" would only be possible to the initiates.

On the quintessence, the main theme in the
works of Paracelsus, should be added that he declared that each body was composed of four elements, and that the combination of these gave rise to a fifth element or soul of the mixed bodies: in alchemic jargon, its “Mercury.” Not the chemical mercury, but rather, the Philosopher's Mercury.


Paracelsus wrote:

"... There are as many mercuries as there are things in existence. The mercury of a vegetable, of a mineral or of an animal of the same species, even if they resemble each other, are not exactly identical, and it is for this reason that minerals, animals and plants of the same kind are never the same... the true Philosopher's Mercury is the radical moisture of each body, and its authentic essence..."

At some point in his research, Paracelsus decided to explore the plants’ world to find the species that could be compared to gold in the realm of metals – a plant whose "predestined element" ought to collect in itself the virtues of the essence of all other plants. Although very difficult to identify, he recognized with a single glance (in which way it is not known) the supremacy of the
Melissa over all other plants, and invested it with that pharmaceutical crown that the Carmelites would later consecrate.

From the
Melissa Paracelsus did not take out anything, but rather learned to extract the "predestined element" of plants, the "original life" which, according to the fifth book of The Archidoxa, combined with other elements could repair and regenerate any living cell. Much, however, depended upon the relationship that existed between the character of the plant and that of the individual who asked to be rejuvenated.

The fact that Paracelsus’ attention focused on plants would seem to deviate from the pr
ominence that alchemists have always attributed to metals (compared to all other elements of the natural world) for the realization of the Great Work. To Paracelsus, however, it seemed very easy to extract the "original life" out of the Moon, the Sun, Mars or Saturn, that is, from silver, gold, iron or lead, as well as from bitumen, sulfur and even animals.

So his recipe for the completion of the Work had to move from the most complex, varied and enigmatic kingdom ever, the plants. It did not matter whether his ideas were in apparent contrast to those of his fellow alchemists: “
Not in the flowers of the Antimony but in its mercury resides the arcanum,” he wrote.

Of the hermetic triad discussed in this study Paracelsus certainly represents the final stage of a path that identifies him with the Sefira Atziluth, or the "emanation" in so much as Cagliostro and the Count of Saint Germain represented Yetzirah or "training" and Briah or "creation" respectively, although we can not forget the genius of Fulcanelli, who will be discussed later.

Whether or not Paracelsus had managed to find the formula of the Elixir of Immortality, the Elixir of Youth and even the Philosopher's Stone is still the subject of debate among alchemists and esoteric scholars. Certainly, his study of the natural world has shown that, in order to understand its most hidden secrets, one cannot
limit his or her efforts just on a single category, but in fact it is through the ineffable rhythm of nature itself that, when the eye is watchful, the endless paths of the hermetic knowledge are revealed.

20/08/2020 22:01:21

The Count of Saint Germain And The Secret of Immortality