Anyone who is at all familiar with the writings of that great physician whose memory we honour today will know how impossible it is to give an adequate account in a lecture of all the achievements that have made the name of Paracelsus immortal.
He was a veritable whirlwind, tearing up everything by the roots and leaving behind him a pile of wreckage.
Like an erupting volcano he laid waste and destroyed, but he also fertilized and brought to life.
It is impossible to be fair to him; one can only underestimate him or overestimate him, and so one remains continually dissatisfied with one’s own efforts to comprehend even one facet of his multitudinous nature.
Even if one limits oneself to sketching a picture of Paracelsus the “physician,” one meets this physician on so many different levels and in so many different guises that every attempt at portraiture remains a miserable patchwork.
His prodigious literary output has done little to clear up the general confusion, least of all the still controversial question of the genuineness of some of the most important writings, not to speak of the mass of contradictions and arcane terms that make Paracelsus one of the greatest obscurantists of the epoch.
Everything about him was on an immense scale, or, we might equally well say, everything was exaggerated.
Long dreary stretches of utter nonsense alternate with oases of inspired insight, so rich and illuminating that one cannot shake off the uneasy feeling that somehow one has overlooked the main point of his argument.
Unfortunately, I cannot claim to be a Paracelsus specialist and to possess a full knowledge of the Opera omnia.
If, for professional reasons, one has to devote oneself to other things than just Paracelsus, it is hardly possible to make a conscientious study of the two thousand six hundred folio pages of the Huser edition of 1616, or the still more comprehensive edition of Sudhoff.
Paracelsus is an ocean, or, to put it less kindly, a chaos, an alchemical melting-pot into which the human beings, gods, and demons of that tremendous age, the first half of the sixteenth century, poured their peculiar juices.
The first thing that strikes us on reading his works is his bilious and quarrelsome temperament.
He raged against the academic physicians all along the line, and against their authorities, Galen, Avicenna, Rhazes, and the rest.
The only exceptions (apart from Hippocrates) were the alchemical authorities, Hermes, Archelaos, Morienus, and others, whom he quotes with approval. In general, he attacked neither astrology2 nor alchemy, nor any of the popular superstitions.
On this latter account his works are a mine of information for the folklorist.
There are only a few treatises from the pen of Paracelsus, except for theological ones, that do not reveal his fanatical hatred of academic medicine.
Again and again one comes across violent outbursts that betray his bitterness and his personal grievances.
It is quite clear that this was no longer objective criticism; it was the deposit of numerous personal disappointments that were especially bitter for him because he had no insight into his own faults.
I mention this fact not in order to bring his personal psychology into the limelight, but to stress one of the chief impressions which his writings make on the reader.
Practically every page bears in one way or another the human, often all too human stamp of this strange and powerful personality.
His motto is said to have been Alterius non sit, quisuus esse potest (Let him not be another’s who can be his own), and if this necessitated a ruthless, not to say brutal passion for independence, there is certainly no lack of literary as well as biographical proofs of its existence.
As is the way of things, this rebellious defiance and harshness contrasted very strongly with
his loyal attachment to the Church and with the soft-heartedness and sympathy with which he treated his patients, particularly those who were destitute.
Paracelsus was both a conservative and a revolutionary.
He was conservative as regards the basic truths of the Church, and of astrology and alchemy, but sceptical and rebellious, both in practice and theory, where academic medicine was concerned.
It is largely to this that he owes his celebrity, for it seems to me very difficult to single out any medical discoveries of a fundamental nature that can be traced back to Paracelsus.
What seems so important to us, the inclusion of surgery within the province of medicine, did not, for Paracelsus, mean developing a new science, but merely taking over the arts of the barbers and field surgeons along with those of midwives, witches, sorcerers, astrologers,
I feel I ought to apologize for the heretical thought that, if Paracelsus were alive today, he would undoubtedly be the advocate of all those arts which academic medicine prevents us from taking seriously, such as osteopathy, magnetopathy, iridodiagnosis, faith-healing, dietary manias, etc.
If we imagine for a moment the emotions of faculty members at a modern university where there were professors of iridodiagnosis, magnetopathy,
and Christian Science, we can understand the outraged feelings of the medical faculty at Basel when Paracelsus burned the classic text-books of medicine, gave his lectures in German, and, scorning the dignified gown of the doctor, paraded the streets in a workman’s smock.
The glorious Basel career of the “wild ass of Einsiedeln,” as he was called, came to a speedy end.
The impish impedimenta of the Paracelsan spirit were a bit too much for the respectable doctors of his day,
In this respect we have the valuable testimony of a medical contemporary, the learned Dr. Conrad Gessner, of Zurich, in the form of a letter, written in Latin, to Ferdinand Fs personal physician, Crato von Grafftheim, dated August 16, 1561.3
Although written twenty years after the death of Paracelsus, it is still redolent of the reactions he provoked.
Replying to a question of Crato’s, Gessner states that he had no list of Paracelsus’s writings, nor would he bother to get one, since he considered
Theophrastus utterly unworthy to be mentioned along with respectable authors, let alone with Christian ones, and certainly not with pious citizens, such as even the pagans were.
He and his followers were nothing but Arian heretics.
He had been a sorcerer and had intercourse with demons. “The Basel Carolostadius,” continues Gessner, “by name of Bodenstein, a few months ago sent a treatise of Theophrastus, ‘De anatome corporis humani,’ here to be printed.
In it he makes mock of physicians who examine single parts of the body and carefully determine their position, shape, number, and nature, but neglect the most important thing, namely, to what stars and to what regions of the heavens each part belongs.”
Gessner ends with the lapidary words: “But our typographers have refused to print it.” The letter tells us that Paracelsus was not counted among the “boni scriptores.”
He was even suspected of practising divers kinds of magic and—worse still—of the Arian heresy.
Both these were capital offences at that time.
Such accusations may do something to explain the restlessness of Paracelsus and his wanderlust, which never left him and drove him from city to city through half Europe.
He may very well have been concerned for his skin.
Gessner’s attack on “De anatome corporis humani” is justified in so far as Paracelsus really did make mock of anatomical dissection, then beginning to be practised, because he said the doctors saw nothing at all in the cut-up organs.
He himself was mainly interested in the cosmic correlations, such as he found in the astrological tradition.
His doctrine of the “star in the body” was a favourite idea of his, and it occurs everywhere in his writings.
True to the conception of man as a microcosm, he located the “firmament” in man’s body and called it the “astrum” or “Sydus.”
It was an endosomatic heaven, whose constellations did not coincide with the astronomical heaven but originated with the individual’s nativity,
the “ascendant” or horoscope.
Gessner’s letter shows how Paracelsus was judged by a contemporary colleague, and an authoritative one at that.
We must now try to get a picture of Paracelsus as a physician from his own writings.
For this purpose I shall let the Master speak in his own words, but since these words contain a good many that he made up himself, I must now and then interject a comment.
Part of the doctor’s function is to be equipped with special knowledge. Paracelsus is also of this opinion, though with the strange qualification that a “made” doctor has to be a hundred times more industrious than a “natural” one, because everything comes to the latter from the “light of nature.”
He himself, it seems, studied at Ferrara and obtained his doctor’s degree there. He also acquired knowledge of the classical medicine of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna, having already received some kind of preliminary education from his father.
Let us hear, from the Book Paragranum what he has to say about the physician’s art:
What then is the physician’s art? He should know what is useful and what harmful to intangible things, to the beluis marinis, to the fishes, what is pleasant and unpleasant, healthy and unhealthy to the beasts: these are the arts relating to natural things.
The wound-blessings and their powers, why and for what cause they do what they do:
what Melosina is, and what Syrena, what permutatio, transplantalio and transmutatio are, and how they may be fully understood: what is above nature, what is above species, what is above life, what the visible is and the invisible, what produces sweetness and bitterness, what taste is, what death is, what is useful to fishermen, what a currier, a tanner, a dyer, a blacksmith, and a carpenter should know, what belongs in the kitchen, in the cellar, in the garden, what belongs to time, what a hunter knows, what a mountaineer knows, what befits a traveller, what befits a sedentary man, what warfare requires, what makes peace, what makes clerics and laymen, what every calling does, what every calling is, what God is, what Satan, what poison, and what the antidote to poison is, what there is in women, what in men, what distinguishes women from maidens, yellow from white, white from black, and red from fallow, in all things, why one colour here, another there, why short, why long, why success, why failure: and wherein this knowledge applies to all things.
his quotation introduces us straight away to the strange sources of Paracelsus’s empiricism.
We see him as a wandering scholar on the road, with a company of travellers; he turns in at the village smith, who, as the chief medical authority, knows all the spells for healing wounds and stanching blood.
From hunters and fishermen he hears wondrous tales of land and water creatures; of the Spanish tree-goose, which on putrefying turns into tortoises, or of the fertilizing power of the wind in Portugal, which begets mice in a sheaf of straw set up on a pole.
The ferryman tells of the Lorind, which causes the mysterious “crying and echoing of the waters.”
Animals sicken and cure themselves like people, and the mountain folk even tell of the diseases of metals, of the leprosy of copper, and such things.
All this the physician should know.
He should also know of the wonders of nature and the strange correspondence of the microcosm with the macrocosm, and not only with the visible universe, but with the invisible cosmic arcana, the mysteries.
We meet one of these arcana at once—Melusina, a magical creature belonging half to folklore and half to the alchemical doctrine of Paracelsus, as her connection with the permutatio and transmutation shows. According to him, Melusines dwell in the blood, and, since blood is the ancient seat of the soul, we may conjecture that Melusina is a kind of anima vegetativa.
She is, in essence, a variant of the mercurial spirit, which in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was depicted as a female monster. Unfortunately,
I must refrain from going into this figure more closely, as it would lead us into the depths of alchemical speculation.
But now let us return to our theme—the physician’s science, as Paracelsus conceives it.
The Book Paragranum says that the physician “sees and knows all disease outside the human body,” and that “the physician should proceed from external things, not from man.” n ”
Therefore the physician proceeds from what is before his eyes, and from what is before him he sees what is behind him, that is: from the external he sees the internal.
Only external things give knowledge of the internal; without them no internal thing may be known.”
This means that the physician gains his knowledge of disease less from the sick person than from other natural phenomena that apparently have nothing to do with man, and above all from alchemy.
“If they do not know that,” says Paracelsus, “then they do not know the Arcana. And if they do not know what makes copper and what engenders the Vitriolata, then they do not know what causes leprosy. And if they do not know what makes rust on iron, then they do not know what causes ulcerations. And if they do not know what makes earthquakes, then they do not know what causes cold ague. External things teach and reveal the
causes of man’s infirmities, and man does not reveal the infirmity himself.”
Evidently, then, the physician recognizes from, say, the diseases of the metals what disease a man is suffering from.
He must in any case be an alchemist.
He “must employ the Scientia Alchimiae and not the foul brew of the Montpellier school,” which is “such filthy hogwash that even the pigs would rather
He must know the health and diseases of the elements.
As the “species lignorum, lapidum, herbarum” are likewise in man, he must know them too. Gold, for example, is a “natural comfortative” in man.
There is an “external art of Alchemy,” but also an “Alchimia microcosmi,” and the digestive process is such.
The stomach, according to Paracelsus, is the alchemist in the belly.
The physician must know alchemy in order to make his medicines, in particular the arcana such as aurum potabile, the tinctura Rebis, the tinctura procedens, the Elixir tincturae, and the rest.
Here, as so often, Paracelsus makes mock of himself, for he “knows not how,” yet he says of the academic physicians:
“You all talk drivel and have made yourselves strange dictionaries and vocabularies. No one can look at them without being led by the nose, and yet people are sent to the apothecary’s with this incomprehensible jargon when they have better medicine in their own garden.”
The arcana play a great role in Paracelsan therapy, especially in the treatment of mental diseases. ”
For in the Arcanis,” says Paracelsus, “the tuff-stone becomes jacinth, the liver-stone alabaster, the flint garnet, clay a noble bolus, sand pearls, nettles manna, Ungula balsam.
Herein lies the description of things, and in these things the physician should be well grounded.
And in conclusion Paracelsus cries out: “Is it not true that Pliny never proved anything? Then what did he write?
What he heard from the alchemists. If you do not know these things and what they are, you are a quack!”
Thus the physician must know alchemy in order to diagnose human diseases from their analogy with the diseases of minerals.
And finally, he himself is the subject of the alchemical process of transformation, since he is “ripened” by it.
This difficult remark refers once more to the secret doctrine.
Alchemy was not simply a chemical procedure as we understand it, but far more a philosophical procedure, a special kind of
yoga, in so far as yoga also seeks to bring about a psychic transformation.
For this reason the alchemists drew parallels between their transmutatio and the transformation symbolism of the Church.
The physician had to be not only an alchemist but also an astrologer, for a second source of knowledge was the “firmament.”
In his Labyrinthus medicorum Paracelsus says that the stars in heaven must be “coupled together,” and that the physician must “extract the judgment of the firmament from them.”
Lacking this art of astrological interpretation, the physician is but a “pseudomedicus.”
The firmament is not merely the cosmic heaven, but a body which is a part or content of the human body.
“Where the body is, there will the eagles gather. And where the medicine is, there do the physicians gather.”
The firmamental body is the corporeal equivalent of the astrological heaven.
And since the astrological constellation makes a diagnosis possible, it also indicates the therapy.
In this sense the firmament may be said to contain the “medicine.”
The physicians gather round the firmamental body like eagles round a carcass because, as Paracelsus says in a not very savoury comparison, “the carcass of the natural light” lies in the firmament. In other words, the corpus sydereum is the source of illumination by the lumen naturae, the “natural light,” which plays
the greatest possible role not only in the writings of Paracelsus but in the whole of his thought.
This intuitive conception is, in my opinion, an achievement of the utmost historical importance, for which no one should grudge Paracelsus undying fame.
It had a great influence on his contemporaries and an even greater one on the mystic thinkers who came afterwards, but its significance for philosophy in general and for the theory of knowledge in particular still lies dormant.
Its full development is reserved for the future.
The physician should learn to know this inner heaven.
‘For if he knows heaven only externally, he remains an astronomer and an astrologer; but if he establishes its order in man, then he knows two heavens. Now these two give the physician knowledge of the part which the upper sphere influences. This [part?] must be present without infirmity in the physician in order that he may know the Caudam Draconis in man, and know the Artetern and Axem Polarem, and his Lineam Meridionalem, his Orient and his Occident.”
“From the external we learn to know the internal.”
“Thus there is in man a firmament as in heaven, but not of one piece; there are two. For the hand that divided light from darkness, and the hand that made heaven and earth, has done likewise in the microcosm below, having taken from above and enclosed within man’s skin everything that heaven contains. For that reason the external heaven is a guide to the heaven within. Who, then, will be a physician who does not know the external heaven? For we live in this same heaven and it lies before our eyes, whereas the heaven within us is not before the eyes but behind them, and therefore we cannot see it. For who can see through the skin? No one.”
We are involuntarily reminded of Kant’s “starry heaven above me” and “moral law within me”—that “categorical imperative” which, psychologically speaking, took the place of the Heimarmene (compulsion of the stars) of the Stoics.
There can be no doubt that Paracelsus was influenced by the Hermetic idea of “heaven above, heaven below.”
In his conception of the inner heaven he glimpsed an eternal primordial image, which was implanted in him and in all men, and recurs at all times and places. “In every human being,” he says, “there is a special heaven, whole and unbroken.”
“For a child which is being conceived already has its heaven.” “As the great heaven stands, so it is imprinted at birth.”
Man has “his Father in heaven and also in the air, he is a child that is made and born from the air and from the firmament.”
There is a “linea lactea” in heaven and in us. “The galaxa goes through the belly.”
The poles and the zodiac are likewise in the human body.
“It is necessary,” he says, “that a physician should recognize the ascendants, the conjunctions, the exaltations, etc., of the planets, and that he understand and know all the constellations. And if he knows these things externally in the Father, it follows that he will know them in man, even though the number of men is so very great, and where to find heaven with its concordance in everyone, where health, where sickness, where beginning, where end, where death. For heaven is man and man is heaven, and all men are one heaven, and heaven is only one man.”
The “Father in heaven” is the starry heaven itself. Heaven is the homo maximus, and the corpus sydereum is the representative of the homo maximus in the individual. ”
Now man was not born of man, for the first man had no progenitor, but was created.
From created matter there grew the Limbus, and from the Limbus man was created and man has remained of the Limbus.
And since he has remained so, he must be apprehended through the Father and not from himself, because he is enclosed in the skin (and no one can see through this and the workings within him are not visible).
For the external heaven and the heaven within
him are one, but in two parts.
Even as Father and Son are two [aspects of one Godhead], so there is one Anatomy [which has two aspects].
Whoever knows the one, will also know the other.”
The heavenly Father, the homo maximus, can also fall sick, and this enables the physician to make his human diagnoses and prognoses.
Heaven, says Paracelsus, is its own physician, “as the dog of its wounds.”
But man is not.
Therefore he must “seek the locus of all sickness and health in the Father, and be mindful that this organ is of Mars, this of Venus, this of Luna,” etc.
This evidently means that the physician has to diagnose sickness and health from the condition of the Father, or heaven.
The stars are important aetiological factors.
“Now all infection starts in the stars, and from the stars it follows afterwards in man. That is to say, if heaven is for it, then it begins in man. Now heaven does not enter into man—we should not talk nonsense on that account—but the stars in man, as ordered by God’s hand, copy what heaven starts and brings to birth externally, and therefore it follows in man. It is like the sun shining through a glass and the moon giving light on the earth: but this does not injure a man, corrupting his body and causing diseases. For no more than the sun itself comes down to the earth do the stars enter a man, and their rays give a man nothing. The Corpora must do that and not the rays, and these are the Corpora Microcosmi Astrali, which gives the nature of the Father.”
The Corpora Astrali are the same as the aforementioned corpus sydereum or astrale.
Elsewhere Paracelsus says that “diseases come from the Father” and not from man, just as the woodworm does not come from the wood. he astrum in man is important not only for diagnosis and prognosis, but also for therapy. ”
From this emerges the reason why heaven is unfavourable to you and will not guide your medicine, so that you accomplish nothing: heaven must guide it for you. And the art lies, therefore, in that very place [i.e., heaven].
Say not that Melissa is good for the womb, or Marjoram for the head: so speak the ignorant.
Such matters lie in Venus and in Luna, and if you wish them to have the effect you claim, you must have a favourable heaven or there will be no effect.
Therein lies the error that has become prevalent in medicine:
Just hand out remedies, if they work, they work. Any peasant lad can engage in such practices, it takes no Avicenna or Galen.
“When the physician has brought the corpus astrale, that is, the physiological Saturn (spleen) or Jupiter (liver), into the right connection with heaven, then, says Paracelsus, he is “on the right road.”
“And he should know, accordingly, how to make the Astral Mars and the physical Mars [the corpus astrale] subservient to one another, and how to conjugate and unite them. For this is the core which no physician from the first until myself has bit into. Thus it is understood that the medicine must be prepared in the stars and become firmamental. For the upper stars bring sickness and death, and also make well. Now if anything is to be done, it cannot be done without the Astra. And if it is to be done with the Astra, then the preparation should be completed at the same time as the medicine is being made and prepared by heaven.”
The physician must “recognize the kind of medicine according to the stars and that, therefore, there are Astra both above and below.
And since medicine can do nothing without heaven, it must be guided by heaven.”
This means that the astral influence must direct the alchemical procedure and the preparation of arcane remedies.
“The course of heaven teaches the course and regimen of the fire in the Athanar.
For the virtue which lies in the sapphire comes from heaven by means of solution and coagulation and fixation.”
Of the practical use of medicines Paracelsus says: “Medicine is in the will of the stars and is guided and directed by the stars. What belongs to the brain is directed to the brain by Luna; what belongs to the spleen is directed to the spleen by Saturn; what belongs to the heart is directed to the heart by Sol; and similarly to the kidneys by Venus, to the liver by Jupiter, to the bile by Mars. And not only is this so with these [organs], but with all the others which cannot be mentioned here.”
The names of diseases should likewise be correlated with astrology, and so should anatomy, which for Paracelsus meant nothing less than the astrophysiological structure of man, a “concordance with the machine of the world,” and nothing at all resembling what Vesalius understood by it.
It was not enough to cut open the body, “like a peasant looking at a psalter.”
For him anatomy meant something like analysis.
Accordingly he says: “Magic is the Anatomia Medicinae. Magic divides up the corpora of medicine.”
But anatomy was also a kind of re-remembering of the original knowledge inborn in man, which is revealed to him by the lumen naturae.
In his Labyrinthus medicorum he says:
“How much labour and toil did the Mille Artifex need to wrest this Anatomy from out the memory of man, to make him forget this noble art and lead him into vain imaginings and other mischief wherein there is no art, and which consume his time on earth unprofitably! For he who knows nothing loves nothing . . . but he who understands loves, observes, sees.”
With regard to the names of diseases, Paracelsus thought they should be chosen according to the zodiac and the planets, e.g., Morbus leonis, sagittarii, martis, etc.
But he himself seldom adhered to this rule.
Very often he forgot how he had called something and then invented a new name for it—which, incidentally, only adds to our difficulties in trying to understand his writings.
36 We see, therefore, that for Paracelsus aetiology, diagnosis, prognosis, therapy, nosology, pharmacology, pharmaceutics, and —last but not least—the daily hazards of medical practice were all directly related to astrology.
Thus he admonished his colleagues:
“You should see to it, all you physicians, that you know the cause of fortune and misfortune: until you can do this, keep away from medicine.”
This could mean that if the indications elicited from the patient’s horoscope were unfavourable, the doctor had an opportunity to make himself scarce—a very welcome one in those robust times, as we also know from the career of the great Dr. Cardan.
But not content with being an alchemist and astrologer, the physician had also to be a philosopher.
What did Paracelsus mean by “philosophy”?
Philosophy, as he understood it, had nothing whatever to do with our conception of the matter.
For him it was something “occult,” as we would say.
We must not forget that Paracelsus was an alchemist through and through, and that the “natural philosophy” he practised had far less to do with thinking than with experience.
In the alchemical tradition “philosophia,” “sapientia,” and “scientia” were essentially the same. Although they were treated as abstract ideas, they were in some strange way imagined as being quasi-material, or at least as being contained in matter, and were designated accordingly.
Hence they appeared in the form of quicksilver or Mercurius, lead or Saturn, gold or aurum non vulgi, salt or sal sapientiae, water or aqua permanens, etc.
These substances were arcana, and like them philosophy too was an arcanum.
In practice, this meant that philosophy was as it were concealed in matter and could also be found there.
We are obviously dealing with psychological projections, that is, with a primitive state of mind still very much in evidence at the time of Paracelsus, the chief symptom of which is the unconscious identity of subject and object.
These preparatory remarks may help us to understand Paracelsus’s question: “What is nature other than philosophy?”
“Philosophy” was in man and outside him. It was like a mirror, and this mirror consisted of the four elements, for in the elements the microcosm was reflected.
The microcosm could be known from its “mother,” i.e., elemental “matter.”
There were really two “philosophies,” relating respectively to the lower and higher spheres. The lower philosophy had to do with minerals, the higher with the Astra.™
By this he meant astronomy, from which we can see how thin was the dividing line between philosophy and “Scientia.”
This is made very clear when we are told that philosophy was concerned with earth and water, astronomy with air and fire.
Like philosophy, Scientia was inborn in all creatures; thus the pear-tree produced pears only by virtue of its Scientia.
Scientia was an “influence” hidden in nature, and one needed “magic” in order to reveal this arcanum.
“All else is vain delusion and madness, from which are begotten the fantasts.” The gift of Scientia had to be “raised alchemically to the highest pitch,” that is to say it had to be distilled, sublimated, and subtilized like a chemical substance. If the “Scientiae of nature” are not in the physician, “you will only hem and haw and know nothing for certain but the babbling of your mouth.”
So it is not surprising that philosophy also involved practical work.
“In philosophy is knowledge, the entire globulus, and this by means of the practica. For philosophy is nothing other than the practica globuli or sphaerae. . . . Philosophy teaches the powers and properties of earthly and watery things . . . therefore concerning philosophy I will tell you that just as there is in the earth a philosopher, so is there also in man, for one philosopher is of the earth, another of water,” etc.
Thus there is a “philosopher” in man just as there is an “alchemist,” who, we have heard, is the stomach. This same philosophizing function is also found in the earth and can be “extracted” from it.
The “practica globuli” mentioned in the text means the alchemical treatment of the massa globosa or prima materia, the arcane substance; hence philosophy was in essence an alchemical procedure.
For Paracelsus, philosophical cognition was actually an activity of the object itself, therefore he calls it a “Zuwerffen”:
the object “throws” its meaning at man. “The tree . . . gives the name tree without [the aid of] the alphabet”; it says what it is and contains, just as the stars do, which have within them their own “firmamental judgment.”
Thus Paracelsus can assert that it is the “Archasius” in man which “draws to itself scientiam atque prudentiam.”
Indeed, he admits with great humility: “What does man invent out of himself or through himself? Not enough to patch a pair of breeches with.”
Besides which not a few of the medical arts are “revealed by devils and spirits.”
I won’t pile up quotations, but from all this it should be clear that the physician’s “philosophy” was of an arcane nature.
That Paracelsus was a great admirer of magic and the Ars cabbalistica, the “Gabal,” is only to be expected.
If a physician does not know magic, he says, he is a “well-intentioned madman in medicine, who inclines more to deception than to the truth.”
Magic is a preceptor and teacher.
Accordingly, Paracelsus made many amulets and seals, so it was partly his own fault if he got a bad reputation for practising magic.
Speaking of physicians in times to come—and this peering into the future is characteristic—he says: “They will be Geomantici, they will be
Adepti, they will be Archei, they will be Spagyri, they will possess the Quintum esse.”
The chemical dream of alchemy has been fulfilled, and it was Paracelsus who foresaw the role which chemistry was destined to play in present-day medicine.
Before I bring my all too summary remarks to a close, I would like to lay stress on one highly important aspect of his therapy, namely, the psychotherapeutic aspect.
Paracelsus still practised the ancient art of “charming” an illness, of which the Ebers Papyrus gives so many excellent examples from ancient
Paracelsus calls this method Theorica.
He concedes that there is a Theorica Essentiae Curae and a Theorica Essentiae Causae, but immediately adds that the “‘Theorica curae et causae are hidden together and inseparably one.”
What the physician has to say to the patient will depend on his own nature:
“He must be whole and complete, otherwise he will discover nothing.”
The light of nature must give him instruction, that is, he must proceed intuitively, for only by illumination can he understand “nature’s textbooks.”
The “theoricus medicus” must therefore speak with God’s mouth, for the physician and his medicines were created by God,64 and just as the theologian draws his truth from the holy revealed scripture, the physician draws it from the light of nature.
The Theorica is a “religio medici.” He gives an example of how it should be practised and how to speak to the patient: “Or a dropsical patient says his liver is chilled, etc., and consequently they are inclined to dropsy.
Such reasons are much too trivial.
But if you say the cause is a meteoric semen which turns to rain, and the rain percolates down from above, from the media interstitia into the lower
parts, so that the semen becomes a stretch of water, a pond, a lake, then you have put your finger on it.
It is like when you see a fine, clear cloudless sky: suddenly a little cloud appears, which grows and increases, so that within an hour a great rain, hailstorm, shower, etc., sets in.
This is how we should theorize concerning the fundamentals of medicine in disease, as has been said.”
One can see how suggestively this must have worked on the patient: the meteorological comparison induces a precipitation, immediately the sluices of the body open and the ascites stream off.
Even in organic diseases such psychic stimulation is not to be underestimated, and I am convinced that more than one of the miraculous cures of the Master can be traced back to his admirable theorica.
Concerning the physician’s attitude to the patient, Paracelsus has many good things to say.
From the wealth of utterances on this subject I would like, in conclusion, to quote a few scattered sayings from the Liber de caducis.
QG “First of all it is very necessary to tell of the compassion that must be innate in a physician.”
“Where there is no love, there is no art.”
Physician and medicine “are both nothing other than a mercy conferred on the needy by God.”
The art is achieved by the “work of love.” “Thus the physician must be endowed with no less compassion and love than God intends towards man.” Compassion is “the physician’s mentor.”
“I under the Lord, the Lord under me, I under Him outside my office, He under me outside His office.
Thus each is subordinate to the other’s office, and in such love each subordinate to the other.”
What the physician does is not his work: he is “the means by which nature is put to work.” Medicine “grows unbidden and pushes up from the earth
even if we sow nothing.”
“The practice of this art lies in the heart: if your heart is false, the physician within you will be false.”
“Let him not say with desperate Satan: it is impossible.”
He should put his trust in God. “For sooner will the herbs and roots speak with you, and in them will be the power you need.”
“The physician has partaken of the banquet to which the invited guests did not come.”
With this I come to the end of my lecture.
I shall be content if I have succeeded in giving you at least a few impressions of the strange personality and the spiritual force of the celebrated
physician whom his contemporaries rightly named the “Luther of medicine.”
Paracelsus was one of the great figures of the Renaissance, and one of the most unfathomable. For us he is still an enigma, four hundred years afterwards. Carl Jung, CW 15, Pages 13-30