The transition from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century accomplished one of the most remarkable changes ever recorded of human society. Within the space of a few short years Europe turned from a helpless infant, passively resting in the lap of the Mother Church, into a lusty, vigorous youth, demanding the right to think for himself and the opportunity to reach out, without maternal interference, into new and untried fields. During the short space of thirty-five years the boundaries of the world were suddenly enlarged, and, for the first time in many centuries, the earth was recognized as a globe. In 1486 Diaz reached the Cape of Good Hope. In 1492 Columbus rediscovered America. In 1497 Vasco da Gama opened up the sea route to India, and a year later Cabot reached Labrador. In 1500 Brazil was discovered and in 1522 Magellan encircled the globe.
These discoveries placed the Church in an embarrassing position. For centuries she had been telling her children that the earth is flat. Magellan proved her words untrue. For centuries she had asserted that no people could live on the other side of the earth, for in that case they would be walking upside down. Her roving sons returned with accounts of the people they had visited, all of whom walked like other men. Although Rome refused to acknowledge the globular shape of the earth, she did not scruple to accept the treasures stolen by her sons from the people they visited, nor did she punish them for enlarging the boundaries of her world. But the dread discipline of the Inquisition was strictly maintained, ready for any emergency. Thus, when Copernicus proclaimed that the earth is not only a globe, but also a mere planet revolving around the sun, she condemned him as a heretic and placed his book upon the Index Expurgatorius.
During this period of transition, the Church had another and even more serious problem. Almost overnight, it seemed, her children grew from infancy to manhood and demanded the right of learning and secular knowledge. Her cloisters began to be emptied in favor of the Universities. Inquiry began to take the place of credulity, reason to overpower blind belief. The mind of Europe demanded its freedom, and the Church began to lose her power.
On the 26th of November, 1493, Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim (now known as Paracelsus) was born in the little village of Maria-Einsiedeln near Zurich. His father was a physician, his mother the matron of a hospital, and Theophrastus was their only child. After learning the rudiments of medicine, surgery and alchemy from his father, he entered the University of Basle at the age of sixteen. Then he became the pupil of the celebrated Trithemius and later gained some practical experience in alchemy in the laboratory of Sigismund Fugger.
When Paracelsus was twenty years old he set out on his search for “supreme Wisdom,” which took him through every country in Europe and finally led him to Tartary. During those years he made the acquaintance of a great Initiate who instructed him in the secret doctrines of the East. Afterward he went to India, and he may have visited the Mahatmas in Tibet. He returned to Europe in his thirty-second year and became professor of medicine and surgery in the University of Basle, where his fearless condemnation of the medical practices then in vogue aroused the hatred and jealousy of his colleagues. As the result of their persecution Paracelsus resigned his position and again took up a wandering life. Eventually he settled in Salzburg at the invitation of the Prince Palatine, and there he died on the 24th of September, 1541, in his forty-eighth year. The house in which he lived (Linzer Strasse 365, opposite the Church of St. Andrew) may still be seen, and in the graveyard of St. Sebastian will be found a broken pyramid of white marble with a Latin inscription stating that the body of Paracelsus lies beneath. But there is an old tradition that the real Paracelsus did not die at that time, but is still living with other Adepts in a certain spot in Asia, from which place he continues to influence the minds of all who study and promulgate his teachings. A suggestive hint appears in an article published by Mr. Judge in The Path for April, 1887:
Paracelsus was one of the greatest Masters ever known upon the earth. In rank he may be compared with Hermes Thrice-Master. It is considered by some students to be likely that at this period (1887) He who was once known as Paracelsus is in a body whose astral meets with others in Asia.
The enemies of Paracelsus censured him for his nomadic life, which he explained by saying:
We must seek for knowledge where we may expect to find it. He who wants to study the book of Nature must wander with his feet over the leaves. Every part of the world represents a page in this book, and all the pages together form the Book that contains her great revelations.
He was also condemned for refusing to affiliate himself with any religious sect, and for his frank criticism of the Roman Church. Paracelsus denounced public prayers, church-going, “the genuflection, bowing and observance of Church rules,” the “running after saints,” as all of these things were opposed to the self-reliance which was the key-note of his philosophy. He took no part in the Reformation although he openly expressed his approval of Luther.
The 106 books of Paracelsus which were collected by Dr. Johannes Huser show that Paracelsus must have possessed a “knowledge of the laws which govern the evolution of the physical, astral, psychical and intellectual constituents of nature and of man.” Paracelsus himself declared that true Wisdom is not confined to books, nor to any particular period of history, as “the Eternal Wisdom is without a time, without a beginning and without an end.” But in his day, he said, “all Wisdom comes from the East.” In making this statement he spoke with an authority born of personal experience. He was himself a member of that Fraternity of Adepts known as the “Brothers of the Snowy Range.” He described these Teachers, saying that some of them “lived like normal men in their physical bodies,” while others “became transformed and disappeared in such a manner that nobody knew what became of Them, and yet They remained on earth.” These, of course, are the Nirmanakayas.
The Adept living in his physical body is given a definite name by Paracelsus. “Such a person, being Master of Heaven and earth, by means of his free-will, is called a Magus. Therefore Magic is not sorcery, but Supreme Wisdom.” This Wisdom, furthermore, can be acquired in but one way:
It comes only to those who, abandoning self, sacrifice themselves in the spirit of Wisdom. Those who seek truth for their own benefit and gratification will never find it. But the truth finds those in whom the delirium of “self” disappears, and it becomes manifest in them.
Although the philosophical doctrines of Paracelsus sprang from the same source as modern Theosophy, a difficulty arises from the differences in the terms used. Where H.P.B. used chiefly Sanscrit terms, Paracelsus coined words of his own to express the same ideas. He used the words Magnus Limbus and Yliaster to describe the great Matrix of Cosmos, in which the Universe existed in a condition of potentiality before the period of manifestation. He compared this matrix to a nursery in which the seed of the Universe was germinated, describing the condition of the Universe at that time as similar to the heat contained in a pebble or the potential figure existing in a block of wood.
With manifestation, Yliaster divided itself, developing within itself the Mysterium Magnum, or Primordial Matter. This expressed itself (1) as vital activity, an invisible, spiritual force, and (2) as vital matter, the basis of all forms. As Yliaster dissolved, the third power of the Supreme Cause arose, linking spirit and matter into an indissoluble whole. H.P.B. called this third power Fohat. Paracelsus gave it the name of Ares.
Paracelsus saw spirit and matter present in every form and would not admit the existence of “dead matter.” “There is nothing dead in Nature,” he affirmed. “Everything is organic and living, and therefore the world appears to be a living organism.”
There is nothing corporeal which does not possess a soul hidden in it. There exists nothing in which is not a hidden principle of life.
This principle of life, he said, moves slowly in the mineral kingdom. In plants and animals it moves rapidly. But there is life in every form, from the lowest to the highest.
Paracelsus stressed the underlying Unity of Nature as a whole as well as the inter-relationship and interdependence of all its parts.
Nature, being the Universe, is ONE, and its origin can only be the one eternal Unity. It is an organism in which all things harmonize and sympathize with each other. It is the Macrocosm. Man is the Microcosm. And the Macrocosm and Microcosm are ONE. (Philosophia ad Athenienses.)
This unity of man and Nature makes man the focal point through which the three worlds of Nature — the physical, astral and spiritual — manifest themselves. These three “worlds” are made up of a vast quantity of “beings” or “lives.” Some of the “lives” are intelligent, others unintelligent, and it is man’s duty to understand their nature. The ignorant man may be controlled by the lower lives. But the true philosopher has learned how to control them by the power of the Supreme Creator within himself.
Man’s first task, therefore, is to know himself. He must become acquainted with the complexities of his own nature, but, in pursuing this study, he must never for a moment separate himself from Great Nature, of which he is a copy and a part. “Try to understand yourselves in the light of Nature,” he advised his students, “and then all wisdom will come to you.”
Paracelsus divided man into two parts, then into three, and finally into seven distinct principles. “Man is a two-fold-being,” he said. “He has both a divine and an animal nature.” After making this point clear, Paracelsus taught a triple division, declaring that both man and the Universe are composed of “Three Substances” which are the three forms or modes of action in which the Universal primordial Will manifests itself, and which he symbolized as Salt, Sulphur and Mercury. The first “Substance” represents the physical body; the second refers to the indwelling, energizing nature — the astral man; the third “Substance” is the intelligence, the indwelling God, the Spirit, which is above the other two. When these three “Substances” are held together in harmonious proportions, health is the result; their disharmony constitutes disease; their disruption spells death.
Physical science deals with the physical, and metaphysical science with the astral man; but these sciences are misleading and incomplete, if we lose sight of the existence of the divine and eternal man. (De Fundamento Sapientiae.)
After establishing the fundamental idea of the three-fold nature of man, Paracelsus then subdivided these three parts into seven distinct “principles”:
There are seven elementary powers or principles; four lower ones belonging to the mortal and changeable things, and a trinity of celestial power which is also called the quint essentia. The four lower principles can in no way interfere with the quint essentia. (De Mercurio.)
He then analyzed these seven principles, beginning with the lowest, or the “Elementary Body.” This body, he declared, is derived from the elements, and will return to them after the death of the body. It has no powers of its own, as is commonly supposed. The power of sight does not come from the eye, the power to hear does not arise in the ear, nor the power to feel in the nerves. On the contrary, “it is the spirit of man who sees through the eye, hears through the ear and feels by means of the nerves.” He boldly challenged the materialistic concept that mind is the product of the brain by declaring:
. . . wisdom and reason and thought are not contained in the brain, but they belong to the invisible spirit, which feels through the heart, and thinks by means of the brain. All these powers become manifest through the material organs. The material organs determine the mode of their manifestation. (De Viribus Memborum.)
The second principle, called Prana or Jiva in modern Theosophy, is described by Paracelsus as the Archaeus or Liquor Vitae:
|The Ocean of Theosophy||De Generatio Hominis|
|It is a universally pervasive principle. It is the ocean in which the earth floats; it permeates the globe and every being and object in it.
||The whole of the Microcosm is potentially contained in the Liquor Vitae, in which is contained the nature, quality and essence of beings.|
This life-principle is universal, and not the property of any individual. During the life of an individual it acts in him as a unity. When the form is broken up at death, it begins to manifest itself in other forms. “The life which is active in a man during his life-time in causing the organic functions of the body, will manifest its activity in creating worms in his body after the spirit has left the form.”
During the life-period of the physical body, this universal life-Principle needs an instrument or vehicle. Modern Theosophy calls this vehicle the Astral Body. Paracelsus described it as the Siderial Body.
|The Ocean of Theosophy||De Generatio Hominis|
|The astral body is the guiding model for the physical one.||The invisible man is formed in the shape of the outer one as long as it remains in the outer.|
|The astral body is made of matter of very fine texture as compared with the physical body.||The siderial body is etherial in its nature, still it is substance.|
|The astral body has within it the real organs of sense. In it are the sight, hearing, power to smell and sense of touch.||The physical body has the capacity to produce visible organs, but they all take their origin from the invisible body.|
The fourth principle in man’s constitution, which Theosophy names the Kama-Rupa, Paracelsus calls the Mumia, “the vehicle through which the Will acts for effectuating good and evil.” The Mumia of a living being, he says, is of the nature of the other beings from whom its vital force is derived. When we eat the flesh of an animal, we not only take its flesh into our system, but also attract its Mumia, which combines with our own passional nature. For this reason we do not eat the flesh of ferocious animals, as that would increase our own ferocity. The Mumia of any creature, according to Paracelsus, is closely connected with the blood stream. Hence any substance taken into the blood stream makes a direct magnetic connection between the Mumia of the person receiving the substance and the Mumia of the animal or person from whom it was taken. This throws an interesting light on the subject of blood-transfusion, vaccination and the various inoculations now so prevalent. For, as Paracelsus points out: “The Mumia coming from the body of a person or animal continues to remain in sympathetic relationship with the Mumia contained in such a person, and they act magnetically upon each other.” This is called the transplantation of diseases, “and many practices of sorcery are based upon that fact.”
Paracelsus also declares that the Mumia of a person may be strengthened by the power of the imagination, which is a tremendous force, able to create actual images in the astral light, and to give a kind of consciousness to those forms. “Imagination,” he says, “is a great power, and if the world knew what strange things can be produced by the power of the imagination, the public authorities would cause idle people to go to work.” He made a careful classification of the different types of “astral monsters” created by evil imaginations, and offered a pertinent suggestion to the authorities:
It is very desirable that some good and wise men, well versed in the secret arts, should be appointed by the authorities to counteract and prevent the evils produced by the wicked who practice witchcraft and sorcery, and they should pay particular attention to convents, monasteries and houses of prostitution, because in such places a lascivious and evil imagination is especially cultivated.
After analyzing the fourth principle in man’s constitution and showing the necessity of purifying it, Paracelsus turned his attention to the fifth principle, Manas, and the sixth principle, Buddhi. He described the fifth principle as the Rational Soul, the connecting link between body and spirit. This is the reasoning part of man’s nature, he said, and should not be confused with the sixth principle, the Spiritual Soul, which does not need to reason, as it knows. This sixth principle, he declared, is characterized by the faculty of Intuition, the development of which must be accompanied by Self-Reliance. In order to be a true Philosopher,
. . . a man must above all be in possession of that faculty which is called Intuition, and which cannot be acquired by blindly following the footsteps of another. He must be able to see his own way. What others may teach you may assist you in your search for knowledge, but you should be able to think for yourself, and not cling to the coat-tail of any authority, no matter how big-sounding the title of the latter may be. (De Modo Pharmacandi.)
The Higher Trinity in man, which in modern Theosophy is called Atma-Buddhi-Manas, is described by Paracelsus as “The Man of the New Olympus.” This is the God within, the immortal being which nothing can destroy. After the death of the physical body this immortal entity enters into the state of devachan, where the soul enjoys felicity. As Paracelsus says, “its higher essences go to form the substances of the body of the paradisiacal man, ‘the Man of the New Olympus,'” while the lower essences of the soul dissolve in the astral elements to which they belong. The soul in this condition
. . . does not enter into communication with mortals, because she has no desire for anything earthly. She does not “think” or speculate about terrestrial things, or worry herself about her relatives or friends. She lives in a state of pure felicity, bliss and enjoyment.
The whole purpose of life, according to Paracelsus, is to realize one’s inherent Godhood. There is no God, no saint and no power in which we can place any confidence for the purpose of our salvation, except the power of divine Wisdom within ourselves. Only when man realizes the presence of God within himself will he begin his infinite life, and step from the realm of evanescent illusions into that of permanent truth. This realization can be attained in only one way—by the abandonment of the personal self.
Only when the illusion of “self” has disappeared from my heart and mind, and my consciousness arisen to that state in which there will be no “I,” then will not I be the doer of works, but the spirit of wisdom will perform its wonders through my instrumentality. (Philosophia Occulta.)