Page images




As I here propose to go no further into the history of philosophy, and in regard to the mystic philosophy in particular, refer to Molitor's work “The Philosophy of History, Part 3rd,” I shall confine myself especially to those men who had magic and magical circumstances pre-eminently in view, and who have left behind them instructive hints and speculations upon them, highly advantageous to the history of magnetism.


Unquestionably Paracelsus deserves one of the most eminent places in the history of magic; nay, we may assert that with him begins properly a new epoch in that history, since he not only awoke the mind to a higher endeavour, but still more, was the founder of a very remarkable school of magnetism, and that in more than one respect.

As to what relates to the phenomena, the mode of treating it, and to the theory of magnetism, we have already seen sufficient examples in the ancient times, and so downwards; but no man has developed the doctrine of the reciprocating elements of life with such perspicuity, such striking illustration, and such impressive language, as Paracelsus. Paracelsus was the first who compared this universal reciprocity of life in all creations, in the great as in the small, with the magnet: so that the word magnetism, in the sense in which we understand it, originated with Paracelsus.

This doctrine of magnetism is scattered in a most remarkable manner through the works of Paracelsus, who lived three hundred years before our time; so that by seeking them out and collecting them they become very instructive to us. His conceptions of magnetic reciprocity were so clear and just, his ideas upon it, which he for the most part corroborated by his own experience, were of so lofty and peculiar a scope, that it is difficult for us to emulate his flight. But as he, as a spiritual philosopher, taught, and not only taught, but founded his system on the doctrine of emanation of all things from a primal Being, and on the emanations of the stars and the elementary bodies, and their influences on each other, people, from a great want of historical information, have regarded him as the originator of the Cabbalah; and as the essential principles of this school were not understood, and as the very name was a bugbear, Paracelsus was set down as a noisy theorist, an enthusiast and adventurer, and, through traditionary custom, this character has, in a great i degree, adhered to him to the present time. A principal cause of this, indeed, was, that such unusual and startling assertions, brought forward in an incomprehensible style and in barbarous terms, and defended against his enemies with such lively fire, and with such bitterness and caustic wit, that it was not to be wondered at that it gave rise, in a man of such impetuous temperament, to much exaggerated and mysterious trash and a variety of nonsense.

I will now introduce some passages of the Paracelsian doctrine, and for that purpose avail myself of the works of Hemmann (Medico-Surgical Essays, Berlin, 1778) and Pfaff's Astrology ; to which I shall add some important extracts on magnetism from his own works.

This extraordinary man, says Hemmann, gifted by nature with the most original talents, lived in an age when the science of medicine had degenerated to a shallow school gossip, and the disciples of Galen, spite of their gossiping and their passion for controversy and disputation, were the most wretched pretenders in the healing of diseases. He was one of the greatest chemists of his time; and as he

[ocr errors]

saw through much experience that the Galenic doctors, with their bleeding, purging, and emetics (for in those things consisted the whole lumber), scarcely succeeded in curing a single disease ; and that pedlars, newsmongers, and the like fellows, were often more successful than these puffed-up drivellers, it could not fail but that a genius, who was least of all things calculated to become a miserable imitator, should conceive the intensest hatred and contempt for the Galenic art of healing.

“I have in the beginning,” says Paracelsus, "just as muchas my opponents, thrown myself with fervent zeal on the teachers; but when I saw that nothing resulted from their practice, but killing, death, murdering, laming and distorting—that the greatest number of complaints were deemed by them to be incurable, and that they scarcely administered anything but syrups, laxatives, purgatives, and oatmeal-gruel, pumpkins or citrons, jalap, and other such messes, with everlasting clysters, I determined to abandon such a miserable art, and to seek truth by some other way. I considered with myself, that if there were no teacher of medicine in the world, how would I set about to learn the art? No otherwise than in the great open book of nature, written with the finger of God. This I now studied, and the books of the physicians no longer ; for every pretender has his own hobby; and who can here obtain any result, or discover the truth? I am accused and denounced for not having entered in at the right door of art. But which is the right one ? Galen, Avicenna, Mesue, Rhasis, or honest nature? I believe, the last! Through this door I entered, and the light of nature, and no apothecary's lamp, directed me on my way.”

Paracelsus, continues Hemmann, set out on this journey, but he did not, like our effeminate men of learning, drive through the world in a post-chaise. He went on foot, and did not seek merely a collection of snails and butterflies. Through his mode of travelling he had the best opportunities of observing everything worthy of notice in nature. As he had studied metallurgy, he was, therefore, in a condition to examine the mines of Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and Norway, with advantage. He travelled through the greater part of the then known world, and spared neither labour nor research to enrich his mind with profitable knowledge. "I have pursued art,” he said, “even at the risk of my life, and have not been ashamed to learn even of pedlars, newsmongers, and barbers." He learned by these means the art of healing wounds, and practised with great success and fame in this department. With this rare, and at that time extraordinary mass of knowledge and experience, he was called to become a lecturer in the university of Basle, to which the most celebrated men were invited from all parts. On his travels he had considerably unlearned his Latin, and was, therefore, compelled to teach in German, a circumstance which at that time was looked upon as an unheard-of heresy. He was boldly attacked on account of his travels, and also on account of his simple mode of living and dressing. In his sixth defence he vindicated his travels with much warmth; broke loose with great bitterness on the Galenic cushion-pressers, who dared not to go out of doors except on an ass or in a carriage; and concluded his defence with the following noble sentiment: “ Writings are understood by their letters, but nature through travel, and the different lands and provinces are the leaves of the code of nature.”

Paracelsus manifests in many parts of his works the highest veneration for Hippocrates, who had pursued the very mode by which he himself sought the truth; but the unfounded theories of Galen, and the conceits with which the Arabs had surrounded him, were an abomination to him. This it is, and not his knowledge, which his opponents accused him of, and which he declaimed against his whole life through. “The charge of drunkenness," says Hemmann, "proceeds from the impure source of Oporinus, who lived with him some time in order to learn his secrets, but his object was defeated ; and hence the evil reports of his disciples and the apothecaries.” He himself says that these and the apothecaries have, more than any others, traduced him; the first, because he would not publish his secrets; and the second, because he wrote his recipes in the simple vernacular. "The apothecaries,” he says, "are my enemies, because I will not empty their boxes. My recipes are simple, and do not consist of from forty to sixty ingredients, as those of the Galenic doctors ; but it is my duty to heal the sick, and not to enrich the apothecaries."

In the essay on the power of the magnet, he says,

"The magnet has long lain before all eyes, and no one has ever thought whether it was of any further use, or whether it possessed any other property, than that of attracting iron. The sordid doctors throw it in my face, that I will not follow the ancients; but in what should I follow them ? All that they have said of the magnet amounts to nothing. Lay that which I have said of it in the balance, and judge. Had I blindly followed others, and had I not myself made experiments, I should in like manner know nothing more than what every peasant sees, that it attracts iron. But a wise man must enquire for himself, and it is thus that I have discovered that the magnet, besides this obvious and to every man visible power, that of attracting iron, possesses another and concealed power.”

“ In sickness you must lay the magnet in the centre from which the sickness proceeds. The magnet has two poles, an attracting and a repelling one (Paracelsus terms it the back and the belly). It is not a matter of indifference to which of these poles a man applies. For instance, on the falling sickness and every kind of epilepsy, where the attack affects more particularly the head, it is proper to lay four magnets on the lower part of the body, with the attracting pole turned upwards, and on the head only one with the reflecting pole downwards ; and then you bring other means to their aid. This paragraph, says Paracelsus, is of more value than all that the Galenists have learned or have taught in the whole course of their lives. If, instead of their boastings, they had taken a magnet, they might have affected more than they ever would with all their learned swagger. He cured by this means defluxions of the eyes, ears, nose, and other members, as well as fistulas, cancers, and other ailments. Further, the magnet draws together ruptures, and cures them; it draws away jaundice and dropsy, as I have often experienced in my practice." In another place he says, “I find such secrets hidden in the magnet, that without it I could, in many

cases, have effected nothing."

A great part of the system of Paracelsus is based on magnetism. In man there is a something sidereal, or a life

« PreviousContinue »