Page images

exhaling of the planets into the air of the universe; but only one side of the sidereal power is here observed, that which we call the disturbing of the atmosphere, and which has a general influence on the physical condition of man at large, on cleanness, and medical perfection.

This doctrine of Paracelsus has certainly a very deep meaning; but we must not take it too literally, as people for the most part are too apt to do, and, therefore, immediately perceive an odour of corruption in this planetary influence. "Time is the life of the stars; the circling and working together of them. Not alone through the sun does the earth measure out its time. All that returns in circulating time to the earth, to animals and to man, acknowledges the lordship of the stars. The particular life of earth must accord with the general life of higher worlds, for God in love has created us the sidereal body, and has given it sensibility, that we may feel and reveal the secrets of the stars.

The temporal and periodical, when interrupted, produce the monstrous, as is seen in disease; in this disturbance of fixed laws we find the phenomenon of sickness. Paracelsus attributes some kinds of sicknesses to a sensibility to planetary influences; in others the gift of prophecy to the same cause.

As the monstrous is an effect produced by opposition to the life of the stars and of individuals, there are also prognostications of that which nature further works out, of that which strives to put an end to this opposition. Paracelsus, therefore, warns astronomers thus: "And let no astronomer make a rule to himself, and measure the harmony of the heavens therewith. He who cannot fathom such a matter is as good an astronomer as a relic-box is a priest."

In dreams a man is like the plants, which have also the elementary and vital body, but possess not the spirit. In sleep the astral body is in freer motion; then it soars to its parents; it holds converse with the stars. And after death also it returns to the stars, and the earthy body descends then into the bosom of the earth. Dreams, forebodings, prescience, prognostications, and presentiments, are the gifts of the sidereal, and are not imparted to the elementary body.


Now the cause and origin," says Paracelsus, "of this

divination is thus. That man is possessed of an astral body that unites with the outward stars, and they two confabulate together, when the astral does not trouble itself about the elementary body. As in sleep the elementary body rests, the sidereal continues its action; it has neither rest nor sleep; but when the elementary body predominates and overcomes, then rests the sidereal. But when the elementary rests, then come dreams, as the stars operate, and such are dreams and their revelations. And according as the stars are disposed, so are the dreams. For, as we have said, the stars give nothing to the avaricious and the self-conceited; for selfishness and conceit expel the operation of the firmament, and resist the stars."

In accordance with the whole of his views of nature, Paracelsus attributes to animals also presentiments; for they too have an astral body.

Paracelsus has written a whole book on the existence of fools. "Wisdom," he says, is also in fools, and breaks forth like a light through horn, dim and murky; or like a light through a fog." He recommends us to notice their declarations and to endeavour to comprehend them. Pfaff closes his essay with the following words :—

"So much from the writings and the spirit of a man who has taken the most comprehensive views of natural things; the bold creator of chemical medicines; the founder of courageous parties; victorious in controversy, belonging to those spirits who have created amongst us a new mode of thinking on the natural existence of things. What he scattered through his writings on the Philosopher's Stone, on Pigmies and Spirits of the Mines; on signs, on homunculi, on pictures, meteors, impressions, and the Elixir of Life, and which are employed by many to lower his estimation, cannot extinguish our grateful remembrance of his general works, nor our admiration of his free, bold exertions, and his intellectual life.”

In the Strasburg edition, 1603, Paracelsus writes of the power and operation of the spirit. "It is possible," he says, "that my spirit, without the help of the body, and through a fiery will alone, and without a sword, can stab and wound others. It is also possible that I can bring the spirit of my adversary into an image, and then double

him up and lame him according to pleasure. You are to know that the exertion of the will is a great point in the art of medicine. Man can hang disease on man and beast through curses; but it does not take effect by means of strength of character, virgin wax, or the like: the imagination alone is the means of fulfilling the intention. Every imagination of man comes from the heart, for this is the sun of the microcosm; and out of the microcosm proceeds the imagination into the great world. Thus the imagination of man is a seed, which is material. Determined imagination is a beginning of all magical operations. Fixed thought is also a means to an end. I cannot turn my eye about with my hand, but the sternly fixed imagination turns it wherever it will. The imagination of another may be able to kill me. Imagination springs out of pleasure and desire; therefore envy and hatred follow; for desire is followed by the deed. A curse may be realised when it springs from the heart; thus the curses of fathers and mothers proceed from the heart. And when any one will lame or stab another, he must first in imagination thrust the weapon into himself; he must conceive the wound, and it will be given through the thought, as if it were done with the hands. The magical is a great concealed wisdom, and reason is a great public foolishness. No armour protects against magic, for it injures the inward spirit of life. Of this we may be assured, that, through faith and a powerful imagination only, we can bring any man's spirit into an image. There requires no conjuration and ceremonies; circle-making and incensing are mere humbug and juggling. The human spirit is so great a thing that no man can express it: as God himself is eternal and unchangeable, so also is the mind of man. If we rightly understood the mind of man nothing would be impossible to us on earth. The imagination is invigorated and perfected through faith, for it really happens that every doubt breaks the operation. Faith must confirm the imagination, for faith establishes the will. Because men do not perfectly imagine and believe, the result is that the arts are uncertain, while they might be perfectly certain.'

[blocks in formation]


One of the worthiest and most able of the successors of Paracelsus was the great Van Helmont, who, on account of his vast knowledge, his acute judgment, and penetrating spirit, created a new epoch in medicine. In the history of magnetism he takes the very first rank, since he brought into this dark field a light more clear than any one before or since has done.

In order to make this thoroughly apparent and instructive, I will extract, with diligence and fidelity, from his works such of his doctrines as belong to this subject, (J. Bapt. van Helmont, opera omnia, Francos. 1682); and, in addition, avail myself of the excellent work of Deleuze (De l'opinion de Van Helmont sur la cause, la nature et les effets du Magnétisme, par Deleuze: Bibliothèque du Magn. Anim. t. i. p. 45; et t. ii. p. 198, Paris, 1877.) Deleuze says, that in the writings of Van Helmont he has found much common popular belief, tasteless opinions, mythic, illusory ideas, and dark and incomprehensible things, but at the same time great truths. If some person, therefore, would collect his works, explain them, and extract the facts on which he founds his doctrines, he would produce a great and highly remarkable work, and throw new light on the knowledge of magnetism.

"Van Helmont was a man of genius," says Deleuze, "who created epochs in the histories of medicine and physiology. He first turned aside out of the beaten highway of Galen and the Arabs, and showed the way of life. He first recognised the vast activity of the stomach, and its dominion over the other organs: he saw that the diaphragm was the central point of the living body. Whilst he contemplated the total of things, and enquired into the causes of their alternating influences on each other, he found in all bodies a general cause, an especial activity, which the Creator had impressed upon them, and through which one acted upon the other. This he denominated Blas. He was the first to give the name of GAS to aerial fluids. Without him it is probable that steel would have given no new impulse to science."


In treating of the magnetic cure of wounds, Van Helmont undertakes to answer two writers, Goclenius, professor in Marburg, who defended the cure of wounds by the discovered sympathetic salve of Paracelsus; the other, Father Robert, a Jesuit, who condemned all these cures, not because he denied them, but because he attributed them to the devil. Van Helmont says he was implored to decide on these matters, since they affected Paracelsus as their discoverer, and himself as his disciple. He says that he found Goclenius far too weak to be the defender of the netic cures from natural causes, and the priest far too young to decide upon a matter, and to declare it to be of the devil, since he had not shown a single spark of reason for his opinions. He feels himself bound to excuse Goclenius, though he had in vain laboured at a new discovery; but he complains of the priest. "For nature," he said, "has not chosen the priests as her interpreters, but has elected the physicians as her sons, and yet of them such only as understand the science of fire, and have enquired into the nature of peculiar qualities. The priests must first receive from us the fundamental knowledge, that they do not, as cobblers, fall upon the last. The theologian shall enquire after God, the naturalist after nature" (1. c. p. 705). I will now quote the most remarkable passages which this great master has written concerning the magnetic wonders (De magnetica vulner. curatione, p. 708, 1. c.)

"Material nature," he says, "draws her forms through constant magnetism from above, and implores for them the favour of heaven: and as heaven, in like manner, draws something invisible from below, there is established a free and mutual intercourse, and the whole is contained in an individual."

This magnetism, because it predominates everywhere, has nothing new besides the name, and nothing contrary to common sense, except to those who ridicule everything, and attribute to the power of the devil what they do not understand. And what, then, is there superstitious in the belief in a sympathetic salve, except that its use was new, the people unaccustomed to it, and, therefore, the wonderful in it seemed to be the work of the devil?

He who considers magnetic cures to be of the devil, not be

« PreviousContinue »