THEOSOPHY, Vol. 10, No. 10, August, 1922
(Pages 321-323; Size: 11K)

STUDIES(1)

PARACELSUS: IV

(Continued from July)

[Part 7 of a 7-part series]

BRAHMAN (neuter), as the Mysterium Magnum of Paracelsus, is an absolute mystery to the human mind. According to the Hermetico-Kabalistic philosophy of Paracelsus, it is Yliaster -- the ancestor of the just-born protyle, introduced by Mr. Crookes into Chemistry -- or primordial Proromateria, that evolved itself out of the Cosmos.

"When creation (evolution) took place the Yliaster divided itself; it, so to say, melted and dissolved, developed out of (from within) itself the Ideos or Chaos (Mysterium Magnum, Iliados, Limbus Major, or Primordial Matter). This Primordial Essence is of a monistic nature, and manifests itself not only as vital activity, a spiritual force, an invisible, incomprehensible, and indescribable power, but also as a vital matter of which the substance of living beings consists. In this Limbus or Ideos of primordial matter, ..... the only matrix of created things is contained. It is described by the ancients as the Chaos ... out of which the Macrocosmos, and afterwards, by division and evolution in Mysteria Speciala, each separate being came into existence. All things and all elementary substances were contained in it in potentia but not in actu." This makes the translator, Dr. F. Hartmann, justly observe that "it seems that Paracelsus anticipated the modern discovery of the 'potency of matter' three hundred years ago."

The Magnus Limbus, then, or Yliaster, of Paracelsus is simply our old friend "Father-Mother" within, before it appeared in Space. It is the Universal Matrix of Kosmos, personified in the dual character of Macrocosm and Microcosm, or the Universe and our Globe, by Aditi-Prakriti, spiritual and physical Nature. For we find it explained in Paracelsus that: "The Magnus Limbus is the nursery out of which all creatures have grown, in the same sense as a tree may grow out of a small seed; with the difference, however, that the great Limbus takes its origin from the Word of God, while the Limbus minor, (the terrestrial seed or sperm) takes it from the earth. The great Limbus is the seed out of which all beings have come, and the little Limbus is each ultimate being that reproduces its form, and that has itself been produced by the great. The little Limbus possesses all the qualifications of the great one, in the same sense as a son has the organization similar to that of his father ... As ... Yliaster dissolved, Ares, the dividing, differentiating, and individualizing power (Fohat, another old friend) ... began to act.

"All production took place in consequence of separation. There were produced out of the Ideos the elements of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, whose birth, however, did not take place in a material mode, or by simple separation, but spiritually and dynamically (not even by complex combinations, -- e.g., mechanical mixture as opposed to chemical combination), just as fire may come out of a pebble, or a tree out of a seed, although there is originally no fire in the pebble nor a tree in the seed. 'Spirit is living, and Life is Spirit, and Life and Spirit (Prakriti, Purusha?) produce all things, but they are essentially one and not two.' The elements, too, have each one its Yliaster, because all the activity of matter in every form is only an effluvium of the same fountain. But as from the seed grow the roots with their fibres, afterwards the stalk with its branches and leaves, and lastly the flowers and seeds; likewise all beings were born from the elements, and consist of elementary substances out of which other forms may come into existence, bearing the characteristic of their parents. The elements as the mothers of all creatures are of an invisible, spiritual nature, and have souls. They all spring from the Mysterium Magnum."

Or, as in the philosophy of Paracelsus: "Everything is the product of one universal creative effort ... There is nothing dead in Nature. Everything is organic and living, and therefore the whole world appears to be a living organism." One thing is certain in this: the knowledge of these primary causes and of the ultimate essence of every Element, of its Lives, their functions, properties, and conditions of change -- constitutes the basis of MAGIC. Paracelsus was, perhaps, the only Occultist in Europe during the latter centuries of the Christian era who was versed in this mystery. Had not a criminal hand put an end to his life years before the time allotted him by Nature physiological Magic would have fewer secrets for the civilized world than it now has.

In the works of Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Philalethes, Pantatem, Tachenius, and even Boyle, "the great characteristic of the alkahest" to dissolve and change all sublunary bodies, "water alone excepted," is explicitly stated. And is it possible to believe that Van Helmont, whose private character was unimpeachable and whose great learning was universally recognized, should most solemnly declare himself possessed of a secret were it but a vain boast?

Let us compare the views of Professor Crookes, so eminent in modern chemistry, with some sentences written in plain and good, albeit old English from the translations of Van Helmont and Paracelsus. We learn from their own admissions that the alkahest induces the following changes: "(1) The alkahest never destroys the seminal virtues of the bodies thereby dissolved; for instance, gold, by its action, is reduced to a salt of gold, -- antimony to a salt of antimony, etc., of the same seminal virtues or characters with the original concrete. (2) The subject exposed to its operation is converted into its three principles, salt, sulphur, and mercury, and afterwards into salt alone, which then becomes volatile, and at length is turned into clear water. (3) Whatever it dissolves may be rendered volatile by a sand-heat; and if, after volatilizing the solvent, it be distilled therefrom, the body is left pure, insipid water, but always equal in quantity to its original self."

Further we find Van Helmont, the elder, saying of this salt that it will dissolve the most intractable bodies into substances of the same seminal virtues, "equal in weight to the matter dissolved;" and he adds, "This salt, by being several times cohobated (with Paracelsus, sal circulatum) loses all its fixedness, and at length becomes an insipid water, equal in quantity to the salt it was made from." ("De Secretis Adeptorum". Werdenfelt: Philalethes: Van Helmont: Paracelsus.)

The objection that might be made by Professor Crookes on behalf of modern science to the hermetic expressions would equally apply to the Egyptian hieratic writings -- they hide that which was meant to be concealed. If he would profit by the labors of the past he must employ the cryptographer, and not the satirist. Paracelsus, like the rest, exhausted his ingenuity in transpositions of letters and abbreviations of words and sentences. For example, when he wrote sutratur he meant tartar, and mutrin meant nitrum, and so on. There was no end to the pretended explanations of the meaning of the alkahest. Some imagined that it was an alkaline of salt of tartar salatilized; others that it meant algeist, a German word which means all-spirit, or spiritous. Paracelsus usually termed salt "the centre of water wherein metals ought to die." This gave rise to the most absurd suppositions, and some persons -- such as Glauber -- thought that the alkahest was the spirit of salt.

It requires no little hardihood to assert that Paracelsus and his colleagues were ignorant of the natures of elementary and compound substances; they may not be called by the same names as are now in fashion, but that they were known is proved by the results attained. What matters it by what name the gas given off when iron is dissolved in sulphuric acid was called by Paracelsus, since he is recognized, even by our standard authorities, as the discoverer of hydrogen? His merit is the same. Paracelsus and Van Helmont knew the properties of water as a solvent as well as modern chemists, and what is more, made no concealment of the fact; which shows that this was not their universal solvent.

Alchemists claim that the primordial or pre-adamic Earth, when reduced to its first substance, is in its second stage of transformation like clear Water, the first being the Alkahest proper. This primordial substance is said to contain within itself the essence of all that goes to make up man; it contains not only all the elements of his physical being, but even the "breath of life" in a latent state, ready to be awakened. This it derives from the incubation of the "Spirit of God" upon the face of the Waters -- Chaos. In fact this substance is Chaos itself. From this it was that Paracelsus claimed to be able to make his Homunculi; and this is why Thales, the great natural philosopher, maintained that Water was the principle of all things in nature.

Is it the Van Helmonts, the Khunraths, the Paracelsuses and Agrippas, from Roger Bacon down to St. Germain who were all blind enthusiasts, hysteriacs, or cheats, or is it the handful of modern sceptics -- the "leaders of thought" -- who are struck with the cecity of negation? The latter is the case, we opine.


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(1) Collated from Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.
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