THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 6, April, 1938
(Pages 242-248; Size: 21K)
(Number 21 of a 29-part series)

GREAT THEOSOPHISTS

PARACELSUS: PHYSICIAN

IT IS an interesting fact, and one which should be carefully noted by all students of occultism, that many of the Adepts who have worked among men have been members of the healing profession. The Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus was not only the head of a great Fraternity of Adepts, but a noted physician as well. The "mythological" Chiron is said to have introduced the art of healing into Greece, while his pupil Aesculapius founded the great healing Temples bearing his name. The most famous disciple of the Aesculapian School was Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine," whose oath still forms the moral code of the medical profession. Pythagoras was a practicing physician and Aristotle, though no adept, wrote on physiology. The Adept known as Jesus was a healer who learned his art from the Therapeutae, while Apollonius of Tyana, whose "miracles" surpassed even those of Jesus, studied in the Temple of Aesculapius. From the sixth to the thirteenth centuries the great Arabian physicians continued the healing line of the Theosophical Movement, which culminated in the sixteenth century in the person of Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim, the greatest Occultist of the Middle Ages and one of the greatest physicians the world has ever known. When Theophrastus entered the University of Basle at the age of sixteen, he dropped his family name and adopted the pseudonym of Paracelsus, which was a combination of Para -- "greater than" and Celsus -- the name of the great Roman physician who lived about 400 B.C. In assuming this name, Paracelsus indicated that his knowledge was drawn from the Occult Sciences and therefore "greater than" any form of knowledge springing from a lesser root.

In the sixteenth century there were four prevalent beliefs concerning the cause and cure of disease. Some considered disease as a punishment sent by God which could be cured by prayers and by touching holy relics. The efficacy of these relics was not diminished when many of the "bones of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins" proved to be the bones of men, nor when the bones of St. Rosalia turned out to be the bones of a goat. The hair of a Saint dipped in water was used as a purgative, and certain forms of fever were treated by drinking the water in which St. Bernard had bathed himself. The intricate method of intercession with God for the cure of disease appears in a famous picture in the Royal Gallery of Naples. In the background is the plague-stricken city; in the foreground the people are seen praying to the city authorities; these in turn are praying to the Carthusian monks; the monks are invoking the Saints; the Saints are praying to the Virgin Mary; she in her turn is praying to Christ, while Christ addresses himself directly to God!

In this century a second class of people attributed disease to Satan and his demons, Jews and witches being considered as the Devil's particular emissaries. As late as 1527 the people of Favia appealed to St. Bernardino, who had always been a fierce enemy of the Jews, promising to expel all the Jews in the city if the Saint would promise to avert the pestilence. As the city was spared, all the Jews were expelled. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII published his famous bull against the witches, in which he exhorted the clergy to "suffer no witch to live." In the latter part of the sixteenth century Bishop Binsfield's book on witchcraft became the standard authority, while Remigius' book boasts, on the title page, that he had sent over 900 persons to death because of their "witchcraft." Diseases caused by Jews and witches were cured by exorcisms. A third class of people in this century attributed disease to the influence of the stars and treated it by astrology, while a fourth class declared that diseases are caused by the four "humors" of the body, and treated them by purging and bleeding.

In 1527 Paracelsus went to Basle as city physician and professor of medicine in the University. His frank and outspoken criticism of these four theories of disease aroused the bitter resentment of both the clergy and the medical profession. As the result of their persecution Paracelsus resigned his position and again took up his wandering life. He spent the fourteen years of life still remaining to him in giving out his own medical theories, which were based upon certain fundamental conceptions of the ancient Wisdom-Religion.

His first premise was that Nature is a living organism which must be considered as an expression of the One Life. His second premise was that man and nature have a three-fold constitution which may be further subdivided into seven distinct "principles." His third premise was that man and the Universe are one in their essential nature, and that there is a magnetic attraction between every part of nature and its corresponding part in man.

Paracelsus considered the art of healing as a sacred and noble profession, declaring that every true physician must possess certain qualifications. First of all, he must possess Wisdom. This Wisdom, which is the opposite of mere learning, cannot be found in books nor in any external thing.

We can only find Wisdom in ourselves. He who seeks Wisdom in the fountain of Wisdom is the true disciple, but he who seeks it where it does not exist will seek it in vain.
This form of Wisdom will enable the physician to discern the Unity of Nature and to recognize man as a faithful copy of the great Universe, governed by the same laws and expressing them in his own being. As this is a meta-physical truth, every physician must be also a philosopher. And as true wisdom comes from within, the physician must possess the faculty of Intuition, the handmaiden of self-reliance. Therefore the true physician is one who does his own thinking and is not satisfied merely to repeat the thoughts of others. As intuition and self-reliance are developed in the physician, the secret doors of Nature will open to him.
The knowledge of Nature as it is -- not as we imagine it to be -- constitutes true Philosophy. He who merely sees the external appearance of things is not a Philosopher. The true Philosopher sees the reality, not merely the outward appearance. The true physician sees in himself the whole constitution of the Macrocosm. He sees the constitution of his patient as if the latter were a clear crystal. This is the philosophy upon which the true art of medicine is based.
The true physician, Paracelsus said, must look upon man as a whole. He must look for the causes producing the disease, and not merely treat the outward effects. "Philosophy -- the true perception and understanding of cause and effect -- is the mother of the physician." As the Law of cause and effect is universal, it appears in both man and the Universe. Man is the microcosm of the macrocosm, a complete solar system in himself. Every "planet" in man is related to its corresponding planet in the larger solar system. That portion of philosophy which explains these correspondences was called Astronomy. Therefore, Paracelsus said, the physician must also be an astronomer. In using this word, Paracelsus separated himself from the astrologers of his day, who declared that the stars govern man. Paracelsus declared that the relationship between the planets and the principles of man is one of correspondence. This Law of Correspondence forms the basic principle of the science of Alchemy. It also lies at the root of the healing art. Therefore--
The physician should be an Alchemist; that is to say, he should understand the Chemistry of Life. Medicine is not merely a science, but an art. It does not consist merely in compounding pills and plasters and drugs, but it deals with the processes of Life, which must be understood before they can be guided.
Paracelsus drew a sharp line of distinction between Chemistry and Alchemy. Chemistry, he said, deals with physical matter, while Alchemy concerns itself with the inner, energizing principles vivifying all forms. Chemistry, he declared, may be learned by any man with ordinary intellectual capacities, while Alchemy requires spiritual knowledge for its comprehension. Alchemy is really the science of Man. Its lowest aspect deals with the physical body; its second aspect is concerned with his invisible principles, while its third and highest aspect deals with his spiritual regeneration.

But, according to Paracelsus, even knowledge of philosophy, astronomy and alchemy will not enable a physician to cure diseases unless his own moral nature be above reproach, as that acts upon the patient more powerfully than any drug employed.

One of the most necessary requirements for a physician is perfect purity and singleness of purpose. He should be free of ambition, vanity, envy, unchastity and self-conceit, because these vices are the outcome of ignorance and incompatible with the light of divine Wisdom which should illumine the mind of the true physician.
Purity, according to Paracelsus, should reveal itself on every plane of the physician's being. He must be physically pure, intellectually honest and consistently true to his highest ideals. He must exercise his art from an altruistic motive and never for his own gain. Here lies the line of demarcation between the ordinary physician and the adept-physician; between a Celsus and a Paracelsus.
The pseudo-physician bases his art on his books. The art of the true physician is based upon his own knowledge, and is supported by the four pillars of medicine -- Philosophy, Astronomy, Alchemy and Virtue. (Paragranum.)
Paracelsus regarded man as made up of seven distinct "principles." As the physical body is merely the lowest of these principles, he reduced the purely physiological causes of disease to a minimum, tracing them to impurities which have been taken into the system through improper food, drink and air. He advised physicians to treat such diseases by the process of elimination, by ridding the body of these poisonous substances, and not by introducing other forms of poison into the system.
Rheumatism, gout, dropsy and other diseases are caused by such accumulations of impure or superfluous elements, and Nature cannot recover until such elements are expelled, and the vital powers of the organs restored. (De Ente Veneni.)
As man is a complex being with six invisible principles, Paracelsus declared that all diseases, except such as come from purely mechanical causes, have an invisible origin in the inner man. He also contended that the number of diseases originating in these invisible principles is far greater than those arising in the physical body, "and for such diseases our physicians know no cure because, not knowing such causes, they cannot remove them." He agreed with his fellow-practitioners that the study of Anatomy is essential to the physician, but said that
. . . the more essential Anatomy is the Anatomy of the living inner man. The latter is the kind of Anatomy which is the most important for the physician to know. If we know the Anatomy of the inner man, we know the Prima Materia, and may see the nature of the disease as well as the remedy. (Paramirum.)
But man, the Microcosm, can never be divorced from the Universal Man, the Macrocosm. As the individual man has his diseases, so the Universal Man has his diseases also, which reflect themselves in humanity as a whole. Such diseases result from the mutual attraction between the Microcosm and the Macrocosm.
You have hidden within yourself a magnet which attracts those influences which correspond to your will, and that magnet attracts that which you desire out of the elements. (Philosophia Occulta.)
There are thousands of such magnets in man, each of which attracts good or evil influences from nature. As everything in the universe represents a certain state of vibration of the one original essence, there is a constant interplay of forces between the planets of the solar system and their corresponding "planets" in man. Furthermore, "every metal and every plant possesses certain qualities that can attract corresponding planetary influences." H.P.B. declared that there is not a plant or mineral which has disclosed the last of its properties to the scientists. What do the naturalists know of the occult influences of the vegetable and mineral kingdoms? How can they feel confident that for every one of the discovered properties there may not be many powers concealed in the inner nature of plants and minerals? Paracelsus was one of those who knew the inner nature of things, and he declared that the healing property of both is contained in their spiritual essence and not in their crude form. He held that the inner nature of plants may be discovered by their outer forms, or signatures, a theory later elaborated by Jakob Boehme. Paracelsus taught that minerals should never be used in medicine in their crude state, but should be reduced to their pure state.
In such a pure state you can give a man a pound of arsenic without fear of killing him; though it should not be used in such quantities, not because of any danger but because the true value of a substance resides not in its quantity but in its quality. (Paramirum.)
Applying this theory to the question of food, Paracelsus further taught that "it is not in the quantity of food but in its quality that resides the Spirit of Life." This "Spirit of Life" is contained in the invisible principles of the food, which are absorbed in the mouth and not in the stomach.

Paracelsus traced the second cause of disease to the astral(1), or siderial body, which is the vehicle of the life-principle, or Archaeus.

The Archaeus is of a magnetic nature, and attracts or repels other sympathetic or antipathetic forces belonging to the same plane. The less power of resistance for astral influence a person possesses, the more will he be subject to such influences. (Paragranum.)
Paracelsus traced the third cause of disease to the Kamic(2) principle, or Mumia. He showed how shame and fear reproduce themselves as blushing and paleness; how sudden joy may cure a disease, while sudden terror may result in death; how envy and hatred produce a morbid imagination, which in its turn results in numberless forms of illness. H.P.B. also agreed with this premise when she said, "Half, if not two-thirds of our diseases and ailings are the fruit of our imaginations and fears." "Destroy the latter," she said, "and give another bent to the former, and nature will do the rest." Paracelsus revealed the secret of all "faith cures" by declaring:
The power of amulets does not rest so much in the material of which they are made as in the faith in which they are worn. The curative power of medicines often consists not so much in the spirit which is hidden in them as in the spirit in which they are taken. Faith will make them efficacious. Doubt will destroy their virtue.
The fourth class of disease was traced to man's fourth principle, the lower mind. In the final analysis, Paracelsus said, all diseases are the result of wrong thinking. Many diseases are rooted in moral causes and can be cured only by reforming the moral nature. But the wrong thoughts which are now manifesting themselves in the form of disease may not have been set in motion in our present life. They may have been engendered in a previous incarnation, and are only now expressing themselves as disease. For this fifth class of disease there may be no immediate remedy. The physician and the patient should recognize the Law of Karma and wait patiently for the causes to work themselves out as effects. If the time has come for the evil effects to disappear, the patient will come in contact with a physician who will help him rid himself of his disease in a natural manner. But "if it is the will of Providence (Karma) that the patient should still remain in his purgatory, then will the physician not be able to help him out of it."

Four hundred years have passed since Paracelsus lived and taught. During those centuries many pathologists, chemists, homeopathists and magnetic healers have quenched their thirst for knowledge in his books. Some writers have given him full credit for the discovery of nitrogen, hydrogen and the occult powers of the magnet. Others have denounced him as a quack and charlatan while secretly plagiarizing from his works. Only a few physicians of the present day are aware that Paracelsus taught the primal causes of all diseases affecting mankind; that he unveiled the secret link between psychology and physiology; that he used electromagnetism three hundred years before it was "discovered" by Oersted; that he had a School of Magnetic Healing long before Mesmer's School was established; that it was Paracelsus and not Pasteur who had the real secret of microbes which is contained in the Theosophical theory of the "Preservers and Destroyers." But the tide is now beginning to change. In the 1936 meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dr. Herman Seydel declared that the changed outlook in modern scientific investigation is due to an ever-increasing attention to the principles outlined by this "greatest of all revolutionaries in the history of medicine." Dr. Alexis Carrel now admits the Paracelsian theory that man must be studied as a whole. Perhaps the time is not far off when other exponents of the noble science of healing will be willing to admit with Paracelsus that,

. . . a physician should possess spiritual perception, spiritual knowledge and spiritual power. These qualities belong not to that which is human in man, but to the light of the spirit which shines in him. 

Next article:
Great Theosophists
The Rosicrucians


TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

COMPILER'S NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them don't paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.

(1) "Astral" means the Electro-Magnetic spectrum at every level. The "Astral Body" is the electromagnetic design body that the physical molecules adhere to in the building up of every form, in every kingdom, on the physical plane. The theosophical "Astral Light" is the "Ether" of modern science. It is the source of the idea known as the "Recording Angel" -- because every thought, word, and deed is recorded, stored, and magnetically reflected back to its source at a dynamically proper time: in other words, when conditions naturally warrant or permit it. We call this Karma, or Lawful action and reaction. All of us are also magnets for imprints in the "Astral Light" which were put there by others and which are similar to us in character. So we constantly affect and infect each other in this way -- for good or for bad.
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(2) "Kamic principle" is our lower Passions and Desires. The "Kama-Rupa" is the invisible body made up of these lower Passions and Desires.
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