Alchemy



Paracelsus (1493–1541)

The German physician Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim traveled throughout Europe, practicing medicine, occultism, and

Paracelsus (1493–1541). (THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)
Paracelsus (1493–1541). (
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
)
alchemy under the name of Paracelsus. As with so many of the true alchemists, Paracelsus believed that it was far more important to contemplate nature and the majesty of God's handiworks than to spend all one's time studying the knowledge that could be found in books. If one could acquire the kind of purity of belief, such as Jesus (c. 6 B.C.E.–c. 30 C.E.) affirmed existed in the heart of a child, one could literally transform base substances into precious metals and gems, for the primary ingredient necessary for alchemical success lay in obtaining the prima materia, the essence of all substances, the primeval building blocks of the universe. In the view of Paracelsus, this essential substance was both visible and invisible, and it was the soul of the world from which all elements had sprung, and its power was accessible to all who had the purity of heart and the faith to attain it. For Paracelsus, as for many of his alchemical brotherhood, the gospels of Jesus and the writings of Hermes Trismegistus had much in common.

Paracelsus also excited the medical community and lay people alike with his wonder medicine, the alkahest. There was the spirit alkahest that fortified the body against diseases, and there was the metal alkahest that matured and perfected base metals into gold. As a result of a series of chemical experiments, Paracelsus became the first to describe zinc, which had been unknown to science, and he introduced many practical curative compounds to the medical practitioners of his day. At the same time that he delivered these medicines into the hands of the doctors, he admonished them to remember always that the first doctor of humankind was God, the divine creator of all health.

Paracelsus believed firmly that the fully realized human was the one who lived a healthful life. In addition, those who sought divine harmony should study astrology in order to learn the harmony of the spheres, should become a theologian in order to comprehend the needs of the soul, and should practice alchemy in order to understand that there are universal substances to be found everywhere in the material world. Those many accomplishments should then be capped with the fully realized human becoming a mystic to perceive always that there exist things beyond logic.


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