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Spagyrical Writings

Contemplations on medicine and the arts of the physician by Paracelsus


Translated in 1888 by Arthur Edward Waite

1. Medicine rests upon four pillars -- philosophy, astronomy, alchemy, and ethics. The first pillar is the philosophical knowledge of earth and water; the second, astronomy, supplies its full understanding of that which is fiery and airy nature; the third is an adequate explanation of the properties of all the four elements -- that is to say, of the whole cosmos -- and an introduction into the art of transformations; and finally, the fourth shows the physician those virtues which must stay with him up until his death, and it should support and complete the three other pillars.

2. Often the remedy is deemed the highest good because it helps so many. But is not He who created it for the sake of the sick body more than the remedy? And is not He who cures the soul, which is more than the body, greater? Here then lies the supreme good; it is more than that which takes the disease away from the body and preserves the body.

3. The physician must give heed to the region in which the patient lives, that is to say, to its type and peculiarities. For one country is different from another; its earth is different, as are its stones, wines, bread, meat, and everything that grows and thrives in a specific region. This means that each country, in addition to the general properties common to the whole world, also has its own specific properties. The physician should take this into account and know it, and accordingly he should also be a cosmographer and geographer, well versed in these disciplines.

4. God is the master who measures the disease and the stars. He has ordered everything according to His wisdom; who can fathom it?

5. The patient who pins his hope on the medicament is not a Christian; but he who puts his hope in God is a Christian.

6. What sense would it make or what would it benefit a physician if he discovered the origin of the diseases but could not cure or alleviate them? And since the fit manner of preparation is not to be found in pharmaceuticals, we must explore further; that is to say, we must learn from alchemy. In it we find the true cause and everything that is needed. Although alchemy has now fallen into contempt, and is even considered a thing of the past, the physicain should not be influenced by such judgments. For many arts, such as astronomy, philosophy, and others, are also indisrepute. I am directing you, physicians, to alchemy for the preparation of the magnalia, for the production of the mysteria, for the preparation of the arcana, for the separation of the pure from the impure, to the end that you may obtain a flawless, pure remedy, God-given, perfect, and of certain efficacy, acheiving the highest degree of virtue and power. For it is not God's design that the remedies should exist for us, ready-made, boiled and salted, but that we should boil them ouselves, and it pleases Him that we boil them and learn in the process, that we train ourselves in this art and are not idle on earth, but labor in daily toil. For it is we who must pray for our daily bread, and if He grants it to us, it is only through our labor, our skill and preparation.

7. God created iron but not that which is to be made from it... He enjoined fire, and Vulcan, who is the lord of fire, to do the rest... From this it follows that iron must be cleansed of its dross before it can be forged. This process is alchemy: its founder is the smith Vulcan. What is accomplished by fire is alchemy -- whether in the furnace or in the kitchen stove. And he who governs fire is Vulcan, even if he be a cook or a man who tends the stove. The same is true of medicine. It too was created by God, but not in its finished state, but still concealed in dross. To release the remedy from the dross is the task of Vulcan. And what is true of iron is true of the remedy. What the eyes perceive in herbs or stones or trees is not yet a remedy; the eyes see only the dross. But inside, under the dross, there the remedy lies hidden. First it must be cleansed from the dross, then it is there. This is alchemy, and this is the office of Vulcan; he is the apothecary and chemist of the medicine.

8. If we want to make a statement about a man's nature on the basis of his physiognomy, we must take everything into account; it is in his distress that a man is tested, for then his nature is revealed. For in extremis, things reveal their nature and become visible; then we can say: he is an upright man, a faithful man, he maintains his inner being... One man reveals more traits of loyalty and less of disloyalty; one man is to a large extent this, another man that. Therefore we should keep an eye on the outward characteristics which nature gives a man by shaping him in a certain way. For nature shapes the anatomy of a pear in such a way that the pear develops into a pear tree; and she creates a medlar's anatomy, in such a way that it develops into a medlar bush; and the same is true of silver and gold. Nature also forges man, now a gold man, now a silver man, now a fig man, now a bean man.

Continued on page two.

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