Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings


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This volume provides a critical edition of essential writings from the authoritative Huser Paracelsus alongside new English translations and commentary on the sources and context of the full corpus. The Essential Theoretical Writings incorporate topics ranging from metaphyics, cosmology, faith, religious conflict, magic, gender, and education, to the processes of nature, disease and medication, female and male sufferings, and cures of body and soul. Properly contextualized, these treatises yield rich extracts of Renaissance and Reformation culture, soundings of 16th-century life, and keys to an influential but poorly understood early modern intellectual tradition.

Have doubts regarding this product? Aristotle and Galen believed that the human body contained four elements earth, air, fire, and water. These had to be balanced in order to maintain health. Paracelsus believed that diseases came from outside the body. He thought diseases could be cured by supplying the right chemical, as opposed to herbal, medicines.

These would restore internal balance. His successful cures served to support his theories and he acquired a reputation as a healer. In Paracelsus went to Basel, Switzerland, to treat a patient.


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He stayed on and became the town physician. His responsibilities included lecturing at the university and supervising the local apothecaries druggists. Paracelsus openly challenged traditional medical teachings. He preferred to lecture in German rather than Latin, which was the traditional language of teaching. Also, he refused to prescribe the medicines of the local apothecaries. Paracelsus also wrote books about medicine, surgery, and cosmology the nature of the universe.

Paracelsus said that his outlook on the world was based on philosophy, astronomy, alchemy, and virtue. Alchemy was a medieval form of chemistry. Some people studied alchemy hoping to turn baser lesser metals into gold. In contrast, Paracelsus regarded alchemy as a spiritual science. He felt it required moral virtue on the part of the person who practiced it. Paracelsus believed that for every evil there was a good that would eliminate it. Thus, he believed that there was a cure for every disease. He studied alchemy hoping to discover the means of restoring youth and prolonging life.

He also thought that alchemy should not be restricted only to chemistry. He thought it was at work in all of nature. He felt strongly about relating his philosophy of nature to his religious beliefs. After Paracelsus appears to have undergone a spiritual conversion. He gave up his material possessions. It is said he became like a beggar. He went to cities in Austria and Italy, where the plague a highly contagious disease often carried by rats was raging, and he attended to the sick.

In this new spirit that drove him, Paracelsus gave special attention to the poor and the needy. His work was guided by a more mystical view of man and especially of the physician. In Paracelsus went to Salzburg, Austria, but he was very sick. He died there on September 24, Hall, Manly Palmer. Paracelsus, His Mystical and Medical Philosophies. Stillman, John Maxson. Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim Called Paracelsus. Chicago : Open Court Publishing Company, Weeks, Andrew. Paracelsus was born Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim.

He was a contemporary of Martin Luther and Nicolaus Copernicus. He adopted his. His self-promotion as "The Most Highly Experienced and Illustrious Physician … " has given us the word "bombastic," derived from his birth name. Paracelsus gained his early medical knowledge from his father, who was a physician. He followed this education with formal medical training at the University of Ferrara in Italy.

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Paracelsus (1493-1541)

Finding his formal training disappointing, Paracelsus embarked on a life of travel and study combined with medical practice. According to Paracelsus, he collected medical knowledge anywhere he could find it without regard to academic authority. He acknowledged his consultations with peasants, barbers, chemists, old women, quacks, and magicians.

Paracelsus developed his notions of disease and treatment away from any established medical faculty and promoted the idea that academic medical training had reached a state deeply in need of reform. Paracelsus believed in the four "Aristotelian" elements of earth, air, fire, and water. His medical theory was based on the notion that earth is the fundamental element of existence for humans and other living things. Paracelsus believed that earth generated all living things under the rule of three "principles": salt, sulfur, and mercury. He therefore believed these substances to be very potent as chemical reactants, as poisons, and as medical treatments.

Indeed, salt and sulfur can yield strong mineral acids, for example, hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid , and mercury is a strong poison. Finally, Paracelsus believed in the "Philosopher's Stone. Such a stone, it was believed, would be the strongest chemical reactant and the strongest medicine possible. Paracelsus advocated the direct observation of a patient's medical condition and the assessment of his or her surroundings.

He was one of the first physicians to describe occupational diseases. He described several lung diseases of miners and recommended improved ventilation as a means of their prevention. He emphasized that the legitimacy of a treatment was whether or not it worked, not its recommendation by an ancient authority in an ancient text. Paracelsus promoted the use of mineral treatments. Because small amounts of mercury salts were effective against some illnesses, these medicines were judged to be very strong. Paracelsus's exalted claims for himself and his abrasive personality often brought him into conflict with civil authorities.

His methods of trial and error and observation led him to reject the use of sacred relics as medical treatment. It brought him into conflict with religious authorities. His calls for reformation of the medical profession offended medical authorities. As a consequence he was on the move often. Paracelsus held an academic post only once, and it lasted only a year.

Although he wrote a great deal, only one of his manuscripts was published in his lifetime. Most of his manuscripts were left in a variety of cities and were published several years after his death. Within these manuscripts are inconsistencies and contradictions. Paracelsus never established any one strong school of thought or medical practice. He did, however, influence future generations of iatrochemists physicianchemists, iatro being Greek for "physician" , who continued to apply chemistry to questions of medical practice.

Jacobi, Jolande, ed. Paracelsus, Selected Writings, tr. Norbert Gutman. Partington, J. A History of Chemistry, Vol.

Paracelsus | Revolvy

New York : Martino Publishing. Sigerist, Henry E. Paracelsus: Four Treatises. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Germany physician and alchemist who pioneered a new approach to treating illness, and helped usher medicine out of its medieval occultism and into the more rational scientific philosophies of the Renaissance. He was born and raised in the town of Einsiedeln in what is now Switzerland and spent several years wandering to the far corners of the known world to learn from philosophers, scientists, and doctors from Europe to Arabia and India.

He studied in several universities, poring over the medical texts of the ancient writers and exploring the alchemical tracts of medieval writers. His studies and experiments led him to the conclusion that all matter derived from three basic substances — salt, sulfur, and mercury — that originated in a matter known as mysterium arcanum. Paracelsus rejected the traditional practices of physicians, who in his day worked to rid the body of impurities through bleeding and purging.

In his book Archidoxis , he explained his theory that certain essential qualities all derive from substances found in nature. He believed that philosophy, astronomy, alchemy, and virtue were all necessary to the work of a doctor, and that disease represented a malfunction of the body and not, as was traditional, the imbalance of the bodily humors. He elaborated his ideas in another major work, Opus Paramirum , or Work Beyond Wonder, which also explained the organs of the body as containing a guiding spirit that separated good qualities from bad. To cure disease, the physician needed to apply a substance manufactured from minerals, metals, or other compounds that was proper to the functioning of the diseased organ and could mimic the body's natural balancing action.

Paracelsus saw man as a microcosm of the universe, a being in which all the qualities found in nature had their counterparts on the human scale. The physical body, the soul, and an astral body were present, in which the latter spirit — which originated in the heavens — served as a blueprint for the form and function of all things and as an important link between the mind, the body, and the spiritual world.

For this reason, the study of both human philosophy and scientific astronomy were needed for a physician to truly understand the workings and diseases of the body. In Paracelsus became a lecturer and physician in the city of Basel , where his strange new ideas and his teaching in German instead of traditional Latin sparked bitter conflict with his physician rivals and quickly drove him from the city.

In he published a handbook of surgery, Der Grossen Wundartzney. He died five years later under mysterious circumstances, with many historians believing that he was poisoned by rivals. His original name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. He traveled widely, acquiring knowledge of alchemy, chemistry, and metallurgy, and although his egotism and his contempt for traditional theories earned him the enmity of his learned contemporaries, he gained wide popularity among the people he lectured and wrote in German rather than Latin and had great influence in his own and succeeding centuries.

In Salzburg, where he died, a statue was erected to him in His thought was colored by the fantastic philosophies of his time and he based his medical theories on the concept of human beings as microcosms of the universe. He was firmly opposed to the humoral theory of disease championed by Galen , and he advocated the use of specific remedies for specific diseases, introducing many chemicals e. He also noted relationships such as the hereditary pattern in syphilis and the association of cretinism with endemic goiter and of paralysis with head injuries.

Paracelsus wrote numerous medical and occult works containing a curious mixture of sound observation and mystical jargon. His work On Diseases of Miners was the first study devoted to an occupational disease. See Four Treatises of Theophrastus von Hohenheim ed. Sigerist, ; biographies by W. Pagel 2d ed. Webster Paracelsus c. He developed a new approach to medicine and philosophy based on observation and experience. He saw illness as having a specific external cause rather than an imbalance of the bodily humours , and introduced chemical remedies to replace traditional ones.

Paracelsus's progressive view was offset by his overall occultist perspective. According to Paracelsus, the human body primarily consists of salt, sulphur, and mercury, and it is the separation of these elements that causes illness. He introduced mineral baths and made opium, mercury, lead and various minerals part of the pharmacopoeia. Paracelsus Theophrastus Baumastus von Hohenheim , — Alchemist and physician.

He was born in Switzerland and travelled extensively throughout Europe , gaining a reputation as the leading figure in the Renaissance quest for interior meanings and transformations of nature. Philippus Aureolos Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim was one of the most bizarre characters in the history of science.

Commonly known as Paracelsus because in his own estimation he was greater than the great Greek physician Celsus, he was a paranoid, uncouth, abusive, and usually drunken genius, whose reputation varied widely. While his supporters dubbed him the "Luther of science," his detractors denounced him as a heretic and condemned him as the disreputable black magician who provided the model for Faust. His considerable writings offer a strange blend of medicine, religion, philosophy, cosmology, alchemy, magic, and astrology, a synthesis of natural and mystical philosophy typical of other writers before the scientific revolution separated science from religious and philosophical speculation.

About the Book

Neither modest in presenting his opinions nor restrained in his language, Paracelsus launched an acrimonious attack on the medical and scientific establishment of his day. He rejected the prevailing Galenic theory that attributed disease to an imbalance of the four humors and replaced it with his own dynamic theory of diseases as specific entities attacking specific organs. Paracelsus was an idealist and a visionary who considered chemistry the key to the universe. In his view, God was the divine alchemist who created the world by calcinating, congealing, distilling, and sublimating the elements of chaos.

The alchemist had only to read the reactions in his laboratory on a grand scale to fathom the mysteries of creation.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

By turning alchemy away from gold-making, Paracelsus and his followers transformed it into a universal science of matter concerned with every aspect of material change. Paracelsus's thought was shaped by both the Renaissance and the Reformation. Although he rejected the aesthetics and classicism of Renaissance humanists, he shared their anthropocentric and individualistic outlook. As Walter Pagel , p. An enormous variety of noncorporeal forces vital spirits, demons, subhumans, superhumans work below the surface of the Paracelsian universe.

Paracelsus drew his vitalist and pantheist ideas from the occult philosophies and sciences revived by Renaissance scholars — Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Qabbalah, magic, alchemy, and astrology. The analogy between the macrocosm and the microcosm characteristic of these philosophies shaped Paracelsus's theory of knowledge. He rejected scholastic rationalism in favor of a kind of psychological empiricism. Because humans are the microcosm they contain within themselves all the elements of the greater world, or macrocosm. Knowledge therefore consists in an intuitive act of recognition, in which the knower and the known become one.

Because Paracelsus's theory of knowledge approximates Luther's doctrine of the "inner light," the two men have been compared. Each attacked established ideologies and institutions, wrote in the vernacular, and was a master of scurrilous invective. Both enjoyed theatrics: Luther burned the papal bull excommunicating him; Paracelsus burned the works of Galen and Ibn Sina Avicenna. The comparison between the two men is, however, superficial.

Luther preached the bondage of the human will, while Paracelsus was an ardent advocate of free will ; Luther made grace the prerequisite of salvation, while Paracelsus emphasized charitable acts; Luther sided with sovereigns, while Paracelsus's sympathies remained with the people. Although Paracelsus was in contact with many reformers, sharing their criticism of church abuses, he eventually became disillusioned and charged that the reformers were as autocratic as their Catholic counterparts.

Paracelsus's religious ideas were more compatible with nondogmatic reformers such as Hans Denck ? Religion and philosophy provided the sources for both the progressive and the obscurantist aspect of Paracelsus's thought.

His repudiation of reason led him to embrace empiricism; it also made much of his writing incomprehensible. On the basis of his vitalist philosophy, he rejected mechanical explanations of biological processes in favor of an organic, holistic approach that allowed for psychological factors. The same vitalism taken to extremes, however, resulted in proliferation of the number of active, independent forces to the point that classification became impossible and causality meaningless. With his penchant for oracular and aphoristic statements, Paracelsus was more a prophet than a scientist.

Paracelsus did believe he was divinely inspired. Occultism ; Rosicrucians. Walter Pagel's Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance New York , has an excellent bibliography and provides a thorough discussion of Paracelsus's sources. New York , , Allen G. Debus discusses Paracelsus's legacy and influence on later scientists. Early Years. Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim, later known by the simpler cognomen Paracelsus, was born in the Swiss village of Einsiedeln, where his father practiced medicine.

Paracelsus also absorbed the chemistry and lore surrounding mining and metallurgy. He was schooled by local clerics, from whom he received a wide-ranging exposure to both orthodox and mystical religion and philosophy, which were feeding the discussions and social unrest in the early sixteenth century that gave rise to the Reformation. Medical Approach. Paracelsus claimed to be a doctor of both medicine and surgery, and historians have speculated that he may have attended the University of Vienna and perhaps received the M.

His writings show a familiarity with concepts found in academic natural philosophy and medicine, but his poor knowledge of Latin, cloudy explanations of theory, and open hostility to the chief tenets of Galenic medicine and Aristotelian philosophy suggest that his knowledge was gleaned from a variety of oral and vernacular written sources and not through the contemporary university medical curriculum. His rejection of any medical use for human anatomy, for example, is not without precedent, inasmuch as medieval Islamic physicians regarded knowledge of anatomy gained from dead bodies to be of little use in healing the living, beyond what might help a surgeon to mend a bone or remove an arrow.

However, Paracelsus probably was neither an Empiricist nor an Arabist, given his deprecation of Islamic and pagan Greek medicine except that of Hippocrates and his readiness to apply magical lore and alchemical theory to describe the hidden workings of the body and its diseases. Unpopular Stance. Not surprisingly, he was not popular with professional physicians and apothecaries druggists , whose livelihood depended on their knowledge of Galenic medicine, not to mention the professors themselves, who viewed Paracelsus as a crackpot and a serious threat to health care and medical education.

Inner Alchemical Agents. Instead of the four basic fluids and qualities, Paracelsus regarded all physiological processes as chemical in nature, whether occurring in the body of the greater world the macrocosm or in the human body the microcosm. He likened these processes of separating pure nutrients from impurities to the operations of a metallurgist or alchemist, who separated the pure metal or chemical from the dross or dregs. He imagined these processes to be distributed around the body, governed by inner alchemical agents that he called archei singular archeus.

When operating properly, the archei that were present at various places, most obviously the stomach, perfectly separated pure nutrients from the dregs and excreted the latter. However, when affected by an external influence, caused by a stronger chemical archeus or perhaps a malign ray from a planet or star, the inner alchemist could malfunction and permit a buildup of toxic salts in the body.

Inflammations, for example, were regarded as caused by inflamed sulfurous or nitrosulfurous salts. Divine Calling.

Unlike the Greeks, though, he saw the physician as having a particularly divine calling, since Christ himself was the prototype healer, able to cure the incurable and even raise the dead to life. Life of Wandering. Owing to his medical iconoclasm, which offended the medical establishment, and his irregular religious preachings, which offended both Catholic and Lutheran religious authorities, he was seldom resident in any one town for long before being chased out, sometimes fleeing in great haste and leaving unfinished treatises behind him, to be puzzled over and reconstructed a generation later by his followers.

Journal List Acta Biomed v. Acta Biomed. Alberto Conti Andrea. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Correspondence: Andrea A. Received Sep 7; Accepted Nov This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Keywords: health, disease, history of medicine, bioethics, anatomy, physiology, epidemiology, methodology.

References 1. Constitution of WHO: Principles. Doctor-patient communication: a historical overview. Minerva Med. Smith WD. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; The Hippocratic Tradition. Angeletti LR, Gazzaniga V. Milano: Masson; Storia, filosofia ed etica generale della medicina. Opus Paramirum: San Gallo; Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. Weeks A, editor. Leiden and Boston: Brill; Paracelsus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, Essential Theoretical Writings. Fracastoro G. Venezia: Eredi di Lucantonio Giunta; De sympathia et antipathia rerum liber unus.

De contagione et contagiosis morbis et curatione libri III. Verona , then in Opera, Patavii;

Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings
Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings
Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings
Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings
Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings
Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings
Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings
Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493-1541): Essential Theoretical Writings

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