Life of Paracelsus
Franz Hartmann MD

Paracelsus (1493-1541)


RECENT researches in the ethereal realms of Mysticism, Metaphysics, and transcendental Anthropology have proved beyond a doubt the existence of a great number of apparently mysterious and occult facts, whose causes cannot be explained by a science whose means for investigation are limited by the imperfections of sensual perception, and whose researches must necessarily come to a stop where physical instruments cease to be of any service.

Invisible things cannot be seen, neither can that which is imponderable be weighed with scales; but invisible and imponderable things, such as the cosmic ether, the light producing power of the sun, the vital power of plants and animals, thought, memory, imagination, will, psychological influences affecting the state of the mind or producing a sudden change of feeling, to mention, are nevertheless facts, and other things too numerous and exist in spite of the incapacity of teachers of anatomy or chemistry to explain them.

If a reasonable sceptic says that such things do not exist, he can only mean to say that they do not exist relatively to his knowledge; because, to deny the possibility of the existence of anything of which we know nothing would imply that we imagined ourselves to be in possession of all the knowledge that exists in the world, and believed that nothing could exist of which we did not know.

A person who peremptorily denies the existence of anything which is beyond the horizon of his understanding because he cannot make it harmonise with his accepted opinions is as credulous as he who believes everything without any discrimination. Either of these persons is not a freethinker, but a slave to the opinions which he has accepted from others, or which he may have formed in the course of his education, and by his special experiences in his (naturally limited) intercourse with the world.

If such persons meet with any extraordinary fact that is beyond their own experience, they often either regard it with awe and wonder, and are ready to accept any wild and improbable theory that may be offered to them in regard to such facts, or they sometimes reject the testimony of credible witnesses, and frequently even that of their own senses.

They often do not hesitate to impute the basest motives and the most silly puerilities to honourable persons, and are credulous enough to believe that serious and wise people had taken the trouble to play upon them "practical jokes" and they are often willing to admit the most absurd theories rather than to use their own common sense.

It seems almost superfluous to make these remarks, as perhaps none of our readers will be willing to be classified into either of these two categories; but nevertheless the people to whom they may be applied are exceedingly numerous, and by no means to be found only among the ignorant and uneducated.

On the contrary, it seems that now, as at the time of the great Paracelsus, the three (dis)graces of dogmatic science - self-conceit, credulity, and scepticism - go still hand in hand, and that their favourite places of residence are public auditories and the private visiting-rooms of the learned.

It is difficult for the light of truth to penetrate into a mind that is crammed full of opinions to which it tenaciously clings, and only those who accept the opinions of others, not as their guides, but only as their assistants, and are able to rise on the wings of their own unfettered genius into the region of independent thought, may receive the truth.

Our modern age is not without such minds. The world is moving in spirals, and our greatest modern philosophers are nearing a place in their mental orbit where they come again into conjunction with minds like Pythagoras and Plato. Only the ignorant schoolboy believes that he knows a great deal more than Socrates and Aristotle because he may have learned some modern opinions in regard to a few superficial things, or some modern inventions, with which the philosophers of old may not have been acquainted; but if our modern scientists know more about steam-engines and telegraphs than the ancients did, the latter knew more about the powers that move the world, and about the communication of thought at a distance without the employment of visible means.

If the anatomist of today knows more about the details of the anatomy of the physical body than the ancients, the ancients knew more about the attributes and the constitution of that power which organises the physical body, and of which the latter is nothing more than the objective and visible representative.

Modern science may be successful in producing external appearances or manifestations with which the ancients were not acquainted; the initiates into ancient sciences could create internal causes of which modern science knows nothing whatever, and which the latter will have to learn if it desires to progress much further.

There no resting-place in the evolution of the world. There is only progression and retrogression, rising or falling. If we falter at the door to the realm of the invisible, and dare not enter the temple where the mysterious workshop of Nature exists, we will sink still more into the mire of illusion, and lose still more of the faculties necessary to perceive the things of the soul.

A member which not used atrophies; a faculty that is not actively employed is lost. If our whole time and attention is taken up by the illusions of sense, we will lose the power to perceive that which is supersensual; the more we look at the surface, the less will we know of the kernel; the more we sink into matter, the more will we become unconscious of the spirit which is the life of all things.

But, fortunately for humanity, each evil carries its own remedy in its bosom, each action is followed by a reaction, and the progression of the world resembles the movements of a pendulum that swings from one side to the other, while it at the same time moves forward.

Ages of bigotry are followed by periods of thought that may end in ages of scepticism; centuries of scientific or religious ignorance, intolerance, and superstition lead to revolutions of thought that may, again, end in atheism and crime; but each swing of the pendulum raises humanity a step higher on the ladder of progression. When it reaches the point of gravity, it would stop unless pushed on by the impulse from one or the other extreme.

It seems that our age is nearing that neutral point again. Blind "Materialism" has expended its powers; it may still have many pretended followers, but very few that believe in it in their hearts.

If there were any persons who sincerely believed in it, and followed its teachings to its last logical consequences, they would necessarily end their days in jail or be driven to suicide; but the great majority of the advocates of Materialism like the bigots of old theology, feel and think differently from what they say: they deal out their theories to others, but do not desire to use them themselves.

Doubt, the great enemy of true faith, is also the enemy of dogmatic ignorance; it destroys all self-confidence, and therefore impedes not only the power to do good in those that are good, but it also weakens the poison of those that do evil.

The eyes of a world that stepped out from a night of bigotry into the light of day were dazzled and blinded for a while by the vain glitter of a pile of rubbish and broken pots that had been collected by the advocates of material science, who palmed it off for diamonds and precious stones; but the world has recovered from the effect of the glare, and realised the worthlessness of the rubbish, and it again seeks for the less dazzling but priceless light of the truth.

Treasures that have long been buried and hidden away from the sight of those that were neither able to realise nor to appreciate their value are now brought to light; pearls of ancient wisdom are brought from the East; fountains of knowledge that have been for centuries closed up are again opened, and a flood of light is thrown over things that appeared impossible, mysterious, and occult.

As we dive into the ancient mysteries a new world opens before us. The more we begin to understand the language of the Adepts, the more grows our respect for their wisdom. The more we become able to grasp their ideas, the more grows our conception of man.

The anatomy, physiology, and psychology which they teach make of man something immeasurably greater than the puny and impotent being known to modern science as a compound of bones, muscles, and nerves.

Modern science attempts to prove that man is an animal; the teachings of the Adepts show that he may be a god. Modern science invests him with the power to lift his own weight; ancient science invests him with the power to control the destiny of the world. Modern science allows him to live for a very limited number of years; ancient science teaches that he has always existed, and will never cease to exist if he desires to live.

Modern science deals with the instrument that the real man uses as long and as often as he comes into relationship with the world of phenomena, and she mistakes that instrument for the man; the Adepts show us the true nature of the essential man, to whom one earthly existence is nothing more than one of the many incidents of his eternal career.

There is an invisible universe within the visible one, a world of causes within the world of effects. There is force within matter, and the two are one, and are dependent for their existence on a third, which is the mysterious cause of their existence. There is a world of soul within a world of matter, and the two are one, and caused by the world of spirit. And within these worlds are other worlds, visible and invisible ones.

Some are known to modern science; of others she does not even know that they exist; for, as the material worlds of suns and planets and stars, the worlds of animate and inanimate beings, from man, the lord of creation, down to the microscopic world with its countless inhabitants, can only be seen by him who is in the possession of the powers necessary for their perception, likewise the world of the soul and the realms of the spirit can only be known to him whose inner senses are awakened to life. The things of the body are seen through the instrumentality of the body, but the things of the soul require the power of spiritual perception.

It is very natural that those who have not developed the power of spiritual perception will not believe in its existence, because for them this faculty does not exist. Therefore the outward reasoner is like a man who keeps his eyes closed, and calls for proofs of the existence of that which he cannot see; while he who is able to see with the eye of the soul or the intellect requires no other proof that the things which he sees exist, and he is rightfully entitled to speak authoritatively of his experience in regard to that which is invisible to the majority, just as a man who has returned from a previously unexplored country is entitled to speak authoritatively about the things which he has seen, and to describe his experiences; while, as a matter of course, every listener has the right to accept that which appears to him reasonable, and to reject whatever goes beyond his capacity to understand; but to deny the power of spiritual perception because one does not possess it himself is as foolish and arrogant as if a blind man were to deny to others the power to see.

This power of spiritual perception, potentially contained in every man, but developed in few, is almost unknown to the guardians of science in our modern civilisation, because learning is often separated from wisdom, and the calculating intellect seeking for worms in the dark caverns of the earth cannot see the genius that floats towards the light, and it cannot realise his existence.

And yet this ancient science, which the moderns ignore, is perhaps as old as the world. It was known to the ancient prophets, to the Arhats and Rishis of the East, to initiated Brahmins, Egyptians, and Greeks. Its fundamental doctrines are found in the Vedas as well as in the Bible.

Upon these doctrines rest the fundaments of the religions of the world. They formed the essence of the secrets that were revealed only to the initiated in the inner temple where the ancient mysteries were taught, and whose disclosure to the vulgar was forbidden under the penalty of torture and death. They were the secrets known to the ancient sages, and to the Adepts and Rosicrucians of the Middle Ages, and upon a partial understanding of their truths rests the system of modern Freemasonry.

But it is a great error to suppose that the secrets of the Alchemists can all be communicated by words or signs, or be explained to any one who may be trusted with them. The rendering of an explanation requires the capacity to understand on the part of the receiver, and where that power is absent all explanations, be they ever so clear, will be in vain.

It would be of little use to explain the nature of a palm-tree to an Eskimo, who living among icebergs, never saw a plant, or to describe the construction of a dynamo-machine to an Australian savage.

A man entirely ignorant of all spiritual comprehension, however well his intellectuality be developed, will be in the same condition regarding the understanding of spiritual things as the savage in regard to that which belongs to modern civilisation.

In the spiritual as well as in the sensual kingdom the perception is first, and then comes the understanding.

The greatest mysteries are within our own self. He who knows himself thoroughly knows God and all the mysteries of His nature.

The doctrines resulting from true contemplation are not to be confounded with speculative philosophy, that reasons from the known to that which it cannot know, trying by the flickering light of logic to grope its way into the darkness, and to feel the objects which it cannot see.

These doctrines were taught by the children of light, who possessed the power to see. Such men were the great religious reformers of all ages, from Confucius and Zoroaster down to Jacob Boehme and Eckartshausen, and their teachings have been verified by every one whose purity of mind and whose power of intellect have enabled him to see and to understand the things of the spirit.

Some of their doctrines refer to morals and ethics, others are of a purely scientific character; but both aspects of their teachings are intimately connected together, because beauty cannot be separated from truth. They both form the two pages of a leaf in the book of universal Nature, whose understanding confers upon the reader not merely opinions but knowledge, and renders him not only learned but illuminated with wisdom.

Among those who have taught the moral aspect of the secret doctrine, there are none greater than Buddha, Plato, and Jesus of Nazareth; of those who have taught its scientific aspect there have been none more profound than Hermes Trismegistus, Sankaracharya, Pythagoras, and Paracelsus.

They obtained their knowledge not merely from following the prescribed methods of learning, or by accepting the opinions of the "recognised authorities" of their times, but they studied Nature by her own light, and becoming illuminated by the light of Divine Nature, they became lights themselves, whose rays illuminate the world of mind.

What they taught has been to a certain extent verified and amplified by the teachings of Eastern Adepts, but many things about which the latter have to this day kept a well-guarded silence were revealed by Paracelsus three hundred years ago. Paracelsus threw pearls before the swine, and was scoffed at by the ignorant, his reputation was torn by the dogs of envy and hate, and he was treacherously killed by his enemies.

But although his physical body returned to the elements out of which it was formed, his genius still lives; and as the eyes of the world become better opened to an understanding of spiritual truths, he appears like a star on the mental horizon, whose light is destined to illuminate the world of occult science, and to penetrate deep into the hearts of the coming generation, to warm the soil out of which the science of the coming century will grow.

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