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ship, practiced by the sons of Cain even hardly imagine the mystery with which before the deluge.
the alchemists invested the simplest drug, Paracelsus constantly excusing himself They explained every thing by chemistry. from the charge of witchcraft is occasion even life and death. Life was a spirit of ally more than usually abstruse. For salt, an astral balsam, a celestial invisible some ailments, he says, a small star must fire. Death was a separation and sublibe made from an old horse-shoe found in mation; man was a curdled fume, a coa road. This must be fashioned at certain agulation; the last judgment, the great planetary hours, stamped with astrologi- day of purification. cal signs, and buried in a running stream. Paracelsus was the first to assert that This remedy proved effectual in nine days, all the universe was formed of three suband drove back the curse upon the witch stances--salt, sulphur, and mercury, and who had pronounced it.
not sulphur and mercury alone. The creNow, that these things were all done ation, in fact, he seemed to consider a by certain rules, we know. The only great chemical experiment. This body wonder is that any mind could have was earth, the spirit water, and the soul granted the postulates on which, once fire; and heat and cold, which are fire granted, the arguments incontestably and water, are every thing: by earth started.
alone a creature assumes form. While these were the joints at the Earth brings forth nothing, but is a remagical banquet, the side dishes were ceptacle for all projections and distillations equally remarkable. The rarest, most of antagonistic water, air, and fire. It loathsome, and eccentric ingredients were putrefies, multiplies, and separates, and is, eagerly sought by the alchemists for their in fact, the crucible in which all nature's medicines. Human bones, moss that grew chemicals are thrown. The heavy sink; upon a skull, man's fat, and human blood the light come to its surface. It is the were blended with bruised carrion, flies, nurse, the womb, the grave, the mother, and oil of roses.
All nature was ran- the passive principle. It is the caput sacked, from the iceberg to the grave- mortuum or residuum of creation, hereyard, for objects of supposed virtue and after to be calcined into a new and cryspower. Nor were these of any efficacy talline world. unless mixed when “the sun is in Tau. Earth, the grossest and most lumpish of rus,” or when the moon is in the house the four provinces of the elements, is dull of Jupiter, that is, in Pisces.” Of one and heavy, cold, dry, and tempered with particular seal Paracelsus says: “This is water; without fixed, but within volatile, the second seal that I knew after long and every where porous as a sponge. It search and inquiry, and which, according is a casket, a treasure-room. In its center to the art that I profess, I have often used is the eternal fire, or central sun, correto the shame and scorn of my adversa- sponding to the celestial one. It has a pure ries, so that they have stood amazed like and an impure part. Its center is hollow, asses, and durst not open their mouths." and is the seed ground of the elements.
Yes, those little pieces of gold, perhaps Mixed with water it gives life to created now mistaken by the antiquarian for coins things : mixed with the air it draws them of extinct nations, lying in the dusty up, in its center it is mixed with fire. It drawers of goldsmiths and pawnbrokers, is the center of the world and of the once hung round the necks of emperors elements. and queens, gave the assassin courage to Water is the other tangible element face his victim's sword, and supplied trea- worthier than the earth and heavier. It cherous hope to dying men in jails and conveys to the earth the seed the fire disprison vaults. Lovers have bound them tills from the air. It has three degrees of on with sighs; generals tied them under purity. The purer part becomes heavier their armor with awe. They have cured and air ; the center is in the heart of the and gladdened, and were yet but mere sea. It preserves the earth from burning, dull metal figures crossed and scratched. and spreads the vital principle through So potent is imagination.
the earth. The central fire distills the
water, and the pressure of the air rolls the CHEMICAL PHILOSOPHY.
waters round the earth; the ebbing and Now the old genii are bottled up safely flowing of the sea arise from the magnetic in red bottles in druggists' shops, we can attraction and repulsion of the two poles. All these elements are allies and ene- To obtain the uncorrupt element and mies. The fire preserves the earth from restore the balance of nature, sages first being drowned or melted; the air the fire sought to discover the Philosopher's stone, that it be not extinguished ; the water the which contained the four elements, uncorearth that it be not burnt.
rupted and perfectly balanced. The element of air was of higher rank Their axioms were, that God, to prethan earth or water, its grosser part min- serve a balance of power, (a dogma as gled with water. It was the life of man foolish in old philosophy as it is in modern and all creatures; it is the dwelling place politics,) ordained that all things should of the soul. Without air, fire, plants, and have antagonistic principles—the life of men die; and it is full of divine virtue. one to be the death of the other—that In this element the Holy Spirit moved which produced one consuming another, over chaos. By a magnetic power it and generating a third more noble. Dead draws to itself its nourishment of water. creatures. feed living creatures, and the
Fire is the purest element, hot, dry, and change which is death is the necessary unctuous. It was the first created. Out means by which substances interchange of its grosser part was made the angels; natures, and mutually feed each other. then the sun, moon, and stars; the lowest The farmer eats herbs and meat, then dies of all is hell, and the purer the heavens, and turns to gases, which are air, and fire, all of which have a sympathy to each and water, and earth, which eventually other. The soul is an essence of pure ele condense into plants, and pass as food into mentary fire; it is the vail of God which the flesh of beasts. destroys all created things that approach It is strange our two chief writers on it. It is the most tractable of all the ele- physiognomy should have been Swiss, and ments. As water purifies all fluid things, both inhabitants of nearly the same loso does fire all that are fixed. The ani- cality. mal soul is pure fire; and the vegetable. Paracelsus, who all his life burrowed elementary and grosser fire. Fire is about among earth-stained miners, had stirred up by air, and air by a motion studied their habits and learned their caused through a central nature, a will, a traditions. He had hoped to find some motive power and principle.
clue to his philosophical searches among Man, these great refiners said, contained those rude wielders of the pick and spade. a world within his body-salt, sulphur, He is fond of relating his experiences, deand mercury, earth, air, fire, and water, scribing the cheiromancy of mines, and of which, in fact, contain the three first; for the great trees of gold and silver that all which is fat and flowing is fire or sul- grew, and shot forth their branches phur; all which is cold and earthy is salt through clay, and loam, and sand. The or water; all which is dry and fixed is deeper and broader the veins, he says, the mercury. Man contains the quintessence older the mines, and the richer the metal. of the elements. His heart is the earth Different colored earths foretold different with its central fire; blood is heat ruled metals; but the best of all signs were the over by a vital spirit, the soul; the mouth coruscations or luminous appearances seen is the Arctic, and the belly the Antarctic in mines by night. The direction they pole.
took, their color, etc., all announced metal Pure life is a balance of the elements. abundant, but not yet ripe. These signs, If any one predominate, that is life since the miners thought, were instituted by the fall; if any tyrannize, that is death. God, to enable man to discover hid treaSay water prevails, then earth, air, and sure. fire unite and overcome water-digest, Sciomancy, or the divination by shaboil, and congeal. Then the bidden cen-dows, was another class of harmless, but tral fire, which is the life of all things, useless magic. The Chaldeans, says Paraovercomes them all and separates. celsus, when they were banished from a
Ever since the fall, men have grown place, and wanted to bury their treasure, nearer to corruption, said these men, and observed at what hour, minute, and day lives grow.shorter. In some places, they a shadow fell upon a certain statue or allowed, where the air was more favor- fountain, and then hid their gold beneath able and stars more propitious-as, say, it, thus preserving a certain clue for its at Zurich nature grew less deeply discovery. tainted.
There is something very vivid in the common-sense of this means of conceal- | clay-color, and his body bled. The nement at a troublous time when such bury- cromantist professed to hear voices from ings of gold and jewels were not unfre- graves, and to bring back tidings from quent.
the bosom of hell. All means of discovering the future by Alchemy was the old Chaldaic superberyls, looking glasses, flight of birds, stition that Diocletian in vain tried to etc., Paracelsus utterly condemned, as put down by a persecution which acted contrary to God and nature's command. upon it as shaving does upon hair, stimuVisions he held to be doubtful, and often lating and not destroying it. of devilish origin. All ceremonies and Perpetuated by the Arabs, it revived conjurations he considered forbidden by in the middle ages, becoming the passion the Old Testament, and advised only of the sage, the wonder of the citizen, and prayer, faith, and watchfulness as the the imposture of the needy. Our own Christian's foundation of magic.
Edward IV. encouraged it, and in Charles The signs of metals were the stars or I.'s time it revived in a wonderful degree. coruscations which they gave out in the While money is power, and there is a course of preparation.
dark corner left in science, it will conOf some natural signatures now ac- tinue to be studied. My readers will knowledged, as, for instance, the circles scarcely believe that, not thirty years in wood, which indicate its age, Paracels ago, an alchemist's lamp burnt day and sus says nothing ; but he mentions the night in the back room of a London edi. horns of cattle, the teeth of horses, and tor. Alchemy and astrology have still the claws of birds, as corroborative of his their thousands of votaries, who yet be. doctrine; he mentions, also, the colors of lieve with hope and enthusiasm what clouds and the circles round the moon. Boyle and Newton both believed in, and
Not satisfied with all these sources of what Bacon did not doubt. omens, Paracelsus believed in Pyroman- In old books, from Chaucer downwards, cy, or divination by fire; Hydromancy, we find tales of itinerant cheats, in threador that by water; and Chaomancy, or di- bare gowns, with bleared eyes and smoky vination by wind and air.
hands, who pretended to have discovered The first science was the observation of the philosopher's stone, and were afraid all sounds in the fire, of all visions of sala- to disclose their riches to the vulgar. If manders, and sight of falling stars, comets, they wormed into a convent, all the church and lightnings. It included all observa- plate went in experiments ; if into a countions of will-o'-the-wisps, and corpse can try house, they melted down every thing, dles moving over new-made graves; all to the knight's spurs and the wife's thimdouble suns and supernatural glinmer- ble, and skulked off some night, leaving ings.
nothing behind but some warped fire-irons The signs of hydromancy were inunda- and a heap of broken glasses. These men tions, floods, rains, storms, appearance of smelt of brimstone, had stained fingers, sea-monsters, tempests, agitation of water, grimy faces, and affected great sanctity. and perturbation of waves.
All failures they accounted for by the Chaomancy showed its signs, to use the absence of some one ingredient, the caremystic language, by the stars of the air lessness of the furnace watcher, or the and wind. The Chaomantist drew his brittleness of a crucible. prophecies from shaken houses and trees Sometimes a man on the brink of disuptorn; from broken boughs and scatter- covery, in a rage at some oversight, ed flowers. During whirlwinds it was weuld leap up and smash his pots and supposed that spirits fell from the upper glasses with any billet he could seize. air and voices were heard ; hobgoblins, The jargon was all mystical. They callhousehold gods, and wood-spirits appear- ed one ingredient'" the red man," and ed; and the honey-dew, or manna, that another “the white wife.” “ The chase fell on leaves, was even thought super- of the green lion” was the name of one natural.
experiment; and alchemy they described The necromantist not only invoked the as a palace with twelve gates, which were dead, but foretold death. It was held a calcination, dissolution, separation, consign of dissolution if spirits were heard junction, putrefaction, congelation, subknocking, when purple spots came on the limation, etc. Theiring
Their ingredients were dead man's skin, or his hands turned to a star-slime, and soot, and blood, and eggs.
They were always being pursued by bai dragon's teeth of Cadmus, were all interliffs and disappointed dupes, who found preted into the various changes of distiltheir pockets stuffed with medals and bad lation. money, for they were often coiners and On Paracelsus' arrival in Basle he inpoisoners. To obtain their release they stantly placarded door and wall with the made extravagant promises of producing following arrogant challenge, which proregal medicines that would turn every duced him a host of enemies : men afraid thing it touched to gold.
of losing fortune and fame, and men conThe real philosopher was, it was sup- scientiously opposed to the new moveposed, obliged before he died to confess ment in medicine. Paracelsus, they heard, his secret to some favorite disciple; and was a Swiss empiric, who used poisonous many writers are said to have derived and unsafe drugs, and laughed at the their learning from such sources. So fas- works of Galen which were to them cinating was the passion of this pursuit sacred. What was this stranger that he that the golden fleece itself could not should dare to enter Basle to lecture men bave been more eagerly sought.
older and wiser than himself? Let him The alchemist professed only to help beware of his cup and dish, and of the nature, believing that all created things bully's dagger. Horse-grin, hiss, or mock, had a tendency to become gold but were out came the proclamation, and here it is, checked by mixture with impurities. To say on the cathedral door or on the marremove these impurities was to restore a ket cross, surrounded by burghers in velmetal to gold. Many of the philosophers, vet gowns and gold chains, soldiers with including Paracelsus, disavowed the pur- two-handed swords and slashed mail, and suit for the stone, preferring, as they de- sallow envenomed doctors twisting their clared or pretended, the elixir of life, eyes in colics of scorn and wrath : which would be a blessing to mankind.
“ Theophrastus Bombast, of Hohenheim, a A religious life they all deemed a neces- hermit, doctor, and professor of both medisary preparation for the long search.cines : They declared it right to conceal from
Whereas, of all disciplines, medicine only, the world discoveries, which would only as being a certain divine gift, is praised with be abused by the rabble, and used a mys- the honorable title and name of necessity, by tic language of blended Arabic and re- the testimony both of sacred writ and also of brew.
profane, we intend to purge and cleanse it from Their theory is tolerably well defined the dregs of barbarous and grievous errors, see
ing that the number of doctors now successfully by Ben Jonson, a deep reader on abstruse exercising it is so small. We do not bind oursubjects, thus: All things, they thought, selves to any precepts of the ancients but such arose from the humid exhalation of earth, as are evidently true, or such as we by our own which is water, and unctuous, and a vis- labor and our long use and experience have cous residuum, which is earth alone, the made proof of. For who knows not but that refuse of creation. The more dryness most of the doctors of this age have grossly and less moisture became stone; the erred, to the exceeding hazard of the sick, in more fatness, sulphur, and quicksilver, crates, Galen, and Avicen, just as if they had the mother of metals. From the fatness, been so many tripods or oracles from which it sulphur, the present watery property of was unlawful to depart a finger's breadth. all things that melt with fire; and the These authors make us brave doctors but not airy and oily part, quicksilver. These physicians. For it is not title, nor eloquence, two made metals, ductile, malleable, and por knowledge of tongues, nor reading of many extendable, and combining in the earth, that make the physician, but an excellent and
books (though these things are ornaments) were heavy, produoing gold, which they deep knowledge of things and mysteries, which believed grew like a tree, and shot out is worth all the rest. its branches through the earth.
“The rhetorician learns to speak eloquently Men who thought insects could be pro- and persuade the judge, but the physician has duced by art, and that they were sponta- to know the kinds, causes, and
symptoms of neously generated from carrion, had no affairs, and by piercing sight and industry to difficulty in believing the generation of administer medicines rightly and to heal who gold. They turned all Scripture and my vited by the large stipend of the lords of Basle,
can be healed. Know, then, that I, being inthology into alchemic allegories. The do, for two hours space daily, public interpret Hesperian garden, Jason and his fleece, with accurate diligence, my books both of active Pandora and her box, Argus' eyes, the and inspective medicine, physic, and surgery,
to the great profit and advantage of hearers. They had their purple gowns and gold This knowledge I have not begged of Galen or chains, he his common doublet and homeHippocrates, but have obtained by those best ly fare ; but he rejoiced in knowing that instructors, labor and experience, for experi- the “good alchemist must be such a one ment and reason are my spokesmen.
"Wherefore, honest readers, if the mysteries as the coals do not hurt, one who is not of this Appolinean art are delightful to any of tired with the daily smoke.” They were you, so that a love and desire for them possess babblers, smooth talkers, insolent in their you, and you covet thoroughly to learn in a dogmatic knowledge, and disdaining chemshort space of time whatever pertains to this istry, which is the pillar of medicine. If discipline, come at once to us at Basle, and you coals were not more used by miners and shall find other and greater things than I can smiths than by these chemists, the colliers, describe in these few lines. But, that my tention may appear more clearly to the studious,
said Paracelsus, would soon starve. I am not ashamed to remind you that we do
The false doctors he
with the not at the least agree with the ancients in attri- real“ cooks of Geber," the Spargirists. buting all diseases to the complexions and hu- The first were idle and slothful, going in mors, for that is an error which has prevented proud dresses of plush and velvet, disdoctors from reaching the truth as to diseases playing rings upon their fingers, wearing and their judical days.
silver-hilted swords by their sides, and “Let these things, shown as through a lattice,
The last dilisuffice for to-day, but do not decide rashly tivi gay gloves on their hands. ye have heard Theophrastus. Fare ye well, and gently followed their labors, sweating take in good part this our effort towards the whole days and nights in their furnaces, reformation of medicine.
spending no time out of the laboratory “Dated at Basle in the nones of June, they loved. They wore leather garments MDXXVII.”
with pouches for tools, and aprons where
with to wipe their hands; their fingers In this regal proclamation, the wander- were covered not with gold rings, but ing doctor at once openly set the ancients with coal dust, and clay, and dung; they at defiance, and claimed a respect for ex- were sooty as Vulcan's smiths, and did not periment and experience beyond tradition. pride themselves on clean, smooth faces, He was Luther in science, and his revo- nor were their dry lips washed often red lution went further than medicine. The with wine; they did not distress the rich men who despised Galen learned soon to with babbling, nor extolled their medidespise Aristotle, and Pliny's fables began cines, knowing that fine words did not to be taken less for granted. Long before cure, and that the work should praise the the Royal Society, Hervey had learnt, by doctor, not the doctor his work. rejection of dogma and inductive evidence, Such at least, is Paracelsus' opinion of to discover one of the great wonders of his fellow-workers. Their enemies would the microcosm.
have called them dupes or cheats, misera The doctor, cried Paracelsus from his ble enthusiasts, forging lies, and generatpile of skeletons and his ring of furnaces, ing ashes. Yet many of these enemies must SEE, and not merely read, what were themselves alchemists; and while others have seen. Walking round a room they ridiculed the mineral medicines, did does not_lead to discovery of a new not condemn the search for the undiscov. world. The ass-doctors, the egregious erable treasure. fellows, the liars, the evil men, he cried, Nor was it very safe, perhaps they may stay at home, and waste years. I de thought, to touch a man endued with light to journey to and fro, to see what almost supernatural power, supposing ho lies hid in the limbo of earth, and to could not turn any metal into gold, or exproduce medicines for my neighbors tend life to the patriarchal age. benefit.