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Paracelsus

Paracelsus or Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541) was born at Einsiedeln[?] of a Swabian[?] father and a Swiss mother. He was brought up in Austria and then travelled through Europe, never settling for more than a year or two. He was an alchemist who reformed the art by rejecting the occultism that had accumulated over the years and calling for new observations and experiments.

Paracelsus rejected Gnostic traditions, but kept much of the Hermetic, neoplatonic, and Pythagorean philosophies; however, Hermetical science had so much Aristotelian theory that his rejection of Gnosticism was practically meaningless. In particular, Paracelsus rejected the magic theories of Agrippa and Flamel; Paracelsus did not think of himself as a magician and scorned those who did.

Paracelsus pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in medicine. He coined the words "alcohol" and "zinc" and used experimentation in learning about the human body. His hermetical views were that sickness and health in the body relied on the harmony of man the microcosm[?] and Nature the macrocosm. He took an approach different from those before him, using this analogy not in the manner of soul-purification but in the manner that humans must have certain balances of minerals in their bodies, and that certain illnesses of the body had chemical remedies that could cure them. (Debus & Multhauf, p.6-12) He summarized his own views: "Many have said of Alchemy, that it is for the making of gold and silver. For me such is not the aim, but to consider only what virtue and power may lie in medicines." (Edwardes, p.47)

Indeed, the remnants of alchemical traditions can still be seen in modern medicine. For instance, the Caduceus (the staff of Hermes), has been adopted as the prime symbol of western medicine.



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