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Entries from the Theosphical Glossary
Nicknamed the “Father of the Reformation”; the friend of Pico di Mirandola, the teacher and instructor of Erasmus, of Luther and Melancthon. He was a great Kabbalist and Occultist.
Picus, John, Count of Mirandola
A celebrated Kabbalist and Alchemist, author of a treatise “on gold” and other Kabbalistic works. He defied Rome and Europe in his attempt to prove divine Christian truth in the Zohar. Born in 1463, died 1494.
[Picus, John, Count of Mirandola, aka Pico della Mirandola]
Brothers of Light
This is what the great authority on secret societies, Brother Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie IX., says of this Brotherhood. “A mystic order, Fratres Lucis, established in Florence in 1498. Among the members of this order were Pasqualis, Cagliostro, Swedenborg, St. Martin, Eliphaz Lévi, and many other eminent mystics. Its members were very much persecuted by the Inquisition. It is a small but compact body, the members being spread all over the world.”
The symbolical name adopted by the greatest Occultist of the middle ages—Philip Bombastes Aureolus Theophrastus von Hohenheim—born in the canton of Zurich in 1493. He was the cleverest physician of his age, and the most renowned for curing almost any illness by the power of talismans prepared by himself. He never had a friend, but was surrounded by enemies, the most bitter of whom were the Churchmen and their party. That he was accused of being in league with the devil stands to reason, nor is it to be wondered at that finally he was murdered by some unknown foe, at the early age of forty-eight. He died at Salzburg, leaving a number of works behind him, which are to this day greatly valued by the Kabbalists and Occultists. Many of his utterances have proved prophetic. He was a clairvoyant of great powers, one of the most learned and erudite philosophers and mystics, and a distinguished Alchemist. Physics is indebted to him for the discovery of nitrogen gas, or Azote.
A great mystic philosopher, one of the most prominent Theosophists of the mediæval ages. He was born about 1575 at Old Seidenburg, some two miles from Görlitz (Silesia), and died in 1624, at nearly fifty years of age. In his boyhood he was a common shepherd, and, after learning to read and write in a village school, became an apprentice to a poor shoemaker at Görlitz. He was a natural clairvoyant of most wonderful powers. With no education or acquaintance with science he wrote works which are now proved to be full of scientific truths; but then, as he says himself, what he wrote upon, he “saw it as in a great Deep in the Eternal”. He had “a thorough view of the universe, as in a chaos”, which yet “opened itself in him, from time to time, as in a young plant”. He was a thorough born Mystic, and evidently of a constitution which is most rare one of those fine natures whose material envelope impedes in no way the direct, even if only occasional, intercommunion between the intellectual and the spiritual Ego. It is this Ego which Jacob Boehme, like so many other untrained mystics, mistook for God; “Man must acknowledge,” he writes, “that his knowledge is not his own, but from God, who manifests the Ideas of Wisdom to the Soul of Man, in what measure he pleases.” Had this great Theosophist mastered Eastern Occultism he might have expressed it otherwise. He would have known then that the “god” who spoke through his poor uncultured and untrained brain, was his own divine Ego, the omniscient Deity within himself, and that what that Deity gave out was not in “what measure pleased,” but in the measure of the capacities of the mortal and temporary dwelling IT informed.
Generally known as Robertus de Fluctibus, the chief of the “Philosophers by Fire”. A celebrated English Hermetist of the sixteenth century, and a voluminous writer. He wrote on the essence of gold and other mystic and occult subjects.
A French adept, born in Normandy in 1510. His learning brought him to the notice of Francis I., who sent him to the Levant in search of occult MSS., where he was received into and initiated by an Eastern Fraternity. On his return to France he became famous. He was persecuted by the clergy and finally imprisoned by the Inquisition, but was released by his Eastern brothers from his dungeon. His Clavis Absconditorum, a key to things hidden and forgotten, is very celebrated.
A Calabrese, born in 1568, who, from his childhood exhibited strange powers, and gave himself up during his whole life to the Occult Arts. The story which shows him initiated in his boyhood into the secrets of alchemy and thoroughly instructed in the secret science by a Rabbi-Kabbalist in a fortnight by means of notavicon, is a cock and bull invention. Occult knowledge, even when a heirloom from the preceding birth, does not come back into a new personality within fifteen days. He became an opponent of the Aristotelian materialistic philosophy when at Naples and was obliged to fly for his life. Later, the Inquisition sought to try and condemn him for the practice of magic arts, but its efforts were defeated. During his lifetime he wrote an enormous quantity of magical, astrological and alchemical works, most of which are no longer extant. He is reported to have died in the convent of the Jacobins at Paris on May the 21st, 1639.
An Alchemist and philosopher who lived in the middle of the seventeenth century. He is the first philosopher known to maintain that every natural object (e.g., plants, living creatures, etc.), when burned, retained its form in its ashes and that it could be raised again from them. This claim was justified by the eminent chemist Du Chesne, and after him Kircher, Digby and Vallemont have assured themselves of the fact, by demonstrating that the astral forms of burned plants could be raised from their ashes. A receipt for raising such astral phantoms of flowers is given in a work of Oetinger, Thoughts onthe Birth and Generation of Things.
[Gaffarillus, aka Jacques Gaffarel]
Joseph Francis Borri
A great Hermetic philosopher, born at Milan in the 17th century. He was an adept, an alchemist and a devoted occultist. He knew too much and was, therefore, condemned to death for heresy, in January, 1661, after the death of Pope Innocent X. He escaped and lived many years after, when finally he was recognised by a monk in a Turkish village, denounced, claimed by the Papal Nuncio, taken back to Rome and imprisoned, August 10th, 1675. But facts show that he escaped from his prison in a way no one could account for.
A Hermetic philosopher born in Bohemia who is credited with having made a genuine powder of projection. He left the bulk of his red powder to a friend named Richthausen, an adept and alchemist of Vienna. Some years after Busardier’s death, in 1637, Richthausen introduced himself to the Emperor Ferdinand III, who is known to have been ardently devoted to alchemy, and together they are said to have converted three pounds of mercury into the finest gold with one single grain of Busardier’s powder. In 1658 the Elector of Mayence also was permitted to test the powder, and the gold produced with it was declared by the Master of the Mint to be such, that he had never seen finer. Such are the claims vouchsafed by the city records and chronicles.
A far-famed astrologer and “professor of magic,” i.e., an Occultist, during the reign of Henry IV of France. “He was reputed to have been strangled by the devil in 1611,” as Brother Kenneth Mackenzie tells us.
An astrologer, alchemist, kabbalist and mystic, well known in literature. He was born at Pavia in 1501, and died at Rome in 1576.
Gabriel de Collanges
Born in 1524. The best astrologer in the XVlth century and a still better Kabbalist. He spent a fortune in the unravelling of its mysteries. It was rumoured that he died through poison administered to him by a Jewish Rabbin-Kabbalist.
Jean Aimé de Chavigny
A disciple of the world-famous Nostradamus, an astrologer and an alchemist of the sixteenth century. He died in the year 16O4. His life was a very quiet one and he was almost unknown to his contemporaries; but he left a precious manuscript on the pre-natal and post-natal influence of the stars on certain marked individuals, a secret revealed to him by Nostradamus. This treatise was last in the possession of the Emperor Alexander of Russia.
A Canon-Kabbalist of the XVIIth century, reputed to have learned a key to the Gnostic works from Coptic Initiates; he wrote a work on Abraxas in two portions, the esoteric portion of which was burnt by the Church.
A famous Kabalist, chemist and physician born in 1502, initiated into Theosophy (Rosicrucian) in 1544. He left some excellent Kabalistic works, the best of which is the “Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom” (1598).
The transition from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century accomplished one of the most remarkable changes ever recorded of human society. Within the space of a few short years Europe turned from a helpless infant, passively resting in the lap of the Mother Church, into a lusty, vigorous youth, demanding the right to think for himself and the opportunity to reach out, without maternal interference, into new and untried fields. During the short space of thirty-five years the boundaries of the world were suddenly enlarged, and, for the first time in many centuries, the earth was recognized as a globe. In 1486 Diaz reached the Cape of Good Hope. In 1492 Columbus rediscovered America. In 1497 Vasco da Gama opened up the sea route to India, and a year later Cabot reached Labrador. In 1500 Brazil was discovered and in 1522 Magellan encircled the globe.
These discoveries placed the Church in an embarrassing position. For centuries she had been telling her children that the earth is flat. Magellan proved her words untrue. For centuries she had asserted that no people could live on the other side of the earth, for in that case they would be walking upside down. Her roving sons returned with accounts of the people they had visited, all of whom walked like other men. Although Rome refused to acknowledge the globular shape of the earth, she did not scruple to accept the treasures stolen by her sons from the people they visited, nor did she punish them for enlarging the boundaries of her world. But the dread discipline of the Inquisition was strictly maintained, ready for any emergency. Thus, when Copernicus proclaimed that the earth is not only a globe, but also a mere planet revolving around the sun, she condemned him as a heretic and placed his book upon the Index Expurgatorius.
During this period of transition, the Church had another and even more serious problem. Almost overnight, it seemed, her children grew from infancy to manhood and demanded the right of learning and secular knowledge. Her cloisters began to be emptied in favor of the Universities. Inquiry began to take the place of credulity, reason to overpower blind belief. The mind of Europe demanded its freedom, and the Church began to lose her power.
On the 26th of November, 1493, Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim (now known as Paracelsus) was born in the little village of Maria-Einsiedeln near Zurich. His father was a physician, his mother the matron of a hospital, and Theophrastus was their only child. After learning the rudiments of medicine, surgery and alchemy from his father, he entered the University of Basle at the age of sixteen. Then he became the pupil of the celebrated Trithemius and later gained some practical experience in alchemy in the laboratory of Sigismund Fugger.
When Paracelsus was twenty years old he set out on his search for “supreme Wisdom,” which took him through every country in Europe and finally led him to Tartary. During those years he made the acquaintance of a great Initiate who instructed him in the secret doctrines of the East. Afterward he went to India, and he may have visited the Mahatmas in Tibet. He returned to Europe in his thirty-second year and became professor of medicine and surgery in the University of Basle, where his fearless condemnation of the medical practices then in vogue aroused the hatred and jealousy of his colleagues. As the result of their persecution Paracelsus resigned his position and again took up a wandering life. Eventually he settled in Salzburg at the invitation of the Prince Palatine, and there he died on the 24th of September, 1541, in his forty-eighth year. The house in which he lived (Linzer Strasse 365, opposite the Church of St. Andrew) may still be seen, and in the graveyard of St. Sebastian will be found a broken pyramid of white marble with a Latin inscription stating that the body of Paracelsus lies beneath. But there is an old tradition that the real Paracelsus did not die at that time, but is still living with other Adepts in a certain spot in Asia, from which place he continues to influence the minds of all who study and promulgate his teachings. A suggestive hint appears in an article published by Mr. Judge in The Path for April, 1887:
Paracelsus was one of the greatest Masters ever known upon the earth. In rank he may be compared with Hermes Thrice-Master. It is considered by some students to be likely that at this period (1887) He who was once known as Paracelsus is in a body whose astral meets with others in Asia.
The enemies of Paracelsus censured him for his nomadic life, which he explained by saying:
We must seek for knowledge where we may expect to find it. He who wants to study the book of Nature must wander with his feet over the leaves. Every part of the world represents a page in this book, and all the pages together form the Book that contains her great revelations.
He was also condemned for refusing to affiliate himself with any religious sect, and for his frank criticism of the Roman Church. Paracelsus denounced public prayers, church-going, “the genuflection, bowing and observance of Church rules,” the “running after saints,” as all of these things were opposed to the self-reliance which was the key-note of his philosophy. He took no part in the Reformation although he openly expressed his approval of Luther.
The 106 books of Paracelsus which were collected by Dr. Johannes Huser show that Paracelsus must have possessed a “knowledge of the laws which govern the evolution of the physical, astral, psychical and intellectual constituents of nature and of man.” Paracelsus himself declared that true Wisdom is not confined to books, nor to any particular period of history, as “the Eternal Wisdom is without a time, without a beginning and without an end.” But in his day, he said, “all Wisdom comes from the East.” In making this statement he spoke with an authority born of personal experience. He was himself a member of that Fraternity of Adepts known as the “Brothers of the Snowy Range.” He described these Teachers, saying that some of them “lived like normal men in their physical bodies,” while others “became transformed and disappeared in such a manner that nobody knew what became of Them, and yet They remained on earth.” These, of course, are the Nirmanakayas.
The Adept living in his physical body is given a definite name by Paracelsus. “Such a person, being Master of Heaven and earth, by means of his free-will, is called a Magus. Therefore Magic is not sorcery, but Supreme Wisdom.” This Wisdom, furthermore, can be acquired in but one way:
It comes only to those who, abandoning self, sacrifice themselves in the spirit of Wisdom. Those who seek truth for their own benefit and gratification will never find it. But the truth finds those in whom the delirium of “self” disappears, and it becomes manifest in them.
Although the philosophical doctrines of Paracelsus sprang from the same source as modern Theosophy, a difficulty arises from the differences in the terms used. Where H.P.B. used chiefly Sanscrit terms, Paracelsus coined words of his own to express the same ideas. He used the words Magnus Limbus and Yliaster to describe the great Matrix of Cosmos, in which the Universe existed in a condition of potentiality before the period of manifestation. He compared this matrix to a nursery in which the seed of the Universe was germinated, describing the condition of the Universe at that time as similar to the heat contained in a pebble or the potential figure existing in a block of wood.
With manifestation, Yliaster divided itself, developing within itself the Mysterium Magnum, or Primordial Matter. This expressed itself (1) as vital activity, an invisible, spiritual force, and (2) as vital matter, the basis of all forms. As Yliaster dissolved, the third power of the Supreme Cause arose, linking spirit and matter into an indissoluble whole. H.P.B. called this third power Fohat. Paracelsus gave it the name of Ares.
Paracelsus saw spirit and matter present in every form and would not admit the existence of “dead matter.” “There is nothing dead in Nature,” he affirmed. “Everything is organic and living, and therefore the world appears to be a living organism.”
There is nothing corporeal which does not possess a soul hidden in it. There exists nothing in which is not a hidden principle of life.
This principle of life, he said, moves slowly in the mineral kingdom. In plants and animals it moves rapidly. But there is life in every form, from the lowest to the highest.
Paracelsus stressed the underlying Unity of Nature as a whole as well as the inter-relationship and interdependence of all its parts.
Nature, being the Universe, is ONE, and its origin can only be the one eternal Unity. It is an organism in which all things harmonize and sympathize with each other. It is the Macrocosm. Man is the Microcosm. And the Macrocosm and Microcosm are ONE. (Philosophia ad Athenienses.)
This unity of man and Nature makes man the focal point through which the three worlds of Nature — the physical, astral and spiritual — manifest themselves. These three “worlds” are made up of a vast quantity of “beings” or “lives.” Some of the “lives” are intelligent, others unintelligent, and it is man’s duty to understand their nature. The ignorant man may be controlled by the lower lives. But the true philosopher has learned how to control them by the power of the Supreme Creator within himself.
Man’s first task, therefore, is to know himself. He must become acquainted with the complexities of his own nature, but, in pursuing this study, he must never for a moment separate himself from Great Nature, of which he is a copy and a part. “Try to understand yourselves in the light of Nature,” he advised his students, “and then all wisdom will come to you.”
Paracelsus divided man into two parts, then into three, and finally into seven distinct principles. “Man is a two-fold-being,” he said. “He has both a divine and an animal nature.” After making this point clear, Paracelsus taught a triple division, declaring that both man and the Universe are composed of “Three Substances” which are the three forms or modes of action in which the Universal primordial Will manifests itself, and which he symbolized as Salt, Sulphur and Mercury. The first “Substance” represents the physical body; the second refers to the indwelling, energizing nature — the astral man; the third “Substance” is the intelligence, the indwelling God, the Spirit, which is above the other two. When these three “Substances” are held together in harmonious proportions, health is the result; their disharmony constitutes disease; their disruption spells death.
Physical science deals with the physical, and metaphysical science with the astral man; but these sciences are misleading and incomplete, if we lose sight of the existence of the divine and eternal man. (De Fundamento Sapientiae.)
After establishing the fundamental idea of the three-fold nature of man, Paracelsus then subdivided these three parts into seven distinct “principles”:
There are seven elementary powers or principles; four lower ones belonging to the mortal and changeable things, and a trinity of celestial power which is also called the quint essentia. The four lower principles can in no way interfere with the quint essentia. (De Mercurio.)
He then analyzed these seven principles, beginning with the lowest, or the “Elementary Body.” This body, he declared, is derived from the elements, and will return to them after the death of the body. It has no powers of its own, as is commonly supposed. The power of sight does not come from the eye, the power to hear does not arise in the ear, nor the power to feel in the nerves. On the contrary, “it is the spirit of man who sees through the eye, hears through the ear and feels by means of the nerves.” He boldly challenged the materialistic concept that mind is the product of the brain by declaring:
. . . wisdom and reason and thought are not contained in the brain, but they belong to the invisible spirit, which feels through the heart, and thinks by means of the brain. All these powers become manifest through the material organs. The material organs determine the mode of their manifestation. (De Viribus Memborum.)
The second principle, called Prana or Jiva in modern Theosophy, is described by Paracelsus as the Archaeus or Liquor Vitae:
It is a universally pervasive principle. It is the ocean in which the earth floats; it permeates the globe and every being and object in it.
The whole of the Microcosm is potentially contained in the Liquor Vitae, in which is contained the nature, quality and essence of beings.
This life-principle is universal, and not the property of any individual. During the life of an individual it acts in him as a unity. When the form is broken up at death, it begins to manifest itself in other forms. “The life which is active in a man during his life-time in causing the organic functions of the body, will manifest its activity in creating worms in his body after the spirit has left the form.”
During the life-period of the physical body, this universal life-Principle needs an instrument or vehicle. Modern Theosophy calls this vehicle the Astral Body. Paracelsus described it as the Siderial Body.
The astral body is the guiding model for the physical one.
The astral body is made of matter of very fine texture as compared with the physical body.
The astral body has within it the real organs of sense. In it are the sight, hearing, power to smell and sense of touch.
The invisible man is formed in the shape of the outer one as long as it remains in the outer.
The siderial body is etherial in its nature, still it is substance.
The physical body has the capacity to produce visible organs, but they all take their origin from the invisible body.
The fourth principle in man’s constitution, which Theosophy names the Kama-Rupa, Paracelsus calls the Mumia, “the vehicle through which the Will acts for effectuating good and evil.” The Mumia of a living being, he says, is of the nature of the other beings from whom its vital force is derived. When we eat the flesh of an animal, we not only take its flesh into our system, but also attract its Mumia, which combines with our own passional nature. For this reason we do not eat the flesh of ferocious animals, as that would increase our own ferocity. The Mumia of any creature, according to Paracelsus, is closely connected with the blood stream. Hence any substance taken into the blood stream makes a direct magnetic connection between the Mumia of the person receiving the substance and the Mumia of the animal or person from whom it was taken. This throws an interesting light on the subject of blood-transfusion, vaccination and the various inoculations now so prevalent. For, as Paracelsus points out: “The Mumia coming from the body of a person or animal continues to remain in sympathetic relationship with the Mumia contained in such a person, and they act magnetically upon each other.” This is called the transplantation of diseases, “and many practices of sorcery are based upon that fact.”
Paracelsus also declares that the Mumia of a person may be strengthened by the power of the imagination, which is a tremendous force, able to create actual images in the astral light, and to give a kind of consciousness to those forms. “Imagination,” he says, “is a great power, and if the world knew what strange things can be produced by the power of the imagination, the public authorities would cause idle people to go to work.” He made a careful classification of the different types of “astral monsters” created by evil imaginations, and offered a pertinent suggestion to the authorities:
It is very desirable that some good and wise men, well versed in the secret arts, should be appointed by the authorities to counteract and prevent the evils produced by the wicked who practice witchcraft and sorcery, and they should pay particular attention to convents, monasteries and houses of prostitution, because in such places a lascivious and evil imagination is especially cultivated.
After analyzing the fourth principle in man’s constitution and showing the necessity of purifying it, Paracelsus turned his attention to the fifth principle, Manas, and the sixth principle, Buddhi. He described the fifth principle as the Rational Soul, the connecting link between body and spirit. This is the reasoning part of man’s nature, he said, and should not be confused with the sixth principle, the Spiritual Soul, which does not need to reason, as it knows. This sixth principle, he declared, is characterized by the faculty of Intuition, the development of which must be accompanied by Self-Reliance. In order to be a true Philosopher,
. . . a man must above all be in possession of that faculty which is called Intuition, and which cannot be acquired by blindly following the footsteps of another. He must be able to see his own way. What others may teach you may assist you in your search for knowledge, but you should be able to think for yourself, and not cling to the coat-tail of any authority, no matter how big-sounding the title of the latter may be. (De Modo Pharmacandi.)
The Higher Trinity in man, which in modern Theosophy is called Atma-Buddhi-Manas, is described by Paracelsus as “The Man of the New Olympus.” This is the God within, the immortal being which nothing can destroy. After the death of the physical body this immortal entity enters into the state of devachan, where the soul enjoys felicity. As Paracelsus says, “its higher essences go to form the substances of the body of the paradisiacal man, ‘the Man of the New Olympus,'” while the lower essences of the soul dissolve in the astral elements to which they belong. The soul in this condition
. . . does not enter into communication with mortals, because she has no desire for anything earthly. She does not “think” or speculate about terrestrial things, or worry herself about her relatives or friends. She lives in a state of pure felicity, bliss and enjoyment.
The whole purpose of life, according to Paracelsus, is to realize one’s inherent Godhood. There is no God, no saint and no power in which we can place any confidence for the purpose of our salvation, except the power of divine Wisdom within ourselves. Only when man realizes the presence of God within himself will he begin his infinite life, and step from the realm of evanescent illusions into that of permanent truth. This realization can be attained in only one way — by the abandonment of the personal self.
Only when the illusion of “self” has disappeared from my heart and mind, and my consciousness arisen to that state in which there will be no “I,” then will not I be the doer of works, but the spirit of wisdom will perform its wonders through my instrumentality. (Philosophia Occulta.)
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 5, March, 1938
It is an interesting fact, and one which should be carefully noted by all students of occultism, that many of the Adepts who have worked among men have been members of the healing profession. The Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus was not only the head of a great Fraternity of Adepts, but a noted physician as well. The “mythological” Chiron is said to have introduced the art of healing into Greece, while his pupil Aesculapius founded the great healing Temples bearing his name. The most famous disciple of the Aesculapian School was Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” whose oath still forms the moral code of the medical profession. Pythagoras was a practicing physician and Aristotle, though no adept, wrote on physiology. The Adept known as Jesus was a healer who learned his art from the Therapeutae, while Apollonius of Tyana, whose “miracles” surpassed even those of Jesus, studied in the Temple of Aesculapius. From the sixth to the thirteenth centuries the great Arabian physicians continued the healing line of the Theosophical Movement, which culminated in the sixteenth century in the person of Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim, the greatest Occultist of the Middle Ages and one of the greatest physicians the world has ever known. When Theophrastus entered the University of Basle at the age of sixteen, he dropped his family name and adopted the pseudonym of Paracelsus, which was a combination of Para — “greater than” and Celsus — the name of the great Roman physician who lived about 400 B.C. In assuming this name, Paracelsus indicated that his knowledge was drawn from the Occult Sciences and therefore “greater than” any form of knowledge springing from a lesser root.
In the sixteenth century there were four prevalent beliefs concerning the cause and cure of disease. Some considered disease as a punishment sent by God which could be cured by prayers and by touching holy relics. The efficacy of these relics was not diminished when many of the “bones of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins” proved to be the bones of men, nor when the bones of St. Rosalia turned out to be the bones of a goat. The hair of a Saint dipped in water was used as a purgative, and certain forms of fever were treated by drinking the water in which St. Bernard had bathed himself. The intricate method of intercession with God for the cure of disease appears in a famous picture in the Royal Gallery of Naples. In the background is the plague-stricken city; in the foreground the people are seen praying to the city authorities; these in turn are praying to the Carthusian monks; the monks are invoking the Saints; the Saints are praying to the Virgin Mary; she in her turn is praying to Christ, while Christ addresses himself directly to God!
In this century a second class of people attributed disease to Satan and his demons, Jews and witches being considered as the Devil’s particular emissaries. As late as 1527 the people of Favia appealed to St. Bernardino, who had always been a fierce enemy of the Jews, promising to expel all the Jews in the city if the Saint would promise to avert the pestilence. As the city was spared, all the Jews were expelled. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII published his famous bull against the witches, in which he exhorted the clergy to “suffer no witch to live.” In the latter part of the sixteenth century Bishop Binsfield’s book on witchcraft became the standard authority, while Remigius’ book boasts, on the title page, that he had sent over 900 persons to death because of their “witchcraft.” Diseases caused by Jews and witches were cured by exorcisms. A third class of people in this century attributed disease to the influence of the stars and treated it by astrology, while a fourth class declared that diseases are caused by the four “humors” of the body, and treated them by purging and bleeding.
In 1527 Paracelsus went to Basle as city physician and professor of medicine in the University. His frank and outspoken criticism of these four theories of disease aroused the bitter resentment of both the clergy and the medical profession. As the result of their persecution Paracelsus resigned his position and again took up his wandering life. He spent the fourteen years of life still remaining to him in giving out his own medical theories, which were based upon certain fundamental conceptions of the ancient Wisdom-Religion.
His first premise was that Nature is a living organism which must be considered as an expression of the One Life. His second premise was that man and nature have a three-fold constitution which may be further subdivided into seven distinct “principles.” His third premise was that man and the Universe are one in their essential nature, and that there is a magnetic attraction between every part of nature and its corresponding part in man.
Paracelsus considered the art of healing as a sacred and noble profession, declaring that every true physician must possess certain qualifications. First of all, he must possess Wisdom. This Wisdom, which is the opposite of mere learning, cannot be found in books nor in any external thing.
We can only find Wisdom in ourselves. He who seeks Wisdom in the fountain of Wisdom is the true disciple, but he who seeks it where it does not exist will seek it in vain.
This form of Wisdom will enable the physician to discern the Unity of Nature and to recognize man as a faithful copy of the great Universe, governed by the same laws and expressing them in his own being. As this is a meta-physical truth, every physician must be also a philosopher. And as true wisdom comes from within, the physician must possess the faculty of Intuition, the handmaiden of self-reliance. Therefore the true physician is one who does his own thinking and is not satisfied merely to repeat the thoughts of others. As intuition and self-reliance are developed in the physician, the secret doors of Nature will open to him.
The knowledge of Nature as it is — not as we imagine it to be — constitutes true Philosophy. He who merely sees the external appearance of things is not a Philosopher. The true Philosopher sees the reality, not merely the outward appearance. The true physician sees in himself the whole constitution of the Macrocosm. He sees the constitution of his patient as if the latter were a clear crystal. This is the philosophy upon which the true art of medicine is based.
The true physician, Paracelsus said, must look upon man as a whole. He must look for the causes producing the disease, and not merely treat the outward effects. “Philosophy — the true perception and understanding of cause and effect — is the mother of the physician.” As the Law of cause and effect is universal, it appears in both man and the Universe. Man is the microcosm of the macrocosm, a complete solar system in himself. Every “planet” in man is related to its corresponding planet in the larger solar system. That portion of philosophy which explains these correspondences was called Astronomy. Therefore, Paracelsus said, the physician must also be an astronomer. In using this word, Paracelsus separated himself from the astrologers of his day, who declared that the stars govern man. Paracelsus declared that the relationship between the planets and the principles of man is one of correspondence. This Law of Correspondence forms the basic principle of the science of Alchemy. It also lies at the root of the healing art. Therefore–
The physician should be an Alchemist; that is to say, he should understand the Chemistry of Life. Medicine is not merely a science, but an art. It does not consist merely in compounding pills and plasters and drugs, but it deals with the processes of Life, which must be understood before they can be guided.
Paracelsus drew a sharp line of distinction between Chemistry and Alchemy. Chemistry, he said, deals with physical matter, while Alchemy concerns itself with the inner, energizing principles vivifying all forms. Chemistry, he declared, may be learned by any man with ordinary intellectual capacities, while Alchemy requires spiritual knowledge for its comprehension. Alchemy is really the science of Man. Its lowest aspect deals with the physical body; its second aspect is concerned with his invisible principles, while its third and highest aspect deals with his spiritual regeneration.
But, according to Paracelsus, even knowledge of philosophy, astronomy and alchemy will not enable a physician to cure diseases unless his own moral nature be above reproach, as that acts upon the patient more powerfully than any drug employed.
One of the most necessary requirements for a physician is perfect purity and singleness of purpose. He should be free of ambition, vanity, envy, unchastity and self-conceit, because these vices are the outcome of ignorance and incompatible with the light of divine Wisdom which should illumine the mind of the true physician.
Purity, according to Paracelsus, should reveal itself on every plane of the physician’s being. He must be physically pure, intellectually honest and consistently true to his highest ideals. He must exercise his art from an altruistic motive and never for his own gain. Here lies the line of demarcation between the ordinary physician and the adept-physician; between a Celsus and a Paracelsus.
The pseudo-physician bases his art on his books. The art of the true physician is based upon his own knowledge, and is supported by the four pillars of medicine — Philosophy, Astronomy, Alchemy and Virtue. (Paragranum.)
Paracelsus regarded man as made up of seven distinct “principles.” As the physical body is merely the lowest of these principles, he reduced the purely physiological causes of disease to a minimum, tracing them to impurities which have been taken into the system through improper food, drink and air. He advised physicians to treat such diseases by the process of elimination, by ridding the body of these poisonous substances, and not by introducing other forms of poison into the system.
Rheumatism, gout, dropsy and other diseases are caused by such accumulations of impure or superfluous elements, and Nature cannot recover until such elements are expelled, and the vital powers of the organs restored. (De Ente Veneni.)
As man is a complex being with six invisible principles, Paracelsus declared that all diseases, except such as come from purely mechanical causes, have an invisible origin in the inner man. He also contended that the number of diseases originating in these invisible principles is far greater than those arising in the physical body, “and for such diseases our physicians know no cure because, not knowing such causes, they cannot remove them.” He agreed with his fellow-practitioners that the study of Anatomy is essential to the physician, but said that
. . . the more essential Anatomy is the Anatomy of the living inner man. The latter is the kind of Anatomy which is the most important for the physician to know. If we know the Anatomy of the inner man, we know the Prima Materia, and may see the nature of the disease as well as the remedy. (Paramirum.)
But man, the Microcosm, can never be divorced from the Universal Man, the Macrocosm. As the individual man has his diseases, so the Universal Man has his diseases also, which reflect themselves in humanity as a whole. Such diseases result from the mutual attraction between the Microcosm and the Macrocosm.
You have hidden within yourself a magnet which attracts those influences which correspond to your will, and that magnet attracts that which you desire out of the elements. (Philosophia Occulta.)
There are thousands of such magnets in man, each of which attracts good or evil influences from nature. As everything in the universe represents a certain state of vibration of the one original essence, there is a constant interplay of forces between the planets of the solar system and their corresponding “planets” in man. Furthermore, “every metal and every plant possesses certain qualities that can attract corresponding planetary influences.” H.P.B. declared that there is not a plant or mineral which has disclosed the last of its properties to the scientists. What do the naturalists know of the occult influences of the vegetable and mineral kingdoms? How can they feel confident that for every one of the discovered properties there may not be many powers concealed in the inner nature of plants and minerals? Paracelsus was one of those who knew the inner nature of things, and he declared that the healing property of both is contained in their spiritual essence and not in their crude form. He held that the inner nature of plants may be discovered by their outer forms, or signatures, a theory later elaborated by Jakob Boehme. Paracelsus taught that minerals should never be used in medicine in their crude state, but should be reduced to their pure state.
In such a pure state you can give a man a pound of arsenic without fear of killing him; though it should not be used in such quantities, not because of any danger but because the true value of a substance resides not in its quantity but in its quality. (Paramirum.)
Applying this theory to the question of food, Paracelsus further taught that “it is not in the quantity of food but in its quality that resides the Spirit of Life.” This “Spirit of Life” is contained in the invisible principles of the food, which are absorbed in the mouth and not in the stomach.
Paracelsus traced the second cause of disease to the astral, or siderial body, which is the vehicle of the life-principle, or Archaeus.
The Archaeus is of a magnetic nature, and attracts or repels other sympathetic or antipathetic forces belonging to the same plane. The less power of resistance for astral influence a person possesses, the more will he be subject to such influences. (Paragranum.)
Paracelsus traced the third cause of disease to the Kamic principle, or Mumia. He showed how shame and fear reproduce themselves as blushing and paleness; how sudden joy may cure a disease, while sudden terror may result in death; how envy and hatred produce a morbid imagination, which in its turn results in numberless forms of illness. H.P.B. also agreed with this premise when she said, “Half, if not two-thirds of our diseases and ailings are the fruit of our imaginations and fears.” “Destroy the latter,” she said, “and give another bent to the former, and nature will do the rest.” Paracelsus revealed the secret of all “faith cures” by declaring:
The power of amulets does not rest so much in the material of which they are made as in the faith in which they are worn. The curative power of medicines often consists not so much in the spirit which is hidden in them as in the spirit in which they are taken. Faith will make them efficacious. Doubt will destroy their virtue.
The fourth class of disease was traced to man’s fourth principle, the lower mind. In the final analysis, Paracelsus said, all diseases are the result of wrong thinking. Many diseases are rooted in moral causes and can be cured only by reforming the moral nature. But the wrong thoughts which are now manifesting themselves in the form of disease may not have been set in motion in our present life. They may have been engendered in a previous incarnation, and are only now expressing themselves as disease. For this fifth class of disease there may be no immediate remedy. The physician and the patient should recognize the Law of Karma and wait patiently for the causes to work themselves out as effects. If the time has come for the evil effects to disappear, the patient will come in contact with a physician who will help him rid himself of his disease in a natural manner. But “if it is the will of Providence (Karma) that the patient should still remain in his purgatory, then will the physician not be able to help him out of it.”
Four hundred years have passed since Paracelsus lived and taught. During those centuries many pathologists, chemists, homeopathists and magnetic healers have quenched their thirst for knowledge in his books. Some writers have given him full credit for the discovery of nitrogen, hydrogen and the occult powers of the magnet. Others have denounced him as a quack and charlatan while secretly plagiarizing from his works. Only a few physicians of the present day are aware that Paracelsus taught the primal causes of all diseases affecting mankind; that he unveiled the secret link between psychology and physiology; that he used electromagnetism three hundred years before it was “discovered” by Oersted; that he had a School of Magnetic Healing long before Mesmer’s School was established; that it was Paracelsus and not Pasteur who had the real secret of microbes which is contained in the Theosophical theory of the “Preservers and Destroyers.” But the tide is now beginning to change. In the 1936 meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dr. Herman Seydel declared that the changed outlook in modern scientific investigation is due to an ever-increasing attention to the principles outlined by this “greatest of all revolutionaries in the history of medicine.” Dr. Alexis Carrel now admits the Paracelsian theory that man must be studied as a whole. Perhaps the time is not far off when other exponents of the noble science of healing will be willing to admit with Paracelsus that,
. . . a physician should possess spiritual perception, spiritual knowledge and spiritual power. These qualities belong not to that which is human in man, but to the light of the spirit which shines in him.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 6, April, 1938
About twelve miles from Naples, on the northeastern slope of Mount Vesuvius, stands the little town of Nola. First settled by a colony of Chaldean Greeks, it became a prosperous and important place during the days of the Roman Empire, and many Roman nobles built their palaces within its walls. There in 1548 — seven years after the death of Paracelsus — Giordano Bruno was born. His birth was heralded by two important events which were through their subsequent effects to determine his tragic fate. In 1541 Ignatius Loyola was elected as the first general of the Society of Jesus. In 1543 Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus, which vindicated the Pythagorean system by re-establishing the heliocentric theory, was published.
The Bruno family was a distinguished one, and the child who was to immortalize the name was called Philip, after the lord of the manor. At the age of ten the boy was sent to school in Naples, and in his fifteenth year he entered the Dominican monastery, where he was given the name of Giordano. Almost immediately he began to rebel against those priests who “attempted to draw me from worthier and higher occupations, to lay my spirit in chains, and from a free man in the service of virtue to make me the slave of a miserable and foolish system of deceit.” He showed his independent spirit by removing all the pictures of the saints from his cell and by advising a brother-monk to give up reading the “Seven Joys of Mary” and occupy himself with more serious forms of literature. Shortly after entering the monastery Giordano procured a copy of Copernicus’ book and at once recognized the truth of its statements. He realized that there must be some form of philosophy which would be equally scientific, and found what he was seeking in the works of Pythagoras, Plato and several of the Neoplatonists.
Despite his inner rebellion, Giordano was unable to leave the monastery, and at the age of twenty-four he took holy orders and said his first mass. Shortly afterward he wrote a satirical play, in which he painted a vivid picture of the depravity which surrounded him. This caused a charge of heresy to be brought against him by the Provincial of the Order. Realizing his danger, and hoping to escape the horrors of the Inquisition, Bruno fled from the monastery and began his wandering life, which lasted for fifteen years.
Bruno was then twenty-eight years old. He felt that he had found the truth, and admitted that he was “enchanted with the beauty of her countenance and jealous lest she be misrepresented, slighted, or profaned.” He went first to Genoa, where he supported himself by giving lessons in grammar and astronomy, and then to Geneva, where an Italian nobleman became interested in him and helped him disseminate his ideas. Geneva, however, was still too Calvinistic to listen to the liberated thought of Bruno, and so he left for France, obtaining his degree of Doctor of Theology in Toulouse and reaching Paris in his thirty-third year. His first lecture in Paris brought him the offer of a professorship in the University, which he was obliged to decline because his position as an excommunicated monk prevented him from saying mass. The King, hearing of his dilemma, offered him an “extraordinary” professorship, which gave him the opportunity to reside in Paris and devote some of his time to writing. His first book, Shadows of Ideas, was soon finished and dedicated to the King. This book, based upon Plato’s Republic, was his first attempt to portray the essential unity of the universe.
When Bruno was thirty-five years old he went to England with a letter of introduction from the King of France to his London Ambassador, who immediately invited Bruno to live with him. He was frequently taken to Court and became a warm friend of Queen Elizabeth, who openly expressed her admiration for his unusual accomplishments. Encouraged by his success in London, he then went to Oxford, where he introduced himself to the University by giving lectures on the immortality of the soul and the doctrine of reincarnation as well as on the Copernican theory. This aroused the animosity of the Oxford professors, and when Bruno defended his theories in a public debate he was prohibited from giving any further lectures and asked to leave the city.
On the evening of Ash Wednesday, 1584, Sir Fulke Grevil invited a number of his friends to his London home to meet Giordano Bruno. The discussion which took place on that evening, which Bruno afterwards published under the title La Cena de le Ceneri, took the form of a Theosophical lecture. He began his talk by declaring that Space is filled with a countless number of solar systems, each with its central sun and planets. These suns, he said, are self-luminous, while the planets shine by reflected light. He then spoke of sun-spots, of which he had learned from Nicolas de Cusa, and affirmed that our solar system has a forward motion in space.
Where Copernicus’ system was heliocentric, Giordano Bruno’s was theocentric. God, he said, “is the inner principle of all movement, the one Identity which fills the all and enlightens the universe.” He expressed his conviction that everything is contained in this One Principle, “for the Infinite has nothing which is external to Itself.”
After outlining his concept of God, Bruno then proceeded to define Nature. “Nature,” he said, “is a living unity of living units, in each of which the power of the whole is present.” Nature may appear to us in numberless forms, but it must always be considered as united in its fundamental principle. Nature, therefore, must never be conceived as a creation, but merely as a development of this First Principle. Where, then, should we look for God? “In the unchangeable laws of nature, in the light of the sun, in the beauty of all that springs from the bosom of mother earth, in the sight of unnumbered stars which shine in the skirts of space, and which live and feel and think and magnify the powers of this Universal Principle.”
This is a clear statement of the first fundamental proposition of Theosophy. As for the second, Bruno declared that everything in the manifested universe is in the process of becoming, “and this process proceeds under the fundamental Law of the Universe — the Law of Cause and Effect.” This Law of Periodicity also expresses itself as the Law of Reincarnation, so that “we ourselves, and the things we call our own, come and vanish and return again.”
Giordano Bruno, the Theosophist, naturally posited the identity of all souls with the Universal Over-soul. Although he was willing to concede that there were an endless number of individuals, “in the end all are in their nature one, and the knowledge of this unity is the goal of all philosophy.”
He then proceeded to explain how this knowledge could be acquired. “Within every man,” he said, “there is a soul-flame, kindled at the sun of thought, which lends us wings whereby we may approach the sun of knowledge.” The soul of man, he affirmed, is the only God there is. “This principle in man moves and governs the body, is superior to the body, and cannot be constrained by it.” It is Spirit, the Real Self, “in which, from which and through which are formed the different bodies, which have to pass through different kinds of existences, names and destinies.”
Giordano Bruno taught that the Law of Reincarnation is indissolubly connected with its twin doctrine of Karma, or “High Justice.”
Every act performed brings its appropriate reward or punishment in another life. In proportion as the soul has conducted itself in a body, it determines for itself its transition into another body.
And then, to show that the doctrine was not original with him, he carefully explained that it had been taught by Pythagoras, Plato and the Neoplatonists, and that he was merely passing on what he had learned from his predecessors.
In his Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante, which was published in 1584, Bruno described the condition of a soul who had misused its opportunities on earth, saying that such a soul would be “relegated back to another body, and should not expect to be entrusted with the government and administration of a better dwelling if it had conducted itself badly in the conduct of a previous one.” But, he said, there are certain individuals whose “soul-flame” has burned more brightly with each succeeding incarnation, leading them by gradual stages to perfection. “These speak and act not as mere instruments of the divine, but rather as self-creative artists and heroes. The former have the divine spirit; the latter are divine spirits.”
When the French Ambassador who had befriended him in London was recalled to Paris, Bruno accompanied him. Instead of resuming his former relations with the University of Paris, Bruno presented 120 theses to the Rector in which he showed how his own philosophy differed from that of Aristotle. He warned the French against the dangers of blind belief and begged them to bend their heads only before the majesty of truth. Having delivered this message Bruno departed for Germany, where he hoped to visit some of the more important university towns. He met with hostility in Marburg, but Wittenberg welcomed him with open arms, only the Calvinistic party in the University remaining unfriendly. When the Calvinists came into power Bruno was again obliged to seek another home. He went to Helmstadt, but here a Lutheran pastor put an end to his hopes by denouncing him publicly before an assembled congregation. He then sought refuge in Frankfort-am-Main, where he was described by a Carmelite prior as “a man of universal intelligence and well versed in all sciences, but without a trace of religion.”
One day Bruno visited the Frankfort fair, where he made the acquaintance of two Italian book-sellers. They became interested in Bruno’s writings and took some of his books back to Venice. These came under the attention of a young Venetian nobleman, Giovanni Mocenigo, who at once inquired where the talented Bruno could be found. Mocenigo, a tool of the Jesuits, was serving as one of the agents of the Inquisition. Recognizing an easy victim, Mocenigo wrote to Bruno, inviting him to come to Venice and promising him assistance in his work. Bruno accepted the invitation, little realizing the snare which was being so cunningly laid. As soon as he was installed in Mocenigo’s house the young nobleman demanded that Bruno instruct him in the “magic arts.” When Bruno insisted that he was a philosopher and scientist and knew nothing of the “magic arts,” Mocenigo threatened him with the Inquisition. Bruno replied that he had done nothing unlawful, and offered to leave the house at once. That night Mocenigo, accompanied by several of his servants, burst into Bruno’s room, forced him out of bed, and locked him in an upper room. The following day Mocenigo sent a written accusation against Bruno to the Inquisition, and during the night Bruno was removed from Mocenigo’s house and taken to the prison of the Inquisition. This happened on May 22, 1592.
Seven days later Bruno’s trial began. Mocenigo accused him, “by constraint of his conscience, and by order of his confessor,” of teaching the existence of a boundless universe filled with a countless number of solar systems. He pointed out that Bruno had said that the earth was not the center of the universe, but a mere planet revolving around the sun. He accused Bruno of teaching the doctrine of reincarnation; of denying the actual transubstantiation of bread into the flesh of Christ; of refusing to accept the three persons of the Trinity, and of rejecting the virgin birth of Christ.
After these accusations had been read to the Court of the Inquisition, Bruno arose and unfolded his philosophical and scientific doctrines in detail, neither concealing nor omitting any essential feature, but speaking as simply as if he were sitting in his professor’s chair talking to his pupils. He admitted his belief in an infinite universe which is the direct effect of infinite, divine power. He defined this power as Spirit, by virtue of which everything lives, moves and has its being.
Thus I understand Being in all and over all, as there is nothing without participation in Being, and there is no being without Essence. Thus nothing can be free of the Divine Presence.
This Divine Presence, he continued, is Spirit, the All-Life, and from It life and soul flow into every thing and every being. Hence Spirit is imperishable, just as matter is indestructible. As for death, it is merely a division and re-vivification, a statement of which is found in Ecclesiastes where it is said that “There is nothing new under the sun; that which is, is that which was.”
Bruno then frankly admitted his inability to comprehend the doctrines of three persons in the Godhead, saying that he considered the Holy Ghost from the Pythagorean standpoint, as the Soul of the Universe. He also acknowledged his disbelief in the virgin birth of Jesus, but expressed his belief in the “miracles” of that great Teacher, since they all came under natural law.
At the end of the sitting, the Inquisitor turned to Bruno and again charged him point by point with the whole accusation, warning him of the serious consequences which awaited him if he did not retract his statements. Bruno looked the Inquisitor full in the face and remained silent.
On the following day the trial was continued. This time Bruno was accused of friendship with the heretical Queen Elizabeth. He was then returned to the dungeon in the prison of the Inquisition, and for the next eight weeks was daily subjected to the rack and other instruments of torture. The records of his trial were sent to Rome, and he was summoned to the Holy City, where he arrived on February 27, 1593. There he was incarcerated in another dark and gloomy dungeon in the Roman prison of the Inquisition, where he was kept for seven years. On December 21, 1599, he was again called before the Inquisition, and asked to retract his statements. In spite of his seven years of imprisonment and torture, Bruno again replied that “he neither dared, nor would retract his statements. That he had nothing to retract, and knew not what he should retract.” With these words he sealed his doom.
On January 20, 1600, the Pope ordered Bruno to be delivered over to the Inquisition. He was called into the audience chamber, forced to kneel as he listened to his sentence, and then given over to his executioners with the usual request that he be punished without the shedding of blood, which meant that he was to be burned at the stake. After listening unmoved to his sentence, Bruno rose to his full height, looked his executioners in the eye, and spoke his last sentence on earth. “It is with far greater fear that you pronounce, than I receive, this sentence.”
In the early morning hours of Friday, February 17, 1600, one of those processions which were all too familiar to Rome was seen wending its way to the Campo di Fiora, the place where the Holy Mother Church burned her heretical sons. Giordano Bruno was led to the pile, clad as a “heretic,” his tongue bound lest he should utter one last word against the Holy Mother Church who claimed to be the living representative of that great Teacher who had said 1600 years before, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.” He was bound to the stake and the hungry flames began to lick at his flesh. But not one sigh of agony escaped from that noble breast. When, at the last moment of his torment, a crucifix was held before him, he turned his eyes away.
In the Campo di Fiora, on the spot where Giordano Bruno met his fate, there now stands a monument to his memory. But more imperishable than any visible tribute is the invisible monument to Truth erected by Bruno himself — that brave, loyal and devoted friend of the “great orphan Humanity,” that willing martyr to the Cause of Those whose agent and representative he was.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 8, June, 1938
Jacob Boehme was born in the little village of Alt Seidenburg, near Goerlitz, in 1575. Although his Theosophical co-workers, Giordano Bruno and Robert Fludd, incarnated in families of wealth and distinction, Boehme was the son of poor German peasants. It would be useless to speculate about the complications of Karma which led him into a life filled with such apparent obstacles. The point to be observed is that he turned his difficulties into opportunities for growth, and, as Mr. Judge says, “There can be no manner of doubt about his succeeding incarnation. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita, he has been or will shortly be ‘born into a family of wise devotees,’ and thence ‘he will attain the highest walk.'”
It is quite evident that Jacob Boehme grasped the fundamental truths of the ancient Wisdom-Religion without being able to express them in a clear and lucid form. His Theosophical knowledge, however, did not come to him through books, for, although he learned to read and write, his education stopped at that point. This, however, did not keep the knowledge he had acquired in past lives from welling into his mind. Nor did it prevent the living Guardians of eternal Truth from aiding him and using him as their agent. H.P.B. calls him the “nursling of the Nirmanakayas.”
His inner vision having opened at an early age, Jacob Boehme, like all probationers, had to pass through certain moral tests before he was allowed to use his occult powers. One day, while he was tending his father’s cattle, he had a vision of a great vault filled with money, which he knew would be his for the taking. He interpreted the vision symbolically and determined then and there never to use his occult powers for selfish purposes. His second occult experience happened shortly afterward in the bootmaker’s shop where he was working as an apprentice. A stranger entered the shop to buy a pair of shoes. As he left, he turned to the young boy and said, “Jacob, thou art small now; but thou wilt become a great man, and wilt cause much wonder in the world.” He then warned the boy of the poverty, sorrow and persecution which awaited him, admonishing him to lead a pure and virtuous life and to remain true to his convictions. This strange experience made a profound impression upon Boehme’s mind, and he began to practice charity, patience and resignation, fully aware that these virtues must be acquired before divine illumination could take place.
This attitude, firmly and consistently maintained, brought about his first “illumination,” and for seven days he was in a state of “ecstasy.” During those days much of the knowledge he had gained in former lives returned to him. He realized that duty, well-performed, is the highest form of Yoga, and began to apply his knowledge in the humble tasks of his every day life, becoming, as a result, an excellent shoemaker. At the age of nineteen his apprenticeship ended, and he became a journeyman shoemaker. When he was twenty-one he married a simple peasant girl, and from their union four sons were born, each of whom followed his father’s profession.
Boehme’s second “illumination” occurred when he was twenty-five — in that fatal year of 1600 when Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake. On this occasion “Nature opened wide the portals of her secret chambers and laid bare before his gaze the treasures hidden in the very depths of her pure virgin bosom.” Describing this experience, Boehme says,
No words can express the great joy and triumph which I then experienced. Neither can I compare this gladness to anything except to a state in which life is born in the midst of death. While in that state, my spirit immediately saw through everything, and recognized God in everything, even in the herbs and grasses. (Aurora, xix:4.)
The knowledge which came to him in this second vision was incorporated in one of his most illuminating books, Signatura Rerum, or The Signature of Things. In this book he repeated the Paracelsian theory that the inner qualities and properties of all things are displayed in their outer forms, just as the character of a man shows itself in his facial expression. He advised all men to study Nature with this in mind, assuring them that “the greatest understanding lies in the signatures, wherein man may not only learn to know himself, but also the essence of all essences.”
Boehme’s third “illumination” occurred ten years later, in his thirty-fifth year. In this vision all his former experiences were synthesized, and he recognized them as but different expressions of one underlying truth, the source of all religions, sciences and philosophies. This vision caused him to publish his Aurora, symbolically setting forth the fundamental ideas of Cosmogenesis which are given in the first volume of The Secret Doctrine. He described the Great First Cause as a Trinity of will, intelligence and action, thus paralleling the Eastern teaching of the three emanations of Brahm. How could this poor, uneducated German shoemaker have known about these things unless he were an Initiate, or under the supervision of the Nirmanakayas? In his Three Principles, which followed, he says that by the activity of the Will-fire at the center, the eternal consciousness of the latter was reflected in Space as in a mirror, and from this activity Light and Life were born. He then describes how (by the action radiating from the center into the element of matter, and the subsequent reaction from the periphery to the center) rotation was caused, and how the world of forms came into existence and fell into material density. In this book Boehme also gave out the sevenfold classification of principles familiar to all Theosophists.
The publication of Aurora resulted in Boehme’s first public condemnation. A copy of the manuscript fell into the hands of the head parson of Goerlitz. Too ignorant to understand the depths of Boehme’s philosophy and too vain to admit that an ignorant shoemaker might possibly possess knowledge which a Christian minister was unable to grasp, this priest denounced Boehme from the pulpit and accused him of heresy. Boehme was banished from the city, but on the following day was recalled, forced to turn over his manuscript to the City Council, and ordered to refrain from further literary work. He obeyed, and for the next seven years confined himself entirely to his trade. But at the end of that time he returned to his writing and about a year before his death some of his devotional works were published under the title, The Way of Christ.
The parson of Goerlitz, however, had not forgotten his grudge, and published an insulting and calumnious attack against Boehme. This time Boehme sent a written defense of his teachings to the City Council. He was again banished, and though finding refuge in the home of a friendly physician of Dresden, by this time his health was seriously impaired and he died in Dresden on November 17, 1624. The persecutions against Boehme continued after his death, the parson of Goerlitz objecting to the burial of the body in the village churchyard. Even when one of Boehme’s influential friends secured the right of interment, Christian enemies took their revenge by removing a cross, covered with occult symbols, which some of Boehme’s admirers had placed upon his grave. Sixty years later George Gichtel, who republished some of Boehme’s works, was thrown into prison, and Querinus Kuhlmann, one of Boehme’s devoted followers, was burned at the stake.
The message of Jacob Boehme was addressed to all men, irrespective of their race, color or creed. In his books he inserted the picture of an angel blowing a trumpet, from which issued the words: “To all Christians, Jews, Turks and Heathens, to all the nations of the earth this trumpet sounds.” Although born a Christian, Boehme interpreted the Christian Scriptures from the symbolical point of view, extracting from them precious pearls which had escaped the eyes of the priests. In his Theoscopia, written two years before his death, he boldly attacked the orthodox Christian concept of a God outside His own universe. “Has any one ever seen that God?” he questioned. “Can any one describe His dwelling place?” If there is no actual proof of the existence of such a God, why spend one’s time listening to sermons about Him, or reading superficial descriptions of Him in the Scriptures? The only true understanding of God, he says,
. . . must come from the interior fountain and enter the mind from the living Word of God within the soul. Unless this takes place, all teaching about divine things is useless and worthless. (Theosophical Letters xxxv:7.)
Jacob Boehme’s God was a Universal Principle, not a Being, but rather the potentiality of Being. He did not consider It even as the First Cause, but declared that It preceded the First Cause, expressing Itself as the First Cause only at the beginning of a “New Day of Creation.” He described It as the Essence, or Source, from which everything in the universe has emanated. It is
Eternal Unity, having nothing before or after IT that could possibly endow IT with something or move IT. IT is without qualities, without beginning in time, within Itself only ONE. Requiring neither place nor locality for ITS dwelling, being at once outside of and within the world. Into ITS depths no mind can penetrate, neither can ITS greatness be expressed, for IT is Infinity Itself. (Theosophical Questions i:1.)
The first quality to arise in the Absolute (which Boehme calls Groundlessness) is Desire, or Will. In describing this purely Eastern teaching Boehme says,
The Eternal Essence, being desirous of revealing Itself to Itself, had to conceive within Itself a Will or Desire. But as within Itself there was no object for Its Will or Desire, the seven states of eternal Nature had to be born from within. (Threefold Life iii:21.)
Passing from the realm of absolute negation, Boehme saw duality appear in the contrast of spirit and matter. He called these the positive and negative poles of Being, the Yea and the Nay of the outspeaking Supreme One, and said that their union produced eternal nature, or the outspoken Eternal One. Describing them in terms of Light and Darkness, Boehme declared that “between them there is a link, so that neither of them could exist without the other. (Threefold Life ii:86.)
Although spirit and matter are one and the same thing in their origin, as differentiations they begin their evolutionary process in contrary directions, Spirit falling gradually into matter, matter ascending gradually into its original spiritual condition. Both are inseparable, and yet ever separated, “and thus eternal nature becomes like a revolving wheel.”
Jacob Boehme taught the Theosophical doctrine that the universe, arising from the unknown, evolves on seven planes, thus giving everything in the universe a septenary constitution. As his devoted follower, the Marquis de St. Martin says,
Jacob Boehme took for granted the existence of a universal Principle. He was persuaded that everything is connected in the immense chain of truths, and that the Eternal Nature reposes on seven principles or bases, and that these seven bases exist in eternal nature.
Theosophical students, even at the present day, are frequently confused by the word “principle.” Many regard the seven principles in man as seven bodies made of different degrees of substance, despite the fact that H.P.B. declared that they could not be conceived as existing in time or space — meaning doubtless our time and space. In reality, a principle is a basis for thought and action in connection with a specific plane of substance. To be conscious on any plane of being implies that one is acting in and with that principle in himself which corresponds to that particular plane of being. That was Jacob Boehme’s teaching. He said that “a principle is where a form of life and motion begins, such as has not existed before.” He sometimes described the seven principles as “tinctures,” at other times calling them powers, forms, spiritual wheels, sources and fountains.
Each principle is derived from and exists within the One Supreme Principle, which Jacob Boehme described as Being, or the “thing itself.” This Principle — called Atma in modern Theosophy — not only corresponds to the Absolute but is identical with the Absolute. The Real Man, therefore, is as beginningless and endless as the Absolute Itself.
At the beginning of a great day of evolution, the first great pair of opposites appears in Space, or the Absolute. They are Spirit and Matter, which in manifestation become consciousness and its modes, with matter and its differentiations. As a totality these are the principles of man and nature — six from the point of view of consciousness, six from the point of view of matter. Jacob Boehme associated the highest of these six principles with sound, saying that “Sound is the intelligence wherein all the qualities recognize each other.” The next principle is described as “light,” which “penetrates hardness and enkindles love.” From that is derived the principle which “commenceth all corporeal nature,” and which produces in the moral nature that which corresponds to bones in the physical nature. Then comes the principle of “anguish,” followed by the principles of “gall and bitterness” and “astringency.” These divisions, although confusingly identified by strange names, are clear indication that Jacob Boehme well understood the nature of the principles, in spite of his difficult explanations.
Jacob Boehme recognized the occult threads connecting the seven principles in man with their corresponding principles in the Cosmos. “Each principle,” he said, “is attracted by, knows and Ioves that which is like to its own self.” As man is a perfect copy of the universe, everything can be found in man: God, Christ, all the angels and all the powers of hell. Hence there is no God outside of man to judge him, no outside Christ to save him, no outside devil to tempt him. Man himself must make his own choice between good and evil. Man’s ultimate salvation, therefore, rests entirely upon himself.
The regeneration of man and the method by which it may be accomplished occupy a prominent place in all of Boehme’s writings. Man, he says, is imprisoned by his lower nature, and can release himself only through his own free-will. Before he takes his first step upon the Path, certain temptations must be met and overcome. The first is where “the dragon of the soul turns its eyes in vanity toward the world, and shows to her the glory and beauty of the world, and derides her because she desires to become another creature.” The second temptation is spiritual pride. The third comes when one is tempted to use one’s occult powers for selfish purposes. When these three temptations have been overcome, then
There is born within the earthly man of flesh a new spiritual man with divine perceptions and with a divine will, killing day by day the lust of the flesh and causing the inner spiritual world to become visible. (Mysterium, Supplement viii.)
The influence of Jacob Boehme continued long after his death. Schopenhauer was a follower of Boehme, although not fully comprehending him. Schopenhauer declared that “Schelling’s works are almost nothing except a remodeling of Jacob Boehme’s Mysterium Magnum, in which almost every sentence of Hegel’s book is represented.” The “unknown philosopher” of the eighteenth century, Louis Claude de Saint Martin, learned German in order to read Boehme. “I find in his works such a profundity and exaltation of thought,” he wrote, “that I would consider it a waste of time to seek for such things in any other place.” Even Sir Isaac Newton, whose great mind read easily between the lines and fathomed the spiritual thought of the seer, owed his discovery of the law of gravitation to Jacob Boehme, for whom the law of attraction and repulsion was the first law of nature.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 26, No. 9, July, 1938
Jacob Boehme and The Secret Doctrine
Jacob Boehme and The Secret Doctrine
Jacob Boehme (or as some say Behmen) was a German mystic and spiritualist who began to write in the 17th century. In his works he inserted a picture of an angel blowing a trumpet, from which issued these words: “To all Christians, Jews, Turks and Heathens, to all the nations of the earth this Trumpet sounds for the last time.” In truth it was a curious emblem, but he, the author, was a mystic, and as all experience shows, the path of the mystic is a strange one. It is, as Job says, a path which the “vulture knoweth not.” Even as a bird cleaves the eternal ether, so the mystic advances on a path nor ordinarily manifest, a way which must be followed with care, because like the Great Light, which flashes forth and leaves only traces when it returns again to its centre, only indications are left for those who come after seeking the same spiritual wisdom. Yet by these “traces,” for such they are called in the Kabbala, the way can be discerned, and the truth discovered.
Boehme was poor, of common birth, and totally devoid of ordinary education. He was only a shoemaker. Yet from the mind and out of the mouth of this unlettered man came mighty truths.
It would be idle to inquire into the complications of Karma which condemned him to such a life as his appeared to be. It must have been extremely curious, because though he had grasped the truth and was able to appreciate it, yet at the same time he could not give it out in its perfection. But he performed his work, and there can be no manner of doubt about his succeeding incarnation. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita, he has been already or will shortly be “born into a family of wise devotees”; and thence “he will attain the highest walk.”
His life and writings furnish another proof that the great wisdom-religion-the Secret Doctrine-has never been left without a witness. Born a Christian, he nevertheless saw the esoteric truth lying under the moss and crust of centuries, and from the Christian Bible extracted for his purblind fellows those pearls which they refused to accept. But he did not get his knowledge from the Christian Scriptures only. Before his internal eye the panorama of real knowledge passed. His interior vision being open he could see the things he had learned in a former life, and at first not knowing what they were was stimulated by them to construe his only spiritual books in the esoteric fashion. His brain took cognizance of the Book before him, but his spirit aided by his past, and perchance by the living guardians of the shinning lamp of truth, could not but read them aright.
His work was called “The Dawning of the Eternal Day.” In this he endeavors to outline the great philosophy. He narrates the circumstances and reasons for the angelic creation, the fall of its chief three hierarchies, and the awful effects which thereupon fell upon Eternal Nature. Mark this, not upon man-for he was not yet-but upon the eternal Nature, that is BRAHM. Then he says that these effects came about by reason of the unbalancing of the seven equipoised powers of forces of the Eternal Nature or Brahm. That is to say, that so long as the seven principles of Brahm were in perfect poise, there was no corporeal or manifested universe. So in the Bhagavad-Gita we find that Krishna tells Arjuna that “after the lapse of a thousand ages (or Night of Brahm) all objects of developed matter come forth from the nondeveloped principle. At the approach of that day they emanate spontaneously.” (Bhagavad-Gita, Chap. 8. ) Such is the teaching of the Secret Doctrine.
And again Boehme shows the duality of the Supreme Soul. For he says in his work “Psychologia Vera cum Supplemento” that these two eternal principles of positive and negative, the yea and the nay of the outspeaking Supreme One, together constitute eternal nature, -not the dark world alone; which is termed the “root of nature,-” the two being as it were combined in perfect indissoluble union.
This is nothing else but Purush and Prakriti, or taken together, what is referred to in the Bhagavad-Gita where it is said: “But there is another invisible, eternal existence, superior to this visible one, which does not perish when all things perish. It is called invisible and indivisible. This is my Supreme Abode.”
Clearly the Supreme Abode could never be in Purush alone, nor in Prakriti alone, but in both when indissolubly united.
This scheme is adhered to all through this great philosopher’s works, no matter whether he is speaking of the great Universe or macrocosm, or of its antitype in man or microcosm. In “De Tribus Principiis” he treats of the three principles or worlds of Nature, describing its eternal birth, its seven properties, and the two co-eternal principles; and furthermore in “De Triplici Vita Hominis” he gives the three-fold life of man from which the seven is again deduced.
In “De Electione Gratia” he goes into a subject that often proves a stumbling block to many, and that is the inevitableness of evil as well as of good. From this it is easy to pass to a contemplation of one of the difficult points in occultism as shown in the Secret Doctrine, that nothing is evil, and that even if we admit evil or wickedness in man, it is of the nature of the quality or guna, which in the Bhagavad-Gita is denominated raja-foulness or bad action. Even this is better than the indifferent action that only leads to death. Even from wickedness may and does come forth spiritual life, but from indifferent action comes only darkness, and finally death.
Krishna says in Bhagavad-Gita, Chap. IV: “There are three kinds of action: first, that which is of the nature of Satyam, or true action; second, that which is of the nature of Raja, or bad action; third, that which is of the nature of Tamas, or indifferent action.” He then says: “Although thou wert the greatest of all offenders, thou shalt be able to cross the gulf of sin in the bark of spiritual wisdom”; and a little farther on “The ignorant and man without faith, whose spirit is full of doubt, is lost and cannot enjoy either world.” And in another chapter in describing Himself, he says that he is not only the Buddha, but also is the most evil of mankind or the Asura.
This is one of the most mystical parts of the whole secret doctrine. While Boehme has touched on it sufficiently to show that he had a memory of it, he did not go into the most occult details. It has to be remembered that the Bhagavad-Gita, and many other books treating on the Secret Doctrine, must be regarded from seven points of view; and that imperfect man is not able to look at it from the centre, which would give the whole seven points at once.
Boehme wrote about thirty different treatise, all of them devoted to great subjects, portions of the Secret Doctrine.
Curiously enough the first treated of the “Dawn of the Eternal Day,” and the second was devoted to an elucidation of “The Three Principles of Man.” In the latter is really to be found a sevenfold classification similar to that which Mr. Sinnett propounded in “Esoteric Buddhism.”
He held that the greatest obstacle in the path of man is the astral or elementary power, which engenders and sustain this world.
Then he talks of “tinctures,” which we may call principles. According to him there are two principles ones, the watery, and the igneous. These ought to be united in Man; and they ardently seek each other continually, in order to be identified with Sophia or Divine Wisdom. Many Theosophists will see in this a clue not only to the two principles-or tinctures-which ought to be united man, but also to a law which obtains in many of the phenomena of magic. But even if I were able, I should not speak on this more clearly.
For many inquirers the greatest interest in these works will be found in his hypothesis as to the birth of the material Universe. On the evolution of man from spirit into matter he has much more than i could hope to glance at. In nearly all of it he was outlining and illustrating the Secret Doctrine. The books indicated are well worthy of study not only by Western but also by Eastern metaphysicians.
Let us add a few sentences to support this hypothesis from Count Saint Martin, who was a devoted student of these works.
“Jacob Boehme took for granted the existence of an Universal Principle; he was persuaded that everything is connected in the immense chain of truths, and that the Eternal Nature reposed on seven principles or bases, which he sometimes calls powers, forms, spiritual wheels, sources, and fountains, and that those seven bases exist also in this disordered material nature, under constraint. His nomenclature, adopted for these fundamental relations, ran thus: The first astringency, the second gall or bitterness, the third anguish, the fourth fire, the fifth light, the sixth sound, and the seventh he called BEING or the thing itself.”
The reader may have begun to think the author did not rightly comprehend the first six but his definition of the seventh shows he was right throughout, and we may conclude the real meanings are concealed under these names.
“The third principle, anguish, attenuates the astringent one, turns it into water, and allows a passage to fire, which was shut up in the astringent principle.”
There are in this many suggestions and a pursuit of them will repay the student.
“Now the Divine Sophia caused a new order to take birth in the centre of our system, and there burned our sun; from that do come forth all kinds of qualities, forms and powers. This centre is the Separator.” It is well known that from the sun was taken by the ancients all kinds of power; and if we mistake not, the Hindus claim that when the Fathers enter into Para-Nirvana, their accumulated goodness pours itself out on the world through the “Door of the Sun.”
The Bhagavad-Gita says, that the Lord of all dwells in the region of the heart, and again that this Lord is also the Sun of the world.
“The earth is a condensation of the seven primordial principles, and by the withdrawal of eternal light this became a dark valley.” It is taught in the East, that this world is a valley and that we are in it, our bodies reaching to the moon, being condensed to hardness at the point where we are on the earth thus becoming visible to the eye of man. There is a mystery in this statement, but not such an one as cannot be unravelled.
Boehme proceeds: “When the light mastered the fire at the place of the sun, the terrible shock of the battle engendered an igneous eruption by which there shot forth from the sun a stormy and frightful flash of fire-Mars. Taken captive by light it assumed a place, and there it struggles furiously, a pricking goad, whose office is to agitate all nature, producing reaction. It is the gall of nature. The gracious, amiable Light, having enchained unerupted Mars, proceeded by its own power to the bottom or end of the rigidity of Nature, when unable to proceed further it stopped, and became corporeal; remaining there it warms that place, and although a valet in Nature, it is the source of sweetness and the moderator of Mars.
“Saturn does not originate from the sun, but was produced from the severe astringent anguish of the whole body of this Universe. Above Jupiter the sun could not mitigate the horror, and out of that arose Saturn, who is the opposite of meekness, and who produces whatever of rigidity there is in creatures, including bones, and what in moral nature corresponds thereto.” (This is all the highest astrology, from one who had no knowledge of it.) “As in the Sun is the heart of life, so by Saturn commenceth all corporeal nature. Thus in these two resides the power of the whole universal body, and without their power there could be no creation nor any corporification.
“Venus originates in effluvia from the Sun. She lights the unctuosity of the water of the Universe, penetrates hardness, and enkindles love.”
“Mercury is the chief worker in the planetary wheel; he is sound, and wakes up the germs in everything. His origin, the triumph of Light over Astringency (in which sound was shut up silent), set free the sound by the attenuation of the astringent power.”
It is certain that if this peculiar statement regarding Mercury is understood, the student will have gained a high point of knowledge. A seductive bait is here held out to those striving disciples who so earnestly desire to hold converse with the elemental world. But there is no danger, for all the avenues are very secret and only the pure can prevail in the preliminary steps.
Boehme says again: “The Mercury is impregnated and fed continually by the solar substance; that in it is found the knowledge of what was in the order above, before Light had penetrated to the solar centre.”
As to the Moon, it is curious to note that he says, “she was produced from the sun itself, at the time of his becoming material, and that the moon is his spouse.” Students of the story of Adam being made to sleep after his creation and before coats of skin were given, when Eve was produced from his side, will in this a strong hint.
The above is not by any means a complete statement of Boehme’s system. In order to do justice to it, a full analysis of all his works should be undertaken. However, it is sufficient if thoughtful minds who have not read Boehme, shall turn to him after reading this, or if but one earnest reader of his works, or seeker after wisdom, shall receive even a hint that may lead to a clearing up of doubts, or to the acquisition of one new idea. Count Saint Martin continually read him; and the merest glance at the “Theosophic Correspondence” or, “Man-His Nature, &., ” of Saint Martin will show that from that study he learned much. How much more then will the Western mind be aided by the light shed on both by the lamp of Theosophical teachings.
“Let the desire of the pious be fulfilled.”
— William Q. Judge, Theosophist, April, 1886