Hermetic Pharmacology, Chemistry, and Therapeutics I

from The Secret of the Ages by Manly P. Hall

THE art of healing was originally one of the secret sciences of the priestcraft, and the mystery of its source is obscured by the same veil which hides the genesis of religious belief. All higher forms of knowledge were originally in the possession of the sacerdotal castes. The temple was the cradle of civilization. The priests, exercising their divine prerogative, made the laws and enforced them; appointed the rulers and controlled than; ministered to the needs of the living, and guided the destinies of the dead. All branches of learning were monopolized by the priesthood, who admitted into their ranks only those intellectually and morally qualified to perpetuate their arcanum. The following quotation from Plato's Statesman is apropos of the subject: " * * * in Egypt, the King himself is not allowed to reign, unless he have priestly powers; and if he should be one of another class, and have obtained the throne by violence, he must get enrolled in the priestcraft."

Candidates aspiring to membership in the religious orders underwent severe tests to prove their worthiness. These ordeals were called initiations. Those who passed them successfully were welcomed as brothers by the priests and were instructed in the secret teachings. Among the ancients, philosophy, science, and religion were never considered as separate units: each was regarded as an integral part of the whole. Philosophy was scientific and religious; science was philosophic and religious I religion was philosophic and scientific. Perfect wisdom was considered unattainable save as the result of harmonizing all three of these expressions of mental and moral activity. While modern physicians accredit Hippocrates with being the father of medicine, the ancient therapeutæ ascribed to the immortal Hermes the distinction of being the founder of the art of healing. Clemens Alexandrinus, in describing the books purported to be from the stylus of Hermes, divided the sacred writings into six general classifications, one of which, the Pastophorus, was devoted to the science of medicine. The Smaragdine, or Emerald Tablet found in the valley of Ebron and generally accredited to Hermes, is in reality a chemical formula of a high and secret order.
Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, during the fifth century before Christ, dissociated the healing art from the other sciences of the temple and thereby established a precedent for separateness. One of the consequences is the present widespread crass scientific materialism. The ancients realized the interdependence of the sciences. The moderns do not; and as a result, incomplete systems of learning are attempting to maintain isolated individualism. The obstacles which confront present-day scientific research are largely the result of prejudicial limitations imposed by those who are unwilling to accept that which transcends the concrete perceptions of the five primary human senses.

During the Middle Ages the long-ignored axioms and formulæ of Hermetic wisdom were assembled once more, and chronicled, and systematic attempts were made to test their accuracy. To Theophrastus of Hohenheim, who called himself Paracelsus (a name meaning "greater than Celsus"), the world is indebted for much of the knowledge it now possesses of the ancient systems of medicine. Paracelsus devoted his entire life to the study and exposition of Hermetic philosophy. Every notion and theory was grist to his mill, and, while members of the medical fraternity belittle his memory now as they opposed his system then, the occult world knows that he will yet be recognized as the greatest physician of all times. While the heterodox and exotic temperament of Paracelsus has been held against him by his enemies, and his wanderlust has been called vagabondage, he was one of the few minds who intelligently sought to reconcile the art of healing with the philosophic and religious systems of paganism and Christianity.

In defending his right to seek knowledge in all parts of the earth, and among all classes of society, Paracelsus wrote: "Therefore I consider that it is for me a matter of praise, not of blame, that I have hitherto and worthily pursued my wanderings. For this will I bear witness respecting nature: he who will investigate her ways must travel her books with his feet. That which is written is investigated through its letters, but nature from land to land-as often a land so often a leaf. Thus is the Codex of Nature, thus must its leaves be turned." (Paracelsus, by John Maxson Stillman.)
The utter contempt which Paracelsus felt for the narrow systems of medicine in vogue during his lifetime, and his conviction of their inadequacy, are best expressed in his own quaint way: "But the number of diseases that originate from some unknown causes is far greater than those that come from mechanical causes, and for such diseases our physicians know no cure because not knowing such causes they cannot remove them. All they can prudently do is to observe the patient and make their guesses about his condition; and the patient may rest satisfied if the medicines administered to him do no serious harm, and do not prevent his recovery. The best of our popular physicians are the ones that do least harm. But, unfortunately, some poison their patients with mercury, others purge them or bleed them to death. There are some who have learned so much that their learning has driven out all their common sense, and a there are others who care a great: deal more for their own profit than for the health of their patients. A disease does not change its state to accommodate itself to the knowledge of the physician, but the physician should understand the causes of the disease. A physician should be a servant of Nature, and not her enemy; he should be able to guide and direct her in her struggle for life and not throw, by his unreasonable interference, fresh obstacles in the way of recovery." (From the Paragranum, translated by Franz Hartmann.)
The belief that nearly all diseases have their origin in the invisible nature of man (the Astrum) is a fundamental precept of Hermetic medicine, for while Hermetists in no way disregarded the physical body, they believed that man's material constitution was an emanation from, or an objectification of, his invisible spiritual principles. A brief, but it is believed fairly comprehensive, résumé of the Hermetic principles of Paracelsus follows.

THE TITLE PAGE OF THE BOOK OF ALZE From Musæum Hermeticum Reformatum et Amplificatum

This title page is a further example of Hermetic and alchemical symbolism. The seven-pointed star of the sacred metals is arranged that one black point is downward, thus symbolizing Saturn, the Destroyer. Beginning in the space immediately to the left of the black point, reading clockwise discloses the cryptic word VITRIOL formed by the capital letters of the seven Latin words in the outer circle. p. 110

The Heart of God

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There is one vital substance in Nature upon which all things subsist. It is called archæus, or vital life force, and is synonymous with the astral light or spiritual air of the ancients. In regard to this substance, Eliphas Levi has written: "Light, that creative agent, the vibrations of which are the movement and life of all things; light, latent in the universal ether, radiating about absorbing centres, which, being saturated thereby, project movement and life in their turn, so forming creative currents; light, astralized in the stars, animalized in animals, humanized in human beings; light, which vegetates all plants, glistens in metals, produces all forms of Nature and equilibrates all by the laws of universal sympathy--this is the light which exhibits the phenomena of magnetism, divined by Paracelsus, which tinctures the blood, being released from the air as it is inhaled and discharged by the hermetic bellows of the lungs." (The History of Magic.)

This vital energy has its origin in the spiritual body of the earth. Every created thing has two bodies, one visible and substantial, the other invisible and transcendent. The latter consists of an ethereal counterpart of the physical form; it constitutes the vehicle of archæus, and may be called a vital body. This etheric shadow sheath is not dissipated by death, but remains until the physical form is entirely disintegrated. These "etheric doubles, "seen around graveyards, have given rise to a belief in ghosts. Being much finer in its substances than the earthly body, the etheric double is far more susceptible to impulses and inharmonies. It is derangements of this astral light body that cause much disease. Paracelsus taught that a person with a morbid mental attitude could poison his own etheric nature, and this infection, diverting the natural flow of vital life force, would later appear as a physical ailment. All plants and minerals have an invisible nature composed of this "archæus," but each manifests iit in a different way.

Human Red blood cells

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Concerning the astral-light bodies of flowers, James Gaffarel, in 1650, wrote the following: "I answer, that though they be chopt in pieces, brayed in a Mortar, and even burnt to Ashes; yet do they neverthelesse retaine, (by a certaine Secret, and wonderfull Power of Nature), both in the Juyce, and in the Ashes, the selfe same Forme, and Figure, that they had before: and though it be not there Visible, yet it may by Art be drawne forth, and made Visible to the Eye, by an Artist. This perhaps will seem a Ridiculous story to those, who reade only the Titles of Bookes: but, those that please, may see this truth confirmed, if they but have recourse to the Workes of M. du Chesne, S. de la Violette, one of the best Chymists that our Age hath produced; who affirmes, that himselfe saw an Excellent Polich Physician of Cracovia, who kept, in Glasses, the Ashes of almost all the Hearbs that are knowne: so that, when any one, out of Curiosity, had a desire to see any of them, as (for example) a Rose, in one of his Glasses, he tooke That where the Ashes of a Rose were preserved; and holding it over a lighted Candle, so soone as it ever began to feele the Heat, you should presently see the Ashes begin to Move; which afterwards rising up, and dispersing themselves about the Glasse, you should immediately observe a kind of little Dark Cloud; which dividing it selfe into many parts, it came at length to represent a Rose; but so Faire, so Fresh, and so Perfect a one, that you would have thought it to have been as Substancial, & as Odoriferous a Rose, as growes on the Rose-tree." (Unheard-of Curiosities Concerning Talismanical Sculpture of the Persians.)

Paracelsus, recognizing derangements of the etheric double as the most important cause of disease, sought to reharmonize its substances by bringing into contact with it other bodies whose vital energy could supply elements needed, or were strong enough to overcome the diseased conditions existing in the aura of the sufferer. Its invisible cause having been thus removed, the ailment speedily vanished.

The vehicle for the archæus, or vital life force, Paracelsus called the mumia. A good example of a physical mumia is vaccine, which is the vehicle of a semi-astral virus. Anything which serves as a medium for the transmission of the archæus, whether it be organic or inorganic, truly physical or partly spiritualized, was termed a mumia. The most universal form of the mumia was ether, which modern science has accepted as a hypothetical substance serving as a medium between the realm of vital energy and that of organic and inorganic substance.

The control of universal energy is virtually impossible, save through one of its vehicles (the mumia). A good example of this is food. Man does not secure nourishment from dead animal or plant organisms, but when he incorporates their structures into his own body he first gains control over the mumia, or etheric double, of the animal or plant. Having obtained this control, the human organism then diverts the flow of the archæus to its own uses. Paracelsus says: "That which constitutes life is contained in the Mumia, and by imparting the Mumia we impart life." This is the secret of the remedial properties of talismans and amulets, for the mumia of the substances of which they are composed serves as a channel to connect the person wearing them with certain manifestations of the universal vital life force.

According to Paracelsus, in the same way that plants purify the atmosphere by accepting into their constitutions the carbon dioxid exhaled by animals and humans, so may plants and animals accept disease elements transferred to them by human beings. These lower forms of life, having organisms and needs different from man, are often able to assimilate these substances without ill effect. At other times, the plant or animal dies, sacrificed in order that the more intelligent, and consequently more useful, creature may survive. Paracelsus discovered that in either case the patient was gradually relieved of his malady. When the lower life had either completely assimilated the foreign mumia from the patient, or had itself died and disintegrated as the result of its inability to do so, complete recovery resulted. Many years of investigation were necessary to determine which herb or animal most readily accepted the mumia of each of various diseases.

Paracelsus discovered that in many cases plants revealed by their shape the particular organs of the human body which they served most effectively. The medical system of Paracelsus was based on the theory that by removing the diseased etheric mumia from the organism of the patient and causing it to be accepted into the nature of some distant and disinterested thing of comparatively little value, it was possible to divert from the patient the flow of the archæus which had been continually revitalizing and nourishing the malady. Its vehicle of expression being transplanted, the archæus necessarily accompanied its mumia, and the patient recovered.

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