Hermetic Pharmacology, Chemistry, and Therapeutics II



from The Secret of the Ages by Manly P. Hall
Hermes Trismegistus, Perceived by Neoplatonists as the Presiding Deity of Alchemy


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THE HERMETIC THEORY CONCERNING THE CAUSATIONS OF DISEASE



According to the Hermetic philosophers, there were seven primary causes of disease. The first was evil spirits. These were regarded as creatures born of degenerate actions, subsisting on the vital energies of those to whom they attached themselves. The second cause was a derangement of the spiritual nature and the material nature: these two, failing to coordinate, produced mental and physical subnormality. The third was an unhealthy or abnormal mental attitude. Melancholia, morbid emotions, excess of feeling, such as passions, lusts, greeds, and hates, affected the mumia, from which they reacted into the physical body, where they resulted in ulcers, tumors, cancers, fevers, and tuberculosis. The ancients viewed the disease germ as a unit of mumia which had been impregnated with the emanations from evil influences which it had contacted. In other words, germs were minute creatures born out of man's evil thoughts and actions.


The sixth cause of disease was a misuse of faculty, organ, or function, such as overstraining a member or overtaxing the nerves. The seventh cause was the presence in the system of foreign substances, impurities, or obstructions. Under this heading must be considered diet, air, sunlight, and the presence of foreign bodies. This list does not include accidental injuries; such do not belong under the heading of disease. Frequently they are methods by which the Law of Karma expresses itself.

According to the Hermetists, disease could be prevented or successfully combated in seven ways. First, by spells and invocations, in which the physician ordered the evil spirit causing the disease to depart from the patient. This procedure was probably based on the Biblical account of the man possessed of devils whom Jesus healed by commanding the devils to leave the man and enter into a herd of swine. Sometimes the evil spirits entered a patient at the bidding of someone desiring to injure him. In these cases the physician commanded the spirits to return to the one who sent them. It is recorded that in some instances the evil spirits departed through the mouth in the form of clouds of smoke; sometimes from the nostrils as flames. It is even averred that the spirits might depart in the form of birds and insects.



The second method of healing was by vibration. The inharmonies of the bodies were neutralized by chanting spells and intoning the sacred names or by playing upon musical instruments and singing. Sometimes articles of various colors were exposed to the sight of the sick, for the ancients recognized, at least in part, the principle of color therapeutics, now in the process of rediscovery.

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The third method was with the aid of talismans, charms, and amulets. The ancients believed that the planets controlled the functions of the human body and that by making charms out of different metals they could combat the malignant influences of the various stars. Thus, a person who is anæmic lacks iron. Iron was believed to be under the control of Mars. Therefore, in order to bring the influence of Mars to the sufferer, around his neck was hung a talisman made of iron and bearing upon it certain secret instructions reputed to have the power of invoking the spirit of Mars. If there was too much iron in the system, the patient was subjected to the influence of a talisman composed of the metal corresponding to some planet having an antipathy to Mars. This influence would then offset the Mars energy and thus aid in restoring normality.

The fourth method was by the aid of herbs and simples. While they used metal talismans, the majority of the ancient physicians did not approve of mineral medicine in any form for internal use. Herbs were their favorite remedies. Like the metals, each herb was assigned to one of the planets. Having diagnosed by the stars the sickness and its cause, the doctors then administered the herbal antidote.

Herbs


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Basil


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The fifth method of healing disease was by prayer. All ancient peoples believed in the compassionate intercession of the Deity for the alleviation of human suffering. Paracelsus said that faith would cure all disease. Few persons, however, possess a sufficient degree of faith.


In the Presence of Angels


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Praying Angels


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The sixth method--which was prevention rather than cure--was regulation of the diet and daily habits of life. The individual, by avoiding the things which caused illness, remained well. The ancients believed that health was the normal state of man; disease was the result of man's disregard of the dictates of Nature.

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The seventh method was "practical medicine," consisting chiefly of bleeding, purging, and similar lines of treatment. These procedures, while useful in moderation, were dangerous in excess. Many a useful citizen has died twenty-five or fifty years before his time as the result of drastic purging or of having all the blood drained out of his body.

Paracelsus used all seven methods of treatment, and even his worst enemies admitted that he accomplished results almost miraculous in character. Near his old estate in Hohenheim, the dew falls very heavily at certain seasons of the year, and Paracelsus discovered that by gathering the dew under certain configurations of the planets he obtained a water possessing marvelous medicinal virtue, for it had absorbed the properties of the heavenly bodies.



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