The Path – April 1887


It is a noteworthy fact in Occultism that the great Masters who in the body have worked among men have been members of the healing craft, the noblest of all the learned professions. It is the noblest, because in its true character it combines the functions of both priest and physician: healer of the soul as well as of the body. Such will be the master minds of the nobler civilization which will some day dawn upon the world; the spiritual chiefs of a people will also guard the health of their bodies as well as of their souls. Hermes, we are told, was a great physician and the head of a grand brotherhood of Adepts. Both Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist were members of the Essene fraternity, an order of therapeuts. Apollonius of Tyana served his novitiate in the temple of Hippocrates and became a healer of men. In the middle ages and the beginning of modern times in Europe, we find the Brotherhood of the Rosicrucians devoted to the attainment and application of medical, as well as spiritual, knowledge. Even in primitive society, among wild tribes like the red Indians, we find their sacred orders composed of "medicine men," and there is good reason to believe that some of these possess valuable occult powers. To these spiritual and therapeutic esoteric brotherhoods, found throughout history, may probably be traced all the progress made by mankind, material as well as intellectual and spiritual. Through their knowledge of the secret forces of nature there have come into the world at large those beginnings of mechanical and chemical science which lie at the base of those physical achievements that constitute the power and pride of our present material civilization, — little mindful of its indebtedness though the latter be. Why is it that these two great functions are combined in the Master Teachers of mankind, — the care of the body as well as of the soul? It is not to lead man, by slow degrees, up to the condition of bodily perfection that shall characterize the glorious "Coming Race"? — a race combining the godly and the human in the attributes described in Through the Gales of Gold, which tells us: "The animal in man, elevated, is a thing unimaginable in its great powers of service and of strength." Thus shall we see realized a divine race with powers over Nature beside which the potency of the intricate mechanical devices of the present age, attained at the cost of the enslavement and degradation of toiling millions, shall be more puny than are the crude implements of cave-dwelling man in comparison with those of which our age so arrogantly boasts.

Paracelsus, there is high authority for saying, was really one of the greatest Masters ever known upon the earth. In rank he may be compared with Hermes Thrice-Master. Although he was the father of modern chemistry, his name has not yet ceased to be a by-word among men, for his revolutionary methods in medicine naturally gained him the hostility of the doctors and druggists of his day, whose pretensions he ruthlessly overturned. Being the "regulars," they naturally had the ear of the public, and their denunciations have therefore colored history so that, although science is now beginning to recognize its debt to him, he is still widely regarded as having been a noisy impostor.

The world is therefore much indebted to Dr. Hartmann's admirable book. (1) It is particularly appropriate that a physician should write the best popular account of the great master of medicine. Dr. Hartmann has done his work with thorough sympathy, and has made it his most important contribution to Occult literature, good though his previous work has been. It is notable how great Adepts who have worked visibly among men have made their appearance at the turning point of a cycle. Apollonius and Jesus came when the Roman Empire was at the height of its glory and approaching its fall. Paracelsus appeared at the dawn of the modern era which is coming into bloom today, and his teachings laid the foundations for our present physical science. How great these teachings were may be seen in the substance of his writings as given by Dr. Hartmann. The date of his birth is significant; 1493, the year after the discovery of America by Columbus. We see him, a greater Columbus, standing on the threshold of the new world, — not only the enlargement of the known domain of the globe, the opening up of vast continents to the dominant race, but of the expansion of wealth, of the intellect, of religion. He was the contemporary of Luther; but, though the radical reform effected by the father of Protestantism was one of the main features of the change in the cycle, Paracelsus stood on a plane too high to take part in sectarian quarrels, and said: "Among all sects there is none which possesses intellectually the true religion. We must read the Bible more with our hearts than with our brains, until at some time the true religion will come into the world."

Concerning the Adeptship of Paracelsus Dr. Hartmann remarks: "An old tradition says — and those who are supposed to know confirm the tale — that his astral body having already during physical existence become self-conscious and independent of the physical form, he is now a living Adept, residing with other Adepts of the same Order in a certain place in Asia, from whence he still — invisibly, but nevertheless effectually — influences the minds of his followers, appearing to them occasionally even in visible and tangible shape." It is considered by some students to be still more likely that, at this period, He who was once known as Paracelsus is in a body whose astral meets with others in Asia. The present being an important period in the world's history, it has been hinted that a great Teacher may be expected to appear among men. The multitude, however, will hardly be likely to fall down and worship Him when he comes; indeed, his treatment at their hands would probably be something quite different. Comparatively few would be likely to recognize Him, for only spirit can perceive spirit.

There is a passage in Dr. Hartmann's work concerning the physical appearance of Paracelsus which calls for some comment. The fact that he was beardless gave rise to a tradition that he was emasculated in his infancy. This could not have been. The requirements of Adeptship necessitate a body complete in all its parts. Paracelsus was one of the Rosicrucians, and there are reasons why he could not have been a member of that fraternity, had he been thus physically defective. It is more likely that his beardlessness had another significance. It is said that the physical characteristics of the great teachers have been those of a race superior to that among which they worked. Gautama Buddha, for instance, established the religion for the greater part of the Mongolian race, but not only was he an Aryan; according to tradition he was light haired, and of blonde complexion, and Abbe Huc so describes the beautiful presentation of him in the magnificent temporary sculptures in the great Festival of the Flowers annually given at the lamassery of Kunbum in Tibet. The personal appearance of Jesus of Nazareth is unknown to the world, but there is reason for believing that he was not of a Jewish type and was wholly unlike the conventional representations. To those who have read Bulwer's Coming Race, possibly a hint of the reason for the beardlessness of Paracelsus may occur.

Dr. Hartman calls attention to the short and concise manner in which Paracelsus expressed his thoughts. This quality of his writings will be perceived in the extracts given, which are translated into admirable English. There is no ground for the charge that he was inflated and boastful in his style. He simply spoke with self-confidence, like all men who speak with authority. Apollonius said, when asked how the wise man should speak concerning that which he knew: "He should speak like the law-giver. For the law-giver must present to the multitude in the form of commandments that which he knows to be true." It was thus that Paracelsus taught. As Dr. Hartmann well says: "It is a daily occurring fact that he who exposes and denounces the faults of others appears to the superficial observer as boasting of his own superiority, although no such motive may prompt him."

It is highly unlikely that the charges of drunkenness brought against Paracelsus had any foundation. He had a host of bitter enemies, and the making of such charges by them without warrant would be very natural. Ground for this accusation has been supposed to be found in a letter to some students at Zurich, in which he addressed them as Comibones optimi. But it seems most likely that this referred to fellowship in drinking the "wine" of wisdom, particularly since the letter is a very serious and pathetic one. As Arnold remarks in his "History of Churches and Hermetics": "A man who is a glutton and a drunkard could not have been in possession of such divine gifts."

That Paracelsus obtained his great knowledge not by study of books is evident from the fact that he read very little. For ten years he did not read a book, and his disciples testify that he dictated his works to them without memoranda or manuscripts. His spiritual precepts are of the most exalted character, and agree thoroughly with what has recently been given out from Eastern sources. He asks: "What is a philosophy that is not supported by spiritual revelation?" Concerning prayer, or a strong aspiration for that which is good, he said: "It is necessary that we should seek and knock, and thereby ask the Omnipotent Power within ourselves, and remind it of its promises and keep it awake, and if we do this in the proper form and with a pure and sincere heart, we shall receive that for which we ask, and find that which we seek, and the doors of the Eternal that have been closed before us will be opened, and what was hidden before our sight will come to light. The next point is Faith; not a mere belief in something that may or may not be true, but a faith that is based upon knowledge, an unwavering confidence, a faith that may move mountains and throw them into the ocean, and to which everything is possible, as Christ has Himself testified. The third point is imagination. If this power is properly kindled in our soul, we will have no difficulty to make it harmonize with our faith. A person who is sunk into deep thought, and, so to say, drowned in his own soul, is like one who has lost his senses, and the world looks upon him as a fool. But in the conciousness of the Supreme he is wise, and he is so to say, the confidential friend of God, knowing a great deal more of God's mysteries than all those that receive their superficial learning through the avenues of the senses; because he can reach God through his soul, Christ through faith, and attract the Holy Ghost through an exalted imagination. In this way we may grow to be like the Apostles, and to fear neither death nor prison, neither suffering nor torture, neither fatigue nor hunger, nor anything else."

The preceding very important passage illustrates the profound thought of Paracelsus. The nature of mystic development is very clearly outlined. The relation is evident between the sentence about a person "drowned in his own soul" and the end of Rule 16, First series, in Light on the Path: "And that power which the disciple shall covet is that which shall make him appear as nothing in the eyes of men." The closing chapter in Through the Gates of Gold is devoted particularly to this subject, as may be seen in the words concerning the man who has once really won the victory: "Those burning sensations which seemed to him to be the only proofs of his existence are his no longer. How, then, can he know that he lives? He knows it only by argument. And in time he does not care to argue about it. For him there is then peace; and he will find in that peace the power he has coveted. Then he will know what is that faith which can remove mountains."

The wide wanderings of most occult students are a significant fact. Pythagoras journeyed to Egypt and to India. Apollonius also went thither, and spent nearly all his life in journeying over the world. Nearly all well-known students of Occultism of today have travelled extensively. Madam Blavatsky, for instance, has made repeated visits to nearly all quarters of the earth, and has had many strange adventures. Paracelsus was also a great traveler; he journeyed far in the East and was taken prisoner by the Tartars. It is said that he even went as far as India, and it is not unlikely that he may have visited the Masters in Tibet. Of the reason for his roamings he said: "He who wants to study the book of Nature must wander with his feet over its leaves. Books are studied by looking at the letters which they contain; Nature is studied by examining the contents of her treasure-vaults in every country. Every part of the world represents a page in the book of Nature, and all the pages together form the book that contains her great revelations." This is an application of the injunction, "Learn from sensation and observe it."

A deep scientific perception is manifest in the works of Paracelsus, and he evidently saw far into the future. Dr. Hartmann points out that his doctrine bears a great resemblance to that of Darwin and Haeckel. The quality of mind which we call modern, but which may better be termed universal since it is evident in the words of the greatest men of all ages, was inherent in Paracelsus. The following prophetic passage from his "Occult Philosophy" is a witness to his thoroughly enlightened spirit: "True science can accomplish a great deal; the Eternal Wisdom of the existence of all things is without a time, without a beginning, and without an end. Things that are considered now to be impossible will be accomplished; that which is unexpected will in future prove to be true, and that which is looked upon as superstition in one century will be the basis for the approved science of the next."

This is now being found true by modern science concerning the teachings of Paracelsus. For instance, it is acknowledged that the germ theory of disease, generally supposed to be one of the original discoveries of recent medical investigators, was promulgated by Paracelsus himself; while Jaeger, the eminent German scientist, finds his own discoveries agreeing with the theories of Paracelsus, and he pronounces certain medical proceedings recommended by the latter, which have been held to be based upon the crudest superstitions, to be really in accordance with the highest scientific teachings concerning molecular action.


1. The Life of Philippus Theophrastus, Bombast of Hohenheim, known by the name of the Paracelsus; and the Substance of his Teachings concerning Cosmology, Anthropology, Pheumatology, Magic and Sorcery, Medicine, Alchemy and Astrology, Philosophy and Theosophy, extracted and translated from his rare and extensive works and from some unpublished manuscripts. By Franz Hartmann, M. D., author of "Magic," etc. London: George Redway, 1887. (return to text)

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