The metaphysical and medical speculations of Paracelsus extended into so many fields, with such amazing penetration that he is properly regarded as the father of modern therapy, In this connection, it is interesting to note that Ambrose Pare, born in 1517, has been honored as the greatest reformer in the history of surgery. Paracelsus published his work Greater Surgery in 1536, when Pare was about 21 years old, Pare immediately adopted the concept of von Hohenheim, and in the first edition of his own writings, published during his lifetime, acknowledged his indebtedness to Paracelsus in all that concerned the surgery of wounds. For some reason, probably arising from th feud between Paracelsus and his confreres, Pare’s tribute was deliberately omitted from the later editions of the works of this great surgeon until 1840, when it was included in the complete printing edited by M.J.F. Malgaigne.
A great part of the work of Paracelsus, both in diagnosis and the treatment of obscure ailments, was founded in his doctrine of sympathies. This word is a curious one, for it contains within it two Greek works meaning “with suffering.” There is the moral implication that sympathy arises from a sharing of pain, misfortune, or tragedy. Only when we endure these things ourselves can we understand the sorrows of those around us, and respond instinctively to the needs of the afflicted. More broadly taken, the word sympathy means a certain affinity or association, a kind of intimate relationship by which whatever affects one affects, in a similar way, others in whom this sympathy exists, It is a mutual or reciprocal sensitivity arising from correspondence in qualities, proportions, properties, or harmonic elements. Perhaps of special interest is the present concept that sympathy is a correlation existing between bodies which are capable of communicating their vibrational motion to one another, usually through a medium of some kind. If such definitions of sympathy are essentially factual, and they are now broadly accepted, it would follow that a science of healing could be built upon concepts derived from those lawful operations of nature by which like attracts like or dissimilars repulse each other.
In the Paracelsian doctrine, diseases are said to arise from one or more of five basic causes. The physician therefore must be fully aware of not only one of these causes, but of all of them, so that he may judge accurately the proportions of those factors which contribute to illness and infirmity.
( 1 ) Sidereal and astral influence, acting upon the invisible etheric or vital body of man, set in motion rates of vibration which in turn are diffused through the physical body as possible causes of imbalance or chemical conflict. Paracelsus here attempts to point out that sickness can be traced to the mutations of sidereal forces and rays, operating upon the etheric or magnetic field of the earth. This field, or atom sphere, so conditioned, then in turn affects all creatures living within it or depending upon it for their survival.
Paracelsus explains that the atmosphere of the earth can be likened to the water in a small pool. This water is the natural environment for fish and other marine creatures, and for plants which depend upon water for survival. The sun is the source of all life, but if it rays become so strong as to overheat the pool, the creature living in it may be injured or even die. Also, in winter, when the power of the sun is weak, if the pool freezes to the bottom, the world of life within it will be destroyed. In the case of the earth’s atmosphere, mutations caused by planets, stars, and other vibrations, some as yet unclassified, may not necessarily destroy life, nor will they operate in the same way upon all creatures. Those forms of living things, however, whose natures are in sympathy with certain energies and forces, will respond to them. If these forces are exaggerated, the responses will be exaggerated; and if these forces combine in some unhealthful pattern, creatures in sympathy with such a pattern will be disturbed and sicken, or even die.
( 2 ) Sickness may result from the introduction into the body of various impurities, poisonous or hurtful substances, even including drugs and medications for the alleviation of disease. In this category should be included also nutrition and such habits as are classified under sanitation, hygiene, and eugenics. In other words, the misuse or abuse of anything in itself good and proper will end in misfortune. Overexertion, exposure to extremes of the elements, disregard of warning symptoms, or addiction to ill habits such as intemperance, will work hardships upon health. Paracelsus was among the first to recognize the importance of preserving normal climination by which waste substances are prevented from accumulating within the human system. Also, there must be due regard for obstructions by which the free circulation of the vital forces of the body is impaired. Wherever obstruction is allowed to exist, areas of living tissues become toxic and die. There is, therefore, a rationale of health by which man must accept personal responsibility for the maintenance ofhis physical economy with judgement, integrity, and continuing alertness to both needs and symptoms.
( 3 ) Wrong physical habits, resulting in the corruption of natural processes, will ultimately endanger life. Of such, Paracelsus wrote extensively He mentions the overloading of the stomach with excessive drinking and the use of condiments. As the reward for such total disregard for the natural laws governing nutrition and digestion, the unreasonable individual becomes dyspeptic and his entire health is threatened. Paracelsus also indicated that wrong associations among persons may injure health by inviting intemperance or creating situations in which the normalcy of conduct is in some way compromised.
Our old physician points out that nature is indeed a patient mother, and if we will correct our ways and cease our abuses, health can be restored in many cases. If, however, we continue to cater merely to appetites, no doctor can give us remedies that will really compensate for our own foolishness. Man was originally provided with instincts to care for such things, but by degrees, his mental and emotional intensities so greatly increased that he could no longer depend upon the normal demands of his appetites. He mus therefore re-learn that art of normal living.
Dr. Still, in the development of his osteopathic technique, made much of the concept of internal obstructions advanced centuries earlier by Paracelsus. In order to restore health in any area, free circulation must be revived. By circulation, the remedial processes and materials are brought to the regions where they are most needed. The physician may be able to remove the obstruction, but nature must accomplish the remedy and restore health.
( 4 ) Here is an example of the true advancement of van Hohenheim’s mind. Writing in the earth 16th century, he declared that many diseases originate in psychological causes, and that all intemperances of the mind and emotions lead not only to the immediate discomfort of the body, but, by corrupting man’s psychic nature, cause some of those ailments most difficult to diagnose and treat. To him, imagination was a most useful but dangerous faculty or power. Nearly all negative emotions are associated with morbid imagination, such as fear, worry, doubt, confusion, and uncertainty of purpose. Out of this, also, come false judgment of others, self-pity, and a variety of psychic intensities leading to complexes and neuroses. While Paracelsus could not use the words and names now popular to describe psychic ailments, he considered them as parasites or cancerous growths attacking the soul and attaching themselves to the fields of reason and emotion. These growths, living upon the energies of man, gradually destroyed optimism, happiness, and all the constructive ideals and hopes by which the life is directed to useful and profitable ends. If the individual suffers from morbid mental or emotional preoccupations, his health will certainly be affected, and the probabilities of recuperation and the restoration of normal vitality are reduced.
While it is true that the average person does not have sufficient mental or emotional intensity to produce an immediate and dramatic example of mind over matter, the long continuance of habits procedures a corrosive effect. Thus Paracelsus explained that violent emotion may cause miscarriages, apoplexies, spasms, and result in the malformation of the fetus of an unborn child. Anger can cause the appearance of jaundice; grief may so depress a function that it may result death; whereas great joy and gaiety can stimulate sluggish functions and help to restore bodily health. Many obstructions are due to melancholia, and fear acts directly upon the functions of excretion. Nearly all persons with unreasonable dispositions or unpleasant attitudes will have trouble with digestion, assimilation, and elimination. It would seem, therefore, that Paracelsus must be accepted as settings fort substantially the concepts underlying the modern school of psychosomatic therapy.
( 5 ) There are certain diseases which have their origin in what Paracelsus termed “spiritual causes,” or disobedience to the laws of God on a religious, moral, or ethical level. He does not mean, by “spiritual causes” that God is the source of sickness, but rather that conflict on the level of man’s spiritual convictions can be exceedingly detrimental. It is therefore dangerous to try to disillusion a person about spiritual values which to him are real and vital. Nor should we quickly encourage an individual to change his faith, because this must certainly result in an alteration of his entire condition, both visible and invisible. From his writings, it is obvious that Paracelsus would regard an atheist as endangering his total nature and opening himself to physical ailments due to the lost of certain ideals and overtones which help to preserve the normalcy of bodily functions. Under the same general heading would come disregard for conscience, or any action by which the individual comes to the immediate personal conclusion that he has displeased God, or has broken the laws and commandments which God has imposed upon both nature and the human soul. Spiritual sickness is spiritual confusion, the loss of directives, and the failure of those inducements to self-control by which maintains a balance of conduct.
There seems to be hint that Paracelsus believed in rebirth, for he implies that spiritual causes of sickness might be due to conditions which existed before birth, and these conditions must be regarded as violations of natural law through ignorance or intent. Nothing in the world happens without a cause. That which cannot be explained in reference to a present lifetime, must be referable to some antecedent causation. Paracelsus therefore says that the presence of a good physician is a miraculous indication of divine intercession; whereas the presence of a bad physician indicates that the patient does not deserve to recover. This rather sarcastic attitude probably reflects the feud between Paracelsus and his professional associates.
In a universe of energies which everything is possible is continuously occurring, Paracelsus had to explain how and why certain things happened to certain persons only at certain times. He was too much of a philosopher to accept blind chance, and too skilled a theologian to fall back upon divine providence. He had to find an answer that was morally and reasonably acceptable. This meant human acceptance of human responsibility. The law of sympathy met this need, for by it could be demonstrated that each individual attracted to himself such forces and circumstances as he earned or deserved by his own conduct. Once a sympathetic pole was established between the person and corresponding energy resource in nature, the means for enlarging or exaggerating the conditions were always at hand. For example, if we establish a habit of a bad temper, we create a sympathetic pole in our own disposition. The more often we lose our temper, the easier it becomes to do so, and the more violent the outbursts. Ultimately, the habit takes over, and it requires great deal of patient discipline to restore emotional control. No action can be performed without energy, and according to the way we channel this resource, our entire psychic life is affected.
Our present interest is to find, if possible, certain simple patterns by which the Paracelsian ideas can be useful to us now, and help us to justify the demands of self-improvement. Let us see what sympathy means on the level of our common purposes and actions. When we say that people are sympathetic, we mean that the can get along together, and that they have instinctive and intuitive recognition of common values or even common problems, Furthermore, sympathetic attraction is a kind of psychic gravity by which those of similar interests or compatible ideas are brought into association, or even seek each other out, for purposes of companionship or exchange of ideas. Wherever sympathy exists, a certain intangible psychic interval is overcome. Wherever there is understanding, there is a nearness–a spiritual proximity more real than any formal relationship of marriage or blood.
To be psychically near, means qualitative similarity. Individuals can live under the same roof for a lifetime and never be really close. Others may live on the opposite sides of the earth and never actually meet; yet a psychic concord can exist between them. This seems to be demonstrated by the curious fact that nearly all important discoveries have been made simultaneously in two or three places remote from each other. Sympathy, according to Paracelsus is a kind of magnetic force in which greater masses attract lesser bodies. Therefore, the larger mass of a quality will draw smaller quantities of the same quality towards itself, or else cause these lesser masses to move in orbits about the larger quantity, as planets move about the sun.
The great fountain and source of all sympathy is God, because Deity represents total identity. All things existing in the broad panorama of creation have a common dependence upon Deity, and in their own natures contain the substances and essences of Deity. This is the perfect sympathy, and therefore all things in their natural states are drawn toward God. Whatever interferes with this spiritual magnetic sympathy is contrary to immediate good, and arises in man from egoism or the strength of the personal will. There is also a kind of barrier set up by bodies. Bodies cannot become identical, but the essences within them can attain this common unity. Bodies meet together to form masses in which the number of the parts is increased. Essences uniting together neither increase nor decrease the sum of essence, inasmuch as the essence itself is eternal, and is ever of the same quantity. Thus essences united simply make available the presence of the divine power which is ever resident in them, and creatures uniting themselves with essence also gain a participation in the substance of God.
In nature, sympathetic attraction of things always manifests as like attracting like. This is true spiritually, philosophically, emotionally, psychologically, and materially. This attraction, however, has both a benevolent and dangerous aspect. If like attracts like, attraction is primarily upon the level of vibration. Things of similar vibrations are drawn toward each other, either inwardly or outwardly, sometimes both. Sympathy continually pulls things together; antipathy pushes them apart. Sympathy operates through understanding; antipathy through misunderstanding, Wisdom is a uniting power; ignorance a separating force. Virtue brings man into sympathy with all that is virtuous; whereas vice attracts that which is similar to itself.
If, therefore, like attracts like, we must assume that such destructive tendencies as we may possess will draw destructive energies. Growth is a kind of energy calling upon the energy like itself for the continuous substantiation and expansion of its own existence. One of the most powerful factors in sympathy is motivation. Whatever be the motive behind an impulse to attract, becomes the most powerful all overtones, determining largely the outcome of the entire project. Attraction is usually due to either the unconscious exercise of the will. Thus the attractional sympathy may be an instinctive wish toward fulfillment, or a conscious and purposed determination to attain fulfillment. Paracelsus points out that the result of a certain action may be so completely changed by motive that something apparently virtuous can lead to tragedy because the motive is wrong. Very few persons analyze their own motives with sufficient care to be certain that they are right and proper. Because of this, conditions arise which cause confusion and disillusionment. Someone may say, “I did it right, why should I suffer?” The answer must lie in motivation, for all right action must be rightly motivated if its merits are to have their complete effect upon living.
Paracelsus, like Buddha, recognized certain reservoirs of energy available to human beings for their various purposes and activities. If, for example, the individual permits himself to become hateful, he creates a sympathetic relationship between himself and all others who hate, all things regarded as hateful, and that kind of energy which only hatefulness can be sustained. He therefore immerses himself in an etheric sea of hate; and may well drown in it if he is not careful. A still more common form of psychic emotional excess is anger. The power to be angry resides in the existence of a kind of energy of anger. This is not only available, but is accumulative. The anger of the ages is available to each person who becomes angry. Having set up a sympathetic polarity, he opens his inner life to a tidal wave of discordant pressure.
It may well be that his moral nature will intercede, and he will restrain himself from the total expression of rage. If, however. His own resources are weak, his self-control poor, and his spiritual values inadequate, he may have no resources with which to combat the anger surging within him. To align oneself with the storehouse of anger in the astral light, is to cut oneself off from all contrary sympathetic resources. The person enters a state of antipathy against peace, harmony, kindness, and justice. As these are natural and constructive emotions, and their practice is essential to bodily health, the psychic life is impoverished.
Obviously, anger does not immediately destroy all other functions, nor does it interfere with every activity of the human psyche. If such should be the case, the angry man might die instantly. Factually, however, he is only uncomfortable for a while. His digestion is disturbed, his clarity of thought interrupted, and he experiences unusual fatigue and perhaps a spell of psychic repentance. But as Paracelsus explains it, could this burst of energy expended in anger be made visible to us as a phenomenon of the energy field in which we exist, we might see it blaze out in a tremendous combustion of destructive psychic power. It would be almost like an atomic blast, and the radiation and fallout, in the case of man’s anger, are measured in the destructive effect to be observed in the structure and function of his body. All excess, mental or emotional is paid for by depletion somewhere in the compound body of man. The moment balance is lost, health is lost. Of sovereign importance, also, must be the realization that, as far as the human economy is concerned, there is no such thing as righteous indignation. Like atomic energy, anger is no respecter of persons. Laws broken exact their penalties because we live in a universe governed by immutable principles.
Conversely, a person of great kindness, affection, or sincere regard, comes in sympathy with the total field of appropriate natural energies. These, released through the psychic nature of a noble human being, not only enrich that person; but, extending outward from him, provide benevolent influences to all who are sympathetically able to receive or accept them. Kindliness calls upon the total availability of kindly life, drawing energy of its own quantity and quality, attracting according to the intensity of the demand, and resulting in an appropriate enlargement or enrichment. Paracelsus notes that all energy fields which are in themselves constructive are vitalizing; whereas all that are destructive are ultimately devitalizing. It may happen that in a moment of great appreciation, we strongly energize our love of beauty, especially when we are in the presence of some person or thing which is beautiful or excise our admiration. This causes a powerful psychic energy-center which will attract esthetic energy. This essentially good, beautiful and true. Such energy, therefore, will support, and be sympathetic with, all other constructive energies in the compound nature of man. Thus we hear an individual say that after reading a beautiful poem or looking at an exquisite picture, he feels better. His entire nature has been invigorated because a highly constructive energy has been has been released through his psychic appreciation.
This gives us another basic rule. All sympathetic energies which are essentially good have this good in common, and are therefore sympathetic with each other. Religion is compatible with fine art, philosophy with music, ethics with esthetics, love with friendship, understanding with kindness, and the like. On the other hand, all negative or destructive energies are not only antipathetical toward good, but toward each other. Therefore, they continue to cause confusion. The man who is totally bad is also totally confused because his various vices are themselves incompatible. Incompatibility, in this case also affects the health, for wherever there is psychic confusion, there is tension, and this interferes with function and contributes to the obstruction of the flow of life through the body.
Paracelsus gives a peculiar but interesting moral or spiritual reason for integrity. The moment we depart from integrity, we do so because we are mentally or emotionally energizing negative fields. Thus we create polarities and irreconcilable centers of conflict. These, moving within us, form further destructive patterns until chaos results. The true purpose of religion is that man should be good, but this goodness is much more than a theological platitude. It means that the person shall be in order; that there shall be no conflict to divide his internal resources, and that he is maintaining only such sympathies as will unite him to his God and his fellow man.
Sympathies exist not only between man and the creatures around him, but between man and the universe, and the great spiritual center of light-life that is the source of all things. Under certain conditions, man comes into an almost immediate awareness of the true nature of Divinity. This is called the mystical experience, and according to Paracelsus, this is really an experience, and according to Paracelsus, this is really an experience of sympathy. By his longings, by the sincere dedication of his should, and by his resolute determination to cultivate the experience of God in his own conduct, the human being becomes capable of a strong sympathetic bond with Deity. As the result of the spiritual polarity established in himself, the devout person therefore becomes aware of the Deity in himself. By the conduct of goodness, the good in space is invoked in the likeness and similitude of God.
If, therefore, we would know anything, we must be like that which we desire to know. We attain this likeness by experiencing, or by sharing in, a quality. Understanding arises not from intellection, but from sympathetic rapport. It is our duty in our quest for wisdom to know things according to their own natures or essence and not their appearances. When we accomplish this, we not only have a greater respect for life, but have that kind of wisdom which enable us to cooperate voluntarily with life-processes rather than the procedures of death.
The misfortunes from which we suffer are due to ignorance about laws, energies, and principles, and the failure of conduct to preserve the individual against his own weaknesses and excesses. Here is where the physician must become an education. He is searching for a pattern which can bestow total health. This means he must provide man with an understanding and a technical procedure by which he can remain well, and by which he can so wisely administer the forces around him that they can never turn upon him in search of vengeance. Nature avenges herself upon those who break the rules. The instruments of this vengeance is magnetic sympathy, and from the infallible operations of this machinery, no one can escape. The only solution is to so live and conduct one’s affairs that only the benevolent forces of nature are set in operations.