Der grüne Löwe (Alchemie und Philosophia adepta)

The works of Theophrast von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus, are based on a way of thinking, which he himself calls "philosophia adepta." Although the term appears only in his later works, it still forms his early writing. The common translation of this curious term does not allow any conclusion concerning that way of thinking, but it points to a spiritual surroundings, in which "adeptus" meant the honorary title for the person who achieved the philosophical aim, that is, he who found the "lapis philosophorum", points to the circles of the alchemists. Alchemy was more than only a plump or refined humbug. It was, at least in its possibilities, a doctrine of the metallic nature and its powers, and in this respect it might be called a natural philosophy, even if its adherents very often contented themselves with the quotation or the handing-down of more or less comprehensible recipes. Paracelsus called alchemy one of the four columns on which medicine is based, and he endeavours for an alchemical understanding of all the things of outward nature, just as the more common alchemists and even the great authorities had taken trouble for the understanding of the metallic nature and the possibility of its transmutation. Paracelsus takes over their fundamental conceptions, for instance the famous "Tabula Smaragdina" and the doctrine of Sulphur and Mercury as the "prima materia" of all things. But he does not content himself with the simple tradition of recipes and theories, but out of the traditional terms he creates his philosophia adepta, by which he intends to recognize the unknown powers by the exterior forms of things, powers by which everything is determined, and which in the end are creative powers of God, even if in the sublunar sphere they manifest themselves in a "chemical" manner. The design of the world, which Paracelsus constructs on the basis of alchemy is hardly less sublime than that of our modern atomic physics, whereas the more common alchemists went on occupying themselves with their recipes, which have hardly changed if they have not become less comprehensible and more suspicious. In this respect, the Green Lion (leo viridis) is a symbol of the stagnation of alchemic thought, which, in spite of all the various significances of gold does not go farther than simply gold and metals, and does not, like Paracelsus, dare to grasp the hidden powers in all the things of the outward world.


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