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The cosmos according to Phillipus Aureolis
Bombastus von Hohenheim (Paracelsus) (1490-1541)
1. Plotinian tripartate scheme of being: One,
Soul. Specifics: How Soul interacts with the physical
2. Astra: (semina, Archei) An astrum is the
or activity essential to any object (compare with Plotinus'
seminal reasons). Astra precipitate from God and enter one of 4
There they combine with the Tria Prima (mercury, sulpher, salt).
Out of the wombs, physical bodies are generated.
3. The four wombs ("matrices" or "mothers"): fire, air,
mysterium: "matrix" or "mother" - substrate in which
is generated. Example: Milk is a mysterium of cheese and
Cheese is a mysterium of maggots and worms.
mysterium magnum: the Mother of all things; the
4 wombs: the fundamental matrices created from the
magnum via differentiation/separation.
Firey womb: activates growth; generates stars, planets,
Airey womb: nourishes; generates living, breathing
primary source of “invisibles” such as spirits, fates, witchcraft,
Watery womb: consumes; generates metals, minerals, salts;
source of watery things such as fishes, coral, nymphs.
Earthy womb: fixes, solidifies; generates plants,
primary source of earthy things such as trees, animals, stones.
(i) The wombs correspond to the 4 elements of Greek thought (see for
instance Aristotle's Cosmos). But the
wombs do not have essential properties. Fire can be cold and
They are no longer building blocks. An object is not a composite
of the 4 elements; rather, it is associated with just a single element;
namely, the one in which it was generated.
(ii) The wombs are dynamic; they are spiritual/functional
and not material substances. To answer the question, What is an
made out of? is to answer the question, What is its function?
4. The Tria Prima. Paracelsus'
They are principles and not substances.
Example: When a piece of wood is burnt, the products reflect its
Mercury: transformative agent, fluidity, volatility
Sulpher: binding agent between substance and
Salt: solidifying/substantiating agent
5. Macrocosm/Microcosm. Paracelsus’
is reflected in the human microcosm. The tripartate scheme of
reflects the Trinity. God has a single essence consisting of
"persons". Similarly, a human being consists of a single person
of three essences: spiritual, astral (soul), physical
The Trinity, and hence the human being, is reflected again in the Tria
Smoke: mercury (chaotic quality)
Flame: sulphur (binding agent; combustibility)
Ash: salt (coagulant)