Dr. Bob’s Book Blog

Great Physicians

Books on Van Helmont and Mesmer follow below.

The Life of Philippus Theophrastus Bombast of Hohenheim

known by the name of Paracelsus and the substance of his teachings
concerning cosmology, anthropology, pneumatology, magic and sorcery,
medicine, alchemy and astrology, philosophy and theosophy

by Franz Hartmann, M.D.
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner - London, 1896.

“The true physician is not made by schools of learning;
he becomes one through the light of divine wisdom itself.”

Paracelsus was one of the greatest doctors of the ages. While his era is almost 500 years past, Paracelsus’s teachings on the healing art are still worthy of our attention. Hartmann’s book itself is over a hundred years old. But, it is studded with many gems drawn from the knowledge of Paracelsus as well as from Hartmann’s own quite considerable experiences.

Hartmann was a highly-studied and much-traveled physician and esotericist. Dr. Hartmann trained as a physician in Germany, migrated to America, and later found his way to India eventually returning to Europe. In India, he looked over the shoulders and works of Helena Blavatsky, the original Theosophist. Hartmann later made extensive exploration into the Rosicrucians. From these bounties, he penned a number of books on medicine and magic, occultism and figures such as Paracelsus and Jacob Boehme.

The reader of Hartmann’s Paracelsus is treated to several dimensions which make this writing all the more worthy and useful. That said, Paracelsus was not an easy target to follow. He gathered a great deal of knowledge – as indicated in the long book title – in a brief life (1493-1541). His teachings were dictated to a number of followers and were published sporadically and inconsistently because of the broad nature of his studies. Furthermore, Paracelsus and his partisans lived in an age when the dissemination of knowledge could find offense in many places, not the least by the Church. Thus, it seems that portions of his teachings were disguised or withheld. Paracelsus was also a practitioner of alchemy. The mere name of which suggests the need for and practice of obfuscation in writing which might fall into profane hands.

Paracelsus also lived in a world alien to modern life. His teachings were transcribed in his native German, rather than Latin which was usual at the time. Yet, words from 500 years ago are bound to lose something in the translation. While the great doctor experienced a much simpler life, Paracelsus experienced the world as few others and saw with different eyes: “The physician should be able to see that which is not visible to everybody.”

Paracelsus believed that to be a true physician was a very high calling, comparable to that of a priest – a holy man. Sadly, few in his time [or the present] were up to the title which they received through training which largely involved rote memorization and disputation rather then real involvement with human beings and the understanding of the nature of health and disease.

Hartmann remarks that, “The practice of medicine is the art of restoring the sick to health. Modern medicine is, to a great extent, looked upon and employed as if it were a system by which man by his cunning and cleverness may cheat Nature out of her dues and act against the laws of God with impunity, while, to many persons calling themselves physicians, it is merely a method of making money and gratifying their vanity.

“Instead of seeking to know the divine laws in Nature, and to help to restore the divine order of things, the highest aim of medical science is at present to find means to so poison the body of man and make it pestiferous by inoculation as to render it ‘immune,’ which means, to make it incapable of reacting upon the introduction of a similar poison. This system corresponds in religion to that which succeeds in quieting the voice of conscience by never paying any attention to it.”

Five centuries ago, Paracelsus spoke the following words to the physicians of his times. One might wonder if the words wouldn’t just as well pertain to Hartmann’s era as well as our own. He says:

“You have entirely deserted the path indicated by Nature, and built up an artificial system, which is fit for nothing but to swindle the public and to prey upon the pockets of the sick. Your safety is due to the fact that your gibberish is unintelligible to the public, who fancy that it must have a meaning, and the consequence is that no one can come near you without being cheated. Your art does not consist in curing the sick, but in worming yourself into the favour of the rich, in swindling the poor, and in gaining admittance to the kitchens of the noblemen of the country. You live upon imposture, and the aid and abetment of the legal profession enables you to carry on your impostures, and to evade punishment by the law. You poison the people and ruin their health; you are sworn to use diligence in your art; but how could you do so, as you possess no art, and all your boasted science is nothing but an invention to cheat and deceive?

“The true physician is a product of Nature, not a product of speculation and imagination. If you are not able to see a thing, it will be useless to try to imagine how it may look; perception enables you to see, but speculation is blind. Wisdom is not given by Nature, nor does man inherit it from the latter; it is planted in him by his eternal parent, and grows and increases in him by practice.

“Nature — not man — is the physician. Man has lost the true light of reason, and the animal intellect with its speculations and theories has usurped the place. Try to enable yourself to follow Nature again, and she will be your instructor. Learn to know the storehouse of Nature and the boxes in which her virtues are stored up. The ways of Nature are simple, and she does not require any complicated prescriptions.”

Paracelsus apparently had developed skills of perception and thought which, though far beyond most, are pledged to be revealed to them at some point in their evolution. He was convinced that, “Everything in the Universe reflects itself in man, and may come to his consciousness; and this circumstance enables man, when he knows himself, to know the Universe, and to perceive not only that which exists invisibly in the Universe, but to foresee and prophesy future events.”

“The pseudo-physician bases his art on his books — i.e., on that which he believes the authors of those books to have known; the art of the true physician is based on his own knowledge and ability, and is supported by the four pillars of medicine — Philosophy, Astronomy [Wisdom], Alchemy, and Virtue.”

Over the generations, the many accomplishments and truths demonstrated in the works of Paracelsus have been lost. But, the wonders of history can be recovered and built upon once again.

Giordano Bruno recognized that, “The highest merit of Paracelsus is, that he was the first to treat medicine as a philosophy, and that he used magical remedies (hypnotism, suggestion, &c.) in cases where the physical substances were not sufficient.”

J. B. van Helmont looked upon him with even more estimation: “Paracelsus was a forerunner of the true medicine. He was sent by God, and endowed with divine knowledge.”

This book has much to offer a keen student and is probably the best introduction available on the subject. Hartmann’s treatise was written through the study of many of Paracelsus’s writings by a fellow physician with wide knowledge. The author surely had a portion of experiences comparable to his subject and presented many treasures from the life and times of one of the Greatest Physicians.

Comments may be sent to theportableschool at gmail dot com. We will respond.

Joannes Baptista Van Helmont:
Alchemist, Physician and Philosopher

by H. Stanley Redgrove and I.M.L. Redgrove
Wm Rider, London. 1922

Jan Van Helmont’s name is rarely seen these days. Such has been the case for generations. Many of the smartest and brightest of our fellows have gotten diminished in the history books because materialism and mediocrity rule. Mediocrity was more than common in the dark ages, until humanity began to rouse from its torpor maintained in part by the power of the clergy. Thanks to Martin Luther and others, the darkness began to lift in the religious world and beyond. Still, mediocrity persists into modern times. We only have to look around us to perceive where power and control lie.

Five hundred years ago, Luther lit a match to the Church. Paracelsus followed suit in respect to the medical profession. Or, at least he endeavored to do so. He was successful in part, but also may have given his life through challenging orthodoxy. The record is unclear, but it seems likely that Paracelsus’s at death the age of 48 was due to murder.

Born a century later than Paracelsus, Van Helmont picked up many of the threads of his work and expanded them in several directions. While he was accused of heresies – because of envious medical practitioners – and brought before the Inquisition, the Doctor was too pious and wise for the Church to find anything against his works. In fact by that time, Van Helmont had given his wealth to his sister and treated most patients for free in his own unorthodox but well-studied manner.

Even prior to taking up medicine, Van Helmont became a skeptic of his philosophy training at the University of Louvain [in present-day Belgium]. He concluded: “I drew myself in an account or reasoning, that at leastwise I might know by my own judgement, how much I was a Phylosopher, I examined whether I had gotten truth, or knowledge. I found for certainty, that I was blown up with the Letter. Then I first came to know within myself, that I knew nothing, and that I knew that which was of no worth…. Therefore having finished my Course, when as I knew nothing that was sound, nothing that was true, I refused the Title of Master of Arts; being unwilling that Professors should play the fool with me, that they should declare me Master of the seven Arts, who was not yet a Scholar. Therefore I seeking truth, and knowledge, but not their appearance, withdrew my self from the Schooles.”

He inevitably turned toward medicine, studying much on his own – widely and deeply from Hippocrates and the Greeks to Avicenna and the Arabians. “At length, reading again my collected stuffe, I knew my want, and it grieved me of my pains bestowed, and years: When as indeed I observed, that all Books, with institutions,Singing the same Song [reviewers italics], did promise nothing of soundness, nothing that might promise the knowledge of truth, or the truth of knowledge…. Therefore I would accompany a practising Physitian, straightway it repented me again, and again, of the insufficiency, uncertainty, and conjectures of healing… Then it came into my mind, that the art of Medicine, was found full of deceit, without which, the Romanes lived happily, five hundred years.”

Finally he said with a sorrowful heart: “Good God! how long wilt thou be angry with mortal men? who hitherto hast not disclosed one truth, in healing, to thy Schooles? how long wilt thou deny truth to a people confessing thee? needful in these dayes, more than in times past? Is the Sacrifice of Moloch pleasing to thee? wilt thou have the lives of the poor, Widows, and Fatherless Children, consecrated to thy self, under the most miserable torture, of incurable Diseases, and despair. How is it therefore, that thou ceasest not to destroy so many Families, through the uncertainty and ignorance Of Physitians?”

Van Helmont prayed fervently and frequently. Eventually he was led into a Dream which told, “I should be made a Physitian, and that at sometime, Raphael himself should be given unto me.”

His worries and problems were hardly over once he received his diploma in 1599. But Dr. Van Helmont, like Paracelsus and Mesmer, had unheardof talents and connections. He seems to have had a profound intuition, some level of clairvoyance, as well as a spiritual life which manifested extraordinary wisdom through him from early years.

While most physicians memorized books and relied on reason, syllogisms and disputations, Van Helmont drew on finer and better means to help his fellow beings.

“The very understandingness of a thing, is nothing but a coming to, and immediate approach of the unity of the understanding, and of the thing understood.”

“But if a happy Soul shall sometimes conceive of God in itself, by the beatifical Vision, then by the same beam of light, he shall behold and know God himself, and all other things inwardly. ”

Passing from Van Helmont’s early life and entry into medicine, the author Redgrove turns largely to the Doctor’s involvement with chemistry. Stanley Redgrove was himself a chemist, much of his writings focused there, and he saw Van Helmont in particular and medicine in general as being wed past, present and future to chemistry. Van Helmont was a investigator, philosopher, and mystic. But to Redgrove, he was more importantly the greatest medical chemist of his or any previous age.

Thus most of his book is dedicated to trying to elucidate Dr. Van Helmont’s writings, theories, and observations into the modern [1920s] version of chemistry. Redgrove praised Van Helmont highly, but took him to task in several areas. That all the while he was aware of many inadequacies of the written record from which he drew.

Much of Van Helmont’s work was not published until after his death. His writings were originally done in Frisian and Latin. His works completed in lands which no longer exist. They had new names, different rulers, and all manner of changes occurred in the course of three [now four] hundred years.

Still, Van Helmont would say the archei [spiritual principles] of human beings have not changed. And, anyone who might unite with Joannes Van Helmont in his understandings will have the potential to be a great physician, healer, chemist, etc. All forces meet in the human being and form.

“Our Soul understanding itself doth after a sort, understand all things, because all other things are in an intellectual manner in the Soul, as in the Image of God.”

Redgrove's biography can be read in full at PeopleMedicineLibrary/VanHelmontBio.html

Comments are welcome at theportableschool at gmail dot com. We will respond.

Mesmer Eyes: Let There Be Light
The Life and Healing Magic of Anton Mesmer

by Robert McNary, MD
TPS Press, 2020.

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is magic.
The other is as though everything is magic.”
after Albert Einstein

In Doctor Mesmer’s lifetime (1734-1815), Europe was emerging from the darkness of the Middle Ages. The last witchcraft trial occurred a score of years before Mesmer’s birth. The Inquisition would persist for another hundred years.

Science was developing as a third force in distinction to philosophy and religion. Many beliefs of clergy and nobility, leaders and peasants were based on all manner of forces which were ill explained or deemed godly, sorcery, or superstition. Still, there was really another force which could potentially bridge the darkness and gaps amongst the three. It was, in fact, magic.

But, it was a magic which Mesmer called animal magnetism. An innate quality comparable to mineral magnetism which all beings exhibit, however unknowingly. And, one which has yet to be properly studied by institutions in a manner comparable to that which Mesmer followed.

Dr. Mesmer was a “scientist” at heart, wanted to be seen as a physicist, and had no taste for witchcraft, exorcism, astrology, or the like. He probably laughed or screamed when his antagonists in Paris called him a Magician. Mesmer might have preferred being considered a charlatan.

Anton Mesmer appeared in his day on a mission with the goals of raising the bar of practice for physicians and of turning medicine from the use of crude drugs to the subtle influences which stand behind the healing power of nature – vis medicatrix naturae. He also intended to show that all his human fellows were capable of healing and that a medical degree was not necessary for a person to come to the aid of another in need.

Mesmer was chosen along with the Count St. Germain and Alessandro Cagliostro to bring forth major teachings released into the outer world in the 18th century for the benefit of humanity. All were successful to one degree or another. That although their persisting influences were quickly lost to public vision. It takes some investigation to uncover the effects of their work.

Anton Mesmer was the most visible of the three and his footsteps most easily traced. Eliphas Levi pronounced, “It was the glory of Mesmer to have recovered, without an initiator and without occult knowledge, this universal agent of life and its prodigies; his ‘Aphorisms,’ which the scientists of his time could only look on as paradoxes, will become one day the basis of the physical synthesis. He recognised the existence of a primitive, fiuidic, universal matter, capable of stability and motion, which, by becoming fixed, determines the constitution of substances, and by continual motion modifies and renews all forms.”

Mesmer Eyes is the author-reviewer’s attempt to point broader and fuller light at the Good Doctor’s discovery and teachings, healing and magical works. [“Magic is in the eye of the beholder,” Einstein might say.]

That said, Doctor Mesmer’s place in history is secure while his teachings continue to have lasting effects. While the whole truth will never be known, there is no dispute that Mesmer influences us in many ways into the 21st century. If only we could count all the ways. Here are a few:

• Mesmer is one of a very few humans whose name has become part of the standard dictionary – as in the verb mesmerize and in the noun mesmerism. This, albeit the true meanings of the words have been bowlderized. [Look that one up.] Mesmerize is a word much in public parlance in the present time. We might wonder why.

• While finding his way into dictionaries, Anton Mesmer also helped shape the works of generations of writers [and other artists] across Europe and America. From Balzac and Hugo to Dickens and Thackeray and to Poe and Hawthorne – to name just a few of the many. Those great authors have surely passed on their mesmeric sense to writers of the present century. They have spawned characters in the likes of Captain Ahab and Svengali whose names have also become part of modern tongue. Balzac, Tennyson and Dickens were glad to call themselves mesmerists and share their magnetic force with friends in need.

• Mesmer had such a close bond with Wolfgang Mozart that the latter made the Doctor a character in his opera Cosi fan Tutte. Bastien und Bastienne, one of his very first, was commissioned and performed in Mesmer’s garden theater at 261 Landstrasse in Vienna when Mozart was just twelve. The musical interests of the two men were also reflected in Mozart’s timeless opera, Die Zauberflote [The Magic Flute] and in his pieces written for the glass harmonica.

• When discussing theories comparable to those of Mesmer, critics as well as partisans have used his name in the same breath with renowned physicians and scientists of previous times. Those include Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Robert Fludd, Cornelius Agrippa, Athanasius Kircher, Isaac Newton, and René Descartes. He remains in good company.

• The essentials of Mesmer’s teachings were accepted and studied by many of the greatest thinkers of his own day and since. His influence flows down the generations through the philosophers Novalis, Hoffmann, Goethe, Fichte, and others. Arnold Schopenhauer wrote, “From the philosophical standpoint [mesmerism was] the most pregnant of all discoveries.”

• Practically all of Mesmer’s biographers – whether believers or disbelievers – credit the Austrian Doctor for having spurred the development of diverse modern disciplines. Mesmer is widely considered the Godfather of hypnosis and suggestive therapy, psychology and psychoanalysis, New Thought and Christian Science. Modern authors Stefan Zweig and Frank Podmore made large statements when they placed his name in their book titles along with Mary Baker Eddy and Sigmund Freud.

• Even as mesmerism-magnetism was denigrated and shunned for personal, political, medical and monetary interests in his day, it raised its head time and again over the decades. Notables of the 19th century considered Mesmer’s discovery to stand along with those of Galileo, Columbus, and Harvey. The English surgeon, James Esdaile, believed it to be, “Of infinitely greater direct practical importance than the admission of the truth of the circulation of the blood.” Others proclaimed it, “one of nature’s secrets,” “nature’s mysterious motive energies,” as well as “a key to the mystery of man’s inner nature” and “a touchstone of TRUTH.”

Mesmeromania reigned in Paris during the nearly ten years the Doctor worked in Paris before the French Revolution took over the stage. Mesmer was a far greater attraction than the Montgolfier balloons or the American statesmen Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Dr. Mesmer had thousands of patients, followers and students. Among them were grandees of all kind, magistrates and potentates, priests and physicians, scholars and savants.

Thanks to a number of committed and energetic enthusiasts, Mesmer’s teaching expanded through Societies of Harmony which flourished in Paris, the Provinces and the American colonies. Eventually, his discovery spread into Germany, Spain, and Russia, even with the onset of Revolution and Wars.

Literally thousands of books, articles, and pamphlets were written during his decade in Paris. Even in the present day, the French National Library alone holds fourteen volumes of 1000 pages each in its mesmerist collection completed before the Revolution. Just as a wide swath of Parisians wanted to experience Mesmer and his work, all manner of people took to pamphleteering to say their piece in regard to his magnétisme animal.

Jacques de Horne, a physician detractor, wrote an anonymous pamphlet to discredit him. Even so, he interestingly called him “Thaumaturge, Magician, Operator.” A number of other physicians and similar “discreditors” wrote diatribes to stigmatize his theories and downplay his successes. The modern reader of such polemics might think that many of these efforts actually backfired and raised Mesmer and magnetism into brighter relief.

At the same time Mesmer was promoting his discovery and healing the sick and injured, his doctrine inevitably had a much wider effect on the French public. Numbers of adherents became key figures in the political movements of the day seeking more than “Liberté et Santé.” Eventually, their desire was forged into another which founded the Republic based on “Liberté Egalité Fraternité.”

Again, the influences which moved forth from Mesmer, the Great Magnetizer, are quite beyond enumerating. For those who dare to look more deeply at the facts – those stubborn things – which surround his life and teachings, it might yet be possible for them to experience the whole world in a brighter light. Numbers of respected thinkers, scholars and writers over the intervening years have concluded Mesmer to be a forerunner of truths only now slowly being revealed.

Mesmer Eyes: Let There Be Light invites you to make your own observations and conclusions based on the facts of the case as far as our researches have managed to go. [The wonder of digitization of world libraries has added much to the writing of this book.] The whole truth is still beyond us. But, a significant portion of it can be found in Mesmer Eyes.

“Much will rise again that has long been buried,
and much will become submerged that is held in honor today.”

This book is ready for print publication. It can be viewed in toto at peoplemedicine.info

Comments may be emailed to theportableschool at gmail dot com. We will respond to them.

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