CHAPTER 3
PARACELSUS: "WE SHALL BE LIKE GODS"
1493?-1541

The Promethean individual forges ahead. He disturbs the order of the universe and the accepted ideations of his contemporaries. He strives aggressively to possess those forces that he believes will enhance his wisdom and power. Paracelsus and his Promethean contemporaries--Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Copernicus, Erasmus, Dürer and Holbein revolutionized the concepts of their day. Medicine and alchemy were Paracelsus' fields (his real name was Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim). Like many Prometheans, he was endowed with titanic energy. Volatile and restless, he sought to acquire as much experience and empiric knowledge as possible. "We are born to be awake, not to be asleep!" he wrote, "therefore, man, learn and learn, question and question, do not be ashamed of it; for only thus can you earn a name that will resound in all countries and never be forgotten."1 Never at peace with himself or his surroundings, Paracelsus was constantly working, inventing, and driving himself--aided by his self-confidence and bombast (the word associated with his name).

I am Theophrastus, and greater than those to whom you liken me; I am Theophrastus, and in addition I am monarcha mediocorum, monarch of physicians, and I can prove to you what you cannot prove. I will let Luther defend his cause, and I will defend my cause, and I will defeat those of my colleagues who turn against me; this I shall do with the help of arcana. . . It was not the constellations that made me a physician: God made me. 2

Nature was Paracelsus' teacher and guide. Everything exists in nature, he believed, and "Nothing is so secret that it

-75-

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The Prometheus Syndrome
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • By the Same Author ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 10
  • Chapter 1: Prometheus 11
  • Notes 49
  • Section I Man as Creator *
  • Introduction to Section I 51
  • Chapter 2: Albertus Magnus 55
  • Chapter 3: Paracelsus 75
  • Chapter 4: Rabbi Judah Loew 97
  • Chapter 5: Goethe's Faustian Physics and Metaphysics (1749-1832) 133
  • Section II the Ordeal of Reason *
  • Introduction to Section II 155
  • Chapter 6: Voltaire's Micromégas 161
  • Chapter 7: Balzac's in Search of the Absolute (1799-1850) 185
  • Chapter 8: Hermann Hesse 207
  • Section III Toward Integration *
  • Introduction to Section III 237
  • Chapter 9: Malraux 239
  • Conclusion 267
  • Selected Bibliography 271
  • Index 279
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