A True Great Medical, Religious and Social Reformer of the XVI Century
In addition to the countries already mentioned so far, he toured Spain, France, England, Turkey, Greece, Egypt in this period from 1515-1524, and he came until the Middle East. [Map of Ball:76]
Between 1517 and 1518, he visited those places in Spain, which had been, during much of the medieval period, the main centers of the Arab culture in the Iberian Peninsula: Cordoba, Seville and Granada. The remains of the Arab culture were an attraction for anyone interested in alchemy and for Paracelsus, too. He visited also Santiago de Compostela, the final destination of the long and busy European pilgrimage route that exactly passed through his home town in Einsiedeln, Switzerland. In Spain, the theologian Erastus said that Paracelsus learned magic and chemistry due to the popularity of the works of the medieval alchemists and physicians, Juan de Rupescissa and Arnau de Vilanova. (1)
Afterwards he crossed northward and arrived in Paris between 1518 and 1519. In this city, which was the bastion of medicine, he already challenged the entire medical system and the authorities of that time. He cured cancer that had been given up by medical officers and he ended saying that they despised outside doctors when they were no more than complete ignorants. (2) Later on, possibly following the footsteps, that the franciscan alchemist monk from the XIII century Roger Bacon had been leaving here and there, (3) he went to England, where he visited the London of the Tudors before Henry the VIII’s religious reform. He saw tin mines in Cornwall and lead mines in Cumbria and visited the famous Oxford University. He sailed to Ireland and then to Scotland and Yorkshire. (4) He returned to mainland and more or less following the shoreline of the North Sea, he shot to the renowned Sweden in 1520. According to some sources not entirely reliable, he participated in a war already mentioned in this country, and after visiting the University of Uppsala and the copper mines in Falun, he travelled northward, beyond the arctic circle in the lands of ice and the midnight sun, looking for hidden treasures. (5)
Between 1520 and 1521, he came to Moscow at the invitation of the Czar. However, after leaving the capital, and while he was still in Russia, in the middle of the war scenario between Russians and Tartars, he was taken as prisoner by the latter. But thanks to his skills and abilities as a doctor, he befriended a prince of this Asian people, who protected him and took him to Constantinople, via Ukraine and Crimea. According to Van Helmont, in this Turkish city- now named as Istanbul, Paracelsus received from the hands of a magician, the Sorocererís Stone. (6) Some others say that in this town he learned Kabala. (7) But, during his captivity with the tartars, he learned a lot of the traditions of those people and their shamanic medicine, which Paracelsus himself said was rooted in faith and imagination as well as in the floral and herb remedies. He always held in great esteem the time he spent with the tartars and also considered it as provindential. (8) There were even rumours that Paracelsus underwent a shamanic rite of initiation, and that he was introduced to secret doctrines by eastern masters of occultism. In fact, as we shall see, there are many similarities between the Paracelsian system and that one of the Eastern adepts. Pagel himself said that Paracelsus is not understood, without the mixture of Hellenistic ideas and the Jewish, Christian, Greek and Eastern symbolism, as it was expressed in Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Alchemy, Astrology, and Magic. The Renaissance humanists were the ones who revived these sources just before and during the time Paracelsus lived. (9)
From Turkey, he continued his pilgrimage towards the Greece of the great philosophers and Crete. Here he crossed the Mediterranean to reach the Egyptian coast. He visited Alexandria, the craddle of alchemy in North Africa, and he found firsthandedly, the mystic traditions that partly made up his philosophy, neoplatonism, and gnosticism. He wrote about the Alexandrian doctors and he said that Egypt had received ìmagical instructions. In 1522, he crossed the Gulf of Aqaba and along a trade and pilgrimage route he came to Palestine and to the Holy City of Jerusalem. (10) Early in 1423, he arrived in Athens, after visiting the islands of Cyprus, Rhodes, Samos and the Cyclades. In Greece, he visited the temple of the oracle of Delphi. (11)
During the Winter from 1523 to 1524, he crossed the Alps, to return again to his father’s house in Villach. Certainly, after nine years of long and painful journeys, although they were tremendously instructive and formative, Paracelsus was already an initiate who was prepared to carry out, in the heart of Europe, great goals in medical, social and spiritual reforms.
…to be continued