Great People

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim


From De Occulta Philosophia by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa


Chapter 14

Of the Spirit of the World, what it is, and how by way of medium it unites occult Vertues to their subjects.


Democritus and Orpheus, and many Pythagorians having most diligently searched into the vertues of Celestiall things, and natures of inferior things, said, That all things are full of God, and not without cause: For there is nothing of such transcending vertues, which being destitute of Divine assistance, is content with the nature of it self. Also they called those Divine Powers which are diffused in things, Gods: which Zoroaster called Divine allurements, Synesius Symbolicall inticements, others called them Lives, and some also Souls, saying, that the vertues of things did depend upon these; because it is the property of the Soul to be from one matter extended into divers things, about which it operates: So is a man, who extends his intellect unto intelligible things, and his imagination unto imaginable things; and this is that which they understood, when they said, viz. That the Soul of one thing went out, and went into another thing, altering it, and hindering the operations of it: As the Diamond hinders the operation of the Loadstone, that it cannot attract Iron. Now seeing the Soul is the first thing that is moveable, and as they say, is moved of it self; but the body, or the matter is of it self unable, and unfit for motion, and doth much degenerate from the Soul, therefore they say there is need of a more excellent Medium, viz. Such a one that may be as it were no body, but as it were a Soul, or as it were no Soul, but as it were a body, viz. by which the soul may be joyned to the body. Now they conceive such a medium to be the spirit of the World, viz. that which we call the quintessence: because it is not from the four Elements, but a certain first thing, having its being above, and besides them. There is therefore such a kind of spirit required to be, as it were the medium, whereby Celestiall Souls are joyned to gross bodies, and bestow upon them wonderfull gifts. This spirit is after the same manner in the body of the world, as ours is in the body of man. For as the powers of our soul are communicated to the members of the body by the spirit, so also the Vertue of the Soul of the World is diffused through all things by the quintessence: For there is nothing found in the whole world, that hath not a spark of the Vertue thereof. Yet it is more, nay most of all infused into those things which have received, or taken in most of this spirit: Now this spirit is received or taken in by the rayes of the Stars, so far forth as things render themselves conformable to them. By this spirit therefore every occult property is conveyed into Hearbs [herbs], Stones, Metals, and Animals, through the Sun, Moon, Planets, and through Stars higher then the Planets. Now this spirit may be more advantageous to us, if any one knew how to separate it from the Elements: or at least to use those things chiefly, which do most abound with this spirit. For these things, in which this spirit is less drowned in a body, and less checked by matter, do more powerfully, and perfectly act, and also more readily generate their like: for in it are all generative, & seminary Vertues. For which cause the Alchymists [alchemists] endeavour to separate this spirit from Gold, and Silver; which being rightly separated, and extracted, if thou shalt afterward project upon any matter of the same kind (i.e.) any Metall, presently will turn it into Gold, or Silver. And we know how to do that, and have seen it done: but we could make no more Gold, then the weight of that was, out of which we extracted the spirit. For seeing that is an extense form, and not intense, it cannot beyond its own bounds change and imperfect body into a perfect: which I deny not, but may be done by another way.

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