THEOSOPHY, Vol. 48, No. 10, August, 1960
(Pages 461-470; Size: 26K)


SINCE magnetism is said to be "the alphabet of science, and to have its a,b,c's" it is probably more than a hazy idea. But hasn't old-fashioned magic been pretty well explained by modern science?

You mean exploded, of course. No, and it is an insult to human nature to brand magic and the occult science with the name of imposture. Where is the country in which magic was not practiced? At what age was it wholly forgotten?

You refer to the East -- the Orient?

In the West we find magic of as high an antiquity as in the East.

But now -- "magic"! What was it?

A thorough acquaintance with all the resources of the vegetable, animal, and mineral kingdoms. The ancients knew more concerning certain sciences than our modern savants have yet discovered. Reluctant as many are to confess as much, it has been acknowledged by more than one scientist. It has been successfully demonstrated that the Chaldean Magic ... was wholly based on an extensive knowledge of the various and now forgotten branches of natural sciences. Magic was considered a divine science which led to a participation in the attributes of Divinity itself. The magic of the ancient Chaldeans was but a profound knowledge of the powers of simples and minerals.

What "powers" do you refer to? Do not we have herbs and simples still?

There are occult properties in minerals and plants of which so-called exact science is wholly ignorant.

Then there is more to this study of magnetism?

An intimate practical knowledge of magnetism and electricity, their qualities, correlations and potencies, a familiarity with their effects in and upon the animal kingdom and man, is especially necessary. It is idle for any one to attempt to understand either the theory or the practice of Magic until the fundamental principle of magnetic attractions and repulsions throughout nature is recognized.

As the saying goes, that is a large order. But how and where do we begin such a study?

Suppose we turn to Paracelsus for the moment. He tells us that all things, man included, are composed out of three substances, and all things have their number, their weight, and their measure; that health exists when the three substances constituting a thing preserve their normal proportion of quantity and quality, disease resulting if this proportion becomes abnormal; that no one can express or sufficiently describe the virtues contained in them and therefore "every alchemist and true physician ought to seek in them all his life unto his death; then would his labor surely find its just reward."

But Paracelsus always speaks in riddles. Does he refer to those odd elements the alchemists called Sulphur, Mercury and Salt?

True. But we must understand that these do not refer to the chemical substances known to us by these names. "The three substances are three forms or aspects of the one universal Will-substance out of which everything is created. For the unmanifested Absolute in manifesting itself reveals itself as a trinity of cause, action, and effect: body, soul and spirit." Consequently, he says, "there are three modes in which disease may originate, namely, in the Sulphur, in the Mercury, or in the Salt. As long as these three are full of life they are in health, but when they become separated disease will be the result. When such a separation begins there is the origin of disease and the beginning of death."

That is abstruse metaphysics. What are these substances, in plain language?

To explain their qualities it would be necessary to explain the qualities of the Prima Materia -- the "Soul of the World." Let us hear what H.P.B. says: "In the eyes of the Fire Philosophers and Alchemists, man is a trinity, which they divide into Sol, water of Mercury, and Sulphur, which is the secret fire, or to speak plain, into body, soul and spirit." Man is a correlation of chemical forces, as well as a correlation of spiritual powers. The latter react on the physical powers of man in proportion to the development of the earthly man.

Man is a little world -- a microcosm inside the great universe. Like a foetus he is suspended by all his three spirits, in the matrix of the macrocosmos; and while his terrestrial body is in constant sympathy with its parent earth, his astral soul lives in unison with the sidereal anima mundi. He is in it, as it is in him, for the world-pervading element fills all space, and is space itself, only shoreless and infinite. As to his third spirit, the divine, what is it but an infinitesimal ray, one of the countless radiations proceeding directly from the Highest Cause -- the Spiritual Light of the World.

And this is alchemistic philosophy -- "magic"?

Well, does such statement contain a key? Does it bring into perspective the relationships between terrestrial, astral and spiritual?

You will excuse the question, but if it does so indeed, how does it help explain man's present degeneration and weakness?

Quite easily. Theosophy teaches of cycles of fertile and barren periods in human evolution. During fertile periods, we are taught, the occult powers of plants, animals and minerals magically sympathize with the "superior natures" -- the monads with whom in the human kingdom they are in affinity -- and the divine soul of man is in perfect intelligence with these "inferior ones." But during the barren periods the latter lose their magnetic sympathy, and the spiritual sight of the majority of mankind is so blinded as to lose every notion of the superior powers of its own divine spirit. We are in a barren period, and the divine intellect is veiled in man; his animal brain alone philosophizes.

There would appear to be room today for physicians who are also alchemists. But where should present-day medicine begin?

Suppose we hear more from these older Schools. Paracelsus makes such statements as these: "Our physicians pay no attention to the position of the planets (i.e., the quality of the influence acting upon the patient) and therefore they kill more patients than they cure." The reason, he asserts, is because a medicine that may do good at one time may be injurious at another, according to the prevailing influence.

It looks as if Paracelsus was not one to "pull punches"! What could be the rationale of such assertion?

That which is active in medicines is the astral elements acting upon the astral man, and it makes a great difference whether a medicine is pervaded by one influence or by another.

Then man must be himself an attractive center. Is that the Astral Body?

Why not, since man is part and parcel of the substance of the "World Soul"? For instance, Orpheus teaches how it is possible to affect a whole audience by means of the lodestone, or magnetically. Pythagoras pays particular attention to the color and nature of precious stones; while Apollonius of Tyana imparts to his disciples the secret virtues of each, and changes his jewelled rings daily, using a particular stone for every day of the month and according to the laws of judicial astrology.

Would that be the occult reason for the practice of wearing gems?

At one time it was. The Buddhists assert that the sapphire produces peace of mind, equanimity, and chases all evil thoughts by establishing a healthy circulation in man. There are, however, conditions for such practices.

What is the comment of Paracelsus on the matter?

There are certain stars whose influence corresponds to the medical quality of certain plants, and others that correspond to those of metals; and they may act for good or for evil if they are attracted by corresponding elements in the sidereal body of man. We are told that every metal and plant possesses certain qualities that may attract corresponding planetary influences, and if we know the influence of the star, the conjunction of the planets, and the qualities of our drugs, we will know what remedy to give to attract such influences as may act beneficially. The same may be said to apply to precious stones.

Is it to be presumed that all old physicians or philosophers knew all this, or only such men as Paracelsus?

Well, we may say that this is of the nature of true magic, or alchemy, or occult philosophy -- that is, knowledge. Remember that the yogi is explained as the man who is skillful in the performance of action. As said earlier, "Magnetism is the alphabet of science. There are occult properties in minerals and plants unknown to modern science." So in the man who acquires this wisdom, the occultist -- "the soul," according to Paracelsus, "does not perceive the external or internal physical construction of herbs and roots, but it intuitively perceives their powers and virtues, and recognizes at once their signatum. All natural forms bear their signature, which indicates their true nature."

The alchemist explains the "doctrine of Signatures," saying that each object bears on its surface the stamp of its inner "soul" characteristics. "The signature is a certain organic vital activity, giving to each natural object a certain similarity with a certain condition produced by the disease, and through which health may be restored in specific diseases in the diseased part."

Is the "certain organic activity" in, say the plant, supposed to correspond in quality or force with the similar organic activity in the body, or in man's inner nature?

That is a fair way to look at it. Both activities, that of the plant and that of the human organism, are thus related to the same realm of nature. As some schools of medicine say, "Like cures like."

If this outline is hypothetically accepted to be the science of relationships, the question then is, can it be shown how the medicinal properties of plants or metals act to restore the body?

What the homoeopathists call the active principle, is likely what Paracelsus would call the astral influences working through a form of life, such as the stone, etc. But as to your questions, we may seek further elaboration in writings of the Hindu Ayurvedic masters. Susruta, one of those ancient adept-physicians, speaks of "the three humors," or dhatu in the body. Zimmer explains that the three humors represent the aerial, fiery, and liquid forms of life-energy, wherever they manifest themselves in the organism. These symbolize the presence of the airy, bilious and mucous matter found in certain parts of the body.

The teaching is unfamiliar, but seems reminiscent of similar theories of the Hahnemannian school, the "hot," the "cold," the "neutral" conditions and states, etc. Are the two related as theories?

Yes, no doubt. But Ayur Veda is a complete science. See how explicit the detail: "The three humors are as it were three rich individualities with markedly antagonistic characteristics. They are full of personality and behave like human or divine beings. When they grow 'incensed' or 'infuriated' they cause havoc in the body by invading the domain of others. It needs much skill to appease them again, to reduce them in their excess, to quiet them down in their violence."

It seems to bear out what Paracelsus says of the action of the three substances. I take it they would derive no "appeasement" from using a remedy having an antagonistic "astral influence" at work in it! Is there more said of their action?

Much more. The aerial, or wind, by moving along its own vessels effects the unobstructed functioning of all kinds of processes, provides for the working of the intellect unharmed by confusion and delusion, and produces various other wholesome conditions. The bile (i.e., the "fiery") by creeping along its own vessels, brings about radiance, appetite, brilliance of the digestive fire, sense of well-being, freedom from illness, and various other wholesome conditions. The phlegm or watery form of the life-energy, by moving along its own vessels, effects the lubricating of the limbs and the firmness of the joints; it is the source of strength and elation also. And the blood cleanses the humors and ingredients of the body, bestows color, effects the sensation of touch, and so on.

But this would be pure psycho-physiology. Must we take it on faith?

Is it not the teaching of Theosophy that every microscopic cell has a consciousness and an intelligence of its own, and that man thus consists of innumerable "lives" which are, as it were, "independent thinkers"? Zimmer tells us that such concepts sprang from the same source which brought forth the impressive symbolical figures of astrology in the West, for instance in the idea of the essence of Venus and Mercury which manifests itself in the sphere of the universe and, simultaneously, in man's organism, character and destiny (an essentially Paracelsian doctrine). Western Alchemy and kindred esoteric teachings in European tradition up to the end of the eighteenth century are formed along the same pattern of thought which engendered the Hindu concept of the humors.

How would Theosophy state the case in general?

Health of the body as a whole depends on the integrity of all its parts, and more especially upon their harmonious association and cooperation. A diseased tissue is one in which a group of individual cells refuse to co-operate, and wherein is set up a discordant action, using less or claiming more than their due share of food or energy. Disease of the very tissue of man's body is neither more nor less than the "sin of separateness."

Does Theosophy also go into this Hindu division, the triform fire, air and water?

Theosophy goes into everything, in this particular regard showing how the grouping of the cells is upon the principle of hierarchies. Smaller groups are subordinate to the larger, or to the whole. Every microscopic cell therefore typifies and epitomizes man, as man is an epitome of the Universe. We know Paracelsus is right in that the outer display of disease phenomena is to be seen in the light of its causations, and that the latter, the causes, have their vehicle of expression in and through the psychic and astral parts of man. We agree in this, but our knowledge of processes is severely limited and empirical.

Does the East still practice such "magic" as you have outlined?

Very probably. The practitioners of Ayur Veda in India no doubt vary in personal ability and knowledge as do "medicine men" all over the world. But here is an example. In The Illustrated Weekly of India for November, 1959, occurs an article "Science or Miracle," telling about a bone-setting "clinic" run by two brothers at Puttur, in southwest India. It relates that by the use of a paste or salve made from green leaf, broken bones can be healed. "When the preparation is applied by the physician, the pain at once vanishes; and it has been found that even old mal-united fractures can be cured by the use of this leaf paste, the latter depending somewhat on the injury itself, its locus in the skeleton. The only prohibition accompanying the treatment is not to bend the injured member or do any heavy work with it for a month. Otherwise the doctor can not answer for the outcome, mishaps and bad consequences sometimes following."

Why? What is apt to happen?

An unheard-of thing. An instance given is the case of a bus driver with bone broken in forearm. Contrary to the bone-setter's instructions the bus driver had gone to work and driven his bus during the period of treatment. The result was that "the bones had become pulpy, like an overripe fruit. The ends of the bones could not be felt at all." The writer adds that he thinks the leaves used to prepare the unguent must possess the uncommon property of softening the bones as well as hardening them.

Yes, it is unheard-of. Is there an explanation of such paradoxical action in a medicinal substance?

Robert Crosbie once made a statement that may find some application here. He said that the nature of the body is such that it can stand the impact of the life-current it needs, in order to allow the exhibition of waking consciousness, for a portion of the time only. The resistance of waking consciousness must cease, so that the current flows through the body unobstructed, thus renewing the ability to withstand the impact. Mr. Crosbie referred particularly to consequences from loss of sleep, stating plainly that the body can suffer from surfeit of the life-energy. Is it not possible that locally, in any of its parts, the body may likewise suffer from an over-energizing of its forces? The leaf in this case might be surcharged with just those properties.

These are, then, living forces active in such preparations as described?

What else? But in such instance as this, "forces" bearing directly upon the bone signature. As Paracelsus might say, forces aligned with starry influences, en rapport with the bony structure. Such active principle as in the leaf, lends aid to the vital airs, the "preservers" in their struggle to repair damaged tissues.

Does the West have such medicines?

No doubt the like have been discovered. The Indians of the two Americas are credited with having them. H.P.B. tells us however that no country in the world can boast of more medicinal plants than Southern India, Cochin, Burma, Siam, and Ceylon. Native doctors are often successful in cases in which eminent graduates of British and French schools of Medicine have signally failed. Secret remedies are known, and have been successfully applied by the native doctors (the Attiba), from time immemorial. The best fever medicines have been learned by British physicians from the Hindus. Incidentally, these Ayurvedic doctors are said to charge no fees.

"The yogis of the olden times," H.P.B. goes on, "as well as the modern lamas [of Tibet?] and Talapoins [of Siam], use a certain ingredient with a minimum of sulphur, and a milky juice which they extract from a medicinal plant. They must certainly be possessed of some wonderful secrets, as we have seen them healing the most rebellious wounds in a few days; restoring broken bones to good use in as many hours as it would take days to do by means of common surgery. A fearful fever contracted by the writer near Rangoon, after a flood of the Irrawaddy River, was cured in a few hours by the juice of a plant called, if we mistake not, Kukushan. This was in return for a trifling kindness we had done to a simple mendicant; a service which can interest the reader but little."

You use the term Vital Airs. What does this mean?

The astral or ethereal body has its own currents -- nerves, astro-nerves, for want of a better word; its own changes and methods of growth and action, just as the gross body has. The inner currents emanate from their own centers and are constantly in motion. Every center of the inner body has its appropriate correspondent in the physical one, which it affects, and through which it is in turn acted upon. These "currents" or vital airs are, so to say, the finer forces of the astral man.

What are the "preservers" you mentioned a while back?

The physical body of man undergoes a complete change of structure every seven years, and its destruction and preservation are due to the alternate function of the fiery lives as "destroyers and preservers -- builders."

Are these the factors determining the status of the organism?

They are "builders" by sacrificing themselves in the form of vitality to restrain the destructive influence of the microbes, and by supplying those "lives" with what is necessary, they compel them under that restraint to build up the material body and its cells. They are "destroyers" also when that restraint is removed and the microbes, unsupplied with vital constructive energy, are left to run riot as destructive agents.

What is it that does the "sacrificing" of vital energy?

They are called "fiery lives." Ayur Veda would probably denominate these the Vital Airs, prana, apana, and so on. They are those same very fine forces, intelligences at work, which carry on and regulate the chemical action of the organic body. By some older nations they were at one time deified, though just why would hardly be understood today.

Then it would seem of vital importance to study this inner key to the outer functionings?

Exactly, since "we are taught that every physiological change, in addition to pathological phenomena -- disease, nay, life itself -- or rather the objective phenomena of life, produced by certain conditions and changes in the tissues of the body which allow and force life to act in that body -- that all this is due to those unseen creators and destroyers."

What, would you say, is the cause of all man's suffering and disease?

One's own actions -- Karma. Theosophy teaches that the Mind, man's inner nature, is the container of the efficient causes of his disease. In Kama -- to which Paracelsus might refer the sidereal body, and Theosophy the principle of desire entering into sentient earthly life -- in kama are the really important and active causes, known to the Buddhists as "skandhas." These are said to control rebirths and lead to all the varieties of life and circumstances upon each birth. Hence they include the circumstances of disease.

Now that we've reviewed everything -- the three substances, the three humors, the vital airs and currents, skandhas, celestial "influences" and the tribulations of terrestrial man -- how does one piece it all together?

That is not a difficult matter. All adds up to the personal man. When any part of the man is sick, the whole is involved and the entire person suffers. Disease is inharmony within. Therefore the "inner" is to be known. That is what they tell us. The "field" of the astral -- the "electrical architect" -- must be studied in its fulness. The "Mumia" of Paracelsus, the magnetic body or vehicle of life, contains the essence of life. Think now over this proposition: "If," he says, "we eat the flesh of animals, it is not their flesh that forms again blood and bones in our bodies. It is the invisible vehicle of life derived from the flesh of these animals which is taken up again into our bodies, and forms new tissues and organs."

The influence of the mind over the body is so powerful that it has effected miracles in all ages, we are taught; and further, that unregulated imagination and fears are at the root of two-thirds of our ailments and diseases. "Change the one, give it another bent ... and destroy the other ..."

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


It is from unconscious delusions that illness springs, delusions composed of fantasies which date from the early days when dissociation occurred and which have ever since remained quite out of touch with reality. The symptoms cannot be understood, therefore, unless we know what is being imagined and believed and wished and feared at this unconscious level. 

--KAREN STEPHENS, M.D. -- Psychoanalysis and Medicine

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(1) NOTE.--Collated from Theosophical sources, from Paracelsus, and from Heinrich Zimmer's Hindu Medicine.
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