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Joannes Agricola - Treatise on Gold
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TO HIS SERENE HIGHNESS' HIGHBORN PRINCE AND LORD
Most Gracious Prince. How miserable the life of all men is and how quickly it closes like a garment, does not require much proof. Aside from daily experience, it is testified to by the entire Holy Scripture. True, it could be somehow endured if it were only miserable and painful outside our body, due to the vicissitudes of fortune, but it is a much greater pity that we must experience so much misery in our body that we can often not have a single healthy hour in our whole life. Therefore we must eat our tear-drenched bread with great sighing and hurting, and finally also end our life in unspeakable pain, which can be and must be the greatest misfortune in this world.
HEIR OF NORWAY
DUKE OF HOLSTEIN/SCHLESWIG/DITMARSCHEN AND STORMARN/ ETC.
COUNT OF OLDENBURG AND DELINENHORST/ETC;
MY GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN AND LORD:
YOUR SERENE HIGHNESS, HIGHBORN PRINCE
YOUR PRINCELY GRACE IS AT ALL TIMES ASSURED OF MY MOST HUMBLE OBEDIENT SERVICES.
When therefore our dear forefathers considered what noble gift of God health is, they indicated it by a proverb, saying: Health is better than all wealth. Conversely, it follows that illness and physical pain are the greatest misfortune. That this must be so, and it is not contradicted by the proverb of our ancestors, and is confirmed by what our eyes see. Let us look about ourselves, not only in the big cities where there are well organized hospitals and infirmaries, but also in almost all villages, even houses, and see how the great and mighty diseases and pains are raging against men, behaving like evil spirits, and causing many persons to lose their wits and reason. Therefore God causes us to recognize that we must delve into ourselves, learning to know ourselves, lest we anger our Creator further by deliberate sinning. Rather should we beg Him with a fervent prayer to give us also a healthy body aside from a sane rational soul. This has also been known by the honorable pagans, who said: we pray for a healthy mind in a healthy soul.
If only we pray to God to take from us all kinds of illnesses, He will be merciful and gentle. And just as He provided a physician against our eternal destruction, namely His Son Jesus Christ, to heal and cure our souls, He has also shown His kindness to us in a peculiar way by creating the bodily medicines out of the earth, then leaving them to men to be used to advantage, so that we should also have a Nepenthes in our mortality - about which Homer has likewise said wonderful things - enabling us to drive away not only every depression and and sadness wth these high arcana, but also all illnesses. Those who had been striving for made much good progress in the Art, have been held in high esteem above all others - the pagans even bestowed divine honors on them - as may be seen from the true case histories which we render in abbreviated form, as those concerned do not wish to become known.
But when this noble Art reached its true flowering, the weeds soon appeared which wanted to suppress the good seed.
Therefore many spoilers, misleaders and butchers of honest men appeared who attempted to obscure the good either from a lack of understanding or from untimely arrogance.
ii. Now we find that also mighty Kings, Princes, and Lords were engaged in this Art, considering it the highest good next to the soul's salvation. In particular, the Egyptians had been blessed with special knowledge in it above all other nations. They were not just satisfied with the general preparation of medicines but reflected deeper on the matter, dissected the subjects correctly and extracted their essences. They separated the pure from the impure, and they were the inventors of the true Chymia, or the
Art of Spagyrics. In it they excelled to such an extent that all the books on the subject cannot relate enough of them.
That is also why Moses had been so far instructed in the Egyptian Arts that he could burn the Golden Calf with fire, which as one of the greatest wonders and is not to be esteemed so little as others may think of it. For it is such a stable creature of God that it cannot be destroyed by any element.
As we read, Moses destroyed it and threw it on the water. This destroying and burning is the noblest work in hermetic medicine.
Long before Moses' time, Hermes had been famous in the medical art. He had been the very oldest philosopher, physician, and priest, according to whom the whole Nature was divided into three parts or kingdoms: the vegetable, the animal, and the mineral. In these three kingdoms man has now to look for the pearl of his health and also for acquiring the genuine Nepenthes.
True, many learned men of rank have endeavored to raise this embedded treasure and use it for the health of the human body.
They also did their share with great praise and were great wonderworkers in their time but, aside from the Egyptians, they tackled and assiduously investigated only one kingdom, namely the vegetable realm. They prepared their medicines from it, although they did their separation of the pure from the impure in the accepted vulgar way. But they left the other two kingdoms almost completely aside and perhaps did not believe that in them was hidden a treasure for human health. They contented themselves with plants and also drove away severe diseases in their time,
while herbs had a much greater power in their countries than
nowadays and diseases had not reached such a degree of exaltation
as at present. Necessity, therefore, has compelled us to seek further and to invent medicines that are more potent than the
diseases. It cannot be contradicted that if the medicine stands in the same degree as the disease, and Nature cannot help the medicine,
no successful cure can result. That is why our dear ancestors
wanted also to search through the other two kingdoms to get to
know and solve their secrets, just as there have always been
noble geniuses, both in previous times and in ours, who applied
their talent with particular zeal. Mankind cannot thank them
enough, especially those who brought the noble Art Chymia to our
lands and planted it there. I could enumerate a whole catalog of
But as I well know that your Serene Highness is a prince highly talented by God, endowed with all the qualities, and having a great knowledge, it is unnecessary to make a long introduction. In my youth imagined and planned - with God's help and for the benefit of my neighbor - also to learn something useful in this Art. Thus, through God's guidance, I chanced upon the laudable art of medicine and devoted myself to it. Therefore I did not permit myself to become deterred from learning something by any troubles, expenses, sour and very dangerous travels but had been looking for learned men in all lands, listened to them and carried on conversations with them till at last I had, as the saying is, absolved my studies and attained the degree of Doctor. What I learned and understood in my youth I have afterwards applied to my fellowman in my practice - and I am mentioning it without boasting - I have been successful.
iii. However, in addition to my practice, I have not omitted to work in the laboratories of chymists, using a good part of my assets for it, which work has been graciously blessed by God and has endowed me with glorious secrets. So as not to bury the benefits granted to me by God in ungratefulness but to turn to them to great usefulness. Also seeing how many misleading process-books fill almost the whole world, giving the noble Art of Chymia nothing but a bad name, I could no longer keep silent about those misleading authors. To bring to light but a small part for the benefit of the process to be in my work, and I hope that the reader will sense in them my special diligence and sincerity.
But aside from this, I must also admit that not everything has been elaborated as well as it might have been. It was not a lack of goodwill but the terrible war that has hindered me from doing so, to my great damage. All my belongings were robbed, smashed, and completely spoiled, so that hardly one book was left to me. Thus I have also so often been hindered from continuing with this work by the invasions that I felt inclined to stop everything, and I would have done so if some distinguished, learned men, highly experienced in medicine, had not encouraged and urged me to publish. Consequently, I have finished the work and given it to be printed. I am sure that learned men will not
be displeased that because in addition to the careful preparation of medicines I have also revealed, as clearly as sunlight, their use by actual case histories. I well know that there are some Zoili (critics) [Zoilus was a proverbially stern critic of Homer] who will not omit to slander this. Therefore it is necessary for me to look around for a patron who would stop their mouth.
Now I have sufficiently known for several years what a peculiar love Your Serene Highness has for noble medicine, on account of which Your Highness also has attained immortal fame within and without Christendom; in particular, what a special love Your Grace has, out of Your innate Princely affection, for the true chymical medicines and how highly You esteem them. Therefore I could not refrain from obediently and humbly offering Your Serene Highness the First Part of this work and to choose You as particular Patron and Protector, not doubting that Your Grace would look upon this work with benevolent eyes and receive and accept it from me unworthy man with favor.
I wish I could offer Your Serene Highness a greater work, but the bad times have not allowed me to do so, much less let me reveal all my labors and studies at this time. Perhaps God will send better times and grant me secure tranquility to take care of this high work more assiduously, so that what is missing in this work can be replaced in future ones.
May God grant Your Serene Highness, for the benefit of the Evangelical Christendom, a long life, steady health, together with every wellbeing, and I commend myself obediently and humbly to Your Lordship's gracious and mighty patronage, also remaining Yours submissively and obediently.
Leipzig, 12 July 1638.
Your Serene Highness's
Humble and obedient Servant,
Joannes Agricola, P. & M.
D.p.t. Practicus in Leipzig.
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