Medicine, Occult

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Medicine, Occult

Nineteenth-century magus Éliphas Lévi observed:

"The whole power of the occult physician is in the conscience of his will, while his whole art consists in exciting the faith of his patient. 'If you have faith,' says the Master, 'all things are possible to him who believes.' The subject must be dominated by expression, tone, gesture; confidence must be inspired by a fatherly manner, and cheerfulness stimulated by seasonable and sprightly talk. Rabelais, who was a greater magician than he seemed, made pantagruelism his special panacea. He compelled his patients to laugh, and all the remedies he administered subsequently succeeded better in consequence. He established a magnetic sympathy between himself and them, by means of which he imparted his own confidence and good humour; he flattered them in his refaces, termed them his precious, most illustrious patients, and dedicated his books to them. So are we convinced that Gargantua and Pantagruel cured more black humours, more tendencies to madness, more atrabilious whims, at that epoch of religious animosities and civil wars, than the whole Faculty of medicine could boast.

"Occult medicine is essentially sympathetic. Reciprocal affection, or at least real good will, must exist between doctor and patient. Syrups and juleps have very little inherent virtue; they are what they become through the mutual opinion of operator and subject; hence homeopathic medicine dispenses with them and no serious inconvenience follows. Oil and wine, combined with salt or camphor, are sufficient for the healing of all wounds, and for all external frictions or soothing applications. Oil and wine are the chief medicaments of the Gospel tradition. They formed the balm of the Good Samaritan, and in the Apocalypse, when describing the last plagues, the prophet prays the avenging powers to spare these substances, that is, to leave a hope and a remedy for so many wounds. What we term Extreme Unction was the pure and simple practice of the Master's traditional medicine, both for the early Christians and in the mind of the apostle Saint James, who has included the precept in his epistle to the faithful of the whole world. 'Is any man sick among you,' he writes, 'let him call in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.'

"This divine therapeutic science was lost gradually, and Extreme Unction came to be regarded as a religious formality, as necessary preparation for death. At the same time, the thaumaturgic virtue of consecrated oil could not be effaced altogether from remembrance by the traditional doctrine, and it is perpetuated in the passage of the catechism which refers to Extreme Unction. Faith and charity were the most signal healing powers among the early Christians. The source of most diseases is in moral disorders; we must begin by healing the soul, and then the cure of the body will follow quickly."

Some of these concepts have been revived in the modern New Age concept of holistic medicine.


Hartmann, Franz. The Life and Teachings of Paracelsus. London: George Redway, 1887. Reprinted with The Prophecies of Paracelsus. Blauvely, N.Y.: Rudolf Steiner, 1973.

Lévi, Éliphas. Transcendental Magic. London: George Redway, 1896. Rev. ed. London: William Rider, 1923.

Paracelsus. The Archidoxes of Magic. Translated by Robert Turner. London, 1656. Reprint, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1975.

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Medicine, Occult

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