Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Support your local occultist

Reading the Handlexikon der magischen Künste  by Hans Biedermann I discovered a few occultists living in my neighborhood. It could be an interesting project to find the places where they lived and to visit these locations. Most likely no trace remains and these events have been totally forgotten.
Local occultists and early rationalists:

 Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698) was a preacher from Amsterdam. In 1690 he published Die Betooverde Wereld (The World Bewitched) in which he denied the existence of phenomena generally ascribed to the devil. He attacked the belief in sorcery, evil spirits, possession by the devil and pacts with the devil. Indeed he questioned the devil's very existence. The book had a sensational effect and was one of the key works of the Early Enlightenment in Europe.
All pictures are from The Hague, surroundings of the Prinsenmarkt.
Giuseppe Francesco Borri (1602 - 1681) moved to Amsterdam in 1660 after being accused of heresy by the Inquisition in Rome. From all over Europe, princes and merchants came to the physician-alchemist to be cured of syphilis. He extended his interests, and his fame, besides medicine and alchemy, to magic, cosmetics and engineering. The Amsterdam city senate conferred on him honorary citizenship but just at the height of his fame, indebted for his luxurious life and probably forced by the obscure manoeuvres of other physicians envious of his fame, he was forced to flee to avoid arrest.
Johann Rudolf Glauber (1604–1670) built up a business in Amsterdam manufacturing pharmaceuticals. This led to both great financial success and to bankruptcy in 1649. In 1660 he became seriously ill, which has been attributed to poisoning from the various heavy metals used in his work. He died on 16 March 1670 in Amsterdam. The hydrate of sodium sulfate is known as Glauber's Salt. He named it sal mirabilis (miraculous salt), because of its medicinal properties: the crystals were used as a general purpose laxative.
The famous alchemical book Mutus Liber (The silent book) might have been written by the Dutch philologist, physician and alchemist Jacobus Tollius (Rhenen 1633 – Utrecht 1696). He was rector of the Latin school in Gouda (1665) and Leiden (1672) but was dismissed because of his liberal views.
In 1760 the Comte de Saint Germain (1710 - 1784) was sent to The Hague on a diplomatic mission to arrange peace between Prussia and Austria. He made enemies in France and had to flee to London. The adventurer Casanova was in The Hague at the same time and he gives some details of this escape. Casanova also reports how Sain Germain transmuted silver into gold in The Hague using "Athoeter" - a white mercurial liquid contained in a white glass phial. But Casanova suspects the transmutration was a trick.
From 1612 to 1617 Angelo Sala (1576 - 1637) lived in The Hague and worked there as physician and alchemist. In 1614, he reported that silver nitrate (lapis lunearis) will turn black in sunlight. He published his findings in a pamphlet entitled Septem Planetarum Terrestrium Spagricia Recensio. He is one of the forefathers of photography.
Local occult editions:
  • Astrologia Gallica by Jean-Baptiste Morinus was published poshumously in 1661 in The Hague.
  • A French translation of Occulta Philosophia by Agrippa von Nettesheim was published in The Hague in 1727.
  • Theatrum Fati Sive Notitia Scriptorum De Providentia Fortuna Et Fato by Peter Friedrich Arpe was published in Rotterdam in 1712.

Handlexikon der magischen Künste, Hans Biedermann

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