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Galen, Avicenna, Averroes and other medical masters. It was surprising to see the iconoclast in company with these authorities. But Paracelsus did not quote from them. He placed some sulphur in a brasier, set fire to it, cast in the sacred volumes, and burnt up the idols. Festus, I plunge!
'Follow me,' he cried, 'not I you, follow me Avicenna, Galen, Rhazes, Montagnana, Mesuë, and ye others! Follow me, not I you! ye of Paris, Montpellier, ye of Suabia, ye of Meissen, ye of Cologne, ye of Vienna and the banks of the Danube and the Rhine, ye islands of the sea, Italy, Dalmatia, Sarmatia, Athens, ye Greeks, ye Arabs, ye Israelites, not one of you shall remain in the remotest corner upon whom the dogs shall not void their urine! How does this please you, Cacophrastus? This dung must ye eat! And ye Calefactores, ye shall become chimney-sweeps! What will you think when the sect of Paracelsus triumphs? I am to be the monarch, and the monarchy will belong to me. For I tell you boldly that the hair from the back of my head knows more than all your writers put together; my shoe-buckles have more wisdom in them than either Galen or Avicenna; and my beard more experience than your whole Academy.'
Paracelsus was not the sort of man who can occupy official positions. He disturbed the doctors in their commercial transactions. In his capacity of town-physician, he demanded to examine the drugs of the apothecaries, to see if they were of sufficient purity. Basel became a vat where trouble brewed. It was discovered that Paracelsus had no degree. Objection was found to his unprofessional dress. He was accused of immorality. His servant testified that for his own amusement Paracelsus often conjured up legions of devils.
About this time Paracelsus and a prelate agreed that if the skill of the former could remove the sickness of the latter, one hundred florins should be the reward. Treatment was commenced, and the disease disappeared so swiftly that the churchman thought six florins would be adequate pay
ment. Paracelsus brought the matter into court, but the judges found it convenient to forget the law of contract, and rendered a verdict for the defendant. Enraged words leaped to the eloquent tongue of that pugnacious plaintiff, and treating the bench as if it was a prisoner, and he himself the magistrate, Paracelsus delivered a lecture on justice. The legal lights of Basel determined to punish this trespass into the realms of jurisprudence. The friends of Paracelsus got wind of the matter; they informed him, and he fled.
For the rest of his life Paracelsus was a homeless wanderer. In 1528 he was at Colmar; in 1529 at Nuremberg; in 1530 at Munich, Amberg, Noerdlingen, Regensburg; in 1531 at St Gall; in 1535 we find him at Appenzall, Zurich, Pfeffers; in 1536 he journeyed to Augsburg; he was at Villach in 1538; in 1540 he was at Mindelheim; in 1541, under the protection of an archbishop, he came to Salzburg in the Tyrol; he needed rest, and soon found it.
In a little inn called the White Horse, he died, as the result of a long debauch, his enemies say.
And at my door the Pale Horse stands,
Three hundred and fifty years later his skeleton was unearthed for reburial; an examination revealed the fact that his skull was smaller than the average, having a capacity of 1300 cubic centimeters, instead of the usual 1450. But a more curious discovery was made. A fracture was found on his temporal bone which the surgeons declared could have been made only during life. To-day many believe he was assassinated by hirelings of his foes. It is doubtful if the truth will ever be known.
A contradictory character; he blundered much; his mistakes were manifold, but he had some great ideas, and this is a virtue that few possess.
Jacobus Sylvius was an element: he was a disciple of Galen, and could not be subdivided into anything else. Haller was
an harmonious compound: the elements in him were united in certain definite proportions. Paracelsus was a strange mixture: the multitudinous elements that entered into his cosmos were erratically arranged.
In spite of his adherence to mysticism he had the great intelligence to say, 'Ere the world perishes, many arts now ascribed to the work of the devil will become public, and we shall then see that the most of these effects depend upon natural forces.'
Festus, I plunge!