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Elias Artista — A Precursor of the Messiah in Natural Science

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Part of the Sociology of the Sciences a Yearbook book series (SOSC,volume 8)

Abstract

The history of Elias artista is the history of an almost forgotten utopian concept in natural science. The advent of the modern age brought with it a widespread belief amongst physicians and chemists, particularly in Germany, that God in a not too distant future would be sending a person, capable of revealing all nature’s secrets to humanity, that person being Elias artista. His disclosures were to coincide directly with the end of this iniquitous world and the beginning of a messianic age (a golden world or the millenium). Despite the popularity of this belief in the 16th and 17th centuries, it has since faded into oblivion. A search for details of Elias artista in the larger works of reference proves fruitless and even specialist literature on history of science barely mentions him (1). This astonishing omission is due it seems to the tendency in history of science to be interested mainly in subject matter which is recognized by present day scientists.

Keywords

  • 17th Century
  • Natural Science
  • Jewish Tradition
  • Holy Ghost
  • Social Utopia

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

I want to express my gratitude to Walter Pagel (London) and Christel Möller (Hannover).

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Notes and References

  1. The hitherto published literature on Elias artista is scant: Hermann Kopp, Die Alchemie, Hildesheim and New York, 1971 (First edition Heidelberg 1886), Part 1, pp. 250–252. (Kopp gives no reconstruction of the intellectual associations.)

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  2. Will-Erich Peuckert, Die Rosenkreutzer, Jena 1928, pp. 45–51. (Peuckert’s description is limited to the period of the beginning of the 17th century.)

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  3. Walter Pagel, ‘The Paracelsian Elias artista and the Alchemical Tradition’, Medizinhistorisches Journal 16 (1981) 6–19. (Pagel’s description is very well-informed but obviously forgoes entirety and gives no information on the Elias tradition).

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  4. In addition, there are numerous more or less fleeting mentions of Elias artista in secondary literature, all of which are without value as a source of information, for example: Paul Nève de Mévergnies, Jean-Baptiste Helmont Liège, 1935, pp. 85–87

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  12. Neither Michael Winter, Compendium utopiarum, Vol. 1, Stuttgart, 1978

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  52. Engelbertus Abbas Admontensis, De Ortu et fine Romani Imperü Liber. Cum Gasparis Bruschü Praefatione, Basel, 1553, p. 5.

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  53. Ibid., p. 144.

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  54. Luther also referred to this Jewish tradition (Will-Erich Peuckert, Die grosse Wende, Hamburg 1948, p. 544).

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  55. This aspect of the Elias tradition is also dealt with in: Christian Bruhn, Pseudo-Elias (Praeses Aegidius Strauch), Wittenberg, 1662. Fama remissa ad Fratres Roseae Crucis (perhaps written by Henning Arnisaeus), 1616. fol. G VI v° — G VII r° and Stiassny.op. cit., Note 2, p. 244.

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  57. Peuckert, op. cit., Note 1, p. 11.

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  58. Ibid., p. 44.

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  59. Roland Haase, Das Problem des Chiliasmus und der Dreissigjährige Krieg, Leipzig, 1933, p.59.

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  60. Marianne Ruth Katz, Messianismus, Chiliasmus und Eschatologie in der deutschen Dichtung des 17. Jahrhunderts, unpublished Ph. D. thesis, Vienna, 1938, pp. 5–6

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  61. 19. On the return of Elias, cf. also Haase, op. cit., Note 25, pp. 84, 98, 103. Holzhauser is also worthy of note in connection with Elias artista because he promises the coming of “homines illuminati tarn in naturalibus, quam in coelestibus scientiis” (quoted acc. to Haase, op. cit., Note 25, p. 85).

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  62. Johann Heinrich Alsted, Diatribe de mille annis apocalypticis, Frankfurt 1627, p. 223 (pagination erroneous). Moreover, Alsted was also familiar with Elias artista thought (ibid. p. 229).

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  63. Dietrich Korn, Das Thema des Jüngsten Tages in der deutschen Literatur des 17. Jahrhunderts, Tübingen, 1957, pp. 15–17. According to Katz (op. cit., Note 26. p. 28) the prophecies were flourishing between 1610 and 1630 and experienced a revival in 1650–1666.

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  64. A famous passage in ‘Das Ende aller Dinge’ (Immanuel Kant, Gesammelte Schriften, ed. by Königliche Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften, I, 8, Berlin, 1912, p. 332) may be noted. Kant describes the relationship of moral and scientific/ technical progress which has become for him two separate lines of development. Kant refers to Elias as a figure of the Old Testament and no reference is made at all to an expectation of the return of Elias.

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  65. For details cf. Pagel, op. cit., Note 1, p. 7.

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  66. Paracelsus, Sämtliche Werke, Abt. 1, ed. by Sudhoff, München and Berlin, 1930, Vol. 2, p. 163.

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  67. Ibid., Vol. 3, p.46.

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  68. Ibid. Vol. 13, p. 330.

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  71. Kurt Goldammer, ‘Paracelsische Eschatologie’, Nova Acta Paracelsica, Vol. 5, Einsiedeln, 1948, pp. 45–85

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  72. and Vol. 6, Einsiedeln, 1952, pp. 68–102.

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  73. Pagel, op. cit., Note 34, p. 43.

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  75. Kopp, op. cit., Note l, p. 45.

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  76. Glauber,op. cit., Note 73, p. 106.

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  77. Partington, op. cit.,Note l, p. 120.

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  78. Paracelsus, op. cit., Note 31, Vol. 14, p. 396. To this counterfeit book cf. also ibid., XII–XIII.

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  79. Will-Erich Peuckert, Die grosse Wende, Hamburg 1948, Note 1, p. 153

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  80. Theatrum chemicum, praecipuos selectorum auctorum tractatus de chemiae et lapidis philosophici, Vol. 1, Strassburg, 1602, pp. 610, 662. C. G. Jung referred amongst other things to these remarks from Dorn for his interpretation of Elias as ‘Archetype’ (cf. Elie le Prophète, op. cit. Note 2, pp. 15, 17–18).

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  81. Alexander von Suchten, Mysteria gemina Antimonii, Nürnberg, 1604 (First edition 1570), p. 92.

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  83. Oswald Croll, Basilica chymica, Leipzig 1634 (First edition 1609), p. 9.

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  84. Bernard Penot, De denario medico, Bern 1608, pp. 202–203. It has also been said of Basilius Valentinus that he had lived before Paracelsus and that Parcelsus has plagiarised his work, but this has been refuted too.

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  85. It is likely, that the passage in Basilius Valentinus, Chymische Schlifften alle, so viel derer vorhanden, Hamburg, 1677, part 1, p. 117, can be referred back to the Paracelsian Elias artista concept.

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  86. Christian Wilhelm Kestner, Medicinisches Gelehrten-Lexikon, Jena, 1740 (Reprint Hildesheim and New York, 1971), pp. 634–635.

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  87. Wilhelm Dilthey, ‘Das natürliche System der Geisteswissenschaften im 17. Jahrhundert’, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 5 (1892) 480.

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  88. Peuckert, op. cit., Note 1. Richard van Dülmen, Die Utopie einer christlichen Gesellschaft. Johann Valentin Andreae, Part 1, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, 1978.

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  89. The existence of such associations has been proved in recent years, esp. concerning England, cf. P. Rattansi, ‘The Intellectual Origins of the Royal Society’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 23 (1968) 129–143.

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  90. T. H. Jobe, ‘The Devil in Restoration Science’, Isis 72 (1981) 343–356.

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  93. Pagel, op. cit., Note 1. 11. Moreover, in Marburg, Eglin was also in contact with the above mentioned Oswald Croll and the well-known Rosicrucian, Michael Maier.

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  97. 111. Moreover, Elias artista is anticipated in the alchemistic tract Occulta Philosophia Von den verborgenen Philosophischen Geheimnussen, Frankfurt, 1613, p. 38.

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  108. Ibid., pp. 15

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  110. Ibid., p. 161.

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  113. Andreas Libavius, Analysis Confessionis Fraternitatis de Rosea Cruce, Frankfurt, 1615, p. 4. A critical attitude towards Elias artista is also to be found in Naudés book (1623) on Rosicrucianism, cf. Secret, op. cit., Note 19, p. 165.

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  124. Johann Friedrich Helvetius, Vitulus aureus, Amsterdam, 1667, pp. 47–59. (This work appeared in various further editions and translations.) In the penultimate sentence of his book, Helvetius quotes Seneca: “I desire to know, so that I might teach others; if wisdom was offered me only under the condition that I should keep it to myself, I would refuse it”. This sentence appears to contain an obvious criticism towards the stranger named Elias artista.

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  125. Therefore it seems to be possible that Helvetius was neither a fraud nor the victim of a delusion (cf. Wayne Shumaker, Occult Sciences in the Renaissance, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1972, p. 165); he might well have invented the whole story in order to ensure that the thoughts he expressed in his book worked to the greatest possible effect.

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  133. Ibid., p. 77.

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  150. Elias der Artist, Erläuterung etlicher Schriften vom Weisenstein, Hamburg, 1693. Elias Artista mit dem Stein der Weisen, Leipzig (?) 1770. Keren Happuch, Posaunen Eliae des Künstlers, oder Teutsches Fegfeuer der Scheidekunst, Hamburg, 1702.

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  151. (The author of this work, probably the Hamburg physician Söldner, sees himself as Elias artista.) Söldner’s work is criticized with much sarcasm and baroque verbosity by Aletophilus, Glückliche Erober- und Demolirung des durch den Schall einer thönemen Elias-Posaune angekündigten Fegefeuers der Scheidekunst, Leipzig, 1705.

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  152. The existence of relations between Swedenborg and this Elias artista is reported by Brumore. See Emanuel de Swedenborg, Traité curieux des charmes de l’amour conjugal, transl, by Brumore, Berlin and Basel, 1784, pp. 13–16. Biographie universelle. Vol. 44, Paris, 1826, p. 253.

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  153. A. Ladrague, Bibliothèque Ouvaroff, Moscow, 1870, p. 57.

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  154. Brumore contented to have been himself in contact with the so-called Elias artista, cf. numerous mentions in Joanny Bricaud, Les Illuminés d’Avignon, Paris 1927. (My kind thanks to François Secret for this indication.)

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  155. The identity of this mysterious Elias artista has been cleared up very recently, cf. Reinhard Breymayer, ‘Ein unbekannter Gegner Lessings. Der Frankfurter Konzertdirektor Johann Daniel Müller’ in: Pietismus — Herrnhutertum — Erweckungsbewegung. Festschrift für Erich Beyreuther, Köln, 1982, pp. 109–145.

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  156. Cf. also Breymayer, ‘Ein radikaler Pietist im Umkreis des jungen Goethe — der Frankfurter Konzertdirektor Johann Daniel Müller’, in Pietismus und Neuzeit, Jahrbuch zur Geschichte des neueren Protestantismus, Vol. 9, Göttingen, 1983.

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  157. Whether the tract Elias Artista Hermetica (Pseudonym), Das Geheimnis von dem Salz, 1770 (republished Stuttgart 1862 and Munich 1924) has been edited in this circle, is not yet known. (My kind thanks to Reinhard Breymayer for this indication.)

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  158. Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon aller Wissenschaften und Künste, publisher: Johann Heinrich Zedier, Vol. 8, Halle and Leipzig, 1734, p. 824. Similar information is to be found in Meyer’s Conversations-Lexicon, Vol. 8, Hildburghausen, 1846, p.424.

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  159. As for being antiquated, cf. Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia, Frankfurt, 1976, p. 116.

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  160. Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620, über primus, Aphor. 92. Bacon hints of a relationship between the rise of science and the end of the world (ibid., Aphor. 93).

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© 1984 D. Reidel Publishing Company

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Breger, H. (1984). Elias Artista — A Precursor of the Messiah in Natural Science. In: Mendelsohn, E., Nowotny, H. (eds) Nineteen Eighty-Four: Science Between Utopia and Dystopia. Sociology of the Sciences a Yearbook, vol 8. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-6340-5_3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-6340-5_3

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht

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