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Alchemy, Prophecy, and the Rosicrucians: Raphael Eglinus and Mystical Currents of the Early Seventeenth Century

  • Bruce T. Moran
Chapter
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 140)

Abstract

Even among historians of alchemy Raphael Eglinus (1559–1622) is a relatively obscure figure. For years he has stood on the periphery of discussions concerned with Renaissance occult traditions. When mentioned at all it has usually been in the context of a certain type of prophetic literature or as a casual acquaintance of Giordano Bruno. And yet, in the light of what scarcely known printed and archival sources actually reveal about him, Eglinus has to be considered one of the most important intellectual links supporting a Swiss-Italian and German connection within the mystical and alchemical history of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. In his writings, almost sixty published works, Eglinus combined New Testament studies with readings in prophetic mysticism, alchemy and Paracelsian natural philosophy. He examined the relation between the macro- and microcosmos, wrote of the returning Elias Artista, discussed magical symbols, edited a text of Giordano Bruno, composed Rosicrucian essays, and made prophecies based on marks appearing on the back of a herring caught off the coast of Norway.1 That orthodox Lutheran schoolmaster and chemist, Andreas Libavius (1540–1616), despised most of these things; but when it came to patching together his own defence of alchemy, even he found it useful to include part of an alchemical treatise written by Eglinus, albeit one composed under a pseudonym.2

Keywords

Gold Alloy Gold Powder Late Sixteenth Sacred Scripture Benedictine Monk 
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Notes

  1. 3.
    J. Wälli, “Raphael Egli (1559-1622),” Zürcher Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1905 N.F. 28 (1905), pp. 154–92. Other references includeGoogle Scholar
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  3. Friedrich Wilhelm Strieder, Grundlage zu einer hessischen gelehrtenund schriftsteller-geschichte (1781–1868), vol. 3, pp. 299–318.Google Scholar
  4. Hermann Walser, Geschichte der Laurenzen-oder Stadtkirche Winterthur (Winterthur: Geschwister Ziegler, 1944), Part 2, pp. 52–53; Historisch Biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz (Neuenburg, 1924–34), vol. 2, p. 790. Emanuel Dejung and Willy Wuhrmann, Zürcher Pfarrerbuch 1519–1952 (Zürich, 1953), p. 252.Google Scholar
  5. Walther Zimmermann, “Die Ahnen des Marburger Professors Raphael Eglin, eine Karolinger-Abstammung,” Hessische Familienkunde (Frankfurt am Main, 1954–56), vol. 3, pp. 73–80; 171-78. I have discussed a few aspects of Eglinus’s life in The Alchemical World of the German Court: Occult Philosophy and Chemical Medicine in the Circle of Moritz of Hessen (1572–1632) (Stuttgart, 1991), pp. 40ff; 98-101.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Wälli’s reading of remaining documents in Zürich surrounding Eglinus’s dismissal is more trustworthy than the impression left by Ferguson who follows earlier biographical sources. “But he had become so infatuated with alchemy that not only his own estate but a good deal of other peoples’ had gone in smoke up his furnace chimney, and at last in 1601 his debts were so heavy that he fled from Zürich to Marburg...” John Ferguson, Bibliotheca Chemica (1906, rept. London, 1954), vol. 1, p. 233.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Öffentliche Bibliothek der Universität Basel: Fr. Gr. Ms. II, 28, no. 90; Eglinus to Zwinger, 14 Dec. (no year). See also Johannes Gerber, “Giordano Bruno und Raphael Egli: Begegnung im Zwielicht von Alchemie und Theologie,” Sudhoffs Archiv 76 (1992), pp. 133–63.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Cheiragogia Helianna de Auro Philosophico necdum cognito... (Marburg: Rudolph Hutweicher, 1612). There appeared later an English translation, George Thor, Cheiergogia Heliana. A Manuduction to the Philosopher’s magical gold... (London: Humphrey Moseley, 1659).Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    Summa Terminorum metaphysicorum ad capessendum Logicae et Philosophiae Studium, ex lordani Bruni Nolani Entis descensu manusc. excerpta; nunc primum luci commissa; a Rephaele Eglino Iconio, Tigurino (Tiguri, apud Ioannem Wolphium, 1595). A second edition, appearing with two smaller works, the Tractatus de definitionibus of pseudo-Atanasio and the Terminorum quorundam explicationes of Rudolph Goclenius, was published at Marburg by Rodolph Hutwelcker in 1609. This edition forms the basis of a recent reprinting of the Bruno text with an informative introduction by Eugenio Canone: Summa Terminorum Metaphysicorum Ristampa anastatica dell’edizione Marburg 1609, ed. E. Canone (Rome: Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 1989).Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    Disquisitio de Helia Artium ad illustrissimum principem Mauritium, Hassiae Landgravium... (Leipzig: Apud Iohannem Rosam Bibliopolam, 1606). The book was also printed in the same year, 1606, at Marburg. Two years later another edition appeared with the title Disquisitio de Helia Artista Theophrast. in qua de metallorum transformatione, adversus Hagellii et Pererii Jesuitarum opiniones evidenter et solide differitur... Accesserunt recens Canones hermetici, de spiritu, anima et corpore majoris et minoris mundi, cum appendice (Marburg, 1608). Using an anagram, Nicolaus Niger Hapelius, Eglinus published the text again in 1612 as part of his Cheiragogia Heliana. In this edition Eglinus adds two other treatises to the Disquisitio, the Tractatus de Coelo Terrestri Venceslai Lavinii and Aphorismi Basiliani The latter was also published separately by Hutwelcker in 1612. Eglinus’s treatises were next taken up by Lazarus Zetzner in his Theatrum chemicum (Argentorati: Lazari Zetzneri Bibliopolae, 1613), vol. 4 [Cheirogogia Heliana..., pp. 299-323; Disquisitio Heliana, de metallorum transformation, pp. 326-67; Aphorismi Basiliani, pp. 368-71]. A German translation of the Disquisitio had to wait until the eighteenth century, Friedrich Josef Wilhelm Schröder, R. E. L. D. Elias der Artist, eine Abhandlung von der Künstlichen Metallverwandlung in Neue Alchymistische Bibliothek für den Naturkundiger unsers Jahrhunderts ausgesucht und herausgegeben von S. Zweyte Sammlung (Frankfurt and Leipzig: Heinrich Ludwig Brönner, 1772), part III, pp. 181–260.Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    Concerning the age of Elias, see H. Kopp, Die Alchemie in Älterer und neuerer Zeit (1886; rept. Hildesheim: Georg O1ms, 1971). vol. 1, pp. 250–52. AlsoGoogle Scholar
  12. Walter Pagel, “The Paracelsian Elias Artista and the Alchemical Tradition,” Medizinhistorisches Journal, 16 (1981), pp. 6–19. More recently, Herbert Breger, “Elias Artista—A Precursor of the Messiah in Natural Science,” in Nineteen Eighty-Four: Science Between Utopia and Dystopia, ed. Everett Mendelsohn and Helga Nowotny (Dordrecht, 1984), pp. 49-72. Cf. alsoGoogle Scholar
  13. William Newman, “Prophecy and Alchemy: the Origin of Eirenaeus Philalethes, Ambix, 37 (1990), pp. 97–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 41.
    MBK: 2° MS Chem 19, vol. 1, 250r-v 327r. Other alchemists whose work Eglinus represented to the prince include Wolfgang Lambert, 2° MS Chem 19, vol. 1, 70r-v, 345r-v; Fabiano Campani, vol. 1, 35r-37v, 253r-254r; and Cyriac Waschmuntzer, 4° MS Chem 39, no. 8. Eglinus himself also took an interest in the alchemical work of the Hessen nobleman Heinrich von Siegerodt. After falling into disgrace at the Hessen court in 1613, when he refused to reveal to the Prince one of his procedures for founding light cannon, von Siegerodt left Hessen and went later to Sweden where he supplied Gustavus Adolphus with alchemical secrets. A search of Siegerodt’s personal property uncovered alchemical texts written in cipher, 2° MS Chem 19, vol. 3,45r; 59r-66r; 72r. A partial description of Siegerodt’s coded alchemical writings appears in Rudolf Schmitz and Adolf Winkelmann, “Über die alchemistischen Geheimschriften im Briefwechsel des Landgrafen Moritz von Hessen-Kassel,” Pharmazeutische Zeitung, 111 (1961), pp. 374–378. In 1620, Eglinus reported to his son, Hans Ulrich, that von Siegerodt was “doing wonders with medicines, and has such a mercury of antimony that I think he has a tincture from it, but this he has forgotten to send me.” 2° MS Chem 19, vol. 1, 58r-59v. Earlier, in 1617, Eglinus copied a tincturing process directly from one of Siegerodt’s own manuscripts, 4° MS Chem 45, no. 2.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

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  • Bruce T. Moran

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