De occulta philosophia

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Philosophia occulta
Liber occultae philosophiae

I. Basic information

Printing History, Manuscripts. First edited in 1570 by Michael Toxites in Archidoxa Philippi Theophrasti Bombast, and several months later by Johann Albert Wimpinaeus in Etliche Tractetlein zur Archidoxa gehörig, clearly from another manuscript source. In Toxites’s edition some paragraphs were missing in two places (an error of the printer?); these were added in the 1574 re-edition. No full manuscripts; excerpts in two manuscripts. Manuscripts (now lost) were circulating already in 1569. – Because of his edition of De occulta philosophia Toxites was accused of being a “nigromanticus” and practicing “forbidden arts.”

Editions. Edited by Huser, 9 (1590): 329–368. Edited by Sudhoff in Paracelsus, Sämtliche Werke, I/14: 513–542.

Relationship between different versions.

Structure, genre/form, perspective, style.

Relationship to other texts. For related texts on “pygmaei” see Revelatio in somnio (§ ‎5.22) and Von den Erdgeistern (§ ‎5.26).

Authenticity, authorship. Considered as spurious by Sudhoff, who included this text among the spuria of vol. 14 of his edition. One may notice that Paracelsus himself referred once to a work of his entitled De occulta philosophia in his treatise Von dem Schlaff und Wachen der Leiber und Geister. – Andrew Weeks has recently come to the conclusion that there is “no reason to dispute the authenticity […] since its themes and thoughts are nearly all found in the undisputed [De causis morborum invisibilium]”. However, at least the mentioning by Paracelsus of “Henricus Cornelius Agrippa […] Petrus de Abano […] Trithemius” at the beginning of the treatise is of highly questionable authenticity, if not blatantly spurious.

Time of writing. Probably written in the late 1560s.

II. Sources


  • Amsterdam, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica: M 127
  • Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek: Mscr.Dresd.N.43, f. 34r–64r [German]
  • Kassel, Landesbibliothek: 4° Ms. chem. 17, f. 126v–129r, 169r–170v [excerpts]
  • Kassel, Landesbibliothek: 4° Ms. chem. 25, f. 102v
  • Kassel, Landesbibliothek: 4° Ms. chem. 72, f. 227r, 236v
  • München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: cgm 3737, f. 29v–33r [probably copied from the printed 1570 edition]
  • Wrocław/Breslau, Biblioteka Uniwersytecka: Ms. 6610 (olim Görlitz), f. 9v–11r [excerpts]

First printed:

  • 1570 (in: Archidoxa Philippi Theophrasti Bombast, ed. Michael Toxites (Strasburg: Theodosius Rihel, 1570), sig. a4r–g1r; VD16 P 395; Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica, 187–190 n° 118; Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica, 268–272 n° 158)
  • 1570 (in: Philippi Theophrasti Paracelsi von Hohenhaim etliche Tractetlein zur Archidoxa gehörig, ed. Johann Albert Wimpinaeus (Munich: Adam Berg, 1570), sig. B2r–G1r; VD16 P 629; Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica, 213–215 n° 128)

Historical Manuscript Catalogues: Catalogus Osek (Prague) 1, n° 29; Scripta Theophrasti (Wien); Widemann, Verzeichnisse (Kassel), n° I, 242

III. Bibliography

Essential bibliography: Sudhoff, Bibliographia Paracelsica, 404; Sudhoff, Paracelsus-Handschriften, 150, 215, 711, 714, 663, 776; Sudhoff, “Vorwort,” in Paracelsus, Sämtliche Werke, I/14: XXIX; CP 1: 421; CP 2: 201, 415, 489–492, 1008.

Further bibliographical references:

Josef Strebel, “Zur Echtheitsfrage der paracelsischen Geheimphilosophie (Ph. Occulta) und die Philosophia ad Athenienses,” Nova Acta Paracelsica, 4 (1947), 48–54 [questionable].

Peuckert, Pansophie (1956), 339, 454, 474, 478.

Peuckert, “Paracelsische Zauberei,” Nova Acta Paracelsica, 8 (1957), 71–94, on 88, 90.

Peuckert, Gabalia (1967), 447.

Wolf-Dieter Müller-Jahncke, Astrologisch-magische Theorie und Praxis in der Heilkunde der frühen Neuzeit (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1985), 85.

Goldammer, Der göttliche Magier (1991), 105–106.

Thomas Hofmeier, “Paracelsus und Ägypten,” Nova Acta Paracelsica, N.F. 15 (2001), 41–54, on 52.

Tried and tested: The appreciation of Hermetic and alchemical manuscripts from the 15th–20th centuries (Amsterdam: Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, 2004), 41

Broszinski, Manuscripta chemica in quarto (2011), 53, 54, 322.

Andrew Weeks, ed., Jacob Boehme, Aurora (Morgen Röte im auffgang, 1612) (Leiden, 2013)

Andrew Weeks, “Paracelsus and the Idea of the Renaissance”, in Die Wiederkehr der Renaissance im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Helmut Koopmann and Frank Baron (Münster, 2013), 89–113.