Paracelsus on the Salamander


 

There is another class of spirits, the Saganse or Elemental Spirits of Nature. Paracelsus says about their bodies : " There are two kinds of flesh. One that comes from Adam and another that does not come from Adam. The former is gross material, visible and tangible for us; the other one is not tangible and not made from earth. If a man, who is a descendant from Adam, wants to pass through a wall, he will have first to make a hole through it; but a being which is not descended from Adam needs no hole or door, but may pass through matter that appears solid to us, without causing any damage to it. The beings not descended from Adam, as well as those descended from him, are organized and have substantial bodies ; but there is as much difference between the substance composing their bodies as there is between Matter and Spirit. Yet the Elementals are not spirits, because they have flesh, blood, and bones ; they live and propagate offspring ; they eat and talk, act and sleep, etc., and consequently they cannot be properly called " spirits." They are beings occupying a place between men and spirits, resembling men and women in their organization and form, and resembling spirits in the rapidity of their locomotion. They are intermediary beings, or Composita, formed out of two parts joined into one; just as two colours mixed together will appear .as one colour, resembling neither one nor the other of the two original ones. The Elementals have no higher principles; they are therefore not immortal, and when they die they perish like animals. Neither water nor fire can injure them, and they cannot be locked up in our material prisons. They are, however, subject to diseases. Their costumes,' actions, forms, ways of speaking, etc., are not very unlike those of human beings; but there are a great many varieties. They have only animal intellects, and are incapable of spiritual development." ("Lib. Philos.," ii.)

" These spirits of nature are not n,m'Tnfl.lH; they have a reason and language like man; they have minds; but no spiritual soul. This may appear strange and incredible; but the possibilities of nature are not limited by man's knowledge of them, and the wisdom of God is unfathomable. They have children, and these children are like themselves. Man is made after the image of God, and they may be said to be made after the image of man ; but man is not God, and the elemental spirits of nature are not hu

beings, although they resemble man. They are liable to sickness and they die like animals. Their habits resemble those of men; they work and sleep ; they eat and drink and make their clothing, and as man is nearest to God, so are they nearest to man." ("Lib. Philos.,"i.)

"They live in the four elements: the Nymphse in the element of water, the Sylphes in that of the air, the Pigmies in the earth, and the Salamanders in fire. They are also called Undinse, Sylvestres, Gnomi, Vulcani, etc. Each species moves only in the element to which it belongs, and neither of them can go out of its appropriate element, which is to them as the air is to us, or the water to fishes ; and none of them can live in the element belonging to another class. To each elemental being the element in which it lives is transparent, invisible, and respirable, as the atmosphere is to ourselves."

The four classes of nature spirits do not mix with each other ; the Gnomes have no intercourse with the Undines or Salamanders, nor the Sylvestres with either of these. As a fish lives in the water, it being its element, so each being lives in its own element. For instance, the element wherein man breathes and lives is the air; but to the Undines the water is what the air is to us, and if we are surprised that they are in the water, they may also be surprised because we are in the air. Thus the element of the Gnomes is the earth, and they pass through rocks and walls and stones like a spirit ; for such things are to them no greater obstacles than the air is to us. In the same sense the fire is the air wherein the Salamanders live; but the Sylvestres are the nearest related to us; for they live in the air like ourselves; they would be drowned if they were under water, and they would suffocate in the earth and be burned in the fire; for each being belongs to its own Chaos and dies if transported into another one. If that Chaos is gross, the beings living in it are subtle, and if the Chaos is subtle, the beings are gross. Therefore we have gross bodies, so that we can pass through the air without being blown down, and the Gnomes have subtle forms, so as to be able to pass through the rocks. Men have their leaders and authorities; bees and ants their queens, geese and other animals have their leaders also, and so also have the spirits of nature their kings and queens. The animals receive their clothing from nature; but the spirits of nature prepare it themselves. The omnipotence of God is not limited to His taking care only of man; but is abundantly able to take care also of the spirits of nature and of many other things of which men know nothing. They see the sun and the sky the same as we, because each element is transparent to those who live therein. Thus the sun shines through the rocks for the Gnomes, and the water does not hinder the Undines to see the sun and the stars; they have their summers and winters, and their " earth" bears them fruits; for each being lives on that element whereof it has grown." (" Lib. Philos.," ii.)

"As far as the personalities of the Elementals are concerned, it may be said that those belonging to the element of water resemble human beings of either sex; those of the air are greater and stronger;' the Salamanders are long, lean, and dry; the Pigmies are of the length of about two spans, but they may extend or elongate their forms until they appear like giants. The Elementals of air and water, the Sylphes and Nymphs, are kindly disposed towards man; the Salamanders cannot associate with him on account of the fiery nature of the element wherein they live, and the Pigmies are usually of a malicious nature. The latter ones are building houses, vaults, and strange-looking edifices of some certain semi-material substances unknown to us. They have some kind of alabaster, marble, cement, etc.; but these substances are as different from ours as the web of a spider is different from our linen. Nymphs have their residences and palaces in the element of water; Sylphs and Salamanders have no fixed dwellings. On the whole, the Elementals have an aversion against selfconceited and opinionated persons, such as dogmatists, scientists, drunkards, and gluttons, and against vulgar and quarrelsome people of all kinds; but they love natural men, who are simple-minded and childlike, innocent and sincere, and the less there is vanity and hypocrisy in a man, the easier will it be for him to approach them; but otherwise they are as shy as wild animals."

Man lives in the exterior elements, and the Elementals live in the interior elements. They have dwellings and clothing, manners and costumes, languages and governments of their own, in the same sense as he bees have their queens and herds of n.nima.lH their leader. They are sometimes seen in various shapes. Salamanders have been seen in the shapes of fiery balls, or tongues of fire running over the fields or appearing in houses. Nymphs have been known to adopt the human shape, clothing, and manner, and to enter into a union with man. There are certain localities where large numbers of Elementals live together, and it has occurred that a man has been admitted into their communities and lived with them for a while, and that they have become visible and tangible to him.1

"The angels are invisible to us; but nevertheless an angel may appear to our spiritual sight, and likewise man is invisible to the spirits of nature, and what the Undines know of us is to them merely what fairy tales are to us. The Undines appear to man, but not man to them. Man is gross in the body and subtle in the Chaos; therefore they may enter his Chaos (astral plane) and appear to him and remain with him, marry and bear children with him. Thus an Undine may marry a man and keep house with him, and her children will be human beings and not Undines, because they receive a human soul from the man, and, moreover, the Undine herself thereby receives the germ of immortality. Man is bound to God by means of his spiritual soul, and if an Undine becomes united to man, she will thereby become bound to God. As an Undine without her union with man dies like an animal likewise man is like an animal if he severs his union with God."

1 It is not credible that a person has entered with his physical body into the Venus mountain or Untersberg, or any other such renowned places of which popular tradition speaks. Neither have the witches and sorcerers of the Itiddle Ages been at the witch-sabbath in their physical bodies, and it seems equally improbable that a person should ever have entered physically the abodes of disembodied adepts. But the physical body of a man is not the man; it is only his external shadow, and wherever man's consciousness is, there will he be present himself. But while he is there, he does not miss his exterior body, of which he has no more use than of a part of his clothing purposely laid away, and on reawakening to physical consciousness he may well believe that ho had been to such a place in his physical form.

" Therefore the Nymphs are anxious to become united with man; they seek to become immortal through him. They have a mind and intellect like man; but not the immortal soul, such as we have obtained through the death of Christ. But the spirits of the earth, the air, and fire, seldom marry a human being. They may, however, become attached to him and enter his service. It must not be supposed that they are airy nothings or merely ghosts or appearances; they are of flesh and blood, only subtler than man (i.e., of the substance of mind).

" The Nymphs sometimes come out of the water and may be seen sitting on the shore near their dwelling, and they as well as the Gnomes have a language like man; but the spirits of the woods are more rough and speak nothing, although they are able to speak and are clever. The Nymphs appear in human form and clothing; but the spirits of fire are of a fiery shape. They are usually not to be found in the company of men ; but they come to cohabit with old women, such as are witches, and they are sometimes obsessed by the devil. If any man has a Nymph for a wife, let him take care not to offend her while she is near the water, as in such a case she will return into her element;' and if anyone has a Gnome for a servant, let him be faithful to him, for each has to be dutiful to the other; if you do your duty to him, he will do his duty to you. All this is in the divine order of things and will become manifest in due time ; so that we will then be able to see that which seems now almost incredible." ("Lib. Philos.," ii.)

In the legends of the saints the Elemental spirits of Nature are often alluded to as " devils," a name which they do not deserve ; because there are good as well as bad Elementals; but, although they may be very selfish, they have not developed any love for absolute evil, because they have only mortal souls, but no spiritual essence to make them immortal.