Paracelsus’ Inner Firmament

Paracelsus’ Inner Firmament

The Glory of the Heavens, oil on canvas painting by William Keith, 1891, De Young Museum

I must credit Ted Hand with introducing me to Paracelsus’ idea of the inner firmament. After listening to a podcast by Ted on Philip K. Dick and Alchemy, I dug into the tomes and wrote the following:

Man is not body. The heart, the spirit, is man. And this spirit is an entire star, out of which he is built. If therefore a man is perfect in his heart, nothing in the whole light of Nature is hidden from him…The first step in the operation of these sciences is this: to beget the spirit from the inner firmament by means of the imagination (Paracelsus, qtd. in The Occult, by Colin Wilson).

Again, I believe that the word, “spirit,” here may be a mistranslation, seeing that many people believe spirit and soul to be synonymous. If anyone has the original reference in German, I’d like to know if I am right.

If taken thusly, Paracelsus’ statement comes alive:

Man is not body. The heart, the Soul, is man. And this Soul is an
entire star, out of which he is built. If therefore a man is perfect in
his heart, nothing in the whole light of Nature is hidden from him…The
first step in the operation of these sciences is this: to beget the Soul from the inner firmament by means of the imagination.

Now, doesn’t that make a lot more sense, seeing we have some understanding of Soul and its imaginal dynamics?

Paracelsus tells us we must birth Soul from the “inner firmament” using the Imagination. Now, I haven’t read much of Paracelsus’ original writings, but this sounds very much like Henry Corbin’s Mundus Imaginalis. Paracelsus even distinguishes between imagination and fantasy, as does Corbin.

Paracelsus’ believed the inner firmament was correlated to the infinite stars in the physical heavens, which I have discussed before. I have believed this for many years, myself. As above, so below. We are microcosmic universes that are constantly giving birth to new stars via imagination.

Therefore we are from the father and mother, corporeally out of the elements, spiritually from the stars: together in white of marriage, these produce the complete man (Paracelsus, translation by Roy Freeman).

What is birthed from the inner firmament is what he calls “the complete man,” or what I would call the “fully mature Soul.” We are not born with a fully mature Soul. It is built throughout one’s lifetime. It is not an entity that we possess inside our bodies. That is simply a metaphor. We construct our Soul-house brick-by-brick. Regarding the inner firmament, Jung says,

It strikes me as significant, particu­larly in regard to our hypothesis of a multiple consciousness and its phenomena, that the characteristic alchemical vision of sparks scintillating in the blackness of the arcane substance should, for Paracelsus, change into the spectacle of the “interior firmament” and its stars. He beholds the darksome psyche as a star-strewn night sky, whose planets and fixed constellations represent the archetypes in all their luminosity and numi­nosity (Jung, CW Volume 8, 392).

Paracelsus may have been one of the first depth psychologists. I can see, now, where Jung derived some of his ideas.

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3 thoughts on “Paracelsus’ Inner Firmament

  1. I don't know which word in German is used for “spirit” or how it translates from its original German (I don't speak it) but there is a differentiation between “soul” & “spirit” (soul being mercury and spirit being sulphur) in many of the early Alchemical writings.

  2. As a practical alchemist and an Instructor of Practical Laboratory Alchemy of the European Tradition, I just want to rectify the above statement: Sulfur belongs to Soul. Mercury is that of Spirit. Always.
    For Further reference on this, check the works of Hauck, Bartlett, Stavish, Dubuis, et al.

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