Three Books of Occult Philosophy/Book 1/Chapter 10
Of the occult Vertues of things.
THere are also other vertues in things, which are not from any Element, as to expell poyson, to drive away the noxious vapours of Minerals, to attract Iron, or any thing else; and these vertues are a sequell of the species, and form of this or that thing; whence also they being little in quantity, are of great efficacy; which is not granted to any Elementary quality. For these vertues having much form, and litle matter, can do very much; but an Elementary vertue, because it hath more materiality, requires much matter for its acting. And they are called occult qualities, because their Causes lie hid, and mans intellect cannot in any way reach, and find them out. Wherefore Philosophers have attained to the greatest part of them by long experience, rather then by the search of reason: for as in the Stomack the meat is digested by heat, which we know; so it is changed by a certain hidden vertue which we know not: for truly it is not changed by heat, because then it should rather be changed by the Fire side, then in the Stomack. So there are in things, besides the Elementary qualities which we know, other certain imbred vertues created by nature, which we admire, and are amazed at, being such as we know not, and indeed seldom or never have seen. As we read in Ovid of the Phoenix, one only Bird, which renews her self.
All Birds from others do derive their birth,
But yet one Fowle there is in all the Earth,
Call'd by th' Assyrians Phoenix, who the wain
Of age, repairs, and sows her self again.
And in another place,
Long since Metreas brought a very great wonderment upon the Greeks, and Romans concerning himself. He said that he nourished, and bred a beast that did devour it self. Hence many to this day are solicitous, what this beast of Matreas should be. Who would not wonder that Fishes should be digged out of the Earth, of which Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Polybius the Historian makes mention? And those things which Pausanias wrote concerning the singing Stones? All these are effects of occult vertues. So the Estrich concocts cold, and most hard Iron, and digests it into nourishment for his body; whose Stomack they also report, cannot be hurt with red hot Iron. So that little Fish called Echeneis doth so curb the violence of the Winds, and appease the rage of the Sea, that, let the Tempests be never so imperious, and raging, the Sails also bearing a full Gale, it doth notwithstanding by its meer touch stay the Ships, and makes them stand still, that by no means they can be moved. So Salamanders, and Crickets live in the Fire; although they seem sometimes to burn, yet they are not hurt. The like is said of a kind of Bitumen, with which the weapons of the Amazons were said to be smeared over, by which means they could be spoiled neither with Sword nor Fire; with which also the Gates of Caspia, made of Brass, are reported to be smeared over by Alexander the great. We read also that Noah's Ark was joyned together with this Bitumen, and that it endured some thousands of years upon the Mountains of Armenia. There are many such kind of wonderfull things, scarce credible, which notwithstanding are known by experience. Amongst which Antiquity makes mention of Satyrs, which were Animals, in shape half men, and half bruits, yet capable of speech, and reason; one whereof S. Hierome reporteth, spake once unto holy Antonius the Hermite, and condemned the errour of the Gentiles, in worshipping such poor creatures as they were, and desired him that he would pray unto the true God for him; also he affirms that there was one of them shewed openly alive, and afterwards sent to Constantine the Emperour.
Ægyptus came to see this wondrous sight:
And this rare Bird is welcom'd with delight.