Three Books of Occult Philosophy/Book 2/Chapter 1

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The Second Book of Occult Philosophy, or
Magick; written by

Henry Cornelius Agrippa.

Book II.


Of the necessity of Mathematicall learning, and of the many wonderfull works which are done by Mathematicall Arts only.

The Doctrines of Mathematicks are so necessary to, and have such an affinity with Magick, that they that do profess it without them, are quite out of the way, and labour in vain, and shall in no wise obtain their desired effect. For whatsoever things are, and are done in these inferior naturall vertues, are all done, and governed by number, weight, measure, harmony, motion, and light. And all things which we see in these ours, have root, and foundation in them: yet nevertheless without naturall vertues, of Mathematicall Doctrines only works like to naturals can be produced, as Plato saith, a thing not partaking of truth or divinity, but certain Images kin to them, as bodies going, or speaking, which yet want the Animall faculty, such as were those which amongst the Ancients were called Dedalus his Images, and αυτόματα, of which Aristotle makes mention, viz. the threefooted Images of Vulcan, and Dedalus, moving themselves, which Homer saith came out of their own accord to exercise, and which we read, moved themselves at the feast of Hiarba the Philosophicall Exerciser: As also that golden Statues performed the offices of Cup bearers, and Carvers to the guests. Also we read of the Statues of Mercury, which did speak, and the wooden Dove of Arthita, which did fly, and the miracles of Boethius, which Cassiodorus made mention of, viz. Diomedes in Brass, sounding a Trumpet, and a brazen Snake hissing, and pictures of birds singing most sweetly. Of this kind are those miracles of Images which proceed from Geometry, and Opticks, of which we made some mention in the first book, where we spoke of the Element of Aire, So there are made gla{{ls}ses, some Concave, others of the form of a Columne, making the representations of things in the Aire seem like shadows at a distance: of which sort Apollonius, and Vitellius in their Books De Perspectiva, and Speculis, taught the making, and the use. And we read that Magnus Pompeius brought a certain glass amongst the spoils from the East, to Rome, in which were seen Armies of Armed men. And there are made certain transparent glasses, which being dipped in some certain juices of Hearbs, and irradiated with an artificiall light, fill the whole Aire round about with visions. And I know how to make reciprocall glasses, in which the Sun shining, all things which were illustrated by the raies thereof are apparently seen many miles off. Hence a Magician, expert in naturall Philosophy, and Mathematicks, and knowing the middle sciences consisting of both these, Arithmatick, Musick, Geometry, Opticks, Astronomie, and such sciences that are of weights, measures, proportions, articles, and joynts, knowing also Mechanicall Arts resulting from these, may without any wonder, if he excell other men in Art, and wit, do many wonderfull things, which the mosst prudent, and wise men may much admire. Are there not some reliques extant of the Ancients works, viz. Hercules, and Alexanders pillars, the gate of Caspia made of brass, and shut with Iron beams, that it could by no Wit or Art, be broken? And the Pyramis of Julius Cæsar erected at Rome neer the hill Vaticanus, and Mountains built by Art in the middle of the Sea, and Towers, and heaps of Stones, such as I saw in England put together by an incredible Art. And we read in faithfull Historians, that in former times Rocks have been cut off, and Vallies made, and Mountains made into a Plain, Rocks have been digged through, Promontories have been opened in the Sea, the bowels of the Earth made hollow, Rivers divided, Seas joyned to Seas, the Seas restrained, the bottome of the Sea been searched, Pools exhausted, Fens dryed up, new Islands made, and again restored to the continent, all which, although they may seem to be against nature, yet we read have been done, and we see some reliques of them remaining till this day, which the vulgar say were the works of the divell, seeing the Arts, and Artificers thereof have been dead out of all memory, neither are there any that care to understand, or search into them. Therefore they seeing any wonderfull sight, do impute it to the divell, as his work, or think it is a miracle, which indeed is a work of naturall, or Mathematicall Philosophy. As if anyone should be ignorant of the vertue of the Loadstone, and should see heavy Iron drawn upwards, or hanged in the Aire (as we read the Iron Image of Mercury did long since as Treveris hang up in the middle of the Temple by Loadstones, this verse attesting the same.

The Iron white rod-bearer flies i' th' Aire.

The like to which we read was done concerning the image of the Sun at Rome, in the Temple of Serapis) would not such an ignorant man, I say, presently say it is the work of the divell? But if he shall know the vertue of the Loadstone to the Iron, and shall make triall of it, he presently ceaseth to wonder, and doth no more scruple it to be the work of nature. But here it is convenient that you know, that as by naturall vertues we collect naturall vertues, so by abstracted, mathematicall, and celestiall, we receive celestiall vertues, as motion, life, sense, speech, southsaying, and divination, even in matter less disposed, as that which is not made by nature, but only by art. And so images that speak, and foretell things to come, are said to be made, as William of Paris relates of a brazen head made under the rising of Saturn, which they say spake with a mans voice. But he that will choose a disposed matter, and most fit to receive, and a most powerfull agent, shall undoubtedly produce more powerfull effects. For it is a generall opinion of the Pythagoreans, that as Mathematicall things are more formall then Naturall, so also they are more efficacious: as they have less dependence in their being, so also in their operation. But amongst all Mathematicall things, numbers, as they have more of form in them, so also are more efficacious, to which not only Heathen Philosophers, but also Hebrew, and Christian Divines do attribute vertue, and efficacy, as well to effect what is good, as what is bad.