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The Magician dull indeed that is not thrilled by the thought of this wandering genius traversing the lands of the earth at the most eventful date of the world's history. It was at Constantinople that, according to a certain aureum vellus printed at Rorschach in the sixteenth century, he received the philosopher's stone from Solomon Trismosinus. This person possessed also the Universal Panacea, and it is asserted that he was seen still alive by a French traveller at the end of the seventeenth century. Paracelsus then passed through the countries that border the Danube, and so reached Italy, where he served as a surgeon in the imperial army. I see no reason why he should not have been present at the battle of Pavia. He collected information from physicians, surgeons and alchemists; from executioners, barbers, shepherds, Jews, gipsies, midwives, and fortune−tellers; from high and low, from learned and vulgar. In the sketch I have given of his career in that volume you hold, I have copied out a few words of his upon the acquirement of knowledge which affect me with a singular emotion.' Dr Porhoet took his book from Miss Boyd and opened it thoughtfully. He read out the fine passage from the preface of the Paragranum: 'I went in search of my art, often incurring danger of life. I have not been ashamed to learn that which seemed useful to me even from vagabonds, hangmen, and barbers. We know that a lover will go far to meet the woman he adores; how much more will the lover of Wisdom be tempted to go in search of his divine mistress.' He turned the page to find a few more lines further on: 'We should look for knowledge where we may expect to find it, and why should a man be despised who goes in search of it? Those who remain at home may grow richer and live more comfortably than those who wander; but I desire neither to live comfortably nor to grow rich.' 'By Jove, those are fine words,' said Arthur, rising to his feet. Their brave simplicity moved him as no rhetoric could have done, and they made him more eager still to devote his own life to the difficult acquisition of knowledge. Dr Porhoet gave him his ironic smile. 'Yet the man who could write that was in many ways a mere buffoon, who praised his wares with the vulgar glibness of a quack. He was vain and ostentatious, intemperate and boastful. Listen: 'After me, O Avicenna, Galen, Rhases and Montagnana! After me, not I after you, ye men of Paris, Montpellier, Meissen, and Cologne; all you that come from the countries along the Danube and the Rhine, and you that come from the islands of the sea. It is not for me to follow you, because mine is the lordship. The time will come when none of you shall remain in his dark corner who will not be an object of contempt to the world, because I shall be the King, and the Monarchy will be mine.' Dr Porhoet closed the book. 'Did you ever hear such gibberish in your life? Yet he did a bold thing. He wrote in German instead of in Latin, and so, by weakening the old belief in authority, brought about the beginning of free thought in science. He continued to travel from place to place, followed by a crowd of disciples, some times attracted to a wealthy city by hope of gain, sometimes journeying to a petty court at the invitation of a prince. His folly and the malice of his rivals prevented him from remaining anywhere for long. He wrought many wonderful cures. The physicians of Nuremberg denounced him as a quack, a charlatan, and an impostor. To refute them he asked the city council to put under his care patients that had been pronounced incurable. They sent him several cases of elephantiasis, and he cured them: testimonials to that effect may still be found in the archives of Nuremberg. He died as the result of a tavern brawl and was buried at Salzburg. Tradition says that, his astral body having already during physical existence become self−conscious, he is now a living adept, 7


The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham