Paracelsus – his influence on medical philosophy and thinking
He was a disputatious mind, Paracelsus! He was direct, stubborn, at times offensive, proclaimed his opinion, had strong convictions and was blessed with a strong self-confidence . He was, for his time, too advanced. He vehemently criticized the contemporary, so called intelligent, and loudly challenged their views, opinions, teachings and practices . He was born in 1493 in Einsiedeln / Switzerlandand, and died in 1541 in Salzburg / Austria . Paracelsus became a medic by studying at diverse Universities throughout Europe and acquired much wisdom by travelling the world, before practising as town physician in Basel, and lecturing at the University there.
There is much uncertainty about his biography, and while most sources claim that it was his self-regard of being ‘para-celsus’, greater than Celsus (a roman medical writer) , he himself never utilized this name in any of his writings, ever only using his name Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim .
Paracelsus stressed that the medical profession needed to alter its system, and that academic institutions needed to teach material not derived solely from the writings of the old masters. He refused to accept the scholarly knowledge as absolute, and emphasized that universities failed to provide students with sufficient knowledge, accentuating that learning from observation and experience was imperative . He demanded “experimental proof as opposed to the reliance on tradition” and “a decisive turning away from the doctrines of the ancients” [3, p.1389]. As such he was a strong proponent of travelling, [1,2], and strongly advocated that doctors should “seek out old wives, gipsies, sorcerers, wandering tribes, old robbers, and such outlaws and take lessons from them” [2, p.1]. He further made the point that, “what nature teaches him [the physician], he must commend to his wisdom” [1, p.3]. Such propositions, and his disputability lead to countless confrontations with the medical authorities and his colleagues [1,2,3,4,5]. Yet, due to his revolutionary ideas and, innovative concepts he heralded the reformation of medical science, and brought it to modern forms .
It can be said that Paracelsus introduced science into medicine. He initiated investigations into the chemistry of things. The composition of substances was for the first time investigated and taught by him. Inorganic materials increasingly became part of his teachings . He proposed trialling and appraising the effects of substances on animals , and coined a most essential tenet of modern toxicology, namely that “solely the dose determines that a thing is not a poison [4, p.1163].
His new views appeared controversial to the advocates of the established beliefs and practices, and their opposition drove him from respected positions . He believed that medical practice should be a virtuous act, built on philosophy, astonomy and chemistry. He stressed that a physicians “character was more important than mechanical skill” [1, p.3], and insisted that “only through a harmonic and balanced interrelation between man (microcosm) and nature (macrocosm) could health be obtained” [n.p., 5]. He was convinced that the administration of medicines did not suffice for treating patients successfully, he believed that for cure to be achieved, a patients totality needed to be taken into consideration . For Paracelsus, all of a patients affections, namely of body, mind and soul, needed to be included in the case-appraisal [1,5]. He was also one of the first doctors to acknowledge that mental disorders were stand alone ailments, and that many disease afflictions had their roots in psychological problems .
It needs to be acknowledged that Paracelsus delivered one of the major principles of the much later to be developed system of Homeopathy. Paracelsus initially pointed out that a substance can make a man ill, but can also cure him, if he receives a sufficiently small dose of the same .
Paracelsus was a scientist, his writings stripped of their mythical terminology, and cosmological elements “stand out clearly enough to establish a direct line to modern medicine” [3, p.1393]. His “anticipation of the modern practice of homeopathy” [2, p.3], is just one of the aspects that has retained its validity until today. The contemporary systems of healthcare and medicine, have a lot to be grateful for to Paracelsus.
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 Encyclopoedia Britannica Online. 2015. Paracelsus. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Paracelsus. [Accessed 02 July 15].
 Eknoyan, G, 1996. On the contributions of Paracelsus to nephrology. Nephrol Dial Transplant, [Online]. 11, 1388-1394. Available at: http://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/78(9)1162.pdf [Accessed 02 July 2015].
 Binswanger, H. & Smith, K., 2000. Paracelsus and Goethe: founding fathers of environmental health. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, [Online]. 78, 1162 – 1165. Available at: http://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/78(9)1162.pdf [Accessed 02 July 2015].
 The European Graduate School. 2012. Paracelsus-Biography. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.egs.edu/library/paracelsus/biography/. [Accessed 02 July 15].