Sources: Primitive Psycho-therapy And Quackery
HEINRICH CORNELIUS AGRIPPA VON NETTESHEIM, a German alchemist,
philosopher, and cabalist, of noble ancestry, was born at Cologne, on
the Rhine, September 14, 1486. Having received a liberal education and
being by nature versatile, he became in his youth a secretary at the
Court of the German Emperor, Maximilian I.
He served moreover in the army under that monarch, during several
Italian campaigns, and by reason of gallantry, won the spurs of a
knight. Becoming averse to the profession of arms, he studied with
avidity law, medicine, philosophy, and languages, and in 1509 became
Professor of Hebrew at Dole, in the department of Jura, France. Here his
caustic humor and intemperate language involved him in quarrels with the
monks, while his restless disposition impelled him to rove in search of
adventure. He visited successively London, Pavia, and Metz, where he
became a magistrate and town orator.
Having expressed opinions contrary to the prevalent beliefs in regard to
saints and witches, he was forced to depart abruptly. We next hear of
him as a practising physician in Fribourg, Switzerland. Thereafter he
became a vagabond and almost a beggar. Like his contemporary,
Paracelsus, he advanced the most paradoxical theories during his
adventurous career, which latter was partly scientific and partly
political, but always turbulent. Finally he established himself at
Lyons, where he again practised medicine, and became physician to Louise
of Savoy, Regent of France, and the mother of Francis I. Here Agrippa
soon fell into disgrace and was banished. In 1528 he joined the Court
of Margaret of Austria, ruler of the Netherlands, at Antwerp. On the
publication of his work, "On the Vanity of the Sciences," he was
imprisoned for a year at Brussels.
Upon his release, he returned to Lyons, where he was again detained in
custody, on account of an old libel against his former patroness.
His death occurred at Grenoble, France, February 18, 1535.
Agrippa was possessed of great versatility and learning, but his
writings are tinctured with bitterness and satire. He has been described
as restless, ambitious, enthusiastic, and credulous, a dupe himself and
a deceiver of others. His career was a continuous series of
disappointments and quarrels.
Yet he was an earnest searcher after truth, who was fain to attempt the
unlocking of Nature's secrets, but did not hold the right key.
Profoundly superstitious, he taught, for example, that the herb,
Verbena officinalis, vervain, would cure tertian or quartan fevers
according to the manner in which it was divided or cut. Agrippa has been
tersely described as a "meteor of philosophy."