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Heinrich Khunrath


Heinrich Khunrath (circa 1560-September 9, 1605), or Dr Henricus Khunrath as he was also called, was a famous physician, Hermetic philosopher, and alchemist. His most famous work is the Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae (Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom), a work on the mystical aspects of alchemy, which contains the oft-seen engraving entitled "The First Stage of the Great Work," better-known as the "Alchemist's Laboratory." Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae was first published at Hamburg in 1595, but then made more widely available in an expanded edition published in Hanau in 1609. Frances Yates considered him to be a link between the philosophy of John Dee and Rosicrucianism.


Life and education

Khunrath was born in Germany, probably in Dresden or Leipzig, around the year 1560. He might be related to another physician from Leipzig named Conrad Khunrath. In the winter of 1570, he may have enrolled at the University of Leipzig under the name of Henricus Conrad Lips. The uncertanties surrounding his life stem from his supposed use of multiple names. It is certain that in May 1588, he matriculated at the University of Basel, Switzerland, earning his Medicinæ Doctor degree on September 3, 1588 after a defense of twenty-eight doctoral theses.


Khunrath, a disciple of Paracelsus, practiced medicine in Dresden, Magdeburg, and Hamburg and may have held a professorial position in Leipzig. He travelled widely after 1588, including a stay at the Imperial court in Prague, home to the mystically inclined Rudolf II von Habsburg. During this court stay Khunrath met noted magician John Dee in 1589 while the latter ws confined in prison. Dee probably became Khunrath's mentor in hermetic philosophy and he praised Dee in many of his later works. In September 1591, Khunrath was appointed court physician to Count Rosemberk in Trebona. He probably met Johann Thölde while at Trebona, one of the suggested authors of the "Basilius Valentinus" treatises on alchemy.

Hermetic alchemist


Khunrath's brushes with Dee and Thölde and Paracelsian beliefs led him to develop a Christianized natural magic, seeking to find the secret prima materia that would lead man into eternal wisdom. The Christianized view that Khunrath took was framed around his commitment to Lutheran theology. He also held that experience and observation were essential to practical alchemical research, as would a natural philosopher. His first known work on alchemy, Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae (Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom), was first published at Hamburg in 1595. Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae is an alchemical classic, combining both Christianity and magic and illustrated with elaborate, hand-colored, engraved plates heightened with gold and silver. In it, Khunrath showed himself to be an adept of spiritual alchemy and illustrated the many-staged and intricate path to spiritual perfection. Khunrath's work was important in Lutheran circles. John Warwick Montgomery has pointed out that Johann Arndt (1555 - 1621), who was the influential writer of Lutheran books of pietiesm and devotion, composed a commentary on Amphitheatrum. Some of the ideas in his works are Kabbalistic in nature and foreshadow Rosicrucianism.


Khunrath may have encountered some opposition to his alchemical work because most of his publications on alchemy were published widely after his death. He died in poverty in either Dresden or Leipzig on September 9, 1605. The tension between spirituality and experiment in Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae brought about it's condemnation by the Sorbonne in 1625.


See also this extensive and annotated Khunrath bibliography

  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1595). Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1595). Confessio de chao physico-chemicorum catholico : in quo catholice habitat azoth sive materia prima mundi, h.e. mercurius sapientum : ubi magnesiae (subjecti videlicet lapidis philosophorum catholici) conditiones fideliter recensentur. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1595). Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1608). De igne magorum philsophorumque secreto externo & visibili; das ist, Philosophische Erklahrung, von, und uber dem... Gludt und Flammenfewer der uhralten Magorum oder Weysen ... Beneben andern zweyen Tractätlein: deren das erste in ... Judicium ... eines erfahrnen Cabalisten und Philosophen uber die 4. Figuren desz grossen Amphitheatri. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1588). De signatura rerum naturalium theses. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1597). Von hylealischen das ist, pri-materialischen catholischen, oder algemeinemx natürlichen...chaos der naturgemässen alchymiae und alchymisten, wiederholete, verneuerte und wolvermehrete naturgemäss-alchymisch- und recht-lehrende philosophische Confessio oder Bekandtniss ... Deme beygefügt ist eine treuhertzige Wahrnungs-Vermahnung an alle wahre Alchymisten, sich vor den betrügerischen Arg-Chymisten zu hüten. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1598). Naturgemes-alchymisch symbolum, oder, gahr kurtze Bekentnus ... : von allgemeinem, nat¸rlichen, dreyeinigen, wunderbaren, und wunderth”tigen, allergeheimbsten Chao der naturgemessen Alchymisten: desz philosophischen universal und grossen Steins rechten nat¸rlichen unnd eigenen Subjecto, oder, waren und einiger Materia. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1599). Magnesia catholica philosophorum, das ist, höheste Nothwendigkeit in Alchymia, auch mügliche uberkommung augenscheinliche Weisung, vnd genugsame Erweisung catholischer verborgener Magnesiae ; des geheimen wunderthetigen vniversal Steins naturgemess-chymischer philosophorum Rechten vnd allein wahren pri-materialischen Svbiecti. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1603). Wahrhafter Bericht vom philosophischen Athanor und dessen Gebrauch und Nutzen.... 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1607). Quaestiones tres, per-utiles ... : cum curationem, tum praecautionem absolutam ... Arenae, Sabuli, Calculi, Podagrae, Gonagrae, Chiragrae, aliorumque morborum tartareorum microcosmi ... hominis puta, concernentes: das ist, hochnützliche ... drei Fragen, die gründliche, vollkommene und warhafftige Curation oder Genesung, so wol auch Precaution, oder Verhutung Sandes, Grieses Steins, Zipperleins und anderer mehr tartarischer Kranckheiten microcosmi ... oder des Menschen betreffende. 
  • Khunrath, Heinrich (1614). Lux in tenebris; das ist ... Liecht vnd Wegnuss vnd Irrthumb vmbgeben.... 



  • Franklyn, Julian, editor (1990). A Survey of the Occult. Electric Book Company. 
  • Szulakowska, Urszula (2000). The Alchemy of Light. Brill Academic Publishers. 
  • Forshaw, Peter (2006). 'Curious Knowledge and Wonder-working Wisdom in the Occult Works of Heinrich Khunrath’, in R. J. W. Evans and Alexander Marr (eds), Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Ashgate.
  • John Warwick Montgomery, "Lutheran Astrology and Lutheran Alchemy in the Age of the Reformation," Ambix: The Journal of the Society for the Study of Alchemy and Early Chemistry, 11 (June 1963), pp. 65-86.

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Heinrich_Khunrath". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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