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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.
Additional recommended knowledge
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.
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
|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.|