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Reverse transmutations: Beroalde de Verville's parody of Paracelsus in Le Moyen de parvenir: an alchemical language of skepticism in the French Baroque *.



Beroalde de Verville, born in Paris in 1556, was a polymath and prolific writer of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries who bequeathed to posterity an amazing variety of works. Collectively, they mark a pivotal moment in French history, when the humanist optimism of the early Renaissance was ceding to the ideological fractures and political upheavals of the Religious Wars. Beroalde's best known work, Le Moyen de parvenir, offers a valuable glimpse into the ideological ways in which contemporaries attempted to assimilate and resolve these tensions.

Beroalde's father, Matthieu Brouard, was an erudite humanist who tutored Agrippa d'Aubigne, a prominent Huguenot leader and author of one of France's greatest epics, Les Tragiques. No doubt Matthieu sparked his son's curiosity to investigate the world with encyclopedic fervor, for Beroalde's production included mathematics, physics, heraldry, metaphysics, medicine, alchemy, faculty psychology, grammar, ethics, political theory, and a study on breeding silk worms. (1) Another indication of his versatility is that he wrote in a wide array of genres including philosophical poetry, treatises, dialogues, miscellanies, and romances. It is supposed that sometime before 1593 he converted to Catholicism, since in that year he became a canon of the Cathedral of Saint-Gatien in Tours, where he died in 1626. The eminent French literary historian, Verdun L. Saulnier, called Le Moyen de parvenir, "un chef-d'oeuvre dans l'art de conter . . . [et] . . . un chef-d'oeuvre de la litterature baroque," and judged Beroalde to be a mong France's "plus grands poetes." (2)

Given Beroalde's historical position, vast knowledge, and large corpus of writing, he merits close attention, because he is an insightful witness to an age when classical humanist confidence in regola, ordine, and misura were being overtaken by pervasive and deep-seated skepticism. Like his contemporary Michel de Montaigne, Beroalde sees the world perpetually in flux, ceaselessly transforming, irreducibly diverse, and unfolding in contentious opposites. (3) As demonstrated by Neil Kenny, an overarching view of Beroalde's total production shows that the author, whose initial goal was to construct a self-contained, vernacular encyclopedia, progressively challenged this project by a more questioning attitude characterized by conjecture, heterogeneity, and plurivocal, open-ended dialogue. (4) For example, two works of this first period, Les Cognoissances necessaires (1583) and L'Idee de la republique (1584) are predicated on the "fondement stable" (5) of the circle of learning. Knowledge is conceptualized as a un ion of disciplines based on necessary links forming a continuous whole. Two works of the latter stage, Le Cabinet de Minerve (1596) and Le Palais des curieux (1612), self-reflexively challenge the quest to capture "la forme interieure" (6) that would tie together the macrocosm, the microcosm, and the post-lapsarian world. The Cabinet encourages disagreement among interlocutors and leaves five dialogues unresolved, and the Palais reveals ambivalence towards allegorical interpretation and remains fascinated by the singularite that defies natural laws. (7)

Critics such as Bamforth and Kenny have underlined the centrality of alchemy to Bdroalde's writing, the latter observing that this field "is the most consistently prominent branch in Beroalde's works ... because ... the quest for the philosopher's stone constitutes a paradigm of the quest for knowledge in general." (8) While Beroalde privileges alchemy as a practice common to other disciplines, he nonetheless subjects it to the same severe criticisms leveled at his work as a whole. For instance, he endorses the alchemical project in the earlier Recherches de la pierre philosophale (1583), but in the later Voyage des princes fortunez (1610), (9) he makes the modes of alchemical quest paramount without the requirement that scientia lead to sapientia. Thus, Beroalde moved from the encyclopedic project back to the decipherment of signs.

The most devastating and dazzling of Beroalde's skeptical works is Le Moyen de parvenir. Its facetious intent immediately captures our attention on the title page which, instead of indicating the date of publication, states: "Printed this year" (Imprime cette annee). (10) Probably published in 1616, (11) this work was described by Beroalde himself as "une Satyre universelle" (12)--a kind of Menippean satire in the tradition of Petronius and Rabelais that transforms its unremitting criticism into unbridled revelry. Its alchemical dimension owes a debt to Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (translated by Bdroalde) (13) and the tenth-century Arabic work Turba Philosophorum. In Le Moyen de parvenir, a burlesque of the Platonic banquet, some 375 historical figures, ancient and modern, convene at a mock symposium to discuss "The Way to Succeed"--a sufficiently wide, popular, and subjective topic that allows the convives to parody a multitude of cultural practices and abuses. Beroalde's targets include smug and unreflective authority, egomania, religious corruption and persecution, the Church's obsession with heresy, medical charlatanism, deceptive business practices, pedantry, fanaticism, rampant sex and sexual violence, exploitative taxation and incoherent laws, theological abstractions, and the naivete of political utopias. Bawdy and erudite, base and refined, ludic and lascivious, the disputatious interlocutors careen from topic to topic unrestrained by any rule of order in a seemingly pointless labyrinth of interrupted dialogue and bizarre, racy stories. Their aim is to reveal what is advertised on the work's title page: "the reason for everything that has been, is and will be." (14) Sharply critical, this work subverts its own putative organization to such an extent that one commentator has described it as "the Self-Destructing Book." (15)

Though bordering on the cynical, Le Moyen de parvenir nevertheless provided its turbulent times with a constructive skepticism that conserved a framework for understanding. This is the parody of alchemy that offered a relatively complete and innovative skeptical language for reconceptualizing the world. The importance of alchemical concepts to Le Moyen as a whole is given relief by a proclamation of one of the symposiasts named The Other (L'Autre): "And herein lies the principal dignity of this work, filled with the intelligence of the philosopher's stone: in it, everything is transmuted" (tout se transmue, 296). (16) A critical parodist, Beroalde chose Paracelsus as a model because he shared the latter's frame of reference, but a contrario.

Paracelsus (1493-1541) and Beroalde de Verville (1556-1626), though more than a generation apart, are reciprocally illuminating figures in the history of philosophical alchemy. The first was the founder of iatrochemistry (the study of chemistry in relation to pathology, physiology, and medicine), the second an encyclopedic writer who made alchemy central to his thought. (17) While Paracelsus was a Renaissance figure known for his contributions to medicine and Hermetic alchemy, Beroalde emerged in the late Renaissance and early Baroque as a literary author, polymath, and critic of Renaissance ideals. (18) Moreover, both writers held medical titles and integrated alchemy into their medical reflections and practice. Beroalde apparently defended a thesis on medicine in Geneva and was granted the status of "doctor medicus" (doctor of medicine). (19) Paracelsus was a military surgeon in the Venetian service and in 1527 became a municipal physician at Basel. (20) Like Paracelsus, Beroalde thought that alchemy should be used in the service of iatrochemistry, and both considered the transmutation of metals per se to be of secondary importance. (21) In fact, at least one of Beroalde's contemporaries referred to him as a "celebre medecin" (celebrated physician) (22) Similarly, both distrusted academic medicine in favor of personal experience and inveighed against charlatans and imposters. (23) Even though Paracelsus was more publicly demonstrative than Beroalde in denouncing what he took to be quacks and frauds, Beroalde adopts his bombastic and taunting voice in Le Moyen de parvenir for similar purposes. Both thinkers examined the relations between science, experience, and experiment in a pre-scientific period of changing paradigms, (24) in which the search for medical and scientific knowledge could be considered akin to religious revelation, for it was an age when one could mix scrupulous empirical observation with Hermetic alchemy and natural magic. (25)

Like alchemists who hid their discoveries behind a veil of secrecy, Beroalde suffused Le Moyen de parvenir with a sibylline atmosphere that invites its readers to uncover secret codes. The quest for wisdom overlaps with Hermetic alchemy. Playing on this strategy, the narrator-author announces that "THIS BOOK IS THE CENTER OF ALL BOOKS," a kind of Bible which contains "the secret word that must be discovered." (26) The oracular code itself is written by "ce grand Steganographique" (27) whose ambiguous, polyvalent discourse masks certain enigmas, the unraveling of which will make us not only inheritors of science but also holy and wise. "It suffices for us to preach and for you to believe that all things created lie under these. enigmas; and thus, the children of science, the sons of the sages, and the happy fortunate, predestined to find the Lantern of Discretion and the Lamp of Bliss, will finally raise the veil." (28) In the Moyen, the Hermetic code intersects with the alchemical code that associates the sea rch for knowledge with "la pierre philosophale" (the philosopher's stone, 296). After equating the text with the Grand Oeuvre, he begins a rite of initiation. A character named Father Rabelais becomes the symbol for transforming the labor of interpretation into an alchemical crucible. He is entrusted with setting up a tripod placed in the middle of a courtyard over a great fire with a cauldron on it filled with water into which he puts as many keys as he can find. Miming the sweaty diligence of the alchemist over his furnace, he stirs the keys to make them cook (29).


Alchemy was thought to have a twofold nature, the exoteric side dealing with the purification of metals, and the esoteric dimension expressing mystical, philosophical, and theological beliefs. Often the two were inextricably mixed, since knowledge of one could bring understanding of the other. Exoteric alchemy endeavored to prepare a substance called the philosopher's stone, believed to have the power of transmuting base metals into silver or gold. The activity of transmutation was predicated on the Hermetic and Platonic belief that though matter may take many forms, it is fundamentally one. This prima materia, which could be conceived as a massa informis or a chaotic, amorphous substance, was the primordial matter underlying the process of perpetual change. Matter possessed certain qualities, the most basic of which (sulphur and mercury) were opposed to one another as active to passive, masculine to feminine, fixed to volatile. (29) Through various procedures of refinement (sublimation, crystallization, dist illation)., the alchemist could effect a fusion of opposites (coincidentia oppositorum), from which a new substance emerged in an absolute state of perfection. (30) One such method advocated by Paracelsus was called Spagyric Art, consisting of three steps: the division of natural bodies to separate out the heterogeneous and accidental portions (separatio), the purification of the substances so obtained (purificatio), and a recombinarion (cohobatio) or re-union of components that produces a homogeneous element. (31) Paracelsus preferred the term separation to transmutation, (32) and called the culmination of the purification process "ultimate matter" where the substance existed "in its pure virtue, without admixture." (33)

Le Moyen de parvenir inverts the alchemical principles mentioned above by using the fictional character called Paracelse to parody the doctrines of the real Paracelsus. The most important distinction depends upon viewing Paracelsus as the "Archeus" whose role is to correct the imperfections of nature through the artifice of alchemy. (34) Paracelsus the Archeus not only sought to perfect nature but also to criticize and reform the alchemical tradition of Aristotle, Galen, and Avecinna (35) by inventing a theoretical model for iatrochemistry. In this way, he could claim to transform prime matter into ultimate matter. However, Le Moyen de parvenir moves in precisely the opposite direction. It rakes the ultimate matter of Paracelsus understood as his theoretical concepts and returns it to a more primitive state. That is, Beroalde dissociates Paracelsus' concepts from their formal, doctrinal context, and subjects them individually to his parodic criticism. In analogous ways, Beroalde extends this de-theorizing and de-hypostatizing activity to the gamut of contemporary institutions with a view toward reconceptualizing the basic elements of knowledge traditionally based on authority, reason, and experience. These parodic transmutations are a regression in Paracelsian terms, but a refinement in Beroalde's ironic, Heraclitean desire to return our focus on the primordial flux and irreducible mixture of the universe.

Beroalde's aichemical inversions are directly related to Paracelsus' cosmology and anthropology. The Paracelsian principle of all generation is separation. (36) The Mysterium Magnum, an emanation from the Divinity, is the uncreated, incomprehensible, primordial matrix that generates the universe. Due to a falling away from the Divinity called the Cagastrum, there is a separation of primary matter from the Mysterium Magnum named the Iliaster which bears the vital forces of life, growth, and development. A second separatio occurs, termed chaos, an agglomeration of matter comparable to a mass of compressed gas. As a result of a third division, three fundamental elements emerge: sulphur, sal, and mercuri us, which are respectively the principles of substance, solidity, and power. This tria prima in turn gives way to the four classical elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Paracelsus stresses that these elements derive their identity not from their material composition but rather from the immanent soul-like for ce that directs bodies to assume certain qualities. It is through nature that cosmological structure and well being are maintained--an activity which is aided and perfected by the alchemical art of the Archeus. (37)

Chapter 35 of Le Moyen de parvenir calls attention to the concept of prima materia by mentioning the word matiere at least six times in its opening section. To make precise Beroalde's parody, we must first examine the various meanings Paracelsus gave to this concept. (38) First, the Swiss alchemist referred to seed or semina when describing prime matter bearing on individual objects at the point of their creation: "God created all things, something from nothing. This something is a seed; the seed contains the end of its predestination and office. And...there is nothing that is created in its final form, but vulcan must complete it...all things are created as prime matter and after that the unlcan follows and turns them into ultimate matter through the art of alchemy." (39) Paracelsus also uses the term prime matter to denote any raw material that is transformed into a finished product for human consumption by a craftsman, artisan, or chemist. (40)

Third, Paracelsus' concept of prime matter in relation to the world is succinctly defined by Walter Pagel: "Prime Matter of the world is not matter, but spirit -- in fact it is the word Fiat, the Logos of the Fourth Gospel, the Platonic archetype and ideal pattern of the world that is to become a material creation." (41)

While Beroalde's reversed alchemy plays on all three senses of prima materia, it is the second and third meanings to which he refers in the opening dialogue of chapter 35. Here the matter under discussion is subject matter, for Le Bonhomme laments to Monsieur Scot (possibly Duns Scotus) that, in spite of this erudite symposium, there has been no improvement in the understanding of any problem. In Paracelsian terms, the learned interlocutors can neither find nor develop the seeds of knowledge. "Tis one of the evils of this age that if you would fain learn wisdom you're obliged to suffer infinities of trouble before you set the wisdom machine a-going. For all the time we've been assembled here, we have got no deeper into matters than a pat of butter gets into a walnut shell." (42) Continuing with the Paracelsian analogy of prime matter, we can see that the symposiasts cannot progress from chaos to the more structured and efficacious powers of the fundamental elements. If Paracelsus, indicating his Platonic affi liations, considers prima materia to be informed by its archetype, then here Beroalde travesties the upward spiral of Platonic dialectic by leveling the various concepts of the learned interlocutors: "Here in this banquet, everything said is so good that all is equal, neither better nor worse than another thing, either at one time or another." (43) The word "leveling" means an initial stage in Beroalde's skepticism in which he de-hierarchizes received concepts and mixes them irreducibly into composites of equal value.

This leveling is in direct opposition to the highly articulated development of prime matter in Paracelsus where separation is construed as the greatest miracle in nature. (44) In his view, creation is a series of discrete levels, each demarcated by difference and distinction. Envisaged as a separation from its divine origins (effected by the "Cagastrum"), (45) the prima materia subsequently divides into the four elements each with its cosmological equivalent: fire becomes heaven, the "cage" of the firmament; air becomes empty, invisible space; water becomes liquid providing a "cage" for nymphs and wonders of the sea; and finally earth turns into a coagulum for growth and nourishment of its inhabitants. (46) On the other hand, the alchemy of Beroalde's parody sifts our and separates Paracelsus' notion of prima materia from its formal, doctrinal context to conflate (subject) matter rather than to individuate it. If an alchemical term be wanting for the prima materia of Beroalde's work, it may be called ingressi on where the various subject matters, because of their heterogeneity, resist separation and hierarchy. (47)

If the opening of chapter 35 functions like an intellectual return to chaos, the next section that parodies Paracelsus broaches fundamental questions on the social, ontological, and scientific basis of alchemy. The formlessness of subject matter in the dialogue becomes the equivalent of primordial matter in the speech of "Paracelse." Rather than positive knowledge, these questions, if ever satisfactorily answered, provide elemental principles for understanding.

When Paracelse launches a taunting, bombastic diatribe against what he considers incorrigible authorities, impostors, or simply the uninitiated public (that is, against nearly everyone save himself), he also broaches a lesson on prime matter: "You know, in spite of yourselves and whether you approve or not, that all the four elements of the world are composed from one primal matter." (48) The first question posed by Beroalde's persona relates to the ways that cultures reify concepts that make them appear true while they are actually ontological fictions. Paracelsus' overbearing, condescending attitude is aptly captured by the future tense of "saurez" and the sarcastic "en depit de vous." However, while Beroalde criticizes the hubris of the "roi des alquemistes" (183), he indirectly calls attention to Paracelsus' rhetorical strategy displayed in his massive and influential writings: self-righteous conviction and Hermetic mysticism expressed by a technical lexicon. These qualities make the topic of prima materi a an effective starring point for a story about origins. In fact, Beroalde makes Paracelse conscious of the rhetoric of "beginnings" when he says, "Just look at how well I've begun with this fit and fine start." (49)

In book 5 of the Archidoxis, Paracelsus teaches:

In the beginning, it must be remarked, concerning Primal Matter, that it puts forth its predestinations, to which it is foreordained, entire, and from its first origin to its final end well-defined and exemplified. For as the seed gives of itself the entire herb, with renewal of all its forces and consumption of the old essence, so that the former substance, nature, and essence have no further operation, so we say of the primal matter, that we are born from one seed like something growing in the field according to its growing nature. According to the aforesaid example, the primal matter introduces new youth into a man, just as a new herb springs forth from a new seed in a new summer and a new year. (50)

A great deal of the rhetorical appeal of this myth of the origin and teleology of prima materia--its seminal bond with humanity and the coherence of cyclical renewal--is exposed by Beroalde's parody. Beroalde pushes this overweening confidence into critical comedy when he facetiously has Paracelse himself base the world of tricksters ("le Monde Pipeur," 97) on these principles of alchemy. The French author takes direct aim at the presuppositions of such a priori constructions with a rhetorical retort that reveals the reifying effects of transforming an abstract fiction into a concrete belief:

Therefore [from] these elements united, joined, gathered together, drawn forth, created, extracted, propounded, discovered, simulated, and accomplished was constructed, built, established, compounded, completed, balanced, adjusted this world of tricksters out of the four elements of deceit. (Donc, ces elements unis, joints, assembles, tires, faits, extraits, proposes, trouves, animes et accomplis, a construit, bati, etabli, compose, compile, balance et accommode le Monde Pipeur par ces elements de piperie; 97).

In this passage, alchemy is assimilated to the gamut of institutional practices that achieve their authority through the self-assurance typical of Paracelsus' scientific discourse. In Beroalde's parodic alchemy, the reader is made to see a memory storehouse, a toolbox of impressive concepts, a repertory of functions that have the capacity to be transformed into institutional power. The rhetorical figure of amplificatio (51)--the accumulated rhymes of past- participle endings (/i/ /e/, "bati, etabli," "compose, complie")--brings to light the artifice of manipulation. From another perspective, the syntax of this passage is the alchemical athanor capable of cooking up an infinity of functions and substances through the implied matrix titled: the elements have been transmuted In the first part of the sentence leading up to the verb ("a ete construit"), one has the sense of fundamental elements just formed from prime matter leading to the second half where they are successfully transformed. This verb is passiv e because, in deception, agency is hidden and, in theory, the laboratory equipment is open to any use. In addition, any element in the first part of the sentence could be put in the second part, thereby indicating the arbitrary and malleable nature of manipulation and the fact that the world is more accurately a series of ever-changing, ever-mixing fragments. This idea reflects the atomization of objets in the Palais des curieux and the random dispersion of chapter titles in Le Moyen de parvenir. (52) In this brief passage, what is largely exposed through satirical syntax and word choice is the formal rhetoric that legitimates the technological claims of institutions and the concomitant rhetoric of completion typical of classicism. In addition, there are many subsidiary subversions such as the sense of unity ("unis"), the coherence of mutually related disciplines ("assembles" and "compiles"--law and jurisprudence), and the scientific mastery over reality ("extrait" = alchemy) that create the allure of teleo logical attainment. By satirizing the constellation of concepts surrounding prima materia, Beroalde moves the status of Hermetic alchemy from doctrine to questions, from the ultimate matter of Paracelsus' tenets to the primary matter of a fundamental interrogation of that system.

Returning to Paracelse's speech, the reader will see that the next mention of prime matter entails criticism of Paracelsus' concept of the Archeus: "Primary matter is that with which the builders of the world have chosen to work, knowing what's most fit for their business." (53) Here Beroalde is casting doubt upon the twin concepts of Vulcan and the Archeus whom Paracelsus portrays as "workmen" (54) ultimately responsible for perpetuating and conserving the world. When Paracelse sarcastically refers to "les ouvriers du monde," he is speaking in the context of mytho-Hermetic belief. In such works as the LiberMeteoror, Paracelsus notes that there is a virtue called Vulcan that transfers the power of the Iliaster (a general reserve of prime matter) to the matrices of objects for nourishment, growth, and preservation. (55) The work of impressing the stamp of specificity on matter, transforming it into species and then to individuals, is carried out by the Archeus. In addition, the Archeus continues Vulcan's work by perfecting things and directing them to their essential nature. (56) So ramified is the Archeus' activity that it confers specificity on objects in ever-increasing levels of individuation. (57) Thus, there is an Archeus in the mountains to cultivate the minerals, in human organs such as the heart to circulate blood, and finally an Archeus in each of the four elements. (58)

When Beroalde has Paracelse note that the workmen know how "elire ce qu'il en faut pour leurs affaires," the infinitive "elire" (to elect) pokes fun at the power and efficacy that Paracelsus attributes to the Archeus. This all-encompassing control is shared by the alchemist and the physician who themselves become Archei by attempting to rectify the imperfections of nature and by curing illnesses. Through their art of "Magia Naturalis," and the alchemy of sublimating, distilling, and reverberating, they can convert primary to ultimate matter: "the Archaeus ... is he who disposes everything according to a definite order, so that each comes to its ultimate matter, which at length man receives as a sort of artificial primal matter: that is, where Nature ends, there the Art of man begins, for Nature's ultimate matter is man's primal matter." (59) The Archeus, whether conceived as nature or the alchemist, performs its task of perfecting each object by coordinating the correspondences or astral sympathies between th e macrocosm and the microcosm. As such, it acts by what one might term emulative imitation, since as the "inner chemist," it brings the object in line with the sidereal virtues of its corresponding astrum.

The Archeus, however, can be subverted by the Cagastrum. Though Beroalde does not use this word, the degree to which the Archeus' work is reversed in Le Moyen de parvenir makes the Cagastrum the theoretically appropriate alchemical explanation of disruption. According to Pagel, the Cagastrum "stands for the splitting up of God's simplicity and unity into the infinite multitude of beings," a division "owing to the egotistic yearning of individual objects for independence." (60) This process of separation and individuation resulted from the falls of Adam and Lucifer. (61) The Cagastrum is an inferior form of the Iliaster and imitates it to deflect the Archeus' work of perfecting Nature. Albert-Marie Schmidt notes that "The Cagastrum, which pursuing a clearly Mephistophelean goal--to use Goethe's words--not only wears out and limits the capacity of terrestrial objects to progress to completion but also maliciously feigns and apes them. With perverted skill, it attempts, by particular favor of the Divinity, t o make everything that remains iliastric in the universe become cagastric." (62)

At the same time that Paracelsus optimistically sees a "miracle" in separation (truphat), (63) he also contends that separation stems from a declivity from the Divinity. This chute resulted in a breaking away from unity, simplicity, and homogeneity--a splitting up into individuals that egotistically struggle for independence in isolation. In nature, the process of splitting from a homogeneous source is observable in spontaneous generation, where a putrefying element gives rise to objects quite different from the original. From the viewpoint of traditional alchemy, the Cagastrum is implicit in the rarity and slow growth of precious metals as well as in the search for a universal solvent capable of dissolving deposits and restoring simplicity and purity. (64) Schmidt aptly describes the subversive activity of the Cagastrum when he observes: "For it [the Cagastrum], the world becomes a putrid, coarse, and transitory aping of objects and events. Everything that one finds in it is at once struck with irrelevance , inconsistency, and potential inanity." (65) If it is the Archeus that "directs everything to its essential nature," then Beroalde asks if the Archeus is not being constantly foiled by the Cagastrum. This is a complex judgment because the Cagastrum is the inferior form of the Iliaster, (66) and while the Archeus and the Cagastrum are distinct entities, they are inextricably related to the Divinity. In Le Moyen de parvenir, one can say that the Cagastrum disrupts the Archeus in three manners: the deceptions of the same, the confusion of mixture, and the interruption of actions and events. Since in Beroalde's parody of Paracelsus, the Cagastric forces reverse the work of the Archeus, one can describe this as an inverted transmutation. In examining these three disruptions, we will proceed by comparing Le Moyen de parvenir as a text (as stories and discourses) with the roles of the Archeus and Cagastrum as established by alchemical philosophy. Beroalde's critical method is to use the alchemical model to advance his satire by revealing a world in the grip of Cagastric parody.


The Cagastrum's first reverse transmutation turns the Archeus' work of emulative imitation into deception. Inasmuch as the Cagastrum is a falling away from the Divinity; it is (as Pagel describes it) "the fallacious phantom of the phenomenal world" falsely imitating its archetype. (67) By parodying and counterfeiting the emulative imitation of the Archeus, it insidiously makes a host for itself in the system of sympathetic correspondences. In feigning a role in the network of "similia," (68) the Cagastrum induces us to credulity, illusion, and duplicity. By placing emulative imitation at the heart of their work, by pursuing the "analogie" (98) of similitudes, the Paracelsian alchemists provide the most propitious cover for Cagastric duplicity. This is why the alchemists' spagyric art of purification becomes the model for abuses in the social domain. Like alchemy, each institution has a method of refinement which, though a deception, evokes a Cagastric impression of truth.

Theology, medicine, jurisprudence, and commerce are the four institutions that pursue the alchemical illusion of producing in their respective practices refinements that make them appear dignified and authoritative. All these institutions profit by means of imitation and homogeneity.

The theologians are singled out for being "abstractors of ceremonies," especially those who, like the Calvinists, make very fine distinctions regarding the doctrinal significance of the Last Supper. Beroalde portrays them as making the finest distinctions ("les plus subtiles," 96) between the "ceremonies" that renew the Last Supper through various liturgical practices and the "sujer" (subject) of these rituals which is the Eucharist itself accomplished once and for all in Christ's passion and death. (69) Such impossibly pure abstractions resemble the hope of alchemists who seek to produce the quintessential purification of a substance, whether that consists of transmuting base metals into gold or discovering the proper arcanum for medical therapy. Aside from the doctrinal homogeneity they seek, the theologians are imitators in three senses. First, as a group, they only accept what corresponds to their opinion and become the "comptrollers of theology": "ces gabeleurs de theologie qui ne trouvent bon que ce qui cadre leur paillarde opinion." (70) Second, since they need to model evil from received sources, they are also "robbers" accused of "plundering from the Antichrist himself for the elements of an original doctrine put forth in the light of true religion." (71) Third, they are decried by Paracelse as "cette cabale," the select few whose esoteric dogmas only succeed in casting a sinister shadow over religious beliefs ("pour faire une ombre mirlifique," 96).

The other three professions are also parodied alchemically by the similar habit of unreflective but profitable imitation. In fact, the syntax of Paracelse's speech creates indissociable conjunctions among these three groups whose textual interchangeability makes it difficult to distinguish one from the other. The jurists, who multiply commentaries, model themselves after the theologians ("en les imitant") by practicing the Spagyric Magistery. As this alchemical process involves squeezing and pressing to filter out impurities, (72) it alludes to wine and therefore to the distinctions made in Eucharistic controversies, such as that between accident and substance. The chain of imitation, accidental or deliberate, continues. The wisest of the jurists have skirmished with medicine, itself an ambusher ("les plus sages ... ont escarmouche les embuches medicinales"), and have learned to improve human generation by producing a "pithy juice" (73) from the human body. Following the other professional abusers ("suivant c omme les autres les belles abusoires de juridiction," 97), the jurists mix this "quintessentially" magnificent substance with other medical drugs that produce the perfectly pure and ultimate essence of blessed extraction: "l'oeuvre parfait de benoite extraction" (97). As for the merchants, they have also "dignified their standing like the others" by passing their hands through and tasting this "brouet d'andouille." A contemporary lexicographer, Randle Cotgrave, defined andouille as "a link, or chitterling; a big hogges gut stuffed with small guts (and other intrailes) cut into small pieces, and seasoned with peper and salt." (74) Beroalde thereby refers to a chitterling or sausage broth, that merchants could sell as the perfect product ("la cinquieme essence necessaire") -- an elixir, perhaps -- provided they properly sift their ingredients and, like the alchemists, expend huge energies and rake deadly risks. (75)

Beroalde's skeptical parody pushes Cagastric parody to extremes when these four institutions, symbolizing the four elements, fuse together in an alchemical banquet of friendship in order to produce their particular "quintessence" -- The World of Tricksters. Just as alchemical quintessence is defined as the fifth element that reconciles and harmonizes the other four warring elements, (76) so do the four groups of tricksters assemble and unite to produce their own azoth, better known as "le Monde Pipeur" (97): "And since by drinking and conversing, people join in amity -- frequentation being the soldering of wills -- it came to pass that all these four essences mixed and mingled just as the manipulators assembled ... Therefore, from these united elements ... was formed the World of Tricksters." (77) The word "soudure," meaning "soldering, welding, or brazing," brings together in sarcastic mode the alchemical union of metals, the inseparability of friendship, and the maximum fusion of occult correspondences. Thi s is the duplicity forged by the Cagastrum that, by couching deception in similarity, deflects the Archeus' work of individuation. However, Bdroalde's parody unveils this subterfuge by calling it "the mystigorical [mystique + pythagorique] mixture of forces and powers," (78) thereby stating that imitation is in reality a heterogeneity fused by mystification.


If the function of the Archeus is to determine the proper growth and development of objects, then in Beroalde the Cagastrum appears constantly to thwart this objective by discontinuity and rupture. In other words, the Cagastrum is a parodic device of narrative self-reflexivity, which turns on its own discourse with non-sequiturs, sudden shifts of topics, cut-offs in dialogue, and deranging puns, all of which defer, detour, or derail narrative development and completion. On the other hand, interruptions and interferences are often "developed" in a single paragraph as if the demonic spirits ruled that in the Monde Pipeur continuity means the maintenance of non-continuity. This usually occurs in the stichomythic dialogues that begin chapters. The oft-heard interjection of the symposiasts, "Passons outre" (let's move to another subject) or "avant que passer outre" (before moving on) are the invisible stage directions prescribing paradoxical injunctions that are as disorienting as following the identity of the cha racter named L'Aurre. Interruption is the consequence of Cagastric disorientation reflecting the separation of primary matter from the Mysterium Magnum creating separation and atomization.

This is a process that devolves not only upon the world depicted in Le Moyen but upon the work's poetics. 'While narratology posits that discourse creates an order in which to deploy a story; (79) in Le Moyen de parvenir, the "order" itself is frequent disruption. For example, in chapter 91 entitled "Doctrine," a story on "Rabelais" is announced only to be suspended for three pages with the alchemical explanation: "And here is the great dignity and merit of this work--it's stuffed so full with the spirit of the Philosopher's Stone that it transmutes, changes, and transforms everything it touches." (80) While narratology postulates that a sequence of events can be abstracted from a plot, order is jumbled in Le Moyen de parvenir by a confusing placement of chapters where the thirteenth is titled "Conclusion," the seventy-fifth "Chapitre," and the last "Argument." Furthermore, the chronology of events is continually disturbed by such temporal contradictions as "I hold to these future sentences that have already been written." (81) Finally, the names of the approximately 375 interlocutors participating in the mock symposium, such as "Hermes" (69), "Thucydide" (194), "Luther" (274), seem randomly distributed, s since what they say may or may not be based on their fictional continuity as fixed characters or on their usual historical or mythological significance. Just as events are interrupted and dashed, so also are our expectations of character consistency. Such irruptions in logical sequence, temporality, and identity are typical of the demonic Cagastrum rather than the teleologically oriented Archei that would perfect the potential essence of beings. We must bear in mind that, if one of Le Moyen de parvenir's key concepts is structured on alchemy ("tout se transmue"), then its transmutations are carried our to ensure nor the development of ultimate matter but the reversion of elements to primordial heterogeneity. (82)


This point is related to the third work of the Cagastrum, which is to embroil the Archeus' work of purifying and simplifying by mixing and conflating. In theory, the aim of the Aichemist-Archeus is to expedite through alchemical means Nature's own process of transmuting base metals into silver and gold. Ultimately, the alchemist, using the philosopher's stone, separates and remixes elements to produce a highly refined quintessence. In Paracelsus the quinta essentia is related to but not identical with the predestined element. The predestined element is the one among the four elements that achieves perfection in a given substance with respect to certain properties and functions as opposed to the other elemental components that remain suppressed. But the quintessence is not the material constituent of the predetermined element. Rather, it is "the soul of the object" lying within the predestined element that constitutes its center of power, for it enables the predestined element to be in "actu." (83) Thus, the g oal of exoteric alchemy, which may be imitated by esoteric alchemy, is to purify a substance while its process is one of repeated separation and mixture.

In Le Moyen de parvenir, the Archeus' goal of producing a quintessence is constantly satirized because the reality that Beroalde confronts is an everchanging irreducible mixture. When Paracelse claims to have found "la cinquieme essence necessaire," his boast is mocked as hyperbolic self-adulation. If the Cagastrum disrupts analogy by exaggerating similarity, it can also perform a related service by heightening consciousness of the dissimilar. When Beroalde celebrates the fact that "tout se transmue," he is emphasizing a reality captured by alchemy but perverted by its quest to purify, refine, and produce a quintessence. The logic of parody is to reverse the logic of alchemy by projecting a "parfaite substance" (97) that is comically "refined" as a grotesque melange. For example, the particular elixir of deceptive merchants is called "ce brouet d'andouille"--both a "chitterling broth" and the figurative expression for something without value. (84) In short, Le Moyen de parvenir depicts a world in which all is a constantly transforming conflation. This includes sacred and profane, the erudite and the vulgar, and the pure and impure, all of which are mixed in the third major reference that Paracelse makes to prime matter:

I tell you, my children (may I not call you that, seeing that I adopt you in the bonds of science and engender intelligence within you) that the world has not yet voided itself and has nor at all brought forth any matter. Do you not know that human matter is only made after the operation of repletion? Well, even so with the world. Just as the world is many times greater than the individual human, called the microcosm, so in proportion--when its belly is full--and after a lapse of due time, it voids and expels matter from its cosmic rectum. I tell you that you must expect such a cataclysmic time to come, and you may then judge and determine for yourselves its duration and future discharge. You will indeed see, and I defy you, whether your prognostication be true and exact. Though I do not at all want to speak about such catastrophic things, it behooves me to warn the whole world for fear of accidents. (85)

To show that Paracelsian theory itself is pervaded with terms connoting mixture which are irreducible to monadic quintessences, Beroalde focuses the reader's attention on the language of Paracelse's speech whose major trope is the conflation of the animate and inanimate. Paracelsus' master metaphor is the notion of engendering which clusters around the terms seed, germ, father, mother, matrix, and children. When Paracelse refers to "mes enfants," he alludes to the Archeus' function of engendering knowledge in matter and humans. (86) Also, when he describes the macrocosm as "le grand animal corporeal," he is turning Nicholas of Cusa's concepts (87) into the view that all creation is mystically animated. The main point is that Paracelsus' doctrine, materializing the spiritual and spiritualizing the material, deeply personifies the material and vitalizes the inanimate. This notion is developed as a primordial birth. The "ejection" to which Paracelse refers is Paracelsus' explanation of how the germs or seeds of metals are created. Beroalde concentrates on the animistic, mystical side of Paracelsian doctrine that inanimate objects are somehow anthropomorphic. The Swiss alchemist contended that by means of an incessant and uniform motion, each element, according to its quality, is digested in the stomach of the earth ("a certain void place") (88) and expelled, thereby casting the excess seeds into "the region of excrement, scoriae, fire, and formless chaos." (89) It is in the center of this digestive site that the Archeus, "the servant of nature," (90) mixes the seeds and expels them to form new species and individuals. In a third move, Beroalde scrutinizes the philosophic paradoxes implicit in the language that conflates the animate and inanimate. Nature produces seeds by voiding its plenitude ("rendra sa matiere,") and then this excrement ("ejection") becomes Nature's children and future life. In a grotesque exaggeration of this process, Beroalde then satirically mixes the religious and the scatological. When Parace lse alerts us that "il faut avertir le monde," and that the public should judge his "pronostic de l'ejection," he becomes a prophet/priest/ magician (91) using the imagery of the apocalypse to forewarn the world that it will inevitably fall into dissolution ("future dissipation"), or in the aichemical framework, cosmic waste. Concluding with a parodic coup de grace, Paracelse warns in understated fashion that everyone should be aware of this occurrence "de peur d'inconvenient."

Also susceptible to the critique of mixtion is the Paracelsian concept of time. This topic, like the previous ones, is related to the various operations of matiere, but it is specifically directed to issues of temporality. As we have seen, the world will expel its seeds "apres le temps et juste equivalence" (95). What is "juste equivalence" and why is it parodied? In keeping with Paracelsus' theory of correspondences, the microcosm imitates the macrocosm. That is, the virtues immanent in individuals are astral and therefore follow the pattern of their cognate stars. Thus, there is a "precise equivalence" between the astral body of a person as microcosm and the stars as macrocosm where the purpose of the former is modeled in the plan of the latter. Consistent with the theories of Plotinus and Proclus but opposed to the Peripatetics, Paracelsus has a qualitative notion of time in which the individual bears an internal scientia of form and function in consonance with the astra which enables it to direct itself t owards its specific purpose. The climax of an individual's development to perfection is called its "Monarchy," such that the time of each being is entirely linked to its own seed, pace, and rhythm as configured by the astra. (92) Rather than a measure of motion, time is construed as entirely qualitative phenomenon dependent upon the virtues of the object's inner knowledge. (93) Thus, the theosophical concept of Paracelsian time posits the teleology of perfecting a quintessence whose guidance by the internal alchemist (the Archeus) leads its object to its culminating monarchy.

When the narrator criticizes the world of tricksters, he calls it "un melange mystigorieux des forces et puissances." Paracelsian alchemy as well as its theosophy are determined by this mystical correspondence of sympathies and antipathies which underpin his concept of time. But Beroalde's word "melange" is aimed at parodying this notion and setting it against his own Heraclitean world. It is also a reflection of the implicit tensions between the Cagastrum and the Archeus. What features of Beroaldian time complicate those of Paracelsus? From an alchemical viewpoint, they cluster around the terms of mixtion, ingression, and complexion. (94) Our understanding of the complicated issues of time in Le Moyen de parvenir is considerably enhanced thanks to the work ofJanis Pallister and Michel Renaud. (95) Their observations can be extended to alchemy. While separatio is the key concept in Paracelsus, mixtion is the central one in Beroalde. That is, the work folds in on itself, develops its own internal dynamics, and makes time incoherent and disordered. For example, in the opening quatrain of LeMoyen deparvenir, we read in effect that the work we are about to read has not yet begun. Here the author-narrator is directly referring to the distinguished honoree of the symposium but indirectly invoking death as (at) the point of departure:
If Madame had survived me
 I might have begun this work.
 When Death wiped her bum with it,
 My heart grew soft as cheese. (96)

But in the coda of the last chapter (ironically titled "Argument") we are informed in effect that the work that we have just read has not yet been written but it will be on some future occasion: "I will set out to make a fair volume wherein I will tell you the truth, completely contrary to the practice of others, and in such a beautiful manner that I will publish it after my death." (97) Even these temporal disruptions, however, have certain patterns in their conflation that contrast with Paracelsus' teleology of the astral Monarchy. That is, they emphasize complexion over the purification of an essence and complicate teleology by superposing contrary and incommensurable times. The first of these mixtures is time as eternal and time as transient. At the same time that there is a relatively static banquet scene, the stories told by' the symposiasts are filled with arrivals and departures. (98) Also, simultaneous with the claim that the book is eternal is the Dance of Death that haunts its conclusion. (99) The dignitaries at the banquet are from nearly every historical period--a literary technique personifying the archetypal' nature of their questions. Against this background is the sensation of time as evanescent and discontinuous, indicated by Le Bonhomme's complaint is that "all we do is waste time." (100) This sense of the transitory is also indicated by the character L'Autre who cautions, "Let's move on. I already sense that this book is slipping out of our hands." (101) The conflation of the eternal and the fugacious is not the same as the macromicro convergence because in Paracelsus, the microcosm is ruled by a common (astral) teleology; while in the Parvenir, there are as many "ways to attain" as there are human possibilities unbounded by any single metaphysical order.

The second set of overlapping temporal patterns is time experienced as determined and time registered as self-determined. Touting Le Moyen de parvenir as being "the ultimate end" of "this present, this past, this future," the narrator declaims that the book is a "mould of exemplary perfection." (102) Also, the symposium is a meeting that is mandated ("mandement," 4) under threat of punishment and death reminiscent of the severest religious sanctions such as the Inquisition (4). These references to necessary patterns and forced compliance are nevertheless juxtaposed with celebrations of liberte. One of the interlocutors, Diogene, interprets the symposium as an opportunity for equals to speak freely: "Everything is permitted here. We're all peers and equals. Here, each one of us should think, do, and say all that one can." (103) One of the most highly paradoxical forms of liberte understood as "free speech" is the license given to each of the interlocutors constantly to interrupt one another with the result tha t such transgressions annul or derail the possibilities of making sense. Understanding the self-defeating nature of such utopian exercises in direct democracy, the speaker known as Messire Gilles concludes: "Liberty guides our steps like the smell that leads us to the privy." (104)

The third set of mixed temporal phenomena is time experienced as multifarious mutability and time as proleptic repetition. We can examine these conflations through the names of certain interlocutors formed from indefinite pronouns. Heterogeneous mutability is seen in the speaker(s) named L'Autre that Andre Tournon has termed "une alterite absolue." (105) A pronoun bereft of nominal antecedents, it redounds upon itself each time it is used and therefore signals constant difference. Since it can only be associated with its individual instances of discourse, the reader tries to give it stability by its contexts, an act that only mimes in abyme its anonymous and ever-shifting alterity. However, such indefinites as L'Autre are, like the Cagastrum, inherently ambiguous. Just as much as they indicate otherness, they also designate the archetypal. Such indefinites and other deictics can just as well be considered archetypal because they function to repeat the present in the future. In this case, indefinites may be vi ewed as fulfilling the Moyen's prediction that as a universal satire it is "Ia fin finale et intelligible de tous" (31). In other words, as Janis Pallister has pointed out, when such pronouns as "Quelqu'un" (Someone, 92), "Cettui-ci" (This One, 129), and "Le Premier Venu" (The First Corner, 352), are used, they in effect invite readers of tomorrow to assign them proper names based on the inevitable recurrence of egomania, folly, and self-destruction projected by the first or "prototypical" Moyen de parvenir. (106)

Deception, rupturing, and mixing mark the dominance of the Cagastrum over the Archeus, indicating Beroalde's criticism of the Paracelsian alchemical goal of perfecting a quintessence. Yet, this is not a rejection of alchemy as a frame of reference for understanding the world. Rather, it is a reversal of perspective in terms of philosophical alchemy. While Beroalde underlines that "tout se transmue," he also insists that what the world constantly "refines" is nor the process of enhancing the virtues of an essence but rather the activity of producing ever-transforming heterogeneities. This is the very opposite of viewing humanity as the quintessence of the whole "machina mundi." (107) In Beroalde's inverted order, the Cagastrum becomes the new Archeus in the sense that reality is perceived as a disruption, complication, and dislocation of classical Renaissance goals. Such a deeply ambivalent concept as the Cagastrum is compatible with the skeptical ethos of Le Moyen de parvenir. With respect to the Divinity, th e Cagastrum is a falling away from supernatural heights, but with respect to the terrestrial world, it inaugurates Nature--a Nature characterized by the egotistical competition of individuals. This explains the stress that Beroalde places in the work on the transgression of conventions, boundaries, and forms. Thus, philosophical alchemy provides Beroalde with a set of critical concepts to examine and assess the world. While he retains the motto "tout se transmue," (108) he inverts Paracelsus' doctrine that the Archeus successfully counter-acts the Cagastrum. Rather, what the world transmutes, refines, and makes subtle is the disruption of the Archeus' goals to perfect essences.


If one were to seek the lines along which Beroalde has organized chapter 35, one would find that, roughly speaking, the development of the symposiasts' dialogue and paracelse's speech follow the course of a mock transmutation on a cosmic level. First there is the satire of prima materia, then of the Archeus' work of attempting to perfect it, and finally of the explosion of macrocosmic seed. Having predicted the dispersal of semina throughout the earth, he next recounts how it is made increasingly microcosmic by the deceptive refinements of the world's social institutions.

Thus begins Beroalde's strategy of modeling on the Spagyric arts of alchemy his satire of the world's manipulative use of signs. At this point the reader observes that criticism of alchemy becomes the vehicle for parodying society and culture. In theory, Spagyric Magistery can be used both for renewing the body and for transmuting metals. (109) It consists in the division and resolution of substances and the separation of principles (forces) in order to filter out the heterogeneous and accidental portions and reunite the homogeneous ones. (110) In Beroalde's eyes, the abuse of exoteric and esoteric alchemy is the prototypical symbol for all types of "rarefacrions" in society whose ingenuity in tricking the public has created "le Monde Pipeur." It is therefore deeply ironic that Beroalde makes Paracelse himself deliver a jeremiad against the "abstracteurs" (96) who have brought "marvels to the infinite progress of the trickster universe." (111) The alchemical practice of extracting a quintessence from the four elements underpins the satire of four social groups that are occult tricksters in the art of deceptive transmurations. In this sense, they too have learned "le moyen de parvenir." Identified in the subsequent chapter ("Parlement"), they are "those who have been more cunning and who have recognized and discovered the four elements of trickery extracted from substitute elixirs otherwise known as the Church, the Law, Medicine, and Business." (112)

Each of these four "abstracteurs falsificateurs" (96) are excoriated throughout Le Moyen de parvenir, (113) and by deprecating them in these terms, Beroalde invites the reader to think through their dubious practices in alchemical terms. The theologians come under attack for their adherence to scholasticism or what Saulnier termed "ces fatras de distinctions" (this hotchpotch of distinctions). (114) The notion of aichemical abstraction from the four elements also applies to the quadruple method of Biblical exegesis (historical, allegorical, anagogic, tropological) decried by such humanists as Lefevre, d'Etaples, and Erasmus. (115) Just as alchemists wish to control their authority by enshrouding their esoteric practices in secret languages, so do these "comptrollers of rheology" guard their power by approving only "what suits their debauched opinion" (96). This satire not only denounces vanity but also condemns both Catholics and Protestants for thinking in vicious circles. It rekindles Beroalde's logical par adox in the Palais des curieux about the possibility of being subjectively convinced that one is objective. (116) As noted earlier but in a different context, Beroalde singles out Calvinist theologians whom he links to the alchemical notions of separation and subtilite: (117) "the most subde are at La Rochelle because ... they are abstractors of ceremonies who like pseudo-philosophers fearlessly.., separate accidents from substance." (118)

The port city of La Rochelle in southwest France, the citadel of Calvinism in France, became known as the "Geneve de l'Ouest." In 1573, the future Henri III (Duc d'Anjou), wishing to annihilate this center of religious and political dissent, laid siege to the city with the largest royal army ever assembled during the Religious Wars. In spite of hundreds of assaults, the defenders nor only repulsed Henri's forces but also won a favorable armistice and civic privileges that sustained its independence. When Beroalde calls the Calvinists "abstracteurs" he is undoubtedly referring both to Calvin and the Rochelais theologians, because he opposes claims made on the basis of cleancut distinctions, purity of separation, and overly subtle reasoning. Behind the teachings of such Rochelais authors as Yves Rouspeau and Jean de L'Espine (119) lie the pronouncements of Calvin himself which could possess all the analytical subtlety of scholastic logic. For example, in book 4 of the 1560 Institution, Calvin addresses the dist inctive features of the Last Supper by first stipulating the three components of any sacrament: (1) its signification, (2) its matter or substance, (3) its virtue or effect. With regard to the Supper, its signification is Christ's promise of salvation; its substance is his death and resurrection; and its virtue is redemption, sanctification, and ever-lasting life. (120) Rouspeau's highly popular Sept Dialogues, published in 1564, was written with a similar confidence in distinctions, and it could have provoked a skeptical thinker such as Beroalde to question how, in the Calvinist view, the faithful could be "members of his [Christ's] flesh" when at the same time, the body of Christ resides in heaven: "Saint Augustine testifies to this truth, saying, as long as there is Heaven the Lord will always be there on high; but also the truth of the Lord is also with us. For the body in which he rose from the dead must always be in a certain place: but his truth radiates everywhere." (21)

Also writing on the Last Supper was the Rochelais Calvinist, Jean de l'Espine, whose Dialogue de la cene de nostre seigneur Zesus Christ, plus un Traictddu vray Sacrifice & vray Sacrificateur (1565) could have also awakened the question of how these theological distinctions could provoke such wicked wars. Rejecting the notion of transubstantiation, he maintained that the Eucharist was essentially a spiritual and not corporeal consumption, because this nature of this sacrament is union with Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As Judith Pugh Meyer observes, De L'Espine, who gave eighteen arguments in support of explaining why the Eucharist is not a bodily incorporation, "was at pains" to prove his point. (122) Here are his ninth and ten arguments respectively:

Just as a glorious & spiritual body does not eat, so it cannot be eaten corporally: Otherwise, it would be necessary to avow that it could be digested in the stomach like the other meats, & that consequently it would be subject to corruption: which is against the condition of glorified bodies, which are not only immortal, but also incorruptible. (123)

Just as we do not eat corporeal meats spiritually, so can we not eat, according to this analogy, the spiritual ones corporally. (124)

It must be recalled that Beroalde's alchemical parody of the theologians is framed by an enigmatic reference to the geographical characteristics of La Rochelle: "People have told me that the most subtle [abstractors] are at La Rochelle, because it's a maritime city." (125) This sentence smacks of the proverbial, but the obvious sources yield no intertext upon which Beroalde could have modeled this statement. (126) One has to study Beroalde's parodic logic in conjunction with history.

Like the process of separating, isolating, and refining an element for aichemical transformation, La Rochelle's distinct location and topography helped to crystallize its rare privilege of civic independence. Kevin C. Rob bins has described La Rochelle as "a city in a landscape of islands and frontiers." (127) Bordered on the west by the swift currents of the Atlantic Ocean and the treacherous littoral of rocks, bights, and shoals, on the north by salt marshes, on the east by a back country of thick forests, and in the south by a dry plain covered with vineyards, the town further reinforced its redoubtable position by a belt of massive fortifications. Also, the fierce individualism and self-reliance of the Rochelais and the city's vibrant commerce brought about by its mercantilist spirit reaped great political and economic rewards from Eleanor d'Aquitaine to Louis XI, and earned it virtual independence through its droit de commune. (128) In the aichemical frame of reference, Beroalde is taking up the role of the positivistic scientist providing the empirical evidence of geography to account for how such disparate elements properly sifted by political sublimations could result in the isolation of the rarest of products otherwise known as independence. However partial Beroalde may be to the power of personal experience and empirical evidence in explaining La Rochelle's self-determination, he simultaneously maintains his critical parody of any rarefaction which, in the case of this city, is the aspiration to autonomy. By the very mention of La Rochelle, Beroalde places the history of the city up to scrutiny to suggest that its aspirations to religious independence dragged it into the chaos of civil war and invited the rapacious designs of monarchical power to overturn its institutions. (129) is another example, in the historical context, of reverse transmutations.

Being "abstracteurs," the theologians have mastered how philosophically to separate accidents from substance. When Beroalde has his narrator note that the Protestants accomplish this feat "without leaving behind any notice of a scar" (130) he is also deriding Paracelsus' remedy known as mumia. (131) In one context of Hermetic medicine, mumia is considered a natural secretion of the body that heals and cures wounds. (132) From another angle, it is thought to be a capacity of tissues that counteracts putrefaction and in this sense, it sustains life itself. (133) From the perspective of Hermetic alchemy, it is the pharmacological aspect of the Iliaster. (134) One of the most macabre concepts of Paracelsus' medical theosophy, mumia can be culled from the cadavers of those who have suffered a quick and violent death and transferred to the living without any noticeable trace. (135) This is the point that Beroalde parodies by the use of the words "sans ... cicatrice." Jung informs us that "Mumia was well known in th e Middle Ages as a medicament, and it consisted of the pulverized parts of real Egyptian mummies, in which there was a flourishing trade." (136) Beroalde is again undercutting the occult side of Paracelsian alchemy by exposing the semiotic reason for its effectiveness. Mystical or superstitious ideas can gain credibility and acceptance by associating them with the concrete functions of the human body. Beroalde is emphasizing the need for empirical evidence that would support the existence of such an invisible balsam. Yet, the reader should not lose sight of the fact that the parody is aimed at both theology and Hermetic medicine. Just as mumia can be extracted and applied without a trace, so can the theologians cut up a concept with many fine distinctions yet still purport to leave religion intact.

The second social group that Beroalde parodies is the medical tricksters, the main target of whom is Paracelsus himself. In chapter 34, the character named Celsus (137) playfully upbraids Paracelse for obscuring everything including medicine: "As in your medical studies, you make the quest for success a darkness deeper than your windy boasts." (138) If we turn to Paracelsus' Preparations In Alchemical Medicine, a compilation of an aichemical pharmacy, we encounter numerous pharmacological recipes written in the discourse of Hermetic medicine that are worthy of Celsus' criticisms. For example, Treatise II opens with the following prescription:

Concerning Bloodstone

The virtues or chief arcana of Bloodstone are for bloody ulcers, resolved menstrua, premature profluvia of the matrix, lax dysentery, diarrhoea.

Preparation for Bloody Ulcers

Rx [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. of Bloodstone, and [LANGUAGE NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. each of lutum Lephanteum (that is, clay from which small cucurbits are made), and of Bolus Armenus. Make a bolus with traganth dissolved in vinegar: Reduce by the fourth grade of reverbation; then extract the alkali. (139)

In referring to "arcana," Paracelsus invokes a cluster of mystical concepts that Beoalde satirizes under the rubric of "le melange mystigorieux des forces et puissances" (97). Paracelsus held that disease and health were determined by astral forces and that the patient could be restored by arcana or secret remedies. There is an invisible, celestial harmony between a person's inner astrum or star and a heavenly astrum. When this equilibrium breaks down, the physician must also be a magus whose task is to discover the correspondence between the star causing the disease and the drug possessing the virtue of the healing star. Thus, the physician must be an alchemist who knows how to prepare the arcana so that he can combine his work with the magus who brings into volatile condition the sidereal forces that effect the cure. (140)

Le Mayen de parvenir subverts the notions of astral etiology and judicial astrology when Beoalde makes Paracelse facetiously challenge the reader to judge whether he has overstepped the limits of reason: "I abhor the robbers who have plundered certain elements of an original doctrine invented by the Antichrist himself who have cast a sinister shadow over the light of true religion. You shall hear more of this by and by and shall judge whether or not I have exceeded the limits of reason." (141) In the phrase "ombre mirlifique," Beroalde is parodying not only the notion of the arcanum but also what Paracelsus called Sciomancy, the Art of Shadows, which among other things could distinguish spirits and sidereal bodies. (142) It is precisely Beroalde's attraction to the empirical epistemology of exoteric alchemy that explains his aversion to invisible sympathies and occult antipathies used to justify astral medicine. By undercutting Pyrrhonic skepticism which mistrusts perception ("they even say that snow is not w hite"), (143) Beroalde puts a premium on sense-experience evaluated by reason. (144) The French author also travesties Paracelsus' schizoid method that seeks to make occult causes correspond with the most minute empirical observations. He signals this criticism by lending his author-narrator and Paracelse the voice of mad genius. In the same breath, the fictional Paracelsus can advocate the mysticism of quintessence and the overwhelming evidence of simple, personal observation. Criticizing extreme skeptics and nervously defending his aichemical concepts, Paracelse says to the symposiasts:

Another of their tales is that snow is not white...that rain wets you not ... And they do not know why cows lie down. -- Ah Jan! dear goosepate, the point is that the way they're made prevents them from sitting. -- Well, I'll have to be on guard against you, but if I do well, you'll surely judge me quite learned. Isn't that right? Did you not think to trap me over that matter of quintessence? I will satisfy you and will show it to you so you can both touch and see it. (145)

A third element (social group) of piperie transmuted by Beroalde's alchemical parody is "la jurisprudence," whose supreme refinement is glossing the law. The alchemical analogue for legal commentary is the art spagyrique emphasized as a method of fecund generation: "Il y en a d'autres qui ont remarque comme cette cabale avait ainsi pressure et fait issir un elemenr generatif perpetuellement en similitude, muni d'une feconditd future, et ont fait semblablement en les imirant. Par ainsi us ont sublirnd... La jurisprudence." (146) In addition to the sexual connotations of this passage, there is also an aichemical context. Paracelsus teaches that in sublimation, "the spiritual is raised from the corporal, subrilised, and the pure separated from the impure." (147) Similarly, jurisprudence attempts to abstract from the corpus of patrimonial texts the essence of legality whether that essence be the rationale for a specific decision or the very criterion of juridical interpretation. Even before Montaigne lamented the proliferation of legal commentaries epitomized by Bartolo of Sassoferrato and Baldo degli Ubaldi, (148) humanists had sought valiantly to sift out from the mass of consilia and glosses the basis of judicial hermeneutics. In the fifteenth century, Lorenzo Valla had believed that the corruption of parasitical commentaries could be purified by returning to ancient sources. In the sixteenth-century, Nicolas Bohier saw legal refinement in "l'opinion commune," Jacques Cujas in the Greek notion of syndcheia, and Andrea Alciato in the jurist's fidelity to the text itself. (149)

The problem with attempting to sublimate one element from the mass of glosses is that the quintessential substance so produced only contaminates itself by generating even more imperfect complexions. The original sublimation only multiplies the residual dross from which it arose such that transmutation by elevation only neutralizes itself. To best understand Beroalde's satire, one must first sift it through Montaigne. The essayist, himself a jurist and critic of glosses, notes that commentaries are like children trying to cut up "quicksilver" into a certain number of parts. The more they "press and knead it," the more "it keeps dividing and scattering." (150) Then he reverts to an organic image to describe the inevitable growth of commentaries: "Our opinions are grafted upon one another. The first serves as a stock for the second, the second for the third. Thus we scale the ladder, step by step. And thence it happens that he who has mounted the highest has often more honor than merit; for he has only mounted o ne speck higher on the shoulders of the next last." (151) The organic image of infinite incremental growth dovetails with Beroalde's alchemical metaphor of "une fecondite future." In other words, he makes Paracelse use allegorical language in which the terms of Hermetic alchemy also convey the satire of the jurists. But this is self-reflexive parody, for just as the jurists must refine by adding, so does Paracelse's allegory fall into the same conundrum. Yet, the reader must play out this paradox to discover how Paracelse's analogizing provides the parodic code for the satire of jurisprudence. Let us examine this point.

In Paracelsus' chain of correspondences, the sun of the macrocosm is imitated by the sun of the microcosm--the flames of the athanor--which is like the matrix of a womb in that it contains the four elements. (152) Just as the sun gives life to the universe, so does the spagyric fire of alchemy produce the quintessential element. Consistent with the hylozoistic principle that all matter has life, Paracelsus finds that each of the elements possesses "semina" or germ cells of every object in nature. In the process of transmutation, one element, the "predestined element," (153) will be superior to the others since it bears the forces, powers, and virtues that will inevitably generate the object's essence. Semination pervades every aspect of the universe. Super-elemental or astral bodies are the semina that communicate with elemental bodies; such seeds are envisaged as the source of all substance, matter, form, and essence in nature.

Thus, when Beroalde has "Paracelse" castigate the "cabale," he is criticizing the rampant analogizing of the Swiss alchemist who repeats a similar process of esoteric allegorization. But this allegory, in turn, provides the code for understanding the satirical basis of legal allegories. When we read that "this cabale had thus pressurized and extracted a generative element" (96), (154) we now can see that Paracelse is referring to an alchemical extraction. Just as spagyric transmutations generate the quintessential "semina" of bodies, thereby imitating the solar athanor, so do the sublimations of jurisprudence generate proliferations of glosses. It is in this sense that both phenomena are endowed with "une fecondite future" (96) sure to reap only more confusion.

This generative element is "perpetuellement en similitude" (96) because, for Paracelsus, the rationale for life forces is derived from the macro/micro analogy which itself is based on the theory of correspondences. In other words, the astral semina constantly communicate with elemental bodies on every level whether in health or disease. Finally, Paracelse notes that there are others ("d'autres") who have modeled themselves on the cabale: "Il y en a d'autres ... qui ont fait semblablement en les imitant" (96). Here Beroalde is parodying the seemingly pandemic spread of Paracelsian alchemy in French society which in chapter 59 is specifically related to fashion and prestige: "Ever since he [Paracelsus] has published his treatises, he has so well hammered alchemy into our heads that everyone's dabbling in it. Even women and little children wear bellows at their belt." (155) This alchemical level of parody simultaneously refers to the juridical level in which the endless series of commentators, seeking to gain pu blic acclaim by improving the work of their predecessors, only exacerbate the original complications. As Montaigne observes, "The hundredth commentator hands it on to his successor thornier and rougher than the first one had found it." (156)

The fourth social group satirized (or alchemically speaking, the fourth element of piperie) is the world of merchants, whose particular refinement is to elevate the value of products by bragging and boasting. Perfected through alchemical sifting ("contrepassant par l'etamine," 97), the duplicity of bravado achieves a charlatan-like perfection satirized by Beroalde as scandalous braggadocio ("le scandale forfantesque," 97). The merchants are fascinated by a mock elixir termed "ce brouet d'andouille" (97). Since "ce" refers to its antecedents "les medicaments" and "l'oeuvre parfait," it is indeed an elixir which in Paracelsus' Archidoxis has the power to conserve, preserve, and reanimate the spirit of life. (157) However, here Beroalde criticizes this claim by his inverted transmutations whose apex ("la cinquieme essence necessaire," 97) is actually a grotesque mixture.

As we have already seen, the locution "brouet d'andouille" can mean "a thing without value." (158) Yet, in Beroalde's world, it is also as a mock elixir whose very taste puts the market into an amorous frenzy as if it were a potent love potion: "the merchants ... have fallen madly in love with their own invention." (159) The narrator describes the public's act of imbibing the brew in terms reminiscent of eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. As he reports, "having passed through their hands and tasted of this goodly chitterling broth, they were carried away by this invention" (97, italics mine). (160) This is exactly the reverse of God's command to Adam and Eve who said to them, "You shall nor eat of the fruit of the tree...neither shall you touch it, lest you die" (Gen. 3:3). (161) Yet, rarefying a worthless concoction is precisely the merchants' art. They are the travestied Adams of Paracelsus who, instead of being humanity's wise physicians, (162) are its clever imposters. The "brouer," miming the process of deception, is a jumble, but to give it the appearance of body, (163) it is an "andouille." Here Beroalde is also undercutting Paracelsus' observation that "primal matter is conjoined in the matrix as in a bag, being compounded into three parts." (164) While alchemical transmutation requires that the mixture of elements yield a homogeneous quality, the "brouet d'andouille," in addition to being a melange, is also an ingression of the other three "elements de piperie." The "ce" of "ce brouet" refers to its juridical, medical, theological antecedents in the previous sentence which had already been mixed. In this involution, the medical component had itself been transformed into a medulla, a marrowy pith, brought to alchemical perfection ("chytifie") (165) by the jurists' erotic stimulation of the physicians' mons pubis: "charouillant le penil de la medecine." The seminal liquid so produced when the pith is perfected creates a play on the Hermetic alchemical notion of "semina," which in Paracelsus is the soul-like impulses directing growth. (166)


At this point in Le Moyen de parvenir, the reader arrives at the Monarchy of mock alchemical aspiration that, in stylistic terms, has transmuted discourse from the macrocosmic explosion of the seeds of life to the development of ultimate matter in the microcosmic quintessence of "le Monde pipeur." In identifying itself with the very creation and growth of the universe, the voice of Paracelse comes to parody the aggrandizement of the ego not only in Paracelsus but also in alchemy as a whole. In Alchemical Studies, Jung has said that

Paracelsus' preoccupation with alchemy exposed him to an influence that left its mark on his spiritual development. The inner driving-force behind the aspirations of alchemy was a presumption whose daemonic grandeur on the one hand and psychic danger on the other should nor be underestimated. Much of the overbearing pride and arrogant self-esteem, which contrasts so strangely with the truly Christian humility of Paracelsus, comes from this source. (167)

Whether understood as the Archeus, the Homo Maximus, or the Primordial Man, such a Faustian figure is criticized by Beroalde in order to deflate the claims of power and control made by Paracelsus. The satire uses certain parodic voices that are impersonal to the extent that they mime archetypal roles of the alchemist, but personal to the degree that they deride the traits of Paracelsus' rhetoric. As we have already seen, the most distinctive tone is the voice of the preacher-prophet speaking before a public gathering. Capturing the taunting condescension of Paracelsus' boisterous harangues, (168) the sarcastic exordium proclaims, "You shall know, in spite of yourselves, that the four elements are formed from one and the same matter" (95). This is not the playful abuse of Rabelais but the willfully aggressive and tyrannical assault on any differing opinion. Referring to a similar point, Jung says, Paracelsus has a "longing to get one's opponent down whatever the means." (169) Imitating Paracelsus' self-righteo us denunciation of charlatans, the prophet also admonishes "les abstracteurs falsificateurs" (96) whose most refined essences are brewed by the Calvinists at La Rochelle. Also, the prophet apocalyptically warns against ("il faur avertir le monde," 96) the showering of excrement that will fall on the world at the "ejection" of undigested seed filling Earth's stomach. Associating the prophet with the Magus' ability to read the signatures of the stars, Paracelse characterizes this very discharge of cosmic waste as a prognostication: "and you will see by precise forecasting the ejection that it will make" (96). This mixing of the crude and the erudite, typical of how well Beroalde assimilated Paracelsus' discourse, had first been linked to the latter's theory of the signatures in the chapter's opening. Here the character named Le Bonhomme sadistically teases Scot (perhaps Duns Scotus, the Doctor subtilis) for just having gotten his nose flattened in an intellectual exchange with the heretic Uldric: "There you are Master Scot, with your nose as flat as a wild sow's." (170) Aside from this allusion to accusations of heresy aimed at Paracelsus, this is an oblique reference to his astrological semiotics in De Natura Rerum where it is said that "A flat nose indicates a malignant man, false, lustful, untruthful, inconstant." (171) This definition is not only a parody of the theory of signatures but, more generally, of the notion that like attracts like.

The powers claimed by Paracelsus are enormous, but these are subtly contested by Beroalde's jumpy, dramatic monologue in which Paracelse's dedamatory confidence is progressively subverted by his preoccupation with the loss of control. Characterizing the psychology of Paracelsus' expression, Jung has observed that "his style is violently rhetorical. He always seems to be speaking importunately into someone's ear--someone who listens unwillingly, or against whose thick skin even the best arguments rebound." (172) It is quite remarkable how well Beroalde knows his subject and how effectively he captures this sense of futile insistence. It is important to review both the omnipotence with which Paracelse identifies himself and the rhetorical modes of marshaling dominance.

As already noted, Paracelsus sees himself as the Archeus who ensures the growth and development of prime matter to ultima materia. He is also the Magus having sway over the arcana and the alchemist-physician mastering the anatomia essata (173) and preparing the life-conserving elixirs and balsams. Not only privy to gnosis and the cabala, Paracelsus claims knowledge that makes him epistemological master of the Mysterium Magnum and of the Cagastric separatio forming nature itself. (174) But the fissures and cracks in these identifications ironically grow wider in Paracelse's attempt to shore up rhetoric when persuasion appears slipping.

First, he registers shame ("honte") for the criticism that other "medecins" have made of his theories. Then he moves to anticipate other objections by adopting juridical rhetoric that would preempt disagreement. By challenging his listeners to judge his various pronouncements, he thereby evokes a theater of justice that would not only vindicate him but also preempt their skepticism. Paracelse's insistence on bringing the world to his side of the issue smacks of hyperrrophic voluntarism. Gisele Mathieu-Castellani observes that in Baroque style, the addressor tries to dominate addressees by semiotically pushing or coercing them into believing and accepting his/her message, never failing to seek and secure audience assent. (175) With overbearing urgency, Paracelse importunes the public to have faith in his prediction, namely in the dubious claim that the earth's stomach will discharge its seed and shower the globe with fertile waste: "Listen, all of you! You must expect such a cataclysmic time to come, and then you may judge and determine for yourselves its duration and future discharge. You will indeed see, and I defy you, whether the prognostication be true and exact." (176) Next to stand accused in this alchemical court is Paracelse's claim that his methods are completely rational: "You...shall judge whether or not I have exceeded the limits of reason" (96). (177) Seeking to substantiate this assertion and demonstrate his reasonable nature, he castigates the extreme skepticism of the Pyrrhonists who contend that the sun is not hot nor the snow white. This is satiric because the negation of an absurdity is hardly proof of Paracelse's scientific rigor. Finally, in a most facetious manner, Beroalde has Paracelse seek justification for his notions based upon his authority as a docte--the very same academic authorization that Paracelsus had spent a lifetime denouncing. (178) Feeling that persuasion is slipping out of his grasp, Paracelse apprehensively distances himself from his audience, suspecting that his sermon on quintessence has gone awry: "But I see you're watching me closely to see if I'm as ignorant as those who say that the sun is not hot." (179) Then, he concludes by hesitantly affirming a learnedness that he himself must finally put to question: "I'll have to be on guard with you, but if do well, you will surely judge me quite learned. Isn't that right? Did you not think to trap me over that matter of quintessence?" (98). (180)


Throughout Le Moyen de parvenir, Beroalde's parodic strategy has been to invert Paracelsus' alchemical doctrines by a number of reverse transmutations: the movement from ultimate matter to prime matter, from quintessence to mixture, from the invisible of Hermetic alchemy to the visible of social manipulation, and the predominance of the Cagastrum over the Archeus. How would one characterize Beroalde's deflation of Paracelse's pride in alchemical terms? The answer is that it is a kind of putrefactio, a highly ambivalent process because it regenerates into the positive elements of writing. This is a point that requires additional explanation.

In book 7 of Paracelsus' De Natura Rerum, putrefaction is a fourth type of transmutation consisting of digestion and circulation. (181) Just as, for Paracelsus, each organic object has its own stomach, (182) so are there textual sites of corruption, degeneration, and waste. Depending on one's interpretation of symbols, the reader may first see such a decline in the entropy of time ("We're only wasting time") which is the paradoxical discharge of matter never usefully digested or assimilated to higher development. The second site is Earth's discharge of primary matter from its celestial rectum that will shower its inhabitants with semina. This is an ambivalent symbol not only because it moves from waste to seed, but also because, while it is an abasement of Paracelsus' concepts, it becomes the narrator's primary matter for skeptical parody. That is, it questions the deeply anthropomorphic nature of Paracelsus' animism.

Paralleling Beroalde's satire ofParacelsus' over-controlled discourse is the implicit denigration of his egocentricity indicated in Paracelse's anxiety about "dissipation" (96)--meaning both macrocosmic excrement and conceptual dispersion. Also, just before Paracelse begins to question his own authority, there is an increase in scatological vocabulary used to attack the Pyrthonists: "I wish such skeptics could prove to me that they would nor have the most stinking bung-holes without perfuming them... they even say...that turds are neither living matter nor dead." (183) These are telling symbols of putrefaction because in connection with Pyrthonism, they associate Paracelsus with the French historical situation of socio-political deterioration and the degeneration of philosophical conviction brought about by the chaos of the religious wars. (184) The use of putrefaction to comment on Paracelsus' overall change in this chapter from hubris to hesitation concludes with an oath that hurls curses of death at real a nd figurative vermin: "Death to rats and mice and damnation to wasps ... but let me bring my lesson to a close, my analogy will be perfect." (185)

As we can see, these last symbols of degeneration occur precisely where the speaker wishes to complete his "analogie." This is doubly significant. First, by tying the moment of completion to the stage of putrefaction, the imprecation suggests that for Beroalde, true Monarchy is a return to primary matter. Second, putrefaction is used pejoratively here to criticize analogy. Though these last sentences are perfectly consonant with Paracelse's manner of speaking, they are really uttered by the character named L'Autre. Why? While L'Autre implies alterity, its usual sense is violated here, since, in this paragraph, L'Autre's voice is virtually the same as that of Paracelse. On a symbolic level, this non-changing substitution is meant to underscore Paracelse's drive to see likeness in the other and to accord analogical thinking the highest status. This is Beroalde's main target.



Taking the work as a whole, the most significant reverse transmutation that Beroalde makes of Paracelsus is to transform the doctrine of correspondence into the practice of critical parody. As mentioned above, the concept of correspondences is the notion of sympathetic attraction between the macrocosm and the microcosm that confers a mutual concordance of powers between the sun, the stars, and the planets, and the life of humans, animals, plants, and minerals. The alchemist-physician works to discover the arcanum or mystical remedy that could tap the astral virtue shared by the heavens and the individual body. Though Paracelsus never resolved the tensions between individual autonomy and astral determinism, he tended to see astra everywhere, bringing into their orbits the universe of phenomena--cosmological, philosophical, theological, and pharmacological. (186) It is precisely this rampaging analogizing (given impulse by Paracelsus' newly created Astrosophy) and the overwhelming wish to allegorize that consti tute Beroalde's intractable other.

To a great extent, the Cagastrum is the adversary of analogy in a number of ways: the reversion to primary matter, the conflations of times and substances, the random distribution and behavior of characters, and more generally, making the salmagundis of the world look like quintessence. However, equally opposed to analogy is Berolade's systematic use of language built on the alchemical motto "tout se transmue." While Paracelsian alchemy emphasizes the same in the different, Beroalde uses parody to stress the different in the same. He focuses our attention on his use of parody to criticize the reduction of the world to allegorical parallels--a practice central to steganographie that is virtually impossible to shed.

This act of allegorizing to secretly encode or decode the most important tenets of knowledge is travestied mercilessly in Le Moyen deparvenir, and it produces rich problems central to Beroalde's poesis. One of the reasons that Beroalde so strongly criticizes steganographie is that there is no falsehood, not even the most manifest nonsense, that analogical allegorizing cannot 'rescue' and 'redeem.' So how can reason guard against reasons tendency to resolve and redress the problems of correspondence? Beroalde's answer is through the rhetorical act of parody. In parodying steganographie, his approach is to give the appearance of revealing esoteric knowledge only to disclose his criticism of this mystification. His writing is a kind of counterfeiting similar to that of the Cagastrum, but done with the intent to unveil deception rather than to falsify. Beroalde undercuts Paracelsus' predominant impulse to uncover correspondences in every domain because, unlike the macro-micro chain of sympathies, reality is disco ntinuous, fragmented, and heterogeneous. Yet, neither steganographie nor "analogie" can be avoided because Beroalde (1) wishes to conserve an alchemical frame of reference to rely on its more tenable principles, and (2) knows that any act of understanding requires a second story to make sense of (to allegorize) a first. In other words, at the heart of Le Moyen de parvenir's parodic alchimie du verbe is the method of reversing vision by emphasizing the variegated in the similar. This approach to knowledge, based on burlesque, will not completely extirpate falsehood, but rather will provide another way of seeing the world and of identifying its constituents.

There are two structures of any parody: the model being imitated and the criticism of that model. Since Beroalde is using alchemy to undercut cultural institutions, his model is fundamentally alchemical. This is the first story. The second is the criticism of that model which here consists of showing that doubtful alchemical practices can also be applied to dubious social practices. In that second story, there are bifurcating sub-stories exploded by unanticipated turns, disparate associations, and oracular ambiguities that confound the correspondences between part and whole. On the positive side, this second story, because of its mix of apparently disordered and incommensurable parts, is like the prime matter of the Mysterium Magnum fusing in potential the countless multitude of virtual meanings. But unlike Paracelsian prime matter, this does not lead to predestined elements, but to perpetual transmutations and critical problems involuting their energies back into the potential of prime matter.

A passage rich in pertinence and possibilities is Beroalde's poetic parody of jurisprudence (which overlaps with that of the theologians): "There are others of this kind who have noted that this cabala had pressurized and squeezed forth a certain generative power perpetually in similitude and supplied with future fecundity. In like manner and by imitation they have also sublimated, eviscerated, and disemboweled jurisprudence." (187) When readers first come to Le Moyen deparvenir, they encounter an initial interference with correspondence that turns their search for Hermetic pass-keys (first story) into the discovery that such ciphers criticize the very alchemical initiation they are performing (second story). In the passage above, the verbs "pressure" (pressurized) and "fair issir" (squeezed) refer to the spagyric method of alchemical extraction (first story), but the verb pressurer satirically connotes the physical torture of pressing, squeezing, and grinding down (second story). The second rupture from corr espondence (eruptions of the second story) serves to create associations with alchemy so unexpected that they make the world strangely new. Based on the notion of spagyric purification and perfection, legal scholars attempt to abstract and summarize the essence of complicated cases in glosses and "consilia." But based on the Paracelsian notion of perpetual germination, such abstractions will multiply forever ("une fecondite future"). This is parody of the jurists related to Paracelsus' reductive analogizing, but the parody of alchemy becomes more philosophic. While it exposes the desire to contain the universe in parallelisms, Beroalde sees desire as an ungraspable flight of mutations.

This second clash with correspondences related to proliferation moves to a third phase that spawns a multitude of subjects from the parodic seeds that become ever more prolific. Thus, in spite of the mystical affinities and correspondences, there is a limitless generation of more and more disparate topics, each relatively atomized. Thus, the sublimations of legal scholars are like anatomical dissections whose hair-splitting distinctions slice up the body of law like the corpse of a human being: "they have sublimated, eviscerated, and disemboweled jurisprudence." (188) Even these institutional body parts cannot resist the drive to imitation so, in lascivious collusion, jurisprudence "tickles the mons pubis of medicine" thereby changing the notion of alchemical semina into the economic riches of rarefied sperm: "le suc du moelleux" (97). In this way, the "quintessence" is produced, and its retailers ("la supposition trafiquante," 99) take as many mortal risks in their hyperbolic advertisements as the alchemists incur in their labs of volatile chemicals where they hid alchemical secrets from violent thieves, avaricious princes, and religious censors. (189) Thus, the commercial tricksters have also earned a respected place in society, and "with great labors and risks," [they] "have dignified their standing as the others" (97).

The reversion to primary matter also means that within this style of ever accumulating, loose associations, a certain skepticism questions how the atomized substances interact. Is it really through the ever-vigilant Archei? For example, the notion of tricksters implies some personal, central agency where the four institutions willfully plan their deceit; on the other hand, the amity that leads to their assembly is dictated by the social law that "frequentation (is] the welding of wills" (97). Also, when the four groups assemble to concoct their quintessential "chitterling broth," they are called "operateurs," indicating not only "con-artists" but quite literally "impersonal functions" gravitating toward mutual aggrandizement.

Finally, Beroalde's style encourages the transmutation of topics by ingressions of questions that push self-reflexivity to self-destructive fusion. For instance, the violence of such images as "pressurized" and "disemboweled" nor only connote Paracelsus' hypertrophic will to control, not only the societal injustices and exploitations of law and medicine, but also Le Moyen de parvenir's own paradoxically demonic action of opposing violence with interruption, rupture, and transgression. (190) These interferences with the reductive convergence of correspondences set in motion the different in the same where the disruptions of allegory within allegory lead to anamorphic (191) variations of the text's prime matter: the multitude of mutating topics. (192)


Due to his historical experience of turbulent conflicts and changing paradigms, Beroalde became highly suspicious of classical rationalism and humanism, both implicit in his early encyclopedic projects. Le Moyen de parvenir marks a period in which he casts a skeptical gaze at the world. Given this viewpoint, critical alchemical parody must be seen not as mere laughter, but as an uncomfortably philosophic way of making sense of one's culture. Skeptical parody imitates to differentiate, seeking difference in the same in order to remain faithful to the warring tensions of meaning.

From another angle, parody is critical mixture. It allows Beroalde to maintain and suspend the co-existence of opposed concepts as a skeptical alternative either to nihilism, on the one hand, or to dogma on the other. Even while exposing alchemy as a deception similar to that found in other social domains, he nevertheless retains its conceptual framework. Indeed, each of the four institutions burlesqued resembles alchemy by passing off something complex as something quintessentially refined: the physicians make their elixirs, the theologians their subtle distinctions, the lawyers their consilia and abstracted summaries of complex cases, and the merchants their false advertising ("ruses") properly sifted ("l'etamina") by trickery.

Finally, Beroalde's parody is a constructive skepticism that renews ideological vision through reversals of Paracelsus' teachings: transmutation predominates over the predestined element; mixture over the reduction to quintessence; experience, experiment, and empiricism over astrosophy, the questions of prime matter over the doctrine of ultimate matter; and the Cagastrum as the demonic energy that comes to trouble all the Archeus' designs.

Maintaining the alchemical frame of reference even while critiquing it, Beroalde's parody is an instrument de connaissance forged from a deeply skeptical attitude. This point of view is related to but markedly different from the alchemical master narrative's union of opposites (coincidentia oppositorum) or marriage (gamonymus) of contrary elements. Rather than a marriage or union, Beroalde finds the world an antagonistic mixing. Working within the premises of Paracelsian ideology, but retaining his critical distance, Beroalde develops a parodic method that neither rejects the alchemical frame of reference altogether, nor jettisons one of the terms of a warring relation, nor subsumes contrary concepts into a higher synthesis. Rather, he conserves the contentious relations of terms to facilitate both his criticisms of alchemy and his adherence to certain of its principles. In such a method, neither the favored term, such as "mixture," nor the criticized term, such as "quintessence," can be understood except in relation to its subversive other.

* I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to my colleague Arthur F. Marotti who read the manuscript twice and offered patient and perceptive criticisms of earlier versions of this essay. I also thank Charles Stivale for his indispensable comments, and corrections and Lyndy Abraham for generously sharing her considerable knowledge of alchemical sources. I would also like to express my debt to the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library for permitting me to consult Beroalde's works and to Kathleen Perry for encouraging me to embark on this investigation. Finally, I very much appreciate the comments of the two anonymous readers whose care and concern resulted in a much-improved final product. Any errors or shortcomings are strictly my own responsibility.

(1.) This last work has recently been edited by Renaud; see Verville, 2001.

(2.) "a masterpiece of story-telling . . . [and] . . . a masterpiece of baroque literature" (Saulnier, 312). For the other biographical points, see 213, 231, 236, 313-19. Saulnier surmises that Beroalde had converted to Catholicism between 1586-88 (228, 231). For the date of Beroalde's death, see Locey, et al., eds., 1987.42. Some errors in Saulnier's bibliography (313-19) have been corrected in Giordano and Pallister. On Beroalde's life, see also Charles Royer's "Notice," 1970, i-lxii and Colletet, 17-40, in Locey, et al., eds., 1987.

(3.) Jeanneret, 206, 233, 286-88.

(4.) Kenny, 1989, 178-85.

(5.) L'Idee de la republique, fol. Aiv.

(6.) Les Cognoissances necessaires is contained in Les Apprehensions spirituelles. See Verville, 1583b, fol. 1v.

(7.) Kenny, 1989, 188-92 and his development of this point in 1991, 145.

(8.) Bamforth, 1979, 110: "Alchemy for Beroalde is nothing more or less than the expression of an attitude to knowledge itself." See also Kenny, 1991, 66: "For him [Beroalde], as for many of his contemporaries, alchemy is philosophie itself, the very centre of the circle of learning, the point at which all branches are enchaines (as he stares in his preface to Le Songe de Polyphile) . . . More specifically, Beroalde frequently stresses that alchemy overlaps with other disciplines. It is halfway between metaphysics and physics...; it is physics being put into practice...; it enables physics to serve medicine; and it is a kind of mechanics. He claims that, along with theology, alchemy is one of the 'deux sciences dont on parle presque tousjours' (two sciences of which people always speak). This is a striking departure from what is considered in more orthodox thought to be the principal triad of sciences: the higher faculties of theology, law and medicine." On alchemical poetics in Beroalde's work, see Zinguer, 1984, 6-15.

(9.) On this work, see the perceptive analysis of Marquet.

(10.) A11 references to Le Moyen de parvenir will be to the edition of Moreau and Tournon (Verville, 1984b). Unless otherwise indicated, references to page numbers will be to the transcription.

(11.) "Kenny, 1992, 22.

(12.) Verville, 1612, 461-62.

(13.) The title of Beroalde's translation/interpretation is Le Tableau des riches inventions couvertes die voile des feintes amoureuses, qui sont rep resentees dans le Songe de Poliphile, desvoilees des ombres du songe et subtilement exposees par Beroalde (Paris, 1600).

(14.) "la raison de tout ce qui a ete, et sera."

(15.) Bowen, 1982, 163.

(16.) "Et c'est ici la grande dignite de cet ouvrage, plein de l'intelligence de la pierre philosophale, pource que tout Se transmue" (296).

(17.) That Paracelsus launched iatrochemistry is explained by Pagel in his magisterial 1982 study, 349, 366. Also, see Kenny's inventory of alchemical sources cited by Beroalde (1991, 67).

(18.) Tournon, et al., 283-85.

(19.) Saulnier, 219.

(20.) Pagel, 1982, 12-13, 19-22.

(21.) On Beroalde, see Kenny, 1991, 68. Also Zinguer, 1993, 141. On Paracelsus, see Pagel, 1982, 267. On recent developments in Paracelsus scholarship, see Schott and Zinguer.

(22.) This is mentioned by one of Beroalde's friends, Gabriel de Castaigne. See Bamforth, 1996, 51-52. Zinguer, 1993, 139, lists the "medecins" present at the fictional banquet in Le Moyen de parvenir.

(23.) On Beroalde, see Ibid., 141. On Beroalde's criticisms of charlatans, it is revealing to list the main words of his 1583 work: Recherches de la pierre philosophale, et du moyen qu'il y faut tenir, si elle existe on pent exister; avec une preface contre les souffleurs imposteurs et sophistes, fols. 77-120 contained in Les Apprehensions spirituelles. On Beroalde's preference for personal experience, see Zinguer, 1993, 141. Also, Kenny, 1991, 218-29, gives an informative discussion of experience in relation to reason and authority. Paracelsus' rejection of academic medicine is well illustrated by his conflicts with officials in Basel, where he burned a volume of Avicenna -- "the 'Canon' of academic medicine," according to Page1, 1982, 20. On personal experience, see Ibid., 57.

(24.) For Paracelsus, see Ibid., 50-51, 57. On Beroalde, see Kenny, 1991, 218-40.

(25.) See the section entitled "Mysticism and Science" in Debus, 1978, 11-15.

(25.) "CE LIVRE EST LE CENTRE DE TOUS LES LIVRES Voila la parole secrete qui doit etre decouverte" (30).

(27.) The preface to the Tableau des riches inventions (Verville, 1600) entitled "Recueil steganographique," announces a mode of representation called steganographie, Best defined in Le Voyage des princes fortunez (Verville, 1610), it is a writing that covers (stegei) its object to invite the initiate to discover "the hidden splendors that appear ordinary but that are clear and manifest to the eye and intelligence which have received the light that can penetrate these indecipherable discourses not otherwise intelligible" (13). See the preamble in Le Voyage titled "Avis aux beaux esprits": "les magnificences occultes a l'apparence commune, mais claires et manifestes a l'oeil et a l'entendement qui a recu la lumiere qui fait penetrer dans ces discours proprement impenetrables, au non autrement intelligibles." See also Tournon, 1987, 216.

(28.) "Il nous suffit de vous raconter, et a vous de croire que tout est fort bien cache sous ces enigmes, ainsi que le trouveront les enfants de la science, les fils des sages et heureux predestines a trouver la lanterne de discretion et la lampe de beatitude" (27).

(29.) For general knowledge concerning alchemy, see Holmyard and Hutin. Pernety is an indispensable source.

(30.) See Jung, 1968, 186, 282.

(31.) See The Book Concerning the Tincture of the Philosophers, Paracelsus, 1:19-30. See also Waite's "A Short Lexicon of Alchemy," 2:380-8 1.

(32.) Paracelsus, 1:160, Concerning the Nature of Things.

(33.) This is from Ibid., 1:90, Chirurgia Magna, pt. 2. See Waite's note, 1:90.

(34.) See Ibid., 1:92, The Economy of Minerals. "The Archaeus is he who disposes everything according to a definite order, so that each comes to its ultimate matter, which at length man receives as a sort of artificial primal matter: that is, where Nature ends, there the Art of man begins, for Nature's ultimate matter is man's primordial matter."

(35.) See Ibid., 1:20, the Preface of The Book Concerning the Tincture of the Philosophers.

(36.) Debus, 1977, 56.

(37.) Schmidt, 71-98.

(38.) Sainean gives the wrong impression about the speech of Paracelse in chapter 35 by characterizing it as "galimatias" (grandiloquent nonsense), 153. This has been an all too frequent error by critics of Beroalde who insufficiently analyze the object of his parody. In fact, the attentive reader will see that while his speech maybe grandiloquent, it is not nonsense. In this chapter, both Paracelsus' Hermetic/alchemical concepts and Beroalde's parody are quite accessible to diligent research.

(39.) Quoted from Page1, 1961, 118.

(40.) Ibid., 123.

(41.) Ibid., 122.

(42.) "C'est un des malheurs du siecle, que si on veut apprendre quelque bien on aura infinie peine a se mettre en train: depuis le temps que nous sommes ici nous n'avons non plus su entrer en matiere qu'un coin de buerre en la fente d'un foyer" (95).

(43.) "tout ce qui est ici est si bon qu'il est tout egal, ni meilleur ni pire, tel en un temps qu'en l'autre" (95).

(44.) "Pagel, 1982, 91; Debus, 1977, 55-56.

(45.) Ibid., 113.

(46.) Ibid., 1982, 92.

(47.) See Pernety: "Action par laquelle les matieres se melent de maniere a ne pouvoir plus etre separees" (220). (Action by which the matters mix in such a way as to no longer be able to be separated.)

(48.) "Vous saurez, en depit de vous, que les quatre elements sont formes d'une meme

(49.) "Regardez comment je commence de belle et bonne grace" (95).

(50.) Paracelsus, 2:39.

(51.) Though I use amplificatio here as a term of rhetoric -- a neighbor to accumulatio -- the word amplificatio is also part of the nomenclature of alchemy. Jung (1968, 289) points out that this was the term used to refer to a special discourse that assisted alchemists in building a repertory of working concepts: "Every original alchemist built himself, as it were, a more or less individual edifice of ideas, consisting of the dicta of the philosophers and of miscellaneous analogies to the fundamental concepts of alchemy. Generally these analogies are taken from all over the place. Treatises were even written for the purpose of supplying the artist with analogy-making material. The method of alchemy, psychologically speaking, is one of boundless amplification." Beroalde's criticism of the analogies of teleology is thus another of his reverse transmutations, using amplification to undercut such strings of analogy. As we shall see, the abuse of analogy is one of Beroalde's prime targets of satire.

(52.) There are eighty chapters in this work called objects on such topics as medicine, grammar, beans, or mathematics. The objects appear to be distributed at random without any explicit directions on how to relate them; their discursive and digressive style allows the reader to rearrange thematic elements much like the rhetoric of Montaigne's Essais. A similar play of thematic fragments is at work in LeMoyen de parvenir where the 111 chapter titles, drawn from the patrimony of knowledge or from encyclopedic models (for example, "Metaphrase," "Theoreme," "Concile," "Parlement," "Contract," etc.), can be freely transposed like the fragmentation and variation in emblematic writing. On the relations between the objects of Le Palais des curieux and Le Moyen de parvenir, see Conley, 83-107. On fragmentation and variation in emblematic writing, see Russell, 161-81.

(53.) "La Premiere matiere esr celle dont les ouvriers du monde agissent, sachant elire cc qu'il en faur pour leurs affaires" (95).

(54.) On this concept relating Paracelsus to the Neo-platonic tradition, see Pagel, 1960, 139: "Paracelsus saw working in the semina an active force, the Archeus. The world is full of such 'workmen' or beings intermediate between matter and spirit."

(55.) See Pagel, 1982, 105. On the Iliaster. see Paracelsus, 1:201-06.

(56.) Pagel, 1982, 106.

(57.) It is virtually impossible to distinguish between the Archeus and the Vulcan except for the distinction that the former works inside the body while the latter works in Nature at large. See Sherlock, 42.

(58.) Pagel, 1982, 107-08.

(59.) See Paracelsus, 1:92, The Economy of Minerals.

(60.) Pagel 1960, 144, 149.

(61.) Ibid. 1982, 91.

(62.) "Le Cagastrum, qui poursuivant un propros nettement mephistophelique -- pour employer le vocabulaire de Goethe -- non seulement extenue la completude des objets terrestres, mais les contrefait malicieusement. Il s'efforce, avec une habilite pervertie, que tout ce qui, dans l'univers, par faveur speciale de la divinite, reste yliastrique devienne cagastrique" (74).

(63.) Pagel, 1982, 114.

(64.) See Koyre, 66.

(65.) "Pour lui [le Cagastrum] le monde devient une singerie putride, grossiere et transitoire. Tout ce qu'on y decouvre est frappe a la fois d'impertinence, d'inconsequence et d'inanite potentielle." See Schmidt, 74.

(66.) Jung, 1967, 125 and n. 35: "The Cagastrum is an inferior or 'bad' form of the Yliastrum."

(67.) Pagel, 1960, 144.

(68.) Ibid., 1982, 52, 64.

(69.) See Moreau and Tournon, 96.

(70.) "these comptrollers of theology who only find good in their debauched opinion" (96).

(71.) "les voleurs qui ont tire des certains elements d'une doctrine que l'Antechrist a inventee et supposee sous lumiere de religion" (96).

(72.) "cette cabale avait ainsi pressure et fait issir un element generatif" (96).

(73.) "le suc du moelleux endroit" (97). Of course, one associates this image with Rabelais' "sustantificque mouelle" in the Prologue to Gargantua and the router's appeal to alchemy. Beroalde's language in the Parvenir, mixing the coarse and erudite, is like that of Rabelais, but the former's attitude in this work is much more skeptical.

(74.) "ayant passe par leurs mains et goute de ce brouet d'andouille ... ont dignifie leur etat comme les aurres" (97). For the meaning of andouille, see Cotgrave's Dictionaire, Eij.

(75.) "et contrepassant par l'etamine (et suivant les commenraires des ruses soporiferantes) le scandale forfantesque, avec grands labeurs et risques, ont trouve la cinquieme essence necessaire, dont il est tant fait d'etat entre ceux qui veulent parvenir" (97). The reference in this passage to the alchemists' "great labors" shows remarkable resemblance to a passage in Rabelais' Tiers Livre: "Plus grande n'est la joye des Alchymistes, quand apres long travaulx, grand soing et despense, ilz voyenr les metaulx transmuez dedans leurs fourneaulx" (422-23). In addition, Beroalde's use of "cinquieme essence" also recalls the aichemical frame of reference in the title page of Gargantua where Francois Rabelais' anagrammatic pseudonym, Maitre Alcofribas, is followed in apposition by the epithet "Abstracteur de Quinte Essence." Within the prologue of this work, there are a number of alchemical references and allusions interwoven with the speaker's remarks on occult messages and mysteries such as "fines drogues" (5), "u ne celestre et impreciable drogue" (6), "aliment elaboure a perfection de nature" (7), the "doctrine plus abseonce" (8), and "la perfecrissime partie" (9). Mary Farrell argues that Rabelais' famous metaphor of reading, figured by a dog delecrating over bone marrow ("la sustantificque mouelle" 7), is a component of the work's alchemical dimension. See also McFarland.

(76.) Abraham, 75-76.

(77.) "Er pource que, par quelquefois boire ensemble ou deviser, on se joint les uns aux autres, la frequentation etant la soudure des volontes, il est advenu que routes ces quatre essences se sont melees ainsi que les operateurs se sont assembles... Done, [de] ces elements unis ... a ete construit... le Monde Pipeur" (97).

(78.) le melange mysrigorieux des forces et puissances" (97). On the fusion of mystique and pyrhagorique, see Sainean, 141.

(79.) See Genette, 72. In her translation of Figures III, Lewin gives "story" for Genette's histoire and "narrative" for his recit (27). See also Prince, 1987, 21, 91.

(80.) "Et c'est ici la grande dignitd de cer ouvrage, plein de I'intelligence de la pierre philosophale, pource que rout se cransmue" (296).

(81.) "Et voila comment je me tiens aussi a ces futures sentences qui sont ja ecrites" (131).

(82.) Paracelsus, 2:359, notes that the reversion of any substance towards its first matter is called Caleruthum.

(83.) Pagel, 1982, 99-100.

(84.) See Huguet, s.v. brouet d'andouille, "Chose sans valeur."

(85.) "Je vous dirai, mes enfants (ainsi vous puis-je nommer, d'autant que je vous adopte par science et vous engendre par intelligence) que le monde ne s'est pas encore vide, il n'a point fair de matiere. Savez-vous pas que la matiere se fait seulement apres l'operation de plenitude? Tout ainsi que le monde est beaucoup de fois plus grand que l'homme, qui est le petit monde, et le monde le grand animal corporel; aussi en proportion, quand il sera plein, et apres le temps et juste equivalence, ayanr ete rempli rendra sa matiere. Attendez cc temps-la, he vous! qui jugez de sa duree et future dissipation; et Ia verrez au juste pronosric de l'ejection qui'il fera. Ce n'est pas de relle chose que je veux parler; mais il faut avertir le monde, de peur d'inconvenient" (95-96).

(86.) Koyre, 50-51.

(87.) That each human being is a microcosm embracing in him/herself the intellectual and material spheres of reality is contained in Cusanus, 3,3.

(88.) Paracelsus, 1:290.

(89.) Ibid.

(90.) Ibid., 291.

(91.) Debus, 1978, 12-13, 26-27.

(92.) These concepts of time as conceptualized by Paracelsus are found in Pagel, 1960, 151-53.

(93.) Pagel, 1982, 72-82.

(94.) Pernety, 312.

(95.) Pallister, 1971, 52, 63, 65, 73, 79, 80, 81, 92, 97-101, 104, 107, 118-19, 127, 135. See also Pallister, 1992, 49-54, on Beroalde's references to Spanish figures in Le Moyen deparvenir. See as well the section in Renaud, 1984, titled "L'Enfermement: L'Espace et Le Temps," 46-67. On Beroalde's place in sixteenth-century French paratexts, see Losse, 45-46, 59-60.

(96.) "Si Madame m'eut survecu / J'eusse commence cet ouvrage. I Quand la Mort s'en torcha le cul/ J'eus le coeur mou comme fromage" (2).

(97.) "je me mettrai a faire un beau livre ou je vous dirai la verite tout au rebords des autres, et d'une facon si belle, que je le publierai apres ma mart" (357).

(98.) Pallister, 1971, 127.

(99.) In the last chapter the author-narrator invokes the Dance of Death through contemplating the death of his own father: "quand je revins de voyage, je ne trouvai point d'eau dans le seau, encore mains en la seille. II mourut, comme a Dole, a la danse Macaber [sic]" (354-55). (When I returned from traveling, I found no water in the bucket and none in the pail. He died in the manner depicted in the Dance of Death at Dole.)

(100.) "nous ne faisons que perdre temps" (95).

(101.) "Passons outre. Je sens deja que ce livre nous echappe" (355).

(102.) "Recevez donc ce present, ce passe, ce futur ... la fin finale et intelligible de tous ... ce beau petit abondant moule de perfection exemplaire" (31-32).

(103.) "Tout est permis ici. Nous sommes pair a compagnon. On doit faire et dire ici tout ce qu'on peut et pense" (146).

(104.) "la liberte nous sert de guide, comme la senteur pour aller au retrait" (70).

(105.) In his article on facetious language in the Parvenir, 1978, 142.

(106.) See Pallister's observation in Giordano, 1992, 51.

(107.) Pagel, 1960, 155, explains Paracelsus' Neoplatonic circle imagery, including the Iliaster, which the latter visualizes as a Globule.

(108) Technically speaking, Paracelsus preferred the term "separation" to "transmutation." See Pagel, 1982, 272-73.

(109.) Paracelsus, 1:28, The Tincture of the Philosophers.

(110.) Pernety, 470.

(111.) "merveilles au progres infini de l'univers pipeux" (97).

(112.) "Ceux qui ont ete plus subtils et ont reconnu les quatre elements de piperie extraits ainsi de la supposition ecclesiastique, judiciaire, medicinale et trafiquante, ont tache a y entrer pour parvenir" (98-99).

(113.) See Zinguer, 1979, 134-50.

(114.) Saulnier, 298.

(115.) See Renaudet, 515, 625.

(116.) In Le Palais, Beroalde self-reflexively affirms that "je ne pense pas qu'il y ayt aucun capable de me surpasser en La sagesse que je me propose' (151). (I don't think there's anyone capable of surpassing me in the wisdom that I propose to acquire).

(117.) Pernety, Subtiliation: "Reduction de la matiere de l'oeuvre a ses principes," 476. (Reduction of the matter of the work to its principles).

(118.) les plus subrils sont a La Rochelle pource ... la sont les abstracteurs de ceremonies qu'ils separent bravement de leur sujet, comme entendus philosophes qui levent les accidents de leur substance" (96).

(119.) Pugh Meyer gives useful background information on these two writers, 96-100.

(120.) Calvin, 4:17, 1; Wendel, 329-55.

(121.) Quoted from Pugh Meyer, 98.

(122.) Ibid, 99.

(123.) Quoted and translated from Ibid.

(124.) Ibid. Many fine analyses of the various religious interpretations of words used by Christ at the Last Supper can be found in Anderson.

(125.) "On m'a dit que les plus subrils sont a La Rochelle, pource que c'est une yule maritime." (96).

(126.) I have searched in Erasmus' Adagia, histories of La Rochelle, Sainean's socio-linguistic inventory of Beroalde's style and lexicon, and Huguet -- all to no avail.

(127.) Robbins, 11.

(128.) Vray, 15-23.

(129.) In 1628, Cardinal Richelieu ordered a siege of La Rochelle that starved the city into defeat and killed at least 15,000 Rochelais. The Edict of Nantes, granted in 1598 by Henri IV, gave freedom of conscience and political and civic equality to the Huguenors, but it was revoked in 1685 under Louis XIV.

(130.) "sans qu'il y resre cicatrice qui ne soir apparente et manifesre" (96).

(131.) Paracelsus describes mumia in different ways that are culled by Waite, 1:131. It is "man himself," or a "balsam, which heals wounds" (Paramirum). Also, "the virtues of all herbs are found in mumia" (De Origine Morborum). Finally we read this sentence: "Now, this is Mumia: if a man be deprived of fife, then his flower bursts forth in potencies and natural arcana" (Ibid.).

(132.) Schmidt, 115: [Les plaies] Se fermeraient grace a l'action d'un element cicatrisant que secreteraient leurs bords. (The wounds would close thanks to the action of a scarring element that their edges would secrete.)

(133.) Pagel (1982) defines mumia: "'Balsam' in the sense of the natural healing power of the tissues counteracting putrefaction is called 'Mummy"' (101, n. 266).

(134.) Jung, 1967, 134-36.

(135.) Schmidt, 117.

(136.) Jung, 1967, 134-35.

(137.) The name "Celsus" bears a possible double reference. This might refer to the Roman writer Cornelius Celsus, living during the reign of Tiberius, whose only surviving work is De Medicina. Iris possible that Paracelsus derived his name from this authority to signify "surpassing Celsus," though he was averse to the humanistic convention of taking names derived from Latin or Greek. The name "Celsus" might also refer to the Greek philosopher of the second century celebrated for his attacks against Christianity and his advocacy of natural philosophy. See the Index Nominum in the transcription of Moreau and Tournon (Verville, 1984b, 377) as well as Zinguer's critical edition. Verville, 1985, 304.

(138.) "Vous nous l' [le moyen de parvenir] obscurcirez tout comme vous avez fait la medecine, en vous vantant et n'y disant que des ventositds" (93).

(139.) Paracelsus, 2:208.

(140.) See Ibid., 37-47, book 5 of the Archidoxis. See also Pagel, 1982, 70 and Schmidt, 69-122.

(141.) "Mais je hais abondamment les voleurs qui ont tire des cerrains elements d'une doctrine que l'Antechrist a inventee et supposee sous lumierede religion, pour faire une ombre mirlifique. Vous saurez rantot que c'est, et jugerez que je ne passe point les limites de raison" (96).

(142.) See the fascinating ninth book of De Natura Rerum on semiotics ("signatures"), Paracelsus, 1:185, 171-94.

(143.) "meme us disent que la neige n'est pas blanche" (97).

(144.) This trust in the senses and reason is affirmed in spite of the subjective trajectory of Beroalde's late career emphasizing "extramissive" and "ingurgitative" models of knowledge. See Kenny, 1991, 70, 235-36. Bamforth has noted that within Beroalde's career taken as whole, the author attached great importance "to the desire to know" through "practical experiment" and "personal observation" (1979, 107-08). Also related to the importance Beroalde accorded to personal experience is Mathieu-Castellani's 1995 study of Le Palais des curieux in which Beroalde developed "une nouvelle theorie du reve," (a new theory of the dream), 55.

(145.) "meme ils disent que la neige n'est pas blanche ... et ... ne savent pas pourquoi les boeufs se couchent. -- Ah Jan! grosse bete, c'est pource qu'ils ne se peuvent asseoir. -- Je me garderai bien de vous, et ferai si bien que vous jugerex que suis assez docte. Or ca! n'est-il pas vrai? ne me voulez-vous pas attraper sur la quinte essence? Je vous satisferai, et la vous montrerat au doigt et a l'oeil" (97-98).

(146.) "There are others who have noticed how this cabala had thus squeezed out and extracted a generative element perpetually in similitude, provided with a future fecondity, and have done in similar fashion by imitating them. Thus, they have ... sublimated jurisprudence" (96).

(147.) See De Natura Rerum, book 7, Paracelsus, 1:152.

(148.) Montaigne refers to them as "Bartolus et Baldus." Frame translation of Montaigne, 1957, 817. Montaigne, 1962, 2:3:13, 518. These were the two great fourteenth-century Italian jurists of the commentary tradition.

(149.) Tournon, 1983: on Valla, 165; Bohier, 166; Cujas, 181; Alciaro, 179.

(150.) Frame translation of Montaigne, 1957, 816. Montaigne, 1962, 2:3:13, 518: "Qui a veu des enfans essayans de renger a certain nombre une masse d'argent-vif: plus us le pressent et pestrissent et s'estudient a le contraindre a leur by, plus ils irritent la liberte de ce genereux metal: il fuit a leur art et se va menuisant et esparpillant au dela de rout compte."

(151.) Montaigne, 1957, 818. The French text reads, "nos opinions s'entent les unes sur les autres. La premiere sert de tige a la seconde, la seconde a la tierce. Nous eschellons ainsi de degre en degre. Et advient de la que le plus haut monte a souvent plus d'honneur que de merite; car il n'est monte que d'un grain sur les espaules du penultime" (Montaigne, 1962, 2:3:13, 521).

(152.) See the De Transmutationibus Metallorum, Paracelsus, 1:284-85.

(153.) See book 2 of the Archidoxis, Paracelsus, 2:10. Also see Pagel, 1982, 83, 98-100.

(154.) "cette cabale avait ainsi pressure et fait issir un element generatif" (96).

(155.) "depuis qu'il [Paracelse] a produit ses oeuvres il a si bien mis l'alquernie en la tete de tout le monde que chacun s'en veut meler: il n'y a pas meme les demoiselles et les petits enfants qui [ne] portent des soufflets a leur ceinture" (183).

(156.) Montaigne, 1957, 817. The French text reads: "Le centiesme commentaire le renvoye a son suivant, plus espineux et plus scabreux que le premier ne l'avoit trouve" (Montaigne, 1962, 2:3:13, 519).

(157.) Paracelsus, 2:72-76.

(158.) Huguet, s.v. brouet d'andouille.

(159.) "les marchands...ont forcene d'amour apres cette invention" (97).

(160.) "ayant passe par leurs mains et goute de ce brouet" (97).

(161.) The Vulgate reads: "de fructu veto ligni quod est in/medio paradisi/praecepit nobis Deus ne come/deremus et ne tangeremus illud/ne forte moriamur" (1:149).

(162.) See the eighth book of the Archidoxis, Paracelsus, 2:70.

(163.) The function of salt in the triad of mercury, sulphur, and salt is to give body to the object. Mercury instills spirit and sulphur soul. The sulphur mediates between body and spirit and joins the two other antagonistic elements. See Pagel, 1982, 267.

(164.) Mineralibus, Paracelsus, 1:244, see also 1:88, note.

(165.) In Verville, 1984b, 97, Moreau and Tournon gloss this verb as follows: "(Orig. 'chytifre') se transforme en liquide (seminal, considere comme la quintessence des 'humeurs' organiques)," 1984, 97. It is impassible to appreciate Beroalde's parody of alchemy or of any subject without taking into account the pervasiveness and functions of sexual imagery. Most useful in this regard is Bowen's recent study (2000) that hypothesizes Beroalde's targets to be the honnetete of humanist rhetoric and comportment that we see in Castiglione's Libro del Cortegiano. Also, she offers the more general suggestion that creative verbal copia of a sexual nature raises the question of whether faire (doing) is very much different from dire (saying). On the alchemical verb se chytifie, see 110.

(166.) Verville, 1984b, chapter 36, continues the parody of social institutions based on alchemy and subjects the world of finances to criticism. Here Beroalde facetiously notes that the alchemical sages have found notable success in business and financial matters: "Et de fait us l'ont trouvee: a savoir es finances, ou se pratique, non par transpiration imperceptible ains par emplissement naturel, le plus saint, magnifique et commode secret d'amasser," 99. (And in fact, they have found it in the great secret of finances where one works to results, not by imperceptible transpirations but by the process of natural digestion - that is, by the most saintly, magnificent, and convenient means possible which is amassing money.) Also, see Tournon's semiotic study of Beroalde's parody of Paracelsus (1984, 165-83).

(167.) "Paracelsus As A Spiritual Phenomenon," 1967, 128.

(168) According to Pagel, 1982, the four stylistic traits of Paracelsus' behavior (which resemble those of Martin Luther) are coarse and boisterous language, the use of the vernacular, the crass rejection of learned predecessors and authorities, and theatrical acts designed to appeal to students and the mob (40). Certainly, the first three are also stylistic characteristics of the author-narrator in Le Moyen de parvenir. Though Beroalde does not have a reputation for rabble-rousing, the Parvenir is filled with theatrical techniques, the most familiar of which is a mock trial or assembly where some important matter is decided. (On the theatrical dimension of Le Moyen de parvenir; see Pallister, 1971, 178-79.) In chapter 35, the four social groups constituting the "Monde Pipeur" gather together first to affirm their friendship, then to deliberate on the "symboles" of their faith: "on se joint les uns aux autres, la frequentation etant la soudure des volontes, ii est advenu que toutes ces quatre essences se sont melees ainsi que les operteurs se sont assembles. Tellement que ces Messieurs ayant pris conseil, et etant assembles, us ont fait un ... symbole" (97). The social mix is also an alchemical melange where the deceptive quintessence is perfected like the articles of faith in a religious conference.

(169.) Jung, 1967, 121.

(170.) "Te voila camus, Monsieur Scot! tu as le nez fait comme une truie grueche" (94).

(171.) See Paracelsus, 1:178.

(172.) Jung, 1967, 120.

(173.) Paracelsus came to believe that each disease related to a locus where it occurs. This is the "anatomy" of diseases. See Page], 1982, 137-38.

(174.) Let us not forget that Paracelsus also claimed to be able to make an artificial man, the homunculus, and gives the alchemical formula in the first book of De Natura Rerum, 1:124.

(175.) "Ie discours baroque veut faire croire, donner a croire, et il est toujours en quete de credibilite" (1992, 25). (Baroque discourse wants to make us believe, gives to be believed, and it is always in quest of credibility.) See also Dubois, who uses the term "hypertrophie du moi" (1973, 218) to characterize this aspect of Baroque psychology.

(176.) "Attendez ce temps-la, he vous! qui jugez de sa duree et future dissipation; et la verrez au juste pronostic de l'ejection qu'il fera" (95-96).

(177.) "Vous saurez tantot que c'es, et jugerez que je ne passe point les limites de raison" (96).

(178.) Pagel, 1982, 13, 20.

(179.) "Mais vous m'aguerrez pour voir si je serai aussi ignorant que ceux qui disent que le soleil n'est pas chaud" (97).

(180.) "Je me garderai bien de vous, et ferai si bien que vous jugerez que je suis assez docte. Or ca! N'est-il pas vrai? Ne me voulez-vous pas attraper sur la quinte essence?" (98).

(181.) Paracelsus, 1:153.

(182.) Pagel, 1982, 155-56.

(183.) "et je voudrais que tels [the radical skeptics] me pussent prouver qu'ils n'eussent point le trou du cul puant, sans qu'on y ils disent...que les etrons ne sont vifs ni mords" (97).

(184.) See Livet, 121: "Crise de conscience des individus et des groupes, la guerre se presente ainsi comme une crise de croissance des institutions, des economies et des societes qui alimente de facon diverse et continue le brasier des passions religieuses." (Crisis of conscience of individuals and groups, war also appears as a crisis of the growth of institutions, economies, and societies that in diverse fashions feeds and sustains the Live coals of religious passions.)

(185.) "Morts aux rats, aux souris et aux guepes!...laissez-moi achever, mon analogie sera parfaite" (98).

(186.) Pagel, 1982, 37, 50, 67, 288.

(187.) "Il y en a d'autres qui ont remarque comme certe cabale avait ainsi pressure et fait issir un element generatif perpetullement en similitude, muni d'une fecondite future, et ont fait semblablement en les imitant; par ainsi ils ont sublime, effressure et hypocondrille la jurisprudence" (96). According to Sainean, 140, the verb hypocondrier, which Beroalde has altered, means etudier a fond, to study through and through.

(188.) "par ainsi, ils ont sublime, effressure, et hypocondrille la jurisprudence" (96).

(189.) Holmyard, 16-17.

(190.) Alchemy too is inevitably violent. In what I take to be a poetics of Paracelsian alchemy, Braun observes, 208: "Naitre autrement, c'est faire advenir -- faire advenir une nouvelle forme, une nouvelle qualite, une nouvelle puissance. Et si cela advient par le feu, cela advient par la violence. Le feu transforme en violentant; et c'est ainsi qu'il occupe ici une place centrale. Ii enflamme, brule, pour liberer." (To be born otherwise is to make something come to pass -- to bring about a new form, a new quality, a new power. And if in this way something emerges by fire, then it occurs by violence. Fire transforms by doing violence; and for this reason it occupies a central place. It inflarnes, burns, in order to liberate.) Also related to the paradoxes of violence and liberation is Giordano, 1992.

(191.) In the last chapter of the Parvenir titled "Argument," the character named Quelqu'un asks the reader to view the work as an anamorphosis: "Lisez ce volume de son vrai biais: il est fair comme ces peintures qui montrent d'un, et puis d'autre," 356. (Read this volume according to its true way of seeing the world; it's made like those pictures that look different with each new angle of vision.)

(192.) In a comparison between Gohory's understanding of Colonna and that of Beroalde, Polizzi, 282, also stresses the opposition between mutability and resemblance as illustrated in Beroalde's translation-interpretation of Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.


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