Goth Ilk: Henricus Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486 - 1535)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Henricus Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486 - 1535)

Henry Cornelius Agrippa is known as the "Black Monk." Rumors of his life as a mercenary who subdued others with sorcery is greatly over speculated. In fact, his life was sorted and typical of the era.

Agrippa's family was of lesser nobility to Emperor Frederick III. Maximilian I succeeded his father in 1493. At age 13, Agrippa went to the University of Cologne to study art and graduated in 1502. He worked for the courts of Maximilian I and at age 22 lead a band of men to lay siege to Fuerto Negro. They abandoned the siege on August, 14 1508. Surrounded by peasants they escaped by disguising the tower keeper as a leper.

These events defined much of Agrippa's future and downfall. As a member of an elite family, rumors of him spread rapidly. He wrote as a boy he was compelled to read a book written by Albertus Magnus, a master magician. He also said he worked for Maximilian I as a secret solider during the siege of Fuerto Negro. The story was twisted into how he used "black magic" to take the fort. Maximilian I had to deny any coercion. At age 22, Agrippa decided to travel away from home and begin anew.

It is speculated he began the first draft of "Three Books of Occult Philosophy" in 1509. He wanted to learn Hebrew, as a part of his studies after a new book for translating Hebrew grammar and dictionary was released. He utilized his degree by lecturing on "Mirific Word."

His initial voyage to other countries was successful. Traveling through Europe, people enjoyed his Christian orations. There was one problem. While in London, he was suspected of going on a "secret mission" for Maximilian. His first return to Austria was successful since he was paid for his orations. However, he began to compare Pagans and Christians. Donald Tyson writes, "All the subjects that had captivated Agrippa's soul from boyhood were forbidden by the Church."

He married in 1515 and wrote about the bliss of marriage. Agrippa was pious to the point of being obnoxious. Cherishing women he had three marriages. With one son and one daughter during his first marriage his first wife and only daughter died. He remarried and his second wife gave him five more sons. She passed away, because of the plague. Lastly he married a woman with wealth. Divorcing her for being a tramp life was rapidly changing. When he was born the station of marriage was divine. Before he died he was getting a divorce.

Again, Maximilian campaigned against England, France and Swiss. Agrippa remained loyal to the troops and was taken prisoner by the Swiss at Pavia. Leo X sent a letter revoking Agrippa's excommunication. He was released to the service of Maximilian to serve in a greater capacity than a soldier. At age 29, he started lecturing again until destitute again.

Agrippa found dedicating works of literature won favor with nobility and wrote a dedication to Marquis of Montferrat, entitled "Dialogue on Man and the Triple Way of Knowing God." Gaining employment as a physician he was trained in practical medicine and not licensed. Holding the position of court physician for Duke of Savoy, Charles III, turned out to be an unfruitful vocation. Having to beg for charity to survive, his next maneuver involved drawing up legal documents. This was temporarily fruitful; however, lack of formal education lead to another dismissal.

His father passed away in 1518. It devastated Agrippa and he found a new father with Claudius Deodatus. Claudius Deodatus frequently visited Agrippa's home. A monk, Claudius Salini, interrogated Deodatus to determine Agrippa taught heresy. Agrippa sought a debate with the Deacon. It was not favorable. Implicated further the slander against his reputation solidified.

Defending a woman whose mother was burned as a witch in Metz became evidence of his loyalty to the Dark Lord. An appeal based on Martin Luther's works temporarily freed the woman. Then other women were rounded up on acquisitions of being witches. Eventually, it was formally ended. Agrippa already taken left and was on his own again.

As a physician in Friburg, he supplemented income by aiding magistrates in political business. Though respected and adequately employed he went to France in 1524 to serve the Queen Mary Mother. It was a bad move on several levels. It was only a few years after Maximilian's campaign against France and the Queen was convicted for embezzling money from her servants. She was extremely Catholic leaning towards the forgiveness end of the practice. She never paid him. He wanted the position because it involved oration.

Living in Antwerp didn't help much; however, the "Three Books of Occult Philosophy" was finally published. I believe he thought it would end his poverty. In truth, the only person keeping him alive was Margaret of Austria. Even then he left Mechlin in 1528, because of taxes. She passed in 1530. He was accused of being a sorcerer and his plea for back wages was dismissed. Then he was arrested in Brussels by one of his creditors in 1531 while traveling. This is what provoked his third marriage.

During a final return to Austria he was accused of impiety. Impiety was considered a capital crime punishable by death. Though the books were finally printed in 1533 and denounced before anyone read them. In 1535, Agrippa tried to escape prosecution and fled to France only to be captured and died from illness while in transport.

He might have seen the rewards of his master work if he lived longer. "Three Books of Occult Philosophy" became an reference guide of comprehensive knowledge regarding the occult without having to track down, translate and try to condense it all into a logical form. It is a core textbook of theologians studying mysticism. Yet, he only prospered in the immortality of his reputation.

As a tertiary source of information biographies tend to be fictional with parabolic messages. This article relates to Donald Tyson's heavily researched introduction. I believe Donald Tyson believes Agrippa is a hero and this book is obviously more accurate than other resources related to Agrippa's life.

Over and over Agrippa placed faith unknown people and places when pursuing assistance from enemies. Perhaps addressing problems in Metz could open doors for him as an official, yet he frequently spoke ill of powerful people. Perhaps living in France after waging war was a good idea; however, it does not dismiss his loyalties to another's court. If anything, I fear his life was not so much in peril for seeking truth and reading taboo doctrines, as much as trying to find safety in his enemy's camp.

Quirky Books
Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Agrippa