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Observations placeholder

Villa Nova, Arnaldus de - On Philosophical Chaos



Type of Spiritual Experience


Arnaldus de Villa Nova (also called Arnau de Vilanova in Catalan, his language, Arnaldus Villanovanus, Arnaud de Ville-Neuve or Arnaldo de Villanueva, c. 1240–1311) was a physician and an alchemist. There is currently some debate as to whether he was an alchemist, but of course it depends on your definition of what an alchemist is.  The definition some academics apply these days appears to be no more than an early chemist, whereas Villa Nova was principally a spiritual alchemist who also used his chemical skills to prepare medicines.

Villan Nova also made prophecies, but in this he appears to have been a lot less successful.  Influenced by Joachim of Fiore, he claimed that in 1378 the world would end and the Antichrist would come (De adventu Antichristi, 1288).

Villa Nova was born in the Crown of Aragon, and studied medicine and theology. He was the personal doctor of the King of Aragon from 1281. At the death of Peter III of Aragon in 1285, he left Barcelona for Montpellier.  He was the master of the school of medicine at Montpellier between 1291 and 1299. His fame as a doctor was ‘immense’: among his patients were three popes and three kings.   After teaching in the Montpellier School of Medicine, he wandered France, Catalonia, and Italy, as part doctor, part ambassador and became the ambassador for James II, king of Aragon and Sicily. He eventually settled in France where he gained a considerable reputation. 

Unfortunately his very unorthodox spiritual views and his approach to medicine incurred the enmity of ecclesiastics. He was condemned by the University of Paris in 1299, accused of heresy, and imprisoned for his ideas of church reform. He was saved through the intervention of Boniface VIII, whom Arnaldus had cured of a painful illness. He sought refuge from the Inquisition at the court of Frederick III in Sicily. The inquisitor of Tarragona condemned him, and fifteen of his propositions were censured.  He was once again imprisoned in Paris around 1309, under pope Benedict XI. The Sorbonne ordered his philosophical works to be burned.  In 1311 he was summoned to Avignon by Pope Clement V, but he died on the voyage off the coast of Genoa.

One of the reasons he has generated so much debate is that it has become clear that not all the books and papers attributed to him are his.  He is credited with translating a number of medical texts from Arabic, including works by Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Abu-l-Salt, and Galen, but the controversy surrounds not the translations, but the alchemical writings attributed to him .

Works such as the Rosarius Philosophorum, Novum Lumen, or Flos Florum, are ascribed to him, but arousing debate. He is the author of important medical works, such as Speculum medicinae and Regimen sanitatis ad regem Aragonum, but other works such as  Breviarium Practicae, are being questioned.  So the problem is a question of attribution.  Whether authentic or not, written by him or not, his works were studied extensively by many alchemists after him, from Rudolf II – Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia in the late 1500s to Thomas Vaughan in the 1600s.

A description of the experience

Quoted in Coelum Terrae by Thomas Vaughan

Arnoldus de Nova, an absolute perfect master of the Art  describes the Philosophical Chaos in these plain terms:

It is (saith he) a stone and no stone, spirit, soul, and body; which
if thou dissolvest, it will be dissolved; and if thou dost coagulate it,
it will be coagulated; and if thou dost make it fly, it will fly; for it
is volatile or flying and clear as a tear. Afterwards it is made citrine,
then saltish; but without shoots or crystals, and no man may touch it with
his tongue. Behold, I have described it truly to thee, but I have not
named it. Now I will name it; and I say that if thou sayest it is water
thou dost say the truth; and if thou sayest it is not water thou dost
lie. Be not therefore deceived with manifold descriptions and operations,
for it is but one thing, to which nothing extraneous may be added.

Thus Arnoldus, and he borrowed this from the Turba.

Flower of flowers

Our Stone is made out of one thing and with one thing.........

All that is in our stone is essential to it, nor does it need any foreign ingredient.  Its nature is one and it is one thing

The source of the experience


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