The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

De occulta philosophia, 1533

One of the earliest works on the occult, this first complete edition of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa's most famous work deals with the relationship between religion and ritual magic, which were not always seen as opposing forces. During the Renaissance, the study of the occult was understood as complementary to scientific and religious learning; they were all means of understanding the higher order of the universe. The three books of De occulta philosophia include chapters on numerology, celestial observation, the sun and moon, chiromancy (palmistry), and the zodiac. The first image here shows man inscribed in a pentagram with astrological signs at the five points. This and the other image of a man with outstretched arms reflect ideal bodily proportions in relationship to geometry, musical harmonies, or architectural ratios, the sacred science of measurement (God was frequently depicted as a geometer in Renaissance illustrations). The geometry of Pythagoras (sixth century BC) frequently informed images such as these which represented arcane or occult teachings that unified astrology, geometry, and "secret teachings" of occult philosophers. The hand with zodiacal symbols is a diagram to aid in palmistry. The symbols denote the planetary influences inherent in the lines of the palm.