Illustrating the microcosm and macrocosm

cosmologyBetween 1617 and 1621 the English physician and polymath Robert Fludd published his History of the Two Worlds (Utriusque Cosmi), a book split into two volumes and packed with over sixty intricate engravings.

The two worlds in question are the microcosm of human existence and the macrocosm of the universe, which includes the spiritual realm of the Divine.

This diagram, which is one of those sixty engravings, illustrates the relationship of the microcosm to the macrocosm. You can see that the inner three circles relate to three of the four classical humours of Choleric (Cholera), Sanguine (Sanguis), and Phlegmatic (Pituitosus). I suspect the inner globe relates to Melancholic (Melancholia), even though no label is visible, given the humour is typically said to correspond to the element of earth. I suspect an elemental sequence of earth, water, air, fire is hinted at here.

The next eight rings relate to the classical planets and zodiac and the next nine rings after that relate to the nine orders of angels. These nine are grouped into three hierachies (hyerarchia): lower (infirma), middle (media), and top (suprema). These are shown to correspond microcosmically (micro cosmus) with reason (ratio), intellect (intellectus), and the mind (mens). My translative abilities fail me at this point. While I can tell you Epiphania is Latin for epiphany, I have been unable to translate epiphhonomia, and ephiona though I suspect they are related concepts.

Above all is a triangle representing the Trinity, the one God above all and source of all.

So what are we to make of this? Fludd himself was a staunch member of the Anglican Church, and the Christian influences in this illustration are self evident. But just as evident is the influence of the alchemist Paracelsus. Flodd believed the materials of the universe were separated out of chaos by God as the alchemist would in a laboratory. Fludd states that “Man is a whole world of its own, called microcosm for it displays a miniature pattern of all the parts of the universe. Thus the head is related to the Empyreal, the chest to the ethereal heaven and the belly to the elementary substance”. I find diagrams like this an interesting point of contact between the Christian and Magical worlds.

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