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Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa Von Nettesheim

1486- c.1535. Soldier and wandering scholar. Born in Cologne, he wandered all his life from one place to another in Europe, including England, seeking patronage. His polemical attitude, combined with tactlessness, created many enemies. At the age of twenty-three, disillusioned with the learning of the day, Agrippa sought to make a synthesis of Christianity, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism, and cabalism. The result (De Occulto) was a standard work still in use by magicians two centuries after his death. Later he published De Vanitate, a ruthless satire of Scholasticism, monkishness, belief in witchcraft, indulgences, and image worship in the Roman Church. Though he had much in common with the Reformers, he did not seek the destruction of the church; and his attitude to the Bible, which he believed to contain mistakes, was different. His books, often reprinted, found acceptance in many quarters. De Vanitate became a favorite of atheists and skeptics on account of its anticlericalism and misgivings about human reason; his work on magic lined him up with occultism, and his exposure of Roman Catholic abuses with the Reformation. Though his writings sometimes show him to be inconsistent, empirical, and opportunist, he was also prepared to fight for the right and suffer as a result.

His two books mentioned above have appeared in a number of English editions under the titles Occult Philosophy and The Vanity of Arts and Sciences; see also H. Morley, The Life of H.C. Agrippa (2 vols., 1856); L. Spence in Three Famous Alchemists (ed. Rider, 1939); C.G. Nauert, Agrippa and the Crisis of Renaissance Thought (1965, with bibliography).