Khunrath, Heinrich (1560–1605)
German alchemist and hierophant of the physical side of the
Magnum Opus. Khunrath was certainly aware of the greater issues
of Hermetic theorems and may be regarded as a follower
of Paracelsus. Born in Saxony in 1560, Khunrath graduated in
medicine from the University of Basle at age 28. He practiced
in Hamburg and thereafter in Dresden. He died in poverty and
obscurity in Leipzig on September 9, 1605 at age 45.
The most remarkable of his works, some of which are still
in manuscript, is the Amphitheatrum Sapientiae! Eterne! solius vere,
Christiano Kabbalisticum divino magicum. This unfinished work
appeared in 1602, although it is believed an earlier edition was
printed in 1598. A 1609 edition contains a preface and conclusion
by Khunrath’s friend Erasmus Wohlfahrt. It is a mystical
treatise based on the wisdom of Solomon describing the seven
steps leading to universal knowledge. Khunrath’s book has
been interpreted as the voice of ancient chaos, and its folding
plates are particularly odd. In 1625 Khunrath’s work was condemned
by the Sorbonne for its mixture of Christianity and
magic.
Khunrath believed in the transmutation of stones and metals
through alchemy and sought the elixir of life. The physician
and chemist Conrad Khunrath (ca. 1594) may have been
Heinrich Khunrath’s brother.