Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, a Neoplatonist with a penchant for mysticism, excelled in such wide-ranging professions as university professor, soldier, physician, lawyer, astrologer, and occult philosopher. His many enemies, however, marred the successes of his tumultuous career by maligning him as a magician and a heretic.
Born in Cologne, Agrippa matriculated from the city's university in 1499 and began his career as a professor of philosophy and theology at the University of Dole in 1509. Agrippa's public lectures on Johannes Reuchlin's De verbo mir­ifico earned him a doctorate of theology, but they also attracted the attention of Burgundy's Franciscan provincial superior, who accused Agrippa of heresy. Agrippa left Dole and traveled to London before serving Emperor Maximilian I as both a minor secretary and a soldier during the French-Italian wars from 1511 to 1518. Amid military engagements, Agrippa continued his occult studies and taught theology courses at the Universities of Pavia and Turin.
Agrippa subsequently accepted a position as ambassador and legal advisor for the city of Metz. While there, he became a close friend of Father Deodatus and visited his Celestine monastery regularly to give lectures and discuss the­ology. Bitter conflict, however, characterized Agrippa's relationship with the city's Dominican leaders, who decried his enthusiastic support for Jacques Le-fevre's* De una ex tribus Maria and his successful defense of a woman dubi­ously accused of witchcraft.
Agrippa left Metz in 1520 and served as physician to Louise of Savoy from 1524 to 1527, when disputes with his employer forced him to become Margaret of Austria's advisor and historiographer. While in Antwerp, he obtained an imperial privilege to publish several of his works, including his most famous, De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum (On the Vanity of the Arts and Sciences, 1530). Doubting the book's orthodoxy, Princess Margaret sent it for review to the theology faculty at Louvain, which charged Agrippa with heresy.
Unemployed and in debt, Agrippa returned to Cologne in 1531 in order to publish De occulta philosophia (Occult Philosophy). The efforts of Cologne's inquisitor and Faculty of Theology to prevent its publication enraged Agrippa, and he accused both of denouncing the ideas of reformers like himself, Reuchlin, and Desiderius Erasmus* before undertaking a proper preliminary investigation. In order to escape creditors, Agrippa moved his family to Bonn, where he pub­lished his remaining works, including a commentary on Ramon Lull's Ars brevis (1533) and a volume entitled Collected Orations (1535). After a brief period of imprisonment, Agrippa moved to Grenoble, where he died in 1535.
Agrippa's conviction that God manifests himself in the created world explains his enthusiastic inquiry into the fields of alchemy, astrology, medicine, and ge­ology. His research contributions in these areas include a clinical description of the plague, the development of medicines, a report on firearms and war engines, and a work on mining and minerals. Agrippa's desire to bring humanity closer to God also explains his career-long interest in religious matters ranging from the essence of faith to church politics. Agrippa, who radically opposed Scho­lastic theology, championed a new, humanistic theology that would ascertain the true meaning of God's word through a comparison of similar biblical texts, an analysis of Hermetic writings, and the commentaries of church-sanctioned authorities.
C. Nauert, Jr., Agrippa and the Crisis ofRenaissance Thought, 1965.
Whitney Leeson

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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