Page images
PDF
EPUB

and Goldfuss, if we will bring the mythological symbols of antiquity into agreement with the new magnetic_phenomena which are added to the long line of magic. Yet the result of our present inquiries will show that the scattered remains of historical records, taken in connection with the facts of magic, will conduct us to this essential agreemeut, and to a certain firmly-grounded and more intelligent type.

Through the discovered agreement of the old with the new, we are immediately reminded of expressive and convincing axioms of the highest antiquity, which are especially corroborated by the magnetic experiences,-namely, that nature by her simple elements produces the greatest and the most profound effects. Water, air, and light, and the universal earth-magnetism, are the general powers by which nature performs her secret operations; to which, however, we are not conducted by the ordinary aspect of nature, and still less by imagination, which busies itself with all earthly and heavenly things, except with the deeper and silently working laws of creation. A speculative philosophy will just as little lead us to a right understanding of it; for conviction, says Bacon, comes not through argument, but through experiment. The laborious, inquiring, severe natural philosophy of our time, demonstrates, however, those unchangeable laws of the universal operations of nature, upon which that ancient secret knowledge and the new magnetism support themselves ; namely, that the original power of water, as taught by the Egyptian and Indian myths, and as asserted by Thales, actually perfects the wonderful organizations of vegetable and animal life. those mythic images of heaven and of earth ; of Jupiter reigning in the thunder-cloud; of Poseidon, the earthshaker, in the vaulted rocks of the subterranean, and of the social alternations of the Dioscuri, have the same foundation as the opposing principle of the Pythagorean theory, and the dogmas of Heraclitus; and that, finally, strife is the principle of production, and burning is the solution of the strife. The doctrine of polarity in electro-chemistry and magnetism shows the universal dominion of those laws in inorganic, and of animal magnetism in organic nature.

The all-governing might of the sun-god, the diffuser of life and of blessings, and, at the same time, of the far-off striking, the punishing and destroying Apollo, is shown in the all-quickening force of light, whose penetrating and miraculous power of kindling and warming is contained even in the polarity of colours. If the influence of sunshine produces magnetic clairvoyance, as well as the intensity of muscular power, does not this agree with the god of the old vaticination, who taught men the right and the true, according to the all-wise and mighty Zeus ?

As the universal activity of the elements of nature is shown in the opposition, so is it also in the universal amity and sympathy of spiritual upper, and the physical lower world. At the same time, the idea is also given that the whole visible world is only an image of a spiritual one; an idea which was expressed by the remotest antiquity, though it was poetically, and which the newest philosophy confirms as founded in the double nature of man. The magnetic phenomena now again afford the most complete evidence of a universal polarity and sympathy, or of a physical and a spiritual world acting on each other in that wonderful doubleness of nature and of spirit. Through the poetic conception of these truths of nature the world of images in every respect took the chief place in the primeval times, when the conceptions, as it were, newly clothed, were embodied in the symbols expressive of the appearances resulting from natural laws; while in the after times, a poetry, fallen away from nature, threw everything arbitrarily into confusion. A philological process, therefore, founded on the spirit of those later ages, leads only to a barren ground, or performs only a labour of the Danaids, if the talent for natural inquiry is totally wanting. The true feeling of nature, and the true meaning of the symbols, may already have been absent in the later mysteries, since, according to Herodotus, these mysteries united themselves to a more ancient period, at the bottom of which lay those principles of natural inquiry,-namely, the Samothracian ; and from these mysteries proceeded the religion of the people, in which the true understanding of nature, and the true inspiration of the divine, were continually declining. For nature herself is poetic, higher and deeper than all which the imagination of men can reach : she is in her wonderful phenomena the

plastic expression of the divine creation-a voice of God, which it becomes man to observe carefully, in order to be conscious of the marvels which are continually taking place in the world. The genuine observers and honourers of nature only, they who trace out her signs and listen to her voice, learn the secret of her laws which proclaim their lord; they only are affected by the joyful astonishment at the order and beauty of all her parts, and at the harmony of her momentary and successive operations : so that in time devotion sinks down in love and adoration of the all-wise and all-good Creator, while the rest of the world, as if drunk with sleep, becomes more and more estranged from the Divine, and falls into blindness and superstition. Therefore, all great natural philosophers have been genuinely pious men; therefore, the magnetic clairvoyant, passing out of the dream of day into the wakefulness of sleep, breaks into ecstatic admiration, into poetic effusions and songs of praise, in consequence of this deeper insight into the secret workings of nature and of her symbols, like poetical antiquity itself, in which the knowledge of nature, poetry, and religion, were united.

True natural philosophy, therefore, conducts to God, and contempt of nature from him. “ A spirit striving against new discoveries in nature, from its slavish attachment to the letter of the past, such as we find it in certain periods of history, and especially in the middle ages,--a spirit which is continually reappearing, as at present in the East, and particularly in India, and which regards every attempt at improvement as something futile to government: such a spirit leads directly, through the darkening of the unintellectual eye, from God to the idols of superstition ; that is, to heathenism."-Schweigger, a. a. O. S. 105.

A poetry of nature based on a symbolical personification of the power of creation, included in it the double character of man, according to his natural and divine constitution; not only the physiological, but also the pneumatical or psychological marvels. The world is a miracle, and all its operations, the highest and the lowest, have their play therein. Poetry here is truth. All its marvels lead by the tendency of nature to myths: the primeval myths are

the expression of truth itself; the comprehension of these is the only key to them, and this is preserved by watchfulness and love, but lost by stupidity and savagery.

The poetical understanding of nature is therefore the voice of God, the highest ideal, which the elements of nature and their powers symbolise. It makes the operations of the mineral and the vegetable kingdom perceptible through free and instinctive feeling, as the cosmic influence of nature, It endeavours to hold forth the relations of nature to time and space, and, also, to find an expression for the divine qualities of the spirit, to which the visible bodies of heaven are the most adapted, as the physical things and elements of the earth are to the natural man. This the most ancient historians knew and have declared. Strabo says, that the ancients concealed their views of nature in enigmas, and wrapped their scientific observations in concerted myths. Herodotus ascribes the further extension of the Grecian myth to Homer, on the basis of an ancient foundation laid in Egypt. In Homer numerous physical tendencies are indicated; and in the Grecian times there were admirers of Homer who pointed out those tendencies. Iamblichus names expressly a school of prophets, originating in Moschus, whom he calls " the physiologist," and which Pythagoras availed himself of. The ancient historian Sanchoniathon points out the oldest character of the myths to be that of natural philosophy, where he says of the Phænician Cabiri doctrines, that “the first hierophant, in times incalculably remote, Thabion's son taught them with a mixture of physical tendencies, and delivered them over to the prophets who celebrated the orgies and mysteries."

All the more profound modern inquirers into n.ythology say the same, either directly or, as it were, involuntarily,that the ancient myths had a physical foundation. Thus Heyne takes it for granted that the fables originating in the ancient cosmogony and theogony were constructed to embody physical doctrines; and Herder says, that a program of Heyne, on the physical origin of the ancient myths, had especially satisfied him. Creuzer's “Symbolism and Mythology" proceeds chiefly on the supposition of the physical foundation of symbolism, and gives to the myths a priestly physical antecedent. Schweigger has handled this

VOL. II.

с

subject to exhaustion, and has maintained historically, and at the same time experimentally, the source of the myths in natural philosophy, the personification of ideas, and the ensoulment of nature: to whose Introduction into Mythology I again refer the reader.

If, now, the symbolic language of signs in the mysteries has its foundation in natural philosophy, what are the mythical signs which betray magical relations and secret workings of nature? In answering these questions in the region of mythology, I confess to a certain reluctance which has long held me back. But shall not an attempt be permitted to pluck some flowers in that wide, airy field, where so many undertakings find material, often for the pursuit of the most extraordinary adventures ? Shall it not be permitted to pursue the once-discovered clue of Ariadne, and carefully to draw things into that region of the circle of magic operations, to which they appear to belong, according to analogy and agreement with the phenomena of magnetism? No longer groping in the dark, but with a certain confidence, we follow that clue into the labyrinth. Yet I again repeatedly assert that I here follow exclusively the traces of the poetical and philosophical, without, at the same time, totally abjuring the theological point of view, or being disposed to assert that the heathen had not a deeper religious sense, that they only sported with their myths, or that they directly worshipped the symbols of nature as gods, of which we have already spoken.

Let us first, however, look round us at the symbols which have in general a physical signification, and then at those in particular which denote a purely magical relation.

We have already seen that the ancient philosophers treated theology as a part of physical science, and that it is openly declared that the primeval doctrine of the gods was founded on natural philosophy, and this with constant reference to an acknowledged anterior period. We have the propagation and the connection of the secret knowledge from Egypt and the East, descending from the traditional period through the Greek and Roman mysteries ; and Schweigger has shown (a. a. 0. S. 124) “ that the ancient forms of the gods could not have arisen from certain ideas, as that of Minerva for wisdom, of Hercules for strength,

« PreviousContinue »