« PreviousContinue »
Quite as striking are the modern electro-chemistry and electro-magnetism in the pictures of the Dioscuri, according to the ancient opinion of Heraclitus, that the contest of opposing forces is the origin of new bodies, and that the reconcilement of these contending principles is called com. bustion. This is, according to Montfaucon, sketched in the minutest detail in the engravings of the ancient Phænician Cabiri, so that even in the antique gems the sheaf of beams represents the positive electricity above; and, on the other hand, the light of negative electricity represented round the head, with the motion downwards, as is the course of lightning, is described with perfect correctness by the position of the figures; one figure standing on the right foot turning itself to the right; the other on the left foot turning to the left, by which the physical intention is clearly demonstrated, that the two inseparable poles, Castor and Pollux, turn to the south pole,—to the left, that is, from the west, southward to the east; the other, the south pole, to the right, from east, southward to the west, etc. Schweigger shows that the known attempts to understand the pictures by the aid of electrical streams, that is, by the phenomena of electro-magnetism, not only fully satisfy the experienced, but that the lovers of physics may, without many words, by aid of that old hieroglyphic language, at once make themselves perfectly acquainted with the principles of those very wonderful agitations (p. 280).
When we have once discovered the word of the physical enigma, all difficulties immediately disappear. And we can now see that these Dioscuri, these same sons of heaven, have their swiftness mythically represented by their goldenhued pinions, by their white horses, their power over the enraged sea ; yes, more than this, by their sudden and astonishing apparition, high above the topmost, and the hissing sound in the air by the rushing of their wings; while at once the mountainous waves are stilled, and the already despairing mariners find themselves rescued in immediate proximity of the vision (p. 121).
Antiquity speaks also clearly of magnetic attraction and repulsion. In the sixth book of Lucretius on the nature of things, the marvellous phenomena of the loadstone are thus described :
"Men see the stone with wonder as it forms
A chain of separate rings by its own strength.
The poet speaks of the Samothracian ring, and of the magnetic experiments in the most ancient mysteries. I shall yet speak further of these magnetic rings of the old mysteries, and here only add Schweigger's remarks, that the editions of Lucretius, Lambertin, and Faber, ascribe to these Samothracian rings a secret power of averting anything injurious, which power was communicated to them through conservation in the mysteries. It is worthy of observation, also, that the priests of Jupiter wore similar rings.
The armature of the magnet also, and its wonderful strength, are described by the ancient writers; and through these the myth of Hercules is made very significant. The Herculean stone , in Pliny is clearly a synonym. This writer seeks by rhetorical arts to prove why the magnetic stone in antiquity was called the Herculean stone. the rock echoing," he says, as it were, acquires speech, so the sluggish hardness of the stone has received from nature feeling, and, as it were, a heart in the magnet. What less compulsory than hard iron ?
But here it gives way; assumes manners; allows itself to be drawn by the magnet; and while it conquers everything else, it runs after I know not what non-entity, and as soon as it is come near, it stands still, and permits itself to be held and hung up, as it were, in bonds. Therefore some persons still designate the magnetic stone by the alias of the Herculean stone.” Thus the name of the magnet is not derived from a city dedicated to Hercules, but because magnetic and Herculean mean the same thing “Had Pliny known,” says Schweigger, p. 236, “ that magnetism is an absolutely unconfinable, invi
sibly-penetrating power, by which the naming of Hercules as the invincible is justified ; had he known that the same power might become so universally useful to seamen through astrologic signs, since it shows especially the place of the pole-star, the guide of the ancient mariners ; and that therefore Hercules was justly named the Astrologer, the Soothsayer, and the Index-nay, that he was with justice looked upon as the teacher of navigation, which magnetism really is. The Phænicians, who made greater voyages than any other ancient nation, ascribed them to Hercules, who for their accomplishment used a cup or goblet received from Helios in the remotest western regions, in which must have laid a northerly-directed influence, for there Helios sunk in the western sea :' that this turned constantly to the north while, in fact, magnetism in a wonderful manner daily turns towards Helios his arrow, which is exactly the character of the western variation of the magnetic needle, and which is at the present day honoured by the Chinese with religious observances, which remind one of the Samothracian mysteries ; had Pliny known that this magnetic power is in daily conflict, even with itself, which is the chief feature of the myth of Hercules, who makes wounds and heals them; punishes crimes and is continually falling into them himself, ever in need of expiation; who contended with monsters, and then again as a servant performed-female offices, on which account in the mysteries of Hercules at Lydia, as he himself expresses it, that extraordinary spectacle was exhibited of à change of costume, the priests putting on women's clothes, because Hercules exchanged clothes with Omphale, thus expressing the magnetic polarity attached to the same individual ; had Pliny known that this slavish Herculean strength bound to the stone can come forth as winged, and that then Hercules awakens from his sleep, like the Idaic Dactyl, or the Phænician Cabir, as a dwarf, becomes a giant, with mad fury destroys the ships entrusted to his care, while during this natural phenomenon lightnings break forth from the columns that arise out of the sea; had Pliny known that the question here is of a cosmic power, having its home in the depths of subterranean night, but at the same time also in the glittering sun, which in the northern lights through self-combustion ascends from earth to heaven, there had been no rhetorical subtleties necessary to him, in order to establish the highest antiquity of the synonymity of the words Herculean and magnetic, or of magnetism and Hercules.”
The reader may find still more proofs of the identity of magnetism and Hercules in the work of Bart, “The Cabiri in Germany." According to Pausanias, Hercules was represented under the image of a rough stone at Hyettos, where the sick came to be healed in a temple. The image of Hercules was not artistically formed, but was a rude stone, according to ancient custom, a ferruginous batilien stone, a thunder-stone. And afterwards in the worship of Hercules, the rude stone, as a proper characteristic, was not wholly neglected. “There is yet,” says Schweigger, "a Hermes statue of Hercules wrought out of a touch-stone ; while Pliny observes the Lydian stone, or touch-stone, was confounded with the Herculean stone.'
Claudian, in his Idyls on the Magnet, speaks in the highest terms of the dark, invisible stone, which first acquires power from iron. He notices cosmic agitations as in connection with it, and believes the tails of comets to consist of its essential principle. In storm and lightning its power, according to him, seems to rule. Claudian closes this introduction with the representation of a temple-service, in which a magnetic image of Venus held suspended in the air an iron one of Mars; while Lucian speaks of a very ancient statue of Apollo of the Dædalian age, that it was lifted aloft by the priests, and there before his eyes stood suspended in the air, unsupported by the hands of the priests, the atmosphere serving to sustain it in a living embrace.
The conquest of Mars by Hercules, sung by Hesiod, who represents him as a subterranean power with his helm on his feet, characteristic of the earth-magnetism, says the same thing. Pliny also relates of a statue of Hercules standing at Thebes, that it was made of iron. “Precisely in the same manner,” says Schweigger (p. 239), “as in China, one form of religious worship is still based on magnetism, was there a religious service of a temple in Egypt connected with magic, as we learn expressly from the Idyls of Claudian.”' Schweigger shows yet more completely how Hercules was
considered by ancient writers to be magnetism; how he as a double divinity belonged at once to the upper and the lower world; and how this also, according to Servius, was indicated by a garland of silver poplar ; how he, as an Idaic Dactyl, scarcely two feet high, was placed next to the fifteen feet high Demeter in the Samothracian Mysteries. He shows how Hercules was related to Mercury; how he as creature of light, the hyperborean Apollo (north-polarity) might as Musagetes be substituted for him (pp. 245, 246); how the two pillars of Hercules indicate the double
character of magnetism, and originally were called the Pillars of Briareus, as the magnetical, gigantic, primeval power, etc.
The Idaic Dactyls and the Batyli belong to the mythic circle of Dioscuri. As these, according to Strabo, stood in relation to iron, while the Batyli were considered to be connected with the magnetic and meteoric stones, these myths had obvious reference to the polarity of magnetism, and speak of right male and left female Dactyls. Pliny calls them iron-coloured stones in the shape of a thumb. According to their number, they must have varied considerably in appearance. According to Helancius, the right dissolved magic spells which the left knit up, as this happens with the electric forces, where positive and negative, male and female, the right and left polarity, exist as opposite powers. “ All this tells with great force for the electromagnetic powers; of which we may say with perfect truth, that the right dissolves charms, which the left knits up, and vice versa. And as the Cabiri were represented as pysmies, and as a name-Dactyls-derived from a finger instead of from the fist, denoted still more diminutive form, the name, therefore, Dactyl, in an electro-magnetic respect, appears descriptive. For it is this which excites so much astonishment in electro-magnetism, that by it a group of a hundred active iron pygmies, infinitely small magnets, are made, in a manner inexplicable to us, to stand near to each other, without interfering with each other; some turning round to the right, and others to the left. Now, as the Curetes, according to the Orphic hymn which describes the power ruling in a storm, are represented symbolically and mythically as sons of the Dactyls, an original dependence of power on magnetism is indicated thereby. But these Curetes again beget fresh Idaic Dactyls, and thus in this myth the