« PreviousContinue »
dependence of electrical power on the magnetic, and then again fresh magnetic phenomena from the electric, are expressed” (Schweigger, p. 199).
The Batyli were also employed in soothsaying, for, according to Thales, they were worshipped in the remotest antiquity in Egypt and Samothrace, as magnetic stones containing souls which had fallen from heaven. All the priests of Cybele wore a small Batylus on their bodies; yet probably not exactly a meteoric stone, but a magnet, whose polar action on the meteoric stone might be so much more easily observed, as it is of a similar colour to the magnetic stone. On the meteor-worship of the ancients, Von Dahlberg has brought together much curious matter in a small volume. The worship of rough stones, and the acquaintance of the ancients with the magnet, especially in Egypt, according to Claudian, shows plainly that not a blind superstition, an adoration of the stone, was meant, but a secret truth of nature, from which it is nearly certain that the ancients have been acquainted with her even to her minutest details, and which knowledge was lost sight of again for ages, till in the present time the physical discoveries have thrown light on electro-magnetism, and from that on the ancient mysteries. Nor is the stone-worship to be regarded merely as a figurative mode of speaking by the poets; for this worship was very general, as Claudian
the poet of Egyptian origin declares, not only of Egypt, but also says of Eros in his idyls, that he conquered all things, and even awoke a mutual passion in stones. According to Pausanias, Eros was worshipped at Thespia also under the form of a rough stone, whence it is clear that they were thinking of the stones ensouled by Eros; and this so much the more, as the myth of the inexhaustible productive power of Hercules had reference to Thespia, namely, to the fifty daughters of the king. If, then, we venture to take into connection with this, the myth related by Diodorus of Sicily, that Hephæstos gave the club and armour to Hercules, we have reason to think of a metal club, especially as Hesiod speaks of an iron weapon which Hercules laid on his shoulder, while his shield was crossed with blue stripes. The prevalence in meteoric stones of a pyramidal or wedge-formed shape offers a point of resemblance to the knotty club of Hercules. It is also to be seen, from the weakly Harpocrates being always represented
as a child, with the club of Hercules, that these are not merely rude masses but a mystic symbol, analogous to those Batyli which the priests of Cybele wore, and which, according to the supposition of Münter, were probably not seldom magnets instead of meteoric stones, and sometimes might be iron-coloured stones,-i. e. Idaic Dactyls. But Hercules is not merely connected with the Idaic Dactyls, which name he bears in common with that stone, and through allocation with the Dioscuri, and other ancient Cabiric beings; but also, in the Cabiric mythic circle, is invoked as a saviour, and was expressly numbered among the greatest gods.
After these more detailed representations of the ancient natural-philosophical doctrine of the elementary powers, and of the original duplicature of the action of electricity and magnetism in particular, other kindred mythological circumstances are more easily intelligible. To these belong the different symbols of the magical fire, and the manifold attributes of the same amongst the other gods, -as the Vestal fire, which burned inextinguishably on the altar, and which Numa, the founder of the Vestal mysteries, introduced into Rome, according to the ancient art of fetching the fire from heaven, as it was taught by the Samothracian and Cabiric mysteries. Schweigger shows incontrovertibly that this fire was an electrical one, and that Vesta belonged to the Samothracian circle (pp. 139–169); that the fireworship was practised also amongst other gods; as towards Hermes,-the Hermes-fire, the Elmes-fire of the ancient Germans; the lightning of Cybele; the torch of Apollo; the fire of Pan’s altar, which originally belonged to him not as the wood-god but as the illuminating Pan with his hair on end; the fire-flame of Pluto's helm ; the inextinguishable fire in the temple of Athene on the Acropolis, which, according to Homer, kindled the miraculous fire in the head of Diomed. Wholly of this kind was the fire represented as burning on the hats of the Dioscuri, &c., as well as the fire on the helm of Pallas, on the Gorgon head, on the staff of Mercury, etc.
Now, if the electrical fire was preserved so sacred in the mysteries, it may next be inquired to what purpose it was thus kept.
If the immediate object were a religious one, the worship of the divinity, then so strict an exclusion of the uninitiated
would not have been necessary : but taking natural philosophy as its object, and the practical use of the same, we have the ground of this strictly mysterious worship; and Schweigger treats it, I think, with insufficient depth. If we observe the completely philosophical connection of the symbols of electricity and magnetism in those mysteries, can we doubt that the ancients had more than a physical object, or that a practically medicinal use was attached to them ? If the ancients were well acquainted with the physical laws and operations of these forces, is it likely that their curative nature was unknown to them ? Everywhere, in all the temples, the priestly service was pre-eminently a therapeutic one ; a secret service of healing the sick, and of soothsaying, which we have already shown to exist among all people. May not electricity and magnetism, together with magnetic manipulation, have been employed as divine and miraculous means ? We can the less doubt of such a use of the electro-magnetic power, when we notice the universality of those symbols in the temples of all countries,in the Vestal, the Eleusinian, the Samothracian, and Egyptian mysteries ; and when we cast a glance on many other circumstances in connection with them which have become known.
The mysteries may have been practised, and preserved from the knowledge of the people in their transmission downwards as great natural truths, especially in later and historical times, without, perhaps, their foundation being clearly understood. For if a refusal of free experiment be persisted in, from a dogged adhesion to antiquity, and a repetition of the same thing on all sides, no distinct insight into the causality of the laws of nature can exist. A mechanical adherence to ancient practices may, therefore, have been wholly the fact, without any clear consciousness of the meaning of those practices; as, for instance, is the case in the repetition of astronomical maxims at the present day amongst the Indian Brahmins, and in so many ceremonies of the church.
But the practice was established, and the formula transmitted to the initiated. Thus we see that the miraculous fire so carefully concealed from the uninitiated was most assiduously maintained in the Vestal and Cabiric mysteries; and they who did not know how to manage it ac
cording to its nature were destroyed by it, and were punished by the gods. Pliny relates (Histor. nat. xxviii. 2) that Tullus Hostilius had sought from the books of Numa, “ Jovem devocare a cælo;" but, as he did not correctly follow the rules of Numa, he was struck by the lightning. Plutarch writes in the life of Camillus that Numa, the founder of the Vestal mysteries, in intercourse with the Muse, had given over to the Vestal virgins the sacred fire, to be guarded as the quickening and ensouling principle in the Samothracian sanctuary, and adds, that those who profess to be better informed on this subject than others, speak of two not very large casks,-one open and empty, the other full and sealed up.” The electrical fire thus concealed might by a mechanical contrivance be quickly kindled in the electrical apparatus without a visible bearing of it to the altar; and thus provided with a point, fire received upon a ball, or in a sieve of brass, is easily to be understood.
The iron Samothracian wings, which we have mentioned from Lucretius, and which “ he saw leap,” were undoubtedly preserved in the temple not without an object. The secret, evil-averting power which was ascribed to them, is an evidence that their healing quality was already known. Thepriest of Jupiter also wore, according to Creech's interpretation of that passage in Lucretius, similar iron wings on his body, apparently in order to strengthen his magical influence, as the magnetisers now by the bearing of a magnet assert that they strengthen their effect on the patient. At all events, incubation was practised in those temples where the magnetical rings were found. But those wings constituted regular chains of magnets, strengthening and conducting the power to each other, and were a kind of magnetic battery, as Lucretius says in those remarkable verses (B. 1041—46):
“How much may not be said of things like these ?
But to what end? Thou need'st no farther go,
It has already been observed, that the old natural historians, who appear to have been initiated into the temple mysteries, carefully passed over the philosophical secrets; yes, were compelled to be silent on what, for instance, was unanimously testified by the Samothracian mysteries. In the temple of Demeter and Persephone at Athens, in the front of which was the statue of the sower of seed, Triptolemus, the mysteries were celebrated, which, in later
times, Pausanias did not dare to unveil, and who was warned | by a dream not to do it (Attic. i. 14). People would,
therefore, have pressed too close upon the sanctuary of the priests had they allowed the real nature of the magnet and the wonderful action of the iron to become known. At the same time it was not forbidden to make known everything; some things were explained to the uninitiated; but it came to pass that in the course of time many facts made their way to the public. For instance, the uninitiated were made acquainted with amber, and with its property when rubbed; and those iron wings were not withdrawn from the eyes of all. If some things thus lay open, and if the public arrived at the knowledge of the aims and effects of the mysterious mythic circles in another manner; if similar physical science was gained by their own experience, in such a combination things before unknown assumed a high importance, and the mysteries thus more and more were made clear to the gene
Now this was the fact with the Samothracian wings, which already in the time of Pliny were worn by the Lacedemonians, who adhered fast and perseveringly to the Samothracian traditions, and were in a high degree worshippers of the Dioscuri; so that Callimachus even called the Dioscuri, Lacedemonian stones. It is very remarkable, too, that in Pliny's time the betrothal ring at Rome must be one of iron; as earlier in Athens, the newly married, under the name of Anakes, brought offerings to the Dioscuri, in symbol of the reconcilement of opposing forces, and with reference to the hope of offspring.
Now, as Lucretius expressly, in the passages quoted, speaks of hooks and rings hanging together, that is, of chains, but afterwards of Samothracian articles made of iron for magnetic purposes, to which, for instance, the experiment with the iron-filings belongs, the acquaintance of the Romans with