Descartes, although a worshipper of matter, was one of the most devoted teachers of the magnetic doctrine and, in a certain sense, even of Alchemy. His system of physics was very much like that of other great philosophers. Space, which is infinite, is composed, or rather filled up with a fluid and elementary matter, and is the sole fountain of all life, enclosing all the celestial globes and keeping them in perpetual motion. The magnet-streams of Mesmer are disguised by him into the Cartesian vortices, and both rest on the same principle. . . .
Such also was the doctrine of Tenzel Wirdig. It may even be found expounded in his works, with far more clearness, logic, and vigor, than in those of other mystical authors who have treated of the same subject. In his famous treatise, The New Spiritual Medicine, he demonstrates, on the ground of the later-accepted fact of universal attraction and repulsion — now called "gravitation" — that the whole nature is ensouled. Wirdig calls this magnetic sympathy "the accordance of spirits." Everything is drawn to its like, and converges with natures congenial to itself. Out of this sympathy and antipathy arises a constant movement in the whole world, and in all its parts, and uninterrupted communion between heaven and earth, which produces universal harmony. Everything lives and perishes through magnetism; one thing affects another one, even at great distances, and its "congenitals" may be influenced to health and disease by the power of this sympathy, at any time, and notwithstanding the intervening space. . . .
Kepler, the forerunner of Newton in many great truths, even in that of the universal "gravitation" which he very justly attributed to magnetic attraction, notwithstanding that he terms astrology "the insane daughter of a most wise mother" — Astronomy, shares the kabalistic belief that the spirits of the stars are so many "intelligences." He firmly believes that each planet is the seat of an intelligent principle, and that they are all inhabited by spiritual beings, who exercise influences over other beings inhabiting more gross and material spheres than their own and especially our earth. As Kepler's spiritual starry influences were superseded by the vortices of the more materialistic Descartes, . . . so the vortices of the latter and his astronomical doctrines may some day give place to the intelligent magnetic streams which are directed by the Anima Mundi.
. . . In 1643, there appeared among the mystics a monk, Father Kircher, who taught a complete philosophy of universal magnetism. His numerous works embrace many of the subjects merely hinted at by Paracelsus. His definition of magnetism is very original, for he contradicted Gilbert's theory that the earth was a great magnet. He asserted that although every particle of matter, and even the intangible invisible "powers" were magnetic, they did not themselves constitute a magnet. There is but one big MAGNET in the universe, and from it proceeds the magnetization of everything existing. This magnet is of course what the kabalists term the central Spiritual Sun, or God. The sun, moon, planets, and stars he affirmed are highly magnetic; but they have become so by induction from living in the universal magnetic fluid — the Spiritual light. — I, 206-9
Evidently Proclus does not advocate here simply a superstition, but science; for notwithstanding that it is occult, and unknown to our scholars, who deny its possibilities, magic is still a science. It is firmly and solely based on the mysterious affinities existing between organic and inorganic bodies, the visible productions of the four kingdoms, and the invisible powers of the universe. That which science calls gravitation, the ancients and the mediaeval hermetists called magnetism, attraction, affinity. It is the universal law, which is understood by Plato and explained in Timaeus as the attraction of lesser bodies to larger ones, and of similar bodies to similar, the latter exhibiting a magnetic power rather than following the law of gravitation. The anti-Aristotelean formula that gravity causes all bodies to descend with equal rapidity, without reference to their weight, the difference being caused by some other unknown agency, would seem to point a great deal more forcibly to magnetism than to gravitation, the former attracting rather in virtue of the substance than of the weight. A thorough familiarity with the occult faculties of everything existing in nature, visible as well as invisible; their mutual relations, attractions, and repulsions; the cause of these, traced to the spiritual principle which pervades and animates all things; the ability to furnish the best conditions for this principle to manifest itself, in other words a profound and exhaustive knowledge of natural law — this was and is the basis of magic. — I, 244
If the reader will recall what is said by the learned authors of the Unseen Universe, as to the positive effect produced upon the universal ether by so small a cause as the evolution of thought in a single human brain, how reasonable will it not appear that the terrific impulses imparted to this common medium by the sweep of the myriad blazing orbs that are rushing through "the interstellar depths," should affect us and the earth upon which we live, in a powerful degree? If astronomers cannot explain to us the occult law by which the drifting particles of cosmic matter aggregate into worlds, and then take their places in the majestic procession which is ceaselessly moving around some central point of attraction, how can any one assume to say what mystic influences may or may not be darting through space and affecting the issues of life upon this and other planets? Almost nothing is known of the laws of magnetism and the other imponderable agents; almost nothing of their effects upon our bodies and minds; even that which is known and moreover perfectly demonstrated, is attributed to chance, and curious coincidences. — I, 273-4
. . . The Pythagoreans held that neither the sun nor the stars were the sources of light and heat, and that the former was but an agent; but the modern schools teach the contrary.
The same may be said respecting the Newtonian law of gravitation. Following strictly the Pythagorean doctrine, Plato held that gravitation was not merely a law of the magnetic attraction of lesser bodies to larger ones, but a magnetic repulsion of similars and attraction of dissimilars. "Things brought together," says he, "contrary to nature, are naturally at war, and repel one another." This cannot be taken to mean that repulsion occurs of necessity between bodies of dissimilar properties, but simply that when naturally antagonistic bodies are brought together they repel one another. The researches of Bart and Schweigger leave us in little or no doubt that the ancients were well acquainted with the mutual attractions of iron and the lodestone, as well as with the positive and negative properties of electricity, by whatever name they may have called it. The reciprocal magnetic relations of the planetary orbs, which are all magnets, was with them an accepted fact, and aerolites were not only called by them magnetic stones, but used in the Mysteries for purposes to which we now apply the magnet. When, therefore, Professor A. M. Mayer, of the Stevens Institute of Technology, in 1872, told the Yale Scientific Club that the earth is a great magnet, and that "on any sudden agitation of the sun's surface the magnetism of the earth receives a profound disturbance in its equilibrium, causing fitful tremors in the magnets of our observatories, and producing those grand outbursts of the polar lights, whose lambent flames dance in rhythm to the quivering needle," he only restated, in good English, what was taught in good Doric untold centuries before the first Christian philosopher saw the light. . . .
. . . By the radiant light of the universal magnetic ocean, whose electric waves bind the cosmos together, and in their ceaseless motion penetrate every atom and molecule of the boundless creation, the disciples of mesmerism — howbeit insufficient their various experiments — intuitionally perceive the alpha and omega of the great mystery. Alone, the study of this agent, which is the divine breath, can unlock the secrets of psychology and physiology, of cosmical and spiritual phenomena. — I, 281-2
1. When H. P. Blavatsky published her first major work Isis Unveiled in 1879, it aroused almost universally unfavorable comment and criticism from the representatives of Science of that day; but during the intervening sixty years Science has rapidly approached the viewpoint of the Ancient Wisdom, and it will be interesting to note during the next decade to what extent they will be further willing to recognise certain occult keys she has given out, as instanced in this series. The above extracts are all taken from Isis Unveiled. — Eds. (return to text)