The World is Bound with Secret Knots
frontispiece from
Magneticum Naturae Regnum

(Rome 1667)


Alongside Egyptology, Kircher's most abiding scholarly interest was the study of magnetism. Impressed by William Gilbert's De Magnete (1600), Kircher began his researches while enjoying the patronage of the Elector- Archbishop of Mainz at his court in Aschaffenburg. Kircher's first book, Ars Magnesia (Wurzburg 1631) compiled the results from his experiments with historical anecdotes and an argument for for magnetism as a ratification of the authority of God, kings, and the priesthood. This latter philosophical premise indicates the breadth of influence Kircher would eventually attribute to magnetic forces. In his third and final book on the subject, Magneticum Naturae Regnum, Kircher summarized and reasserted his findings, attributing phenomena as mundane as tastes and preferences, or as cosmic as gravitation, to the forces of magnetism. Ultimately, Kircher saw magnetic attraction and repulsion as the lingua franca of all creation, governing friendship, love, sympathy, hatred, chemical reactions, planetary action, heliotropic and selenitropic plants, medicinal plants and stones, the wind, hydraulics, the tides, musical harmony; even the nature of God himself, whom Kircher deemed 'the Central Magnet of the Universe'. As Science verges on a workable unified field theory, Kircher's intuitive philosophical understanding of the interdependency of all things seems less and less naive. In the words of Valentine Worth: 'All of nature in its awful vastness and incomprehensible complexity is in the end interrelated - worlds within worlds within worlds: the seen and the unseen - the physical and the immaterial are all connected - each exerting influence on the next - bound, as it were, by chains of analogy - magnetic chains. Every decision, every action mirrors, ripples, reflects and echoes throughout the whole of creation. The world is indeed bound with secret knots.'

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