Albert de Rochas: From ‘La Science Dans l’Antiquité’ – Kircher’s Cybele
The Cybele automated statue in a temple,
from ‘La Science dans l’Antiquité, les origines de la Science’,
G. Masson, Paris, 1884. Page 147.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA inaugurates a series of posts devoted to Albert de Rochas and his laudable efforts of researching and restoring ancient science, here with an excerpt from the 1884 ‘La Science dans l’Antiquité, les origines de la Science’, published by Georges Masson in Paris. From page 146 to 148.
Some biographical information
Eugène Auguste Albert de Rochas d’Aiglun (20 May 1837 – 2 September 1914) was a leading French parapsychologist, historian, translator, writer, military engineer and administrator.
‘Commander de Rochas’s works and research are mainly in two fields: 1. History and military topography of the French Alps, with the study of regional dialects to help understand the etymology and orthograph of places’ names. 2. The restitution of ancient science. Albert de Rochas translated from the ancient Greek the technical treatises left by the engineers of the first Alexandrian school, like Hero of Alexandria or Philo of Byzance. He added to his translations the careful examination of many wonderful facts he eagerly endeavored to explain how they were produced: Successful experiences on the transportation of heavy masses were hence obtained, physiological laws were discovered that were crucial to explain most of the wonders and miracles attributed to the Pythias, magus, soothsayers and sorcerers.’ (From Albert de Rochas’ impressive scientific and spiritual bibliographical notice)
Life and career
Albert de Rochas was born in Saint Firmin in the department of Hautes-Alpes-France, the son of Marie Joseph Eugène de Rochas d’Aiglun, a judge at the court in Briançon, and of Félicité Camille Jayet. He studied literature and mathematics at the Lycée de Grenoble, then, in 1857, entered the École Polytechnique in Paris, intending to follow a military career. In 1861, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Military Engineers (“Le Génie militaire”) and distinguished himself as a soldier, engineer and administrator. He rose to the rank of battalion commander in 1880 and was made chief of engineers in 1887. He retired from the military in 1888 as a Lieutenant-Colonel. He had also been inspector of studies and director at the École Polytechnique but had to resign due to his involvement in paranormal research activities. Rochas was made a Chevalier (Knight) in the Légion d’Honneur in 1875 and an officer in 1889.
As a scholar, he made significant contributions to the study of military engineering history, producing, for example, a French translation of an 11th-century Alexandrian treatise on fortification and machines of war called ‘Veterum Mathematicorum Opera’ (1693), and publishing the correspondence of the distinguished 17th century military engineer, Vauban. He also wrote about ancient technology, exploring subjects as diverse as hydraulic organs, water clocks, ancient surveying instruments, temple machinery, Greek artillery and ancient railways. He was well respected as a researcher and won a medal from the “Société des Études Grecques” for his translations of Greek texts.
Albert de Rochas is now best known for his extensive parapsychological research and writing, in which he attempted to explore a scientific basis for occult phenomena. His first book on the subject, ‘Les Forces non définies’ (“Undefined Forces”, 1887), was followed by numerous books and articles over the course of nearly thirty years, on subjects such as hypnotism, telekinesis, “magnetic emanations” reincarnation, spirit photography, etc.
He was part of the committee that investigated the famous Italian medium, Eusapia Palladino, detailed in his book, ‘L’extériorisation de la motricité’ (1896). He carried out research into hypnosis, and documented the phenomenon of “externalisation of sensibility” whereby hypnotised subjects acquire a physical sensitivity to stimuli at a distance; for example, the subject can be made to feel pain if a certain spot is pinched or pricked away from the body and can even be made to feel the sensations of the hypnotist. He investigated other “magnetic” phenomena such as the transference of disease from one organism to another, past life regression, the effects of music on human emotion (see ‘Les Sentiments, la musique et le geste’), etc. He also introduced the French public to the work of Carl Reichenbach and his theory of odic force. (From his Wikipedia page)
Outcasted, abandoned and blacklisted by his former scientific community, de Rochas lived the last years of his life in dire poverty in his hometown house of Voiron, near Grenoble. Though, he was once part of the entourage of his Polytechnic school comrade the Geologist Albert de Lapparent, were names like Camille Flammarion, Edmé-Francois Jomard, François Arago, Eugene Burnouf, Eugene Viollet le Duc, Antoine Abadie, Henri Poincaré, Louis Pasteur, Paul Doumergue, Sadie Carnot, Albert Lebrun, etc…, would frequently meet together for casual diners and meetings. Albert de Rochas died on the 2 September 1914 at the age of 77, leaving behind some unfinished research and book projects. What a tragic fall from grace! But what posthumous fame and lasting achievements!
Athanasius Kircher’s Cybele
‘The Jesuit scientist possessed in his private museum an apparatus that probably came from an Egyptian temple. It was composed of a hollow hemispheric dome carried by four columns and placed upon the top of the statue of the many breasts goddess. To two columns were attached mobile arms, on which were fixed candle holders. The hemispheric dome’s bottom was hermetically sealed by a metallic plaque. The altar that supported the statue was filled with milk to which interior was connected by a tube that reached almost to the top. The altar also communicated with the hollow dome by a tube twice curved. At the time of the ritual sacrifice, the candles were lit and the two arms were turned in a manner that the flame would heat the inferior plaque of the dome. The air contained inside, would dilate into the XM tube (see title figure), that would press the milk enclosed in the altar to rush into the central tube up into the levels of the breasts. A series of little orifices into which this central tube would divide carried the milk to the bosoms from which nipples the milk would spring outside to the great astonishment of the attending crowd seeing this as a miracle. Once the sacrifice concluded, the candles were blown and the milk ceased to gush forth.’
Kirchers’s 1652–54 ‘Oedipus Aegyptiacus’,
volume II, page 332/333.
Kircher’s original Latin
(translation to come soon)