[Page 1] FEW people in this world have ever troubled themselves to inquire into the origin and history of gems. Most are familiar with the geological theories of their production through some of the mysterious processes engendered by Nature at remote periods of the earth's history, when humanity was unknown on the face of the globe and vegetation itself had not sprung into existence to form the link between the mineral and animal kingdoms. As modern theories stand, the genesis of gems is traced to the early baptisms of water and fire through which our planet is said to have passed long, long ago, to those turbulent periods of elemental life before equilibrium was established, when in fact our earth was a molten mass, full of endless combustion and seething energy; while the translucent lustre of certain gems is supposed to have been derived from the action of water probably prior to the volcanic disturbances alluded to. Great difficulty has, however, been felt with regard to this explanation of the initial production of gems, for scientists are unable to understand the mysterious workings of the alchemy of Nature. Once, however, this difficulty is overcome, the life impulse and its subsequent developments will account for the existence of known deposits scattered here and there over the earth's surface. "Thus far" can science go and no farther: it is not within its realm to attempt to cognise the noumena of phenomena, that which underlies the manifested universe and is the direct cause of its manifestation and variety.
Gems are in themselves so beautiful and possess such a mysterious fascination for the human mind that it is not surprising that they should have received so large a share of attention from the earliest periods of human history. From the society lady of today, who wears a profusion of diamonds, to the prostitute in the streets, who counterfeits a like display with gaudy frippery, perhaps none such have ever paused to ask why humanity has had such an unconscious appreciation for gems. Far more, however, lurks beneath some of the unconscious instincts of humanity, time-honoured and universal. In bygone times gems were prized because of their virtues, as well as for their beauty; today, however, the world has risen superior to such "superstitions" and recognises only their external beauty. This is [Page 2] entirely on a par with the idolatry of the nineteenth century, and today the lore of gems has been well-nigh forgotten.
Gems have ever played a most important part in religious symbolism and the Western mind need turn no further than to the Christian Bible to read in the Book of Revelations of the twelve foundations of the holy city, of the jasper, emerald, beryl, amethyst and other gems which play so prominent a part in the early mystic symbolism.
A new interest has been recently aroused by an announcement on the part of a modern chemist that it was possible by forced processes to make diamonds, to imitate the masterful alchemy of Nature, and wrest the secret from the bosom of that inscrutable mother! Such a proposition is of course closely allied to the dreams of the alchemists, who thought that by acting on the soul of things, they could transform the gross and inert matter by gradual processes of sublimation into the purest of metals, Sol, the king, and Luna, the queen of heaven. For in the case of these metals the unconscious occultism of humanity is again evidenced, for gold is the purest of metals and its evolution is effected by direct contact with the magnetic life of humanity.
Gems are recognised by the "Secret Doctrine" as due to the law of evolution, or progress, which operates equally in every department of the wide universe, and is in no way confined to either the vegetable or animal kingdoms. Gems are then regarded as having evolved from cruder conditions, and attained their pure lustre and unblemished beauty as the result of the universal consciousness functioning in the mineral kingdom, which is its vehicle. And the process of evolution, whether in humanity, the animal kingdom, the vegetable, or the mineral may be defined as the science of the beauty of expression. Gems in this view would probably stand in the light of early perfected particles of certain hierarchies of the mineral kingdom. The law by which the beautiful is expressed is the law of wisdom and intelligence, the latter we may be unable to apprehend with our limited mental range, but yet it would be presumptuous to deny, and Professor Clifford felt himself obliged to credit matter with a "little feeling" to account for the wondrous intelligence everywhere evidenced in the working of the evolutionary law.
The following paper was read at the meeting of the Blavatsky Lodge
of the Theosophical Society by F. L. Gardner, Esq., on Thursday evening, June 16th, 1892, at the regular meeting.
Some discussion and comment followed, and some very interesting and remarkable things were mentioned, as having
happened to friends of some of the members and perhaps of a visitor or two, in connection with some of the
psychic or magnetic qualities of the gems and their influence on the human organism.[Page 3]
ON THE HIDDEN PROPERTIES OF GEMS
In dealing with the subject-matter of this paper, I propose to first of all treat it from the Theosophical aspect. Possessing as it does a philosophical and logical basis, it must necessarily appeal to reason and judgment and I subsequently propose to treat the subject from the traditional aspect, which, although not possessing the merits of an exact science will yet appeal to many minds: and as Theosophists believe that every tradition has had a substratum of truth, the occult teaching will be equally acceptable.
It would be impossible within the limits of a paper of this description to do more than briefly sketch the metaphysical aspect of the subject, so I will commence with what is taught in our doctrine of emanations, tracing the outreaching of the nameless reality Parabrahm on the highest metaphysical plane, down through Mulaprakriti and its emanation of ether or akash; we are taught that from this proceeded the four elements as we understand them, viz., fire, air, water, earth, each being an outcome or emanation from the other; the fire coming first after the ether, then the air from the fire, next the water from the air, and lastly the earth from the water. These five emanations, in their various permutations and combinations, go to make up the phenomenal universe we see around us, the universal or Divine being the subjective side and understood in the Cabalistic theogony under the aspect of Ain Soph and the limitless light, the first conceivable emanation. The emanation of the earth element is the ultimate manifestation to us of the outward expansion of Mulaprakriti, and spirit from this point must again recede when the hour strikes for its re-absorption into the infinite. In the work of Messrs. Balfour Stewart and P. E. Tait, called "The Unseen Universe", you have from a modern scientific standpoint this idea of the process of emanation and absorption shadowed forth, although the subject is chiefly confined to the last emanation, that of physical matter, from the emanation which preceded it.
When we arrive at the earth element or mineral kingdom, the factor of form steps in to give shape and expression on this physical terrestrial plane to the last material outreaching of spirit, and it is not at all a Utopian idea to conceive that if any existing metal or mineral could be reduced to the condition of elemental or primordial earth it could be reformed and remodelled into some other metal. This, as we all know, has been the aim and object of the alchemists from time immemorial, and in our own later day Professor Crookes has been trying to obtain his "Protyle" and "radiant matter", by which, I presume, he understands the first essence of all things on this physical plane.
When you thus have the manifestation of the mineral kingdom as we know it in its present material aspect, it is a very evident and logical conclusion [Page 4] that all the other elements had a hand in fashioning it in its present form — earth being the synthesis of the elements — in fact men of science may fairly be divided into two classes of belief as to how gems and precious stones were first originated — one holds the aqueous, and the other the igneous theory. Anyhow, since most precious stones are either transparent or translucent, we can fairly conclude that their constituent atoms must have been at one time in either the gaseous or liquid condition. The microscope shows us that in many different species water or some other fluid is enclosed in cavities, often so extremely minute that several millions occur in a cubic inch; these little cells appear luminous by reflected light, which gives brilliancy to the gem, but if the light be transmitted, they present a dark outline; some of these porous crystals burst and fly to pieces on the application of strong heat in consequence of the expansion of the liquid enclosed. Sir David Brewster believed every mineral enclosing water was of aqueous origin, but on the other hand the presence of water is not essential to the formation of crystals, because they are also produced by igneous fusion, when the cavities are filled with a substance resembling glass as seen in angite from Vesuvius. Sometimes the matter enclosed is crystallised, and at other times the cells are filled with gas. The fluid cavities of zeolites — boiling stones — seem to indicate that they are deposited in heated waters. Minerals found in a conglomerate of Mount Somma enclose all the different kind of cavities, showing they were made by the combined action of water and igneous fusion. It may be confidently assumed that the elementary constituents of precious stones existed in a state capable of free motion among themselves or their homogeneous nature could not have been secured; this condition could only have been obtained by fusion, by disintegration, or by reduction to vapour. Amongst the old writers I find that Plato starts the idea that they were the result of fermentation originating in the stars, while the diamond, which has always been an exceptional gem, was the kernel of auriferous matter condensed into a transparent mass; when he states that they "originated in the stars", he evidently refers to actual influence or the fifth state of matter, "the etheric", which preceded the four elements in the order of emanation. The Magic Necklace of Vishnu is made of five precious stones, each symbolising one of the five elements of our Round, namely, the pearl, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and diamond — or water, fire, earth, air, and ether, called the aggregate of the five elemental rudiments, or more correctly, powers. (H.P.B. " Glossary", vide Vaijayanti.)
In Robert Boyle's works we find that he states many reasons in favour of the aqueous theory; amongst others he lays particular stress upon the internal texture of gems, as their coagulation is similar to other substances which are capable of being examined, both in the crystalline and aqueous [Page 5] state. For instance, the crystals of silver in the form known as nitrate of silver, can easily be dissolved in water, and when in the crystalline state present a flat, tubular and transparent appearance, capable of being split into flakes like the substance known as mica. This property is also apparent in gems, as the diamond under microscopic examination displays a similar formation of ridge-like masses, and it is well-known that advantage is taken of this fact in cutting, as it is impossible to make any impression otherwise than by cleaving with the grain.
As regards the colour which constitutes their chief beauty and attractiveness, many theories have been urged, but all are pretty well agreed upon the fact that the colouring matter consists of various metallic oxides, but upon whose nature there is more divergence of opinion. It is admitted that the tone and character of colour depend upon the nature and quantity of the foreign substance in combination with the constituent atoms when first formed. Iron is the substance that forms the most general colouring agent, and it is in the state known as the oxide, and not in its elemental condition, that we find it functioning in this character; when it combines in various degrees with oxygen so as to change its density we find it equally changes colour; for instance, one amount in a molecule will yield red rays; but by changing the quantity of oxygen you will have yellow rays, and another combination will give green, etc. Hauy, who upholds the above views, further states that there are a few exceptions, the spinel and Peruvian emerald being coloured by chrome, and the chrysobery by nickel. We find, especially in the corundum group, that iron in combination with different quantities of oxygen, will produce nearly all the colours of the star spectrum, as shown in the ruby, sapphire, emerald, topaz, and amethyst varieties of this species.
The colour of some precious stones when looked at, is different from that seen when looking through the crystal, that is to say, their reflected rays are not like those transmitted, as we find in the case of the tourmaline and sapphire d' eau or iolite; this latter substance exhibiting the peculiarity of a deep blue colour in the direction of its axis and transversely of a yellowish grey.
The art of heightening and changing the colour of precious stones is not a modern discovery, but was understood and practised by the ancients. Bracelets of black glass have been found in the ruins at Chaldea, proving how early such imitations were used for ornaments; and in the time of Pliny the principal gem minerals were frequently imitated, the emerald being often selected for that purpose, being one of the best and most valuable. Heat, as is well known, will produce this effect upon some gems; and to this agent we owe the fine tints of the carnelian. It often effaces dark spots and impurities and equalises their colour, a result which is [Page 6] obtained by either wrapping the stone in a sponge for cremation, or by placing it in a crucible and subjecting it to a high temperature; the modification of the colours is obtained by a more complex process which has been successfully undertaken with agates, chalcedony, and carnelian, at Idar and Onerstein in Germany.
Judged from the standpoint of electrical capacity we find that some bodies are naturally electric, while others may have this power excited artificially by heat, friction, or pressure. Generally speaking, however, all precious stones possess this quality in varying degrees, being either positive or negative, while the tourmaline above quoted is certainly a remarkable stone since, besides possessing a duplicity of colours, and also the power of double refraction, it uniquely adds to its above enumerated qualifications the power of being positively electric at its one end and negatively at the other, so that after being heated and placed on a suitable frame it will turn on its pivot like a magnetic needle, and on bringing a magnet near it, one end will be attracted and the other repelled, thus indicating the polarity above alluded to. This duplex faculty is but seldom found, as it is usually manifest in only one degree — either a positive or negative. The gems called boracite and topaz also possess this duplex magnetic power, and also exhibit the same quality of crystallisation, that known as hemihedral — it would be out of place were I not to mention at this point the lodestone or native magnet, an ore from which the best iron is obtained, and which is naturally magnetic, without requiring the action of heat to render it so as in the case of other bodies.
With regard to the qualities of hardness and their specific gravity, I will not inflict upon you any long list of the precious gems with a detailed account in figures of their relativity in this direction. Sufficient to say that as regards the quality of hardness the diamond ranks first and jet last on the list. By hardness I may remark that I do not mean the power of resisting crushing weight, since a very hard mineral may be very brittle, nor does it depend upon the tenacity with which the particles cohere, or its infrangibility, since the hardest stones, like the diamond, may be easily broken by a fall or a blow: but it implies the quality of resisting the action of a point — like that of a needle — or the difficulty of being scratched by any softer substance. And as regards the specific gravity we find that the precious stones vary between one and five, beginning with amber and ending with crocidolite.
In viewing our subject also from the characteristics of fusibility and combustibility, we find that some precious stones possess the latter quality but not the former, as in the case of the diamond. The effect of heat on the different species of gem minerals varies; with some their colour changes, others assume a globular form, or swell and decrepitate, or [Page 7] become enamel. Others again become phosphorescent when heated, while some are reduced to powder; except the garnet nearly all precious stones are infusible, unless combined with foreign substances or fluxes such as soda or borax. Chemicals operate variously upon them; some are affected by their action, such as the turquoise, garnet, chrysolite and tourmaline, which are affected by acids, the opal by the action of potash, while the diamond, corundum and spinel are untouched by any reagents whatever.
With regard to their optical properties, including the refraction and polarization of light, we find that some are single refractors and others double, that is to say the appearance of an object as seen through the crystal is either single or double — the latter one of the most curious phenomena in nature. This property of double refraction belongs to such of the fundamental forms as have unequal axes, that is to all except those of the monometic or tesseral system, which is defined by those possessing three axes, all of which are equal and intersect at right angles as in the cube, octahedron, etc.; the case of the former we find exemplified in the case of the ruby, quartz, emerald, garnet, etc., the topaz and tourmaline being particularly noticeable for their power of double refraction, whilst of the latter, or monometric system, the diamond is a good example. With regard to the polarization of light in dealing with gems the most interesting case is that of our old friend the tourmaline. If we cut a crystal of this substance parallel to the axis into thin plates of a uniform thickness (about one twentieth of an inch) and polish each side, it possesses the property of polarising light transmitted through it in a remarkable manner. If such a plate is held before the eye in looking at the sun or any artificial light, a great portion will be transmitted through the plate which will appear quite transparent, having only the accidental colour of the crystal; but the light so transmitted will be polarised light, and on being analysed by a second plate, which may be done by looking through both at the same time, we find that when the axes of both plates coincide and are parallel to each other, the light which is passed through the first will also freely pass through the second, and they will together appear perfectly transparent; but when one is turned round, so that the axes of each plate are at right angles (that is to say, across each other) not a ray of light will pass through — they will appear perfectly opaque though we may be looking at the meridian sun — thus showing that the vibrations of light are only visible in this substance when they are parallel to its axes, all other vibrations being stopped when the second or analysing plate is placed perpendicular to the first — this is the most remarkable instance of the crystallised group; many others possess this peculiar quality, but in a lesser degree.
In dealing with the occult properties of gems from the traditional point of view, we have such a mass of evidence that only portions of it can be [Page 8] selected and utilised in a paper of this description. They play such an important part in the world's history, from the earliest antiquity to the present time, that they have ever been regarded as objects of the highest value, and have only been parted with by force, or the most necessitous circumstances. We find Pliny citing thirty-six ancient writers on precious stones, yet only one remains to us at the present day, that of Theophrastus, B.C. 300. Amongst other early writers on this subject are Herodotus, Democritus, Zoroaster, Solinus and Quintus Curtius. Plato, also, in the "Timaeus", offers a solution as to the origin of precious stones, dealing with it somewhat after the method already mentioned with the first emanation of the elements. Turning to early history, we find the Urim and Thummim stand out foremost as a medium for divine communication. We are told that the Shekinah gleamed with a sombre darkness when the anger of the Lord was kindling, but when he was at peace with his people the light of heaven shone brightly on the stones of the sacred vestment, In some accounts it was a special stone, the sapphire, that was the sensitive agent of this manifestation. Whether we take this literally or otherwise, since Josephus and the Vulgate versions differ, it will not be amiss at this point to consider the fact that the word Shekinah is synonymous with the first Sephira (vide "Secret Doctrine", vol. I., p. 355), which is the spiritual substance sent forth by the Infinite Light, or the feminized Holy Ghost, a kind of Kabbalistic Mulaprakriti, as it is the veil of Ain-Soph the Endless and Absolute, as taught by the Rabbins of Asia Minor. (" Theosophical Glossary", page 297)
On turning to one of the ancient Indian works, the great epic poem of the Ramayana, it is related that in the Rama Ravana war the demi-god and royal hero Maha Bali, who is presented to us at one time as an Indian king and at another as a military monkey, is slain, and that Indra, the lord of the atmosphere, procured the body and with the lightning cut it into many parts. ''From the purity of Bali's actions the different portions of his body became the germs of various gems, from his bones came diamonds; from his eyes sapphires; from his blood rubies; from his marrow emeralds; from his flesh crystals; from his tongue coral; and from his teeth pearls. All this I take to be the Hindu way of expressing the emanation of the phenomenal from the noumenal, and a beautiful allegory it is to those who can take the time and pains to trace it out from the theosophical standpoint. (" Theosophist ", Vol. xiii., p. 475.)
There is another very ancient belief, and I am sorry to say that at present I am unable to fully decipher its real meaning. I refer to a stone called salagrama (or ammonite) mentioned in the " Mahabharata " (p. 102 or 3), and in the" "Vishnu Purana" (Vol. II., p. 313). It is found in the Mahanadi river in Orissa and is described in one of H. T. Colebrook's papers in the "Asiatic Researches" (Vol. VII., p. 240) [Page 9] on the religious ceremonies of the Hindus, " that at death a salagfama stone ought to be placed near the dying man and leaves of holy Badil must be scattered on his head". Colebrook further describes them as being "black stones, mostly round and apparently perforated in one or more places by worms, or as the Hindus believe, by Vishnu in the shape of a reptile. According to the number of perforations and of spiral curves the stone is supposed to contain Vishnu in various characters; for example such a stone perforated in one place only with four spiral curves in the perforation, and with marks resembling a cow's foot, and a long wreath of flowers, contains Lacsmi Narayana". C. Coleman, in his work "The Mythology of the Hindus" (p. 176-177), states that this ceremony of placing the stone near a dying person and having it shown to him, is done in order to secure his soul an introduction to the order of Vishnu, and that these stones are very highly esteemed and valued, one having realised the sum of 2,000 rupees. The brislang stones which are found in the Nerbuddah River are also worshipped as emblems of Siva.
In " Isis Unveiled" (Vol. -2-, Page 626) mention is made
of a famous cornelian that our late teacher possessed, and also the fact that similar ones are used by the
Shamans in Siberia and Tartary; the narrative of its peculiar virtue runs as follows: — "When Madame
Blavatsky was travelling with one of these Shamans for her guide, she frequently asked the man what this talisman
was to him and what its virtues were; to this question he evaded any direct reply, but stated that on a suitable
occasion he would let the stone speak for itself". The account goes on to say — " One afternoon
when we were quite alone I reminded the Shaman of his promise. He sighed and hesitated, but after a short silence
left his place, and going outside hung up a dried goat's head with its prominent horns over a wooden peg, and
then dropping down the felt curtain of the tent, remarked that now no living person would venture in, for the
goat's head was a sign that he was at work. After that, placing his hand in his bosom he drew out the little
stone, about the size of a walnut, and carefully unwrapping it, proceeded as it appeared to swallow it. In
a few moments his limbs stiffened, his body became rigid, and he fell cold and motionless as a corpse. But
for a slight twitching of his lips at any question asked, the scene would have been embarrassing, nay, dreadful.
The sun was setting, and were it not that dying embers flickered at the centre of the tent, complete darkness
would have been added to the oppressive silence which reigned. We have lived in the prairies of the West and
in the boundless steppes of Southern Russia, but nothing can be compared with the silence at sunset on the
sandy deserts of Mongolia. Yet there was the writer alone with what looked no better than a corpse lying on
the ground. Fortunately this did not last long". [Page
'Mahandu', uttered a voice, which seemed to come from the bowels of the earth on which the Shaman was prostrated, ' Peace be with you. What would you have me do for you ?
"Startling as the fact seemed, we were quite prepared for it, for we had seen the Shamans pass through similar performances, 'Whoever you are', we pronounced mentally ,' go to K----- and try to bring the person's thought here. See what that other party does, and tell ... what we are doing and how situated'. ' I am there', answered the same voice, 'the old lady is sitting in the garden — she is putting on her spectacles and reading a letter'. 'The contents of it, and hasten', was the hurried order while preparing notebook and pencil. The contents were given slowly, as if while dictating, for we recognised the Valachian language, of which we know nothing beyond the ability to recognise it, in such a way a whole page was filled.
" 'Look west . . . towards the third pole of the yourta', pronounced
the Tartar in his natural voice, though it sounded hollow and as if coming from afar, 'Her thought is here'.
" Then, with a convulsive jerk the upper portion of the Shaman's body seemed raised, and his head fell heavily on the writer's feet, which he clutched with both his hands. The position was becoming less and less attractive, but curiosity proved a good ally to courage. In the west corner of the tent was standing, life-like, but flickering unsteady and mist-like, the form of a dear old friend, a Roumanian lady of Valachia, a mystic by disposition, but a thorough disbeliever in this kind of occult phenomena.
" 'Her thought is here but her body is lying unconscious, we could not bring her here otherwise', said the voice. We tried in vain to obtain any reply to our questions, the features moved and the form gesticulated as if in fear and agony, but all to no purpose.
"For over two hours the most substantial and unequivocal proofs
that that Shaman's astral soul was travelling at the bidding of our unspoken wish were given us. Ten months
later we received a letter from our Valachian friend, in response to ours in which we had enclosed the page
from the notebook, inquiring of her what she had been doing on that day, and describing the scene in full.
She was sitting — she wrote — in the garden on
that morning (allowing for the difference of time between the two places) prosaically occupied in boiling some
preserves, the letter sent to her was word for word the copy of the one received by her from her brother; all
at once — in consequence of the heat she thought — she fainted, and remembered distinctly dreaming
she saw the writer in a desert place, which she accurately described, and sitting under a 'gypsy's tent', as
she expressed it. 'Henceforth'. she added, 'I can doubt no longer'. [Page
''But our experiment was proved still better. We had directed the Shaman's inner ego to the same friend heretofore mentioned, the Kutchi of Lha'ssa, who travels constantly to British India and back. We know that he was apprised of our critical situation in the desert; for a few hours later came help and we were rescued by a party of twenty-five horsemen, who had been directed by their chief to find us at the place where we were, which no living man endowed with living powers could have known. The chief of this escort was a Shaberon, an "adept" whom we had never seen before, nor did we after that, for he never left his caravansery, and we could have no access to it. But he was a personal friend of the Kutchi. In this case we knew that the 'spiritual double' of the Shaman did not act alone, for he was no adept, but simply a medium. According to a favourite expression of his, as soon as he placed the stone in his mouth his 'father' appeared, dragging him out of his skin and took him wherever he wanted, and at his bidding".
Again in "Isis" (Vol. I., p. 540) reference is made to one of the old writers, Dioscorides, who speaks of the famous stone of Memphis as a small pebble, round, polished and very sparkling, when ground into powder and applied as an ointment to that part of the body on which the surgeon was about to operate either with his scalpel or fire, it preserved that part and only that part from any pain in the operation. In the meantime it was perfectly harmless to the constitution of the patient who retained his consciousness throughout, in no way dangerous from the effects and acted so long as it was kept on the affected part. When taken in a mixture of wine or water all feeling of suffering was perfectly deadened. Pliny also gives a full description of it.
In the "History of Mexico" we find associated with the historical demi-god Quetzo-Cohuatl a striking similarity to the God of the Jews and Christians in many details too numerous to be given here, but should any of you care to pursue this subject further I must refer you to G. Higgins, the "Anacalypis", Vol. 2, page 25-28, and amongst other facts he describes a barred stone called teepatl or teotecpatl or divine stone, which like the above-named salagrama of Hindu descent is equally an object of adoration as they are both worshipped, the similarity of customs in countries so widely distant is singular and has probably the same hidden meaning.
In the case of the lodestone we have a unique description of one of the uses it was attempted to be put to — Dinocrates, a celebrated architect in the time of Alexander the Great, was induced by its magnetic powers to build a temple dedicated to Arsinöe, the wife of Ptolemy Philadelphus, the roof of which was to be made of lodestone so that the iron statue of the queen might remain suspended as if floating in air, only the artist did not live to complete his design. This story might have suggested the idea about the [Page 12] coffin of Mahomet. We also find this lodestone figuring in the Indian temples; these people were very fond in constructing the roof to place stone upon stone after the fashion of an inverted staircase, and in the particular temple dedicated to the sun at Karanak, near the famous Juggernaut, we find that the topmost stone of all was a high block of lode-stone. To give some idea of its size, bearers of beaten iron 21 ft. in length and 8 in. square have been used and are yet existing 200 ft. high above the level of the ground; why it was placed there I am unable to say unless it was symbolical of wisdom, since Pliny in his description of it says " Nature has bestowed upon it both feet and intelligence ".
The gem varieties of the corundum have always been considered by Oriental nations as the most valuable after the diamond, and of all the ornamental stones the sapphire is par excellence the gem of gems and the sacred stone of the ancients, being the one most frequently consecrated to their deities. In " Isis " (Vol. 1, Page 264) we find H. P. B. stating that this stone, which is sacred to Luna, has its veneration based upon something more scientifically exact than a mere groundless superstition — a sacred magical power is ascribed to it which every student of psychological mesmerism can readily understand, since its polished and deep blue surface produces extraordinary somnambulic phenomena. The varied influence of the prismatic colours on the growth of vegetation has been recognised but recently — and investigations of the electrical polarity shows that the diamond, garnet, and amethyst are negative, whilst the sapphire is positive (+ E). Thus the latest experiments of science only corroborate what was known to the Hindu sages before any of the modern academies were founded. " The sapphire", say the Buddhists, "will open barred doors and dwellings (for the spirit of man), it produces a desire for prayer, and brings with it more peace than any other gem, but he who would wear it must lead a pure and holy life."
In the cure of diseases we possess some remarkable facts in the history of precious stones; foremost on our list comes the history of what is known as the Lee Penny. This famous Penny is a precious jewel, although to what class it belongs is not known, and the reason it is so called is on account of its being set in the centre of an old English silver coin. It was obtained by an ancestor of the Lockhart family, of Lee Castle, in the Vale of Clyde, whilst serving in the Crusades, and this jewel was obtained as part payment of a ransom of one of the infidels whom Lee had taken prisoner. Amongst the authentic narratives concerning it on record may be enumerated the following: — It is especially efficacious in diseases of horned cattle, and the mode of administering it is this: holding it by the chain to which it is attached, it is three times plumped down into a quantity of water, and once drawn round, three dips and a [Page 13] swirl, as the country people express it, and the cattle or others affected, drinking this water, the cure is speedy and effectual. Even at this day, rife as the Gospel is now said or supposed to be, people sometimes come from great distances with vessels which they fill with water treated in the manner described, and which they take home in order to administer to their cattle. In the reign of Charles I, the people of Newcastle being afflicted with the plague, sent for and obtained the loan of the Lee Penny, leaving the sum of £6,000 sterling in its place as a pledge. They found it so effectual or were so impressed with so high an opinion of its virtues, that they proposed to keep it and forfeit the money; but the Laird of Lee would not consent to part with so venerable and so gifted an heirloom. The laird of that time was a high Cavalier, and one of the charges brought against him by the party whom he had to oppose was that he effected cures by means of necromancy. Another remarkable instance is on record of the case of Lady Baird of Laughton Hall, at the end of the last century, having been bitten by a mad dog and exhibiting all the symptoms of hydrophobia, her husband obtained a loan of the talisman, and she having drank and bathed in water which it had sanctified got completely better".
That this transaction really took place seems indubitable, for an ancient female member of the Lee family who died lately, remembered hearing the laird who lent the Penny to Lady Baird, describe how he and his dame had been invited to Laughton Hall and splendidly entertained in gratitude for the use of the talisman. A few years after the stone was returned from Newcastle a complaint was lodged against Sir James Lockhart on account of "the superstitious using of a stone set in silver for the curing of diseased cattle". This came before the Synod of Glasgow, and resulted in the fact that they recognised its peculiar virtues and that the laird be permitted to continue using it. A document was drawn up embodying the above facts, and is placed amongst the other documentary evidence of the said court. It appears to my mind a very probable thing that Sir Walter Scott founded his novel, "The Talisman", upon the above fact, as it antedates his work by many centuries.
There is a famous stone called the bezoar or beza, said to be procured from the inside of the cervicalra, a wild animal of Arabia. This stone was supposed to have been formed of the poison of serpents which had bitten her produce, combined with the counteracting matter with which nature had furnished it. It was firmly believed in the middle ages that this was a potent charm against the plague and poison, hence the origin of the name from the Persian Pad-Zahr expelling poison, or Bad-Zohr the same meaning, its value increases with its size, the larger ones having realised very high prices, especially in India. Four of these stones are enumerated among the treasures of the Emperor Charles V, after his death, and one [Page 14] great beza stone set in gold, which had belonged to Queen Elizabeth, was counted among the jewels of James I. At the execution of Louis de Luxembourg, Constable of France, in the reign of Louis XI, (vide Monstrelet) he removed from his neck a beza which he had long worn, and handed it to the friar in attendance, with directions for it to be given to his son as a legacy, which instructions were not carried out, as by order of the Chancellor it was delivered to the King. Tavernier, the traveller, in his works also mentions this beza stone, and, amongst other of its properties, indicates how to tell the true beza stone from the counterfeit, he says: "There are two infallible tests; one is to place it in the mouth, and if it is genuine it will give a leap and fix itself on the palate, the other consists in placing the stone in a glass of water, and if true bezoa the water will boil".
In the case of the Bloodstone I find that in the West Indies it is used for the cure of wounds, being wetted in cold water, and also in magical works it is used in incantations, when the person using it was rendered invisible; anyhow, it served well with the Gnostics, who employed it largely in their gems and talismans; the Egyptians also worked with it, and later on it was in great demand in the Byzantine and Renaissance periods.
The idea that the brilliancy of gems varies in sympathy with the health of the wearer is very well known, and seems to belong to all of the precious gems but more pronounced in the more valuable; in the case of the ruby it is stated that it gives warning by a change in its colour when misfortune presages its wearer. Says an old writer, Wolfgangus Gabelschwerus: — "I have often heard of this quality of the ruby from men of high estate, and I also now know of my own experience; alas, for on 5th day of December, 1600, as I was going with my beloved wife Catherina from Stuttgard to Caluna, I noticed that a very fine ruby which I wore in a ring (which she had given me) lost repeatedly, and each time most completely its splendid colour, assuming a sombre blackish hue, which lasted not one day but several, so much so that being greatly astonished I drew the ring from my finger and placed it in a casket. I also warned my wife that some evil followed her or me, the which I augured from the change in the ruby. And truly I was not deceived, for within a few days she was taken mortally sick. After her death the ruby resumed its pristine colour and brilliancy."
In the case of the diamond also, this stone loses its brilliancy with
the health of the wearer and only regains it again when its owner recovers; this I have ascertained from personal
knowledge. It also in common with other gems is capable of detecting poisons by exhibiting a moisture or perspiration
on its surface. Holinshed, in speaking of the death of King John, says: "And when the King suspected
them (the peers) to be poisoned, indeed by reason that such precious stones as he had about him cast forth
certain sweat as it were betraying the poison, etc.". [Page
We also find in the history of Louis XI, of France, that the day after his reconciliation with his brother, the Duke of Guienne, he sent to his brother, bidding him accept as a token of fast friendship, a beautiful golden cup burnished with precious stones, which were gifted with the power of preserving from poison whoever used it.
There is a stone called the snake stone, that is said to be extracted from the head of the King Cobra species, it has the faculty of rendering the possessor invulnerable against the bites of snakes, and in fact the venomous reptile exhibits terror and turns tail when approached with it. I remember one case quite well, told to me by Madame Blavatsky, and corroborated by our President, Colonel Olcott, in which the latter employed one of these stones, kept at our Head Quarters in India, successfully when confronting a snake. I need hardly remark that there are many worthless imitations of this and the other valuable gems; and I should consider that it would be exceedingly difficult to obtain a genuine snake stone.
We find some remarkable-statements in the "Secret Doctrine" (Vol. II., p. 431) about stones generally, and these snake ones in particular; also about what are termed oracular or speaking stones, it says: — "The reader is referred to Vol. IV. of the 'Académie des Inscriptions' ( Mémoires, page 513 et seq.) if he would study the various properties of flints and pebbles from this standpoint of magic and psychic powers". In a poem on stones attributed to Orpheus, those stones are divided into ophites and siderites, "serpent stones" and "star stones". The ophite is shaggy, hard, heavy, black, and has the gift of speech; when one prepares to cart it away it produces a sound similar to the cry of a child. It is by means of this stone that Helanus foretold the ruin of Troy, his fatherland, etc. (Falconnet). Sanchoniathan and Philo Byblos, in referring to these betyles call them "animated stones". Photius repeats what Damascius Asclepiades, Isadonus, and the physician Eusebius had asserted before him; the latter (Eusebius) never parted with his ophites, which he carried in his bosom, and received oracles from them delivered in a small voice, resembling low whistling. Arnobius (a holy man, who "from a Pagan had become one of the lights of the church", Christians tell their readers), confesses he could never meet on his passage with men of such stones, without putting it questions, "which is answered occasionally in a clear and sharp small voice''. "Where", asks H. P. B., "is the difference between the Christian and the Pagan ophites ?"
John Aubery, in his "Miscellanies", mentions an occult principle inherent in the beryl stone, viz., that of inducing clairvoyance; he quotes several reliable authorities for his statement, amongst others the Earl of Denbigh, then Ambassador at Venice; Sir Marmaduke Langdale saw in one when in Italy, and foretold events that came true; Sir Edward Harley, [Page 16] Knight of the Bath, firmly believed in this occult fact, and relates various occurrences that transpired with a beryl he possessed, in fact he is very careful to have all of his statements properly attested, so as to be worthy of belief.
Apollonius of Tyana paid particular attention to the subject of precious
stones and changed his rings daily, each one having a particular stone for each day of the week according to
the laws of judicial astrology, and many writers assign, in carrying out the correspondence of nature, a stone
to the months, the signs of the Zodiac, the days of the week and the seven planets, and in the Cabala we find
the Rabbinical writers specially dedicating a branch to it called Notarium in conjunction with Lithomancy.
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