Sunday, 17 February 2019

The Metaphors in Johann Bessler’s Apologia Poetica, Chapter XLVI

There is an intriguing passage in Apologia Poetica which has been the subject of much debate.  Most of the book is written rhyming couplets, suggesting poetry, but this passage has a more poetic feel not so obvious elsewhere. Bessler uses metaphors for the informatio he dangles in front of us. What follows is my take on Johann Bessler’s intention in writing this confusing but fascinating piece. Original translation in black, my comments in blue under each sentence.

Apologia Poetica, chapter XLVI

1. “Should anyone wish to  speculate about the truth, let him just ponder on the rich pageantry of words which I now cause to shower down upon him!
Bessler is saying that what ever you may have heard the truth can be found in what follows.

2. Let a Gartner be no breaker of fences, even if a Wagner leaves ruts in the road..
Bessler is suggesting that Gartner and Wagner must not be allowed to ruin his work. His wheel is like  a garden or a road -  a finished and working facility that his two enemies want to wreck.

3. For greed is an evil plant.
The word ‘wurzel’ also means ‘root’.  So the sentence should read ‘greed is the root of evil’. According to Wikipedia this phrase was the origin of the modern saying ‘money is the root of evil’, and was associated with the early Jews and Christians. I believe Bessler is saying that Gartner and Wagner act through greed and avarice and envy.

4.  An anvil receives many blows.
The following sentences are designed to convey information about his wheel.  So firstly an anvil receives many blows, which in the context of what follows, suggests that a heavy weight is applied with additional force – gravity plus the smith’s arm strength

5.  A driver drives.
The drives steers or guides a force, so it is not passive but it is not providing force so much as guiding its use.

6.  A runner runs.
A runner runs using his own power, not some external source.

7.  The seer sees. The buyer buys.
A seer sees, (passive) The buyer buys (active)  Examples of passive and active processes.

8.  The rain drips down. Snow falls.
Effect of gravity or heaviness on rain and snow.

9.  The shotgun shoots. The bow twangs.
A physical production of force other than through gravity

10.  A great fat herd of fat, lazy, plump horses wanders aimlessly. 
Unguided and unaffected directly by gravity, just fat and heavy. weights hanging.

11.  The flail would rather be with the thresher than with the scholar.
The flail is forced downwards but ‘prefers’ to fly/bounce back up again. The word for ‘flail’ can also mean ‘oaf’, ‘thresher’ can mean ‘beater’ and ‘scholar’ also mean ‘Doctor’ or ‘teacher’.

12.  Children play with heavy clubs among the broken columns.
Weighted levers, each with a hinge along their length.

13.  Acrobats and shadow-boxers are as fleet and nimble as the wind.
Swift in their actions.

14.  The cunning cat slinks silently along and snatches nice juicy mice.
I think this relates to part of the mechanism in action.

15.  The dog creeps out of his kennel just as far as his chain will stretch. He knows how to please by playing with his little toys and knick-knacks. He wags his tail, creeps through the hoop and is rewarded with pats on his paws by the stiff fops who watch him.
Again, I think this relates to part of the mechanism in action.

16.  A wheel appears on the scene - is it really a wheel, for it does not have the normal type of rim. It revolves, but without other wheels inside or outside, and without weights, wind, or springs.
A wheel, but not like those on a cart etc.  It doesn’t have the iron rims like they do. It spins but you can’t see inside so you don’t know what’s in there.  

17.  Seen sideways or full-face it is as resplendent as a peacock's tail. 
It looks amazing!

18.  It turns to the right and to the left; it spins around in any possible direction, whether laden or empty.
As we know it spins in either direction loaded or unloaded.

19.  All things belong to one of the three kingdoms (animal, vegetable, matter) and - you have the physical evidence in front of you. 
The above comments and those that follow point to Bessler’s knowledge of Alchemy.  There is nothing unusual about the materials of which it is made.

20.  Without such things as sulphur, salt and mercury all things will soon come to a standstill - the qualities of the elements are necessary to keep things going. Saturn, Mars and Jupiter are ready to join in any battle.
Salt, mercury, and sulphur equate to the concepts of body, spirit, and soul. Body is the physical self. The soul is the immortal, spiritual part. This suggests the continuous (immortal) action of his wheel.
Saturn = lead, Mars = iron and Jupiter = tin. These point to the materials necessary for the weights and bearings etc, the metal parts.

21.  Even the things we eat do not lose elemental influence - for it spreads itself through every limb and sinew of our bodies.
Gravity (or heaviness)affects every part of the body.

22.  A crab crawls from side to side. It is sound, for it is designed thus.
Don’t throw out any designs just because they are not intuitively correct.

23.  Poltergeists often wander freely through locked doors. But softly! - speak softly of all the marvels, lest the enemy grows wise! He will drench me with his spittle so that I will lose my temper and, in a sudden fit, cast aside the mantle that conceals my wheel! But he shall be thwarted in his desires! His snapping will not bring me to that point! Let that be brought home to him, for rather, I shall now magnanimously set down in my book the following specific questions which have in recent days.
A warning to himself to guard his tongue and his temper."

This is not cut and dried, its open to criticism and is just my current attempt to bring meaning to the text. Bessler enjoyed puzzling us with his hints and clues, but all of them are ambiguous and if anyone here feels I've missed something then please share it.


Saturday, 9 February 2019

Bessler Really Was Ahead Of His Time.

Johann Bessler invented his perpetual motion machine in 1712.  His timing was unfortunate because it had to compete with the beginning of the Steam era.  Thomas Newcomen’s engine was so much more powerful and clearly it meshed with the then current understanding of steam in the world of science and it too, surfaced in 1712 too,  an unhappy coincidence for Bessler.

The science of steam had a prehistory of successful experiments among whose work Denis Papins stands out. But despite a common curiosity about perpetual motion machines there were no successful demonstration to presage Bessler’s claims.  The age of steam arrived and proceeded to develop at an alarming rate.

Once the steam era had developed to the limit of its own technology, the age of the internal combustion engine took over and the power of electricity dawned and between the three of them poor old Bessler's wheel never stood a chance, even if the men of science had accepted it.  I suppose I should mention nuclear power here but as we shall see, the earlier three sources of power are nearing the end of their useful life unless a purer cleaner form of energy can be found.  The huge effect of pollution from all three resources is considered with some trepidation as global warming begins to make its effect palpable.  Continuously more strident calls are being made for a reduction in the producton of pollution, including the invention of ways of dealing with nuclear waste.  This is believed to be achievable with the introduction of a clean, alternative energy.

So here we are our tiny niche of Besslerites, believing in his perpetual motion machine, and maybe we have the answer at our finger tips.  Whether the solution is found and proven this year or next, it is imminent.  Will his 300 year old invention blossom forth introducing a new era of power from the force of gravity, a clean, low technology available in any location around the world?   Independant of local conditions, flowing water, the wind, the tides, geothermal or any of the old power sources.

Is this coincidence?  If Bessler had not found the solution in 1712, would we have even bothered to search for it today?  If his wheel had been sold during Bessler's life would it have had any effect on the development of the burgeoning steam, oil, electricity and nuclear powers?  Isn't it perfect timing for the solution to be found now when the world seeks an alternative clean, cheap energy to run all those amazing devices which were the outcome of the three earlier stages of power development?

This whole scenario looks like a long planned series of events which are designed to end with Bessler's gravity wheel, but only after hundreds of years of development of the earlier forms of energy.  Would we have got where we are today without the commercial development of steam engines, petrol-driven vehicles, electric trains, ships and aircraft?  Perhaps we had to forgo Bessler's dream in order to get to where we are now, before we could take steps to use our discoveries but power them in a different way to bring to a stop global warming?

What of Bessler's final panagyric to his sponsor, Karl, dated 2019, another coincidence? Was it some subconscious nudge to publish something dated 300 years hence?  It was not a decision taken with any awareness, just a lucky occurence like many coincidences which litter our lives.  How often we note that something almost always insignificant happened and say, "that was lucky!"  But sometimes it almost feels as if some guiding hand was at work.

Few people know of an accident I had in my mid twenties when my car's brakes failed and I went over a very steep and high embankment.  My car flew through the air before it hit upside down and rolled several times.  I was thrown out (pre seat belt days) when the door burst open on the intial impact, and apart from a brief period of unconsciousness I recovered uninjured.  My car was not so lucky and was written off.  For many months afterwards I felt euphoric due to my amazing escape from what looked like certain death and was convinced I was destined for some important purpose. Perhaps that time has come.


The Metaphors in Johann Bessler’s Apologia Poetica, Chapter XLVI

There is an intriguing passage in Apologia Poetica which has been the subject of much debate.  Most of the book is written rhyming couplets...