The story goes that an iron stone had sat on a hill at “Iron Creek” Alberta from time immemorial. As long as it was left there, the local Cree and Blackfoot nations prospered. Hunters placed offerings of beads and knifes at its foot before they set out, and shamans brought patients to it to benefit from its powerful healing properties. It was known that if the stone were to be disturbed, terrible misfortune would follow. In the latter part of the 19th century the stone was removed by missionaries to the farmyard of a mission house. This instigated the chain of war, disease, decimation of the buffalo, and the loss of their lands that so devastated the Native peoples.
In another story—this one appearing in the history books—Greenland Natives showed Robert Peary, ‘the first man to reach the North Pole’, a great iron stone that was called The Woman. She was mother and creator. One of her gifts was to provide spearheads of such efficacy that the hunter could not fail to kill his prey. Peary began at once to see how he might transport the stone to ‘civilisation’ for study.
Both these stories appear in Visible Worlds, and they are there because of magnetism—the secret of the iron stone: its power to generate belief and magic, its attraction for the rational and scientific mind too—its invitation to such a mind to debunk the mysticism and wonder that have always attached to such stones. Thus the missionaries, thus Admiral Peary.
In the 1920’s and 30’s one strand of the new science of psychology appeared in North America as Personal Magnetism—a program of self-development. Following its prescription, ‘millions’ of men and women improved their health, found increased confidence, and learned to distinguish between suitable and unsuitable mates. The magnetic man had an attractive resonant voice capable of holding the attention of audiences; he could enlarge the pupils of his eyes at will in order to mesmerize, and he could memorise, if need be, a page at a glance using the vitality and concentration that increased personal magnetism had given him. The magnetic woman was calm, able to convince the others of her point of view, and free of the nerves, poor digestion and ‘hysteria’ that plagued many of her contemporaries. She could take her place in the world at large—even the business world—without fear once she had personal magnetism as her buffer. She and he achieved these successes through certain mental and physical disciplines, and by consuming magnetic foods. The prescribed diet looks remarkably like those found in modern health programs, and distinguishes between natural and processed (often smoked or otherwise preserved) foods.
It is easy to laugh at such a system and at the human frailties and needs it betrays. But the fascination with magnetism that has punctuated history (we are in the midst of a revival now with magnetic bracelets, foot pads, and mattresses on the one hand, and renewed interest in magnetism as a source of power useful to industry on the other) surely has something to do with the fundamentals: our correspondence as beings of energy to the energy systems that surround us—the magnetic field of the earth, the sun, the other stars and planets. Sunspot activity, the aurora borealis, the arrival of meteors affect us measurably—and they certainly affect my characters.
Somewhere I read that most great cities, ancient and modern, and most other sites of significant human enterprise were situated at strongly magnetic points on the earth. This would make sense in terms of another strand of magnetism, the very practical researches of the late Frances Nixon, that originated in Cheminus on Vancouver Island near where I live. This society of magnetists continues to have numbers of adherents world-wide. The basic idea is that the magnetic orientation of each individual is fixed at birth and is specific to the place of birth. As long as that original orientation is maintained, the individual remains healthy, but once it is disturbed there is a great possibility of disease.
Electrical storms, volcanic eruptions, sunspot activity, x-rays, dental fillings can all be sources of interference. Mrs. Nixon suggested first channeling to one’s personal magnetic pole by suing a chain suspended from a bar as a pendulum, turning slowly clockwise and then counter clockwise through the four directions to discover the direction of maximum magnetic pull, and then working to strengthen this alignment and to overcome areas of imbalance within the physical system. The brain, thyroid, heart, pelvis, spine, legs, and feet are important magnetic receptors (and thus vulnerable to disturbance): these can be stimulated simply by tapping them with the end of a ball-point pen. When imbalances are so strong that the ‘channel’ cannot be determined, they are neutralized by placing ice between the feet and grounding the interfering static.
We are all part of magnetism’s great net, says one of the characters in my book. We are attracted to and repelled from each other according to our inborn polarities. When all is well our circuits intersect, support each other, information passes back and forth; our lines of origin are guy wires to the soul on its journey through possibilities. Infinite energy. Nuclear fission. Or, as the adherents of Personal Magnetism would put it, “It Takes a Brain that is Wrong and Makes it Right.”