CEPA eprint 1748 (HVF-146)

Introduction to Natural Magic

Foerster H. von & Schroeder P. (1993) Introduction to Natural Magic. Systems Research 10(1): 65–79. Available at http://cepa.info/1748
Hello Heinz, and hello Mai.
It is seven a.m., Monday morning, September 28, 1987. I am sitting in our kitchen on a brilliant, crisp, clear fall morning here in Orono, Maine. My children aren’t up yet. Mazie is not up yet. A moment of peace to get started on this taperecorded query.
It took a little longer for me to get this together than I had planned. I had disabled the record function on our little tape recorder here at home, and I didn’t get around to fixing that until yesterday.
(The family rises.)
Hello, again. It is 11:35, same morning. All the flurries of the morning are over. I wanted to share a little bit of our family life with you.
Pretty soon I should be getting to the point, which we discussed on the telephone. Just some accounts. I have several specifics in mind. The first, and we agreed on it, is that I would like to hear the background of the set of volumes that you got, Heinz, from your cousin; I think it was from your cousin.
What I would like, most of all, is to have the pleasure of hearing a few of your stories again. I wish we could be there together with you. I am not much concerned with obtaining a definitive version – there is never much inconsistency in what you present. I can remember the themes of many of your tales, but the details have been lost.
Because of course, when we sit and listen with attention to what you say, and to each other at all times, we don’t make very good notes. Then of course, later it is difficult to make notes because the memory has not been tuned. So, in a sense this is a matter of record, but not necessarily of definitive record.
Now, before my family returns, and before we make all the preliminaries a little too long, I hope you still accept my idea here. Please wait until you have a few moments free. Take your cassette to the woods, or to the airport, whatever you’re doing, and when you have some moments, sit and add. I will appreciate that.
I will commit myself to making a visual transcription of these documents. In many ways, the printed page is the most flexible of media. I am somewhat uncomfortable, still, speaking into the tape recorder, even talking to you, but I expect that in time this is something that will also be taken care of.
Our greetings to you, and I look forward to hearing from you both.
Paul
Dear Paul,
That was really magic, when you transformed me from my deck on Rattlesnake Hill in Pescadero to your home in Maine, allowing me to hear your children, Mazie, you, the clatter, the singing, the good morning – almost tasting the good food. And I thought it was a most ingenious idea to invite me, or to invite anybody, to become a storyteller, because you tell the story in such a wonderful way that it is absolutely irresistible to continue the yarn which you started to spin.
Now, you have invited me to tell some of the stories which I experienced in my youth, and you also have asked me to give the background of these stories. And I think I will suffer a similar fate as Thucydides who wanted to write about the Peloponnesian War. But in order to give the background of the Peloponnesian War, he practically spent the rest of his life writing about the background, and did not have very much time to talk about the Peloponnesian War. Now I will try to somewhat balance this act, and I will give you a little bit of the background, and then comes the story of Wiegleb’s Introduction to Natural Magic. There are twenty volumes, printed at the end of the 18th century, between 1780 and 1795.
So first, let me give you the background of the stories I am going to tell you, dear Paul.
The background has probably three major chapters. And the first chapter is perhaps to establish my relationship with my cousin, Martin, with whom I grew up practically as a brother, with a brother. We were both born in the year 1911. He was a little bit earlier than I was, and the relation between both of us is via my mother and his father. They were siblings. My mother was born Lilith Lang, and his father was Erwin Lang. Erwin married an extraordinary, elfin, beautiful, ethereal dancer by the name of Grete Wiesenthal, who conquered the world with her charms and her absolutely incredibly beautiful light and unearthly dancing. She broke away from the ballet, as many of the great dancers at the turn of this century, like Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Gertrude Harrison and many, many others.
My mother happened to be la costumière for her sister-in-law. They were all very close to each other. She not only designed some of the at that time outrageous but extremely lovely costumes, but she was also there in the evenings, when the performances were going on, and she saw that everybody wore the dresses and the designs she made, in the proper way.
The way in which my cousin Martin and I became much closer than just the two sons of two siblings was that my father, Emil, and Martin’s father, Erwin, were taken prisoners of World War I practically in the first week after the hostilities broke out. My uncle Erwin was to fight on the eastern front, on the Russian front, and my father Emil was sent down to the Southeast to battle the Serbs, who were already well entrenched, and were prepared for the beginning of this war.
They were both captured. Within the first week, my father was taken as a prisoner of war, taken away by the Serbs – today you would call them the Yugoslays,[Note 1] but this was at that time Serbia – and my uncle Erwin was put into one of the big trains. The Germans lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the first two or three weeks. They were completely unprepared for trench warfare. They were still riding on horses, pulling out their sabres and trying to attack the Russians who were deeply entrenched, and shooting them down with their machine guns.
My uncle Erwin was transported to Siberia, where he stayed until practically 1917, when he succeeded in fleeing, and by train and on foot reached China, ultimately arriving in Tsingtao. There he met the great philosopher Richard Wilhelm, whose name you probably know as the translator of many of the Chinese philosophical works, most prominent, of course, the I Ching. They are translated into English, and, Paul, I am sure, if you have an I Ching, it is the one translated by Richard Wilhelm.
Ok, that’s the story of Erwin. But the story of my father: he was brought to Serbia, where the Serbs were defeated after about two months of battle, and then he was transferred to the Italians, and became an Italian prisoner of war, and stayed on a tiny, tiny island between Corsica and Sardinia.
But nevertheless these two boys, Heinz and Martin, grew up without fathers, and the mothers, being very close, arranged also that the boys were very close. So Martin practically grew up with me in our house, because Grete was of course dancing all over Germany, making performances etc., etc. And if Martin was not at our house, he was staying with his Grandmother, the mother of Lilith and Erwin, Marie. So I was, in many cases, taken with my mother in the evening – because the idea of a baby-sitter didn’t exist at that time – I was taken by my mother to the theatres, where Grete Wiesenthal performed. And I, as a good boy, was to sit in a little corner, and watch the wonderful ladies who changed from one costume into another, and probably at that time I developed this preferred taste for women, and I think this stuck with me for the rest of my life. If you have the chance to see these absolutely incredible creatures, like elves, going out onto the stage, coming back, transforming themselves into other elves and going out onto the stage again, and you watch from the sidelines, you get a very different impression; what incredible, magical, ethereal, creatures they are.
Martin and I stayed together very frequently. When we were approximately the age of eleven, for some reason or other we became very much fascinated with magic. We got one of the standard little boxes which you buy in a store, which contain all the magic tricks for kids, but when we opened it, when we tried to do some of these tricks, we thought it absolutely ridiculous, so stupid; everybody will find out what that is, I mean, the double floor and all that silly stuff.
We said, this is really…, this is not the way of doing magic.
We started to develop our own illusions, and soon became more and more deeply involved. There is a very great and internationally famous store in Vienna, which designs, constructs and delivers great illusions for magicians from all over the world. People of the great performance stage came to that store, which was called the Zauberklingel, the Magic Bell. A klingel is a bell, a German word for bell, so the magic bell. But it happened to be that there was a Herr Klingel, a Mr. Bell, who owned the store, and who was, when we were about eleven, probably about sixty. When we went into the store to buy perhaps a little something here or there, of course what he did was always first to show what the whole illusion was about. And then, if you liked it, you could buy it.
Of course, all of these things were completely out of the world for us, we couldn’t buy them. But we came as if we would like to see this particular piece of illusion, “Could we please see it?” So he looked at us, of course, very condescending, and said, “Would you buy it?” We said, “Ahem, well, we don’t know, we would like to see it first.” So he showed it to us, when he was in a good mood, otherwise he threw us out, and then we said, “Well, ahem, we are not going to buy, thank you very much,” and left the store very fast.
Of course, while we were watching, we were thinking, “How is it done?” Since I am of a constructive type, and Martin is a performing type, I was sitting down, constructing the thing – how it could work? – and Martin then developed how to perform it. So we both co-operated in the performance and construction of these things.
For me it was quite clear that you have to have a good mechanical and physical mind in order to perform very great illusions. For Martin, however, it was quite clear that the mechanics didn’t do it. What he did, of course, was the performance. So I learned from him the accent on performance, and he learned from me the technical problems.
Now both Martin and I, when we grew up, fell in love with one particular German Romantic author. He is not too well known as an author in the United States, or in the English-speaking domain, but is indirectly very well known through the Offenbach opera Hoffmann’s Tales. The German Romantic poet E.T.A. Hoffmann was one of our very much preferred poets, writers. There was one story which fascinated both Martin and me, that was the story of a tomcat. And the tomcat’s name was Murr, m-u-r-r. Tomcat Murr it would be pronounced in English.
Tomcat Murr was a very unusual cat, because he learned by sitting on the shoulder or on the table of his master, who was in the employ of a small Duke in Germany, and this master’s name was Master Abraham. And he was sitting at the desk of Master Abraham, who was working practically all the night writing and computing and thinking about this and that, and Kater Murr, or Tomcat Murr, was watching his master, learning how to write and how to read. So he tried it out a little bit for himself, and then observed that he could indeed write, and Tomcat Murr thought his life was so fascinating, that he should put it down as his biography, his autobiography.
When he decided to write his autobiography he was short of paper, and he did not know where to find some, but he saw stacks of paper on his master’s desk, partly thrown away, apparently discarded. So he took these papers and started to write his autobiography. Now, when he was through with the autobiography, he made it known to one of the publishers in that province. The publisher was of course fascinated with a tomcat’s autobiography, so he said, “We are going to print that.” This was the Autobiography of Tomcat Murr.
When they started to typeset the story of Tomcat Murr, something very peculiar happened. At certain points, the story of Tomcat stopped and continued in an entirely different fashion, a story of a little Duchy in Germany, where the master is writing about the kind of things he has to prepare; he has to prepare an Aeolian Harp for the next festivity of the Duke, when he gets visitors – he has to make the water fountains in the proper shape.
It turns out that Kater Murr was writing on the other side of pages which were written by his master, Master Abraham. The printers found this out too late, so they could not, in practice, stop. The whole Kater Murr autobiography is now written in such a way that you read a couple of pages about the Tomcat, and then you read a couple of pages of the stories of Master Abraham.
The fascinating thing, going through that book, is that you will see that the observations of Tomcat Murr and the experiences of Master Abraham are interlinked, because they live at the same place, live in the same environment and they live in the same cultural setting. These are two complementary stories.
For me it was fascinating to read the Master Abraham part. I even made little notes on the corners of the pages where Master Abraham’s story continued, so I could skip the Tomcat Murr story, because Master Abraham was applying physics to the entertainment world. The water fountains, the water plays, the Aeolian Harp, the ways in which he constructed automata to entertain his employers, etc., etc., fascinated me.
I knew that Master Abraham was collecting his information from one extraordinarily famous book. This was from a man by the name of Wiegleb. Wiegleb published a series of books – I did not know how many – a series of books which were devoted to the introduction to natural magic, or Lehrbuch, that means textbook, on natural magic in which there is everything, such as how to make cheese, how to prepare wine, how to make Aeolian Harps, how to make a theatre illuminated, how to project pictures on the wall, how to cut shadow things; anything, name it, and it was in Wiegleb.
Master Abraham knew about Wiegleb’s books, and used them from time to time, to inform himself about building an automaton and doing this and that. So this was my side.
My cousin Martin, however, was fascinated with Tomcat Murr’s autobiography, and in his edition of the Kater Murr autobiography he made little markings on the page so that he could read Tomcat Murr continuously, without the interruption of this natural magician, Master Abraham.
We must have been about fourteen years old, when the next episode of my story begins. This is now Chapter Two.
I have to tell you that my cousin Martin and I, in the summer, always went to a place which belonged to an uncle, the first husband of my grandmother, Marie Lang. His name was Theodor KOchert. That is in English K-o-e-c-h-e-r-t. Theodor Kiichert was married to my grandmother Marie, first, and they produced a son by the name of Erich. This was of course a halfbrother of my mother and my uncle Erwin. Uncle Erich inherited from his Papa an incredibly beautiful place, out on one of these wonderful lakes which are on the Salzkammergut, this is a region approximately east of Salzburg, where there are several very, very lovely lakes. One lake is named according to the river which flows through it, and the river’s name is Traun. T-r-a-u-n. Therefore the lake is called the Traun Lake, or the Traunsee.
Now, he owned a piece of land, perhaps about twenty or thirty acres, directly on a little finger which is sticking out in the Traun Lake. Vis-à-vis that place, on the other side of the lake, is a beautiful mountain which is called the Traunstein, the Traun Stone, which is a big rocky mountain with steep slopes to the west, and is about, I would say, two thousand meters, six thousand feet in altitude. It is a tremendous view directly on the other side of the lake.
We spent most of our summers at this property on the Traun Lake. The place is called Hollereck. The place where the river Traun exits that lake is called Gmunden. Gmunden and this whole region is an extraordinarily old region. Directly south is Hallein, where the salt mines of Austria are located, opened up in the stone age, where the salt was mined and brought down through the valley and then shipped through the Danube, down to the east, further into Hungary, Rumania, etc., etc. These are extraordinarily old places and people settled there very, very early. Gmunden is a very old city, and has many fascinating and interesting stores.
One of the stores is a second-hand bookstore. I wouldn’t call it a second-hand bookstore; maybe I could call it an old and rare bookstore. But it called itself a second-hand bookstore. The owner of this bookstore was a lady by the name of Wlk, W-l-k. She was of Czech origin, and when we were about thirteen or fourteen years, she must have been sixty or something like that, at least she appeared to us to be sixty. She was a little bit roundish, looked a bit like a barrel, and was very, very stern. Whenever we entered that bookstore to buy just a silly old book, a second-hand book for maybe fifty cents or twenty cents or something like that, she chased us out very fast, etc., “Don’t roam around those books,” and so on, and so forth.
Anyway, she was a very interesting lady because she bought the libraries from defunct places, such as castles or monasteries, for very little money.
Now it happened that I have another uncle, by the name of Goldschmidt, and this uncle was born a very rich boy. He was exactly the same age as my uncle Erwin, and they went to school together. Now, my uncle Goldschmidt, – his first name was Ernest, but nobody in Vienna called him Ernest – he was called Emsterl. So Emsterl went to school with Erwin, went through the gymnasium (this is high school in Austria), and he was at that time already a very, very bright youngster. He was a very good student, he knew everything; he could not be baffled, squeezed with questions, he knew everything, while my uncle Erwin practically knew nothing. He never learned the homework; he played soccer, that was his thing. But Emsterl was fascinated with books and read a lot, so he could really answer all the questions.
He had rebelled against authority already when he was a kid, as all my relatives always rebelled against authority. He had a particular way of rebelling against authority because the authorities, the teachers, they couldn’t do anything with him, because he knew everything, he was a straight-A guy. So he plagued them with other gimmicks.
For instance, in Austria pants are stitched together with the seams being on the outside of the thigh. So you have, on the right part of the pants, the seam of the right side, and the left is on the left side.
There is an Austrian command, “Hands to the pants’ seams!” And that means almost the same as “Attention.” The German expression is “Hände an die Hosennaht,” “Hands on the seams of the pants!”
But British pants are stitched in a different way, their seams are on the inside. So, the left side of the trousers has its seams on the right-hand side, inside, and the other, right, on the left-hand. So, when the teachers commanded “Hande an die Hosennaht,” “Hands on the pants seams,” Emsterl was fumbling around, looking for where the seams were, crossing the hands, putting the right hand to the inside seam of the left and so on. Things of that sort he invented to really torment the teachers, who otherwise tried to torment the kids. But not with Emsterl.
Emsterl developed into what he himself called a bookworm. He was fascinated by all books, wonderful editions, very nice bindings. His doctoral dissertation when he was about twenty-four, twenty-three, was bindings, of books I think of the fifteenth century – incunabula – or maybe a little later perhaps. He was the reference man for bindings and everybody had to consult the Goldschmidt book on bindings.
He became very interested in all the libraries in Austria. Most of the monasteries which were founded perhaps in the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth centuries, had incunabula, had many other imprints, had of course many, many manuscripts, very early manuscripts, and had collected the books of the very early printers. He studied these libraries, knew exactly which book was where, so that if, for instance, the very big monastery of Melk, one of the gigantic libraries, perhaps with about 500, 000 books, did not find a book, they were writing to E.P. Goldschmidt in London and said, “Do we have that book, and do you know where it is?” Then he would write back, “Yes, of course you have that book. It is on such and such a shelf and such and such a floor on the fifth position on that shelf.”
He was very well informed about what was going on in this field, and had himself opened up a bookstore, old and rare books, E.P. Goldschmidt, Old and Rare Books, 45 Old Bond Street, in London, W 1. It is the same house in which Laurence Sterne died, so there is an inscription, “This is the place where Laurence Sterne died,” I don’t know in which year, I have forgotten that. But this is the house in which E.P. Goldschmidt, Old and Rare Books, had its store.
Now, E.P. Goldschmidt, of course, whenever he visited us in Vienna, or my uncle Erwin, or whatever, later on stopped by at Miss Wlk’s Old and Rare Books, because she sometimes bought some fascinating stuff. And that’s where he got a very interesting story. I remember when he appeared in Hollereck (my Uncle Erich KOchert’s place) with tremendous excitement. He went to the store, browsed around, looked at this book, looked at that book, at that book and this book. Then he opened up a book which was not a very interesting book, I think it was a book about the history of knights or something like that, seventeenth century or sixteenth century. He looked at that book and thought, this is of no interest, opened it up, and then, when he turned the page over, on the other side of that page, was clearly a very, very early printing, must have been fifteenth century, late fifteenth century. It gave him a real shock, but of course he would not show his interest. He went around, looked at other books, and opened up that book again, and flipped to another page; yes, it was all in Latin. “Wow, this is incredible.” He caught one sentence, and tried to figure out; what is that story, which is printed in Latin, so to say on the other side of the book on knights? It is precisely a repetition of the Tomcat Murr story, where Mures story is on one side of the page, and on the other side of the page is Master Abraham’s story.
He tried to figure out, what is that sentence? Who wrote that sentence? what Latin is that? And he, as if by accident, came a third time around, caught another one, and said, “It can only be one thing, and that is the Tacitus Germania.” This is Tacitus’ – the Roman historian’s – story about early German culture, geography and history.
Apparently what happened, he figured out fast, was that somebody printed this book on knights on paper which was apparently discarded, which contained the Tacitus Germania. So he bought one book from Mrs. Wlk, and he bought another book from Mts. Wlk, and said “How much are these?,” and then “Why don’t I buy this book on knights also, how much is it?” – maybe twenty dollars, the other one is two dollars and five dollars and fifty dollars, so altogether he paid about eighty dollars, ninety dollars for about six or seven books, and wrapped them up in a brown bag, bought the books and left Mrs. Wlk’s bookstore very slowly. The moment he left, he raced over to the taxi stand, jumped into the taxi, and said “Drive me to Hollereck,” to my uncle Erich KOchert’s place. Then he pulled out the books, turned the knight book around, and indeed it was Tacitus’ Germania, almost complete. That meant he bought for perhaps thirty or forty dollars something which he later sold, I think, for perhaps about twenty or thirty thousand dollars, to the German State Library, I think in Berlin, who had to buy one of the early Latin versions of the Tacitus Germania, which existed I think in only one or two copies.
This is only a little bit of background on Mrs. Wlk. Now, let me go back to Heinz and Martin, who spent their summer vacation on Hollereck, at my uncle Erich’s place. Of course we had bicycles, and from time to time we had to go to Gmunden, either to do this or that or to buy some oil for the bicycle. Now, always when we came to Gmunden, we stopped at Mrs. Wlk’s place, looked around, and things like that. One day we came by, I think we must have been thirteen or fourteen or something like that, so it was the year 1925 or 1924, and in the window were standing twenty volumes of a book, where one, the first volume was opened, and it said, Wiegleb’s Textbook on Natural Magic. I said, “My God, here is Wiegleb!” So Martin said, “What?,” and “Of course, this is Wiegleb, the Introduction to Natural Magic, the early books on physics.” Ok, we both went into the store.
I said, “Well, Mrs. Wlk, I see you have Wiegleb’s textbook on magic, tell me how much are these twenty volumes?” So she said, “Well, each volume is about two shillings, so the whole thing, twenty times two is forty shillings, will be forty shillings.” Translated today into dollars, it will be perhaps about eight dollars, something like that. But when you were fourteen years of age, in Austria, you didn’t carry forty shillings with you; this was impossible. No, what you had was about five shillings, or two shillings. We didn’t have the shillings to buy the Wiegleb.
So we said, “Mrs. Wlk, don’t sell the Wiegleb, keep it out of the window, we will be back as soon as we have raised the funds to buy that book.” So she said, “Ok, I will see to that, I will try. I can’t hold it too long for you boys, you know I can’t hold it too long.” “No no no, we will be back in a moment.”
We both jumped on our bicycles. Martin raced in one direction, I raced in another. I thought I could borrow the money from this or that relative or perhaps from one of my friends. Friends were not at home, others were not there, I couldn’t get it, absolutely impossible, so I hurried down to Altmünster, which is about four or five miles from Gmunden.
Finally, I reached Altmünster. I went quickly to this person, to those persons, and finally I got the forty shillings together, jumped on the bike, raced back to Gmunden, and went to the store of Mrs. Wlk.
I arrived there of course bathed in sweat, put my bike around the corner, looked into the window, and there were no books. No Wiegleb. So I walked into the bookstore, and there was Mrs. WIk. I said, “Mrs. WIk, I have here the forty shillings, I would like to buy the Wieglebs, textbook for the natural magic, twenty volumes.” She said, “I’m sorry, boy, I have sold it already.” “No. What? You’ve sold it?” “Yes. I promised I would keep it for you, but you are so late.” “Now, for heaven’s sake, who bought it?” “Well now, the other boy who came along with you.” “Ah, thank you.” That was of course a tremendous relief, wonderful, I went back out, I got on my bike, and now I could pedal slowly back to Altmünsterand see my cousin Martin.
There he was with the twenty volumes, Wiegleb’s textbook for natural magic. “Great,” I said, “Wonderful. You did it. I also have the forty shillings, why don’t we share it,” or whatever I proposed. Martin said, “No, you know, I bought these twenty volumes.” I said, “Of course, you bought it, it is wonderful, now we have the volumes.” “No,” he said, “I have the volumes.” I said, “What do you mean, you have the volumes?” “Of course, I bought them, so I have these twenty volumes.” I said, “But, Martin, you don’t know what to do with that stuff. It’s all physics.” “No, no, it’s natural magic. I would like to have the volumes. Of course, Heinz, if you would like to look at one of them, one at a time, and things like that, I will of course allow you to look at these volumes. You can borrow them, if you want to, and I will lend them to you, no problem at all.” I said, “But Martin, this is utterly ridiculous, I mean this is all physics.” “No, what, physics, schmysics, doesn’t really matter, it’s the introduction to natural magic and I bought these volumes, I paid for them, and if you wish you can look at them.”
So, this was a little bit of a letdown for me, and I said to myself, this is a kind of a mean thing, he can’t really use them, so I was allowed to look at them. Of course, they have a wonderful – a whole volume for – the Index, you can look up anything you want to, and you find the appropriate volume, and things like that. So, anyway, this is the end of Instalment No. Two, II-A, on the books, on those twenty volumes.
Ok. Then, later on of course, we stayed together until the end of our high school. When we were eighteen we graduated, and then we went our different ways; he went to the theatre, first to Berlin, worked in the movies, with movie people, became an assistant to some of the very famous directors at that time, and I of course entered into the study of physics, at the University of Vienna, and the Institute of Technology of Vienna, etc. etc.. So we were heading in different directions. Then, after a number of years World War Two began, and the bombing commenced. I was staying in Berlin. He, Martin, was unfortunately drafted, so he was a soldier with the German army. But soon they found out that he could do more than just use a gun or doing this and that. He could perform magic. So he became one of the great performers of the German army, and travelled from France to Russia to Serbia, to Italy, to this and to that, performing and performing and performing. He never had to touch a rifle, except during boot training, where he had of course to juggle around with those deadly instruments.
I, in Berlin, of course, was bombed out very soon, and lost practically all of my books. Some of them I could transport to an escape place in Silesia. Then the Russians came and took everything away, and I only came home with perhaps a few little things, two or three books. One of the books was very important, it was a special edition of Dante’s La Divina Commedia. I don’t know what the English translation would be, the Heavenly Comedy or something like that. I packed it in my last little suitcase because it was a special edition, bound in leather, and printed on extraordinarily thin paper. So this came, later on, after the war, when nobody had cigarettes, but I could sometimes find some tobacco, extraordinarily handy because I could use the last pages of the Paradiso, which I thought always were a little bit silly, as cigarette paper, in which I could roll my cigarettes.
So I let the Paradise go up in smoke in the years of, let’s say, 1945, 1946 etc. etc.. Fortunately, later on I got cigarette papers. Only the last couple of songs of the Paradiso have indeed been used as cigarette paper.
Now, ok, things settled down, and after many years Mai and I and our three boys had already moved to the United States. Every three or four years I visited Vienna, and on one occasion Martin had established himself in a new apartment in Vienna. He had married in the meantime a very charming lady and they had a daughter. He married very late. He established himself in a very charming apartment, directly vis-à-vis one of the most beautiful Imperial castles in Austria, Schanbrunn. It consists of one major castle complex, then wonderful gardens leading up a hill, where on top of the hill is a very charming lookout, which is called Gloriette.
Martin with his wife and daughter walked through these charming formal gardens of the Hapsburg emperors, and they were maintained in wonderful condition: rose gardens and lily gardens and fountains. On one of my visits to Vienna, when I always stayed with Martin, he said, “By the way, Heinz, I have a surprise for you.” I said, “That’s very nice.” “I have just put all my books into various bookshelves, and there is a set of books, I do not know where to put.” I said, “Well, what are they?” “Well, twenty volumes.” “Twenty volumes, of what?” “Come and look.”
I looked at them. It was the Wiegleb, which had survived in Vienna, but which would have been burned to ashes if I had owned it, and had had it in Berlin. So he said, “Ok, Heinz, if you can use the Wiegleb, here it is, it’s yours.” So I said, “That is wonderful, because I can use it all the time.” So he packed it for me in a box, and mailed it to me. I got it at Christmas, I think it was 1982, in Pescadero. Since I always use these volumes, they are directly on my desk, and here they are, being a very good source of my understanding of physics, of my understanding of the culture which generated physics. And, Paul, when you come the next time, I think you should have a good look.
There is another little detail, and it is this. When I was still at the University of Illinois, some people by hearsay heard that I was once a magician. So the History of Science Society, which is a very, very good society at the University of Illinois, invited me to give a lecture on the history of magic. I said, this is wonderful. I would be delighted to do that. So I knew of course a source of information on the history of magic, and this was of course Wiegleb’s textbook of natural magic. So I said, ok I accept that. I had lots of time. I think they announced it two or three months before I had to give the lecture. I went to the very good library of the University of Illinois, to check out whether we had a Wiegleb in Illinois.
There was no Wiegleb. So I went to the interlibrary service department and said, “Well, I would like to have a book, and I can give you the exact details.” Of course, references to Wiegleb can be found in almost all books on the history of science and magic.
I gave them the reference. I waited and waited. I went back to the library and said, “What happened? I ordered this book a long time ago?” They said, “We searched through all the United States, libraries that are in the interlibrary service connection, and not even in the Library of Congress, nor in the this and that and that, could we find any original Wiegleb.”
I said, that is very, very sad, so I had to make do with some others. Of course, there are plenty of books on magic; well, I had to be satisified with some others. But I wanted to just drop that as a footnote to my story on the Wiegleb.
I will close with this. What I should do now is to pack the tape, and mail it to you so that you have fun with the Wiegleb. Also, I have some photographs, of Grete Wiesenthal, of my mother, and perhaps I’ll make some copies of these photographs, which I can only copy on my little Canon copying machine, but they are reasonably good. You can get an idea of them.
Please send my greatings to all the wonderful members of your family, and I tell you, it was a great pleasure to sit in your kitchen, and tell you a little bit about the stories of Austria, myself, my family, and Martin.
Heinz
PescaderoOctober 17-18, 1987
Endnotes
1
Though not any longer!
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