In 1150 the Hindu astronomer Bhaskara mentions a perpetual motion machine made with mercury and slats that contain and direct its motion. In the 1200AD Arabic manuscript of Ridwan there are six perpetual motion machines described and illustrated. By 1235 the idea had travelled as far as Europe, and we went crazy about them. Making perpetual motion machines became a widespread fashion, a sort of mechanical and legitimate parallel to alchemy. By the by, all kinds of developments were made in gearing and levers- but most of all in precision. It was the gradual increase in precision that led to accurate clocks and measurement and the successful mechanisation of cloth manufacture, armaments and wind, water and ultimately steam power. The childish and captivating dream of perpetual motion- an endless quest format – succeeded in supplying us with machines far more incredible, and certainly far more useful, than the original concept. The Greeks had already discovered steam power – Hero’s engine – but without precision transmission it was useless except as a toy- and toys only captivate us for a while. Perpetual motion supplies a far more compelling story- something miraculous and free, forever just out of sight.
In parallel with this introduction there have been esoteric ideas introduced by Arab writers that work like the perpetual motion machine. They engage and intrigue and set in motion an endless quest, and the ultimate effect on refining and extending human potential is far greater, and more life affirming and astonishing, than the magic and seeming miracles initially promised.