Was Newton a scientist or a sorcerer?
2012 09 25

By Stuart Clark | Guardian.co.uk





Isaac Newton’s belief in spirits and alchemy may have been essential to achieving his towering scientific achievement: gravity. A new science and arts festival begins this weekend to explore this complex man


Hot on the heels of Isaac Newton’s apple appearing at the Paralympics comes a new celebration of his life and achievements. The Gravity Fields Festival begins on Friday in Grantham, Lincolnshire. For eight days, Newton’s life and times will be commemorated by more than 100 events around the town, during what could become a biennial event.

Grantham lies close to Newton’s birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor, and contains the King’s School, which the young Isaac attended. On Saturday at 3pm a blue plaque in his honour will be unveiled by the Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees.

Often wrongly portrayed as a cold rationalist, Isaac Newton is one of history’s most compelling figures. It is true that he was capable of the most precise and logical thought it is possible for a human to achieve: his three years of obsessive work that gave birth to the Principia, containing his theory of gravity, stand as the greatest achievement in science.

Just as certainly, though, he was also consumed with what we would now view as completely unscientific pursuits: alchemy and biblical prophesy.

Alchemy was a major passion of Newton’s. In a footnote on page 21 of Richard Westfall’s meticulous biography, Never at Rest, the author states: "My modes of thought are so far removed from those of alchemy that I am constantly uneasy in writing on the subject … [Nevertheless] my personal preferences cannot make more than a million words he wrote in the study of alchemy disappear."

Historian and novelist Rebecca Stott wrote in her novel Ghostwalk that with those words, "Westfall admitted to wishing that he could make those million words disappear." That may be stretching it somewhat but clearly Newton’s alchemy is a bit of an embarrassment to modern scholars.

Then there was Newton’s biblical prophesy. In almost the same years that he was working on the Principia, he also wrote a treatise on Revelation in which he talked about souls burning in lakes of fire. With talk like that, he could have been the lyricist for Iron Maiden. (He had the hair too.)

Tempting as it is to dismiss all of this as somehow removed from Newton’s science, his belief in spirits and what the alchemists called active principles almost certainly allowed him to conceive gravity in the mathematical form that we still use today.

In Newton’s time, the natural philosophers had turned their backs on astrology and with it, the idea that influences could simply leap across empty space. Instead impulses had to be transmitted through things touching one another. So, if there was a force coming from the Sun that moved the planets, then it had to do so through a medium.

Perhaps it was a fluid, driven to circulate by the rotation of the sun, which carried the planets around. This was the thinking of French philosopher René Descartes.

Yet Newton could not make the mechanical solution of Descartes work. The vortices simply could not reproduce the changes in speed of the planets as they approached the sun.

Alchemy offered a way out by having as a philosophical underpinning that non-material influences – spirits – existed. These needed no physical contact and could induce transformations or movement through the triggering of "active principles" within an object.

Primed to believe in these ideas, Newton discovered a simple, elegant mathematical equation that described the behaviour of gravity without the need for an intervening fluid. Gravity apparently worked across empty space. He called this principle "action at a distance" and instead of "spirit" began using the word "force" to better reflect its mathematical character.

His equation also reveals the "active principle" that governs an object’s response to gravity. It is mass. With such direct analogies to spirits and active principles, Newton must surely have felt some sort of vindication for his alchemical beliefs.

The theory of gravity was so successful that it became one of the triggers for the Age of Enlightenment. Although hardly anyone now believes in the concept of alchemy, we do still believe that gravity can exert an influence across empty space. Engineers still use Newton’s maths to launch satellites and send spacecraft to distant planets.

So was Sir Isaac a scientist or a sorcerer? In truth, he was a bit of both. And that was why he could succeed where others had failed.


Article from: guardian.co.uk













Tune into Red Ice Radio:

Daniel Tatman - Palladian Genesis

Daniel Tatman - Palladian Genesis - Part Two

Wallace Thornhill - Proto-Saturn, The Purple Dawn of Creation & Our Strange Solar System

Jay Weidner - Magic Square, Numerology, Geometry & Gematria

David Flynn - The Theurgy of the Watchers, Eschatology, Numerology & Geometry

Adrian Gilbert - The Orion Mystery & The Invisible College

Peter Levenda - Chinese Alchemy









Related Articles
Isaac Newton, the Apocalypse and 2060 A.D.
Papers show Isaac Newton’s religious side
Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer
The Alchemical Secrets of Glastonbury Tor
"The Alchemyst’s Clocktower" Automaton (Video)
Porta Alchemica : An alchemist’s "magic door" stands in the middle of a Roman park
Psychedelic Alchemy
The Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and The Illuminati
London 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony: "Enlightenment"
Enlightenment Reason or Occult Conspiracy?
Black magic revealed in two ancient curses: "Crush, Kill, Destroy!"
"Fakir" Cursed Magician Automaton
Why Everyone Believes in Magic (Even You)
“Violationism”, Or Sorcery In Science
Fiji freemasons held for sorcery
Isaac Newton - Sixty Symbols


Latest News from our Front Page

Former Chief Security Officer for NewsCorp: N. Koreans Not Behind Sony Hack, Interview Leak
2014-12-20 2:17
Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor and former chief security officer for NewsCorp/Fox studios, says North Korea isn’t behind the Sony Hack. Nigam gave several bullet points for why the hack was likely an inside job. Attack code borrowed from a previous attack on Seoul, that’s why it’s in Korean. Private hackers typically borrow malicious code from other hackers.Nations state attacks follow ...
Sony Fires Back at Obama: Actually We Did Call the White House – Several Times
2014-12-20 2:13
Sony fired back at Obama after the press conference saying they had several conversations with the Obama White House before and after the movie was canceled. Via The Hollywood Reporter: After President Obama criticized Sony for its decision to cancel The Interview's release after theater chains decided not to show the film, the studio has issued a statement elaborating on the move. “The ...
The Bankster International
2014-12-20 1:55
Geopolitical analysis, the art of explaining power relationships through the prism of impersonal geography, can be a helpful tool for observers of the Great Game – but it also has its limitations. A case in point is the renewed US-Russia confrontation. Think tanks and policy insiders easily sell the narrative that from the dark days of the Cold War to ...
Another banker dies under suspicious circumstances
2014-12-20 1:09
52-year-old Belgian Geert Tack – a private banker for ING who managed portfolios for wealthy individuals – was described as ‘impeccable’, ‘sporty’, ‘cared-for’, and ‘successful’ and so as Vermist reports, after disappearing a month ago, the appearance of his body off the coast of Ostend is surrounded by riddles… Impeccable. Sporty. Cared for. Successful. Just some qualifications that are attributed to ...
NATO increases military presence on Russia’s borders
2014-12-20 1:14
The Pentagon has confirmed the military buildup along Russia’s borders to ensure long-term “peace and stability” in the region. Earlier Moscow accused NATO of a sharp increase in air activity and intelligence flights in the border zone. Replying to RIA Novosti’s query on the increased number of NATO flights around Russia’s borders, a Pentagon representative told the news agency that the military ...
More News »