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NEWTON, THE LAST OF THE MAGICIANS

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Bianca
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« on: August 21, 2007, 07:11:52 pm »









                                      N E W T O N  -  T H E   A L C H E M I S T





Sir Isaac Newton, the famous seventeenth-century mathematician and scientist, though not generally known as an alchemist, practiced the art with a passion. Though he wrote over a million words on the subject, after his death in 1727, the Royal Society deemed that they were "not fit to be printed." The papers were rediscovered in the middle of the twentieth century and most scholars now concede that Newton was first an foremost an alchemist. It is also becoming obvious that the inspiration for Newton's laws of light and theory of gravity came from his alchemical work. 

If one looks carefully, in the light of alchemical knowledge, at the definitive biography, Sir Isaac Newton by J. W. V. Sullivan, it is quite easy to realize the alchemical theories from which he was working. Sir Arthur Eddington, in reviewing this book, says: "The science in which Newton seems to have been chiefly interested, and on which he spent most of his time was alchemy. He read widely and made innumerable experiments, entirely without fruit so far as we know." One of his servants records: "He very rarely went to bed until two or three of the clock, sometimes not till five or six, lying about four or five hours, especially at springtime or autumn, at which time he used to employ about six weeks in his laboratory, the fire scarce going out night or day. What his aim might be I was unable to penetrate into." The answer is that Newton's experiments were concerned with nothing more or less than alchemy. (from Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored by A. Cockren)

As a practicing alchemist, Newton spent days locked up in his laboratory, and not a few have suggested that he finally succeeded in transmuting lead into gold. Perhaps that explains one of the oddest things about his life. At the height of his career, instead of accepting a professorship at Cambridge, he was appointed Director of the Mint with the responsibility of securing and accounting for England's repository of gold.

In fact, Newton -- the revered founder of modern science and the mechanistic universe -- also ranks as one of the greatest spiritual alchemists of all time. In his The Religion of Isaac Newton (Oxford 1974), F.E. Manuel concluded: "The more Newton's theological and alchemical, chronological and mythological work is examined as a whole corpus, set by the side of his science, the more apparent it becomes that in his moments of grandeur he saw himself as the last of the interpreters of God's will in actions, living on the fulfillment of times."
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2007, 07:14:12 pm »


Isaac Newton
considered himself
primarily an alchemist.







The Hermetic Tradition



This view has become more accepted in recent years, as more of Newton's private papers and alchemical treatises are being reexamined.

"Like all European alchemists from the Dark Ages to the beginning of the scientific era and beyond," states Michael White in 'Isaac Newton:The Last Sorcerer' (Addison Wesley 1997), "Newton was motivated by a deep-rooted commitment to the notion that alchemical wisdom extended back to ancient times.

The Hermetic tradition -- the body of alchemical knowledge -- was believed to have originated in the mists of time and to have been given to humanity through supernatural agents."

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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2007, 07:18:47 pm »


Newton was fascinated
with light because he
thought it embodied
the Word of God,
as suggested by
the Emerald Tablet.







Newton's Translation of the Emerald Tablet



It is true without lying, certain and most true.

That which is Below is like that which is Above and that which is Above is like that which is Below to do the miracles of the Only Thing.

And as all things have been and arose from One by the mediation of One, so all things have their birth from this One Thing by adaptation. The Sun is its father; the Moon its mother; the Wind hath carried it in its belly; the Earth is its nurse.

The father of all perfection in the whole world is here. Its force or power is entire if it be converted into Earth. Separate the Earth from the Fire, the subtle from the gross, sweetly with great industry. It ascends from the Earth to the Heavens and again it descends to the Earth and receives the force of things superior and inferior. By this means you shall have the glory of the whole world and thereby all obscurity shall fly from you. Its force is above all force, for it vanquishes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing. So was the world created. From this are and do come admirable adaptations, whereof the process is here in this.

Hence am I called Hermes Trismegistus, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.

That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished and ended.   

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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2007, 07:26:03 pm »


Newton's roommate,
John Wickins,
assisted him
in dozens of
early experiments
with light







Newton on Keeping Alchemy Secret



Isaac Newton wrote fellow alchemist Robert Boyle a letter urging him to keep "high silence" in publicly discussing the principles of alchemy. "Because the way by the Mercurial principle may be impregnated has been thought fit to be concealed by others that have know it," Newton wrote, "and therefore may possibly be an inlet to something more noble that is not to be communicated without immense damage to the world if there be any verity in [the warning of the] Hermetic writers.

There are other things besides the transmutation of metals which none but they understand." According to B.J.T. Dobbs in The Foundations of Newton's Alchemy (Cambridge University Press, 1984), "The fact that Newton never published a work on alchemy cannot be taken to mean that he knew he had failed  [at the Great Work]. On the contrary, it probably means that he had enough success to think that he might be on the track of something of fundamental importance and so had good reason for keeping his 'high silence,' even though there is nothing to indicate that he himself was searching for that mysterious "inlet to something more noble."   


http://www.alchemylab.com/isaac_newton.htm
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2007, 07:33:43 pm »







Isaac Newton, like Albert Einstein, is a quintessential symbol of the human intellect and its ability to decode the secrets of nature. Newton's fundamental contributions to science include the quantification of gravitational attraction, the discovery that white light is actually a mixture of immutable spectral colors, and the formulation of the calculus. Yet there is another, more mysterious side to Newton that is imperfectly known, a realm of activity that spanned some thirty years of his life, although he kept it largely hidden from his contemporaries and colleagues. We refer to Newton's involvement in the discipline of alchemy, or as it was often called in seventeenth-century England, "chymistry."

Newton wrote and transcribed about a million words on the subject of alchemy, of which only a tiny fraction has today been published. Newton's alchemical manuscripts include a rich and diverse set of document types, including laboratory notebooks, indices of alchemical substances, and Newton's transcriptions from other sources.

With the support of the National Science Foundation, The Chymistry of Isaac Newton is producing a scholarly online edition as one part of an integrated project that includes new research on Newton's chymistry. Currently, the project focus is to build a repository of searchable transcriptions with page images. Our ultimate goal is to provide complete annotations for each manuscript and comprehensive interactive tools for working with the texts. To date, about seven hundred pages have been transcribed and encoded in TEI/XML. Of these, roughly six hundred have been edited and are available online, including Newton's Most Complete Laboratory Notebook.


http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/newton/index.jsp
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2007, 07:58:44 pm »








                              Isaac Newton's Hidden Agenda of Mysticism and Alchemy






For two centuries after his death in 1727, Isaac Newton was hailed as the supreme scientist, a Monarch of the Age of Reason and the initiator of the scientific and the industrial revolutions, of modernity itself. On one popular list of the hundred most influential people in history, Newton placed No. 2, behind Mohammed but ahead of Jesus Christ. But In 1936 an interesting lot came on the block at Sotheby's in London containing a cache of writings by Newton -- journals and personal notebooks deemed to be "of no scientific value." The winning bidder was the economist John Maynard Keynes. After perusing his purchase, Keynes delivered a somewhat shocking lecture to the Royal Society Club in 1942, on the tercentenary of Newton's birth. "Newton was not the first of the age of reason," Keynes announced. "He was the last of the magicians."

This was meant quite literally, as was a statement expressed by the poet Wordsworth that Newton had a mind "forever voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone." For the "secret writings" made it clear that during the crucial part of Newton's scientific career -- the two decades between his discovery of the law of gravity and the publication of his masterwork, the "Principia Mathematica" -- his consuming passion was alchemy. Bunkered in his solitary live-in lab at the edge of the fens near Cambridge, Newton indulged in occult literature and strove to cook up the legendary "philosopher's stone" that would convert base metals into gold.

And a penchant for the occult was not Newton's only quirk. He is reported to have laughed just once in his life-when someone asked him what use he saw in Euclid. He took to decorating his rooms in crimson. He stuck a knife behind his eyeball to induce optical effects, nearly blinding himself. He was a Catholic-hating Puritan who secretly subscribed to the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. Newton was also given to endless feuding. He seems to have had only two romantic attachments, both with younger males, and suffered a paranoiac breakdown after the second came to rupture.

The key to Newton's theory of gravity was the idea that one body could attract another across empty space. To Newton's great contemporaries, Descartes and Leibniz, this notion was medieval and magical; they subscribed exclusively to "mechanical" explanations, in which bodies influenced one another only by a direct series of pushes and pulls.

Grand as it was, Newton's "Principia" left a few loose ends in the celestial scheme. These loose ends though were soon knit together by the so-called Newton of France, Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827). In fact, it took Laplace five thick volumes of "Celestial Mechanics" to show that the mutual gravitational tugging among the planets would not cause the solar system to crack up, as Newton feared. When he gave a couple of these volumes to his friend Napoleon shortly before the latter's coup d'etat, the future emperor promised to read them "in the first six months I have free."

Napoleon did glance through the volumes, for he later asked Laplace just where God fit into the perfected Newtonian system. "I had no need of that hypothesis," Laplace famously replied.

 

Source: The Wall Street Journal Bookshelf
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2007, 08:01:48 pm »








                                           N E W T O N   A N D   A L C H E M Y




 
In 1936, the world of Isaac Newton scholarship received a rude shock. In that year the venerable auction house of Sotheby's released a catalogue describing three hundred twenty-nine lots of Newton's manuscripts, mostly in his own handwriting, of which over a third were filled with content that was undeniably alchemical.

These manuscripts, which had been labeled "not fit to be printed" upon Newton's death in 1727, raised a host of interesting questions in 1936 as they do even today. Was the founder of classical physics an alchemist? And if so, what does this mean? Did he pursue his alchemical interests for scientific reasons, or simply because he was swept up by the old dream of transmuting base metals into gold? Did Newton discover a secret theological meaning in alchemical texts, which often describe the transmutational secret as a special gift revealed by God to his chosen sons? Or was Newton perhaps attracted to the graphic and mysterious imagery of alchemy, with its illustrations of hermaphrodites, couples copulating within flasks, poisonous dragons, green lions, and dying toads? None of these questions are made easier by the fact that Newton's laboratory notebooks, even the one containing the first full description of his brilliant discovery that white light is really a mixture of immutable spectral colors, are filled with recipes patently elaborated from the very alchemical sources that overflow the manuscripts sold by Sotheby's in 1936.

Here too, alongside sober explanations of optical and physical phenomena such as freezing and boiling, we find "Neptune's Trident," "Mercury's Caducean Rod," and of course the "Green Lyon," all symbolizing substances derived from Newton's alchemical readings. Whatever the ultimate purpose of Newton's alchemical investigations may have been, it is clear that we cannot erect a watertight dam separating them from his other scientific endeavors.
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2007, 08:03:20 pm »








We have adopted the seventeenth-century term "chymistry" to describe the sum of alchemical pursuits as they existed in Newton's day.

In the early modern world, chymistry included three basic domains. First, chymists laid claim to a large group of technologies ranging from the making of pigments and dyes and the manufacture of mineral acids to the distillation of "strong waters" for drink. While often supporting themselves by making these items of commerce, however, chymical practitioners were also at the forefront of early modern pharmacology, having placed a radically new emphasis on mineral-based drugs and an equally important stress on the use of laboratory technologies such as distillation and sublimation in their production.

Chymical medicine, or iatrochemistry, was one of the important new fields of early modern science, and the second basic division of the discipline. Third and finally, the attempt to make gold from less precious materials, often referred to by the Greek term chrysopoeia, remained a seemingly viable research project for many seventeenth century chymists. Newton was involved in all three of chymistry's major branches in varying degrees, and we make no attempt to impose an anachronistic division of the discipline into modern categories.

It is important, rather, to see how chemical technology and medicine were connected to Newton's involvement to the "Great Work," just as it is important to see how his chymistry was related to his other intellectual and technical pursuits.
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2007, 08:06:21 pm »








The Chymistry of Isaac Newton is devoted to the editing and exposition of Newton's alchemical work. With the support of the National Science Foundation, this scholarly online edition is one part of an integrated project that combines new research on Newton's chymistry with an online edition of his manuscripts in both diplomatic and normalized texts.

In the future, the edition will include all of Newton's chymical writings in word-searchable form with annotations indicating their sources and the degree of Newtonian input into them. In addition, we intend to provide high quality digital scans of Newton's chymical manuscripts, so that the reader can compare our transcriptions to the original handwriting and drawings in the manuscripts.

The Chymistry of Isaac Newton is hosted by Indiana University's Digital Library Program, and is affiliated with The Newton Project originating at Imperial College London.

The director of the project at Indiana University is William R. Newman, Ruth Halls Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. John Walsh, Associate Director for Projects and Services of the Digital Library Program oversees the digital side of the project. Others involved in The Chymistry of Isaac Newton include Lawrence M. Principe (consultant), Cathrine Reck (Indiana University Chemistry Department - consultant), Tamara Lopez (programmer/analyst), James Voelkel (senior editorial and encoding consultant), Cesare Pastorino (transcriber/encoder), and John Johnson (transcriber/encoder).


http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/newton/about.do;jsessionid=1F0FBD735A55DB363C04F4A9D5FE17AA
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2007, 08:18:15 pm »








                                     T H E   L A S T   O F   T H E   M A G I C I A N S





Throughout his life, Newton spent more time intensely involved with alchemy than any of his scientific pursuits.

Many of his biographers, confronted with what they see as completely divergent writings from Newton, have chosen to gloss over anything that does not fit easily into the image of Newton generally acknowledged. Anything that has not been considered in keeping with his scientific discoveries has often been regarded as misguided.

 A more authentic picture of Newton, concealed for so long, began to come to light when John Maynard Keyes purchased a collection of papers that had been rejected by Cambridge as having no scientific value. In 1942 Keyes delivered a speech on these papers giving illumination to a very different view of the great man.





"Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the

Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind which looked out on the visible and intellectual world

with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000

years ago."
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2007, 08:20:25 pm »








Newton, like most alchemists of the time, believed that alchemic wisdom extended back to ancient times. He believed strongly in the religious and astrological symbolism of alchemy.

Most alchemists of the day were adept at astrology, sharing much of the deeper symbolism of the two disciplines, including the connection between the seven metals and the seven planets, as well as the four elements and the four humours.

Newton became involved in secretive alchemical networks, devoting time to copying out the unpublished alchemical treatise passed around among them. The ultimate goal of the alchemist was an inner transformation of the psyche. Success depended on the alchemist's state of mind, prayer and meditation being part of the practice. Newton often pleaded with fellow alchemist Robert Boyle to keep silent in publicly discussing alchemy.

But, rather than being uncomfortable with his participation in alchemy, it seems that Newton believed that this secret knowledge was not for everyone. He felt that the Hermetic writers of the past had concealed their work for good reason and Newton was prepared to honour this adherence to secrecy.
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« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2007, 08:28:11 pm »








Extensive discussions have taken place in the past as to whether Newton was an astrologer or whether it was something he rejected.

In an unpublished biography by his nephew-in-law John Conduitt, Newton is quoted as saying "I was soon convinced of the vanity and emptiness of the pretended science of judicial astrology."

It is unconvincing to perceive this statement as an outright condemnation of astrology. What is more likely is that, in the same vein as Kepler's 'foolish daughter', Newton had little time for what he saw as the trivialities of astrology.

Both Kepler and John Dee, known for drawing up the electional chart for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I, were obliged for financial and political reasons to produce almanacs and charts for the wealthy and the general public.

Newton, free from all such constraints, was able to concentrate on the deeper symbolism of astrology, particularly as it related to alchemy and chronology.

It is reasonable to assume that judicial astrology held no attraction for him for the reason that he believed the answers to the mysteries of the universe lay in the observations of the past, not of the future.
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2007, 08:34:53 pm »








It has often been said that if Newton were an astrologer, he surely would have written extensively about it, as he did with all of his other interests.

English historian of science Derek Thomas Whiteside reported that he did not find any reference to astrology among the 50 million words that have been preserved of Newton's writings.

However, there are extant writings showing clearly that Newton, while perhaps not a practicing astrologer, was very familiar with the discipline. In his work on chronology, he discussed what he saw as the origins of astrology.


"It may be presumed that they continued to observe the motions of the planets, for they called them after the names of their gods; and Nechepsos or Nicepsos, King of Sais, by the assistance of Petosiris, a priest of Egypt, invented astrology, grounding it upon the aspects of the planets, and the qualities of the men and women to whom they were dedicated."


It is not clear from what sources Newton took this information. Franz Cumont, along with others, writes that the texts bearing the name of Nechepso and Petosiris were written in 150BC, around 500 years after the supposed reign of Nechepso. The writings that bear the names of Nechepso and Petosiris were very popular and were considered to be divine revelations of astrology and Hermeticism.

These works do not survive intact, but mostly in excerpts quoted by later astrologers, particularly Dorotheus, Ptolemy, and Valens. They became popular again during the Renaissance with well-known astrologers and alchemists such as John Dee. It is likely that Newton also read these texts, attributing them to the 7th century BC and the beginnings of astrology.

Whether or not Newton was correct in his assessment, it shows that he did not reject astrology but saw it as a valid route to the past. It is unlikely that he ever practiced astrology in the sense of drawing up charts and interpreting them. What he did, however, was to take his understanding of astrological principles and apply them to his search for insight into the laws of ancient wisdom.
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« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2007, 08:44:52 pm »








Not Guilty




It is Newton's work in mathematics and physics, and in particular his proof of the heliocentric universe, which has often been attributed to putting the final nail in the coffin of astrology.

Richard Dawkins, who is of the opinion that astrologers' pre-Copernican dabblings demean and cheapen astronomy, saw Isaac Newton as one of the greatest minds that ever lived and sees astrology as an irrational defiance of the Newtonian universe.

However, Neil Spencer, in his book 'True As The Stars Above', sees it another way.


"Astrology [is] not the irrationalist, escapist reaction to scientific materialism that its critics claim but part of a shift to a post-Newtonian view of the universe, one with more affinities to Newton's beloved alchemy than to the 'Principia' for which he is celebrated."


Upon reading any of Newton's extensive works, it would be difficult to maintain the claim that he sought answers based purely on the fundamentalist atheism that Dawkins adheres to.

Until the late seventeenth century, almost all astronomers were astrologers.

Spencer sees that modern astronomy's contempt for its mystically minded ancestor has required an acrobatic rewrite of history, in which the ideas of those of the past have been bowdlerised and suppressed. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Isaac Newton.

When he died on 20 May 1727, those seeking to portray Newton as a rationalist rejected most of his non-scientific works. They remained unknown for over two hundred years.

Newton sought answers in any way he could. All of his writings contain a profound underlying exploration of the deeper significance of the universal truths hidden within the ancient prophecies. It is not Newton's work that has created an image of someone dedicated only to rigid scientific analysis but rather the long history of attempting to obfuscate any work that didn't fit into this image.

Prior interpretations of Newton's writing has led us to accept an erroneous image of a man who was far more eclectic in his approach than we have previously understood.

It is possible that he would have agreed with modern French alchemist François Trojani who said, 'for all its great usefulness, science is a very limited, very fragmented, and not very profound way of trying to investigate the mysteries of the universe.'
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« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2007, 08:47:14 pm »








The future of Newton's Legacy



A major turning point in the future of Newton's legacy came with the 1990 publication of Essays of the context, nature and influence of Isaac Newton's theology by James E. Force and Richard H. Popkin. In 1991, the bulk of the Newton manuscripts were released on forty-three reels of microfilm. This allowed a much more cohesive study, perhaps giving for the first time a broader picture of Newton and his works.

One of the main things to come out of this is a respect for Newton's other areas of interest in their own right, rather than as insignificant adjuncts. To make this point, Popkin suggests that the question shouldn't be why one of the world's greatest scientists should have spent so much time thinking and writing about such arcane matters, but why did one of the greatest anti-Trinitarian theologians of the 17th century take time off to write works on natural science. This was said partly tongue in cheek but also to make a point.

Why should Newton's theological and alchemical works be considered as less valid than his scientific works? In fact, Newton himself wrote them all with the same purpose in mind - to understand God. He had believed that experiment had a moral object - to learn more about God and how to serve Him. He saw himself not as someone who was a pioneer of the new science but as a restorer of ancient wisdom God had given to humankind.

Newton sought to reconcile the Book of Nature with the Book of Scripture.

If we look closely enough, we will see evidence of this in all of Newton's work.
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