Thursday, May 15, 2014

Isaac Newton, Esotericist

It's relatively well-known among occultists that Isaac Newton was one of the last prominent thinkers who approached the natural world in the holistic manner of the "Renaissance man," studying both its physical and spiritual aspects. Newton wrote detailed expositions of the Book of Revelation and performed alchemical experiments in addition to his better-known work with gravitation, motion, and optics. Wired has an interview up with Sarah Dry, the author of a new book that delves into Newton's esoteric interests.

Even in his lifetime, Newton was hailed as an eminent scientist and mathematician of unparalleled genius. But Newton also studied alchemy and religion. He wrote a forensic analysis of the Bible in an effort to decode divine prophecies. He held unorthodox religious views, rejecting the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

After his death, Newton’s heir, John Conduitt, the husband of his half-niece Catherine Barton, feared that one of the fathers of the Enlightenment would be revealed as an obsessive heretic. And so for hundreds of years few people saw his work. It was only in the 1960s that some of Newton’s papers were widely published.

The story of Newton’s writing and how it has survived to the modern day is the subject of a new book, The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts. Author Sarah Dry traces their mysterious and precarious history and reveals both the lucky twists and purposeful turns that kept the papers safe.

Newton is a classic case of the "Enlightenment" being somewhat less than enlightened. Rather than admit that one of the greatest scientists in all of history viewed the world in way that did not necessarily separate matter and spirit into two completely distinct domains, Newton's heirs and supporters chose instead to publish and make available only his work in the physical sciences. The idea that a holistic approach to understanding the universe might have contributed to his genius and revolutionary scientific insight was thus allowed to fall by the wayside.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: