left biblioblography: Allegories Gone Wild – Newton’s Nuttiness

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Allegories Gone Wild – Newton’s Nuttiness

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!isaacnewtongrave

Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors. – Isaac Newton

So, here’s the question: how many of you, in your travails amid the blogosphere, have had this canard trotted out? They’ll trot out a famous name: “Hey look, this brilliant genius way back when believed in gawd, and he was RILLY RILLY smart!”

Not only is this an argument from authority, it obviously only uses selected highlights to lure in the believer. Arthur Conan Doyle believed in faeries in his senile dementia, John Nash Jr. had schizophrenia, Bobby Fisher not only got involved with an apocalyptic church but he’s also a raving anti-Semite, Anatoly Fomenko is by all accounts a brilliant mathematician but also a crazed historical revisionist….but I think you’ve caught the gist of it. Or as an old co-worker of mine once said, “Just because you’re smart, doesn’t mean you’re not stupid.”

Isaac Newton is indeed one of these. A brilliant physicist, one of those ‘somebodies’ the religious trot out to prove a point. However, by today’s standards, old Isaac was…well, for want of a better word, a bit of a fruitcake:

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727), the noted English scientist and mathematician, wrote many works that would now be classified as occult studies.

These occult works explored chronology, alchemy, and Biblical interpretation (especially of the Apocalypse).


Newton's scientific work may have been of lesser personal importance to him, as he placed emphasis on rediscovering the occult wisdom of the ancients. In this sense, some have commented that the common reference a "Newtonian Worldview" as being purely mechanistic is somewhat inaccurate. After purchasing and studying Newton's alchemical works in 1942, economist John Maynard Keynes, for example, opined that "Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians."

Obviously not the magician in the same sense as Houdini.

In the pre-Modern Era of Newton's lifetime, the educated embraced a world view different from that of later centuries. Distinctions between science, superstition, and pseudoscience were still being formulated, and a devoutly Christian Biblical perspective permeated Western culture.

Like I said, selected highlights. Skipping to the ‘selected highlights’ (hehehehe):

Of the material sold during the 1936 Sotheby's auction, several documents indicate an interest by Newton in the procurement or development of The Philosopher's Stone. Most notably are documents entitled, "Artephius his secret Book", followed by "The Epistle of Iohn Pontanus, wherein he beareth witness of ye book of Artephius", these are themselves a collection of excerpts from another work entitled, "Nicholas Flammel, His Exposition of the Hieroglyphicall Figures which he caused to be painted upon an Arch in St Innocents Church-yard in Paris. Together with The secret Booke of Artephius, And the Epistle of Iohn Pontanus: Containing both the Theoricke and the Practicke of the Philosophers Stone". This work may also have been referenced by Newton in its Latin version found within Lazarus Zetzner's, "Theatrum Chemicum", a volume often associated with the Turba Philosophorum and other early European alchemical manuscripts. Nicolas Flamel, (one subject of the aforementioned work) was a notable, though mysterious figure, often associated with the discovery of The Philosopher's Stone, Hieroglyphical Figures, early forms of tarot, and occultism. Artephius, and his "secret book", were also subjects of interest to 17th Century alchemists.

Somehow, Dawkins’ refrain of not being so open-minded one’s brains spill out springs to mind. His library on alchemy sounds like an incredible waste of time.

Newton studied and wrote extensively upon the Temple of Solomon, dedicating an entire chapter of "The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms" to his observations regarding the temple. Newton's primary source for information was the description of the structure given within 1 Kings of the Hebrew Bible, which he translated himself from the original Hebrew.

The temple of Solomon? You mean that edifice that is thoroughly lacking in any archeological evidence whatsoever?

Oh, and talk about delusional:

Newton considered himself to be one of a select group of individuals who were specially chosen by God for the task of understanding Biblical scripture. He was a strong believer in prophetic interpretation of the Bible, and like many of his contemporaries in Protestant England, he developed a strong affinity and deep admiration for the teachings and works of Joseph Mede. Though he never wrote a cohesive body of work on Prophecy, Newton's belief led him to write several treatises on the subject, including an unpublished guide for prophetic interpretation entitled, "Rules for interpreting the words & language in Scripture". In this manuscript he details the necessary requirements for what he considered to be the proper interpretation of the Bible.

Mild messianic complex, anybody?

In addition, Newton would spend much of his life seeking and revealing what could be considered a Bible Code.

(Points to head, rotating index finger, whistling.)

He placed a great deal of emphasis upon the interpretation of the Book of Revelation, writing generously upon this book and authoring several manuscripts detailing his interpretations.

Perhaps the most crazed book of that diatribe of shepherd tales.

Unlike a prophet in the true sense of the word, Newton relied upon existing Scripture to prophesy for him, believing his interpretations would set the record straight in the face of what he considered to be "so little understood".

And yet, so few believers know that this even exists. So much for being ‘chosen’.

In 1754, twenty-seven years after his death, Isaac Newton's treatise, "An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture" would be published, and though it does not argue any prophetic meaning, it does exemplify what Newton considered to be just one popular misunderstanding of Scripture.

But today, in the 21st century, our understanding is exemplary: the bible is crap, scripture is nonsense.

Although Newton's approach to these studies could not be considered a 'scientific' approach, he did write as if his findings were the result of evidentially-based research.

Of course he did: don’t they all? Isn’t that the whole point of presuppositionalism?

And dig this – he thought Atlantis was real:

Found within "The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms", are several passages that directly mention the mythical land of Atlantis. The first such passage is part of his Short Chronical which indicates his belief that Homer's Ulysses left the island of Ogygia in 896 BC. In Greek Mythology, Ogygia was home to Calypso, the daughter of Atlas (after whom Atlantis was named). Some scholars have suggested that Ogygia and Atlantis are locationally connected, or possibly the same island. From his writings it appears Newton may have shared this belief. Newton also lists Cadis or Cales as possible candidates for Ogygia, though does not cite his reasons for believing so. Within the same material Newton mentions that according to ancient sources, Atlantis had been as big as all Europe, Africa and Asia, but was sunk into the Sea.

Is there an emoticon for ‘tasered into disbelief’?

Enough. I believe my point has been made. In summation, Newton was a phenomenal physicist, and we still employ many Newtonian principles to this day. But his religious (and yes, occult) beliefs would serve to get him laughed at in many venues in our century as well as the last. He is, in short, the last person on earth anyone should use as an argument from authority in relation to their belief system.

And to top this minor post off, here’s a link to an essay by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, titled the Perimeter Of Ignorance, which is far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be.

Till the next post, then.

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1 comment:

mikespeir said...

I wonder how Newton's beliefs might have differed had he lived post-Darwin.