English Ideology, Newton & the Exploitation of Science
by E. Michael Jones
This is the text of a speech given by Dr. Jones on Nov. 6, 2010, at the First Annual Catholic Conference on Geocentrism. Within days, Mark Shea’s blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!, ridiculed the talk, calling it a “diatribe against Judeo-Masonic plots, Bilderbergers, Trilateralists, Amish etc. …There was even some babbling about the cranial capacities of Negro skulls and a suggestion that the myth of the Holocaust was hatched by a group yeshiva dropouts in Kiev.” This is a total fabrication: the talk mentions none of those subjects. Dr. Jones demanded a retraction from Mr. Shea who instead deleted his blog post “since I was not there” and informed Dr. Jones that, if Dr. Jones posted the speech, Mr. Shea would post a link to it so “the reader can make up his own mind about your silly junk.” In reply, Dr. Jones insisted: “you owe me in justice an apology and a retraction. Please post it on your website next to the link.” Instead of posting an apology or retraction, Mr. Shea included the link to this talk in a lengthy diatribe he posted ridiculing Dr. Jones, Robert Sungenis, Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S., and this talk.
In 1687 the Royal Society published Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematic Philosophia Naturae to almost universal acclaim. It went on to be an event that was compared with God creating the world, as when Pope wrote “God said, ‘Let Newton be!—And all was light.” The publication of the Principia has been portrayed as a quasi-divine act ever since. Even as perceptive a biographer as Richard Westfall has recourse to the imagery of the gods when he writes
He has become for me wholly other, one of the tiny handful of supreme geniuses who have shaped the categories of the human intellect, a man not finally reducible to the criteria by which we comprehend our fellow beings . . .
And what was this divine accomplishment? Newton’s Principia brought heaven and earth together in one unified system. He united celestial and terrestrial mechanics, the systems of Kepler and Galileo respectively, into one unified mathematical construct described by the inverse square law.
Newton was a mathematician of genius, but he put mathematics to more than one use in the Principia. The first use was to describe the attraction which gravity exerted between bodies in general and the planets in particular. The second use was to cover his tracks. Newton deliberately made the Principia as unreadable as possible by adding large sections of mathematical equations of his own invention.
Newton told his friend William Derham
And for this reason, namely to avoid being baited by little Smatterers in Mathematicks, he told me, he designedly made his Principia abstruse. . . .
Admirers of the Principia have been so in awe of Newton’s mathematical ability that they failed to see that the Principia aspired to be more than mathematics. It was a treatise in physics and mechanics but it was also a cosmology as well. And it was in these areas that the first objections to his system began to intrude upon the otherwise universal applause which greeted its birth.
Newton claimed that the celestial motion of the planets could be explained by two laws. The first law was inertia, by which Newton claimed that all bodies in motion would continue in motion until acted upon by another body. This reversed the common sense and Aristotelian notion of a universe in which most objects were at rest by claiming that rest was the exception and motion the rule. Rule one was, however, only half of the system, because according to the law of inertia bodies would continue in motion in straight lines leading to a total dispersal of all matter and energy or chaos.
What brought the universe into circular or perfect motion and created what we might call the solar system was gravity. Gravity was the universal force of attraction which held the universe together much as the string attached to the rock keeps it revolving around the head of the boy swinging it rather than flying off into space.
Newton concluded that that the operation of gravity could be described mathematically by the inverse square law, but he could never explain either what gravity was or how it worked. Newton’s readers on the continent, in particular Christiaan Huygens and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, picked up on this immediately, and accused Newton of covertly smuggling occult properties into his system.
Christiaan Huygens and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz . . . received copies from Newton, and . . . rejected its central concept. Huygens found the principle of attraction “absurd.” For his part, Leibniz was astonished that Newton had not proceeded to find the cause of the law of gravity, by which he meant an aethereal vortex which would reduce attraction to a mechanical cause.
Newton’s physics was based on a rejection of Aristotle’s idea of natural motion, which taught that the four elements—earth, air, fire and water—all had their natural place, and that bodies in which any one of those elements predominated would go either up—home or the natural abode of both fire and air—or down—the natural abode or home of both earth and water. Once each body reached its natural place it would be at rest, a state which characterized most of the universe. The motion of a body away from its natural place of rest was known as “violent motion.”
In place of Aristotle, Newton adopted the physics of Descartes, which divided the world into matter, the res extensa, and thought, the res cogitans. The res extensa was all of one piece. The entire physical universe was one fabric or one fluid composed of atoms, and motion occurred when one atom bumped into another and conveyed to that second atom its motion in much the same way that a locomotive conveys motion to a string of boxcars. Leibniz and Huygens were smart enough to realize that in the Cartesian material universe which Newton ostensibly espoused, there was no possibility of action at a distance. And that meant that there could be no such thing as gravity.
White tells us that Leibniz
was suspicious of Newton’s entire concept of gravity, referring to it mockingly as “the rebirth in England of a theology that is more than papist and a philosophy entirely scholastic since Mr. Newton and his partisans have revived the occult qualities of the school with the idea of attraction.” [Gottfried von Leibniz, Die Philosophischen Schriften Vol. 3, pp. 328-9]
Well, Newton was certainly no papist. Where then did the idea of gravity come from? Leibniz got it right when he claimed that Newton smuggled “gravity” into his system. But he got the source wrong. Leibniz knew there was something “occult” about Newton’s idea of gravity, but he thought the source of Newton’s cosmology was scholasticism, when in reality the source was alchemy. Newton wasn’t a closet scholastic; Newton was an alchemist.
Beginning in 1669, Newton devoted the next ten years of his life all but exclusively to alchemical research, including experiments involving equipment in his Cambridge apartment.
Newton devoted more of his life to alchemy than he did to mechanics or optics or even mathematics. The Principia was in many ways the culmination of his alchemical studies, but it was also in many ways nothing but a short interruption of them as well.
Alchemy was born in Alexandria when Egyptian metal workers and dyers tried find an explanation for their craft in Greek Philosophy at some point around the time of the beginning of the Christian era. According to Hopkins, “real alchemy did not exist until philosophy had been applied to explain the artistic creations of the workers in metals.” Hopkins claims that “Plato and Aristotle furnished the philosophy upon which alchemy rose,” but before long it becomes clear that both Plato and Aristotle derived their ideas from Empedocles. It was from Empedocles that both Plato and Aristotle learned that the universe was composed of four fundamental elements—earth, air, fire, and water. In his Timaeus, the only Platonic text familiar to the medieval world, Plato mentions Empdocles explicitly when he claims that “Empedocles had attempted to explain the composition of all natural objects as being made up of four units—earth, water, air, and fire.” Plato may have understood the concept differently. Hopkins claims that Plato felt that earth, air, fire and water “can have no unitary character, [and] that they cannot be considered “elements,” for they easily pass into one another, all being different appearances of the substratum matter,” but Empedocles was the source of his idea of the elements just as it was for Aristotle, Plato’s pupil.
Aristotle’s understanding of natural objects was more sophisticated than the views of the atomists. Instead a world made up of little indivisible balls bumping into each other, Aristotle believed that “As forms are to matter, so also is Soul to Body.” Aristotle nonetheless paved the way for alchemy when, in explaining the four “elements” of Empedocles, he wrote
There is nothing strange in supposing that brass may lose some of its elementary earth and partake more of he higher elements such as fire. By changing to higher qualities, brass may be changed into gold for the “quality of gold is independent of the metallic substance which is its support.
Newton was familiar with Empedocles both through his alchemical research and through his exposure to classical thought at Cambridge University, where he was both an undergraduate and holder of the Lucasian chair of mathematics. In one of his unpublished papers Newton wrote that Empedocles claimed “that all matter consists of atoms,” an idea which he claims was “a very ancient opinion,” and one usually associated with Democritus.
Atomism held a peculiar attraction for Newton, as we shall see, but it was common enough and he could have gotten that idea from any number of sources. The idea most usually associated with Empedocles—and the one which alchemy adopted at its metaphysical first principle—was the idea that the universe was kept in motion by the contradictory forces of love and strife.
Empedocles believed that all matter in the universe is made of the four elements, but he added something unique to the elements: the forces of Love and Strife.
Newton got the idea of gravity vs. inertia or love vs. strife from Empedocles, via the alchemical tradition.
The first principle of the Newtonian system is inertia or strife.
The second principle of the Newtonian system is love or gravity.
Both were taken from Empedocles via the alchemical tradition. Circular or perfect motion derives from the reciprocal action of love on strife and strife on love. That is the Newtonian system in a nutshell. Both Huygens and Leibniz were correct in claiming that Newton’s cosmology was based on occult forces, but both erred in thinking that he derived these forces from scholasticism. Their source was older than that. It was Empedocles, and Newton most probably learned about Empedocles via alchemy. Alchemy was full of mythological forces, attractions and repulsions, or as Newton would say, sociableness and unsociableness. Venus, which was both a planet and the metal copper, would fall in love or find itself irresistibly attracted to, Mercury, which still retains its identity as both planet and metal in the common parlance, and “copulation” would result bringing for a new compound. It’s a bit like saying that Sodium is so attracted to Chlorine that the two fell in love, copulated and produced table salt.
Or as Newton put it:
Dissolve volatile green lion in the central salt of Venus and distill. This spirit is he green lion the blood of the green lion Venus, the Babylonian Dragon that kills everything with its poison, but conquered by being assuaged by the Doves of Diana, it is the Bond of Mercury. Neptune with his trident leads the philosopher into the sophic garden. Therefore Neptune is the mineral watry menstruum and the trident is the ferment of water similar to the caduceus of mercury with which mercury is fermented, that is, the two dry Doves with the dry martial Venus.”
What we see in the Newtonian system is not a return to scholasticism but rather a return to paganism. The Newtonian system gave new life to the English ideology, but the English ideology had always been involved in magic. In fact there is a direct line of intellectual influence connecting Newton to Robert Boyle to Samuel Hartlib to Robert Fludd to Francis Bacon to John Dee which makes the genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel look vague by comparison.
Newton refined Dee’s magic down to its two basic principles, love and strife, and of the two, strife or inertia was the more basic. The notion that strife is the fundamental principle of the universe would become the fundamental belief of the English Ideology. If we substitute the more modern economic term “competition” for strife we can see that Newton established the fundamental principles for modern English Capitalism as well.
According to Adam Smith’s reading of Newton, greed, which is analogous to each body in space seeking its own good without regard to any other body, is held in check by competition, and the result is Smith’s version of perfect motion, otherwise known as the “invisible hand” which assures that private vice is transformed magically (or alchemically, we might say) into public good.
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is another example of the English Ideology, derived from Newton, which also claims that strife—or as Darwin would say, natural selection—is the fundamental principle of the universe. Darwin, like Newton, “frames no hypotheses.” He looks at nature and discovers that “strife” is its fundamental law.
That things may not be that simple is demonstrated more ably by Harvard professor Eric D. Beinhocker than I could do myself. In his book The Origin of Wealth (a play on the titles of both Smith’s and Darwin’s magna opera), he tells us:
Evolutionary theory and economics have a long and intertwined history. In fact it was an economist who helped spark one of Charles Darwin’s most important insights. In 1798, the English economist Thomas Robert Malthus published a book titled An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects Future Improvements of Society, in which he portrayed the economy as a competitive struggle for survival and a constant race between population’s growth and humankind’s ability to improve its productivity. It was a race that, Malthus predicted, humankind would lose.
Darwin read Malthus’s work and described his reaction in his autobiography:
In October 1838, that is 15 months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for my amusement, “Malthus on Population,” and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it once struck me that under these circumstances favorable variations would tend to be preserved and unfavorable ones would be destroyed. The result would be the formation of a new species.
Here then I had at last got the theory by which to work.
Beinhocker now explains the role that Malthus’s views on economics played in Darwin’s biology:
Darwin’s great insight into the critical role of natural selection in evolution was thus inspired by economics. It was not long after Darwin published his Origin of Species that the intellectual currents began to flow back the other way from evolutionary theorists to economists. In 1898, the economist Thorstein Veblen wrote an article that still reads remarkably well today arguing that the economy is an evolutionary system. Not long afterward, Alfred Marshall, one of the founders of modern economic theory, wrote I his introduction to his famous Principles of Economics, “The Mecca of the economist lies in economic biology.”
So is economics really just evolutionary biology? Or is biology really just capitalist economics?
Professor Beinhocker’s explanation for this coincidence is not that great minds run in the same circles. No, his explanation is that “evolution is an algorithm.” In fact evolution is a “universal algorithm.” In fact, evolution is the fundamental algorithm of the universe. Hence it should come as no surprise that biology and economics should obey the same laws. Or as he puts it, “The same process that has driven the growing order and complexity of the biosphere has driven the growing order and complexity of the ‘econosphere.’”
So, to answer the question we just posed above, biology and economics are both expressions of the fundamental algorithm of the universe, which is evolution. Which means of course that economics is really biology. Or as Professor Beinhocker puts it,
Saying that economic systems are like biological systems does not tell us much that is scientifically useful. But saying that both economic and biological systems are subclasses of a more general and universal class of evolutionary systems tells us a lot. This is because researchers believe that there are general laws of evolutionary systems. Scientists consider certain features of nature universal. For example, gravity works the same way on earth as it does at the farthest reaches of the universe, and it works the same way on atoms, apples, and galaxies. Modern evolutionary theorists believe that, like gravity, evolution is a universal phenomenon, meaning that no matter whether the algorithm is running in the substrate of biological DNA, a computer program, the economy, or in the substrate of an alien biology on a distant planet, evolution will follow certain general laws in its behavior.
And what are these fundamental laws common to both Darwin and Newton and economics? These laws are, you guessed it, love and strife, but, when it comes to Darwin, mostly strife. Professor Mirowski in his brilliant book More Heat than Light has shown convincingly that economics is in reality bad physics, and that the science of economics is ultimately traceable back to Newton, or at least his system as it stopped developing at around 1850.
Even if he does so unintentionally, Professor Beinhocker takes Professor Mirowski’s insight to a whole new level by showing—again, unintentionally—that evolution, survival of the fittest, and natural selection are really nothing but a rationalization of English Capitalism projected back on to the natural world as a way of exculpating its perpetrators of the guilt they incur by imposing this system on the rest of us.
Taking Professor Beinhocker’s and Professor Mirowski’s insights to still another level, I would propose that just as classic economics is nothing more than bad physics, so classical physics of the sort proposed by the Newtonian system is nothing more than bad economics, and by bad I use the word as implying both moral fault and intellectual defect.
Just as Darwin and Malthus projected the English Capitalism of their day onto the world of biology, so Newton projected the Capitalism of his day onto the universe when he said that its most fundamental principle was inertia or strife.
But in order to prove my point I have to re-situate Newtonian physics in the context of its times.
The Principia was composed during a period of great political turmoil. Newton, who was a committed Puritan revolutionary, began work on the Principia in 1685. In February of that same year Charles II died and was succeeded by his brother James II. James was a Catholic and with his accession to the throne “England was gripped by fears that his brother . . . James II, would attempt to convert the country into a Catholic state.” “Newton,” we are told, “was horrified at the prospect.”
While the galleys of the Principia were still at the press, Newton became embroiled in university politics when he opposed James’s order to admit a Benedictine priest by the name of Alban Francis to the degree of Master of the Arts “without exercises and without oaths.” When the university provost bungled the appeal, Newton was chosen
as one of two representatives to convey to the vice-chancellor their voluntary advice that it would still be illegal and unsafe to admit Father Francis to the degree without the oath.
Westfall claims that “Newton spoke out and articulated the common fears when prudential considerations left others mute.” His principles were clear enough: “A mixture of Papist & Protestants in the same University can neither subsist happily nor long together.”
One year later, in November 1688, William of Orange landed at the head of a 600-ship armada at Torbay, and James, the rightful sovereign, was forced to flee from London and a few days later was allowed to slip away by sea into exile. Newton, who was an “extreme Whig,” now found himself on the winning side of the Glorious Revolution. Within months of the revolution he was elected to Parliament at the representative of Cambridge University. (Newton said only one thing during his time as MP. Feeling a draught down his back, he asked a nearby usher to close an open window.) Two days after being elected to Parliament, Newton dined with the King. The retiring professor was now a political player.
In 1689 Newton met the political philosopher John Locke for the first time. Locke attempted to read the Principia while still in exile in Holland, but, being a smatterer, could not figure out the mathematics, and had to rely on his good friend Christiaan Huygens, who assured him that Newton’s calculations were kosher.
In 1692 Locke traveled to Cambridge where he and Newton took some red earth bequeathed them by the chemist and alchemist Robert Boyle and tried to transmute it in Newton’s laboratory into the philosopher’s stone.
Newton was the Harry Potter of his day.
Locke mentioned Newton glowingly in the introduction to his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. He obviously saw in Newton a valuable asset for the Whig cause.
And what did the Whigs need most at this point, when the revolution was still young and vulnerable?
What did Locke see in Newton? In addition to a man who could turn lead into gold, always a useful skill, Locke saw in Newton’s Principia a new source of credibility or legitimacy, the one thing the Whig revolutionaries lacked when they placed a usurper on the throne.
Newton’s cosmology was a rationalization, in just about every sense of the word, of force. Motion was redefined. It no longer bespoke a telos or goal, as it had in the Aristotelian system. Motion was now extrinsic to the bodies in motion, and another world for that extrinsic motion was force. Once Whig magnates digested the lesson of the Principia with the help of propagandists like Locke, they learned that all motion was caused, not by entelechy leading them to their proper end or telos, but by external force, which was in some sense of the word, totally arbitrary and in that sense much like the force (William of Orange) which put James II in motion and drove him from his rightful position (now associated with the outmoded concept of entelechy or telos) on the throne of England. There was no longer any proper end to motion. Every motion was arbitrary and a function of force. All motion was in the Aristotelian sense, “violent motion,” and all of it was determined by force which is always imposed from without. Newton’s Principia was, in other words, a usurpers dream, and that is why the Whig Junta fastened on it as an answer to a maiden’s prayer.
Newton’s Principia gave mathematical and therefore scientific legitimacy to the world Shakespeare descried in the wake of the Protestant takeover of England and the looting of Church property that constituted the first stage of capital formation in the history of English Capitalism when he wrote:
Take but degree [or telos] away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows! Each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy. [i.e. everything is now based on strife or competition or natural selection or survival of the fittest] The bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
And make a sop of all this solid globe.
Strength should be the lord of imbecility.
And the rude son should strike his father dead.
Force [and here we’re getting to the heart of the Newtonian cosmology] should be right, or rather right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then everything includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite,
And appetite, a universal wolf,
So doubly second with will and power
Must make perforce a universal prey,
And last eat it self up.
This in a nutshell is a description of the brave new world imposed on England by the Glorious Revolution as well as a summary of the operating system of that regime, which would soon come to be known as Capitalism. Capitalism is government sponsored usury and usury, like the universal wolf invariably eats itself up, when the debt burden becomes insurmountable and the economy freezes up under it, as happened in 2008 and in 1929 and too many times previous to recount here.
Newton got the idea for inertia and gravity from alchemy, which got the ideas of love and strife from Empeocles, but he got his idea of force from the lived experience of English capitalism.
All of the lessons Newton learned as a child were economic. Newton’s father died when he was a child. When he was three years old his mother married a 63-year-old widower, who was also an Anglican priest, out of purely financial considerations. As part of the prenuptial agreement, Newton’s mother had to agree to leave three-year-old Isaac behind to be raised by his grandparents. The Rev. Smith lived longer than Hannah expected. When she finally moved back to live with Isaac she brought three half-siblings with her. The bond between mother and child was irrevocably broken, and Isaac had been permanently scarred by the experience. The universe was a different place now. It was ruled by unseen forces that moved bodies in inexplicable ways, ways that a child of undeniable genius would attempt to explain in later life.
Westfall claims that
Newton was a tortured man, an extremely neurotic personality who teetered always, at least through middle age, on the verge of breakdown. No one has to stretch credulity excessively to believe that the second marriage and departure of his mother could have contributed enormously to the inner torment of that the boy already perhaps bewildered by the realization that he, unlike others, had no father.
White is even more specific and more censorious. He calls Hannah Ayscough-Newton-Smith’s abandonment of her three year old son “totally heartless” and goes on to say that “The enforced separation from his mother at such an impressionable age has long been recognized as on of the key factors in shaping his character.”
If this trauma shaped Newton’s character then it shaped the intellectual system that was the product of that character as well. Deprived of a mother’s love and a father’s guidance, Isaac could meditate upon the principles which his mother’s sudden departure taught him during his lonely and unhappy childhood.
Isaac’s boyhood appeared to have been lonely. He formed no bond with any of his numerous relations that can be traced in his later life. The lonely boyhood was the first chapter in a long career of isolation.
The first and most unmistakable conclusion that he deduced from his mother abandoning him when he was three is that human beings are atoms which proceed through life alone and at the mercy of impersonal forces. Newton’s “enforced separation from his mother,” who chose money over the welfare of her only child became not only the basis for Newton’s character, as White indicates, but the basis for his future physics as well; both derived their character from the economic lessons Newton learned as a three-year-old child who was abandoned by his mother.
Newton early on constructed a theory of economic forces which would have direct relevance to the cosmological theory at the heart of the Principia. Newton’s real first law, which is to say, the one he learned from his mother, states that money is more important than the bond between a mother and her child. A mother’s love (the hand that rocks the cradle moves the world) as well as the most intimate and familiar ties are controlled by abstract economic principles, which no child can understand and which remain mysterious to the great majority of mankind. The heart of this economics is the idea of force, which, as Professor Mirowski has explained, is another word for money. Economic force (or money) alone explains the motion of heavenly bodies, like that of his mother. Money is the secret force that determines motion. There is no plenum or fullness to nature. There are only lonely atoms in a void moved by force, which is another word for money. As Westfall tells us, “After deploying the standard arguments against a plenum, Newton opted for atoms,” which is to say, a cosmology based on his life as an abandoned child and a lonely scholar. Like Darwin, Newton projected English capitalism on to the universe. Unlike Darwin, the pampered scion of the English ruling class, Newton projected capitalism as he saw it and lived it, the rejected outcast who was determined to make his way by usury and political patronage. The ultimate source of Newton’s cosmology wasn’t mathematics; it wasn’t disinterested observation eschewing “hypotheses” (“hypothesi not fingo,” was the famous explanation or non-explanation Newton added to the second edition of the Principia); it wasn’t even alchemy, from which he derived the concepts of inertia and gravity. No, the ultimate source of Newton’s cosmology was Capitalism viewed through the lens of his relationship with his mother.
Subsequent experience only reinforced the view of the universe he learned from his absent mother. By the time Newton enrolled at Cambridge, his mother was earning 700 pounds a year at a time when the skilled craftsman or the average civil servant had to made due on 50. And yet Newton had to earn his room board and tuition there as a “sizar,” which is to say, a servant who waited on tables and emptied the chamber pots of those better off than he. It was a situation which further poisoned his relations with his mother. The injustice of his economic situation led to thoughts of violence. He spoke in his diary of burning his mother and stepfather’s house down with them in it.
Newton consoled himself by constructing machines:
Similar stories of mechanical models are told of Robert Hooke’s boyhood. In both cases manual skill served them well in constructing equipment for experiments. Far more important, however, is the testimony of such stories to the pervasive image of the machine in the 17th century mind. Already that image had reshaped the conception of nature. The pursuits of his boyhood prepared Newton to embrace the mechanical philosophy as soon as he met it.
Newton was fascinated by the idea of perpetual motion, and seems to have discovered it in the realm of finance before finding it in the realm of physics. Finding it “impossible to get along with his fellow students,” Newton decided to exploit them financially instead, by engaging in “extensive business in usury” conducted largely among his fellow sizars. Newton would continue to be a money lender for his entire life.
In 1693 Newton experienced what seems to have been a mental breakdown. In a manic and rambling letter he accused Locke of wanting to “embroil me with woemen.” Explanations for the breakdown range from mercury poisoning to the end of his relationship with Fatio, with whom he is suspected of having had homosexual relations.
It may have had more to do with his experiments in alchemy. In particular, the passage in “Praxis” where he wrote:
You may multiply it in quantity by the mercuries of which you made it first, amalgaming the stone with the [mercury] of 3 or more eagles & adding their weight of the water, & if you design it for metalls you may melt every time 3 parts of [gold] with one of the stone. Every multiplication will encrease its vertue ten times & if you use the [mercury] of the second or third rotation with the spirit, perhaps a thousand times. Thus you may multiply to infinity.
That was the hope, anyway, but the hope was never fulfilled. At least not in the laboratory. Newton may have become deranged from inhaling too much mercury or because Fatio left him, but his depression may have been caused by the failure of the alchemy project to which he had devoted most of his adult life. Newton now understood that it was impossible to multiply gold to infinity—in the laboratory, at any rate.
But then Newton’s situation changed, and with the change in political climate he began to see that his alchemical dreams might be fulfilled elsewhere.
With the election of 1694 everything changed: the Whigs were swept into government, and Newton’s friend Charles Montagu was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. . . . By he end of 1695 rumors began to circulate in London that Newton was to be appointed Master of the Royal Mint.
1696 was a year of crisis for the Whig revolution
The war placed financial demands far beyond any precedent on the state. In 1696 it was not clear that the demands would be met. If they were not, if national bankruptcy ensued, the revolutionary settlement would undoubtedly collapse before a second Stuart restoration. In the larger crises of the government and its finances Newton was not involved beyond his concern as an Englishman committed to the revolution. . . . The monetary crisis, which bedeviled the financial crisis by reaching a climax when it could least be tolerated, occupied him almost completely for more than two years.
There was not even a temporary respite in this until the unsatisfactory and short-lived Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, by which time the national reserves had been depleted within an ace of bankruptcy, stretching the national debt (a device newly created by Montagu) almost beyond control.
Newton studied economics as preparation for his job as warden of the Mint.
He studied every economics book he could lay his hands upon and picked the brains of the foremost financial thinkers of the day—Francis Brewster, William Lowndes, Jean Boizard, and his friend John Locke.
In his limited spare time, he filled page after page with the history of economics, the theory of commerce, the principles of the currency system of various countries; he charted the lineage of positions within the Mint and the privileges that had been lost.
Early in March 1696, scarcely two weeks before Montague’s letter appointing him warden of the Mint, Newton received a visit from “A Londoner acquainted with Mr. Boyle and Mr. Dickinson,” who discoursed with
him for two days on the Work according to Jodocus a Rhe, an early 17th century alchemist whom Newton had studies. Every indication in Newton’s account of the visit suggests that the man knew exactly for whom he was looking when he came to Cambridge. As for Newton, he composed two drafts of a memorandum recording the conversation.
Two weeks later, after being vetted by the mysterious stranger, Newton got the job. Judging from subsequent events, the interview had to do with Newton’s monetary policy, which since he was going to be involved in the recoinage that was going to save the Whig revolution, most probably involved his willingness to debase the currency, the one way alchemists had actually multiplied gold during the Middle Ages. Secretary of the Treasury William Lowndes felt that the only way to save the Whig regime was to devalue the currency. And Newton “was one of the few who agreed with Lowndes’s plan to devalue.”
Prices would tend to rise an equivalent amount, but he thought that strict governmental controls exercized through the livery companies in London could prevent the inflation. He was willing, however, to let rents rise so that landlords would not suffer permanent loss. Holders of government annuities would suffer such loss, but he assumed that the Parliament would assuage their lot to maintain the government’s credit. Locke was the most articulate of those who insisted that only recoinage at the old standard could salvage the currency.
Eventually, Locke’s view prevailed, and Newton was ordered to create an honest currency. Montague met the financial needs of the Whig regime with the newly created Bank of England instead of a debased currency, and Capitalism was launched in earnest onto a world where it would cause even more misery than the amateurish attempts at usury had caused during the Middle Ages.
And what Newton learned is that his physics was more serviceable than he suspected, but more importantly than that, he learned that the dream of alchemy which he thought had died during the black year of 1693 hadn’t died after all. It had been reborn. He and Locke had actually found their philosopher’s stone in the world of modern Capitalist finance.
An expanded version of this talk will be published in an upcoming issue of Culture Wars.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2010
News from the Fringe
A reader writes:
As promised a report on the Geocentrism conference from last weekend.
Pam and I had nothing better to do so we spent an extra day in South Bend after visiting friends and family.
First, the agreeable part: The meal that was included with the $50 admission was excellent. Give the devil his due, Bob knows how to pick a caterer. I had the salmon, Pam had the chicken- FWIW
Now, the conference... If you get the chance to buy and review the videos- Do it! You'll find no bigger indictment of these people than their own words and behavior.
Later, E. Michael Jones spoke. Of course the Jews are behind keeping this information away from you. His talk was the dullest and most incoherent of the day; a rambling diatribe against Judeo-Masonic plots, Bilderbergers, Trilateralists, Amish etc. One cliche after another. We've heard it all before. There was even some babbling about the cranial capacities of Negro skulls and a suggestion that the myth of the Holocaust was hatched by a group yeshiva dropouts in Kiev.
Well, that's all for now. You probably already have similar reports.
It's all such a pitiable waste. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.
POSTED BY MARK P. SHEA AT 9:22 AM COMMENTS
From: email@example.com [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 6:57 AM
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Your report on my talk at the geocentrism conference
Dear Mr. Shea,
Your report on my talk at the geocentrism conference was a total fabrication. I did not mention one single item attributed to me. It was all made up.
I have attached a copy of the speech I actually gave and ask you to publish it along with a retraction on you website.
E. Michael Jones
From: "Mark Shea" email@example.com
Sent: Tue 16/11/10 09:53
Subject: RE: Your report on my talk at the geocentrism conference
I've decided to take the letter from the reader down since I was not there. If you guys put your talks on the web and let me know, I will link them. Also, if you put anything on Youtube and let me know, I will link that. The reader can make up his own mind about your silly junk.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 10:28 AM
To: Mark Shea
Subject: RE: Your report on my talk at the geocentrism conference
Dear Mr. Shea,
Let me get this straight. Not only do you publish a totally fabricated defamatory report of my talk, you then refer to my talk (which you have not read) as "silly junk" and do not offer even the slightest hint that you may have done something wrong and may owe me in justice both an apology and a retraction. If this were the first time this had happened, I would ascribe it to some lapse on your part. But snide and defamatory speech is a habit of mind with you. It is furthermore a bad habit which, unless corrected, will continue to get you into ever deeper trouble, if not legally then certainly spiritually. Contempt for the truth and contempt for the good name of fellow Catholics is no basis for an apostolate in Catholic apologetics.
Since this thought evidently has not occurred to you, let me state plainly then: you owe me in justice an apology and a retraction. Please post it on your website next to the link we will be sending you to my talk.
Has it ever occurred to you that your insufferable behavior causes scandal, especially since you call yourself a Catholic apologist? Your behavior doesn't rise to the level of common decency, much less to the level of Christian love of neighbor. Don't drag the Church into further discredit by associating your contempt for the truth and the reputation of fellow Catholics with Catholic apologetics.
E. Michael Jones
From: "Mark Shea" firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Tue 16/11/10 11:48
Subject: RE: Your report on my talk at the geocentrism conference
As I say, send me a link to your talk and I will put it up. When I do, I will explain that I took the reader's note down because I was not there and invite the reader to evaluate whatever silly junk you and Sungenis wish to present. I will not post your entire piece on my blog. Don't be silly.
As to causing scandal, deal with the log in your eye, you and Sungenis.
 Richard A .Westfall, Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. ix.
 Westfall, p. 459. See also White
 Westfall, p. 472.
 Arthur John Hopkins, Alchemy: Child of Greek Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1934), p. 7.
 Hopkins, p. 27.
 Hopkins, p. 16.
 Hopkins, p. 21.
 Hopkins, p. 22n.
 Cf. Westfall, p. 510, “That all matter consists of atoms was a very ancient opinion [he asserted]. This was the teaching of the multitude of philosophers who preceded Aristotle, namely Epicurus, Democritus, Ecphantus, Empedocles, Zenocrates, Heraclides, Asclepiades, Diodorsu, Metrodorus of Chios, Pythatorage and previous to these Moschus the Phoenecian whom Strabo declares older than the Trojan War. For I think that same opinion obtained in that mystic philosophy which flowed down to the Greeks from Egypt and Phoenecia, since atoms are sometimes to be found to be designated by the mystics as monads.” [ie., from the alchemical tradition]
 Westfall, pp. 368-9.
 Eric D. Beinhocker, The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2006), pp. 16-7.
 Beinhocker, p. 12.
 Beinhocker, p. 11.
 White, p. 215.
 Westfall, p. 474.
 Westfall, p. 477.
 Westfall, p. 477.
 White, p. 230.
 White, p. 232.
 Richard Westfall, p. 53.
 White, p. 15.
 White, p. 16.
 Westfall, p. 55.
 Westfall, p. 96.
 P. 62.
 Westfall, p. 90.
 Westfall, p. 74.
 Westfall, p. 534.
 Westfall, p. 551.
 White, p. 259.
 Westfall, p. 526.
 Westfall, p. 555.