Friday, February 04, 2005

The Newton Project 

Put on your seatbelt, it's going to be a bumpy ride. I say that because over the next couple of years, I look for the world to be inundated with the religious writings of Isaac Newton. A long-standing project has been transcribing Newton's Latin texts on Religion and Alchemy into books and onto the web. I think Indiana University even has a piece of the pie, transcribing Newton's writings on Alchemy. Newton published his Math and Science books to great acclaim, but he kept his religious writings secret for fear of persecution. Newton's writings were in private hands for a couple of centuries, only coming to light when they were auctioned off in 1939 (I believe that date is correct). Newton's contemporaries thought he suffered a mental breakdown over the last years of his life and one result of that was his controversial religious writings. Today, though, I can already see the headlines about Newton being misunderstood, having to hide, being ahead of his time, of the world not being ready for his genius.

Newton is rightly considered a genius; his invention of Calculus and his forays into optics and thermodynamics, etc. were, and are, breathtaking. But Newton wrote far more (far, far more) about religion. He believed, for example, that his discoveries were re-discoveries of an original ancient wisdom that Noah preserved from the flood, but was later lost. Newton calculated the end of the world would be in the year 2060 from his examinations of Revelations and Daniel. Newton was no atheist, he had no doubt there is a God, but he believed the Bible was corrupted over the centuries and he did not believe that Jesus was divine. Newton believed the concept of the Trinity, with Jesus as Son, was created and forced wrongly into church dogma. In this, I suspect there will be a large audience of Dan Brown readers eager for more bashing of Christianity, and a world media more than happy to assist. Look for stories, yet in 2005, about the painstaking efforts Newton went to to accurately uncover the history of the early Christian faith.

Update: Click here to read an article from a couple of years ago about the Newton Project. Here's an excerpt:
The image of Newton as the great rational thinker was created after his death--Newton was actually a puritanical zealot, a secret heretic who raged against the Anglican Church, delighted in the suffering of Catholics and felt God had given him special powers. "What has been coming out over the past 10 years is what an apocalyptic thinker Newton was," says the documentary's producer, Malcolm Neaum. "He spent something like 50 years and wrote 4,500 pages trying to predict when the end of the world was coming.

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