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Thread: Anyone read Dobb's works on Newton?

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by solomon levi View Post
    Consider Ouspensky:
    Another writer who I admire! Thanks for sending this link. It's a long document, but I will enjoy reading it. I have many of his books, but I don't think I have this one.

    Illen

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rheomode View Post
    Fantastic, this excerpt nails it! And really interesting as well, Jung certainly analyzed the hell out of all of this, and I am in perpetual awe of his personal discoveries and body of work. Although honestly, most of the time I'm reading him, I'm like, "Yeah.. totally, yeah.. totally, yeah.. totally, wait.. what?"
    Hi Jen,
    Jung is certainly far more interesting and astute than Freud was. Freud was very much against introducing the spiritual part of our psyches, whereas Silberer ( I have his book but only read parts of it) and Jung went against him and introduced this aspect. I understand that Freud was so upset with Silberer for writing about this aspect that he gave him such a strong rebute that Silberer committed suicide afterwards. Jung also opposed Freud in this regard but was prepared for the rebuke he knew he would get.

    I'm more than half way through Dobb's book now and am really enjoying it. There was one particular quote that I found especially interesting (page 107):

    "Since, however, the Christian revelation had to be the touchstone of truth, all of those fascinating new-old ideas in the esoteric writings of antiquity had to be reconciled with Christianity or else rejected out of hand."

    Illen
    Last edited by Illen A. Cluf; 03-07-2013 at 03:11 AM.

  3. #23
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    get you reading Castaneda and we'll be literary twins. he, Ousp/Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti (who i know you read and admire) are like my top 3 influences, authors who changed my life.

    if you like Dobbs, you must read about Starkey, an excellent book with practical lab info... what got me into volatile alkali...
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/022...d_i=0226577023

    such an enjoyable fascinating read.
    not to imply that Dobbs wrote it... i just imagine they are similarly interesting.
    http://serpentrioarquila.blogspot.com/

    "To conjure is nothing else than to observe anything rightly, to know and understand what it is." - Paracelsus

    "Why, then, don't you act when you see the danger of your conditioning? The answer is you don't see... seeing is acting." J. Krishnamurti

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by solomon levi View Post
    get you reading Castaneda and we'll be literary twins. he, Ousp/Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti (who i know you read and admire) are like my top 3 influences, authors who changed my life.

    if you like Dobbs, you must read about Starkey, an excellent book with practical lab info... what got me into volatile alkali...
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/022...d_i=0226577023

    such an enjoyable fascinating read.
    not to imply that Dobbs wrote it... i just imagine they are similarly interesting.
    I guess we're literary twins! I read all of Castenada's books decades ago.

    I have many authors who changed my life. Krishnamurti is definitely at the top, but so are Hermann Hesse, Ouspensky/Gurdjieff, Castaneda, Robert Pirsig, Michael Baigent and many others.

    I have read Gehennical Fire, as well as many other books by William R. Newman and Lawrence Principe. The latest book I purchased by Principe was "The Secrets of Alchemy". These books are excellent!

    Illen

  5. #25
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    Gehennical Fire looks super interesting to me, I have added it to my cart. Thanks!

    And you know Illen, I got to the section on Henry More in the book, and my brain blew in like 20 different directions at once, so I kinda got caught up here for a bit... are you familiar with him? I'm really liking the impact he seems to have made on Newton, the plot thickens. The history is amazing here, so many interesting characters and philosophies. I'm a fan of d'Espagnet and I have much respect for Descartes, so watching More kind of settle in between them is neat. I was actually surprised at how little I could find on the net, concerning More or his works, but The Immortality of the Soul has also been added to my cart and I have placed my order, done and done!

    I would like to bring this mindset back into fashion:

    In other words, he based his reasoning on three great authorities: the authority of reason, divine authority, and the authority of antiquity.


    I wasn't aware of this issue of the Christianization of philosophies during this time period. The quote you cite is very interesting, for me, in a couple of areas, and if you'd like to share, I'd like to hear. The first thought that occurred to me was, "Jesus.. I wonder how much of my own education and perception has been influenced or even skewed by this period of Christianization..." O_O Especially considering my love for 17th c manuscripts, and how familiar More's process is to me, as he was drawing connections and finding all of the similarities between systems of thought in antiquity that I stumbled across during my development as well.

    Even more intriguing is the fact that I don't come from a religious background, so I knew nothing of the Bible until I dove into it myself after being directed there by the manuscripts that were published during this time period, and I saw nothing but metaphor everywhere I looked in that book. Fascinating

    Seems like they made it work out.

    That's quite a rock to toss in the pond, I wonder if those ripples enabled Blavatsky's mind to move the way it did, with regards to unifying the systems.

    ~Jen
    Last edited by Rheomode; 03-08-2013 at 01:24 AM. Reason: forgot my name again ^_^

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rheomode View Post
    And you know Illen, I got to the section on Henry More in the book, and my brain blew in like 20 different directions at once, so I kinda got caught up here for a bit... are you familiar with him?
    That section was indeed quite interesting. He's not as well known as Thomas More, but I guess he's best known for his disagreements with Rene Descartes. The whole part about mechanical philosophy was quite fascinating.

    I was actually surprised at how little I could find on the net, concerning More or his works, but The Immortality of the Soul has also been added to my cart and I have placed my order, done and done!
    Here's a free source for his "Collection of Several Philosophical Writings":

    http://archive.org/details/collectio...e00morehttp://



    I wasn't aware of this issue of the Christianization of philosophies during this time period. The quote you cite is very interesting, for me, in a couple of areas, and if you'd like to share, I'd like to hear. The first thought that occurred to me was, "Jesus.. I wonder how much of my own education and perception has been influenced or even skewed by this period of Christianization..." O_O Especially considering my love for 17th c manuscripts, and how familiar More's process is to me, as he was drawing connections and finding all of the similarities between systems of thought in antiquity that I stumbled across during my development as well.

    Even more intriguing is the fact that I don't come from a religious background, so I knew nothing of the Bible until I dove into it myself after being directed there by the manuscripts that were published during this time period, and I saw nothing but metaphor everywhere I looked in that book. Fascinating
    The Christianization of philosophies had actually been going on quite some time before Newton. I was brought up as a Catholic, but turned against the Church after an incident when I was about ten years of age, immediately after being "confirmed". From that time onwards, I decided to read the entire Bible and all I could about other religions, and this fascination has never left me. I was obsessed with trying to discover why so many who belonged to different faiths were so insistent that theirs was the only way and that all others were heathens, which is still the prevailing view. If there was only one God, and only one true religion, was it fair to be born in a geographical region, or to a family, that only taught/indoctrinated one of the other religions? Of course not. Therefore, perhaps all religions are seriously flawed. I personally do not see the value of any religious organization whatsoever. For me, religion is a personal philosophy, one that does not require elaborate castles, robed administrators, and old rituals practiced without any longer understanding the meaning behind those rituals. The whole world is a Church, and our access to it should not be through the guidance of a protected pervert or a defective and totally misunderstood set of writings. Dobbs was saying that a lot of biblical references were included in the alchemical treatises so that they would conform with the prevailing Christian doctrines. During those times it was very dangerous to be involved with something that did not meet the approval of Christian ways. The Church has a long history of spilling the blood of anyone who goes against its beliefs.

    That's quite a rock to toss in the pond, I wonder if those ripples enabled Blavatsky's mind to move the way it did, with regards to unifying the systems.
    Blavatsky was a result of the separation of matter and spirit by science. The intense study of physical matter leading to Chemistry, Medicine and Physics began in the 17th century, severing off the spiritual altogether. The spiritual was then picked up by other groups who separated it from matter, and extreme spiritual philosophies such as that practiced by the Theosophists beginning in the 1800s developed. These spun off into all sorts of modern New Age philosophies.

    Luckily, Alchemy is making a comeback. It has always been a philosophy which tries to bring spirit and matter together in a holy union.

    Illen
    Last edited by Illen A. Cluf; 03-08-2013 at 04:25 AM.

  7. #27
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    Thank you for sharing Every once in a while I catch myself thinking, "Maybe I could choose the catalyst for once ??" But then I suppose that somewhere along the line I did, and for good reason.

    The whole part about mechanical philosophy was quite fascinating.
    Funny that you mention this, it's been on my mind for a bit. I wasn't aware of this shift/split in the philosophy (you'll notice that my historical knowledge is spotty and surface at best, so please don't hesitate to expand my view), and I had to wonder if these might be the guys that the classical authors had in mind as they spent a considerable portion of their words on warnings against the charlatans and pretenders. I recognize that there were likely a few interesting characters publishing questionable works at the time, I mean it was like a bomb was dropped in 17th c Europe and thousands of papers flew everywhere, but these mechanical philosophers would have had a higher profile and possibly wider circulation. It was a question for me for a while because most of the classical authors seemed to support each other, and although you can find the occasional hint that a couple of them might have made it most but not all of the way to the goal, the author still communicates a profound respect towards the others. So I'd end up confused because it wasn't often that I'd get impression that someone was pretending be in possession of knowledge that they didn't have, and who knows, maybe a few even published prematurely, but I was always on the lookout, which was distracting.

    I wonder if it might be useful to include these mechanical works in the collections found online, to add more context.

    It's really interesting to read about the analogy that surfaced with regard to the constituent particles in the universe and the alphabet, which I've heard before and actually feels like an elegant illustration to me in one respect, but in the minds of the mechanical philosophers it seems to have played out differently.. I don't know, reading some of this is tricky for me, Dobbs illustrates the deductions and assumptions of all the sides, and most of the time I am seeing everyone saying the same damn thing (again, clarity at a distance). But it seems that planting these ideas in a mind where the rational reigns supreme does little more than set the stage for methodological reductionism. This might be a limited view on my part

    Luckily, Alchemy is making a comeback. It has always been a philosophy which tries to bring spirit and matter together in a holy union.
    This is a conversation I'd like to have in the future maybe, I have been noticing interesting differences between the texts published today as compared to older texts, and so I wouldn't mind gaining some insight

    And btw, regarding this:

    The whole world is a Church, and our access to it should not be through the guidance of a protected pervert or a defective and totally misunderstood set of writings.
    I couldn't agree more.

  8. #28
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    So in a bizarre twist of synchronicity, the two discussions in this forum I am involved with just collided:

    http://www.alchemyandchemistry.edwar...sities/Utrecht

    Boerhaave is the first of the mechanical philosophers that Dobbs discusses, and quote at the top of the page seems to be a nice illustration of the divide that starts taking place during this time:

    Jo. Conr. Barchausen, professor of chemistry at Utrecht, deserves well to be read. He is an honest writer, and sufficiently accurate; he delivers good matter in an excellent style, tho’ his reasonings are not so much to our mind. His Elementa Chemiae are printed in 4to, and contain a great many particular experiments, and manual operations, no where else to be met withal.
    Herman Boerhaave, A new method of chemistry (London, 1727), p. 39.

    !

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rheomode View Post
    Thank you for sharing Every once in a while I catch myself thinking, "Maybe I could choose the catalyst for once ??" But then I suppose that somewhere along the line I did, and for good reason.
    "Choice" is a strange concept. We all think we have "freedom of choice' but "choice" is dependent an so many uncontrollable actions. "Choice" is not only dependent on experience, but also very much on "knowledge". And "knowledge" is largely based on geography, circumstance and indoctrination. For example, it is well known that historical "fact" is enormously biased in favor of the nationality who wrote it. Medical "breakthroughs" are largely based on grants, and the largest sponsor of grants are the international drug companies. Thus you will see almost no publications on how to boost our immune systems, the only key to good health.

    Funny that you mention this, it's been on my mind for a bit. I wasn't aware of this shift/split in the philosophy (you'll notice that my historical knowledge is spotty and surface at best, so please don't hesitate to expand my view), and I had to wonder if these might be the guys that the classical authors had in mind as they spent a considerable portion of their words on warnings against the charlatans and pretenders.
    I think that the key charlatans were amongst the Platonic and Neo-Platonic groups, although new ones also sprang up after mechanical philosophy took the stage. Charlatans and pretenders are the curse of humanity and one of the key reasons why we progress so slowly in terms of quality. We are still apes, but the only difference is that we are now dressed in business suits. Not only were charlatans and pretenders prevalent throughout the alchemical writings, they are even more prevalent today amongst all the various Alchemy forums. I believe that one of the problems is that it is the general nature of people to WANT to be cheated and deceived, especially if it involves drama of an entertaining nature. This is one of the main reasons for the success of slick, dramatic "snake oil" salesmen in the past, and the real estate agents and lotteries and gambling casinos of today. I notice also that many naive beginners like to "follow" the most pretentious and dramatic claimants.

    It was a question for me for a while because most of the classical authors seemed to support each other, and although you can find the occasional hint that a couple of them might have made it most but not all of the way to the goal, the author still communicates a profound respect towards the others. So I'd end up confused because it wasn't often that I'd get impression that someone was pretending be in possession of knowledge that they didn't have, and who knows, maybe a few even published prematurely, but I was always on the lookout, which was distracting.
    This respect that alchemists had for those noteworthy alchemists that preceded them is one of the main reasons why I still believe in the possibility of transmutation as observed by the ancients. Their explanations are undoubtedly incorrect, but I cannot believe that their observations were incorrect.. But I believe that it is true that many, if not most, of the authors did not actually achieve the Philosophers Stone. It is so difficult to know which authors to invest time with and which ones to avoid, especially since they speak in riddles, symbols and allegories. I believe that ANY silly alchemical theory can be "proven" by creative interpretation of what the ancients wrote. That is the main problem, in my opinion, why the ancients should not have used the degree of symbolism that they did. It creates far more confusion, accidents, disillusionment, and even deaths than the good they were trying to convey.

    I wonder if it might be useful to include these mechanical works in the collections found online, to add more context.
    I'm not sure I understand where you want these collections included.

    I don't know, reading some of this is tricky for me, Dobbs illustrates the deductions and assumptions of all the sides, and most of the time I am seeing everyone saying the same damn thing (again, clarity at a distance). But it seems that planting these ideas in a mind where the rational reigns supreme does little more than set the stage for methodological reductionism. This might be a limited view on my part
    Even Newton, with his mechanical philosophy, still based his philosophical mercury on writers with a Neo-Platonic world view, such as Sendivogius and Philalethes. The practices didn't differ much, just the attempts to explain it.

    I finished the book last night, and for the benefit of others, I'll try to provide a brief overview of it in a subsequent message.

    Illen
    Last edited by Illen A. Cluf; 03-10-2013 at 04:27 PM.

  10. #30
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    My Overview of
    Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy
    By B.J.T. Dobbs

    This book is primarily written for academics, with some understanding of basic chemistry. Be warned that the author believes that the “philosophical mercury” as described by past Alchemists was a misunderstanding, based on a primitive theoretical philosophy and a lack of understanding of chemistry as we know it today.

    The book was written to set the foundation of Isaac Newton’s alchemy within his historical context, which was during the time of a scientific revolution, and how his alchemical experimentation and analysis influenced his later scientific papers. Newton believed he had achieved experimental success in preparing the true “philosophical mercury”, and left a very complete account of the experimental work, which Dobbs analyses in detail.

    The book contains 6 chapters. The first four chapters are almost exclusively aimed at providing the broader as well as specific background and environment in which Newton developed his own understanding and concepts, both in terms of historical alchemy, as well as the type of alchemy practiced during the time Newton lived. She discusses Aristotelianism, Platonism, Neo-Platonism and the developing Mechanical Philosophy of Descartes.

    The fifth chapter is an in-depth review of Newton’s alchemical papers and the development of his “philosophical mercury”. This is a period from 1668-1675. Although he was doing alchemical experiments, Dobbs considers his approach as scientific. The purpose of this chapter is to reach an understanding of the earliest experiments conducted by Newton, both from an alchemical as well as a scientific point of view. Dobb’s difficulty in addressing these approaches was that Newton did not really write about the theoretical basis for his approach. Thus much of it had to be deduced.

    The sixth and last chapter is a little difficult to follow if you are intent on understanding the details. The key motive for this chapter is to indicate some of the material in Newton’s scientific writing which seems to be based on his alchemical ideas, and to prove that he was indeed a scientific alchemist. These ideas are based on Newton representing the second generation with respect to mechanical philosophies. The early mechanical philosophers included Descartes, Digby, Hobbes, Gessendi and Charleton. Later, Boyle and Henry More joined the ranks, both of whom had an important influence on Newton’s approach. Henry More's philosophies began with Platonism and Neo-Platonism, but he later moved towards mechanical philosophy. Of the early mechanical philosophers, two were very interested in alchemy – Sir Kenelm Digby and the Honourable Robert Boyle. Dobbs assumes that Newton adhered to a corpusularian concept of matter throughout all his alchemical work. Newton truly believed that he had obtained a true philosophical Mercury, although his experimental work and initial understanding was based on authors holding a Neo-Platonic point of view. These included Sendivogius, d’Espagnet and Eirenaeus Philalethes.

    Newton’s scientific writings began to appear in 1675, right at the end of his alchemical experiments involving the philosophical Mercury. At this time his writings already showed an integration of alchemy along with and the mechanical philosophy of that time.

    In my opinion, this is a very worthwhile book to study, and can serve as a useful companion to some of the more recent and related books written by Lawrence M. Principe and William R. Newman. Although Newton firmly believed that the starting matter was Antimony (primarily with the help of iron) – which today is one of the most common beliefs - I am not so convinced. I currently believe that the references to “antimony” by earlier philosophers was just a decknamen for another matter, often mentioned, but seldom pursued.
    Last edited by Illen A. Cluf; 03-10-2013 at 11:43 PM.

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