Isaac Newton’s occult properties (audio)

This is a recording of a talk given on 9th June 2022 in Oxford. I discuss the two sides of Newton: the enchanted medieval Christian — believer in occult spirits that move the universe — and the disenchanted early modern scientist — believer in mechanisms, laws and the experimental method. I discuss Newton’s Arianism and his speculations that a Cosmic Christ maintained the laws of nature both in the macrocosm (the incorporeal transmitter of action at a distance) and in the microcosm (the alchemical spirit or “fire at the heart of the world”). But his decades as Master of the Royal Mint did not yield any significant economic theory. For Newton the commercial world — populated by chisellers, counterfeiters and market hagglers — was already disenchanted, almost godless — and therefore no hidden spirits maintained its motion. This modern myth, of an entirely secular realm of economics, persists to this day.

Talk (40 minutes)

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