Isaac Newton and Kabbalah

Isaac Newton and KabbalahThe image on the right is a page from a Latin translation of The Zohar, ascribed to Isaac Newton.The Zohar in Latin

In the book, The Religion of Isaac Newton, Frank E. Manuel wrote that “Isaac Newton was convinced that Moses possessed the knowledge of all scientific secrets.” Dr Seth Pancoast wrote that “Isaac Newton was led to the discovery of physical laws (forces of gravitation and repulsion) through the study of Kabbalah.”

A Latin translation of The Book of Zohar (Kabbalah Denudata), was found in Newton’s library, and is currently kept at the Trinity College in Cambridge. Isaac Newton based his scientific research on philosophical principles. In particular, Newton wrote: “In my books I laid down the principles of philosophy that are not purely philosophical, but also mathematical, which can serve as the basis for discussing physical matters. So that they don’t seem fruitless, I accompanied them with some physical explanations” (Newton I., Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, 1686, V. 3, “The System of the World,” p. 501).

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  1. I have been studying Kabbalah for a couple of years now, and questions have popped up in my mind very frequently. And this is the main one right now: It’s been said that Kabbalah is a provable science, and that everything in it is demonstrable. It has been also said that the Kabbalah sages who attained the upper worlds wrote their texts based on a tangible – and not abstract -experience . But how can I be sure of these statements. Where are the demonstrations of their attainments ? By just blindly believing in everything it has been said, am I not being sucked into the concept of blind faith? How can I be certain about the aforesaid?

  2. Good question, indeed. From what I’ve understood they will have you believe that they have a sixth sense and you do not, therefore they can not demonstrate anything to you up until you develop that sixth sense which can take up to a few life times.

  3. I find the subject interesting – particularly as to what is known about Newton’s own kabbalah. Yes, he might have known about the Zohar, even appreciated some or more of it, but is anything known about the nature or extent of his own kabbalistic investigations? I certainly do suppose that any serious work with kabbalah could easily have inluenced his research in all fields! Any clues as to this would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Sir Isaac while very studied in many early Jewish and Christian writings (including the Zohar) didn’t rely on any of them except in support of what he had already learned in scripture. For example Newton quoted Lord Faulkner…

    “The books of the Evangalists & the Apostles & the oracles of the Ancient Prophets teach us clearly what we ought to think of the Divinity. Let us therefore out of these Divinely inspired discourses seek the solutions of our questions.”

    He was using Faulkner against the idea that there was any “secret knowledge or tradition” outside of scripture. Here is Sir Isaac himself from his work on the book of Daniel…

    “The authority of the Prophets is divine, and comprehends the sum of religion, reckoning Moses and the Apostles among the Prophets; and if an Angel from Heaven preach any other gospel, than what they have delivered, let him be accursed. Their writings contain the covenant between God and his people, with instructions for keeping this covenant; instances of God’s judgments upon them that break it: and predictions of things to come. While the people of God keep the covenant, they continue to be his people: when they break it they cease to be his people or church… And no power on earth is authorized to alter this covenant.”

    So I think it is fairly clear he thought the sum of religion was contained in scripture but he wasn’t bound only in study of scripture. He was interested in what others gleaned from it.

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