The Journey into the Unconscious — An Aside, Isaac Newton
Take this article seriously if you want to, or treat it with a degree of humour and scepticism, if it all seems too much to take. I recently came across a Medium article entitled ‘World’s Six Most Influential Historical Figures with Mental Disorders'. One of these was Isaac Newton who the author, The Mystery Writer, said was “disturbingly afflicted with severe mental disorders”, “suffered from hallucinations”, and “as bizarre as it sounds, he would often have conversations with invisible individuals”.
This was new to me. I have studied Newton to some extent, and own two biographies of him. The usual complaint against him is that he was more interested in alchemy and biblical exegesis than in physics. These statements immediately intrigued me, however, because I’m currently writing a series of articles inspired by Carl Jung’s ‘Confrontation with the Unconscious’, otherwise known as a descent into the Underworld. There he met some non-physical entities with whom he conversed. These included the prophet Elijah, and an inner guide known as Philemon. Jung says of him: “At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him, and to me he was what the Indians call a guru”. “Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. Philemon represented a force which was not myself. In my fantasies I held conversations with him, and he said things which I had not consciously thought. For I observed clearly that it was he who spoke, not I”¹. Jung also said that Philemon taught him about the nature of the psyche, and that this period of ‘madness’ was the foundation and inspiration for the rest of his life’s work.
Unsurprisingly, some commentators have described this period in Jung’s life as a psychosis, or schizophrenia. He is thus being condemned in the same way as Newton in the article mentioned above.
In my series I have also noted that the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides journeyed into the Underworld, where he received tuition from a goddess about the nature of reality.
Who is to say therefore that Newton was not being taught about the laws of motion and the nature of gravity by these ‘hallucinatory’ invisible beings?
I wrote about Isaac Newton in more detail some time ago:
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics and astrology. All of those articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here). My most recent articles, however, are only on Medium; for those please check out my profile, including my lists.
- Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Collins Fount Paperbacks, 1977, p208, p207