1. A Baker’s Dozen 7
which would act as a regulator, dealing with issues of stability and
lost energy. It was only Newton’s successor in France, the pioneer of
theoretical mechanics, Pierre-Simon de Laplace, who would do away
with the hypothesis of God as a necessary requirement to bringing
order to the world.
In spite of his seemingly supreme rationality, the deeply religious
Newton never stopped dabbling in esoteric sciences, the occult, and
numerology. If Kepler had a weakness for astrology, it was alchemy
for which Newton developed a passion and to which he would remain
attached for the rest of his life. His nightly search for the legendary
“philosopher’s stone” remained fruitless, of course. If anything, the
mixing and pouring of toxic substances may have caused him chemi-
cal poisoning, possibly from mercury. But the search for a method to
manufacture gold was then considered de rigeur, even among natural
scientists. Newton even taught himself Hebrew in order to read the
Five Books of Moses in the original language. He covered thousands
of pages with abstruse numerological calculations in attempts to ex-
tract scientific information from the scriptures. After having spent
hundreds of hours unravelling God’s secret laws as they supposedly
manifested themselves in the Holy Bible, he was led to the inescapable
conclusion that the world would come to an end in 2060. . . , and if
not then, then surely by 2370.
Across the Channel, meanwhile, in Hannover, there lived Gott-
fried Wilhelm Leibniz, Newton’s intellectual equal and opponent in
every respect. Ahead of his time, intellectually, by several genera-
tions, Leibniz is famous for, among many other things, having devel-
oped the concept of a calculator based on the binary number system.
Leibniz was also on par with his Englishman adversary when it
came to mysticism. For Leibniz the digits zero and one of the binary
system were more than just a calculating device. They represented
nothing less than the entry ticket to the understanding of genesis.
One portrayed God, zero depicted the Void. The digital number
seven represented the seventh day of Creation, the Holy Sabbath,
which, in binary notation, is written as 111. This, of course, is a
symbol for the Trinity, and so on. “Cum Deus calculat, fit mundus,”
(while God calculates, the World is created), he wrote. Leibniz was
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