Being mental. LO24112

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 03/03/00

Replying to LO24074 --

Dear Organlearners,

Andrew Campbell < > writes:

>A proto Michael Faraday.
>Michael, what are you doing for heavens sake?
>I am moving this magnet nearer and nearer to this coil of
>copper wire.

Greetings Andrew,

Thank you so much for paying tribute to Michael Faraday.

I myself adore his personality.

Who was Michael Faraday? Was he a genius as so many authors claim? Or was
he an authentic learner by the very circumstances of his life? Can there
be only one Michael Faraday? Or did he set an example for billions of
learners? If they cannot follow his example, where lies the problem? With
these billions of learners because they are not genies themselves? Or with
the system of formal educational education which has been copied globally
because of all the vested interests it entails?

One rather extraordinary textbook of physics ("Project Physics") from
the years of the Sputnik Scare summarises Michael as follows (u4-73):
        Faraday was a modest, gentle and deeply religous
        man. Although he received many international
        scientific honors, he had no wish to be knighted,
        preferring to remain without title.
Would he fit in the fashions of the world today? Or can he be a role
model for the millions of faceless people today?

I quickly looked up in our university library what a couple of dozen
textbooks in Chemistry and Physics had to say on him. Many of them
attached his name to some of his discoveries. Few of them said that he was
perhaps the greatest experimentalist of all times. None said anything
about Michael as person. Does this not lead to banal knowledge?

I then went to the sections on teaching in general and in particular on
the teaching of science. I looked up what a couple of dozen textbooks in
these sections had to say on him. The books on teaching in general had
nothing to say on him. Few of the books on the teaching of science
mentioned him, and then only in relation to his discoveries. My spirit
became troubled -- the personality of Michael had little meaning for
teachers of teachers. Can knowledge be so banal?

Andrew, how I wish you had given the topic above the name
        Becoming mental

My dictionary writes that "mental" pertains to the mind, is in contrast to
corporeal and is concerned with effects of the mind without the aid of
written symbols.

Michael is indeed one of the greatest experimentalists ever. But
why are students not told in these textbooks that this was the
outcome of something much deeper going on in his mind. What
deeper action?
        Farady became a mental case of the highest degree ;-).
Although English now allow this last sentence too when referring
to a mentally ill person, I rather refer to the meaning of "mental"
given above.

Michael becoming mental? Michael becoming the greatest experimentalist
ever. At de lange, you are confusing things by irresponsibly making
conflicting statements again. Any way, what do we who browse this LO-list
have to do with Michael Faraday?

You are sitting in front of your PC which is plugged into an electrical
socket in the wall. Your PC works because electricity flows in and out of
it, thus bringing electrical energy into it. This electrical energy had
been generated at a CNHA power station. (CNHA = Coal, Nuclear, Hydro- or
Aero-"). The CNHA means that some form of energy had first been converted
into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy was subsequently converted
into electrical energy by means of an "electromagnetic dynamo". The
electrical energy was then transfered from the remote power station to
your PC by an unfragmented network of electrical conductors. This
"electromagnetic dynamo" is one of the many brain children of Michael
Faraday. Without it we might still have had to use very expensive voltaic
cells to generate our electricty.

OK. Some of Michael's discoveries may be important to us. Let us the pay
tribute to him and go on with our important jobs. Life goes on!

Dear fellow learners, this is not how we will emerge from banal knowledge.
Why? My painting of Michael so far merely concerned what is IMPORTANT TO
US who have electricity, electrical gadgets to make life easier and now
even PCs plugged into Internet. All these things important to us go now
collectively by the lofty name "technology". Many people make a living by
manufacturing, selling, servicing or using technology. Some dream of
getting very rich with it. A few people got indeed stinking rich with it.
Hence the dream -- get on technology so as to join in unimaginable wealth.

Michael would certainly have called out -- Is the legacy of my life's work
this technology? Do we still have any faith? What has become of our love?
Why was I ever born?

Despite the slogan that technology is the great saviour, the far majority
of the world's people live in utmost poverty with little, if any,
experience or help from technology. But it is much worse that nobody tell
the poor what the personality of Michael can mean for them rather than the
outcomes of his discoveries.

Dear Michael, thank you for setting an example which we can draw upon. If
you could forgive me for the liberties which I now will be taking.

Michael was the son of a black smith. High society viewed black smiths as
the dirtiest and perhaps the lowest job on the ladder possible -- born in
sweat, work in sweat and die in sweat with not the slightest hint of art.
According to the conventional dynamics of society this young boy was
destined to become another faceless person -- to be paid for working with
hands, but not for working with mind too. He attended a common (not
comprehensive) school which had no other goal than using meagre state
funds to make kids like him barely literate. He had to pass the hours out
of school in his home, in the black smithery and in the streets.

His religious parents were the salt of the earth. His mother at home
helped him learning how to dignify people. His father at work helped him
learning that honest work makes a person noble enough to dine with the
highest of royals. His parish helped him in learning the virtue of
modesty. Soon at the age of thirteen his boyhood was over. His wise father
arranged a seven year apprenticeship for him as a bookbinder at a certain
Mr Riebau. On his first day this dear old sage encourage him: "Go ahead,
Michael, read all you please. You will be no worse a bookbinder for
knowing the insides as well as the outsides of books."

As carefully as he was binding the outside of books, he tried to bind the
inside of the books to living experience. Were the wisdom, faith and love
of his parents not founded in their own experience? He worked quickly
through the books. He did not marvel at the thoughts which they codified,
but rather searched faithfully for suggestions how to extend his own
experiences. By then he already believed that knowledge comes through its
doing. His salary as an apprentice was little -- he was rather paid by
getting the opportunity to learn a trade. So he began to spend more time
with those books suggesting experiences which he barely could afford. They
happened to be books on chemistry.

One day they had to bind a book of a certain Mrs Marcet called
"Conversations of Chemistry". He met her in person, telling her what he
have read so far and what he was planning to do himself so as to learn
what is sound. She made an everlasting impression on him which he
acknowledged up to the very end of his life. She recognised his love for
experimentation. She simply said: "Carry on as you do, Michael, for this
road have no end, it will open up life and love to you." At the outcome of
each experiment he danced with excitement and laughed with joy. What
beautiful patterns did his thoughts not uncover in corporeal things which
seems to be so dreadful to other people!

He became thirstier and thirstier for experiences. Mr Riebau could not
care for his apprencticeship any more. So he went to a Mr De La Roche to
complete the last couple of years. Soon this man forbade Michael to page
in any book for any other reason than to bind it. A bookbinder who cannot
specialise in his job will never learn his trade expertly. He will remain
to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Michael began to hate
every minute working for Mr De La Roche. It made him very sad since it was
in conflict with his faith in love. He could not keep on with this kind of

They had to bind reports and lectures form the Royal Institute of
professor Humphry Davy too. How he longed to attend one of the lectures
too. Finally he scraped al his bravery together and begged one of their
customers of substance for a ticket. Mr De La Roche did not like this at
all because they ought to be proud tradesmen, not beggars. However, the
customer sensed the urgency in Michael's audacity. Today we will say that
the customer realised that Michael had to be helped into the emergence he
was seeking. So Michael got his ticket and attended the lecture in his
best clothes which were still a sad sight to sore eyes.

He saw carefully constructed apparatusses, each intended to perform what
the mind has conceived long before its material existence. He had to
excercise the greatest will power not to dance with excitement and laugh
with joy at the outcome of each experiment. He knew that he had to work at
the Institute and not as bookbinder any more because his spirit would be
strangled to death and not merely starving to death. So together with his
mother he drew up a letter seeking for any work as a janitor in the
Institute. The letter was acknowledged, but the weeks went by without any
further development. Then, one day, as he and his mother approached their
appartment, an impressive carriage was stopping outside it. With
stomaches turned into knots, they approached it. He was merely summonsed
for an interview the next morning.

Prof Davy needed an assistent urgently to clean his laboratory and keep it
in order. The salary was less than a pittance. Davy was surprised when
Michael immediately accepted the job. Later that day when he went to Mr De
La Roche to resign, this man became furious. Michael was better than any
qualified bookbinder because he seeked to make an art out of bookbinding.
Michael cost him nothing and his resignation would mean a serious blow at
his own income. He tried to scold Michael back into the job, but the young
man greeted him with a smile and left.

Within a month Davy realised that Faraday, even as a cleaner with no
secondary school training, could focus his mind on a physical outcomes
better than his asssistents and colleagues with university training.
Faraday's help in improving a safety lamp for the coal mines was
invaluable and the beauty of it is that it cost him next to nothing. He
did not even had to acknowledge Faraday's help so that he self could bath
fully in the glory. When Faraday warned him that the lamp is not as safe
as he would be able to make it, he became furious. Better to tell the
young Faraday there and then his fortune -- he must remember that he is a
cleaner and not a scientist.

One day in 1820 a professor Wollaston came exitedly to the Institute. A
certain Hans Oersted at the university of Copenhagen reported in a letter
a wierd result which he made by accident. A metallic wire connected to a
pile of voltaic plates caused a compass needle to deflect. Together Davy
and Wollaston tried to repeat the experiment. It was a hopeless failure.
They decided to call it a day and write a strong reply to Oersted's claim.
Such unfound claims should not be made even in letters. Michael had to
clean up their mess.

He quickly went through their procedures before cleaning up. He noticed
that the solution in the voltaic pile did not become cloudy as usual. He
began to wiggle the pile here and the wires there so as to get the pile
working. Before he even was sure the pile was working, the needle showed a
deflection. Soon he was dancing with excitement and laughing with joy.
Oersted's accident was no mere accident. The next day he showed Davy how
it worked. By then Davy recognised Faraday's intelligence, but suddenly a
fear gripped him that Faraday's dexterity and tenacity will tarnish his
own image. But what perplexed him most, was that this young cleaner showed
no sign of ambition, only total focussing of his mind to the apparatus
before him, making it do what his mind intended it to do. Farady seemed to
have become a magician.

He felt that Faraday's powers as a magician would suit him. So he promoted
Faraday to his personal assistant. Michael was in the seventh heaven --
now he could set up experiments too. His mind was running over and over
again on Oersted's experiment. If the magneticless wire, except when
connected to a voltaic pile, could exert a force over a distance on the
compass needle, why should the compass needle not exert a force on the
wire? It was too weak a magnet. So he began to use stronger magnets, but
nothing happened.

He noticed that he had to push hard at the wire to make it move. So he
began to experiment with thinner wires, but they kept melting when
connected to the pile. Thus he began to experiment with pivoting the wire
while still maintaining contact with the voltaic pile. It worked -- the
wire moved. Again he danced with excitement and laughed with joy.

He wrote a report of his experiment and submitted his first paper ever to
a journal, signing it with Michael Faraday c/o Royal Institute. It got
published. Davy and Wollaston were furious. How dare he, former cleaner
and now laboratory assistant who had no high training in school and
university submit a report to such a learned journal? How dare he,
Faraday, submit a report without asking him, Davy and director of the
Institute, permission to do so with using the name of the Institute? How
dare he not mention that professors Davy and Wollaston had also been doing
the experiment and thus acknowledge them as senior authors. Faraday had to
acknowledge in public his grave errors. He did so. But Mrs Marcet's words
troubled him -- was this the life and love he would encounter?

He began to search in his mind for peace. Soon he became curious enough to
replace these troubles. Something (which scientists now began to call
electricity) in the wire when connected to the voltaic pile, caused a
force between the wire and the magnet. It was as if electricity caused the
wire to become a magnet. Why is the opposite conversion not possible. Why
cannot a magnet cause electricity in a wire/ Did he not learn in his many
chemical experiments that, given a suitable condition, a chemical reaction
could be reversed?

So Michael began to wound copper wire into coils, placed strong magnets in
them and tried to observe a deflection in a compass. He had to connect
the ends of the coil to a wire going far away enough so that the magnet
itself had no influence on the compass. Nothing happened. He hunted for
stronger magnets and wound coils with more turns in wire. Nothing
happened. Week after week he kept on questioning his mind, performing his
older experiments over and over again. They worked as his mind intended
them to work. But not in this experiment. Why not? What was he over
looking. Secretely Davy derived satisfaction from Faraday's failures -- he
was not different than any one of them, he was not really a magician.

One day, in sheer frustration, Michael rammed the magnet once again into
the coil. The needle of the compass deflected!! Was he beginning to
imagine things? He pulled the magnet slowly out of the coil and pushed it
slowly in again. Nothing happened. With a quick action he pushed the
magnet in and pulled it in. The needle moved!! The faster his movements,
the greater the deflection. He ran to his small apartment and called his
dear wife. She ran back with him. He repeated it all, first with slow
movements and then faster and faster, his arm paining in trying to go to
the edge of chaos. She cried with tears in her eyes when he, once again
like a kid, began to dance with excitement and laugh with joy. Once again
her beloved husband showed how mind can lead to emergences in the
corporeal world.

Davy was astounded at these results. He urged Faraday carefully to first
patent this invention. Then they ought to publish it together, piece by
piece, so as to get maximum pubilicity from this discovery. Davy waited
eagerly for his reply -- expecting glory to come as never before.

But Michael thought differently, heeding to the religious dimension of his
personality. He knew that it took his beloved God 40 years to prepare him
and lead him to the biggest test of his life. God gave his mind so much
power over the material world. Will he use it for his personal advantage,
or will he give it over to humankind with the same love as he has received
it from God? In a firm, yet modest way, he declined Davy's help to get it
patented. He will not patent it. He will rather describe it in open
publication, holding nothing back.

Michael could have patented his invention. He could have become the
richest man in the world. He could have bequest his richdom in his will to
a prize which will advance humanity like Alfred Nobel did many years
later. But he knew that Jesus also had to make such a decision. It could
have brought Jesus great fame, but it rather led to the cross. He was no
Jesus, but simply a follower of Him. If his decision would lead to
tribulations for himself, why would he shy away? Did Jeus not say that he
will find his own cross more bearable?

Davy was astounded. How could Faraday do such a foolish thing? Was Lady
Davy not right after all that they should never have dined with a man like
Faraday which came from such a low class, a man who could not even self
beget children. He tried to argue, but Faraday was resolute to see it
through. Soon after the publication fame and honors were coming in like
snow in the winter. Many famous universities offered him a chair. He
politely declined each offer, pointing out that he would be an
embarressment to them because he was merely a Mr with no higher formal
education. He was even offered a knighthood which he declined with the
same modesty. He wished to do only one thing -- to pursue the power of
mind over matter. Finally an eccentric and rich MP, one Fuller, bequest in
his testament a professorship for Faraday at the Institute so as to make
his income not such an embarressment. This Faraday did gratefully

Dear fellow learners, there is so much more that I want to tell you about
Michael Faraday. There is so much we all can learn from him. But I think
that I have told the greatest thing about him -- becoming mental. The
prize which Michael Faraday left to us has no money fixed to it. It is
also a prize for which no medallion can be worn on the chest. But it is
indeed a prize which millions of poor people can carry in their hearts,
not by reading a codified story like mine, but by doing whatever they have
to do with more than banal knowledge.

Andrew, you began with

>Michael, what are you doing for heavens sake?
>I am moving this magnet nearer and nearer to this coil of
>copper wire.

I hope you have seen the depths of thinking to which we all can emerge. I
hope you have seen how we can heal the future.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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