THEOSOPHY, Vol. 39, No. 3, January, 1951
(Pages 102-109; Size: 22K)
(Number 102 of a 103-part series)
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
THE NEW COSMOLOGY
THE speculative element in modern science is nowhere more pronounced than in the field of cosmology. Since Eddington published The Expanding Universe in 1932, and Jeans made the subject of astronomy into a "best-seller," scientists have tended to give primary place in astronomical studies to the atoms spread very tenuously (so it is said) throughout space. Obviously, their thinking has been influenced by Einstein's formulation in 1905 of the Special Theory of Relativity, which linked together mass and energy, and upon which innocent equation is built all the subsequent development of atomic energy. If Einstein has now extended his "unified field" theory of 1929 into a "generalized theory of gravitation," filling the gap between the forces set up by gravitation and electro-magnetism respectively, we may surely expect to find further speculations in the domain of cosmological science.
Meanwhile, theories continue unabated in astronomical discussion, and the more unorthodox they are, within the general limitations of logical positivism, the more readily, it would seem, do they obtain a hearing. Fifty years ago, space was considered to be featureless. Then, Einstein in his General Theory gave space a structure and even a finite size: he demonstrated, in the words of the Rig Veda, "Aditi in THAT," or "potential Space within abstract Space" (S.D. I, 4). Later, Eddington suggested that this finite universe is "expanding," in the sense of being created continuously. No longer was the universe thought to be running down, although we may yet hope to see our cosmologists searching for their wisdom "in the original expressions of the primeval people and in their synonyms," or admitting that Chaos-Theos-Kosmos "are the containment of Space" (S.D. I, 342) -- that Space which is boundless extension.
Today, cosmological science is concerned mainly with the "creation" of matter, the theory being that matter is continuously and spontaneously appearing throughout the universe. This speculation is argued from different premises. Jordan in Germany believes that the gravitational energy which the universe loses as it expands reappears in some undefined way as matter. Bondi and Gold (two Cambridge scientists) in England postulate that the average density of matter in the observable universe must remain the same at all times, implying that matter is in continuous creation to keep pace with the expansion of the universe. And now, Dr. Fred Hoyle, Lecturer in Mathematics at Cambridge University, in a series of radio talks in England during 1950 on "The Nature of the Universe" (since published in book form(1) under that title) has drawn much public attention to some notable departures in the new cosmology.
One divergence is the view now held that the total volume of "space" is finite, that it is not permanently fixed but is steadily increasing, new space always coming into existence. Another is that the matter now constituting the universe has not existed always; it has been generated gradually; and, owing to the formation of fresh matter, the amount of matter is increasing all the time. Where does the created material come from? "Well," says Dr. Hoyle, "it does not come from anywhere. Material simply appears -- it is created." And what are the consequences of this theory of "continuous creation"? Dr. Hoyle tells us:Perhaps the most surprising result of the mathematical theory is that the average density of the background material must stay constant. To achieve this only a very slow creation is necessary. The new material does not appear in a concentrated form in small localised regions but is spread throughout the whole of space. The average rate of appearance amounts to no more than the creation of one atom in the course of about a year in a volume equal to St. Paul's Cathedral (London). As you will realise it would be quite impossible to detect such a rate of creation by direct experiment. But although this seems such a slow rate when judged by ordinary ideas, it is not small when you consider that it is happening everywhere in space. The total rate for the observable Universe alone is about a hundred million, million, million, million, million tons per second.... It is this creation that drives the Universe. The new material produces an outward pressure that leads to the steady expansion. But it does much more than that. With continuous creation the apparent contradiction between the expansion of the Universe and the requirement that the background material shall be able to condense into galaxies is completely overcome. For it can be shown that once an irregularity occurs in the background material a galaxy must eventually be formed. Such irregularities are constantly being produced through the gravitational action of the galaxies themselves. So the background material must give a steady supply of new galaxies. Moreover, the created material also supplies unending quantities of atomic energy, for by arranging that newly created material is composed of hydrogen we explain why in spite of the fact that hydrogen is being consumed in huge quantities in the stars the Universe is nevertheless observed to be overwhelmingly composed of it.It is further suggested that we can already see half as far into space as will ever be possible, because, at a distance only twice as far as our largest telescope can reach, space is expanding at a greater speed than the velocity of light. As a consequence, light travelling from those distant parts never reaches us, so we shall never see them. Against such a hypothetical background, what is the history of our own galaxy, one among about 100 million galaxies within the range of observation, each of them containing upwards of 1,000,000 planetary systems? On this point, Dr. Hoyle is somewhat hesitant:This issue cannot be decided by observation because none of the galaxies that we observe can be more than about 10,000,000,000 years old. The reason for this is that a new galaxy condensing close by our Galaxy moves away from us and will pass out of the observable region of space in only about 10,000,000,000 years. So we have to decide the ultimate fate of our Galaxy again from theory. It will become steadily more massive as more and more of the background material gets pulled into it. After about 10,000,000,000 years it is likely that our Galaxy will have succeeded in gathering quite a cloud of gas and satellite bodies. Where this will ultimately lead it is difficult to say with any precision. The distant future of the Galaxy is to some extent bound up with an investigation made about thirty years ago by Schwarzschild, who found that very strange things happen when a body grows particularly massive. It becomes difficult, for instance, for light emitted by the body ever to get out into surrounding space. When this stage is reached further growth is likely to be strongly inhibited. Just what it would then be like to live in our Galaxy I should very much like to know.In this new picture of the universe, the fundamental step in explaining the origin of the stars is the assumption that a tenuous gas pervades the space within a galaxy. Similarly, the origin of the galaxies is to be found in the recognition that a still more tenuous gas fills the whole of space. "It is out of this general background material," Dr. Hoyle supposes, "that the galaxies have condensed." Further, the Universe is held to be wound up by obtaining energy from the background material in two ways:Whenever a new galaxy is formed, gravitation supplies energy. For instance, gravitation supplies the energy of the rotation that develops when a galaxy condenses out of the background material. And gravitation again supplies energy during every subsequent condensation of the interstellar gas inside a galaxy. It is because of this energy that a star becomes hot when it condenses. The second source of energy lies in the atomic nature of the background material. It seems likely that this was originally pure hydrogen. This does not mean that the background material is now entirely pure hydrogen, because it gets slightly adulterated by some of the material expelled by the exploding supernovae. As a source of energy hydrogen does not come into operation until high temperatures develop -- and this first arises when stars are born. It is this second source of energy that is more familiar and important to us on the Earth.It will be seen that the new cosmology gives much attention to "background material." Space is not thought of as empty. Considering only, for instance, the bright band of light running roughly overhead, which is known as the Milky Way, Dr. Hoyle tells us that throughout this band there is a diffuse gas, usually called interstellar gas, a gas for this purpose being thought of as a swarm of separate atoms and simple molecules. He adds:By far the commonest element in the interstellar gas is hydrogen. Hydrogen atoms are more than a thousand times as numerous as all other atoms and molecules put together. As we shall come increasingly to understand, hydrogen is the basic material out of which the Universe is built.As to the Sun and the energy it generates, Dr. Hoyle mentions the two suggestions made by Jeans: (1) that the Sun might contain super-radioactive material not present on the earth, and (2) that matter might even be annihilated under the physical conditions occurring in the solar interior. Apparently, current astrophysics will not accept either of these suppositions. Following Eddington's work, which showed that the Sun must contain at least 35 per cent hydrogen, the question arose: Is the conversion of hydrogen into helium the process that explains the generation of solar energy? Dr. Hoyle goes on to say:An important start towards answering this question was made in the early nineteen-thirties by Atkinson and Houtermans, who showed that nuclear transformation processes do indeed occur in the solar interior at roughly the required rate. The next step was taken in 1938 by Gamow and Teller, whose work may be described as bringing the ideas of Atkinson and Houtermans into line with the rapidly developing science of nuclear physics. But so far no one had earmarked the actual processes that supply the Sun's energy. This link in the chain was left to H. A. Bethe of Cornell, who showed in 1939 that a particular set of reactions involving carbon and nitrogen as catalysts have the effect of building helium from hydrogen at just about the rate necessary to compensate for the energy radiated from the solar surface. Catalysts, you remember, are substances which help a reaction to occur but do not change themselves. It was at this stage that my colleague, R. A. Lyttleton, and I first became interested in the problem of the structure of the Sun. It seemed to us that Bethe's work, if it were put into the calculations at the beginning instead of at the end, should lead to a considerable improvement in the whole method of investigation, which had hitherto lacked both accuracy and elegance. These troubles were due at root to the use of the observed size of the Sun as a datum of the calculations. So long as the mode of energy generation was unknown, this was a necessary procedure, but once the nuclear processes occurring in the Sun were understood, it was possible to put the whole problem in a much more direct and challenging form. Given only the amount and the composition of the solar material, is it possible to decide purely by calculation both the brightness of the Sun and what its size must be? Lyttleton and I found that this could indeed be done, and we were able to show that the results of the mathematical theory agree with observation to an accuracy of a few per cent.It is impossible in these fragmentary notes to follow in detail the full range of hypotheses formulated in this New Theory of the Universe. Enough has been said at least to show the nature of the assumptions as to the general structure which are entertained by scientists today. One thing can be predicated with some assurance. There can be no finality about the results now put forward. No doubt, it is too much to expect that the practitioners of these latest ideas should read what has so far been published in The Secret Doctrine and other works(2) on the subject of the origin of the world or the universe and their relation to consciousness. But it may be useful here, as a comparative study, to cite briefly some of the conclusions of the Esoteric Philosophy in relation to a few of the points that have been raised:Firstly, "that neither stars nor the sun can be said to be constituted of those terrestrial elements with which the chemist is familiar, though they are all present in the sun's outward robes -- and a host more of elements so far unknown to science."With regard to the Sun, theosophical teachings are replete with references to the "One Rejected" of the Stanzas of Dzyan --Surya, the Sun of our solar system. Suffice to quote here a few sentences from The Secret Doctrine (I, 100-1):
Secondly, that our globe has its own special laboratory on the far-away outskirts of its atmosphere, crossing which, every atom and molecule change and differentiate from their primordial nature.
And Thirdly, that though no element present on our earth could ever be possibly found wanting in the sun, there are many others which have either not reached, or not as yet been discovered on, our globe. "Some may be missing in certain stars and heavenly bodies in the process of formation; or, though present in them, these elements, on account of their present state, may not respond as yet to the usual scientific tests." Mr. Crookes speaks of an element of still lower atomic weight than hydrogen, an element purely hypothetical as far as our earth is concerned ... though existing in abundance in the chromosphere of the Sun -- the helium. Occult Science adds that not one of the elements regarded by chemistry as such really deserves the name. (S.D. I, 583.)
The many objections raised against the homogeneity of original diffuse matter, on the ground of the uniformity in the composition of the fixed stars, by some opponents of the modern nebular theory, do not affect the question of that homogeneity at all, but only the said theory. Our solar nebula may not be completely homogeneous, or, rather, it may fail to reveal itself as such to the astronomers, and yet be de facto homogeneous. The stars do differ in their constituent materials and even exhibit elements quite unknown on earth; nevertheless, this does not affect the point that primeval matter -- i.e., as it appeared even in its first differentiation from its laya condition [beyond the zero-line of action] -- is yet to this day homogeneous, at immense distances, in the depths of infinitude, and likewise at points not far removed from the outskirts of our solar system. (S.D. I, 589.)Himself only a reflection of the Central Spiritual Sun, Surya is the prototype of all those bodies that evolved after him.... The Occult Doctrine rejects the hypothesis born out of the Nebular Theory, that the (seven) great planets have evolved from the Sun's central mass, not of this our visible Sun, at any rate. The first condensation of Cosmic matter of course took place about a central nucleus, its parent Sun; but our sun, it is taught, merely detached itself earlier than all the others, as the rotating mass contracted, and is their elder, bigger brother therefore, not their father.Eddington was of the opinion that our theories of the universe are much affected by our habits of human thought, and this is undoubtedly true of exoteric science in its present phase. Certainly, there is no warrant in Newton's Principia (1687), wherein he demonstrated (as he wrote) "the frame of the System of the World," for the positivism which characterizes so many cosmological theories since his day. Six years after publication of the Principia, Newton wrote to a learned enquirer: "You sometimes speak of gravity as essential and inherent to matter. Pray do not ascribe that notion to me; for the cause of gravity is what I do not pretend to know." At least, this much may be said for science in the present century: it has greatly changed its notion of matter. Classical physics has regarded the external world usually as a multitude of particles of matter moving in definite calculable paths. It was Descartes who said: "Give me matter and motion, and I will construct the universe." It is now recognized that what is going on in the world cannot all be seen as happening visibly in space; much of the action takes place insensibly. The point was well put by Sir Edmund Whittaker, F.R.S. (Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Edinburgh University), in a radio talk following the series by Dr. Hoyle:Potential energy arises from the existence of powers that are exerted between particles of matter, such as the forces of gravitation and electric and magnetic attraction. The Greeks were well aware that a place must be found for these in any philosophical system of cosmology, and Aristotle has preserved for us a saying of Thales, "Everything is full of gods." By this he doubtless meant that matter is not to be thought of as passive and stagnant, but rather as the seat of capacities and activities such as are observable in living creatures: for him, there was no profound difference between animate and inanimate nature: everything material had also a spiritual potency and character.... When we reflect on the way in which the laws have been derived from experiments with material objects, we come to understand that the nature of man is to be led by things corporeal to things intelligible and spiritual: ordinary gross matter, in and through which we approach this higher learning, comes to be conceived as the outward sign of inner non-material realities. (The Listener, June 1, 1950.)
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
(Part 103 of a 103-part series)
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TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) A review of Hoyle's book appeared in Time, November 20, 1950, and it is announced that an American edition of The Nature of the Universe will be published by Harper this spring. --Editors.
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(2) The whole question of matter and force, together with the related problem of how our universe began, was treated carefully and in some detail in The Theosophist. See "Editorial Notes" republished in THEOSOPHY, June to November, 1948. [Note: The six articles referred to here are from about the middle of that series of 17 articles. The complete title of the series is "THEOSOPHIST" EDITORIAL NOTES, and is on the growing list of items that will steadily be added to this site, which will also contain many other science-related articles; so click on the "Additional Categories of Articles" Index link from time to time, as you see it above, in order to check out what has been added. --Compiler.]
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