THEOSOPHY, Vol. 19, No. 12, October, 1931
(Pages 556-560; Size: 16K)
(Number 33 of a 103-part series)
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
XXXEsoteric philosophy teaches that everything lives and is conscious, but not that all life and consciousness are similar to those of human or even animal beings.... The idea of universal life is one of those ancient conceptions which are returning to the human mind in this century, as a consequence of its liberation from anthropomorphic theology.... It hardly seems possible that science can disguise from itself much longer ... that things that have life are living things, whether they be atoms or planets. (Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, 49). The matter-moving Nous, the animating Soul, immanent in every atom, manifested in man, latent in the stone, has different degrees of power. (I, 51) .... Electricity, the ONE life at the upper rung of Being, and Astral Fluid, the Athanor of the Alchemists, at its lowest; GOD and DEVIL, GOOD and EVIL. (I, 81) ....the Astral Light of Eliphas Lévi; the nerve-aura and the fluid of the magnetists; the od of the Reichenbach; the Psychod and ectenic force of Thury; the psychic force of Sergeant Cox, and the atmospheric magnetism of some naturalists; galvanism; and finally, electricity -- all these are but various names for many different manifestations or effects of the same mysterious, all-pervading cause, the Greek Archeus." ...it is all this and much more. (I, 338).STRANGELY and unfortunately, the "liberation from anthropomorphic theology" is as yet external and formal only; even the observant Theosophist being disquieted at sundry uprisings of the "Personal God Idea" -- the true Proteus of the animal mind -- in himself. The materialist is still worse bound. What do we mean?
Let us glance at the two great official schools of biological thought. Mechanism -- or materialism -- holds that all human forces, powers, perceptions, are mechanical functions of the matter composing our forms, and which in itself differs not at all from that encased in the smoothly frigid bosom of the stone. In other words, a human thought does not differ in kind from the internal molecular motions of the aforesaid stone. In postulating this, the hopeful wight who thus thinks to have encompassed the mysteries of the universe in a thimble forgets that by this, his own showing, conscious phenomena may occur in any object, obscured to our view only by the lack of a suitable mechanism of expression. This is pantheism, a greater horror even than Jehovah to the materialist. The effect of the "God idea" is evident in the fact that he has separated consciousness from matter as an attribute in the same way that the religionist separates Deity from matter and sets it outside the cosmos.
Vitalism, the minority opposition in biology, considers matter to be inert; but in the case of "organized matter" inserts into it some postulated form of metaphysical consciousness. The specter of "God" is here visible in the assumption that matter can exist without a consciousness-principle in itself, that consciousness can exist without substance. Both schools are mired in fathomless contradictions and baseless assumptions. Yet in science itself there is all the necessary information -- given but one slender key which it does not seem able to find for itself.
Curiously, it seems to be the physicist rather than the biologist upon whom the light is dawning. Prof. W. F. G. Swann(1) says that certain general aspects of things which appear to his school to be fundamental, do not appear so to the biologist.This is particularly the case in these days when the physicist has become humbled in the matter of materialistic dogma by his endeavors to understand the actions of the most capricious thing in all nature, not excepting the things which live, nor even the female sex thereof, by his endeavor to understand the atom.He then points out the "step by step" manner in which matter seems to rise to the state called "living."Thus, many chemical reactions which take place in the non-living protoplasm occur with increased velocity in the otherwise indistinguishable living protoplasm.Thereafter he deals at some length with the multitudinous uncertainties which bedevil scientific observation and experiment, the many ways in which real phenomena may exist yet be inconceivable to our intellects; and concludes with a full step over into the regions of the occult:
Again, while osmosis is not a phenomenon peculiar to the living state, the osmotic properties of the cell membranes are profoundly modified when the cell is living.
In this class of phenomena it remains to be definitely proved as to whether we need invoke any principles other than complexity of chemical or physical structure to account for the apparently special characteristics of living matter.
Finally, we have the third class, if indeed there be such a class, which comprises those phenomena of life which require a definite appeal to a wider system of laws than those comprised under chemical or physical laws in the ordinary sense of the words.It is by no means as fantastic as might appear to suppose that the elements peculiar to life exist at all times but in relatively insignificant amount in so-called non-living matter, so that in the sense in which we may associate life with the discontinuities of which I have spoken we may, perhaps, on rare occasions find a chunk of copper which is, in a certain sense, for an instant, alive....Dr. Eugene Bleuler, of the University of Zurich(2) remarks that the body is an organism composed of many individual cells, each a conscious part of a conscious whole. The interrelation between body and mind, he says, is so complex that it is impossible to differentiate between the spiritual and the physical. Medical men, he warns, are constantly revising their theories and opinions.
And so the fact that vital phenomena do not make themselves immediately evident in so-called non-living matter is no criterion as to the certainty of their complete absence. It is, in fact, not inconceivable that the existence of completely non-living matter as such would be unstable, and that the living activity might increase, perhaps slowly at first, but possibly at an increasing rate, until, at any rate in the presence of suitable conditions and environment, it finally attained a steady state in which there was a definite equilibrium between the living and the non-living matter.
Now if Drs. Bleuler and Swann were to coalesce their observations and opinions, merging the "step by step" classification of biological action with the complexity of "conscious cells," the hierarchical nature of the human being would stand forth. For in him are all those steps, and from them are produced the peculiarities of his conscious estate. In the minerals of the bones are those processes externally indistinguishable from those of the stone; but which contribute to human consciousness did we but recognize the fact.
In the involuntary processes of digestion and the like -- man's vegetable nature -- are those "chemical reactions of non-living protoplasm" which occur with "increased velocity" in the "otherwise indistinguishable living protoplasm." And they also contribute to the mind of man. Among them are particularly to be counted the osmotic phenomena -- that is, the actions having to do with the passage of substances through membraneous partitions. But certainly "complexity of chemical or physical structure" can do no more than give opportunity of expression to what was inherent in the substance to begin with.
When we come to the "third class" -- indeed the "wider system of laws" is to be found in Theosophy only. For in particular, is not the prime mystery of all, the integrating consciousness which brings together the harvest of all this life and sub-life in a single stream of will and perception? We can by taking thought analyze one by one the emotions and ideas arising from the different planes of our nature, physical, hyper-physical, and metaphysical. By process of elimination, then, do we not necessarily arrive at something dissociable from all experiences whatever? Theosophists know what that is.
Few developments have been more interesting than those of which Dr. Chas. B. Lipman's experiments are typical.(3) Dr. Lipman has formed artificial bacteria resembling life cells in every detail -- except, perhaps, that of reproduction. From this he concludes that "life" may originally have arisen from crystallization of a colloid or "some complex substance." Now if by "life" he means certain classification of actions, he is right. But in Theosophical terminology, life is absolute and cannot "arise" save in the sense of reaching visible expression. Under what influence, we would ask him, have certain infinitesimal parts of matter risen to the expression he calls "life," while leaving the rest inert? He must admit that it did not so rise under his hands except under the planned impulse of a very keen intelligence. Insofar as his intelligence has succeeded in entering matter has he succeeded in creating those beings of which H. P. Blavatsky said: "The 'homunculi' of Paracelsus are a fact in occultism and may become one in science some day."
When science shall come to see that intelligence may enter visible matter from within as well as from without, having previously existed in forms of substance not yet known to science but sometimes suspected, then will the whole root of biological evolution become discernible to it.
Meantime what is the link between the two aspects of Unity -- consciousness and substance -- which permits the one to operate upon the other in various degrees? It is Fohat, above spoken of under other names, and whose best-known phase on our plane is electricity. Even the discovery of "nervous electricity," which was spoken of by H.P.B., has for some time been made.(4)
Dr. E. D. Darian, of Cambridge, England, describes the results of recent investigations in vacuum-tube amplifiers applicable to human nerves. The impulses, he says, prove to be like those which carry speech along a telephone wire. The strength or weakness of a sensation depends on the number of impulses traversing a nerve each second -- apparently not on the mass of the impulses. This is curiously like the results of the experiments with atoms which have of late years upset the old "planetary electron" theory; for there it developed that the effects of light-rays also depended upon frequency, or rate of vibration.
Dr. W. J. V. Osterhout(5) finds similar electrical variations in the cells of the water-plant "Nitella," thus confirming again Dr. Chunder Bose's experiments on the universality of vital phenomena.
That the manifestations of life are electro-magnetic is thus generally admitted. That light, electricity, and electromagnetism are insolubly bound together, has been a truism in science for a good many years. A cross-connection between life, light, and electricity, is rapidly becoming rationalized. Dr. G. Wolff(6) reports two species of butterflies whose wings can be photographed in the dark, owing to internal radiations. He is puzzled as to the cause, and as to why the phenomenon seems limited to these two species. However, it is more widely distributed than that. Dr. Giocondo Protti, of Venice, Italy, says that the blood is radioactive, giving off rays similar to ultra-violet light, resembling those emitted by the growing tips of plant roots and shoots.(7) Dr. Protti has a "rejuvenation" process by means of blood, which is effective for this, he says, according to whether it is more or less active with these rays. Thus he is directly on the track of the life-principle, prana. And likewise, unconsciously on that of unmitigated Black Magic in one of its worst forms -- vampirism. Certainly vampirism even with a scientific twist is hardly a prospect to be hailed with joy.
Prof. Guido Cremonese, of Rome, has photographed vital rays emanating from the human body. This, says he, confirms the hypothesis that "life" is an "oscillatory electro-magnetic phenomenon," the "missing link" without which "it was hitherto impossible to fully understand and explain the mystery of life."(8)
And does he now think that he can "fully understand and explain the mystery of life?"
Even the Secret Doctrine does not claim that! And the "stars will be old, and the sands of the desert have grown cold," ere any scientist will "explain and understand the mystery of life," while excluding "life" from any point in Space!
SCIENCE AND THE SECRET DOCTRINE
(Part 34 of a 103-part series)
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EIGHT (8) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) Science, Nov. 2, 1928.
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(2) New York Times, Dec. 4, 1929.
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(3) New York Telegram, March 24, 1930.
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(4) The Week's Science, December 17, 1928.
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(5) Science, Dec. 6, 1929.
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(6) Literary Digest, April 5, 1930.
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(7) The Week's Science, May 5, 1930.
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(8) Los Angeles Times, Mar. 4, 1930.
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